TUESDAY POLL: EAGLEBANK BOWL AND BASKETBALL, NOOBS

236 people voted in last week’s poll that asked who was the Navy MVP for the first week of December. Of those 236, only 9 of you voted for a basketball player. Actually only 8 of you did, since one of those votes was mine. I expected football to dominate the voting, but holy guacamole, not this much. For shame, for shame. I suppose I have nobody to blame but myself, since 99% of what I talk about is football. But football season ends this week. You n00bs better start getting acquainted with your basketball team, because they’ve sipped from the fountain of awesome. Would you have voted for Kaleo Kina if you knew that he would get the nod for his third consecutive Patriot League Player of the Week award this week? Meh, probably not. But you’ll see. You’ll all see. Anyway, after running neck and neck with Kaipo and Nate Frazier for most of the week, Shun White and his beard pulled ahead in the final day of voting to get the win in the super-official Birddog poll. I approve, if for no other reason than to annoy the people who complain about the beard.

Moving right along… Bowl week is upon us, and I’m pretty giddy about the trip. I’m over the case of rematch rage I had when the Wake Forest matchup was officially announced. It’s been replaced with a feeling of optimism about the game,  looking forward to the weekend, and seeing Annapolis again. Even with a rematch, you just can’t get around the fact that bowl game trips are fun. Some people might not have been too excited about a trip to Washington either, but given the economic nosedive of the last few months, this game has been a real case of serendipity for Annapolis-area Navy fans. All of a sudden a drive to Washington looks a lot more appealing than a flight to San Francisco for most people.

But is it more appealing to you? This week’s question is simple: are you going to the EagleBank Bowl?

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TUESDAY POLL: WHO YOU ROOT FOR, PINHEADS, BASKETBALL, AND LAST WEEK’S MVP

Last week I asked if you cheered for the other service academies. If your answer was yes, I also asked what you thought of those that don’t. The results are in, and about 17% of you think I’m a classless jerk, mostly because I root only for Navy. Eight voters thought I was a classless jerk regardless of my rooting preference. That was the poll choice reserved for Army and Air Force fans, “navyblue12,” BLOOTERS, and people who think Riley Skinner is better than Nate Davis. Gotta make sure everyone’s voice is heard, you know. Anyway, it was pretty even between those who root for everyone and those who root only for Navy, and Army is clearly preferred over Air Force (roffles). What, you guys don’t like Fisher telling us our new way to count to 10?

Moving on to this week, I’d like to talk a little basketball. I haven’t written much about the basketball team yet this year, partly because football keeps me busy and partly because I’m not sure I have anything worth reading. That doesn’t mean I’m not totally pumped about this team, though. The Mids are sitting at 7-2 after a big week, defeating two teams they lost to last year (UTSA and Penn) while putting up a heck of a fight against Virginia Tech on Sunday. After an inexplicable stinker against Towson to open the season, Navy rolled to a 7-game win streak. The best part about that winning streak was how the Mids were winning. Navy used to be very formulaic; if they won, either the team shot lights-out or Greg Sprink carried them to victory. This year, though, Billy Lange’s squad is getting it done any number of ways. They’ve won when they shot well. They’ve won when they shot terribly. They’ve won as a team. They’ve won with a player carrying the team on his back. They’ve won pretty, won ugly, in regulation and in overtime. They’re winning games they would have lost last year, and they’re still getting better.

Which brings me to this week’s question. It was a heck of a week for both the Navy football and basketball teams, highlighted by some outstanding individual performances. Out of all of them, who was last week’s MVP? The candidates:

  • Shun White: 148 rushing yards, plus 2 TDs (1 receiving). Went over 1,000 rushing yards for the year.
  • Kaleo Kina: Named Patriot League Player of the Week for the second consecutive week after averaging 25 points, 7 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.3 steals in 3 games.
  • Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada: Ran for 43 yards and threw a TD pass vs. Army. More importantly, returned from a hamstring injury to run the offense to near perfection.
  • Ross Pospisil: Registered 12 tackles and a forced fumble in stuffing Army’s running game.
  • Adam Teague: Shot 62.5% from beyond the arc for the week and averaged nearly 15 points per game.
  • Nate Frazier: Registered 7 tackles, including 1.5 behind the line of scrimmage, anchoring Navy’s defensive line and holding the nation’s 11th-leading rusher to only 54 yards.
  • Eric Kettani: Ran for 125 yards and a TD, averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
  • Ram Vela: 6 tackles, a sack, and a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown.

The list is long. The candidates are worthy. Go forth and vote.

TUESDAY POLL: LOL @ YOU HOMERS, ACC WATCH, AND THE LESSER OF SEVERAL EVILS

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.

ATLANTIC DIVISION
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
COASTAL DIVISION
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.

TUESDAY POLL: VETERANS’ DAY, FIGURING OUT THE ACC, AND BASKETBALL

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.