Norfolk State and Lehigh: Contribute to the Madness

And so it begins….

VCU showed us a glimmer, but something wasn’t quite right yet and then:

“Yeah, that’s what I am talking about”.  The words of Norfolk State Kyle O’Quinn’s father after last night’s upset win over the nationally ranked Missouri tigers.

They are ballers.    Smooth as silk.  Suspend disbelief.

If they had nerves, they were nerves of steel and no one could tell.  It was just another day at the office.  They looked like they were in a pickup game and not a history making NCAA tournament game that would put their school, their team and their basketball on the map.  They got some due respect. 

The“VCU” of 2012.  Yes, Virginia, amongst others (VCU, Richmond, George Mason, Hampton, UVA), you got yourself another winner.  David took down Goliath.

Senior center Kyle O’Quinn, the humble, likable, big guy played his heart out and had the game of his life.  He was ubiquitous.  From hitting the boards and 26 points to diving for free balls, he set the stage. He was complimented by Pendarvis Williams and Chris McEachin who each put in 20.

What a memorable one!

And then there is Duke..

Ah, Duke….(Sorry, T).  After the opening slam dunks, I thought it was all over and Lehigh was on a slow bus back to Northeastern PA (and my stomping grounds), but then the unthinkable happened.  Duke looked dazed and confused.  How could this be happening?  Lehigh, known for their engineering, was actually engineering, crafting a win over again, a nationally ranked powerhouse.  Behind their professorial coach, Brett Reed, and guard C. J. McCollum’s leadership, they looked unfazed and unintimidated by their opposition.  No rebounding, allowing 2nd and 3rd attempts, allowing uncontested drives to the basket.  Duke looked anemic and scared like a deer in the headlights.

Though Norfolk State and Lehigh wreaked havoc (not unlike Shaka’s defense) on mine and others brackets, you can’t help but be happy for them and their well deserved hard fought wins.   All is fair in love and basketball; they are bracket busters. Powerhouses take note.  Let this be a warning, these mid level teams are hungry.  They will not bow down or quake at the mention of your name.  There are great players on great teams across the country and they have come to play hard.

 Yes, it was a crazy day in sports all around. (in case you missed it, Andy Pettitte is back out of the retirement and signed with the Yanks).   Maybe it was a full moon or global warming (we seem to blame every thing on it) or something cosmic.  The mighty fell or just didn’t show up.  In the words of the unflappable Lehigh’s coach Reed: Suspend disbelief. Performances from teams like Norfolk State, Lehigh and USF is what keeps us tuning in for more.  Yes, we have suspended disbelief.



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This one is for you, Jack: Win one for the Yipper!

Dear Jack, 

What an untimely and unfortunate injury!

How will we possibly do it without you?

No one to lead us out on to the court with reckless abandonment and that familiar bulldog swagger

No one to pose for pictures with adoring fans who have come from near and far

No one to spark the crowd to let out a collective: “Ahhhhh! Isn’t he cute?”

No one to show our opponents that we may be small, but we are scrappy and a force to be reckoned with 

Why did you have to show off your physicality by leaping up onto the cushy inviting sofa?

I hear tell a few of the Jesuits heard a nasty pop as you tumbled back on to the floor only to get up maimed.

Oh no, a limp! How will you possibility travel to Ohio and then on to New Orleans?

What will JTIII and crew do?

By reports, the dreaded “doggie” ACL tear, an injury that has ended many an athletes’ career.

How quickly will you mend?  Surely not in time for tip off on Friday. 

Some speculate pending the doggie orthopedic consultation, surgery most likely, followed by a 2 month recovery period including a ban on squirrel chasing.

Jack, though you will not travel with the team, we know that you will be there in spirit.  We are motivated now more than ever (to at least get past the first round this year!).  Yes, win one for Jack, our wounded warrior, our inspiration.

As you relax in the comfort of your home, you know that we will go on.  We have come to play…Because  WE ARE GEORGETOWN!

Wait, all may not be lost.  I may have “the answer” (tribute to you, AI, Are you still playing hoops in Turkey?):

Someone waiting in the wings, perhaps.

Someone who knows he has some pretty big shoes (or is that paws) to fill.  I think I can!  I think I can!

Though a mere pup…. We are confident he will do his best!


And he can slobber with the best of them!

Go Hoyas!

Dedicated to my brother, Gary and his fam, and of course, their new bulldog pup, ELVIS

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March Madness: Dustin’ them off?…

 You bet I am!

Roughly 120 hours and 7200 minutes, but who is counting? Of course, I am.

I want to awake from my stuporous state.  I am racking up a GCS of about 4.  Yes, I open my eyes spontaneously, I am confused and disoriented and I do withdraw from painful stimuli. I have pretty much been out of it since the Giants hoisted the Lombardi trophy.  Sure, Jeremy Lin sparked my interest for awhile, got a serotonin surge, only to crash after Peyton Manning’s heartfelt news conference, which only worsened my seasonal affective disorder.  (By the end of it…Tearful, I wanted to give him the 28 million).

After a taste of the Big East tournament, I can feel it.  Things are a changing. The propofol drip has been turned off. My circadian rhythm is resetting.  A metamorphosis, if you will.  Today, rejuvenated, I sprung out of my bed without the aid of my alarm.  Tripping over piles of clothes (those who know me know I am a slob) and rushed to my closet…now where did I put them?  I seem to remember throwing them in disgust after VCU took down the Hoyas and then Butler took out Shaka.

There they were hiding behind about 10 pairs of black boots and my stacks of People and US weekly magazines, in all their glory…my  Manolo Blahniks…I waited all year; finally it is here… a reason to get me out of my UGGS and my post NFL funk.  Something that can wean me off the effexor and stop that post holiday slim-fast madness.

Yeah, that’s right….We’d be dancing!

While Championship week can be exciting in its own right, those scraping to win the conference and a bid, those on the bubble trying to tip the scales in their favor through their determined play, there is still nothing like the “True Madness”. Oh, the anticipation.   Be still my heart.  First, Selection Sunday, some we expected, others we scratch our heads and just wonder.  Then we get down to business.

While Bracketology was a course I never took in school (see SMD post 3/13/11:, I have since learned it well.  While the secrets to my success are many (see SMD post 3/15/11, there in reality is no predicting.  Teams that are suppose to run their bracket, lose in the early rounds, others come out of no where to thrill us… There is no rhyme or reason.. There is a certain fickleness to it all.  Powerhouse teams who are winners all year get tripped up and go home stunned.

Though my knees are killing me thanks to that stop watch weilding drill sergeant who re-certified me in BLS this week (yes get that…BLS), I think my patella chrondomalacia will calm down by tip off next Tuesday at least enough to slip into my Manolos.  It also happens to be the first day of NFL free agency.  Perhaps by then some lucky NFL team will be dancing with joy after Peyton announces.

I am looking forward to seeing the usuals…Calipari, Coach K, Izzo, Roy Williams, Shaka (is he turning into one of the boys?), Boeheim, JTIII, Calhoun (is U Conn making a run, never count them out…remember last year).  It may have been a year lacking in star power in general, but the usual occasional upsets and implosions (aka..Rick Pitino? What happened to Louisville?) can always be counted on.  ND got streaky knocking off ‘Cuse and others only to lose steam in the end.  Going into March Madness we don’t have the great stars like last year and years prior…the ones we couldn’t wait to tune in to watch.  We don’t have the buzz of Kemba, Jimmer, Derrick Williams, the Morris twins, or Kyrie, but then again that’s what we love about the tournament.  That’s the beauty.  We never know who is going to step up. Who will be the Cinderella? Who will put their school on the map (e.g.. Joey Rodriquez VCU last year)? 

During these upcoming few weeks, we all become fans, we relish cheering for the underdogs and we enjoy the buzzer beating wins.  Players’ names become household words and we find ourselves rooting for little known schools like George Mason, Western Kentucky, and St. Mary’s.

It is nice to see them showcase their talents in front of the whole nation; hoping for their Christian Laettner moment (Blue Devil TG that’s for you), trying to leave their mark.  While no more than a few will play in the NBA (and they know that) for a short time they are all center stage.  Yes, for a short time, they are dancing and that is all that matters.

Let the games begin.

Dedicated to my dear friend and confidante, David T, a college basketball fanatic, a Razorback, reader of my SMD blog and all around good guy.



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Jeremy Lin: Start spreading the news and the opportunity

All you need is a chance.

Hard work and an opportunity. 

And in his case thanks to Baron Davis’s herniated disc the opportunity presented itself

Take home message: Seize the opportunity

 He knows his strengths and weaknesses.  He admits he is not the best of athletes.  He protests that you really can’t truly appreciate what kind of player he is until you see him play a few times and watch him play as part of a team.  One on one, two on two, three on three, doesn’t tell the tale. He is not going to wow you the first time you see him. He says he is effective and knows how to play the game…And boy does he ever.

 The Tim Tebow of the NBA.  To say that NYC is riding high over the past month is an understatement….first the Giants, now the Knicks.. Excitement reins supreme.  A feel good story.

 Out of no where, over the past few weeks, a mild mannered Asian American hoops player, a Harvard economics grad, who wants to be a pastor some day, has been schooling the NBA, outscoring Kobe, out smarting his opponents, winning games with threes at the buzzer, thrilling the crowds, energizing the arenas (both home and away) and shooting the lights out…this overnight sensation has racked up so many points in his first five career starts he has surpassed the previous record held by Shaquille O’Neal.  He has had at least 20 points and seven assists in his first four starts. He is fearless on the court.

 The humble 23 year old went un-recruited out of high school.  Though he led his Palo Alto high school basketball team to a state title, Stanford had no interest.  PAC 10 schools said he could try to walk on, no scholarships came his way. Over looked by many, his scholastic aptitude and his desire not be on walk on lead him to Harvard, who unable to offer a scholarship, guaranteed he would play.  To graduate with a 3.1 GPA in economics while playing basketball speaks to his discipline and work ethic.  Overlooked again, he went undrafted by the NBA, but signed with Golden State, he was released a year later to make room for the salary cap. The Houston Rockets picked him up for a nanosecond, only to be dropped and then claimed by the Knicks off waivers at the end of December.

 Prima donna sports stars,  take note…A wake up call…show up to play or don’t show up at all.  Those of you who question the need for practice, for working hard, who show up just to collect a pay check, act out on an off the court, disrespect your coaches and fellow team mates….Your jobs are in jeopardy.  Coaches will be looking for their Jeremy Lin.

How many more Jeremy Lin’s are sitting on the bench lying in wait? They are hungry.  Perhaps someone from a Division III school, a player who has a revolving door with the D league, someone who has been overlooked for what ever reason.  Jeremy Lin has empowered these players.  He is living their dream of playing in the NBA; not only playing in the NBA but winning in the NBA.

He no longer has to sleep on the couch in his brother’s NYC apartment.  The overnight sensation is the toast of the town…Gracing the cover of SI…He gives testimony to the phrase put me in coach…He is ready to play.  He has won the hearts and minds of not only NYC (which is a monumental task in its own right) but of the nation.  

We all deserve a chance. It is what we do with our chance that defines us.

Dedicated to NY fan, Kyle P. and Leyi L. who is enjoying the lin-sanity

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Jim and John: Let’s hear it for the boys!

It is what it is… 

The Harbaugh brothers…are winners. 

Some don’t care for their brashness, their exuberant side line celebrations; chest bumping players; their aggressive slaps on the backs of opponent coaches,

Whatever it is about these guys that may rub you the wrong way…annoy you . They are transformer and builders..They turn players into winners.  I can not even imagine if one of them had the likes of Tebow on one of their teams.  They would be combustible, splitting atoms. . Some believe their father is the brains behind their play books…the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree….Who has it better than us? No-body… 

Their father is influential no doubt…just like the Mannings’, or if you go to a Georgetown basketball game, you will notice big John Thompson, Jr trying unsuccessfully to blend into the crowd. 

Some sons are rebellious, defiant of their fathers.  They purposefully don’t walk in the footsteps…Most trying not to listen to their inner selves, not giving in to the calling…on purpose not developing the interest though they have the proclivity given to them at birth….It is true we all have different interests but we underestimate the power of nurturing.  Of showing children that we love what we do… They to should do what they love and love what they do…. 

How did they turn into the coaches they are today?  One can not deny their parental influence…taking the opportunities given to them… Did their name open the doors for them? Sure did, but they had to be productive or they would not have continued to advance to more sought after positions in the world of coaching culminating in head coaches in the NFL..How much do they love the game?….Jim for years was an NCAA certified unpaid assistant coach at Western Kentucky helping his father with the offensive and recruiting duties.  An apprenticeship in the transition to coaching…..All NFL players do not make good coaches and he saw that he needed to start at ground level…he knew he had to pay his dues..  He worked his way up through the ranks from University of San Diego to Stanford and now the 49ers.  He has single handedly turned the teams around, working to get the best out of the players he has..Making lemonade from in point Alex Smith and in John’s case Joe Flacco…You like to try to build your team around a strong quarterback who can put up big numbers.  While in both cases, not all stars but they manage to win, even if they rely on their defense or win ugly…it is still a win…And in both cases, while Drew, Aaron and others will be home watching today in the comfort of their living rooms both of these guys are playing for a Super Bowl berth.

 The Harbaughs got it.  A work ethic..that is something that is hard to teach…it is a learned behavior… Will there be a Harbaugh bowl? 50/50 chance… Who knows but at this point both young coaches have won the hearts and minds of their players.  They are leaders…and one of them may lead their team  to Indianapolis and a Lombardi trophy. 

 Dedicated to Mark C., a new father (for the 4th time), excellent physician and a Baltimore Ravens fan.

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The Young Hoyas: Tough Going in Morgantown

It was bound to happen….Over the years, Huggy Bear and the Mountaineers seem to have their number particularly in Morgantown.

Though their streak has been broken, their potential is noted…They have made their mark so early in the year and should not be taken lightly.

Alabama, well maybe it was a fluke? Almost took out Kansas, curious? Knocked off Memphisx 2..what’s up with that? then we watched as they shocked the TV viewing audience with a huge win over 4th ranked Louisville…I guess they are for real…up next Marquette, we thought it was all over but then a come from behind win solidified their ranking in the top ten.  A team that was not even ranked amongst the top 25, for that matter, the top 50 teams in the nation’s pre-season polls has come alive…

We saw a glimmer of their scrappiness when they mixed it up in China, but we never fathomed that they would come out this year and be “the team” everyone is talking about…They got moxie.

With this year’s fumbling Redskins, the coaching change for the Caps and the poor start for the Wizards, at least D.C. has one exciting team to rally around….we surely aren’t rallying around Congress these days yet alone referring to them as a bunch of team players.

I must admit, I do so enjoy when my acquaintances comment on the Hoyas recent play.  It was a frequent topic of conversation at family gatherings during the holiday season: A repeated refrain during Christmas caroling: “Wow, big win for the Hoyas last night”…

During these crazy couple of weeks, I restrained myself from writing about them for fear that I would jinx them…didn’t want to take responsibility for breaking the streak.. I daresent even acknowledge it.

Admittingly, I had somehow lost my blogging enthusiasm for a short while or perhaps it was a lack of time, the hustle and bustle of the holidays, or even more likely my pre-occupation with my Fantasy Football team; I fell into a funk when Ahmad Bradshaw decided to be a bad boy and miss curfew and Demarco Murray came up lame with a nasty tib-fib fracture resulting in a 1 fantasy point performance. In one fell swoop, my backfield imploded, not even Drew could save me and I missed an opportunity to advance in the playoffs….My year was over…I wake up trembling and sweaty…withdrawal perhaps?…Yes, my name is Smash Mouth Diva and I am a Fantasy Football addict..…I found no joy in the juicy opportunity to blog about Tebow’s winning ways; the right time, past me by…. The only thing that kept me going during those dark days was my eye opener: A Hoya victory: waking up to find out if the Hoyas had won the night before seemed to calm, yet excite.. My CIWA scale was 0: No medication necessary.

What’s different about this year’s team? It’s just that.. They are playing like a team.  Last year as Chris Wright and Austin Freeman went, so did the Hoyas.  The rest of the team counted on (understandably so) these senior leaders to win games.  This year they are looking to each other.  At the helm, the likable JTIII is masterfully rebuilding his team.  Well known for not using a whistle during practices, he wants the players to recognize and listen for his voice.  He is molding the talent he has, which speaks to JTIII’s coaching prowess and the amazing job he has already done this season. He is giving everyone the opportunity to develop and mature.  His freshman  including Otto Porter, Jabril Trawick, Greg Whittington are being worked into the rotation and seeing a lot of playing time along side the returning Hollis Thompson and Jason Clark.  Both have their own unique strengthens (Thompson’s 3’s,Clark’s quickness, playmaking abilities and leadership) but are equally important as scorers.   They are a fast and scrappy bunch.

Now the Hoyas are well known for this style of play over the past several years.  They come out like gang busters in the beginning of the season. They elevate their game above the level of expectation and leave it all out on the court throughout the season and in the Big East tourney only to lose steam by March.  With Henry Simms continuing to mature and his stepping up his game, the Hoyas will have the big man they have been lacking since the Roy Hibbert years and it may make the difference down the line. We already see a hint of this as assists and rebounding is much better…

Today, the young Hoyas couldn’t find their groove, fraught with turnovers and the lack of their signature 3 point shooting really hurt them.  Maybe the pressure is now off and they don’t have to subconsciously think about a winning streak every time they step on the court.  They can focus on winning one game at a time.  The second most wonderful time of the year (March Madness) will soon be upon us.

The young Hoyas aren’t done..not by a long shot..they will be back, JTIII will see to it.  Just as likely as Tebow kneeling on the sideline…..I couldn’t resist mentioning him…a little Tebowing never hurt anyone….not even the Hoyas.

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Drew Brees: The Field General

Why do we love you, Drew?

Let us count the reasons….

You are a gun slinger who never quits

You broke Dan Marino’s single season passing record this year

You can throw a football a country mile

Your accuracy is spot on

You can air it out

Your leadership is palpable

You show up to play

You rally your team with a rousing pre-game Marine chant

You give back to your community

You are a franchise player

You can pump fake

You can run out of the pocket

You use Vicks when you have a cold

You have a cute birthmark on your right cheek (thought it was a scar)

You worked out with the Marines atGuantanamoBay

You support our troops

You are a role model

You averaged over 25 Fantasy Football points a game

You are my Fantasy Football quarterback

You study and prepare before games

You like to throw the long ball

You run for first downs

You are fearless

You get down and dirty

You make watching football exciting

You inspire greatness

You got it going on

You beat the Madden cover curse

You are tenacious

You stand up to bullying

You may lead your team back to the Super Bowl

You are all that is good in football

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