Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Tribe, Indubitably

Really hard to believe that William and Mary pose the greatest threat to Georgetown for the top spot in this poll, but the Tribe have earned their spot. Playing at Radford next week will be tougher than you might think, but at Maryland the following week won't be a shock, after all, W&M beat Wake at Wake.

Virginia Tech could also sneak up on the Hoyas as the Hokies schedule is Charmin-soft until they get Seton Hall leading into ACC play. The next four (VCU, Richmond, Maryland, GW) have consistency issues but are much more squared away than ODU and Morgan. After that, there are about five teams struggling around .500 vying for the 10-spot. This week, that one goes to Mason.

1. Georgetown (8-0)
Hoyas likely to win more games in December than the entire NFC East.
2. Willam and Mary (6-2)
This Saturday, the Tribe plays Vassar, a school whose most notable athletic achievement to date is the hosting of the first intercollegiate Quidditch match.
3. Virginia Tech (8-1)
Hokies won a game by two points when Penn State missed a last-second shot. Somebody get me a copy of the Virginia Tech charter because I'm pretty sure that's a violation of the school's founding principals.
4. VCU (6-2)
Beat Richmond in The Battle of a Major Thoroughfare That Was at One Time Named After Jefferson Davis.
5. Richmond (7-2)
During the Civil War, the Battle of Richmond took place in Richmond, Kentucky, which explains why the Richmond Spiders looked lost against VCU.
6. Maryland (5-3)
The return of Dino Gregory to the Terps' lineup had the same impact that "Christmas with Dino" had on my family's tree-trimming festivities. Enjoyable, with some moments of sparkling entertainment, but not essential.
7. GW (7-2)
In the category of Most Effective Washington Area Athletes You've Never Heard Of, Lasan Kromah was just overtaken by Quinton Ganther.8. Old Dominion (6-4)
Monarchs split a pair, always a good strategy with aces or eights at the blackjack table, not so good in college basketball.
9. Morgan State (6-4)
After Tuesday's game against Towson, the Bears go on the road for seven straight. Maybe Todd Bozeman should get scheduling advice from someone other than Fang Mitchell.
10. George Mason (5-5)
Beat Creighton and lost to Dayton. Impossible to predict how they'll fare against Bo Bayton and Fee Fi Mo Mayton.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Can the Ravens make the playoffs?

Probably not ...
About two weeks ago, I assessed the Ravens' chances to make the playoffs and came up with the astute proclamation of "definitive, absolute probably." A home win over the Steelers and a road loss to the Packers later, I have to downgrade that evaluation to about 25% and if they do get in, their chance to advance is about 10%. Tackling the first part of that statement, the Ravens almost certainly have to win the remaining games on their schedule: Lions, Bears, at Steelers, at Raiders. Since none of those teams have .500 records or upper echelon quarterbacks, that seems entirely possible.

Assuming they win out and go 10-6, the Ravens have to count on either the Jaguars (7-5) or Denver (8-4) to stumble down the stretch. Baltimore wins a tiebreaker with the Broncos, but Jacksonville's 6-2 conference record leaves the Ravens out if both teams end up 10-6 because the Jags AFC record would then be 9-3, which Baltimore can't reach from its current mark of 6-4. Jacksonville has to play Miami, Indianapolis, at New England and at Cleveland. There's also a chance that the Patriots go 10-6, lose the AFC East tiebreaker to the Dolphins but win the tiebreaker with the Ravens because they beat Baltimore earlier this season. And I haven't (and won't) consider the prospect of tiebreakers with the 6-6 Jets or Dolphins.

So, lots of pieces have to fall into place. Tactically speaking, I'd like to see the Ravens run the ball more. A lot more. Flacco is clearly struggling, and if pounding opponents with a running game worked last season, it should work even better with a more experienced Ray Rice and a strong offensive line. If McClain is healthy, give him the ball 10 times. He looked very good against Pittsburgh. Ditto for McGahee, 10 carries. Keeping Ray Rice at his season average of 15 carries per game, that gives you 35 running plays plus the occasional end around to Clayton or Troy Smith, who has carried nothing but a clipboard this season. Granted, that's about 10 more running plays than the Ravens are averaging this season, but it would go a long way towards taking pressure off of Flacco and might help sell some play action passes. Other than that, Flacco needs to take some more shots down the field, to the point where he throws the ball away to the deep sideline instead of quickly checking down to Rice or Heap as he seems to have done more often of late.

On defense, the Ravens have to keep blitzing and live or die with the results. The DBs have to stop grabbing every receiver that runs through their zone. All year long, they have gotten beaten by good QBs (Manning, Palmer, Brady, Favre, Rivers, Rogers) and a few RBs but there's no sense in sitting back and waiting for the punishment. As the injuries mount, it's hard to believe this unit can stop a playoff caliber offense, but, on the other hand, they won't play a playoff caliber team for at least a month.

So, the Ravens are mathematically alive and, in vision tinted by purple-colored glasses, still have a decent shot to be playing in the postseason. So don't pack away the purple camo just yet, but you might have some January weekends available for skiing getaways this year.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Hoya Eterna

Week 3 in the Bog Poll finds Georgetown still up top after easy wins over AU and the Mount. William and Mary announces that the Colonial Athletic Association championship road runs through Colonial Williamsburg with a win over VCU, and Richmond and Virginia Tech keep pace. VCU needs to rebound over Richmond this week, and, don't look now, but GW is playing a lot like the good teams that Hobbs had a few years ago before it all blew up in his face. Maryland has lost to three good teams, but they have not really looked competitive on the boards or on defense (plus Vasquez has been bad, bad, bad). The bottom three in the poll are pretty weak, but less weak than Virginia and Mason, who need to get over .500 for any consideration.
1. Georgetown (6-0)
Georgetown-American game marred by Michaele Salahi's attempt to join the cheerleading squads' halftime routines.
2. Willam and Mary (6-2)
Founded in 1693, William and Mary's streak of 316 years without an appearance in the NCAA Tournament could be in jeopardy this year.
3. Richmond (7-1)
Justin Harper was hotter than Justin Bieber in the Spiders' win over Old Dominion. Readers who are not prepubescent girls can be forgiven for not getting that reference. I cannot be forgiven for writing it.
4. Virginia Tech (6-1)
The funny thing about Virginia Tech beating Georgia is that Seth Greenberg is a great admirer of the artist Georgia O'Keefe, whose powerful abstract images of the American Southwest make Greenberg long for his hometown of Plainview, Long Island. Did I mention that my wife is also from Plainview?
5. VCU (5-2)
Lose to William and Mary? Time for Shaka Smart to switch to Shaka Zulu mode!
6. GW (6-1)
Foggy Bottom, stand up! You know, because this is your stop ... you get off here, right ... Foggy Bottom - GWU ... hurry up, the doors are closing.
7. Maryland (5-3)

Terps. As in terpsichorean, defined by my Websters to mean of or relating to dancing. Hmm, not unless they get their act together. Also, in the time it took you to read that, Scottie Reynolds knocked down another three.
8. Old Dominion (5-3)
Monarchs beat the Blue Hens, who played as if they practice with blue balls, which, for their sake, I sincerely hope they do not.
9. Morgan State (5-3)
Bears lost to crosstown rival Loyola, largely because Jimmy Patsos decided to sit on his bench and coach his team for the entire game.
10. James Madison (4-3)
In their three losses, the Dukes have scored in the forties. Actor John Wayne, also nicknamed the Duke, also scored in the forties. Born in 1907, I'm guessing he scored in several other decades in the 20th Century.