The road to the Final Four will be set sooner than you think.  Once again favorites will be tested and underdogs will capture the imagination of the public…and the mantra “it’s as much about matchups as ingredients”.  I’m not talking about the NCAA Tournament’s Selection Sunday– but the delivery of Girl Scout Cookies.  Every year the usual favorites (Thin Mints, Tagalongs, Samoas) have to deal with the upstarts (Toffee Tastic?).  Similar situations occur regarding the area college basketball teams–thank goodness I can tie both together.

 

Maryland (23-5, 11-4 Big Ten) has won 10+ conference games for the first time since the 2009-10 season.  That’s Greivis Vasquez Territory (pronounced Greevus and Grayvous in the same comment by Gary Williams);  in other words, this is one surreal season in a new league.  Forget the court-storming against Wisconsin after bouncing the Badgers–realize that freshman Melo Trimble is a special player (averaging 20 points while shooting 58% over the last four games).  Forget the “choreographed spontaneity” of the flashmob and senior Dez Wells (26 points against Wisconsin including 10 of 12 in one stretch) is taking ownership like no Terrapin since…well, Greivis Vasquez.  Saturday’s Senior Day brings underachieving Michigan to XFinity Center–and with trips to Nebraska and Rutgers (a combined 7-23 in Big Ten play) wrapping up the regular season there’s actually a chance this team could finish in a first place tie with Wisconsin (Badgers host Michigan State and visit Ohio State).  And the Terps own the tiebreaker.

 

Flavor #12– “Thanks A Lot”– shortbread and fudge.  Thanks for what?  Self esteem, gang.  We should be thanking you for having Girl Scout Cookies to begin with…makes me miss the now-defunct “Thank You Berry Much”.

Flavor #11– “Savannah Smiles”– or “Dave Frowns”.  Powdered sugar makes this a messy treat–and it’s all in one bag.  Not in a sleeve or on a plastic grid, so every cookie is touched by everyone who puts their hand in the bag.

 

Georgetown (18-8, 10-5 Big East) pulled the curtain up on the same Hoya defense that choked Villanova last month in their 79-57 win over St. Johns, holding the Red Storm without a field goal for the final 8:45 of the first half while limiting the Big East’s 2nd leading scorer D’Angelo Harrison to 0-for-9 shooting.  Coach John Thompson III’s team then dominated the glass in a 68-63 win over DePaul (outrebounding the Blue Demons by 13).  Moving forward Mikael Hopkins out of the starting lineup gives the Hoyas a necessary spark off the bench on both ends of the court (the senior averaging 8 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals over the last two games).  Right now the Hoyas are a half game ahead of Butler for second place in the league–with a visit a week from Tuesday to the #23 Bulldogs.

 

Flavor #10– “Rah Rah Raisins”– really?  I like oatmeal and Greek Yogurt, but we’re rah-rahing?  Really?  I almost think they’re trying to do too much here– oatmeal-raisin or oatmeal-yogurt works–even yogurt-raisin.

Flavor #9– “Lemonades”– for years they had two lemon flavored cookies, cutting the rapidly shrinking yellow citrus market in half.  The exact opposite of “Rah Rah Raisins”, this one trick-cookie (albeit with icing) falls short in the cookie bracket first round.

 

Cruising the Commonwealth—

#2 Virginia (25-1, 13-1 ACC) grinds its way towards a second straight regular season title with Justin Anderson trying to heal his injured pinkie before Selection Sunday:  without the junior from Montross the Cavaliers are averaging 56 points a game (10 fewer than their season average).  Good thing the UVa D unleashes first half throat-punches like the one they did against Pitt:  handcuffing the Panthers to 15 points wasn’t as impressive as limiting Louisville to 13 points earlier in the  month, but it comes pretty darn close.  UVa followed that up by holding Florida State without a basket for the final 10:34 of the second half in Sunday’s 51-41 win over the Seminoles.  The schedulemakers were kind to the Cavaliers again this winter as they get bottom feeders Wake Forest and Virginia Tech over the next few days–but beware:  the Hokies came within 3 points of upsetting the Cavs in Blacksburg last month while the Demon Deacons came within one point of breaking hearts in Charlottesville on Valentine’s Day.

 

Flavor #8– “Cranberry Citrus”– Real Fruit!  Whole Grain!  Way too many exclamation points!  I anticipate its first round matchup with the Lemonades–just on pucker power alone.

Flavor #7– “Trios”– a new flavor that features peanut butter and oatmeal while remaining gluten-free.  Combining peanut butter and oatmeal is the cookie’s version of a 3-2 zone defense;  I’m sure its effective in the right hands but why complicate things needlessly?

 

Virginia Tech (10-17, 2-12 ACC)–  the Hokies aren’t simply in a different zip code or time zone than their instate counterparts but more like a separate continent.  Three straight double-digit defeats assures coach Buzz Williams’ bunch of playing in the Opening Round of the ACC Tournament–and who isn’t ready for “Tuesday in Greensboro” with the Hokies, Wake Forest, Boston College and Georgia Tech boasting a composite 10-47 record?  Blame bad work on the boards– the Hokies rank last in the ACC in rebounding margin.  Hold your breath for that third league win– #4 Duke and 2nd ranked Virginia are next on the slate.

 

Flavor #6– “Toffee Tastic”– serious sleight of hand:  rich buttery cookies with toffee…but NO GLUTEN?  After laying waste to Savannah Smiles in the first round this Gonzaga of flavors could pull an upset for the ages in the quarterfinals.

 

George Washington (17-10, 7-7 Atlantic 10) missed a major chance to defeat Davidson Wednesday– as a 3-pointer by Kethan Savage missed the mark with :01 on the clock in a 65-63 loss.  Unlike against Dayton, there would be no Colonial magic–and now GW has to deal with four straight losses as they came up empty at Richmond.  With six losses in seven games, Coach Mike Lonergan’s team has gone from playing for the league lead to being in a 3-way tie for seventh place.  Can they get the swagger lost at VCU when they shot 27% with 16 turnovers?  St. Bonaventure comes to Foggy Bottom Wednesday.

 

Flavor #5– “Trefoils”– the “Hoosiers” flavor… from four passes before each shot to picket fence inbounds plays.  But does it have Jimmy Chitwood pouring it in from outside?  Fundamentally sound shortbread cookie that knows its limitations–but plays to its strengths.  Is that good enough to get to the Final Four?

 

George Mason (8-18, 3-11 Atlantic 10) looks for bright spots in a season where they’ve lost three of their last four by double digits.  The 80-68 defeat to Fordham drops the Patriots to 13th place in the league as the young nucleus (just one senior and only one junior play more than 20 minutes per game) takes its lumps.  The finishing stretch doesn’t feel promising:  three of GMU’s last four are away with George Washington (easy commute for the Foggy Bottom Faithful) the only home game.  They have a chance to avoid the A-10 cellar by completing a season sweep of 14th place St Louis Saturday.

 

Flavor #4– “Do Si Do’s”– oatmeal and peanut butter.  Defense and rebounding.  Do not mess with this physical cookie–  I can’t see it getting pushed around by shortbread…but a tightly called game could put this treat in foul trouble.

 

#25 VCU (21-6, 11-3 Atlantic 10)– the Rams picked up a huge 78-72 home victory over UMass Saturday to stay atop the conference standings (they’re tied with Rhode Island and own the tiebreaker).  Just one game behind the Rams and Rams are Dayton and Davidson–and VCU plays both D’s over the next week and a half.  But first they travel to face Richmond–a team they lost to at home January 31st.  Since returning from injury, senior Treveon Graham is averaging 17 points and 7 rebounds.  This crosstown rivalry has a chance to blossom into one of the A-10’s best.

 

Flavor #3– “Samoas”–  complex caramel and coconut come together to form the motion offense of cookies– setting screens while driving defenses nuts.  Although there are no nuts in Samoas.  The big concern with Samoas is they’re not a binge cookie–these caramel delights are meant to be savored.  Can they play uptempo?

 

American (14-14, 7-9 Patriot League) had issues scoring against Boston University in their 61-53 loss to the Terriers last Wednesday…shooting just 24% in the first half.  For a team that ranks near the bottom of Division I in shots attempted-that can never be a good thing.  Sunday’s loss to Army means the Eagles have dropped 7 of 10– and are looking at playing in the opening round of the upcoming conference tournament.  Is too much on guard Pee Wee Gardner’s shoulders?  The senior is 12-37 from the field in the team’s last 4 losses– while making 5 of 6 shots in their lone win since February 4th.  AU hosts Navy and Bucknell to wrap up the regular season;  the Midshipmen and Bison each beat the Eagles by 10 this year away from Bender Arena.

 

Flavor #2– “Thin Mints”– if the Samoas are almost too complex for their own good,prepare to rebound and run.  No cookie gets you winded more than the UNLV Runnin’ Rebels of snackfood.  Entire sleeves of this treat have been vaporized.  This is also one of the few cookies that improves when frozen…

 

Howard (15-13, 8-5 MEAC) hasn’t clinched a non-losing season just yet (it would be their first since 2001-02) but the Bison’s 75-65 win at South Carolina State Monday night assured Kevin Nickelberry’s team of their first winning conference mark since ’02.  Seems to me the James (Daniel, Carlton, Miller) Gang was just too much once again– as Miller and Carlton each scored 13 second half points against the Bulldogs while Daniel added 16 points in the victory.  The bigger victory was last Saturday at Savannah State:  in recent times this was exactly the game that Howard lost.  Despite shooting 39%, tallying 21 turnovers and getting outrebounded by 17 the Bison somehow beat the Tigers for the first time ever.  Credit a defense that held Savannah State to 18 second half points and one basket in the last 8:55 of regulation.  Can Howard secure a first-round bye in the upcoming MEAC Tournament?  They host Hampton and Norfolk State this weekend– they lost close games at both schools earlier in the season.

 

Flavor #1– “Tagalongs”– why does this peanut butter patty finish first?  When you get to the Final Four it’s all about matchups– and Tagalongs can match halfcourt wits with the Samoas while keeping pace with the run and gun Thin Mints.  And they’re delicious…

Valentine’s Day means happy times for couples, sad times for singles and awkward moments for just about everyone.  Back at Manchester High School West in the 1980’s you could send different colored carnations:  white for sympathy, green for friendship and red for something more (I remember having to backpedal on multiple occasions: “I know we’re just friends–I MEANT to check green on the order form.  My mistake…”).  Upon further review, maybe it was white for friendship, red for romance and green for “mystery”?  Didn’t they have yellow carnations one year?  No wonder I often sent the wrong ones by mistake.  Which area schools get which colors this year?

 

#19 Maryland (20-5, 8-4 Big Ten)– after years of getting the “Let’s BEE Friends” valentines (with a BEE on the card!) the Terps are getting red carnations this year.  Wednesday’s 68-66 win over Indiana was the school’s 20th victory of the season–just the fourth time since the National Championship season that the program has posted 20 regular season triumphs.  That’s a major corner turned.  With Melo Trimble leading the way, the Terps are all but assured to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.  Causes for concern:  the last three games have on the road have been semi-blowout losses while their last three home games have been nailbiting wins (two of which were against non-factors like Penn State and Northwestern).  The Terps won’t break our hearts on the road Saturday night against the Nittany Lions in Happy Valley, will they?

 

Georgetown (16-8, 8-5 Big East)– red with plenty of caution.  You want to have deep feelings for these Hoyas:  from their smackdown of Villanova last month to a fantastic freshman class that drips of potential, you can’t ignore the possibilities.   The schedule is even generous down the stretch:  5 of 6 remaining games are against schools with losing conference records.  One should really be into this team– but their inability to take care of the ball (2nd most turnovers in Big East) and Joshua Smith’s recent backslide (he’s totalled 24 points and 14 rebounds while tallying 17 fouls over the last four games) put this team securely in the “friend zone”.  After a weekend off the Hoyas have a date with longtime foe St. John’s Tuesday night…

 

Alma Mater Update– they make carnations in orange, right?  The winter of discontent is in full swing with SU bound for nothing on selection Sunday.  Last year’s overtime win at home against Duke was an instant classic– this year’s matchup reminiscent of the TV version of “Animal House”:  “Delta House” quickly died after a mostly forgettable run (although it had Hoover and D-Day).  Thank goodness for Lacrosse…

 

Cruising the Commonwealth– continuing with the “best of times, worst of times” tale of two campuses theme:  how massively dysfunctional were the romances in just about every one of Charles Dickens’ works?  Bill Sikes kills Nancy, Scrooge neglects Belle and even David Copperfield winds up leaving Claudia Schiffer to practice magic.

#2 Virginia (22-1, 10-1 ACC)– sometimes the red carnation has a broken stem and doesn’t hold up as well.  The Cavaliers’ loss of Justin Anderson for 4 to 6 weeks with a broken pinkie robs UVa of their second leading scorer and best three-point shooter…but also takes a 6-fooot-6 guard who can rebound out of the lineup.  In their first game minus the junior they shot 37% from the field and 2-11 from three-point range.  Thank goodness the Cavaliers play stellar defense:  three of their last five foes have been held to exactly 47 points.  Thank goodness coach Tony Bennett’s team doesn’t face a school with a winning conference record until March.  Sometime you can tape the stem and nobody notices…especially Saturday when UVa faces Wake Forest.

Virginia Tech (10-14, 2-9 ACC)– white carnations by the dozen.  Plenty of sympathy in store for a program that’s rebuilding and a coach who perspires profusely.  A 65-63 win over Georgia Tech keeps the Hokies out of the conference cellar…but with a three game roadtrip and dates with #4 Duke and 2nd ranked Virginia, Adam Smith and company may find their way back to 15th place.  Thank goodness the game against the Blue Devils isn’t at Cameron, where air conditioning is an afterthought.

 

George Washington (17-7, 7-4 Atlantic 10)– going green for the buff and blue:  a 78-62 clunker at 7-14 Duquesne drops the Colonials 16 places in the RPI and severely smacks their at-large profile.  The best rebounding team in the A-10 needs to more than rebound from a stretch where they’ve lost three of four–Coach Mike Lonergan admits that team defense has slipped during the current slide.  They won’t get any breaks Saturday against a VCU team that’s trying to end their own slide.  For those who’ve tried to forget, GW lost by 24 last month in Richmond.

 

George Mason (7-16, 2-9 Atlantic 10)– gets a rock.  As in the 263rd best shooting team in Division I has had scoring issues all season–and they’re not going away.  Even when they do shoot the ball well, they cough up 92 points to Davidson.  Freshman center Shevon Thompson (7 double-doubles) is having a fine season but it’s been an adventure this winter to even get the Jamaican big man the ball:  GMU ranks last in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio.  A home game February 18th against Fordham is a must-win to stay out of the A-10 cellar.

 

#20 VCU (18-6, 8-3 Atlantic 10)– this may be the classic red carnation now only to realize I should have sent a green one (“honest mistake–they’re next to each other on the form.  I’m not hung up on you or anything-we’re cool, I promise…”).  The Rams were steamrolling the A-10 until they lost Briante Weber two weeks ago…and since then they had to rally past 13th place George Mason before losing to St. Bonaventure and LaSalle.  Weber’s presence at both ends of the floor (85 assists, 78 steals) can’t be duplicated…sophomore JeQuan Lewis may have a 2 to 1 assist-to-turnover ratio, but doesn’t come close to matching Weber’s sticky fingers defensively.  VCU plays all other five contenders in the A-10 over the next three weeks…and while right now they’re in most experts’ fields brackets there’s no guarantee they won’t find their way out of the field of 68.

 

American (13-12, 6-7 Patriot League)– gets a green carnation as the Eagles could use a friend after a fifth loss in seven games.  The NFL’s deflate-gate had nothing on AU’s pace of play:  they school’s 43.5 shots per game–lowest in Division I.  Jesse Reed has been the barometer during Patriot League play– he’s averaged 18 points in their six wins and 11 points in their seven losses.  AU may be tied for 4th in the conference, but the team stands just one win out of last place…and they wrap up play against teams they’re 1-4 against this winter.  At least four of the five are at Bender Arena.

 

Howard (12-12, 6-4 MEAC)– the Bison are getting a red carnation.  I don’t care if they’ve lost two straight and play the next four away from home.  It doesn’t concern me that they don’t have a player not named James on their roster averaging over 5 points a game.  It doesn’t matter if the moon’s pull creates the tides as well as Howard’s annual collision course with 20 losses.  On Valentine’s Day weekend the heart does what it does…and after watching Howard reside deep in the underbelly of the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference for the last decade I’ve got faith that this is the March Kevin Nickelberry’s team makes its move.  I’ve got to think that the James Gang— Carlton, Daniel and Miller– will be able to steal a win or two at Coppin State or Savannah State to remain in the MEAC mix.  Love means never having to say you’re sorry–and hoops hope means never having to make rational assessments.

 

 

One month (or so) from Selection Sunday.  College basketball’s “moving month” features five teams with legitimate NCAA dreams, one with a coach who can’t keep his clothes on and another which may end an infamous run.  The bracket watch is on as well…with experts putting together their tournament fields (sadly, they predict the seeds, regions and first weekend destinations but not the tipoff times and announcer teams) as they have all season.  The difference now–there’s a legitimate sample size (most leagues have played at least half of their conference schedule) so February provides teams with at least some knowledge of where they are and what they need to do to get to where they want to go.

 

#17 Maryland (19-4, 7-3 Big Ten) needed last weekend off after dropping two of three.  It seemed as though they needed another day as the Terps were somewhat sluggish against Penn State before putting away the Nittany Lions 64-58.  Another rough night for Melo Trimble (0-5 FG but with 8 assists), but it’s key to see this team respond when their best player isn’t playing well.  Coach Mark Turgeon has said he’d like to get better play from his big men…with Damonte Dodd consistently uneven (9 points and 10 rebounds over his last 5 games) and Slovakian center Michal Cekovsky remaining a work in progress the move might be using 6-foot-8 senior Jon Graham in that role more despite his lack of size.  At this point the Terrapins are in the 3 to 4 seed range…upcoming tests at Iowa and against Indiana will determine if the Terps remain above the Big Ten’s growing middle class bubble. 

 

#24 Georgetown (15-7, 7-4 Big East) wasted a 13 point second half lead against Providence, shooting 2 for 8 with 7 turnovers over the last 11:40 of the second half in a 74-71 loss to the Friars.  Offensive miscues have been an issue with the Hoyas when they haven’t played well…as the second best shooting team in the Big East commits the third most turnovers in the league.  Coach John Thompson III’s team benefits from playing Seton Hall and St. Johns over the last month of the season (the Pirates are 5-5 in conference play while the Red Storm is 3-6).  The Hoyas are currently projected to land in the 6 to 7 seed…Saturday they face a revenge-minded #7 Villanova (they beat the Wildcats by 20 in January).

 

Alma Mater Update– so I guess a February filled with residing on the NCAA bubble won’t happen.  Instead the Orange will play for pride as the school self-imposes a one-year ban from the NCAA, NIT, ACC and Big South Tournaments.  This is in response to an investigation which has been ongoing since 2007.  That is swift justice.  I guess now we can expect North Carolina to lose a home non-conference game sometime around 2022.

 

Cruising the Commonwealth–

#3 Virginia (20-1, 8-1 ACC) suffered but survived its Duke-UNC double-dip over the weekend…falling to the Blue Devils 69-63 at home as Coach K’s crew got hot late but bounced back in Chapel Hill to tame the Tar Heels 75-64.  What went wrong against Duke?  Four three-pointers allowed in the last 3:22.  What went right against UNC?  Holding the Tar Heels to 6-21 to start the second half.  Defense still rules the day in Charlottesville–and when the Cavaliers are executing there’s nothing like it in the ACC or the NCAA.  Most models have the Cavaliers as a #1 seed–but in a league with five teams ranked in the top 12 there’s more of a chance to slide.  Saturday they continue the ACC gauntlet by hosting #9 Louisville.

 

Virginia Tech (9-13, 1-8 ACC) snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at Syracuse– the Hokies led the Orange 66-57 before closing on a 4-15 run.  In the process coach Buzz Williams managed to take off his jacket, tie and vest.  Perhaps he needs a fedora and cane to push more crucial clothing further back in the order of disposal.  I dread a double overtime game.

 

George Washington (16-6, 6-3 A-10) is projected to miss the NCAA’s by ESPN while CBS has the Colonials in the First Four.  Coach Mike Lonergan’s team came undone at VCU last week in a 72-48 nightmare.  The Colonials aren’t as bad as a 24-point loss to the Rams would suggest, but they followed it up with a loss at Rhode Island (the other Rams in the A-10) where they turned the ball over 21 times.  GW trails both teams in the conference as well as Dayton–who drops by the Smith Center Friday night.  The Colonials own an 11-game home winning streak…and they’ll be tested by a Flyers team that just put up 101 points against St. Bonaventure.

 

George Mason (7-14, 2-7 A-10) follows up a season of heartbreak (9 games lost by 6 points or less) in the Atlantic 10-with a winter of blowouts (4 of 7 league losses coming by double-digits).  Freshman Shevon Thompson (13ppg, 12rpg) has played well despite running into the freshman wall (2-11 shooting the last two games).  The Patriots try to avoid Wednesday in the A-10 Tournament…they trail Saint Joseph’s by one game for 10th place and visit the Hawks Saturday.

 

#18 VCU (18-4, 8-1) suffered a tough loss against Richmond last weekend when sparkplug Briante Weber went down for the season with a knee injury.  They then lost leading scorer Treveon Graham with an ankle injury in their 72-60 win at George Mason. Melvin Johnson was able to step up against the Patriots…but how long can the Rams play well minus their best on-ball defender while their top offensive player is banged up?  They won’t have a breather for the next few weeks– as road tests at St. Bonaventure and George Washington sandwich a home date with LaSalle.  Also to be seen is how Weber’s injury will affect their seeding–most models have the Rams as a #4 seed.

 

American (13-10, 6-5 Patriot League) hopes their three game losing streak was just a midseason hiccup and not the beginning of a slide down the standings.  AU bounced back by shooting 51% in a win over Holy Cross and 60% in a victory over Loyola of Maryland.  However, the Crusaders and Greyhounds both reside in the conference underbelly.  Saturday’s trip to Colgate will be a better indicator.

 

Howard (12-10, 6-2 MEAC) continues to exceed expectations…owning a winning record after 22 games for the first time since the 2001-02 season.  The James Gang (Daniel leads the Bison in scoring and assists, Carlton leads the team in rebounding and Miller is the squad’s top 3-point shooter) has won four straight to move up to 3rd place in the conference…but can they actually contend against the likes of North Carolina Central and Norfolk State?  The Bison will find out if they’re for real over a six game conference roadtrip…seriously?  Who makes these schedules?  The Bison are two wins away from clinching a non-20 loss season–their first in over a decade.  They won’t be hanging a banner for this one…

 

Maryland Womens Update—new league, similar result.  The fifth ranked Terps (20-2, 11-0 Big Ten) remain the team to beat in their new conference, despite needing a rally from 10 points down at home to dispose of #20 Iowa 93-88.  Credit sophomore Brionna Jones with another monster game (scoring the Terps first 12 points of the second half) and a defense that denied the 3-pointer after intermission.  The Terrapin bench has also developed with Tierney Pfirman providing quality minutes in the paint, diminutive guard Brene Moseley giving  the Terps a change of pace point guard and freshman Kristen Confroy adding a three point threat off the pine.  The win was huge in the big picture because it gives the Terps a virtual three-game cushion in the standings over the Hawkeyes…and Coach Brenda Frese’s team can further cement its lock on the top spot when they host third place Rutgers Tuesday in College Park.  


George Washington Women–
 don’t look now, but the #24 Colonials (20-2, 9-0 Atlantic 10) haven’t lost since November 22nd (at home to Maryland).  Their conference run has been a series of double-digit beatdowns since a 69-66 victory over second place Dayton January 4th (average margin of victory over 18 points a game).  Multiple A-10 Player of the Week honoree Jonquel Jones (16 points and 12 rebounds per game) is helped by a rotation that includes Caira Washington inside (8 rebounds a game) as well as the point guard tandem of Chakecia Miller and Lauren Chase.  A Sunday showdown for first place with Dayton looms in Foggy Bottom.

It’s not March Madness.  Not even February Fever.  But the area offers more than a few intriguing college hoop stories as the first full month of conference play winds down.  First a celebration of sorts with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski reaching 1,000 career wins.  Did you know Coach K was so close to that milenium milestone?  Thusly we’ll be sprinkling K moments throughout:

#16 Maryland (18-3, 6-2 Big Ten)– the midseason slump seemed right on track for the Terrapins…who trailed Northwestern by 14 at the half before nipping the Wildcats 68-67 on a last-second tip-in by Dez Wells.  Instead, the Terps find themselves a half game behind #5 Wisconsin for first place in the league…and more wins than they posted in two of coach Mark Turgeon’s first three seasons in College Park.  The power trio of Wells, Jake Layman and Melo Trimble provide more than a few nightmares for opponents.  With five of their next seven games at home, could this team crack the top ten in both polls?  Coach K Moment:  Will anyone forget the four game heavyweight bout the two schools waged in 2000-01?  From “Gone in 60 seconds” to “Senior Day Smackdown” to a two-point game in the ACC’s and the Blue Devils comeback in the Final Four–key guideposts on the way to Coach K’s third National Championship.

#21 Georgetown (14-5, 6-2 Big East)– so they rushed the court.  Okay, so the kids who were born after Allen Iverson left campus got a little excited when their school beat a top 5 team…is that so wrong?  It should be.  The name Georgetown exudes Big Brother in the Big East status, not to mention the bully on the block you don’t mess around with.  The Hoyas played so well defensively in the first half of their dismemberment of the Wildcats, I thought Michael Graham was going to come out of the stands and punch a player.  Credit coach John Thompson III with bringing along a talented but raw freshman class;  he says that you can’t force it when “the clouds open up” for a first year player–and that’s what has happened lately for Isaac Copeland (consecutive 17 point efforts after hitting a game-winning 3 against Butler).  Before the Hoyas get too full of themselves, Xavier drops by the district.  Yes, the same Musketeers that handed Georgetown a 17-point loss December 31st.  Coach K Moment:  1989 the Hoyas led by freshman Alonzo Mourning and Big East MVP Charles Smith were the #1 seed in the East…only to fall to the 2nd seeded Duke in the Regional Finals.  This was the second of three straight years where the Blue Devils defeated the top seed (Temple in ’88 and UConn in ’90 being the others) to reach the Final Four…three years that cemented Krzyzewski’s place as an elite coach.

Alma Mater Update– so much for a 4-0 ACC start.  The Orange drop to 14-7 and 5-3 in the league…coming up short at North Carolina.  Just not enough weapons to deal with a top-heavy league this year…although SU had a chance until Tyler Roberson picked up his 5th personal foul.  Bad free throw shooting (8-19) cost the club Saturday in a four point loss to Miami.  Necessary wins are on deck against Pitt, BC and Virginia Tech (the 3 schools are a combined 4-15 in league play) before the February Firing Squad lines up:  Duke twice, Louisville, Notre Dame and Virginia over a six game span.  Bring me extra bleu cheese for my Warrick Wings at Front Page Ballston…

Cruising the Commonwealth– why does TNT stop showing “Law & Order” re-runs at 1pm ET on Sundays?  At least then they would’ve saved viewers from the 50-47 molasses match between the Cavaliers and Hokies.  I would have even been tempted by “Rules of Engagement”.  Or maybe not.

#2 Virginia (19-0, 7-0 ACC) rallied from 10 points down in the second half to stay unbeaten…Justin Anderson scoring 10 of the Cavs final 14 points over the last 7:05 of regulation.  Now opponents know that UVa can win even when they shoot 35%.  The nation’s top scoring defense (49.2ppg allowed) also turned Georgia Tech into a Kindergartener last week, holding the Yellowjackets to 28 (!!!) points.  Bring on #4 Duke, right?  The Blue Devils drop by John Paul Jones Arena Saturday.  Coach K Moment:  in the 1983 ACC Quarterfinals Ralph Sampson and Virginia routed Duke 109-66…after which one of his friends lifted a glass of water, toasting “here’s to a night let’s soon forget”.  Krzyzewski lifted his own glass and responded, “here’s to a night we will NEVER forget”.  The Blue Devils reached the ACC Finals the following year and didn’t lose to the Cavaliers again until the 1989-90 season (16 straight wins).

Virginia Tech (8-11, 0-6 ACC) saw another outstanding effort result in another disappointing defeat:  just four points scored in the final 10:41 of the second half.  Lack of rebounding (they rank last in the ACC and were dominated 33-21 on the glass by the Cavaliers) once again haunts coach Buzz Williams’ bunch:  they also rank 14th in steals.  There is good news, though:  five of the Hokies next six opponents have losing conference records.  Coach K Moment:  the Hokies upset defending National Champ Duke in February of 2011–after which Dick Vitale said that Seth Greenberg’s team punched its ticket to the big dance.  Until Virginia Tech lost its last two regular season games and needed to beat the Blue Devils in the ACC Semifinals to boost its at-large profile.  No dice this time–as Coach K’s club sent the Hokies to the NIT for a fourth straight year, 77-63.

A-10 Showdown–

George Washington (16-4, 6-1 Atlantic 10) enters its matchup with #16 VCU (16-3, 6-0 Atlantic 10) on a roll with four straight wins (three by double figures);  Patricio Garino continues to be a defensive dynamo ranking 3rd in the A-10 in steals but Danish center Kevin Larsen’s cooled off (averaging 7 points and 5 rebounds over the last three games).  The Rams recent run hasn’t been easy:  four of their last five wins have been two-possession affairs (a bad ankle kept leading scorer Treveon Graham out of the win over Duquesne).  Deliberation meets frenzy–can the Colonials keep a cool head against a manic D that ranks 3rd nationally in steals?  Coach K Moments:  one year apart the Colonials and Rams faced the Blue Devils in the NCAA’s:  in 2006 GW despite being ranked #14 in the nation received the 8th seed and was sent to Greensboro, NC where they lost to top seed Duke in the Second Round 74-61.  VCU punched coach Anthony Grant’s ticket to Alabama with a First Round upset of the 6th seeded Blue Devils in 2007.

A-10 Simply Down–

George Mason (6-12, 1-5 Atlantic 10) doesn’t own last place in the league…although with five straight conference losses it must feel that way.  Saturday the snakebit Patriots allowed a pair of Davidson threes in the final 21 seconds en route to an 80-73 overtime loss to the Wildcats.  While freshman Jamaican big man Shevon Thompson leads the conference in rebounding, he’s getting little help:  GMU ranks 11th in the league in shooting and is 14th in assist-to-turnover ratio.  The Patriots get relief in the form of consecutive opponents boasting 1-5 A-10 marks before they face VCU.

Maryland Womens Update– the Terps move up again in the rankings after a 20 point throttling of Indiana…at 17-2 and 8-0 in the Big Ten coach Brenda Frese’s team is now in the conversation for a potential top seed.  For opponents, it’s a case of pick your poison:  do you pay extra attention to Brionna Jones in the post (the sophomore averages 14 points and 11 rebounds in conference play) or make life uncomfortable for perimeter players Shatori Walker-Kimbrough (55% FG) and Laurin Mincy?  Sophomore point guard Lexie Brown must feel like it’s Christmas every day on the court.  Super Bowl Sunday brings a fight for first place to Xfinity Center–as #20 Iowa comes to College Park.  The perfect appetizer for the big game…next to my friend Doug’s wife’s “Buffalo Chicken Wing Dip”.

American (11-9, 4-4 Patriot League) finds itself with a two game losing streak after slipping at home to Army 68-66 Monday…even John Schoof’s 17 points unable to deliver victory.  AU led by five with 1:45 left before turning the ball over, missing a layup and the missing a three-pointer.  The Eagles lose despite shooting 55% from the fieldand missing the same amount of free throws (13-21 to Army’s 7-15) as their opponent.  One game away from the midpoint of the conference slate, Boston University and Colgate are tied for first (AU beat the Raiders while losing to the Bison) with the Eagles one of four 4-4 teams.  Cause for concern:  AU is 1-3 on the road in the conference and their next two games are away from Bender Arena.

Howard (10-10, 4-2 MEAC)– FIVE HUNDRED, BABY!  The Bison haven’t been at the break-even mark or better 20 games into the season since 2002.  Not only was that the last year they had a winning record–it was also the last time they didn’t lose 20 games in a season.  Monday’s 45-42 win over Bethune-Cookman made the Virginia-Virginia Tech game feel like the Lakers Showtime–two of the Bison’s starters went scoreless and James Daniel missed 10 of his 11 shots.  Thank goodness JC Carlton scored 27 points to lead all scorers…the junior is averaging 22 points over his last five games.  The Bison next face a Morgan State team that’s 4-16 while ranking 351st in the nation in shooting (that would be dead last in Division I).  After that things tighten up with five of their nine remaining league games against schools with winning conference records–followed by giant-killer NJIT in the season finale.  A winning record might not happen, but it’s very likely they lose less than 20 games this winter.

Kent Benson has to be nervous.  Bobby Wilkerson must be shaking. Quinn Buckner’s glances at the latest Kentucky scores have to be a little more intriguing lately.  The 1976 Indiana team that went 32-0 en route to the last unbeaten National Championship in the mens game will be mentioned early and often if #1 Kentucky enters March perfect–as this year’s Wildcat edition presents the best collection of talent since…well, last year’s Kentucky team.  Or the 2012 edition that won it all with Anthony Davis.  Or perhaps the 1996 team that lost to fellow Final Four teams UMass and Mississippi State en route to Rick Pitino’s first title that featured Antoine Walker and Ron Artest.  Wow, it is really easy not to like the bluebloods of Lexington.  So every time a middling SEC school takes UK into OT…the meter moves.  Even though injuries have scrapped coach John Calipari’s two-platoon system, most Wildcat games represent an NBA pre-draft workout.  Sit tight, Bob Knight…unlike other unbeatens from mid-major leagues recently, this team can get it done.

 

Alma Mater Update–  there aren’t any awards for “most precarious 4-0 start in ACC history”, but if there were this winter’s edition of the Orange would have that honor sealed up.  From barely beating Virginia Tech to losing DeJuan Coleman and Chris McCullough to season ending injuries, this team has NIT written all over it.  But they’re currently tied for first in the conference with non-factors Clemson and Boston College on deck.  The ACC gauntlet of Duke, Louisville, Pitt, Notre Dame, Duke and Virginia is a month away.  Enjoy your “Warrick Wings” and “Boeheim Burgers” at Front Page Arlington while you can.  Rakeem Christmas and Trevor Cooney, now is the time to pad your stats.

 

#14 Maryland (16-2, 4-1 Big 10) proved it could bounce back from slow starts– they trailed Rutgers 8-0 and allowed an 11-0 run to start the second half in Wednesday’s 73-65 win over the Scarlet Knights.  Those following this school over the last five to ten years wonder when the other shoe will drop…as it almost always does.  There’s no way this team can be this good, right?  Weren’t they exposed by Virginia?  Didn’t their offense prove offensive against Michigan State (14 first half points)?  Wouldn’t things turn bad when they started facing the rough and tumble physical Big 10 schools?  This is actually a great year to join the conference-only two other schools are in the top 40 of ESPN.COM’s RPI, and they’ve beaten Michigan State while Wisconsin’s proven they can be beaten (by Rutgers?!).  The great equalizer-team defense- is keeping the Terps near the top of the league:  Mark Turgeon’s team leads the Big Ten in defensive field goal percentage.  Causes for concern involve turnovers:  Maryland’s 11th in assist to turnover ratio and 13th in turnover margin.  Can they complete a regular season sweep of Michigan State?  

 

Georgetown (11-5, 3-2 Big East) snatched its first road conference win Tuesday at DePaul–as coach John Thompson III shortens his rotation (playing just 9–with only 6 players seeing more than 15 minutes) for what will be quite a grind.  Two games in three days will give further clarification of the Hoyas are pretenders or contenders in a Big East that boasts 7 teams in the top 40 of the RPI.  Saturday Butler visits Verizon-the Bulldogs have endured an odd journey already this year.  Coach Brandon Miller went on medical leave October 1st of last fall and interim coach Chris Holtmann turned what was a 14-17 squad from the year before into a top 20 team…leading to the school lifting the interim tag off Holtmann while Miller quietly goes away.  Fourteen turnovers factored into the Hoyas loss to Butler in the Bahamas Thanksgiving week–and bad turnovers remain Georgetown’s Achilles heel.  Monday night #5 Villanova drops by the district–the Wildcats have four double digit victories in conference play but fell on the road two weekends ago to Seton Hall in overtime.

 

Cruising the Commonwealth–

#2 Virginia (16-0, 4-0 ACC) has the Cavalier faithful thinking Final Four.  And why shouldn’t they? Coach Tony Bennett’s team sucks the life out of opponents defensively and is effective enough offensively (44th in the nation in field goal percentage and 40th in offensive rebounding).  Is it safe to say that Justin Anderson’s made the leap?  The junior’s hitting 53 percent of his shots (56% from 3 point range) while leading the Cavaliers in scoring.  Last year a lot was made about UVa’s “soft schedule” when they played Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina just once during the regular season.  This winter there are four other schools ranked in the top 25–and coach Tony Bennett’s team plays Duke, UNC and Louisville back-to-back-to-back over the span of eight days.  At least they get a break with two of those three being played in Charlottesville.  Saturday the Cavaliers visit winless in the ACC Boston College.

 

Virginia Tech (8-8, 0-3 ACC) wonders when its first league victory will arrive–as their January gauntlet of ACC elite continues with consecutive games against North Carolina, Notre Dame and Virginia.  The Hokies entered conference play as one of the better shooting teams in the nation (they currently rank 45th) but then were held to 39% by Syracuse, 41% by Florida State and 36% by Louisville.  A lot will be on the shoulders of  Adam Smith (15-31 against the Seminoles and Cardinals) as other options offensively haven’t panned out.  Sunday the Hokies visit #15 North Carolina.

 

A-10 Trio–

George Washington (13-4, 3-1 Atlantic 10) bounced back from their least inspirational effort of the season to edge Richmond in double overtime 73-70.  The big difference was the Big Dane– five days after going scoreless and missing both shots at LaSalle, 6 foot 10 center Kevin Larsen tallied 22 points and 11 rebounds.  If the Colonials can get that production consistently, watch out.  The problem is, once every 5 or 6 games the Copenhagen, Denmark product offers up a 1-for-7 entrée with side dishes of foul trouble and multiple turnovers.  For the moment there’s a bit of a breather before they face #17 VCU January 27th:  the next three GW opponents are a combined 2-10 in league play.  Saturday they face a fading George Mason.

 

George Mason (6-10, 1-3 Atlantic 10)-  the season isn’t ugly–yet.  But the Patriots after winning their conference opener have fallen on tough times, despite inspired play from freshman center Shevon Thompson (the Jamaican averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds in league play).  The loss that has to haunt coach Paul Hewitt is the team’s 66-62 defeat against UMass where they made just one shot in the final 6:27.  Saturday they deal with the Colonial Army at George Washington.

 

#17 VCU (14-3, 4-0 Atlantic 10) is viewed as a potential #4 seed in most NCAA Tournament brackets…and while there’s a lot of hoops to be played between now and Selection Sunday the Rams are definitely on a roll.  Their three losses have come to teams that have been ranked this winter:  Virginia and Villanova have been top ten fixtures while Old Dominion reached the top 25 for the first time ever earlier this month (props to Jeff Jones for getting the Monarchs on track).  Shaka Smart’s pesky defense (3rd in the nation in steals) is providing the usual havoc while senior Treveon Graham provides a matchup nightmare on offense:  the 6-foot-6 swingman can rebound better than most forwards (6.9 boards per game) while destroying opponents from the perimeter (46% from 3 point range).  With road games at Duquesne and St Louis (combined 15-17 and 2-6 in conference play), the Rams could very well still be unbeaten in conference play January 27th when they host George Washington.

 

American (10-7, 3-2 Patriot League) is deep into the rugby scrum that is the Patriot League.  Pee Wee Gardner’s three helped the Eagles edge Lehigh 62-59…and although he’s averaging an assist less per game and shooting five percentage points lower than last year, the diminutive one remains the sparkplug for AU’s offense.  While it’s nice to know the Eagles have handed conference-leading Colgate their only league loss, the team has yet to win on the road in Patriot League play and goes on the road for four of their next five games.  Saturday they visit one of the four other 3-2 teams in the Patriot League, Lafayette.

 

Howard (8-10, 2-2 MEAC)- gets a rare midseason siesta:  the Bison enjoy 12 days off between their loss to Delaware State and their trip to Florida A&M.  The Rattlers are the ideal team to come off a layoff against–as they’re currently 0-16 (0-3 in the league).  In fact, the Bison’s monthly transition couldn’t be sharper:  their three opponents to end January are a combined 1-9 in league play while their first three foes of February are a combined 10-1.  Gulp.

 

Maryland Womens Update– new league, similar results.  The 8th ranked Terps are off to a 5-0 start in the Big Ten with signature wins at then #12 Nebraska, #23 Minnesota and #24 Rutgers.  Laurin Mincy enjoyed her recent return to the Garden State, scoring 24 points in the win over the Scarlet Knights.  The team’s lone senior leads the team in scoring and assists.  Two emerging factors off the bench are junior forward Tierney Pfirman and freshman guard Kristen Confroy.  Can this team enter the conversation for a potential #1 seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament?  Five of the Terrapins’ next eight games are in College Park.

 

 

Sadly, the 27-24 win over Philadelphia was merely just one week reprieve from what is becoming a familiar downward escalator–it only prevented me from revamping my “12 Losses of Redskins” that brought Burgundy and Gold Nation plenty of Christmas cheer.  Instead the season ends with a 44-17 loss to Dallas– a 60-minute coronation of the best team to come out of Big D in seven years and a 60-minute off-ramp into the offseason where the Fed Ex Field faithful have a last place team for the sixth time in seven seasons.  The light you see at the end of the tunnel?  Maybe it’s a train.

 

RG3VER– the face of the franchise completed 27 of 41 passes for 336 yards and a touchdown–but was picked off twice.  Both interceptions were less about great plays defensively and miss-reads or miss-times by #10.  He also had a 4th quarter fumble.  The vast majority of RG3’s passes were to targets under ten yards from the line of scrimmage.  Griffin was sacked three times in the second half…but they had to throw 30 passes after intermission in comeback mode.  The QB Trio finishes the year with 18 TD’s and 18 INT’s– with Griffin and Kirk Cousins posting a similar amount of attempts (214 and 204), yards (1694 and 1710) and passer rating (86.9 and 86.4).  But Colt McCoy’s limited (128 attempts) run yields the best completion percentage (71.1) and passer rating (96.4).  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

 

Saved by the Offseason– wasn’t there that run of episodes on Bell where Zack didn’t get the girl despite doing everything right and getting punished for his transgressions (special drunk driving episode doesn’t count;  it was a Tori show and his trouble ends with the credits)?  That’s what 2014 feels like for Alfred the Underused–but you’d get just 12 carries if your team was down 17 at the half…or was unable to move the chains consistently.  Morris finishes with 1,074 yards which is kind of like getting excited that Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s appearing on “Franklin & Bash”.  On a good team, Morris can be a major factor.  On this squad, he’s window dressing they can’t use.

 

Wide Open and Shut– DeSean Jackson finishes the season with a bang:  2 catches for 86 yards and a touchdown!  The offseason acquisition notches 1169 yards receiving while last year’s leading receiver Pierre Garcon tallies 2 catches for 53 yards to conclude his 2014 with 68 receptions and 752 yards (11.1 per catch– not too far off last year’s 11.9).  Jackson may have had double the TD’s Garcon had (6 to 3), their first down catches are almost equal (35-32).  In theory if each could get just one more catch a game…

 

Third Down and Done– the Skins converted 4 of 12 third down attempts against the Cowboys… actually improving their success rate from 31.3% to 31.5.  Despite this Week 17 surge the team still finishes ranked 30th in the league.  Of RG3’s 9 passes–3 were short left, 3 were short middle and 3 were short right.  They did run once on 3rd & 1:  Morris rewarded their faith with a 22 yard scamper.  Yardage breakdown:  2 for 4 on third and short, 0 for 2 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed) and 2 for 6 on third and long.

 

Defensively Done– Coordinator Jim Haslett’s job security was a primary question this season…and as the team finishes the year by allowing 44 points a quick check of how the D graded:  12th against the run and 23rd against the pass, 20th in yards surrendered and tied for 29th in points allowed, tied for 25th in takeaways and tied for 24th in getting off the field on 3rd down.  Does Haslett deserve a sixth year with all of the injuries he had to try to work with in 2014?  Or is he the sacrificial lamb the franchise needs to feed a restless fan base?

 

Flying Flags– the Skins were whistled 9 times for 101 yards against the Cowboys…finishing the season tied for 4th in infractions and 2nd in penalty yards.  Four penalties were on offense:  Jordan Reed’s hold, Logan Paulsen’s false start and unnecessary roughness calls against Trent Williams and Pierre Garcon.  Four were against the defense: EJ Biggers’ facesmask, David Amerson’s pass interference and illegal use of the hands calls against Bashaud Breeland and Jackson Jeffcoat.  The three defensive penalties in the second quarter helped lead to Cowboy scores…

 

Cobra Kai…and Finding a Way– the dynamic kicking duo made us proud once again although Tress Way’s day was more impressive:  a 44 yard average that included a 60-yarder as opposed to Forbath’s 25-yard field goal and two extra points.  While Kai finishes the year 24 of 27 on field goals and 31 of 32 on extra points, Way simply leads the league in punting average with 47.5 yards per kick.  Perhaps Bobby should have taken a more prominent role in the Karate Kid II than Johnny Lawrence.

 

Dissecting the Division– NFC East Champ Dallas takes the 3rd seed with their victory at Fed Ex Field…and the Cowboys are looking as good as they did in 2007 when they had home field advantage only to be upset by the NY Giants.  But this is a sadder and wiser Tony Romo–and without the bye there’s no time to visit Cancun or Cabo.  Philadelphia’s victory over the Giants means the Eagles miss the playoffs at 10-6…which is slightly better than missing the playoffs after blowing a 9-3 start by losing four straight games.  Prepare for an offseason of complaining by Eagles fans that they’re 10-6 record is far superior to Carolina’s 7-8-1…7th place in the NFC is far from heavenly.  The NY Giants finish 11th in the conference thanks to their wins over Atlanta and St. Louis.  As for the Burgundy and Gold?  Fifteenth in the conference but two full games better than Tampa Bay.  So there’s that…

 

North By North West– the AFC North takes the best division of the year honors with a 38-25-1 mark while the NFC West came in second at 37-27;  the NFC North takes third at 35-29.  The NFC East?  In sixth at 32-32…comfortably ahead (who wasn’t) of the AFC South (25-39) and its NFC counterpart (a legendarily bad 22-41-1).  Which means nothing…

 

Holidays are a time to return to one’s roots by going home.  The territory’s familiar and easy to recognize… lending a certain warmth to the coldest month of the year.  For the Burgundy and Gold, the holiday season is another time to go–and stay–home.  Sunday’s 24-13 loss to the NY Giants clinched last place in the NFC East.  For the second straight season and sixth time in seven years.  The current century has seen the team post a winning record just three times (2005, 07 and 12)…with the last four coaches under the Skins employ posting last place seasons (somehow Spurrier’s 5-11 that was “not too good” still bested the NY Giants in 2003).  Another winter of discontent.  Another year wondering what this team needs to get in the right direction…

 

RG3VER– the face of the franchise was pressed into service when McCoy had to go to sick bay with an aggravated neck injury.  While Griffin completed 18 of 27 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions…his biggest play was one that resulted in a major momentum shift for the other team.  With time running down in the first half, RG3 was streaking for the end zone…only to lose possession of the ball as he crossed the plane.  Instead of a 17-7 lead at the half, a shaky 3-point lead was erased when the Giants began the second half with an offsides kick and tied up the game with a field goal.  RG3 also showed some wheels (46 yards rushing on 5 carries).

 

McCoy sticking his neck out– while it’s a shame that Colt’s day at Met Life Stadium was cut short by the aggravation of his neck injury, one wonders exactly how hurt he was–and if the Redskins knew it, why didn’t they activate Kirk Cousins to have another QB on the roster?  Also, is coach Jay Gruden so done with RG3 as a longterm option he’s willing to junk the 2012 Rookie of the Year?  And why is he risking McCoy out there?

 

Alfred the Out of Place– Mr. Morris gained 49 yards on 14 carries…as he continues to stagger towards the finish line that is the 1,000 yard mark.  After rumbling for a season-high 125 against San Francisco, Morris has gained 123 yards over the last 3 games at 3.2 yards per carry.  On  a team like this 3-11 mess it appears as though Alfred’s talents are being wasted.  They need to get better on offensive line and in the secondary– and as much as you’d hate to see this team part with their leading rusher, #46 has to be a chip in the mix of yielding talent.  Even Mark-Paul Gosselaar had to move on to “Hyperion Bay”, “NYPD Blue” and whatever that show is on TNT now.  I’m not saying they should ship him out, but if the right deal is there…

 

The Joy of Sacks– seven more times the Redskins quarterbacks went down Sunday.  The 53 sacks allowed is the second most in the league this year (behind Jacksonville–and do they even count?) and once again it’s a combination of OL, poor pass protection by the RB’s and TE’s plus the QB hanging on to the ball way too long.  It’s just as important at quarterback who’s standing as who is starting…

 

Third and Hide My Eyes– the Skins converted 4 of 13 chances to move the chains.  Three resulted in sacks…and RG3 completed 4-5 with 3 conversions.  Another mixed bag.  Distance:  2 for 2 on third and short, 2 for 6 on third and medium (4-6 yards needed) and 0 for 5 on third and long.

 

Deficient Defense– Odell Beckham Jr. is open again.  The Giants sparkplug caught 12 passes for 143 yards (almost half of the team’s total output) and 3 touchdowns.  The Skins were unable to contain Beckham no matter what they threw at him… legal and illegal.

 

Flying flags– Well. Ten penalties for 135 yards.  All four against the defense went against Bashaud Breeland (coach Jay Gruden lauded the rookie’s aggressiveness Monday):  2 pass interferences, one taunting call and one unnecessary roughness.  Three of his four flags moved the ball past midfield.  Four flags came against the offense (false start, delay of game, and Santana Moss’ unsportsmanlike conduct infractions) and while Moss’ flags helped give the Giants a short field to onside kick from (they’d get a field goal), Shawn Lauvao’s false start helped force a first quarter field goal.  That’s six points there…

 

Cobra Kai, Showing the Way– the Skins Johnny Lawrence connected from 35 and 38 yards out…while Tress Way averaged 45.2 yards on six punts.  Can these two get their own movie series already?

 

Dissecting the Division– Dallas takes over first place in the NFC East with their victory over Philadelphia.  That’s consecutive primetime games in December the Cowboys have won–is there something we don’t know here?  Due to Detroit owning a better conference record, Dallas takes the 3rd seed if the playoffs were to start today while the Eagles are in 7th place and out of the postseason party.  The NY Giants hold down 3rd place in the division and 13th place in the NFC (right in front of Atlanta who led the NFC South until yesterday)…while the Skins after clinching last place in the division for the sixth time in seven years are now focused on dead last in the conference for the second straight season.  They own a one game lead over Tampa Bay but the Buccaneers own the head to head tiebreaker…

 

North besting the West– the AFC North owns the best composite record with two weeks remaining at 34-21-1 while the NFC West is 34-22.  The NFC East?  In sixth place at 27-29.

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