Friday, December 16, 2011

'before the fruitcake...'

      Seven and zero into the holidays has given 'The Boys' time to adjust, coalesce and define this edition's personality. Gotta like what you see. Sans 'TheBigDog', for five games, proved no problem. The depth just kept on comin'. Especially big for the Panther Faithful was the play of Peter Lynch, the 'Frosh' (as a collective), and James Jensen, heretofore unheralded. All have been top shelf. People found new roles that they had instantly grown into. Yikes! Of course, all was made easier by the Guard play- they distribute and score, they stop people, and they control tempo early and late- and with Joey K. holding the rock come crunch time, we've gotten to the point where people don't want to put us on the line. Right now, hovering at 75%+, we're about 14 ticks over where our foul shooting had us in the last 3 national runs (don't do the math, St. Thomas wouldn't have survived).

      Now Ryan Sharry, 'TheBigDog' on our porch, and a legit All-American, is almost back. While he was wowing the media with his return stats, it'd be my take that he'll be stronger and fitter come time The Boys are ready for the 'WitchMen' at Salem. Knowing they're going in there with the biggest target in Midd BBall history on them can be considered an honor. Curry is seriously overmatched, and only an overdosing of the pre-game fruitcake with 'lunesta' might keep them around past the half. Of course Salem State will be salivating because they've already taken Williams down at Chandler. This corner cautions because 'the road' is the great equalizer, but there are major differences between The Boys and this group of 'Ephs'. It starts with balance, because on 'O', the nightly contributions come from many different angles. Again, it goes back to Jake, Nolan T. and Joey. Don't think I've over-assessed them as the best trio in the east. They run the show, control the flow, and lock big scorers out. Add Luis Alvarez, itching for a big debut off finger surgery, there's a new serious ingredient in the mix. That is where Salem might find itself between a rock and a hard place. Think our 'D' won't allow their 3-game to get going (like when it torched Williams), and parsing their box scores, indicates that they are susceptible to strong inside efforts, giving up percentages in the 50's. Hello, Ryan Sharry, and Peter Lynch! Don't forget that Jack Roberts, already having proved himself a factor, particularly on the 'D' boards, is re-habbing a troublesome knee, and hopes to be back by the time they get on the bus for the Wesleyan weekend. 'Do-able' comes to mind, as does nine and oh at the New Year.

      RPI is the last blip on the radar before we get to the 'Maine Event' ... the nescac season. They look average at best, but took Williams to the wire, so they're deemed above capable. Again the road is the equalizer, but the game is more like being at a neutral site, because their fans will still be home on break, which leads one to think our 'D' can control. Add that they will be coming off a road trip to the Manhattan area the night before, and The Boys face them on the second night of a back-to-back. That's not awful, and it is thought here that we should remain as one of the last tall trees.

      Speaking of  'the tall trees' - a reference to the undefeated teams in the ncaa forest each year- there is no 'taller tree' than the Midd Bball 'Boys' of 1917-18. They were a hearty seven and oh, and at the top of whatever then constituted the eastern championship team. Have not gone back through the records of The Rutland Herald to flesh further info out, but it's safe to say that they were the 'tallest tree' in their time. Needless to say, The Boys have a ways to go before they can make the same claim, but I'm starting to think, with all bodies intact, that come late March, this might well be 'do-able'. One Christmas present, to rile up any detractors- is that come 28 January, in our building, The Boys will make short shrift of any predictions (now 43% of the d3hoops poll) that the numero uno status will last till the Williams game. Unless they know a guy with an elephant gun, how are they going to stop 'TheBigDog'? Obviously, a rhetorical question. Just wanted to be on record, early! Hope everybody's holiday is great! By the way, I hate fruitcake (and mince pie)! Be well. Clubbo.

Monday, December 5, 2011

"the great oxymoron, ...revisited"

      Last year 'The Boys' put to rest that great oxymoron, 'Midd BBall and The Final Four' being included in the same sentence. If things break right tomorrow, Midd will be Numero Uno! in the D3Hoops poll which should hit the airwaves by noon. And certainly, if that happens older Midd alums, both BBall and otherwise, will think that it is better than cool, and another great oxymoron will bite the dust. For that limited group of "NIT-73"-ers (and there were quite a few that were live in Salem), it truly will be another special moment, and one that most never thought would come to pass. But don't worry, 'The Boys' can be out-politicked by the promo machine of TheLordJeff Nation, who have been on fire and own a road W. over a decent Springfield squad. My call is that Midd, at #2 last week, attended to business, and may have a bit more equity with the pollsters at this stage of a new season. Meanwhile yours truly knows the only real #1 is far down the road in the Blue Ridge, but anything that makes it tougher for the Ephs or The LJN to swallow is fine by this audience.

      The Boys were saddled with injuries to Ryan Sharry before the season opener, but stepped up and met the challenge thrown out by Gwynned-Mercy (late) and then Ramapo on their own floor and then some. Jack Roberts was effective both nights and has come a long way in just a year. Jake, Nolan and Joey are as good a triumvirate (ah! the value of a Middlebury education) in the backcourt as anybody has in the nation. But the big news early has been the dominating and tough play by Peter Lynch, who in 5 games has grown proverbially from an ugly duckling to a swan. He always had it, to my mind, but clearly, in the spotlight now has figured out that it's his ball. Nice to get these kinds of guys. Think the preseason assessment of the frosh was right on. This is a good (already) and deep group with excellent contributions by Dean Brierly and Dylan Simmickson in the forefront. And they've got an untapped upside. Also noteworthy was a timely contribution by 6'9 Chris Churchill at crunch time in securing the W. at Ramapo. Hunter Merryman chipped in good buckets and boards off the bench in his latest outing. Eamon Cuddy's debut has been delayed by a stress fracture but he says soon.

      But tomorrow, The Boys turn the page and 'The BigDog' comes back to meet Lamont Thomas (perhaps) and his J&W crew, and then Friday they're on the road at Skidmore. Both were NCAA partygoers last year. Lamont may be injured (not in the last two boxes), and if so, we're better and deeper everywhere. Saw him last year. Pretty impressive in controlling the tempo and his team. Averaged 31 ppg.'s last time around, and although he's got the rock all the time, he's not a ball hog or a gunner. One of the two best individual G's, I've seen the last 7 seasons. Of course he hasn't met Nolan T., and doesn't have a 'BigDog' of his own, so he's at a disadvantage. Presuming we get some rehab minutes by Ryan S., both foes are do-able and should keep us in the 'Land of the Tall Trees'. The Boys then go on exam and holiday break before the Salem State tourney.

       Speaking of 'Tall Trees', many have already fallen ,and right now by my count there's less than 30 (of the 403 in D3) remaining nationally with unblemished records, two weeks into the season. Nice to be in that group. My take is we're not facing the woodsman's axe, but Skidmore will be the tougher out because the road is the great equalizer. That's where JeffB. and his preparation comes into play. Won't be in Saratoga on the weekend,  but will get The Boys via the small screen. But if you're in the Boston area, get up to Salem State for the live action on December 29th and 30th. Best wishes to everyone for a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays filled with laughter, family and peace and health. Talk soon. Clubbo.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

'Much Ado...about everything'

    96 W's in four years gets people's attention. Most notably if their teams wear some shade of purple with gold or white. The Panthers are now a 'national team'. Translated simply it means "The Boys" are a target every night. Some of the Panther faithful, still giddy from last season's ride, wonder if there'll be an encore.
The Nescac has been rated as the toughest conference in the country based on the last 3 seasons members beating up outside foes at an alarming rate, so obviously we've got to take care of that business first, if there's to be another ncaa run.

    Before we get there The Boys open with four ncaa-bid squads in their first six games. It all begins in about 72 hours with Gwynedd-Mercy and then Ramapo State in their building in Jersey. Gwynedd lost 3 major guys to graduation and everybody knows that the trio of Locke, Wholey and Jamal Davis were a giant part of that 96 W. total. The Panthers return with their first pre-season All American, Ryan Sharry. He is maybe the best player that has ever laced 'em up for Midd. That includes the immortal Sonny Dennis, and the incomparable Tom Hart. And if he's not the best, he's in that conversation. My take is that he still has an untapped part of his game that will become evident as the year unfolds. He is 'The Big Dog' in our house and will be accorded extra attention from every opponent.

    The real news at Pepin is that he's got a lot of support. Having seen 'The Boys' run recently, it's clear that Jake and Nolan and Joey are better individually and together. That makes life easier for everybody else at both ends. Peter Lynch looks like he can finish in traffic, that ought to help his minutes. Jack Roberts has benefitted from his trip to the weight room and was a factor on defense. Jensen appears to have focused his terrific energy, and Nate Bullock, who showed flashes of great athleticism last year, looks like he's growing into his Middlebury experience. And both Winslow and Carl, reliable old soldiers, still bring their passion to whatever time they've earned. It is a great core of guys.

    Enter the new frosh. Size, more size and talent. All between 6'5 and 6'9. Yes this is Middlebury not UConn or Duke. Dylan Simmickson and Dean Brierle (both 6'5) look like they may be able to contribute
right away. Eamon Cuddy looks like he can play, as does Hunter Stone a scorer from L.A., although he might need more time. Of course scrimmaging isn't the same thing as when they're using live ammuntion so we'll see how the new pieces fit in. Not mentioned above-Luis Alvarez and Albert Nasciemento were on the sidelines with injuries. Luis's defense was excellent last year annd there's no reason to think, once healed, he won't be more capable this time around. Albert still has one of the better release and range seen in a while and just needs to be able to put it together.

   A lot of programs would like to have the size, ability and depth that JeffB. will have every night. Those elements don't automatically make you a 24 or25 win team. The chemistry has to be right, and that's really determined under fire, but one gets the sense that this group knows what it takes and wants to deliver an encore performance. Now that would great. It all starts Saturday, so get over to Ramapo and see The Boys live rather than on the small screen. Talk soon. Clubbo.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

'about four bricks shy of a load..'

       With time to consider how special this year's run to Salem was, you appreciate the fact that Midd Bball is now one of those in the forefront of the 'national' discussion, and though only time will tell if this is sustainable, it doesn't take a leap of faith to consider that with Amherst, we should be able to contend for the NESCAC crown. Obviously, with Locke, Jamal and Ryan W. and their chemistry leaving, we're going to need some answers. And this year's seniors leave a huge legacy, having won 96 games.  In D3 perspective, without playoffs or NCAA's, you're only allowed to schedule 96 in four years. to expand the perspective, next year's group has an opportunity to put their 'W' total past the century mark. At the speed we were accumulating 'W's when I came on board, a couple of rounds of national forests could've grown and been harvested before my squads hit triple digits. This is better.

      Sharry, the only Midd junior ever to earn All-American status, provides a couple of answers for next season. My take is that he can do more on 'O' whenever called on and think his number will come up more. The help is going to have to come from Peter Lynch inside on both ends so we're able to control the paint. He's the strongest guy in the program, so there's hope he'll start pounding the stuffing out of opponents from the tip.(We were 5th nationally in RB'g margin at plus 9.1). Also will need Jensen to continue his progress, plus find some assistance either from a new frosh or along the bench to be able to defend and board from the #3. As far as the perimeter 'D' goes, Nolan Thomson only gets better and he always brings his cuffs. Jake plays hard, and has quicker hands than one would think, and that complements Nolan's work nicely. Have to feel that Joey Kizel will only be better as a soph. Like the attitude and development that Luis Alvarez had throughout the year. Think that 'D' his stronger suit but he contributes in spots on the other end. he should be anothe rkey factor. Midd lead the country in FG pct. 'D', and was third in scoring defense. The Boys will be tested on the perimeter because Andrew isn't back there as chief initimidator, but we've got a terrific group in the ones just mentioned, plus others trying to fight their way into the rotation.

      A wish list for next year includes some up front size and brawn, a dial -up jump shooter to fuel the inside out game and help take the pressure off Ryan S., and better foul shooting. At 12-23 in the final - and not much better from start to finish, it'd be a big help in closing  teams out. Time will tell as to how the new boys fit in but am looking forward because sources say this is a really good group.

      The nescac will have a different look with new coaches at Colby and Hamilton (a Bball member now) and a chance for Trinity to have a recruiting class for Cosgrove, who is waaaay too intense for me but gets a lot out of his kids, and they always give us headaches. Sources indicate The Boys are opening in a tourney at Ramapo State in Jersey, and next season we get the 'southern' road schedule (@ Wes, ConnColl, Trinity and Amherst) so if you didn't get north this year you'll be able to make a couple of mini-trips. With the outside grilling season about to begin in earnest, the blog will be in recess (unless something earth shattering happens) till we get an eyeball on the pre-season camps.

       From out here on my deck, plotting a return to Salem, be well. Clubbo. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

' brings another day, another destiny'

      After 46 seasons, getting the trip to Salem was enough to make many of us simply savor the moment. Think of it this way, 399 teams (in D3) were already home gearing up for their 'spring tod' leagues. The level of 'chatter' leading up to Friday was bursting with excitement and pride. And many alums showed up to support The Boys, as well as their parents, and diehard MiddKids who made the trip. Plenty of thoughts on what might've been in the Final Four. The 'Tommies' gave 'The Boys' fits all night, and our 'O' looked like it, but The Boys hung in, rallied back twice in the second half got a lead of 52-45 with 5:40 left but couldn't close them out.

        That was due to a confluence of factors. Jake was in deep foul trouble which strained our G. rotation; as a team, our FT shooting was awful (at 12-23); St. Thomas didn't miss a shot (4-4 floor, 8-8 FT's) the last five minutes; and overall it was not a good performance by the officials, disappointing in a big spot. They were either inconsistent, anticipatory or simply wrong. My take is the players deserved better. Still with all this, after they could've folded, Nolan T. drained a late '3', and then with 16 ticks left, down a bucket, our 'D' and Jamal came up with a giant steal to give us a last chance. Out of the timeout, the Tommies denied  Ryan Sharry getting the ball, and Nolan's last shot heroics came up a hair short. Lost in the post-game analysis was the fact that St. Thomas made a key change when Hannon, (their main 'Big') fouled out. They put Ervin, much shorter, but an A-A linebacker on Sharry, and his strength and lower center of gravity kept Ryan from backing down, and definitely influenced the final sequence.

      Although the disappointment in the building matched the moment, there isn't a reason in the cosmos not to celebrate the season that 'These Boys' had. They played hard and well from the tip against Baruch. They cut down the nets in Williams' building and took the NESCAC (which had three in the Elite Eight), and reprised that in Rochester by advancing the Final Four. At 28 and 2, it was, and is, time to celebrate the best team in Midd BBall history. It was the best of 'rides', and the seniors should look back at their four years as creating a new reality for the school and our program.

      Plaudits go out everywhere. From the top down JeffB. has fostered an atmosphere of success through team contribution. The 'we' before the 'me'. It is demonstrated regularly in his one game at a time attitude and preparation, and it filters down through Arlen, Russ and Ashton (his assistants) to The Boys. And it seems to be not only in the guys who take the bulk of the minutes, but all the way down the bench to those who work hard in practice everyday, with little recognition, beyond that of their coaches and teammates. I am certain that when they look back they'll realize how high their accomplishment has raised the bar. Midd is now in the 'national' discussion. It is my thought that being in that position might well reap some benfits. And I would like to think that we can maintain this high level of performance, teamwork and excellence. Although our seniors represent a substantial loss there won't be a drop off in talent or commitment with the likes of Ryan S. (named to two A-A teams), Jake, Nolan, and Joey in the forefront. They're supported by Peter Lynch, Luis, Winslow, and Jensen, Carl Gayle and C.J. to name just a few. The question becomes how much they will develop and how they will mesh. And I haven't gone all the way down the list. Nor have I considered who's in the pipeline. But knowing 'The Boys' a little, it seems that they will treat the future as unfinished business, and that 'another day will bring another destiny.'

      The Panther Express has been pulled onto a spur to await next season's journey. Thanks to everybody who supported our run and made it a possibility. I'd like to remind everyone out there that if you have any comments or thoughts you can post them here. Entering the off season the blog won't be up on a weekly/regular basis, but will post any news or developments regarding the team or the program as it arises. If I get really bored maybe I'll stir up some gossip, and see if that flies. This is the time of year when I feel like Al Pacino's character, Col. Frank Slade, in 'Scent of A Woman', who at the end of his adventure, quietly trudges up his driveway and goes into his house. Anti-climactic at its best.

      From Downtown Salem, where I suspended my discussion with the local constabulary over the  open container rule, and told them that when I'm in town next year we'll take it up again. Be well. Clubbo.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

'down the Blue Ridge, to get the nets..'

The great oxymoron is no more. MiddBball and 'Final Four' belong in the same sentence. 'The Boys' came through with two enormous efforts on the road, and now The Panther Express has so many clamoring for the ride that we may have to add extra cars! The 'D' was awesome, a mini-block party led by Locke, Ryan S. and Jamal. And two opposing offenses that were clicking at 80 ppg and up, just clunked along barely getting to the 50's. Early on both games looked troublesome, but the simple fact was, that although the 'O' was underperforming, in neither game by halftime did we look like we were in trouble. Rochester had come back to earth, and St. Mary's 23-13 lead, 14 minutes in, had evaporated. And once in front, like the best of thoroughbreds, we simply knew we had them measured and acted like it. Nolan T. showed plenty once he had enough minutes to see his target face to face, and Joey Kizel, who rarely has played like a frosh, continued to impress. The biggest news is that, I think Jake turned an important corner in the final. Since the ball is in his hands so frequently, his floor decisions, passing and shot selection are critical. He made the most of them and his wrap-around dribble off the steal, and left handed pass to a flying Ryan Wholey, who just floated it home for the Locke slam (dunk you very much!) would be in the year's highlight video (if we had one).

      Sharry was double tough even though saddled with foul issues in the final. Ryan W.'s defense on the perimeter continued to take away firepower from attacks that need the 3's. Jamal exploded when necessary and gave us some stability when we came back on St.M.'s. But the big story was 'TheBigFella'. Andrew credited with 6 blocks in the final, had several more, and the 'alters' were equally impressive. For even these top teams, seeing him for the first time up close and personal, requires serious adjustments, particularly when he's got his 'Locke-ness Monster' face on.

      Obviously only powerhouses are left, with the strength of the NESCAC on display in the E-8 with three teams still alive. To get to the Williams-Wooster winner, The Boys have got to climb Mt. 'Tommie'. Minneapolis, a little too far for my four wheeler, so no eyeball on them, but they're a senior laden bunch, who've had no injuries all season (same 5 has started all 31), and shoot the 3 better than anybody in the country (at .389). Additionally they've got 6-9 and 6-8 up front, and Nicolai, their top gun, was a D1 transfer. So we've got to defend, and that is what The Boys do best. Also like that Nolan T. has a size advantage on Nicolai (who's 5-11). And while the Tommies shoot a lot of 3's, they give it up at over 45%, which ought to help our 'O' considerably. One hidden aspect in their record is that there was a point not long ago, where they had problems closing people out. That might be to our benefit. I have no reason to think they're not do-able so we can move on to Saturday.

           If that brings Wooster, right now my comment is the same as Sgt. Schultz's would be ("I know, nothing!"), but we'll get to see them against Williams. And if it's Williams you all know where we stand on that one. Not a better team to beat for the title.

       I don't think there's been this much excitement in Middlebury over BBall since the local-Barney Fife tipped his cruiser over on the Otter Creek bridge, back in '69, chasing a few of us home from the Pine Room, after we had been overserved following our win at RPI to end the 29 game losing streak. Down the Blue Ridge, we're a long way time-wise and program-wise from then, so bring your tapecutters, and maybe JeffB. and The Boys will let us each get a shred of the nets on Saturday at about 5:30. Like someone said, life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the times that you've had your breath taken away. This is one of those times. Start your engines. And I'll see you all on Friday afternoon. From Downtown, at the Salem Civic Center, parked in my lawn chair awaiting the tip, where I'm just about to light up the finest Cuban, and am discussing the open container rule with a member of the local constabulary, be well. #44


Thursday, March 10, 2011

'semi-Sweet Sixteen...'

      Time to give the conductor your ticket and get on The Panther Express to Yellow-Jacket Land, the site where this long and incredible first saw daylight four seasons ago. Back then we were ecstatic for The Boys just getting Midd's name on TheBigDanceCard. They were likewise, proud. You know the history since then. Hardwood excellence, national recognition, rewarded every time. Except by the NCAA. And now to the semi-Sweet Sixteen. Gotten beyond my anti-bureaucracy rant (it took a couple of days), fully focused on Rochester, manana, and moving on to the Elite Eight. With JeffB's preparation, know The Boys are as well, and with a chip on their collective shoulder to boot. Clear that Pepin and the roar of the Panther faithful, will be missed, but this is a group that has been rock solid on the road most of the last two years so see no reason for hand-wringing. And the 'D' , Midd's signature, has shown up every night, usually from the tip.

      With Nolan T. on DiBartolomeo (their triggerman and UAA, POTY) my take is that this kid is in for a tough night. Add in Jake and Joey K. to keep tabs on Labanski, one their main bombers from the arc and we should be able to dictate tempo from the 'D' side. Although I haven't seen them, did see MIT at the end of last season, and if MIT could give them fits, then The Boys fit the bill better. Bigger-by a bunch on the inside, deeper (we got great minutes out of Luis Alvarez on Brooks who only rang up 11 vs. his season avg. of 23+), and with 'O' that MIT didn't have, I'd say they are do-able.

      Although home, the Yellow-Jackets fan base is on spring break, as it was in '08, when the crowd wasn't much of a factor. Add that 'TheBigFella', Jamal, & Ryan W. were in this building as frosh. They got beat then, but never folded. Now they are better armed (add 'The Horse'), more balanced, with added incentive (probably pissed at no-Pepin) to prove this is our year. That should be enough to get us to St. Mary's or Buffalo St.. Without having seen either, think that St. M.'s the favorite here, with a bigger frontline and more tourney experience. St. M's obviously good, but mortal on the road (9and5), while this group of seniors was 16-2 on nescac road over 4 years. So if it's the 'SeaTurtles' so be it. Buffalo edged Plattsburgh in their tourney, but had lost twice in regular season, and only squeaked by Colby-Sawyer. That alone is enough for me to root for the Buffalo 'Wings'. One advantage is that Midd gets to eyeball them on Friday.  

      All that having been said, feel 'TheBigFella' is on the edge of a breakout game, maybe because it was here that he first showed the moxie that has made him the premier 'Big' on 'D' in the country. And otherwise we are fully primed. You have to think that road, or not The Panther Express should keep rollin'. Hope you can get there, but it'll be on a webcast. Regardless of the outcome, it's been Midd's greatest season, and although not predicted back then, was the reason that J. Gerald had 'N.I.T.'73' on his plates. Because he believed. All the sweat and efforts of many backing Midd Bball, often in unseen ways, will be on display in Rochester. All we can say to The Boys is ''go get 'em and leave it all on the floor". They're very good at that. From Downtown, where I wish there were 3's back-when, be well. #44.

Monday, March 7, 2011

of by-laws and hosings...

      In case you missed my fireworks last night with Dave McHugh of 'Hoopsvillle' on d3hoops The Boys aren't hosting, so off to Rochester to win the Final Four bid is where we'll be toasting. More on the matchup with home standing Rochester in a couple of days. The Committee who created our bracket like it was a giant trapezoid laid the foundation for this fiasco. There were several permutations that could've had schools outside the magic 500 mile statutory limit. But there was only St. Mary's (whose campus is 538 miles, according to google, from The Otter Creek brewery, and only slightly farther to Pepin) that brought into play 'By-law#31'. The essence of that By-law is that geography trumps ranking and if a team is caused to travel more than 500 miles, it must get flown to the site by the NCAA. I offered to pay for the extra diesel fuel so the St.Mary's bus wouldn't run out on the north side of Rutland, but the bean-counters at the NCAA would have none of it. So pointing out that Whitworth has to fly (Spokane is 2000+ miles from their site, and always gets hosed because they're too far away and can't host a sectional, and also that Mary-Hardon-Baylor has to fly (Texas is 1200 miles to northern Illinois), the NCAA says they have limited resources to pay for a flight from Reagan to Burlington, so The Panther Express has to go on the road. That is The Boys reward for cutting down the nets in Williamstown. And one can see why the NCAA had to rent an extra hose, or two, from the Middlebury F.D. to get The Boys out of Pepin.
         This doesn't take into account that the NCAA gets the lion's share of the gate. Which I'd peg at somewhere north of $5000., if it were at Pepin, and ought to cover St. Mary's jet fuel costs. But no, the bureaucracy (I hate bureaucracies) overrode The Committee, and Rochester, probably a 6 or 7 seed if you look at the brackets, gets to host in the round of 16. Fair, it isn't. You may have heard that in d3 there is no seeding, but look at who hosted and you'll see that with the exception of Cabrini or Ramapo, no hosts had more than 3L's on their ledgers. The hosts were all the d3-powerteams, and my thought is that 7 of the 8 top-seeds got to the Sweet Sixteen.

      While Midd, the nescac winner goes on the road, Williams stays smugly on Spring Street. But enough of the rant. The positives are that 'The Boys' rely on one of the stingiest 'D's' in the land, have great RB'ing, and they were in that building four seasons ago when we started this run. Add that Rochester's home edge may be dulled because they're on spring break (and when we were last there the place wasn't full or rabid), plus the fact that it's a palestra, which contributes to further nullifying the crowd's impact. Although The Road is the great equalizer, we've handled it, and it's not going to be like being at Williams. So we're not Custer going on the road to The Little Bighorn, or TheLightBrigade wondering about the Valley of Death. I'm pretty sure it's do-able and we'll know before tip whether we're getting the BuffaloState 'Wings' or the St. Mary's 'Sea Turtles' for the main course, so it ought to be fun. From Downtown, where I can just about see the sign for I-81 south that takes us to Salem. Be well. Clubbo.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

'the second season...dancin' again..'

      When you're in the 'second season' (playoffs and beyond) there's no room for error. It is 'win or go home'. And it's not for non-believers or the faint of heart, although The Boys tested everyone's (and their own) resolve with an awful 1st half against Meehan & Co.. We didn't defend and didn't shoot well. Down 14 they came out and found their 'A' game. A methodical run cut it to six, but Meehan pushed TheLordJeffs back up 12. Then 'The Boys' threw the biggest haymaker seen in years. With under 9:00 on the clock, they closed the door on Amherst, caught them at the 1:40 mark, and pulled away. They finished on a 26-10 run triggered by the 'D', inside and out. No 'good looks' for Amherst (Barrise & Workman were 0-8 from 3's), blocks galore, and even though Amherst saw it coming they couldn't find answer.

       After the greatest comeback in our history, The Boys put on an encore performance on Sunday shutting down Wang and Whittington, leading nearly wire to wire and ending Williams' 34-game home win streak to cut down the nets and take the NESCAC title. Many heroes in this one. Jamal beat Whittington to the spot all day, Nolan T. shut Wang down, and Williams couldn't find anybody who could saddle 'The Horse' (Ryan Sharry, double-doubles both days). Throw in tremendous performances by Joey Kizel (both days) and clutch foul shooting down the stretch, and it was truly an encore performance.

      The Boys were rewarded by the NCAA with a one-seed (and a 1st-round bye) so now they've got to live up to it. Thought here is that this edition has the right mind set because they've been dancin' before (4th straight trip), know what is necessary to win at this level, and collectively feel that it can be done. A very different outlook from just making the TheBigDance when they first got a bid. Call it maturity. Watching this excellence play out over the last four seasons has been terrific. Plan to put an eyeball on WesConn tomorrow (vs. Salve Regina). Given the conference strengths and home cookin' they have a big edge. Saw them earlier this year and think The Boys can control the proceedings. They're led by Brooks (senior PG) who reminds me of Shasha Brown except that he takes more 3's. To my mind he pounds the ball too long, which leads to them standing around. That's to our benefit. At 21-5 they shoot lots of 3's (20+ p/g) and are capable, but they're not as big as us inside or as strong, nor did they have an inside focus on their 'O', when last  seen.

      Think that Nolan T. will be able to control Brooks which ought to put pressure on their other scorers, that they might not be accustomed to. Knowing that tendency, our perimeter 'D' should suffice. And I don't think that they're taking it to the hole against Andrew, Ryan or Jamal. As far as it being the NCAA's, see no reason why Joey (Kizel) won't continue to step up. This kid is the find of the year. He wants the rock at crunch time. And won't swallow it. You can't teach that. 'Nuff said. So when the music stops on Saturday night, thinking here is that The Boys will have earned Midd's maiden voyage to the 'Sweet Sixteen'. Imagine that term and Midd BBall in the same sentence, almost an oxymoron. Join the Pepin faithful. It oughta be great fun, even if we've got to bite a few nails along the way. From Downtown, where I'm gettin' a shine on my 'Spats'. Be well. #44.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

'the persuader for The Committee..'

      Down to it- #'s1, #3 ( your PantherExpress), and #7 in the same building. Throw in the Bantams with their highest-in-the-nation s-o-s, at .605, and even the densest on the committee will take note of the outcomes. Sure the NESCAC title is at stake (first things first), but in the NCAA picture, the winner, especially if 'The Boys' can sweep is pretty much guaranteed two home weekends in The Big Dance. It's my take that even with a close loss to Amherst that The Boys will be in front of the Panther faithful next weekend. I see that as the tougher game because of Amherst's balance and personnel, and that even with a 'W' they're not getting home games due to their pattycake home schedule (and an s-o-s of .473). Getting to the title game alone locks up a one-seed for TheBigDance.
          My projected other 'one's' are Williams, Va.Wesleyan, presuming they negotiate the difficult ODAC tourney, and UW-Stevens Point (defending champs and playing well right now). The two's would be (in order) Whitworth weak s-o-s), Concordia, then maybe St.Thomas (@ #7), with a logjam between Amherst (weaker s-o-s but a very good team), WPI(ncaa likes them more, but having scouted both them & TheLJN, think their 'O' is too sketchy, they don't have the depth @ G. or the athletes to win that match-up) and Randolph-Macon (who's probably got to get to ODAC title game) or Wooster (shaky last few). Will discuss with Pat Coleman once I'm done here.

           Normally, the Committee wouldn't have two teams from the same conference anchor two brackets, but getting by Amherst and beating TheEphMen on their own floor would be the persuader that the committee needs to conclude that since nobody laid a glove on either of us (when Amherst beat them it was in OT, on the road, and without Whittington), both deserve a shot for a trip to Salem before there is the final rematch. Records and s-o-s dictate at this level, and the air is thin up here, so The Boys have got a lot to be proud of and still much to accomplish. Leakage from Pepin is that TheBigFella (Locke)will be ready for tomorrow's tip. And this time we've got a healthy 'Horse' (Ryan Sharry) to look to  as we've done all year. Add in our now two-seasoned guard duo (Jake and Nolan T.), the consistent 'D' and board work of Ryan Wholey, the explosiveness of Jamal, and the consistent terrific play that Joey Kizel (possible rookie of the year) has added as the third guard, and you can appreciate the position of strength and balance that JeffB. runs the controls from. And the additional bench pieces are solid and all coming on- Jensen (another frosh), Luis Alvarez, Peter Lynch, and Winslow Hicks. A nice neighborhood to be in. Go Pantehrs. From downtown where I used to hoist 'em up from, as opposed to the local pubs where I hoist 'em up now. Be well. #44.

Friday, February 18, 2011

'a little off the mark'...

       Okay, okay! Stop the dirge. On correctness my info on Andrew Locke was sort of like one of those other rental car companies-"not exactly..." . So all are very happy in Panther-land that 'TheBigFella' should surface for Meehan & Co. next weekend. While that fact is not yet confirmed by any orthopedic leaks, it oughta be enough for Hixon to get away from the juke box and start working on a revised game plan. Certain also that this good news is cause for rejoicing in the pubs along Spring Street, and on Route 2.

       While The Boys were never counted out of big NESCAC hoedown, you might want to think about a road trip to add your voice in support of them not only winning the title but locking down the one-seed in the eastern half of the big dance. Just a thought - and for those of you newer to the scene, it might be mentioned that the coach who started Midd on the road back (when we were losing to the Canadians in BBall) is 75 today. J. Gerald (Alaimo) used to ride around town with plates on his car that said "NIT73". The people on campus were nearly mortified and the townies had themselves a long laugh. This was when there were stands only on one side of Pepin (we only needed a few chairs), and the head trainer wouldn't tape Bball players ankles.  You have no idea how far we've come.

        So to "The Vendor" from Shotgun, Willis Reed, Bruno, Chip Hilton, 'Head', Snake, CheapShot, 'The Hooker', 'Wheels', 'Lofo', Roller, and a host of others, all who had to listen to him pontificate while we ran about a million suicides- Happy 75th. From downtown, #44. 

Thursday, February 17, 2011

'big changes in the equation...'

      'The Boys' were ready as promised for Amherst, controlled the boards and the paint, and kept Meehan & Toomey under wraps for 40 minutes and pulled away late to set  up the possibility that the NESCAC seeding was going to be pulled from the hat. But TheLordJeffNation couldn't hold up their end of the deal and let Williams get away. Meanwhile back at Pepin, 'The Boys' had their hands full with Trinity refusing to go away, bombing away from trey-land (7 for 9 in the 2d half) to keep it close and then having the ball on the last possession. But our 'D' on the arc was stifling, no 'looks', and they were forced to go for the deuce which worked out well when Fels accidentally made the second of two freebies with 2.3 ticks left. There are no bad W's.

      At 20 and 1, they earned the 2-seed and get The Camels back here for a reprise of their thrashing last month. But with all our accomplishments the Midd equation has changed, and not for the better. From what this observer understands, 'TheBigFella', Andrew Locke, is most-likely, done, courtesy of an inadvertent collision and knee injury against Hamilton, just as we were in the midst of the 'knockout punch' on Monday night. There isn't any official word as yet, but with everything that Andrew has brought to the floor in team leadership, alteration of our foe's offenses, shot blocking and board work, it is a hole in our fabric that others will have to work doubly hard to close. Nobody loses the leading shot blocker in the nation without having to take a hard look at a new reality. How successful 'The Boys' are at accomplishing that, will determine how far The Panther Express goes as the second season approaches.

      But first things first. Tonite we have Green Mountain in town. If Vegas was involved, there'd be 'no line'. Those kids are looking at a serious goose-egg of a season, and having gotten blown out by 30+ by the Lyndon States of the world (who we ran over: 87 to 50) don't think there's anything they can do. Two thoughts: our top guys go maybe 12-14 minutes, get a tightener, and no further injuries, and then JeffB. turns it over to the guys who work their butts off in practice everyday, and let them get 25 minutes of work. Don't expect that the Mounties will put more than 31 on the board even in that scenario. And we may be able add to that, if things go well against ConnColl this weekend. The ConnColl game will give us a chance to focus on how the new equation will work under game conditions before we head to Williamstown for the semi's. Think the 'D' will keep Vadas under control, and that ought to be disruptive enough to their flow so that we can control both ends throughout. Don't see us looking by them, or of them figuring out a way to reverse that 80-52 margin. 

       It's my thought that last weekend locked in an NCAA bid (a Pool-C at worst), and when he dispose of The Camels, The Boys will have definitely earned a hosting weekend for the Big Dance. Plenty to still be decided in Eph-town, but on the bright side we've still got the 'D', the depth, the cohesiveness, plenty of firepower, and 'The Horse' (who with all he's accomplished, think there's still more). That said, I wouldn't trade our spot with anybody. From downtown, which used to be measured by cross midcourt, be well. Clubbo.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

and now to pull the NESCACS out of a hat!...

          B-I-G tilt set for tomorrow at Pepin. TheLordJeffs will be in town and 'The Boys' are locked and loaded for the biggest in season game, since one of my squads went down to RPI and pulled out the season finale to end a 29-game losing streak that kept us out the record books (and righted the Midd Bball ship). This is one of those that could create its own history. The Boys put themselves in this position by pounding Colby from the tip going up 18-2 early then continuing to pour it on to get it to 42-17 right before half. At that point the Colby halftime dancers were saying 'no mas'!

         In Brunswick, before ThePolarBear faithful, The Boys took a solid 12 point lead to the lockerroom but Bowdoin scratched back and briefly lead, but with the Bigs pounding away inside, and the rest of the defense stepping up, we threw cold water on any ideas that an upset might be in the offing. So now at 19-1, The Boys get to see an explosive, 21-0, Amherst group lead by Meehan, Waller and Toomey. They want to run, spread it, let Barrise (very good) or Toomey fire 3's, and hit Waller or Williamson (the best pure leaper I've seen in years) on the back door. Everybody is looking to get it out and up the floor so our best efforts are needed to control the glass, balance the floor, stay in front of Meehan, and cut down their passing angles. Think the advantage we have is that we can board better, and defend better. And we've got the homecooking while this will only be Amherst's 6th roader of the year. It ought to be a helluva game.

         And for us a shot at hosting the NESCACS is in the balance. The scenario that could unfold is if The Boys take down TheLordJeffs, and then they go down and whip Williams, all of us end up with one loss, (of course we've both got to beat Trinity). The tiebreakers start with head to head to head, and continue through another five steps. At the end of those is "random selection/coin flip". So the seeding and hosting could come to come down to whose name gets pulled out the hat first. Pretty unbelievable! (And if anybody else wants to read the procedures and I'm wrong, let me know.) There's bound to be a spillover effect on NCAA hosting, etc. but let's deal with one headache at a time.

         This is where the seasoning from the road, the senior leadership, the defense, having 'The Horse'
to go to at crunch time and the home crowd all make a difference, even if it's only a bucket at each end. Wow! These Boys have come a long way. All of us who contributed our time, sweat and effort savor the moment. May the zebras remember we're the home team! From downtown, Clubbo.

Friday, February 4, 2011

'TheHorse'.. off the vet's list.

       If you're out there snow-shoeing your way north through the Maine woods, you may not get this till you reach Waterville, but info just in says that the docs cleared Ryan Sharry (and he practiced the last two days), so The Boys will have additional firepower for both TheWhiteMules and ThePolarBearNation. We should have no excuses. Tip at 6:00, with live stats. Cocktails at 7:45. From downtown, #44.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

'Down East'...again..

      "The Boys' came out of Williamstown with the realization that they indeed can play in the big-time. For every team with serious aspirations that question has to be answered each year. The battle between 'TheTwoBigs' was apparently worth the price of admission and although Whittington's guys got the 'W', Locke rose to warrrior status, and had he been able to convert the last two freebies would've forced OT.

      The Panther Express is ready to roll, and it's off to the great Maine woods again to do battle with Colby and ThePolarBearNation. These two ought to be 'do-able', and indeed are required, if The Boys are going to set the stage for Amherst next week. Colby has been at best a middle-of-the-roader this year with no knockout W's to date. Advantages to The Panthers on inside size and depth, overall defense and ditto for our guards, with Joey Kizel, coming on strong for rookie of the year consideration. That should be enough to offset home cookin' and Mike Russell. Saying this without knowing whether 'The Horse', Ryan Sharry, has cleared the vets' list, and will be available to be ridden. The info trail on that issue has been a little slow to come together. With him, The Boys have no limits, and without him they already know what needs to be done, but realistically makes it a tighter fit.
Tough to not have a guy with POTY potential not in there.

       Although I haven't seen The Polar Bears, have taken issue with their Maine-loaded schedule of dessert offerings. They have Maker and Co. on Friday so here's hoping that they can pull off the upset and that the kegs in Brunswick don't kick till near dawn. That would really give us something to play for.  Otherwise we'll rely on our depth, inside strentgh, and overall defense to carry the day. And we've got it in Jamal, Ryan W., and Andrew who have been focused all year on what's got to be done, and helping each guy to do it.

      Still lots riding on this trip as far as NESCAC-first, and regional rankings-second goes. Thougth is that a pair of road W's here would be significant in terms of securing the NCAA bid were the NESCAC title to slip away. The NCAA rewards the overall body of work (s-o-s, etc.) especially since the NESCAC's look to be a tight fit between three pretty good squads. But 'The Road' is the great equalizer and am certain that in Waterville and Brunswick they're counting on it. At least neither of these teams has demonstrated they can beat you with the 'little brother' (the 3-ball) so that's one advantage for The Boys. Here's hoping that they can get home without any other 'nicks'. From 'downtown' (where I was always most comfortable). Clubbo.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Williamstown, where opportunity knocks..

      The Boys survived against Wesleyan, who threw the best punch they had, and lead 54-43 with 7:29 to go. Then The Boys threw the knockout blow with a four minute, 13-0 run, to give us the lead. Wes  didn't manage but a measly hoop over the last 7:29, and our charge lead by everybody, was fueled by boardwork from the two Ryan's and the explosive energy that Jamal brought. ConnCollege wasn't as tough, although they were hanging around at half. TheBigFella came out and played maybe the best statistical half in our history, ending with 19, 18 and 7 blocks. The Camels went quietly in the face of his onslaught.

       And we're going to need Andrew, with every bit of that fire, to face Whittington and Co. in a game that has huge written all over it. Much on the line NESCAC-wise and NCAA-wise in terms of home courts, etc., particularly since The Boys get to go 'Down East' again next week. And Williams has both us, and Amherst in their building. Pretty huge!

       This is where one hopes that the road-seasoning pays dividends. The keys will be a good start because Williams likes to strike early and often and leave you in the dust, keeping the tempo where the game won't be much out the 60's, and keeping Whittington out on the top block where he has to put it on the floor and can't just whirl, and elevate for the easy basket. That means also defending against Wang and Klemm on the perimeter. A big job but not undo-able and I like our depth better. Good minutes from Luis Alvarez, who is coming on; and on Sat. from Winslow (Hicks) and frosh Jensen as well.

       In the alumni game, 'the roar of the dinosaur' reverberated throughout Pepin, for those keeping track , and was decided in OT by a buzzer beater from Aaron Smith. Yours truly, not dressed but pressed into service, had the chance to avoid the OT when called upon to shoot two on a 'faux technical'. Iced down by an 11-season hiatus, but with the first chance to be on the board in a sixth decade, I drew the front iron (but barely) and didn't earn any free cold ones for later. maybe next year I'll take a couple of warm-ups or at least a couple of shots in preparation. If you joined us whether as a spectator or player, many thanks for making the trip. Also to Rich Browning ('70) for his idea to honor the retiring Karl Lindholm ('67). Hope we'll see you at NESCAC time. And remember that ol' Midd     t-shirt that said "'s whats for dinner." Be well. Clubbo.      

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

'tall trees' hate threes...

          Seven unbeatens, the last of the tall trees nationally started last weekend and all playing on the road survived with the exception of St. Thomas (#4). "The Road" is the great equalizer in separating pretenders from contenders, and The Boys with nine W's outside the confines of Pepin were well prepped for their journey last week. The Road's little brother the 3-ball, the trifecta or 'downtown', or whatever your local announcer calls it is the other equalizer. St. Thomas learned the hard way when Hamline shot the lights out (14 for 19 @ the arc), and there were at least 2 or 3 other games that good home squads, and/or conference leaders (yes there are others besides the nescac) where the 'little brother' was the deciding factor.

          Tufts was pesky early, and The Boys weren't sharp to start with the exception of Ryan W. and Nolan Thomson, but came together down 15, early in the second half and threw the knockout punch at The Jumbo's. Jake tied it at 54, on a 3-point play with 9:00 left, capping a 22-7 burst and then The Boys closed the last five minutes with a 15-1 run. Big contributions from our 'Bigs' (Locke and Ryan S. playing in goggles, I heard, to protect from an eye injury) also from Joey K. who provides a lot more than just bringing the rock up. The 'D' showed why it is 1st in FG's not allowed by holding Tufts to just over 25% in the second half. In Lewiston, there was no slow start and no chance for Bates to even form the idea of an upset.  It was a grind 'em down, never-really-in-doubt road W. Another big  game for Nolan and he was duly rewarded by being named NESCAC player of the week. (Maker, reportedly furious over Whittington's non-selection, has indicated that if this happens again, Williams may bring an injunction against NESCAC headquarters in Hadley Town Court to stop such shenanigans.)

          Wesleyan, now seriously better, and a very young and trigger-happy-from-3-land ConnCollege are at Pepin on this week's docket. Wesleyan, more advanced because of skill players and depth, is thinking about the possibility of getting by Bowdoin or Bates and being the 4-seed down the road. Dangerous, yes, but The Boys have a big edge inside, and on 'D', and more depth. At home, Wes hasn't yet shown that their defense can close somebody out, so my thought is that's not happening on the road, at least not here. Conn doesn't match up, but they play better together than their last couple of squads. They're all frosh (essentially) and they want to push it and let the 3's fly. Two problems- they're not quick and not big. If they don't get the ball off the boards, they're not running , and if Nolan locks down Vadas ( the best young shooter I've seen in several years) their offense will stall. Don't think Vadas has seen a 'D' yet like the one he'll see on Saturday afternoon. The Boys should overcome, and we'll be able to see if any of the other 'tall trees' fall, setting up the battle next week at Williamstown.

            My 'voices' from the data mines tell me that Midd is #1 nationally in FG defense, and thanks to 'TheBigFella' (Andrew), #1 in Blocks, and that we're closing in on national rebounding margin, second to something called 'Old Westbury', which I thought was a classical car dealership just off the L.I.E..
Hope to see you at Pepin this weekend. The 'roar' of the Dinosaurs will be heard starting at 11:30 Saturday, when the Alumni game tips off. The Boys are in the 'B' game at 2 p.m. with The Camels. Be well. Clubbo.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

“Ready for the Maine Event…”

 “Ready for the Maine Event…”
              The Boys handled the five-games-in–nine-days season re-start very well, by crushing RPI, then  disposing of Plattsburgh on the road, and pulling away from Skidmore late in a rough-and tumble game @ Pepin. Standing at 11 and zero, as one of seven ‘tall trees’ left untouched on the national board, The Panther Express is ranked #5, and for the first time in our B-ball history, above both Williams and TheLordJeffNation, who are collectively calling for a recount on this week’s voting. While this is only good for banter in the pubs right now, if you run into either (coach), Maker or Hixon, let them know you’re celebrating this fact and buy them a cold one. Collectively we’ve run a few million suicides to get the program to this point, and now it’s up to ‘The Boys’, because they are ready to rock and roll in ‘the Maine Event’, my term for the NESCAC season.
               The Maine Event takes on a special flavor this year because the Panther Express is making stops at Bates, Bowdoin and Colby. To paraphrase that old political slogan, ’as Maine goes so goes the nation’ has more than a kernel of truth in it. If we can make two trips out there and come away unscathed, it will justify the national spotlight that The Boys are currently basking in, particularly when the committee starts assaying teams for the ‘second season’. It starts Friday night with The Jumbos at Tufts. Based on comparative opponents, The Boys will face tougher tests, but remembering that they’re good at focusing on the game at hand they should pull into Lewiston with one game in hand. Bates is always a tough game for us, but I like our chances to avoid the axe, for two reasons. First is that Midd will be their 3rd ranked opponent in five days (they went down to Brandeis last night, and get Williams on Friday), and they might be a tad worn out, and secondly they haven’t demonstrated the consistency of play on a night to night basis that The Boys have shown. Further out, it’s my take that Colby hasn’t recovered from the loss of Price, and a quick review of Bowdoin’s schedule shows their record is flavored with a variety of ‘down east’ cupcakes. But ‘the road’ is a great equalizer, so it’ll take solid efforts on both ends to fend off their home cooking.
               The rest of the NESCAC has us at Williams, never easy. Despite the road, that game will ride on controlling Whittington and Wang. Last year we were without Ryan Sharry, and they still had Schultz and Geohegan. My take is that their attack can be channeled if Whittington isn’t allowed to catch it on the left low block where he can use that lethal first step of his, and our ‘D’ just makes Wang work harder for his points. We have better depth inside by a bunch. Wesleyan has improved but their ‘D’ is still suspect at crunch time. Amherst has lots of firepower and wants to get everybody in a game that’s in the high 80’s. Makes me wonder if that’s camouflage for shortcomings on ‘D’ or just the right personnel for an up-tempo game (haven’t figured that out yet). Conn College is rebuilding, has a terrific new frosh (Vadas) but aren’t big enough or seasoned enough to handle our power inside, or our depth. Have seen Trinity twice now. They play harder, but need Fels to run the show, and whether he’s injured (a lot) or able to go is key to any success they’re going to have in this league.
               Might see some of you at Tufts on Friday, but if not, looking forward to a good gathering at Midd next weekend for the Alumni Game. Let me know, either here or on my regular e-mail, if you’re planning on getting back to Midd, because we’re trying to get a head count. May the zebras not be looking for you. Be well. Clubbo.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"enough of the egg nog..."

Tuesday, Jan.4th...

"enough of the egg nog..."

            'The Boys' didn't fatten themselves on too much fruitcake (who could?) or eggnog over the break, and while not at peak operating efficiency for the entire 40 minutes again proved they focus well on one game at a time. RPI opened with full court pressure intended maybe to counter our size up front. The beginning was a bit choppy, but after a couple of sprays from the WD-40 can, that little bit of rust on the passing game ironed itself out and The Panther Express was steaming along. Trailing 17-18, The Boys exploded with terrific passing, their own pressure 'D', spot up 3's and a pounding of the boards where they repreatedly got as many shots as were needed to make sure there were no empty trips. Finally after being hammered 24-2, RPI called time to stop the bleeding, but the patient was already in the E.R. needing life support. With a chance to stay in the game, RPI made a mini-run to get it to minus12, then couldn't make a stop, and did a poor job managing the clock inside the last minute and we went to the half up 47-29.

            Big shots and big plays from downtown, on the fly and at point blank range keyed the knockout. Blocks by Sharry, Locke and Jamal gutted the RPI 'O'. The unrecorded factor of "alters" (where Andrew's presence down low changes the pass or the shot) was another key. Jake and Nolan were very good and good together. Notable here is that Jake is statrting to penetrate more and has the pull up from 17'. Nolan looks stronger, has worked on his release and is more confident in a spot up role. There's no fall-off when Joey Kizel comes in, as his handling and passing are at the same level. Solid efforts by Ryan Wholey, who's a top receiver and finisher on the fly, and Peter Lynch, whose down low presence only continues to improve. Jensen (Frosh) made a couple of decent plays  in limited time and think he'll be heard from. Luis Alvarez has made a significant upgrade in his play and confidence. And Winslow Hicks continues to provide workmanlike minutes off the bench.

            JeffB. used a lot of different combinations over the last 13 minutes, but RPI never bridged the gap and at 77-60, it was as close as they got. Big road test tonight at Plattsburgh ( #22 nationally). Although The Boys know they're a target, they've also got a game back in the season re-start column, which should offset the advantage of home cooking. If they can pass the test - and I'm thinking it's do-able - we should get through this run of games ready for The Main Event.

            Nice to see that when Tim Edwards (visiting from Germany) came into the room at a post-game gathering that the entire team gave him a round of applause. Whenever I came back they were cheering because they didn't have to pass to me. Be well. Clubbo.