Always easier than giving up the ball in the offensive end, I was able to complete one my annual assists on Thanksgiving to the delight of family. If it had been a basketball it might not have come down the table. I hope that everyone was able to enjoy that kind of a special day with family and friends filled with stories and laughter.
Back to the business of trying to keep Midd in the 'national' discussion. TheBoys had a downer at Stevenson falling to a team that is on the rise, was in their own building, and caught us on a night where we were less than our best. Give them a big plus for their tenacious, scrappy 'D' which took our 'O' out of sync. Before you run off to join the queue that's forming to jump off The Otter Creek bridge, let's consider a few rays of sunlight that have brightened the room. These back to back opening tournaments promised to be a serious proposition. TheBoys played well, maybe above their heads in the openers. Eight hours down and back, and two hard games in Lancaster made for a long haul, and exacted a hidden toll. Getting back to campus at one on Sunday morning and following it up with departing on another eight-plus hour ride to Baltimore on Thursday, to get in past one a.m. on Friday, is reminiscent of an NBA road trip. Unfortunately we're from the nescac not the NBA. There wasn't much room for error at Stevenson. Simply put, my take in retrospect is that Midd was 'bus-lagged' and susceptible. Add in the fact that Dylan- maybe our most athletic player wasn't present. That hadn't been factored into my equation, but the job of putting up the 'W' on the road became that much harder. Stevenson sensed it, and had themselves in a position to close us out a couple of times in the second half. That was when The Boys reached down and came back from the brink. Now with two minutes showing, Joey had the rock, down three. The Panthers were in a position to salvage what had been a bad night. He missed, the rebound went long and Stevenson converted it, and then one to seal the deal. The chatter boards had a day and a half to dissect the Panther failure. None of the resident geniuses on the 'net even considered the travel angle, or the personnel angle.
My thought was validated by TheBoys' performance against St. Mary's game. It was apparently an instant classic, Joey sending it to O.T. at the buzzer. Even though there was a brief lead in the O.T., our free-throw shooting which wasn't good in Baltimore, let us down late. and St. M's sneaked away with a hard fought victory. For those questioning what's wrong, perhaps they should consider these factors: the travel angle. Four games against coming or top programs, not a flavorful cupcake in sight. No Dylan. No James. Either's play would have been enough to turn the tide, don't you think.
And finally for 'the new normal', these 24 or 25 win seasons are a special creation. They aren't glazed donuts that get turned out by the dozen down at the Middlebury Dunkin' Donut every morning. Because of all the new moving pieces, The Boys are blending, finding themselves and how their games fit together. Even with Stevenson, we've already learned a lot. Matt Daley can be brilliant, but he needs to have that game-to-game intensity. If the brilliance is there, the consistency will come. Nidenberg has made big strides. My take is that he's ahead of Pedro Lynch in his development at this point. Pretty darn good if he stays on that path, because Pedro was better than okay, if you recall. Although Jake Brown and Matt St. Amour haven't yet made it to the top of the prospective nescac rookies 'chatter' yet, don't be fooled, both will make sizeable contributions this season. Jensen returns against RPI. Our intensity will go up a couple of notches with his presence and game. Hunter has been a big factor early and has shown definite improvement. This edition has enough talent, presence and depth to be really good. Given what the rest of the schedule holds that is going to be necessary.
TheBoys are back on the road tomorrow against RPI, who plays a Grinnell-like system of the run and shoot game. They are scoring at 90 per game. That's a lot of points. The problem they have is they're giving up 112 (yes) ppg. We need to have solid board work to throttle down their throw-it-catch-and-shoot opportunities, and use the 35-clock well enough to frustrate them, and Midd should be fine. Castleton, on Tuesday, usually is one of our 'gimmes', but they have brought in a couple of new kids who did well enough to take one from then-#9 WPI the other night. Not having seen them, I'd trust our depth, the home floor at Pepin, and the fact that JeffB. has the motivator in their WPI win so that The Boys take them seriously. There should not be any stumbles.
Remember: "off the keg at ThePineRoom, over The Otter Creek bridge, out of DickTheHealer's, whirlpool, and one bounce off Albert's cage, nothin' but net!" Be well. Clubbo.