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.