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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Middie U. at Midseason

While I haven't ever said it aloud or even put it in print, I sometimes mentally refer to my alma mater as Middie U. Not unlike Penn State's famed position-based moniker, I tend to think that UMBC's midfield--especially the first line of Wimer, Hopmann, and Poillon--is at the top of their craft. It seems the folks at Inside Lacrosse agree.

After putting Terry Kimener in the first round of the MLL draft last year, the Retrievers quickly reloaded, picking up transfer Peet Poillon from The Ohio State and seeing no drop off in production. With all due respect to our attack, our first midfield is the big show in town, and the guys behind them aren't half bad either.

It's midseason now, and the Dawgs have the America East conference slate and beltway rival Towson remaining on the schedule. We should enter all of the remaining games the season favored, but far be it for me to look games we "should" win in the mouth, especially in conference. I'm a USF football fan; I know better. Still, if we can make our way through the rest of the schedule and finish with just two losses, a feat that will likely include two wins over conferencemate Albany, there could be gold at the end of the rainbow: If IL's Bracketology is to be believed, the Dawgs could be headed to their first ever seed in the NCAA tournament, earning a home game in the first round. I'm not counting my chickens yet, but I sure am hopeful.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Talkin' about my gender

My friend and fellow sports blogger Katie made a recent post about how some of her gendermates get on her nerves when it comes to sports. Interestingly enough, I've got something to say about my fellow men as well--not because this is a pissing match, but because this time of year happens to bring out one of my pet peeves.

With fairly little exception, I hate it when men say they hate women's basketball.

I don't begrudge anyone that belief and I'm sure there are some who hold it who get a bad wrap. But more often than not, those who feel the need to chime in with their opinion are simply displaying knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing chauvinism.

I'm not here to tell you why you should like women's hoops. True enough, while I'm a fan, they still fall significantly behind men's hoops for me. But my feeling is this: I don't like BAD basketball. So maybe my sample is off, having the opportunity to watch some of the finest women's basketball in the country played here in the home of the ACC tournament. But from where I'm sitting women's basketball can be, and often is, just as entertaining as its male counterpart.

Where I most often see the women's hoops bashing occur is on the internet (surprise!). On a message board or in a Livejournal community someone will say something about women's basketball. Now mind you, the people who hate hockey probably stayed silent on the hockey thread, because it had no interest to them. The soccer haters? Silent about that topic. But bring up women's hoops, and one of the first responses you get will likely be, "Who cares? It's women's basketball." Several others will chime in about the level of play and how boring it is. A few years ago, after the Terps won the national championship, I posted about it in a sports community. Someone commented, "what does this have to do with sports?" Currently, USF is in the Women's NIT (ok, I must admit, "We're Not Interested, Thanks" was pretty funny) and every thread is met with the same shenanigans. And it all smacks of "shouldn't you be making me a sandwich/ironing my shirt/on your back?"

Again, I'm not saying you've got to love women's hoops. But would it kill you to keep it moving?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Bring the Band!

Like in offices across the country, today several of us were keeping an eye on NCAA tournament action at work today. At one point during the Radford-UNC game, a coworker comes down the hall and asks me, concerned, "Does Radford not have a band?" Granted, I'm the resident band dork, but I'm not THAT good. The question was being posed because it seemed there was no band present for them at the game. Strike that, there WAS no band present--this game was played in the Greensboro Coliseum, less than a mile from where we were sitting, and we were all familiar enough with the arena and their tournament set up that we knew where a band would be if such were present. Radford did not have a band.

A quick look on Radford's website tells me that they do indeed have a pep band that plays the basketball games and "some post season tournaments". Barring a financial impossibility (which it very well could be in this economy) what this says to me is that someone places little value on their pep band. It's a trip of less than 2 1/2 hours from Radford's campus to Greensboro, so either the University didn't value the pep band enough to send them, or the students in the band didn't value it enough to make the commitment to make the trip. If either is the case, that's quite sad.

I'm proud to be an alum of a pep band who was valued and appreciated every step of the way.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Dawg Days of Near Spring

So if my activity here hasn't been enough testament to the fact, today was a big day for the Dawgs in both basketball and lacrosse. Let's start with the good news:

University of Maryland's Best Campus traveled to the University of Maryland's Rough Draft to battle in the state's official team sport. I'm not gonna lie, I was just a little trepidatious about this matchup. For one, the turtles wouldn't be happy facing the prospect of losing to little brother for the third year in a row, so I thought surely they'd bring it. For another, they were the #5 team in the country and much early talk spoke of the road to Foxborough running through College Park.

I had a few other fears that didn't pan out. Tales of Terrapin size were greatly exaggerated. I though surely Will Yeatman and the rest of the Terps attack would consume us with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse. With all the talk of their team size, I was expecting a size differential not unlike the NCAA tourney last year when UMBC matched up with Georgetown, but that's not what we were dealing with at all.

I ranted before about our team's black helmets, and I'll go on record again saying I'm not a big fan, though I like them a bit better on our away yellows than our home whites. This is the first UMBC game I've actually gotten to see on TV, but that combined with the pictures I've seen from the season leads me to believe they're here to stay. This wasn't the only new look for the Retrievers, however. In a move reminiscent of USF pulling veteran kicker Delbert Alvarado in favor of freshman Maikon Bonani, putting Justin Radebaugh in at the face-off X seemed to be just what the doctor ordered for our biggest weakness. He took 50% from the X, which is a good deal better than the 9 for 41 we had in the previous two contests, both losses. The prowess at the faceoff position was certainly a key factor to the third consecutive victory over the boys from College Park.

Let me take a moment to tell you how I took in both of today's games. I went to Buffalo Wild Wings in High Point, which was the plan for the lacrosse game before I even knew we were finals for basketball. This morning, I did the Stride 'n' Ride walk for the Muscular Dystrophy Assocation, and I headed off to B-Dubs after that. During the time the two games overlapped (B-ball started at 11, while lax started at noon) I was watching both games, playing trivia, and eating. It was a glorious sensory overload. Towards the end of that time, however, after the basketball game was over and I was still watching lacrosse, it was getting increasingly hard to keep a screen on the lax game. As I've mentioned before, college basketball is a religion in North Carolina, and with Carolina about to play, it was clearly blasphemy to worship a false idol like lacrosse. Luckily our waitress was looking out for us and I was able to keep it on one of the small TVs near us. And you know those commercials for B-Dubs where an entire restaurant full of people are going crazy for a televised game? That was definitely this place as Carolina was playing. I didn't stick around long enough to see the abject disappointment when they lost, though.

On to the basketball game that mattered to me. I had heard tell of the passionate fans at Binghamton, but I must say, they are who we thought they were--the whiteout was impressive, and the crowd looked extremely in it, even with no sound. Obviously, I wish I could have heard, if for no other reason than the Down and Dirty Dawg Band, but there's no doubt in my mind they represented well. And I think I saw a close-up of my bass drum head once before they headed to a commercial break. I've got the game on DVR; I'll have to go back and look.

I was all geared up for a Dawgs win, but I do have to admit we were on borrowed time. We had emerged from a 6 seed and were playing #1. But that didn't scare me, and I was ready for us to go in there and repre-damn-sent. We trailed all game and showed some intensity late, but the Bearcats were too much for us. Congrats, and represent the AE in the tourney. And of course, I'm a proud Dawg as always. GO BIG DAWGS!!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Sometimes I love ya...

As a UMBC alum, I tend to root for our system's flagship institution when it doesn't affect either of my alma maters. As such, it makes for an interesting 24 hours for me.

Earlier this evening, I rooted for Terps men's basketball in the ACC tournament vs. Wake Forest. Tomorrow afternoon, the Terps will become my enemies as their men's lacrosse team faces my UMBC Retrievers. Shortly thereafter, it's back to rooting for them as they face off in the ACC semifinals vs. either Dook or Boston College.

That said, it's not all about the Terps right now. Tomorrow UMBC meets the Binghamton Bearcats on the hardwood for the America East championship.Their house. Our title defense. WE MUST PROTECT THIS HOUSE!!


Delaware doesn't have a sales tax, but it does have a cover charge

And may someday soon also have sports betting. As a First State representative, I'm slightly ashamed that I didn't hear of this until yesterday (via ESPN) when it's been cooking for some time, but in my defense, I haven't paid taxes or regularly taken in news from Delaware for a number of years now.

Delaware governor Jack Markell is introducing a proposal to legalize sports betting, adding it to horse racing and slots that already exist in the First State. In the eyes of the state government, it's more or less an elaborate bake sale, aimed at closing the $700 million deficit (roughly $!K per citizen, for those keeping track at home) the state currently has.

Honestly, I don't have too strong of an opinion on it. I realize that gambling can be addictive, so there is that concern for the citizenry. But as Markell pointed out, "you can't be half-pregnant," noting that Delaware already supports horse and slots gambling. If it'll help bolster my home state, then so be it. And if I can put a few bucks on a game when I'm home, so much the better.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We're going going back back to finals finals

(The title is a not-necessarily-intentional, but appropriate, nod to the Notorious B.I.G., deceased 12 years ago yesterday) I'm back from a long weekend in the monster mid-Atlantic, and my alma mater's been acting monstrous in their own right. Spring Break is in session at UNCG, giving Megan a week free of classes and me a week without students, so we took a few days to head north for my family in Delaware, her family in Maryland, and some sightseeing in DC. At the time, UMBC men's hoops was also making the most of their travel north, defeating my parents' alma mater and #3 seed Boston University and showing tournament host Albany who the REAL Big Dawgs are to make it back to championship weekend, where we'll face Tony Kornheiser's Binghamton Bearcats at their house. Now I'm not counting my chickens before they hatch. Binghamton's too good for that. We've split this season's series, each of us winning at home, so going back to the BU Zoo could prove formidable. Still, I can't help but daydream about the possibilities of another conference championship and NCAA tournament berth. For starters, our .500 record and losing records both in conference and in the regular season would likely relegate us to the play-in opening round game in Dayton going in as a 16a or 16b seed would actually give us the chance to win a tournament game (asterisk be damned). It is then possible (at least in my mind, and I haven't seen any brackets with early round/regional pairings to refute this) that the Dawgs could be headed to first round action right here in Greensboro! If such happens, saying I will be there is an understatement. I'll do whatever I can within my power (and I do know people at the Coliseum) to put together some kind of something for the Retriever faithful. Speaking of Retriever faithful, it should be well documented that retriever fever is an affliction I live with year round. That said, part of the plans for this trip to the mid-Atlantic was to roll through the ol' alma mater, with the intent of walking the grounds and perhaps snatching up some of the UMBC merchandise I've been eyeballing so hard online. There was a polo that I've had my eye on for some time, but I was slightly less in love with seeing it in person. I still would have likely picked it up, but they didn't have my size in stock. I may still have to order it online at some point. I re-purchased a "UMBC Football - Undefeated" shirt; I had bought one back during Homecoming '06 and for some reason paid no attention to the size, so it quickly became the property of Megan. I was also hoping to acquire a new UMBC car flag, as mine met an untimely death, but they did me one better: A full-sized UMBC flag!! This is something I've been dreaming about since I've even thought of owning a house; the plan was to fly a USF flag during the back half of the year/front half of the school year, say July through December, to encompass college football season and the non-conference half of basketball season. January through June, UMBC would go up, representing through the remainder of basketball season and lacrosse season. I've got the house, I've got the flagpole, and I've got the USF flag; the UMBC flag was the one piece of the puzzle remaining. I had even done so much as e-mail our Associate AD for marketing to see if one may be available. Now that I've got it, I'l take a page from the book of our brethren down in College Park and raise high the black and gold!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hard Hat Zone

So perhaps it's my birthright as a USF alum to have an opinion on helmets (you can find several threads on The Bullspen that will support this claim) but I felt compelled to sound off on UMBC's lacrosse lids. This was brought on by the fact that I've never seen us in black helmets before. I'm still not sure how exactly I feel about them, but I do know that they certainly fall behind our gold lids.

Back when the choices I knew about were between our golds and the white helmet, The gold was my favorite--in our home whites, the white on white with black shorts is a little too monochromatic, which I think is the same way I feel about the black helmets. That said, I could see either as a change-of-pace helmet, like the white helmet USF football unveiled at the bowl game this past year, or being used in a white-out or black out situation (with white shorts or black jerseys, respectively.)

We now interrupt this episode of Project Runway to bring you your regularly scheduled sports/marching post...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Case of the X

In a game that very well may have been lost at the faceoff X, UMBC lost at home to Johns Hopkins after going 7-26 in faceoffs. the 14-11 loss puts the Dawgs at 0-7 all-time vs. the Jays. I'm not entirely sure whether I should be dejected at the loss or encouraged that despite the horrible showing at the X, the game was as close as it was.

In my last post, I mentioned the murderer's row that was this week vs. Hopkins and Princeton. Clearly that was me being shortsighted--in the next couple weeks we face the above, followed by at the #6 Terps and at home vs. #17 Ohio State. Remember what I said about the good teams not losing twice in a row? Hopefully we make it out of this week proving we are that good team.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Taking Note

No sooner did I mention the Down and Dirty Dawg Band than the beat writer for the Albany Great Danes sang their praises. As he mentions in the article, he's not the first one. It's great being recognized!Link

Judgment Week

We're in the midst of a big week for UMBC Athletics. Our two banner sports, men's hoops and men's lacrosse have some milestone and true gut checks going on this week.

Men's hoops ended the regular season yesterday at home with a win vs. Albany. We saluted seniors Jay Greene and Darryl Proctor who have given us so much to be proud about in their time here, not the least of which was the first NCAA tournament berth last year. Much thanks to those two men, as well as the other team members and managers who are graduating this year. I had the pleasure of watching the ceremony courtesy of the UMBC B-Ball Rally Monkey blog. And given my background, I'd be remiss if I didn't also mention the members of the Dance Team, UMBC Cheerleaders, and of course Down and Dirty Dawg Band who also just performed at their final UMBC home game.

The team will be headed up to Albany to face BU in the first round of the America East tournament later this week. A tournament championship at this point is the only shot the Dawgs have at defending their America East championship, and given this season, such would likely send them to Dayton for an opening round matchup.

The men's lacrosse team beat Colgate at home on Saturday afternoon to improve to 3-0 on the season. This week, weather willing, will feature a pair of high caliber matchups. Tuesday evening, perennial power Johns Hopkins comes to UMBC Stadium. The Dawgs have never beaten the Blue Jays, but this may be as good a chance as ever: We played them close last year at Homewood, and this may be one of the few, if not the only, times when the two teams meet that UMBC is ranked higher in both of the major lacrosse polls. It's been said that good teams don't drop two games in a row, so the Dawgs will be out to change that, as the Jays lost this weekend at M&T Bank Stadium in the Konica-Minolta Face-Off Classic to Princeton. UMBC plays that very same Princeton team, who leapfrogged the Retrievers in the polls after the win over Hopkins, this coming Friday, once again at home. We've got our work cut out for us, but it certainly helps that both of these matchups are at home. I know home field is typically good for a field goal in football--anyone know what that number is in lacrosse?
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