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.