Monday, November 26, 2007

Poll Week Three

How committed am I to the Bog Poll? Saturday, I took the whole family to watch GW at UMBC. Later that night, I watched part of Virginia against Seton Hall and Navy against Penn, a game that was tied 4-4 with 11 minutes to play in the first half. That is dedication, people.

Except for Georgetown, everybody lost at least one game this week. Pretty simple to figure 1-6, but very unclear after that. Number 7-15 could be reversed very easily. George Mason squeaked past Virginia for #2 on the strength of a Top 20 win over Kansas State and a Top 20 loss to Villanova, both at a neutral site. UVA's win at #17 Arizona was on the Wildcats' home floor, but the Cavaliers' loss to Seton Hall looks a little worse than losing to 'Nova, at least right now anyway. Bit of a drop to Maryland at #4, who will have a chance to impress against Illinois and VCU coming up. UMBC made the big move of the week with a solid win over a Maureece Rice-less GW squad. Retrievers have no size, but three-point shooting, experience and hustle covered up their flaws. VCU held its position with a win over Elon and has five straight Bog Poll teams coming up. GW has talent, but injuries and inexperience are major headaches for Karl Hobbs. If he can get this team healthy and fully committed to his system, watch out. Morgan State vaulted in at #8 on the strength of a close loss at Miami and unimpressive weeks by everyone else. Virginia Tech lost to a couple Top 25 teams in Alaska, but the Hokies are clinging to the edge right next to Old Dominion, who is in the midst of a brutal stretch of its schedule. James Madison fell out because of a loss at VMI. Loyola is knocking on the door with four weak wins, including Vermont, a team that Towson couldn't beat even though Towson beat Loyola. Coppin State, VMI, and American could also break through with a few consistent weeks. Big Stein will have his up later today, but here's how I voted:

1. Georgetown
In his postgame press conference, John Thompson blamed the ongoing writers’ strike for the lack of drama in Hoyas’ win at Ball State.
2. George Mason
Jim Larranaga finally made good on his promise to take his team to Disney World for getting to the Final Four, but Folarin Campbell was disappointed that lunch in Cinderella's Castle was sold out.

3. Virginia
The Philly Hoop Group Classic featured two teams from Maryland, one from DC, one from Virginia, one from Pittsburgh, one from New Jersey and only two from Philadelphia. Not very Philly. And with teams like Howard, Navy and Penn, not very hoop either. Definitely a group. Classic? About as Classic as the CBE Classic, the Old Spice Classic, and the BB&T Classic, I guess.

4. Maryland
Sprint Center joined Verizon Center on Gary Williams’ list of least favorite arenas named for telecommunications giants. Don't look for the Terps to play in the Alcatel-Lucent Center any time soon.
Retrievers lost to Lafayette and beat George Washington last week. I wonder how they’ll do next week against Cornwallis College and Von Steuben State.
6. VCU
In Puerto Rico, Eric Maynor was dismayed to learn that Daddy Yankee is neither a Daddy nor a Yankee.
7. GW
The Colonials gave up more threes against UMBC than the runner-up in the National Go Fish Championship.
8. Morgan State
With close losses at Miami and Connecticut, Bears are ready to storm the cellars of the ACC and Big East.
9. Virginia Tech
Seth Greenberg gave his players a sundown curfew at Great Alaska Shootout, obviously forgetting that the sun won’t set for two more weeks.
10. Old Dominion

Monarchs must have looked past Clemson, UNC and Louisville in anticipation of Georgetown game.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Poll Week 2

Georgetown coasts over Michigan to stay on top while Virginia's win at Arizona moves the Cavaliers up to #2. VCU drops two of three in Puerto Rico, but the losses were Miami and Arkansas and the win was Houston, so the Rams only fall to #6. Hampton had the Terps dead to rights and let them off the hook and then lost two straight. Much as I love the Pirates, you can't lose three in a week and stay in the Top 10. And the inverse (or is it the converse) is true for UMBC. Towson's loss to Bucknell knocks the Tigers out but their win over Loyola is looking better and better and I wouldn't be surprised to see both teams back in before 2008. James Madison hasn't beaten anybody, but they haven't lost either. Old Dominion's stay will be short-lived with one loss to Clemson and UNC and Georgetown coming up. Here's how Big Stein had 'em.

1. Georgetown
Not even a pregame pep talk from Patrick Swayze could help the Wolverines beat the Hoyas.
2. Virginia
Cavaliers were white-hot from three-point range to start their game against Arizona, but since the game was in Tucson, it’s a dry heat.
3. Maryland
Greivis Vasquez now has 28 wins as a Terrapin, only 5,203 fewer than Hall of Fame jockey Jacinto Vasquez.
4. George Mason
World Ball was a huge success except for the Dayton team, which was unable to locate the country where the basket resides.
5. GW
Alert the national media, a Boston area sports team lost a game.
6. VCU
Phi Slamma Jamma, Tom Penders? I don’t think so. More like Lambda Lambda Lambda.
Three wins in one week, and for once, we’re not talking about the chess team.
8. Virginia Tech
Do Hokies eat turkey on Thanksgiving, or is that considered cannibalism?
9. James Madison
Over under for the Dukes’ game at VMI this week is higher than the projected attendance.
10. Old Dominion

Monarchs host North Carolina and Georgetown later this month. Funny, I didn’t know the Marquis de Sade was in the scheduling business.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Nicotine + caffeine = protein"

Let's get the weekend started right with some great radio. No, I'm not talking about Aubrey Huff and Bubba the Love Sponge; I think the reaction to that appearance has been much more amusing than the show itself, though. Golfer John Daly has a new book out, and his 20-minute appearance on NPR's Fresh Air yesterday was highly entertaining. Biggest surprise: notorious hotel room-trasher Daly is a neat freak, a recovering compulsive bedmaker. Best line of the interview (about his diet regimen): "Nicotine and caffeine equal protein." I might just put this book on my Christmas list.

Hoops, hoops, hoops
Maryland wins their second straight squeaker at home against a theoretically inferior opponent. Northeastern went one better than Hampton and took the Terps to overtime, but free throws doomed the Huskies as they missed the front end of two one-and-ones with less than four minutes in regulation and could only convert one of three when trailing by three with five seconds left in overtime. And of course it was Greivis Vasquez who committed the foul on the attempted trey that sent Northeastern to the line. Vasquez made up for poor shooting (2-10) with 10 assists, two turnovers and six rebounds but he still makes some questionable choices at important moments in a game. James Gist was a stud on offense with 27 points, but Bambale Osby was the hero with 16 points, 13 boards, and six blocks. Anchoring the press, Osby forced the Huskies to back off of several two-on-one fast break opportunities in the second half. The Terps had better get their full-court pressure in gear by the time ACC season comes around because those guys will be able to finish breaks better than the Huskies.

Doesn't sound like I missed much by not seeing Georgetown's easy 74-52 win over Michigan last night. Anybody else think a football game between these two would be a little closer than that?

By the time I post this, VCU will likely be underway against Miami. Both teams are 2-0, but for some reason Glenn Consor called VCU's win over Houston an upset akin to Mercer beating USC and Gardner Webb over Kentucky. I guess Glenn missed the Rams' win over Duke in the NCAAs last year and is not aware that Eric Maynor is as good as any guard in the ACC. Get thee to a Bog Poll, Glenn!

In other Bog Poll team previews, I'm betting Virginia's two-game streak of scoring at least 90 points comes to an end at Arizona. Just like real estate sales, the key to George Mason staying undefeated when they host Dayton tomorrow night is location, location, location; visitors to Dayton generally attempt about half as many free throws as the Flyers. With Towson and Hampton losing this week, UMBC could move up if the Retrievers can continue their road rampage through the bottom of the A-10 tomorrow at Richmond. Virginia Tech is shakily standing pat on a win over Elon, but Old Dominion could very well knock them out if the Monarchs take out Toledo.

Switching quickly to the NBA, the Wizards look to win their third game in a row tonight against Minnesota after starting the season 0-5. Agent Zero went 3-8 from three-point range and 9-11 from the line in the team's last game; if he is rounding into form, the Wiz have a good chance to get back over .500 soon. Washington's next three opponents have a combined record of 11-15, and two of the three are home games.

Looks like a tough weekend for movies inspired by great novels. Robert Zemeckis, the innovator who brought us Back to the Future, Forrest Gump and Who Framed Roger Rabbit, has apparently missed the mark in applying the latest digital animation techniques to the 1300-year old story of Beowulf. I haven't seen it, but when you have a cast that includes John Malkovich, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Crispin Glover (brilliantly cast as Grendel the evil troll), and Robin Wright Penn, you might want to reconsider going the cartoon route. Then again, it can't be any worse than what Disney did to the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Also falling short of its literary inspiration is Love in the Time of Cholera, from the acclaimed novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Not that I was rushing out to see this one anyway; I never could get through the book. Besides, if it's an erotic tour de force set in revolutionary-era Colombia, how can it hope to be successful with neither Salma Hayek nor Penelope Cruz on the screen?

I would rush to see No Country for Old Men (you know, were I not blessed with two wonderful children and all the delightful obligations thereof). The collaboration of Cormac McCarthy and the Coen Brothers has Baltimore Sun reviewer Michael Sragow invoking Sam Peckinpah and Norman Mailer. In a good way. Just don't expect to feel hopeful for the future of mankind after seeing this one.

Barry Bonds. If he's guilty, and I believe he is, it's a shame that he broke the home run record, but I don't think they should take it away from him. I think he should go to jail, but only because his personal trainer served time for contempt because he refused to testify. So Bonds should serve the same sentence and then go free. That seems like an appropriate punishment for lying to a grand jury about steroids. I mean, we're not talking about national security or murder here. Ground him and take away his iPhone for a month, but I don't see how a long jail sentence makes any sense.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wednesday Whims

Kyle Boller will be the starting quarterback against the Browns this weekend because Steve McNair injured his nonthrowing shoulder. Based on how he played Sunday, that could be either his left or his right shoulder.

Washington claws its way out of the Southeast Division cellar. Actually the Wizards were pushed out by Miami, whose record fell to 1-6 last night. Weren't these two teams supposed to be fighting for the top of the division?

Bog Poll
Loyola beat American last night, 71-67, after trailing by 17 in the first half. The Greyhounds also fell behind 16-4 in their season opener at Towson. Somebody might want to make sure the clocks in the basketball office got set back an hour when they were supposed to.

Hampton pushed Maryland to the brink Monday night despite head coach Kevin Nickelberry's ejection in the first half for violating the NCAA's new emphasis on bench decorum. Even Terps radio announcer Chris Knoche, the former AU coach and a solid homer, thought the punishment was a little excessive. The hero of the game was Maryland point guard Greivis Vasques, who hit a late three-pointer and scored 10 of the Terps' last 11 points, but Vasquez' erratic play also kept Hampton close. Looks like there's a new sweetheart in Maryland fans' love/hate relationship.

In nonsports news, divers recovered the body of a man who was killed by a nine-foot alligator while fleeing from police after he burglarized a car on the Miccosukee Indian Reservation in Florida. Apparently the man dove into a lake and the divers had to had to search three times in two days to find the body. I guess my question is, did the divers know there was a killer alligator in the lake? Because I would consider that to be a pretty important factoid.

One of the guys who started Google is getting married. Anybody know how I can get some more information on this event?

Some guy named Peterson is suspected in the disappearance of his wife. Haven't we already heard this story?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Year of the MEAC?

Big Stein's Bog Poll is up; my votes are below. As I wrote on Saturday, Towson jumps into the poll with an impressive performance against Loyola, knocking the 'Hounds clean out of my Top 10. Richmond's brief, gallant, appearance last week was probably its last (losing to Norfolk State will do that to you). Hampton dispatches Tulsa and puches Maryland to the brink. VCU will have to prove itself worthy of #2 with three games this weekend in a tournament in Puerto Rico.

My biggest disparity with the voters is their inclusion of Old Dominion and American over Hampton and UMBC. I thought Old Dominion lost too much to graduation to get this much preseason recognition and American has shown nothing (but will have a chance to do so tonight at Loyola). Could be a big year for the MEAC, with Hampton looking strong, Morgan State coming on and Norfolk State beating Richmond.

1. Georgetown
As an exercise in building team unity, John Thompson has Hoyas sew their own Final Four banner. Jessie Sapp has a killer cross stitch and can really (wait for it … ) thread the needle.
2. VCU
Rams win opener against UMES, which actually stands for United Methodist Elementary School, but those kids ball like middle schoolers, yo.
3. Virginia
UVA beats UVM, avoiding prolonged exposure to harmful UVB rays that can have a negative affect on your RPI.
4. Maryland
Bad weekend for birds of prey facing University of Maryland teams.
5. George Mason
Will Thomas goes for 16 and 17 against Vermont, delighting those of us who gambled on him with a second round CAA Fantasy League draft pick.
6. GW
Virginia Tech transfer Wynton Witherspoon is mistakenly listed as Wynton Witherpoon on Do not Google this.
7. Hampton
Go ahead, make all your cute little Pirate jokes, but it’s Hampton that’ll be having the last laugh, mateys.
8. Towson
Pat Kennedy processed more transfer requests in the offseason than Lieutenant Jonathan Kendrick, Rifle Company Windward, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
9. Virginia Tech
Hokies defeat Elon, a team known as the Fightin’ Christians until 1999. Apparently university administrators found this punctuation to be offensive and changed the nickname to Phoenix.
10. UMBC
Retrievers excel at running down long rebounds. Unfortunately they drop them at the feet of their opponents and bark at them until they shoot again.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bad to worse to worser

Monday Morning Quick Quiz
What's worse than watching your favorite football team embarrass itself on Monday Night Football?

Paying money to see it live.

That's right, yesterday was the annual pilgrimage to M&T Bank Stadium for the Fitzgerald men to bond over the thrilling atmosphere of Ravens' football. While I am unwilling to commit the time, money or emotion to become a season-ticket holder, I do enjoy taking the boys to see at least one game each year. We started this tradition two years ago, watching a relatively easy win over the Texans in an unremarkable season and continued it last year at a thrilling comeback over the Chargers to send the home team to 4-0. Those were good days.

Before the 2007 season began, I took a look at the home slate, compared it to the soccer, swimming and family outing schedules and quickly deduced that Cincinnati would be the game. Day game, division rival, reasonably good chance of winning, all the important criteria. So I called my local ticket broker, took some equity out of the house, and secured three lower level seats.

Even better, the boys had a few friends going the game, and we were invited to tailgate just a short walk from the stadium. Really, the setting could not have been better. Crisp, sunny day, pulled pork sandwiches, delightful seleciton of microbrews, free parking and plenty of room to toss the ball with the kids.

And then the game started. For the second straight week, Steve McNair displayed a Hall of Fame level of ineptitude. He had some help in the form of dropped passes, but he still gets the lion's share of the blame as far as I can see. If you chart the balls he throws, there is a wedge of emptiness emanating from McNair at its point that reaches the sideline about 12 yards downfield. Swing pass, quick slant, five-yard out, six-yard curl, flanker screen, that's about it. Nothing over the middle, nothing down the field, unless you count balls thrown five yards over the head of the trainers on the sideline.

And his physical erosion is having a karmic effect on the team as well. His two fumbles (one just slipped out of his hand) were bad plays, but he made a decent throw to Todd Heap in the end zone that got tipped for an interception. And when the kick return team let a short kick bounce at the 15, naturally the Bengals recovered.

The defense played like heroes, keeping the Bengals out of the end zone all day. Ed Reed absolutely destroyed Rudy Johnson on a key third down play at the goal line when the score was still close. Carson Palmer had a pretty good day at the Ravens' expense, but considering that both starting cornerbacks were out and a third got hurt during the game, it could have been a lot worse.

My eight year old summed it up with about five minutes left. "Can we please just go? I can't take any more of this fumble tragedy!"

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rising Junior

The Doc and I took the boys to see a local rivalry game featuring Loyola at Towson last night. If I had paid for the tickets, I figured I could deduct the cost because these are Bog Poll eligible teams, but I should still be able to claim the mileage, no?

In the season opener for both teams, Loyola came in as the favorite. The Greyhounds were 18-13 last year and returned four starters, including All-MAAC guard Gerald Brown, who was the eighth leading scorer in the nation last season at 22.2 ppg. Brown came out wearing green socks pulled up to his knees, a great look if you are playing sweeper for Limerick F.C., but I don't see this trend catching on.

Brown transferred to Loyola from Providence and was joined in the starting lineup by Hassan Fofana, a 6-10 transfer from Maryland, and Omari Isreal, a 6-8 transfer from Notre Dame. With so many transfers in his lineup, it's no wonder that Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos was recently praised by Al Gore for his environmentally savvy commitment to recycling.

All the talk about Towson, on the other hand, centered around the question, "What will they do without Gary Neal?" Neal was the fifth leading scorer in the nation last year and is currently playing pro ball in Turkey where he is known as the "American Hedo Turkoglu." Towson coach Pat Kennedy has also gone green in his recruiting, bringing in 6-8 Junior Hairston from College of Charleston, and junior college players Vernon Carr and Tony Durant (who is not making nearly as much money as his little brother, Kevin).

With campuses only four miles apart, there was plenty of spirit from both sides. Several hundred Loyola students turned out in bright green T-shirts and did their best to go Cameron Crazy. Towson countered with its umpteen-time national champion dance team, who not only performed two numbers but also patrolled the lobby, soliciting donations in exchange for 8X10 glossy team photos. Advantage: Towson.

Brown took only ten seconds to jack up a three as the game got underway. He missed but was fouled and made two of three. Towson broke Loyola's fullcourt press easily but Fofana swatted the Tiger's shot and the Greyhounds appeared to be in control. Except that they didn't score a field goal for nearly nine minutes. Kind of reminded me of the Ravens. And the Wizards. And the Orioles. Maybe I should move to Boston.

Not that Towson was blowing it wide open. Most of the Tigers' points came off turnovers, breaking the Loyola press, or on offensive rebounds, but they clearly missed Neal in the halfcourt offense and could only build the lead to 11. By halftime, Loyola had closed to within 2, 31-29.

Loyola took another offensive hiatus to start the second period, and the Tigers stretched the lead to nine as Hairston began to assert himself on offense and defense. Patsos stomped, fumed and sweat through his suit like the Gary Williams protege that he is, and Loyola clawed back and took the lead. And then Hairston really took over. In a five-minute span, he found two teammates for open three-pointers, altered a Loyola layup attempt, grabbed three rebounds, one steal and tossed in two free throws. Towson 59, Loyola 49. The lead grew to 14 and then shrunk to four, but every time Towson needed a boost, Hairston stepped up. Final score 83-69. Final stat line for Hairston: 26 points on 10-15 shooting, 21 rebounds, three assists, three blocks, one steal. All together now: Gary Who?

For Loyola, Patsos has to hope this is a wakeup call. His team got outhustled all night. Brown finished 5-13 from the field but did lead his team with five assists and four steals. There were no bright spots for Fofana and Isreal, who combined for six points and eight rebounds. If the Greyhounds are going to compete in the MAAC, they'd better figure out how to beat a 1-3-1 zone.

For the Tigers, the wakeup call goes out to the CAA. Nothing will come easy for visitors to the Towson Center. At 6-8, 205, Hairston is quick in the paint with a nice array of lefty moves. Durant is a solid compliment inside and guards C.C. Williams, Rocky Coleman and Rodney Spruill are quick enough to force more bad decisions than peer pressure. Towson's conference rivals should also note that the Tigers were without Carr and forward Tommy Breaux, who is Hairston minus the offensive skills.

Bottom line for the Bog Poll? Towson in, Loyola out.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Wizards Wobble, Fall Down

At first glance, the Wizards' 87-85 loss to the Net last night doesn't look so bad. On the road, against one of the top teams in the conference, Washington had a chance to win, but Gilbert Arenas failed to shake his defender for a game-winning shot. Statistically, the game could not have been much closer, as neither team shot well, but some notable points could prove worrisome for Wizards' fans as the season progresses.

First, the Wiz are now 0-4, and two of the losses have come in close games. Second, Agent Zero's recovery from knee surgery is obviously not complete. He is an astonishing 3-24 from three- point range and has gotten to the free throw line only 40 times in four games.

Third, the Wizards' bench should also be called Agent Zero for what it contributes. Darius Songaila threw his body around and grabbed a few rebounds last night, but he doesn't scare you on offense. Nor does Roger Mason, who jacks a couple threes to little effect. Andray Blatche still looks young and tentative on the floor while Antonio Daniels seems to have aged more than enough to compensate for him. Looking at last night's box score, the Nets bench gave them 28 points and 17 rebounds in 93 minutes while the Wizards got 17 and 13 in 70.

Defensively, the Wizards are giving up four fewer points per game than last year, but their team scoring average is down 14 points. In the fourth quarter last night, the Nets scored 30, mostly from Richard Jefferson and Vince Carter, but with several nice plays by (beating a dead horse here) NJ reserves Bostjan Nachbar and Antoine Wright.

So, what's the good news? Umm, let's see ... Caron Butler was 5-5 from the line, so he seems to be regaining his form there. Gilbert had his best three-point shooting night of the season (Yes, he was 2-7, but I'm trying here). Songaila's six rebounds were a season high. Solicitation charges were dropped against Blatche this week. Finally, the Wiz get Denver at home tonight. Expect a cautiously enthusiastic crowd, but it could get ugly if Washington doesn't come out on top.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Life ... less

The last two Wednesday nights, the remote has settled on NBC for nearly two full episodes of "Life." Very pretentious title, don't you think? But I like the cereal and the board game (although I never saw the Eddie Murphy/Martin Lawrence movie) so I thought I would take a look at this show.

At first I thought it was a cop show, featuring Damian Lewis as the classic "Tough Guy with Issues" and his partner, Sarah Shahi, as "Hot Babe in Leather Coat." And this formula has worked for me from NYPD Blue all the way to Law and Order: Criminal Intent. But from the outset, Life's premise was stretched way too thin by making Lewis a cop restored to the force after serving time in prison for a crime he didn't commit. Wouldn't it be more realistic for him to get a huge cash settlement and then a show on Court TV? I mean, isn't he just a little worried that his colleagues don't really trust him?

Apparently not, so he spends lots of time trying to solve the bank job he went down for, ending each episode by drawing lines on the big flow chart in his basement that documents his investigation. Which has come to include his partner, whose father was on the SWAT team during the robbery. She is also a recovering alcoholic and speaks fluent Farsi, which really came in handy on last night's show, where our heroic duo saved a Persian man who was laundering drug money through an offshore account held by his lover, a single mother whose son kidnapped him and killed two of his friends and one off his own accomplices before being taken out by a sniper. The kidnappers almost got away, but the cops cracked the case by having the man's sister play a video game on his computer because she was the only one young enough to have the thumb dexterity to get to the tenth level and open the encrypted account records.

And every now and then Adam Arkin wandered onscreen with a buxom redhead who took him to a solar enegy farm, where they ran out of gas (oh the irony). This subplot confused me so much I thought I had accidently changed the channel, which is of course exactly what I should have done.

Obviously, I joined this show late, and either I keep missing the two-minute "Previously on Life" summaries that are de rigeur on serial dramas, or Life is pushing the envelope to daring extremes by not having them, but I don't think any amount of backfill would catch me up enough to my satisfaction.

I am all for television that makes you think, and quirky characters, but this is plot as jigsaw puzzle, one of those ridiculous thousand-piece numbers that pictures two polar bears on an iceberg, so that once you've put the eyes and noses together, you've got 992 pieces of white cardboard that fall into place only by happenstance.

"Yes," I hear the fans saying. "It's complicated. Just like life. Get it?"

I do get it. But nobody's life is that complicated. Parts of this show are very compelling. It's well shot, and the two leads are pretty good, although both are too pretty to be real police officers. But I think Adam Arkin seals it for me. After two episodes, I have no idea who he is or what he is doing on the show.

Looks like it's NBA doubleheaders on TNT for Wednesdays in the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Inaugural Poll

So the TV writers are on strike, and I support them because I like to write and I have strong Socialist leanings and anything that stops production of "Desperate Housewives" and makes the hiatus of "Back to You" a permanent situation has to be a good thing. Nevertheless, I will cross the digital picket line and post to my blog for the second time in two days which is something of a record around here, of late.

I ended yesterday's Ravens tirade with a throwaway line about college basketball, and, wouldn't you know it, today marks the appearance of the first Big Stein DC-MD-VA college basketball poll. As I am sure you will recall, this poll ranks the top 11 Division I men's college basketball programs in Washington, Maryland and Virginia, according to the votes of a group selected using very low admissions standards. Anyone can tell you who the top teams are nationally (UNC, Memphis, UCLA, Georgetown, etc), but not many people take the time to assess the impact of Morgan State's transfer class and how Richmond's slowdown offense makes the Spiders a tough out on the road.

Anyway, here are my votes for Week 1:

1. Georgetown
Roy Hibbert staying at Georgetown so he can graduate and go to medical school like his idol and role model, Dr. Julius Hibbert.
2. VCU
Nontraditional college basketball powers will henceforth be known as mid-Maynors.
3. Virginia
Sean Singletary hopes to be the first player since Oscar Robertson to average a triple-doubletary.
4. Maryland
In honor of the start of college basketball season, College Park Mattress Discounters store holds a “Burn One, Get One Free” sale.
5. George Mason
Flights from Dulles to San Antonio are already sold out for the Final Four weekend.
6. GW
If the Firebirds took them to overtime, just imagine how they are going to struggle against the Corvettes and the Camaros.
7. Loyola
Jimmy Patsos counting on the emergence of Hassan Fofana, fana bobana, banana fana, fofana, fee, fi, momana, Fofana!
8. Hampton
Kevin Nickelberry is so confident of his team’s prospects he has already requested film exchange with North Carolina and UCLA for his first round NCAA game.
9. Richmond
Spiders celebrate season-opening win over Maine, lose to Memphis in the meantime.
10. Virginia Tech
Biggest question of the season is whether Coleman Collins will miss a dunk in the alumni game.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ravens Rot

I have never seen a team that I was cheering for play a worse football game than the Ravens played last night. The Redskins' 38-9 loss to the Raiders in the Super Bowl has now officially been displaced. Considering that Pittsburgh was up 35-0 in the first half, this was beyond futility. The Ravens were so bad that Notre Dame is trying to get them on their schedule in Navy's slot.

The whole team was awful, but Steve McNair deserves special attention for his horrendous performance. As bad as his stats were (13-22, 63 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 2 fumbles), they don't tell the whole horrific story. He threw more balls in the dirt than a pitcher with two strikes on Barry Bonds. The one ball I remember him throwing downfield was a beautiful spiral into the chest of Pittsburgh defender James Harrison. Harrison also recovered McNair's fumble in the Raven's opening drive. Maybe Baltimore should trade for Harrison and convert him to wideout since he and McNair seem to have pretty effective chemistry. McNair was sacked six times, so obviously his protection was pretty bad, but he held the ball too long, threw way too many short passes, and got called for intentional grounding. He should have gotten called twice, but the officials must have been embarrassed for him. At one point, he completed passes on first and second down and the Ravens still faced third and two. When Brian Billick finally went to Kyle Boller, Boller's first pass sailed 10 yards past his intended receiver, who apparently forgot that pass plays over 15 yards were still in the gameplan.

So, it seems pretty clear that it's time to close the book on the McNair era in Baltimore. Yes, he was once a great QB, and last year, he was exactly what the Ravens needed. But he had three weeks of rest to heal and prepare for last night's game, and yet halfway through the first half he didn't look a deer in the headlights so much as a deer tied to the hood. Keeping him behind such a young offensive line is not just poor judgment, it borders on criminal negligence. Just ask Redskins fans how quicky Marc Brunell deteriorated.

And yet, Kyle Boller is not the answer either, which makes Boller's contract extension a few weeks ago completely mystifying. Maybe Baltimore is planning on putting together another defense like they had last year or during the Super Bowl season. That's really the only way this "plan" makes any sense.

Now, I am an optimist; I had the Ravens winning it all halfway through last season and stuck to that right up to their loss to the Colts in the playoffs. So let's put on the seriously purple-tinted shades for a minute. Let's say you win your next two at home against Cincinnati and Cleveland and manage to knock off San Diego (which really could happen unless they get smart and fire Norv Turner first). Forget about New England and Indianapolis, but then you are left with Miami, who stinks worse than the jack-o-lanterns still sitting on my front stoop, Seattle, who really never recovered from losing the Super Bowl, and finish with Pittsburgh, and don't tell me the Ravens won't be fired up for that one! See how easy this is? Now, you're 10-6 and marching into the playoffs when Peyton Manning and Tom Brady suffer a horrible accident while filming a Miller Lite All-Stars reunion commercial and suddenly it's all there for the taking.

Do I believe this will happen? Not a chance. I'm just waiting for college basketball to start.