Golden Eagles can still make Big Dance, if they win
Feb. 26, 2001
Thoughts whizzing about as I watch Southern Miss honor legendary former coach Lee Floyd at halftime of Saturday's game …
HATTIESBURG Yes, it took them a little while, but the Southern Miss Golden Eagles climbed to their third win in a row by virtue of a 15-point snoozer over hapless Tulane. But the bigger question following the contest is where the Golden Eagles will end up down the road.
The road to the Final Four, that is.
The Eagles looked pretty lackluster for a major portion of the blustery Saturday and the announced crowd of 3,812 (it looked a lot less) sounded worse.
But, that's a topic for another day.
Ironically, it was a disastrous loss to this same Green Wave a team with only nine players, including five freshmen that led a once-soaring USM squad down the dark path leading to the NCAA tournament's "bubble" teams.
While the David Walls and Mel Cauthens of the Eagle basketball community were singing the same old song and dance after Saturday's game about taking them one game at a time, the fact of the matter is this: USM needs to get the 20th victory at home against Memphis Wednesday.
And No. 21 the following Saturday at Reed Green versus South Florida. And No.22 in the Conference USA Tournament, and yep, even Nos. 23 and 24 in Louisville, too.
Although it isn't the opinion of this writer, those NCAA Overlords you know, the ones that decide the fates of teams while huddled in little rooms pouring over piles of information and sucking down plenty of bad take-out in all likelihood will deem this as a bad year for CUSA.
Going into Saturday's contest, USM (19-7) had the least amount of overall losses in the league, but the Cincinnati Bearcats indeed are more favorable in the eyes of said Overlords.
It's really hard at this point envisioning the NCAA taking more than two teams from CUSA.
If USM doesn't win the whole thing in Louisville, the sad thing is, there are scenarios where the Golden Eagles could conceivably be left out in the cold. Say, a South Florida or a Charlotte gets hot and beats a Cincy team with at or near the same number of wins as USM in the championship.
What happens then?
There have been 24 and 25-win teams left at home before, that's for sure.
USM head coach James Green seems to think if his bunch can get to the above mentioned number line, then there won't be a problem. And frankly, he's not real happy with the negative perception his league carries.
But even if that doesn't happen for USM, Green said he would be surprised if only two teams were taken.
The soft-spoken tangent continued.
While no one is saying that, the negativity in the Ivory Tower will still remain.
I guess the only answer with two games left is to do like Al Davis says, "Just win Baby."
There isn't much they can say about a team which finishes the season on an eight-game winning streak. That's almost the equivalent of kicking the doors in.
Richard Dark is a sports writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.