Just a Minute....men
Don't look now but UMass is good again. The A-10 is down this year and will likely get just two bids to the tournament but for my money one of them should go to the Minutemen.
They have a star player in Rashaun Freeman (12 double-double's this season), a defensive stopper in Stephan Lasme (5.0 blocks per game, 2nd in the nation) and copius rebounders (UMass is 5th in the nation in that statistical category and out rebound opponents by an average of 8.4 per game). What they don't have is a ton of big wins in a conference that is almost completely devoid of anything approaching a powerhouse this season.
The Minutemen's big win this season was over Louisville which looks better and better as the season goes on and the Cardinals make a run in the Big East but it was a long time ago (December 13th) and since then their best wins are over George Washington and Rhode Island neither of which currently reside in the RPI top 80. UMass, meanwhile, stands at 67 in the RPI and an underwhelming 134 in strength of schedule.
The good news is that in the wide open A-10 Travis Ford's team has a good a chance as anybody of coming away with the tournament title and an automatic bid. The bad news is that without that they may be on the outside looking in come selection Sunday.
There's nothing like sitting in the studio on a Saturday with nine televisions in front of you and taking in some college hoops. As I blog I'm watching UConn-Syracuse, Washington-Pitt, Alabama-Kentucky, Mississippi State-LSU and an Oklahoma-Texas Tech women's game to boot.
Boy but Pittsburgh is average. Everyone in the Big East had high hopes for the Panthers but the more I watch them the more they seems like a one and out team come March. It looks like they'll escape Washington with a win but considering the games on their home court and the Huskies have been lackluster for most of the season it's not exactly a win to hang your hat on.
Great win for Vanderbilt today at one of my favorite arenas in the country Memorial Gym. The raised court and the benches on the endlines instead of on the sidelines, love it. Brings to mind the glory days of Vanderbilt basketball when Duke transfer Billy McCaffery delighted crowds with his scrappy, Hurley-like play. I did a google search for McCaffery and learned that he was for a time the interim head coach at Saint Bonaventure, then went to Maine and has not been heard from since. I also learned that he looks a lot like Quinn Snyer, check him out.
Connecticut has 18 points with eight minutes left in the second half, an epic offensive output for the Huskies this season. The last time they played Syracuse it felt like the two teams should have been shooting at peach baskets given the offensive sophistication they displayed.
Though they're only 12-16 it must be fun to be a VMI fan this season. the Keydets are averaging 102.9 points per contest this season, that's 15 more then their closest competition North Carolina. They've scored 100 points in a game 16 times this season but, as is usually the case with teams like this, it's also been a great year to be the fan of a VMI opponent. The Keydets have allowed 98.9 points per contest
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I have a hard time rationalizing my feelings for the NIT. On the one hand I've always been the kind of guy that enjoys the chance to watch teams from outside the top 25. For instance this Saturday you may just find me at the Hofstra-Holy Cross game, a former co-worker and avid reader of "The Max" Dan Moffitt instant messaged me this afternoon saying that he might be going and now I find myself considering a trip to the island myself. Sure, I could stay home and watch North Carolina-Boston College or UCLA-Arizona but those are teams I get to see all the time. It's rare; on the other hand that Ralph Willard's flaxen locks make their way across my television screen.
In that respect it seems to me there's real value in this other March tournament, so why does the NIT more often then not feel like a girlfriend you break up with but keeps hanging around and won't stop emailing you. Presumably at some point in say the 1950's or 1960's the NCAA and NIT tournaments battled it out to see which would be the true championship of college basketball. If you haven't caught on yet the NCAA won but there's the NIT still hanging around. You see her at parties and she's fun to hang out with when the girl you really like isn't around but you know it won't last. She's good for a one night stand (i.e. the 2000 NIT game between Georgetown and Virginia won by the Hoya's in triple overtime) but then the real women of your dreams walks in the room and all bets are off. Eventually the emails taper off and maybe you start to feel a little bit of regret but only because she offered the physical intimacy without the emotional risks and.....okay so maybe I've taken this analogy too far but you get the point.
It's that time of year
It must be getting around to March because Mike and the Mad Dog are talking college hoops. For those of you who might not have grown up in the New York metropolitan area and therefore have been deprived of Mike and the Dog I am of course referring to the pair of sports talk show hosts who appear on WFAN and the YES Network every weekday. I often wonder what the show would have sounded like in 1985 when Chris Mullin was leading St. Johns to the Final Four and college basketball really mattered in this city. As it is they ignore the sport almost entirely until a week or two before Selection Sunday at which point they bestow upon us their thoughts on how the selection committee did.
To be sure New York was never a college basketball town but there was a time when it was as important as almost any other sport that filled the time between the final game of the World Series and opening day. Long Island, CCNY, St. Johns and even NYU competed on the national stage almost every year but as time has passed they've fallen away one by one. NYU, LIU and CCNY were all caught up in the gambling scandals of the 50's and have never been the same. CCNY and NYU play in the lower divisions and LIU in the one-bid Northeast Conference. St. Johns managed to avoid the taint of the scandal and enjoyed the glory that came with the rise of the Big East in the 80's but in the new, expanded Big East the bottom four teams don't even make it to the conference tournament so-more often then not of late-the tournament has gone off without the Johnnies, sad really.
If you regularly read this blog then you may have noticed that I haven’t been updating it as much as I should or for that matter at all. First let me take a moment to apologize, when I started doing this I puffed out my chest and claimed that I wished to challenge Elliot “The Rink Rat” Olshansky for domination of Slogville. That has certainly not happened in large part because of other aspects of my job getting in the way and also because I’m just not as dedicated as Elliot is. Brother really digs college hockey, we’ll leave it at that.
Watching Connecticut play Indiana this afternoon I found myself wondering who the Huskies first round opponent would be in the NIT. When you want to know who has the inside track on an NCAA bid it’s easy enough to go to Jerry Palm’s Bracketanica website and get the latest but for those of us who really care about the NIT it’s not so simple. So I printed out a blank bracket from the NIT website and went to work. Here’s how see things shaking out.
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Oh my Freaking God!
Ever since Khalid El Amin led my Connecticut Huskies to their first national title in 1999 I have had a soft spot in my heart for chunky point guards. We currently have two great ones playing college basketball both of whom I got to watch Tuesday night.
Trying to see through my tears watching the current incarnation of UConn was tough (boy are they bad on offense) but when I could manage to stifle my pathetic sobs I couldn’t take my eyes of Pittsburgh’s Levance Fields. His stat line does not jump out at you-six points and two assists-but he made one of the bigger plays of the game when he hit a three-pointer and was fouled with his Panthers pulling away midway through the second half. Fields is only a sophomore but has had some big games this season including a 24 point, five assist performance in a win over Syracuse. His inconsistency is one of the reasons he reminds me so much of El Amin, he seems like the kind of player that can go one for ten from the field and still want the ball in his hands with the clock winding down though one doubts if he would get his wish with all the talent on that team. One thing he does with more consistency is take care of the ball with a three to one assist to turnover ratio.
A "Liitle" College Football
There really is nothing like being home sick, well except for the sick part that is. I was under the weather all last week and had been meaning to talk a bit about some of the great television I got to watch. Nowadays work intrudes on most of my days off in one way or the other and even when I call in sick, I generally end up doing some work from home but still there’s plenty of lying on the couch and rerun watching. As a kid sick days were generally spent watching The Price is Right, Press Your Luck and maybe an episode or two of Lavern and Shirley but no matter how much time I had there was always a gap around noon when I would take a nap or be forced to watch Across the Fence a local show in Vermont that had the entertainment qualities of ground beef.
So I’m sitting here asking myself over and over again what I think about Nick Saban leaving the Dolphins, going back on his word, and taking the vacant head coaching position at Alabama. Saban is guaranteed to make $32 million over eight years even if he doesn’t last that long in Tuscaloosa. So what do I think about that? The truth is I don’t know what to think about it. I’m an opinionated person but these numbers are starting to throw me for a loop.
Been a while
What a ridiculously long time it’s been since I last blogged, call it a Christmas break I guess but that just means there’s even more to talk about.
Big East surprises
If you had asked me two months ago who the top two teams in the Big East would be as the year came to end I probably would have said some combination of Pitt, Georgetown and Connecticut. To be fair only one game has been played in conference but it perfectly illustrates how deep this conference could be this year.