Full Court Press: The Field is Wide Open
With the blizzard of epic proportions about to hammer the East Coast this weekend, and throw a monkey wrench into the basketball schedule, it quickly brings to mind how this college season is unfolding.
It is like the weather – tough to predict and keep your eye on the latest forecast.
There is clearly no one dominant team in the country. Kansas, Maryland, Virginia, Duke, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Arizona, Villanova, etc, are outstanding teams but each has their flaws.
Every one of the top teams has deficiencies whether it is size, defense, boards, outside shooting, experience and lack of bench strength, which make them vulnerable to a team that brings their “A” game to the hardwood.
We could be in for a wild ride come NCAA tournament time, particularly if one or more teams emerge from the pack on a hot streak.
In years past, to think that a Monmouth, Hofstra, Stony Brook or an Ivy, like a Yale or Harvard, would have an outside shot at making a run to the Sweet 16 or Great 8 would commit you to the looney bin.
But this year, anything is possible, and if the regular season is any bell weather of things to come (look no further than to Monmouth and Temple for signature wins) anything is possible.
It will all boil down to defense, boards, shooting and the ability to handle the pressure in close games.
If a coach can get his guys to peak at the right time in the tournament, and for just six games, well?
Interesting, that there is only one team that remains unbeaten and that is Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs, but they are ineligible for the post season.
As I said, just like the weather tough to predict…..
Full of surprises
The MAAC regular season is one battle after another. Just when you thought Monmouth had a leg up on the field, after their breathtaking win last week in New Rochelle over the Iona Gaels, Steve Masiello’s Manhattan Jasper’s bush-whacked the Hawks at Draddy Gym last night, 78-71.
Chris Brady (Greenlawn, NY/ Harborfield’s) led Monmouth with 15 points while Calvin Crawford paced Manhattan with 20.
The Hawks are now 14-5 (6-2 MAAC).
The Jaspers improved to 7-10 (5-4 MAAC).
Saint Peter’s sits at the top of the standings with a 6-1 record, while Monmouth and Iona trail by one game in the loss column.
Siena is next with a 5-3 mark.
There will be movement at the top of the MAAC standings after this evening’s scheduled matchup between the Peacock’s and Iona in New Rochelle (7 p.m.)
A little of this and a little of that
- There is another battle brewing in the America East Conference between frequent rivals Stony Brook and Albany. Stony Brook currently sits in first place at 5-0 (14-4 overall) and Albany is in hot pursuit at 4-1 (15-5). In the AEC it’s all about the tournament champ and Stony Brook, after spectacular regular season records, has been frustrated in their previous attempts to punch their ticket to the big dance. Both teams will get after it this evening at Stony Brook (9 p.m. ESPNU).
- The Ivy League will kick their schedule in high gear this weekend, weather permitting, with Yale facing Brown tonight in Providence. Yale, Harvard, Columbia and Princeton have all opened the season with wins. On Saturday Columbia travels to Ithaca to face the Big Red while Harvard and Dartmouth meet in Hanover. Sunday Brown travels to Princeton.
- In the A-10, VCU has surprised with a 6-0 start. St. Joe’s is in hot pursuit at 4-1, while Fordham (2-4) and LaSalle (1-4) are well behind and out of the title chase. However, they have the talent to be a factor in determining the regular season A-10 champ.
- Can’t wait for Villanova and Providence, hopefully, in another Big East showdown tomorrow at 12 p.m. Wednesday’s game between ‘Nova and Seton Hall was one of the best games of the season. Nova prevailed in a cliff-hanger, 72-71, at the Pru Center in Newark. Just another day in the office for the Big East. Although Jay Wright’s Wildcats are No. 4 in the latest polls don’t underestimate the Pirates, particularly come tournament time. Coach Kevin Willard’s sophomore-laden lineup is now playing more like a polished group of upperclassmen. The Pirate’s Isaiah Whitehead is one year away from being considered a serious POY candidate.
Press room banter
In the press room before last Saturday’s Seton Hall versus Providence Big East matchup at The Dunk, the conversation turned to Tulsa coach Frank Haith and how is it that he is still holding a high-paying D1 job after leaving Miami and Missouri with NCAA recruiting violations?
One scribe was quick to point out that Kentucky Coach John Calipari left UMass and Memphis high and dry. File that one under short memories!!
Hard to believe
Duke Coach Mike Krysewski and Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo and their squads are reeling after three game losing streaks in conference play.
Their issues are just another example of parity in the college game this year. I love Coach K for all he has done inside and outside the game of basketball, but he really needs to stop crying about how he is getting hosed by the officials. He is looking bad when the camera’s catch him begging for a call along the sidelines, ie, in the final minutes of their loss to the ‘Cuse.
Just in case you didn’t know, the NCAA has started initial discussions about ending freshman eligibility.
Finally, a big congratulations to the St. John’s Vianney (Holmdel, NJ) girls basketball team for cracking into this week’s USA Today Super 25 rankings at No. 24.
Keep shooting and be safe this weekend!
Follow Bob on Twitter for all the latest in college hoop happenings, game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob
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