Down On Lowe

One of the difficulties with NC State’s hiring of Sidney Lowe is that he can’t yet make calls to recruits. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still make an impact.
Check these quotes from the coach (Bob Oliva) of Larry Davis, a star guard who reneged on his State commitment and picked Seton Hall instead:

Asked why Davis decided not to stick with N.C. State, Oliva said, “I don’t really know … I can only guess. You want me to guess?
“Well, they (N.C. State) took two months to name a coach, and then, when they did, they named a guy who can’t coach.
“That is about the stupidest thing I ever heard of.”
With that, Oliva hung up and returned to his Memorial Day activities.

Ouch.
Thanks to the DBR for the find.

Interesting Times In Garyland

There is an old curse, “May you live in interesting times.” The meaning is that where events are deemed “interesting” by outsiders, it is usually very difficult for the participants.
I think we can safely say that the Maryland basketball program is now interesting.
All programs have a certain amount of turnovers. Every few years a coach or two will leave and you can probably count on a transfer every year or two. But Maryland is seeing turnover that makes African governments look stable by comparison.
Just in the past week, one current recruit changed his mind and another’s father openly questioned the status of the program. These players’ changes of heart came after assistant coach Rob Moxley left the staff to go to UNC-Charlotte. Moxley was the fifth coach to leave Gary William’s staff in the past two years (Dave Dickerson went to Tulane, Jimmy Patsos to Loyola, Mike Lonergan to Vermont and Matt Kovarik to law school).
And don’t forget that Ekene Ibekwe and D.J. Strawberry put their names in the NBA draft this spring and during the season, Chris McCray was made academically ineligible. During the season, there was a strange episode where recruit Kenny Belton committed to Maryland only to hear that they didn’t think that they had really offered him a scholarship. Last season, John Gilchrist was pushed out and Hassan Fofana transfered.
Maybe it’s just a blip, a statistical anomaly. Maybe it’s Gary cleaning house and getting things in order. Or maybe it’s the negative effects of the crushing expectations created during the Blake/Dixon/Baxter years combined with the resurgence of Carolina, knocking the Terps off the ACC mantle. Whatever it is, it sure it interesting.

C Ya Later

And so it ends, not with a bang, but with a scritch-scratch on a contract. Cedric Simmons’ once-promising college career is over – he signed with an agent. Considering how weak this draft is, I can’t really blame Simmons. I would have been surprised if he returned, no matter how horribly unprepared for the NBA he may be. I mean, is Simmons really farther along than Josh Powell was a few years ago? They were very similar players, but I think Powell had a more refined offensive game. It took Powell three seasons to finally stick in the league. Fortunately for Simmons, he’ll probaby be drafted in the first round and thus be guaranteed to get paid for at least three years (unless I misunderstand those rookie contracts).
Sidney Lowe’s job keeps getting tougher.

Cavalier Altitude

The Virginia Cavaliers – 2006 Men’s Lacrosse National Champions.
Virginia spanked Massachusetts 15-7 yesterday to earn the program’s fourth national title and the third for coach Dom Starsia. Virginia jumped out to a 4-1 first quarter lead on the underdog Minutemen, but just as they did on Saturday against Syracuse, the Cavs lost their way a bit in the second quarter. UMass fought back to trail just 5-4 at the half.
With a quick goal in the third quarter, UMass tied things up at 5-5. That was the spark. Instead of freezing up at the possibility of being upset in their final game, Virginia exploded, outscoring UMass 10-2 the rest of the way for a relatively easy win. Had they not gone to a delay game in the final 3-4 minutes, the final score could have been even more lopsided.
The first half stayed tight largely due to Virginia’s settling for outside shots and some outstanding saves by goalie Doc Schneider. While UVA attacked the goal relentlessly against Syracuse, they looked impatient against the Minutemen’s more structured defense. It’s tough to beat a hot goalie while standing and firing from 15 yards away and so the Cavs were held to just 5 goals in the first 30 minutes despite taking a ton of shots.
In the second half, Virginia did a better job of hitting cutters and Schneider cooled off a bit. A few easy goals, a few long range cranks hitting the twine – ballgame.
On the other end of the field, UVA defenseman Michael Culver completely shut down UMass stud attackman Sean Morris. In the pregame, Morris got most of the attention from the media. He was the odds-on favorite to be named national player of the year and his play was generally credited with beating Maryland in Saturday’s semifinal. Morris’ line against Culver – no goals, two assists and only four shots (one of which came after Culver had been pulled late in the game). Virginia decided to have Culver deny Morris the ball and the ploy worked, frustrating Morris and stagnating the UMass offense.
With their final 17-0 record, Virginia completed the best won-loss record in college lacrosse history. Given that, it’s natural to discuss where this team ranks among the all-time best teams. For me, it’s tough to say for certain where they fall, but they are definitely not the best team ever. I went to the 1989 final four and watched Syracuse win the title behind the Gait twins, Paul and Gary. That team was awesome. The Gaits were college lacrosse’s equivalent of Michael Jordan in his prime – just absolutely dominant and doing things that others simply had never thought of – and there were two of them! The Gaits returned the next season and that 1990 Orangemen team was even more dominant than the one I watched (although they later had to vacate that title).
Two thoughts I had after watching the game – first, it was great to see ESPN bring their first-class production to the game. I’m used to watching lacrosse games with only a couple of cameras. If you didn’t see a play correctly with the view they had, you were stuck. But not this weekend. ESPN had the hi-def cameras there (which I unfortunately couldn’t enjoy) and they had every angle covered. It was a lot of fun to use my TiVo to play goals back with the different views to see how and where guys popped open and to see just where the ball slipped by the keeper.
The other observation I had was that Virginia almost never bounced their shots. That blew my mind. When I played, the coach would scream at you if you took a direct shot without bouncing it. If you shot straight in, it better get by the keeper or you were gonna get yelled at. I wonder if that’s a change in philosophy overall, something that Dom Starsia teaches, or just a strategy employed against the goalies this weekend. Come to think of it though, I didn’t see a lot of bounced shots from anyone. Maybe the game has just changed that way, but I don’t really understand why. A well placed bounced shot can be damn tough to defend.
A list of links about the finals – stolen shamelessly from TheSabre.com:
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Cavs cap perfect season with title
~ The Daily Progress
Perfection puts these Cavs on a pedestal
~ The Daily Progress
Culver, UVa defense shut down UMass
~ The Daily Progress
Ward saves his best for last
~ The Daily Progress
Virginia wins national title
~ Daily Press
Perfect score: Virginia wins its fourth national title
~ The Roanoke Times
Cavaliers have the perfect finish
~ The Washington Times
Poskay leaves UVa on career-high note
~ The Washington Times
Virginia caps 17-0 year with 4th championship
~ Richmond Times-Dispatch
Coach proud of players
~ Richmond Times-Dispatch
Virginia’s Title Run Is Picture Perfect
~ The Washington Post
Top of the heap: No. 1 Cavs use second-half run to capture title
~ The Baltimore Sun
3-on-1 faceoff plan is winner
~ The Baltimore Sun
Starsia isn’t shy about winning< ~ The Baltimore Sun Virginia takes lacrosse title at the Linc
~ The Philadelphia Inquirer
Virginia is for champions
~ The Philadelphia Inquirer
UMass lacks a final KO — Run ends vs. No. 1 Virginia
~ The Boston Herald
Run at title falls short for UMass
~ The Boston Globe
Virginia Claims National Title, and a Victory for Lacrosse
~ New York Times
Virginia caps undefeated run with championship
~ ESPN.com

ACC Players In The College Football Hall Of Fame

TechSideline.com has an interesting piece up on members of the College Football Hall of Fame from ACC schools. It’s not really accurate to call most of these players ACC players, because a lot (most) of them played before there was an ACC.
Some interesting observations from the TSL guys – VT has more entrants (4) than Clemson, FSU or Miami. Georgia Tech has the most (11), followed by Duke(!) (8) and Maryland (6). Gotta figure you could win some bar bets with that trivia!
I’d imagine that FSU and Miami will be adding quite a few players over the years. It seems like they prefer to vote in players long after their careers ended, so I’d expect to eventually see guys like Chris Weinke, Deion Sanders, Peter Warrick, Vinnie Testaverde, Derrick Brooks, Philip Rivers and Julius Peppers make the Hall.

Lacrosse Final Four

Set your TiVo. You can still do your yard work tomorrow or take your kids to the beach, you don’t want to miss the men’s lacrosse final four. Trust me. ESPN 2 will have both games on Saturday – Maryland vs. UMass at 11:30 and Virginia vs. Syracuse at 2, and ESPN will have the finals on Monday at 1.
Even better, if you live anywhere near Philadelphia, go see the games. I’ve been to a few lax final fours, and it’s always a great time – big, lively crowds and exciting games.
As I mentioned above, the four teams include two ACC schools, Maryland and Virginia, one perennial power in Syracuse and one outsider, UMass. UMass is sort of like lacrosse’s version of George Mason, a small program hitting the big time for the first time. ESPN’s preview of the four teams is here.
Maryland should beat the Minutemen to reach the finals, where they will likely be the underdog against either the Cavaliers or Orange (God, I hate that new nickname). Syracuse wasn’t their usual powerful self this year, but they’ve been coming on strong. If they beat the undefeated Cavaliers, I think it’s safe to say they’d be the favorite against the Terps.
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (and check the comments on that article), UVA is undefeated and is the favorite to take it all. Last week, they completely dismantled a good Georgetown team 20-8. The Hoyas had given up 10 goals only one time this year. Virginia beat ‘Cuse earlier this year in a shootout, 20-15 and they beat Maryland twice, 15-5 and 11-5.
But, this is different. Beating teams in the regular season is no guarantee of beating them in the tournament. Syracuse has had a ridiculously good NCAA tournament record over the past couple of decades and Virginia has a history of losing heartbreaking, one-goal games to end their season. I expect this one will be fairly close and there will be a lot of goals.
In the end, I’m sticking with my team. I say (and hope) that the Cavaliers will be hoisting the trophy on Monday after a tight game against Syracuse and a six-goal laugher against the Terps.

Glenn’s Final Notes On State Search

This should be the final post on the curious NC State coaching search. David Glenn, the top ACC reporter going right now – and it’s not close – put up two articles of miscellaneous notes about the search on his blog.
The first part is here and Part II is here. I think you’ll find the most interesting stuff on the second half. Evidently, although State nearly got Rick Barnes and thought they had John Calipari, the closest they came to getting someone before Sidney Lowe was John Beilein.
Another tidbit I did not know (but had heard only rumors about) is that State did in fact contact Tubby Smith.
Part I talks a bit about why Frank Haith’s name kept coming up – evidently a lot of reporters simply like the man. I guess they ignored the fact that he hasn’t proven to be an above-average coach.

ACC Football – Best In The Land (At Graduation)

The American Football Coaches Association released their annual report and awards for academic achievement and once again, the ACC fared better than any other conference. SMU was awarded the top award this year, but nine ACC schools were honored, more than any other two conferences combined.
In the previous 26 years of the award, Duke has won or shared the title 12 (!!) times. Boston College won four times (all before they were in the ACC), Virginia twice and Wake Forest once. Additionally, Virginia has been given honorable mention 19 times.
I’ve talked a bit before about how I don’t think graduation rates are a perfect measure of academic success (more here). Schools have different requirements and we all know that some schools push players along and fudge grades to keep guys eligible, but it’s probably the best, most accessible number we have. The end goal of college is not really a degree – it’s education. The degree is nice and it’s measurable, but it doesn’t mean you learned anything (just ask Dexter Manley … verbally). That said, a degree is better than nothing and you can be fairly certain that Duke isn’t cheating to get their numbers up there (or they really suck at cheating).
So, kudos to all schools who take the academic progress of their players seriously and particular props to the ACC’s best – Clemson, FSU, Maryland, UNC, UVA, Virginia Tech and Wake.
p.s. As the ACC BasketBlog pointed out – who would have guessed that the SEC’s lone school was NOT Vanderbilt, but Auburn?

But Does He Have Any Eligibility Left?

Someone get Al Groh on the horn! There’s yet another stud in the Tidewater area of Virginia, and I don’t think Groh should let the Tar Heels steal this one. According to his own website, the infamous televangelist Pat Robertson “can leg-press 2000 pounds!”
Just in case they change the page, here’s the text today:

Did you know that Pat Robertson can leg-press 2000 pounds! How does he do it?
Where does Pat find the time and energy to host a daily, national TV show, head a world-wide ministry, develop visionary scholars, while traveling the globe as a statesman?
One of Pat’s secrets to keeping his energy high and his vitality soaring is his age-defying protein shake. Pat developed a delicious, refreshing shake, filled with energy-producing nutrients.

Now, I know what you’re thinking – Dave, is 2,000 pounds really that much for a leg press? Well, maybe not to God’s favorite son, but as CBS Sportline points out, the Florida State football record for the leg press is held by Dan “Mr. Wizard” Kendra, at 1335 pounds. And Kendra burst capillaries in his eyes during his lift (one of several Kendra stories during this FSU career that used the word “explode”).
So, send a recruiter down there, Al. Pat Robertson is a hoss (and just think how he’d fare against the Miami Hurricanes).

Field Of 80?

No.
No, no, no.
Evidently spurred on by coaches like Jim Boeheim (famous for bravely scheduling a brutal non-conference schedule full of home games against the likes of Cornell and Colgate), the NCAA is considering expanding the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, possibly to as many as 80 teams.
Ridiculous. 64 (or 65) is a perfect number. It allows for three full weekends of games and gives every team in the country a reasonable shot of getting in. It’s not too easy and not too hard.
Expanding the number of teams is fueled by a noxious combination of greed and cowardice. More games equals more money and more teams in equals fewer teams left out. Coaches know that they are often judged by the number of tournament fields they make, so they want to do to basketball what has happened with college bowls – make it so nearly everyone gets in.
It’s just stupid. The tournament is far, far from broken. Don’t try to fix it. And don’t let John Swofford near it.