"Hit me with it! I've come a long way to see you, Mary. The least you can do is level with me. What are my chances?"
Game #9-172: Maryland-Eastern Shore at Connecticut HuskiesDecember 17, 2012 7:00 pm
"You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?"
Mary: I'd say more like one out of a million."
"So you're telling me there's a chance."- Lloyd and Mary in Dumb & Dumber
HARTFORD, Conn. - There was a chance that Maryland-Eastern Shore could beat UConn Monday night at the XL Center.
There's always a chance. What was the probability of a Hawks' victory? Well, there were probably lots of zeroes after a decimal point involved.
Of course, we Americans (and probably other places in the world, too) don't do all that well with statistical probability. It's why poker
professionals can make millions, someone like Nate Silver can produce outrage out of large swaths of the general public by just averaging polls
, and how the lottery
is still popular (a dollar and a dream, baby).
In general, and I'm sure this is shocking to you, people want to believe what fits their ideas and ideals. Absolute zero and statistically negligible are not that far apart, but give people one example of success, and they truly believe that God or whomever will choose them to get it.
But one in a million (or more) is a pretty damn remote chance. If you took 12 days and I picked one second out of those 288 hours, you would have to pick it exactly. Good luck.
So, maybe Maryland-Eastern Shore thought Monday was the day, even if the Shore Hawks were 0-9 and taking on a fairly underrated UConn team. Maybe it was their turn, I went back through UMES history to try to find its last Red Line upset. I couldn't find one, not even one that was close. It wasn't in the last two decades, at least. Most of the games against BCS conference schools
have been horribly one-sided.
The Hawks held on UConn's first three possessions, and when Troy Snyder banked in a 15-footer 1:45 into the game, UMES led at the XL Center, 2-0.
That was about it, folks.
Ron Snyder had a breakaway ogdunx midway through the first half, and his layup capped a 6-0 run to draw UMES within 36-27 late in the first half, but by the first media time out of the second half, the shooting of Ryan Boatright and Omar Calhoun (and the passing of Shabazz Napier) had pushed the lead to 20 and it wasn't getting any closer.
Maryland-Eastern Shore was not hitting Powerball on this night.
There aren't many time I feel sorry for UConn basketball, but Monday was one of them, at least to a point. They executed a very nice ceremony to honor the 26 people murdered in Newtown three days earlier, with players and cheerleaders holding 26 candles at midcourt. This was the first major sporting event in the state since the tragedy that has touched the nation, but has been particularly acute here where Connecticut is not in the national news all that much.
My seat happened to be directly below the banners for the 16 Big East teams. It was a league I grew up on and loved at one time, and now it will be gone. UConn finds itself in some kind of purgatory, its best option seemingly a cross-continent conference that might include teams as far away as San Diego State. You can make a pretty cogent argument that bowing at the altar of big-time football, and much of their problems are self-inflicted. But even though I know the Big East of 2012 is not the one of more than two decades ago, it's still sad.
The paradox of UConn playing home games at the XL Center also explains plenty about their situation. It's nearly 30 miles from their campus in Storrs (where they have a perfectly usable Gampel Pavillion), but downtown Hartford is so much easier for most non-students to get to. Like me, for instance, it saved me about an hour round-trip through roads I don't really enjoy driving down on cold, wet nights like Monday.
But is it a college team, there for its students, or is it a pseudo-professional team in a state without any pro major league sports? I think we know the answer to that. As far overstretched themselves, when I went up to buy a ticket, the woman at the booth was so startled, she had to plug her earpiece back in to hear me through the window. They obviously weren't getting too much of a walk-up crowd for this one.
The XL Center, or the Hartford Civic Center as I know it, holds plenty of memories to me. At halftime, I walked up to the top of the stadium, where I sat for both the 1986 NHL All-Star Game (won by the Campbell Conference) and the 1988 NCAA Tournament (where No. 13 seed Richmond took down Georgia Tech - with Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver, among others - to go to the Sweet 16). I didn't mind at all back then.
Most times I was in the Civic Center, it was to watch the Hartford Whalers, Connecticut's only pro team until they left for Carolina 15 years ago. After that, I tuned out of hockey almost permanently.
The Huskies will not play in the NCAA Tournament this season thanks to graduation rate problems, but seem like they'll do enough to make interim coach Kevin Ollie full-time by season's end. They shot 66 percent from the field Monday (and therefore needed only three offensive rebounds). UMES - who was playing without leading scorer Kyree Jones (injury) - had no need to prolong their agony, as there were only seven combined team fouls in the second half.
As the UConn crowd started to file out in the late stages, a funny thing started to happen, though. Trailing 78-45, Kevin Mays hit two free throws, and to the two dozen or so people behind the UMES bench, it might as well have put them ahead. A minute later, Louis Bell hit a superhoop to draw the Hawks within 80-50 with 1:25 left. And the small contingent erupted. I had heard similar reactions to other UMES buckets, but with the arena virtually empty by now, it became much more prominent, even in the cavernous XL Center.
As the final buzzer sounded, the Hawks made their way to the locker room, they stopped to meet with their families who had made the trip. Mays had eight points and six rebounds in his first collegiate game (he was eligible at the end of the semester), and was all smiles as he got some hugs.
For a team that's 0-10 and are not sure where that first win is going to come from, that was an interesting sight. But maybe I'm wrong, maybe winning is relative. For most of these guys, like 5-foot-7, 190 point guard Dominique Cowell - who played 38 minutes, hit a #superhoop, and had four rebounds - the victory might be just being on a court like this. Statistically, they're correct, if you look at the percentages of kids that start playing basketball and how many actually go on to play Division I ball, it may not be one in a million, but it's not as many as people think.
As I type this, I checked the UMES website, which I did earlier in the day to notice that the first two "Game Notes" for the UConn game (which they had listed as at the XL Center in Storrs) were the fact that UMES had five players in Super Bowl III (yes, 3, as in 1968), and that the bowling team was very successful. Interesting.
The current headline after the lopsided "loss" to national power UConn:
"Hawks Out-Rebound Connecticut in Battle with Huskies"
It was true, wasn't it?
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