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The Triangle and Two: A Weekly Look at the Ups and Downs of College Basketball

February 25, 2010 under Uncategorized

by Terrence Mayrose

Coach of the Year Award has two candidates this season

The race for Player of the Year is a tight battle between viable candidates like John Wall, Wesley Johnson, and Evan Turner. Every voter would have a justifiable reason for picking any of these 3 fine players, which makes it hard to speculate who will walk away with the hardwood. The Coach of The Year award should not be as difficult. In the opinion of the T and 2, voters have a choice between Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim and Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon. There should be no other names even acknowledged on the ballots.

Boeheim has soured people on occasion this season, as he continues to talk about expansion of the NCAA Tournament, but when it comes to coaching his 26-2 team, he’s done a great job. The ESPN USA Preseason poll had the Orange slated #25, and the AP Poll didn’t even rank Boeheim’s boys to start the season. Entering the season you couldn’t really argue that Syracuse had lost some talent from the previous year. Cuse’ lost sharpshooter/trash-talker Eric Devendorf , powerful inside forward Paul Harris, and a kid named Jonny Flynn….we’re sure you know about him. It’s obvious this season that Boeheim put those losses in his rear view mirror, and hasn’t look back since. Taking the Gene Hackman “coach who I’ve got” motto, Boeheim has flourished with “who he’s got”. Who he’s got is superstar transfer Wesley Johnson, improved Rick Johnson, Andy Rautins, and returning from injury Scoop Jardine, a formidable squad to make a run deep in the tourney; and given the way Boeheim has meshed with this unit expect that deep run.

Pittsburgh has been a Big East powerhouse virtually the last decade. Winning two titles in 08 and 03, is a feat in itself, but appearing in 7 of the last 9 Big East Championship games…yes 7.. shows just how much of a mainstay Pitt is in America’s toughest conference. This season was likely to be the year Pitt would have no shot at continuing it’s dominance. In fact it’d be a stretch to even think Pitt could make the Semi-finals of such a loaded conference, given how much Pitt had lost. Departures of NBA bound Sam Young and DeJuan Blair, point guard Levance Fields, and forward Tyrell Biggs, left Dixon in a hole entering the new decade. Such a hole that Pitt was left off the AP and ESPN/ USA preseason polls. How does Jamie Dixon respond ? By channeling Chris “all he does is catch touchdown passes” Carter, and became Jamie “all he does is win basketball games’ Dixon. The name isn’t a stretch. He currently possesses a 77.9 winning percentage to date (184-52), which includes two 30 win seasons, two Sweet Sixteen’s, and an Elite Eight. This year’s squad is 21-7, in a large part to the improvement of Brad Wanamaker, Jermaine Dixon, Gilbert Brown and Ashton Gibbs who Dixon used as role players last year. It’s clear that giving them quality minutes last year has paid off dividends. Click here to read more.. »

The Triangle and Two: A Weekly Look at the Ups and Downs of College Basketball

February 8, 2010 under College Basketball, Uncategorized

By Terrence Mayrose

Rivalry Week Signals Shift of Focus For Sports Fans

For all you football fanatics out there,  make sure you savor the Super Bowl, because as of thisRivalryWeek1v morning, it’s time to focus on hoops.  Despite the endless analysis, highlights and “breakdown” sessions  ESPN may have shoved down your throat last week, you should be beside yourself about the slew of college basketball games coming up over the next seven days. Rivalry Week, as it’s become known, is easily the best single week of the regular season. It’s like the best appetizer on the menu. You make sure you order it. Things start on tonight on ESPN’s  Big Monday when Kansas(1)  travels to Texas (10) and Villanova (2) travels to West Virginia(6).

Let’s start with Texas vs Kansas. Texas is 19-3 and in no way a “bubble team”, but it should be noted that after a 16-0 start, the Longhorns are 3-3 in their last six.  The recent struggles make us feel very skeptical about Texas’s ability to become a NCAA championship frontrunner this year; a theme that has haunted this squad in recent years.  The core of Damion James, Avery Bradley, and Dexter Pittman will need to right the ship vs Kansas or the Longhorns could be headed into a tailspin over the final month.

Click here to read more.. »

The Triangle and Two: A Quick Look at the Ups and Downs of College Basketball

by Terrence Mayrose

Pitt Basketball In Good Hands

It seemed pretty clear entering this season that Pitt would be “rebuilding” after losing a veteranJamieDixon core of Levance Fields, Dejuan Blair, Sam Young, & Tyrell Biggs that was seconds away from the Final Four. It would be hard to blame the Panthers for a mediocre season after losing so many talented players; although it seems as if Jamie Dixon, 2009 Naismith Coach of the Year, had other ideas. Off to a 13-2 (3-0) start behind 17.2 PPG from sophomore Ashton Gibbs  and another 12.2 from junior Brad Wanamaker’s , the #20 Panthers are quietly becoming a force in the Big East, and the nation.

Recently seeded as high as four in ESPN’s Bracketology, the Panthers certainly have the resume to back it.  Aside from an inexplicable loss to 7-8 Indiana, Pitt’s only other misstep is to #1 Texas.

Tonight’s game at #15 UCONN could be the most important of the season thus far. A win over the Huskies would solidify them as an elite team in the nation’s toughest conference. Dixon’s crew has made a case to put them in that discussion with a road win over then #5 Syracuse, but taking down another Top 25 conference foe would end any doubts that they are for real. Don’t think the experienced Pitt leader doesn’t know how much this win would mean for his team in the long run. Look for a tough battle between Ashton Gibbs and Kemba Walker in Storrs tonight.

Something to think about if Pitt does win tonight, though, is whether it’s out of the question to name Jamie Dixon Coach of The Year so far .  How many coaches could lose so much talent from an Elite Eight team, and be 14-2 and 4-0 in the Big East ? So far, just one.  Jamie Dixon.

Time for Purdue Basketball To Sink Or Swim

While Pitt was expected to struggle this season, Purdue was touted as a team on the rise. Seems as if the Boilmakers are reading their own press clippings, as they’ve stumbled to a 2-2 start in Big Ten Conference play. Back to back losses toWisconsin, and Ohio State put Matt Painter’s team in an interesting situation as they travel to overachieving 13-2 Northwestern and an Illinois squad currently sitting atop the conference .   We’ll know soon enough if Purdue is a contender or pretender based on the next two contests.

T&Two NCAA Bracket Busters to Watch

Northern Iowa 15-1 (Missouri Valley) – The veteran team already has a win over pre season top 25 Siena.

Louisiana Tech (16-1) (Western Athletic) – 4-0 in conference play, and wins over Houston and Nevada as resume boosters.

Cornell (14-3) (Ivy)- A recent five point loss at Kansas put them on the national radar. Wins over St. John’s, Davidson, Alabama, LaSalle, and UMass show they’re capable of excelling against the  big conferences.

Crucial Stretch For Duke Basketball

Duke enters a critical section of its schedule that could go a long way to deciding if  the Blue CoachK2Devils can end their five year stretch without a  Final Four appearances . The annual mid-January/early February trek through the ACC has literally been Hell for the Devils. Taking a look at recent years : In 2009-, they were 18-1 on  Jan 28th.  A loss to Wake Forest started a skid that saw  four  losses in a six game span  through Feb. 15th.  The 2007 season found Coach K’s boys at 18-3 before a Feb 1st home loss to Virginia started a four game skein.  Duke went 4-8 from that point to finish the season, including first round losses in both the  ACC and NCAA tourneys.

Coach K has been quick to remind Blue Devil faithful that this year’s team is much older, and bigger than teams of the past. It will be seen very shortly if the 13-2 Dukies will use their age and experience during a stretch of games including Wake Forest, Clemson, and Georgetown in the next few week

Big Fish in a Small Pond

Hats off to Appalachian State’s Donald Sims, who torched Davidson for 44 points last week.

Games to Watch This Week

Wednesday – Pitt @ UCONN- Typical Big East dogfight. Don’t rule out anything amazing…not even  six overtimes.
Thursday– Cal @ Washington State-Preseason top ten Cal is quickly slipping, and needs a win to resurrect its tourney hopes.

Saturday – Syracuse @ West Virginia.  Georgia Tech vs North Carolina.

Head Scratcher of the Week

Got an email from Chris Beermann that informed me that he recently attended a COLLEGE game, where a coach :

  • -Asked for a timeout while the other team was dribbling  the ball
  • -Asked the ref “if he could have the foul on #11”, instead of  his leading scorer who had just picked up his third personal foul.

It’s not surprising that Chris also informed me that the coach’s team lost.

The View from the Cheap Seats

January 13, 2010 under Cheap Seats, College Basketball, MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL

By Eddie Mayrose

New York Jets Both Lucky and Good

The Jets went into Cincinnati last Saturday having spent as much time defending their Wild Card position cheap_seats_3_owumas they had preparing for the game, itself.  Blasted for having punched their ticket through the generosity of the Bengals and Indianapolis Colts; two teams with nothing to play for that had virtually rolled over and played dead for Gang Green in the season’s final two games, the Jets took the field with a little something more at stake than just a playoff game.  They wanted to prove they belonged.

And prove it they did, behind Mark Sanchez’s best contest of the season.  They sent the Bengals home for the winter in a performance that, while not as dominating as the previous week’s, saw them control every facet of the game from start to finish.  Head Coach Rex Ryan had raised more than a few eyebrows with some of his pre game statements; like calling his Jets the Super Bowl favorites, but his charges made him look like a prophet, for the first round at least, and have some thinking that maybe Ryan is crazy like a fox.

While the Jets are still the longest of long shots, there is a budding sense among players and fans alike that something special could actually happen.  Cursed for most of their existence by some of the most excruciating losses and disappointments the NFL has seen, these Jets have actually had the breaks go their way over the last month.  Their late season matchups with Indy and Cincy could not have been better timed, the myriad of teams that needed to lose in order for the Jets to advance did just that, there could not have been a better first round matchup than the one they drew with the Bengals and, finally, Baltimore’s rout of New England brought a second round tilt with San Diego; a daunting foe, indeed, but a far more favorable opponent than Peyton Manning and the Colts.  Are these guys really the Jets?

The one thing Big Rexy and his boys need to guard against, however, is the idea that they’re now playing Jets Patriots Footballwith house money; as if last week’s win validated a successful season and whatever happens next doesn’t matter.  While each of those points is true, to a degree, the NFL offers a very small window for teams chasing a title.  No matter how young, no matter how talented, franchises can never be sure how many opportunities they’ll get for championship glory.  The Jets should know this better than any as their Super Bowl drought is longer than every team but the Detroit Lions and is marred by missed field goals, snapped Achilles tendons and muddy fields.  Ryan has given every indication that he’ll keep his foot on the gas pedal and his team’s confidence seems to be growing because of it.  Now, let’s see how much of the newfound good fortune they can transport to San Diego.

Open Mouth, Insert Foot

In the aftermath of the Jets’ first round victory came the post game comments of SNY commentator Adam Schein and WFAN host Mike Francesa.  Schein, on the SNY post game show Saturday night, came BrownFrancesa02smtdown very hard on punter Steve Weatherford, who was held out of the game due to illness, according to the team.  Schein, who gives no impression of ever having worn a football helmet, questioned Weatherford’s character; stating that the illness had better be serious.  The Jets would later reveal that Weatherford had been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat, something he’ll need to have surgically corrected in the off season.

That revelation did nothing to dissuade Francesa, who went down the same path Sunday morning, only to be corrected by a colleague.  That he was unaware that the punter’s condition had been made public the night before is not surprising as his indifference is exceeded only by his arrogance.  Each of these gas bags missed what was obvious to most: that since Weatherford was, in fact, on the sideline and in uniform, his condition must have been very serious for the Jets to hold him out of the game.  But, hey, why let the facts get in the way of sounding like a big, tough ballplayer?

NCAA Basketball Shill Vitale Loses Credibility

After thirty years, it’s time for ESPN’s lead hypocrite, Dick Vitale, to pack up his self-proclaimed “one eyed ziggy” act and go away forever.  While it’s always been difficult to stomach the superfluous nonsense he spews during his network’s broadcasts, he now regularly ignores and, in fact, rewrites the history of the dick_vitale_1coaches and programs whose fannies he chooses to smooch.

During Tuesday’s matchup of Florida and Kentucky, Vitale went into a rant about Mark McGwire, repeating what he’d said that morning on “Mike and Mike”.  He used the term “cheater” numerous times, referring to how sick he was of the steroid mess in baseball and how he sought refuge by talking up the game between the Wildcats and Gators.  A game that, incidentally, featured one of the college game’s more infamous cheaters, John Calipari, who’d been identified as such just weeks before by Vitale’s ESPN colleague, Bob Knight.  Not surprisingly, Vitale chose to ignore the issue. Not only was much of the telecast filled with Vitale’s praise for Calipari’s coaching ability, a graphic soon popped up naming the Kentucky coach as Vitale’s selection as Coach of the Year through this point in the season.  Finally, he mentioned that Calipari is attempting to become only the second coach to take three teams to the Final Four.  A complete rewriting of the facts, actually, as both of Calipari’s previous trips to the Championship round with UMass and Memphis have been vacated due to NCAA infractions.  According to the NCAA’s own records, Calipari’s never been to a Final Four.  I guess Vitale didn’t get the news.  Regardless, until he’s told by ESPN to take his ball and go home; something that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be imminent, any game that he works will be an extremely difficult and annoying listen.

New Jersey Devils Star Toils in Virtual Anonymity

If Devils’ goalie  Martin Brodeur  had been as dominant over the course of his career in any other sport or for any other New York area team, there’d already be a statue of him standing in front of a stadium.

New York Knicks Haunted in Oklahoma

During their two day stay in Oklahoma City, New York Knicks forwards Eddy Curry and Jared Jefferies complained that they were unable to sleep due to the fact that their hotel, The Skirvin, is haunted by ghosts.   I’ll leave you to your own punchlines.

Mark McGwire’s Weak Apology Does Settle One Score

Why would we have expected anything different from Mark McGwire?  Why would we think that, unlike all of the other steroid cheats who have come forward, sort of, that he’d be the one to completely open up mark-mcgwire-congressabout his own use?  Sorry, wasn’t going to happen.  Despite the earnest attempts of MLB Network’s Bob Costas to guide him to the full disclosure necessary for forgiveness, McGwire resisted throughout.  As a result, he looked like someone who came forward only because it was a requirement for his employment with the St. Louis Cardinals.  However, despite the fact that we learned very little that we didn’t already suspect, McGwire inadvertently settled one major debate about himself.

Forget his ridiculous assertions that the steroids were low dosage, that they did nothing to improve his performance or that he always wanted to come forward about his use of PED’s. It’s all nonsense.  Focus, instead, on his admission that, due to his frustration with chronic injury, he decided against retirement and started using steroids in 1996 to help him overcome his physical woes and get back on the field. By that very statement, he is also confirming that in no way does he deserve to be considered for the Hall of Fame.

Prior to the ’96 season, McGwire had posted 220 HR and 657 RBI over his first ten seasons; a far cry from consideration for the Hall.  He had appeared in just 74 games over the previous two seasons, prompting his thoughts of retirement.  In 1996, however, McGwire embarked on a four year slugfest that saw him launch an inhuman 245 home runs. So, if we connect the dots, what McGwire actually told Costas was that, had it not been for steroids, he’d have retired with the 220 dingers that would have left him off of every voter’s ballot.

Baseball is a game in which cheating has long been revered.  Hitters cork their bats while teams grow the grass high to aid slow infielders and water down the dirt to foil basestealers.  The 1951 Giants won a pennant aided by an employee in the scoreboard stealing the other team’s signs, journeyman pitcher Mike Scott won a Cy Young by scuffing the ball and spitballer Gaylord Perry has a plaque in Cooperstown.  Oddly, fans and players alike look at these indiscretions with a kind of twisted admiration.  To that end, baseball got exactly what it asked for with these steroid cheats.  I just wish they’d have a little more respect for our intelligence when they come forward and not hand us the ridiculous crap that we saw from McGwire on Monday.

The View from the Cheap Seats

August 28, 2009 under Cheap Seats

By Eddie Mayrose


Major League MVP?

That Derek Jeter is enjoying perhaps the finest season of his Hall of Fame career comes as no surprise to those who cheap_seats_3_owumbelieved he should have always been the Yankees’ leadoff man.  Why it took so long to insert him into the top spot remains a mystery, especially since he was always the choice to bat first in most of the post season games played during the dynasty of the late 90’s.  Regardless, he’s there now and is one of the main reasons the Bombers seem poised for another World Series run.  What Jeter is not, however, is a serious candidate for the American League MVP award, as Minnesota’s Joe Mauer should be the unanimous choice.

Over the last two seasons, we’ve seen deserving, small-market candidates like Justin Morneau and Matt Holliday robbed of the award as voters focused on the more highly publicized exploits of Dustin Pedroia and Jimmy Rollins.  To shun Mauer, though, would be a monumental oversight, as his incredible performance at the plate may be second only to the job he’s done behind it.  Never has a catcher so prodigiously combined such excellent defense with as lofty a batting average.  That he’s also on pace for 30 HR and 100 RBI despite missing a month to injury only adds to the resume.

So, celebrate Jeter’s season as one of his best and settle in for a long playoff run.  Just don’t go overboard when Awards Season rolls around.

A New Yankees Closer?

Is Joe Torre a Cheap Seats reader?  Maybe not, but he was my hero for a day last week when he used his closer (and best available pitcher) Jonathan Broxton to face the middle of the Cubs’ batting order in the 8th inning.  George Sherrill finished the game by facing the bottom of Chicago’s lineup in the ninth.  Finally, a manager chose not to drink the Tony LaRussa kool-aid.

After the game, Torre faced questions about whether Broxton would be upset that he wasn’t credited with a save.  A sticky point, actually, as saves are the basis for a closer’s salary level.  “We’re not as concerned about who gets the stat, as the only stat that’s important is that ‘W’ on the left-hand side”, said Torre.  “If somebody gets offended by pitching to the 3-4-5 hitters in the eighth inning, they’re not the person I think they are.”

Regular readers are well aware of where I stand on how closers are used.  I do acknowledge, however, that, as long as the current statistical situation exists, bullpen stoppers will insist on being in position to get the save.  So, how about a rule change that puts the onus on the official scorer to assign the save?  After all, in facing the meat of the order, hadn’t Broxton done more to preserve the lead than Sherrill?  A similar rule already exists to cover situations where a starter does not go the mandatory five innings for a win.  In such cases, the win is assigned by the scorer to the reliever determined to be the most deserving; not necesarily the first man out of the pen.  Well, maybe that’s too much to ask in one column.  I’ll have to be satisfied with a little progress and hope for more.

NY Jets’ Worst Kept Secret

Jets’ Head Coach Rex Ryan revealed the worst kept secret in New York when he named Mark Sanchez his starting quarterback this week.  Considering all the Jets gave up to acquire Sanchez; two picks, three players and $50 million, there was no way Ryan could hand the car keys to Kellen Clemens.

Sanchez has a world of talent and all of the tools to become a star in the NFL.  It just won’t happen overnight.  So, with the Jets likely facing, at best, a 1-3 start to their season, here’s hoping Jets’ brass and fans have the patience to allow the rookie all the mistakes necessary to learn the league and achieve that lofty status.

Mets and the ER

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the emergency room, Oliver Perez and Johan Santana become the latest members of the Mets’ casualty list.  If you’re scoring at home, that’s four starting pitchers, one reliever and the number one, four and five hitters down for the season.  In addition, every opening day starter has had at least one stint on the disabled list.  So, how, exactly, can manager Jerry Manuel be held responsible for a lost season?   Love him or hate him, you can’t decide on him till next year.

Michael Vick

….appeared in a Newport News, Va. courtroom yesterday morning to address the details of his Chapter 11 filing and then returned to Philadelphia in time for the Eagles’ exhibition game last night.  In doing so, he might be the first person transported to and from his own bankruptcy hearing on a private jet.

Little League World Series Coverage

As I do every August, I’ve enjoyed the Little League World Series from Williamsport, Pa.; this year’s version, especially, as it featured the Mid-Atlantic champs from Staten Island.  And, as I also do each year, I’ve resisted the urge to throw a shoe at my television every time ESPN/ABC commentator Orel Hershiser tries to minimize the commitment, skill and aptitude of these accomplished Little Leaguers.

Hershiser would have us believe that the actual playing of the tournament games is almost an inconvenience to these kids; that the swimming pool, food and video games offered to the players in their living quarters, (“the Grove” as Orel endlessly reminds us), are the main reasons they’ve come to Williamsport.  Pitcher gives up a home run?  “He’ll forget about it in a minute once he starts playing video games back at the Grove”.  Second baseman makes a crucial error?  “He’ll be fine once he has some pizza and gets in the pool.”

Now, I have five children of my own and have coached a few hundred others so no one need educate me on the qualities of resilience possessed by a child.  However, to promote the idea that these players don’t really care all that much about their own performance is to disrespect the hours of practice and sacrifice they’ve endured to get to this level.  As a matter of fact, Hershiser’s very presence contradicts his own theory.  His employer pays big bucks for the exclusive rights to broadcast the event.  Would that be the case if, as Hershiser asserts, the outcome didn’t really matter to its participants?

When I was sixteen, I relieved our ace pitcher in the eighth inning of a championship game that would eventually go eleven.  In the top of the eleventh, the opposing catcher, big kid named Perez, took me deep on the longest ball I’d ever seen hit, costing us the title.  Today, thirty one years later, I just wrote that sentence with clenched teeth.  I rebounded, enjoyed the rest of my summer and came back the next season but never got to a point where I wasn’t upset when I thought about it.  I just thought about it less as time went on.   However, it still bothers me now because it mattered so much then.  Just as it matters so much to these Little Leaguers and, I suspect, just as it mattered to Hershiser when he was young.

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