While still at loose ends with the high school basketball season over for me...
The Celtics season continues along it's sub .500 way. I know that normally that would be considered a snarky remark, but for a change it is just a simple statement of fact.
It's not like they are truly horrid. They have their moments. They aren't as bad as people hoped they would be but they aren't a real threat to anyone either. The season has moved towards the end and the Celtics have morphed into the role of a spoiler team. If a playoff bound team comes into a game against them and gets caught looking past them, they just might be in for an unwelcome surprise loss.
With the Rajon Rondo birthday party tempest in a teapot behind them, the focus is back mainly on the court.
While the Pacers are the best team in the Eastern Conference, the Celtics took their full measure before losing 102-97 last week. Jeff Green led the team with 27 points and Kris Humphries added 18 points of his own.
Sadly, the Celtics have had to deal with an injury bug as of late. First they lost Gerald Wallace and before Friday's game against the Nets, the new came out that center Vitor Faverani is done for the year as well. Both had surgery for a torn meniscus.
Speaking of the Nets, the Celtics ended up beating them on Friday night. I saw the first half of the game and Boston looked decent. The 91-84 win saw Rajon Rondo lead the team in scoring with 20 points. He had 9 assists, but also finished with a slightly disturbing 7 turnovers.
Jeff Green had 15 points and Jerryd Bayless added 14 points. Kelly Olynyk scored 13 points and grabbed 7 boards. Jared Sullinger had just 5 points but led the team with 12 rebounds.
Did you see this ridiculousness that passes for a spring training controversy? Apparently the Red Sox sent a mostly minor league lineup to play the Miami Marlins in a game. While a minor violation of the rules that call for four "regular" players or players under serious consideration for the major league level, the Marlins executives were more pissed off because they had the gall to charge a lot more for game tickets because it was the Red Sox.
What a joke! The Miami Marlins trot out major league rosters that aren't even good Triple A teams and they get pissed about the Red Sox lineups?
Even more galling was how Red Sox GM Ben Cherington actually apologized for the lineup they sent. If I was him, I would've told the Marlins, "I sent minor leaguers to play against minor leaguers."
Red Sox owner John Henry said it best when he tweeted out about the Marlins "They should apologize for their regular season lineup."
The Marlins apparently are the class tattletale and seem to be hellbent on continuing to be an embarrassment to organized baseball again this year.
If you aren't one of those who follow bracketology from Midnight Madness practices onward, the NCAA men's tourney bracket fever might set in about the time the first team seals a bid to the tourney.
Well, set your brackets up because Friday night Harvard beat Yale to clinch the Ivy League title and seal their automatic bid to the Big Dance. No one is really expecting a national title out of the Crimson, but it would be fun if they got to advance once again this year.
But keep in mind that only one side of the story is presented in the article. And given how the Boston Globe is notorious for ignoring facts in favor of fantasy, I want to hear a complete story before launching into any kind of diatribe.
Some teams are headed for conference tournaments while others have yet to finish their regular seasons.
Missouri State - The Lady Bears lost to Evansville 72-65 this week. Now 13-15 (8-9 in conference), they close their regular season today. They trailed by 19 points in the first half of the game but rallied back to make the score closer, unable to fully complete the comeback.
Katie Palmer had 15 points to lead the team while Bry Snow added 14 points.
Hartford - The Hawks closed out their regular season with a 57-49 win over Vermont. They finish with a 12-17 mark (9-7 in the America East Conference). Deanna Mayza scored a career high 22 points to lead the team to victory.
Shanish Bultron added 10 points and 6 boards.
The highlights are below.
It was Senior Day and the four graduating players were honored before the game. The photo below in order: Diamond Doe, Taylor Clark, Alyssa Englert and Milana Gilbert.
As for their conference tourney, Hartford opened up with a 63-62 overtime thriller, knocking off Maine in the quarterfinals. Amber Bepko led the team with 16 points, but it was Deanna Mayza's 4 points in the final 14 seconds of overtime that powered the Hawks to the win. Mayza finished with 12 points. Alyssa Englert had 10 points and 5 assists.
You can see game highlights and the post game press conference below.
The win advances Hartford to the semifinals where they will face top seeded Albany this morning.
Tennessee - The Lady Vols closed their regular season at 24-5 (13-3 in the SEC) with a 73-81 upset of #4 South Carolina. Isabelle Harrison scored 20 points and grabbed 15 boards. Meighan Simmons (pictured below) had 16 points and was honored before the game as the only senior graduating this season. Andraya Carter added 14 points.
Ball security was a big factor in Tennessee's win, they only turned the ball over 7 times for the game and outrebounded South Carolina 48-39.
Things weren't easy in the Lady Vols first round SEC tournament game. They trailed LSU by as many as 15 points in the first half, but a late 19-0 run in the second half helped fuel their 77-65 comeback win.
Isabelle Harrison (pictured below) had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Bashaara Graves added 14 points and 9 boards. It wasn't a great shooting night for Simmons but she finished with 14 points. Cierra Burdick (10 points, 11 boards) and Carter also played a big role in the win.
In the semifinals, Coach Holly Warlick (pictured below) saw her team go down by 10 points in the first half. But like the LSU game, they rallied back again and took an 86-77 win over Texas A&M. Now 26-5, the Lady Vols got 20 points and 13 boards from Isabelle Harrison. Simmons added 15 points and Graves had 14 points and 9 boards. Mercedes Russell had 11 points.
BOSTON COLLEGE BASKETBALL
Men's Basketball - The Eagles got 20 points from Olivier Hanlan but it wasn't enough to hold onto a late game lead and BC fell to Florida State 74-70. They are 8-22 now with a 4-13 conference mark. Their regular season still has some games before the ACC tournament starts. Patrick Heckman added 13 points and Joe Rahon had 11 points.
Women's Basketball - The women's team closed out their regular season on the road against Georgia Tech. Playing with just 7 available players (senior Kristen Doherty was out with the flu), the Eagles lost 84-74. They finish at 12-18 and 3-13 in the ACC.
The ACC women's tournament is in Greensboro, North Carolina and the Eagles were playing in the first round. That's where there season came to a sadly merciful end. Virginia beat them 74-59 ending the careers of Katie Zenevitch and Kristen Doherty (didn't travel with the team).
Zenevitch (pictured below) finished with a team high 14 points. Lauren Engeln and Kelly Hughes had 12 points apiece and Kat Cooper added 10 points.
The fact of the matter is that despite having talent on the team, the Eagles don't have enough of it to compete in the ACC. There needs to be a major talent upgrade if you ever want to be a REAL factor in the conference. I know the football money is the primary reason Boston College is in the ACC, but they just aren't good enough.
Also, coach Erik Johnson needs to find a true point guard. One that can actually handle things when teams throw pressure defense at them. The post game is going to need a lot of work with the loss of Zenevitch and Doherty. I'm not sold on Karima Gabriel or Victoria Lesko as capable replacements for either of them.
By the way, I did well enough in the two games I provided commentary for that both the guy I worked for and the UCT coach want me back to do more games next season. The first game I did is available online. You can check it out here: http://vp.telvue.com/preview?id=T01161&video=187485
Oh, and Sports Illustrated's website had an article by Chris Ballard about the Gunderson High basketball team in California. The coach kicked a number of players off the team and then more quit in protest. The story goes into the details of what happened next. I like that the coach did what he did, but he also comes off as a bit of one of those holier-than-thou types as well. Check out the story and decide for yourself: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/highschool/news/20140305/gunderson-high/
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS
Linebacker Brandon Spikes is hitting the free agent market next week and given the remarks he made during an appearance on the NFL Network show NFL AM, it would seem a foregone conclusion that he will not be returning to the Patriots next season.
The damning comment was "I would never say never -- everybody (says) you never want to burn a bridge," he said of returning to New England. "But I just feel like both sides would benefit from a fresh start."
As if the Patriots didn't have enough problems finding a defense without their own players heading off to parts unknown.
TV - Thanks to having a bit extra money I was able to order my copy of the Shout! Factory release of L.A. Law Season 1. Back when the series was airing on TV, it was one of my favorite shows. But I haven't really seen it since it left syndication on the Lifetime Network. It will be interesting to see how the show holds up to my memories of it.
I also took advantage of a huge bargain deal and got my hands on the first two season of the sitcom Wings. It cost me less than 10 bucks so it was well worth the investment.
Oh and of course there's this little awesome "24: Live Another Day" trailer.
Movies - This week I got the DVD release of the movie Riddick in the mail. I saw it in the theater and liked it enough that I wanted to add it to my collection. It was an inferior version of the Pitch Black movie that started the series but better than The Chronicles of Riddick film.
Books - I finished reading the novel Robert B. Parker's Wonderland by Ace Atkins this week. I found it rather enjoyable despite my reluctance of reading Spenser novels written by someone other than Parker himself.
I'm also trying to get my review of the book I Am Pilgrim done. I'm finding that doing a review of book is a bit of a challenge.
Do you remember the band Winger? I certainly do. I got to see them when their first album came out and met them after the show. Well, they are due to release a new album called Better Days Comin' and the first song from the album is called "Rat Race". You can see the video for this far heavier sounding song from the band below.
In closing out my posts about the local high school teams this season, I saved the Upper Cape girls basketball team for last.
First off there was their season ending loss in the state tournament to West Bridgewater. I was doing play by play for the game as Johnny Most would say "high above court side". It gave me a slightly different look at the game as it unfolded.
Before the game, the audio system to play the national anthem wouldn't work, so the teams themselves broke out into the song and led the crowd.
Despite West Bridgewater coming in undefeated, I thought Upper Cape had the talent to at least make a game of it, even if a win was one of those out on the extreme fringes of possibility. And for the opening few minutes of the game, the Lady Rams did hold a 5-2 lead.
But once West Bridgewater established their post game with their center Brittany (pictured below twice in white), things quickly went downhill for Upper Cape. The Wildcats ended the first quarter on a 15-4 run including a half court buzzer beating three pointer that gave them a 17-9 lead.
Down by 8 points after the first quarter of play is not usually cause for the dread feeling of impending doom, but after the second quarter saw West Bridgewater head into the break up 32-13, the second half seemed pretty academic.
On offense, Upper Cape made too many turnovers and picked the worst possible game to have a horrid shot selection. Things were worse defensively. As things unraveled on the scoreboard, the Lady Rams either didn't or refused to pressure the ball to try and force West Bridgewater into mistakes.
But that wasn't the worst thing happening for them on defense. No, that was West Bridgewater's center Brittany running roughshod over whatever defense they threw at her. Man to man didn't work as she established herself in the post, caught the pass and put it up over whoever was guarding her. Zone defense didn't work because she'd just kick the ball back out to the guards who'd nail their jumpers. There was no double teaming her and when they tried to front her to deny the entry pass, yep that didn't work either. Brittany finished with a quite impressive 33 points, 18 rebounds and 7 blocked shots.
In the second half, the third quarter saw the lead increase and going into the fourth quarter, I was more interested in seeing Upper Cape show the heart I'd seen them play with all season and keep fighting. They did end up winning the quarter 19-18, though it was mostly against the Wildcats deep reserves. But Michaela scored 11 points in the quarter including two three pointers as she established a new career high with 15 points for the game.
It was an ugly 67-44 loss to be sure, but the ending doesn't spoil the entirety of the season. The Upper Cape Lady Rams finished the season with the best record in team history at 21-3. They won a state championship in the vocational tournament. And they seemed to establish, for the most part, that they can be a team to be reckoned with because they have talent across the board to face off with their opponents.
Of course, now their season is over and I find myself at loose ends. All the area teams I follow have been eliminated from postseason play. There's no more games for me to attend. I'm in a basketball nuclear winter until the summer leagues start up or until November when a new season kicks off. The players are scattered. Some have jobs and of course they have to finish up with school. A majority of the girls have the softball season to look forward to. Sadly, the games are too early for me to attend except for a couple of games they have scheduled on Saturdays.
I've been given the impression that both the guy I worked for calling games and the coach of the team would like me back next season to do more play by play work.
What follows is a look at the individual players on the team, what they did and what I hope to see from them next year (and this is just my totally outsider viewpoint). (All photos that follow are by Adam Ellis of the Wareham Courier, unless otherwise noted.)
Jodi - I didn't get to see much of her on the court this year because she missed most of the season with an injury. The three sport athlete is also likely to miss the softball season as well. But over the four years I saw her play, I really loved her aggressive style of play. Despite being undersized, she could play in the post and grab rebounds. She was a really good offensive player as well. As she heads off to college in the fall, I believe her mother told me that she would like to play basketball there. I think enough of her game that I'd actually go see her play if the drive wasn't too far.
Amelia - Another three sport player, Amelia grew up in the youth league that I used to coach in. She's always been one of those overlooked players. Never a star but oddly enough always there and in the mix. In her senior year of basketball, I was quite surprised to see her be the most aggressive post player. She didn't score a bunch, but if there was a rumble under the boards, she invariably was one of those players involved. When she fouled out of the West Bridgewater game ending her basketball career, she dissolved into tears. Even my cold dead heart felt for her at that moment.
Jaylene - She was on the JV team all year, but played saw tournament action as a member of the varsity. She was given the opportunity and unlike others who were offered the chance, she grabbed for it. Though she didn't make much in the way of a statistical contribution, I am always impressed by those who capitalize on an opportunity that comes their way.
NEXT SEASON - I don't know which team she'll be on but showing up when asked has to give her a foot up on her competition.
Paige - For the time she's been on the team, I have never really been able to figure her game out. She seems to defer an awful lot to players that would be deemed "better" than her. She'll get a bucket or two here and there and grab the errant rebound or two. But I've never been able to fully grasp how she affects the team. She's a nice kid from the very brief chat time I've had with her, but I would hope she plays on the summer league team for Upper Cape if they have one and work to increase her contributions.
NEXT SEASON: She'll be on the varsity team but I don't know what her role will be. She's pictured in the middle below.
Alexa - She made the varsity team as a freshman, something that has a certain cache of awesomeness to me. She was usually the first or second player off the bench depending on lineups and was called upon to mix things up in the post. She'd get a basket here and there and pick up some rebounds. I don't really know her game much beyond that. I would hope that she also plays summer ball to increase her contributions to the team come next year.
NEXT SEASON: I think she would slide into the role of the third post player whether as a starter or reserve. As you can see below in the photo, she doesn't lack for enthusiasm and I'd hope she can become a player unafraid to mix it up in the post.
Dasia - The sophomore forward/center had a solid season but saw some decrease in playing time towards the end. She has the ability to score but much like the next player down in this list, has a tendency to fall back away from aggressive play on defense at times. She also cost herself a lot of points off of offensive rebounds when she just THREW the ball back up instead of displaying court awareness and putting up a solid shot.
NEXT SEASON: After what I would hope would be a summer of hoops post play, I would love to see her worry less about how much playing time she gets and just focus on producing positive results when she is on the floor. She's got too much potential to worry about the random stuff. As she produces, the playing time will increase. And she is going to be counted on a lot more next season, so I can't see how she won't be on the court more...and as a full time starter probably and a player for the team to revolve around.
Alexandra - The sophomore center has the makings of a big time post player. Now she just needs to realize it. She established herself in the post and got a lot of offensive rebounds, but she was another one who cost herself points. She spent too much time bringing the ball down to the floor after a rebound, instead of going right back up with it. She can rebound like crazy and her height can be an even more effective weapon if she is taught to utilize it better. I quite like her game but the little tweaks necessary would make her along with Dasia the Upper Cape version of the Twin Towers.
NEXT SEASON: She'll return as the starting center and be one of the team's foundation players the next couple of seasons. But I'm hoping for a lot of skill improvement around the basket (PLAY IN A SUMMER LEAGUE ALEX!).
Molly - It is funny, I can't remember ever talking to Molly at a game, but I happen to really like her game. She split time on JV this year but mostly was on varsity. The frustrating thing for me was I've seen her be a dominant scorer on the JV level. But on varsity, she defers almost entirely to the other players on the team. And I have no idea why. As I told another basketball enthusiast, she has the talent to be a really good player. But in the tourney games, she looked as if she had no confidence in her skills. And I don't understand why that would be.
As I said, I can't remember ever talking to her, so you can imagine my surprise when I saw that she'd followed me on Twitter. After the season ended, I took the opportunity to send her a message about looking forward to seeing her play next season. That she had the talent and if she played with confidence watch what would happen. She responded back with a thank you and how she couldn't wait for next season. I can only hope my message helps her in some small way. If I was still coaching, she'd be a special project of mine. I think she could fill the role of a fourth perimeter scorer, essentially filling the space left by Jodi's graduation. Build up her confidence and develop her skills further and she's got the potential. I'd love to see her play in a summer league.
NEXT SEASON: I hope she becomes a full time varsity player and plays with a newfound sense of confidence. I believe in her ability. If she does too, watch out.
Amber - The freshman wasted no time in making a name for herself. In basketball parlance, she was a beast. There wasn't much of a learning curve for her as she quickly became one of the leading scorers on the team. The Girl Got Game! Players on other teams mentioned how good she was and how good she was going to become. I even got told that she was likely going to get recruited by the catholic schools. Selfishly I hope she stays with Upper Cape but that's just so I can get the chance to watch her play for the next three seasons. I just hope that she stays within the flow of the offense and doesn't forget to take the rest of the team along with her as she rises to new scoring heights.
NEXT SEASON: Much like this season she's going to be a starting guard. With her on the floor, the future is bright for UCT.
(photo by Ron Schloerb of the Cape Cod Times)
Krystle - The older sister of Amber is a full fledged basketball playing baller all on her own. She has a huge upside to her game and can score like mad. I love watching her play. She can defend, make a steal and fly down the court like no other. I do worry about how she gets down on herself if she is having an off game. Her head goes down and she's suddenly not as effective. If she can learn to not be quite so hard on herself, it only helps as she is going to be relied upon to be one of the new team leaders. She also needs to stay in the flow of the offense. The ball is in her hands a lot as the de facto point guard.
NEXT SEASON: She'll be in her senior year next season and looking to make a run at the thousand point mark. I just want to see her play the game and not be quite so hard on herself. She's good. She knows it, everyone knows it. A game where her shot isn't falling as well is not going to change that opinion. She has the potential to lead Upper Cape to another outstanding season.
Michaela - Yes, I've saved my ex-player for last. Sue me. Michaela really came into her own as a scorer in high school this year. She's likely not going to be the team's leading scorer but her ability to now hit double figures in games gives the Lady Rams another scoring option. And the fact that she can hit long range, mid range and drive to the hoop means you never know exactly where she's going to rip the opponent's hearts out. If they have a summer league team for UCT, Michaela is likely to play on it. Her defense is still her calling card because of the all out aggression every possession style in which she plays it. The only thing I want to see from her is to look for BETTER shots. She shouldn't stop shooting the ball, but does need to display a bit better shot selection and not force things quite so much.
NEXT SEASON: The little girl I've known since she was about 3 years old is all grown up and will be a senior in high school. Wow how time flies. And I have no doubt that she will be another team leader for the Lady Rams next year. Whether as a full time starter or the sixth man, she will affect the team in every possible positive way. Here's hoping that helps lead the team back to the promised land.
(photo by Ron Schloerb of the Cape Cod Times)
So a final congratulations goes out to Coach Robin D. and the team. As I said, you all brought the fun of basketball back to me. Thanks for a great season.
As for me, I'll be back next season following the team. They've become my favorite high school team and I can't imagine not being there for games to root them on. After all, if the Twitter hashtag is true, it is a good thing to say #IBelieveinUCT!
There was one final game to report on before closing out my game recap series for the season.
The ORR Boys saw their season end on Wednesday night when they dropped a 57-55 decision to Westport. The Bulldogs led 50-42 but Westport went on a 15-5 run to end the game and stun ORR. Raekwon had 12 points as ORR finishes the season at 17-5.
Some final thoughts on the teams that I followed this season.
ORR Boys Varsity - The Bulldogs started off a bit slow this season but caught fire and for the majority of the season was the frontrunner in the South Coast Conference. They lose a lot to graduation so how things go for them next year will be interesting to watch.
Status of my ex-players on the team: Raekwon will return as a senior.
Upper Cape Boys Varsity - The Rams had a new coach this season but figured things out enough to qualify for the state tournament. I'm not quite sure how things will go for them next year. I know they are losing at least two of their top players to graduation. I don't know that I'll be following them next season, it will depend on whether or not anyone I coached moves up from the JV squad.
Status of my ex-players on the team: Richie is a graduating senior and will not return.
Bishop Stang Boys Varsity - The Spartans didn't make the tournament this year. Jake spent most of the season as a reserve, but an injury put him in the starting lineup towards the end of the season and he responded with a much higher rate of scoring.
Status of my ex-players on the team: Jake will return as a senior.
Wareham Boys Varsity - The Vikings lost in the second round of the tournament after winning the South Coast Conference for the 8th straight season. The Wareham basketball team isn't expected to rebuild, but instead they have to reload. They are losing their two biggest weapons to graduation but will still be highly competitive next year.
Status of my ex-players on the team: Latroy is a graduating senior and will not return.
ORR Girls JV - I'm not sure exactly how the team finished overall. I saw them play just a single time during the season and was both bemused and kind of horrified by the way the coach acted in the game and treated my former player Jillian.
Status of my ex-players on the team: Jillian, assuming she plays next season, will most likely be on the JV team again next year if what the coaching staff reportedly were heard to say is true.
Wareham Girls JV - They finished a surprising 11-9 on the season. Surprising because I wasn't expecting them to be coached to actually try and win since half the squad was made up of 8th graders and the lack of the will to win previously displayed by the coach.
But win they did, and with a number of the 8th graders making substantive contributions.
Status of my ex-players on the team: I'm guessing that the majority of my former players who spent the year on the JV team will be back again there next year. However, Gabby would seem to be the surest thing to make varsity. She had 177 points this season and showed she's got a feel for the game regardless of the level of competition.
Upper Cape Girls JV - A new coach brought change to the team and the record wasn't as good as last year but the team seemed to learn more from the coach and played better in terms of skill development. I only saw the team play 3 times for full games and caught the end of a couple other ones.
Status of my ex-players on the team: Ann Marie will likely be back on JV next season as a junior. Laurina will be a senior so if she makes the team she'll most likely be a reserve on the varsity team.
Sturgis East Varsity Girls - I only saw them play once this year and they didn't look all that good. But they improved towards the end of the season and with Isabella's late season development as both a secondary scorer and presence on the boards, I'm hoping they can be even better next year.
Status of my ex-players on the team: Isabella finally figured things out (on her own she said) and became the player I knew she could be. She'll return next season as a junior.
Bristol-Plymouth Varsity Girls - A 5-15 season has to be vastly disappointing. Especially since the team was handicapped by a lack of practices after the holidays. They are losing at least 4 players to graduation including their top scorer and their biggest presence in the post.
Status of my ex-players on the team: Savahna had a rough season and I'm not sure how things will go for her next year. I hope she comes back. Given how the coach caters the team towards seniors, her senior year might be a lot different if things hold true to form.
Wareham Varsity Girls - They made the tournament but once again lost in the first round. The team is losing four seniors and those players account for probably 90 percent of this year's offense. It is going to be a rebuilding year for the team I believe.
Status of my ex-players on the team: Amber, Breanna and Gina are graduating seniors and will not return. Erica will be a junior and Tieyanna (who split time between JV and varsity) will be a junior as well.
Now, I haven't forgotten the Upper Cape Varsity girls, but I've got much more to say about them, so they'll be getting their own separate post.
The final weekend of the regular season for most teams is on the horizon, now the speculation gets hot and heavy. Though you have some conferences like the American and Mountain West have their contending teams on lock, other conferences just have their leading team assured of seeing their name on March 16th others are still furiously trying to cobble a resume worthy of inclusion of the 68 team field. This is where the speculation is the most fluid and most fun. The first golden ticket to the dance could be handed out tonight as Harvard faces Yale and if the Crimson emerge victorious clinch the Ivy League title outright and the conference’s automatic berth.
Atlantic Coast Conference Class-Power
Lock: Syracuse, Duke, Virginia, North Carolina
Looking Good: Pitt
Work to do: Florida State, Clemson Skinny on the ACC: Virginia is the ACC champ and safe, also safe are the Tar Heels who shook off an early season slump and are pushing the suddenly free falling Orange hard for the #2 slot but the top four spots (and the double bye to the quarters) are locked up. So the Duke loss to Wake and the upcoming grudge match between them and Carolina are small potatoes in the grand scheme. Thus the four teams in lock status are way safe. Pitt should be good to go as long as they don’t trip in their first game in the ACC tourney
Key Games: Pitt at Clemson Saturday 4p (ACCNet/ESPN3) The Tigers make their case stronger, get to 20 wins and the #5 seed if they win. Pitt goes to a virtual lock if they can win in Littlejohn.
North Carolina @ Duke Saturday 9p (ESPN) Other than jockeying for position in Greensboro, this game means nothing…yeah right. A game between these two bitter rivals would be classic theater if they both were way down
Projected Bids: 6
Atlantic Ten Conference Class- Major
Lock: Saint Louis, St. Joes, UMass, VCU
Looking Good: George Washington, Dayton
Work to do: Richmond The A-10 Spec is: The Billikens are slumping badly, but the Hawks missed their chance to roll past them in the standings. Dayton. I’m thinking that both the Colonials and Flyers should be good to go as long as they don’t take a pratfall in Brooklyn. As with the ACC the top spots and the double byes that go with them are spoken for but 2-4 are still up for grabs.
Key Game: Saint Louis @ UMass Sunday 2p (CBSSN) The Billikens are picking the wrong time to go into a slide. They need the win to clinch the regular season, title. The Minutemen are pretty safe but a win locks up a double bye and makes them virtually bulletproof.
Projected Bids: 6
Lock: Cincy, Louisville, UConn, Memphis, SMU
All-American Spec: Both Louisville and Cincy blew out fellow lock teams to solidify their bulletproof status. The Huskies, Tigers and Mustangs are safe and playing for seeding.
Key Games: Cincinnati @ Rutgers Noon Saturday (ESPNU) The Bearcats clinch no worse than a tie for the initial American crown with a win.
UConn @ Louisville 2p (CBS) When this game starts the Cards will know if they are playing for a share or the conference crown outright. The Huskies are a dangerous spoiler to that scenario.
Projected Bids: 5
Big East Conference Class-Major
Solid: Creighton, Villanova
Looking Good: Xavier
Work to do: Providence, Marquette, St. John’s Big East Skinny: The Wildcats clinched their first outright Big East title in over 30 years, holding off conference newcomer Creighton. The minute you think the Muskies are home free, they turn right around and take an inexcusable loss to Seton Hall, and the door just got opened for Providence to slide in. Xavier keeps offsetting their marquee wins with brutal losses and now despite 20 wins are needing a spot of help now, they failed to get a marquee win in their season finale.
Key Game: Providence @ Creighton Saturday 8p (CBSSN) The Friars resume suddenly looks a lot better with a sweep of Creighton to deny them any shot at the Big East regular season title. A win also locks them in at the #3 slot
Projected bids: 3
Big Ten Conference Class-Power
Lock: Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa
Looking Good: Nebraska, Ohio State
Work to do: Minnesota
The word on the Big Ten is: Can the Big Ten send six now? I have Nebraska still on the wrong side of the cut line, but they are making a strong case for inclusion but that bad, ill-timed loss to Illinois is a huge blot on their chances. They will need to get to Saturday and play well there to have a chance. If they can hold on to that 4 spot, that strengthen that possibility. The Bucks late skid is hurting their seeding more than anything, they are in a safer position than the Huskers and it would be hard to keep a 22 win team from a Power conference out, but it would serve them well not to stumble any more. The Gophers are just about cooked after losing 4 of 6 and will need to get to at the very least Saturday in Indy if not the Big 10 final and that means likely crossing either Wisconsin or Michigan State in the quarters...good luck to them, they'll need it.
Key Game: Michigan State @ Ohio State Sunday 4:30p (CBS) How much have things changed since these two teams met 2 months ago. It was #3 visiting #5 with the Spartans winning a classic, The Bucks will look to buff a dicey resume with a payback win and stay out of bubble trouble
Looking Good: Baylor, Oklahoma State,
Work to do: West Virginia Skinny from the heartland: I’m really torn here, while the Horns, Sooners and Clones make their move uptown to join Kansas in the waiting for March 16th club. I moved the Wildcats reluctantly, but having win over each of the other uptown teams on their resume, that’s good enough. The turmoil is on Baylor and Ok. State. The Pokes look like a rejuvenated team after the Smart suspension and have the look of a tough out in the conference tourney if not the big dance. The Bears are steaming down the stretch with only a 5 point loss in Austin the only mark in their last 7. This is another team no one wants to face.
Key Games: Baylor@ Kansas State Saturday 1:30 (Big12Net/ESPN3) The Bears could be one of 8 teams in the Big 12 to hit the conference tourney in Kansas City with at least a .500 conference record Oklahoma State @ Iowa State Saturday 2p (ESPN) The Pokes make things even messier heading to Kansas City if they finish with five straight wins and get back to .500 to finish the season
Projected Bids: 7
Conference USA Conference Class-Mid-Major
Solid: La. Tech, Middle Tennessee
Work to do: Southern Miss, UTEP, Tulsa
Oh Say Can You C-USA Spec: There are four teams that can hang a C-USA regular season championship banner. Southern Miss, Louisiana Tech, Tulsa and Middle Tennessee all share the title. All the teams head to El Paso for the conference tourney
Conference USA Championship Tournament March 11-15 Haskins Center, El Paso, TX.
Projected Bids: 2
Missouri Valley Conference Class-Mid Major
Lock: Wichita State
Work to do: Indiana State Missouri Valley Skinny: The Shockers hit the regular season finish line tape at 31-0, its their tourney to lose and if they win 3, will have the most wins heading into the tournament since UNLV in 1991. Indiana State is likely the team that they will face in the MVC tourney finale next Sunday. The Shockers are bulletproof and have made their case for a #1 seed.
Key Game: Evansville vs Wichita State Friday 1p (ESPN2). Congratulations to the Aces, your reward for beating Drake 69-61…the honor of getting throttled by the Shockers.
Missouri Valley Conference Championship aka “Arch Madness”March 6-9 Scottrade Center, St. Louis
Projected Bids: 1
Mountain West Conference Class-Major
Solid: San Diego State, New Mexico
Work to do: UNLV
Spec from the Mountains: Not much spec here, the Lobos and Aztecs will battle for the regular season title Saturday night in San Diego and likely face off in a week for the automatic bid, but both teams are bulletproof. The Rebels need to win out, and get to the Saturday Night conference tourney title game on their home court to even have a punchers chance at stealing a bid. Anything less deep-sixes them.
Key Games: New Mexico @ San Diego State Saturday 10p (CBSSN) Winner claims the #1 seed as the MWC regular season champs, you can’t get much more high stakes in the regular season than this. UNLV @ Nevada Saturday 10p(ESPN3/Cox) If Rebels want to keep their dim tourney hopes flickering they have to win in Reno, and you can bet the mortgage that the Wolfpack would love to damage the tourney hopes of their hated downstate neighbor
Projected Bids: 2
Pacific 12 Conference Class-Power
Lock: Arizona, UCLA, Colorado, Arizona State
Work to do: Stanford, Cal, Oregon, Utah Spec from the left coast: Arizona clinched another Pac-12 title and is bulletproof. UCLA is impressing no one with their tendency to wander mentality but a barring a total collapse in Washington and a first round loss (after getting a first round bye) they are safe. The Buffs and Sun Devils are safe and of the working teams Oregon is getting closer and closer to being safe.
Key Games: Arizona @ Oregon Saturday 4p (CBS) The Ducks go very well go bulletproof if they beat Wildcats in the Woods, that would give them 22 wins and
Projected Bids: 5
Southeastern Conference Class-Power
Solid: Florida, UK
Work to do: Arkansas, Tennessee, Mizzou, Georgia Spec is Down South: The Gators are marking time, UK bounced back on their senior day to win an ugly but badly needed win. I think the Hogs are safe after housing Ole Miss at home and despite being behind Georgia are good. The Bulldogs need to keep on winning, but being in the 3 spot is a double edged sword, they don’t have a lot of chances to get any statement wins short of winning in the SEC tourney, I think with a win in the SEC quarters that it’ll be hard to leave them out, as they will likely have to face UK in the SEC semis. Mizzou is in quite a pickle win out get to 22-9, 11-7 and get to the Saturday in the SEC no less to get in. I’m not real sold on Tennessee but they hang on the fringes
Key Game: Missouri @ Tennessee Saturday 4p (ESPN) Possible play-in game for a berth? Maybe, the Tigers head into Thompson-Bolling to tangle with the Vols, a fellow bubble resident
Projected Bids: 4
West Coast Conference Class- Mid Major
Work to do: BYU, San Francisco, Saint Mary’s West Coast Spec: The Bulldogs thrashed the Gaels to finish the regular season on a high note and virtually eliminated any chance the Gaels had of sneaking in as an at-large berth. The Cougars and Dons are pretty much in the same boat but will likely be playing an elimination game in the WCC semis against one another with the winner trying to play bid stealer. I think Gonzaga is safe barring a loss in the quarters or semis
Key Game: Santa Clara vs Gonzaga Saturday 9p (ESPNU) The Broncos nearly pulled the upset at the Leavey Center in January could the Broncos throw a huge monkey wrench with the shocking upset
Projected Bids: 1
There are others in the mix to be sure. Teams from the always dangerous Colonial (Delaware) and Big South (VMI) always are in the mix. Of course the champions from the following conferences get an automatic bid (projected winners in parentheses): Amer. East (Vermont), Atlantic Sun (Mercer), Big Sky (Weber State), Big West (UC Irvine) , Horizon (Green Bay) , Ivy (Harvard), MAC (Toledo) , MAAC (Iona) , MEAC (NC Central), Northeast (Robert Morris), Ohio Valley (Belmont) , Patriot (Boston U.), Southern (Davidson), Southland (SF Austin), Sun Belt (Georgia St.) , Summit (IPFW), and SWAC (Alabama State) and Western Athletic (New Mexico St). Note: Southern U is leading the SWAC but is currently ineligible pending an NCAA mandate on their academic compliance progress
Remember that this is still speculation, nothing here is ever solid and we haven't even brought up the possibility of upsets. But those never happen, right?
That question seems to be pretty innocuous, one that most people hear when the anniversary of their birth is approaching.
But when my sister asked me that this past Sunday, I had no answer for her. It isn't like I'm a little kid and could just rattle off a list of toys on store shelves that I would greedily welcome into my hands. At a now 43 years old, I barely even acknowledge my birthday as anything other than just another day on the calendar.
But my family does and thus the question from my sister. While I eventually told her about a new CD coming out from a singer-songwriter I like, I originally had a wildly different request.
She asked me what I wanted two days before I was scheduled to provide the play by play call for the filming of an Upper Cape girls basketball playoff game The Lady Rams were matched up the undefeated West Bridgewater team in the Division 4 South semifinals. It happened to fall on the same day as my birthday.
So I initially told my sister, "An Upper Cape win would be nice." Her response of "Can't help you there" brought about the secondary request for the John Gorka CD.
But I really would've preferred the basketball game victory as a birthday wish fulfilled.
The funny thing is that after the Lady Rams lost to West Bridgewater 67-44 to end their amazing season, I realized that the team itself had unknowingly and unintentionally provided me a 24 game season long gift.
Since the end of my coaching days, I've been going to high school games to watch my ex-players continue their hoops exploits. While I've enjoyed watching the games, there was a part of the process that was a bit perfunctory. I was keeping my word to see the girls I'd coached. If they made their teams, I had promised them to attend at least one game a year to see them play. They may not remember the promise, but I do and a promise is a promise.
However, it is fair to say that I've spent the last two years embittered about how the end of my coaching "career" came about and it affected my overall enjoyment of basketball.
My love of the game itself was intact, but the day to day stuff of going to games was a bit harder. I did it and wrote about it (a lot) but there was always that bitter little pill of how things went down for me that had me still pissed off two years later. Now, it isn't to say that there were moments of individual appreciation. There was Erica, Gabby and of course Allison who remains one of my favorite athletes across the entire spectrum of sports.
But watching the Upper Cape team this season felt different. Sure, the surprising and overwhelming success they enjoyed (State Vocational Champs, whoo hooo!) was part of that equation. It was more than that though. It was the way the team seemed to be growing together as they played. Being recommended by a few people, including coach Davidson and my own ex-player Michaela to do play by play for the filming of some games was another factor. However superficially, I was around a team again.
The players themselves helped too. I don't know most of them well or at all in some cases. But they were just a pleasure to watch develop on the court. And while there wasn't any extended chat time with them, they were usually pretty friendly when you said hello to them or congratulated them for having a good game.
So you must be wondering exactly what it was that the team gave to me without knowing what they were doing it, right?
Well that's easy. I finally felt that old sense of enjoyment of watching games again. It is something that I haven't fully experienced too much of in the last two years.
What Michaela, Krystle, Amber, Amelia, Alexandra, Dasia, Jodi, Paige, Alexa, Molly and Jaylene, coach Davidson, assistant coach Mikayla and a few of their parents did was bring the FUN back to basketball for me.
And that is a gift worth a price above rubies.
Thank you ladies!
(Photo credits: Adam Ellis of the Wareham Courier)