Ok so I was wrong about SHU

At least they gave it a good run, just too many mistakes during that one bad stretch.

JJ, as for your comments... Careful not to pick TOO many upsets... that's how you get in the most trouble. As for my thoughts...

I believe that the midmajor isn't being as squeezed out as people think, but that doesn't mean CCSU is going to be the next Gonzaga.

Siena got overseeded based on its win last year. Not saying they're not a good team and I'm glad they got in, but they're not a 9 based on their resume.

St. Mary's has exactly zero big wins, and it had three cracks at the Zags alone. Yeah Mills was hurt, but you can use that excuse for seeding, not to get in (for ex. the committee would have been right to drop UConn to a 2 without Dyson if it chose).

After those two, what middie got jobbed? I don't get it this year, I don't think many teams had real beefs.

But my bracket is as ugly as it's ever been so maybe I'm just wrong.

Put on the SHU game

They're 3-9 from the floor and still winning. They're also not a team that's going to give it away with tons of mistakes. This has all the ingredients....

JJ... I picked Cleveland St, I'll give you a breakdown tonight if I get a chance, I have to do a story for now.

Here at BU

And as an NU alum, that's not easy. Everyone appears healthy for the ladies, so not much to report from here so far. Except to say this:
I'm not the most published reporter in history, but I've been in my fair share of gyms over the years. I've never experienced anything like this. It has to be 90 degrees in here.

More to come from the WNIT.


There will be a full preview in Thursday's paper, just wanted to let you guys know that, and tell you that you got your wish, the game will be on the Web site (I think for free, but check CCSU's Web site for details).
Off to get ready for Boston.

Mail time

First off, please read the post below, I covered all your tourney talk and put some time into it, so don't skip it!

And now, to the mailbag.

Blue, you asked about the difference in importance of height between the men and women. The answer is simple: In the NEC, it's about guards for the men and bigs for the women. There isn't as much emphasis on height in the men's game because there is so much athleticism that you can get by height (look at the recent NEC players of the year). For the men, it's a guard's league.

For the women, where the game is more based on 5-on-5 half-court stuff and less on guard play and 1-on-1 stuff, the bigs are more involved in the offense.

Fans aren't "against" a big for the men, they just get that height isn't as important. Would Shaq help? Of course, but it's a guard league in the men's game. This isn't the Big East.

As for your thoughts of Howie losing his aggressiveness, I think those who work with him and for him would tell you you're crazy. Remember two things about him: 1) He's not a public, rah-rah kind of guy. It doesn't mean he doesn't care and is CERTAINLY doesn't mean he's not trying. He's just not the type that is going to go out of his way to be public. He's not Mac. He also isn't building a program like Beryl and Mac are. They need the pub as they are trying to get to where the men are.

As to why he pumps his players up in public, what do you want him to do, rip them? He's too loyal to the school to ever do that, and he's too loyal to his own players. Besides, this is the 21st century... if you rip a kid in public he's just more likely to leave. Times have changed. At the very least it would just get the player down. Howie rips into his players, just not in front of you guys.
Well, unless you sit near the bench during games.

I was asked about scheduling... which brings me back to the board for a second. Please remember that scheduling is a two-way street. CCSU can want to bring in everyone, but it has to make sense for the other team, too.
You don't think Mac wanted Yale? Why would Yale play Central right now? CCSU football doesn't draw people to Yale Bowl and there's no competitive advantage to playing them for Yale.
And in that way, you're right Bob, schools are scared of Central. If Yale ever lost that game it would be awful for them, and if they win it they don't draw a crowd or get a competitive boost, so it could only be a disaster. The only teams looking for schools like Central are other small schools, or a really good FCS team looking for a win.

That goes for hoops, too. An ACC team is going to come play at Central? Why? If they win they beat an NEC team. If they lose, they're on SportsCenter. And remember, losing to even a decent mid-major is costly. Ask Providence, which saw "Bad loss: Northeastern" on their profile all week on ESPN. And my Huskies were winning the CAA for much of the year.

One more about Central "going soft." Again, much of this was directed at Howie. I think if you asked his players, they'd tell you how laughable an idea that is. The idea was presented that RMU and the Mount are now the standards of the league because they're more aggressive. Now, again, I'm in no way knocking Mike Rice, and if you've ever read my thoughts on here you'd know I love Milan Brown. But can they do it for more than a couple years before we make it sound like the last decade at Central doesn't matter anymore? Maybe RMU will win the next 11 NEC titles. But until they do, sheesh, let's not anoint them.

Monmouth was a force, then it was down. The Hawks will never be good again? Central will have one senior next year for the second straight year. When CCSU has six seniors in two years, the Devils have no chance to be good? Really?
As a dear friend of mine would say, "you're so silly!".

Last thought on this, and I hate to do it but it must be done. I know everyone has named Tom Moore the next Calhoun, and I have no doubt he's on that level. But can Quinny get to at least the top half of the NEC consistently before we name them as a power? Not saying Quinny will never be good, but can we wait until it happens before we say they're good? If he stays, Tom Moore will win games. But for now, he has, what, one more NEC Tourney win than I do?

Ok, off the soap box now. As always, send mail to mstraubblog@hotmail.com

Tourney thoughts

Good feedback to the future of the NEC Tourney talk. A few comments of my own.

1) Blue, there's no way in the world any conference would ever have rotating divisions. First off, you never build rivalries that way. Second, you'd never get the teams to agree to be relegated to a lower division. There's a reason no one does it that way.

2) You can't play a tourney like the NEC's at a neutral site. You just can't. I know some leagues do it, but they're nuts. Forget the fact that it ruins the regular season, which should be the most important thing considered when determining a conference tourney format. Look in the stands in leagues where they do.
Look at the Big Sky... two teams playing on someone else's home court, and there was no one there. Heck, I'm watching an ACC Tournament game being played in front of a crowd that would make Quinnipiac upset.
The same thing would happen to the NEC. If you played the whole thing before the final at RMU this year, there would have been 11 people at the SHU-Mount game. It's bad for the league, it makes no money, and it's unfair to the team who fought the whole year to earn a higher seed. Ask the CCSU women if they'd have rather played the semifinal at home in front of some students or at SHU in front of a handful of people.
And because you need to play a small league at home sites, you can't have more than eight teams in it. You can't ask a team to play on the road one night and then somewhere else 2 days later, then somewhere else two days after that.
For those who want to do a first round (four byes into the quarters is the easiest way to do it), let me ask you this: When are you playing those games?
Under that format using this year's standings, CCSU would have played Saturday at Quinny in the season finale, then home for the 11-seed on Tuesday, then at SHU on Thursday. Big conferences that draw people can ask teams to play four straight days because they go no further than the hotel, which is set up for them close by. You're asking Central to not only play three games in six days, but to play in THREE DIFFERENT CITIES IN SIX DAYS. And that's assuming they don't make the semis.

3) You're all missing the big key to both the divisions and why you can't have CCSU play that tourney schedule I just described: Money. This isn't the Big East with chartered planes. The reason CCSU wouldn't want that schedule is the travel. It's a strain competitively and financially. You're asking them to do to much. Also, remember they're supposed to be doing schoolwork in there, too.

Which is why the divisions work the way I did them. Why would SFNY agree to it, a commenter just asked me? Because they keep their big rival (which I was careful to do for each team in the league) and only have to make the PA trip every other year, and the Mount trip every other year.
Speaking of rivalries: Football rivalries don't carry over to hoops in many cases, and neither does the "who's good now" theory. Students get more amped for a Quinny game than a RMU game, records be damned.

4) The "it's easier the old way" argument is wrong for two reasons. First, you'd have much more control over your playoff fate this way. You'd only have to beat two teams in your division and you'd be guaranteed to play the teams your chasing twice. Also, division record would be the tiebreaker, and you'd know before the year who you had to beat instead of wondering who the first-place team is going to be and hoping after the year that you happened to have beaten them.
And that, my friends, is why they need to keep the playoffs at eight, and why they should do two divisions.

Future NEC setups

Was just checking the board before I left to see if there was anything anyone wanted me to comment on (mstraublog@hotmail.com is the best way to get me btw), and I saw Big Blue's suggestion, and Blue, this is a historic moment:

I suggested this last year in a blog when Bryant got in. Two six-team divisions and a 16-game league schedule. You play the division teams twice and the other division once, and you alternate home and road each year with the other division.

Here are my divisions:

Monmouth, FDU, MSM, SFPA, RMU, Wagner.

This setup keeps traditional rivalries (The CT schools, Mon-FDU, the PA schools, the Battle of Brooklyn), creates a balanced schedule (teams you're chasing play the same skeds as you do) and makes the playoffs easier to follow (not as many crazy tiebreakers).

Top four in each division make the tournament, and you could do the bracket one of two ways. The old hockey way, where you go 1-4 and 2-3 in the division first, then have the division champs play in the final, or the crossover format: N1 plays S4 and so on. Either way the final is seeded so the division champs play.

Now for those who will yell about competitive balance issues, think about this: 1) Trends change, RMU and the Mount won't always be the two best teams. 2) Even this year, the Mount would have to get through RMU and SHU, just in reverse order under my plan.

In sports things that make sense don't usually get implemented, so don't hold your breath, but I love it.

More hoops

First a quick reminder to get your butts down to Sacred Heart this weekend, the women deserve it. There's two pages in the paper today on them, so I won't say much more here except to say this.
At the very least you're all required to be at the NEC title game next Sunday at either SHU (if the Pioneers are alive) or CCSU (if the Devils play anyone else).

My thoughts for the NEC awards:
First off, the women: Man, CCSU got hosed. Ed Swanson is a great coach and his team went 18-0 in the league, but he had the player of the year and depth.
What Beryl Piper did, taking a moribund program and making it the 2-seed in today's tourney is, to me, one of the best jobs in the country this year.

I figured CCSU would get jobbed in the individual awards because they play such a balanced style that doesn't allow for big stats. But I'll make a case for three. Look at Ms. Dugan's stats. She's always among the leaders in just about everything. That's all-around. P.J. Wade's scoring has been key to Central's success, especially in the second half.
And Shontice Simmons transformed a team. She gives them not just scoring, but a swagger. She looks like she belongs out there and she's in control of everything. All three should have been honored, especially based on Central's record.

But I digress. Off to see the women. There will be a full men's recap once the women are out. That could be a while, however, so I'll try and do it sooner.

Half my thoughts

More to come tomorrow, as I've gotten home from the game then written my women's preview for Saturday and it's nearly 5 a.m. (the work I do for you people!).
For now I'll say this. You're going to kill me for being an optimist, but I saw the future of the program tonight.
I saw Ken Horton start to find his fire again. I saw Central have a deep backcourt. I saw Aaron Hall give another spark.
Most importantly, I saw David Simmons continue his development. The only thing the kid hasn't done yet is put it together for a full season, but part of that is health. But he plays better the more he plays, which is a great sign. If his shoulders stay together, he'll be a beast next year. Which takes more heat of off Kenny.
By the way, I had someone I respect this week tell me that Vince is going to be a legit player next week. It sounds like there's a point guard on the way too.

Picks for tonight

Real quick my picks for tonight, then lots of breakdown tonight I swear, like 5 posts.
RMU, SHU, LIU and Wagner