The Panther Express is cranking up for its maiden voyage of this season to Lebanon Valley, PA. The Boys open as the preseason #4 in the polls, the highest spot ever accorded to Midd, so a program that once lost 'au regulaire' to Canadian schools on the hardcourt- and we didn't even know they played anything but hockey- now has a top of the polls spot, which the adoring public, along the banks of the Otter Creek, now treats as the 'new normal'. Since getting to anywhere like being the real #4 in the country promises to be an exhilarating ride, the car that serves post-game beer and champagne for victory toasts, will again double as the place where a lamaze counselor will help stabilize the deep-breathing for the fans, particularly the rookies, while the rest of the Panther Faithful, merely scream their brains out or chew their fingernails down to the quick. It promises to be great fun.
The Boys open with Ursinus in 55 hours and then probably will see College of Staten Island on Saturday. 'Your-Sinuses' ought not to give us a headache. Yes, it's the first game of the season and weird finishes clog the early result lines, but they were 9 and 16 last time. And did not even stay with anyone that approaches the Midd talent and depth levels, and return most of that group. Of course they'll be looking to make their mark. C.S.I. won 25 games and made the sweet sixteen but lost their two leaders and I'm unsure of their depth at this point, so my take is that they are 'do-able'. My thought from viewing preseason scrimmaging is that there is no complacency on our side. For Jake, Nolan and Peter, the tri-captains, this is their swansong, and preparations looked like they were on target. Joey- with first team nescac honors last year- was not accorded the respect of that selection since he went unmentioned in the preseason A-A polling, while Amherst's Toomey was the only junior selected on the first team. He will want to smarten those people up by taking care of business. Except possibly for MIT's guards, no one in the country has a trio matching ours. Jake has continued to make big shot after big shot throughout his career, and my feeling is that down deep, even with all his success (79-10 going in), he still wants to be on the floor in Atlanta, not in foul trouble, with under three minutes on the clock. Nolan recently locked down St Mike's (d-2) leading scorer in a scrimmage and should be on the shortest of list as DPOY in the nescac. So they all have something additional driving them.
Peter, may be on the verge of a MikeWalsh-like break-out senior season. Certain that he's ready. LongJack looks thicker, and more capable of standing up to and giving the pounding. Jensen's skill level around the basket, has improved to where it matches his intensity level. Think James brings a ton of presence in his 'D' and board work. Likewise, it appears that Dylan was stronger and smoother on the rise and in traffic. Tab for future possible nescac honors. Like seeing that Nate's confidence in his game is releasing his athleticism and quickness. Could be quietly scary. Luis Alvarez, back from the broken hand, reminded that his play on 'D' doesn't take off any sequences. Chris Churchill was fighting his way back from a bout with 'mono', but how far we go and whether we can control the very good 'bigs' that we will see along the way- Kaasila (Amherst); Hollingsworth (MIT), Hannon (St. Thomas) or even Callaghan or Mayer- lies in part with how much he progresses because we're going to need an in the paint presence. Not mentioned yet Bert Nasciemento- he of the great release and range, Hunter Merryman, moving forward with his shot work, and Eamon Cuddy whose good spirits have hidden the frustration of last year's niggling injuries, and still promises to be a hidden force. Didn't get to see Dean B.'s progress in my limited time. And the frosh- looked good- big, quick and athletic. Matt Daley (6'8) runs the floor very well especially for a kid his size. Don't know if he has the jumpshot range of recently departed Big Ryan but it's not an unlikely comparison. Jake Nidenburg, a wide 6'7, rebounds well, is very strong inside and should contribute, maybe early. Got to like that. Henry Prendergast can definitely play although with the G. depth in front of him, it might be a while. Same is true for Conor Huff, but know that JeffB., with his eye on the game clock, is always willing to give out minutes here and there, with his mind on the future. It's a neat trick if you're able to do it, but he squeezes them in, so if need be they will have tasted the battle and maybe not have that deer-in-the-headlights look when called upon.
The freshmen seem to be cut from the same mold that Midd has been lucky to get- guys that understand the 'we' before the 'me'- so the chemistry for this year's edition ought to continue. And with the seniors leading the way 'TheBoys' ought to go far. This source is totally unworried that it's the opener. JeffB. has been a master at not looking past anyone- and 'TheBoys' get it. Expect two-and oh in the land of the Amish, with no need for the lamaze counselors. Next week at Plattsburgh, a traditionally tough place to grind out a 'W', might be a test, although the fact that it's a Sunday game could neutralize their fan base.
Would like to encourage any and all to comment on the blog, sometimes it seems like it's just hanging out there. Anyways, Happy Thanksgiving to all, and looking for 5-0 start before TheBoys go to Providence in December. Clubbo.