Maryland school starts Patriot pipeline

Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, Md., has a healthy tradition of turning out Division I players.

UConn's Rudy Gay was one of two of last year's seniors to sign with D-I programs. A third is expected to play D-I ball next season after a year at a prep school.

Two years ago, 7-footer Will Bowers signed with Maryland. A teammate is now at Mt. St. Mary's.

So it was no surprise when three Cavaliers signed letters of intent during November's early signing period.

In the process, two of those players set the stage for some interesting subplots over the next four seasons. With 6-1 combo guard Justin Castleberry headed to Bucknell, and 6-5 forward Lawrence Dixon committed to Holy Cross, imagine the possible storylines as when those two traditional Patriot League contenders meet over the next couple years. Ditto for the annual homecoming visits to American the two will make.

That, of course, will depend on both players developing into contributors at the college level. But the poteential is there.

So far this season, Castleberry is averaging 16.3 points per game with 33 assists and 11 turnovers for the 6-1 Calaliers, who lost their first game of the season Castleberry scored 23 pointsin that loss.

Dixon is averaging just under 10 points per game. No rebounding stats are available on the Spalding Web site.

You will find recaps of each Spalding game on that site, along with a team news page where somebody has dutifully posted an exhaustive library of articles about the team and its players all on one long scroll of a page. It is not the most user-friendly page you will encounter, but your reward for putting up with the scroll is a plethora of articles reposted from subscription based that would otherwise cost you money to read.

Included on the page are two installments of James Quinn's "Jim Time With ..." series featuring Castleberry and Dixon.

Both players are also listed by the Washington Post as players to watch this season in the D.C. area.

Here's what The Post had to say about Castleberry:
JUSTIN CASTLEBERRY, Spalding, G, Sr.: Speed is the main reason he'll play at Bucknell next year, and he can take over a game. With 10 seconds left in an overtime win over Calvert Hall last season, Castleberry dribbled the length of the court and scored the winning layup.
On Dixon, The Post said:
LAWRENCE DIXON, Spalding, F, Sr.: At 6 feet 4 inches, Dixon is a threat on the post. He prefers to play from the wing, though, where he can either drive to the basket or shoot (he had eight three-pointers last year).
Spalding's Marquis Sullivan, the Loyola (Md.) signee who leads Spalding in scoring (20.4 ppg), also made the Post's list.

By the way, Castleberry's birthday is Dec. 19. Bucknell fans can send birthday greetings to
Holy Cross fans missed Dixon's b-day, Dec. 5. But belated greetings can reach Dixon at

By the way, Holy Cross assisant coach Andrew Sachs was an assistant at Spalding the last three seasons.

The Cavaliers are off until Friday night, when the open play in the Bullis Holiday Classic.

We have some stuff on some other recruits, but we'll save that for another day during finals.

Read more!

Over the break . . .

With no games the next few days, here's what you ought to find here over the next couple days.

  • A fix for the recruitniks ... we're in the process of pulling together some info and links on some of the Patriot League recruits. Might be one piece, or a couple ... not sure yet, but we're finding some good stuff.
  • Where have you gone ... An update you won't want to miss on a former Patriot League hoopster

    We're also going to work a little on fixing up this joint.

    This site is very much the result of a spur-of-the-moment, flash-of-inspiration idea that came in between the final buzzer of the Bucknell-St. Francis game and the postgame press conference that followed.

    My presence at the game was mostly social in nature. It was a combination of a convenient night on my schedule for a trip to Lewisburg, a desire to see some live hoops, a chance to visit some old friends and, as an excuse to justify a credential, an opportunity to get a look at a Bucknell team that I would likely see while covering Holy Cross games for the Worcester Telegram-Gazette in January.

    In other words, I was a drifter.

    I actually took some notes during the game. When I was a sportswriter full time, it always took me a few games to adjust to the new season as we moved from football to hoops to baseball. I figured it would not hurt to shake off the rust, but I wasn't figuring on actually writing anything.

    After the game, though, I mentioned to Bucknell SID Jon Terry that I wished I had an outlet to write about the game. Why not a Web site, JT suggested.

    I don't know if he was serious, but it sounded good. I had been thinking of starting a blog of some sort, and when Jon made that suggestion, it hit me that this might be a good format for bringing back Hoop Time. By the way, you can e-mail John here to thank him.

    That is a long story, if you stuck with it till now, you deserve a point.

    This site was born later that night. Out of a desire to get the thing up immediately, design was not a priority. It still is not. I mean it is not going to morph into some fancy flash-enhanced creation with streaming media and hip graphics.

    But we will take advantage of this lag time during finals to do a little tinkering. You might notice we found the old logo from Hoop Time version 2, for example.

    We're also working on adding some little extras. You might notice the Santa links on the right side of the page. They go to, who will underwrite some travel expenses (and hopefully our bar bill) if you folks buy enough of their wonderful merchandise.

    Also in the works is a Hoop Time store (Sneak Preview with pre-grand opening prices) on CafePress, where you will be able to buy all kinds of cool Hoop Time gear. We'll even have one of those cheesy trucker hats the kids like these days. There's some stuff there now, but it is all from the slap-on-the-old-logo school of design, stuck in the store to get it built. Eventually we might offer things like a remake of the classic Hoop Time shooter's creed T that reached double figures in sales back in the print days.

    Of course we will continue to keep an eye out for Patriot League news.

    In the meantime, number crunchers and stat freaks ought to click over the Patriot League Hoops Blog to find conclusive evidence that poor Matt has no life. Matt has been staying up late giving his calculator a workout and has put together some very interesting statistical comparisons.

    In the words the immortal Todd Rundgren, "We gotta get you a woman."

    Matt also noticed that Holy Cross and American both received votes in this week's AP poll. He has the links, no need to duplicate them here.

    Kyle has his own version of finals on his Mid-Majority site. Ace you hoops exams and you could win cool prizes, including a brand-new copy of The Last Amateurs. Too lazy to take the exam? That is O.K., you can buy the book here. Matter of fact, it is on sale for $5.99. You can even qualify for free shipping.

    Yoni is on vacation. Rumor has it he is in the Caribbean looking for the next Tim Duncan or Adonal Foyle. Meanwhile, he has guest-bloggers filling in on the No. 4 ranked College Basketball Blog.

    You might also want to join the discussions over at the Patriot League message board.

    We'll try to get the recruiting thing edited and up later today. Check back this evening.

    Read more!
  • Big win for Lafayette

    We're not jumping up and down saying we told you so, but you must admit Lafayette's win over Cal St. Northridge last night does make us look a little bit like the pundit Yoni says we are.

    One win does not mean Lafayette will live up to our spoiler prediction, but you have to admit it helps our credibility a little. This is a good win for a struggling team.

    Corky Blake of the Express-Times, one of the better beat guys covering the league, seems to agree. Check out his story from last night and you will see what I mean.

    Corky says:
    Put Monday night's 95-89 overtime conquest of Cal State Northridge in the category of a potential season-maker for the young Lafayette Leopards.
    Not sure what he means by "season-maker", but I agree this was a big win for the 'Pards.

    After coming close and falling short the two previous times out, getting a W in a close game should do a lot for the confidence of the Leopards, who, as Corky pointed out, started two sophomores and two freshmen.

    Critics will use Cal St. Northridge's 1-6 record to argue this was not a significant win for Lafayette. But look closer. As Corky points out:
    The essentially same Matador team drilled last season's more experienced Leopards by 23 points.
    Fran O'Hanlon also made a good point about the Matadors, telling Corky:
    "Their record isn't good but take a look at their schedule. This is their seventh road game. They lost at Arizona State by one, at Montana, to Vanderbilt and by 10 to Oklahoma. They're a good team."
    As coaches like to say, you are never as good as you look when you win or as bad as you look when you loss. We have made the "not as bad as they looked" argument already. Here's the flip side: Look at the box score and one thing jumps right out: 31 Lafayette turnovers.

    Also troubling is the way the 'Pards squandered a lead that was as big as 16 points in the second half and was still in double figures (70-60) with 3:18 left in regulation.

    None of that matters right now, though. All that matters when you have a young team that has lost six in a row is getting a W.

    Meanwhile, cancel our subscription to the Morning Call.

    Well, O.K, we don't actually have one. We just check them on the Web. But after seeing today that they sent a freelancer to cover a D-3 doubleheader involving the Moravian men and women and their counterparts from Drew, while picking up a measly couple of graphs from AP on the Lafayette-Cal St. Northridge game, we would cancel if we did subscribe.

    Besides, who needs the MC when you have Corky Blake.

    Read more!

    That's our story and we're sticking to it

    Half empty or half full?

    That seems to be the question about Lafayette's 1-6 record, or at least the subject of debate between our friend Matt over at the Patriot League Hoops Blog and us real experts (LMAO) here at Hoop Time.

    Matt's take on the Leopards:"they're just lousy".

    He might be right.

    The 'Pards only win thus far is over a Duquesne team that is 2-7. And that came back in the season opener.

    Since then Lafayette has lost six straight headed into tonight's home encounter with Cal. St. Northridge. Even a win tonight over the 1-5 Matadors would hardly be a sign of impending greatness.

    But for a team that has suffered three of its six losses by a combined total of 9 points, including a 2-point loss to Princeton and a pair of near misses last week against Cornell and Marist, a win could do wonders for its mental state headed into final exams.

    Nobody is about to make the argument that Lafayette is likely to turn into a Patriot League contender in the second half, regardless of what happens tonight.

    Our contention is not that Lafayette will challenge for the league title, but rather that the Leopards could well have a say over who does actually claim the top spot. The key word in all of what we have written about Lafayette is "spoiler" (pay attention to def. No. 4 at that link).

    We won't rehash the reasons we think Lafayette will prove more competitive in Patriot League play than its early record might lead you to believe.

    Instead, a little league history to support the theory. Take a quick glance at Lafayette's roster. With two seniors and just one junior, it reminds us a lot of last season's Bucknell team that lost its first 5 and was 3-9 heading into conference play, with two of those wins coming over D-3 teams.

    Lafayette has used five starting combinations thus far. Pat Flannery used six in the first 12 games last year. Then Flannery inserted Abe Badmus at the point and Bucknell went on to win 11 of its final 17 games, including a streak during the conference regular season when it won 10 of 11, establishing the reputation that made the Bison this year's preseason conference favorites. Included in that stretch was a win over American that arguably cost the Eagles the regular season title and a win over Lehigh that nearly did the same to the Mountain Hawks.

    That start slow, come on strong in conference play formula is familiar to Bucknell fans. In 2001-02, the Bison lost 8 of their first 10, then went 8-6 in league play. In 1998-99, a 4-9 start that included a pair of wins over D-3 teams yielded to a 9-3 Patriot League mark. In Pat Flannery's first season as coach of the Bison, they got off to a 1-9 start (the lone win was a non-conference victory over Lafayette in a tournament consolation game), then went 11-3 and shared the regular season title with an Adonal Foyle-Tucker Neale Colgate team.

    We didn't do exhaustive research into other teams, but we also recall a Don DeVoe Navy team that lost 7 of its first 8 in 1992-93, including a loss to D-3 Gettysburg, then bounced back to go 5-9 in league play.

    You might notice a similarity between that Navy team, those Bucknell teams, and the current Lafayette club. All three had outstanding coaches. If someone other than Fran O'Hanlon were coaching Lafayette, I doubt we'd be as optimistic about their chances of becoming spoilers in conference play.

    As we said the other day:
    "Bottom line, we continue to believe that Lafayette will be a factor in Patriot League play. Despite their 1-6 record, they seem to be getting a little better each time out. Add in the Fran O'Hanlon factor, and one of the toughest homecourts in the league, and we smell trouble for the teams that expect to contend for the regular season title."

    Read more!

    AU keeps winning, we keep wondering

    It was another impressive win for American Saturday.

    The Eagles pretty much handled Ohio U., a team that admittedly looked a lot better when it left Athens for a two-game road trip east than it did when it boarded the bus to go home last night.

    O.U. was 3-0 at home, with wins over San Francisco, Butler and Navy. San Francisco is a pretty decent team, 5-3 with wins over the likes of Delaware (4-3 with a win over Drexel), St. Joes (OK, not the Hawks of last year), and U.C. Santa Barbara.

    Butler has a win over the same Miami Oh. (5-1) team that has beaten Purdue and Xavier.

    Navy . . . O.K., that one is not that impressive. Still, the Bobcats 104 RPI is pretty respectable for a Mid-Major.

    Then Ohio went on the road, losing at St. Francis and now at American. That St. Francis loss is the one that makes me wonder about the Bobcats.

    I saw the Red Flash in its win over Bucknell and I was not impressed. Right now St. Francis (4-3) has an impressive No. 41 RPI, but that has more to do with its losses (at American (RPI=64), Pittsburgh (RPI=37) and yesterday at George Washington (RPI=8)) than its wins. St. Francis has not beaten anyone with an RPI lower than Ohio's 104.

    Nonetheless, a Patriot League win over a Mid-American Conference team? We will take that any day. Especially in these days when most of the rest of the Patriot teams are busy losing to the Harvards, Columbias and Cornells of the world.

    I am still not ready to anoint American as league favorites in the Patriot, though. The concerns I pointed out after the win over Towson last week showed up again in the box score yesterday.

    American got just 10 points from its bench, which got 28 combined minutes of PT. Andre Ingram didn't have to play 40 minutes like he did against Towson, but he did play 39. Jason Thomas added 38. Until the bench picks up its production, you have to be concerned about how well AU is going to hold up over the course of the whole season.

    AU winning a game in which Ingram was held to 10 points is a good sign. Thomas is beginning to make folks wonder if they picked the right AU guard as the conference's preseason player of the year. Thomas poured in 26 points for the second game in a row, including an impressive 5-for-6 showing from the arc. That followed his 5-for-5 3-point night at Towson.

    When you have a guy stroking the three like that, good things happen.

    My worry, from an AU perspective, is about what happens to jump-shooting teams when they cool off. Right now, AU has three guys shooting over 50 percent from 3-point range. How realistic is it to expect that pace to continue.

    I keep hearing from folks like Matt at the Patriot League Blog about AU's quartet of big men, but against Ohio, they combined for just 18 points. When someone is raining threes like Thomas was yesterday, it should open up the middle. And since I am including Matej Cresnik, who prefers to step outside to shoot the J, in that 18-point total, I am not sure how many of those 18 can be considered as inside. According to the final box, Ohio outscored AU 28-22 in the paint. AU had 12 fast break points, presumably mostly layups that would count as in the paint.

    For now, I still think Holy Cross has been the most impressive Patriot team in the early going. But only a fool would say American is not right there with the Crusaders.

    As we break for finals (just two league games over the next week, only one against a D-I foe), it is looking like a typical Patriot League season on tap when conference play begins in January. It seems like there is always a divide between the upper and lower division in the league, with four teams battling for the title and four battling to stay out of the cellar.

    It might be slightly different this season. Right now, I am thinking we could see the emergence of a middle class. AU, HC and Bucknell appear locks for the contending class. Lehigh looked that way in the preseason, but their stock has fallen with losses at Stony Brook and, especially, at home to Columbia. And I still think Lafayette is going to have a spoilers say in who claims the crown.

    Army appears to have a lock on last place, though Navy could challenge them for that dubious distinction. Or at least they did look that way before yesterday's overtime loss to Stony Brook (box score). Even given the clock controversy that allowed the Mids to send it to OT, Navy's effort against a team that has owned the Patriot League thus far could be a sign of improvement in Annapolis.

    We'll save our criticism for the D.C. media's lack of coverage of the AU game for another day. Suffice to say neither the Post nor the Moonie is the Philly Inquirer or Daily News.

    I make that comparison because, on paper, the two cities are similar in a hoops sense. D.C. has AU, Georgetown, George Washington, George Mason, Maryland and Navy. Six D-I programs. Phily has the Big 5 (Villanova, Temple, St. Joes, LaSalle and Penn) and Drexel.

    Best I can tell though, the Post staffed only one game Saturday, Georgetown's win over San Jose State. G.W. is a top 25 team, yet the Post couldn't bother to send someone to Loretto for their game at St. Francis, Pa. AU and Navy were included in a wrap.

    We checked Mapquest; it's about a three hour drive from D.C. to Loretto. Mostly interstate.

    Is that too much to expect from one of the nation's leading papers?

    Apparently so. Ditto for driving up four miles up Mass Ave. for the AU game.

    Contrast that with the Inquirer (feel free to use our e-mail ... and password ... hooptime3 to check the Inky's stories), which yesterday staffed Villanova-LaSalle and the Drexel-Quinnipiac game, had a correspondent at the Temple-Alabama game and only used the wire for St. Joe's at San Francisco.

    So much for saving the critique for another day, eh?

    Read more!

    Silver lining in Lafayette's clouds, while the PL loses more ground to the Ivies

    Before we get into analyzing Lafayette's tough road loss at Marist last night, we want to provide a little lesson on the difference between papers who do a good job covering hoops, and those who are mediocre at best.

    In our book, the mark of good coverage is staffing the game. That means sending one of your reporters, or arranging a correspondent to file from a game on the road. Papers that rely on the reports they get from the Sports Information department just don't give fans a full and accurate idea of what happened at the game. Those reports are generally just a narrative box score, with a little play-by-play mixed in.

    Sometime later in the season we might dig into that a little further. Maybe we will even give report cards to the media that cover the Patriot League. It's too soon to do that.

    For now, though, here are two stories from the Lafayette-Marist game that illustrate the point.

    The first comes from the Middletown N.Y. Times Herald-Record. You can pretty much tell where this is headed by the lede:
    Sophomore Will Whittington scored a game-high 27 points, including 21 in the second half, to lead Marist to an 83-79 non-conference win over Lafayette last night before 2,678 fans at the McCann Center in Poughkeepsie.
    Now, check out the story Roderick Boone of the Poughkeepsie Journal wrote. Boone starts out:
    He scored only six points in the first half and wasn't getting many good looks.

    The frustration was evident on his face, especially when he was heading into the locker room at halftime, seconds after he thought he was fouled on his team's final offensive possession.

    In the second half, though, he looked more like the person who's the leading scorer on the Marist College men's basketball team. And first-year Marist coach Matt Brady couldn't have been happier.

    Will Whittington pumped in 21 of his game-high point total in the second half and hit a pair of crucial free throws with 3.4 seconds left, leading the Red Foxes past Lafayette, 83-79, in a non-conference matchup before 2,678 at the McCann Center Friday night.
    Both pretty much cover the same facts, but Boone's story actually tells you what happened.

    Here's another piece of his story that you won't find in most SID phoned-in reports:
    After falling behind by as many as four points during the beginning of the second half, Marist (4-4) regained control after a huge momentum swing. Whittington was fouled in the backcourt by Lafayette's Bilal Abdullah, who thought he had a clean steal.

    The Leopards' bench jumped up almost in unison to dispute the call, and official Wally Rutecki, Jr. called a technical foul on Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon with 9:46 left.

    Whittington knocked down the two technical free throws and both foul shots. He also hit a three-pointer 40 seconds later, swelling the Red Foxes' advantage from five to 12 all by himself.
    It is worth noting that papers in the Lehigh Valley would have gotten a little more on the technical from the report filed by Lafayette's sports info folks. We don't have any idea what either paper reported. The Morning Call's Web site had nothing on the game and the Easton Express-Times' feed to PennLive appears to have been down this morning.

    Meanwhile, a couple things of interest from the box score: Marist got to the foul line 28 times, Lafayette 17. But a look at the play-by-play shows eight of Marist's free throw attempts came in the final 2:20, when the Leopards, down by 8, were likely going for steals or even fouling on purpose to try to take advantage of the Red Foxes' relatively poor shooting (1-for-28) from the stripe to get some two-for-one trades to cut that gap. In other words, it looks like it was pretty evenly officiated.

    Lafayette's bench made a big contribution, especially Andre Capusan, who had 15 rebounds and 13 points. The Leopards reserves scored 34 points. That is some serious bench production.

    Hard to say if the Leopards' bench will keep that pace in League play, since at this point, it is hard to say who will be starting and who will be coming off the pine. If you check the 'Pards season stats, you will notice nine different players have gotten at least two starts as O'Hanlon continues to search for the right combination. Heading into last night, Lafayette used five different starting lineups in its first six games.

    Interestingly, 6-8 senior center Sean Knitter, the Leopards leading scorer and the only Lafayette player averaging in double figures (11.1 ppg), has not started a single game.

    Some other notes from the Marist box: After having nobody in double figures rebounding all season, Capusan and 6-6 sophomore forward Jamaal Douglas bother did it last night. Douglas had 11 boards and 12 points. Capusan and Douglas also provided the first double-doubles of the season for the 'Pards.

    Bottom line, we continue to believe that Lafayette will be a factor in Patriot League play. Despite their 1-6 record, they seem to be getting a little better each time out. Add in the Fran O'Hanlon factor, and one of the toughest homecourts in the league, and we smell trouble for the teams that expect to contend for the regular season title.

    Not suggesting that the young Leopards will be one of those contenders. But we will not be surprised if they are the league's spoilers both in the regular season and in tournament play. Mark our words, somebody amongst the four teams expected to battle for the title -- American, Bucknell, Holy Cross and Lehigh-- is going to overlook the 'Pards and get smacked hard in Kirby. And more than likely, it is going to cost them, at the very minimum, a home court in the first two rounds of the tournament.

    Elsewhere, the Patriot League lost more ground in the season series with the Ivies withColgate's 85-82 OT loss to Harvard last night in Hamilton (box score).

    The Ivies now lead the series 8-3, with 12 left to play. Since two of those involve Army, they almost seem like the Ivies have two games in hand, to borrow a hockey phrase (yes, I know it doesn't mean exactly the same thing as used here, save the e-mails). Two of the other 10 involve Princeton or Penn.

    In other words, the Patriots have very little, if any, margin for error if they are to win the season series.

    I thought scholarships were going to solve that.

    If you are really bored, there are some blurry, out of focus pictures from the Lafayette-Marist game on the Marist Web site.

    Or better yet (shameless plug warning), why not do some Christmas shopping over at You'll make people you love very happy and help support Hoop Time at the same time.

    How's that for a double-double, eh?

    Read more!

    This should solve everything (trying not to laugh)

    Ran across this article in the Syracuse Post-Standard this morning: Boeheim to work with group out to improve game's image

    Boeheim is going to be a part of something dubbed the "College Basketball Partnership."

    According to the story:
    Among the issues that the group hopes to address are graduation rates, recruiting scandals and coaches' conduct.
    Ah, good intentions. But look at the guest list:
    Among those expected to attend are NCAA president Myles Brand, Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany, Oklahoma coach Kelvin Sampson and former Big East commissioner Dave Gavitt.
    Now we are not saying any of those guys are part of the problem. But we sure don't see the ACC, Big East, Big Ten or Big 12, or any of the Big Money types, as part of the solution.

    This strikes me as window dressing. A nice PR initiative to make it look like everyone is concerned.

    It's sort of like tinkering with the BCS formula again, instead of starting I-A football playoffs.

    This hoops initiative would seem a lot more earnest if they invited some people from a league like the Patriot. After all, it would seem the league with the NCAA's highest graduation rates might just have some insight into how to make it work.

    Of course we all know the formula the Patriot would suggest. It would start with only letting kids into school that actually are coming to be students.

    I am the first one to criticize the league for being clueless when it comes to marketing and promotions. But give them credit for the more important things, like recruiting quality kids and actually giving them an education.

    Read more!

    We smell a rat

    Coaches always say there are no moral victories.

    What I want to know: Are there immoral ones?

    If so, does Boston College's 63-60 overtime win over Holy Cross fall into that category?

    I am convinced there are such games. I know it for a fact. And I suspect this was one of them.

    We're not talking immoral in a Howard Stern sense, or in a Boston College betting scandal way. We're not saying the players or coaches did anything wrong.

    The ones we are wondering about are the officials.

    Too many times I have watched refs call a game as though they knew who was supposed to win.

    Too many times the fouls are lopsided because the guys in stripes come in with the predetermined opinion that the team from the small conference can't possibly actually be playing as physical as the big boys unless they are fouling.

    Maybe immoral is the wrong choice or words. It might not be as blatant or conscious as that word might imply. More likely it is a subtle influence, one a ref could deny while attached to a lie detector without ever moving the needle.

    It happens nonetheless.

    I'm not saying that is what happened to Holy Cross last night. I was not there, it was not on TV. Maybe the Crusaders really did hack away against the Eagles. Maybe they really were fouling while BC was just "playing physical." Maybe Saddam really did have weapons of mass destruction.

    Like I said, I have nothing but circumstantial evidence to support my suspicion. And it I just that: a suspicion, not an accusation.

    I look at the reports I can find on the Crusaders loss, and I see the pattern. I look at the stories I can find from people who were at the game, and I can't come up with a witness.

    That doesn't mean it didn't happen. This country has a long tradition of witnesses to crimes being afraid to come forward to speak the truth. If you think the same doesn't hold true amongst sports writers, you are kidding yourself.

    For some reason, in this country, the mainstream media is loath to criticize the officiating of a game unless there is that one blatant missed call that can be verified by the instant replays. Even then, they only write about it if it is the one play that changes the game.

    It's worth noting, by the way, that is not the way it is everywhere. An old friend (and star of the legendary but now defunct Hoop Time 3-on-3 team) Dave Angstadt (father of Brown women's player Stefanie) spent over 10 years playing in Europe. His scrapbooks are full of boxscores from sports publications over there that include referee evaluations. They give them rankings similar to a film critics' "stars" or a restaurant critics' "forks" and include comments. They are not afraid to flat out call someone a homer if that is what they see.

    Our system of fining coaches for commenting on the officiating also stifles criticism of the stripes. Coaches are hesitant to say anything on the record. Outside of the postgame press conference, though, they will tell you exactly what I am saying. Too often the officials call games like they have a preconceived idea of which is the better team.

    Here's as close as I could come to evidence of this happening last night from the stories in the papers today.
    "The Eagles ruled from the foul line, holding a 30-15 edge in free throws made, and that made the difference."
    That came, by the way, from Michael O'Connor's column in the Boston Herald.

    Actually, O'Connor got that wrong. If you look at the box score, you will see that those numbers actually represent how many foul shots each team took, not converted. BC was 22-for-30 from the line; HC 7-of-15.

    One could argue, I suppose, that if HC had shot foul shots even reasonably well they would have won in regulation. The Crusaders shot below 50 percent (5-of-13) from the line in regulation.

    That might be so, but it does not deny the fact that Holy Cross got called for 50-percent more fouls than BC (24 to 16) and BC got to shoot twice as many free throws. This despite the fact, that by every account, the Crusaders outplayed the Eagles in every facet of the game other than free throw shooting.

    The AP story read like this:
    "The Boston College Eagles needed Steve Hailey's improbable basket to help them win on a night when they were outscrapped and outhustled.
    Michael Vega in the Boston Globe said:
    "Statistically speaking, the Eagles had no right winning this one"
    Mike Shalin of the Boston Herald put it this way:
    "BC coach Al Skinner looked at the stat sheet after the game and saw his team was outrebounded (41-39, 19-9 on the offensive boards), outhustled (Holy Cross had 13 steals) and also lost the turnover battle (BC had 18, the Crusaders only 12). But the Eagles, who host Boston University tomorrow night, are 6-0 and Holy Cross fell to 4-3."
    Was the officiating solely responsible for HC's loss. Heck no.

    We already mentioned how the Crusaders' foul shooting left them down. And only a fool would fail to mention Holy Cross' 4:26 scoreless stretch late in regulation after they battled back to take a 51-48 lead.

    Ralph Willard pointed to another problem when he talked to Jennifer Toland of the Worcester Telegram-Gazette (no link because they require a subscription):
    "Coming down the stretch, we had to throw the ball inside and we didn’t do that. Kevin Hyland was 5 of 7, Nate was starting to score and we didn’t make the plays we said we were going to make in the last six minutes of the game. It’s mind-boggling we didn’t throw the ball inside."
    Toland, though, also mentioned:
    Holy Cross scored 34 points in the paint.
    Go ahead, call me a conspiracy theorist. Tell me I should be wearing a tin-foil hat.

    All I know is that I have watched a ton of basketball over the years, and it is not often that the team that is dominating inside is the one doing the preponderance of the fouling.

    I'm not saying Holy Cross got robbed. But that doesn't mean it didn't happen.


    Army 75, SUNY Maritime 59 -- (box score) I love this line from the wrap on
    "The Black Knights improve to 2-6 . . ."
    As they say in the chat rooms: ROTFLMFAO.

    Improved? A win over a winless D-3 team in a game that was actually tied with 4:25 to play in the first half. The fact that anybody could refer to that as "improved" tells you just how horrible the Cadets are.

    On tap:

    Two games tonight, two more tomorrow on a light schedule as finals loom. Colgate plays host to Harvard and Lafayette visits Marist.

    The most interesting matchup of the weekend comes Saturday afternoon in our nation's capital, when Ohio U. visits American. O.U. is coming in off its first loss, an 83-74 setback Tuesday night at St. Francis (Pa.). AU holds a win over that same St. Francis team. But that was at home, and anybody who has ever been to Loretto can tell you, it's a whole different ballgame when you are in the Maurice Stokes center. Look up "homered" in the dictionary and it says: See St. Francis (Pa.) basketball.

    Saturday night, Stony Brook will try to improve to 3-0 against Patriot League teams and to claim at least a share of the Commander in Chief's trophy (they already beat Army) when the Sea Wolves visit Navy.

    Read more!

    Be careful what you wish for

    There's a fairly vocal contingent of Holy Cross fans who have it in their heads that the Crusaders are too good for the Patriot League.

    Not just this season, though they are not shy about complaining that the rest of the league's out of conference struggles are going to hurt their seeding come March.

    The fact that conference play has not yet begun, and the fact that Holy Cross is not even picked to win the league, does not deter them a bit.

    Even if Holy Cross actually sucked (and we are not saying they do, but we've been around the Patriot League long enough to remember the Bill Raynor era and we've read about the lean years in the 1980s before HC joined the league), those fans would still insist the grass would be the 16th green at Augusta if only the Crusaders played in a league of fellow Catholic schools like Georgetown, St. John's and Boston College.

    Sure, the argument can be made that HC's administration dropped the ball when they passed up on a chance to join the Big East. Then again, there is no guarantee that moving to a higher profile league would make things better in Worcester.

    No need to rehash what happened to Fordham when it jumped to the Atlantic Ten in search for hoops nirvana. We covered that in detail on Monday.

    Instead, we will point to the fortunes of tonight's opponent, Boston College. Sure the Eagles have been pretty decent the past few seasons. But it was not that long ago that they were among the dregs of the Big East. Between the 1989-90 season and the 1999-00 campaign, BC suffered through six losing seasons and two others in which they failed to get above .500 in conference play.

    As I pointed out the other day over on the Holy Cross hoops board:
    . . . the Crusaders have a rich history ... 11 NCAA Tournament appearances. But four of those came courtesy of playing in the much-maligned Patriot League. Five were before 1960. The other two were in 1977 and 1980.

    During the MAAC years, if my research is correct, HC made one post-season appearance, a 1990 NIT bid.
    Yeah, we know all about Bob Cousy. Christy Mathewson went to Bucknell, but nobody is suggesting the Bison should play baseball in the National League.

    It might also be worth mentioning that Boston College didn't exactly find the Big East to be the be all and end all Holy Cross fans seem to think it is.

    Which brings us to tonight's matchup.

    Michael O'Connor of the Boston Herald says BC coach Al Skinner is giving HC some respect. Sure coaches almost always say the right things about oponents, but in this case Skinner, with good reason, sounds genuine:
    "As far as this particular game goes, it's clear they've always been a very good opponent who can play physical and be aggressive,'' he said.

    "Remember, we lost to them a couple of years ago and they came in here last year and played us very well (a 64-51 BC win). This is a very important game for them, to establish themselves early, but it is just as important for us to continue what we're doing."
    Ralph Willard says the Crusaders have their work cut out for them against Boston College:
    "(BC) is a Top 25 caliber team that returns 4 starters from a team that won 24 games last year. They have good balance between the front and backcourt and play excellent defense , switching between man and a 3-2 matchup with some 1-2-1-1 three quarter court pressure sprinkled in. They have one of the most difficult people in the country to guard in Craig Smith and are very well coached by Al Skinner."
    CBS Sportsline's scouting report on the BC says:
    "The Eagles have been playing great thus far, particularly on offense."
    Mike Shalin of the Boston Herald is predicting BC could be 11-0 when it opens Big East play. Shalin gives the 'Saders no respect:
    "The Eagles' upcoming opponents don't figure to help them move up the lists, but they likely won't knock Al Skinner's team from the unbeaten ranks, either. BC hosts Holy Cross Thursday and Boston University Saturday before Yale (Dec. 19), Duquesne (Dec. 22) and always formidable Kent State (Dec. 29) round out the month. BC visits UMass on Jan. 2 and visits Hartford three nights later to battle the Huskies, probably for the last time."
    At any rate, this is a chance for the Holy Cross fans to see what life is like on the other side of the fence.

    Elsewhere tonight:

    Army takes on the mighty whatever-they-are-calleds of SUNY Maritime. We'd love to tell you more about Maritime, but the athletics page of its Web site has been down the past two days and Army hasn't even bothered to post game notes. We assume this game was scheduled to give the Cadets a second chance at avoiding a winless season in case they had been upset by Polytechnic.

    We don't feel too bad. USA Today couldn't find out anything about Maritime either.

    Read more!

    Dark clouds in AU's silver lining

    American improved to 4-2 last night, topping Towson 75-64 for its first road win.

    Compared with some of the league's recent out of conference results, this is certainly a positive. Then again, wins over teams like Towson are not going to do a whole lot to boost the Patriot's RPI.

    About the game: Give Towson credit. The shut down Andre Ingram (box score). Give AU credit. Other guys stepped up. As Kevin Van Valkenburg points out in theBaltimore Sun:
    "Ingram had little success against the Tigers, shooting just 3-for-12 and scoring only nine points, but teammates Jason Thomas and Patrick Okpwae more than made up for it. Thomas scored a career-high 26 points (to go with 12 rebounds) and Okpwae added a career-high 16, and each player missed only one of the nine shots he took.

    'The guys we wanted to stop, we stopped,' Kennedy said. 'The other two guys ended up getting 42 points against us, which killed us.'"
    We're not sure what it is going to take for the Washington papers to take notice of AU. Thought maybe the win over Vermont would open some eyes inside the Beltway. But the Washington Post seems to be doing its best to transform its sports section in the image of its national rival, the New York Times. The Post continues to cover the D.C. area's mid-majors by sending one writer to one local game, then tacking on a paragraph or two about the rest of the games on the end of its "local colleges" wrap.

    When the league moved its tournament to that horse barn in Maryland a few years ago, one of the arguments they made was that it would be the only D-I tournament in the D.C. area so it would get a lot of attention.

    In the real world, tournament coverage was usually buried on page 8 of the Post's Sunday sports section, behind obvious stuff like Maryland and Georgetown, and less obvious, like sailboat racing, ice skating, dog shows and skeeball.

    Toss in the arena's remote location, which was nowhere near as close to D.C. or Baltimore as it looks on this map, and you had a recipe for failure, or at least for a lack of success. Locals didn't come out, save the few American fans still in town over spring break. The hotels were miles from the arena, with no nearby watering holes or restaurants. In short, there was zero, zip, nada tournament atmosphere.

    Instead of finding a central location in a mid-major town where the thing might succeed (like the Farm Show Arena in Harrisburg, the Sovereign Center in Reading, Pa., the Wachovia Arena in Wilkes-Barre, to name a few), we have this new split setup, which reeks of Division 3 and will dilute the media coverage even more. And that is not even mentioning what it will do to the women's tournament.

    But we digress, this is not supposed to be a "the Patriot League can be clueless" rant. There's plenty of time for that later. This is supposed to be a breakdown of the AU-Towson game.

    Not at all sure you can properly analyze a game you don't see. No, strike that, actually I am absolutely sure that you can't. Not properly, anyhow. But this being the internet, where anything is supposed to be possible, we will take a whack at it anyhow.

    I'm still trying to figure out just how good American is this season. The Vermont win was semi-impressive, but it came at home, as did three of AU's four wins thus far. Towson (2-6) is not exactly a significant notch on AU's belt. The Tigers have split a pair with 2-5 Morgan State and the only other win came over2-3 Norfolk State.

    There are a couple of stats from the Eagles win that should be worrisome to AU fans, though. The AU bench was outscored 21-8 by Towson and the Tigers had a 14-4 edge in second chance points. The second chance points can be explained away. Towson missed a ton of shots, 21 in the first half alone. AU only missed 22 the whole game. In other words, Towson had a lot more chances for offensive boards and putbacks.

    The bench points, though, are a sign of possible problems down the road. Thomas played all 40 minutes and the four guys who got off the bench for AU combined for only 33 minutes of playing time. Only Raimondas Petrauskas had a significant line in the box score, with 4 of the 8 bench points and all 3 of the bench's rebounds. And he pretty much negated his contribution with 3 turnovers.

    That has been a trend. AU's bench has been outscored in five of its six games. Take away the Niagara game, where the reserves scored 33 points, and American's bench is averaging only 9 ppg.

    Late in the season, when the starters begin to get worn down from all the minutes they are playing, this could be a problem for the Eagles.

    Only time will tell.

    Read more!
    Wednesday, December 15, 2004
    Maryland school starts Patriot pipeline

    Over the break . . .
    Tuesday, December 14, 2004
    Big win for Lafayette
    Monday, December 13, 2004
    That's our story and we're sticking to it
    Sunday, December 12, 2004
    AU keeps winning, we keep wondering
    Saturday, December 11, 2004
    Silver lining in Lafayette's clouds, while the PL loses more ground to the Ivies

    This should solve everything (trying not to laugh)
    Friday, December 10, 2004
    We smell a rat
    Thursday, December 09, 2004
    Be careful what you wish for

    Dark clouds in AU's silver lining

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

    ©2005 Hoop Time. All rights reserved.