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Bowling Green is now a money player

While Bowling Green's announcement of a $10 million donation to the men's basketball program doesn't rival the $300 million television deal Texas landed with ESPN, it could be the boost necessary for the program to finally start competing for Mid-American Conference championships.

Bowling Green not only hasn't advanced to the NCAA Tournament since 1968, but success in the MAC Tournament has also been hard to come by. The Falcons have appeared in the MAC Finals just twice (1980 and 2002) and lost both times. They've played in the conference semifinals just once since 2002.

According to last year's U.S. Department of Education's Equity in Athletics Report, Bowling Green spent slightly more than $1 million on men's basketball compared to defending champion Ohio University, which spent more than $2.3 million. So Bill Frack's $10 million donation, the largest one-time gift for a men's basketball program in MAC history, is something Bowling Green desperately needed.

"The coaches have been operating with one hand tied behind their back," Frack told The Toledo Blade. "Hopefully this will correct that. It won't be overnight, but I think the university will get there. If Butler can do it, if Gonzaga can do it then by gosh Bowling Green can do it."

The money comes at a time when Bowling Green is already constructing the Stroh Center, which will replace Anderson Arena as the Falcons' home next season. Frack donated $2 million toward the project and the floor at the Stroh Center will be named "Bill Frack Court."

Bowling Green will be able to buy more home games, which is always challenging for mid-major programs. An increased recruiting budget should lead to better players which -- in theory -- should lead to more MAC titles.

"It will certainly give them a shot in the arm," Ohio coach Geno Ford said. "There are programs in our league that are trying to make commitments to basketball and [Bowling Green] is certainly one of them. I'm sure it will show up in wins and losses on some level."

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Syracuse has been criticized -- and rightfully so -- that its early-season schedule rarely takes the Orange out of Central New York. But that isn't the only program who travels light during the holidays and four of its conference peers are even bigger culprits.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the Orange traveled a total of 465 miles during non-conference play, the fourth fewest of any team currently ranked in the top 25. The only ranked teams to travel fewer miles were Louisville (95), Villanova (179) and Pitt (315). The Cardinals played one game away from their home court against Western Kentucky.

Now compare that to Kentucky, who leads Top 25 programs with 6,890 miles, followed by UConn (6,617). Next is BYU, which logged 6,388 miles on six separate road trips, including one to Alumni Arena to play UB.

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Duquesne's win last Saturday over Temple was not only monumental -- the Dukes had won twice in their last 17 meetings with the Owls -- but it proved that they are legitimate contenders in the A-10. The Dukes are now 12-5 overall and 4-0 in conference play after Wednesday's 88-71 win over La Salle and are tied for first place with Xavier.

The schedule is kind for coach Ron Everhart's bunch, too. The only major hurdles are trips to Xavier, Dayton, Bona and Richmond. The Dukes haven't won a league title since tying for back-to-back championships in the old Eastern 8 in 1980 and '81 and haven't advanced to the NCAAs since the days of Norm Nixon in 1977.

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There's something missing from the Top 25: The only ranked team from the ACC is No. 4 Duke. The ACC, in fact, hasn't had another team ranked since North Carolina was No. 25 in late November. Three teams -- Florida State, Duke and Boston College -- are tied for first place. The 'Noles beat the Blue Devils, but they also lost to 7-10 Auburn while BC didn't look so smart when they scheduled and lost to Ivy Leaguers Yale and Harvard. At this rate, it's going to be an interesting Selection Sunday for the ACC.

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Freshman Antoine Mason will redshirt this season because of a stress fracture, leaving Niagara without its top scorer, and now junior Kashief Edwards will miss this weekend's games against Iona and Fairfield after undergoing minor knee surgery and likely won't return until the Canisius game Jan. 28.

"I'm afraid to walk outside because I might see a UFO," coach Joe Mihalich said. "It's been that kind of year."

Senior point guard Anthony Nelson is NU's leader in points (16.2 per game), rebounds (4.9), assists (4.4) and steals (3.4).

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If St. Bonaventure (9-8, 1-3) wants to pick up any momentum in the Atlantic 10 it's going to have to start now, but it isn't going to be easy. The Bonnies play George Washington, Massachusetts, Fordham, Dayton and Duquesne over the next five games and only Fordham (0-4) trails them in the standings.

e-mail: rmckissic@buffnews.com

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