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


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


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

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


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


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

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


Cruising the Commonwealth—

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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