Wednesday, January 30, 2008

You gotta Have Heart

All the preseason prognostications had Sacred Heart as the team to beat in the Northeast Conference. The Pioneers promptly started the season 0-6 and everyone had to be wondering if last year's near miss at a tourney bid was a fluke. But then things started to go SHU's way, and jump shots started to fall, and the Pioneers won 5 of 7 with their only losses coming at Boston College and Providence during the stretch.

So most folks thought that as the conference slate got going the Pioneers would be just fine. Afterall, they were 2-0 in league play, courtesy of a pair on December conference wins. However, an 0-2 road trip to start the month, losing to Wagner and St. Francis (NY) once again tempered expectations.

Since then, Sacred Heart has been nothing short of spectacular. The Pioneers have won five in a row including a pair of one-point nailbiting wins in Fairfield last week. SHU beat Long Island 77-76 on Thursday before clipping Quinnipiac 75-74 on Saturday ending the Bobcats four game win streak. Drew Shubik led the Pioneers with 20 against QU, while Brice Brooks had 24 in the win over LIU. Brooks leads the attack with 12 points a game, as SHU has 7 players who average 6.6 points per night or more. Brooks has been in double figures 12 of 15 games since the 0-6 start.

Team of the Week: We could easily say SHU here, but we just wrote 3 graphs on them. So let's go with St. Francis (PA), who had lost 9 in a row before winning a pair of games last week. The Red Flash downed name counterpart St. Francis (NY) in three overtimes to get the week started, before nipping Central Connecticut 73-72 on the weekend. Devin Sweetney was named NEC player of the week for his efforts averaging 19.5 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists in the two wins. He scored 21 and grabbed 11 rebounds in 49 minutes during the OT thriller. The pair of wins jumps PA back into the NEC tournament picture, as only the top eight teams in the 11-team league participate. The Flash is now in 7th place.

Bare Week: The defending league champion had a chance to re-enter the league title chase if they could come away with a solid Western PA road swing. But they dropped a pair of games. First they lost by 11 at Robert Morris and then they dropped the heartbreaker to St. Francis (PA). The losses dropped Central to 5-5 in the league, all the way to sixth place in this conference.

Player of the Week: We gave Demario Anderson the nod last week, and we have to go back to the Bobcats senior again this week. Quinnipiac only played one game last week, the key encounter with Sacred Heart, and it was a loss for the Bobcats. But Anderson had 30 and 11. Those type of numbers keep the crown with Anderson this week.

Games to Watch:
Thursday 1/31 - Wagner @ Long Island - League leaders try to avenge its only loss
Saturday 2/2 - Robert Morris @ Mt. St. Mary's - Always some good action when these teams get together
Thursday 2/7 - Wagner @ Mt. St. Mary's - Mounties just missed in road comeback attempt on Staten Island, now the Seahawks come to the Knott

The Scoop

By now you probably know the details of the case against Syracuse guard Antonio "Scoop" Jardine. He in some way was connected to the purchase of approximately $116 of food with the student ID of another Syracuse student. His cousin Robert Washington signed for the food. Statements to police indicate that Jardine did not consume any of the food and that there were four people involved, including Jardine. $116 of food for three people seems like a lot, even with the University's pumped up charges. But who am I to judge.

For a complete rundown on the story click here.

I also got some information overnight that my 10-game suspension recommendation reporting was wrong. A seperate source told me that the coaching staff is preparing to not have Jardine available for the remainder of the season. That could mean the suspension will be for the rest of the semester. Or it still could be 10 games, because as I said yesterday, if he misses 10 games, it might as well be the rest of the season. However, this new source indicated that Jardine's time at Syracuse could be done, although they don't expect that.

We do know that Jardine did not accompany the team to Chicago for tonight's game with Depaul. Looking forward to writing about something other than this.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Is there any new news?

Regarding the Scoop Jardine suspension situation there really isn't anything new or grand to report.

I will say that I've been in contact with sources close to the Syracuse basketball program trying to get a handle on what Jardine did and what the consequences will be. The official line hasn't changed. But I do think that situation isn't going to be one that ends quickly. Could Jardine play again for the Orange this season? Based on what I'm hearing its very possible. However, it won't be this month, and might not be next month either. Without getting into specifics, the source seemed to indicate that a 10-game suspension recommendation was expected.

The most troubling thing that I heard and also makes me believe that the situation will last awhile is that Jardine did not practice with the team yesterday. This means that if the 10 games is accurate, Jardine would be eligible to return for the regular season finale with Marquette. But without practice for a month, certainly would make him very rusty, and very non-appealing to the coaching staff.

Jardine is apparently lobbying to be able to participate until the hearing takes place, but I'm getting the sense that the hearing may be expedited and the results, (although the offense may be forever secretive) may be public before the weekend trip to Villanova.

Sorry, I don't have more at this time or better information at the moment. If I hear anything new, I'll post it.

Monday, January 28, 2008

More Scoop Speculation

The question of the day in Syracuse is clearly "Why is Scoop Jardine suspended?" and if we get that answer the next one is "For how long?" Fact of the matter most of the fans who are scouring for information really just want to know how long. Because ultimately all they really want to know is "How does this affect the basketball team?" Or really the question is "How does it affect us as far as wins and losses are concerned?"

The answer is obviously one that we will never know they answer to. Let's say for example that Jardine misses 6 games, and the Orange goes 4-2 in those six games, there is no guarantee that the Orange wouldn't have gone 4-2 with the Philadelphia freshman in the lineup. Or maybe they'd have gone 6-0, or maybe 2-4. All of that we'll never know.

What do we know? Syracuse is 1-0 without Scoop in the lineup. We know that Scoop is suspended indefinitely for a violation of University policy. We know that he was informed of this suspension on Wednesday by Chancellor Nancy Cantor and Athletic Director Totally on Wednesday.

So now what can we assume? Is it safe to assume that the infraction occured while the Orange was on the road at Georgetown for a Monday night game. Or should we assume that it occured before that?

See that is where I'm getting my latest speculation from. I missed watching the Orange's Overtime loss at the Verizon Center on Monday night. But from all accounts so did Scoop. The effort was clearly not good. Jardine played 39 of the 45 minutes in the contest, was 0-for-3 from the field, turned the ball over four times, and committed three personal fouls. He did hand out one assist. But in 39 minutes of basketball he was rendered virtually useless. Think the young man might have had something on his mind?

Yeah that's what I'm thinking. I'm thinking something happened on campus last weekend. Perhaps the fight with the lacrosse player that was first reportedhere. Perhaps it was something that hasn't been speculated upon yet. But whatever happened Scoop knew about it, and he was concerned about it. He knew his meeting with Cantor and Totally was on the horizon. And he played like it.

Now I don't know if you can blame last Monday night's overtime loss on this whole situation. But he played 39 minutes didn't score and turned it over 4 times. Any type of worthwhile contribution might have been enough to beat the Hoyas in regulation.

So here's what I'm saying. I'm saying the whole Scoop Jardine thing has cost this team one game thus far. Last week's loss at Georgetown.

Tracking it Down

I'm trying to decide which story has more plotline twists in the last 24 hours, the Scoop Jardine Suspension saga, or the Adam Jones to Baltimore Trade ordeal.

Jardine as we reported yesterday missed the Orange's win over Providence and is suspended indefinitely for violation of University rules. We pointed you in the direction of the rumors, and nobody has confirmed much. But the Axeman did come up with this.

So we know that a hearing has been scheduled for sometime in the next two weeks.

As far as Jones is concerned. He is the all-everything outfielder from Seattle that the Orioles are looking to acquire as the centerpiece from Seattle in exchange for the O's best pitcher Erik Bedard.

The rumor yesterday afterday started after Jones told a Venezuelan newsman that he was headed home from Winter League because he had been traded to the Orioles and had to goto Baltimore for a physical.

That led to both clubs denying that a deal had been reached.

Roch Kubatko, whom we like a lot, says this is the latest.

If the Orioles make this deal, and the rumored one with the Cubs for Brian Roberts go down, it leaves the Orioles with a pretty exciting outfield for this year and the future. Jones in left, Pie in center and Markakis in right. Couple that with Matt Wieters behind the plate, and Billy Rowell and Brandon Snyder at the corners and 2011 can't get here soon enough.

Plus with all the young pitching the O's should be able to build towards that timeframe as well, and might even have some surplus parts to add the necessary pieces.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Back on the Bubble

Syracuse's 71-64 win over Providence on Sunday afternoon at the Carrier Dome hasn't salvaged the season. Not yet anyhow. However, if this Syracuse team is going to make the NCAA tournament, Sunday's gritty and gutty win, without another starter (more on that later) might be the start of its march to the Big Dance.

Currently, there are a lot of teams losing ground in trying to build their resumes. That is why this 14-7 Syracuse team still has a chance to earn a bid down the stretch. That and the fact that the Orange's RPI is a respectable 41. That doesn't guarantee inclusion, but it does beat last year's 50 rating that kept the Orange out. The other positive for Syracuse is the fact the Orange's schedule is ranked as the 6th most difficult. Therefore, when records are compared and teams have a few less losses, the strength of schedule for Syracuse should help out.

Still, the fact remains that Syracuse will either earn its bid down the stretch or will be playing in the NIT. A loss today might have pushed them to that new Gazelle tournament. Games at Depaul and all-of-a-sudden another bubble team Villanova appear on the horizon. Syracuse can afford no worse than a split. Truly a sweep might be needed. I expect that at some point, Syracuse and Villanova's resumes might be compared. If the Cats hold a season sweep over the Orange it might not be a good situation.

As fans of the Orange, we've learned that nothing is guaranteed in the world of NCAA bids. And certainly, we haven't even gotten to February let alone March. But since the sting of last year's non-bid still bothers many Orange fans, we've looked at the whole process more closely this season. Every loss seems to be the one that will keep us out, and every win the reason the Orange can't be denied. Today's win got SU back into the conversation. Now, they need to play well for the final month and a half.

Donte' Greene had a very solid performance today. Might not have been his best at the Cuse, but one that didn't have a lot of shaky moments. And I really thought that Jonny Flynn stepped up late when the Friars tied the score and made some plays. In past close games, the Orange has lacked the player to step up late and make plays. Flynn did that today with a big 3, and then a steal on the defensive end.

Noticeably absent from the lineup today was Orange guard Scoop Jardine. The freshman from Philly was in street clothes on the bench. Good wrapup of all the
rumors on the Troy Nunes Magician site.

The official word is that it is for a "violation of University policy" and that the suspension is indefinite.

Just a guess here, but I say we don't see Jardine in Chicago versus Depaul and its possible not in his homecoming next weekend. The on-campus fight sounded like the most plausible situation of all the internet rumors. But it doesn't sound like we're going to get too much explanation from the athletic staff, so that is what we have to go on.

Lowery the latest Orange commit

Jarel Lowery, a defensive tackle from New Jersey, became the latest commit for Syracuse in what is starting to shape up as the best recruiting class of the Greg Robinson era.

Lowery took an official visit to Syracuse this weekend and accepted the Orange offer at the time.

Sources close to the Patterson Catholic program, where Lowery played his high school ball, have confirmed that Lowery made that commitment this weekend.

Lowery, a 6-2 292 pound interior lineman, had a lot of interest early in the process and had offers from a handful of ACC schools. Those offers seemed to disappear of late and he was left with some 1-AA offers to sift through. So when the Syracuse offer came, he jumped at it.

If Today Were Selection Sunday

A weekly feature of the The Fan Blog, from here on out, If Today were Selection Sunday...does just that. It looks at the 34 at-large spaces available in the field and and determines who are the best candidates for those spots as of right now. It does not attempt to project or predict what will happen in the future and whether or not these teams will actually appear in March when the real committee makes its selections. But it does base this on the 65 team field and will only include that many teams each week.

Another crazy week in college basketball. It seems like more teams want to be out than be in. On the last Sunday of January, there are a lot of teams that are in contention for the tournament selection. That makes the final month of the regular season so pivotal before we get to March.

This week we find 42 teams that have to be included in the tournament. They span 13 different conferences so that means from our grouping of 42, they take up 29 of the 34 at-large slots. We'll first take a look at those 42 teams, breaking them into two categories, and then we'll debate who gets the final five slots.

We don't think anyone can have an argument with any of these teams.

Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA, Georgetown, Washington State, Michigan State, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Indiana, Drake, Texas, Marquette, Xavier, Arizona, Stanford, West Virginia, Butler, St Mary's, Pittsburgh, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, Dayton, Gonzaga, Connecticut, Clemson, Massachusetts, Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame

That is 31 of the 42 teams that I would expect would have to be included at this point, they are the so called locks. Obviously, there are some that might need to solidify things down the stretch, but if you picked today, you'd have to include them.

Now here are the 11 teams that I think should be discussed but ultimately would have to be included.

Kansas State - The Wildcats are 13-4, undefeated in the Big 12 and have an RPI of 39. At this point that all gets them in. The reason they are even a consideration is that they have failed in every non-conference non-home attempt against a postseason caliber team.

Virginia Commonwealth - Rest of the field is hoping that they take the CAA's automatic bid, because they are too good to ignore if they don't.

Illinois State - Pair of losses this week has Redbirds teetering on NIT. But we still think that the Valley is deserving of two at the moment.

Louisville - The 'Ville is nearing lock status. The question becomes how are the early season injuries viewed. If the full body is looked at they are a bubble type team at the moment, if those losses are ignored they are in easily.

Arizona State - Not quite as solid a case anymore after the two home losses to the Washingtons in Pac-10 play this week. But they still get in.

Providence - You've got to like the Friars strength of schedule. That's an asset for them. But they can't get beat up by other bubble teams at home. Probably a play-in game with Syracuse at the Dome this afternoon if the decision were really later today.

Texas A&M - Aggies certainly cold at the moment, but you can't ignore the start. Probably saved the bid with the win yesterday in Stillwater.

Mississippi State - Bulldogs are starting to play like a lot of us thought they would at the start of the season. They are the hot team in the SEC right now, and can't be denied.

Villanova - Truth is the Cats might not be in Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament if it started today. But I'm going to keep the Cats in for now.

Davidson - If Davidson doesn't win the Southern Conference tournament, this is going to be one of the committee's all-time tough decisions. Davidson is 11-0 at the moment in the Southern, but just overscheduled early in the season. They did the things the committee asks. They played Duke, North Carolina and UCLA, all of which could be top seeds when it shakes out. Definitely top two at the moment. They also have road losses at Charlotte, NC State and Western Michigan which might be the downfall. But I'd take them over a lot of people.

St. Joseph's - The Hawks got a crazy win Saturday night at Temple. Big three by Calathes to win it with about 5 seconds left and then a block at the other end to preserve it. Plus they've won twice against UMASS and they've played the committee's game. I think they are in right now.

That leaves us with five slots. And before we even debate the rest, I'm giving one of those spots to Baylor. The Bears have done enough right now to get in. I think there are plenty of question marks on their resume and I think they are a bubble team. But for me, for now, they dance.

So let's look at the contenders for the final four bids. From the Atlantic 10, you still have to consider Rhode Island. The Rams did too much early to let this midseason slide take them out of consideration. The ACC is full of bubble teams. The teams worth considering right now are Miami, who like Rhode did too much early to be eliminated, NC State still with a mid-level RPI at 48 and some real disappointing losses that can't be ignored, and then Boston College which has home losses to Virginia Tech, Robert Morris and UMASS and a neutral court loss to Providence in Boston. Purdue with its big win over Wisconsin yesterday and its play in the Big Ten is starting to do enough to ignore the start to the season. Oregon lost a pair of home games this week and just feels like an NIT team. Oklahoma is #28 in the RPI and got the big win over Baylor at the Bears court yesterday, so I'll take them.

So my final five are Baylor, Rhode Island, Miami, Purdue and Oklahoma.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

He's So Goode

Sophomore Guard leads Mount to Season Sweep of LIU in Brooklyn.

Mt. St. Mary's managed a split of the NEC road trip with an 80-66 win over Long Island at the Blackbirds court this afternoon.

The Mount was once again led by Jeremy Goode. The sophomore from Charlotte led the Mount with 17 points and also contributed 8 assists. His speed and quickness were too much for the Blackbird backcourt, and he got all of his teammates involved.

The Mount seized control of the game midway through the first half. LIU led 19-16 with 7:45 left in the first half, before the Mounties scored 17 of the half's final 24 points and led 33-26 at the half. Goode had 4 points and an assist that started the run.

The Mount also got another solid performance from Will Holland. The sophomore marksman made 3 three-pointers on his way to a 14 point performance. Chris Vann was also in double figures for the Mount with 11. Sam Atupem and Markus Mitchell were also in double figures as all five Mount starters reached double figures. Atupem had 11, Mitchell had 10. Kelly Beidler led the Mount with 10 rebounds and also chipped in with 6 points.

After Thursday's loss at Wagner, Milan Brown said the Mount needed to get the split on the road. They accomplished that with a very strong effort at Long Island. A performance that Long Island coach Jim Ferry said was all about the Mount and their intensity.

I liked the fact that the Mount scored points and seemed to push the offensive intensity. The Mount scored 80 points in the win, and that allows everyone to get involved. I really thought they were very slow offensively at home last week in both the win against St. Francis and loss against Sacred Heart. But that changed dramatically this week, and they were probably just a poor shooting first half at Wagner from coming away with a pair of road wins.

They play again on Thursday, a game they should win against St. Francis, and then will have a big game against Robert Morris on Saturday at the ARCC. Let's hope the offense and defense continue to work together.

Milan Still Very Optimistic

I thought the offensive effort and style was much better in the Wagner game. Unfortunately the Mount shot so poorly in the first half that it didn't result in a win. But they played the best team in the league (IMO) tough on the road. Definitely a better outing.

Coach Milan Brown had a quote in The Gettysburg Times that said this.

"I like our chances. I think that we have enough guys to make a run and my staff will be prepared fro each team. We want to close the last month of the season out strong in order to give us a chance to win the NCAA championship."

Not sure if that is a misquote or not. But it's pretty funny nonetheless. Maybe he said something like win the NEC and get the NCAA berth or whatever. Have to check with the folks at the Times and see what's up.

Friday, January 25, 2008

It's the Final: Who do you like?

The Australian Open final is set to begin in about to begin. We brought you some photos earlier in the tournament, so we thought it was only appropriate that we feature the two finalists.
For the record, we like them both.
But we'll take Sharapova, who has been magnificent in this tournament for the title.
Update: A very exciting first set, that saw Sharapova win it late. She actually trailed 4-5, Love-30 and rallied to win the set 7-5. But the Serb has come to play and despite the first set win for Sharapova, this one is a long way from over.

Friday Night Questions and Answers

Got an hour or so before Lights, so let's see what I can get through. If you're not watching the show you're missing the best hour on TV. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, I feel for you. Remember you can send your questions to I'll try to answer them all.

Has Baylor done enough already to get in the Big Dance?

The answer is probably. The Bears got the great win at Texas A&M the other night. 5 OT's is something else. But its almost a given that the Big 12 will get a game like that each year now. Anyhow, Baylor would really have to collapse down the stretch not to get in. I think if they win they ones they should, or you'd expect, they'll Dance.

After Maryland's win over North Carolina you've got them in don't you?

No. Absolutely Not.

Who wins between Wisconsin and Purdue this weekend?

Well Wisconsin is the better team. But Purdue needs the win, plus its in West Lafayette. Winning on the road is so hard in conference play. I think Wisconsin would win this game 7 out of 10 times or so, but I think this might be one of the other three.

What's going to happen with the A-10?

Xavier is going to win it. That much we know. Unless they keep playing Temple. I like St. Joe's a lot. It is an interesting picture. UMASS, Rhode Island and Dayton all better be careful. Rhode and Dayton seemed like locks not too long ago, but 500 in the A-10 won't get it done. Still I think the conference can get four bids, but more likely three. St. Joe's and Charlotte are definitely contenders. In fact, when the dust settles, I'll bet Phil Martelli gets his team in because I think they have the ability to get better down the stretch.

What is UNLV's chance of getting an at-large bid?

The Rebels are close to getting an at-large bid at 14-4. But they probably can't lose more than 2, maybe three the rest of the way, if they are really serious about it. The RPI is 53, so they are on the cusp. But they only have two Top 100 wins and right now that loss at the Air Force Academy is the reason they probably wouldn't be included. But a win over San Diego State tommorrow would probably make them impossible to ignore.

You've got Marquette way up in the polls, Why?

I'm thinking, I'm thinking, I'm thinking. There is just something about the Blue and Gold that seems to click when I watch them. They have a good win over Wisconsin, a tough loss to one-loss Duke and they just keep hammering people. But they also keep losing games you would think they would win. Truth is they have a lot of question marks at the moment. But I keep seeing all the good.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Thursday Night Live Blog from the Sofa

Lots going on tonight....The Mount is at Wagner, full slate of games on the tube, and I'll be following it all live right here with you. But probably be in bed by the time Federer goes at it down under at 3:30 EST.

The Mount is ready to get started. Same starting five at Wagner, who is second in the NEC. I still think the Mount needs to push the pace, that is when there offense works the best.

Syracuse's next opponent Providence is playing real well at the moment. The Friars have an early 9-2 lead on Seton Hall, who has also been streaking.

Things a little chippy early in Blacksburg. Greg Paulus in the center of it. Shocker. The Blue Devils always struggle at Tech. It's 6-6 early, we'll see how that develops.

Like the fact that Kelly Beidler is into the game early for the Mount. They lead 5-4, and seem to be doing well on the offensive glass. Five straight by the Mount to seize the lead.

The Mount trails 7-5 now, and the Seahawks are headed to the line at the first media break. Jeremy Goode seems to breaking the Wagner pressure, but has been unable to finish early. The Mount is getting good shots, but they are not going in. They need to settlie themselves on the road. The Mount is just shooting 18% from the field, 8-5 lead on the boards. They can get back into this as the percentages even out.

Providence is a team that hasn't made a big splash on the national level as of yet, but they are playing well. The Friars have won three straight Big East games and are now 12-5. The Friars seem to have the ability to finish around 500 in the Big East. But at that, they might need to win a game or two in the Big East Tournament to get a tourney bid.

Wagner leads the Mount 19-15 at the second media break. Jeremy Goode has helped the Mount climb back into it with some transition layups. The Mount still not shooting well. Has gotten some easy looks. Not all of them have gone in. Both coaches have shown disappointment in their defense and both have used two timeouts.

4:43 left in the first half and Wagner leads by 10 right now. The difference is that the Seahawks have been able to knock down some open jump shots. Jamaal Smith is 3-for-3 from behind the arc. The Mount meanwhile has scored 16 of 19 from inside the paint, and I think the other three are from the line.

Seton Hall has done a nice job of working its way back into the contest at the Donut center in Providence. The Hall is within three and they've got the ball with about 1 minute left in the first half. Life in the Big East is tough for all.

Chris Vann made a three for the Mount. MSM now 1-of-8 from behind the arc. Still the Mount trails by 10 nearing the half. Jeremy Goode in double figures for the Mount, but they trail 35-26 at the break.

The half was one of the worst that the Mount has played this year, yet they trail by only nine when shooting just 24%. The Mountaineers need to make a few more shots and the second half could get back into the game. However, the way they are playing, it seems unlikely.

Big game in the A10 tonight. Dayton and Xavier going at it in Cincy. Both teams are ranked and seemed to be locks for the tourney at the moment. The A-10 has a chance to get four in. I think the Musketeers end up winning this comfortably.

Doesn't seem like the Seahawks have anybody who can really guard Jeremy Goode. The sophomore point has 13 points early on in the second half. The Mount is within six as they have started well here in the second half.

The Mount just beating the Seahawks down the floor for a lot of baskets right now. They trail 43-38 as Atupem missed a dunk, and then picked up his third foul at the defensive end.

Its now 43-all as Will Holland has buried a three. Goode has 15 for the Mount and the assist to Holland. He is the best player on the floor right now.

Markus Mitchell having a great night for the Mount. He's got 12 points and 13 rebounds down low. The Mount has outscored Wagner 17-8 in the first five minutes of the second half. They scored 26 points the first half and have scored 17 in five minutes of the second. That is the type of pace that they need.

The mandated sub of Jean Cajou at the 15 minute mark, and the Mount immediately lets the shot clock run out.

Atupem picks up his fourth foul on a charge. Good thing that Mitchell who was on fire before being substituted has returned. Might be a good idea to get Goode back in the game as well. The Mount trails by 3.

A 7-0 run for the Seahawks to respond to the Mount's 17-8 start to the second half. The Mount was led in that run by Mitchell and Goode. Both were subbed for, and Wagner went on the 7-0 run. Amazing.

Crazy turn of events in Providence. The Hall has rallied and leads by 12 with 9 minutes left. The Pirates making everything and Providence can't buy a bucket.

The Mount has drawn back within one on a Kelly Beidler layup. Jeremy Goode seems to be having his best game in quite some time. Haven't heard an assist total, but he seems to be scoring or creating every Mount score.

Wagner leads by three as the Mount turns it over on the break. The Mount keeps cutting back into the lead, but can't seem to get over the hump. The Mount in the zone defensively right now.

Atupem just fouled out with just over five minutes left. The Mount trails by three. So it will be Loughry and Shawn Atupem the rest of the way with Mitchell, who is having a career night.

The St. Francis's headed to overtime. It appears Robert Morris will defeat Central tonight, and Sacred Heart and LIU are going to the wire.

Jeremy Goode with 19 on a pair of free throws to make it 62-59 Seahawks. Mount gives up two offensive rebounds before committing the foul at the other end.

The Mount now trails by seven as both free throws were good and then Vann turned it over on the inbound. Wagner scored on a backdoor cut, and Vann missed a three at the other end. Mitchell fouled out on the rebound. Shawn Atupem returns.

The Mount trails by seven, but an intentional foul as Goode heads the other way. He missed the first, and makes the second for 20 on the night. A foul on the inbounds and the Mount can cut into the lead with the clock stopped. Will Holland with 11 as he makes the second and its a four point game with three minutes left.

Chris Vann buries a three after Wagner scored at the other end, so its three with just over two to play.

Wagner headed back to the free throw line, they now have 17 points from the line and lead by five as James Ulrich makes both. 70-65 with 2:05 left.

The Mount failed to score and Ulrich gets a rebound and is fouled. Some free throws here and its going to be really tough for the Mount. Missed the first. Missed them both, and offensive goaltending on the follow. Mount needs a score.

Chris Vann gets fouled. The Mount closes to within four as Vann makes one of two. Porter has it stolen by Goode. Holland and Vann both missed from three.

An offensive foul gives the ball back to the Mount. They need points right now. Beidler scores to cut it two and the Mount calls timeout.

Loyola beat Siena by nearly 30 tonight. The Greyhounds were the Mount's first win this year.

The Mount has to foul if they don't get a quick steal with 32.9 seconds. Dorell Vinson shoots just somewhere in the 30 percent range. Foul him if you can.

Radford is fouled by Will Holland with 23.6 left. He is a 59% shooter but has made 3-of-4 tonight. He makes the first.

The second is also good. Wagner 19-28 on the night from the line.

Goode scores with 15.5 seconds left and Ulrich is fouled. The Mount nearly got a steal in the backcourt.

Ulrich's first free throw is good. The second is good.

Wagner will win 74-70 as the Mount rally ends short. A better second half as the Mount scored a bunch of points (36) and played a much more uptempo style. They let their best player Jeremy Goode control the game. I think Goode finished with 22 points, and I'll be interested to see the assist totals as well. But the Mount gave Wagner a lead at the half, rallied from that, and then let them score 7 straight when they took Goode out with about 15 minutes left in the game. They kept battling and were better offensively, but they could never overtake Wagner.

Vaughan commitment now firm

Dan Vaughan is now fully committed to Syracuse. The recruit from Pittsburgh Central Catholic committed to the Orange earlier this week, but there seemed to be some confusion as to how firm that commitment was.

My sources in and around Pittsburgh thought that there might have been a scholarship opening with the defection of AJ Alexander. Others thought that Pitt was hoping to greyshirt him. Either way it seems likes he fully Orange now.

Good work by the Post-Standard's Donnie Webb to track it down. Here's the

To me it seems like a good recruit for the Orange. Anybody remember the last time Syracuse landed a linebacker from western PA named Dan?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Harrisburg/Steel High Thriller

Saw this on the nightly news and thought it was worth posting here. Harrisburg just missed winning the game in regulation when a tip-in was just after the buzzer. The score is tied at 75, after that great Cougar rally when Steel-High in Blue attempts the three from the corner. That leads to this.....
Crazy Finish

What you missed was the two free throws from Harrisburg because of the technical on the dunk that tied the game. The final inbounds came with 0.5 seconds left.

Vaughan commits....sort of

Dan Vaughan has stated his intentions to continue his academic and athletic career at Syracuse University. That is, if Pittsburgh doesn't find a scholarship for him.

The 6-3, 225 prospect from Pittsburgh's Central Catholic apparently chose Syracuse over Stanford after the Panthers informed him they no longer had a scholarship available. Pittsburgh was recruiting him as a Defensive end, Syracuse projects him to be a LB.

Here's the scoop from the Pittsburgh paper.

Vaughan would be a good fit in Syracuse. There is now a lot of speculation as to whether or not Syracuse should rescind its offer since Vaughan wants to go to Pitt. Certainly Syracuse isn't standing in the way of that happening. My concern would have been that Pitt waited until the last minute to come up with the offer and Syracuse comes up with no one. But it sounds like this will all be resolved by Thursday. If that is the case, I think Syracuse needs to let the young man make his decision and show some class and honor their offer.

Not trying to knock Pitt in this situation. It happens all the time in the recruiting game, where a school has several quality recruits and says you've got to decide by a certain time, otherwise we're opening the slot up and offering others and if they commit, then we won't have the ship available for you. Too bad for Vaughan that it cost him at the moment.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The NEC: Tightening even More

Again we borrow (steal) the format from the good folks at Storming the Floor

We warned you that nothing is predictable in the Northeast Conference. Either that or we severely fired up the Blackbirds of Long Island. Just days after being featured as the Not so good team of the week, the Blackbirds routed previously league unbeaten Wagner. The loss was enough to bring Seahawk head coach Mike Deane out of his seat. Deane reminds me of my high school basketball coach, Jim Dooley, who couldn't stay in his seat. Back then the PIAA assessed a technical to any coach who stood up or got off the bench. Dooley circumvented that by having a few managers hold him down. Who'd have thought of a seatbeat? Deane apparently did.

Anyway back to the NEC, six teams remain above .500 in the league, so a lot of teams are fighting for home playoff games and all 11 are still in contention for the postseason. It is starting to feel like a four horse battle at the top, but maybe we shouldn't count out the defending champion Blue Devils of Central Connecticut so quickly.

The Bobcats of Quinnipiac are the new leaders in the conference race. QU has now won four in a row and is 6-1 overall. They picked up a pair of wins this week, as they knocked off the afforementioned Blackbirds 84-80 in a barnburner on Saturday. Earlier in the week, they stopped St. Francis (NY)'s win streak with a 75-72 win in Brooklyn.

Fairleigh Dickinson lost a pair of games this past week and now is just 1-5 in the conference. Tom Green's group does boast the conference's leading scorer in Manny Ubilla, who has a sweet stroke, and can score the basketball from anywhere. But not much else has gone well for the Knights this year. But you sense if they can win a few games, they could pose someone some problems in the conference tournament.

Demario Anderson had a pretty nice week in leading Quinnipiac to those two wins. The senior is one of the key factors in why the Bobcats have been playing so well of late. He scored 24 points had 6 rebounds and 5 assists in the win at St. Francis. Then in returning home on the weekend, he scored 21, dished out 6 assists, and grabbed another 9 rebounds versus Long Island. He is second in the league in scoring, while averaging better than 6 boards and 3 assists per outing.

Central Connecticut @ Robert Morris - Thursday 7pm - The loser probably has no chance to win the automatic NIT bid
Fairleigh Dickinson @ Monmouth - Friday 7pm - FSN NY - It's Friday Night Hoops
Quinnipiac @ Sacred Heart - Saturday 4pm - Worth the price of admission
Wagner @ Fairleigh Dickinson - Sunday 7:00 - Buckle Up.

Orange can't finish on the road

Truth is, I saw very little of last night's 64-62 overtime loss at Georgetown. I have my reasons and they are acceptable, yet disappointing. Most of the night I was following the action via my cellphone.

At halftime, I really felt that we had a great shot to win. I figured Georgetown had just shot 56% in the first half and wasn't about to do that in the second half. I figured we would win the second half. Just wasn't sure we'd be good enough to do it by 8 points. Turns out I was right.

At 58-51, I pretty much figured it was over. And I know there is some belief that Georgetown got a lot of calls down the stretch. And even as I watched the final few minutes of replay, I heard Jay Bilas say as much. But having known the outcome, I was still disgusted by the fact that we scored only 4 points in the final 11 minutes of play. That we didn't make a field goal in overtime. That we shot 2-of-7 from the line in the extra session. Basically, we may have deserved to win based on the first 35 minutes. But when you only watch the last ten, you feel differently.

We had a great chance on the road tonight against the conference's best team and a national title contender. Ultimately we let our youth interfere with a great victory. Its unfortunate, but its more explainable than some of the other losses. You can see this team getting better, you can see them growing but they are not there. Not yet. And the margin for error is getting much smaller.

Here's a link to Jameson's recap at Cuseadelphia. I'm assuming he watched the game.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Could that be the last we hear from Favre?

The interception by Corey Webster that set up Lawrence Tynes 47-yard field goal to send the Giants to the Super Bowl. Could that have been the final pass that Brett Favre ever throws?

The pick was the 315th that Favre threw in his career and could very well be last. He has said that he would like to continue his career, but an offseason may change all of that. However, getting so close to the championship again, and then with this personal mistake that leads to the loss, could that be the motivation Favre needs to return?

I say that is the last we see of Favre and that unlike Michael Jordan who went out with that jumpshot in Salt Lake, Favre goes out with this wobbler that led to the Giants ticket to Arizona.

If today were Selection Sunday

A weekly feature of the The Fan Blog, from here on out, If Today were Selection Sunday...does just that. It looks at the 34 at-large spaces available in the field and and determines who are the best candidates for those spots as of right now. It does not attempt to project or predict what will happen in the future and whether or not these teams will actually appear in March when the real committee makes its selections. But it does base this on the 65 team field and will only include that many teams each week.

This week we see a group of 43 teams that have to be included. That group comes from 13 different conferences. So within our group of must-include teams we've got 13 automatic bids, which means we've taken up 30 of the 34 at-large bids with our grouping. We will list the teams that we think no one will argue about, then we'll state our case for the rest of the 43 and then we'll pick the final four teams that should be included.

Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Memphis, UCLA, Tennessee, Georgetown, Marquette, Washington State, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan State, Texas, Xavier, Drake, Pittsburgh, Texas A&M, Mississippi, Butler, Dayton, West Virginia, St. Mary's, Vanderbilt, Stanford, Gonzaga, Arizona, Clemson, Rhode Island are all teams that have to be included in the field and not sure that anyone could argue with that. So that is 28 of my 43 teams.

Here are the 15 teams that I think have to be included but figure might need some explanation....

Virginia Commonwealth - The Rams are likely the Colonial automatic bid, but if they weren't they've got to be included.

Illinois State - The Missouri Valley is going to end up getting two teams in. Right now the Redbirds are that second team.

Louisville - Speaking of Redbirds. They'd likely be in the other group if they didn't lose at the Rock last night.

Providence - Look at that more teams from the Big East

Connecticut - More mediocre teams

Massachusetts - Minutemen got a solid win over Charlotte yesterday and continue to be a team that the RPI likes. If the RPI likes them, they are in.

Arizona State - Not the best of weeks in the land of Pitchfork but I wouldn't want to play them in March.

Creighton - Remember what we were saying about the Valley getting two teams in. Yeah, well make it three for now.

Missouri - The Tigers are still one of those teams you don't want to play and one of those teams that probably deserves to get in. They probably are a higher seed, but one that could win a game or two.

Niagara - For now we're are forgetting about the loss to Canisius on Friday night. But anything else like that and they can't be taken seriously. They benefit from some of the upsets this week to keep a slot.

Kansas State - Working its way toward lock status. Very Quickly.

Ohio State - The Buckeyes continue to play good teams fairly tough. But they continue to lose. Still if they win the games they are supposed to, they will be impossible to ignore.

Siena - The Saints are the other side of the MAAC equation.

Oregon - Ducks are one of those teams that is going to ride the bubble all year. But for now they are safe.

Miami (FL) - The Canes are 14-3 and falling fast. But they are 14-3.

For me it comes down to ten teams fighting for the final four slots. I'd like to include St. Joe's and get another team out of the A-10, but the loss to Charlotte midweek bounced them. Virginia and Syracuse are both worthy of consideration, but I've got the Orange out right now, so I can't have the Cavs who lost at Home to SU in. Florida State is 12-6 without a marquee win, they are out. Notre Dame got slaughtered yesterday and for now, I think they are the Big East team that gets the cold shoulder. California is tough to discard, but the Bears have to do a little bit more for me at the moment. Arkansas is a team that can easily play itself back in, but I can't include them this week. My final four into the field this week are Baylor, who had a huge road win at a decent Nebraska last night, the two-time defending champ Florida Gators, I'm keeping Oklahoma in for now, and my final slot goes to Villanova whose come-from behind win at the Dome yesterday secured this final spot from me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Felix Trinidad and Roy Jones finally get it on at The Garden

The fight was supposed to take place more than 5 years ago, but it never came to fruition at that time. Now years later, Trinidad after a lengthy hiatus from the ring and Jones having lost 3 of his last 5 bouts will finally go at it in the Worlds Most Famous Arena. The Fan Blog is standing by and will have between round reports.

ROUND ONE - Not a lot of action in the first. But it picked up towards the end, maybe the last thirty seconds or so. Trinidad landed one nice uppercut near the end and may have stunned Jones with a right hand near the bell. Still it finished with Jones dancing around signalling Round two should be better. 10-9 Trinidad

ROUND TWO - Still a feeling out process, but the crowd was in a frenzy by the end. Trinidad landed a right hand on Jones chin late, after Roy seemed to try to steal the round in the final 15 seconds. Trinidad did a lot of solid work to the body and won the round in my opinion. There will be a knockout somewhere. 10-9 Trinidad

ROUND THREE - Jones did a lot of showboating that round, but not a lot of punching. Trinidad didn't seem to take all of Jones' bait, and still landed the bulk of the punches. Jones did land a solid right at the end of the round, but Trinidad landed more punches. 10-9 Trinidad

ROUND FOUR - That was the best round for Roy Jones, Jr. He hit Trinidad with a few straight right hands. Using the jab more than might be expected. He is standing in front of Trinidad, not moving as much as we remember. But he won that round. 10-9 Jones

ROUND FIVE - Jones keeps on getting better. Trinidad hit Jones with another low blow. Jones seems to have more power now. Is he taking over? 10-9 Jones

ROUND SIX - Most action we've seen all fight. Trinidad might have won the round with all the work he did to the body of Jones. If he didn't win it, it will make it tougher on Junior later. Jones was solid though and seems to be the aggressor now. Still, I'll give the round to Trinidad as Jones seems to be lacking something. 10-9 Trinidad

ROUND SEVEN - Jones got to Trinidad and scored a knockdown early in the round. That had Trinidad running the rest of the round in a round that was all Jones and evened things up on my card. 10-8 Jones

ROUND EIGHT - They are a bit happier in the corner of Roy Jones now, as the former champ seemed to control that round again. It has been a fascinating fight from a tactical standpoint and it has had its moments of excitement as well. I'll give that round to Jones. 10-9 Jones

ROUND NINE - Jones is able to walk in on Trinidad now whenever he wants. He is controlling the fight and showing that he is the better fighter. Probably before, but definitely now. The only question now is does he finish Trinidad off with a knockout. 10-9 Jones

ROUND TEN - There seemed to be a moment in the middle of the round where Trinidad was throwing some big punches and trying to catch Jones. But Jones quickly caught Trinidad with a few punches. Then he got knockdown number two near the end of the round catching Trinidad trying to come in. I don't think it ends in a knockout. Jones seems content with the domination he's experienced the last five or six rounds. 10-8 Jones

ROUND ELEVEN - Not a lot of action that round. Trinidad was looking for the big left hand. Jones was trying to avoid it. Trinidad needs a knockout to win. Don't see it coming. This is Jones night. Jones 10-9

ROUND TWELVE - It's over now at the Garden. Jones won the final round without much fanfare. I have a final score of 116-110 in favor of Jones and I don't think it can be much different than that. Maybe a 115-111 score or something. But Jones really dominated late in the fight and Trinidad was worn down by then. Jones had two knockdowns. The scorecards 116-110, 117-109, 116-110 to Roy Jones Jr.

Good fight. Good night.

Sacred Heart wins Key contest at the Mount

In a battle for third position in the NEC standings, Sacred Heart downed Mt. St. Mary's 67-59 at Knott Arena in Emmitsburg on Saturday night.

Brice Brooks led the Pioneers with 19 points, including a key three-point play down the stretch. The Pioneers were limited to 42% shooting, but made 8 of 16 three-pointers and Brooks was 6-for-9 to fuel the offense.

The Mount led 55-54 before Brooks completed the conventional three-point play with 3:20 left to give the Pioneers the lead 57-55. Sam Atupem, who tallied 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting scored to tie it for the Mount. But SHU scored 10 of the last 12 points to earn the victory.

Chris Vann led the Mount with 16 points. Jeremy Goode chipped in with 14 as the Mount had three players with 14 or more. Kelly Beidler had another solid performance for the Mount with 6 points and 9 rebounds in 23 minutes.

Watching Sacred Heart makes it fairly obvious what is wrong with the Mount offense right now. The offense has no pace. The Mount looked to force the tempo early, and with great success at that. The Mounties scored 14 points in the first five minutes of the game, but just 45 in the remaining 35 minutes as they once again labored through the half court sets. Yet anytime they attacked offensively they seemed to have success.

One other positive for the Mount was the play of freshman Shawn Atupem. His constant hustle made a difference and he had one of his better performances of his career.

The Pioneers are clearly not as talented or athletic as the Mount. Yet, their ball movement and player movement off the ball on offense is far superior. Consequently, they end up with open jump shots against a fairly good Mountaineer defense.

The loss drops the Mount to 4-3 in conference play. The Mount faces a two game roadtrip at the end of next week to New York City. They'll face Wagner on Staten Island on Thursday evening. Then they take on Long Island on Saturday afternoon. The Mount is in desperate need of at least a split on that trip. That will not come easy.

Destination NIT?

The truth be told when the selection committee decides the fate of this year's Syracuse basketball team the home loss that the Orange suffered to Villanova on this Saturday afternoon won't be the reason that the committee opts to keep the Orange out for the second straight season.

Still if you've searched the internet since the time that the final horn blew on this 81-71 Carrier Dome loss, you've found folks calling it an NIT ticket puncher, a must-win type loss for the Orange, and those who peruse the message boards have pretty much written off the season.

Fact is that of all the Syracuse losses this season, this one really doesn't rank up there as a bubble burster. Sure it comes at a time when the Orange is struggling. This is the third loss in four games. But its January 19th and if the Orange is going to be an NCAA tournament team there is still plenty of time to decide its fate.

This loss doesn't help, but home losses to Rhode Island, UMASS and the road loss at Cincinnati will do more to keep the Orange out of the Big Dance then this disappointing Saturday aftenoon defeat.

However, what this loss does signify is that the Orange isn't playing well at the moment. The mirage that was the Rutgers game is over. The reality of how good this Syracuse team is the loss at Cincinnati, the beat down in Morgantown and now this defeat at home to the Cats.

Certainly, this is a team with immense talent. But also a team that struggles consistently with decisions. Syracuse committed 19 turnovers and despite limiting 'Nova to 29 percent shooting the first half, the Cats trailed by just five at halftime. In addition, the Orange allowed 17 Villanova offensive rebounds. The other key factor was freshman Donte' Greene was limited to 23 minutes and the Orange made just 3-of-16 three pointers.

As the season wears on, it is becoming more and more obvious that the Orange just isn't a real good basketball team. In fact, they are something like that AAAA baseball player. The guy who always performs well in the minors (or against lesser competition) but can't make the adjustment to the major leagues. And that is sort of what we are seeing here. Syracuse performs well and looks good against lesser competition, but it has not been able to keep that level of play when it plays better competition.

So the loss to Villanova will certainly be a factor when the committee convenes in about two months time. But it likely won't be the deciding factor. Instead, that may have already happened. Or its bound to happen in the upcoming weeks.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Your Questions, My Answers

Can Indiana be a Final Four Team?

The Hoosiers continue to be one of those teams that are growing on me. I thought despite the fact that they won on the road last night they didn't play very well. If that continues, not sure they can make a deep tournament run. However, they seem to be the type of team that could be a surprise in the Big Dance.

How surprised are you that Pitt hasn't fallen apart with all the injuries?

Well, I didn't expect them to just fall off the map. They are more a sum of the parts team anyhow. And obviously you need the parts but they have some very good ones without Fields and Brown. DeJuan Blair is pretty darn good and the Panthers are true contenders for the Big East crown. I think everyone went a little overboard when they had the big injuries and the loss at Dayton. But they were going to lose to the Flyers no matter what. They've got two on the road that they can win upcoming at Cincy and St. John's, but they better get those because they might not win away from the Pete the rest of the way.

Is Derrick Rose going to lead Memphis to an undefeated season?

Rose plays his best when he has, and the Tigers may need him against Tennessee and Gonzaga down the stretch. I don't see this team losing in the CUSA, but either of the non-conference teams could upset the Tigers. Rose has sacrificed some of his personal stats for team accolades, but he steps up when he's needed, which is good to see.

Can Purdue become the team to step up in the Big Ten?

They are definitely one of the candidates behind the top four in the Big Ten. A strong Big Ten start, 3 wins in four games helps them. The problem for the Boilers is they can't afford any slip ups the rest of the way. Four non-conference losses, including losses to Wofford and Iowa State is going to hurt the resume in the end. But the win over Louisville gets better as the Cards continue to recover. I expected more from Purdue to this point, but they could make a push down the stretch but for now they are NIT bound.

Was Michigan State's loss at Iowa a hiccup or a sign of bigger problems?

Winning on the road in conference play is really tough. In the first 11 games in the Big 12, only two teams won. In the first 29 league games in the Big East, the Home team won 22. The Pac 10 sees the visitors winning only about 33% of the time. It's one of those things that happens. I see it more as a hiccup. However, people have to realize that Michigan State wasn't going to go 27-2 or something like that. 24-7 seems more realistic and the Iowa loss has more people thinking along those lines.

Why no love for the Ole Miss Rebels?

The Rebels are currently 18th in my Index. But I guess that is what you are referring to. I think the Rebs are pretty good. But there are a lot of pretty good teams in college hoops and this team, because of its defensive numbers seem like a team that could be susceptible to a first round knockout in the tourney. Or they could be a team that justifies its record and plays in a regional final or something. I think they will finish strong and get a top seed. After that, I'll wait and see.

hope SPRINGS eternal

Pitchers and Catchers report next month. So now is the time of the year, that every baseball fan is supposed to be thinking about exactly what their team needs to do between now and Opening Day to make that push for the pennant. Because there is that saying in baseball, that everybody in baseball is a contender when they head north.

But if you're a fan of the Baltimore Orioles, you know that isn't really true. For the last ten years, you held out hope that maybe it was. In fact, some years you might have even believed it. But for those past ten seasons, the Orioles have never won more games then they've lost. In fact, over the period they've managed to lose better than a season's worth of games more than they've won. 173 more losses than victories in all. All along the fans, and I was one of them, thought that maybe this was the year that it all changed.

This season I'm not going along for the ride. In my opinion, another fourth place finish (the Orioles have finished fourth out of five in the AL East, nine of the last ten years) would be a major accomplishment. Last year's team was 69-93 and didn't exactly sprint to the finish line.

There has been little in the way of offseason manuevering, at least as far as additions are concerned. Gone is former MVP Miguel Tejeda. The Orioles sent him to Houston for a package of young players. Only Luke Scott can be counted on to make the roster out of spring training, and he hit just .255 with 18 homers in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park last year.

The rumblings persist that the Orioles will deal both their best starter Erik Bedard (13-5, 3.16 ERA) and their only all-star second baseman Brian Roberts before the season. Yet, the returns although they may be more plentiful then the haul brought in for Tejeda, aren't expected to bring any immediate superstars back to Baltimore.

With Bedard and Roberts, this team might have a chance to win 75 games. If Bedard anchors the starting rotation, the young staff could be mediocre, if the bullpen holds up. Jeremy Guthrie pitched well in his first real chance to hold down a slot in a major league rotation last season, but did show signs of why the Indians released him the winter before down the stretch. Potential star Adam Loewen made only six starts before an arm injury forced him to miss the rest of the season. Daniel Cabrera continues to confuse up. He has great stuff, but doesn't get guys out. I'd prefer the opposite. But there is something to build on, and with Bedard as the ace, it could lead to 75 wins.

Still the Orioles are concerned about two things. That neither Bedard or Roberts will resign with the team when their contracts expire after the 2009 season and that there is a glaring lack of positional prospects at the top of the Minor League food chain. If you drew up a 2011 or 2012 projected lineup for the Birds, their prospects would likely match many of the teams around baseball. But the holes are glaring right now.

The lineup this year is expected to feature Aubrey Huff and Kevin Millar. Huff recently called the city of Baltimore a Horse**** town on a National Radio Show. Millar would rather be with a contender and should be hitting seventh every other day. For the Orioles he is the cleanup hitter. Every day.

Nick Markakis is a budding star and is the only real bright spot in the lineup. He followed up a succesful rookie season with a .300-23-112 sophomore campaign. How much he misses Tejeda behind him the lineup remains to be seen? But if his development continues he may replace Tejeda and Millar in the middle of the lineup.

Melvin Mora is an aging 36 at third base, and the Orioles would like to find at-bats for Scott Moore who they acquired near the end of last season. But Moore may not have the range to play third or the power to be a first baseman in the bigs.

As of right now, the Orioles have no centerfielder or shortstop to really count on. If Bedard is dealt, Adam Jones is expected to be part of the bounty. The Orioles would immediately plug him into the CF slot and be done with it.

Luis Hernandez, who is all glove and no stick, and Brandon Fahey, who is neither, will battle for the shortstop job.

10 years is a long team to lose. The fans are getting restless. Many won't show up at the best park in the majors this season. You really can't blame them.

I'm an Orioles fan, and I'll make the trip to the Yards a few times this summer. But I'll also go to see them at the minor league parks around the Area. Because the Orioles have made it clear, those are the guys who are going to make them a winner. So I'm going to get an early look and spare the frustration of expectation.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mount gets home win

There wasn't a lot good about Mt. St. Mary's win over St. Francis (PA) on Wednesday night at Knott Arena. But for the Mountaineers it was a win, albeit an offensive challenged 56-44 win over the Red Flash.

After a dreary first half, the Mount pulled away in the second half despite never getting much of a perimiter game going. Chris Vann, despite being held without a trey for the second straight game, led a balanced attack with 12 points.

The inside play of Sam Atupem and Markus Mitchell was really the difference in the contest. Both players ended up with nine points, many coming on second half second chance opportunities.

Kelly Beidler came off the bench to tally 8 for the Mount, including its lone three-pointer of the night, while Jeremy Goode chipped in with seven. Goode had two of the Mount's six assists.

Defensively the Mount was solid but not spectacular, and there were times where you wondered if it was the Mount's defense of the inefficiency of St. Francis that really was making the defense. The Red Flash, although very very young (not a senior on the roster), was one of the worst teams to enter the ARCC in recent memory. It's hard to imagine how they beat Robert Morris earlier in the season.

The win moves the Mount to 4-2 in conference play and gives them a chance to get back into the thick of contention as they head into a pivotal three-game stretch. However, their play will have to be much more inspired or they could find themselves below .500 in conference play.

I would anticipate the pace of the Sacred Heart game will be different on Saturday, and the Mount will need more production from Will Holland, Goode and Vann on the perimeter.

I still wish that Brown would just let Goode play and take over this team. He seems to have the talent to be the best point guard in this league, but something is holding him back.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

First Half a better effort for the Orange

Syracuse looks better tonight. It took about 10 minutes for the Orange to shake off some rust and for them to regain some confidence. But over the final 10 minutes of the Half, Syracuse outscored Rutgers 24-8 and leads the Scarlet Knights 38-22 at the break.

Freshmen Jonny Flynn and Donte' Greene lead the Orange with a combined 23 at the break. Flynn is 6-for-9 for 13 points at the break, while Greene has four field goals and two free throws for his ten.

The effort was certainly more inspired than what we saw from the Orange last week, but Rutgers really isn't offering much in the form of the resistance. The Scarlet Knights are greatly outclassed in this and aren't playing very well to boot.

The one major difference right now for Syracuse is its efficiency offensively. Syracuse shot 59% in the first half. One big factor was the guards got into the lane, and Syracuse didn't settle for jump shots. The Orange attempted only three three-pointers.

After the two losses on the road, Syracuse needed a win. It appears they are going to get it. The now lead 52-27 after the first media timeout of the second half. This isn't a game that proves anything about this team. However, it is a game that might help them prepare for what is to come the rest of the season. Villanova is next on Saturday, we will find out more about this group then.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Questions from the College Basketball World

Will Eddie Sutton win 800 soon and how many more than that does he get?

Spent a lot of time around Jim Phelan and he was all class. His winning all the games he won was about coaching and what was best for his players. Selfless act by Sutton to come back in this fashion just to get to the plateau number. The Dons are going to get him the win, but hopefully, it's always remembered how Sutton accomplished the feat. He might win it at home against Santa Clara, but I'm guessing on the road at Loyola-Marymount seems like the best bet.

How much will the injury to Blake Griffin hurt the Sooners?

The Sooners are reeling a bit as it is. This won't help. He's gone for four weeks and by the time he's back, OU could find themselves on the outside of the bracket.

Is Texas A&M the only threat to Kansas in the Big 12?

The Aggies and Jayhawks play on the last Saturday of the regular season. Wouldn't it be something if both were unbeaten in conference play at that point? I don't think it will happen but that would be fun. The Jayhawks seem to be on a different level right now, but I think the Big 12 has more depth than normal. Everyone was sweet on the Longhorns not too long ago. I think A&M, Texas, Missouri and Oklahoma State all have the right makeup to maybe beat Kansas.

Is there any hope for USC to dance?

They certainly have the talent. But youth doesn't regulary fare extremely well in tough conference play. Remember Jim Boeheim told his team the other week, that his goal was 9-9 in the Big East. So even though USC was very good at the end of last year, they lost a lot and the youth has been exposed. Plus the Pac-10 might just be the best conference in the country right now.

Can Indiana contend in the Big 10?

That's what they're doing. Takes a lot for me to compliment the Big Red. But it gets easier the longer Knight is gone. I guess you're really saying can Indiana win the Big Ten? I really liked the way both Michigan State and Wisconsin were developing and would have put the Hoosiers a rung behind them. But then Iowa happened. The Hoosiers are playing well and seem to be blending into a very good team. I like Wisconsin best right now, so I'll go with them.

How far will Dayton go in the NCAA tournament?

The Flyers are good, maybe even very good. I'm interested to see how the A-10 shakes out, because there are quite a few good teams. I'm already on the record as saying Xavier could be a second weekend team in the tournament. At this point, it looks like Dayton will be a favorite in their tourney opener and then maybe even wear the white jerseys in game two. However, with that said, I think its a huge accomplishment if they make the second weekend.

More tennis pictures

Apparently I had the wrong pictures from Sunday night's tennis action at the Aussie Open. But our good friends at Deadspin found a few courtesy of the Daily Mail. Tamira Paszek almost won her first round match with Jelena Jokovic. But really, who cares?

Monday, January 14, 2008

The NEC: The week that was

We borrowed the format from the folks at They do such a good job of covering this sport, so we used it for a conference that they don't have a regular beat on.

Don't think for a second that you've got the NEC figured out. Because as soon as it seems someone might be headed in one direction or another, they U-turn and head the opposite way. Still it does seem that the NEC is building some depth, and even though some of it may be muddled in mediocrity, the NEC has some wins this year that the league can be proud of. And now all of the wins have come from the top teams in the league. Monmouth is 1-4 in conference play, yet managed to win twice in the Carribean earlier this season. The Hawks beat Charlotte and Wichita State during the early season tournament. In addition, Mt. St. Mary's beat Winthrop just before Christmas, Sacred Heart got a win over Holy Cross, Wagner beat Loyola Marymount, but the prize came this past week when Robert Morris downed Boston College.

Team of the Week: We know we could have selected a few other teams here. Even St. Francis (NY) would have fit after they won a pair this week, but when an NEC team wins in an ACC building (even if it is just Boston College) they pretty much secure the honor no matter what else happens. The Colonials did suffer a disappointing home loss to Sacred Heart at the end of the week, but finished the week 2-1 and are now 12-5 overall. In the conference, Mike Rice's team is just 3-2 and currently sits in a three-way tie for third place. AJ Jackson scored 21 points in the win over BC, before Tony Lee led the Colonials with 19 in a hard-fought 64-59 win over Fairleigh-Dickinson on Thursday.

Down on their Luck:
The Long Island Blackbirds won 9 times against 3 losses in non-conference play. So they were viewed as one of the contenders entering the season. But LIU has dropped 3 of 4 in conference play to start the season, and now must battle to get back into contention. The Blackbirds fell this week to Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut State. Senior center Kellen Allen leads LIU in scoring with 13.7 per night.

Player of the Week:
Tristan Blackwood of Central Connecticut scored 26 in the Devils win over St. Francis (PA) and followed it up with 20 and 8 assists in Monday's win over Long Island as the Devils evened their record at 3-3 in the conference. Blackwood knocked down four three-pointers in the win over the Flash and had 3 in the win against the Blackbirds. The senior has now scored in double figures in five straight games and has the most 20+ point efforts of any active player in the NEC.

Games to Watch:
St. Francis (PA) at Mt. St. Mary's, Wednesday 9pm (MASN)
Quinnipiac at St Francis (NY), Thursday 7pm
Sacred Heart at Mt. St. Mary's, Saturday 7pm

Syracuse gets committment from Harden

St Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) running back Jeremiah Harden has committed to continue his football career at Syracuse. The 5-10, 175 back had offers from South Florida and Wisconsin, but chose the Orange to continue his career.

Harden ran for 174 yards and four touchdowns in the state championship game versus Lakeland to help increase his stock. Harden joins teammate Dorian Graham as the second committment from Aquinas this season. He becomes the third running back to commit to Syracuse this year. Syracuse also has committments from New York product Averin Collier and DC's Antwon Bailey.

The Orange is coming off a 2-10 season and has won only 7 times since Greg Robinson became head coach three seasons ago. Yet Robinson has put together a fairly succesful recruiting season, possibly his best yet, as the Orange attempts to rebuild with the young talent.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Jarmila Gajdosova: Who are you?

Tuned into the Australian Open after the Giants win in Dallas and I was just amazed at the size of Serena Williams first round opponent. I mean Serena is a big girl. But Jarmila dwarfs Serena. I congratulate Gajdosova on her tennis career and she obviously is performing at a higher level then I ever did, but I'm just saying that if you tune into a tennis match, particularly one where Serena Williams is involved, you expect that the other invidual will not be as big, let alone bigger as is the case here. Went searching for some Gajdosova pictures and found some at her fansite but it looks like they don't want me to post them here, so I'll just post the link. I did find this and hope it works. I haven't been this mesmerized by a female tennis player since Sandrine Testud graced the television of our dorm room television quite a few years ago.

Anyhow, Williams is leading the match up one set, and a break in the second. So it looks like Gajdosova's stay in the Aussie will be short, so catch her quickly.


How bad was Sunday's 81-61 loss at the Coliseum on the campus of West Virginia University?

So bad that after watching the first half from my home, I went to my parents house for dinner, and instead of demanding to watch the game, we decided to watch the end of the Division Playoff game. At one point we flipped to the game at a commercial or between plays and the score was 42-21 Mountaineers, so we flipped back a few minutes later and my father says "Well at least they're coming back."

I just shot him a blank stare because the score was 61-40 at the time. He quickly responded, "I mean at least they aren't getting doubled anymore."

That was the type of day it was Syracuse, who saw the mistakes that plagued them at Cincinnati magnified in this defeat as they fell to 2-2 in the Big East.

The Orange shot just 30% in the first half. They took bad shots, quick shots, but truly they were never getting much on the offensive end. Point guard Jonny Flynn only had one assist and I think that glaring stat shows some of the real problems this team is having right now.

Not sure that I have any of the answers. But I might try to let Donte' Greene play on the perimeter a little bit. Because it seems as if there isn't any respect given to any other Syracuse offensive player. Consequently, even when there is any dribble penetration, there is plenty of help defense because the opposition doesn't fear what the Orange can do from the outside. But I think if it were Greene standing around the perimiter, the help might not be as quick to come, and Greene might get some open looks. Instead of the forced threes that he is taking. Right now he is the best shooter the Orange has from the perimeter. They have to utilize that.

The real problem today was the -8 turnover margin. Syracuse turned it over 19 times and Jonny Flynn who had a horrendous road trip committed six, while Paul Harris had 5.

I truly thought today would be better. I know that losses in January aren't ones to cry over. Really it only hurts to lose once a year. But if you lose too much during the regular season, you don't get the opportunity to experience that painful loss in the postseason. Syracuse is starting to compile too many regular season losses. I don't think if I drew up a bracket tomorrow, they'd be a part of it any longer.

Wednesday night against Rutgers is a chance to get healthy. The Orange will then host another struggling team in Villanova on Saturday. By this time next week, things could seem good again. But it is no doubt this first Big East venture onto the road did not go very well. But this is a young team that is getting better and will continue to get better. We did not see any of that on this trip, but I trust that it will get better.

If today were Selection Sunday

A weekly feature of the The Fan Blog, from here on out, If Today were Selection Sunday...does just that. It looks at the 34 at-large spaces available in the field and and determines who are the best candidates for those spots as of right now. It does not attempt to project or predict what will happen in the future and whether or not these teams will actually appear in March when the real committee makes its selections. But it does base this on the 65 team field and will only include that many teams each week.

First off, let's remember what comprises the NCAA field. There are 31 automatic bids from conferences, while the remaining field consists of 34 at-large selections. We will mainly focus our attention on the 34 at-large selections. Although obviously the automatic bids play a role in that. At the moment we are assuming that the best team in the conference will win the automatic bid. We know that won't happen. We have a belief that if you are in the Top 40 in the country, you are pretty comfortable getting in the field and generally if you are in the Top 45 or so, you will get in. Because usually there are 15-20 automatic bids that come from outside the top teams, and truly that is what ultimately determines how many of the truly best teams get in the tournament.

Right now, we have a collection of 44 teams that we feel should not be ignored and would have to be a part of the field if it were picked today. Lucky for them, they come from 13 different conferences, so assuming the best team in the conference wins the automatic bid, all of worthy teams would get in. We'll assume that happens.

So therefore, we have 31 of the 34 at-large bids taken, and we'll have to look at bubble teams to determine the other three. Remember, we're really looking for a group of 47 (the top 47) because we are assuming that there are 13 autobids within that group.

First off, the teams among my group of 44 that are absolute locks:
North Carolina, UCLA, Kansas, Memphis, Duke, Marquette, Georgetown, Tennessee, Washington State, Michigan State, Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana, Texas A&M, Xavier, Drake, Butler, Pitt, Dayton, Ole Miss, St. Mary's, Vanderbilt, Gonzaga, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Clemson, Stanford, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Missouri - So that is 31 of the Top 47, and in my mind they are locks today.

Here are the teams, that I wouldn't be able to ignore, but might be in a precarious position with others.

Arizona - The Wildcats have five losses. That is quite a bit right now when you are looking at the top teams in the country. The injury to Jared Bayless has hurt the record. Therefore, I think they get in today.

Illinois State - Many are starting to believe that the Valley will only be a one-bid league this year. With the problems in some of the power conferences (Big Ten, SEC, ACC), I think its a two-bid league. Right now, I think the 5-0 Redbirds would get that second bid.

Connecticut - At 11-4 with no big win to their credit, the Huskies wouldn't be totally safe today. But they showed yesterday why they deserve to be included.

Niagara - If I drew it up today, I'd include the Purple Aces. Again I think they would benefit from the lack of power from the power conferences.

Miami (FL) - The Hurricanes are 14-1 so how could they be ignored? Probably couldn't but the resume really isn't that packed.

Virginia Commonwealth - Win or lose in the Colonial Tournament, these guys deserve a bid. The loss to Hampton discourages but wins over Maryland and Houston should guarantee inclusion.

Louisville - You're going to start noticing a trend I've got right now. That I think might work itself out by the end of the season. But I generally like the Big East, so maybe I'd keep them all in.

Providence - The Friars are 11-5 but they wins over Arkansas, Boston College and Florida State. Plus 3 of the 5 losses are to tourney teams.

Syracuse - Power conference with a Top 25 RPI, they are in. But basically face a win and in situation in Morgantown today.

St. Joseph's - The Hawks are just 9-4 so there is no guarantee here. But they've won five in a row and I'll take the hot team.

Villanova - This resume isn't really that strong. They are starting to look like they might not be as strong as a lot of teams and falter in the Big East. But we're looking at the present, and the win over Pitt keeps them in. For now.

Kansas State - Getting better and the win over Oklahoma took them off the bubble.

Arkansas - I think the Hogs are going to start getting a little more recognition. The loss to Appalachian the other week makes things a little bit more scary then they need to be.

So that leaves us with 3 spots and a group of a teams on the bubble. Among that group are several ACC teams (Virginia, Boston College, Florida State, NC State), Massachusetts out the Atlantic 10, Oregon, Arizona State and California from the Pac-10, Baylor which started so well, Nebraska which was beaten badly by Kansas at home last night, Houston as a second bid out of the Conference USA, and UNLV who had that great run in the tournament last year.

For now, I'm going to ignore the ACC. The four bubble teams all are on a down note and we'll wait for that to change. I will take Arizona State, I think its win over Arizona on Wednesday carried the weight. I'm also going to take Baylor as a result of the way it started the season and feel they deserve to be included at this point. And for my final team in, I'd take UMASS over California. The Minutemen have just done more at this point of the season and deserve the bid.

That's who I'd pick at this minute. I think it will change and probably somewhat dramatically as the season goes on. I can hear some screeching that I included 10 Big East teams and only 3 ACC teams. But the Big East is clearly the best conference this season.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Pat on the Back to...

Pardon me while I strain myself, reaching the whole way around is tough. But when you make the right pick, you hope somebody notices. So I'm giving you the link from last Friday's Fan Blog. Go ahead click on it and find out who picked the Wildcats, when many others were expecting UK to struggle mightily all season long in the SEC. Vanderbilt made it very interesting down the stretch, and Kentucky almost let it get away. But for me that made it a better win for the Cats.

Tubby Smith - The Gophers aren't exactly ready to challenge for the National Championship, nor the Big Ten title for that matter. But a come from behind win at State College today has the Gophers at 12-3 and 2-1 in the conference. The Nits had some big plans after starting the conference season 2-0 and Minnesota spoiled some of that today. So on a day when Kentucky got its biggest win since he resigned and the Blue Nation celebrated beating Vanderbilt, I figured we'd better show some love for Tubby.

Xavier - Not sure the Musketeers are getting enough credit. Xavier won again today and they are 14-3 at the moment. I think they are a second weekend type team and could easily upset a top seed on the first weekend. Although the way they are playing, they might be the top seed. They've got a big game a week from Thursday with Dayton, but even more importantly will be a stretch in mid-February when they play St. Joe's, at Charlotte, at Rhode Island, Duquesne and then they return the trip to Dayton to close out the five-game stretch that could determine if this group is the A-10 champion and a top seed in the tournament or simply just a bid.

Len Pasquarelli - The ESPN writer is reporting that Darren McFadden will forego his final season at Arkansas and enter the NFL draft. What a shock. Didn't his mother tell us this in July?

Jacksonville - By scoring on their first possession, the Jaguars have at least ensured that this game will still be worth watching by nine o'clock. Would have been more excitiing if they could have stopped them on that fourth down play. But you can't have everything, can you?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sifting through the losses

A pair of ugly losses for the college basketball teams I root for earlier this week. I've tried to find some good in them. But really am having trouble with that.

Syracuse - The Orange struggled mightily after looking decent in the first six-eight minutes of the game in Cincinnati. The Orange saw an early lead turn into a 12-point halftime deficit as the Bearcats defense and tenacity on the offensive boards were too much for the Syracuse youth.

The loss came after the Orange seemed to be getting things going heading into their first road Big East game. Since Eric Devendorf was lost for the season with a knee injury, the Orange never seemed to be bothered by the loss. But on Wednesday night, it was apparent how much they miss the junior shooting guard from Michigan.

Also missing was the inside scoring that had become a constant from Arinze Onuaku. The big fella managed only 3 points, while getting only two shots from the floor.

The big disappointment for the Orange had to be giving Cincinnati 17 offensive rebounds. This has been a problem in the Orange's recent losses. When Syracuse has been successful, they have rebounded well. But in their last loss, Rhode Island outrebounded the Orange by 12. The Rams also had 16 offensive rebounds that night.

The other problem was the lack of performance from Jonny Flynn. The freshman from Niagara Falls has been sensational, and we'll count this as just an off night. But he's had two now. And each time the Orange has run into serious problems. Syracuse needs Jonny Flynn to play well, we probably already knew that. But if we had any doubts, it was confirmed at UC.

The Orange goes back on the road Sunday afternoon. I expect a better performance. I think the young team did show a little bit late, when UC missed some shots and Syracuse forced a tempo more to their liking. I think they'll respond with a good performance at West Virginia. Not sure it will be enough. It's always tough to win in Morgantown.

Mount St. Mary's - The Mounties fell back into the quagmire that is the middle division of the NEC with a 70-59 loss at Quinnipiac on Thursday.

The loss may have even been uglier than it sounded when you look at the final number. MSM relies on the scoring of Chris Vann and Will Holland. Neither produced anything positive for a team that has lost five of six. Vann did not make a trey for the first time all year, finished with just four points and was never really a part of things as he was just 2-of-7 from the floor. Holland finished 3-for-13 and 1-of-7 from behind the arc. But the Texan sophomore needs to keep shooting the ball.

The pace of the game was fairly moderate. Still the Mount managed only 59 points. It took the Mount 73 possessions to get those 59 points. And when you're only getting .8 points a possession, it is going to be tough to win. 9 assists (6 from Jeremy Goode - who also led the team with 15 points) on 24 baskets isn't the best of numbers. And indicates the Mount has to do better with its halfcourt offense.

Quinnipiac actually had five less possessions and scored better than a point per possession. The disparity is the largest since the American loss that pushed the Mount to 0-4 back in November.

The Mount has some time off before they host St. Francis (PA) (4-12, 1-4) at the ARCC next Wednesday night. There are some similarities for this game and the game against Loyola that started the Mount's six-game win streak in December. The Loyola game was also off a fairly decent break, and after a horrible offensive and defensive effort in the previous game. Both games are/were televised, and Mount legends were having their numbers retired. So here's hoping that it gets the Mount going again. See I couldn't be negative the whole way.