A little light from an NU grad

As an alum of the mighty Northeastern University and someone who follows their athletics, I thought I could shed just a little light on what the Huskies are up to and how it could impact movement.
Or, more accurately, how things could stay the same.
The Huskies recently announced a big fund-raising push, and they've begun investigating ways to improve their facilities. They did, from what I hear from a couple friends, look into dropping football, but that doesn't seem likely from what I've been able to gather.

Translation: They're keeping their sports, trying to get better buildings, and raising more money. These are not the actions of a school looking to go back to a smaller conference. The move was a bad idea in the first place (and the perfect example of why a school shouldn't move up just because it can, there are many other things to consider like travel, rivalries, etc.) in my opinion, but I can't see them going back anytime soon.

Fair and balanced

Did I mention I love this tourney debate? Today is one of my favorite days of the entire year.

But be careful about going overboard on the mid-major debate. I'm a champion of the little guy, I cover one for a living and feel strongly that since the NEC teams just as hard as the big teams, they deserve a seat at the table.

However, let's not overshoot it. The seeding and selection process the committee does in no way counts teams from conferences. In other words, at no point do they say either "we need another Big East team" or "We have too many A-10 teams". It goes team by team.

Think of the biggest snubs: Dayton is an A-10 team and Arizona State is a Pac-10 team. That's a (kind of) mid-major and a major.

But you can't go the other way. You can't put a limit on conferences just to take more mid majors even if they don't deserve it. If Dayton should be in, great, but you can't make Dayton go just to "be fair." It should be the best teams (including the champs of every conference). This is a national championship tournament, not a charity event. If Villanova is better than the third best team in the West Coast Conference or CAA, then it should be in. If it's not, it shouldn't. But we can't pick who's better strictly by a quota system.

Tourney thoughts

Some thoughts on my favorite 3 weeks of the entire year, the dance.

Loved the PIG debate over at the fans board. Here's my take. 1) I hate the play-in game. Hate it. Hate it. But it's reality, and it's only going to get worse. Eventually what will happen is the field will go to 68 teams, and there will be a play-in game in each region. And if you think the NCAA would ever allow those games to involve teams from BCS schools, you're beyond naive.

2) You have to remember that everything in sports revolves around money. The conference tournaments will never go away because they bring in extra money since they're extra games. If you wanted to make things fair, or actually get the teams that are "most deserving" in, then you'd take the regular season champ from each league. It's much harder to win a league over 18 games than it is over three. But you'd also lose the entire championship week, which is some of the most exciting times in all of sports.

3) The real reason you can't lose the conference tourneys: they make the regular season meaningful. I know those things sounds incongruous, but stay with me for a second. Think of Central's game at home against Quinnipiac. It was a dogfight for playoff seeding between two rivals. If Central had already been eliminated from postseason play, then the game plummets in importance. Conference tourneys make the fight for fourth place through eighth important. Otherwise, half the league's games would be meaningless.

4) You have to take Knight and Boeheim with a grain of salt. You also have to look at it from their perspective. If you coached a team that didn't get in, but a squad you knew could beat more than half the teams that did get in, you'd be upset, too. Now did Texas Tech, 'Cuse, Maryland and the like have every chance to get in already? Yes. Should they be in over a conference champ? No. But you have to admit you can see why, during a discussion of the "best 64" teams, the teams that probably fit that bill and are not dancing are angry.
Knight's 128 theory, while I hate it, is probably the fairest plan I've heard for changing it yet. The conference champs get in, all the bubble teams get in (eight teams per the big 6 leagues, then 16 at-larges works) and everyone's happy. I'm not a fan of the plan, but at least under it no one gets left out.

5) Not that you care, but my final four is UNC, UCLA, Wisconsin and Pitt, with UNC beating UCLA in the final. UConn loses to UCLA in the Sweet 16. The Mount loses by 37 to UNC.
Sleepers: Davidson wins 2 games and messes up many brackets by beating G'Town, West Virginia beats Duke, and Clemson makes the final 8. This, in my opinion, isn't the year to have the mid-major fight, as I think it's a down year for the non-traditional powers. Most of my upset picks in round 1 are big teams (Kansas State, St. Joe's). Davidson is the only low seed I have in the sweet 16.

Cleaning out the (mental) notebook

Sorry I've been away for a couple of days... had to do some high school things (which I always enjoy), was covering for a co-worker in the office for a couple of days, and then I took a much-needed day-long nap.

First off, congrats to Milan Brown and the Mount. Despite what it may seem considering how much I touted them of late, I barely know the man, but I respect what they've done the last couple of seasons. They're just one of those teams that doesn't do anything spectacular, but can just beat you. Defense always wins. Don't get me started about how much I hate the play-in game. Why send a team that is craving a chance to play in this thing to a "kind of tourney game" just to aid the 7th team in a big conference that had all year to prove it belonged in the dance. And you know what's coming next? We're going to go to 68, and there will be a play-in in each region, because Syracuse and their .500 league record needs to be there.
Don't give me the "64 best teams" argument either. If that were the goal, we'd eliminate all the "1-bid" leagues, there'd be 150 fewer D-1 schools, and you'd lose championship week, one of the best stretches in all of sports, so two 9th place teams from BCS leagues could play. Charm can be more important than quality sometimes.

On the other side of the coin is Dave Bike, who is a very nice man who seems to be incredibly respected in the league. I was sad to see him not make the dance, as I was to see Drew Shubik and his class end their run short twice. I would tell them that there are many teams that would love to be in their shoes, so they shouldn't feel too bad. They played in the biggest game the NEC offers twice, and played their hearts out both times. Not everything in life is about execution, wins and losses. What they did and the way they did it should be commended.

I called it, kind of

I'll have much more on the season that was, as well as the look ahead, but wanted to give a quick shout out to the Mount.
I pegged them for weeks as a team I wanted no part of in March, and the Colonials unfortunately (for them at least) proved me right.
I'm a big fan of coach Brown and that program. Sacred Heart is a class act program as well, so the NEC will be well-represented in the NCAAs. Just hope it's not in Dayton.
I did pretty well with my big picks of the year... RMU to win the regular season, the Devils to finish 6th, and the Mount to win a road game in the NECs.
Like I said, season wrap-ups and look-aheads for the men and women to come, I've had to do a lot of high school stuff (not that I don't love those tourneys as well) so I'm a bit behind.
Also, a nice big baseball feature after I finally see them on Wed.


CCSU goes with Tamir, Horton Joe, Hall and TB3. SH starts with Hassan, Howard, Hardy, Brooks and Shubik.

update from courtside

All settled in as the postseason begins (as does my favorite time of year). I'm just to the left of the midcourt line between the circles on the "hard camera side", which means you'll see the back of my head on TV since I'm facing the same way as the camera that films much of the game.

Some quick observations. We're still 24 minutes away from tip as I type this, but it's not a big house. The people that are here seem to be predominantly from Central, which has its section behind the bench filling up. At least the Herald's readers are here, because the Pioneer students are not. (UPDATE: NOT 10 MINUTES AFTER I WROTE THIS, THE CROWD BEGAN TO FILE IN).

The consensus at courtside is that Sacred Heart turns up the defensive pressure tonight and forces Central to dribble. That means we could see a lot of Dannie tonight. Central has shot tremendously well here in the recent past, and has gotten off to very quick starts the last two times it has played here, now would be a good time to keep the trend going, especially with a young team. The Blue Devils can avoid getting deflated with a quick lead.

3 keys: Poise on the road, quick start, low turnover total.

Time to play the tourney.

The bearer of bad news

Talked to Coach Dickenman this morning, and Shemik is done for the season with his concussion/facial fracture. I talked to him at the women's game last night and his face looked like he'd just been in a UFC event, but he sounded like he wasn't in too much pain. He should be as good as new come next season.

The surprise to me was the David Simmons is also out, also having sustained a concussion. His came Sunday when he attempted to cut off a dunk at Sacred Heart. He got stitches, but apparently took a pretty good whack in the head as well.

All other Blue Devils should be present and accounted for, which was enough to win on Sunday, so who knows. We'll have TONS of coverage leading up to this game, starting in Wednesday's paper and a full preview that you can take down to the game with you on Thursday in the paper on Thursday morning.

Back to "work."

The Straubies

I had fun with this last year, and I may do it as a full column in the paper, but I thought I'd do my NEC awards picks on here first. I'll give you my pick for each award, then who I think will win it, and some honorable mentions.

Player of the Year: Tony Lee, Robert Morris. This was tough, but here's my reasoning. Obviously it's between him and DeMario. DA leads the league in scoring, is sixth in rebounding and 11th in assists. Lee is 11th in points, third in rebounds and first in assists. I'm a big believer in all-around play being most important, so I average out the three categories. Lee averages 5th between the three stats (take each category, add them up and divide by 3), while DA averages sixth.
Slight edge to Lee, but still close. Throw in what he's meant to the the team that won the regular season crown and that he is in the top 10 in FG percentage, which DA isn't, and I give the nod to Lee. Honorable mention to Tristan and FDU's Sean Baptiste.

All Conference: Lee, DA, Tristan, Durell Vinson from Wagner and Baptiste (weird pick I know, but his numbers are huge).

Rookie of the Year: Ken Horton, CCSU. Easiest way to do this is look at the rookie of the week honors, which Horton won three times (including today) along with Central's Shemik Thompson. Quinnipiac won it four times, but with 3 different players. So it comes down to Horton and Shemik, and I'm going with Horton because of his versatility. I've kind of dubbed Shemik "Tristan in training," but Horton can score and is a dominant defensive presence at times, leading the NEC in blocked shots (including games on the road where he was denied some blocks he should have been credited for).
Honorable mention: Shemik, who won ROW honors in three of the year's final six weeks, and whose presence could be greatly missed on Thursday night if he's really a no go.

Coach of the year: Mike Rice, Robert Morris. My preseason pick wasn't everyone else's, so you can't go with the "he was supposed to win" approach. I'm big on the underrated job Milan Brown is doing at the Mount (does anyone want to play the Mount?) and was tempted to go there, but Rice has some big wins non-conference and didn't lose a road game in the NEC this year. Not one. That's the most stunning stat of the year to me. Howie Dickenman deserves tons of credit for what he's done with such a young team (just look at how far they've come in three months). So make Brown and Coach D the honorable mentions here.

Defensive player of the year: Tristan. I'm completely sold on this. If I'm a coach in this league and I need one stop, and I can pick my team, he's my first draft pick, so that's the rationale there.

Tourney thoughts:

I try and stay away from predicting results of games I cover, so I'll do it more generally. You have to like the Colonials at home, though they'll have a battle on their hands. Monmouth is the kind of team that causes fits in the tournament, but the cross-town rival might have been a harder draw, so either way it wouldn't have been a cakewalk. From there it's either The Mount, who pushed them to the brink in PA not long ago and who I've been touting for a month, or CCSU, and beating Dickenman in the tournament isn't easy.

This could be the second thing I've written that I have to apologize to Wagner for, but I could see it getting picked off. LIU is hot and can shoot, and even if the Seahawks roll there, they'd have either SH or the Mount to get through next. That's a lot of chances to get beat, and we know form won't hold all the way through.

Gun to my head I have to take RMU, but this will be interesting. I love March.

I just wish I could end this post with Time to the play the game. But we have to wait until Thursday night.

Quick final plug: I'll have several stories leading up to the game in the paper, working on a couple interesting things, and a full preview. I'll also be there on Thursday night, so check us out on Friday for full breakdowns of what happened. And remember, there's almost always longer and more detailed versions of what I write in the paper on NewBritainHerald.com

As my favorite high school coach said to me the other day... "thanks for letting me ramble."