Thursday, February 23, 2012

"let's go cut down their nets.."

      Pepin was sold out before Friday. Some sources said there were 'scalpers' in the pubs offering their wares by happy hour on Friday. While the Trustees might not look favorably on such practices, it certainly demonstrates that there are others besides those in the economics department that know how to apply the law of supply and demand. Further it illustrates how the success of JeffB.'s program has created this new fan base with both the campus and the 'townies' now buying in. By tip time the place was in a frenzy, and 'The Boys' did not disappoint.

      Lead by 'TheBigDog', Ryan personally took the game on his shoulders (All-Americans will do that) at both ends, and Midd went from down 10-7, out to a 17-10 lead. The 'D' which had been torched up in the first meeting, made all necessary adjustments, and pretty much didn't give Williams any good looks from beyond the arc. If you rely on 3's the way they do, a 4 for 29 night means curtains! And Mayer's effectiveness was limited by Lynch, and 'LongJack' Roberts, who had his best game of the season. The G. rotation delivered its come-to-be-expected virtuoso performance and closed the Eph-Men out from the line, down the stretch.

       The Panther Express will be pulling out for Amherst and the nescac finals. But before everybody gets too giddy with anticipation for the rematch with Toomey and the rest of the LordJeffNation, there's serious business to be attended to, namely Shasha Brown and his Wesleyan pals. This team has bought in to Joe Reilly's philosophy and continues to improve. That they are here doesn't surprise me in the slightest, because they've been pretty consistent in their efforts and have learned to win on the road, two characteristics of top teams. They've got 20 'W's already, and pretty much have locked up an at-large ncaa bid for their efforts. They are familiar with playing in this building since they're here every season, and Amherst only beat them by a bucket in their earlier visit. All that having been said, there are some adjustments that 'The Boys' can make that strengthen Midd's advantage. First time around, 'TheBigDog' only had 9 attempts (made 7). We need something on the northside of 16 in that area, since getting him the rock down low is a large positive. More minutes required from Lynch. If he's not in foul trouble, he gives us an inside punch with Ryan on 'O,' that Wesleyan can't match. Looking for the new #44's 'O'. Also in our favor is that this time we've got Nolan T. at full strength, which wasn't the case in the first meeting. Ditto for 'LongJack' who was just coming back from his knee rehab. Also a good place for the continued usage of  Dylan and NateB. in spots, while both are appearing more comfortable on the floor. My take is Wesleyan is do-able, and in moving on, The Boys will have won the right to host in the ncaa first round.

      That brings us to 'rematch Sunday'. No surprises here. This is a big game between the two best teams in the east. Riding on it for sure are the nescac title, and who gets the number-one slot in the eastern half of the ncaa's and maybe the country. It also will determine who gets to host in the first and second round of the ncaas which will have a lot to say about going back down the Blue Ridge, because it's my thought that no matter the outcome, we're going to have to deal with each other, one more time. Suffice it to say that we're rooting for the next one top be at Pepin. Same keys will be necessary on 'D', and figure that in a title game the officiating will match up to the moment. That should allow 'TheBigDog' a little more freedom to roam down low. If everything else is even, that ought to be enough, presuming good execution in other areas.

      Let's go cut down their nets. In their building, can't think of anything much sweeter. Till next time, remember.."down LordJeff's snooty nose, off the wall of the Old Cage, a bounce over the nescac ticket table, nothin' but net." Be well. Clubbo.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

'the road to the top just got a little steeper...'

      In front of the LordJeffNation, the Panther Faithful were served a double-dose of 'the reality of the road' last Saturday. Amherst opened hot, their joint was rockin', and the LJN was screaming itself hoarse when 'TheBoys' were 16 down, early. The Zebras thought their main job was to protect the purple and white at every turn. Amherst pounded on Big Ryan like he was a bass drum. Several times shots of his leaked out of his hand, like he had suddenly been overcome by palsy. But alas, no trips to the line. 'TheBoys'  methodically worked their way back into it, and following a terrific block at the basket by Nate B., only trailed by four at half. They finally caught Amherst at 62-all, and down the stretch our 'D' was pretty terrific. The Zebra crew duly noted that, and rewarded Toomey and his pals with more bailouts than the banks got at TARP time.

      In fact, after the Hixons went up 61-55 with 7:41 left, they only scored on Barrise's '3' at the 1:05 mark to tie it, and on the putback that sealed it in OT. Everything else was courtesy of those men in stripes. Don't be fooled by the team foul numbers. 'Brutal', but sometimes to be expected on the road. Usually not in games between top teams. 'Awful', probably more appropriate - it was a continuous hosing. The magnitude of the difference was in focus as soon as the scorer's ink was dry on the page, because Midd slips to #2 in the nescac and now gets to host Williams, absolutely the most dangerous conference 7-seed in the country. Toomey and his pals stay home, facing Hamilton, certainly the lesser task, and look forward to hosting the nescacs.

       Having recently seen the Eph-Men give one of their best performances at Pepin, it's clear this is one of those times where full impact of the post-season looms. The road to the top just got significantly steeper for The Boys. The depth of the nescac is on display with teams like Bowdoin and Williams as 6 and 7 seeds. Thankfully, The Boys have been taught to take it one game at a time, have a guard rotation that knows that the possessions get a little bigger at this stage of the year, and use that knowledge and experience every night. For our 'nervous nellies' who point to what happened last time, my take is that JeffB. and company have probably already addressed those issues. The thought is that seeing a different alignment/match-up on 'D' is more probable than not. Meaning that you won't have 'TheBigDog' roaming around out on the arc, which takes him away from his effectiveness on the glass. Another soldier will be dispatched to keep track of Epley out there, sit on his left hand and try to get him to put it on the floor. Doubt with that scenario in mind he can match his career best. Controlling Robinson and Wang equally well as was done in game one would be acceptable. Both are well known commodities that won't be overlooked. Freeing up Big Ryan from his perimeter duties, also means he's available for Mayer-stopping. Also like that Lynch, who has shown growing, consistent inside strength this season, can put his body on Mayer. My take is that Mayer can be muscled around - having seen the Wesleyan 'Bigs' do that effectively in their blowout 'W' earlier. That might be a page to be taken from that lesson.

      On offense, it's obvious we need 'TheBigDog' for more than the 23 minutes he got in game one. Don't think that Mayer or Emerson can remotely match up with him on the low blocks. If they don't, he can growl and bark with the best of them, giving us big positive results. And if they cover, he can trigger the inside-out response with good shooters getting good 'looks'. Also like that for our younger guys, this is a good spot to begin their post season course load. Having seen Williams up close, they'll have a better sense of focusing on what needs to be accomplished to get to the rematch with Toomey and his pals next weekend. Obviously a lot riding on the outcome - the nescac crown, ncaa bids and ncaa hosting. Although the 'nervous nellies' may overload the pre-game lamaze sessions, my take is that 'TheBoys' took Williams' best punch in game one and survived. Believe that our balance, 'D', depth and 'home-cookin' are all strong factors that Maker and his boys can't quite measure up to, so that Midd will move on, and the talk in the pubs on Saturday night will again be of the nescac finals.

       Expect Pepin to be packed again - the Midd fans lead the nescac in attendance by a large margin- but unfortunately won't be in town to see this one live. Will have to survive by video, but looking forward to Amherst next week. And remember... "off 'The Pine Room' keg, down 'The Alibi' stairs, over Maker's best supporting-actor nomination letter, nothin' but net." Till next time. Be well. Clubbo.           

Friday, February 10, 2012

..Can you say Big Game?

      The Panther Express continued to roll last weekend holding off a very hot and tougher-than-expected Bowdoin squad at Pepin. 'ThePolarBears' shot 66% in the second half (6 of 8 from 3-land) and made some from spots beyond the arc that have had little traffic since yours truly was firing them up from just over the horizon 40-plus years ago. They kept coming on late, and only a top performance from the free throw line kept them at bay. That illustrated two salient points about 'TheBoys' this season. Midd is now a much tougher out than even our recent editions, because they've shed the moribund (low-60's) FT percentage and are now in the mid-70's, and have learned to keep the ball in the hands of our best shooters with the game on the line. That means that down the stretch, 'TheBigDog', Ryan Sharry gets it down low where the result is usually a deuce or a visit to the line, Jake, or Joey, who has the stroke and requisite ice-water in his veins (he's at 90%) to be the closer.

      The second key point is that we have enough offensive balance to offset a team that gets very hot. This is a necessity if The Boys are going to make a deep post season run. Although our team 'D' is solid - and we've got a lot of contributors, we haven't shown the knockout punch that the defense specialized in last year. All that having been said, it's my take that this group is more versatile, that Ryan is pretty much unstoppable down low, (especially when Peter Lynch, the new #44, is in the game), and that the G. rotation, particularly Joey, continues to improve, mature and mesh on both ends. That versatitlity, and our depth was on display in the Colby game. Colby tried hard, but was badly overmatched, and the 'D' rose up especially by the mid-second half  as the lead stretched out to 64-36. Everybody got some minutes-nice especially for Winslow and Carl G. who have soldiered on, and played well. Also notable, was yet another good segment by 'The Smoothie', Dylan Sinnickson. In a group of frosh that makes the future bright, he is currently the leader, and from what I've seen, the best of the nescac. Dean B. is starting to find his way out there in 3-land, more comfortable,his release is improving as he transitions from being a high school '4' to a '3'. Also liked the way that Eamon Cuddy handled himself, think he'll be heard from. 'Winston' could've brought the house down with thunder dunk, didn't make up his mind before taking off, but left everyone with the realization that it's there. He did make a sweet back door pass to a cutter for a bucket.

      Tonight Trinity will be scrapping and clawing as they try to hold onto the last playoff spot in the nescacs. Their frosh are now carrying a lot of the load, so they have a different look than The Boys have seen, but it's my take that most nights they don't score the ball well, and are inconsistent at best from the outside. We're better up front, our G. rotation has more working parts, and the depth down the bench give us recognizable advantages. But this is 'the road' and it is in a building where we've yet to take early control of a game. As always, counting on JeffB's preparation to focus on the business of the now against a team that is 'do-able'. Hoping that it's not a nail-biter so that our main guys don't have to go past 28 minutes, but that may be wishful thinking on the road.

      Can you say Big Game? That's tomorrow in front of TheLordJeffNation. Number 6 hosting Number 2! More or less the season on the brink. The winner gets to host the nescacs -a huge advantage. The winner will be the undisputed #1 in the ncaa regional rankings, and that will have a serious bearing on who is #1 in the eastern half of ncaa brackets. 'TheBoys' have their work cut out for them. Amherst has firepower, solid G. play, 'Bigs' that can hurt you, and home cookin'. My take is that if we cover Barrise on the arc and don't let him get going from 3, that's a big plus. That means Toomey will have to try and do more on offense, which should be to our benefit. Workman, their '3', has not really shot the ball that well from outside this year and is more of a 'slasher that can be defended.  Which Waller shows up may be the deciding factor. He has strung together several good outings of late, but has serious tendencies to be lazy on  'D', and reach, and thus is foul prone and which limits his minutes and them. My take is that as good as Toomey's press releases have been, Joey has an edge. And Jake and Nolan always show up, particularly in big spots -got to think this will be one of them. And 'TheBigDog' will be the best 'big' in the building. We've got to get him north of 18 attempts preferably down low, and his bark will keep TheLordJeffs off the porch. Slight edge - Panthers!

      Of course for our newly minted fans, who think they might encounter breathing problems during the game, lamaze sessions are available on the Panther Express during the pre-game hours. If you think you can handle it, without the lamaze, the rest of us will be at The Pub in Amherst about 1:45 for burgers and beers. Hope you can make it- it oughtta be a helluva game. Remember, down LordJeffrey's snooty nose, off the wall of the 'cage', past Hixon's shoe, nothin' but net. bew ell. Clubbo.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

'..takin' it in stride..'

       'The Boys' survived Maker's histrionics (which should land him a nomination for best supporting actor) and dealt with the hated EphMen at Pepin to the delight of the SRO crowd. But 'the road' proved more than an equalizer, to a team that already had rung up eleven tallies in unfriendly confines this season, when The Boys came up a point short at Keene State. This was one of those spots long ago marked with a 'danger' sign, but it looked like Midd would escape the ax man's blade when they pushed the lead out to ten with 6:16 remaining. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be, as we managed to have more turnovers than points down the stretch. Although we got the last two shots, neither was great, and more importantly didn't go in.

        In a way, getting nicked, especially late, may have a long term benefit to remind The Boys of their mortality and sharpen the focus for Bowdoin now, and for the Trinity-Amherst trip next week. The first goal is to secure the nescac season title. That creates a lot of good things. It means we get home cookin' through the nescac playoffs,  and would give us a leg up on hosting come the ncaa's. But first things first. Russ Hanley, arguably the second best 'big' in the nescac, and his fellow PolarBears will visit Pepin on Friday. He is dangerous and can keep them in most any game, but his supporting cast has been underwhelming more than a few times this year. Even given that Hanley's an even match with 'TheBigDog', our trio of guards, backed by the inside punch of Lynch, who keeps coming on, and the bench support of Jensen, Dylan, and Dean B. gives The Boys a scoring, defensive and explosiveness edge that the rest of the Polar Bears don't come close to matching. Add in 'Long Jack' Roberts, maybe 'Winston' Churchill, (who is ready to get some minutes), and Nate Bulluck, in spots and you've got a depth that even a Polar Bear chasing a seal couldn't dive to. In my parlance Bowdoin is 'do-able'.

      Saturday we have 'WhiteMules' on the menu, and while Colby is usually a tough foe, this is a down year for them. They lack firepower and 'bigs', not a recipe for success on the road against a major power. Certain, because of our ranking and the fact that they probably will have gotten torched at Williams on Friday, that they'll circle the wagons and try to put up a good effort. Just don't see that extra resolve will make up for the size, depth and explosiveness differential. It's 'senior day', and it should be noted that although Ryan gets the press because of his talent and career numbers, there are some other 'Boys' who have contributed their time and talent to this great run of the last four years. Winslow Hicks and Carl Gayle are two of the unsung who have worked just as hard and are solid teammates, although we only see them in limited spots. Every team needs those guys for their commitment and contributions to complete the chemistry that makes the program work. Also add to the fact that "Hank, the Tank", Henry Butler hasn't left the team and still is down there on the bench, even though he was taken down by a bad hip for two seasons.

      Midd's run as Number One most likely is over, because of the way that some of the pollsters have viewed us all year. There are those, and it's clear from listening to 'Hoopsville' on Sundays or Thursdays, that have gone for the MikeMaker spin doctoring that Williams is still a great national power somehow arriving late to the scene this year, hook, line and sinker. Please! Five L's and currently 6th in the nescac. You are what your record says you are, per Bill Parcells. And that is not 16th in country. Nor were they the national third place team last year. There was no third place game or even a coin flip, so why is that b.s. on their website? It's all about the spin. And just another reason to have them lose as often as possible. The Boys did not play like they were 'deer in the headlights' at Keene, and may have a chance to redeem themselves in the future. But right now they need to finish the deal against Bowdoin, then Colby and move on. Till next time... 'down the Alibi stairs, off DicktheHealer's table, past Wendy's skates, nothin' but net'. Be well. Clubbo.