Saturday, March 7, 2009

Friday House of Fun Review, CAA is Fun For the Crowd and a Quick SoCon Note

First, I am just going to make a quick side note. As I had my early morning shift for Jonathan I was watching the World Baseball Classic on ESPN2. What does this have to do with college basketball? Well, the game was South Korea, the 2008 olympic champs vs. Japan. Add a sold out 53,000 seat stadium in Japan that was ROCKIN as the Japanese team was scoring runs and after runs and you had a college basketball atmosphere. It was really amazing and there's a lot of talent on both teams. Ichiro, Dice K, Fukudome, Iwamura the second basemen on the Rayes and Kenji Johjima, the catcher for the Mariners, all major league starters (and of course Ichiro is a superstar) were playing this game.

Since I live in on Long Island, I get to hear Michael Kay, that bastion of knowledge, rant and rave that the WBC is meaningless, players will get hurt etc etc. Tell that to the 53,000 Japanese and Korean fans watching the game today. Tell that to Chinese Taipei, where baseball is the ONLY real sport there. Tell that to the Latin American countries that love this stuff. What Michael, you would rather have spring training baseball? Let's face it, as much as I love baseball, after a few innings of spring training baseball and I want to take a nap. YAWN! Sometimes we need to see there is more to a sport that our own national culture. Kudos to WBC. It sure beats soccer.

Good news on the local front. The Iona Lady Gaels rallied from a five point halftime deficit and beat St Peter's 63-57. All MAAC first team Thazina Cook had 18 points, including 10 of 12 from the line to lead the Lady Gaels. Coach Anthony Bozzella's Lady Gaels get rewarded by playing #1 seed Marist who absolutely crushed Loyola yesterday 81-27. That's some reward. Iona will have now played Marist for the fourth consecutive year in the MAAC tournament. The two seasons prior were in the championship game. I was listening to the game late yesterday afternoon after the Hofstra game was over and I will be watching the 11:30 am game this morning on MSG 2.

Bad news on the local front. St Joseph's College lost their first round Division III game at DeSales University Thursday night. The Golden Eagles finished the season at 24-4, a very successful year for Coach John Mateyko.

So, for the first time in seven years, I spent the first Friday in March at home. So between watching my youngest son recovery surgery, what else was there to do? Watch conference tournament basketball!!

First, there were a couple of upsets and nearly one catastrophic upset. Let's take care of the near catastrophe first. I was keeping track of the Creighton game yesterday while watching the live streaming feeds of the first round of the CAA. I noticed with about 15 minutes in the second half, Creighton was up twenty on Wichita State, 47-27 in the Valley Quarterfinals. I figured ball game, so I didn't pay attention to it.

Not so fast. Later, I got a text message from my friend Mal saying, did you see the end of that game? I was like "Huh?". So, I quickly checked the score. 63-62 Creighton. I went "What?" Then I checked the play by play. Booker Woodfox hits a jumper with 1 second left. WHAT?

Well, Wichita State tried their best to play up to their team name, Shockers. The Shockers outscored the Bluejays 35-14 over the next 14 minutes and 50 seconds, culimating in a three pointer by Toure' Murray with nine seconds left to take a one point lead, 62-61. The Bluejays went down the court and nearly lost the ball to Wichita State, but one of the shockers knocked the ball out of bounds. Off the inbounds play, Woodfox, member of the All Valley Name Team, avoided two defenders and nailed a 16 footer at the buzzer. The game winning shot helped Creighton avoid an absolutely nigthmarish end to their NCAA tournament at large hopes. Remember Moore's NCAA Tournament Selection Committee Primer;

Rule Number 3 - If you are a mid major or non major conference team and you lose in your quarterfinal round, you should be for the most part out of the tournament selection bid (process). Mid major teams must get to at least the conference semis to be considered worthy of a tournament selection bid. If you can't beat a low seed in the quarterfinals of your own tournament, what makes the committee think you can win a first round NCAA tournament game.
So Creighton thankfully avoided Rule #3. It would have been the NIT for them for sure had they lost. Considering Northern Iowa also had to comeback from five points down with seven minutes left against Indiana State to win their game 73-69 and Kyle Whelliston had a hell of a second day in St Louis.

There was one big time upset in the non-CAA land. Ohio Valley's #1 seed Tennessee Martin, featuring Lester Hudson, went down to Morehead State yesterday in the semifinals despite Hudson's 32 point 10 rebound performance. Looks like the OVC may be ruled by the Governors again...the Austin Peay Governors. Austin Peay defeated Murray State in their seemingly annual matcup yesterday in the other semifinal. Who needs the Hatfields and McCoys when you have the Governors and the Racers!

Ok, on to my homefront, the CAA. There were four games yesterday. Basically all blowouts, with no final score margin less than 10 points. However, there was one major upset. One that screwed up my entire CAA pool. Ok, I don't have a pool, but it messed up my bracket big time.

I started watching the Delaware - Georgia State yesterday, which was the first game in the tournament and the first game using the online streaming feed. Before I get into the game, I need to talk about the online streaming feed. Mind you, I was very happy to have it, but I am sorry, for $14.95 a day couldn't we have had a more professional feed. Putting a picture in picture of the scoreboard on top of the main picture was just downright cheesy. Also, how could those cameramen not get good angles of the Delaware and UNC Wilmington dance teams during the timeouts. That's just wrong. :-)

And best yet, was when the referees needed to review a play, this was the feed they used. So yes, you guessed it, you got to see them rewind the play to see what they were looking at. Interesting from an analyst's perspective, but not exactly Comcastic! Also, we got the Hofstra announcers doing the afternoon session, so that was kind of neat in a homey college kind of way.

So back to that first game. I said yesterday in the begining of my CAA preview, #8 Georgia State always plays a good first game. So idiot me picks #9 Delaware to win in my preview. Watching the first half unfold, you could see it was not Delaware's day. Not that Georgia State shot the lights out either, but Delaware couldn't hit the side of barn in the first half. Marc Egerson was just off. Way off. And in what was a harbinger for the entire day, one team dictated the pace. And it was obvious, the pace was slow, methodical, very much a MAC feel and much to the liking of the Panthers, the lowest scoring team in the CAA. Advantage Georgia State and the Panthers were up 22-18 at the half.

The second half did not get much better for the Blue Hens and I was longing for more shots of the Delaware Dance Team. Once Georgia State went on a 10-0 run to go up 37-24, you could have just walked away from your computer right there (unless you wanted more of the Delaware Dance Team, thus you stayed just like me). The Blue Hens shot a season low of 28 percent. Eek. Even better, the foursome of Marc Egerson, Jawan Carter, Alphonso Dawson and Brian Johnson, who all average double figures in scoring, shot a collective NINE FOR FOURTY TWO (21 percent folks). Mister CAA Double Double Egerson was rebound short of a double double, another indication it wasnt' Delaware's day. And thus the game was a microcosm of the Blue Hens' season; disappointing. Joe Dukes led the Panthers with 15 points, 11 in the second half and Leonard Mendez had 12 for Georgia State. Egerson and Dawson each had 11 for Delaware.

Then came Game #2, #5 Hofstra vs. #12 UNCW. Hofstra had won the previous two matchups but they were very close. The Pride played with fire in both games, playing UNCW's frenetic style of basketball. I thought a third time would be fatal for the Pride.

It was immediate that Hofstra was going to play their own pace, setup in half court, look inside, if not there, drive and perhaps kick for an open three. It worked. The Pride went ahead 4-2 then never looked back. UNCW would get as close as 14-11 before Hofstra went on a 17-4 run to go up 31-15 as they went into the half up 39-29. The Pride were very balance in their scoring in the first half and it showed as they shot 53 percent from the field.

At the start of the second half, the Seahawks showed they were not going to go away just yet. UNCW came out in a press and forced several Hofstra turnovers. The Seahawks would score six of the first eight points in the second half to cut the lead to 41-35. But that's as close as they would come as Hofstra would go on an 8-0 run and that would be the ball game as the lead was as much as 17 in the second half, 67-50. The Pride shot 52 percent in the second half and shot 52. 7 percent on the game. Hofstra had four players in double figure scoring led by Charles Jenkins with 27 points, Greg Washington had 14 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks, Cornelius Vines had 13 points and Nathaniel Lester had 10 points.

Well, apparently Hofstra spent their entire practice Thursday on defense, the defense that was second in CAA in FG percentage defense. The practice worked wonders. The Pride held the Seahawks to 18 of 57 from the field, including Chad Tomko's 2 of 14. Johnny Wolf led UNCW with 21 points.

The evening session had James Madison #7 vs #10 William and Mary. The game started in a slow pace which favored the Mary. The game was tied at 22 before Madison scored 10 of the next 13 points to end the half up seven. The game got as close as five in the second half before 'Them Dukes" went on a 17-2 run to put the game away.

James Madison found their D after it had gone missing for their past three conference games. Them Dukes held the Mary to 1 of 18 shooting from three. Yes 1 of 18. The Mary shot 35 percent overall. The Dukes shot 53 percent from the field including Pierre Curtis' seven of eight from the field. This included several drives to the basket, as the Mary guards couldn't keep up with the much quicker JMU guards.

So, as chalk prevailed in the first three games, all by double digit margins, it looked like it would be the canasta. Drexel had swept Towson during the season and the previous three games showed that seed was in form. Plus Towson had looked like they mailed in their season. The Tigers had lost four of five, seven of their last nine and were one of the worst defenses in the CAA this season. So it looked like we would get our fourth blowout of the day. Oh, we did, we did.

This is the Wacky CAA and things happen and boy did something happen..the Perfect Storm. As I watched this game unfold online, I could see all the ingredients for an upset were coming together. First, Towson came out with a passion I hadn't seen all season. They took it to Drexel and were physical and blowing by the Dragons who seemed a step slow. Second, the Tigers were capitalizing on their opportunties by pressing the Dragons into turning the ball over and scoring off them . Third, throw in the Bruiser Flint Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight coming out firing up brick after brick. Fourth, add in an actually brilliant Pat Kennedy move to put 6 foot 8 Junior Hairston on the Dragons leading scorer 6 foot 3 Scott Rodger. Stir these ingredients fiercely, cause this is the CAA, and voila! Upset City!

Towson went out to a 13-0 lead. I texted a very knowledgable friend and I asked "Is this Towson?" And he replied, Drexel came back from a 14-0 lead vs. Northeastern. I replied "Did
Drexel play that in a cavern?", which is a reference to the always cold and now mostly empty Richmond Coliseum (as opposed to the DAC where the Dragons came back from that 14-0 lead on).

The Junior Hairston show didn't let up. It was 24-4 Towson. I texted my friend again and he only had the score at 19-2. Before you know it was 39-15 Towson at the half with Hairston scoring a third of those points for the Tigers. Turn off the computer and play with the kids there, it was over. Drexel, the worst FG shooting team in the CAA couldn't possibly come back from that. By the way, Drexel shot a catastrophic 4 of 23 from the field in the first half and not much better 6 of 12 from the line.

Well, you know me, couldn't play too long with the kids, besides they were watching PBS Sprout. I was watching, waiting for Towson to realize they're Towson and Drexel to try to make an incredible comeback. They did their best scoring 48 points in the second half. Heck, Drexel is lucky if they score 48 points in a game (in fact several times this season they haven't!). The Dragons got the lead down to eight 49-41 with six minutes left. But that's as close as they got the rest of the way.

Hairston had 24 points and Jarrel Smith, Rocky Coleman and Troy Franklin also scored in double figures for Towson. Rodgers, Tramayne Hawthorne and Jamie Harris each had 11 points for Drexel. Rodgers shot a God awful 2 of 15 from the field as Hairston hounded him all day with that five inch reach advantage

So at noon starts all the fun - VCU vs. Georgia State, then Hofstra vs. ODU. The evening contests are George Mason- James Madison and Northeastern vs. Towson. Expect at least one upset today.

The SoCon really got going yesterday with first round action, with no major upsets. Davidson and the Citadel start play today. I like Davidson to win still, but their road won't be easy. Chances are they will face Charleston in the semifinals and the Citadel in the finals, two teams that have beaten the Wildcats home court no less.

Also, I have a problem with the SoCon. Why is the conference split up into two different divsions when all the teams basically play each other twice? The idea is that when you have divisions, like the NFL, each of the teams in the divsion play each other twice then play teams outside of the division once. In the SoCon, teams basically play each other twice, sans two teams. And the point is?

The reason I have a problem is that it leads often to unbalanced divsions. Look at the MAC, they do the same thing. The running joke is when has a West Divsion team been in the final of the MAC tournament (turns out only four times out of nine times since 2000). And the SoCon this year, the best three teams are all in the South Divsion - Davidson 18-2, Citadel 15-5 and Charleston 15-5). Yet, Charleston is seeded as South #3, which ends up basically as a five seed, and they have to play a first round game and Davidson in the semis! They should be a #3 seed overall and get to play Citadel in the semis instead of Chattanooga (the most likely outcome). Its just not fair. Wait till I talk about the MAC next week.

Well, lots of college ball today. Horizon semis with Butler- Wright State and Green Bay- Cleveland State (Vikings had to come back to win yesterday). A Sun final is today with Jacksonville vs ETSU (saw the game with Belmont on ESPN 360 - Kevin Tiggs is a stud!). The Valley semis are today - Northern Iowa vs. Bradley and Creighton vs. Illinois State - two good games. And of course, the MAAC, SoCon, America East and yes the CAA. Ah, good to be a hoops fan. Enjoy!

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