The Engineers, 17-8 during the regular season, must win the NEWMAC tournament to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA Division 3 tournament. That task started with a 64-56 win over Emerson Wednesday night, and continued with Saturday's semifinal matchup against top seed, and host WPI.
And there, on the court at Harrington Auditorium, MIT played with the poise, toughness, and efficiency of a squad determined to play another day, taking down WPI with a second-half surge that resulted in convincing 64-46 victory. MIT will play Springfield, which prevailed over Babson, 85-77 in OT, in Sunday's final at 1.
WPI, the defending conference champion, swept the regular-season series, 59-47 and 64-52. But it was MIT, in one of its best shooting performances of the season (55.8 percent, 7 of 10 on triples), that controlled the tempo, and the boards throughout.
Redfield, a lanky 6-foot-8 forward from Los Altos, Calif., was a force in the paint, supplying 14 points on 7 of 12 shooting in 38 minutes while dominating the glass with 14 boards, 13 at the defensive end.
"We focused on group rebounding, box out and get to the glass," said Redfield, the anchor for an MIT defense (the best in D3, allowing 55.2 points per game) that limited WPI (22-4) to a season-low in points, on 30.4 percent shooting.
Sophomore wing Justin Pedley (game-high 16 points) drained three of his four 3-point attempts. And sophomore point Ryan Frankel supplied 15 points, including a trey that triggered an 11-2 run to start the second half as MIT (19-8) broke away from a 29-all tie.
"We knew that it would be one and done," said Redfield. "These two games, it's win or go home."
His coach, Larry Anderson, proud of his team's effort, and their work in the paint (a 24-14 edge, after WPI had ruled the previous meeting, 44-16) said "they are not afraid there is no tomorrow."
Jack Parker, who stepped down as Boston University’s hockey coach last March, became just the second person to have his number retired by the team during a ceremony after the first period of Friday’s Hockey East matchup against Northeastern at Agganis Arena.
Parker’s No. 6 — which he wore as a player at BU — was raised to the rafters.
The first BU Terrier so honored was Travis Roy, whose No. 24 was raised to the rafters in the fall of 1999. Roy was in attendance for the event, as were many of Parker’s former players and staffers.
Parker’s accomplishments include three NCAA championships (1978, 1995, and 2009), 11 conference titles, and 21 Beanpot crowns.
Parker won the Spencer Penrose Award as NCAA Division 1 Coach of the Year on three occasions and retired with 897 victories, third all-time among Division 1 coaches and the most of any college hockey coach at the same institution. He holds the record for NCAA Tournament appearances with 24.
Parker said it was ironic that his number was retired because he was against any numbers being retired, with the exception of Roy.
“We never retired any numbers at BU because I thought it was great for somebody else to wear [another great player’s] number,’’ he said. “So it’s going against my rule to have it done.’’
Parker said his number wasn’t being retired because he was a great player at BU prior to the start of his coaching career.
“I really think the reason I kept my job so long was because we had great players,’’ he said. “The only reason why we had so many great players is we had so many great assistant coaches here.
“Players make programs and I was blessed to have a lot of great players here. I know that’s the reason why I’m standing here. It’s really something special for me to have my number retired with Travis Roy.’’
Nancy Marrapese-Burrell can be reached at email@example.com.
The University of Massachusetts released its football schedule for this fall, and it won't be an easy one.
The Minutemen, who went 1-11 in 2013, will host Boston College and Colorado — both at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough — before visiting Vanderbilt and Penn State, then getting into Mid-American Conference league play.
Homecoming is set for Sept. 27 vs. Bowling Green. When UMass hosts Ball State Nov. 12, it will be the Minutemen's first nationally televised game since 2007. The game will air on ESPN2 or ESPNU.
Aug. 30, vs. Boston College (Gillette Stadium)
Sept. 6, vs. Colorado (Gillette Stadium)
Sept. 13, at Vanderbilt
Sept. 20, at Penn State
Sept. 27, vs. Bowling Green
Oct. 4, at Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 11, at Kent State
Oct. 18, vs. Eastern Michigan (Gillette Stadium)
Oct. 25, at Toledo
Nov. 12, vs. Ball State
Nov. 18, at Akron
Nov. 28, vs. Buffalo
The Nov. 12 and 18 games will be played at 8 p.m. The start times for the rest are to be determined.
I just finished the John Wooden biography, “Wooden, a coach’s life,’’ by Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS TV and it is tremendous. Exhaustively researched and well written, Davis said on Twitter that it took him four years to complete. It was worth the effort, especially for those of us who love college basketball. He provides a complete picture of Wooden as not only one of the great coaches of all time but a man with great attributes and some troubling flaws. His career is meticulously recorded from his high school playing days until his death. Sometimes you think you know a lot, but after reading this, I realized how little I knew about Wooden and about certain aspects of college basketball. Some were mundane such as UCLA’s first national championship team playing in a gym smaller than some Indiana high schools; some were large such as Wooden’s changing story about his retirement.
Three people stood out for me, three people I knew nothing about before I read the book.
1. Nicolas McKay was a Presbyterian minister from Crawfordsville, Ind. who traveled to Springfield, Mass. to study under James Naismith. He learned the new sport of basketball and took it back to Indiana. You could say he’s one of the reasons for the sport’s popularity in that state. Among McKay's first students was Ward Lambert, who would eventually become the coach at Purdue, where he coached Wooden. It’s Wooden’s direct link to the inventor of the game.
2. Jerry Norman played for Wooden at UCLA and was his assistant when the big winning started. Davis makes the case that Norman was the responsible for inspiring Wooden to install the full-court press that fueled the first national championship. He was also the recruiter who gathered all that talent. Wooden never gave Norman credit for that and he eventually left coaching.
3. Valorie Kondos Field is the women’s gymnastics coach at UCLA and she became one of Wooden’s best friends in his final years. An unexpected, sweet friendship captured in heart-warming style by Davis.
That’s just a little bit of what this book reveals. It’s just an outstanding biography and a must read.
Now, for a change of pace, I’m going to read Dan Wetzel’s biography of Jerry Tarkanian. It’s a few years old but I’ve never read it. Oh yeah, Tarkanian is definitely in the Wooden book too.
Games I’d like to see this weekend:
UMass at Dayton: The Minutemen seem to have their mojo back but this is a tough place to play. Dayton is coming off an awful outing at Saint Joseph’s; there’s a lot at stake. I’d be surprised if UMass won.
Miami of Ohio at Buffalo: I haven’t seen Buffalo, but the Bison are coached by Bobby Hurley (it’s his first season) and they are a surprising 17-8. Should be 18-8 after this.
Cincinnati at UConn: This will go down to the wire, but I’ll take the home team. Hopefully, the Huskies have recovered from their home loss to SMU.
Vanderbilt at Tennessee: Rivalry game with Tennessee’s NCAA hopes at stake. Vols have been good at home and should prevail.
Louisville at Memphis: Not sure how many more times these old rivals (from many different leagues) will play with Louisville heading to the ACC. I can’t go against Louisville after that gritty win at Cincinnati.
Missouri State at Wichita State: Perfection will continue.
Auburn at Alabama: What if Alabama tries a shot from half-court but it’s short and an Auburn player catches it and throws it at the other basket and it went in to win the game?
Saint Joseph’s at Saint Bonaventure: St. Joe's has been hot and has fought its way into the NCAA field, but the trip to Olean is always difficult. They still need this one to stay in the bracket.
LSU at Florida: I can’t imagine the Gators losing at home, but LSU is no pushover.
Texas at Oklahoma: A football rivalry that means something in basketball for a change. Sooners have to have this one.
Syracuse at Virginia: UVA can take control of the ACC with a win. The Cavs are a Sully’s Court favorite and I foresee a big win (not points wise, big in importance) here.
BC at Wake Forest: A game the Eagles can and should win.
Creighton at Xavier: There aren’t that many games left to see Doug McDermott play.
Minnesota at Michigan: The Gophers firmly on the bubble could really use this one; not sure it’s achievable.
Western Michigan at Toledo: The Rockets have sputtered and Western is surging. Good time for Toledo to rebound.
Saint Louis at VCU: I can’t explain Saint Louis’ loss to Duquesne. I saw the last 10 minutes and the Dukes really played hard and deserved to win. I’d expect a rebound for the Billkens who will once again try to slow the pace. Halfcourt vs. Havoc.
Robert Morris at Wagner: BobMo is the best team in the NEC again.
Iowa State at Kansas State: This time, the Cyclones will show they can win on the road. Minimum one overtime.
Kansas at Oklahoma State: I almost want to guarantee an Okie State victory. If not, I may have to anoint Kansas a Final Four team despite their youth.
Gonzaga at Saint Mary’s: Zags are slipping (although they beat Pacific Thursday night) and now go into the dangerous gym.
Marquette at Villanova: I haven’t seen Nova in a while. I think the Wildcats are a Final Four possibility and I want to see if that’s still true.
Canisius at Manhattan: A critical MAAC game plus a chance to see Billy Baron light it up one more time. He should be first team All-American.
Stanford at Arizona: If the Wildcats hammer Stanford, we’ll know their all the way back from their brief slump.
It's the final weekend of the regular season for Hockey East, and there is much at stake. The top five teams will secure first round byes, with the top four getting home ice for the quarterfinal round. Only five points separate spots two through eight.
One of the more intriguing matchups will be on Saturday afternoon when Notre Dame travels to Chestnut Hill to take on first place Boston College. The Fighting Irish have 19 wins, but their dismal showing in league play (8-9-2) has them tied for eighth and on the bubble with regard to the NCAA tournament.
In order to reach 20 wins this weekend, they will have to hand the Eagles their first loss since Thanksgiving weekend. BC has gone 17-0-2 in that stretch and is ranked No. 1 in the country. There is a very real possibility that this will be a preview of a quarterfinal series two weeks from now.
With 23 points, No. 7 UMass-Lowell is clinging to second place in league play as it travels to Vermont for a pair of games. The River Hawks were on the verge of being swept by BC last weekend, but scored twice in the third period of the second game to salvage a 2-2 tie and retain sole possession of second place. The Catamounts are tied with Notre Dame with 18 points and are hoping to better position themselves for the league tournament.
No. 9 Northeastern is in third place with 22 points and faces a Boston University team that would love to play spoiler. It's been a tough season for the Terriers, who have just three conference wins.
BU may get an extra surge of inspiration as it will be retiring former coach Jack Parker's No. 6 jersey during the first intermission of Friday night's game at Agganis Arena. The two teams cap the home-and-home series Saturday night at Matthews Arena. The Huskies are hoping to cement their position for an NCAA bid.
Maine is in fourth place with 21 points, and will host No. 12 Providence for a pair of games. The Friars are just one point back. Both teams are on the bubble for the NCAA tournament. A strong showing this weekend by one of these teams would certainly boost their playoff hopes.
New Hampshire, which also has 20 points, is another team on the bubble and is on the outside looking in. The Wildcats appear to have a chance to really make up some ground with a pair of games at last place Merrimack.
The bottom six teams will play in the first round next weekend. It will be single elimination, with the winners advancing to the quarterfinals, and the losers done for the season.
I had dinner with Joe Lunardi, the original and still the best Bracketologist, last week and it was a fascinating hour for those of us obsessed with the NCAA tournament. A lot of people are obsessed with it including coaches like the one who with a losing record in his league who called Lunardi recently to try to convince him his team belonged in the bracket. Lunardi’s projections are objective and interpretive in that he tries to anticipate what the selection committee would do. He’s right about 99 percent of the time and he had bad news for that coach. Off the top of his head he told him that teams with losing records in their leagues have only made the tournament twice. Teams also consult him on scheduling because he has figured out the best path to the tournament after years of crunching the numbers. The numbers are with him at all times in his laptop including his S curve which his ESPN editors have now changed to seed rankings. I never miss it when he puts a new bracket on the site.
Baylor: The Bears seemed dead and buried after losing eight of nine but then came a victory in double overtime over Kansas State, an overtime victory over Oklahoma State and a big win at West Virginia which gives them a four-game winning streak (along with a win over last-place TCU) and renewed hope for an NCAA bid.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are finally playing up to their talent as they made a strong statement by beating Duke Thursday and have won nine in a row.
North Carolina Central: Incredibly, the Eagles have a six-game lead in the MEAC. They’ll still have to win the conference tournament. When they do they’ll be a candidate to upset a higher seed; they’re looking like a 15. Right now, they’re on a 13-game winning streak.
Western Michigan: The Broncos have won seven in a row plus they have victories over Toledo, Ohio and Akron which makes them a contender in the MAC Tournament. Toledo is still the standout in the MAC but the tournament should be hotly contested in Cleveland.
Vermont: After losing to Stony Brook the Catamounts have won eight in a row and are 13-1 in America East with Stony Brook heading to Burlington this Thursday night.
Citadel: Pat Conroy, one of my favorite authors, once wrote a book called “My Losing Season’’ (I’d highly recommend it) about playing for the Citadel. Here’s another losing season. The Bulldogs have lost 17 straight and are 4-25 overall.
Gonzaga: The Zags are having some problems and lost two in a row for the first time this season when they got beat by BYU and San Diego. For San Diego, it ended an 11-game losing streak against Gonzaga. I love the Zags’ talent but I don’t like them to go far in the tournament.
Northwestern: After briefly showing some signs of life in January, the Wildcats have sunk back toward the bottom of the Big 10 with a five-game losing streak.
Southern Cal: Andy Enfield probably thought his first season wouldn’t be easy but he couldn’t have thought it would this bad. The Trojans have lost eight in a row and 13 of their last 14. That makes them the worst team in the Pac 12.
Southern Utah: Back in 2001 Southern Utah gave BC all it could handle in the first round of the NCAA tournament before falling 68-65. Now? This might be worst team in the country at 1-24 overall and 0-16 in the Big Sky.
Wake Forest: The Deacons showed some promise early in the ACC season by beating North Carolina and North Carolina State. Things have changed. They lost to the Tar Heels 105-72 Saturday and now have a seven-game losing streak.
This week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Wichita State. The Shockers are the first team to start 29-0 since Illinois in 2004-05. There are two regular-season games left, Bradley in Peoria, Ill. and Missouri State in Wichita.
This week’s Final Four: Arizona, Florida, Wichita State, Louisville. Syracuse has been asking to be upset for a few weeks and it finally happened against BC; then they lost a tough one to Duke. I don’t have confidence that the Orange are a Final Four team so I’ve dropped them out. Louisville proved they’re back playing their best by their victory at Cincinnati. As far as the final call in the Syracuse-Duke game. Jim Boeheim had every right to be upset. C.J. Fair practically jumped out of bounds to avoid the contact and made an incredible shot. It should have been a good basket and a free throw for Fair. That being said, Boeheim’s team still had a chance with 10 seconds left and he threw it all away with his tantrum. Imagine if one of his players did that.
This week’s national champion: Arizona
When Harvard coach Tommy Amaker counts up all the losses the Crimson have taken at Princeton, all he can do is scratch his head.
Going back to 1985, the Crimson have dropped 24 straight to the Tigers.
"It’s baffling,” Amamker said.
Trying to put a finger on exactly what the jinx is for the Crimson at Jadwin Gymnasium isn’t easy.
"I’m sure, being that it’s been forever since we’ve won there, I’m sure we can point to a lot of things,” Amaker said.
Which is why, even after thumping Penn Friday for their third straight win and setting up a chance to sweep Penn and Princeton for the first time in Harvard’s 103-year hoops history, Amaker didn’t want to jump the gun going into Princeton Saturday night.
After taking the first three games from the two teams that have historically been the gold standard in the Ivy, Amaker was asked what it meant for a Harvard program that’s taken the mantle in recent years. Knowing the Crimson's toughest game was still ahead of them, he chose to save his answer.
“I’d like to think that maybe after tomorrow night I could answer that question even better,” Amaker said. “But I do recognize the greatness of those two teams and the history of this program and they should be applauded for it.”
Going into the weekend, the Crimson were as aware of their losing streak at Princeton as anyone. But as they push through a stretch of four straight road games, they figured it was best not to get ahead of themselves. Sweeping the Penn-Princeton roadie was hard enough.
“It’s easy to look ahead to that game and slip up,” senior guard Brandyn Curry said after the Penn win.
But once Penn was out of the way, its was clear how much winning at Jadwin meant to Harvard.
In Curry’s time at Harvard, he’s swallowed three single-digit losses.
"This is a huge weekend, man,” Curry said. "Us, the seniors on this team, nobody’s ever won at Jadwin before. I know the history where Harvard’s never swept. But not even sweeping, we’ve just never won at Jadwin at all. So more than anything, we want that really bad."
Coming off a 10-point win over Dartmouth, Princeton’s sitting fifth in the Ivy. Its 72.9 points a game is a hair ahead of Harvard for the best in the league. The two teams are also neck and neck in shooting percentage (Harvard 45.8, Princeton 45.6) and they’re among just three teams in the Ivy with a positive turnover margin.
Last month, it took a 24-point, nine-rebound, seven-assist, 3-steal night from Wesley Saunders for the Crimson to hold off the Tigers 82-76.
Amaker doesn’t expect it to be an easier Saturday. History’s taught him better.
"They’ve had very good teams,” Amaker said. "It’s just weird that it’s been that way in terms of us going in there, but they’ve been very good as well."
PHILADELPHIA -- The last time Quakers saw the Crimson, Laurent Rivard showered them with six 3s and his 22 points on the night helped the Crimson cruise to an 80-50 win.
In his four years at Harvard, Rivard’s made a habit of doing a rain dance on Penn. In seven career games against the Quaker’s, Rivard he’s shot an absurd 47.6 percent (20 of 42) from deep.
On the year, Rivard’s knocked down 58 3s so far, shooting 40.6 percent, and Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said every one he knocks down is like a boost for the Crimson.
“It really gives us a shot in the arm and it gives us a confidence that we gain from it,” Amaker said.
As the Crimson continue their four-game road trip Friday night at the Palestra, Rivard is sitting on 265 career 3s — the most in Harvard history and fourth all-time in the Ivy League annals.
He’s slowly creeping up on Princeton sharpshooter Douglas Davis for third place (276), and there’s a good chance he’ll gain ground against the Quakers.
He’s knocked down at least two 3s in five of his seven career games against Penn. Only once has he gone without draining one from deep. That was in 2012 when he went 0 for 5 from range and the Crimson still pulled out a 56-50 road win.
OKOLIE AND TRAVIS BACK IN THE ROTATION
A huge part of the Crimson’s early success came down to two things, Amaker said.
Their bench and their balance.
When injuries hit, it took a toll on both. Jonah Travis missed the first Penn-Princeton weekend with a concussion and Agunwa Okolie sat out those games plus the next one against Brown with knee issues.
But they both returned last weekend against Columbia and Cornell and their presence restored some order to the Crimson rotation. Okolie scored six points and grabbed three boards in nine minutes of a blowout over Cornell. Travis quietly slid back into his role as the glue guy, chipping in eight minutes against the Big Red.
“I think with Jonah and Agunwa being out for us, it hadn’t helped us certainly,” Amaker said. “I think having those guys back in the flow is different and I think you’re seeing us showcasing a little bit of how deep we can go. It’s not only having them out there but they’re playing well for us. They’re giving us good minutes."
PENN FALLING SHORT OF EXPECTATIONS
Despite going 9-22 last season and 6-8 in the Ivy League, when the votes came in for the Ivy League preseason poll the Quakers were considered the second-best team in the conference behind the unanimously-favored Crimson.
But so far, the season hasn’t played out the way the Quakers had hoped. For all he’s done Despite dropping last year’s meeting in Philly, the Crimson have won four of the past five at the Palestra.
They started the season 2-10, going on a seven-game losing streak that shot an early hole in their season. Then earlier this month, as they struggled through start of the Ivy slate, they lost freshman guard Matt Howard to a broken foot.
They’re giving up the second-most points in the Ivy (75.8) and committing by far the most turnovers (16.4).
“They’re certainly dangerous and capable with Hicks and two inside guys. We’re always watching film thinking how are we going to guard these guys.
Games I’d like to see this weekend (there’s way too many good ones)
Friday (Strangely, there’s some good games)
Mercer at Florida Gulf Coast: The two best teams in the Atlantic Sun, one of them likely to be in tournament. Have to see if Gulf Coast is still as entertaining as last season. Somehow I doubt it.
VCU at UMass: Great matchup of pressing, uptempo teams. Chaz Williams will win this game for the Minutemen. VCU lacks offense. If the havoc press doesn’t work, they’re going to struggle.
Iona at Rider: I haven’t checked in on the high-flying Gaels in a while; they should win easy here and probably crack 100.
Louisville at Cincinnati: This could be the end of Rick Pitino’s “beard.’’ Maybe not (he says he won’t shave until his team loses again) Despite the home court I feel Louisville will assert itself in what should be a physical game (isn’t it always when Cincy’s involved).
Wisconsin at Iowa: Third place in the Big 10 is a stake but more than that, these are two teams that will most likely play a close game. Iowa still isn’t dominant at home so the Badgers have a chance.
BC at Miami: Can the good feelings continue? For Steve Donahue’s sake, I hope so.
Florida at Mississippi: The No.1 ranking is at stake for the Gators but this won’t be easy. I imagine that Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson, the unhinged one, will launch about 20 three-pointers. Whether they go in or not will decide game.
St. John’s at Villanova: The Redmen have really improved but this will be their reality check.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma State: Marcus Smart returns and the Cowboys end their losing streak.
Notre Dame at Virginia: Sully’s Court favorite, the Cavaliers, will win easily at home. I just like to watch their unselfish play.
Kansas State at Oklahoma: The usual tough Big 12 matchup, minimum of one OT.
LaSalle at Richmond: The Spiders will try to get back on the bubble against a challenging opponent.
LSU at Kentucky: LSU is inconsistent; needs a great road victory. The Lexington, Ky. AAU Playaz might be rounding into a team. If they are, they’ll win this easily.
UCLA at Stanford: I find the Bruins really entertaining; close to Virginia as a Sully’s Court favorite. A victory here would complete a Bay Area double.
Minnesota at Ohio State: The Gophers are sinking toward the NIT; a road victory here would revive bubble talk. It’s not impossible.
UTEP at Southern Mississippi: Two of the top teams in Conference USA. Slumping Southern Miss needs this to get stay in the race for first place. Plus the Eagles are home.
Ohio at Akron: A good, old-fashioned MAC matchup. Both are quality teams.
Syracuse at Duke: The Orange inexplicably lost to BC but then again they’ve been asking to be upset. Duke lost at Carolina Thursday night. I can’t imagine the Dookies losing this one in Cameron.
Texas at Kansas: If the Jayhawks win this home game, they’ll have a three-game lead in the Big 12. Impressive especially considering how young they are. Texas has overachieved all season; love their overlooked freshman point guard Isaiah Taylor. He’s a handful off the dribble; if he could only shoot.
Drake at Wichita State: Countdown to perfection. If Ole Miss could upset Florida, the Shockers might be No. 1 next week.
George Washington at Saint Louis: A high-level A10 game but Billkens will be tough to beat at home.
San Diego State at New Mexico: Here’s an upset that’s bound to happen. Lobos will win in the Pit.
Bucknell at BU: The Terriers close in on Patriot League title
Michigan State at Michigan: Big 10 title up for grabs.
SMU at UConn: The Mustangs are good but they’ve yet to prove themselves outside of Dallas. I don’t expect them to start now.
Providence at Butler: A road win the Friars must have.
Florida State at Pitt: Pitt’s at home, they’ll win.
With just two weeks left in the college hockey regular season, the action is really starting to heat up as teams try to position themselves for the Hockey East tournament. The weekend series that may have the biggest playoff implications appears to No. 15 Maine heading to No. 9 Northeastern for a pair of games at Matthews Arena.
The Black Bears are tied for third place in Hockey East with UNH with 20 points. Northeastern is just one point behind with 19 points, but both the Huskies and Maine have two games in hand on UNH.
Maine is coming off a sweep of Merrimack last weekend, which helped the Black Bears climb in the standings. Northeastern bounced back from losing to No. 1 Boston College in the Beanpot championship by jumping out to a 5-1 lead over UMass, then holding off a furious rally by the Minutemen to get a 5-4 win and two points.
Speaking of the top-ranked Eagles, they have a home-and-home series with No. 7 UMass-Lowell. Usually a matchup between the first and second place teams in Hockey East would be the top story, but with 31 points, BC is running away with the league title. The Eagles clinched the top spot by traveling to Vermont and sweeping the Catamounts last weekend.
Senior captain Patrick Brown continued his solid play, following up his two goal performance against Northeastern in the Beanpot championship with two more goals at Vermont, and was named the league's player of the week.
The Eagles have not lost since Thanksgiving weekend, and will face a UMass-Lowell team that, with 22 points, is trying to hold on to second place. The River Hawks have played well in recent weeks and hope to regain the form that led them to being crowned Hockey East champions for last year's regular season and tournament.
Other matchups this weekend include Boston University traveling to Notre Dame. With 14 points, the Fighting Irish could use a sweep at home to try climb out of eighth place, while BU wants to avoid the league cellar. Also tied for the eighth spot is Vermont, which heads to last place Merrimack for a pair of games. Rounding out the schedule is sixth-place Providence (16 points), which has a home-and-home series with UMass.
If you live anywhere in the Northeast, there's a good chance you're surrounded by cranky Syracuse fans this morning. And as anyone who didn't go to the school knows, the only thing worse than cranky Syracuse fans is happy Syracuse fans.
Boston College alumni, however, are riding high after BC's shocking 62-59 win over the previously unbeaten and No. 1 Orange, at the Carrier Dome no less. Boston College (7-19, 3-10 Atlantic Coast Conference) had lost five straight. The 'Cuse had been pulling wins out of their you-know-whats, but it was hard to argue with their record. BC took a little shot at their rival with the following tweet Thursday morning:
Around the 'ole 'Net, reaction was expectedly jubilant on the BC side. In particular, several pointed out the poignancy of the win in the wake of the death of longtime basketball media contact Dick Kelley.
Boston College. Dick Kelley smiling down. WHAT A VICTORY. Sports are awesome.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) February 20, 2014
Kelley's funeral was Tuesday and the Eagles, who often visited his apartment, were wearing ‘‘DK’’ patches on their uniforms.
In general, Syracuse fans seemed resigned to their team losing a game at some point. But to Boston College?? ESPN Fantasy writer Matthew Barry said the team might have been looking ahead to Saturday's matchup with Duke.
Yeah that's what I was expecting. Hate losing to BC RT @ljwarco99: but BC of all teams? At home? Couldn't you just lose to Duke on Sat?— Matthew Berry (@MatthewBerryTMR) February 20, 2014
Just glance quickly at the list of the 23 finalists for this year's Bob Cousy Award for the nation's best point guard, and you'll find some of the familiar faces.
Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart. North Carolina's Marcus Paige. Connecticut's Shabazz Napier. UMass's Chaz Williams.
But also on the list is Harvard's 6-foot, 170-pound speed car Siyani Chambers. His 4.3 assists a night is the second-best clip in the Ivy, his 11.0 points a night make him the Crimson's second-leading scorer and his all-around skills as Harvard's floor general have helped push the Crimson to a 20-4 start.
Even if he's only a sophomore, Harvard head coach Tommy Amaker said Chambers deserved to be included among an elite fraternity of players at his position this season.
"I'm really happy for him and proud of him for being on that very short list," Amaker said. "You think about all the really good point guards in the country and to have that dwindled down into 23 and to have him as one of them, that's a strong statement."
That list gets even shorter when you look at the number of Ivy League point guards to ever land on it. Before Chambers, the only other Ivy League players to be named Cousy finalists were Penn's Zach Rosen in 2012 and former Crimson star Jeremy Lin in 2010.
"I think he's deserving of that kind of recognition," Amaker said. "I think he's performed and played at a level that is deserving of the opportunity that he's receiving. And I think when you look at our program and our team, I think those layers are also factors into the selection."
For Chambers, the honor was humbling, but with Harvard just a half game ahead of Columbia and Yale, he was more focused on the Crimson's two road games this weekend against Penn and Princeton.
"It's an honor to be on the list, to be recognized like that," Chambers said. "Right now we're worried about getting two wins this weekend and just trying to go as far as we can. I feel honored to be a part of the list."
He’s been killing it all season, averaging 24 points while hitting 47 percent of his shots overall and 44 from three. A lot of those threes are from long distance, too. In a televised game this season, he promised the announcers before the game that he would make a shot while his feet were on the logo at center court. It was a large logo, but the fact is he did it. He also leads his team in assists and the Griffins are contending for the MAAC championship.
The only game I’ve seen Hunter play, his team unfortunately lost. It wasn’t his fault as he scored 26. At 6-5, he’ll be a guard in the mold of Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors. He’s a little skinny and spends most of his time on the perimeter. His shooting percentage is 47 overall and 42 on threes. He makes 88 percent of his free throws. The most interesting part of his game is how the ball goes through the net when he makes a shot. It barely moves. You might think of him as a tall Stephen Curry. He’s only a sophomore, so it’s unknown if he’ll declare for not.
Larry Bird’s records: Keeping in mind that all of The Legend’s records were set in three years and before a three-point line, it’s still interesting to note that Doug McDermott of Creighton passed him on the all-time scoring list Saturday. McDermott noted the three-year, three-point difference himself in his postgame press conference. Also, Indiana State point guard Jake Odum is six free throws from tying Bird’s school record of 542.
Grambling: The school that once produced Willis Reed has been beset with big problems because of scholarship limitations imposed because of academic failures. The Tigers have endured some horrible losses this season by huge margins. Finally, something positive happened when they beat Alcorn State 95-80 to end a 45-game Division 1 losing streak. They followed that up with a road loss to arguably the best team in the SWAC, Texas Southern, and it was only a three-point setback.
Holy Cross: The Fighin’ Shaughnessys seemed like a non-factor a month ago. Suddenly, they’ve won nine of 10 (the only loss was at American) and are now snugly in the third place in the Patriot League and have to be viewed as a threat in the conference tournament. They will be favored in the next three before finishing the season against BU in Worcester March 1.
Iona: Earlier this season, I wrote off the Gaels as a contender in the MAAC. They’ve changed my mind with some great play in the league. They’ve won nine in a row and are a league-leading 14-2 in the MAAC. As usual, they do it in entertaining fashion, averaging 83.8 points per game. The MAAC tournament will be played in Springfield March 7-10.
Louisville: Rick Pitino is having fun. Yes, it’s true. “ Let’s grow beards until we lose,'’’ Pitino told his team. ‘‘It’s the first time in my life I'm trying to grow a beard. It’s the first time I looked in the mirror and saw multifaceted hair coming in different colors. We want to have some fun right now. Hopefully, we can get on a streak and grow some full beards.’’ So far it’s a four-game winning streak, but Cincinnati looms dead ahead this Saturday. The Cardinals are trying to work their way back into the national championship discussion.
St. John’s: Hollywood Steve Lavin’s team started by losing its first five Big East games, but now stands 7-6 in the conference and has won eight of its last nine games overall after spanking Georgetown at Madison Square Garden Sunday night. The Redmen also broke a 16-year drought on the road against Seton Hall, winning their first road game in the series since Feb. 15, 1998.
Five falling (non-Oklahoma State division):
DePaul: The Blue Demons are winless in six games since Cleveland Melvin had 25 points in an 84-74 loss to Xavier on Jan. 20 in his final game with DePaul. The senior forward averaged 16.7 points and 6.4 rebounds in 20 games this season, but was dismissed from the team for undisclosed reasons. Things are going from bad to worse. Overall, the Demons have lost eight in a row and 11 of their last 13.
Indiana: The Hoosiers were hapless in losing to arch-rival Purdue 82-64 in West Lafayette. They’ve now lost three straight since upsetting Michigan. Some rivalry notes: Purdue ended a four-game losing streak; it was the first time since 1965-66 that both teams entered the game with sub-.500 records through 11 games. The two tied for last place in that season.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have lost seven straight, including a home game to Georgia, 75-55, after taking a 22-8 lead. Then they barely competed against Auburn Saturday.
San Jose State: The Spartans’ first season in the Mountain West could not have gone any worse. They’ve lost 13 in a row and lost to Wyoming Saturday while scoring only 38 points on 13-for-46 shooting. They have two home games left, against Utah State and Fresno, both chances to end the skid.
TCU: Hard to believe that the Frogs were once 9-3. Then the Big 12 conference season started and so did the losing. The streak hit 12 straight with a loss to Kansas Saturday.
The week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Wichita State. The Shockers were challenged by Evansville Sunday, but once again they combined skill and smarts to pull out the victory.
The week’s Final Four: Arizona, Syracuse, Wichita State, Florida
This week’s national champion: Arizona
Games I’d like to see this weekend ...
Saint Joseph’s at LaSalle: The Hawks fighting to get onto the bubble and should be playing desperate ball. This is a big rivalry; LaSalle has ruined things for the Hawks in the past many times and would like nothing better than to do it again. This is a last possession game.
Virginia at Clemson: Sully’s Court favorite will show they can win on the road.
Memphis at UConn: Both teams are sort of overlooked. I’m looking for the upset by Memphis.
Iowa at Penn State: The Nits are improved; they just won at Indiana. I don’t think they’ve improved enough to beat the Hawkeyes, however. A win would change my mind obviously.
Pitt at North Carolina: The Tar Heels continue the upward arc by winning this one at the DeanDome. Pitt hasn’t proved to me they can win on the road.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State: Things could not be worse for Okie State; this will be game two of Marcus Smart’s three-game suspension. Okie’s not doing much better coming off a loss to Texas Tech. What will give? I think Okie State wins this.
VCU at Saint Louis: The two best teams in the A10 plus they are the strategic an antithesis of each other. It’s havoc vs. half-court. Saint Louis has won 16 straight but I still think this season’s team is not as good as last season’s. So I vote for havoc in this one.
UMass at George Washington: In the days of Coach Cal GW was a major nemesis. Remember Alexander Koul and UMass is not playing well and a road game against a good opponent won’t help that. I hate to say it but I think bad things will continue to happen.
Mississippi at Georgia: The Rebels and the great unhinged one, Marshall Henderson, need to beat a lesser team on the road to continue to think about making the tournament.
Green Bay at Cleveland State: Just when I thought the Packers had things locked up in the Horizon League they got blown out at home by Milwaukee. The Fightin’ Mouse McFaddens are decent so this won’t be easy.
Indiana at Purdue: Watched this one in a bar in Indy when the Patriots were in the Super Bowl; that was great fun. One of the best rivalries, obviously. I don’t think Purdue is good enough this season, however.
Towson at William & Mary: I haven’t seen W&M star Marcus Thornton play a full game. He’s the best player in the CAA.
Georgia State at Troy: This is the MUST watch for me. Georgia State has won 14 in a row and is 10-0 in the Sun Belt. I’m really interested in seeing Coach Cal discard Ryan Harrow and coach’s son R.J. Hunter play.
BU at Loyola of Maryland: The Terriers have to maintain to keep pace with American. It’s a road game but Loyola has been hurt by injuries.
Florida at Kentucky: This is a must watching too. Florida has had an incredible season and a win at Rupp would make it even better. I don’t think the Lexington, Ky. AAU Playaz can win against as really “team.’’
Bryant at Wagner: Bryant is a possible NCAA team out of the NEC.
Wisconsin at Michigan: I’m now unsure about both these teams but surely Michigan will win at home.
Oregon State at Oregon: The Ducks are drowning. The Beavers have had a decent season; winning on the Jackson Pollock floor would be sweet.
St. Francis of New York at LIU: SFNY is one of the long-time Division teams that have never been to the NCAA tournament. It’s possible they could win the NEC tournament, I believe. Seeing this might let me know for sure.
Wichita State at Evansville: Pursuit of perfection is much-watch TV
Villanova at Creighton: Creighton humbled Villanova in Philly 96-68; you have to consider that an aberration. Still Creighton is 13-0 at home, practically unbeatable in Omaha.
Notre Dame at BC: It was more heartbreak for the Eagles Thursday. They’ll win this one.
Minnesota at Northwestern: The Gophers are trying to stay on the bubble and Northwestern has been tough at home recently. Looks like a tossup.
Georgetown at St. John’s: The Redmen are playing really well; Georgetown has been inconsistent. I can’t imagine this not being close.
The jerseys may say Boston College on the front, but it might as well be a giant bull's eye. Year after year, the goals are the same for BC: Win the Beanpot, win the Hockey East tournament, and win a national championship. The Eagles have been successful more often than not, despite the fact that opposition is gunning for them.Look no further than this year's Beanpot. In the first round, Boston University had its best performance of the season against BC, and trailed just 2-1, before Johnny Gaudreau's empty netter sealed the 3-1 win.
And then there was Monday night's championship game. The upstart Northeastern Huskies were looking to end a 26-year drought and threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Eagles. And through two periods, the game was tied, 1-1, as goalies Thatcher Demko for BC and Clay Witt for NU took turns making spectacular save after spectacular save.
"The pace of the game was up all game," said Demko. "It was really fun to be a part of. Each possession was just huge for each team; you never knew what was going to happen with guys going up and down the ice here and there. So it was a really fast-paced game and a really fun game to be a part of."
But as the third period wore on, it became clear that BC had taken NU's best punch, and the Eagles still had a little more in reserve. They landed a final flurry, scoring three goals in the last 5:30 to defeat the Huskies, 4-1 and capture their fifth straight Beanpot championship, and sixth in the last seven years.
"It is something that we strive for and when you accomplish something you strive for it’s a real proud moment," said BC coach Jerry York. "Our players acknowledged that fact tonight."
Captain Patrick Brown delivered the heroics for BC with his tie-breaking goal. Set up in front of the Northeastern net with a Husky defender draped all over him, Brown was able to redirect Isaac McLeod's shot past Witt and into the net.
"Isaac works really hard and he’s always shooting for sticks, he’s got a great shot pass," Brown said. "I was just trying to find a spot in the slot where he could hit my stick. I was getting mauled a little bit and I fell down but just got my stick on it because he made a great tape-to-tape pass."
It was an amazing play, as Brown was falling to the ice when he managed to get his stick on the puck.
"That's a skill he works at during practice and it is something he is very good at," said York. "It was a special play and I will remember that for a long time.”
No doubt Brown works hard in practice, but how do you simulate that situation?
"You’ve just got to focus; you’ve got to keep your eye on the puck," said Brown. "But we’ve got some big, mean D so they do a great job of training you for that in practice."
It's what separates the Eagles from the rest of the pack these days. There is no lamenting that they face everyone else's "A" game. They know everyone else is looking to knock them off. A win against BC in the first round of the Beanpot would've salvaged an otherwise dreadful season for BU. Facing the Eagles in the title game for the third time in four years, Northeastern was looking to finally break through. But BC was not about to give in either week.
"We compete, and we compete until the very end," said Brown. "You come in here as a freshman, and you learn the culture. We want to win trophies. That's what everyone wants to do."
This has become BC's favorite time of year. There's no wilting under pressure or worrying about inexperienced freshmen. Newcomers like Demko take their cue from the upperclassmen.
"It’s just huge coming into the locker room before the game and just having that calming presence in the locker room," said Demko. "Everyone’s calm and ready to go – we’re confident coming in there with your teammates . Brownie and the other seniors do a great job of just making sure everyone’s ready and not overthinking things, just going in and playing our game."
While the line of Gaudreau, Bill Arnold, and tournament MVP Kevin Hayes has been explosive offensively and garnering much of the attention, it's been a total team effort for BC.
"I’m not sure how much credit you guys give us or not but we hold ourselves accountable," said Brown. "[It's] everyone working hard every day in practice, no one taking days off and no one hiding. So we’ve got talented guys but they’ve got to work hard too and the guys with less talent have got to work harder."
After all, trophy season is just beginning, and BC's work isn't done yet.
However, we’re also hearing from other Texas Tech opponents that this guy has done it before. He actually apologized today to Smart and said he won't be attending any more games this season. I'm stunned because it's so rare to see people do the correct thing.
Davidson: The always well-coached Wildcats were roughed up in the non-conference part of the schedule, but they’ve asserted themselves in the Southern Conference, winning 10 of their last 11 and are solidly in first place.
North Carolina: Don’t look now, but the Tar Heels might be finally figuring it out. After beating Notre Dame 73-62 Saturday they’ve won five straight, all by double digits. The Tar Heels are 16-7 overall and 6-4 in the ACC after starting 0-3. Next up? Duke on Wednesday.
Saint Louis: The Billikens completed a Philly sweep by beating Saint Joe’s and LaSalle and have now won 16 in a row. They are 22-2 overall and undefeated in the A10. Without question, they are one of the best defensive teams in the country. The two losses were to Wisconsin on a neutral banquet hall in Mexico and Wichita State (a home game).
Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks keep chopping away. They are 22-2, have won 19 straight overall and 30 straight at home. The two losses were to Texas and East Tennessee. The Lumberjacks don’t have any quality wins, so they’ll need to win the Southland Conference tournament and if they do I think they’ll be a dangerous NCAA opponent.
Weber State: The Wildcats are firmly in control in the Big Sky Conference with a three-game lead after beating Northern Colorado. They’re especially in control at home, where they’ve won 26 straight conference games and 48 of their last 49.
American: The Eagles looked like they were going to roll right through the Patriot League when they won their first 10, but they lost to Loyola of Maryland and then inexcusably dropped a home game to Colgate.
Cal: This is what frustrates Cal fans (like the long-suffering Gary Washburn of the Globe). The Bears manage to upset the best team in the country in Arizona, then they turn around and lose to arch-rival Stanford at home. On top of that, they’ve lost four of five.
Kent State: Once the best of the MAC, the Flashes have been extinguished. They lost a Michigan swing to Eastern and Central (it was Central’s first MAC win of the season) and have now dropped six of the last seven.
Oklahoma State: It has all fallen apart for the Cowboys, who not only have lost four in a row and five of their last six but now will lose All-American Marcus Smart for three games after he shoved a fan at the end of a loss to Texas Tech. This was a Final Four team that now has to be seriously doubted.
Sacred Heart: It has been a disastrous first year for coach Anthony Latinia, who replaced Dave Bike after Bike spent 35 years as the head man before retiring. The Hearts have lost eight straight and are 4-21.
This week’s George Mason (best mid-major): Wichita State. The Shockers successfully cleared the hurdle of winning at Indiana State. The Thresher is plowing its way to an undefeated season.
This week’s Final Four: Arizona, Syracuse, Wichita State, Florida.
This week’s national champion: Arizona
At first glance, tonight's Beanpot championship game might appear to be a David vs. Goliath matchup. After all, on one side is Boston College (21-4-3), ranked second in the country, running away with first place in Hockey East, and shooting for a fifth straight Beanpot title. Over on the other side is Northeastern, which has not won a Beanpot since 1988.But the two programs have had some memorable meetings in recent years on one of the first two Mondays in February. Northeastern is the last team to beat BC in the Beanpot, defeating the Eagles in the 2009 semifinals. It has lost to BC in three straight Beanpots, and this will be the third time the two clubs will be playing for the championship in the last four years. Included in that run is the 2011 final, in which BC prevailed 7-6 in overtime.
The gap looks to be even narrower this season. The Huskies (16-9-3) are ranked 10th in the country and are currently third in Hockey East. Their play this season is all the more impressive when you consider Northeastern didn't even qualify for the Hockey East playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
"This is a different team from last year," Northeastern coach Jim Madigan said. "I really like this team. They come to practice every day working their rear ends off and want to get better. We've got an infusion of young players. It's a group that truly does get along well. As a team, the freshmen contributors push the upper classmen."
The rapid ascent in the standings has some calling the Huskies a Cinderella team, a notion Madigan does not dispute.
"It speaks to our guys who realized that not much was expected from the outside, but a lot was expected from within the locker room, and from our leadership core from last year," said Madigan. "They know it's a nice story, but we've delivered the message that this story hasn't played itself out yet. There's a long way to go and let's just keep focused. The reason why we've had a lot of wins to date is they've stayed focused each and every game."
Madigan points to senior captain Josh Manson as the reason the team has become so close.
"We've got a real good locker room, because of him and our leadership core," said Madigan. "He's the captain, the one that keeps everything under control. It's nice when your captain can have a commanding force."
Manson would like nothing better than to bring a Beanpot back to campus in his senior year.
"I didn't know much about the Beanpot coming from Canada," said Manson. "When you get here, you really learn about it quickly, how special it is. It's a great tournament. We're happy with the season so far, but we're not satisfied. We know the toughest part of the season is coming up."
It was Northeastern's response to a Manson penalty in the 6-0 opening round win over Harvard that showed what the team was about. The Huskies were leading, 2-0, when Manson was whistled for a five-minute major and a game misconduct. Northeastern was able to kill off the Harvard power play and rolled to the win.
"That's a huge loss for us," said Northeastern goaltender Clay Witt after the game. "He's an outstanding player and he's been the heart of our team. We knew that everyone had to pitch in a little bit. We had some guys step up big."
BC is accustomed to having players step up. The Eagles refer to this part of the schedule as trophy season, as they routinely contend for the Beanpot, the Hockey East tournament title, and the national title.
"We tell our players pressure is good for you," said BC coach Jerry York. "It makes you get up in the morning and work harder. It makes you more alert, so, we welcome pressure. We have a good team, and I expect it to play very well and win some trophies. That's something we embrace. I think it's good for you."
Junior Johnny Gaudreau has never shied away from the spotlight, and leads the nation in points with 24 goals and 32 assists. He could bring another trophy back to Chestnut Hill this season, as he is a leading contender for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top college hockey player in the nation.
"It's fun to watch Johnny G, isn't it?" said York after BC's 3-1 win over BU in the first round last week. "If you like hockey, to see what he does with the puck and the plays he makes, even from the bench, sometimes I'm shocked at what he does with the puck, and he was certainly a catalyst for us (against BU)."
Freshman goaltender Thatcher Demko certainly embraced the pressure in his first Beanpot start. Demko recorded 27 saves in a game that was not decided until Gaudreau's empty-netter with 31 seconds left.
"It means an awful lot to his self-confidence." said York. "He's been a good goaltender for a lot of years before he got here, so I don't think it's a surprise that he could handle something like this and play well. Thatcher, as I watch him, he’s getting more confident. He handles the puck now. He reminds me a lot of Cory Schneider at the same age."
That's quite a comparison, as Schneider has gone on to have a solid NHL career after leaving BC in 2007, but Demko isn't the only goalie who has been outstanding thus far. Witt recorded his fourth shutout of the year for the Huskies against Harvard, and was named the Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week four times this season.
"I think Jim's done a terrific job with his club," said York. "He's got a some really special players. They're getting excellent goaltending from Clay Witt. It's no surprise that they've won so many games this year. They've got a really good club. I think Jim probably feels this is the best team they've had since he's been there."
While both teams feel confident in their netminders, goaltending is just part of the equation for BC and NU as they get set for tonight's game. It's a combination that Madigan mentioned after the win over Harvard.
"In a short tournament, you need goaltending, and obviously we feel confident in our goalie," said Madigan. "You need specials teams, which will determine a lot, and you need discipline. Those three criteria need to come together to win a Beanpot. And sometimes a little bit of luck, too."
The Huskies will need all three, and probably some luck, if they are to end their 26-year drought and stop BC from a fifth straight title.
Games I’d like to watch this weekend. I thank my lucky stars for a DVR because my viewing is going to be interrupted by a social obligation. It’s a poetry party. Every person has to bring a poem to the party and read it. Maybe this one? Trust me, I’ll do better than that; then I’ll return home and turn on the DVR to watch what I missed.
Alabama at Florida: Two things to see here. First, will there be another spectacular dunk by Florida Chris “Sky”’ Walker (OK, the nickname is a retread) who has only played once since he was finally declared eligible? Second, I want to see how far Alabama has fallen. I think Anthony Grant is a tremendous coach, but he’s having his problems getting it going at 'Bama.
Virginia at Georgia Tech: Need to check in on Virginia, the personal favorite team of Sully’s Court.
Nebraska at Northwestern: Revived Northwestern should assert itself here. If they don’t, we’ll know it’s the same old Mildcats.
Butler at Georgetown: Not sure how Georgetown beat Michigan State, so they’ll have show me things have suddenly changed by winning this game decisively.
Texas at Kansas State: Texas is among the most surprising teams of the season. I don’t think they’ll win this road game, but if they do, the wow factor will be large.
Milwaukee at Green Bay: Should be a rout, but good to get a quick check in on Green Bay, the Horizon League’s dominant force.
Michigan at Iowa: Both teams are better than expected this season, but I think the Wolverines will prevail because home court doesn’t seem to make that big a different for Iowa.
Providence at Xavier: Another tough road test for the Friars following a bad home loss to St. John’s. They need this one.
Auburn at LSU: Auburn’s won three in a row while LSU lost at Georgia. LSU can’t afford to lose at home.
Saint Louis at LaSalle: Saint Louis has a school-record 15-game winning streak, yet I think last season’s Billikens were better than this season’s. Maybe a win here will change my mind.
IUPU Fort Wayne at North Dakota State: These are the two best teams in the Summit League. Big game.
Oregon at Arizona State: Tough loss at Arizona Thursday night for the Ducks; can’t let that affect this one.
Missouri at Ole Miss: Great guard play here. Old Miss’ unhinged one, Marshall Henderson, vs. Mizzou’s Jabari Brown to see who can make a three-pointer from the longest distance. I bet Henderson tries one from halfcourt.
Duke at BC: Eagles really have no chance, but you still have to monitor.
Baylor at Oklahoma: Baylor has lost six of its last seven. Oklahoma has lost two in a row. Life in the Big 12 is rough. Home court will rescue the Sooners.
Cincinnati at SMU: What a rugged win for Cincy over UConn Thursday night. Here’s a tough road game because the Bearcats represent the signature win SMU has been looking for.
Virginia Commonwealth at Saint Joseph’s: VCU is always entertaining and Saint Joe’s needs this one to start forging an NCAA resume.
Wichita State at Northern Iowa: The Wheat Shockers met their biggest challenge of the conference season by beating Indiana State Wednesday night. Has to be a letdown, right? Possible upset.
Gonzaga at Memphis: The Zags always have a great out-of-conference schedule. They should always get extra credit for that.
Michigan State at Wisconsin: Injuries have crippled Sparty; bad streak should continue.
Charlotte at Southern Mississippi: Southern Mississippi is 19-3 overall; a good chance to watch them against a decent opponent.
UMass at Rhode Island: The Minutemen should be rolling again.
Creighton at St. John’s: The Redmen won at Providence, which was surprising. Still don’t think they can beat McBuckets and the Bluejays.
Although Boston College will not begin spring football drills until next month following spring break, Eagles coach Steve Addazio could not wait to get started Wednesday after BC signed 30 recruits to national letters of intent, many of whom Addazio predicted would make an immediate impact on the squad.
"Well, this is our class,'' said Addazio. "Last year we were able to bring in a couple of guys and I didn’t really know those guys really well. We’re really fortunate, because a handful of those guys are going to be really, really good players, so we were lucky.
"But this is a class that we put a full year into and we know them very well,'' Addazio added. "Anytime you sign 30, that’s a large number and you need to know them well, because the more guys you sign the higher the rate there are for some misses, but we feel great about this class.
"Like I said, we know ‘em and there’s some high-end players in this class. We’re going to be able to really build off this.''
BC's incoming Class of 2014, which included a pair of University of Florida transfers in dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy and offensive tackle Ian Silberman, represented players from 12 different states, 17 within a five-hour radius of the school's campus in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Seven of those players, including Natick standout quarterback Troy Flutie and St. Sebastian's linebacker Connor Strachan, a pair of BC legacies, hailed from the Bay State, while five were from New Jersey, two Connecticut, two Pennsylvania and one from Rhode Island.
In addition, BC recruiters went beyond that footprint to land five players from Florida, two from Georgia, and one each from Delaware, Michigan, Maryland, North Carolina and Ohio.
Offensively, the breakdown of position players included: 4 linemen, 3 quarterbacks, 3 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 running back/wide receiver, 1 tight end. Defensively, BC landed 6 defensive linemen, 4 linebackers, 4 defensive backs and 1 kicker.
Twenty-four of those players earned All-State accolades with two, QBs Darius Wade of Milddletown, Del., and Flutie, earning Gatorade Player of the Year honors in their respective states.
"I felt like we had a really good year from a position standpoint, a talent standpoint, a numbers standpoint, and a footprint standpoint,'' Addazio said. ``I'm really excited about our class and I really feel like we filled some real needs. Just a great group of guys . . . I really couldn't be happier.''
2014 Boston College Football Signees
Name Elig. Pos. Ht. Wt. Last School/Hometown
Sherman Alston Fr. WR/ATH 5-6, 165 St. Joseph Regional HS/Fairview, N.J.
Jon Baker* Fr. OL 6-3, 300 Millis HS/Millis, Mass.
Kevin Bletzer Fr. LB 6-2, 200 Catholic Memorial HS/Medfield, Mass.
Kevin Cohee Jr. Fr. DL 6-4, 240 Robury Latin/Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Allen Dawson* Fr. DB 6-0, 192 Cheshire Academy (Conn.)/Boca Raton, Fla.
Nat Dixon Fr. WR 6-4, 190 Mosley HS/Lynn Haven, Fla.
Troy Flutie Fr. QB/ATH 6-0, 170 Natick HS/Natick, Mass.
James Hendren Fr. OL 6-7, 268 Dexter School/Mefield, Mass.
Jon Hilliman Fr. RB 6-0, 215 Saint Peter’s Prep/Plainfield, N.J.
Christian Lezzer Fr. LB 6-1, 218 Clearfield HS/Clearfield, Pa.
Gabriel McClary Fr. WR 6-3 , 190 Winter Park HS/Orlando, Fla.
Noa Merritt Fr. DL 6-0, 258 Pope John XXIII HS/Sparta, N.J.
Mike Knoll Fr. K/P 6-1, 200 Walsh Jesuit HS/Copley, Ohio
Harold Landry* Fr. DL 6-3, 258 Pine Forest HS/Spring Lake, N.C.
Kamrin Moore Fr. DB 6-1, 190 Bishop Denis J. O’Connell HS/Accokeek, Md.
Tyler Murphy* Sr. QB 6-2, 210 Univ. of Florida/Wethersfield, Conn.
Marcus Outlow Fr. RB 6-0, 210 Norwich Free Acad./Norwich, Conn.
Oseh-Lie Saine Fr. DL 6-4, 264 Worcester Academy/Lincoln, R.I.
Sam Schmal Fr. OL 6-6, 280 Westminster School /Atlanta, Ga.
Ty Schwab Fr. LB 6-2, 280 Merritt Island HS/Merritt Island, Fla.
Cameron Seward Fr. DB 6-1, 216 Westminster School/Dunwoody, Ga.
Ian Silberman* Sr. OL 6-5, 303 Univ. of Florida/Fleming Island, Fla.
Thaddius Smith Fr. WR 5-10, 170 Cardinal O’Hara HS/Yeadon, Pa.
Austin Stevens Fr. DL 6-4, 245 Montclair HS/Montclair, N.J.
Connor Strachan Fr. LB 6-2, 240 St. Sebastian’s/Wellesley, Mass.
Tom Sweeney Fr. TE 6-5, 220 Don Bosco HS/Ramsey, N.J.
Joseph Vitiello Fr. DL 6-4, 255 Immaculata HS/Bridgewater, N.J.
Darius Wade* Fr. QB 6-2, 195 Middletown HS/Middletown, Del.
Richard Wilson Fr. RB 5-11, 215 Detroit Country Day/Southfield, Mich.
Isaac Yiadom* Fr. DB 6-1, 170 Doherty Memorial HS/Worcester, Mass.
*denotes mid-year (January 2014) enrollee
First, I watched Ohio State and Wisconsin, two teams desperate for a victory, play right down to the wire with Ohio State pulling off a 59-58 victory. I don’t usually watch one game at a time so I was flipping between Ohio State-Wisconsin and Dayton-George Washington. Then I noticed on the crawl how close BC-Notre Dame was and I switched over to that to see the end and the overtime. I feel for BC; it was a horrible way to lose.
Next came the best game of the day – Toledo, the best team in the MAC, and Ohio, one of three or four best and holding the home-court advantage, which is big in Athens, Ohio. Both teams had stretches of spectacular play and each seemed to take control of the game only to have the other team take it back. Finally, Ohio prevailed 95-90 in OT.
As if that wasn’t enough, I saw parts of other close games: Northwestern over Minnesota 55-54; Baylor over Oklahoma State 76-70; Saint Louis over George Mason 87-81 in OT; UMass nearly pulling off another sensational comeback before falling to Saint Joseph’s 73-68; and finally Syracuse beating Duke 91-89 in OT.
I have to own up to a bad mistake in last Friday’s blog. I wrote that UMass had lost two in a row when in fact they had lost two of three. Wins are tough enough to come by without having bloggers take them away from you.
Five rising: Nebraska: The Huskers, along with Penn State and Northwestern, are regarded as the bottom of the Big 10. Something has changed in Lincoln. The Huskers have won three of four and back-to-back conference games for the first time in their three years in the Big 10. The Huskers (10-1 at home) hold home victories over Ohio State, Indiana, and Minnesota.
Northwestern: I admit I thought Northwestern would be at the bottom of the Big 10 standings, but Chris Collins has started to turn things around in his first season as the Wildcats won three consecutive road games (Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota) in the Big 10 for the first time since 1960. This isn’t an NCAA team, but it’s a big accomplishment.
Texas: The Longhorns are for real. They have a six-game winning streak and have beaten all the good teams in the Big 12, including Kansas Saturday afternoon.
UTEP: Any fan of UTEP couldn’t have been optimistic when the Miners lost consecutive home games to Angelo State (what?) and Charlotte. Things have turned around as the Miners have won six straight and are tied for first in Conference USA with Southern Mississippi.
Virginia: The Cavaliers are an official Sully’s Court favorite. I love their team play, toughness and enthusiasm. After winning road games at Notre Dame and Pitt, the Cavs are 8-1 in the ACC, their best start since the days of Ralph Sampson.
Five falling: Central Michigan: Former Providence coach Keno Davis, son of former BC coach Tom Davis, is in his second season in Mount Pleasant and things have gone from bad to worse. The Chippewas are 7-13 and have lost all eight of their games in the MAC.
Houston: I know I’ve been tough on the Cougars this season, but how can they not be part of five falling after this road trip, an 80-43 loss to UConn and a 93-70 loss to Rutgers. Overall, they’ve lost four in a row and six of seven. Next up? Louisville.
Illinois Chicago: The days when coach Jimmy Collins would assemble a solid group of Chicago players and transfers to put together winning season after winning season are long gone. The Flames are 5-18 overall and -0-8 in the Horizon.
Texas A&M: The Aggies started the SEC season with three victories but have now dropped five straight. Grain elevator going down.
Virginia Tech: The season continues to be a disaster for the Hokies. They’ve lost eight in a row and the last two weren’t even competitive, 76-52 to BC and 80-60 to Maryland, against two teams that aren’t even close to being at the top of the ACC.
This week’s George Mason: Wichita State. The Wheat Shockers were challenged in the first half by Evansville, but asserted themselves in the second half to win their 23d straight without a loss.
This week’s Final Four: Arizona, Syracuse, Wichita State, Florida. I’ve been an Oklahoma State backer since November, but the Cowboys aren’t playing well enough anymore to be considered a Final Four team. There’s still time to rebound, but it’s going the wrong way right now.
This week’s national champion: Arizona.