North Carolina State fired its coach Mark Gottfried last week…yet the Wolfpack will continue to be guided by Gottfried for the rest of the current season.  Perhaps his office is really messy and he needs an entire month to box up his keepsakes?  There was once a time when NC State wasn’t just a player in the ACC, but royalty in Raleigh where the conference tournament was held for the first 13 years.  The Wolfpack won with Everett Case as their head coach and cut down the nets with Press Maravich in charge, before winning it all under Norman Sloan and Jim Valvano.  Perhaps they used up too much mojo during the 1983 National Championship run.  Perhaps they used even more karma in their improbable ACC Tournament run as a #6 seed in 1987.  That was their tenth title in 34 years-tying the Wolfpack with North Carolina.  In the last thirty years NC State has as many ACC Championships as Clemson.  Or Boston College.  Or UCLA.  That makes the natives restless and thus makes the seat as hot as their fire-engine red uniforms.

Gottfried guided NC State to a pair of Sweet Sixteens and four straight NCAA Tournament appearances before last winter’s 16-17 stumble.  This winter has been even more bitter with losses that include a 51-point drubbing in Chapel Hill and a come-from-ahead collapse against Syracuse.  But the endgame was a messy one in Raleigh…and now the school scrambles to find someone willing to compete in the shadows of the Smith Center and Cameron Indoor.  Who will be willing to put their career in the hands of an athletic department that pulled the rip-chord on a mostly successful regime?  North Carolina and Duke snicker at their poor country cousin.

Alma Mater Update- it’s NC State’s 30 years in the wilderness that makes other schools nervous.  Schools who have only had one great head coach in the history of the program.  Schools that have said coach nearing the final years of his career.  That admitted, the 2017 Orange are perhaps paying up on a market correction from last March’s run.  Three straight losses have SU on the back end of the bubble…likely needing to win two of three to finish the season.  That means a win against Duke or at Louisville.  When does lacrosse begin?

#24 Maryland (22-5, 10-4 Big Ten)- the Terps learned Monday that they’d be without the services of Michal Cekovsky for the rest of the year after the junior forward fractured his ankle in Sunday’s loss at #11 Wisconsin.  Bad news for a team that ranks ninth in the Big Ten in rebounding.  They’re one game behind the Badgers and Purdue…and in recent losses to each came up short on the boards.  The good news is Maryland isn’t completely unfamiliar with Ceko on the shelf:  the seven-footer had missed 10 of the team’s first 19 games this season.  This week they host streaking Minnesota (five straight wins) and slumping Iowa (three straight losses).  ESPN’s Joe Lunardi tickets the Terps to the Midwest Region as a #6 seed with a first round game against Middle Tennessee, while CBS’s Jerry Palm has the Terrapins a #6 in the West drawing Arkansas.

Georgetown (14-13, 5-9 Big East)- barring a run through conference tournament, Sunday’s loss at #20 Creighton likely seals the Hoyas’ NCAA tournament hopes.  Since five  14-loss schools made the field of 68 as at-large teams in 2011, nobody with 14 losses on Selection Sunday has had their shoulder tapped.  Three-point shooting has been an issue since league play began (they’re 9th in the Big East from outside the arc) and against the Bluejays poor perimeter production reared its ugly head again as they shot 3-for-22 from downtown.  There is hope as John Thompson III’s team plays its next three games against schools that are currently sub-500 in the league…before wrapping up the regular season with #2 in the nation Villanova.

#18 Virginia (18-9, 8-7 ACC)- four straight losses?  Back to back sub-50 scoring efforts for the first time since 1969?  Trouble in Charlottesville as the the Cavaliers careen down the conference standings.  If they had held on to that 14-point second half lead at Virginia Tech they would have moved into a first place tie;  instead four losses later UVa is tied for seventh.  They have to get London Perrantes on the right track-the senior is shooting 28% during the current slide (Monday’s 2-for-15 performance against Miami the exclamation point).  Moving forward, they could also use some frontcourt production as Isaiah Wilkins has just six double-digit scoring efforts in league play.  Center Jack Salt may be shooting 50% during the current skid, but the New Zealander has taken just six shots over 63 minutes.  ESPN has UVa a #5 seed in the Midwest with a first round game against UT-Arlington, while CBS has the Cavaliers seeded sixth in the south and Middle Tennessee State as their first round foe.  Both projections were released before Monday’s loss.

Virginia Tech (19-8, 8-7 ACC)- how does Buzz Williams not have a dry-cleaning sponsorship deal?  The guy makes Jimmy Patsos and Sean Miller seem absolutely arid by comparison.  Unfortunately, after sweating through his dress shirt against Louisville Williams had to put an orange t-shirt on, leading kids watching the Saturday afternoon game to believe that Charlie Brown on the Hokies’ sideline.  A drier Williams watched his team top Clemson 71-70 Tuesday thanks to Seth Allen’s three-pointer with three seconds left. Last year’s team exceeded expectations en route to the NIT.  This year?  I would not be shocked to see the Hokies playing not just in the NCAA’s, but advance to the second weekend.  Before Tuesday’s tilt, ESPN had the Hokies seeded 10th in the Midwest with a first round game against Oklahoma State while CBS has them facing VCU in the 8-9 game of the Midwest Regional.

George Mason (18-10, 8-7 Atlantic 10)- no shame in losing to conference-leading Dayton; what bothers coach Dave Paulsen was the team’s sluggish start in their loss to Rhode Island.  The road to the double-bye gets tougher, as they always have trouble with George Washington and everybody’s having trouble this year with VCU.

George Washington (14-13 , 6-8  Atlantic 10)- the Colonials might not be in contention for the coveted double-bye…but Sunday’s win over Duquesne does lift GW further away from the dreaded opening round.  A 2-2 finish is not out of the realm of possibility, and after an offseason of upheaval a 16-15 mark entering the conference tournament should be viewed as a success.

Howard (7-21, 4-9 MEAC)- after winning consecutive conference games for the first time all season, the Bison came back to earth in a 66-59 loss to North Carolina Central.  While shooting 33% from the field and 4-23 from three-point range is not ideal, there’s no shame in coming up short against the conference leaders.  The Eagles have won 12 straight to surge up the standings past Norfolk State. Gulp– that’s who the Bison have next.

American (6-21, 3-13 Patriot League)- the Eagles came up short on Senior Day to Holy Cross 69-54…which is not ideal but almost makes sense as the strength of this team is coach Mike Brennan’s underclassmen.  The top two scorers are freshman Sa’eed Nelson and Mark Gasperini…while sophomores Delante Jones and Lonnie Rivera have also made contributions.  AU is assured of playing in the first round;  they need two wins plus two losses by Army and Lafayette to have any hope of hosting their first round game.  Navy and Loyola, brace yourselves.

Rivalries are organic.  They can’t be mandated- that’s why the Maryland-Rutgers football fight remains a shrug even though the Big Ten’s two newest schools would be a natural fit. Just ask UConn how their “rivalry” with Central Florida is going.  In the area there was Georgetown-Syracuse and there still is George Washington-George Mason…and while we’ll always have Virginia-Virginia Tech (see last Sunday) the best basketball rivalry remains in the Commonwealth’s capital city.

Virginia Commonwealth University is a public research university boasting 24,000+ undergrads.  The University of Richmond is a private, non-sectarian liberal arts college with under 5,000 undergrad and graduate students combined (less than VCU’s grad student total).  One school is a part of the downtown fabric of the city…while the other, despite sharing the name with said city is lodged on the outskirts.  You even have to drive past the “Country Club of Virginia” to get there.

VCU has been the popular Cinderella over the last decade, with more than a few upsets under their belts before we even get into their run from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011.  Richmond?  Been there, done that.  The Spiders were the first #15 seed to win in the tournament (sorry, Syracuse) and they also bounced big-name favorites like Indiana, Auburn and Vanderbilt in the dance.

The Rams joined the Colonial Athletic Association in 1995, only to have Richmond leave for the Atlantic 10 two seasons later.  The two schools still played annually, comparing the apples of one league to the oranges of the other.  Until 2012 when Shaka Smart brought his havoc defense to the A-10 and promptly took his program to the Tournament finals.  VCU has appeared in the title tilt every year it’s been in the league…while Richmond hasn’t advanced to the league semifinals since 2011.  To make things more interesting the Spiders have lost to the Rams in the quarterfinals two of the last three years.

Rival up.

Last Night-

VCU (22-5, 12-2 Atlantic 10) beat Richmond (15-11, 9-5) 84-73 to complete a season-sweep of the Spiders.  The Rams hit 58% of their shots while sinking 7 of 14 three-pointers…and used a mid-game 15-0 run to take control.  JeQuan Lewis nets 16 points with 7 rebounds and 5 assists to lead the way while VCU holds T.J. Cline to 4-of-12 shooting.  The victory gives VCU a half-game lead in the A-10 (Dayton plays St. Bonaventure Saturday at 2) while the Spiders are in danger of dropping into a three-way tie for third (and they don’t own the tiebreaker with George Mason).

Alma Mater Update- so much for major momentum.  The Orange are saddled with a two-game losing streak and the distinct possibility of going to McDonough Arena for the NIT.  Over the final three weeks of the regular season they’ll face Georgia Tech twice (can’t escape that red-hot rivalry), host Duke and visit Louisville.  One thinks a 3-1 performance will keep them safely in Bubbleland.

Saturday-

1 p.m.

Virginia Tech (18-7, 7-6 ACC) at #8 Louisville (21-5, 9-4), ACC Network.  The Hokies followed up their improbably rally against Virginia with a gritty road victory at Pitt.  Up next?  Only the best defensive team in the conference:  the Cardinals rank second in points allowed and turnover margin while ranking third in rebounding margin.  Did I mention they’re tops at defending the three?  Tech has to deal with the season-ending injury to Chris Clarke;  the sophomore was arguably their best all-around player and contributed greatly in multiple areas of the game.  Buzz Williams’ bunch has their work cut out for them.

1:30 p.m.

Navy (15-12, 10-5 Patriot League) vs Army West Point (9-17, 3-11), CBS Sports Network.  The last time these two teams met?  How about a 96-80 overtime thriller where Shawn Anderson poured in 30 points for the Midshipmen.  Kennedy Edwards tallied a season-high 20 points for the Black Knights in that loss; Jordan Fox scored 17 to lead Army past Holy Cross in their most recent game.  The Midshipmen have lost two of three but are in the driver’s seat to host at least their conference quarterfinal game (the Patriot League uses a home-court system for its tournament).  The Black Knights are in position to also host a tournament game, but one in the dreaded first round as a #7 or #8 seed.

4 p.m.

George Mason (18-8, 8-5 Atlantic 10) vs Rhode Island (16-9, 8-5).  Could coach Dave Paulsen’s program be a year ahead of schedule?  One winter after going 5-13 in league play, the Patriots are pushing for a double-bye in the A-10 Tournament…and are fresh from beating Richmond by 23.  Senior Marquise Moore is making his candidacy for conference Player of the Year, averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds per game.  The Rams have lost two straight, including a perplexing defeat to Fordham where they shot just 30% while scoring 43 points (full disclosure:  Fordham is also the Rams so perhaps that led to confusion).  Doc Nix and the Green Machine will be waiting at Eagle Bank Arena.

6 p.m.

Howard (6-20, 3-8 MEAC) vs North Carolina A&T, (2-24, 0-11).  The Bison ended their slide at six straight losses by beating Morgan State (despite 21 turnovers).  The Aggies also won  recently, but their victim was NAIA-Division II Allen.  The closest A&T has come to a win in the league was a two point loss at Coppin State.  Charles Williams scored 30 points in the previous meeting this season (a 15-point Bison win);  the freshman has continued to play well in leading the team in scoring this winter.  James Miller scored 26 in that win-and the senior is going out in style, averaging 19 points per game this month.

8:15 p.m.

#14 Virginia (18-7, 8-5 ACC) at #10 North Carolina (22-5, 10-3).  These two schools tangled on a Saturday night in March last year in the ACC Tournament Final;  this game would be for first place if it weren’t for a two-game slide that saw the Cavaliers cough up a 14-point second half lead at Virginia Tech…followed by a tough loss at home to Duke.  The Tar Heels lead the conference in scoring while UVa allows the fewest points per game.  To the surprise of nobody on the planet, coach Roy Williams team is super-talented yet has multiple lapses over a 40-minute stretch.  Justin Jackson (6th in the ACC in scoring), Kennedy Meeks (4th in rebounding) and Joel Berry II (4 assists per game directing the offense) will provide the latest test for Tony Bennett’s top-notch defense.  The question again though-as has been the case all winter-is will London Perrantes get any help from an underperforming frontcourt?

Sunday-

12 p.m.

American (6-20, 3-12 Patriot League) vs Holy Cross (13-15, 7-8).  Wednesday’s loss at Lafayette dropped the Eagles from 8th to 10th in the conference…while the Crusaders are also cooling off.  Five losses in seven games has a one-time contender in the role of Patriot League pretender…but don’t tell that to coach Bill Carmody.  All he did after they finished 5-13 and in 9th place last March was win four games en route to the NCAA Tournament.  AU turned the ball over 23 times en route to a 63-55 loss the last time these two teams tangled.

George Washington (13-13, 5-8) at Duquesne (10-16, 3-10), NBC Sports Network.  The Colonials won the previous meeting this winter 65-63 thanks to shutting down the Dukes’ perimeter attack (4-of-21 from three-point range) while Tyler Cavanaugh tallied 11 points and 10 rebounds.  The senior’s heated up lately, posting three double-doubles in his last four games.  The road has been rough for GW during conference season:  the team’s lone win in seven games away from Smith Center was in nearby Fairfax against George Mason.

1 p.m.

#23 Maryland (22-4, 10-3 Big Ten) at #11 Wisconsin (21-5, 10-3), CBS.  Depending what happens with Purdue (also 10-3 in the conference) at Michigan State Saturday, this very well could be for first place (Boilermakers own tiebreakers with both teams).  Coach Mark Turgeon’s team is at its best when it’s defending well…while the Badgers allow the fewest points per game in the league.  Nigel Hayes was the Big Ten’s Preseason Player of the Year, but its actually Ethan Happ who’s making the difference this season.  The six-foot-ten sophomore is second in the conference in shooting percentage as well as steals, while ranking third in rebounding and tenth in blocks.  Happ leads Wisconsin in those categories as well as scoring and assists.  The Terrapin big men will have their hands full inside…while the Badgers’ guards will be tested by Melo Trimble (32 points against Northwestern) outside.  And the winner still might be chasing Purdue…

Georgetown (14-12, 5-8 Big East) at #20 Creighton (21-5, 8-5), Fox Sports 1.  Much like a candidate trying to work out Electoral College math to get to 270, the Hoyas faithful are trying to figure out what it would take-barring the automatic berth from winning the Big East Tournament-to get this team into the NCAA’s.  Conventional wisdom would say four wins in five regular season games (with no bad losses) followed by two more wins at Madison Square Garden to have even a prayer.  The Bluejays have been losing altitude since Maurice Watson Jr. went down for the season with a knee injury;  they’ve dropped four of seven while slipping from 7th in the nation to one bad loss away from being unranked.  The Hoyas held Creighton to 34% shooting and 1-for-18 from three-point range in a 20-point win last month;  they’ll have over a week to prepare for the Bluejays this time.

 

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There was quite a bit of excitement when the Big Ten announced that their men’s basketball tournament would be held at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.  But instead of a conference that had four top ten teams entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament or even the 2016 batch that yielded four schools in the top 20, there’s Wisconsin at #11 (after losing to Northwestern) while Purdue is 16th.  And before you get involved in the whole “strength of schedule” thing, look at the “projected top 16 seeds” released by the Tournament Selection Committee:  NO BIG TEN TEAMS.  While I’ve compared this made-for-TV exercise to tasting cookie batter, there is still some validity to the process.  And that process points to the Big Ten and say they’re pretenders instead of contenders in a world where the teams to beat range from bluebloods (Kentucky and Duke) to upstarts (Gonzaga and Butler).

Blame the name schools having off-seasons:  Michigan State has yet to really recover from a rough non-conference slate and Indiana’s December loss to Nebraska was more of a trend than a hiccup.  Ohio State and Michigan are bubble afterthoughts.  It’s also tough for the national media to get their heads around Northwestern and Minnesota as contenders.  Add in a Maryland team that lost four starters while playing a less than ambitious non-conference record, and you have a below-the-radar season for a school used to being above-the-fold on the front page.  Who’s ready for a first round that features 14th place Rutgers?

Bracket Racket- now that we are less than one month away from Selection Sunday, we’ll be including the ESPN and CBS NCAA Tournament projections.  Remember that the field of 68 is fluid…and has the attention-span off a hummingbird.

Alma Mater Update- two straight close losses have the Orange slipping down the bubble at 8-6 in the conference.  Remaining games on the road to the NCAA’s have Duke at home and Louisville on the road…with a home-and-away series against fellow Bubble resident Georgia Tech.  SU hasn’t had a comfortable win in exactly one month…and one hopes they respond to the latest bump in the road.

#23 Maryland (21-4, 9-3 Big Ten)- Anthony Cowan stepped up Saturday in the Terps’ 86-77 win over Ohio State with 19 points after scoring 19 in the team’s previous three games (and shooting 2-15 during the two-game losing streak).  The bench also outscored the Buckeyes’ reserves 33-0.  But up next are two tough tests on the road against conference contenders Northwestern (yes, I know…try not to chuckle) and Wisconsin.  Both models have the Terrapins a #6 seed:   CBS tickets them to the South Region and a first round game against the Georgia Tech/Wake Forest winner while ESPN has them in the East bracket against Clemson or Marquette.

Georgetown (14-12, 5-8 Big East)- Now that was the Jessie Govan we thought we might see.  The six-foot-ten sophomore tallied 23 points and 8 rebounds in the 80-62 win over Marquette.  After their team defense was described as “lazy” by the Golden Eagles JuJuan Johnson in December, the Hoyas responded by holding Marquette to under 40% shooting for most of the game and 3-for-14 from three-point range.  Now the question is:  can this team get back to .500 in conference play and merit at-large consideration in March?  They still have Creighton and Villanova on their schedule…plus road games at St. John’s and Seton Hall.  ESPN has the Hoyas as the eighth team to miss the tournament.

#14 Virginia (18-6, 8-4 ACC)- It’s cloudy in Charlottesville after an 80-78 double-overtime loss to Virginia Tech.  Cassell Coliseum is a very difficult place to get a win…no matter how good you might be.  But blow a 14-point halftime lead?  When you’re one of the best defensive teams in the nation, let alone the ACC?  Their starting forwards shot 2-for-10 from the field against the Hokies…and UVa missed 10 of 24 free throws.  London Perrantes can continue to dazzle from the perimeter, but if he doesn’t have help inside the rough and tumble world of the best conference in the game can be a little unforgiving.  The latest models both have the Cavaliers as a #4 seed playing Akron in the round of 64;  ESPN has UVa in the East while CBS places them in the Midwest.

Virginia Tech (17-7, 6-7 ACC)- now THAT was a big program win.  How do you rally from 14 down against your in-state rival?  How do you come back from 17 turnovers?  Somehow they forced the Cavaliers into a 2-for-9 shooting funk over a six-minute stretch in the second half…and got a gift when London Perrantes’ last-minute layup died on the backboard rim, resulting in a jump ball that went the home team’s way.  Seth Allen’s 20 points off the bench were punctuated by his game-winning jumper in the lane with 3.2 seconds left.  Sophomores Justin Robinson (4 rebounds, 6 assists and a blocked shot) and Chris Clarke (7 boards and 3 assists) continue to do the little things that an NCAA Tournament team needs.  Up next?  Back to back road games against the likes of Pitt and #8 Louisville.  CBS has the Hokies a #9 seed in the Midwest, facing VCU…while ESPN has them seeded 9th in the West and a first-round game with USC.

George Mason (17-8, 7-5 Atlantic 10).  Saturday’s 73-67 victory over Fordham was one of those games the Patriots would have lost earlier this winter or last year:  somehow they survived going scoreless for over seven minutes in the second half.  Sophomore guard Otis Livingston II has turned it on as of late, scoring 18 points while playing 37 minutes per game during the three-game winning streak.  The current surge has coach Dave Paulsen’s team pushing for a double-bye…but in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.  And over the next month the Patriots play conference co-leaders Dayton and VCU plus third place Richmond and fourth place Rhode Island.  Buckle up…

George Washington (13-12, 5-7 Atlantic 10).  How do you bounce back from the heartbreak of a last-second loss to VCU?  Feed Tyler Cavanaugh the ball early and often, which is what GW did in their 76-70 triumph over St. Bonaventure.  They also locked up on the perimeter, holding the Bonnies to 22% shooting from three-point range.  Remember the double-bye I mentioned earlier?  There’s also the dreaded first round of the A-10 Tournament that matches up the bottom four schools…and the Colonials are one game ahead of Fordham and Saint Louis for tenth place.  They own the tiebreaker with the Billikens and visit the Rams March 1st…ending a stretch where they play four of five games against teams that are sub-500 in league play.

American (6-19, 3-11 Patriot League).  The Eagles can also avoid playing in the first round of their conference tournament, but they’ll need to win the rest of their regular season games while getting help.  And even then they’d be in a tiebreaker at 7-11.  Let’s just give AU a chance to enjoy their 61-58 win over Army where they turned over the Black Knights 21 times.  They go for a season sweep of Lafayette Wednesday.  If you can’t avoid the dreaded first round, you may as well try to host it.

Howard (6-20, 3-8 MEAC).  The offensively challenged (338th in shooting and 331st in assists) Bison didn’t go down quietly at Hampton…but still have a way to go before righting the ship.  Of course the ship would be sailing a lot better if the injured James Daniel III had played more than two games this winter.  Instead, fellow senior James Miller and a nucleus of unseasoned young talent tries to fly on one engine.  Thank goodness they got a Monday night win at Morgan State…Miller leading the way with 24 points and a crucial block in the final minute of a 70-67 win over the Bears.  They next face winless in the league North Carolina A&T.

 

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Charles Grice Driesell changed the men’s college basketball in the DC metro area when he left Davidson for Maryland in 1969.  Since reaching the ACC Semifinals in 1965, the program had gone from 7 to 5 to 4 to 2 conference wins.  More than just the Atlantic Coast Conference’s “Siberia”, winter nights in College Park were an afterthought in the break between Redskins and Senators seasons in the Washington area.  That all changed when “Lefty” declared he would turn the University of Maryland into “the UCLA of the east”.

While he didn’t win the NCAA Tournament let alone reach the Final Four in his tenure, Driessell turned the Terrapins from pretenders into contenders.  All-Americans ranging from Len Elmore to the late Len Bias.  Eight berths in the NCAA Tournament (six of those trips before the field expanded to 64) and five trips to the Sweet Sixteen.  An NIT Championship when that tournament still fielded five schools in the top 20.  And that elusive ACC Tournament finally captured in Greensboro in March of 1984.

Maryland became a basketball school when Driesell trotted out to the sounds of “Hail to the Chief” and has mattered ever since.  Saturday the school honors the coach who left under a cloud more than thirty years ago with a banner that will hang in the rafters.  That it has taken over 30 years to honor the man who created “Midnight Madness” is unfortunate, just as the end of his tenure on the sidelines in 1986 was the unfortunate finish to 17 years of dreams and possibilities (plus a little aggravation directed towards tobacco road).

Gary Williams may have delivered that Final Four and National Championship, and Mark Turgeon may be getting the program in position to potentially return to the Final Four, but Lefty is the one who first dreamed big and recruited even bigger.  To him there was no ceiling to what the University of Maryland could accomplish.  Thus, it’s only fitting that a banner bearing Lefty Driesell’s name is within spitting distance of the Xfinity Center ceiling.  Hail to the dreamer…

 

Alma Mater Update- how did we get here?  The Orange have won five straight including consecutive road games that defy explanation.  While last week’s comeback from 16 down at NC State was impressive, the last-second Tyus Battle bucket was miraculous.  The kind of play you get when you’re in the midst of a special season.  I’m not booking reservations to this year’s Final Four, but at 8-4 in the ACC, SU looks one million times better than they did when they tipped off league play with a loss at Boston College.  They visit Pitt Saturday and have never played well there;  the Panthers have four players back from last March’s NCAA team while having the top two scorers in the ACC.

Saturday’s Games-

12 p.m.-

Georgetown (13-12, 4-8 Big East) vs Marquette (15-9, 6-6).  A clash of cold squads in at high noon:  consecutive close losses to Seton Hall and Villanova (it was a two-point game with 3:49 left) have dropped the Hoyas into ninth place of the conference…while the Golden Eagles have lost three of four since upsetting then-#1 Villanova.  No team shoots better from three-point range in the league than Marquette, and they took the previous meeting this winter in December thanks to solid shooting from guards Markus Howard  and Jajuan Johnson.  Another day where a lot will be asked from the Hoyas’ Rodney Pryor and L.J. Peak.

2 p.m.-

Richmond  (14-9, 8-3 Atlantic 10) at LaSalle (13-9, 7-4).  While the A-10 spotlight is on dominant Dayton and lucky-as-heck VCU, the winner of this game plays themselves into the conversation.  LaSalle boasts a player who rivals Dayton’s Scoochie Smith for name value- and Pookie Powell can play too.  The Explorers lead the league in scoring and three-point shooting behind sharp-shooter Cleon Roberts (49% from outside the arc) but have not beaten a conference foe with a winning record since January 12th.  While the Spiders boast triple-threat T.J. Cline, ShawnDre’ Jones has been heating up as of late with a pair of 30-point efforts in his last three games.

3 p.m.-

American (5-19, 2-11 Patriot League) at Army (9-16, 3-10).  AU has dropped six in a row to clinch a losing record in conference play and wraps up the regular season by playing four of their last five games on the road.  They’re also near the bottom of the league in defending the three-pointer…and that’s not good.  The Black Knights average a conference-high 9.4 threes per game…and hit 8 of 18 from outside the arc in a January 14th win at Bender Arena.

4 p.m.-

#21 Maryland (20-4, 8-3 Big Ten) vs Ohio State (15-10, 5-7).  In October, did anybody think the Terps would be 20-4?  Think about that when confronted with the two game losing streak the team currently has.  Thanks to the scheduling rotation, the the Terps are facing the last team they defeated.  That 77-71 win in Columbus  January 31st saw Jae’Sean Tate and Marc Loving both have big nights:  Tate’s 20 points matched his high in a conference game this winter and Loving shot 4-for-5 from three-point range.  One would think that Buckeyes big man Trevor T.  Will Melo Trimble be able to recover from a less than ideal effort against Penn State (8 points in his first 7 minutes, only 3 thereafter)?  

4:30 p.m.-

George Washington (12-11, 4-7 Atlantic 10) vs St. Bonaventure (15-8, 7-4).  Can GW move on from the heartbreak of their last-second loss to VCU?  It’s tough to go toe-to-toe with the league’s best only to have a last-second foul end your night on the wrong side of the scoreboard.  They’ll have to bounce back-the Bonnies are one of six teams in the conference within two games of first place, and all four of their losses are two teams currently higher in the standings.  Jaylen Adams leads the A-10 in scoring and assists…and three days after handcuffing VCU’s JeQuan Lewis for the first 35 minutes big things will be expected from the Colonials’ perimeter D again.

6 p.m.-

George Mason (16-8, 6-5 Atlantic 10) vs Fordham (10-14, 4-7).  The Patriots are coming off a road win at Davidson and already possess more conference victories than they accumulated last winter…and they’re more than just double-double dynamo Marquise Moore (although it can’t be stressed enough that a six-foot-two kid currently leads a Division I converence in rebounding).  Senior Jalen Jenkins scored 23 points against the Wildcats and has been a force inside all season…leading the A-10 in shooting at 63% from the field.  The Rams rank last in the conference in opponent’s field goal percentage and come to Fairfax having lost three of four.  But there’s always a caveat, right?  Fordham owns a 3-1 road mark in conference play.

Howard (5-19, 2-7 MEAC) at Hampton (10-13, 7-3). The Bison are back on the precipice of a 20-loss season…just like from 2002-14.   The Pirates are on the precipice of something special:  with eight wins in their last eleven games, the defending champs are looking more like the team that gave Virginia a pesky fight in the first half of the NCAA Tournament’s Round of 64 last March than the one that started 2-10.  Sometimes a program’s overall momentum (three trips to the NCAA’s this decade) can kick in and save a season like this one for Hampton…or a program’s history of hardship can take another hopeful winter off the rails like Howard’s.

 

7 p.m.-

Navy (14-11, 9-4 Patriot League) vs Lafayette (7-17, 3-10).  The Midshipmen are officially the hottest team in the area with nine wins in ten games.  The Mids have one player averaging in double figures this season but have clawed their way into contention thanks to a crew that rebounds (#1 in the conference) and takes care of the ball (#2 in turnover margin).  The Leopards are at the bottom of the Patriot League in both categories.  Junior Bryce Dulin scored a career-high 23 points in the first meeting between these two schools; that 37-point margin of victory was the Mids’ largest of the season.

 

8 p.m.

VCU (19-5, 9-2 Atlantic 10) vs Davidson (12-10, 5-6).  The Rams are coming off a pair of gifts where JeQuan Lewis came through in the clutch twice.  A court-storming that generated a technical foul at St. Bonaventure with 0.4 seconds left in regulation allowed Lewis to send the game into overtime at the line…and an inbounds foul against George Washington with 0.4 seconds remaining gave the senior the opportunity to beat the Colonials with a pair of free throws.  The Wildcats have lost two straight at home but boast the one-two perimeter punch that is Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge (two of the top three scorers in the league).  Home court and havoc will be tested.  And if I were Wildcats coach Bob McKillop, I’d be very wary of what JeQuan Lewis is up to anytime 0.4 seconds showed on the clock.

 

Sunday at 6:30 p.m.-

#12 Virginia (18-5, 8-3 ACC) at Virginia Tech (16-7, 5-6).  The Cavaliers have five days off after a double-digit win over #4 Louisville, while the Hokies have dropped two straight-including a 23 point defeat in Charlottesville that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.  UVa leads the nation in scoring defense and is the best shooting team in the conference (second best from three-point range).  Buzz Williams’ bunch allows the fifth-most points per game in the ACC and is second to last in rebounding margin.  Last winter the Cavaliers lost in Blacksburg during a stretch where they started 0-3 on the road in the league and missed out on a regular season title thanks to a 4-5 mark away from John Paul Jones Arena.  I have a feeling that might get mentioned by Tony Bennett at some point.

 

 

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Super Bowl weekend means we can officially go from enjoying the NFL to being force-fed pro football.  I love the draft…and free agency is intriguing, but one does not avidly anticipate every OTA and minicamp.  The first weekend in February also means the men’s college basketball teams of the area are well into their conference schedule.  For most of the teams in multi-bid conferences there’s still hope, and for the single-bid league schools there’s hope that the top three teams in the standings catch the measles in March.  But there is good basketball to be had this month as teams get in position to be in position.

 

Game of the Week that Was- VCU beat Richmond 81-74 Wednesday night in a duel that we’ve grown accustomed to between these two schools.  The contrast in styles led to another contentious affair, with ten ties and ten lead changes between the co-residents of the Commonwealth’s capital city.  The Rams were just a little bit better that night and get the reward of a share of first place in the A-10.  We look forward to round two…while knowing a round three could be in the mix.

Alma Mater Update- what to make of the Orange?  Just when I was mapping out possible stops on the NIT road to MSG, SU decides to win three straight and rally on the road against NC State.  Saturday Jim Boeheim will coach in a game that could lead to the 1,000th defeat of a Syracuse opponent since the 1976-77 season.  In other news, there are more than a few ways to get a University of North Carolina degree.

Saturday’s games-

Noon-

#17 Maryland (20-2, 8-1 Big Ten) vs #23 Purdue (18-5, 7-3), ESPN.  The Terps are off to their best start in program history thanks to the ability to close on the road:  Tuesday’s 77-71 victory at Ohio State improves coach Mark Turgeon’s team to 5-0 away from Xfinity Center in conference play.  Freshman forward Justin Jackson has been on fire lately, averaging 25 points with 11 rebounds while shooting 9-for-12 from three point range in the Terps’ wins at OSU and Minnesota.  The Boilermakers bring 6-foot-9 forward Caleb Swanigan to College Park:  the sophomore leads the Big Ten in rebounding and is second in scoring.  Purdue’s also annoyingly efficient, ranking second in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio, shooting and scoring while owning the belt as the league’s best three-point shooting team.  These are the games Maryland joined the Big Ten to play in.

Georgetown (13-10, 4-6 Big East) vs Seton Hall (13-8, 3-6), FOX Sports 1.  Someone forgot to tell the Hoyas their season was in shambles.  While beating Creighton had the caveat of the Bluejays being minus the nation’s leading assist man in Maurice Watson Jr., topping the Bulldogs at Hinkle Fieldhouse last weekend was a season-salvaging victory.  And it all could have come undone at DePaul…but five points in the final minute from L.J. Peak gave coach John Thompson III’s team a 76-73 escape and the longest winning streak in the league.  The Pirates are headed in the other direction with four losses in five games…but boast a big man from the Dominican Republic named Angel Delgado who just happens to lead Division I in rebounding.  Will the 6-foot-10 tower of power be too much for Bradley Hayes and Jessie Govan to handle?

#9 Virginia (17-4, 7-2 ACC) at Syracuse (14-9, 6-4), ESPN2.  The Cavaliers answered their heartbreaking loss at Villanova with an old-fashioned thumping of Virginia Tech, holding the Hokies to 36% shooting while turning them over 14 times in a 71-48 rout.  They face an Orange team that somehow rallied from 16 points down in the second half to beat NC State in overtime.  It’s tough to figure out Jim Boeheim’s bunch that found ways to get throttled by St. John’s and Boston College yet was able to outlast Florida State last weekend.  John Gillon (43 points against the Wolfpack while shooting 9-10 from three point range) is still cooling off from Wednesday’s win.  Oh, and there’s the “Cavaliers collapse in the Regional Finals last year” thing.  Should be a fun watch…

 

1 p.m.-

American (5-17, 2-9 Patriot League) vs Lehigh (12-10, 6-5).  The midweek loss at conference-leading Bucknell was expected, but the fact that the Eagles somehow lost to Colgate last Sunday despite shooting 59% from the field has to still sting.  Especially with three straight games against the league’s elite.  The Mountain Hawks have dropped two straight but have the best player in the league;  Tim Kempton averages 21 points and 10 rebounds…and notched 36 & 11 in a January 8th win over AU.  I joked in the preseason with coach Mike Brennan about sending the Eagles-killer overseas on a Rhodes scholarship this winter;  he grimaced.  Coach Brennan will need to get solid efforts from freshmen Sy’eed Nelson and Mark Gasperini…and hope the two aren’t shell-shocked from the rude awakening they’ve received in conference play.

2 p.m.-

George Washington (12-10, 4-5 Atlantic 10) at Richmond (13-9, 7-3), NBC Sports Network.  The Colonials lost by seven to the Spiders in DC last month, with T.J. Cline tallying 19 points, 11 rebounds and 7 assists.  GW’s fresh off a late collapse at Rhode Island where the Rams went on a 13-1 finishing kick to win by 12 while the Spiders are dealing with a tough loss to the other Rams- crosstown rival VCU.  Tyler Cavanaugh and company need to exploit their advantages on the glass (they’re the second best rebounding team in the A-10 while Richmond is second to last in rebounding margin) and keep Cline from dominating the game on multiple fronts like he did in January.

Navy (13-10, 8-3) at Colgate (7-17, 5-6). There’s no team around the beltway on a longer winning streak than the Midshipmen, now winners of eight straight and in sole possession of second place in the Patriot League.  It all began on January 8th when a Tom Lacey double-double helped propel the Mids past the Raiders in a 67-55 win that left both teams 1-3 in conference play.  The 6-foot-7 junior has remained a presence in the pivot since, averaging 13 rebounds over the team’s last four games.  Colgate dominated the glass in their most recent game, but a 36-25 rebounding advantage against Holy Cross wasn’t enough to overcome 19 turnovers.  Navy sophomore Hasan Abdullah (2nd in the conference in steals) is on notice.

 

4 p.m.-

VCU (17-5, 7-2 Atlantic 10) at St. Bonaventure (14-7, 6-3), CBS Sports Network.  This is the Rams’ reward for their win over cross-town rival Richmond?  A trip to Olean?  The Bonnies are ready for a little home-cooking, as they’ve played three of their last four away from Reilly Center.  Prepare for a pairing of premiere point guards:  Jaylen Adams leads the A-10 in assists while ranking third in steals–VCU’s JeQuan Lewis is fifth and fourth in those categories.  One should also expect a track meet with plenty of pressure all over the court between two of the top three scoring teams in the conference. 

 

6 p.m.-

Howard (5-17, 2-5 MEAC) at Florida A&M (5-16, 3-5) .  Remember the James Gang?  The classic rock band that gave us Joe Walsh before he went to the Eagles?  The Bison had one brief shining moment two winters ago when their version of the James Gang went 16-16 (the first non-losing season in more than a decade for HU).  Unfortunately injuries robbed James Miller of last season and James Daniel III of this year.  James Carlton?  He may be healthy but has no eligibility remaining as he graduated in 2015.  Coach Kevin Nickelberry’s team begins February in the bottom reaches of the conference after being picked to win the league in the preseason. The Rattlers won the January matchup in DC by 12 thanks to dominant play from Derrick Dandridge:  the 6-foot-8 junior tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds for his only double-double of the season.  That game was also one of the two that oft-injured James Daniel III was able to play in this winter.  Trying to replace 27 points per game can be difficult…

 

7 p.m.-

George Mason (14-8, 4-5 Atlantic 10) vs LaSalle (12-8, 6-3).  For all of the progress the Patriots have made this season, somehow they’ve gotten swept by Saint Louis.  As in 3-7 in the league Saint Louis.  Some matchups are just bad for some teams…and this weekend’s duel will be intriguing.  The Explorers bring the highest-scoring offense in the conference to Fairfax, but they also allow the most points per game in the league.  Senior Jordan Price and junior transfer B.J. Johnson supply a lot of firepower from the perimeter…can the Patriots undersized duo of Marquise Moore and Otis Livingston II keep pace?  Expect plenty of rebounds for Moore (the 6-foot-2 dynamo leads the A-10 with over 10 rebounds per game) and more than a few assists from the Green Machine (best pep band around the beltway).

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

College football’s National Signing Day is a necessary evil on the sports calendar…and the overhyped analysis and ceremonial hoopla is an unnecessary layer of pomp at least six months before there’s any circumstance to speak of (sometimes longer if the recruit red-shirts).  It’s kind of like the “Save the Date” card you get in the mail from a couple you know is already engaged.  I’m always amazed how they get upset when you don’t have the card on your fridge. “Where’s our card?”-“I SAVED THE DATE, not the card.”  That said, Maryland made another move towards becoming a Big Ten East Division contender with a recruiting class that ranks in the top 20 by most experts that matter (ESPN, Rivals.com, CBS, my Aunt Shirley*).

What’s more important to coach D.J. Durkin is that during his second winter at the helm he was able to keep a lot of the talent that resides in the Washington DC metro area inside the beltway.  Eight of the signees are from the state of Maryland, while two more call DC home and there are six recruits who will cross the Potomac from Virginia to play for the Terps.  “We’ve made no secret about it.  That is our formula.” Durkin said, “We’re going to take care of our backyard and win here in the DMV.  And build our team with that being our foundation.”  Nine of the top 20 players from the state of Maryland and three of the top nine players from Washington D.C. (rated by Rivals) signed with the Terps.  “We signed a couple of players from Dematha again,” Durkin said, “you look at the WCAC. Gonzaga, Good Counsel, St. John’s-we have representation from all of those programs.”

Eleven of the recruits are consensus 4-star prospects, headlined by quarterback Kasim Hill of St. John’s College High School in DC.  For a program that has had a quarterback start every game of the year just once since 2006, stability at QB is always a concern.  Durkin said, “Obviously anyone that follows football can put on a tape and see that he’s a tremendous talent.  He can make all of the throws.  He can beat you running the ball. He’s 230 pounds. The guy is a freak of nature.”  Hill’s early verbal commit to the school helped convince five quality wide receivers to sign with the Terps, including four-star recruit Sean Nelson from Georgia.

Nelson was one of four players-all wide receivers- from the Peach State to sign with Maryland, even though that region is far from Big Ten country.  The coach credits early identification and consistent recruiting with bringing in the quartet. “The rush of offers came after ours,” Durkin said, “guys aren’t going to forget the first power five team to offer them (a scholarship).  That resonates with guys and their families.”

While the Terps know they’ve added quite a bit of sizzle, the coaching staff knew after finishing last in the Big Ten in sacks allowed and 11th in the conference at stopping the run they’d need to add quite a bit of steak to the roster.  Four offensive linemen and five defensive linemen will help build the foundation.  “I’ve made the statement several times, and it’s pretty basic: let’s recruit big guys that are big.  We need big bodied guys with big frames that can grow and be huge.”

Seven players in Durkin’s recruiting class are already on campus as early enrollees.  It’s something the coach welcomes but doesn’t push, understanding that not every 17-year old wants to miss the spring of his senior year (more than just the Prom-who wants to skip the Senior Class Talent Show?). “They’re all right now doing winter workouts with us,” Durkin said, “they’re enrolled in 15 hours of class and gonna be in spring ball for 15 practices.  When summertime comes and the rest of the freshmen come in, they’re almost in a class of their own.”  Six of those seven recruits are on the defensive side of the ball.  Good news for a defense that allowed 28 points or more seven times last fall.  The 2017 season begins Saturday, September 2nd at Texas.  Save that date.

 

*For the record my Aunt Shirley does not rate high school football prospects but does know her Pinot Noir, as she currently lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Ponzi is her 5-star prospect.

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

Brent Musburger announced this week that the January 31st game between Georgia and Kentucky will be his final one behind the mic, ending a career in the national sports spotlight that began in the 70’s when he hosted the NFL Today.  For fans of a certain age, autumn Sundays meant a 12:30 ET appointment with Brent, Irv, Jimmy the Greek and Phyllis George.  He took over Final Four announcing duties from Gary Bender in 1985 as the NCAA Tournament was taking off, and is believed to have coined the term “March Madness”.  In addition, the guy simply dominated the 80’s.  NBA Finals?  College Football’s biggest games?  Brent was there…looking live.  While he carved out a nice post-CBS career as ABC/ESPN’s voice for college football and basketball, 80’s Brent was the announcer you wanted to watch and the announcer you dreamed of becoming.  Here’s looking live at you…one more time Brent.

Alma Mater Update-

There’s a pulse…but the Orange find themselves in the growing ACC middle class as they near the halfway point of their conference schedule.  That theory “they need to go 12-6 to make the NCAA’s as an at-large”?  Yeah.  I’m hoping for a 10-8 and a trip to the NIT.  It doesn’t help that #6 Florida State comes to the Carrier Dome still stinging from a beatdown by Georgia Tech.  Five of SU’s final ten games are against ranked foes and five of their games are on the road.  The Orange need to win a few of those to keep things interesting.

Saturday-

1 p.m.-

George Mason (13-7, 3-4 Atlantic 10) at UMass (12-9, 2-6).  The Patriots have to shrug off an 87-68 loss at home to George Washington…and quickly.  The Minutemen lead the A-10 in lowest field goal percentage allowed and are second in defending the three, and Mason just shot 1-for-8 from outside the arc in their loss to the Colonials.  UMass is also the only team to beat Dayton in league play thus far this winter.  GMU’s best win is a road triumph at Richmond…can they continue to shine away from Fairfax?

 

2:15 p.m.-

Maryland (18-2, 6-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota (15-6, 3-5), ESPN2.  Williams Arena is one crazy place to play;  Vanderbilt is perhaps the only other major school that has a similar home court advantage.  That said, the Golden Gophers have lost four straight and what appeared to be a fight for first place in the conference has turned into the Terrapins visiting the site of last winter’s worst loss.  Remember when the winless-in-the-conference Gophers beat a stacked Maryland team with Final Four hopes?  The Terps who returned this season haven’t either.  Minnesota features a fine point guard in Nate Mason who is second in the Big Ten in assists…while the Terrapins counter with a “double-barrel” offense of Melo Trimble and Anthony Cowan where each can and will direct the attack.  Maryland may be unbeaten on the road, but now that school is in session they’ll finally get to meet the opposing students in the Big Ten.

 

4 p.m.-

George Washington (11-9, 3-4 Atlantic 10) vs Saint Louis (6-14, 2-6).  Consecutive wins have the Colonials getting off the mat… and the Billikens despite their recent road win at George Mason are definitely not world-beaters this winter.  Don’t expect a ton of style points in Foggy Bottom:  GW’s 13th in the A-10 in shooting while Saint Louis is last.  Both teams also have trouble taking care of the ball as each has turned the ball over 285 times this season (tied for second most in the conference behind Duqesne).  Neither defense takes advantage of opponents miscues both teams are near the bottom of the A-10 in steals. 

 

Navy (11-10, 6-3 Patriot League) vs Holy Cross (11-11, 5-4).  Make no mistake about it, there is no hotter team in the Patriot league than the Midshipmen. Six straight wins have turned the winter around and Navy is tied for second place halfway through the league season.  Shawn Anderson won’t need to score 30 like he did against Army last weekend, but he’ll need to better his previous performance against the Crusaders:  zero points on one missed shot over 26 minutes in a 51-50 loss January 2nd.  Malachi Alexander led Holy Cross with 17 points that night and is coming off a 20-point performance in a loss to Loyola-Maryland.

Howard (5-15, 2-3 MEAC) vs Savannah State (8-12, 5-2).  Just when you thought the Bison were back on track, they deliver a clunker like Monday’s 74-39 loss at North Carolina Central.  You want to say that the 28% shooting from the field was an aberration against a better team (the Eagles are second in the league)…but the Tigers are not far behind UNCC.  Troyce Manassa and Dexter McClanahan provide a 1-2 punch on the perimeter that may have Howard going dizzy by the end of the afternoon.  To say the Bison need better ball movement would be an understatement:  the team’s 8.4 assists per game rank 351st (dead last) in Division I.

 

6 p.m.-

Richmond (12-8, 6-2 Atlantic 10) vs Duquesne (9-12, 2-6).  The “other” school in the Commonwealth’s capital boasts the most efficient offense in the A-10 (leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio) and a matchup nightmare in “point-forward” T.J. Cline.  The Dukes have dropped four straight, three by double figures.  Two of their top three scorers (Mike Lewis II and Isaiha Mike) are freshmen…and league play on the road is doubly cruel to its young.

 

8 p.m.-

Georgetown (11-10, 2-6 Big East) at #11 Butler 18-3 (7-2), CBS Sports Network. Hinkle Fieldhouse was the site of the Indiana State Championship that you remember seeing in “Hoosiers”.  The Bulldogs are 11-0 in that building this season.  The Hoyas are coming off an upset win over 16th ranked Creighton (albeit a weakened one minus Maurice Watson Jr. and his 9 assists per game) but have not won consecutive conference games in over a calendar year.  Coach John Thompson III’s team took Butler to overtime earlier this month in DC, and that was with Rodney Pryor shooting 0-for-8 from the field.  What hurt the Hoyas that day was the Bulldogs hitting 10 of 20 three-pointers.  Ball security will be a pivotal:  Butler leads the Big East in turnover margin while Georgetown ranks 9th in the conference.

 

Sunday-

1 p.m.-

#12 Virginia (16-3) at #1 Villanova (19-2), FOX.  Even with the Wildcats loss to Marquette, this is a major interconference matchup worthy of Brent and Billy Packer…or at least Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery. Prepare for some top-notch perimeter play:  UVa leads the ACC in three-point shooting  while ‘Nova leads the Big East at defending the three.  The Cavaliers will have their hands full with Josh Hart, while the Wildcats have to contend with London Perrantes (who’s taken the team on his back in ACC play by averaging 15 points per game against league foes)  The big question for UVa:  which Isaiah Wilkins will we see?  The big man who notched 13 points and 9 rebounds against Notre Dame or the kid who was held to 5 points and 4 rebounds in 29 minutes in the loss to Florida State?  Just as important- will Jack Salt be able to contain Villanova big man Darryl Reynolds (71% shooter but a footnote in the offense)?

 

2 p.m.-

American (5-15, 2-7 Patriot League) vs Colgate (6-16, 4-5), CBS Sports Network.  Consecutive losses have the Eagles tied for last place in the conference…and after facing the Raiders AU has to deal with the meat-grinder that is Bucknell-Lehigh-Boston University (combined 20-7 in league play).  Coach Mike Brennan’s team won the January matchup in overtime thanks to solid play from freshmen Mark Gasperini and Sy’eed Nelson.  Colgate also turned the ball over 17 times in that game.  AU could use more of the same Sunday.

 

6:30 p.m-

Virginia Tech (15-5, 4-4 ACC) vs Boston College (9-12, 2-6), ESPNU.  What is it with the Sunday evening window and the Hokies?  They’re here again…and instead of Clemson it’s a duel against another sub-500 ACC team in the Eagles.  Virginia Tech was crushed on the boards in their their loss at #9 North Carolina 43-22;  while nobody’s even close to the Tar Heels on the glass in the ACC this winter Tech will have to fare better against the BC bigs.  The Eagles have lost four in a row but boast guard Jerome Robinson;  the 6-foot-5 sophomore is third in the league in scoring at 20 points per game.  With two games against Virginia over the next three weeks, the Hokies can ill afford a stumble to their former Big East foe.