Turning Back The Continent

By - May 15, 2007

The Mid-Continent is joining retired conference monikers like the Big Eight, the Great Midwest, the Southwest and the Metro as another footnote in college basketball history.

As the MCC wraps up its 25th season as an intercollegiate athletic conference, the Illinois-based league announced a name change Tuesday as part of a strategic plan to place a renewed emphasis on the academic and athletic improvement of all its student-athletes.

The Mid-Con will be known as the Summit League -- a 10-team group comprising of holdovers IUPUI, Centenary, Missouri-Kansas City, Oakland, Oral Roberts, Southern Utah and Western Illinois along with newcomers IPFW, North Dakota State and South Dakota State. (Valparaiso is leaving the conference to join the Horizon League.)

It's been a decade since a Mid-Con school has made serious noise in the NCAAs -- when Valpo stunned Ole Miss and Florida State before succumbing to Rhode Island in the Sweet 16 during the 1998 tournament. But the league has enjoyed modest success during its quarter-century lifespan in accumulating a respectable eight NCAA Tournament victories -- a total which ranks favorably among those outfits generally regarded as one-bid conferences. In celebration of the league's silver anniversary and Tuesday's identity change, here's a quick look at those eight shining moments:

  • (14) Cleveland State 83, (3) Indiana 79 on Mar. 14, 1986 (Syracuse, N.Y.): There was a time when a Bob Knight-coached team losing in the first round of the NCAAs was front page news. Like when Kevin Mackey's run-and-gun Vikings used their non-stop pressure to hand the irascible Hall of Famer his first opening-round ouster in 10 appearances -- back when the Mid-Con was called the Association of Mid-Continent Universities (better-known as the pharmaceutically-sounding ACMU-8). Clinton Ramsey poured in a game-high 27 points to seal the upset for a Cleveland State side which didn't have a player taller than 6-foot-8 on its roster.

  • (14) Cleveland State 75, (6) Saint Joseph's 69 on Mar. 16, 1986 (Syracuse, N.Y.): In its first season as a full-time member conference of Division I, the Mid-Con wasted no time in establishing itself as a national player. Gothamite guard Ken "Mouse" McFadden scored 23 points to power the Vikings past the Hawks into the Sweet 16. McFadden, who never played organized ball during his years at Seward Park High, was painting houses and working for his high school diploma when Mackey found him playing AAU games. Cleveland State's unlikely tourney run would end in the regional semifinals with a 71-70 loss at the hands of David Robinson and the Naval Academy.

  • (13) Missouri State 65, (4) Clemson 60 on Mar. 13, 1987 (Atlanta, Ga.): Missouri State -- or Southwest Missouri State as the school was then known -- was making its first-ever NCAA tournament appearance in its fifth year as a member of Division I. But the Bears looked like cool, collected dance veterans in scoring a 65-60 upset of the favored Tigers. Future NBA journeyman Winston Garland scored 24 points in spite of Clemson's box-and-one defense to spirit the Mid-Con champs to the league's third NCAA tournament victory in two seasons. The underdog Bears, who paced the nation in scoring defense (allowing just 57 points per game), limited ACC scoring champion Horace Grant to just two second-half free throws after the Clemson forward mustered a quiet 14 points before the break.

  • (14) UNI 74, (3) Missouri 71 on Mar. 18, 1990 (Richmond, Va.): All-MCC first team center Jason Reese, who would have a cup of coffee with the Boston Celtics before embarking on a pro career overseas, recorded team highs with 18 points and 15 rebounds to help the Panthers register the upset. Two days later, UNI would come within a hair of the Sweet 16 in an 81-78 loss to sixth-seeded Minnesota. (Incidentally, the 1990 tournament marked the first time the MCC sent an at-large team to the field. Missouri State advanced the NCAAs after suffering a two-point loss to UNI in the conference tournament and would suffer an 83-70 loss to North Carolina in the first round of the NCAAs.)

  • (12) Wisconsin-Green Bay 61, (5) California 57 on Mar. 17, 1994 (Ogden, Utah): Just one season after Jason Kidd and the Golden Bears dramatically ended Duke's bid for a three-peat, California found itself on the wrong end of an NCAA tournament upset with a four-point loss at the hands of the Mid-Con champs. The Phoenix used their vaunted team defense to put the clamps on Kidd and high-scoring forward Lamond Murray while opening a 19-point advantage then withstanding a furious rally to escape with the school's first and only March Madness victory.

  • (13) Valparaiso 70, (4) Ole Miss 69 on Mar. 13, 1998 (Oklahoma City, Okla.): The Rebels had the underdog Crusaders on the ropes when Ansu Sesay headed to the foul line to ice an Ole Miss victory. But Sesay missed both shots and Valpo, the tiny northwest Indiana school (enrollment: 3,500), corralled the rebound to give the Mid-Con champs possession with 2.5 seconds remaining -- 94 feet from their goal. Coach Homer Drew would invoke a play known as Pacer which saw Jamie Sykes sail a long rainbow to Bill Jenkins, whose mid-air touch pass landed in the waiting hands of sharpshooter Bryce Drew, who deposited a game-winning three-pointer that defined "One Shining Moment" for a new generation of college basketball fans. "The Shot" is frequently cited as one of the most memorable buzzer-beaters in the event's history.

  • (13) Valparaiso 83, (12) Florida State 77 on Mar. 15, 1998 (Oklahoma City, Okla.): The Crusaders needed overtime to become the second No. 13 seed in the history of the tournament to reach the Sweet 16 -- putting down a fellow Cinderella in the process. Drew scored 22 points in the winning effort but Valpo gutted out this victory in staking a difference-making advantage on the glass. The Mid-Con champs saw their Cinderella run end the following weekend with a Sweet 16 loss to Atlantic 10 surprise Rhode Island.

  • Oakland 79, Alabama A&M 69 on Mar. 15, 2005 (Dayton, Ohio): The late-breaking Golden Grizzlies became the fifth team with a losing record to win in the NCAAs behind a combined 50 points from Rawle Marshall and Cortney Scott. Their reward for winning the play-in game? A 28-point drubbing at the hands of eventual national champion North Carolina just three days later.

Posted by at 11:56 AM on May 15, 2007
Comments (1)


Think the Horizon League likes this? It is a blatant ripoff.

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