Monday, November 30, 2009

Gate Crashers - No, not those knuckleheads!

Week Two of the Bog Poll sees two unfamiliar names dangerously near the top of the Bog Poll. Two names but one school, so that would be William and Mary, which jumped from unranked to #3, largely on the strength of a major upset at Wake Forest. Now I know Wake was only picked sixth in the ACC preseason poll, but winning in Winston Salem makes this doubly impressive. Richmond also had a very good week beating Missouri and Mississippi State in the South Padre Island Invitational, but the 6-1 Spiders only rose to #4 because their lone loss is to ... William and Mary.

The Hoyas claim the top spot based on their undefeated record, a mark that will be much more impressive if they keep it against the likes of Butler and Washington over the next few weeks (no offense to Mount Saint Mary's tonight). VCU advances to #2 with medium wins against Nevada and at Hampton.

Slots five thru ten are a big blob of meh starting with the Terps, who need to get Greivis Vasquez on track and soon. If they do, memories of their Maui struggles will fade like a rainbow, but right now Greivis is shooting 33% from the field and 26% from three, not good numbers from the guy who leads your team in field goal attempts. ODU went to the same tournament as Richmond but came away with two losses, not exactly legitimizing their status as champions of the 2009 postseason tournament. Virginia Tech blew a chance to move up with a lackluster output against Temple, losing 61-50 after trailing 27-17 at the half. Perhaps of even greater concern, the Hokies needed overtime to beat Delaware the following night.

Morgan beat the bad big name (2-4 Arkansas) but stumbled against an average App. State squad. Still, the Bears are averaging more than 80 ppg with leading scorer Reggie Holmes at 23.7. Might have to go see him in person. GW got starry-eyed in the presence of the president and spotted Oregon State a 14-0 lead, but the Colonials might have to be taken seriously this year, for a change. And Virginia clung to its ten spot by beating Cleveland State, but the Cavs will have to hold off challenges from outliers George Mason, James Madison, Loyola and the Mount.

1. Georgetown (4-0)
Hoyas' position atop this poll about as secure as a White House State Dinner.
2. VCU (4-1)
Larry Sanders has 14 blocks this seasons, three more than the Redskins' starting left tackle.
3. Willam and Mary (4-2)
Wake Forest students so upset by Demon Deacons' loss, they take to the streets and burn massive bales of tobacco.
4. Richmond (6-1)
Spiders win the South Padre Island Invitational; Chris Mooney celebrates by taking his top off in the postgame press confrence.
5. Maryland (4-2)
Terps score some Maui Owie on their trip to the Hawaiian Islands.
6. Old Dominion (4-2)
Monarchs drop two at South Padre Island. I said two, not trou.

7. Virginia Tech (4-1)
Hokies split a pair in Philly, get booed by Eagles' fans.
8. Morgan State (4-2)

If you had Morgan beating Arkansas and losing to Appalachian State this week, you are really wasting your time reading this poll.
9. GW (4-1)
Colonials get their first loss of the season, Obama get his first clear win in just over a year.
10. Virginia (4-2)
Cavaliers win the consolation game in the Cancun Challenge, a contest that strangely did not require the consumption of any tequila.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs!

Now that the fitzfacts is (are?) back, let's ponder an important local sports question:

Q: Are the Ravens a playoff team?

A: Sure, but there are at least 12 teams still in the mix for six AFC spots, and the Ravens are in the middle to bottom of that group, so I wouldn't start brewing that Super Bowl Sunday pot of purple chili just yet. After a blazing 3-0 start, Baltimore has been inconsistent in every phase of the game, so much so that talk radio hosts must be getting a headache from the constant changes of subject from week-to-week. They pass too much, they run too much, they need to blitz more, they need to cover better, they need to stop getting penalties, the kicker must go, Paul Kruger should play, Willis McGahee should play more, it just goes on and on because every week something seems to go wrong, and the Ravens either lose a close game (four of the five losses were by 3 points or fewer), or they don't win as convincingly as they "should" (16-0 over Cleveland, with no first half touchdowns).

Four times, they have scored 30 points or more, and they rank fifth in the conference in ppg. Six times, they've held opponents under 20, and they rank sixth in the AFC in that category. But again, the inconsistency makes it very difficult to truly assess their chances and impossible to predict.

Fortunately, every other team in the conference, except the 10-0 Colts, has had similar issues. In the AFC North, the Bengals looked fearsome early on but fell apart against the hapless Raiders last week. The Steelers have weathered some tough injuries and may have quarterback problems, but they couldn't stop the Browns last week, whom the Ravens have beaten twice by a total score of 50-3.

In the East, New England's defense is going to have to prove themselves now that their coach exposed his lack of confidence in that unit against the Colts. At 5-5, Miami's best win is against the 4-6 Jets, and I don't have much faith that Rex Ryan getting more involved in the Jets' offense is going to help that team's production.

Out West, Denver's 6-0 start is in ashes, while San Diego appears poised to take the division. The Chargers are easily the best team the Ravens have beaten this year, and that game came down to the final play.

In the South, the Colts have distanced themselves from the stumbling Texans, who have lost two straight and play at Indy next. Jacksonville looks solid at 6-4, but they lost to Seattle and Tennessee, neither of who has a winning record. Speaking of the Titans, Vince Young has revived both his team and his career in the last month, but the 0-6 hole they dug themselves makes it hard to believe they can get to the playoffs.

So, the bottom line is that the Ravens have lost five games to four teams that are winning their respective divisions. Except for the game at Cincinnati, every contest has been close, so there's no reason to think they can't compete against any team they play. Taking that line of thinking (I won't call it logic) one step further, they certainly can win enough games to get to the playoffs, and if they do get there, they should have a good shot to advance.

So the answer is a definitive, absolute probably.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Guess who's back? Bog is back!

Getting a "better late than never start," the Bog Poll, orchestrated by Dan Steinberg, makes its return to the Washington Post today. As always, I'll be participating until I get bored with it. For the uninitiated, the poll ranks the 27 Division I men's basketball teams in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. Not surprisingly, Georgetown and Maryland are often near the top, but participating in the process has given me a new appreciation for schools like VCU and Morgan State. I also find myself watching UMBC-Loyola games with more enthusiasm than you'd think possible.

With the season underway, we find several teams still undefeated. Morgan's one loss came is a reasonably close game at Louisville and VCU bounced back from a bad loss at Western Michigan with a thorough beating of Oklahoma at home, so both of those teams stay ahead of some of the undefeated. Virginia and GW return from exile and, after a year where VMI and Liberty were a steady presence, the Big South has fallen hard (although Radford could climb in).

Without further ado:

1. Maryland (3-0)
Opened with a win against Charleston Southern. Will have to prove themselves in a tough stretch that includes Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and the Panama Limited.
2. Old Dominion (4-0)
Monarchs' leading scorer Gerald Lee is from Uusikaupunki, Finland, which is also the home of the Bonk Museum. Bonk Business is a fictional corporation that has produced amazing inventions such as bilateral wave transformation and the gnagg booster.
3. Georgetown (3-0)
John Thompson III coaching against Fran Dunphy in a game where the teams totalled fewer than 100 points. Was that Georgetown-Temple in 2009 or an ESPN 30-30 study of recent Ivy League Basketball history?
4. Morgan State (3-1)
Very disappointed in Todd Bozeman. Sure the Bears are 3-1, but no blog posts since March 6? And the only Todd Bozeman I can find on Twitter is a guy named Todd who lives in Bozeman, Montana? What happened to Coach Wired 2.0?
5. VCU (2-1)
Rams fans hoping that The Larry Sanders show doesn't jump the shark in its third season.
6. Virginia Tech (2-0)
Hokies beat Brown by 14 and UNC Greensboro by 13, but Tech fans know that buzzer beaters and last second losses await just as certainly as castrated turkey jokes at Thanksgiving.
7. GW (3-0)
Colonials at 3-0? Time for the Post to start sniffing around GW's recruiting trail.
8. Virginia (3-1)
"Cavaliers, this is the Bog Poll. Bog Poll, meet the Cavaliers. It's been a few years, so I'll let you two get reacquainted."
9. Richmond (3-1)
Spiders must have been looking past William and Mary to their matchup with perennial college basketball powerhouse, the Chattanooga Mocs.
10. George Mason (3-2)
Patriots drop two out of three in Puerto Rico, Jim Larranaga blames team's insistence on seeing a midnight screening of "The Twilight Saga: New Moon."