Category: NCAA

[Business Day One] Boston College, Week 1


I had it all planned out. I called a month in advance to make sure that the bar in Portland, Maine would be playing the Boston College-Kent State tilt. Once I arrived in the beautiful coast city, I went to the bar three hours before kickoff and to confirm, in person, that it would happen.

Of course, the plan fell through. The first casualty of war is always the plan. So instead of sitting down in a nice Irish pub to watch my beloved Eagles take on the Golden Flashes, I spent the next half hour dragging my girlfriend around the Old Port section of town looking for a bar that was playing the game. Mercifully, a place called Rivalries took care of us and I spent the next three hours cheering my team along to a penalty-free 21-0 win.

This got me to thinking. I want to know what your best “I tried to go to a game, but” story is. Were you screwed over by a scalper? Did you miss a flight? Car break down? What’s your best story?

[Business Day One] Winning and Losing


On Saturday night, the Boston College men’s hockey team beat Notre Dame to capture the national championship.  As an alumni, obsessed fan and former mascot, this pleases me greatly.  But I wasn’t as absolutely thrilled as I thought I’d be.  For the past two years, the BC team had their season ended with a championship game loss.  Accordingly, for the past two years, I was crushed.  Just flat out crushed.  Hockey is our sport.  We own hockey.  Yes, BC has a perennial Top 25 football team and a basketball team that makes the tournament most years, but hockey is our thing.  We pull the best recruits in and usually win three times as many games as we lose.  And so getting to the finals of the Frozen Four and losing is agony.

And that got me thinking.  When you love a team, losing hurts far more than winning heals.  When the Yankees won the World Series a few times in the 90s, I was thrilled each time.  But since, each early playoff exit hurts me like having an old wound throb.  When they won, I celebrated for a nighta and woke up the next day feeling good.  But when they lost, I was out of commission for a whole weekend.  It seems hardly fair.  Why is the human mind so geared towards wallowing in heartache and so ill-prepared for good fortune?

I was focusing on this so much that the taste of victory started losing its zest.  I began to dwell on how bad it would’ve been to lose.  If Notre Dame beat us, it would’ve been entirely unacceptable to BC diehards.  They would be calling for Coach Jerry York’s head.  Their message boards would be alive with lamentations over the end of hockey dominance in Chestnut Hill.  I began feeling as if I had just survived a plane crash instead of feeling like I witnessed my alma mater win a championship.

What a terrible way to live.  Happiness is fleeting and the default mode of the sports fan is crushing disappointment.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  I wish I had an answer but I don’t.  Though I suppose it beats staying home alone.

Rumeal Robinson and the Temple of Doom

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Bounce, bounce, bounce.

Twirl the ball backwards from fingertips to palm.

Bend your knees, make the T with your fingertips.

Aim just over the front rim. Release and follow-thru towards the hoop, not back.

You gotta hit your free throws.

Some purists, George Will types mostly, claim baseball to be the greatest of our sports, because it is untimed. Therefore, a team can and will trail but can never be counted out by the clock. They get their three outs to keep themselves alive. Yet in basketball the clock does stop and allow for free throws, the shots that salt away leads or chip away at deficits, and the game is reduced to its similarly pure form: one player, one ball, one basket. It’s both beautifully basic and terrifyingly naked. There’s no defense, quite literally, for a miss.

And tonight in San Antonio, there were plenty of misses and no defense. In the most tense, exciting, and dramatic NCAA Championship of the decade, the overtime spectacle really lasted only 40 minutes. For once the Final Four orphans Memphis and Kansas tipped off their five minute curtain call re-knotted at 63, the game was over before it began again. The look on the sidelines said more than enough. Kansas players pushed each other and fidgeted in their seats, eventually standing up and hopping with Benchanticipation. On the other sideline, the Tigers sat stonefaced, occasionally glancing up at the scoreboard like they were looking for a stolen wallet. Derrick Rose cramped up at the end of regulation and had to be helped off the court, only to be shoved back out there to save the season. It could have all been over with, if.

Carolina Blue and Westwood Gold suffered spankings on Saturday night, but their fates now seem much more preferable to the public gutwrenching of the Memphis Tigers and their two leaders, the All-America Chris Douglas-Roberts and the All-But-Gone Rose. The four missed free throws between them in the final 1:15, especially CDR’s no-for-two with 16 seconds left, opened the door on an improbable 9 point, 2 minute Jayhawk comeback a sliver of an inch. And, once Coach John Calipari’s goal of fouling to prevent chaos went down the drain (“We didn’t foul hard enough,” he offered), Mario Chalmers snuck around a Chalmershigh screen and launched a three point dagger (“Like I was in my own backyard,” he said to FOX Radio) that dropped through the net, the net of Jordan, Lorenzo Charles, Keith Smart, Scotty Thurman, and the other faded memories of NCAA titles long past. Memphis sleptwalked through the overtime, an eventual 75-68 final, and is now left to daydream about the nets they didn’t cut down.

The NCAA runners-up cap off the winningest season in college basketball history with the most painful loss in title game history. No team has ever blown such a large lead in a small frame of time. It takes a great deal to wipe Darius Washington’s agony off the list of the most painful charity stripe moments in a school’s history, but even as we speak these free throws are joining Bill Buckner at Shea, Jean van de Velde in the wee burn at Carnoustie, and Gene Mauch and the Phightin’ Phils, taking their seat on Scott Norwood’s 38 yard line. Memphis has had a fairly nondescript basketball past, with a couple of Final Fours and the receiving end of Bill Walton’s biggest day. Tonight they had their best chance to date to unfurl a banner, and oh, once you get one, they can’t take it away. The worst part is that no one–not Bill Self, not Mario Chalmers, not Billy Packer–no one took it away, either. In gagging on the sport’s most basic play, the Tigers simply failed to take what was rightfully theirs. It’s a sharp gouge to the basketball fan’s soul.

But it’s a hurt with blame attached to it. Even the aforementioned Rumeal Robinson, a Michigan man with the 64% touch, nailed down the 1989 championship (in overtime, no less) with two straight swishes to give interim coach Steve Fisher an interim one-point title victory. The free throw comes down to focus and mechanics; some kids have ’em, some kids don’t. And the two players that didn’t were the architects of this whole empire; everything this team had built rested on their shoulders. It was their right to go up to that line and cinch the glory. And they couldn’t do it. One more make and the story of the 2008 Memphis Tigers is of a breakneck, athletic, speedy and utterly dominating (nearly 19 ppg average margin) force, one of the great teams of the decade and maybe of all time (a win would have ended them at 39-1). But the result is what it is, and now the late-game woes will be seen as a microcosm of their season, a slow pendulum swinging all year long and waiting to rear its ugly head at an inevitably climactic moment. And it did, ball on rimand so shall it be.

Now Memphis has hit its head on the top of the curve, and away they go from grand pomp to dire circumstances. Rose and Douglas-Roberts are likely gone; Calipari’s road won’t get much easier anytime soon, and everywhere they go, the team will be hounded by the airing of their own hideous baggage. Teams from the non-power conferences don’t get many chances at the top; check out where Cincinnati or UNLV are right now, far removed from past glories. For 6 months, 38 minutes, and 9 seconds, the University of Memphis had just about the best basketball team in the country. Sometimes, though, you only get one shot to stand alone.

You’d better hit it.

UConn – Tennessee Final Stunningly Interrupted By Extra Games

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Pat and Geno

Tennessee coach Pat Summitt and UConn coach Geno Auriemma are baffled over new developments.

TAMPA, FL–The UConn Women’s Huskies and Tennessee Lady Volunteers’ NCAA Women’s Championship basketball game has been hijacked this month by sixty-two additional games played by some 60+ additional teams. The championship, previously scheduled for March 12, will be pushed all the way to April 8. Some of these charlatan universities inexplicably challenged the two schools to matchups themselves.

“It’s just rude, quite frankly,” said UConn coach Geno Auriemma. “Our girls were looking forward to our annual preordained slugfest when I got a call from Erica (Naughton, NCAA “Selection Committee”) ordering me to face off against this Cornell school, or something. Never heard of them. Then we had to keep playing more until she was satisfied. I told her, ‘Yeah, sure I’ll play Rutgers, and beat them in the friggin’ regular season finale a month ago’, but she had none of it. Politics, maybe.”

Less understanding were the players themselves. All-American freshman Maya Moore wondered aloud why so many other teams faced off across the country. “I don’t understand what these ‘Regional Tournaments’ are. Is this like, for charity?” Moore said, flipping through the scouting reports of Tennessee offenses as she has each day since mid-October. “It’s very weird.”

“What the hell’s a Texas A&M?” asked Tennessee forward Candace Parker. Read More



Nerds on Sports correspondents Serpico and myself watched BC win a nail-biter in overtime, 6-5, to take the Beanpot from those upstarts at Harvard. Watching hockey in that quiet interlude between the Super Bowl and the start of spring training inspired us to post some frequently asked hockey questions (FAH-Q).

Q: Why does the NHL draft work different from NFL or NBA drafts?

Serpico mentioned that John Muse, BC’s frosh goalie, started this year only because BC’s prior goalie was drafted straight out of BC. In the NHL, players can be drafted while still in college … but they get to complete their education and then play. “What a remarkable system,” I said. “Why can’t football or basketball work the same way?”

We came up with two theoretical answers:

(1) Despite its violence, there’s less chance of career-ending injury in a year of hockey than a year of football. No team would be willing to waste a draft pick on a running back who could easily snap an ankle in week 9.

(2) Multiply that by the many millions of dollars that basketball and football are worth. Hockey’s popular, I guess, but it’s not the same kind of business. Franchises can only afford those kind of risks in the NHL. And maybe lacrosse.

Q: Is a zamboni technically a ‘vehicle’?

Apparently not:

A judge ruled the four-ton ice rink-grooming machines aren’t motor vehicles because they aren’t useable on highways and can’t carry passengers.Zamboni operator John Peragallo had been charged with drunken driving in 2005 after a fellow employee at the Mennen Sports Arena in Morristown told police the machine was speeding and nearly crashed into the boards.

Police said Peragallo’s blood alcohol level was 0.12 percent. A level of 0.08 is considered legally drunk in New Jersey.

Peragallo appealed, and Superior Court Judge Joseph Falcone on Monday overturned his license revocation and penalties.

In other news, at least one citizen of New Jersey named “Falcone” is on the right side of the law.

Q: Why is the Eastern Conference Championship called the Prince of Wales Trophy?

Even the most dabbling of sports trivia fans knows that the NHL trophy is known as “Lord Stanley’s Cup.” But why is the Eastern Conference Championship – which the Bruins haven’t won since 1990, I might add – known as the “Prince of Wales Trophy”?

The easy answer is because Edward VIII, Prince of Wales donated it to the League in 1924. British royalty has had an odd fascination with the game of hockey for more than a century, starting with Governor General Stanley’s creation of a “challenge cup” for the best amateur Canadian ice hockey team in 1893. The cup followed the National Hockey Association when it merged with several other leagues to form the NHL in 1917. When the teams were originally divided up, Boston (and the Northeast) played in what was called the “Wales Division.” Hence the cup’s name and origin.

Q: How’s Richard Zednik doing?

After taking a skate blade to the carotid, Florida Panthers player Richard Zednik was rushed to Buffalo General Hospital*. He’s stable but shaken. The Florida Panthers’ organization would like to thank the medical staff at Buffalo General, the Buffalo Sabres organization, the staff at HSBC stadium and all the loyal hockey fans who kept Zednik in their thoughts.

Q: Does Harvard even have a mascot?

Harvard’s mascot is The Man, an officer in full riot gear. His only known cheer is to glare through a tinted visor at the opposing team’s bench and ominously thwack a baton into his open palm.

Q: Is the Beanpot a big deal in Boston?

Let me put it this way: I saw more people scalping tickets outside a non-conference hockey rivalry than I did at the Celtics game I went to a month ago – and unlike Harvard, the Celtics are doing well. As Serpico put it, the Beanpot brings together four Boston area schools all within a thirty minute train ride of each other. That’s classic rivalry fuel. See it if you can – it’s a hell of a thing.

Also: let’s go Eagles.
* They were playing in Buffalo; this wasn’t an oblique attempt to prolong his agony.

Flawless Victories

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Flawless Victory

As of Wednesday they remain at seventeen wins and zero losses. Their woefully overmatched opponents cower in fear, thankful they won’t run into such awesome force again. The offense is nearly unstoppable, running up the score with speed and long-range outbursts. The talent disparity is ungodly, separating them from…the rest. They are on an inexorable march to the southwest, where they will be heavy favorites to take their crown. Some players still show flashes of youthful exuberance, but they are well cautioned to avoid revealing it to their stoic coach, a surefire Hall of Famer now fully moved out of his mentor’s grand shadow. On Sunday, February 3, they will likely be striding confidently as undefeated, but today they still face the enormous pressure of history. The mythical unbeaten heroes of over thirty years ago refuse to go quietly; each passing year grows their legend. But there is little doubt in my mind that this team will quiet any doubters and run the table to 19 and 0.

Of course, North Carolina will still be 21 wins away from a perfect season. Read More

[Business Day One] Resolutions

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Happy 2008, team.  We here at Nerds On Sports hope your New Year’s Eve parties were exciting, your college football bowl season was fruitful and your hangover has finally crept out from behind your eyes.

I was at my gym this morning and, as expected, saw a couple of new faces (and the attached bodies) on the treadmills.  “Oh New Years,” I thought to myself as I hopped up on my usual elliptical machine, “you make fitness fun again.”  I stole a couple of glances at a pair of the Resolution Runners (feel free to use the term) and did some quick figuring in my head.  The folks that were slogging along at the gym at 7:45 a.m. on this cool Boston morning likely already had memberships and were simply renewing their vows to their cardio routines.  The real My Plan Is To Join A Gym And Lose Thirty Pounds crowd shows up in the first full week of the year.  Generally, that crowd spends a couple of days gorging and then takes a weekend tour of the facility, picks up some new running shorts and gets gung ho on that following Monday.

This bout of early morning thinking made me realize that I don’t really have any New Year’s Resolutions to make.  I go to my gym as much as I need to, eat three square a day and write for a sports blog.  That’s about as perfect as my life is going to get.  So since I have some time on my hands that would’ve been otherwise earmarked for my own resolutions, I’m going to do the Sports World a solid and contract myself out to make some 2008 Resolutions for others.  You all can thank me later:

Bill Belichick – Continue to find ways to feed Humble Pie to an undefeated team.

Rich Rodriguez – Bring West Virginia’s style of furniture burning football enthusiasm to Michigan’s Big House. Read More

Refusing To Settle

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Bobby In JanuaryBobby In SeptemberBobby In December

Suite 1604A
Radisson Fayetteville
Fayetteville, AR
December 31, 2007

Dear all,
Merry Christmas! I’m crimson with shame that I haven’t gotten the holiday letter out sooner. The packing and unpacking has taken quite the toll on me and the rest of the family. (As we speak, Robert, silly goose, is scrawling spread formations on the suite walls!) Kelsey and Nick finished their exams in Georgia with solid Bs, and we’re still speaking with the principal and the fire department about Katie’s spring reinstatement. Bobby Jr.’s lessons are going swimmingly; his stuttering is r-r-really disappearing! I caught his neighborhood friends lifting him by the shorts. It must be a going away ceremony. Read More

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