Maryland Advances

Maryland obviously had a trying season. Everyone, including themselves, expected much better things than an NIT berth.
When a team fails like that, it’s usually because of one of two reasons – either the players were overrated or the team just never meshed. In this case, I’d say it’s mostly the later. A nearly identical team won the ACC tournament and won a game in the NCAA tournament last year.
So, while this season was a disaster, it’s still somewhat salvagable. Often, when a team underperforms and isn’t happy about being in the NIT, they lose to some up-and-coming school in the first round, ending their season with a whimper. That didn’t happen for Maryland. They won their first game and then won again last night against Davidson.
The Terps are now in the NIT quarterfinals, one win away from a trip to Madison Square Garden. If they can put together two or three more victories, that might be the perfect stepping stone to get back on the pedestal the program has been on for the past decade. Playing in the NIT usually sucks, but winning the NIT is not too shabby, particularly for a team that seemed to get used to losing this year.

The Century Club

I haven’t linked much to the Mid-Majority website (“blog” just doesn’t do it justice), largely because I just don’t have the time to read it. It’s a phenomenal site written by Kyle Whelliston about mid-major (duh) basketball programs. One of the guiding frameworks to the content of his site was Kyle’s quest to attend 100 mid-major hoops games this season. He completed that quest last weekend with Vermont’s loss to Michigan State. Kyle writes about that game (a little) and about the end of his road (a lot) in this great entry.
Like I said, the site is incredible. He’s a great and prolific writer and not a bad web designer either. From his post it sounds like he’s not sure what the future of his site is. To me, the obvious next step, and a great way to fund future efforts, is to compile all of his posts into a book. It would a Feinsteinian inside look at a full season at schools that don’t normally get much national attention. If the book managed to incorporate much of the look and feel of the site, it would be an awesome accomplishment.
When I read (and just look at even) the Mid-Majority, I’m glaringly reminded of the difference between an amateur (myself) and a pro (Kyle). His effort and output shame me.
BTW, don’t miss the great cartoon Kyle drew in honor of Julius Hodge. (another hat tip to Lorenzo Charles).
Update: The Sports Prof has a nice post about this as well.

Redick, Paul All-Americans

J.J. Redick and Chris Paul were each named to the first team AP All-America team.
Sean May was selected for the second team and Shelden Williams and Raymond Felton landed on the third team.
The selections mean that all five first team All-ACC performers were named as All-Americans.
Illinois’ entire three-guard backcourt made the team, with Dee Brown and Luther Head on the second team and Deron Williams on the third.
Apparently, Jason Cain narrowly missed out in the voting.

Blood Feud

With all the focus locally on the three ACC teams and the possibility that NC State and UNC could meet for a trip to the Final Four, it’s easy to gloss over the other upcoming NCAA games.
There are several interesting games – Texas Tech and Bobby Knight vs. West Virginia, Utah vs. Kentucky and Louisville vs. Washington – but none rival the Illinois vs. Wisconsin-Milwaukee game.
What’s that, you ask? UWM vs. Illinois? How in the world is that an interesting game?
It’s all because of the UWM coach, Bruce Pearl.
He was involved in alleged recruiting violations by Illinois back in the late 80s and has never been forgiven by the Illini faithful. Pearl was an assistant coach at Iowa at the time and recorded a phone conversation with star recruit Deon Thomas in which Thomas admitted to being offered inducements by Illinois assistant coach Jimmy Collins.
I wrote about this story last summer, when Collins’ name hit the wires (he had just signed a contract extension) and it reminded me of a story from college.
When I wrote that article, I had no idea it would attract as much attention as it has. It has been linked over a half dozen times by various Illinois, Iowa, University of Illinois-Chicago (where Collins now coaches) and UWM sites. The Illinois fans, blinded by hate and suspected reading comprehension, have accused me of being an Iowa fan and “Bruce Pearl apologist.”
One such article popped up on Sunday. It’s actually a pretty good review of the history of the case, at least from a biased Illinois perspective. From that article, you can link to several other articles to get an idea of what really happened, at least from what was reported publiclly.
To sumarize, Illinois fans think that Pearl induced Thomas to lie about being offered money and a car by Illinois. In fact, they say, it was Iowa who really offered Thomas money and a house. They also add that the conspiracy was joined by Notre Dame coach Digger Phelps and Indiana coach Bobby Knight who also made allegations against the Illini at that time. We all know that Phelps and Knight are longtime friends who would gladly conspire to smear Illinois.
Whatever really happened doesn’t matter anymore. No one but Collins, Pearl and Thomas will ever know and their accounts don’t match up, so you have to choose whom to believe. What is for sure is that Illinois fans have a hatred of Pearl and all that he has touched that borders on pathologic. There will be LOUD boos and cheers throughout this game and when Illinois smashes the Panthers, they’ll feel a satisfaction that goes way beyond just earning a trip to the Elite Eight.
But if UWM should win …. well, there aren’t any cliffs in Champaign-Urbana, but they should lock up the silos, because fans are going to be looking for something to jump off of.
It should be a lot of fun.

E-5 on A Rod?

I don’t normally post about baseball, especially during basketball season, but this is too weird to pass up.
While watching the tournament this weekend (or maybe it was while watching SportsCenter) I saw an old Alex Rodriguez commercial. It’s the one where his doorman throws him a ball while he’s jogging and later a reporter asks him “So Alex, only one homerun today?” before he smiles and says “Tough town.” It’s an old commercial that they’ve brought back for baseball season. I can’t even remember what it’s for. Right Guard, maybe? (or is it for a lip gloss?)
Anyway, at the end of the commercial, there’s a shot of a ballfield at night. There is a bank of stadium lights in the lower center of the screen. As is normal, several of the lights are out. The pattern of lights seems to clearly spell out E5.
Is this a coincidence? Was there a Red Sox fan involved in post-production who thought maybe he’d play a little prank? I don’t know, but I think it’s pretty damn funny.
If I can find a screenshot, I’ll post it here. Let me know if you know where I can get one.
Update: I’m not the only one who’s noticed. The Boston Dirt Dogs picked up on it last week. Scroll down a bit.

Sweet Revenge

When I first saw that four ACC teams would be playing on Sunday, I had a bad feeling. I had this ominous gnawing in my gut that things would go poorly and the ACC would lose three or four of those teams. That feeling grew even even stronger when Wake was bounced on Saturday night. I thought we were gonna see a reprise of Black Sunday.
Fortunately, that premonition turned out to be wrong. Nostradamus I’m not.
Things began looking good in the second half of the NC State game when the Pack turned into Dr. Jekyll and started carving up UConn. No team in the country has been more schizophrenic than State over past couple of seasons. When things are going poorly, their offense is dog ugly and they’ll go 8, 10, 12 minutes without a field goal. Then things will suddenly snap, and they’re Hickory High, picking, cutting and shooting with a purity that James Naismith never dreamed of. Fortunately, yesterday was a good day (and the State fans are happy).

Continue reading “Sweet Revenge”

NCAA – Day 4

(note: I wrote most of this Sunday morning before games were played. I’ll address today’s games, including State’s upset of UConn later.)
This is gonna be a quick update, so I won’t have time to go into all the ways I’m disappointed in Wake Forest. Like I said all season, their defense just wasn’t Final Four caliber. I was wrong. It wasn’t Sweet Sixteen caliber. It was fitting that they gave up 111 points in the game that they lost. Yeah, it went to two overtimes, but that’s only two minutes longer than NBA games and NBA games have 24-second shot clocks. Last night, one NBA team scored as many as 111 points in regulation.
West Virginia scored on seven of their last eight possessions in regulation. They scored on eight of ten possessions in the first overtime. The Mountaineers then scored (or missed two free throws) on ten of twelve possessions in the second overtime.
The Deacs deserved to lose.

Continue reading “NCAA – Day 4”

Pomeroy on Georgia Tech

Ken Pomeroy does his usual excellent statistical analysis on Georgia Tech, focusing on the efficiency of Isma’il Muhammad.
He makes a point that I wondered about, that Muhammad’s absence actually helped Tech during the ACC Tournament.
Pomeroy also points out that the numbers back up my contention that Jarrett Jack is the most valuable member of that team, not B.J. Elder.