MediaStrike Banner

Thursday, April 30, 2009

And if you're not reading it already, you should be anyway.

The fine folks over at Tailgating Ideas are doing a contest where you can win a $50 Home Depot gift card. It's a blog worth reading anyway, but certainly check this out!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gut Check Time

I watched (and by "watched" I mean "kept an eye on game tracker updates) the UMBC-Binghamton game tonight... talk about cardiac canines. We pulled it off after two overtimes, but the Bearcats were close to freeing up a good deal of the coming weekends for me. As the cards continue to fall, chances at an at-large bid get slimmer and slimmer--Villanova just beat Hofstra to guarantee the CAA will be a 2-bid league.

I just watched Chapman vs. Michigan--which I just learned is a reairing--in club lacrosse. After I got over the fact that it was club lacrosse (admittedly, I've got a strong bias towards NCAA DI) and that they had the ESPNU 3rd string in on the game (though Kyle Harrison brought something to the booth), it was enjoyable and something I otherwise wouldn't have caught.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Irony or Justice?

I've mentioned before how Notre Dame lacrosse is incredible underrated--they've ended the regular season at a perfect 13-0 and yet they'll be hard pressed to sniff a top-4 seed in the NCAA tournament without a lot falling their way. I feel for them, because despite a weaker schedule (and in lacrosse a "weaker schedule" isn't like a Mountain West slate vs. an SEC slate, for instance) defeating everyone who was put in front of you is worthy of some consideration.

I'm reminded, however, of how perennially Notre Dame football has been overrated. In the comments on Inside Lacrosse, there's been a good deal of complaining from the Notre Dame faithful. Someone, no doubt tired of the complaints, made a comment of me in the vein of "talk to me when you start giving back all of those undeserved BCS bowls."

To further add to the irony, most of the pro-Notre Dame folks make their case by disparaging Hopkins and their 4-losses. Hopkins, of course, is an independent with an incredible history who often gets the benefit of the doubt. Sound familiar?

There's a lot that could change in these last two weeks before the NCAA tournament. UMBC just beat Vermont soundly, 18-5, to secure the America East regular season championship and a #1 seed and home field for the conference tournament. We need to win it for a sure shot at the tournament, though we still have an outside shot at it should we fall in the AE championship game. It hurts, however, that our strongest win keeps getting weaker, as the Terps ended their season yesterday in the first round of the ACC Tournament of Redundancy Tournament. It puts me in an interesting place. If UMBC wins the AE, I want to see upsets in other conference tournaments and late-season action so some of the smaller leagues get multiple bids. A side effect of this could be keeping the Terps out of the tournament. This isn't a slight at them, but I would like to see less than all four ACC teams make the tournament, and they seem the most likely to draw the short straw. If, however, UMBC should miss out on the AE AQ, I want chalk from all the other conferences to open up as many shots at an at-large as possible. I guess we'll just have to see how this next week or so shapes up...

Monday, April 20, 2009

What's Beef?

Beef is misspelling your own team's name to throw shade on a regional rival.

By now, it's been pretty widely publicized that the Nats sent two of their own onto the field this weekend in jerseys that read "Natinals." There are any number of explanations, most of which involve incompetence or ineptness, but theory I choose to subscribe to is this: In the 34 years between the Senators and Nationals playing baseball in DC, many in the capital region became fans of the Baltimore Orioles, the next closest team. The two are now rivals, if not on the field, then certainly for attention of fans and media. What better way to make a subtle anti-Baltimore baseball stab than to leave out the O's?

It's official--I don't get it.

I'm just going to have to come to terms with the fact that I don't understand college lacrosse's media poll. Maybe it's because I spend too much time trying to equate it to basketball or football, or maybe I apply silly things like earth logic, but it seems beyond me.

You may remember that roughly this time last week I was bitching my fool head off because UMBC beat a ranked team and yet fell two spots, from #6 to #8. This week, UMBC gets defeated by an unranked, one win team. It' the proverbial triple threat, it's a loss, it's late in the season, and it's to a weak opponent. Surely the pollsters will take us to the woodshed. So I take a look at the rankings, and what happened?

We fell two spots.

Because, apparently, a win over a top-20 team is about on par with a loss to one win team.

Yeah, I don't get it either.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

It's all my fault.

Logic clearly dictates that my overconfidence in my team has absolutely nothing to do with this Saturday's loss to the Hartford Hawks, but that doesn't mean I don't feel the slightest bit guilty. In my mind and probably in my words, I had UMBC penciled in as the America East champ, finishing the rest of the season undefeated and waiting to see if we earned a seed on Selection Sunday in a few weeks. Surely, after vanquishing the America East's other threat, Albany, last week, this was a done deal. Apparently no one told that to Hartford.

Yesterday's loss changes the landscape significantly. A win would have sewn up the #1 seed and home-field advantage for the Retrievers in the America East tourney. Had we won this game and next week's vs. Vermont, there's a good chance that even with a loss in the AE tourney, we could head to the NCAAs as an at-large. Running the table would have given a reasonable argument for a seed and a home game in the NCAA tournament. Now all wishes of a seed are distant memory and it will likely take an America East championship and the accompanying auto-qualifier to even make the tournament. The Retrievers also missed an important opportunity to jockey for position: Hofstra, who leapfrogged the Dawgs last week, lost to UNC, and their quality win, Princeton, also dropped one to conference foe Cornell. With a win, UMBC could have made a leap forward.

Hartford played like stars after having been abysmal for so long. I'm reminded of 2005 when Army football, coming off of a 0-for-season, snapped their losing streak by defeating Cincinnati and turned around the next week to ruin USF's homecoming. Similarly, Hartford got on the board last week with a win vs. Presbyterian and then took the Dawgs to the woodshed this past week, and while it didn't ruin a homecoming, there was certainly plenty at stake.

UMBC now has the opportunity to clench home field for the AE tourney on national television as they take on Vermont in ESPNU's lacrosse game of the week this Saturday. If they should prevail, the Dawgs will host the America East tournament the following week. While it looks like a seed's out of the question, I'd love to see UMBC clench an advantageous matchup for the tournament. Or, selfishly, a match at UNC or Duke.

Friday, April 17, 2009

How many chances do you get?

I've ranted before about the trouble with MASN. The reader's digest version is: MASN is the only station that carries O's and Nats games. Most of NC (including my part) is O's and Nats' territory. We don't get MASN. This, combined with blackouts, means there's no way to watch either team.

Well, MASN's attempted to take Time Warner cable to task for this. Time Warner lost. Three times. And they are still trying to continue to appeal, further delaying what all previous levels would lead me to believe is inevitable. I remember being excited back in October or so, thinking we'd have MASN in time for basketball season. Then came January, where I figured surely we'd have it in time for lacrosse. Now baseball's season's back around and guess what? Still no MASN.

I had vitriol prepared for Time Warner because of the broadband metering bull they tried to pull. They since have called off the dogs on that one, but don't think I've forgotten about MASN, Time Waner.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

No Respect at all

What follows is actually not the post I intended to write. What I wanted to talk about I may or may not get to in this post, but in my quest for facts for the originally intended post, I came across a fact too noteworthy to ignore: UMBC has fallen in the media poll from #6 to #8. This is after a convincing win over a ranked conference foe in the Albany Great Danes. This, of course, is a travesty and a miscarriage of justice.

OK, to be fair, we weren't exactly dropped, merely leapfrogged. Our point total actually went up from the previous week. The trouble lies in the two teams that leapfrogged us. The issue began with Duke (doesn't it always?) The Blue Devils defeated then #1 UVA. As remiss as I typically am to give them any credit, I've got to hand it to them--they've got UVA's number and have for some time now. The Blue Devils were one of the teams that jumped us. The other team who overtook us is a little harder to follow. With the Wahoos falling, Princeton stepped up to fill the void at #1. The Tigers have one blemish on their record: A defeat at the hands of the Hofstra Pride. It was that Pride squad who overtook the Retrievers, even though their victory this week was a one goal defeat of a Towson squad we beat handily.

Regardless of the numbers, the fact remains: UMBC is hot right now. Consider this: Four lacrosse teams lay claim to all of the Division I national championships since 1992: Hopkins, Syracuse, UVA, and Princeton. Our only two defeats this year came at the hands of current #1 Princeton and Hopkins. For that matter, all of our losses in well over a year have come to one of those four elite squads, adding UVA to end last season and Hopkins last season, our last loss before rattling off an 11 game win streak.

This leads me to the question at hand (and the original topic for this post): Can UMBC attempt a run at a national championship? I hesitate to speak it for fear of jinxing it, but it's been whispered (and louder) in two separate blogs I read, and truthfully, at least the possibility of making it to Foxborough for the Final Four has danced in my head quite a bit. Let's look at a few things:In addition to the aforementioned performance, UMBC has been convincingly winning games it should win: The last four games were 15-7, 13-4, 14-4, and 14-8 over Albany, Binghamton, Towson, and Stony Brook, respectively. Three of those were taking care of business in-conference; one (Albany) was ranked with another (Towson) receiving votes.

One of the best predictors of potential future success is how we get treated by the tournament committee. The biggest imperative is becoming one of the eight seeded teams in the tournament, securing a first round home game. Last year we were snubbed for such a spot and were rewarded with a trip to #2 UVA for our troubles. The committee will take a look at our body of work, which includes a number of quality wins and the aforementioned "good losses" to Princeton and Hopkins. What should also be considered, however, is the fact that the team that played in those two losses isn't the same team the Retrievers are fielding now. Faceoffs were extremely hard to come by in those days, and it seems we have shored things up at the X in games since.

Should UMBC emerge victorious from the first round, the second round game will likely go to a neutral site at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium in Annapolis. Win that, and it's off to Foxborough. The reality is this: Barring epic collapse, we will make the tournament. Once we're in the tournament, 4 wins means a national championship. And I'm convinced that these Dawgs can play with anyone.

Should we make it up to Foxborough, though, I'm inclined to wonder: Will our fans make a decent showing? I was pleased with how we turned out last year for the NCAA tournament in Raleigh. Still, that was several hundred for the most popular tournament in college--and probably all--sports. We'll likely be up against teams who will bring several thousand. And the Final Four isn't until after school is out for the summer, so there may not be the reliable contingent ready to hop a bus, save for the few mighty die-hards.

Luckily, one thing I don't have to worry about: When we debate attendance over on the USF boards, at least in football, it's a topic that has a direct effect on whether or not our team will be invited to future bowl games and the caliber of those games. The only thing that will get us in or keep us out of competition in this one is the merit of the team itself, and that's a group I'm certainly ready to put my faith in.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Four Play

At risk of being excommunicated from the state, I actually didn't say anything regarding the basketball Final Four. I started a post back on Saturday that I ended up running away from; I was killing time waiting for a UNCG club lacrosse game (which was ultimately canceled) and when I got the news of the cancellation, I rushed home to see USF win the WNIT! GO BULLS!!

While certainly any prognostications on the Final Four are moot now, congratulations to the Tar Heels. They beat everyone like a rented mule and allowed all of the sportscasters who dared pick them at the beginning of the year look smart.

The women's Final Four championship game featured two Big East teams, meaning it was a foregone conclusion that Big East teams would win the NCAA and the WNIT. UConn took it to notch a perfect record.

Interesting fact: the biggest rivalry in women's college hoops contains the same names as the biggest rivalry in cheese steak: Pat's and Geno's.

In intercollegiate chess, UMBC defeated archrival UT-Dallas to win the Final Four. And yes, I'm damn proud to be a nerd school alum, thankyouverymuch.

There are two other foursomes that peak my interest this weekend. Washington DC will host the Frozen Four, the final four of collegiate hockey. While I've never attended a school with varsity hockey, the concept intrigues me and it's something I could see myself getting into. As a lacrosse fan, I always feel as though it gets a ton of press as compared to college lacrosse. I don't know if there's any truth to that, or if it's merely perception. But a few reasons why that may be the case, if indeed it is:
  • Frozen Four is a damn catchy name.
  • It comes on the heels of the Final Four, so people are still in a bit of a heightened state.
  • Hockey has a professional league with some history and a substantial following (sorry, MLL).
That said, one thing I was expecting might be an answer didn't ring true. I thought it may be the case that more Big 6 conference schools fielded hockey teams than lacrosse teams. When I went to the numbers to find out if this is correct, I found that a comparable number compete in both across the board. I've misplaced the piece of paper where I was keeping tally, but I believe each sport had 11 teams from the Big 6 conferences, plus Notre Dame, Army, and Navy. The Big XII, SEC, and Pac-10 didn't have teams in either sport. There was also a similar number from division I schools who play FBS football.

The other fabulous foursome of this weekend is the Smartlink Day of Rivals, featuring Army vs. Navy and Johns Hopkins vs. Maryland. I'm loyal to none of the teams there and really just want to see some good lacrosse played, but I could make a case for each.

Army/Navy: On the one hand, I'm a shameless homer, so having attended school in Maryland and visited Baltimore and points south all throughout my childhood, I've seen the "GO NAVY BEAT ARMY" tankers and such docked for as long as I can remember. In addition to being a battle between two service academies, it's a battle between two lacrosse hotbeds--Maryland and New York. So I'm more inclined to say MARYLAND WHAT!! On the flip side however, my younger cousin (who, ironically enough, is from Maryland) is currently in his second year at the United States Military Academy at West Point, so I might have to ride with the Black Knights. If recent history is any indication however, that might not do so much good.

Hopkins/Maryland: I've got reason to pick for and against each of these schools. On the one hand, for me, public will win the public vs. private stance for me everytime. Advantage Maryland. But Baltimore metro vs. DC metro? B-more. Advantage Hopkins. Maryland wins my favor for being the blue collar to Hopkins' blue bloods. It's a push as to whether Maryland being our system mate and "big brother" works for them or against them. I've got friends who are alums of both, so that comes out in the wash as well. And I certainly wouldn't mind seeing either team fall on their face.

But UMBC beat Maryland and lost to Hopkins. A Maryland win is a zero-sum, rock-paper-scissors outcome, as it will mean UMBC beat Maryland beat Hopkins beat UMBC. A Hopkins win, however, would secure their dominance in this here threesome. A loss would hand Hopkins a losing record, which the hater in me can get behind. See, currently at .500, the Blue Jays are currently #9 in both polls. I've ranted about Hopkins' perpetual overratedness before here, but essentially, they are the Notre Dame Football of college lacrosse. They're juggernauts (ok, ND once was), they're independent, command their own contract, and the sun rises and sets from their asses. By corrollary, they are often overrated. Now I don't hate Notre Dame and I don't hate Hopkins, nor do I hate the media or fans who often cling to their loins. I give them their due. But that said, it doesn't hurt to see them taken down a peg every now and again either. So at the risk of alienating one of the few people who might actually be reading this (whatup Katie?), go Terps.

And finally, UMBC plays Albany up in Albany this weekend for the presumptive home court advantage in the America East tournament. It won't be easy. In fact, it'll be a dog fight. Literally. Here's to the dawgs in the black and gold getting back on the road with their heads held high.
discussion by