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.