Office Hours: Back At The Podium

By David Scott - November 26, 2007

Settle down, students. Thanksgiving break is over and The Professor is back at the podium. Lots to get to today so put away the newspapers, turn off the cell phones and pay attention.

The grade book is once again open:

A: Seton Hall Pirates
Calling it a "monumental win" for his program, first time father-to-be and Pirate Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez led Seton Hall to a resounding 74-60 win over ACC power and then-No. 23 Virginia in the Philly Hoops Classic on Saturday night. The Pirates are 5-0 for the first time since 2000-01 and senior Brian Laing was named the Tourney's MVP with a brilliant outing on Saturday with 25 points and 10 rebounds against the Cavaliers.

Gonzo's wife, Tracy, is due any moment now with the couples' first child. "Now that we beat Virginia, I'm going to tell her it's okay to have a baby," Gonzalez said following the game.

A: Ex-Iona Coach Jeff Ruland
Ruland, a close confidant of The Professor, got his first win in the NBDL in his debut contest as his Albuquerque Thunderbirds defeated the Idaho Stampede, 94-92 on Friday night. The T-Birds followed it up with a Sunday win at Fort Wayne and Rules is now 2-0 as a pro coach.

Speaking of the Gaels, Iona is off to another 0-6 start for first-year head man Kevin Willard. Last year, as you'll recall, the New Rock City kids lost 23 in a row (including a prior season loss in round one of the NCAAs under Ruland). The Gaels will have a good chance to get off the schneid on Tuesday when they host winless Delaware.

C-: Pre-Season Tournaments with No Fans in the Seats
Listen, some of these pre-season get-togethers are fantastic and the resulting basketball is pretty good. But the ones where teams are playing to empty gyms (yeah, we're talking to you South Padre) are nothing more than embarrassments for the schools and the tourney organizers.

Now, I do have be cautious here because last year's Tournament at Disney was one of those that played to an empty (Milk) house and look ridiculous on TV. But attendance and quality of teams seems to have improved this year and the announcement of next year's field is very encouraging as well (Tennessee, Gonzaga and Maryland headline).

So maybe they just take time to build a following, but more likely it's another example of a glut of games put forth by money-hungry handlers.

A: Rakim Sanders, Boston College
The freshman from Pawtucket, Rhode Island gave it to his home state school on Thanksgiving Eve, dropping 21 points in 29 minutes as the Eagles defended homecourt and beat upstart URI, 76-72. For a youthful, inexperienced Eagle team, Sanders has potential to be a flat-out stud. He's a 6-foot-5, 225-pound guard-forward combo with a chiseled upper body rarely seen on 18-year-olds and in tandem with junior Tyrese Rice, he gives Eagles fans reasons to hope this is not strictly a rebuilding campaign in Chestnut Hill.

The Eagles are weak at the forward spot (a combined three points from Tyler Roche, John Oates and Tyrelle Blair against Rhody), but bulldog Shamari Spears does a lot with his undersized frame and notched a hard-earned 12 points and 12 rebounds in the game. BC will struggle in the ACC, but somehow Skinner continues to get more out of less each and every season.

D: The Versus Network
The hidden home to the NHL, bull-riding and hunting shows, Versus has been slowly getting into college basketball and the experiment continued this past weekend with its uneven presentation of the ticket-agency sponsored Legends Classic from Newark, N.J. Production-wise, the games were average with several jumpy and away-from-the-action camera shots (especially on Friday night). The broadcast team was mediocre at best, with a reasonable effort from play-by-play man Rich Ackerman (from WFAN) and a weak performance from cliche-ridden, scratchy-voiced ex-coach Jim O'Brien. Obie's going to have to get a lot better if he ever expects to get on a real network.

On-screen graphics were uncluttered, but that's not necessarily a good thing. Fans have come to expect bottom-of-the-screen tickers with scores from other games and Versus evidently doesn't have that capability, forcing viewers to check other sports networks for scores and updates. The game felt very much like they were being done on a shoestring budget with little to no resources.

A: The Professor's Buddy, Paulie Brookline
While watching a plethora of games on Saturday at the home of my buddy, Paulie Brookline, he pointed out the most-under-talked about rule change of this season, the new free throw alignment. While coaches' decorum has been talked about ad nauseam, very little mention of the new positions for free throws has been made. Here's the rule change and the rationale as helpfully spelled out by the ECAC:

Free-Throw Alignment. Rule 8-1.4 (page 138). To eliminate the first lane space nearest the basket on each side of the lane and using the present second, third and fourth lane space on each side of the lane as an alignment for free throws. Rationale: The players will be further from the basket during a free throw and will help eliminate the defensive player from ending up under the basket.

The Professor is contemplating the commission of a study to discover whether the rule change significantly affects the ability of the shooting team to garner missed free throws, which it would seem to do. But we're still focusing on our investigation of the effect of having both a dance team and a cheer team on the baseline. Priorities, you know.

. . . Each week, the Professor takes a weekly glance at an NBA player who, last year at this time, was on-campus:

Rook Look: Jared Dudley, Charlotte Bobcats

I know, I know - a lot of BC talk with the Prof this week - not to mention our second straight BC kid who gets the Rook Look - but Dudley deserves it and more. He got his first start of the season in a last-second loss to the Celtics on Saturday and the gritty, do-everything Dudley is impressing everyone around the Bobcats, and around the league. Against the Celts in 39 minutes, he had 11 points, nine rebounds, three assists and a block.

There were doubts about Dudley in the Draft (he dropped to No. 22 overall), but mark the Prof's words: he will be a 10-year career NBA guy and the type coaches love to have off the bench.

Posted by David Scott at 09:05 AM on November 26, 2007

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