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The Big East 7 and the Dominoes

December 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

No it's not a band, it's the constant shuffle that is NCAA conference realignment. Graduating from a small Division-I school without football, I'm not a fan of the visions of four sixteen team mega-conferences that we seem to be heading for. Once that shift is done there is a pretty good chance that those 64 teams could leave the NCAA altogether. What would happen to March Madness and everything else that is great about college athletics? I don't know. But, perhaps, we shouldn't worry about crossing that bridge until we come to it.

News this week came of the seven catholic, non-football schools leaving the Big East to protect their own interest. Instantly, I threw  fist pump in excitement. For a NCAA basketball fan this is a point for the good guys. Who wants to see the Big East's basketball product watered down by Central Florida, Tulane, and others? Instead we'll likely see a 12-team basketball conference with universities of similar interest. If you're keeping score at home, the seven schools leaving are St. John's, Seton Hall, Providence, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, and Villanova.

Speculation points to these seven teams likely splitting into two divisions and inviting Butler, Creighton, Dayton, Xavier, and Duquesne to join their party. There is even speculation that they could look to the West Coast and grab both Gonzaga and St. Mary's. The prospect of a basketball power conference with no affiliation to football just makes me all tingly inside. But the other portions of this that make me feel good is the karma spreading through the college landscape now.

Obviously expansion has been a product of expansion and greed. The University of Connecticut now has the karma train rolling into town. UConn has been knocking on the doors of the ACC, Big 12, etc. for a couple of years now, all while bashing the Big East. Now the Huskies find themselves in a terrible situation in a pretty mediocre football and basketball conference. Jim Calhoun and Geno Auriemma have always been evil men to the me in terms of the overall goals of college athletics.

The karma train trickles down even farther when you get to the Atlantic 10 and VCU. The Rams stabbed the CAA and the city of Richmond in the back this summer by making a hasty move to the A10. Just this week the CAA announced that their conference tournament to Baltimore, thus taking nearly 6 million dollars of annual economic impact away from the city of Richmond. Now VCU finds themselves in a, likely, watered down A10 without its crown jewels. I would even propose a revamped CAA conference featuring VCU, Richmond, George Washington, Charleston, UNCW, William & Mary, James Madison, George Mason, Towson, Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra, and Northeastern could be better than a watered down A10. Not to mention the A10's TV deal is pretty terrible.

There is still a lot to happen as we await a conference call today. But one thing is for sure, this round of expansion is good for college basketball and its fans.

College Basketball Conference Preview: CAA

October 17, 2012 in Uncategorized

The Colonial Athletic Association will look a little different this year as perennial power VCU bolted to join their cross-town rival Richmond in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Furthermore, the conference postseason will also have some notable absentees as Old Dominion, Georgia State, UNCW, and Towson are ineligible for the conference tournament. Old Dominion and Georgia State were banned after they announced plans to leave the conference. ODU will head to Conference USA in 2013, while Georgia State will leave for the Sun Belt. Towson and UNCW were ruled ineligible because of their NCAA APR. So with all of this being said, only seven CAA teams will compete for the conference championship in Richmond this March.

Here are my 2012-13 CAA Predictions:

1. Drexel Dragons: If all goes right then Bruiser Flint's Drexel squad should finally break through and have a cake walk into the NCAA tourney. Drexel has the conference's and one of the nation's best players in Frantz Massenet who was named preseason CAA Player of the Year. Joining the junior will be the talented sophomore Damion Lee and senior Chris Fouch. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Dragons make a little noise in the NCAA tournament this March.

2. George Mason Patriots: Paul Hewitt's squad is coming off a 24-9 season and will once again have their hands in the conference championship mix. Sherrod Wright is the Patriots best returning player and should be a solid double-digit scorer. Vertrail Vaughns is a deadly three-point shooter and could play a big role in GMU's postseason hopes.

3. Delaware Blue Hens: Monte Ross has been undeniably impressive as an NCAA head coach and he now has a Blue Hens squad that is a legit threat for the CAA title. Devvon Saddler is likely the conference's second best player and Jamelle Hagins, Carl Baptiste and Jarvis Threatt are great complementary players for Ross.

4. Northeastern Huskies: The Huskies may have their most talented team since the days of Jose Juan Barea. Leading the charge will senior All-CAA performer Jonathan Lee. Sophomore Quincy Ford is also ready to breakout as one of the CAA's best players.

5. Old Dominion Monarchs: Despite being ineligible for CAA postseason the Monarchs can still make a run at their ninth consecutive postseason trip.  DeShawn Painter and Nick Wright will lead a squad that is likely headed for the CBI or CIT with another 20+ win season in Norfolk.

6. James Madison Dukes: No one is more on the hot seat more than Matt Brady and he's going to have to a big year from redshirt Senior Andrey Semenov to have a team that can save his job.

7. Georgia State Panthers: Just get ready for the Sun Belt, Ron Hunter.

8. Hofstra Pride: UConn transfer Jamaal Coombs-McDaniel and Penn State transfer Taran Buie are already in trouble, but the Pride could be a sneaky team late in the season.

9. Towson Tigers: Pat Skerry has put together a nice team despite being ineligible for the CAA tournament. Look for this team to be a real threat in the next couple of years.

10. William & Mary Tribe: The Tribe remains the Tribe and has few bright spots beyond Tim Rusthoven. Tony Shaver can get his squad to play like a team more than anyone else though, so don't be surprised to see W&M as a tough out in Richmond.

11. UNC Wilmington Seahawks: Keith Rendleman is a true talent but the Seahawks need to hit the books.

College Basketball Conference Previews: Big South

October 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

Over the next couple of weeks I'll be previewing the upcoming college basketball season by touching on all the major national conferences, as well as several regional conferences. We'll start today with the Big South, the conference that nearly gave us a big upset of Syracuse in last year's tourney.

North Division

1. Campbell Camels: After an 8-1 start last year including victories over Iowa and East Carolina the Camels fell apart a bit. They lose talented forward Eric Griffin from last year’s squad, but the Camels may have more of a chance to grow as a team without Griffin. Senior Darren White, who transferred to Campbell from James Madison, is one of the conference’s best players and a bona fide Player of the Year candidate. Last year White averaged 16.8 points per game, 5.5 rebounds, and over 2 assists. Sophomore guard Trey Freeman will also be a big part of the Camels success after averaging nearly 14 points per game in his freshman campaign. Also, look for former Iowa State signee Antwon Oliver to become yet another scoring threat in Buies Creek.  It won’t be easy for Robbie Laing but he could have the Camels dancing for the first time in over twenty years.
Last Year: 17-15, 11-7
Primary Losses: Eric Griffin, Lorne Merthie
Key Additions: DJ Mason (Fr), Reco McCarter (JR/VCU), Darian Hooker (JR/JUCO), Trae Bremer (FR), Jordan Faciane (FR), Casey Perrin (FR)

2. VMI Keydets: The Keydets went on a wild postseason run last year knocking out Radford, Coastal Carolina, and Winthrop in the Big South tournament before finally losing to UNC Asheville in the championship game. Stan Okoye returns as a Player of the Year candidate after averaging over 17 points per game and 7 rebounds a year ago. The Runnin’ Roos are sure to keep their up-tempo style this year but the biggest question mark is where is the scoring going to come from beyond Okoye. Keith Gabriel, Ron Burks, and Michael Sparks were  scoring threats for VMI a year ago but they are now gone. Look for Quinton Upshur, Jordan Weethee, and even some of the freshman to become some of the active scorers in the Keydet offense.
Last Year: 17-16, 8-10
Primary Losses: Keith Gabriel, Michael Sparks, Ron Burks
Key Additions: Dorian Albritton (FR), Gavin Stephenson (FR), Phillip Anglade (FR), Tim Marshall (FR)

3. Liberty Flames: Dale Layer’s job has to be on the hot seat this year in Lynchburg and apparently the Flames coach has pushed his chips to the middle of the table and gone all-in. The Flames welcome seven new players to their roster this year, five of which are junior college transfers. Two of the JUCO players are thought to receive considerable time right off the bat in big man JR Coronado and guard Davon Marshall. The biggest question is how will all these new pieces gel together and how long might it take? The Flames will also look to replace their heart and soul, as well as one the greatest statistical players in Big South history in Jesse Sanders. Scoring production should come from Antwan Burrus and Tavares Speaks, but who will run the point? It may come down to a battle between newcomers Larry Taylor and Davon Marshall. The Flames may also have a considerable advantage in their frontcourt if they can continue to develop Coronado, Joel Vander Pol, and Tomas Geilo.
Last Year: 14-18, 9-9
Primary Losses: Jesse Sanders, David Minaya, Chene Phillips, Stephen Baird
Key Additions: Davon Marshall (JR/JUCO), Larry Taylor (FR), JR Coronado (JR/JUCO), Chad Donley (JR/JUCO), Wesley Alcegaire (FR), Jarred Jourdan (SO/JUCO), Casey Robers (JR/JUCO)

4. Longwood Lancers: Last year was a throw away season for a senior-laden Lancers team who experienced injuries, a key suspension, and a departure. The Lancers may be the biggest wild card in the conference as they enter into their inaugural Big South campaign. TT Carey should be one of the conference’s top scorers this year if he continues to produce like his sophomore year with the Lancers. Likely the most important player in Mike Gillian’s arsenal is freshman Nik Brown. If the Lancers are going to be successful then it has to start with Brown, who practiced with the team the second half of the year last season. Brown has what it takes to be a Player of the Year candidate a couple years down the road but for Longwood to flourish he needs to be a team player at the point guard position and avoid being a black hole for the basketball. Many freshman guards can fall into the trap of being too commanding with the basketball and their shooting in their freshman campaigns. Brown and the rest of the newcomers are sure to get a baptism by fire with the Lancers tough out of conference schedule. The Lancers lose the top scorer in school history in Antwan Carter, so beyond Brown and Carey look for David Robinson, Karl Ziegler, and Frank Holloway to pick up the slack for the up-tempo Lancers.
Last Year: 10-21
Primary Losses: Antwan Carter, Jeremiah Bowman, Martiz Washington, Jan Van der Kooij
Key Additions: Nik Brown (FR), Frank Holloway (SO/JUCO), Karl Ziegler (FR), Lucas Woodhouse (FR), Kirk Staine (FR)

5. High Point Panthers: You’re going to hear a lot about transfer Allan Chaney over the next couple of days. Chaney was granted another year of eligibility and free transfer by the NCAA when he chose High Point. Chaney started his college career at Florida where he played in 23 games as a freshman. He would transfer to Virginia Tech in 2009 where he never played due to a heart condition. So in reality no one has seen Chaney play basketball since the 2008-09 season. Despite his pedigree, the player that many are slating in as the Newcomer of the Year is a huge unknown. The Panthers lose over45 points in production with Nick Barbour and Shay Shine gradutating and Xavier Martin and Travis Elliot transferring. Who is going to fill the void? Chaney? Corey Law? The Panthers are going to need a lot of young players to step up in order to be successful in 2012-13.
Last Year: 13-18, 8-10
Primary Losses: Nick Barbour, Shay Shine, Xavier Martin
Key Additions: Allan Chaney (SR/Virginia Tech), Lorenzo Cugini (FR), Cliff Cornish (FR), Haiishen McIntyre (FR), Adam Weary

6. Radford Highlanders: Mike Jones has this team heading into the right direction and NCAA restrictions did not keep the second year coach from signing a talented Freshman class of seven players. The truth about the Highlanders though is that they are still a very young team with only one junior and one senior. If these youngsters can gel then they could have a shot, but the 2014-15 season looks to be your best bet for Radford. RJ Price is one of the conference’s most dynamic players and should be on many preseason accolade lists. Freshman Ya Ya Anderson is also very talented and could challenge to be the Big South’s Newcomer of the Year. Although their record may not significantly improve, no one in the conference should take the Highlanders lightly.
Last Year: 6-26, 2-16
Primary Losses: Jonathan Edwards, Chance Smith, Daniel Mitchell, Lukas Winegamer
Key Additions: Ya Ya Anderson (FR), Lucas Dyer (FR), Juwan Wells (FR), Matt Murphy (FR), Rashun Davis (FR), Taj Owens (FR), Keon Brown (FR)

South Division

1. Charleston Southern Buccaneers: Barclay Radebaugh’s Buccaneers showed up a year early last year but drew a tough draw in the Big South tournament as they lost to UNC-Asheville. The Bucs have the best one-two backcourt punch in the conference with Arlon Harper and Saah Nimley. Mathiang Muo solidifies a tough starting lineup for Chuck South. For the Bucs to be successful though they’ll need to find someone that can crash the boards. Kelvin Harper was not only the team’s leading scorer, he was also a walking double-double and the team’s leading rebounder. Can Radebaugh’s squad have success with the pressure of being a preseason favorite?
Last Year: 19-12, 11-7
Primary Losses: Kelvin Martin
Key Additions:Malcolm Bernard (FR), Allie Fullah (JR/JUCO)

2. UNC Asheville Bulldogs: The Bulldogs lose a ton of talent and nearly 45 points in offense, but you can never count one of Eddie Biedenbach’s clubs out. UNCA still does have Jeremy Atkinson and Jaron Lane who combined for 23 points per game a year ago. Keith Hornsby should also see his role increase as he averaged 4 points per game in his freshman campaign. Most importantly Biedenbach reloads with a talented recruiting class which includes seven freshman, many of whom are two star recruits. Don’t be surprised to see the Bulldogs hanging around once again when March rolls around.
Last Year: 24-10, 16-2
Primary Losses: Matt Dickey, JP Primm, Chris Stephenson, Quinard Jackson
Key Additions: Sam Hughes (FR), Zach Davis (FR), Will Weeks (FR), Marcus Neely (FR), Drew Combs (FR), Ales Biggerstaff (FR) Mike Bedulskis (FR)

3. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers: When will the Chants get over the hump? That has to be the question that keeps going through many Coastal Carolina fans minds. Cliff Ellis’ squad had another solid year in 2011-12 and were even able to get to the CIT where they almost knocked off Old Dominion on the road. Coastal loses some firepower from last year but still have a solid squad lead by Anthony Raffa who is a candidate for Big South Player of the Year. No team in the Big South is more balanced in terms of experience and youth than Coastal. The Chants should also benefit from hosting the Big South tournament in their new arena the HTC Center. This season will mark 20 years since the Chants went dancing, could this be the year they return?
Last Year: 19-12, 12-6
Primary Losses: Sam McLaurin, Jon Pack, Chris Gradnigo,
Key Additions: Michael Enanga (FR), Tre’von James (FR), Uros Ljeskovic (FR), Ron Trapps (FR), Tristian Curtis (FR), Badou Diagne (FR), Justin Daniel (FR)

4. Winthrop Eagles: Last year was not a typical year for Winthrop, so much so it cost coach Randy Peele his job. Replacing Peele will be a former Xavier and Wake Forest assistant Pat Kelsey. Kelsey inherits a veteran squad without a freshman and with five juniors and three seniors. Although most of the Eagles offensive production has graduated, Kelsey has an unusual opportunity to shape a veteran team into a winner quickly. One thing is for sure, the Eagles are a definite wild card in the Big South race this year.
Last Year: 12-20, 8-10
Primary Losses: Reggie Middleton, Matt Morgan, Andre Jones, George Valentine
Key Additions: Steve Johnson (JR/JUCO)

5. Presbyterian Blue Hose: The Blue Hose shocked plenty last year with an upset victory over Cincinnati, but Gregg Nibbert’s squad loses a lot of firepower from a year ago. Just the three seniors who have left alone accounted for 33 points per game. PC still does have Khalid Mutakabbir who will be one of the Big South’s top scorers and averaged nearly 14 points per game a year ago. The supplement their losses Nibbert is seemingly looking to own the paint by adding three players over 6’7 including 7’0 Jake Campbell. In a conference with out any big men could the Blue Hose’s gamble pay off?
Last Year: 14-15, 8-10
Primary Losses: Al’Lonzo Coleman, Tyler Deihl, Pieere Miller, Josh Johnson
Key Additions: Austin Anderson (FR), Jake Campbell (FR), Matthew Citron (FR), Shea Jones (FR), Jarvis Thibodeaux (FR)

6. Gardner-Webb Bulldogs: There was a mass exodus from Boiling Springs this Spring as four Bulldogs decided to transfer. Second year head coach Chris Holtmann will have to find a solid rotation this year as it seems no one really stepped up on the scoring front last year beyond Tashan Newsome who returns for his senior year. This is a young squad who may struggle with eight underclassmen. Bulldog fans should just wait until Texas A&M transfer Naji Hibbert can come to the rescue a year from now.
Last Year: 12-20, 6-12
Primary Losses: Laron Buggs, David Brown, Santoine Butler, Jason Dawson, Kyle Dennis, Stefon Johnson
Key Additions: Jerome Hill (FR), Isaiah Ivey (FR), Logan Stumpf (FR), Naji Hibbert (SR/Texas A&M), Onzie Banch (JR/JUCO)

The Problem with Team USA

July 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

Everything changed in regards to Olympic basketball in 1992 when the United States introduced the "Dream Team". Ever since then international competition has improved, but no one can really match the United States or even come close on the court. Sure, Spain is good and growing program. But will they ever be able to beat a slew of NBA vets wearing the red, white, and blue? Sure 2004 was embarrassing, a semi-final loss to Argentina and an eight point Bronze Medal victory over Lithuania was hard to stomach. But here's the thing… WE KNOW WE'RE THE BEST AT BASKETBALL IN THE WORLD! We don't have to prove at the Olympics on a four year basis.

I'm all about national pride, but I'm also about international competition. It's not fun to watch Team USA any more, they just beat down teams that don't have a chance. The only advantage that would be worse is if the IOC decided to put football in the Olympics. But there is an easy solution, lets go back to college kids. I'd love to see some tight battles and some players that actually care try to duke it out with the likes of Spain, Brazil, and Argentina. I know there are discussion about making the next Team USA version be only those under 23, but that's till not enough and you're including guys that could be in the fourth year of service in the league. Hypothetically lets say Team USA sent college athletes this year and only those that already have a year of college under their belt, here is what the team would look like

G- Aaron Craft, Trey Burke
G- Isaiah Canaan, CJ McCollom, BJ Young
F- James Michael McAdoo, CJ Leslie
F- Doug McDermott, Tony Mitchell, Jarnell Stokes
C- Cody Zeller, Jeff Withey

Sure the names can be debatable, but I think it would a fun watch against the world's best. Would they be a gold medal favorite? Absolutely not. Can they medal? Definitely. A move back to college players would benefit the NBA, the NCAA, the international game, and USA Basketball.

July Signals Changes in the College Landscape

July 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

July 1 passes each year in college athletics with not much thought to the date. Of course there are no sports going on and everyone is just gearing up for next year. But July 1 signals a drastic change in the college landscape as many schools shift to new conferences.

Texas A&M (Big 12 to SEC): This is perhaps the biggest move there is this year, as the Aggies leave their Texas neighbors for the SEC. It seems like A&M hasn't been relevant on the Big 12 football or basketball scene in quite some time, so it'll be interesting to see if this turns out to be a good move for the Aggies.

Missouri (Big 12 to SEC): Texas A&M isn't the only school shifting to the SEC. Mizzou will join the Aggies in this huge shift to bring the Kansas City and St. Louis market to the SEC. Football will likely suffer in the SEC in the short term but Frank Haith should have his basketball squad ready to go. Mizzou was poised for a Final Four run last year as a two seed in the NCAA tournament, but the Tigers were knocked off by a Cinderella in Norfolk State.

West Virginia (Big East to Big 12): Due to the recent changes and the announced football playoff, I hate this move for West Virginia. The focal point of the Mountaineers decisions to move was to protect a chance at an automatic qualifier for the BCS. Now that doesn't matter and Dub Vee has stepped outside their geographic footprint and will have to compete regularly with the likes of Texas and Oklahoma. The Eers may have made a bad choice and will be crying for their Big East days here soon, especially when basketball roles around.

Texas Christian (Mountain West to Big 12): This is an awesome move for the Horned Frogs and a lot better than their original plan to go the Big East. Now TCU can regularly compete with school they should be playing anyways in Texas, Texas Tech, and Baylor.

VCU (Colonial to A10): VCU joins the Atlantic 10 in hopes of more bids to the NCAA tournament. The Rams can compete right away, but it'll be interesting to see how this decision plays out across all sports when the dust has settled.

Butler (Horizon to A10): Butler is another team that can impact the A10 right away and this is a great move for the Bulldogs. They had outgrown the Horizon League and this very much fits into their geographic profile.

Fresno State (WAC to Mountain West): Fresno State is always a team you catch in one of those meaningless holiday bowl games. This is a great move for the Bulldogs as they leave the sinking WAC.

Nevada (WAC to Mountain West): Another good get for the Mountain West as the WAC exodus continues. The Wolfpack will add a lot to the conference in both football and basketball.

Hawaii (WAC to Mt. West/Big West): The Rainbow Warriors will split their sports ala BYU and play football in the Mountain West and everything else in the Big West. This should be a good move all around for the Warriors and will give them a chance at the NCAA tournament almost every year.

Texas-San Antonia (Southalnd to WAC): Did we mention that the WAC was sinking? The Roadrunners will make a pit stop in the WAC before leaving for Conference USA in 2013. Utah State and San Jose State will also be bolting the WAC in 2013.

Texas- Arlington (Southland to WAC): The WAC will have a heavy Texas influence for a year. The Mavericks will bolt the WAC for the Sun Belt in 2013.

Texas Southern (Southland to WAC): Guess what? The Bobcats will only be the WAC for a year! In 2013 they'll follow UTA to the Sun Belt.

Belmont (Atlantic Sun to Ohio Valley): This is a very good move for the Bruins who will be leaving the lowly A-Sun for the Ohio Valley Conference. They have a great basketball program and tradition. The games against Murray State will be especially fun to watch this year.

Oral Roberts (Summit to Southland): Oral Roberts is the king of winning the Summit regular season basketball title and failing to get to the NCAA tournament. The Golden Eagles move to a more southern based league as they will be the Southland Conference's northern most school. Houston Baptist will also join the fray in 2013.

Longwood (Independent to Big South): The Lancers have been a nomadic tribe since 2004 with no home. They officially became Division I in 2007 and will benefit from a perfect home with three in-state rivals.

North Dakota (Great West to Big Sky): Lets get one thing straight… the Great West isn't even a real conference, it's just basically a collection of independent schools. The Big Sky is perfect for North Dakota but it has been a drama filled conversion spanning all the way to the state senate due to the school's nickname the Fighting Sioux. They are no longer the Sioux and their nickname is TBD at the moment.

Southern Utah (Summit to Big Sky): This is another great geographical move, as the Summit didn't really fit for the Thunder Birds. Now Southern Utah has an in-state rival in Weber State and is much closer to other conference opponents.

Seattle (Independent to WAC): Did we mention the WAC was sinking? This is good fit for Seattle for the time being, but with the whole future of the WAC in jeopardy the Red Hawks may look to join the West Coast Conference. If Gonzaga will have them.

Nebraska-Omaha (Independent to Summit): The transitioning DI school, lead by AD Trev Alberts, find a good home in the Summit League. This is good fit for Mavericks geographically and in terms of competition.

 

The Downfall of UNC-Wilmington Basketball

June 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

Every year about this time a list of schools comes out that are ineligible via the NCAA's academic progress rating. Usually there are names from the SWAC or MEAC like Mississippi Valley State, Arkansas Pine, etc… But this year's list had a little different feel. First off was the University of Connecticut, how can such a prominent titan in college basketball be ineligible via the APR? Quite frankly it's embarrassing.  Once you look past UConn you find a pair of CAA teams, Towson and UNC-Wilimington. Towson isn't that surprising, Pat Kennedy drilled the program into the ground. The Tigers have always been a staple of the CAA play-in games, although they did foster a solid player in Gary Neal. But UNCW? What happened?

UNCW was a CAA basketball power in the 2000s. Jerry Wainwright built the program to become a perennial power and won two CAA championships and two NIT appearances in his eight years there. Ask any CAA fan about the era and one name strikes fear in the hearts of everyone, Brett Blizzard. The two-time CAA player of the year and all-time leading scorer in UNCW history lead the Seahawks to a NCAA win over Southern Cal in 2002. Maryland fans will even remember Blizzard when he nearly lead the Seahawks past the Terps in the first round of the tournament in 2003. When Wainwright left for the University of Richmond the program was still in good hands with Brad Brownell, who won two CAA championships in his four years before moving on to Wright State and now Clemson. Then the school turned to Benny Moss who had trouble and was terminated mid-season in 2010. The program has still not recovered.

The Seahawk faithful used to fill the Richmond Coliseum and visiting arenas, they were second to none. Trask Coliseum was also a place where no one wanted to play and home of the biggest home court advantage in the CAA. But now the school has dropped so low to not even be eligible for the CAA tournament next year. A tournament that will now only feature seven teams with the postseason bans of Towson and Wilmington, the CAA imposed bans of Old Dominion and Georgia State, and the departure of VCU. Wilmington is a great basketball town, heck it's where Michael Jordan grew up. Now the Seahawks turn to a former teammate of Jordan in Buzz Peterson. Since leaving Tennessee in 2005, Peterson has had moderate success at Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State. The North Carolina native now has a chance to turnaround a storied program in UNCW, but can he do it? He's in his third year with a 23-37 record and now is banned from the postseason. Who can get the Seahawks back to where they need to be?

US Open Preview

June 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

The US Open is by far my favorite golf tournament. It's brutal, usually, and always on Father's Day. What better way to spend Father's Day then kicking back with your pops and watching some golf? This year's US Open will have a slightly different field as the tournament returns to the Olympic Club outside of San Francisco. Usually the star of the US Open is the course and it's shear length and bite. While the Olympic Club will still play very tough, it's a bit of a different layout. First off the course only has two par 5s, and their back-to-back! Although one par 5, number 16, will play as longest hole in Open history at 670 yards. The other thing that is different about Olympic is that is basically built on the side of a hill and there are virtually no flat lies. There are a lot of blind shots and the course will favor players that can shape the ball and get creative. With all this being said, who should you keep an eye on this weekend?

Tiger vs Phil vs Bubba: If I told you the world's top three ranked players were in a group together, you'd say they were the featured group, right? Wrong. The world's top three will be overshadowed by this mammoth pairing going off at 10:33 AM today. Is Tiger back? I don't think so. Yes, he's coming off a win at the Memorial a couple weeks ago, but he was also coming off a victory at Bay Hill coming into the Masters and finished fortieth. I think Tiger might get lost in the emotion and pressure of playing with Mickelson and Watson. These guys have to play the course and can't exhaust themselves in playing each other.

Phil is trying to cement his legacy with a US Open win. The Hall of Famer has never won the Open but has finished second five times. He certainly has the imagination to pull off a win in his home state. Bubba Watson is another guy that can really shape the ball and hit some miraculous shots others may not even think of. The reigning Masters champ has a real shot this weekend.

Rory/Donald/Westwood: The 4:29 PM group features the top three players in the world. To say Rory McIlroy dominated last years US Open would be a gross understatement. Can Rory do it again? Lee Westwood is coming off a win last week at the Nordia Masters and is still looking for his first major. The window has to be closing on Westwood and he certainly doesn't want to have a legacy similar to Colin Montgomery. Another guy searching for his first major and who has played well this year is Luke Donald. Can the world's number one player finally come through and win a big one?

Young Guns: Keep an eye on the 11:32 AM group. Reigning PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley could be well cut out for this course and he's playing with another youngster in Webb Simpson who could be ready to breakout.

Jason Dufner: "Lipper" has one twice on tour already this year and is playing extremely well. The Auburn alum is poised to win a major after a near miss at the PGA Championship last year. Dufner hits it straight, gets greens in regulation, and moves on to the next hole. His even temperament could be a huge advantage at Olympic Club.

The Big Hitters: Where are they? Where's Dustin Johnson? Although he's coming off a win, I think Johnson and some of the other long bombers may have trouble this weekend. This course is more about being creative and less about length.

It should be a fun week out in San Francisco, with some great golf. Players need to realize that bogeys are going to happen and it's certainly a marathon and not a sprint.

Why VCU Just Made a Very Bad Decision

May 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

In 2001 the University of Richmond left the Colonial Athletic Association to join the Atlantic 10 Conference. As a member of the CAA, Richmond was considered a "power" with five conference titles and thrived off of local rivalries with VCU, William & Mary, James Madison, and others. Richmond was always the "first choice" to attend games in the area and more of a power than lowly VCU who had only one CAA title to their name (1996). But when Richmond moved to the CAA they lost the community and it's support. Despite going to the NCAA tournament three times since their A10 transition the Robins Center, where the Spiders play, is still very much a morgue. It used to be filled, but now it stands as a reminder of a decision over 10 years ago to appease Northern alumni.

Apparently VCU didn't get the case study or look down the street when examining to move to the A10. Sure the Rams will be reunited with the Spiders as conference foes, but VCU now joins a conference that virtually no one in the Richmond community can connect with. Ask ten VCU fans if they know where St. Bonaventure is and nine of them will likely react by saying "Who?!?". You can ask who won the A10 and likely no one will know. It's not an indictment of the basketball knowledge of VCU fans, its more of an example of how the school doesn't fit. The 30,00 plus student, public university will be leaving a local conference with local rivals behind to join a conference that will feature eleven private institutions, and eleven of which are from the North.

VCU is also bolting the CAA while leaving $5 million dollars on the table and not reaping the benefits of their recent NCAA tournament runs. Can VCU instantly compete on the hardwood in the A10? Absolutely. But in five or so years, when the dust has settled, this will look like a horrible move for the university and will leave a stain where they have left the community behind. Does the A10 get more bids than the CAA? Yes. Is it easier to make the NCAA tournament in the A10 though? Not necessarily, just as the University of Richmond. Has their profile increased? Absolutely not.

The Richmond Coliseum hosts the CAA tournament every year. What many people do not know is that the venue has the second longest tenure run than any other conference tournament venue, only behind the Big East and Madison Square Garden. Thanks to VCU the city and community can waive bye-bye to the tourny and its economic impact on the region.

Simply put, VCU got too big for their britches. Did Gonzaga ever bolt the West Coast Conference? No, they committed to it, made it better, and look at it now. VCU had the same opportunity with the CAA despite Old Dominion and Georgia State leaving. VCU could've been the Gonzaga of the East Coast, making the tournament year after year while collecting CAA title banners. Now they enter the muck that is the A10 in hopes of what? Doing what they were already doing well in the CAA? VCU will get lost in the shuffle in become Richmond. A respectable program, but a program that occasionally makes the tournament ever three or four years. They won't benefit fiscally and there other sports teams, which apparently VCU hasn't even thought about, will be shipped off all around colder, farther states to play baseball, soccer, and other sports; all while leaving behind their Virginia brethren.

The A10 has a TV deal with CBS Sports Network, which isn't even a "stock" channel for Richmond cable providers, all while the CAA has a deal with the NBC Sports Network which you can find in pretty much every household in RVA.  VCU has forgotten their roots, the Coliseum-era, the Mac McCarthy era, the 11 year span with out a tournament appearance followed by 8 years before they went again.

I look forward to seeing VCU immediately competing for an A10 title, but it won't last. It makes sense for a school like Butler, but VCU doesn't sport the same demographics and their "boosters" are an on a level of embarrassment.  Homers will shout and praise the school's move, but five or so years from now the school and its fans will realize what a mistake they made. VCU could have established something, rather they manufactured a decision out of fear and made a mistake. They were left behind before in their Metro Conference days and they are just scared it will happen again. They had a home and now they've left their community, fan base, and heritage behind to enter the abyss of mediocrity. In the A10 they are just another Ram.

Why the Majors Can Never Match the Minors

May 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

Yesterday I was touring my usual baseball sites when I saw an interesting tidbit pop up in regards to the San Francisco Giants, Conor Gillaspie will be starting a third base in a Thursday matinee for the Giants! Why the "!" for a guy that has seven career major league hits? Well, Gillaspie was one of the inaugural Richmond Flying Squirrels in 2010 where he excelled in the field and batted .287 with eight home runs and 67 RBI in 132 games with the Squirrels.  If you haven't connected the dots by now, I live in Richmond and since 2010 have bought season mini-packs where a couple friends and myself will go to 20 to 25 games a year at the Diamond (one of the dumpiest minor league stadiums in the country).

Simply put, minor league baseball is awesome and it trumps the major league scene any day. No one cares if the team wins or losses rather everyone from ages 3 to 92 is there to have a good time. You have kids there for Nutzy the mascot or guys like me just looking to take a load off and grab a beer after work on a nice 75 degree evening. Yea the beers are still $8 a pop, but they're 32 beautiful ounces rather than 12. Minor league baseball is about fun and you don't leave the park down a couple hundred bucks.

When the Flying Squirrels came to Richmond it was, kind of, looked at as a downgrade because our previous team, the Braves, were AAA and the Squirrels are AA. Both have their ups and downs but I definitely prefer AA. You get to see guys just struggling to make it or get to see top of the line prospects like Bryce Harper, Jesus Montero, Brandon Belt, and others for right around $6. AAA was also pretty cool because you'd get to see a lot of rehab assignments. I had the pleasure of seeing Darryl Strawberry, Deion Sanders,  Denny Neagle, Dontrelle Willis, and Bartolo Colon all in Richmond, on rehab, in their prime. But the thrill of seeing a prospect on TV a year or two after seeing them in person is absolutely awesome. You kind of lose your breath for a second before shouting "HEY! I know that guy". I remember sitting at Riley Park on Charles River in Charleston, SC watching the RiverDogs take on the Augusta GreenJackets (awesome name) and watching a young, promising outfielder named Jose Tabata, and look at where he is now.

The other awesome thing about the minors is you have a chance to establish a dialogue with the players. Sure it stems out of some friendly heckling, but a lot of the players enjoy it themselves. In college we used to head about 45 minutes up the roads to catch the class A Lynchburg Hillcats and we'd hold a conversation with the 1st baseman throughout the whole evening. The Hillcats also had "All You Can Eat" night for $10 and as college students we took this as a personal challenge.

I've made a lot of memories at various major and minor league ballparks across the country, but nothing embodies what baseball is all about what the game is all about more than a night at the minor league yard. There is still some sense of innocence in it. It's where my grandpa taught me the game. It's all about fun. Families having fun, the players having fun, and fans like me with my feet up in the air and my 32 ounce Miller Lite just talking baseball and having fun.

Who Will Replace Seth Greenberg?

April 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

Seth Greenberg's bubble finally burst yesterday as Virginia Tech finally dismissed their coach of nearly ten years. Greenberg grew a program that was floundering under Ricky Stokes and lead them into a full transition into the ACC. Greenberg grew a brand in Blacksburg but never could really get the team over the hump. So now the question remains…who will replace Greenberg?

Shaka Smart, VCU: Smart is the first name that is going to pop into everyone's head, especially with VCU athletic director Norwood Teague accepting the same position at Minnesota this week. But is there really even a chance at this? Smart has turned down Illinois, Maryland, and NC State. How would Virginia Tech be any different than those schools?

Steve Prohm, Murray State: Prohm is my front runner right off the bat for the Tech job and he'd be a perfect fit for the Hokies. He's a young, energetic head coach coming off a 31-2 season with the Racers. The only downside is that Prohm has only been a head coach for one year and has never been an assistant at any major programs.

Jeff Capel, Duke: Capel floundered at Oklahoma, but could he come back to the state where he had so much success with VCU and Old Dominion? I don't believe Capel would be a good choice, but I wouldn't be surprised to see his name pop up.

Chris Mooney, Richmond: Mooney's name popped up a lot after the Spiders 2011 run into the Sweet 16. Instead of bolting Richmond Mooney decided to sign a ten year extension with the Spiders. Mooney has what it takes to coach a big time program, but you can't expect instant gratification (which VT will want with the lineup they have coming back). Mooney runs a strict Princeton offense and absolutely has to get his personnel to make it work.

James Johnson, Clemson: James Johnson is poised to become a head coach somewhere. But it would be odd for the longtime Virginia Tech and George Mason assistant to come back to Blacksburg about a month after he bolted for Clemson.

Eric Skeeters, South Florida: Could Tech look to South Florida for the second time in a row? Skeeters is an interesting name and a former Tech assistant. He is well known for his recruiting abilities in the Washington DC/Baltimore area. He's certainly an interesting name to keep an eye on throughout this process.

Jeff Jones, American: Could Jeff Jones return to coach his alma mater's arch rival? Jones has done incredible things at American and his name has come up as a Tech candidate, but I really don't see him coming back to the ACC and especially at Virginia Tech.

Dino Gaudio, Free Agent: I picture the Wake Forest athletic director kicking himself every morning when he wakes up for firing Gaudio. It was one of the most perplexing moves when they fired him after a 61-31 head coaching record. Gaudio would be perfect for Tech and brings a plethora of experience to Blacksburg.

As for Seth Greenberg… I expect him to be in a Bristol studio very soon and never come back to the coaching ranks. Maybe he pulls a Steve Lavin and comes back eventually, but I wouldn't bet on it.