Friday, February 27, 2009

Things of Note - The Underdog, JUCOs and Why I Probably Won't Be at the CAA Tourney This Year

This morning I spent looking around my favorite basketball sites, Mid -Majority and Representing the Underdog.

First, I should have realized Michael Litos would have done the CAA tiebreaker scenarios, so I should have just linked to him instead of the torture I inflicted upon myself last night (at least we both needed beers doing this). Second, based on reading his, I believe I screwed up the William and Mary scenario. Looks like the Mary can finish no higher than 11th unless they tie Towson, because get this they split and mary has a better record against Northeastern than Towson. Also, for some reason, I thought the Mary split with Delaware. Turns out that Delaware won their only game between each other, so the Mary can't finish higher than Delaware if they should somehow be tied. I told you yesterday that this hurt my head, so I am not surprised I screwed something up.

Kyle Whelliston has two articles on his site, the latest one about the Binghamton game last night that links to a NY Times article. Yeah, the dealings are a little shady there at Binghamton, and it seems Binghamton wants to play the big boys bball game. I am going to go a different tact on this which Kyle mentions, the "short term basketball mercenaries" he refers to.

I am not going to mention the school by name (but if you are a follower of this blog, you will figure it out in little time) I know a certain CAA member team that currently has FIVE JUCO players. Two of them I know the team actively recruited when they were in high school but could not make the grades thus they went JUCO. The other three were players they saw when they had scholarships open. Now I am all for giving players an opportunity to get a scholarship, get a degree and play at a decent D1 level. EVERYONE deserves a chance (often though at the D1 basketball level, players get several chances). That is not what my take on this is about.

My take on this is that these players are recruited often when you need to plug a hole, often due to four year recruits that have not held up to promise, or for a quick fix, thinking a JUCO might help a team go over the top. This did occur with the team I mentioned a few seasons ago. This school brought in a JUCO forward who they thought could help up front. That player for two seasons became a core part of a team that made the NIT three years in a row. But that team had a three player core that was there four wonderful years.

I didn't have a problem with them bringing in one JUCO to plug a hole because the rest of the team was four year recruits and they had a greatly successful three year run. The problem in this case with this team now, five JUCOs have been brought in the past two years. Why? Honestly, there a couple of reasons. One, the four year recruits they brought in have not lived up to expectation. Second, JUCOs can bring you to the promised land, in this case most likely a 20 win season. Third if you have a winning team, even if its one year, its a justification that the dollars spent on the basketball program are being well spent since the team is successful. Especially during this economy I can't stress this third reason enough. A lot of money is spent on the basketball program. A lot.

My problem with this is exactly Kyle's, there is no continuity. Say you have a team with several JUCOs, you only have two years with each kid and the likelihood of building a continuously successful program diminishes greatly. It really is bringing in "short term mercenaries". Now as far as the team I mentioned, two of the JUCOs graduate this season. The schools has six open scholarships and right now five of them have been alloted. Four are four year recruits, one is a JUCO that the school's assistant coach saw when he was looking at another player in that game. So there will be four JUCOs on the team next season with still one opening.

I hope all these JUCOs get their degrees. Truly hope so. Then they won't be just "short term mercenaries. But as for the program's continuity, who knows how good it will be next year or the year after that.

So Kyle's second article is about his travails on where he is going for conference tournaments. I was hoping Kyle would be at the CAA tournament during next weekend but he will be at the Valley instead, which is obviously a good destination. I just think the CAA might be an even more crazy tournament this season than the Valley. Kyle is also trying to rally the troops to attend a conference tournament live. Read the article. Based on my six years of experiences, can't agree more.

Which brings me to my next, albeit it for me sad point. I have been proudly going to the CAA tournament since the 2002-03 season. I have got to see some of the best players in the best moments for the past six years. With my friend Tony Terentieff, I have six consecutive years of wonderful, wonderful memories (Mal Galletta joined us for the 05-06 and 06-07 seasons). There was the side trip to Atlantic City in 2005-06 as well as that whole tournament experience of that season which I believe was the penultimate season for mid major teams and my first season of covering college basketball on this column. Last season, I got to see the CAA tournament and then two weeks later my first ever NCAA tournament first round. Just awesome.

Thus it brings me with a sad heart to say that there is a very good chance I will not be at the CAA tournament this season. There is a very good reason; a wonderful 15 month old boy I love dearly is going to have surgery this upcoming Monday. My youngest son Jonathan was born with a Grade 4 reflux condition in each of his kidneys. The condition was found in sonograms during the pregnancy. The condition is basically this; due to a problem with the tube leading from the kidneys, the urine backs up into the kidney. If untreated, the urine will infect the kidney and kidney failure can result.

Now often the problem fixes itself in most cases after the child is a few months old. However, in my youngest son's case, that has not happened. He has been on antibiotics since he was born and every so often the antibiotics have to be changed. We were told that he would likely have to have surgery when he was two. But recently after Xrays were done, it was decided it had to be done sooner. Our specialist who will perform the surgery says that it is a common procedure and that he has done thousands of them. Still my son will have to have surgery on both kidneys on Monday and will spend three days in the hospital and then there is his recovery.

If everything works out and Jonathan is home feeling his usual happy self at the end of the week, there is a very remote chance that I will go for one day, likely the Saturday games due to that being the best day for the tournament. But my son comes first, always just like the oldest son, Matthew does too. So I have accepted the fact I won't be there.

I didn't know if I was going to write about the above. Its something I don't like being public about. But there are people who read this column who know that I go to Richmond every year, so I thought it was best to be honest about not being there this year. But I am hoping that someday I will make the trip down to Richmond with both sons watching three seemingly endless days of intense, terrific college basketball (yes, I know its four days, but I have never been there for the conference final due to work committments..maybe next year I will break that string).

So if you read this column and if you can, please go to the CAA tournament in my stead. Write about your experiences there. Go to Pasta Luna and have a great Italian dinner (I have been doing that every year I have been there). Go to Buffalo Wild Wings after the tournament Saturday night and watch some good other conference tournaments there on TV. Soak in the best time of year for us and have a beer for me. Enjoy.

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