Yesterdays VMI-Winthrop was one of the best games I have watched all year and it emphasized why championship week (technically two weeks) is one of the best of the year in College Basketball. VMI lead the nation in scoring and steals this season running an all out press on defense and a less organized version of the Phoenix Suns offense all season. These particular philosophy's led the Keydets to a 5-9 conference record and #6 seed in the tournament. In this game VMI actually broke the Division I record for steals in a season with 490. The Keydets shocked their conference foes switching from the fun-n-gun to a more slow paced offense with a 2-3 zone base defense. After Winthrop torched VMI by 32 points and then 13 this season many expected this game to be much more of the same. This game however was very, very different. Winthrop's largest lead was nine, on the same floor that the 32 point spanking had taken place. That nine point lead was followed by a quick VMI rally to pull it close again. Every time it looked like the Eagles would pull away VMI rallied back to within 2-3 points and kept it interesting. While VMI only held maybe 1-2 leads the entire game they played very well and certainly had the Eagles a little nervous. After all this Eagles team isn't quite a lock if they lose this game despite all four of their losses coming against the RPI top 16 including an OT loss to Wisconsin. In the end Winthrop triumphed over VMI to capture the auto-bid in the Big South and save themselves from sweating it out until next Sunday night.
As much as I like the Eagles and want them to get into the tourney I almost wish they had lost just to see if they could get the at-large I think they deserve. Despite his great year I'd have to think Reggie Williams will stay in school for his senior season and if the Holmes twins (Chavis and Travis) play the way they did Saturday VMI should be good next season. I'd have to imagine the new style will stick given their tourney success. Can't help but wonder how good they might have been had they played it all season though. The familiarity would have certainly helped out I would imagine. But at least for next year I think Winthrop might just have some company on top of the Big South, don't you?