Having dispatched a young RPI team and then a pesky hot-shooting Castleton squad, in a game highlighted by James Jensen's hanging the goose-egg sign around the neck of their leading scorer, TheBoys are boarding The Panther Express for, this-time, a relatively short trip south to Saratoga tomorrow. In American thoroughbred lore, Saratoga has no equals and tales of major favorites being beaten by the locals' standard-bearers abound, and pictures of smiling townspeople in the winner's circle adorn the walls of every local pub. The name 'Upset' has worked it's way into the American lexicon for the stunner that he put on the invincible Man O' War many years ago. TheBoys are not looking for history to repeat itself when they tip against Skidmore.
Make no mistakes in your thinking, this will be a tough game in front of a hostile crowd. Like Stevenson, almost-St.Mary's tough. Certainly another serious test on the road. Not long ago road "W's" were accorded a multiplier benefit when it was time to be considered as an ncaa at-large team. That is no longer a straight formula, although factored in on strength of schedule (SOS). TheBoys have a chance to earn considerable respect in the polls by getting out of this phase of the young season with a win over Skidmore. As mentioned above, James' return lifted our 'D' a few notches. We've also gotten very big contributions from JakeB. and 'TheSaint' which bode well for the future, particularly since these are young frosh still learning to mesh. Two that were missing in action at Castleton, MattD. and Conor Hough would be good additions to our side. Daley, in particular, has the athleticism not present in many bigs, to give Merrill and Sanders something to think about. Also important is that Longjack wake up aggravated on Saturday. 'That' guy brings his intensity to the paint, his alter-ego doesn't. Hunter has reached a good level of consistency, but we're thinking that he may still have another gear. If he finds that, this Panther edition becomes really dangerous. Other positives include the fact that we shot free-throws better in the last two, that Nidenberg has continued to grow as a presence inside, and that NateB. is finding a rhythm on both ends. While his athleticism has always been there, he seems to be allowing his mental game to finally blend with that. That makes him another potent commodity for JeffB. to reach out to.
Not mentioned is Joey, the maestro, who runs the game, particularly when crunch time approaches, and the lamaze counselors are exhorting their followers to make sure they breathe in unison. This is the atmosphere that is anticipated tomorrow about 5:25. To get us to that point it is expected that James will draw Sanders, the new d2 (Bloomfield State) transfer. How well he does keeping him off his 17 ppg. number will go a long way in determining Midd's fate. But he is not alone, an aggravated LongJack or a combo of him, Churchill, Nidenberg and Daley must control Merrill, and help on Sanders, when James needs a break. You have to like the depth up front. That extends to the guards as well, and is one of the positives, since Skidmore goes with a shorter rotation (5 guys are averaging 31-plus minutes per). The final factor is that they have been off since before Thanksgiving, so might be a little below optimum game speed early on. Lately the Skidmore games have been pretty brutal, physically. There's no reason to expect otherwise tomorrow, but my take is that we're battle-tested at a lot of positions, have one of the best guys in the country as our triggerman, and won't wilt under pressure. Taking the crowd out of it early would be a solid plus, but know that they'll come with a couple of big runs by the second half. We can weather that. Then everybody, emotionally drained, will get back on the The Panther Express and be able to toast TheBoys on the ride home.
And remember:" down the bar at old D'Andrea's; off the peanut barrel at Lillian's; past MaryLou Whitney's afternoon soiree, and one bounce off the keg at The Rafter's, nothin' but net!" Be well. Clubbo.