March enters like a lion and leaves like a lamb--but delivers absolute heaven in the form of McDonald’s Shamrock Shakes.  These visions of minty green goodness are not recommended if you need to lose 15 pounds by April Fool’s Day, but remain beyond awesome.  Unlike in my 20’s when I set records for Shammy consumption (60 in 1995 and 61* in 1996– so asterisked because due to the leap year there was an additional day in the sales cycle), I’ll enjoy only a few cups of minty green goodness this year.  If you venture into the world of green, get the shake minus the whip cream and cherry–two unnecessary distractions from what is the best milkshake on the planet.  Problem is, which local Golden Arches are “participating” this year? And how long will the green dye last at those locations?  Much like trying to figure out how the local college basketball teams will fare in “closing month”, it’s often a mystery how these things shake out.

 

Alma Mater Update– it’s not Double Secret Probation, but the Orange are definitely paying the price for oversight over the last decade.  As a former college dean may have once said, “Mismanaged drug testing, academic shenanigans and cash from boosters are no way to go through life, son!”.  As a proud alumnus who graduated during the program’s previous time under the hot lights of the NCAA, this is decidedly not awesome.  It’s a shame that college athletics is not as pure as the driven snow.  It’s a shame Jim Boeheim didn’t learn his lesson from the early 90’s.  It’s a shame the program will lose three scholarships a year for four years–and a shame that in addition to hearing about every loss from friends who went to other schools, now the holier than thou friends have this crap to serve up–and one has to eat it, however unpleasant.  But there’s a lesson here:  word is the NCAA feels that their 5-year probation of Syracuse will be enough of a message to North Carolina.

 

#10 Maryland (25-5, 13-4 Big Ten)– 25 wins!  That hasn’t happened in the regular season since the National Championship season of 2001-02.  Dez Wells’ double-double (20 points and 10 assists) helped the Terps top Rutgers for their 6th straight win…securing the 2nd seed in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament.  At this time they’re slated to face the winner of Indiana/Minnesota…unless 15th place Rutgers gets hot and shocks the world two days in a row (gotta love the double-bye).  Coach Mark Turgeon deserves major consideration for Big Ten Coach of the year as he’s turned a program that was picked to finish 10th in the league into a March Madness contender.  Both ESPN and CBS have the Terrapins as a 3 seed in the East…playing Georgia State in a round of 64/virtual first round game in Pittsburgh.  Not only are Shamrock shakes in season, they’re serving them without the unnecessary whip cream and cherry.

 

Georgetown (19-9, 11-6 Big East)– last weekend they didn’t have the shakes in an 11 point loss at St. Johns;  but Tuesday the Hoyas had the minty green goodness flowing in a victory at #21 Butler.  That gives coach John Thompson III’s team a season sweep of the Bulldogs (the November game counts as a non-conference meeting) entering Saturday’s Senior Day game with Seton Hall (Hoyas beat the Pirates by 19 in February).  A victory plus a Providence loss delivers the #2 seed in the Big East Tournament (and a quarterfinal date with Seton Hall or Marquette)–a loss plus a Butler win drops the Hoyas to 4th (and a game with St. John’s).  Nine days before Selection Sunday ESPN has Georgetown as a #6 seed in the West–facing LSU in Columbus, OH, while CBS has the Hoyas 5th in the West–playing Wofford in Jacksonville.  Certain to change depending on Saturday’s showdown with Seton Hall.

 

Cruising the Commonwealth–

#2 Virginia (28-1, 16-1 ACC) bounced back from an achingly slow start at Syracuse to beat the Orange 59-47.  The best defense (50 points per game allowed) in Division I is aided by a highly efficient offense that maximizes each possession (61st in the nation in shooting percentage).  They won’t have e Justin Anderson back for the regular season finale at Louisville;  the junior’s pinkie is okay but he’s recovering from an appendectomy.  Go figure.  As the number one seed the Cavaliers will play Pitt or Clemson in the quarterfinals.  ESPN and CBS agree on the NCAA destination:  #1 Seed in the East with a first weekend stay in Charlotte, NC.  ESPN has UVa facing Charleston Southern/Sacramento State;  CBS offers up St. Francis/Bucknell.  Virginia is the one location that offers a Shamrock Shake at breakfast…and I will drive the 2+ hours to Charlottesville.

 

Virginia Tech (10-20, 2-15 ACC) can avoid the infamous 10-15 game if they beat bubble team Miami in Blacksburg Saturday.  What’s wrong with the Hokies?  An offense that’s reached 60 points once during the current six game losing streak combined with the worst rebounding team in the ACC.  Rinse and refresh for year two under Buzz Williams.  Notice from McDonald’s Corporate:  the truck delivering the dye accidentally skipped Blacksburg this winter–but try the test marketed “McTurkeyLegs”.

 

George Washington (19-11, 9-8 Atlantic 10)– there’s a reason why I’ve titled February “Moving Month”.  Pretenders become contenders and vice versa.  GW had a February to forget –a 2-5 nightmare that took the Cavaliers from a 12 seed in ESPN’s projection to not even close to being in the at-large conversation.  A win against UMass in the season finale means coach Mike Lonergan’s team will take the 6th seed in the upcoming A-10 tourney…a loss plus a St. Bonaventure victory drops the Colonials to 8th.  Can they wrangle an NIT bid somehow?  Foggy Bottom Shammy Shake sales were brisk the first week of availability–and then they misplaced the bags of the minty green dye.  Good news is they found the McRib mold.

 

George Mason (9-20, 4-13 Atlantic 10)– the Patriots 67-51 loss to George Washington means a second straight 20-loss season in Fairfax…as a three point halftime lead evaporated when the team scored just 19 points after intermission.  Saturday’s trip to VCU isn’t much more encouraging.  Regardless, GMU will finish 13th in the A-10…serving up a first round game with Fordham (a team they lost to by 12 at home).  With coach Paul Hewitt returning five of his top six players next season, better days appear to be ahead for Mason Nation.  “NO SHAMROCK SHAKES THIS YEAR.  NEXT YEAR WE PROMISE…”

 

 VCU (21-9, 11-6 Atlantic 10)– Captain Obvious chimes in that the Rams are missing Briante Weber.   While they were able to weather the loss of their two-way sparkplug in wins over George Mason and George Washington, they’ve been exposed as of late.  Three straight losses to A-10 contenders drops the Rams from the conference lead to potentially playing the first round: a loss to George Mason or a Richmond win over St. Louis means VCU gets the 5th seed.  The defeat at Davidson was tough to stomach:  down by 19 at the half, 16 turnovers on the night and 1-15 shooting from 3-point range are exactly what the Rams have been known to do to the opposition.  Can they right the ship in time to avoid a complete flameout?  Both models have the Rams an 8 seed in the South headed to Charlotte, NC.  ESPN has VCU facing Oklahoma State, CBS has Shaka Smart’s team playing Mississippi.  There’s nothing more discouraging than having the shake machine break down…

 

American (16-15, 8-10 Patriot League)– the Eagles kept their season alive with a 68-62 win at Lehigh in the Patriot League Quarterfinals, putting 45 points on the board after halftime.  Jesse Reed scores 24 points to earn AU a semifinal game with Colgate Sunday.  The Eagles scored just 43 points the last time they visited Hamilton, NY.  No Shammies this winter–but remember how good they tasted last year?

 

Howard (16-15, 10-6 MEAC)– take a bow, Bison.  You have climbed out of a decade-plus of 20-loss seasons to post your first winning conference record since 2002.  With two of the three James (Miller and Daniel) being sophomores, this appears to be more than just a one-year run.  Even if it is a one year run–what a season!  Ten league wins and a first round bye in the conference tournament.  That’s where things get interesting– as the men and women play concurrently in Norfolk, VA next week.  This means that #5 Norfolk State plays #12 Delaware State Monday with the winner facing Howard………Friday.  Then it’s potentially three games in three days.  Shamrock Shake?  What is that?  Green milkshake– you have to be kidding me.  When did that start?

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