It hit me last night that my approach to Christmas shopping mirrors my approach to the nonconference season.
The way it works at the CAAHoops worldwide headquarters is that we shop together once or twice and knock out what we can. The Beautiful One accompanies me to basketball games, so I like to support her. Besides, if she is buying something for say, my mom, I probably should be involved in that one.
But there’s always that day that comes when we have this conversation:
The Beautiful One: “We still have to buy for <insert 4-5 names>.”
Me: “Okay, just tell me when its over, and tell me the damage.”
So last night I was reviewing that damage, as well as the damage of this nonconference season. Norfolk State. Turnovers. Joe Freaking Lunardi giving ODU a 16 seed. It all swirled and felt heavy in my gut.
And the feeling hit my basketball soul: just tell me when it’s over.
I want to get to January 2 and actual conference games as quickly as possible. I’m tired of reading up on Binghamton and Florida Somethingorother. Checking the schedule to find there’s two games tonight, one tomorrow night, three the night following, and so on.
The familiar grind of Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday isn’t a grind at all. I want to see old friends on the road; head into familiar gyms and get that familiar vibe that belongs to us. I welcome that pace, that rhythm, even when it’s broken up by a Thursday teevee game. There’s so much more fun in front of us it’s almost sickening:
- Georgia State, the most surprising team in the CAA and playing with incredible confidence, opens the New Year against the preseason top three seeds, two on the road.
- We get ODU vs. VCU in January, and Mason vs. VCU twice from Valentine’s Day to the end of the season.
- We get to see Jamelle Hagins post up familiar faces.
- Devon Moore is back now, but back for real two weeks from now. And don’t forget Donte Hill, Richard Ross, and Andre Cornelius.
- Towson, oh, Towson. The Watch is on.
The hammer bullet: you go handicap the first four seeds. I dare you.
Now, don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. These games are still important. I personally haven’t ruled out That ALB Thing. There’s a septuplet of games this weekend and every one carries some intrigue:
Binghamton at Hofstra: Earlier this week we spoke of Mo Cassara’s two weeks. This is a momentum game. Play well, and the Dutchmen may begin sailing downstream. Wonder if Bryant Crowder energes from the stockade?
Bradley at Drexel: First place teams roll Valley visitors in this kind of a game. And despite being heckled by everyone from Gary Moore to Bobby Jordan, I am resolute that the main differentiator for the Dragons is their guard play. Keep an eye on them.
Old Dominion at Central Florida: The Monarchs are Hofstra’s cousins. They need to play well, but for consistency’s sake. Blaine Taylor’s team has been all over the map this year. They need to tap into their ODUness.
Georgia State at Utah Valley: The Panthers are looking for a school-record eighth straight win. As noted in RTC Check In, the last time a team came within 22 points of Georgia State, you hadn’t yet put your Thanksgiving turkey in the oven.
Princeton at Northeastern: The Huskies have got to handle the ball better–it would be interesting to see how good they can be if they turn it over about 12 times instead of twice that number. They can certainly shoot and rebound. Other interesting note here: wonder if we see Bill Coen press again? He did so against ODU to get them out of patterns and it was successful. A new strategy, perhaps?
William & Mary at Missouri: The Pugs are also Hofstra, except with a far tougher opponent. They seemed to catch a spark in the second half last night–Brandon Britt and Marcus Thornton on the floor together are something. But it was WESLEY.
Final point: I’m writing about William & Mary and Wesley. William & Mary and Wesley.
You ready for the conference season?
UNCW at VCU: I have particular memories of past games between these two teams. Those memories include Jeff Capel’s “five guys in a van” game.
Quick version for the yunguns here: Back when UNCW was the elite team in the CAA, the Seahawks came to Richmond and were tatering VCU at the half. UNCW led by about 15 at the break. VCU came out for the second half and played worse and flatter and lost by 30 points.
In the postgame presser an exasperated Jeff Capel told the media that he could’ve driven around the streets of Richmond in a van and picked up five guys that would’ve player harder and better that day. It was a priceless moment.
That’s my reason for wanting January 2. Those are the stories that await us.
As for the game, I cannot see VCU giving Adam Smith room to shoot, or the comfort to believe he’s going to have room to shoot. That’s a notable distraction to put in the mind of a freshman.
This is one of those games where you tip your cap to Keith Rendleman and his inevitable 24/11. The focus: don’t let Smith or any of the other UNCW shooters get deep into double figures or gain any confidence, and don’t let Freddie Jackson or KK Simmons feel like they can get the ball where they wish.
Buzz Peterson has to get his guys level-headed. They have to understand they will turn the ball over or make a stupid play. Around 16 turnovers is a very realistic number. To win, Peterson has to instill in his troops to avoid complicating things by trying to make up for the error.
The mindset is that of a closer in baseball.
But VCU at home is an easy pick. They are playing too well.
Rams 77, UNCW 62.