Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Rice Spanks the Mustangs 

Showing renewed energy after their poor weekend showing in Tulsa, Rice put on a defensive clinic on Tuesday, smothering the SMU Mustangs 80-40.

The win leaves Rice at 13-4 and 4-1 in WAC play as the Owls embark on a crucial West Coast road trip in which they will play at first-place Fresno State (9-6, 5-1) on Thursday and league preseason favorite Nevada (9-6, 3-3) on Saturday. You can listen to both games over the Internet if you are unable to make the trip.

Surprisingly, the Owls Saturday loss only dropped their Top 25 votes from 3 to 2 and left their RPI at a respectable 58. Andy Katz' article on ESPN gives an update on mid-tier conferences capable of getting two or more teams into the tournament. It focuses on how te mediocrity of the Big 10 and Pac 10 should provide openings for conferences like the Big West and MAC to get multiple teams in the tourney. It then mentions the WAC...

Certainly, mid-majors like Creighton (33 RPI) and Southern Illinois (RPI of 45) are both viable. But the Missouri Valley Conference has had multiple bids four straight seasons. The WAC may also have a good chance if at least two or three teams can start to create distance. The problem is that these conferences tend to beat each other up. Still, Nevada (56), Fresno State (65), UTEP (37), Rice (58), Hawaii (43) and SMU (120) have had all moments where they have looked like NCAA Tournament teams. "We should get three in there," UTEP coach Billy Gillispie said of the WAC.

Finally... for those planning a trip to Houson in February, more than 100 former Rice baseball players, including Bubba Crosby, Matt Anderson and Kenny Baugh, have committed to play in the biennial Rice alumni game Feb. 7 at Reckling Park. Rice officials said they expect the game to be a sellout. The 2003 team will receive its national championship rings prior to the game.

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