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UMass, Tulsa linked to final spot in new Big East Conference

UMass and Tulsa. Not exactly rivals by any definition. Other than a Sweet 16 game in the 1995 NCAA tournament, the two schools have very little shared history of any kind.

But if ESPN’s Andy Katz is right, the final spot (for now) in what’s left of the Big East could come down to the Minutemen and the Golden Hurricanes.

Several reports in the Tulsa World have Tulsa, which is in Conference USA, as the leader, but the Golden Hurricanes are also being wooed by the Mountain West. Bolstered by the return of Boise and San Diego State, the MWC is attempting make a strong case to be the sixth best football conference, ahead of the Big East.

While Tulsa would be closer geographically to Big East newbies Southern Methodist (Dallas) and Houston, it’s closer to several of the Mountain West schools than it is to the Big East schools that are actually in the East.

Tulsa offers the advantage of having a much more well-established football program. The Golden Hurricanes have gone to bowl games in seven out of the last eight seasons, averaging eight wins per season, while UMass will be selling potential and promise.

It’s likely that UMass, if given that opportunity, would make the jump. The prospect of being conference rivals with Connecticut and Temple, as well as having a likely more lucrative television deal, would be too good not to chase, despite knowing that the Huskies would jump ship at the first opportunity.

With the Atlantic 10 expected to lose at least Xavier and Butler, and perhaps Dayton, Saint Louis and maybe even Virginia Commonwealth to the new league featuring the Big East’s seven Catholic schools, the A-10 won’t be nearly as strong, making staying put a not especially enticing possibility for UMass.

The next wave of decisions could come some time in February.

MY TOP 10 — 1. Michigan, 2. Kansas, 3. Indiana, 4. Syracuse, 5. Florida, 6. Duke, 7. Gonzaga, 8. Arizona, 9. Butler, 10. Louisville.

For the rest of my Top 25 visit the College Hoop Week Guide at GazetteNET.com/Blogs/UMassSports/.

WOEFUL — How bad was Northern Illinois’ offense in its 42-25 loss to Eastern Michigan?

The Huskies scored an NCAA record low four first-half points. They shot 1 for 31 (3.2 percent) from the field and 0 for 17 from 3-point range.

The second half was better only because how could it not be? Still, NIU shot 7 for 30 (23.3 percent) and missed 15 more 3-point tries before finally making one.

It would be one thing if this came against Wisconsin, but Eastern Michigan (10-10) isn’t showing up on anyone’s projected brackets for the CBI let along the NCAA tournament.

GAME OF THE WEEK: Michigan at Indiana, Saturday, 9 p.m., ESPN — Best game of the year so far. The Wolverines will try to defend their new No. 1 ranking against the school that started the year at that spot.

ATLANTIC 10 GAME OF THE WEEK: Butler at Saint Louis, Thursday, 9 p.m. — If these two teams end up in the same league long term — both are rumored targets to join the Big East’s Catholic 7 — this could be the start of a terrific rivalry.

TOUGHEST WEEK: Pittsburgh — After Monday’s trip to No. 12 Louisville, the Panthers travel to No. 6 Syracuse on Saturday.

NEW NICKNAME PLEASE: Princeton — To be fair, Ivy League schools were coming up with nicknames before many schools existed so names like Crimson, Big Green, Big Red etc. are good throwbacks to a simpler era.

Penn, Princeton’s chief rival, gets huge credit for its unique Quakers nickname, which is tied to Philadephia’s original founders.

Princeton, one the most prestigious academic institutions in the country, has one of the least inspired nicknames. Even though they were the Tigers before many of the other 12 Tigers in Division I, Princeton should stand out.

It should be the Princeton Cannons. A Cannon sits in the middle of the school’s New Jersey campus. It was left there from The Battle of Princeton, a critical skirmish during the American Revolution that featured George Washington himself leading the American side.

Since then the cannon has been an important part of many traditions at Princeton. The nickname would be historic, powerful and imposing.

ON THE ROAD TO — An NCAA tournament without North Carolina or Kentucky, who both were in the preseason top 15.

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at twitter.com/GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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