Monday, January 22, 2007

Hoops Junkie

Over the weekend, I watched one entire college basketball game live and most of three on television. I also watched both Wizards games, coached a practice for one son's team and a game for the other's. And I played in pickup games two nights last week. They say the first step in dealing with an addiction is acknowledging that you have a problem.

"Hi, my name is Bill, and I am a basketball addict."

"Hi, Bill."

Not to live in denial, but I think it's fair to blame
Big Stein's Bog Poll for at least part of this. None of the college games I saw this weekend involved GW, but all had at least one poll-eligible team playing.

Saturday afternoon, the whole family headed to the Towson Center for the Tigers' tilt with UNC Wilmington. It was the third visit for me and the boys, the first for the Doc. Our first two trips came on weeknights after swimming, but a few of our sons' friends were ballboys Saturday, so we thought we would go for moral support. The team UNCW put on the floor was not even close to the squad
that went up 18 on GW in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last spring. They had some big inside players but they couldn't handle Gary Neal or the backside lobs that netted a couple breathtaking dunks for Tommy Breaux and less exciting, but equally effective, layups for Dennard Abraham. Pat Kennedy was trying different combinations than we had seen earlier in the season, and it was working well enough on this day. The Tigers stretched a six-point halftime lead to as many as 15 before finishing with a comfortable 75-61 win.

There was more Colonial Athletic Association action after dinner when I clicked on the VCU-ODU game, a ferocious contest that made me rethink my position that Towson has the talent to contend in the CAA. Maybe it was because the teams are higher up in the standings or the schools are traditional geographic rivals, but the atmosphere seemed far more intense than what we had seen earlier in the day. ODU led at halftime, but the Rams stormed back after the intermission, led by Eric Maynor, who had 16 of his team-high 23 in the second period. He was also the high point man in VCU's win at Towson that we saw, but the Rams have had five different players lead them in scoring this season, one of the reasons I am so high on them. Old Dominion obviously has the talent to win the CAA - they beat Georgetown at McDonough in November - but have struggled otherwise on the road.

Sunday was ACC day, sandwiched around some tasty football games of course. In the opener, Wake Forest at Virginia, the Cavs' JR Reynolds was smoking like RJ Reynolds as he hibachied the Demon Deacons for a career-high 40 points. UVA needed every one of them because Sean Singletary played more like Mike Singletary, picking up four fouls in 28 minutes. Wake seems to have made itself at home in the ACC cellar but freshmen Ishmael Smith and Jamie Skeen show a promising future.

The nightcap featured Maryland at Virginia Tech, tipping off at about the same time the Patriots set the stage for the biggest comeback in playoff history. With the snowstorm in Blacksburg threatening to hold down attendance, Tech opened the doors to its student body, and Cassell Coliseum rocked all game long. The players rocked, too, and bumped, hacked, and fought every play as hard as the the guys on the gridiron in Indianapolis. After a few first half lead changes, the Doc remarked presciently, "It's going to be like this the whole game, isn't it?" Then she wisely fell asleep. And it did seesaw back and forth for the next hour. Maryland was never able to stop Tech's penetration and while James Gist and and Ekene Ibekwe are wonderful athletes, the Terps needed more minutes for Bambale Osby, whose rugged frame was better suited to this game. They also needed better than 9-25 shooting from DJ Strawberry and Mike Jones, especially in overtime when they converted only one field goal. Despite rallying from an eight-point second half deficit, the Terps fell short in OT, 67-64, and suddenly, a team that looked ready to challenge North Carolina in December can barely catch a glimpse of the Tarheels (and BC) in the ACC standings.

So how did all this affect my poll (it is Monday, after all)? Well, Tech lost at Florida State before beating Maryland, so they had to fall out of first. Up comes VCU. Let's see if they can last. And Georgetown won two on the road, so they bypass Tech as well. GW beat the Hokies head-to-head, but that was a long time ago, and Tech's more recent history keeps them a hair higher than the Colonials despite two GW wins. Maryland's two ACC road losses sends them down two spots, just a smidge ahead of UVA. George Mason is a bit further back at #7 but on the come, as is #8 Loyola, but ODU and William and Mary are just filling seats like Kramer at the Tony Awards at this point. Here's the whole schmear:

1. VCU
Rams coach Anthony Grant is the most popular Grant in Richmond since Ulysses S. Grant, which isn’t saying much.
2. Georgetown
Hoyas prefer slow tempo, don’t even use EZ Pass on their successful two-game road trip through New Jersey.
3. Virginia Tech
Hokies can handle Duke, UNC and Maryland, but they can’t handle the pressure of being Number One in the Bog Poll. Seth Greenberg no longer speaking to Big Stein. 4. GW
Colonials beat Charlotte, but instead of game coverage, Washington Post begins a five-part series on Karl Hobbs’ hatred of puppies.
5. Maryland
After losing at Virginia Tech, Gary Williams is overheard asking Maryland’s SID, “When do we get to play Wake Forest?”
6. Virginia
J.R. Reynolds shouts “Bog Poll votes!” as he releases each shot on his way to a career-high 40 points against Wake Forest.
7. George Mason
Patriots win fifth in a row against Northeastern despite rumors that the Huskies had brought in some guy named Vinatieri.
8. Loyola
Greyhounds beat St. Peter’s and Rider, making Poll teams 4-0 against New Jersey teams this week. Insert New Jersey joke here.
9. Old Dominion
Top Ten elimination game this Wednesday when the Monarchs host William and Mary should open the door for Towson.
10. William and Mary
Tribe coach Tony Shaver announces that he has formed an “exploratory committee” on how to break a four-game losing streak.

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