I've already voiced my displeasure with the inclusion of teams like Xavier among the mid-major morass. They have the tradition, the size and the talent to hang with any of the big boys but the Atlantic 10 is still a bit of a redheaded stepchild. The only way they can defy their label is by winning games, something they've done seven out of eight times this season after beating Creighton 79-66 last night. The deep Musketeers got a typically well-balanced scoring night, led by 28 from Drew Lavender. The 5-7 sparkplug usually finds one of his five teammates who score in double figures but took matters into his own hands from the opening tip. He scored 17 in the first half, hit four threes and still found the time to dish out 10 assists.
XU remains under the radar but is a team that can't be slept on. C.J. Anderson, Josh Duncan and Derrick Brown can beat you inside while Lavender, Stanley Burrell and B.J. Raymond control the perimeter. Few teams, regardless of conference, can match that kind of balanced scoring. We'll see who among Tennessee, Kansas State, Auburn, Virginia and Arizona State can, but first the Musketeers will face Cincinnati in a battle for city bragging rights next week.
Elsewhere on the hardwood:
Drake 79, Iowa State 44 - The Cyclones have been meat for several mid-majors this season but none of them beat them so badly as the Bulldogs last night. Drake took advantage of ISU carelessness to the tune of 15 steals and Josh Young continued to dominate from three, upping his season average to 49% en route to a game-high 23 points. Despite their 6-1 mark, Drake takes a back seat to other MVC contenders because of their 6-12 conference mark last season.
South Alabama 75, Southern Miss 68 - The Jaguars led from the first minute to the last one to improve to 6-3 on the young season. Leading scorer Demetric Bennett took a backseat to Daon Merritt and Domonic Tilford, who each topped 20 points, in their most impressive victory of the year. Returning coach Ronnie Arrow has a team that can score in bunches and should battle Western Kentucky for the Sun Belt East crown all year.
George Mason 57, Hampton 54 - The Patriots avoided a second straight loss but needed a late flourish from Folarin Campbell to sidestep the gritty Pirates. 20 GMU turnovers made this game too close for comfort and underscored the need for a more consistent effort from the CAA favorites.