Well, Vermont takes on Maryland in the regional final of the Coaches vs. Cancer (the proper name is the "College Hoops Classic benefitting Coaches vs. Cancer")tonight, and this is a game that I'm really looking forward to. Why? Well, Maryland head coach Gary Williams had quite a few things to say in the aftermath of his team being left out of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Of course, it would make more sense to have the Terps play a team from the Missouri Valley, but we won't get that chance this year. So Mike Lonergan's Catamounts will have to do, and they have a shot at this one. Freshman Joe Trapani dropped 20 on New Orleans last night, quite an awakening for someone such as myself, who looked at the season opener as a chance to see UNO star Bo McCalebb play for the first time since the 2004-05 season (he sat out last year with a knee injury). Vermont will challenge for top honors in America East this year, and a win tonight could really get things going. As for Maryland, this game along with a home date down the road with Winthrop will be watched intently by fans of conferences thought to be "inferior" to the BCS leagues. But if there are people out there with that same narrow view of college basketball after last season, then maybe they should tune into something else.
Brown opens in another region of the same tournament in East Lansing against Michigan State. Unlike the fans at Maryland last night, I have a feeling that the "Izzone" will be full tonight. On a national level, this is game one of the whole "Drew Neitzel gets to create for himself more" experiment. I think it'll work out well for the Spartans, who will still hang their hats on hard-nosed play. As for Brown, not much is expected of them in the Ivy this year, but keep an eye on how well they adapt to new head coach Craig Robinson and the Princeton-style offense that he wants to use. If they play it well they can hang around for a little while.
The season truly kicks off on Friday, and some games in the Northeast to keep an eye on include:
St. Francis (NY) at Syracuse: Will the Orange miss Gerry McNamara, and how much of an impact will Paul Harris have;
Sacred Heart at Fordham: There are higher expectations for the Rams. Are they up to the challenge, or has nothing changed after all;
Quinnipiac at Connecticut: With nine newcomers in Storrs, how long do you give Jim Calhoun before he makes that first (get his behind out of the game now) substitution;
Buffalo at Canisius: The winner holds bragging rights in Buffalo.
And lastly, I'd like to send my condolences to the family, friends and teammates of Miami defensive lineman Bryan Pata. There's a time to discuss the direction of a program, and this isn't one of them. I wish them the best.