Archives for posts with tag: Jim Boeheim

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

In college basketball, especially with the three-point shot, leads are built to be lost.  But Georgetown letting a 17-point lead wither away in Wednesday’s 81-75 loss at Xavier has the Hoyas looking for answers.  The fact that this came immediately after a final minute meltdown where they saw a five-point lead disappear in a loss to St. John’s has those bullish after an 11-3 start wondering if this program is still a year or two away.  “We just have to find a way to close out the game,” coach Patrick Ewing said after the loss to the Red Storm, “We can’t keep making the mental mistakes that we do.”  The inability to close games haunted the Hoyas in a one-point loss to Syracuse on the road and almost cost them at home against Little Rock (they prevailed in OT after losing a late lead).  Just like it takes a group effort to resurrect a once-proud program, it takes a village to lock down W’s with smart play late.  “We gotta just play,” Ewing said, “You know-everybody wants to do it themselves, instead of moving the ball and making the right plays.”  Rest assured, I’ll have my TV on Fox Sports 1 this Saturday at around 1:50 p.m.

 

Friday’s Game:

Maryland 13-3 (4-1 Big Ten) vs. #22 Indiana (12-3, 3-1), 7 p.m., FS1.  The Terps are fresh off consecutive road conference wins, which equals their total from last winter.  While the rally past Minnesota was impressive, avoiding a 40-minute letdown at Rutgers was just as huge: those were the kinds of games better Terp teams had lost in recent seasons.  The Hoosiers are coming off a double-digit loss to second ranked Michigan but boast high-scoring freshman Romeo Langford (18.2 points per game) and leads the conference in field goal percentage.  IU does the vast majority of its damage inside the arc, as the team ranks 13th in the Big Ten in three-pointers made per game.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange are 2-0 in the ACC after wins over Notre Dame and Clemson with a Saturday evening game against Georgia Tech on the horizon.  While junior Tyus Battle appears to have taken a step back or at least plateaued after last season, transfer Elijah Hughes (18 points per game in league play) has been a pleasant surprise this winter.  After the Yellowjackets, buckle up as SU visits #1 Duke Monday night. And for the record–that was a block, not a charge.

Saturday’s Games:

#4 Virginia (14-0, 2-0 ACC) at Clemson (10-5, 0-2), 12 p.m., ACC Network.  One benefit of the Tigers taking College Football’s National Championship?  Back to back losses to start the conference season sneak under the radar, even though there’s no shame losing to top-ranked Duke or at the Carrier Dome to Syracuse.  It doesn’t let up as three of their next four games are against ranked teams.  The primary concern for UVa’s defense that leads the nation in scoring defense and is tops in the ACC at stopping the three-pointer?    Tiger senior Marcquise Reed averages 19.6 points per game but the Cavs held the Landover, Maryland native to 12 points on 5-of-24 shooting over two games last season.

Georgetown (11-5, 1-2 Big East) vs. Providence (10-5, 0-2), 12 p.m., FS1.  Will we ever see highly-touted freshman Mac McClung take the floor against another Big East school?  The guard with tons of sizzle hasn’t played a minute due to a sprained ankle since dropping 38 points on Little Rock the Saturday before Christmas.  After losing three of their top four scorers from last season, the Friars are in full-rebuild mode.  Ed Cooley’s team ranks last in the Big East in shooting but brings the conference’s top rebounder to DC in Alpha Diallo.  Too bad the Hoyas possess a one-two punch in the post with senior Jessie Govan and freshman Josh LeBlanc.

American (8-6, 2-1 Patriot League) at Bucknell (8-7, 2-1), 12 p.m.  Sa’eed Nelson is on fire this early conference season:  the junior guard is averaging 24 points on 58% shooting.  The Bison are three-time defending regular season champs, but minus the inside-outside combination of Zach Thomas and Stephen Brown have taken their lumps this season.  They are coming off of an 84-81 win against a Colgate team that beat American by four last weekend.

VCU (11-4, 2-0) at Davidson (11-4, 2-0), 2 p.m., CBSSN.  Two of the A-10’s new-money programs tangle as the Rams are less than a decade removed from dominating the CAA and the Wildcats still have fans who miss the Southern Conference.  While VCU has served as a launching pad for coaches to Power Five conference programs this century, Bob McKillop is in midway through his 30th season with the school. He also has Jon Axel Gundmundsson at his disposal:  the junior from Iceland hopes to heat up from outside Saturday (he’s 0-8 from three-point range in conference play) against a pesky Rams defense.

Navy (5-9, 2-1 Patriot League) vs. Boston University (8-8, 1-2), 2 p.m.  Home teams are 10-5 so far this conference season.  The Mids are coming off of a loss at American where they shot 12% from three-point range.  Just another night of misfiring during a season where they’ve been offensively challenged:  the team ranks last in the Patriot League in scoring, shooting, three point shooting and turnover margin.  The Terriers are led by big man Max Mahoney who leads the conference in shooting and ranks fourth in scoring.

George Washington (5-10, 1-1 Atlantic 10) vs. Richmond (6-9, 0-2), 4 p.m., ESPN+.  Both teams are looking to shake off less than ideal starts in conference play.  Somehow the Colonials let a 22-point first half lead against Dayton dissolve thanks to major droughts:  scoring just five points in the last eight minutes of the first half and going scoreless in the final 4:04 of regulation.  The Spiders are a precarious 0-2 to begin league play despite Jacob Gilyard’s 23 points per game while shooting 12-25 from three-point range.  Richmond needs the Grant Golden from the Rhode Island loss (17 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists) more than the Golden from the Dayton defeat (4 points and 4 turnovers).

Howard (7-9, 1-1 MEAC) vs. Bethune-Cookman (5-10, 0-1), 4 p.m.  The Bison snapped a six game losing streak and bounced back from their loss to Florida A&M by blasting Maryland-Eastern Shore by 40.  More impressive than R.J. Cole’s 26 points was the fact that they held the Hawks to 21% shooting.  We all know Howard can score, but if their defense can improve on the current unit that ranks 327th in Division I there may just be a decent conference campaign ahead.

 

Sunday’s Game:

George Mason (8-8, 2-1 Atlantic 10) at Rhode Island (8-6, 1-1), 5:30 p.m., NBCSN.  While the Patriots are kicking themselves after shooting 10% from three-point range in a loss at home to Davidson, coach Dave Paulsen’s team is off to its best start since joining the league earlier this decade.  Paulsen hopes Otis Livingston II returns to form after the senior shot 2-for-11 against the Wildcats.  Rams first-year head coach David Cox has big shoes to fill:  before Danny Hurley left for UConn he had guided the Rams to consecutive NCAA Tournaments.

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

It was brought to my attention after I praised Northwestern’s run to the Big Ten West that their division is subpar, and that’s absolutely right.  The West is far from being the best this fall, as has been the custom since the conference put “Leaders & Legends” into the trash can where it belonged.  But the Big Ten’s Division discussion is far from unique, as each of the Power Five Conferences have long boasted a Darryl Hall as well as a John Oates. (Or, depending on your age and interest: Paul Simon/Art Garfunkel, George Michael/Andrew Ridgeley, Kix Brooks/Ronnie Dunn, Big Kenny/John Rich).  Even the ten-member Big 12 had that issue, as the South won 12 of 15 championship games.

At least the Big Ten West has a ranked team in the Wildcats.  That’s not the case in the ACC’s Coastal where a 4-loss Pitt  is all but headed to Charlotte for a showdown with unbeaten Clemson (that will certainly end well).  The Atlantic Division has won seven straight and is 9-4 in a league set up for Miami and Florida State to face off for the title (and they’ve yet do do so).  Despite the imagined edge, the Atlantic and Coastal have won an equal amount of inter-divisional games this fall.

The Pac 12 division of fortune is similar, with two ranked schools in the North and just one in the South (a #19 Utah that has three league losses).  The North has won six of seven Championship Games and this year looks like more of the same, with a 5-4 South champion an extreme possibility.  The North owns a two-game edge inter-divisonally, with everyone wondering when USC and UCLA will get their respective acts in gear.

You’d expect the SEC to have a marked difference, especially with the West winning seven of eight titles this decade (although it was 5-5 the previous decade and the East dominated the 90’s).  But the East has actually taken seven of 12 inter-division games.  Even Vanderbilt is getting into the act.  Of course, everybody-in the East and West-is and will be chasing Alabama now and for some time.  My only issue is that Missouri is west of the Mississippi River yet plays in the East Division.

Which brings us to the Big Ten.  This year there are three East Division teams in the top 14 with Northwestern repping the West at #22.  The East owns an 11-8 edge and enjoyed a 13-8 advantage last year, but the West won 11 of 21 games in 2016 and the two divisions were even the previous two years.  The East is 4-0 in the Championship Game, a small sample size to say the least.  And that span saw changes at formerly dominant programs Nebraska and Wisconsin.  How long the current divide will last between the divisions might just hinge on how long it takes for Scott Frost to get things going in Lincoln and how long it takes Paul Chryst to consolidate what he’s built in Madison.  Perhaps Urban Meyer (who’s resigned with health concerns before), Mike Dantonio (62 years old) and Jim Harbaugh (mentioned every year with NFL vacancies) won’t be on their current campuses forever.  Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was conference parity.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange haven’t started 9-2 since 1992, when Marvin Graves was at the peak of his powers.  SU heads to New York City to face #3 Notre Dame, and after the Fighting Irish won their first three games by single digits they’ve been on a roll.  The last time these two teams played, the Orange allowed 50 points.  While I’m hoping its not that bad, it can’t get worse than men’s basketball’s  loss to UConn at Madison Square Garden where somebody spelled a player’s name wrong on the back of their jersey.  Granted, it was only a freshman who played just six minutes.  But the kid’s name was-and is-Buddy Boeheim.  As in the son of the man who has been our head coach for the last 42 years–and has been on campus in one way or another since 1962.  I’m looking forward to buying a game replica Buddy Boheim jersey at Manny’s online.

Saturday’s Games-

Maryland (5-5, 3-4 Big Ten) vs. #9 Ohio State (9-1, 6-1), noon (ABC).  The Buckeyes happen to be the only team in the East Division the Terps haven’t beaten since joining the league, and it hasn’t been close:  the average score has been 56-17.  This year OSU owns the number one offense in the Big Ten thanks to the arm of Dwayne Haskins, who has 33 touchdown passes in ten games.  With Kasim Hill done for the year due to a torn ACL, the Terps will start redshirt sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome (who has thrown all of 31 passes this fall).  Expect Anthony McFarland (210 yards rushing against Indiana) to receive the lion’s share of attention, and while the Buckeyes aren’t as sharp on that side of the ball their defense is second-best at getting off of the field in the Big Ten.  Terrapins tumble, 44-14.

Virginia Tech (4-5, 3-3 ACC) vs. Miami (5-5, 2-4), 3:30 p.m. (ESPN).  The last two Coastal Division champs expected to be playing for another spot in the ACC Championship Game this weekend as recently as one month ago.  Instead, it’s a question of which team can salvage its sinking season. While the Hokies have dropped three in a row, the Hurricanes have lost four straight.  But not all slides into oblivion are created equally, as Miami has three one-possession losses in its tumble and Virginia Tech has dropped its three by an average of 20 points.  Tech’s slump can be traced to a defense that’s surrendered 30 or more points five times this fall;  the Cane’s decline can be traced to an offense that ranks 12th in the ACC in passing and a starting quarterback in N’Kosi Perry who hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in over a month.  Cover your eyes.  Hokies hurt a little more, 27-21.

Virginia (7-3, 4-2 ACC) at Georgia Tech (6-4, 3-3), 3:30 p.m. (ACC Network).  The Cavaliers can still win the Coastal Division, but only with two wins and two losses by Pitt.  The Yellowjackets may be out of the running for the division, but Coach Paul Johnson’s option offense will be running all afternoon- they lead the nation with 362 yards per game on the ground.  UVa just coughed up 205 yards rushing– to Liberty.  The home team has also prevailed in seven of eight meetings this decade.   Kippy & Buffy hit the road with a bottle of Cain Five.  The 2014 vintage is 51% Cabernet Sauvignon and 26% Merlot (remaining grapes used are split between Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot).  “The aromas are discrete: fruity—floral—herbal—spicy—and pure. On the palate, the wine has a certain density, but now the tannins have melted and this wine just flows.”  Cavaliers come up short, 33-26.

Navy (2-8, 1-5 AAC) vs. Tulsa (2-8, 1-5), 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network).  For just the second time all season, the Mids will face a team with a losing record -their October 6th trip to 1-3 Air Force being the other time.  The Golden Hurricane have lost eight of nine (the one win coming against one-win UConn) and rank tenth in the AAC at stopping the run while allowing 5.0 yards per carry.  Now that Zach Abey is back at the controls of the option offense, one can expect more of the 21-point second half they had against UCF and less of the 3-point first half they scraped together against the Knights last week.  The defense has to put together a solid sixty minutes together against Tulsa offense that ranks 11th in passing, total offense and points per game while allowing the most sacks this fall.  Midshipmen celebrate Senior Day in Annapolis with a 31-19 victory.

Howard beats Bryant, Georgetown gets by Holy Cross, James Madison tops Towson, William & Mary beats Richmond to send Jimmye Laycock out a winner.

Last Week: 6-4.

Overall: 56-36.

What did Benjamin Franklin say?  “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards”?  As somebody who’s been a fan of college football and basketball most of my life, one is not unfamiliar with programs playing loose with the rules.  Back in the day the joke was that the SEC stood for “So Everyone Cheats”-and wasn’t completely inaccurate.  Conference winners occasionally didn’t play in bowl games because of probation and one year the Pac-10 was reduced to five eligible schools because of shenanigans.  A whole league once imploded because of cheating (RIP, Southwest Conference) and SMU is still recovering from receiving the “Death Penalty” in 1987.

Which is why this week’s FBI investigation into bribery and corruption isn’t just a men’s college basketball story:  it’s one that bleeds into the football world as well because every time a non-blue blood improves beyond expectations there are whispers.  Anytime a hot recruit spurns the local powerhouse to attend the league’s black sheep, there are double-takes.  Whenever a school is associated with a shoe company (Oregon-Nike) there is head-scratching when the vast majority of their recruits are from outside what should be their primary recruiting area.  And anytime a school that has been flagged for violations in one sport, it almost makes sense that there could have been corner-cutting in the school’s other revenue sport.

Four schools were named in the federal investigation…and they’re all name schools:  USC, Auburn, Oklahoma State and Arizona have had varying success over the years on the court while each has run afoul of the NCAA on the football field.  The first head coach to lose his job (even though he technically is on “unpaid leave”) is with a school that was in the report but not even named–and barring something going down at Duke, Rick Pitino will be the biggest fish caught in this net.  As a graduate of a school that has been popped more than once for coloring outside the lines (Syracuse), I’m uneasily nervous.  And as someone who has enjoyed covering college football and basketball for the majority of my life, I’m sickened.

One of my favorite stories as a kid was about “Harry the Dirty Dog”…where a white dog with black spots rolls around in coal and becomes a black dog with white spots.  I always knew college athletics this game was one that didn’t bathe all the time.  This week’s revelations lead one to believe that it’s going to be some time before this animal we’ve all grown to love will be clean again.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange kick off ACC play with a trip to Raleigh and a showdown with NC State.  This is a Wolfpack team that is fresh from beating Florida State- and boast a quaterback named Ryan Finley who has yet to throw an interception this year.  Pardon me if I’m not a little distracted from the football Cuse as one of Jim Boeheim’s original assistant coaches (Pitino) goes down in flames.  These two men grew up in the game and in life together–to the point where Rick’s wife called Jim and his on their honeymoon at 5am to get back at Boeheim for hiring Pitino right after his wedding and sending him recruiting instead of his honeymoon.  Boeheim beat Rick’s Providence Friars to reach his first NCAA Final in 1987…and Pitino’s Kentucky Wildcats edged the Orange in the 1996 title tilt.  They were competing against each other and the ACC bluebloods until each ran afoul of the NCAA IN recent years.  And now I’m hoping the other shoe that drops isn’t a Nike.  Okay–now back to football.

Maryland (2-1) at Minnesota (3-0), 12 noon, Fox Sports 1.  The Terps will be using their third different starting quarterback in four games…and unlike the transition from dual threat Tyrrell Pigrome to Kasim Hill the move from Hill to Max Bortenschlager will be a little more marked.  As in Max is not nearly as nimble on his feet.  Not ideal when you’re facing a Golden Gophers defense that leads the Big Ten in stopping the run.  Max needs more than DJ Moore to throw to (the WR has over 50% of the team’s catches, 57% of the receiving yards and 80% of the TD receptions this fall) while also needing to stay upright (5 sacks allowed by the Terps against UCF).  Minnesota’s main threat offensively is runningback Rodney Smith:  the junior is coming off his first 100-yard effort of the season and ran for 144 yards and two touchdowns last year against the Terps.  Terrapins tumble, 24-17.

Navy (3-0, 2-0 AAC) at Tulsa (1-3), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU.  Expect the turf of Skelly Field at H. A. Chapman Stadium to get a major workout:  the Mids rank 2nd in the nation running the football while the Golden Hurricane are 4th in Division I FBS.  But while Navy allows fewer than 100 yards per game on the ground, Tulsa coughs up 294.5 per game and 6.9 yards per carry.  The Golden Hurricane have also lost games to the likes of Toledo (a 54-51 shootout) and New Mexico (a 16-13 defensive duel).  In addition, the two quarterbacks they’ve used this year are named “Chad President” and “Luke Skipper”.  Leadership is never too important…no word on if Tulsa is also recruiting prospects “Greg Governor” or “Pete Pilot”.  Midshipmen win despite the customary ill-timed fumble and missed field goal, 35-26.

#12 Virginia Tech (4-0) vs Clemson (4-0, 2-0 ACC), 8 p.m., ABC.  Not only is this a rematch of last year’s conference title game, it’s also a showdown of the league’s two highest ranked teams.  Kelly Bryant isn’t necessarily making people forget DeShaun Watson, but the junior is completing 68% of his passes while rushing for over 60 yards per game.  Despite ranking 7th in the ACC against the run and the pass, the Hokies defense has pitched a pair of shutouts and allows just over 10 points per game.  Josh Jackson isn’t playing like a redshirt freshman (leading the ACC in passing efficiency), but he’s yet to face a defense like the Tigers one that is the stingiest in the conference against the pass and overall.  As much as I wish there was a blocked punt or a kickoff return for a score to spring the home team Saturday night, one has the feel the smoked turkey legs won’t be as tasty.  Hokies come up short, 21-16.

Virginia (3-1) has the week off…and that means Kippy & Buffy are in the Outer Banks to shut down the cottage for the winter.  Just like it’s not a tailgate at Scott Stadium without the best wines, cheeses and crackers…it’s not technically champagne unless the bubbly comes from the Champagne region of France.  That’s why the Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label is on ice.  “Offering smoky pear and nectarine flavors and a hint of honey…finishes on a gently spicy note, with very good cling and a touch of bitter lemon pith. ”  Where’s the tin of D’artagnan caviar?

 

Georgetown loses to Harvard at RFK Stadium,  William & Mary gets by Stony Brook, Towson tumbles to Villanova, James Madison defeats Delaware.

Last Week: 5-3.   Overall: 23-8.

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

Some Marches become memorable because your school steals a game it had no business winning…while others are made by incredible tournament runs that keep the season alive for another weekend.  The select few seasons end with your team playing for it all during the first weekend of April…with the chance to bring home hardware.  This was not one of those years for the area schools…as even George Washington fell Monday night in the College Basketball Invitational (also known as CBI) to UIC (previously known as Illinois-Chicago) in the Quarterfinals (I feel like I should continue the trend and call it the QF).

As the dust clears from a wild weekend–what happened?  If you went into the tournament recognizing Mount St. Mary’s would be overmatched with Villanova, each of the other locals (Maryland, Virginia, Virginia Tech and VCU) had potential red flags.  And each red flag was flown high.  And while the answer opening weekend was less than ideal for each school, as the offseasons begin there will only be more questions until next October 15th.

Maryland (24-9) had issues beginning with its January 1st loss to Nebraska where they did not score for the final six minutes of regulation.  Minus a proven post presence the Terps were reduced to a jump-shooting/drive-and-kick team this winter…and when they were hitting it was great.  But they had too many stretches of wandering in the offensive wilderness-against Purdue, Wisconsin and Northwestern-and losing Michal Cekovsky to injury limited their options inside further.  The Terps’ 76-65 loss to Xavier saw another one of those extended scoreless stretches (six minutes in the second half)…along with getting hammered on the boards by ten.  As Damonte Dodd graduates and L.G. Gill wraps up his one year with the program as a graduate transfer, all eyes are on Melo Trimble.  Will the 22-year old now projected to land in the middle of the second round by nbadraft.net return for his senior season?  Even if the junior departs, there’s a solid base in College Park with the freshman trio of Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson.  Not to mention redshirt Micah Thomas. Will six-foot-ten center Bruno Fernando be the inside answer?  Come back next winter.  

I didn’t know the Musketeers were that loaded- Xavier is the only double-digit team to survive the first weekend, and Chris Mack’s team did so after entering the tournament on a 4-7 lurch where three of those wins came against lowly DePaul (I have yet to check with the NCAA office, but I believe until further review one has to refer to the Blue Demons as “lowly DePaul”).  They hadn’t been the same since losing point guard Edmond Sumner and the NCAA Tournament is a guard’s game, right?  While the victory over Maryland wasn’t a complete shock their dismembering (91-66) of #3 Florida State was.  Along with fellow Big East newbie, Xavier is flying the conference banner in the regional round.

Virginia (23-11) gained the reputation as “London Perrantes plus four guys from the Y” during a stretch where they lost six of eight…and had trouble shaking that status no matter how many good games Kyle Guy and Marial Shayok produced.  Perrantes was the only Cavalier on the roster in March averaging in double figures (transfer Austin Nichols was dismissed in November after scoring 11 points in his only game for UVa)…and Saturday in the 65-39 loss to Florida the rest of the team shot 14 of 42 (33%).  Perrantes leaves Charlottesville having been the pulse of the team that averaged 28 wins and brought home the school’s second-ever ACC Tournament title.  He leaves a roster of players who need to develop over the next offseason…from Shayok and Guy to Jack Salt (the New Zealander had a season-high 10 rebounds against the Gators) and Isaiah Wilkins (limited by illness in the NCAA’s).  The only commit so far is shooting guard Marco Anthony, so the next floor general will have to come from within the ranks.  Darius Thompson, we presume?

ACC stands for Annoying Conference Collapse- nine schools made the field of 68…and one by one each went down over the weekend.  While nobody had Wake Forest or Miami making the Final Four, Louisville and Notre Dame had each been in the top ten during the regular season.  And both were gone by the end of the weekend.  Same with Florida State and…Duke?  Granted-they lost to South Carolina in Greenville, SC-but the way the Blue Devils had been playing down the stretch their faithful were confident in (and their detractors were fearful of) a Final Four run.  Only North Carolina somehow pulling victory not only out of the jaws but out of the esophagus of defeat against Arkansas kept the league from going 100% sour before the Sweet Sixteen.

Virginia Tech (22-11) ranked last in the ACC in rebounding…and that was before losing top rebounder Chris Clarke to a season-ending ACL injury.  So it was no surprise that the Hokies got crushed on the glass in their 84-74 defeat against Wisconsin…especially when the Badgers blew up everyone’s bracket by bouncing defending national champ Villanova two days later.  But let’s sit back for a second…Virginia Tech made the tournament for the first time in ten years.  And despite a rapidly thinning bench, coach Buzz Williams’ team entered selection Sunday having won six of nine.  While Zach LeDay and Seth Allen have played their final games in maroon and orange, there’s a solid nucleus that has plenty of starting experience (truth be told, LeDay and Allen were coming off the bench by the end of the season).  Another recruiting class for the energetic Williams comes to Blacksburg…and next winter they try to post the school’s third straight winning conference record for the firs time since 1986 (three moves ago, or when they called the Metro home).  Even with a loss to the Badgers, the Hokies’ glass is more than half-full.

From Much-Maligned to Sweet Revenge- the Big Ten was undervalued early and often this winter, culminating with a Selection Sunday slap in the face to multiple teams.  How’d they respond?  Purdue fought back the ghosts of brackets past with two solid wins (including a great punch-counterpunch victory over Iowa State) and their first Regional trip since 2010.  Michigan continued its great play that started well before its 4-0 sweep through the Big Ten Tournament (6-2 in final eight regular season games)…and bounced Oklahoma State before upsetting Louisville.  Wisconsin?  The conference runnerup after being given a #8 seed found a way to eliminate defending champ and overall number one seed Villanova.  Instead of misery this March is filled with magic for the Big Ten-as the league’s three teams alive are tied with the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.  Maybe it was because their tournament was held in DC…

VCU (26-9) had issues shooting the three all season…tying for 248th in Division I.  Against an underseeded St. Mary’s (the Gaels were a #7 despite finishing the regular season 22nd in the writer’s rankings) in Salt Lake City the Rams were held to 2-of-13 from outside the arc in an 85-77 loss.  One wonders what sort of seed they would have received if VCU had managed to hold off Rhode Island in the Atlantic 10 Tournament finals.  One doesn’t wonder about the force of nature that was JeQuan Lewis:  the senior went down shooting in his final game, leading the Rams with 30 points.  While the Rams return juniors Justin Tillman (2nd in the A-10 in rebounding) and Jonathan Williams (2nd on the team in assists), coach Will Wade won’t as the 34-year old wunderkind gets swept away to rebuild LSU.  Caveat Emptor:  the power conferences are littered with former VCU coaches, from Anthony Grant at Alabama to Jeff Capel at Oklahoma.  And Shaka Smart just went through an 11-22 campaign at Texas.

Alma Mater Update- the Orange finished the season 19-15 much like their inconsistent play mandated:  tipping off an 11am Saturday NIT game.  While Tyler Lydon is off to the NBA, longtime #1 assistant and “coach in waiting” Mike Hopkins is headed to Washington as the Huskies’ head coach.  This allows Jim Boeheim to stay after the 2017-18 season that was originally agreed upon as his retirement date (you know, after the probation that stripped the school of over 100 wins and 2 Big East Tournament titles).  Betty White applauds…

Bracket Busted- my CBSSports.com bracket did not lose a game the first weekend–because the computer site froze between 11:30am and 12:30pm. Epic fail, kids…but let that be a lesson to procrastinators worldwide. Get it done early…and watch suckers like me freak out at the last moment.

Conference Carousel- the ACC’s flameout (especially after last year’s incredible success) in the Big Dance this year reminds me of the Big East in the 1980’s.  1985 saw the league send three schools to the Final Four and post an 18-5 record, before going 4-4 the following March while getting shut out in the Sweet Sixteen.  The Big East bounced back in 1987 with a 14-5 record, two Final Four teams and a third that reached Regional Final.  So  2018 is on notice…

Sunday Night Special- I understand that TNT, TBS and TRU own the first Sunday of the tournament and thus are putting their games on at night for the biggest audience.  But could we move the 9:40 game to 4:40?  The 8:40 game (Duke-South Carolina) was the perfect cherry on Sunday’s games–making UCLA-Cincinnati seem like the cherry’s stem. It’s there but you don’t want to look at it…especially for those of us who have consumed 47 games over 48 hours of watching over four days.

I hate to be the old guy on the porch yelling at kids to get off of his lawn.  I try to embrace change…from the 12-game regular season in college football (that was really tough because 11 is divisible by–never mind) to NFL’s playoff expansion that robbed the 3rd best division winner of a first round bye in 1990 (some habits die hard).  I’m not supportive but at least understanding of the multitude of helmets and uniforms a school wears…up to and including North Carolina’s “reflective heel” the other night against Duke.  But–I wish teams would wait just one week to tip off the college hoop season.  I’ve still got my football fever going– and all of a sudden Maryland’s played three games, Georgetown plays its third today and Virginia’s already 4-0.  What’s notable about the Cavaliers’ start is that I actually would have wanted to see their game against George Washington– a matchup of NCAA Tournament teams from the previous season.  Sadly, that’s the exception instead of the rule.  It’d be one thing if the early season smorgasborg brought quality opponents to Verizon or XFinity– but Fordham, Wagner and St. Miscellaneous just don’t cut it.  It’s the equivalent of getting filled up on bread before your Bloomin’ Onion arrives.  I wouldn’t mind if it were just one game pre-Thanksgiving to whet one’s appetite…but instead we’re being force-fed steak tacos as an appetizer.  I don’t want more than one order–please!  Either reduce the number of pre-Thanksgiving games or delay the opener to the Friday before Turkey Day–and please get off my lawn.

 

I will admit the NCAA gets a lot of grief.  Justifiably so.  The unwieldy organization chooses to act like a powerless confederation when schools jump leagues yet brings the hammer if a 19-year old gets a free sandwich.  An organization that is ridiculously behind the times on athlete compensation…but won’t let you take a non-sponsored cup to press row at the NCAA Tournament.  But there may be a light at the end of the tunnel…for years the NCAA Mens Basketball Tournament has had what is in effect an opening/play-in round.  They’ve titled it the “First Four” and the record books treats those games in Dayton like “First Round” Games…causing confusion when the round of 64 is now the second round and so on.  I feel uncomfortable with the second/third round labeling of the first weekend games–and just refer to them as “round of 64” or “round of 32”.  Somehow the NCAA finally woke up and announced they will call the round of 64 the First Round…starting in 2016 (hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day).  Sanity at long last!  I‘m not saying they’re going to get major issues right all of a sudden…but that’s a start.

 

Alma Mater Update– Syracuse-Pitt isn’t Penn State and it’s not West Virginia.  But as long as the Nittany Lions are in the Big 14 and the Mountaineers are in the Actual 10…next to BC the Panthers are the Orange’s big rival.  Sadly the Orange are reduced to the spoiler role as a 3-7 start prevents them from the glory that is a Pinstripe Bowl appearance.  Pitt is 4-6 and on the precipice of postseason elimination (they have to sweep SU and Miami to become eligible)… I think I’ll be reading Jim Boeheim’s autobiography “Bleeding Orange” and wondering where the offense is going to come from after their loss to Cal and near defeat to Iowa at MSG.I

 

Maryland at Michigan– Welcome to THE BIG HOUSE.  Michigan Stadium seats over 109,000 fans…unfortunately for the UM faithful the team hasn’t given them much to cheer about this fall.  A 5-5 start with home losses to Utah and Minnesota.  A coach under fire…and an Athletic Director shown the door.  The Wolverines have won 3 of 4 thanks to improved defense (-9 rushing yards allowed against Northwestern)… but QB Devin Gardner is a shell of his 2013 performance (21 TD’s passing with 11 rushing last year–8 and 3 this fall).  Speaking of seniors slipping, CJ Brown tries to turn around what’s been a disappointing fall as well (5 TD’s and 6 INT in Big Ten play).  If only Maryland had a ground game…Terps tumble, 26-14.

 

Virginia hosts Miami– can the Cavaliers end a four game losing streak and keep its bowl hopes alive?  Will runningback Kevin Parks shake off the November frost (56 yards on 20 carries this month)?  Is Greyson Lambert’s play forcing Mike London to junk the Magic Eight Ball once and for all? “Better not tell you now” is the reply.  The Eight Ball would have a field day with the Hurricanes–since joining the ACC, they’ve represented fool’s gold more often than not.  Nobody follows up a “turning the corner win” better with a loss than this program over the last decade.  After their incredible effort that just came up short against #1 Florida State–this is just the type of game the U loses.  And who doesn’t want the Charlottesville faithful to have a faint hope of the postseason leading up to their annual smackdown by Virginia Tech?  Cavaliers come up huge, 33-27.

 

Virginia Tech at Wake Forest– I certainly didn’t see the Hokies bouncing back to beat Coastal Divsion leading Duke.  That win puts Frank Beamer’s team one victory away from becoming bowl eligible…begging the question- do you want to see this team play a 13th game?  Michael Brewer makes too many mistakes…the running game remains dormant…and special teams is a myth.  Still, this team is only a pair of field goals and a touchdown away from playing for an ACC championship.  Wake Forest is one field goal away from going winless against FBS competition.  Hokies destroy the Demon Deacons, 44-13.

 

Howard handles Hampton, Georgetown loses to Holy Cross, James Madison rips Elon, Towson tops Rhode Island, William & Mary edges Richmond, Morgan State beats Delaware State.

 

Last Week: 4-4.  What can you say– Shelly took the leads…

Overall: 78-32.