Raphielle Johnson's Blog
In a joint written statement released today, Iona College and former head basketball coach Jeff Ruland have come to a mutual agreement on the terms of a contract settlement for the last two years of his contract. In his nine years in New Rochelle, Ruland led his alma mater to three MAAC titles and three NCAA Tournaments.
Well, the Final Four is set, and with three of my picks still alive (Memphis was the other), bracket entry "rjaymoose will not win" indeed has a shot to take first place. All I need is for Florida to beat Georgetown next Monday, but both have their work cut out for them before the even get to that point. While the games were going on, there were two stories involving hoops on Tobacco Road that caught my attention.
According to the New York Post, Iona will relieve mens basketball coach Jeff Ruland of his head coaching duties. Ruland, 139-134 in nine seasons at his alma mater, is currently on vacation in Caribbean and any announcement regarding the direction of the program will be delayed until he returns. One year after the Gaels went 23-8 and represented the MAAC in the NCAA Tournament, injuries hit the team hard to the tune of a 2-28 record.
If the report is indeed true, Iona will pay Ruland $1.2 million to buy out the remaining two years of his contract.
Well, my bracket was officially done for at about 1:50 PST on Friday, when Winthrop did waht many expected them to do and beat Notre Dame. I had the Irish in the Elite 8, thinking that the good effort against Georgetown combined with the fact that not too many besides you-know-who on ESPN had them winning that game. I was wrong. Some other flame-outs from my bracket:
Friday, March 2nd (first round)
1. #8 Canisius vs. #9 St. Peter's 7:30 PM EST
2. #7 Rider vs. #10 Iona 10 PM EST
Saturday, March 3rd (quarterfinals)
3. #4 Siena vs. #5 Manahttan 2 PM EST
4. #1 Marist vs. Game 1 winner 4 PM EST
5. #2 Niagara vs. Game 2 winner 7:30 PM EST
6. #3 Loyola (MD) vs. #6 Fairfield 10 PM EST
Sunday, March 4th (semifinals)
7. Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner 6 PM EST
8. Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 8:30 PM EST
Monday, March 5th (championship)
9. Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner 9 PM EST (ESPN2)
In a game that can be seen on ESPN2 at 11 am EST, Siena will visit Marist in hopes of winning a share of the MAAC regular season title. A Siena win today would also give surprising Niagara a shot at the title, so long as the Purple Eagles, winners of their last seven, take care of Rider on Sunday. Siena's Kenny Hasbrouck and Marist's Jared Jordan make up one of the better guard matchups in a game this season, but whichever team can get something from their bench today will win this one. Of the two teams, Marist (12-0 when their bench outscores the opponent's reserves) gets a little more on the average from their reserves, such as Wilfred "Spongy" Benjamin and Shae McNamara. Foul trouble, especially to the big men on both teams, could force both coaches to go past their comfort levels when it comes to how to use their bench. Due to the home court advantage, I like the Red Foxes to claim their first outright MAAC title ever. And if you're a Red Fox fan going to the game, be sure to wear white.
Am I the only person watching the Drexel/Creighton game tonight that was confused about the emphasis on "bench decorum"? Each head coach, Bruiser Flint of Drexel and Dana Altman of Creighton, was T'd up in this BracketBusters game that the visiting Dragons eventually won 64-58. Altman's technical, in which he was called for being about six inches outside of the coaches box, brought back memories of Dean Smith getting a T for the same offense in the 1991 Final Four. Coach Altman said nothing to the official to warrant this call, just happened to do something that coaches throughout the nation have been doing for years. Drexel went on a run after this, and things seemed to be going well for the Dragons until Coach Flint found himself on the wrong side of the whistle when yelling at his player for a foolish reach-in foul. Jumping into the air and yelling at his guy wouldn't have been a problem (nor should it be) had an official not been right next ot Flint. Luckily for Drexel, they were able to hold on despite some horrific foul shooting (at one point they had missed five straight from the charity stripe).
I begin this blog with a quote from my last post:
"Although you normally want to wait until a team plays more than two games to state that they are the clear favorite to win their conference, can anybody truly challenge Penn at the top of the Ivy League? Preseason prognosticators tabbed Princeton to finish second, but they're sitting in last place right now. Maybe Cornell or Yale? Who knows, but I'll take the Quakers over the field." (January 29th)
Whoops. After this weekend's games (a sweep of Princeton and Penn), James Jones' Yale Bulldogs are atop the Ivy League with a 5-1 conference record. Yale is led by the tandem of guard Eric Flato and guard/forward Casey Hughes. This is an experienced ballclub that should hang around for the duration of the season and challenge for the league's automatic bid. They've played two more games than Penn, which explains the two-game lead in the win column (they're tied in the loss category), and they've got the Columbia/Cornell road swing this coming weekend. If they can get through that with at least a split, if not a sweep, the Bulldogs have their next four games at home. The season ends with games at Penn and Princeton, and those games could indeed decide who represents the Ivy in the NCAA Tournament.
If you think that the Blue Devils I'm referring to in the title hail from Durham, NC...you're incorrect. These guys are the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils, and they hail from New Britain, aka "hard-hittin' New Britain". Howie Dickenman's bunch, picked by the coaches to finish fourth in the NEC, lead Sacred Heart by one game in the loss column heading into their game at Quinnipiac tonight. Junior guard Tristan Blackwood is the reigning NEC PLayer of the Week after lighting up St. Francis (NY) and Sacred Heart to the tune of 27.5 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Blackwood went 14-for-29 from behind the arc in the two games, and a win over the Bobcats would give CCSU even more distance between themselves and the rest of the NEC. And with the higher seeds in the the conference tournament getting home court advantage, any team hoping to get to the NCAA Tournament will have to go through New Britain to do so.
With a slate full of games from the Big Ten and Big East, you'd expect to only have to concentrate on scores Wednesday night. Well, that all went out the window when Boston College announced that center Sean Williams and forward Akida McLain were dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules. Further details should be released in the coming days, but going into Littlejohn Coliseum to face an angry group of Clemson Tigers shorthanded is not a good way to spend your Saturday. The dismissed pair have been in Coach Al Skinenr's doghouse in the past for behavioral reasons, having missed games the past two seasons as a result. Those transgressions were taken care of at the beginning of each season, however, and that's what makes this episode all the more surprising.