Monday, June 30, 2014

Sports Tsars: Fixing Conference (Re)Alignment

"You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain." -Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight (2008)

And so we have reached the point where the NCAA, college presidents, athletic directors, and the college athletic machine as a whole have fulfilled this prophecy. Sure, they may have started swaying towards the dark side some time ago. But it can't be denied that we are coming to a terminal point with amateurism and interscholastic athletics that could signal the end of college sports as we have come to know them.

Amateurism was once championed as a white knight of sorts, untainted by the dangers of money and burden of professional expectations. The athletes were seen as pure competitors, playing for nothing more than school pride and for the love of the game. A select few would leave early to ply their trade in the pro ranks (with the truly exceptional skipping college altogether) though most would stay to finish their degree and be shining examples of the student-athlete ideal.

That idea, if it ever truly existed (it certainly hasn't in the case of baseball, where athletes have been forgoing college for as long as there has been a professional league) has long since passed away. What we are left with instead, is a two-face hypocritical system where schools, administrators, and businessmen profit massively on one end and spew all sorts of nonsense about the wonderful amateur nature of student athletes out the other. While we think in many cases these students lose track of how good they have it with full scholarships (that's not to say we don't support some form of additional payment to the revenue athletes), the fact is that they have a raw deal. Coaches can transfer at will to new schools, leaving their players in the dust in the process. Students have to sit out a year. Administrators enact an insane number of silly, nearly impossible rules in order to defend the sanctity of amateurism. Students can lose eligibility if the don't follow these petty rules to the T. It's easy to see how the system has become so villainous to athletes.

At the heart of the matter, and current linchpin of fans' wrath (for the athletes it's the lack of pay), is the constant reshuffling of schools and their athletic conferences. While conference realignment has existed since the turn of the century - the 19th century! - it has only recently become such a hot button issue. This outrage is due to the increasing nature of money being the driving force behind these decisions (in addition to every single other choice the NCAA and its schools have made this century). In the past schools changed conferences for a better geographical fit, for a more equal level of competition, or to move one sport at a time to a separate conference when the current one did not carry that sport (i.e. Hopkins moving its lacrosse program to the B1G). Now days, we have schools in New Jersey/Maryland joining a mid-west conference and schools in Indiana/Kentucky joining a conference comprised of universities whose states touch the Atlantic ocean, all in the name of Benjamin.

Things really came to a head in the summer of 2010 through 2011, when the idea of a superconference first started looking like more of a probability than a possibility. First came news that the Pac-10 was looking to add six teams from the Big XII, effectively killing that conference in the name of creating college athletics first modern superconference. There were rumors that the Big Ten was looking to do the same before settling on adding just Nebraska for twelve teams. Then the dominoes started to fall rapidly. Colorado and Utah to the new Pac-12. Texas A&M and Missouri to the SEC. Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC. This game of musical chairs, an arms race in search of television money and athletic superiority, even led to rumors of the top teams would secede from the NCAA for football and form their own league. This all eventually stopped, especially with the recent Grant of Rights passing in the ACC. 

We bring all of this up because Steve and I, as well as the rest of the country, are tired of this never ending shuffle that is ruining the things we love about college athletics (the traditions, the rivalries, the road trips) that are getting lost in the quest for more. And, more importantly, we have some fun ways to fix this problem (as well as way too much time on our hands). These solutions are not thoroughly researched and are meant to be nothing more than a fun exercise where we have spent entirely too much energy coming up with hypotheticals that we personally (and perhaps some others) would rather see than the garbage that is reality (where Maryland may be forced to be rivals with - shudder - Rutgers).

Steve and I have come up with a couple conference scenarios that we believe to be an improvement on the current conferences. This first one takes on the idea that we are destined to see a large subset of schools break away from the NCAA by virtue of forming their own superconferences for football. By using what we know about history and conference preferences, we believe we have a logical alignment of the teams that may be most likely to break away. 

Based on this scenario, we have determined four conferences of sixteen teams (there we sixty four teams in the "power 5" at the time of this article) to be that best approach. Each conference would be further broken down into divisions of eight teams for the purposes of football. Each team would then play each of the other seven teams in their division every year (alternating home/away year to year) along with two teams from the other division (rotating every year to allow a school to play every school from the other division in a four year cycle). A nine game conference schedule is already being implemented in the B1G for the 2015 season, so this matches up with what some of the conferences are planning. The winners of each division would meet in a conference championship game in order to determine the winner of each superconference. Given the new four team playoff system, it would seem plausible to assume that each conference winner would then be chosen to participate in the playoff to decide the national champion. More likely than not, this would quickly expand to an eight team playoff to allow for at-large bids from contenders that did not win their conference (mostly the SEC). As for what happens to the other bowl games, that's a rabbit hole best left for another time and post.

While this is a mostly football guided scenario, it stands to reason that these superconferences would stay together for basketball as well (where they would still be a part of the NCAA). In order to create a balanced schedule while also trying to promote basketball rivalries via the home/home, we have further split the conferences into four team pods based upon geography. Each team would play a home/home with their pod members in addition to playing the other twelve teams once each year (alternating home/away) for a total of eighteen games. A fifteen game conference schedule would be the most balanced, and therefore most fair, but hurts the traditional feel of being able to play your rivals at home every year. Our alignment allows for for this without sacrificing the balance.

We have provided rationales for the conferences, explaining why teams were placed in each conference, why others were passed over, and how the conferences stack up. If a team is already in one of the four precursor conferences, they will remain in said conference (Maryland will stay in the B1G, Missouri in the SEC, etc.). While this is a hypothetical exercise, it is based in reality and not a fantasy draft of sorts. We are trying to prevent any future warts to the coneferences, not fix the ones that already exist. We will tackle those in our next exercise.

So, without further ado... Superconferences!


Cascade Pod
Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State
California Pod
Stanford, California, Southern California, California - Los Angeles
Rocky Mountain Pod
Arizona, Arizona State, Utah, Colorado
High Plains Pod
Texas, Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State


The western division of this conference was by far the easiest to construct out of the eight made in total. It is simply the eight existing Pac members who are found in the three most western states of the conference (who were all also members of the precursor Pac-8). No other division listed has the history, tradition, and perfect geography than these eight teams. Not much else needs to be said in order to defend these selections and placements.
The eastern division, on the other hand, does require some explanation when considering the four newest teams that we have added to the conference. When the Big XII originally appeared destined for dissolution, there were six teams considered by the Pac-10 for expansion. Two of those have since found their way to new conferences (Texas A&M to the SEC and Colorado to the current Pac-12). The other four universities targeted were Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, and Texas Tech. As you can see, three of these teams made their way to our new Pac-16 superconference. However, we have replaced Texas Tech with Baylor as the fourth team in the High Plains Pod. There are a couple reasons for this. First and foremost, we believe Baylor to currently be - and in the future to be - a superior athletic program to Texas Tech. In recent years Baylor has made two Elite Eights (2010, 2012) in men's basketball, won two National Titles (2005, 2012) in women's basketball, and winning the Big XII this past year in football. They are opening a brand new $250 million stadium that will be one of the premier home stadiums in college football. Texas Tech has had some success in football this century as well, but simply can't compete with Baylors success on the hardwood.
In addition to the on field production of Baylor, Waco is a much better fit with the other three cities in this pod. Waco, along with Austin, Norman, and Stillwater are all found along the north-south traversing Interstate-35. In fact, Waco is located in between Norman and Austin on I-35, meaning limited travel time is added to the pod as a whole. Lubbock, meanwhile, is five and half hours west of both Norman and Austin, with no direct route by bus. It makes sense to keep the pod along I-35 to limit travel expenses and encourage rivalries and fan travel.
Finally, Baylor University is a more nationally renown school than Texas Tech University. Baylor has a higher US News ranking (75 vs. 161) and Forbes (235 vs. 447) in both publications 2013 rankings. A university's academic profile can be an important piece of information when determining a school's best fit. The Pac-12 is made up of both public and private universities, most of which are internationally renown research universities (Cal, UCLA, and Washington are all top 20 worldwide according to the ARWU). Should Texas Tech come in and join the conference, they would rank toward the lowest end of the academic spectrum in the conference (depending on the ranking publication used). Thus, it really doesn't match the Pac's overall academic profile quite as well as Baylor. One could argue that Oklahoma State's academic reputation is not much better than Texas Tech's, but the Cowboy's superior athletic endeavors and location to the I-35 corridor make it an easy choice to be included.
As a whole, the new Pac-16 was one of the easier superconferences to construct. With twelve teams already a part of the conference, the Pac need the most teams added of the four superconferences. But with the failed 2010 expansion as our guide and and intelligent substitution to the conference newcomers, we were able to construct a formidable conference worthy of being considered "super".

Conference Analysis: 

NCAA Football Titles (AP or Coaches) - 21 (by 6 teams)
NCAA Basketball Titles - 18 (7 teams)
Conference Championship Game - Levi's Stadium
Conference Tournament Site - Staples Center


Corn Belt Pod
Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Iowa State
Great Lakes Pod
Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Northwestern
Central Lowlands Pod
Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue
Appalachia Pod
Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers


While the Pac-12 had more teams added to it in order to reach sixteen, trying to figure out which two to add to the B1G was a slightly more involved process. Where history could be used to more easily place teams in the Pac, history actually works against the B1G as the teams who would be the most perfect fits are already attached to other conferences. Missouri moved to the SEC when the Big XII began showing signs of weakness and Pittsburgh (which doesn't add the TV market the B1G wants, but fits the geographic and academic footprint of the conference) was gobbled up by the ACC. And, of course, there's the big fish: Notre Dame. Plain and simple, Notre Dame belongs in the B1G. The location in northern Indiana, the football rivalries, the huge football stadium, the hockey team, the lofty academic rankings (17th US News), the massive endowment, and the alumni. It all screams B1G. But after many years of pressure and expanding conference realignment Notre Dame finally showed their hand when it came to choosing a conference and picked the ACC over the B1G. Sure, they aren't full members in football and therefore, for the purposes of this exercise could be moved to the B1G in full. But they had their chance, still wanted control, and went looking elsewhere.
So we are left with two spots to fill and several choices. Kansas, Kansas State, Cincinnati, Iowa State, UConn, and WVU are the schools that are available for the B1G (and the ACC and SEC as well). UConn is the first to be put aside, due mostly to location. Ironically, its included here due to its location and the hope that its proximity to New York could solidify the market enough to move the B1G network to a more basic cable package. I suspect this would be more likely with Syracuse and Rutgers or Syracuse and UConn. As such, UConn is too much of a geographical outlier for the B1G. WVU is next and it is simply a case of academics. They are not highly ranked (170 in US News, 360 Forbes) and lack the pedigree of a Nebraska to make the low end (for the B1G) academics tolerable. Kansas State gets axed for much the same reason. Cincinnati is an interesting school to consider for the B1G. The school's academics fall towards the bottom of the B1G, but not so much so to be dismissed entirely (they have a top 108 ARWU ranking, same as the next school we'll discuss). And they have a solid athletic history to consider along with their location and B1G endowment (over $1 billion). Unfortunately, they fail to "wow" enough to overtake the two schools that we selected for the B1G. Cincinnati is a good fit in many ways, but doesn't excel where it counts the most.
And then there were two, Kansas and Iowa State. Kansas fails to distinguish itself in the field of academia and on the gridiron, but can the B1G really pass over one of the Blue Bloods of Basketball. Kansas would give the conference another traditional power to pair with Indiana and Michigan State and it's a geographical fit that would help solidify the Kansas City market for the B1G network. 
We were actually quite surprised to have Iowa State as the last B1G program to be added. Their sports programs are very up and down, having made little national impact since their last hey days at the turn of the century in basketball. What really surprised us was Iowa State's membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU). This association includes just about every public and private research university worth a damn (Nebraska's current lack of membership would have most likely kept it out of the B1G). With the CIC a foundation on which the conference has been built, Iowa State's ticket was punched the moment it was the last AAU university available in the region. Further reasons that Mizzou and Pittsburgh would have been excellent candidates.
At last, a brief note on the structure of the B1G divisions (no more Legends and Leaders!) and pods. As is fairly obvious with a quick check of the map, the divisions are divided by strict east and west geography, despite any perceived balance of power tipping towards the east. All of the major football rivalries are held intact (Ohio St vs. Michigan, Minnesota vs. Wisconsin, etc.) and a new intrastate rivalry is formed. In fact, the only downside we can see through our Calvert and Crossland tinted lenses is that Maryland will undoubtedly have Rutgers forced upon it as a rival. Little about conference realignment sounds worse than having Rutgers (of one single national title in fencing fame) as your supposed athletic rivals. Sigh.

Conference Analysis:

NCAA Football Titles - 21 (7 teams)
NCAA Basketball Titles - 14 (7 teams)
Conference Championship - Lucas Oil Stadium
Conference Tournament - United Center


Colonial Pod
Syracuse, Notre Dame, Boston College, Connecticut
Blue Ridge Pod
Pittsburgh, Louisville, Virginia, Virginia Tech
Tobacco Road Pod
North Carolina, North Carolina State, Duke, Wake Forest
Coastal Plains Pod
Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami


Some of the same schools that would be competing for a B1G spot would also be fighting to get into the ACC's single open spot (since Notre Dame won't do the intelligent thing and join the B1G already, preferably at Rutgers expense). UConn, Cincinnati and WVU are the three schools that make the most geographical sense and would probably be the only three considered at this stage. The same issues that plagued Cincinnati and WVU for B1G inclusion come up here as the ACC selects the team of their choice. While academics are considered on a slightly less strict level in the ACC, the conference is still home to some of the country's brightest universities that would probably make WVU too hard to swallow with no FSU football or Louisville basketball to chase it with after. Cincinnati meanwhile, didn't get any more exceptional since we last discussed them and will once again get passed over for a program with a little more glamour.
That team is UConn, whose basketball prestige pushes them into a coveted superconference spot. To be clear, that is the only athletic reason UConn would be selected. UConn's football program just completed an almost winless season in a football stadium that is forty-five minutes from campus (basketball is also played part-time thirty minutes away in Hartford) and would instantly become the worst team in the conference with only Duke as competition (and Duke was at least competitive in their most recent major bowl game). The university itself is unremarkable academically, though much better than expected (57th in US News, 140th Forbes) and certainly not harming its case.
The ACC will be home to the two most awkward pods in the country, the Colonial and Blue Ridge pods. While the North division makes sense in a cut and dry geographical separation for the ACC South, the inclusion of Notre Dame (ugh) makes for the biggest geographical outlier in any of the superconferences. It doesn't look so poor in the context of seven other teams stretching from Kentucky, to Virginia, to Massachusetts. But in the context of a pod with only three other teams, Notre Dame's distance does make for some oddities. We originally had Pittsburgh and Notre Dame switched, before determining that it might be easier for Pittsburgh to form new rivalries with UVA and VT than it would be for Notre Dame. Especially with Notre Dame having some lingering Big East relationships with the other three teams in its basketball pod. This alignment just made a little more sense in the end.

Conference Analysis:

NCAA Football Titles - 21 (7 teams)
NCAA Basketball Titles - 19 (6 teams)
Conference Championship - Bank of America Field
Conference Tournament - Verizon Center


Gulf Coast Pod
Alabama, Louisiana State, Ole Miss, Mississippi State
Wetlands Pod
Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Auburn
Tennessee Valley Pod
Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Tex-Arkana Pod
Missouri, Arkansas, Texas Christian, Texas A&M


Here we are, the last conference to discuss. The best part of reaching this portion of the exercise? We can finally throw academics out the window. Nothing but reading, riting, and rithmatic for these programs (poor Vanderbilt). And you know what that means. We finally have a home for WVU! West Virginia's football and basketball programs are too good to get completely passed over by all three eastern superpowers. And, all jokes aside, WVU is actually a very good fit in the SEC. Home to a small town that bleeds blue and gold on Saturdays in the fall with a sizable and well known fan base. They also bring along a decent basketball program that would instantly place among the top five in the SEC. The SEC doesn't need more superpowered football programs, just ones with a solid history that can be slotted in to add depth and occasionally compete for a major bowl.
Leading us to the final team of sixty-four selected for this conference building exercise, TCU. Why TCU instead of Kansas State and Cincinnati? Because TCU has been a more consistent and successful football team of the three since the turn of the century, with a long, storied history to go with it. Kansas State's success extends a little further back into the early 90's, but was historically woeful prior to Bill Snyder's hiring and re-hiring lending to the belief that TCU's recent success is more sustainable than Kansas State's. In addition, Ft. Worth feels much more like a proper southern town than Manhattan and Cincinnati. One could argue that this should work against WVU as well, and it does to a point. But WVU's athletic department is much larger than the other two and it fits more easily into a pod with Vanderbilt, Kentucky, and Tennessee than Kansas State does with Texas A&M, Arkansas and Missouri.
Bringing us to the crazy divisions you see before you. There is a method to the madness here. Namely, preserving as many rivalries as we can (but really just the Iron Bowl). And as odd as that North-West division looks at first, each school resides in a state that touches another in the division from Texas all the way up and around to West Virginia. It would be impossible to preserve all of the historic rivalries in the conference, but we believe that most of the teams would be happy enough with this arrangement with Tennessee the most likely to be upset.

Conference Analysis:

NCAA Football Titles - 23 (8 teams)
NCAA Basketball Titles - 11 (3 teams)
Conference Championship - Georgia Dome
Conference Tournament - Smoothie King Center

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ALL of the Transfers

I couldn't even get the motivation to write a year in review post before all hell broke loose this evening as Jeff Ermann reported that Roddy Peters, Nick Faust, and Shaq Cleare will all seek greener pastures on the transfer market.  While none was inherently shocking - only Seth Allen and Jake Layman seemed absolute locks to return next season - the suddenness of all three transfers breaking on the same night certainly was surprising.

Nick Faust was both Gary Williams' last recruit and Mark Turgeon's first.  Faust came in with much hype, a top 50 player out of Baltimore's City College who chose the Terps over Florida State, Oregon State, and Marquette at a time when a top 50 local coming to College Park happened entirely too rarely.

He started by being thrust into the role of point guard as a freshman instead of his more natural wing position.  Faust didn't thrive there but performed admirably out of position on an extremely thin team.  Big things were expected from Faust each of the past two years, but he didn't come close to meeting them.  A large part of that was because of how out of line expectations were for a top 50 recruit, but there's no doubt that at times Nick would fall in love with his jump shot too much or swagged out when he shouldn't have.  Still, the team finished 22nd in defensive efficiency, an improvement even with the loss of Alex Len, and Faust was a huge part of it.  He was arguably the team's best defensive player, certainly on the perimeter.

Though he took slightly fewer shots this year, many of his numbers were incredible similar to his sophomore campaign.  His eFG% dipped from 47.5 to 46.6, his TS% went from 51.4 to 51.2, and his rebounding was remarkably similar at 11.3/3.7 compared to 11.6/3.8 in 2012-13.  That was probably what frustrated people most about Faust.  He simply did not improve very much as an upperclassmen this year.  That didn't make him a bad player, but he wasn't a star.

I had high hopes that Faust would thrive next year as a backup and designated defensive stopper while allowing a potentially very strong offensive backcourt of Melo Trimble, Seth Allen, Jake Layman, and Dez Wells to carry the scoring load, but now that role will fall elsewhere.  Those four could take the lion's share of the minutes, and now the path is clear for Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens to take on expanded roles if they prove capable.  There is plenty of talent still here, but less of a logjam.  It's not the end of the world.

Part of that is the departure of Roddy Peters.  If Turgeon doesn't make it past the next couple year's as the program's head man, the saga of point guard recruiting in the 2013 class may turn out to be the story.  The Terps went down to the wire with the highly touted Harrison twins before they declared for Kentucky, and Roddy Peters, another local top-50 prospect, was thought to be an incredibly strong consolation prize.  The Terps took his commitment rather than pursuing Philly's Rysheed Jordan or other lesser recruits still available.

While Peters looked good early on against weaker competition, and certainly had a flair for spectacular passes, his own weaknesses were quickly exposed against better teams.  While he experienced many of the normal bumps that a young PG will have in his freshmen season, his complete lack of offensive versatility marred his future outlook.  Despite playing significant minutes all season, Peters made just one three point field goal, and incredible statistic for a guard at this level.  That was not his only problem this year, but a guard without the talent and/or confidence to hit the open jumper from three becomes a much easier defensive assignment.  It's not hard to stop penetration when you don't have to respect that jump shot, which is why it's so important that a slasher like Peters at least develop an Adrian Bowie-level jumper to be an effective player on the offensive end.

Now Turgeon is left with only Melo and Allen, certainly more of a scorer than passer, as his options at PG, and hopefully that doesn't keep hounding us.  Those two could be a dynamite pairing, but how well they run a half-court offense is the question.

I love Shaq.  He's a guy who was clearly big on Maryland from early in his recruiting process.  He committed to HOF Gary Williams, then committed again to Mark Turgeon after Gary's retirement.  I'm not happy to see him off the team.

With all that said, Shaq was limited.  Some speculated on a lingering back injury being the culprit, but in any event, Shaq didn't thrive in any particular areas.  He was best on the defensive end, a big and strong post defender, but he lacked the athleticism to be a shot blocker and often because of his need to use physicality rather than athleticism found himself in foul trouble and on the bench.  Shaq could have provided depth because, after all, there aren't many sure things in Maryland's 2014-15 frontcourt, but there are worse gambles to take than two highly-rated, seven-foot freshmen like Michal Cekovsky and Trayvon Reed.  If even one of those can be a legit presence early, the frontcourt should be just fine.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Field of 68 Predicted

Florida vs Mt St Mary's/Texas Southern
Memphis vs Kansas State

San Diego State vs Stephen F Austin
North Carolina vs Tulsa

Villanova vs NC Central
UConn vs Iowa

Michigan vs UL-Lafayette
Baylor vs Gonzaga

WEST (Anaheim)
(San Diego)
Arizona vs Coastal Carolina/Cal Poly
George Washington vs Oklahoma State

(San Antonio)
Creighton vs New Mexico State
Kentucky vs BYU/NC State

Iowa State vs Eastern Kentucky
Ohio State vs Xavier

Louisville vs Weber State
Oregon vs Tennesseee

MIDWEST (Indianapolis)
(Saint Louis)
Wichita State vs Albany
Texas vs Pitt

(San Diego)
UCLA vs Manhattan
VCU vs North Dakota State

Wisconsin vs Mercer
Saint Louis vs Nebraska

Duke vs American
Oklahoma vs Colorado

EAST (New York)
Virginia vs Wofford
St Joseph's vs Stanford

(San Antonio)
Michigan State vs Western Michigan
Cincinnati vs Harvard

Syracuse vs Delaware
New Mexico vs Arizona State/SMU

(Saint Louis)
Kansas vs Milwaukee
UMass vs Providence

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Nine (or Thirteen Places) to see a game


I've been here!  If your arena is known as "the cathedral of college basketball", there's a good chance it makes the list of best college hoops venues. It's hard to imagine how, uh, big the Big 5 is in Philly when you don't live there. Or at least I'm speculating that it is. Philly has a Baltimore-level passion for basketball, but unlike Baltimore it has a half dozen colleges within its confines that have a much richer history (PAT'S CATS of Towson U notwithstanding), and the Palestra was home to many of the games between those teams. It's tiny (8,722) and old (opened New Year's 1927), but that's certainly part of the charm.  Plus there have been plenty of Penn-Princeton showdowns here for Ivy League crowns, including one where Princeton came back from down 33-9 (!) at the half to take an improabable 50-49 win back to New Jersey.


Sure, it's packed with the most nerds this side of ComicCon, but be that as it may, the fans are about as passionate as you'll find. Even with a capacity of just 9,314, the miniature size of the "stadium" means that it's almost always rocking. As a Maryland fan, would there be a better feeling than walking out of Cameron with a win over a highly ranked Duke team? Not likely. There's also the mystique of just being there because tickets are tough to come by unless you're give tens of thousands to the Iron Dukes or have tons of dough for scalping.  The major downside here is that Duke is really, really good most years, especially at home, so you're likely to walk out of here having seen a Duke win, which is really less than optimal for your enjoyment.


The World's Most Famous Arena may sound like typical New Yawwwk hubris, but it's probably a true statement. It's much like the Rose Bowl in that if you were born after the 1940's it loses a bit of its resonance, but still has its place in history and current day. MSG is probably known more for the Knicks these days, and gone are the days of doubleheaders and huge Christmas tournaments, but the Garden still has the 2K Sports Clasic, the Jimmy V, the Champions Classic on a rotating basis, tons of other feature games...and the NIT! Or not. But the Preseason NIT is fun, most years.  The knock here is that the Barclay's Center has become as much, if not more, of a destination for college basketball teams and fans throughout the season, particularly for Terps fans.  There's no doubt it's a nicer facility, but it has a long way to go to develop the history that the Garden has.


What a great name. It's called that not just to evoke the idea of stepping into the bowels of hell when you come to play the Lobos, but because it's 37 feet below street level.  Of course netting that against its 5,312 feet above sea level means it's still pretty high up in there for those of us who don't live at altitude.  New Mexico has had a renaissance lately that begin under former-coach Steve Alford, but even if you don't care to see some usually-very-good Mountain West action, you're likely going to be able to catch some NCAA Tournament action here as The Pit frequently hosts early- and regional-round games of the Dance.


The Comcast Center is enormous, and it holds about 18,000 fans when packed. Kentucky, for a big game, can get over 24,000 fans - fully 1/3 more than Comcast at capacity. This isn't necessarily the loudest crowd, at least per capita, but it beats out the Carrier Dome in the "Huge-Ass Arena" category just by virtue of its not doubling as the school's football stadium as well.  Plus, if you go, it will always be fun to laugh at how Kentucky was on the wrong side of history in that 1966 NCAA Final in Cole Field House.  I can say with certainty that if the Terps ever have another home and home with Kentucky like they did in the 90's back when Gary actually scheduled good teams, I will be there. 


Nothing says college basketball like Feast Week, and nothing says Feast Week more than the Maui Invitational. The LCC is odd because most nights it's a tiny gym (not arena) where hosts Chaminade plays a cavalcade of teams you've never heard of in a Division that no one sees on TV, but for three days each year on Thanksgiving week, it hosts 7 of the best teams that the mainland has to offer, plus commentator extraordinaires Sean McDonough and Jay Bilas.  Amazing stuff.  There's nowhere else you could go where you have a chance to see a tournament featuring two top-10 teams battling and also some of the biggest upsets in college sports when Chaminade wins a game, which has happened seven times in the tournament's history. 


I have to admit, I've always had a soft spot for Gonzaga. I think a lot of folks are tired of them and think they're frequently overrated (possibly true), but it's amazing to me that a program at a tiny Jesuit school in the northwest with no history has managed to be one of the best programs in the country since the late 90's with a rotating cast of highly recruited players from the US and abroad, many of whom wind up playing in then NBA. McCarthey Athletic Center seats only 6,000, but watch a late night ESPN game between Gonzaga and Saint Mary's or BYU and see how loud that crowd can get.


So I'm cheating here, but if you're in Indiana, you've already gone much more horribly wrong than this list. We start out at Butler, where they played for the National Title two years running and now actually have name brand basketball programs coming in every year. Hinkle Field House is a pretty good place to see a game, and oh yeah, it's where Hoosiers took place. You can leave Indianapolis for Bloomington where you'll go to Assembly Hall, where you can see FIVE national championship banner - just watch out for falling objects. After that you make a stop in West Lafayette to watch Purdue play in Mackey Arena on a floor where the benches are below the level of the playing surface.  Then round out the Big Four in South Bend at the Joyce Center where Notre Dame has one of the best home court records in the nation.


The one, the only.  With Maryland Madness being held here this year, it's going to happen.  When 14,500 pile into that sweatbox in the middle of campus it will be glorious.  Let's just hope that when the day comes, and the team goes on a big run to force the other coach to call a time out, the band strikes up those notes of Rock n' Roll Part II.  How much does a new roof for a 60-year-old field house cost, anyway?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


(to the tune of Glycerine by Bush)

We needed that win, it's sinking in
Needed to beat Heels, that I can feel
We don't use our mind
It's not our kind
The moronic plays, sure were a sign

When the Terrapins wear white
My mood's gone gray
It's even worse, when we're away
We've played like piss
Remember Juan
The time that we ranked, number one

Don't Let the days go by


Playing all alone
Playing alone every game
Are you all one or are you a team?
We never get steals
And when we shoot it's worse than Dave Neal

This team played bad
Turge coached you like shit
Couldn't love him less
We're go'n to the "NIT"

Don't Let the days go by

I used to be proud of you
You couldn't change; didn't want to
Hitting some twos but you need threes
Could have made the tournament this year


Don't Let the days go by


Don't Let the days go by



Red unis lost again
Red unis lost again
And we fall to UNC

We've gotta win more
Instead we won less
Couldn't improve; just regress
It might be Coach T
Real simple and plain
Well thats just fun
It's why Turdge is his name

Don't let the days go by
Could have been easier on you, you, you



Sunday, December 22, 2013

Our Pets Heads are Falling Off!

At some point you learn from your mistakes.  No, not the Terps, but your humble author.  After years of jumping to call things a low point, you learn to just stop doing that for fear of what will come next.  Yesterday's lost to Boston U wasn't the first time that Maryland has lost to a team from the lowly Patriot League in Comcast Center, just the most recent.  The Terps led for just 4:00 total yesterday.  For those without the benefit of a calculator, that's just 10% of the game.  The Terps basically let a team from a low-major league come into our gym and do whatever they want.

The Terriers aren't awful, of course.  There's probably little different between them and Oregon State, other than name and that no one on BU was likely recruited to play at an ACC level.  Anyone who thought Maryland would win handily yesterday either doesn't pay attention to Maryland or doesn't pay attention to the sport in general.  BU had already given George Washington and Harvard - two teams better than Maryland - trouble and were picked to win their league.  It's a team likely to play in March, whether in the NCAA or the NIT.

In the postgame, the esteemed Coach Turgeon said the following:

We can’t score 77 at home and lose, so maybe it’s on the defensive end

77 points probably ought to be enough to win in most cases, but the game was 76 possessions.  I don't want to make too much about whether Turgeon understands tempo-free statistics, and I'm sure it's not lost on him that 57% FT shooting and a dozen and a half turnovers are bad looks, but make no mistake that the offense's inability to convert were just as damaging as giving up all those open 3s to BU.

The Terps are left with the very real possibility that they won't finish above .500 overall for the first time in over 20 years.  Even if they win their next two games (no guarantee), they'll need to get to 8-10 in the conference just to get to 16-15 for the season.  While the Seth Allen injury has hurt, that's a very bleak outlook for a program in Year 3 of a rebuild.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Suck It Lunardi

Here's the bracket.  It's happening.  Terps in.  Let's goooooooooooo.

I'll bet I do better than Lunardi.

Louisville vs Western Kentucky/NC A&T
Oklahoma vs Cal
Florida vs Akron
Saint Louis vs Bucknell
Michigan State vs Florida-Gulf Coast
Oregon vs Wichita State
Pitt vs Maryland/Middle Tennessee
Kansas vs Harvard

Gonzaga vs Long Island/Liberty
Cincinnati vs Illinois
North Carolina vs Boise State
Kansas State vs New Mexico State
Michigan vs Northwestern State
UNLV vs Iowa State
Memphis vs Colorado
Georgetown vs Pacific

Miami vs James Madison
Creighton vs Missouri
Arizona vs Villanova/Saint Mary's
Wisconsin vs Valparaiso
New Mexico vs Montana
Notre Dame vs Belmont
Butler vs Ole Miss
Ohio State vs Iona

Indiana vs Southern
North Carolina State vs Colorado State
Oklahoma State vs Temple
Marquette vs Davidson
Syracuse vs South Dakota State
VCU vs San Diego State
UCLA vs Minnesota
Duke vs Albany