Sunday, February 28, 2010
After playing literally the worst first half of the season against Loyola at the Gentile Center last Thursday, the Panthers came out a completely different team in the second half. Slowly but surely, Milwaukee chipped away at Loyola's lead. Rick and Ant combined score 41 points for the Panthers, as UWM proved too much for LU to fend off.
A Franklin layup with 1:53 left in the game put Milwaukee ahead for good and the Panthers went on to secure the victory 63-61 to guarantee at least a .500 conference record and a home game in the 1st Round of the Horizon League Tourney (not something we should "aspire" to, but a milestone nonetheless).
Next on the Panthers plate (which seems to be getting licked clean in recent weeks) was the UIC Flames.....
Before I give a belated half-hearted summary of the game, I must say first off, for my first time attending a Flames game, I was very impressed with the "Pavilion" - their on-campus arena. It has been tossed around in the media and even the UWM Post (UWM's student newspaper) that UWM is exploring the feasibility of moving men's basketball away from the US Cellular Arena downtown (where the Athletic Dept. reportedly pays a hefty sum just to rent the facility for 14 games) back to campus (where many, including myself (a big fan of the Cell no less)) believe it belongs.
I felt that minus a few thousand seats (the ideal on-campus Panther arena would probably only need around 6,500 seats), the Pavilion is a perfect model for a college basketball arena done right. Form the concourses with several tasty options for refreshments to the 270 degree advertising board to the beautifully clear HD color jumbo screen to the sight-lines to the upper deck to the mini-skyboxes to the overall architecture of the building (the seats were a little uncomfortable though I must admit)- it's places like the Pavilion and Green Bay's Resch Center which make the real case for Milwaukee building it's own quality arena.
That's about all I will say about that whole idea- we are probably at least 4-5 years away from any potential progress on that front, but I think it is an excellent idea and will only gain momentum if (hopefully "when") the team begins to put together some consistent success on the basketball floor. There is nothing that puts pressure on university brass to make moves than a clamoring fan base and boosters who remember how proud they were when "Panther Hoops" was a bit more synonmyous with "success" in this town.
Back to the game! The Panthers jumped out to an early 8-0 run on the backs on James Eayrs and Anthony Hill (who is gaining scary amounts of confidence with each and every step he takes in the post!). UIC went down in flames in the first 20 minutes and entered the break trailing Milwaukee by 14 points, 41-27.
But somehow the timeless Jimmy Collins willed his Flames back into the game in the second half. Robo Kreps (16pts) and Jeremy Buttell (16pts) combined to form a potent threat from beyond the arc this particular afternoon (UIC shot 9-18 from three). The Flames in this game (much like the Panthers in this season) just would not quit. Milwaukee did manage to keep a lead buffer of about 6 points for the vast majority of the second half, but when the clock got under 5:00, things began to get very shaky...
Fortunately(!), the Panthers did not wither, and in the face of pressure and an embarrassing loss to the Horizon's 9th place team and a former (and future) bitter rival, Lonnie Boga, one eye and all (Boga was poked in the eye late in the second half and almost had to leave the game) knocked down 4 critical free throws (Boga was a prefect 8-8 from the charity stripe on the day) to secure the Panthers final victory of the regular season, 78-74. In addition to Boga's cool and calm demeanor that helped bring home this "W", Ant continued his tour of destruction dropping in 20, Big Lumber tallied 19, and Rick scored 16.
When one considers we lost 5-6 (depending on which you count) extremely winnable games, and aside from those, lost two absolute "locks" on buzzer beaters (@Valpo and @Cleveland State), we are not in bad shape. Imagine if we win just 1/4 of the aforementioned heartbreakers! We are 20-11 (and likely 2nd or 3rd place). Wow. Not bad for a team who, just a few weeks ago people had taken for dead. But alas! We are in fourth place- coincidentally where many of the pundits and statistics agencies predicted we would land entering this crazy season. My it feels good to be out of the (Horizon League) cellar now doesn't it folks?
And so Milwaukee (18-13, 10-8) sets it's sights on a rematch with UIC- this time on our home court at the Cell. Though it doesn't seem like that important of a contest to most casual fans who have still written the Panthers off for this season- the stakes could NOT BE HIGHER. It's sudden death- so if this Panther squadron loses in front of all us fans this coming Tuesday night... that's it. For Rick, and Big Lumber, and Averkamp and the rest of the seniors- the gig is up as soon as we lose. "As soon as we lose". Let's hope we have a few more weeks of nothin' but winning. These guys definitely seem to be peaking at the perfect time.
For a team that started out the conference season 5-8, and rebounded like this- you should be proud to show your support. What stands between us and a successful Horizon League Tourney run? For now- only Jimmy Collins and the UIC Flames. We have beaten or nearly beaten (minutes from beating Butler here in Milwaukee in late January) every single enemy that stands in our way. Let's put the pedal to the medal- reach top speed- and hit cruise control, shall we?
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Milwaukee soundly beat the Vikings, 69-59 in front of a crowd of 3,000 or so who were visibly impressed by this team's ability to play damn tough when the system is working. Norris Cole, who single-handidly stole the game from the Panthers in Cleveland, went off again on this night, leading CSU with 21 hard-fought points.
But the Panthers countered- and very effectively. While Rick had a quiety night offensively with only 8 points total, James Eayrs scored 11 and the "so fresh and so clean" (sorry non-hip-hop fans, that is an Outkast song reference) newcomers Ja'Rob McCallum and Lonnie Boga posted a dozen points apiece. The most telling stat of the night was probably the rebounding differential- we out-rebounded Cleveland State 44-27! Now that is a stat that will help you win basketball games...
Next came the home ESPN "BracketBusters" match-up, between two teams who, at this point in the season don't appear destined to bust anyone's bracket come March Madness. The Panthers definitely still have a chance to get hot during the Horizon League Tourney (they've also had a lot of chances to get hot- this season.... to no avail)- but as far as I know the HL Tourney has never been won by a team who was not a #1 or #2 seed (and so thus would have to win 4 instead of just 2 games in a row). But possibilities abound and are what life is made of..
Interesting factoid: Does anyone know that when UW-Madison made it's first Final Four run in the modern era in 2000 (the Badgers defeated Washington State, 39-34 to win the third-ever NCAA Tourney in 1939, but hadn't sniffed anything more than the 2nd round until the year 2000)- the Badgers were (coincidence?) a #8 seed that had 13 regular season losses?!!
Granted, the Badgers got in and seeded as high as they did based on a solid .500 (8-8) record in a "Big"-time conference, but it just shows that not all who wind up the best when all of the dust settles have ended the regular season with a an ultra-impressive record.
But I digress- after coming back to Milwaukee, the Panthers squared off in what was (despite the final result) one of the most (if not the most) entertaining Milwaukee Panther home games of this (once-again) "enigmatic" season. The Cell, if not packed to the gills like some big games in the days of old, sure sounded like the Cell of old and the Cell many of us used to know and love- esp. during the second half when the game was as close as college hoops battles can get. The student section traded parts of a well-known UWM chant with non-student fans in an opposite section- [Students]: "MILWAUKEE" [Non-Students]: "PANTHERS!!!". Pretty hard to recreate here in a blog post... but it was pretty loud- and pretty damn cool.
Although Niagara possessed the lead for the majority of the game, this one was tooth and nail and never out of reach until the final 20 seconds. Case in point? We shot 54.4% from the field!! It is a downright anomaly (and shame) that we lost this game- we never lose when we shoot over 50% from the field!! At least I can't remember the last time that happened.. Kevin O'Connor (UWM's SID), anywhere?
The Panthers actually took the lead twice under the 10 minute mark in the 2nd half. But the Purple Eagles proved too much with their up-tempo run-and-gun offensive assault. UWM missed several free throws in the effort (7-12 or 58%) which severely hampered our chances to pull out the win.
There is always the sunny side- Rick tallied 22 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists, and Hill, Eayrs, and Boga all reached double-digit point totals. In the end though, the scrappy bunch in purple wore these Panthers down, didn't allow them a second to catch their breath, and prevailed on our home turf(!)- winning, 85-79.
Though it would have been an admirable feat to win out the regular season and enter the Horizon League Tourney riding high on the hog with a 6 game winning streak.... it just wasn't meant to be this season. And, really, it doesn't much matter. The Niagara result has no bearing on the only important thing left to pay attention to as the final Horizon League contests play out- HL Tourney seeding.
Milwaukee, currently in 6th place (one game ahead of Detroit), stands a very good chance to host a 1st Round home game at the Cell if they can hold on and defeat our lowly Chicago foes (Loyola Thurs. night and UIC Sat. afternoon) later this week and weekend. I hope Niagara was not the last time we'll see this team in Milwaukee, but if we do host a 1st Round game, I also hope that won't be our last game!
For a team that failed to make it out of the first round of the league tournament in '06-'07 and '07-'08, and lost a tough one to Wright State last season at the Nutter Center in the 2nd Round, I think any measure of success is now solely predicated on how far we can get in the Horizon League Tourney.
Pay attention Panther fans.... There is still at least 3 (hopefully 6+!!!!) games to watch. A lot could happen in the final run. If we continue to peak during this, the end of the season (which, seeing the way Ant, Haggerty, McCallum, Eayrs, Rick, Averkamp, Meier, and Boga are playing- we definitely are hitting our stride in a big way), that play can generate momentum which might propel us to a few big victories that will make this season a lot more memorable than it currently seems....
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
So your Milwaukee Panthers bussed on over into Dayton, Ohio to face the ever-challenging Wright State Raiders. According to the typical script we've seen time and again this season, the team fought hard, and were clearly within striking distance of the lead nearly all game. But then the wheels began to loosen, the engine began to sputter, crash, burn, and we dropped yet another winnable (big) road game, 68-63.
Things weren't so bad though. James Eayrs tallied a 26pts, 6rbs, and 3ast night and freshman (do we still need a reminder?) Ja'Rob McCallum added 17 in the losing effort. As mentioned before, (it's almost getting annoying to keep reminding myself of this) we are in nearly every single one of these games! Outside of our game at Butler, and the second half against Detroit at home, we have been within 3-4 possessions (max) of pulling momentum our way and closing out these games for those (seemingly elusive) "W"s.
The Panthers took to the road again to face off against the same Detroit Mercy Titans team that decimated us on our home court in front of one of our biggest crowds of the season (beating UWGB by 20 points definitely gave a boost- if only momentarily, to our fickle casual fan base). After that beating many of the patrons who left the building that day, haven't come back- yet.
We played very impressive in our rematch game against Detroit at the visiting team-friendly, Calihan Hall. The Panthers were on nearly all night as the final field goal percentage (44%) clearly showed. Detroit was able stay with the Panthers until eventually our three point barrage became too much (Milwaukee shot 12-32 for 37.5% from 3-point range), and UWM handily dispatched UDM on their home floor, 71-60.
Big Lumber continued his climb back to the top of the mountain with 15 points on 5 trey-bombs. Ricky Franklin was utility man as always dishing out 4 assists, and grabbing 3 steals while leading all scorers with 16. Better news yet, Tony Meier came out of hiding to post 12 points and 6 rebounds in his 19 minutes of work (my, how things might be different if Tony had played that well all year and we had Tone for this campaign!).
The Panthers next returned home to face a Youngstown State team that seems to be doing everything they can to challenge UIC for last place. In short, a loss to the 'Guins would have been more damning than any of our (many) previous lackluster showings this year. And lose we almost did! If not for a waved-off last-second 3 drained by YSU's Deandre Hall as time expired (-er thankfully "after" time expired) these Panthers- and likely any chance for a season-ending push of momentum- would have been toast. Fortunately for the statistician's chance we still posses- Milwaukee prevailed, 64-42.
However difficult that display of basketball was to stomach, at least there were some things to be proud of- James and Ricky were the senior leaders- posting 22pts and 6rbs, and 19pts and 4ast, respectively. There were also the omnipresent deficiencies rearing their ugly head (against the Penguins no less!). First and foremost- our porous defense needs to man-up. Period. We will get slaughtered (as we already have) by more physical teams if we continue to let offenses break through our zones and defensive positions like so many immovable straw men.
But all is well that ends well. We got the win, we'll take it and move on.
It's encouraging that Milwaukee (15-12, 7-8) now has two upcoming home games (Cleveland State on Thursday night and Niagra (ESPN not-so-aptly-titled "Bracketbusters" game) on Saturday night). Both CSU and Niagra are beatable (ie. they are not named "Butler" or "Wisconsin"), but the latter (who won 26 games last season and lost to Sienna in the last MAAC Championship) will likely pose a bigger challenge and will come on the heels of us having played 2 games in 4 days...
Who the heck really even knows anymore... Certainly not me! The way people are these days on the Panther fan discussion board (and myself posting articles on this fan blog as the season's fortunes rise and plummet), makes one wonder whether the entire Milwaukee Panther fan base is completely bi-polar! It has definitely been a roller-coaster of a season. More downers than high notes, but we have not exactly performed bad enough to be termed a Horizon League "Cellar Dweller". However, unless this 2 game winning streak can extend into the Horizon League Tourney- we may wind up just that.
My cousin, who is completely new to this year's team (in fact never saw last year's team either) summed it up pretty well when he mentioned mid-way through last night's yawner, "[the Panthers] look a lot more talented than the other team (YSU), but the other team looks like they are trying way harder".
I hate to criticize this team for a lack of effort, but it's obvious that at (too many) times, we have not played as fast and as aware and as strong as our competition- at many key moments that have decided the game no less! Basketball is a game of runs, yes, but this team all-too-often disappears for so long of stretches (damaging themselves far, far more than just another team's "run"), that they essentially play themselves out of the game.
The funny thing about this season's Panthers is that, it's as if from game to game you really have no idea which team is going to show up. Will it be Ricky-take-charge, or Mad Ant Hill owning the post, or as we have seen all too awfully often, will it be polar bear ice cold shooters night? Or will it be the laissez-faire defense that has allowed so many easy buckets that should have been at the very least been contested? This team is many things (and talented as ever!), but they are not (yet) consistent. Until they figure that out, success will be measured in Horizon League tourney wins (or hosted home games- if we can even accomplish that meager amount of success) and not by NCAA Tourney or NIT appearances...
Being an unapologetic optimist, I am banking on the minuscule off-chance that we catch a huge fire right there in early March when it really starts to count, and don't let up on the gas pedal until a net or two comes down. That sounds laughable yes, but not impossible. I refuse to get "excited" about our encouraging 2-game winning streak, but it's a start, no?
This Thursday night, Cleveland State comes to the Cell with an eye on a season series sweep. The Panthers have a chance to negate the loss in Cleveland and extend our winning streak to three games before the end game (vs. Niagra, @ Loyola, @ UIC). In college basketball, and most sports, and really in life in general- momentum is omnipotent- until it's gone. Let's hope we can keep this going...
For Your Ent: CURRENT HORIZON LEAGUE POWER RANKINGS
(Milwaukee may yet climb to the upper half before it's over!)
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Ja'Rob McCallum and Anthony Hill led the Panthers paltry scoring attack with 13 a piece. Ryan Haggerty (6pts, 3rbs), the newest member of Milwaukee's constantly-evolving starting rotation, continued where he left off against Butler and looked very much like the experienced swing power forward he is poised to be in the first half of this game.
In a direct nod to those of us who have wondered whether or not there is a moratorium on dunking since Jeter took over the program, Ant jammed home (rather half-heartedly) a refreshing 2 points mid-way through the first half... but that was about as exciting as this one got. Ugly on both ends, and lacking much of the drama usually synonymous with this rivalry (I will not count the fictitious Jeter/Fletcher 'bumpgate'- that story is pretty absurd to me).
The Panthers started the second half freezing cold and never recovered. Another long and painful scoring drought buried us (yes, we have actually suffered multiple 8+ minute long scoring droughts this season.... and this from a team of 'shooters'(!)). When will those percentages rise? Surely, it must be obvious that when we shoot better we win games. Defense wins championships, yes, but not without a complimentary offense that puts points on the board.
But the news of the game happened just off the court near the scorer's table. Coach Jeter was involved in a minor 'altercation' (or assault as the Green Bay media would have us believe) with a taunt-happy Ramon Fletcher near the end of the game. Jeter reportedly bumped into Fletcher as the Phoenix player was harassing the Panther bench and told the player to 'cut it out'.
Now, one can argue that there should be no physical contact between coaches and players and that Jeter was out of line (many of the most frustrated Panther fans I know are convinced that this was a classless act and that Jeter should have been reprimanded). but this incident was hardly a Pistons-Pacers'ish scene of drama.
To summarize, here are the 'bitter', 'malicious' post-game quotes from both parties involved:
Sound like two people who almost got into a fight? It was an in-the-moment competitive venting of frustration. Noone was hurt- and other than the Green Bay announcers, noone even seemed to notice when it occured (I was viewing the game on HL.tv with mute on (could not stomach the UW-Green Bay announcers) and saw nothing "shocking" occur near the benches as the game wound down).
"It was just competitive talk," Fletcher said of his exchange with Jeter.
"Nothing too big. I wasn't going at it with him, nothing like that. We shook and
hugged after the game. Nothing big. He just said, 'I have to deal with you for
the next year and you're going to be a pain for the next year.' He said just
keep getting better."
Said Jeter, "I have a lot of respect for Rahmon. He's one
of the best players in our league. I've got nothing bad to say about Rahmon.
He's very talented and he's showed toughness this year."
Much ado about nil- I can't believe I even spent so much time commenting on it just now- I guess just to reveal how warped some Green Bay fans (and some of our own, disillusioned (for good reason) fans) have become. The reality is that disaffected (disenfranchised? lol) Panther fans have run out of excuses and are desperately looking for a scapegoat. The buck stops with Coach Jeter. When we win- he gets all the credit (and he can do no wrong!).
When we lose- guess what? Same deal- he get all the blame (and deservedly so). Part of this blame game can spill over into other (baseless) accusations which are only made to bolster an already obvious argument (we are not playing good basketball this season and something needs to change for us to get better).
I turned off the game with seconds remaining and no chance of a comeback, looked up at the ceiling, and thanked God that I had a date with a very nice girl later that night. It would have otherwise been a very long and depressing night thinking about how unsuccessful we have been this season (and how confident (almost arrogant!) we were coming in).
Frustration happens. It's just unfortunate that we seem to have experienced more than our fair share since the last time we were a good team back in early '06. Well at least we weren't swept by pmck as was the case last season! Until next year..
Another road challenge and opportunity to silence the doubters, and..... another failure. It's painful to realize we are getting pretty used to this. If our current .504 season winning percentage holds steady for these remaining 7 games, we will likely win 4 of them (Youngstown State, Cleveland State, UIC, and Loyola are my best guess if I had to pick).
That puts us at 17-14. Sound familiar? That's because that was our record last season.. So if that is the end result, and we win less than 2 games in the Horizon League Tourney, the program will have made zero progress since last year.
From 22-9... to 9-22, to 12-14, to 17-14... things seemed to be trending almost certainly toward that 20-win badge of honor. However, now, a 4-5 game winning streak and decent (read- HL Semifinal appearance at the minimum) conference tournament showing is about all that could allow that to happen.
This team has had more than it's share of mulligans. There was a time when losses were still manageable and the season's course was still "correctable". Unfortunately that time is nearing it's end if it is not over already.
The Panthers face another tough road challenge tonight at 6pm as they go up against Brad Brownell's Wright State Raiders at the Nutter Center. The game will be televised on TWC Sports Channel 32 with Adrian Tigert and Daron Sutton calling the action.
I know those of us with hope still left in our hearts for this team and this program are struggling to dig deep and find some kind of optimism. It's tough and it has looked especially ugly lately, but maybe tonight we'll be given a brief respite from the negative winds of defeat and see the Panther team that we envisioned going in to this season.
With our two games against Butler in the books, who says these Milwaukee Panthers can't run the table, or at least reel off 5-6 wins in the 7 remaining contests and win back the support of a fan base who doesn't know what to make of this current state of the union in Pantherland?
Our beloved Milwaukee Panthers badly need to erase that skepticism and doubt and make up our minds for us- convince us that Milwaukee is back and headed for greener pastures in the foreseeable future. Just a glimmer of hope that doesn't fade as quickly as it appears.... That is all we ask.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Ricky Franklin (22pts, 5rbs, 5ast) once again led the Panthers' (13-10, 5-6) attack, but Jason Averkamp stepped up big time off the bench in a career-high effort (22pts, 7rbs). Defense was obviously much more porous than we'd like, but overall we played a good game and props should be given to the coaches and the team for rebounding nicely after the frustrating end-of-game road loss against Cleveland State.
The Panthers got to the line with regularity (24-35) and converted well. Though the Crusader's Cory Johnson (21pts, 7rbs) looked as if he was personally going to spoil the Panthers night (Johnson had the look of a man on a mission all game- I only wish we would play with that intensity more often!), it wasn't in the cards for Homer Drew and company.
Though the Crusaders tied the game up with just seconds remaining, Ricky Franklin drained a contested three from what seemed like the rooftop of Turner Hall with 1.8 remaining, the crowd went nuts, and Milwaukee prevailed 85-82.
It was a solid victory and things seemed to be coming together for the unlikely but always-possible upset that every Panther fan quietly hoped for the following Saturday....
And then Butler came to town... Seeing them live, even if they didn't play their best ball, I have to say that Butler is as good as advertised. They certainly looked like they executed (esp. on offense) their playbook as if they have had it memorized since the summer of last year. Very clean and effective ball movement- the one thing that kept Milwaukee in charge most of the game was BU's woeful and uncharacteristic shooting from three point land ( 2-13 or .154!).
Gordon Hayward kept the NBA scouts in attendance interested, with a game-high 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. Hayward seemed intent on making sure that BU did not suffer a repeat of the court-storm, "clockgate" upset of last year.
And so it was... In a rare night where Ricky Franklin was way off the mark (2-14 from the field.... ouch.), Milwaukee forfeited a late lead, and the "Dawgs" assumed their dominance ending any hope of a "ranked team" upset at the Cell this season...
On the positive side, Ryan Haggerty (8pts, 4rbs) took full advantage of his unexpected increase in minutes (Deonte Roberts is temporarily out with academic eligibility issues and Tony Meier is out with a minor ankle sprain he suffered against Valparaiso). Haggerty looked very comfortable and if he continues to get better, he could really come into his own and become a force in the league (a la Anthony Hill...) in the coming 3 years.
Anthony Hill (21pts, 8rbs, 3ast) made Butler's front line look silly at times (that is no sarcasm, Ant seriously manned up and gave the Butler bigs all they could handle), and James Eayrs hit a very timely 3 to add to his 9 points and two blocks with his patented "Big Lumber drop-step dart throw". On the afternoon though, the Panthers were almost as awful from long-range as their opponent (4-16).
It was a decent showing and looked (we literally lead nearly all game- Butler's biggest lead of the game? The final margin- or 7 points) like we might even pull off the upset without our point man playing his best (I got a feeling... that Rick is not going to easily forget that performance and will likely have a very fan-rubbernecking showing this Saturday...) wasn't enough to beat a Butler team that seems to eat most Horizon League teams for a light snack every few days.
We lost(?), we lost(!), we lost. I think the team feels the sting of those words more than everyone in attendance did.... the rest of the season will tell us exactly how much more.
You can sugarcoat this season (or our (impressive at the HS level indeed) recruits coming in 2010-2011) all you want, but the fact remains that the majority of Panther fans are at best apathetic right now- that could change almost overnight (with a big win or winning streak or a champion-like performance in the Horizon League Tourney) as everyone who follows sports should know...
As pessimistic as most everyone has gotten about this team and this program though- we are still a mere 2 games out of 2nd place in the League. A few bad breaks by those above us, and a few unexpected road victories and we are actually very much right in the hunt for second place and the coveted #2 seed in the league tournament.
The biggest rivalry in Milwaukee Panther Hoops is coming up this Saturday night at the Resch Center in Green Bay versus the tied-for-3rd place pmck-coached UWGB Phoenix. Green Bay started out the season hot (mostly due to a very timid non-con schedule, but we here at MPT must give them credit for their dismantling of the Badgers- that was very impressive no matter who played or didn't for UW-Madison that day), but has begun to fade a bit as the conference slug-fest enters the 12th round or so...
This is a game that could turn the tide- there is only so much of the '09-'10 voyage left. It's crazy we're already here, but- it's kinda now or never.
Thank heavens for the NCAA Tournament Auto-bid*. Without it, we'd have nothing to dream about. but from Youngstown to Valparaiso, Horizon League fans for teams other than Butler know, though the odds are immensely long, we all still have a chance.
*One could say that the NIT would still be a possibility if we finish strong and lose in the HL Tourney... however with our losses to some pretty lackluster opponents (Indiana State, Loyola, Valpo, etc.), there isn't much chance of that happening.
Once "the" premier college basketball tournament in the country, the NIT has degenerated into the (coach job security) consolation prize for BCS schools who miss out on the Big Dance. Not too much hope for a Mid-Major who has few if any impressive wins (rem. "impressive win" is a relative term in D-I college basketball) under it's belt.
Ah well, even in defeat- GO PANTHERS!!!!