Well, either none of you really care about Patriot League basketball or you guys are the most impossible homers on the planet. Most of you picked the good guys to win the conference. You might be rethinking that position after Towson stomped a mudhole in the Mids on Friday night. If you were hoping to think that Towson is really good as a way of easing the sting, that was crushed on Sunday as Niagara carried out a similar mudhole-stomping on the Tigers. The Mids have a lot of kinks to work out before Patriot League play begins.

Anyway, one more weekend down, one more chance for the ACC to screw everything up. More specifically, Wake Forest screwed everything up by losing to North Carolina State. A win would have given the Deacs a 5-2 record in the conference, making it pretty tough for them to fall to the EagleBank Bowl. Instead they’re 4-3 with only Boston College left on their league schedule. The Eagles did their part to avoid RFK Stadium by beating Florida State to get to 3-3. But now either Wake or BC is guaranteed to lose, meaning that one of them will be no better than 4-4. As the two teams most likely to be picked last by the ACC’s bowl games, that means hello, Washington. And hello, rematch.

School Conference Pct. Overall Pct.
Maryland 4-2 .667 7-3 .700
Florida State 4-3 .571 7-3 .700
Wake Forest 4-3 .571 6-4 .600
Boston College 3-3 .500 7-3 .700
Clemson 3-4 .429 5-5 .500
NC State 2-4 .333 4-6 .400
School Conference Pct. Overall Pct.
Miami 4-2 .667 7-3 .700
Georgia Tech 4-3 .571 7-3 .700
North Carolina 3-3 .500 7-3 .700
Virginia Tech 3-3 .500 6-4 .600
Virginia 3-3 .500 5-5 .500
Duke 1-5 .167 4-6 .400

Of course, that assumes that Virginia wins a game to become bowl eligible. They have Clemson and Virginia Tech left to play, so it’s no guarantee. If they don’t win, then the ACC won’t have 9 eligible teams. The EagleBank Bowl will then have to turn elsewhere. Originally it was reported that “elsewhere” meant the MAC, but that may not be the case. Reports from back in April that the MAC was the guaranteed replacement if the ACC did not field 9 eligible teams were premature. The EagleBank Bowl will instead pick from all at-large candidates. A smart move, really, since a MAC team will still be there if you really want one.

So what might be available? Notre Dame becoming bowl eligible shakes up the Big East a bit. Including the Irish, the Big East has 6 teams eligible. Rutgers will become team #7 with a win over Army this weekend. Louisville is also one win away, but needs to beat either Rutgers or West Virginia to get there. With only 6 Big East bowl tie-ins, someone should be left hanging.

The Big Ten has 7 bowl partners and 7 eligible schools. Illinois can become #8, which would leave someone hanging there, too. If a second team from the conference is selected for a BCS game, though, there won’t be anyone left out.

Conference USA probably won’t have anyone left over. The MAC might have one or two.

So the question for this week is the same as the question two weeks ago, only expanding beyond ACC choices. Who do you want to play in the EagleBank Bowl? I don’t even know how realistic some of these are, but who cares? Pick anyway.


It’s Tuesday once again. But it isn’t just any Tuesday, of course. It’s the second Tuesday in November, otherwise otherwise known as Veterans’ Day here in the Land of the Free. Considering this blog’s audience, it’s a pretty meaningful day; at least a little more than to the average American, anyway. We give thanks to those who have served. Those of us who have served remember the brothers and sisters that joined us, especially the ones who have passed away. People like J.P. Blecksmith, who gave his life four years ago today at Fallujah. While we remember all veterans today, take a moment to also remember the anniversary of J.P.’s sacrifice.

In last week’s poll, I asked who you’d want to face in the EagleBank Bowl. Not surprisingly, Maryland was the winner, with 21% of the votes. Playing someone new doesn’t outweigh the chance for you Anne Arundel County residents to stir up a little rivalry with your neighbors, it seems. My personal preference, Virginia, came in second. I like Virginia for a few reasons. They were a regular on Navy schedules from the late 60s into the 90s; George Welsh didn’t feel right beating up on the alma mater every year, so he stopped playing the Mids. Playing the Cavaliers again would be a lot of fun for me. It would also be good for the EagleBank Bowl folks, who would love to see a local team bring a crowd to match Navy’s. Virginia Tech would also fit the bill there, but chances are that both Virginia Tech and the Terps will be picked up by other bowl games long before the EagleBank Bowl gets the ninth pick.

The picture is a little clearer after this weekend’s games. Eight ACC teams are now bowl eligible: Florida State, Wake Forest, Maryland, Boston College, UNC, Miami, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech. Virginia is one win away, at 5-5. Clemson, at 4-5, needs to win out to become bowl-eligible because they played two I-AA teams. They play each other next week, so only one of them will qualify. Duke is 4-5 and needs to win two out of their last three to be eligible.

The important thing to look at is their conference records. The “Boston College Rule” is an ACC rule that means that a bowl game can’t pick a team that’s more than a game behind the next highest team in the conference standings. So if UNC is 5-3 and Virginia is 4-4, a bowl game could choose UVa over UNC. If Virginia is 3-5, that bowl game would have to take UNC. Right now, Florida State and Wake Forest are both 4-2. Maryland, Miami, Virginia Tech, and UNC are 3-2. Georgia Tech is 4-3, Virginia is 3-3, Boston College is 2-3, Clemson is 2-4, and Duke is 1-4. Given all that, it’s hard to see how we won’t end up with Boston College or Duke. If Clemson manages to win out (they won’t), they will be with several other teams that will likely be at 4-4. They’ll get picked before they drop to #9. A bowl-eligible Virginia can’t finish any worse than 4-4 in the conference, either. There are a lot of games to be played, but it looks like the teams that don’t travel very well– Boston College and Duke– aren’t going to win enough games to force any bowl games higher up the ladder to pick them. So here’s what we gotta do:

  1. Root against Duke. Hard. They have to win 2 out of 3 against Clemson, UNC, and Virginia Tech, so hopefully this isn’t too much to ask.
  2. Root for Boston College. This is a tougher one. BC plays Florida State, Wake Forest, and Maryland, which is no easy stretch. If they win no more than 1 of those games, it’s pretty much a lock that they’ll end up in Washington if 9 ACC teams qualify.
  3. Root for Wake Forest to beat NC State this weekend. With 5 wins, there’s no way they can drop to #9.

After that, it’s a mess. If Clemson, Duke, and Virginia all fail to qualify– a real possibility– then we’ll start looking to the MAC.

But that’s enough of last week’s poll question. For this week’s question, we turn to basketball. It’s a huge weekend in Navy sports. By the time Monday rolls around, the basketball team will already have two games under their belts. The Mids play at Towson on Friday, then come home to play Howard on Sunday afternoon. You might think that expectations would be pretty high for Navy this year, considering that they broke through for a winning record and a second-place finish in the Patriot League last season. According to the preseason poll of coaches and SIDs, however, that’s not the case. Navy was picked to finish a rather absurd sixth in the conference.

Clearly, the loss of Patriot League POY Greg Sprink weighed heavily on the minds of the voters; enough that they didn’t think that Navy would be much of a team without him. I completely disagree. No one player will do everything that Sprink did, but the rest of the starting 5, plus the addition of Idaho transfer O.J. Avworo at point guard, should probably be even harder to defend. Don’t get me wrong; I have some serious questions about the program right now. Specifically, WHY IS EVERYONE LEAVING??? But for this year, I think Navy will be even better and should contend for the Patriot League title again.

Navy’s not the only team in the Patriot League with a lot of returning talent, though. American is the preseason favorite for a good reason. Who do you think will win the conference?

Loose Change, 5/1/08

We have a women’s basketball coach! Navy has hired Bowdoin head coach Stefanie Pemper to take charge of its struggling women’s basketball program. I’m not going to pretend to know a thing about Division III women’s basketball, but this:

Bowdoin has become the most consistent Division III power in the nation under Pemper’s direction, leading the program to six-consecutive NCAA Elite 8 appearances (2002-07) and seven-straight trips to the Sweet 16 (2001-07). In 2004, Pemper’s squad compiled a 30-1 mark and became the first team in any sport in school history to play for a National Championship. Pemper was honored after the 2004 season as the WBCA Division III National Coach of the Year.

Pemper’s clubs dominated the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC), winning seven-consecutive league titles from 2001-07 and Bowdoin rarely, if ever, lost at home winning 76-consecutive games from 2001-07, the fourth-longest streak in Division III basketball history.

seems pretty impressive. That success came at a school that is very demanding academically, which I’m sure played a part in Pemper’s hiring. I look forward to seeing how she chooses to unleash the  fury of Cassie Consedine upon the rest of the Patriot League.

The Congressional Bowl is a go. Almost exactly a year after we first heard about the possibility, Christian Swezey has the details about the new bowl game for Washington DC. The Congressional Bowl will be played December 20th between a bowl-eligible Navy team and ACC #9… meaning that it’ll probably be a bowl-eligible Navy team and someone outside the ACC. The MAC was the rumored backup candidate should the ACC not have 9 eligible teams, which it probably won’t. Still left to be decided is whether the game will be played at the new Nationals Park or at trusty ol’ RFK. The Nats’ new home is certainly the shinier and more glamorous of the two, but with most Navy fans probably driving to the game, everyone’s going to end up parking at RFK anyway. Might as well play the game there. (Disclaimer: Football games at RFK are some of my most treasured childhood memories, and I am extremely biased. )

Bad news for Greg Sudderth. Bill Wagner is reporting that wide receiver Greg Sudderth’s request for a fifth year of eligibility has been denied by the NCAA.

“I’m very disappointed for Greg. I felt he deserved another season,” Niumatalolo said.

“Sometimes, things are too black-and-white with the NCAA. We were hoping they would look at the totality of the situation and the fact this kid has never been able to play a full season.”

Sudderth switched to wide receiver last year after playing most of his career as a defensive back. He appeared to be adjusting well to his new position, blocking aggressively and catching 6 passes over the first half of the season (including impressive grabs against Duke and Delaware) before an ankle injury ended his season. That might not sound like much, but when you consider our leading receiver only had 13 catches all year, it was a significant contribution to the offense. Sudderth was expected to start this year.


Loose Change, 3/28/08

Odds & ends you may have missed over the past week:

– Unfortunately, this week’s Loose Change leads off with news of the passing of Ben Carnevale. There is nothing that I can say that will possibly do him justice. Carnevale is in many ways the father of Navy basketball, and brought the team to the national stage during his 20 years in Annapolis. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970, and the work that he did after being inducted was just as impressive. The game, and our school, owe him their gratitude.

– Lacrosse is the big story this weekend as Navy will try to get the Georgetown monkey off of its back Saturday in a game that will be shown on CBS College Sports. The Inside Lacrosse preview of the game is here. Navy fans in the know have been reading Christian Swezey’s lacrosse blog and learned that Tommy Phelan will be the starting goalkeeper, with Matt Coughlin still nursing his hamstring injury. The Fastest Blog on 2 Feet also has a scouting report on the game from former Navy player and DeMatha coach Dick Long. Pete Medhurst will be calling the game for WNAV with the pregame show starting at 4:45 ET.

– One of the side stories in the Navy-Georgetown game is the matchup of the Mirabito brothers.

– Tony Barnhart made the startling discovery that Navy fans like Paul Johnson. No wai!!!11!1

– You Pitch Right expatriates that only stomach this blog because you don’t have a choice anymore will be pleased to see Adam again as he talks about independents’ spring practice news and notes while guest blogging at In The Bleachers.

– David Flores of the San Antonio Express-News catches up with David Robinson, including his take on this year’s tournament, here.

– A somewhat unusual blog about historical markers has a recent entry on the Bill the Goat statue by Gate 1.

– Another blogger ranks Alumni Hall as the venue for one of his favorite pre-game media buffets.

– A Kentucky paper has a column about an upcoming college boxing tournament being hosted by UK, with a couple mentions of Navy.

– Something I talk about regularly on this blog is the value of intercollegiate athletics to a university.

– Marine Captain and former Navy footballer Brian Stan won the WEC light heavyweight title on Wednesday night with a first-round TKO of defending champion Doug Marshall. There was a brief moment when it looked like Stann was in trouble, but he survived a flurry of punches and landed a haymaker of his own, and that’s all it took. You can watch the fight here.

– The Congressional Bowl found a conference partner: the ACC. That’s good news for Navy:

The NCAA requires prospective bowls to have guaranteed opponents, a TV contract, venue and a letter of credit. Metcalf said all those elements are in place, including documents proving the proposed Congressional Bowl can meet its mandate of paying $1 million to each participating school.

Now that everything’s in place, six wins should be enough for the Mids to find a home in the postseason. No word yet on whether the game will be at RFK or the new Nationals’ ballpark. 

– And finally, the football post-practice presser makes its glorious return! Those changes in the passing game that Niumat talked about in his presser on Monday? Not exactly an overhaul.

We aren’t making any drastic changes. There might be some technique changes, the way we run our routes, the depth at where we run our routes, what foot we lead with, what shoulder we are looking over, real small intricate details that might help us become a little bit more efficient.

Other than that, Niumat says that practice is going OK and that he’s looking to get Jarod Bryant as many reps at slot as Kaipo’s knee will allow.

Wagner: When he was in at quarterback last year it seemed like you ran a package for him with a lot of inside runs and draws. Running the ball as a slot back is different. Do you think he can be as effective running the ball on the outside?

Niumatalolo: I don’t know. That remains to be seen. We are going to find out. All I know is he makes people miss.

Damn skippy.

I think he’ll be OK.

Loose Change, 3/21/08

I’m even mailing it in on my weekly links. Holy crap I suck…

  • Here’s a Q&A with Lehigh’s women’s lacrosse coach, who seems to hold the upstart Navy team in fairly high regard.
  • The Richmond Times-Dispatch had a nice little article about Chris Harris.
  • A wrestler at NAPS, Aaron Kalil, won a national title.
  • Speaking of wrestling, three Navy wrestlers have advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament.
  • Inside Lacrosse has their analysis of Navy lacrosse’s 4-3 OT win over Bucknell here. One point here… Sean Burns says, “I don’t know exactly how a team that has made four straight NCAA tournaments and came into the season ranked No. 9 in the country can play the ‘no respect’ card, but Navy seems to be doing just that in ’08.” He then follows that up with a heading of, “Patriot League: no longer Navy’s playground.” Gee, I wonder where Navy’s getting that idea?
  • And in non-sports news, some duty driver is probably in a lot of trouble right now.

Again, I apologize for my recent funk. One day I hope to write something worth reading.

Loose Change 3/14/08

Odds & ends you may have missed over the past week:

  • Did I mention my March of Dimes walk?
  • Ken Niumatalolo added one more assistant to his coaching staff, hiring former Harvard wide receivers coach Mike Judge to be the new fullbacks coach. The announcement was a bit of a surprise, as Ivin Jasper was originally supposed to coach both the quarterbacks and the fullbacks. I don’t know what changed there.
  • It’s time for this year’s College Football Hall of Fame elections, and once again Wayne Hardin is on the ballot. You may be interested to know that Pat Tillman is as well. Chet Moeller, unfortunately, is not.
  • The Mid-Majority listed its picks for conference award winners. The blog agrees with the Patriot League’s pick for Player of the Year in Greg Sprink, but endorsed Jeff Jones for the coaching honors.
  • It’s spring break at USNA, and the women’s soccer team is spending it in Spain.
  • Spring break also means a trip for the lacrosse team, and for the second straight year they’ll be heading to Dallas. Coming off their best performance of the season against Lehigh, the Mids will look to keep their Patriot League momentum rolling tomorrow when they play Holy Cross at Texas Stadium. A little bit more on the event here. I liked it better when the team went to Orlando on spring break, but I’m biased.
  • Yale Eckert tossed a one-hitter against Iona. And they use aluminum bats!
  • There was a piece in the Washington Times about the Foundation.
  • Matt DaSilva at Lacrosse Magazine ponders whether the Navy women’s lacrosse team will be 16-0 at the end of April. We will find out just how good these Mids are when they take on defending Patriot League champs Holy Cross this weekend.
  • Mike Preston, who is quickly becoming a favorite of mine, discusses how much of a crock it was for the NCAA to have given an extra year of eligibility to last year’s Duke lacrosse seniors.
  • And finally, Mansfield certainly seems to be generating a lot of hoopla for their new sprint football team. But to give you a feel for the current state of sprint football, we have this:

    Steve McCloskey, Mansfield’s director of athletic operations and information, explained that the CSFL season generally includes seven or eight games, and there are no playoffs. The Mountaineers will not compete against Army and Navy this season as the players there “are in training year-round. Their programs are elevated,” McCloskey said.

    He added that the university and the CSFL mutually agreed to give the Mountaineers two years to get ready for the service academies, but Mansfield could play Army and Navy as soon as next season if the Mountaineers think they’re ready.

    It takes two years just to get ready to play the service academies? Come on, it’s not like they’ll do any worse than Princeton. (Oh, and pay no attention to the part in the article that says Cornell won the league this year).

Clubber Gets a New Deal (and other stuff)

Yessir, Billy Lange is now signed through 2012-2013. Some might have described Coach Lange’s hiring as “Gladchuk’s Folly” a few years ago, but he has now produced a winning season, and for that our esteemed coach has been rewarded. Some of you might feel that one season of mild success isn’t enough to warrant a 5-year extension, but I say this is a good move. Practically speaking, it’s important for recruiting purposes. Coach Lange was heading into the final year of his contract. It’s hard to convince anyone of the stability of your program when it isn’t even contractually assured that you’ll be around the next season. Still, Navy fans don’t want another Charlie Weatherbie situation. Weatherbie used his success in 1996 to sign a 10-year contract, but the football program tanked soon afterwards. Navy was stuck paying their former coach for 5 years after he was fired. Naturally, we don’t want the same situation with our basketball coach. But the terms of the contract haven’t been released, so we don’t really know if we’ll be stuck should things go south. (Besides, we already were in that situation with our basketball coach. Don DeVoe was still on the payroll last year.)

I don’t think that we need to worry about that, anyway. Navy basketball has, in my opinion, turned the corner. Over the last few years, Navy wins came when the team had some abnormally high 3-point percentage. They seemed almost flukish. That wasn’t the case this year, especially once the Patriot League season started. The Mids hit 3-pointers at times, but in other games they won by generating steals and getting to the free throw line. By midseason, there was more to this team than just long-range shooting. The team and the coach matured before our eyes. By the time we lost to Howard, I had finally jumped off the Billy Lange bandwagon. I was wrong. I am confident that this year wasn’t a fluke.

Sneaky! Stan Brock has a new offense, but don’t tell anybody! The Army head coach revealed that the coaches’ “retreat” was over, and a new offense is at hand. Just what that offense consists of, he isn’t saying:

“I’m trying to keep it wrapped up for as long as I can,” Brock said. “As long as I do, my opponents don’t know what we are running.”

You mean “opponent,” Stan, because as soon as you play your first game, everyone’s going to know what your offense looks like. What, exactly, is he hoping to accomplish? To try to pull a fast one on Temple? It isn’t like there won’t be reports all over the internet and in the papers anyway once practice starts.What a gong show. Coach Brock needs to be telling anyone who will listen all about the new offense. Give downtrodden Army fans something to be excited about. Generate a little buzz about the the program. This is one of those times when the AD should pull the coach aside, tell him “tough luck,” and start a marketing campaign all about the new-look Army football team. You might gain yourself an advantage for the first half of your season opener, Coach, but that’s hardly worth it in the big picture.

Scheduling update: Mid-American Conference schedules have been released, and two of Navy’s games against MAC opponents have been moved to weeknights. The Ball State game was moved ahead to a Thursday Friday night and will be shown on ESPN. Navy’s trip to Northern Illinois was moved back a couple of days and will now be played on Tuesday night and shown on ESPN2. Ah, November night games in Illinois. Toasty! Anyway, it will be nice to have a Navy game going on in the background of one of ESPN’s local eatery reports and midweek previews of BCS conference games to be played over the weekend.

Shameless solicitation: Good news for people in a generous mood, but unsure of what to do with all of that good will! You can support my March of Dimes walk!

Loose Change 3/7/08

Odds & ends you may have missed over the past week:

  • Spring football practice is beginning around the country, and ESPN.com has three sentences on Navy. You may not have heard, but we have a new head coach!
  • Sadly, Tom Marryott will not be returning next year as the women’s basketball coach. Given the decline of the program since its mid-’90s heyday, this news isn’t much of a surprise. But the inevitablility doesn’t make it any less depressing. The son of a former superintendent, Marryott has been a part of the Navy family his entire life. Marryott was an assistant with the men’s program when he took over the women’s team on an interim basis following the sudden resignation of Joe Sanchez five years ago. After showing some promise in that interim season, Chet awarded Marryott the permanent gig. But the team never seemed to gather much momentum, even in a conference that, frankly, isn’t very good. The rise of the Army program probably didn’t help matters. It’s a shame that things didn’t work out. I think Navy fans everywhere wish Coach Marryott all the best in the future. His staff remains in place for now. We anxiously await word on a new coach!
  • This has been making the rounds in the national news, but since schools selling their souls for athletic success has been a hot topic on this blog, I thought I’d mention it here. Harvard is now under the microscope.
  • In the “no-brainer” category, David Robinson has been nominated for the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.
  • Bad news keeps pouring in for the Air Force basketball program as freshman Mark Summerfield has left the Academy. Nothing sinister about this one, though. The kid just decided the military wasn’t for him. It happens.
  • Remember the Patriot Bowl? The game that was supposed to be between a service academy and a MAC school, held in Cleveland each year as part of a festival of military demonstrations and whatnot? Well, it’s still happening. Just without a service academy.
  • Remember the AAFL? The new professional football league centered around major college football hubs? There were reports of that league’s demise yesterday, although those appear to have been a little premature. But the league is facing some problems right now, and may have to postpone their inaugural season until 2009.
  • Army’s home opener against Temple has been moved to Friday night. I don’t care any more than you do, but there was a line in the press release that I found interesting:

    It will mark the only non-Saturday football game of the year for the Black Knights, home or away. Each of the Army’s remaining 11 contests, including all five home games, will remain on Saturday. Kickoff times for all of those games will be announced later in the year.

    I thought that part of Army’s ESPN contract was that they would play 1-2 games per year on either ESPN or ESPN2. That means Thursday or Friday night, since ESPN usually leaves their Saturdays free for BCS-conference games. Does this mean that Army could be geting a game on the Mothership on an actual Saturday? OK, so maybe that wasn’t really interesting either.

  • The women’s lacrosse team won again. This time they pitched a shutout, beating St. Francis (PA) 24-0 in a game that was originally supposed to be the season opener. Maybe the right baseball analogy would be a perfect game, since the Mids prevented the hapless Red Flash from even taking a shot. OK, now this is getting ridiculous. Navy’s newest varsity team has a slightly more interesting matchup tomorrow with fellow Division I newcomer Cincinnati, followed by what will probably be another snoozer on Sunday against St. Mary’s. Fortunately, Patriot League play starts next weekend, with Holy Cross coming to town.
  • Not sports related, but now mids can do part of their summer cruise at a U.S. Embassy? Really? How cool is that?
  • Hold your nose before you read this love-fest for Air Force coaches. It’s nothing that you’d otherwise care about, but it includes a Paul Johnson quote.
  • ESPN.com says, “Bucknell senior John Griffin tapped into all his experience to hit a 40-footer to beat Navy.” Experience? Do they practice that shot at Bucknell or something? I guess “John Griffin gets lucky” isn’t as good of a read. Anyway, our friend Gary Lambrecht weighs in on Navy basketball, too.
  • And finally… The first one was so massive, it changed my life forever. And now it’s happening again! I’m talking, of course, about the Sale of the Century, the greatest idea in the history of human thought. Last time, there were all kinds of jerseys, sweatshirts, t-shirts, duffel bags, ballcaps, and enough equipment to outfit a small lacrosse league. This time, if the retired Under Armour lax jerseys are on sale, there may have to be contests of strength and skill just to determine who gets the chance to buy them. The SOTC will be held before the Hopkins game. The weekend’s fun actually begins the night before with the annual Blue & Gold spring football game. GoMids.com is sponsoring a tailgater before the game, sponsored by Red Hot & Blue. David Ausiello is coordinating the event, and has announced that any proceeds will go to the Fallyn Zembiec Educational Fund:


    All Proceeds to Benefit Education Fund for Daughter of Former Navy Wrestler

    (Annapolis, MD) – GOMIDS.COM will be hosting its first-ever tailgate party on Friday, April 18th prior to Navy football’s annual Blue & Gold spring game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Maryland.  The party will begin at 5 p.m. and food will be available until 8 p.m. – one hour after the game begins.

    All proceeds from the tailgate will be donated to the Fallyn Zembiec Educational Fund established to honor the memory of her father, Doug, who was killed on May 11, 2007 in combat operations in Baghdad, Iraq.

    Zembiec, 34, a career Marine who held the rank of Major, graduated in 1995 from the United States Naval Academy where he was a two-time All-American wrestler.

    The Annapolis eatery, Red, Hot & Blue is catering the event, and the cost (which includes drinks) is $25 for adults and $10 for children, 12 and under.   Tickets must be purchased by April 4th.  Click here to buy your tickets today.

    Most of you probably already know the story of former Navy All-American and “Lion of Fallujah” Doug Zembiec. If not, you should. You can start here.


During the radio broadcast of Navy’s 72-66 win over Holy Cross in Alumni Hall two weeks ago, Bob Socci commented more than once about how flustered Holy Cross looked, while Navy was playing with relative composure. The Crusaders had won the regular-season Patriot League title four of the last seven years, while the upstart Navy team had finished either last or next to last in the League every year since 2001-2002. If you hadn’t already known that going in, you might have had the history of these two teams mixed up while watching the end of that game.

It was an important step for Billy Lange’s squad. In the past– as recently as a month earlier against Army– the Mids had a tendency to overreact. Their fast-paced, 3-point shooting style of play meant that it wasn’t at all unusual for them to race out to an early lead against teams that weren’t mentally prepared to handle that kind of aggressive basketball. But basketball is a game of runs, and when the other team started to get a little bit of momentum, Navy got way too desperate, way too early. Shot selection got worse. Passing was forced, leading to more turnovers. There were more fouls 20+ feet from the basket. Added up, it compounded the problem. What should have been an 8-0 run would become a game-altering 20-4 run. Navy would panic themselves out of games.

But that didn’t happen that night, nor did it happen at any other point during the 6-game winning streak that shot Navy to the top of the conference standings. In only one of those 6 games– at home against American– did Navy win a game by a double-digit margin. Against Army, the Mids actually had to claw their way back from a 10-point deficit. Navy didn’t build a huge lead and coast to victory in those six games; they played hard-fought basketball for 40 minutes, and found ways to pull away at the end. They were composed.

In the Patriot League tournament quarterfinals last night against Bucknell, we saw both the best and the worst of Navy basketball. It was an entire season wrapped into one game. The first half was the best of Navy; the 3-point shooting, Greg Sprink driving to the basket, and an aggressive defense that leads to steals. The second half was the opposite; Navy shot only 28% from the floor while allowing Bucknell to hit 52% of their shots and erase a 10-point lead that Navy had going into the locker room.

I was very tempted last night to call it a choke, but that wouldn’t be fair. Yes, Navy blew a 17-point lead, and the game should not have gone to overtime. But it did. And once overtime began, the composure that was missing in second half reappeared. Kaleo Kina’s 3-pointer to send the game into a third overtime was as clutch as it gets. T.J. Topercer’s rebound and putback with two seconds left in that third overtime should have been good enough to win the game. Sometimes miracles happen, but when they do it’s really only a miracle for one team. For the other, it’s a curse. I’m not sure what we did to deserve that kind of retribution, but if you’re reading, Karma– I consider our debt to be paid.

You win some, you lose some, you have your heart so thoroughly ripped to shreds that you wonder if caring so much is reducing your life span some. Such is life in the world of sports. Another fact of a sports fan’s life is that the end of one season only means the beginning of offseason speculation and looking ahead to the next season. And the big question for Navy next season is what life will be like without Greg Sprink. The Patriot League Player of the Year was a statistical juggernaut, leading the conference in scoring, finishing second in rebounding, and ranking in the top 15 in both assists and steals. How can Billy Lange replace that kind of production? Well, he can’t– not with one player, anyway. But taking a look at who is returning for the Mids, one can find each of Greg’s best qualities divided amongst them. Chris Harris has proven that he can be a reliable long-range scoring threat. Clif Colbert can make athletic moves to the basket. Romeo Garcia does all the little things you don’t usually see in a freshman, playing tough defense, fighting for rebounds, blocking shots, and grabbing steals. He is only going to get better as his offensive game develops. O.J. Avworo will be stepping in as a true point guard, directing the offense and dishing out assists– the 3.1 per game that he averaged as a freshman at Idaho would have been in the top 10 in the Patriot League this year. Sprink’s ability will still be on the team; it just won’t be concentrated in one man. As a result, the team might actually be tougher to defend, as defenses won’t be able to focus on stopping one player. Add in Kaleo Kina’s ability to take over a game on occasion, Adam Teague’s 3-point shooting, and the continued development of players like Mark Veazey (who showed flashes of brilliance at times), Jeremy Wilson, and T.J. Topercer, and there is every reason to believe that Navy will actually be better next year.

But that’s next year. Right now, the end of this year still stings. Yet as tough as the last game was to endure, it shouldn’t hang over the season as a whole. Should this season be considered a success? Despite losing a shot at the regular-season Patriot League title and flaming out once again in the tournament quarterfinals, I think the answer has to be “yes.” This season proved a lot. When the Patriot League started allowing basketball scholarships, there were people who thought that Navy wouldn’t be able to contend for the league title again. This year showed that we can. As Bucknell was winning NCAA tournament games and Holy Cross advanced in the NIT, some people questioned whether Navy would be able to produce talent capable of matching up with the Patriot League’s best. But the conference’s top player this year wore the Blue & Gold. Other people said that a service academy wouldn’t be able to win playing up-tempo basketball, and that Navy’s only shot to be competitive in the Patriot League was to play a Princeton offense. But Billy Lange has a Coach of the Year award that proves that isn’t the case. And with two starters and a key reserve leaving the team before the start of the season, some people– including me– asked themselves how the Mids would be able to respond. The answer? Brilliantly, with the team’s first overall winning season and best conference finish since 2000-2001. Make no mistake, now– Navy basketball is still a work in progress. But this year we could finally see some of that progress, and there’s no reason to think that the trend won’t continue.

Busy Weekend

BASKETBALL: After Wednesday’s win over American, Saturday’s 73-62 loss to Colgate was a real letdown. So much for first place; American beat Lafayette and claimed the regular-season Patriot League crown. Their reward is a first-round game against Holy Cross, whose loss to Lehigh on Saturday clinched the Crusaders’ descent from first to worst. Don’t think that Holy Cross is the worst team in the league, though; while I’d still rather have the Patriot League championship and automatic NIT bid under our belts, for the purposes of the league tournament it might have been better to finish second. Then again, maybe not; Army’s 54-51 win over Bucknell pushed the Bison into the 7 seed and a first-round matchup with Navy. No matter what their league records are, it just doesn’t feel like playing Holy Cross or Bucknell is much of a reward for finishing on top of the conference.

Navy’s likely 2nd round matchup, should they beat Bucknell, would be against Colgate. If Navy wins this thing, they’ll definitely have earned it. The tournament starts Wednesday at the home courts of the higher seeds. The official tournament bracket is here.

BASEBALL: Navy might have been picked to finish first in the Patriot League, but over the weekend they had their hands full with the Ivy League. The Mids dropped two out of three to Dartmouth and fell to 3-3 on the year. Be more careful on your home run trots, Mitch!

LACROSSE: Navy beat Mount St. Mary’s 12-5 on Friday night. After an initial MSM posession that took up about half of the first quarter, Navy’s attack finally came alive. Nick Mirabito had a hat trick and two assists, while Tim Paul added a two goals to go along with two assists of his own. It was a somewhat unremarkable game, although it was a bit disturbing to see the Mount win 14 of 20 faceoffs. Navy’s next five games are all against Patriot League opponents, beginning with Lafayette on Saturday.

Speaking of the Patriot League, Army dominated Air Force 12-4 on Saturday, while Bucknell scored their own 8-7 overtime win over Ohio State. Meanwhile, everyone’s favorite sleeper team, Colgate, needed overtime to get by Canisius, 12-11.

WOMEN’S LACROSSE: Navy beat Niagara 21-5. I’m not going to pretend that I know anything about women’s lacrosse, but when a team in its first varsity season wins its first two games by a combined score of 42-15, it’s noteworthy. Yes, Niagara was 1-12 last year. But it’s good to know that the Mids are at least on a different level than that.