Thank goodness for people who can combine great storytelling and the most wonderful obsession ever: college basketball. Thanks for the ride. - Christian Skogen
Players come and go. Rules change. Coaches retire. But Our game remains the constant. Its blemishes never diminish its beguiling, beautiful moments, which is why it can be glorious and heart-wrenching from one instant to the next. Perfect? No. But that?s why I love it so. - Mike Miller
TMM journalism successfully transcended the contest and made college hoops about the total experience. Let us all go with Bally and reflect on these halcyon days. - Craig Caswell
EMMITSBURG, Md. -- They call them the blues because of blue notes, those tones hidden in between the in-between places there on the pristine straight streets of the music scale. Each one of us has had the blues at one time or another, stuck in the gutter, the ditch, the rut, been down soooo loonnnggg... Maybe that's why those non-notes resonate so deeply within us during those times, especially when emitted by wailing harmonicas, out-of-tune guitars, oboes, sad singers, baying hounds. Those blues getus, too -- it's totally symbiotic.
What I've never understood, though, is why the language settled on that particular color, and I don't know if the people making these decisions were in the proper emotional state to make such important choices. I mean, you know, blue. When I've had the "blues," it's never been blue. I'd liken it more to the grey of soggy newspaper pulp clinging to a drainage grate in a pouring rainstorm at night, mixed with the yellow beer vomit and piss of hopeless transients, and maybe there's the mottled browns of dead wet leaves in there too. Been down soooo loonnnggg...
What I do know for certain is that an important stage after these so-called "blues" is getting over feeling sorry for oneself, and confronting the pain and loss and woe and desolation head-on. I don't think there's any debate on the color of that -- it's red. We're human beings, and if you scratch and rip deeply enough you're going to reach a level that's crimson, whether it's the metaphorical shredded heart or the literal blood protected and enclosed by complicated systems. We've all had the reds.
And last night, the reddest, sorest, bloodiest college basketball team in the country had its long-overdue moment of sweet relief. In an over-lit gym in Newark, N.J., a place that quickly fell through Division I's wide cracks since joining the top flight in 2006, the New Jersey Institute of Technology beat Bryant 61-51, to close a losing streak that stretched back all the way across a season and a half. There were 51 losses since a victory at Longwood on Feb. 19, 2007, and two more since the Highlanders last won in front of their home fans. Only 424 souls, some of which were undoubtedly invented by NJIT's sports information department, witnessed the event. There is plenty of evidence, however, that this game really did occur the way it's been reported to have played out.
I wasn't there, but I was fortunate to have recently seen the end of another long streak, when North Florida's 54-game road losing skid ended at Furman, giving the Ospreys their first-ever Division I road win. I've seen the weight lift, the joy on the faces, the relief at the removal of an invisible stone from progress' door. And I know, from experience, that these moments are just doorways to patterns, and that is why they receive wider recognition. The second victory, and the fourth, and the 17th, will each be less notable and more normal.
So with an event like this, ordinarily a basketball game amongst basketball games, it can be a time to make note of and study the contrast between winning and losing, happiness and depair, joyous gold and painful red. The next time you're down in the dumps, when you've been down soooo loonnnggg..., when you finally move past the blues and take stock of your burdens, think of the New Jersey Tech Highlanders. Nobody's losing streak lasts forever. Their time done came along, and so will yours.
Colonial: We have a three-way tie at the top of the CAA after the first leg of the top-division round-robin, but the key news out of last night's Northeastern-George Mason tilt was the late-game head injury sustained by GMU's John Vaughan, who was rushed to a Boston hospital with a concussion after a 15-minute break in play. This is the same John Vaughan who had to watch the 2006 Final Four run from the bench with a redshirt, often with a hangdog expression, after a promising first year. From all accounts, he'll be fine -- his first question to Coach Larranaga had to do with the score of the game. With all he's been through, very little going to stand between him and his work.
Unfortunately for the Patriots, GMU lost that game 58-57. Fortunately for the Huskies, Manny Adako is good at basketball and hit a game-winning layup with 25 seconds left. The third 7-1 team is VCU, which we've been skeptical in the recent past about for relying too heavily on former MMBOW Eric "The Dagger" Maynor. That skepticism is fading, thanks mostly to the increased consistency of sophomore Larry Sanders, who has three double-doubles in his last six games. The Rams got some nice balanced scoring and solid rebounding in a 15-point road win at Georgia State.
Missouri Valley: January 21 will go down as the day when things in the Valley got so totally weird, so random, that we're going to be referring to it as the Bizarro Valley until further notice. Northern Iowa (7-1) won the G!O!T!N! against Bradley to open up a two-game lead, but take a look at the rest of the league. Illinois State -- yes, that previously undefeated one everyone was talking about -- was taken down by 2-6 Wichita State (the key to stopping the Redbirds is stopping either Oguchi or Eldridge... any questions?). Drake was another victim of the revenge of the one-win squads, losing badly to Missouri State in the J.Q. Fancypants Centre. You know those "Don't Bet On It" posters that are supposed to dissuade people from betting on college hoops? In the 2008-09 MVC, who would dare to?
Patriot League: There was one of those shape-of-the-conference battles last night between Navy and Holy Cross, the only two PL squads above .500 not named American. The Midshipmen, who have rang up the most wins of any "Past Amateurs" with 14 overall, won 74-68 by shutting Cross down completely from 3-land (0 for 13!) and overcoming a hugeantic performance by Andrew Keister, who put up 27 points (on 12-for-14 shooting) and 14 rebounds. HC will have another chance at a mid-season statement on Friday Saturday, when they host American on ESPNU. There may be a guest appearance from Bally in that one, so tune in.
I totally jinxed this yesterday when I talked about the magic inevitability of the orange bar, and boldly predicted we'd likely be done with the pledge drive within 24 hours of that post. Furthermore, I had written this whole big thing about being able to prepay for all the rest of the 2008-09 travel. But it turned out that the pace of donations slowed considerably after this happened, for whatever reason. I've always been fascinated by crowds, and why they move in unison -- hopefully I haven't done something overt, like inadvertently teling everybody to stuff it, or clearing the dance floor by spinning "Hey There Delilah."
So the fake champagne is on ice; I will now channel my inner Don Music and harness the potent power of reverse psychology.
I'll never get this pledge drive done! Never, never, never!
We just have a little ways to go, just a few hundred dollars more until we can put this chapter behind us. I hope we'll get there soon. (A quick note to all who wanted to send checks: I won't be home to check the mail for quite a time. But I appreciate your generosity nonetheless.)
U'useless Stat of the Day
Part of our job here at TMM is to track Stephen Curry, the most beguiling and enigmatic and talented player we've had at the mid-major level since we started doing this. While we stop short of reporting on his meal choices, his iPod or his usual walking paths across the Davidson campus, we do stalk his boxscores. He sure has put together an interesting set during his junior season.
Take, for example, his line from last night's blowout win over aforementioned Furman. The Wildcats won by 40 points, and Curry had 30 to keep his national-best scoring average (29.1 ppg) intact. He hit 12 shots of 18 attempted, including 6-of-10 from three, and... did not attempt a foul shot. It's the third time this has happened for Curry this year: there was the Patsos game, last week's Appalachian State tilt in which he battled foul trouble and played only 16 minutes, and last night.
And it's very hard to score that many points without the benefit of one-pointers. There have been 233 personal performances this year of at least 30 points across Division I this season, and Curry's was only the fifth that included a 0-for-0 notation for free throws.
In UIC's stunning blowout at Vanderbilt, Josh Mayo poured in 30 without a foul shot attempted. Against Syracuse on Dec. 3, Cornell's Ryan Wittman did not toe the line but scored 34 anyway. There was also a Northwestern guy and a Virginia Tech dude too, but this isn't their site. It's all curry, most of the time here.