Friday, January 27, 2012

...'Purple Cows' along the Otter Creek... and 'The Trap'

      The Continentals threw their best punch at 'The Boys' last weekend, but they took it in stride, broke a 55-all tie on a steal by Jake who fed 'TheBigDog' for the easy duece. Joey followed with an assist to rising Dylan Sinnickson; Jake drained a 3-ball; and long Jack Roberts fininshed the run with a lay-in to push it out to 64-57. Then the G. trio nailed all 6 FT's to seal it. Eleven W's so far on the road speaks well to the preparation, intensity, depth and 'game' that 'The Boys' bring every night. They followed that with another solid effort, and cruised by Plattsburgh to set up the confrontation with the hated Purple Cows from Williamstown.

      'TheMikeMakers' will be at Pepin tomorrow. The joint will be rockin' with an SRO crowd of Panther noisemakers fully expected. Having seen them up close recently, a couple of data points come to mind. Although they are dangerous on their best shooting nights, this group doesn't measure up to the recent teams that featured Snyder, Geohegan, Schultz and Whittington. Their 'Bigs' have been adequate at best. My take is that our 'Bigs' can get to the rim and control the paint on both ends. This should create two major positives for 'The Boys'. When Williams has the rock, there will be added pressure to score from beyond the arc. That plays into the Panther's 'D'. We can cover out there, so there shouldn't be good 'looks' (for Klemm, Wang or Epley), and against our strength inside they should have a real problem getting to the rim, since none have looked great off the dribble. Part of that lies in the fact that if they do penetrate there's no real force inside for them to drop it off to. More pressure for their main guys.

       This game was one of possible bumps in the road, when the schedules came out. Different than the last two in season games is that The Boys are now the 'hunted', and now we are at full strength
for the first time in these recent match-ups. I was on record several blogs back that we were not going down in this game. If you're one who thinks that we can be jinxed by taking a stand, take heart. This one is 'do-able'. My take is that they will have to shoot north of sixty percent from 3's, get 'The BigDog' in early foul trouble, have our G.'s forget to cover on the arc, and have us get nothing out of our bench to take down the second-to-last of the 'Tall Trees' in the  D3 forest, only us and Hope (whose only 'L' was to a D1) remain standing. That should be too tall an order. The game is pretty giant on several fronts- it keeps us in the nescac lead and pointing towards the growing chance of a showdown with TheLordJeffNation; and it will tag the EphMen with their third nescac loss. That is good. It also should eliminate them from the top 30 in the nation, since no amount of spin doctoring by the ever resourceful Williams' advocacy group will be able to justify their fifth loss. That is sweeter.

      Beyond this, the trap lies in the New Hampshire forests. 'Williams' at Pepin, has been the chatter on campus, and in the pubs all week. Everybody wants it. Feels it. And that is just fine with the Keene State Owls, who love to press end to end for forty minutes, and get us into an up tempo game where their 'chaos' and crowd just might take down a Number One. Have seen them, know they won't quit and can score the ball. On the 31st, 'The Boys' will be in a very dangerous spot. The big plus is that JeffB. has been so solid in his one-at-a-time approach, that the nervous can go grab a quick Lamaze session (to regulate their breathing), on the Panther Express (it is resting on a siding this weekend), and let The Boys will deal with Williams first. Once that is taken care of, the road to Keene State will be here soon enough.

       Pepin will have a celebration for BBall Alumni tomorrow, and a strong turnout of Midd alums from our recent ncaa teams, and others from the late 70's to the early 'double-ohs', and the late 60's and early 70's- my squad, 'the team that turned the corner', and finally two stars, Charlie Sykes and Zip Rausa, from the great Tony Lupien-coached, Midd teams of '56-'58, will be on hand. It should be fun to reconnect the eras. If you're an alum and still on the fence, the game is at 11:30, with an informal lunch at 1:00 at Up's to follow. Williams' tip is at 4p.m.with a reception immediately afterwards. Remember... "down the Alibi stairs, off DicktheHealer's table, nothin' but net". Clubbo.    


Friday, January 20, 2012

' the Continentals.. and the divide'

      'The Boys' had more trouble than expected with ConnCollege, and weren't able to coast before they took on much improved, and improving, Wesleyan. Wes was looking to cash their biggest trifecta in the JoeReilly-era, with Williams, the Panthers and the LordJeffNation in their building in a five day span. Having run Williams (then #12), halfway back to the Berkshires on Friday night, they were looking for another scalp with The Boys in their sights on Saturday. The game was hard fought all the way and with under three minutes, when it looked like Sharry, Kizel, Wolfin & Co. were about to get away, the refs decided that Wes needed some zebra intervention to find out if Midd was a legit numero uno. Although they had pretty much let it be rough 'n tumble (as expected on the road), a couple of moves that Callagahan put on Sharry hadn't been seen since the rodeo left Madison Square Garden. Of course the place was rockin', but Jake calmly drained one moving to his left with the clock going off, and TheBigDog kept Wes from getting to the rim, and Joey, per his usual icewater personna, calmly drained a pair of FT's to seal the deal. Nice to have guys that can deliver the big play every night.

       In retrospect the 'W' earned looked even better by Tuesday night when Wes upended the LordJeffs, #4, to show that they will have to be reckoned with again. In recapping the game, it should be noted that the ball ought to get down to Sharry, because once he gets it, he's going to score and probably get to the line. The only critique is that 9 shots aren't enough. Unsung as usual down the stretch, was Nolan T. putting the cuffs on ShaSha Brown and keeping him under control.

       The Boys are back on the road at Hamilton tonight. The Continentals have been a 'jekyll and hyde' group but hung in at Amherst recently for 30 minutes. At home they'll be tougher. My grapevine tells me that their frontcourt guys are on the slow side. That's a definite plus for our Bigs. And our G. rotation is getting stronger. Joey has emerged as big possession player and a go-to guy at crunch time. Add in the depth factor with Peter, Dylan, Dean B., long Jack Roberts, and others, and the Continentals ought to be 'do-able'. There will be a webcast covering the proceedings.

     Presuming that The Boys survive another test with that big equalizer, the road, they will be at the divide of the nescac season at five and oh. Recognizing there is plenty of work remaining and goals to be accomplished, but in the one game at a time world of the post-season, they will have qualified for the nescacs. Whoop-de-do! Of course they qualified! Six or seven seasons back - like a time long ago, in a galaxy far away - everyone connected with the program would have been ecstatic. Shows how dramatic the leap forward has been, and how bright the spotlights have gotten. But I still like to keep tab on the reality of the day. The Panther Express should keep rollin', setting up a packed house for Wang and Pals, when the old Bball alums will be back to be honored and join in the festivities. Till next week, remember, "nothin' but net". Be well. Clubbo.

Friday, January 13, 2012

'Lamaze for the rookies...Nutmeg State beckons..'

     The Panther Express is so packed with giddy new fans that a car or two has been added for its run to the Nutmeg State. To acommodate some, who need time to acclimate to the thinner air up here near the top, a lamaze instructor will hold seminars at 3:00 p.m. daily to help them regulate their game time breathing. Thankfully for them 'The Boys' provided only a few anxious moments last weekend in cruising past Bates as expected, then handling a good Tufts team that we may see again at nescacs time. For his work in keeping everyone off the Midd porch, 'TheBigDog', Ryan Sharry was rewarded with a spot (one of five) on the D3Hoops weekly 'national team'. That's not 'terribly terrible', as one of my old golfing cronies used to say when you sunk a 45 footer for bird.

      He had plenty of help. Dylan Sinnickson is playing with more confidence and gives us back some of the explosiveness that graduated with Jamal. Also positive were the cameo minutes by Jack Roberts, returning from injury, the steadiness of Peter Lynch, and the continuing progress of both Jensen (whose contributions are not always measured in the box scores) and Dean B. Likewise it is interesting to note that if it weren't for the injuries early to Ryan and Jack, 'Winston' Churchill wouldn't have yet been distinguishable from his famous namesake. We now know he can handle himself in a tough spot and contribute important minutes, and certainly will be a force in seasons to come. Also note that Eamon Cuddy finally got in the box, if only briefly, returning from a foot problem.

       The Panther Express deposits The Boys in New London tonight. Although this is 'the road' and one has to be wary, it would be an upset of epic proportions (something like the Christians over the Lions in old Rome) if we were the 'tall tree' to fall. Size, talent, and depth are all on our side. Add that Nolan T. should be back, and on patrol, gives us back a major dimension that we have been lacking in the last four outings. Also that's bad news for Vadas, ConnCollege's big gun because Nolan essentially locked him down twice last year.

      At Wesleyan tomorrow The Boys will be in one of the five spots remaining on our dance card where danger lurks. Wesleyan is playing as a more cohesive unit, not flinging 3's up from anywhere, and obviously hoping to have the biggest weekend of the Joe Reilly era. The bonus for us is they've got Williams tonight and are looking to avenge their loss earlier. My thought is that it won't be as big an upset as the national press might think it. Wesleyan was in the game with them here last year, so they feel now they're ready. I'll be at Silliman to keep track of the proceedings. From our side, if we control things early in New London, we should not only have fresher legs but limit the possibility of injuries. Despite their play, Wesleyan is do-able because we've got 'TheBigDog', and an able-bodied assistant inside in #44 (yes, another one), which gives us more size, and a stronger G. rotation. Add a deeper bench that can make major contributions and they'll be breaking out the champagne for the exhausted faithful on the Panther Express back to Vermont. It is interesting to note that we've had two 'stars' out for a total of six games, and kept growing, with new people stepping up, including three frosh. Exhilarating to say the least, but from here on out we'll need all hands on deck, to stay up here in the thin air, especially with the target on our backs.

      Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow at Silliman. Hope you can get there. Be well. #44.


Thursday, January 5, 2012

...ready or not, time for the Maine Event...

      Happy New Year! The Boys hung tough at Salem, and Joey and Jake exorcised any demons lurking from the absence of Nolan T., by drilling home the last 20 points in a game that called for big baskets. And they turned in a huge performance on 'O' surviving a shoot-out at RPI. None barked louder than 'TheBigDog' himself, who rang up 41 on the night on 19-23 from the floor (maybe a Midd record), and he had plenty of help from Lynch, Sinnickson, Bert Nasciemento, and others with DD efforts. Although our 'D' pride took a beating, the flip side is that The Boys debuted a high scoring ability that should be a cause for concern since we're about to raise the curtain on the 'Maine Event', the nescac season. 

      So far The Boys have figured out that if need be they not only can survive 'the road', but will adjust to not having major starters on the floor- Ryan Sharry early, and now Nolan T., out for an undetermined time. The Frosh have really stepped up. Particularly Dean B., Dylan, and 'Winston' Churchill. All have made significant contributions and big plays, on both ends. The upside looks so high, that it's a little scary. Time, and the crucible of hard fought nescac games, will tell us more. Think that this was touched on a few blogs back, but the nescac is the toughest league in the country (last 3 seasons), based on the members overall winning percentage vs.everybody else. And it won't be any different this time around. The Panther Express has so many new riders, that it's time to explain that every night will be a challenge- some bigger than others. It starts with Bates- who always plays tough at Pepin. They may be undermanned, but their recent efforts have been improved, so the need is to stay focused, get the ball inside to 'TheBigDog', and stay out of foul trouble at G., since Jake and Joey are going to get more minutes. The kids are still on break, so we'll have to rely on support from the townies who have been rooting in ever-growing decibels over the past few years. Tufts is up on Saturday, and I like that we're on the second half of their dance card -after they've had to deal with Williams, the night before. They are improved- gave (#4 -M.I.T.) a run for their money earlier, and remember that they lead us into the second half last year. From here it looks as if we're bigger and deeper inside, outside and everywhere. And B-to-B's on the road are always harder than they look. Both should be do-able this weekend, which will keep us among the last tall trees- only nine left as of this posting-standing.

      That doesn't mean that Wesleyan, Bowdoin, the LordJeffNation, Trinity, or the EphMen wouldn't love to play the PaulBunyan character on Midd's season. Don't worry- they'll all get their swings in, starting with a much improved group for Joe Reilly next weekend on the road. Left out of the axe wielders are: Colby-who may be the weakest; Hamilton- who has been a jekll-and-hyde team so far; and ConnCollege, who doesn't have enough size inside to compromise our 'bigs', but they do have the advantage of home-cookin'. Nolan T.'s absence is sizable, since realistically he is the best 'lockdown' G. in the east. How 'The Boys' adjust to that fact will define the nescac season. It gives G.controlled, up-tempo teams (Wes., Wms., Amherst) something to cheer about. But first things first, take care of business against Bates and Tufts, and Midd will hold their premier ranking into next week. Be well. Clubbo.