Hoyas Get First Win vs Wisconsin, 71-61; Their Reward, Duke in the Finals of the 2K Classic


(Junior Reggie Cameron playing a Career Game at the Garden)

Third Time’s a Charm?  After losing their first two games of the season by a total of 6 points, 2 in double OT to mid-major Radford and 4 to Maryland, the Hoyas finally broke through against the Wisconsin Badgers, a well-coached perennial contender in March under Coach Bo Ryan.  The Georgetown men’s basketball team rolled into Madison Square Garden Friday for the 2K Classic smarting from its first 0-2 start since 1998-99.  With something to prove, the Hoyas came away with an impressive 71-61 win, earning a ticket on Sunday against defending national champion the Duke Blue Devils.  Duke won the second game of the evening, overpowering a talented Shaka-less VCU squad behind sophomore reserve guard Grayson Allen’s 30 point career performance.

While the slow start to the season was not what the Hoyas had in mind, they now have an opportunity to get to .500 in this early season against Duke in the World’s Most Famous Arena.  If a team can’t get up for this, they can get up for nothing.  No doubt MSG will be packed with alumni from both schools, many of whom flock to New York City after receiving their well earned degrees.  It’s an early season treat for the Hoyas and if they continue to play–and shoot–as they did on Friday against the Badgers, a win is very much in the realm of the possible despite Duke’s #5 rank and Georgetown’s ranking off the grid.

Georgetown-Wisconsin: Despite a strong performance from Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes, the Hoyas tamed the Badgers with suffocating D and timely shooting, especially from junior Reggie Cameron in what will be remembered as his Breakout Game, and sophomore Isaac Copeland, who continues to show his tremendous versatility and NBA potential.

The Hoyas held the Badgers to 30% shooting in the first half, and under 33% for the game. The Hoyas entered the half with a 27-22 lead, thanks in large part to Cameron, who hit 5-of-6 field goal attempts, including 4-of-4 from three-point land, and a career high with 14 points.  In the second half the Badgers got to within 2, 36-34 with 14:28 to go, but the Hoyas bounced  back and eventually led 52-40 on a three from Copeland. Wisconsin fought back to 58-50 after free throws from Ethan Happ with less than 6 minutes to play.  The  Hoyas scored six consecutive points on layups from sophomore guard L.J. Peak and Copeland and free throws from freshman C Jessie Govan to take their biggest lead, 64-50, with under 5 minutes to go. Georgetown connected on 9-of-10 free throws in the final 4:50 — including six in a row from Smith-Rivera — to seal its first victory of the season.  The bright spot for the Badgers was junior forward Nigel Hayes with 22 points on 7-of-16 shooting–without him, this would not have been a contest.

Overall Georgetown hit 42.9 percent of its field goals (21-of-49), 50 percent of its three-point field goals (9-of-18) and 83.3 percent of its free throws (20-of-24). Outrebounded 40-36, the Hoyas handed out 15 assists and committed 15 turnovers.

Even with senior leader DSR having an “off” game, missing 7 of 9 field goals and experiencing foul trouble in the second half for a second straight game, he finished with 13 points on 7 for 10 free throws.  The Hoyas had 4 players in double figures and 31 bench points, a good sign after 3 points from the bench (Govan) at Maryland. Copeland, Cameron, DSR and Govan scored in double figures and collectively, Georgetown shot 9-of-16 from 3.

LJ Peak continues his fine guard play, and the “Princeton Offense”, a phrase that turns the stomach of many a Hoya Fan, continues to become less relevant as the 30-second shot clock will prevent old Ivy league slow ball games from surviving.  As I stated before, “The farther this team strays from that nauseatingly mischaracterized ‘Princeton Offense’, the greater this team will be.”

Sophomore Paul White, suffering from a hip injury, did not return against Wisconsin and true point guard Tre Campbell fell ill during the Maryland game, but my prediction of a 72-67 Hoya victory over Wisconsin was not far off.

Prominent Players of the Game:  Reggie Cameron and Isaac Copeland  Cameron owned the first half, and Copeland the second.  Cameron, currently a reserve forward who arrived at the Hilltop with high expectations, scored all of his 14 points in the first half and made 4 of 5 three-pointers.  Copeland led Georgetown with 15 points, all in the second half, on 5-for-9 shooting with eight rebounds.  Freshman center Govan added 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.   Copeland and Govan are among nine freshmen and sophomores on the Hoya squad.

Georgetown-Duke Rivalry:  Hoya fans may remember not long ago when Georgetown took down a #1 17-0 Duke JJ Redick-Led team in January 2006 at Verizon Center when the Hoyas were unheralded.  This Duke team doesn’t measure with that team, and this Hoya team may be a bit stronger than that special Hoya team.  Since then, the schools have maintained an on & off rivalry that is quite even.  While No. 3-ranked Duke defeated No. 13 Georgetown 76-67 on January 17, 2009, in Durham to improve to 16-1 on the season, the next season Georgetown returned the favor in DC.  NB:  This is the first meeting between the teams since then-No. 8 Georgetown blew put 7th-ranked Duke 89-77 on Jan. 30, 2010.  Hoya fans would be pleased to see the next game played in the post-season.


Why The Hoyas Will Beat Duke:

  1. Pressure Off:  Now with the first W on the board, the Hoyas should be playing with Upset in mind and Confidence after playing consecutive  strong games against two well-coached Big Ten teams.  The Hoyas are playing at the Garden, their home away from home, and JTIII should be primed to notch yet another victory over Duke.
  2. Versatility:  Even three games into the season, a pattern is starting to emerge.  This is not a Hoya team of even a few years ago without depth, but rather one where one of 8 or 9 players may emerge as the star on a given day. On Tuesday night at Maryland, freshman forward Marcus Derrickson scored 13 points and shot 3-of-5 from 3, while adding six rebounds. Yet he was scoreless Friday night. Senior center Bradley Hayes cored 16 on 8-of-13 shooting against the Terps; on Friday night, he scored just just four points on six shots.  On Friday, other Hoyas showed up Big, such as Cameron, who scored only six points total in Big East play last season.  While DSR and Peak didn’t shoot well from the field, they did other important things for their team, including 12 of 16 free throws between them. With all of this talent, and Kaleb Johnson, Paul White and Tre Campbell, JTIII has a deep roster of talent that can step up every game.  Trey Mourning and Riyan Williams are also available to come off the bench to contribute for the Hoyas.
  3. D Rediscovered:  Overall, Georgetown rediscovered its defensive intensity by limiting the national runners-up to 32 percent shooting in advancing to the Sunday’s final.  The Hoyas maintain that defensive intensity to stop Duke, Allen, Thornton and Jefferson, among others.
  4. Drive Early and Often and Get to the Line.  Get to the line more than Duke and make free throws and the Hoyas will win this game.

Prediction:  Hoyas contain Allen to under 2o points and win a squeaker, 75-74, against the defending national champion Duke Blue Devils.



(2006 Upset at Verizon Center over #1, 17-0 Duke Blue Devils)

Posted in Game Commentary, Heroes, Play of the Day, Pre-Game Commentary, Sports Facts | Leave a comment

Hoyas Face Badgers in 2K Classic at 5pm EST (ESPN2)

thHas Georgetown officially transitioned to the Big Ten Conference?  It might seem that way as this afternoon the Hoyas travel to its home away from home, Madison Square Garden, to take on the Wisconsin Badgers, 2015’s runner up to Duke in the NCAA national championship.  The Badgers under Coach Bo Ryan (is this his last season) lost key pieces from last season’s team, including highly decorated center Frank Kaminsky, who has taken his game to the NBA.  However, many strong pieces remain.

The Hoyas lost 75-71 to (now) Big Ten member University of Maryland on Tuesday night, and hope to build upon its strong play in that game as it still seeking its first victory of the season.

While the Badgers also lost its home opener to the Western Illinois Lethernecks, they have since beaten Siena and North Dakota.  The Hoyas have yet to taste victory this season but tonight would be a perfect appetizer before the finals of the 2K Classic, against the winner of Duke and VCU.  What blue and gray blooded Hoya fan wouldn’t relish a shot at national champion Duke on Sunday?  First, Georgetown must defeat the Badgers.

Wisconsin averaging 79 points per game so far this season, led by junior point guard Bronson Koenig, who averages 19 points per game. Nigel Hayes has scored 14 ppg and  Vitto Brown, 13ppg,  Redshirt freshman Ethan Happ scored 17 points against North Dakota, and averages 9.7 per game.  So no Frank Kaminsky, but Wisconsin has a few scorers, which means the Hoyas defense will have to be at least as strong as it was in College Park.

Keys to the Game:

  1.  Bradley Hayes Become the Hoyas’ Kaminsky:  Hayes must continue to dominate on offense and step up his defense.  I am looking for a greater presence on D as Hayes continues to score and dominate the boards.  Hayes is averaging a double-double of 17.5 points and 10 rebounds through Georgetown’s first two games, which is rather remarkable since he played limited minutes throughout his junior season.
  2. D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera needs to step up his game and become the senior leader and scorer the team needs.  He is averaging 14.5 per game, and he should have assistance in the offensive column by Isaac Copeland (12 ppg) and assists (DSR and Copeland combine for 8.5 assists per game).
  3. Freshmen Break Out Game:  Whether this is the Marcus Derrickson Break Out Game or one where the 3 freshmen make their presence known, a Georgetown victory must include a strong performance from Derrickson or the Frosh Triumverate of Derrickson-Govan-Johnson.
  4. LJ Peak-ness.  I see LJ picking up his game in the early season.  Let him run, let him fly, let him play.  The farther this team strays from that nauseatingly mischaracterized “Princeton Offense”, the greater this team will be.
  5. Paul White Returns?  If White is back and well, then the Hoyas chances of “upsetting” the Badgers increases.

While the Badgers are slight favorites (2.5 point spread), I think it’s even as the Hoyas are essentially playing on what should feel like a home court.

Prediction:  Hoyas 72, Badgers 67

Let’s meet Duke on Sunday!

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Butler vs Georgetown



Posted in Game Commentary, Heroes, Play of the Day, Pre-Game Commentary, Sports Facts | Leave a comment

Hoyas vs.Terps 11-17-15: Renewed Rivalry Measures Up to All the Hype


This time the Turtle won the Race.  With experience on its side, and a sellout crowd of 17,950 excited fans at its on-campus venue, Xfinity Center, the Terps prevailed 75-71 in the first meaningful game between Georgetown and Maryland in years. In fact, it was the first time Maryland had played Georgetown in College Park since the Nixon administration, decades before the current students were born.  In suffering their second loss of the season in as many contests, the Hoyas can hold their heads high while thinking of what could have been.  They played infinitely better than their poor performance in the season home opener double OT loss to mid-major Radford University last weekend.

While the Hoyas came out both prepared and inspired, something lacking in the Radford game, and took a 7-0 lead to start the first half, there was never a question that the Terps would find answers and they quickly did.  With returnees sophomore clutch guard Melo Trimble, and transfer senior forward Rasheed Suliamon, who was dismissed from Duke under a cloud of accusations (Coach K rarely dismisses his players), the Terps prevailed in a close one in the final minutes, with the winning bucket coming from the Duke transfer, former enemy now wearing the Terps uniform. (http://espn.go.com/mens-college-basketball/story/_/id/12249502/duke-blue-devils-dismiss-junior-rasheed-sulaimon)

The one word shared by the schools and media alike about this matchup was “excitement”.  Tickets on the secondary market were going for nearly $150. Students began lining up outside Xfinity Center five hours before the game.  Whether it was the excitement of seeing an old friend–or even a foe– where the heart grew a bit fonder or more soft over the years, JTIII and Mark Turgeon are friends with none of the animosity once shared by former coaches John Thompson Jr. and Lefty Driesell.  Most DMV hoops fans and the print and television media seemed genuinely excited that this former rivalry has been resuscitated and the game didn’t disappoint.  “People were engaged. The building had a different feel to it on Tuesday night than it ordinarily does even for nominally big games. This was a louder, more boisterous Maryland crowd than at any non-Duke game in at least the last four seasons, with students filling out the arena’s vertical wall two hours before a 9:15 p.m. tip on a Tuesday” (Maryland blogger Alex Kirschner).  Legends from the Terps program’s past — Len Elmore, Walt Williams, Gary Williams, Joe Smith — all attended and provided an air of nostalgia. Members from the last four teams that beat Georgetown were honored on the court, receiving an ovation before returning to their seats.

For an early season game–second for each team to be exact–both teams played quite well and evenly through much of the game.  The Hoyas started hot and Georgetown scored the game’s first 7 points.  For the Terps, except for the Duke transfer, no one really got going.  Sulaimon had  7 points and 6 assists on 3-of-3 shooting over the first 20 minutes. Tied 33 all at the half, the Hoyas attempted to close it out in the second half, to no avail.  With the Hoyas ahead much of the half, down in the final minutes, the Terps fought back from a 7-point second-half deficit with 5:48 to go to win in dramatic fashion in front of a raucous crowd that featured both Maryland and Georgetown hoops legends, and saw former Terps star, now in the NBA, Greivus Vasquez show up straight from the Verizon Center, to cheer on his former team in the final minutes.

Sulaimon drained a go-ahead 3-pointer with the game tied at 68 with 1:18 left to put Maryland ahead for good.  Trimble iced the game at the foul line in the final moments.  Trimble finished with 24 points to lead Maryland, and Sulaimon finished with 10 points and and 7 assists.  Senior forward Jake Layman struggled for much of the night (credit the Hoya defense as well) but hit a few critical shots late and  Layman scored 15 for the Terps.

While the Terps are now 2-0 on the season, holding onto that #3 pre-season ranking at least for now, the Hoyas fall to 0-2 with Wisconsin and likely Duke next up at Madison Square Garden.  While that sounds like a potential 0-4 start, that fate is ultimately in the Hoyas’ control.  If they play as well as they did against Maryland, they should have a chance to prevail both against Wisconsin, last year’s national championship finalist and then the winner of VCU and Duke, last season’s national champion.  How is that for some fearless scheduling?!

To respond to some of the questions I posed in advance of this historic contest:

  1.  Bradley Hayes vs. Diamond StoneHayes won this battle but the Terps won the war because they have other big men, including 7’1″ Michal Cekovsky from Slovakia, who played the role.  Blue-chip freshman Stone found himself sitting on the bench early in the second half with three fouls and just one rebound. He is a work in progress and Hayes is a senior looking to establish himself this season in a way that both Mikael Hopkins and Josh Smith were never capable of doing.  Hayes finished the game with 16 points and 8 boards on 8-13 shooting.  While we’d like to see Bradley get tougher on D, this is a great start to the season for this inexperienced senior center.image-1
  2. Will DSR Lead from the Outset?  DSR scored the first points of the game when he hit a trey and established himself from the outset with a fine performance but not as fine as Trimble.  DSR finished with 14 points on 50% shooting and added 4 assists  but it was no mean a dominating performance.  Still, DSR is on the right path as he stepped it up from the Radford debacle and as he and his team heads to NYC and the World’s Most Famous Arena. image
  3. Who Else Will Step Up for the Hoyas?  Sophomore forward Paul White was out yet again and Hoya fans are missing him.  However, flashes of brilliance came from the sophomores Isaac Copeland and LJ Peak.  Peak continues to show that spark and energy in the open court we first saw in his freshman campaign and is best when left to slash to the hoop and finished with 12 points, including 6 for 7 from the free throw line. Peak also had the unenviable duty of guarding Trimble for much of the game.  Copeland continues to look like the promising complete player we saw last season and finished with 13 points on 6 for 9 shooting from the field and 1 for 2 from 3 point range, 6 boards and 5 assists.    In addition, Hoya and all hoops fans were treated to the special talents of freshman Marcus Derrickson, who can shoot the ball as well as anyone on the team based on Tuesday night’s performance.  I predict a Big East First Team player this season for Derrickson if he gets the minutes he deserves. sp-hopyasterps_0301447823830
  4. Will Trey Mourning Play and Be a Factor?  Trey played only four minutes and that is never enough to establish a rhythm.  We will have to wait for another day, another game.  Junior Reggie Cameron, sophomore Tre Campbell and freshman Caleb Johnson all got some bench minutes, with little to show.  From the bench, only freshman Jessie Govan, playing 11 minutes, had 3 points and 5 fouls.
  5. The Coaching Matchup:  JTIII vs. Turgeon?  I’d say this was a toss up, leaning towards the winning coach, Turgeon.  The win had less to do with a coaching advantage or disadvantage and more to do with the play of the team, such as the Hoyas 12 turnovers (to Maryland’s 9) and failure to get to the foul line (9 for 12 as compared with the Terps, 23-32).


For this game at least, give it up for the Turtle.  th

Reasons Why Hoya Fans Should Not Be Concerned About the 0-2 Start and Should Be Excited About this Season:

  1.  Bradley Hayes: After Hayes’s dominating performance against Radford, one wondered if he could bring that game against the big boys.  Well, he passed that test.  Maryland struggled to contain Hayes, who elbowed his way through Maryland’s front court for much of the night. Hayes was the reason the Hoyas were in this game.
  2. Marcus Derrickson: Based the early returns, including Tuesday night’s 75-71 loss to third-ranked Maryland, expect to see plenty of freshman Derrickson. The 6-foot-7 forward hardly performed like a freshman in just the second game of his college career, unaffected by the raucous opposing crowd of 17,950 at Xfinity Center.  Derrickson got more time than more experienced teammates and showed that the accolades coming from his high school, career–a two-time All-Met who spent three years at Paul VI Catholic competing in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference–were well deserved.  Calmly sinking a pair of free throws with 1:34 to go, Derrickson tied the game at 68. He finished with 13 points, six rebounds and a team-high two blocks. In the first half, Derrickson hit two of three 3-pointers.  Can you say Derrickson Has Game?!
  3. A Balanced Attack:  Georgetown posted five players in double figures, including 16 points from 7-foot center Hayes, who helped the Hoyas hold a 36-28 rebound advantage.
  4. LJ Peak and Isaac Copeland:  Expect more solid play from this Dynamic Sophomore Duo, and let’s hope to welcome back soph forward Paul White soon!

While some may have billed this game as a Big East-Big Ten matchup, it was oh so much more than that.  It was Georgetown vs Maryland, and if you felt the hype in and outside of the Beltway, including on the Hilltop and in College Park, you know it had nothing to do with the conferences and everything to do with this fascinating local rivalry of nationally renowned teams renewed in 2015.  In fact, this game may have meant more to the Terps, but a win would have had more impact for the Hoyas.

See you at Verizon Center in 2016, and Hoya Ticket Office, please do your job–you know what I mean!


Posted in Game Commentary, Heroes, Play of the Day, Sports Business, Sports Facts | Leave a comment

Georgetown Hoyas Travel to Xfinity Center to Face the Terps Tonight

Fear the Turtle?  th

There is only one certainty as the Georgetown Hoyas Men’s Basketball team travel to College Park for a historic regular season matchup with the Maryland Terrapins tonight and that is, the Hoyas did not expect to enter this game with an 0-1 record.  However, after what has been characterized as a stunning double OT home opening loss at Verizon Center last weekend to the Radford Highlanders (most questions were “where are they from?  answer:  Virginia), tonight the Hoyas face the #3 ranked team in the nation and all eyes will be watching to see if that stunning loss was indeed a fluke.

It’s been 22 years since Coach John Thompson Jr. faced off against Coach Gary Williams at the USAir Arena in 1993, a contest that Maryland won 84-83 in overtime.  Pops retired in 1999, and his son JTIII became the Hoyas head coach in 2004.  The reasons for the regular season hiatus is the subject of many other articles.  The important point is the Game is Back On and tonight is a new beginning.  The only two other times Georgetown and Maryland have played were in the Sweet 16 of the 2001 NCAA Tournament (Maryland prevailed) and the 2008 Old Spice Classic.  Some fans have been waiting forever for the resumption of this local rivalry.  However, Hoya fans aren’t exactly feeling confident after the loss to Radford.

With the Hoyas an 8-point underdog, the Terps host the Hoyas on Tuesday night as part of the inaugural [Dave] Gavitt Tipoff.  Next season the Hoyas return the favor at the Verion Center.  That’s the extent of the new relationship as we know it.

Some believe this is Maryland’s best team since William’s 2002 national championship team.  Mark Turgeon replaced Williams in 2011, and on Friday night, Maryland had a quite different home opener, blowing out local Mount Saint Mary’s, 80-56.

Things to Watch for the Hoyas:

  1.  Bradley Hayes vs. Diamond Stone:  Senior Hoya center Hayes had the game of his career against Radford, despite the Hoyas’ loss.  Diamond Stone is the Terps’ 5-star freshman recruit at center.  Will Hayes, who saw little action until this season, except for a Perfect Ten Minutes in the first round of the NCAA championship against Eastern Washington U. in March, demonstrate more of the talent and poise that we saw last weekend?
  2. Will DSR Lead from the Outset?  DSR spoke about his frustrating start against Radford.  On the other hand, RU’s guard Davis put on a complete game show.  Tonight will Hoya fans see the DSR that we know can lead and shoot the lights out from the outset of the game and prevent the Hoyas from falling behind, which could be lethal against the Terps on the road.
  3. Who Else Will Step Up for the Hoyas?  Sophomore forward Paul White was out with a hip injury against Radford;  his skill and scoring was missed.  Isaac Copeland, LJ Peak and Tre Campbell will all need to be playing at the top of their games to compete with the Terps.  No Hoya except perhaps Hayes was in that category (top of game) last Saturday.  Will we see more solid play from freshman center Jessie Govan and better play from freshman Marcus Derrickson?  Will upperclassman Reggie Cameron catch fire this season?
  4. Will Trey Mourning Play and Be a Factor?  Hoya Fans have heard about, and some have seen, the great improvement of sophomore Trey Mourning since last season.  Mourning received nary a minute of play against Radford.  Will we see the Hoya with the greatest hoops pedigree on the court tonight?
  5. The Coaching Matchup:  JTIII vs. Turgeon?  Which Coach will lead his team to victory?  This is not soccer, where coaches do the majority of their work before the match and let their team play, with few substitutions providing the game-time work.  Hoya fans are looking at JTIII, especially after the disappointing Radford loss, to see how he coaches in an early Big Time game.

Absurd ? Stat of the Day:  In Joe Lunardi’s/ESPN’s RPI Ranking, today Radford is #100 and Georgetown is #337, close to last.

Prediction:  Honestly, I haven’t a clue.  Everything looks in the Terps’ favor, with experience, personnel and home court advantage.  A close game (loss) by the Hoyas (single digit) would be expected.  A squeaker win by the Hoyas, perhaps a small chance?

Will the Hoyas Have the Last Bite Tonight?



Posted in Game Commentary, Pre-Game Commentary, Sports Facts | Leave a comment

Hoyas Shocked by Radford University in Season Opener in 2OT

The Headline: The Hoya Men’s Basketball team and its fans were not expecting its first loss to be to a seasoned team from a “lesser” conference, but that was its fate today. While there were some positive aspects to the game, including the play of senior center Bradley Hayes and freshman center Jessie Govan, and some timely hot shooting by senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera in the second half after going scoreless in the first half, overall the team didn’t look prepared for the Highlanders. The next game, against Big Ten’s highly touted University of Maryland in College Park on Tuesday night, now looms large.

After a great first half at the free throw line (19 for 20), things went south.

One Question?  I have heard that Trey Mourning had improved a great deal since last season–why didn’t he get time today?

Some Hoya Fans today may be asking, “What happened to St. Leo’s?” Response: If you want a cupcake, head down to M Street at Georgetown Cupcakes.

Posted in Game Commentary, Sports Facts | Leave a comment

Hoyas Open Season Today vs Radford U.

Remember Bradley Hayes’s Performance vs. Eastern Washington University in the First Round of the 2015 NCAA Tournament?

(Reprinted with Permission from Laura’s Prominent Play :-))  “The Perfect Ten Minutes”

“Then the game suddenly looked like nothing Hoya fans had seen this season, from 45 bench points as compared with 39 points from the starters, to the performance of players such as 7 foot true center junior Bradley Hayes, who had played an average of 3.4 minutes and 1.0 points per game this season, and entered the game with nine minutes to go to play “The Perfect Ten Minutes”.  What did B.J. aka Bradley Hayes do in those 10 minutes, after filling in for Smith and Hopkins, characteristically foul-plagued early in the game?  Hayes came off the bench and played the final nine minutes of the first half and scored eight points on perfect 3 for 3 shooting from the field and 2 for 2 from the line, recorded 6 rebounds and 1 assist.  This feat set the Hoya Facebook and Twittersphere into a virtual frenzy, with comments from “Who is this?” (obviously not the most observant fan) to “Where Has Hayes Been All Season?”  The proper response to that is of course, “on the bench”.  Query whether that is where he belongs.  As some suggest, Josh Smith may be the better center against bigger and slower teams but Hayes had what it took against EWU to propel his Hoya team into the future and to erase memories of the String of Post-Season Defeat.”

Posted in Game Commentary, Sports Facts | Leave a comment

World Series Game 5: Do or Die, Will the Season End Tonight for the Mets?

First, for the good news:  the New York Mets have a bright future, Exhibit A:

Last night’s starter, rookie Steven Matz pitched a strong 5 innings and left the game in fine condition for relievers to finish it.  Matz is a reason to believe in the future.th-8

Last night, 22 year-old rookie Michael Conforto, a late addition to this 2015 World Series team, had his big league breakout game and hit two home runs, one a upper deck blast to Pepsi Porch.  th

Now, for the sobering news:  The Mets play tonight with their backs to the wall after losing control of Game 4 with a combination of mental lapses, untimely walks (2 by Tyler Clippard) and errors (Daniel Murphy’s pivotal error and Yoenis Cespedes sleeping on the basepath).  The Mets bats went silent again after blasting off in Game 3, and that was the essential story of Game 3.

At this time there is no reason or purpose to assess blame, but rather, the team has to go out on the field tonight and produce.

Then there is the Matchup:  the Game 1 starters return, Edinson Volquez for the Royals and Matt Harvey for the Mets.  Volquez has since Game 1 returned to the Dominican Republic for his father’s funeral, which for any human being has a lasting effect much less a starter in what could be the deciding contest of the World Series.  Then there is Harvey, the Dark Knight, who had his troubles in Game 1, a game that the Mets were leading going into the 9th.  Harvey has well exceeded the inning limits (180) that became a great topic of controversy at the end of the season into the playoffs, and while all such talk is off the table for now, there is concern about Harvey’s ability to deliver yet again in the post-season.

Less than a half hour before game time, this blogger is ready to sign off.  As a lifelong Mets fan (no secret), I hope with all my heart that they take this Series back to Kansas City.  First, there is a reason of pride:  who wants the Royals celebrating at CitiField?  (Only the Royals and their fans, of course).  Second, where is that team that took charge in late July through late September and said “Take note, the Mets are back!”  If that team digs deep and returns, there is a chance of the Mets forcing a Game 6.

How the Mets Win:

  1.  No errors tonight–can’t afford a single mishap.
  2. Harvey pitches very well for at least 5 innings, at best 6.
  3. Collins goes to Niese, Reed or even Robles, not Clippard.
  4. At least 5-6 bats are fully alive and get multiple hits, from Granderson to Flores, with one or two long balls.
  5. Familia comes in to finish for 3 outs.

That is the Formula.  Short of that, the Mets and their fans will wait until next year.

One good sign:  Straw is throwing the First Pitch!th-1

Posted in Game Commentary, Heroes, Play of the Day, Pre-Game Commentary, Sports Facts | Leave a comment

#World Series2015: Game 3 Recap; Game 4 Matz and Whose Bats?

th-7The Mets are right back in it.  The storylines are endless:  Captain David Wright delivering in  the clutch and putting an end to all questions about where he belongs.  Curtis Grandson continuing to be the most consistent player on the team.  Big bats and production from Wright and Grandy with a ton of heart.  Daniel Murphy hitless, no problem.  Everyone else on the Mets had at least one hit and were productive.  Juan Uribe, a player who would be starting on many teams,  returns from injury to pinch hit and delivers.  On a night when the last Mets catcher to play in a World Series–of course, Mike Piazza (2000)–threw out the first pitch and when New York and legend Billy Joel kicked off the festivities with the National Anthem and later sang his signature song, Piano Man, with the New York crowd, all leading to a 9-3 pummeling of the Royals, can you say “Mets Magic” “Amazins” and indeed, we Believe!

However, the one thread of the night that may have the longest lasting impact, especially if the Mets ultimately prevail in this World Series, is the first pitch of the game, which in baseball lore may someday become known only as “The Pitch”.   th-4 (Escobar finding himself on his behind early in the game.)

There has been more print, TV and radio time used to discuss this one Pitch in the past 24 hours than the remainder of the game.  However you see it, excessive and aggressive to a brilliant strategic move, it is undeniable that the Mets last night got what they wanted and needed, desperately, a win.  I have to give huge props to Noah Syndergaard for approaching the game the way he did and even more importantly, adjusting his pitches as he did when he learned what his mates Matt Harvey and Jacob legroom learned before him:  the Royals can hit high velocity fastballs that are over the plate.

Just when I decide who this team’s true Ace is, my thinking evolves.  Of course, Harvey was on that top rung for a while and in the NLCS, legroom, but now, after that performance last night, and his multipurpose role in the prior two series, there can be a very strong argument that Thor is moving up that rung.  And who knows, after tonight, it could be the rookie from Queens, Steven Matz!

Tonight’s Matchup:


After last night what can we expect from homegrown Long Islander Steven Matz tonight as he makes his World Series debut for the team he grew up rooting for?  Left-handed Matz, with his large contingent of fans (perhaps more than all Royals fans in attendance) has the chance to do something at least as important as last night’s win:  he will try to even the Series at two games apiece.

This will be Matz’s third-postseason start for the Mets in the playoffs, who made just six regular-season starts due to injury.  While he may be no Syndergaard, he does have his weapons and the team has every confidence in him. Matz started Game 4 of the NLDS on Oct. 13th at home against the Dodgers even though he had not pitched at this level since Sept. 24 due to his back injury. He also pitched Game 4 of the NLCS against the Chicago Cubs and has a 3.72 ERA in his two outings.  Not bad for a rookie, and who knows what he can deliver at home in the World Series before his family, friends and fans?

Matz will face Royals starter Chris Young, once a Princeton college basketball player who stands at 6’10”.  In his career against the Mets (including the postseason), Young has started four games with a 1-1 record and 5.24 E.R.A.  This year because of his performance in relief in Game 1 where he shut down the Mets bats in three shutout innings, he is 1-0 with an 1.00 ERA.  The good news for the Mets is that they have already faced Young and know what to expect.  Also, the Mets know Young well, as he played for the organization from 2011-12.  He is also pitching on three days’ rest. Whether they will break him down early as they did Ventura is another story, but that should be the goal.

Why The Mets Will Take Game 4: It’s a 1-2 proposition,

  1.  Matz:  Steven Matz is ready for his Star Turn on the Big Stage.  He has already tasted the post-season in the NLDS and NLCS and fared well under the circumstances.  Whether he lasts 5 to 7 innings, the Mets’ pen will be ready.  Ideally he would get to 7 but I won’t count on that unless he manages to stay out of trouble.  He will need the help of the Mets
  2. Bats:  Last night the Mets brought out the Offense of late July-late September and that is what they will need to even the score with the Royals.  Whether it’s Grandy and Wright or Murphy and D’Arnaud, contribution from all bats will be essential because the Royals bats are not going AWOL.
  3. Fans:  New York is a special place and this team is especially fired up by the crowd.  They want to leave it all of the field for them and expect to see a repeat performance tonight.

Prediction:  Mets 7, Royals 4



Posted in Game Commentary, Heroes, Play of the Day, Pre-Game Commentary, Sports Facts | Leave a comment

World Series Game 3 #MetsVsRoyals: Will Thor’s Flame and Mets Bats Cure All?


The Mets have been relying on SuperHeroes this season, particularly in this post-season.  While Daniel Murphy has not acquired any nickname other than “Murph” and “G.O.A.T.” per the NLCS (Greatest of All Time, setting the MLB consecutive HRs in post-season games), the Pitching Staff has already used #s 1 and 2 in the Series, the Dark Knight followed by deGrom aka deCalm aka The Hair.  After dropping the first two games of  the Series at Kansas City, tonight, as Halloween weekend begins, rookie sensation Noah Syndergaard aka Thor is the next young Mets ace to take the mound.

The Mets Pitching Staff are well known for two things:  youth and velocity, as in from 94 and 95 to 100 mph fastballs.  As for velocity, Thor is King the Aces, so to speak, ranking at or near the top of the list of all MLB statisticians.  One problem with this scenario is that these guys are young pitchers who have been throwing hard all season (including #4 rookie Steven Matz), and both fortunately (and also unfortunately) for the team, organization and fans, the season has been long–it’s almost November.  However, the downside of that is that arms tire and these SuperHeroes, beneath the costumes and masks, like all revelers this weekend, are only human.  One of the biggest questions is whether these arms can last through this Series to turn around an 0-2 deficit going into Game 3.

Tonight’s matchup features two young, hard-throwing righties, Syndergaard and 24-year old Yordano Ventura, who is post-season tested and successful.  In the 2014 World Series, Ventura was dominant, when he posted a 1.46 ERA over two starts. This post-season, After a disappointing performance in the ALDS, Venture pitched into the sixth inning in both ALCS starts, including Kansas City’s clinching Game 6 clincher.  This is the ninth career postseason start already for the 24-year-old Ventura, so he’s used to the stage and the pressure.  However, Ventura has a 5.09 ERA and .858 opponents’ OPS in four starts this postseason, but held Toronto to one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings in the ALCS clincher.

Of 23-year old  Syndergaard’s 233 pitches this postseason, nearly 10% (22) have been at 100 mph or more, according to MLB.com Gameday trackers. Thor hasn’t allowed a home run yet in 13 innings this postseason, and Syndergaard allowed one home roughly every eight innings during his rookie season.

Syndergaard will become the third-youngest Met (behind Dwight Gooden in 1986 and Gary Gentry in 1969) to start a World Series game. While Syndergaard has pitched well in the post-season, this is a matchup that suggests a close game as in Game 1.  That 14-inning epic battle ended in a 5-4 Royals walkoff win, at the K.  Not to forget, the Mets had that game going into the 9th until Gordon hit a shot off of Familia for his first blown save since July 30th.  Tonight Mets fans hope that any close game is bolstered by the venue and its hometown fans, but what we really need is …

A Game That Isn’t Close at All!  While the Mets Pitching Does Not Cease to be important, what is critical tonight is that the August and September Bats return, and the bats of the first four months of the season are retired forever.  Johnny Cueto may have thrown a gem to some, but the flip side is that the Mets bats laid an egg except for Lucas Duda, who managed 2 hits and drove in the only run in Game 2 for the Less Than Amazins that night.

Key Fact:  Lucas Duda is hitting .444 (4-for-9) in this World Series. The rest of his Mets teammates are hitting just .129 (9-for-70).

A total of ten teams in MLB history have worked out of the 0-2 hole, the 1986 Mets being one of them.  So to win their first title since 1986, these Mets are going to need to have history repeat itself, and reunite in the books with the Mets of 29 years ago, who were down 0-2 against the Red Sox then went on to win the Series.

The Royals are only half way there and have to win two more ballgames, similar to the position they were in when they took a 2-1 lead on the Giants in last year’s World Series. In 2014, in Game 4 the Royals suffered an 11-4 thrubbing, and then Madison Bumgarner dominated Game 5 to swing the Series back in favor of the Giants. So the Royals too have history to contend with as well.

Tonight the Mets will have a little help from their friends.  From the last Met team to play in a World Series, former catcher Mike Piazza will throw out the first pitch.


The King of Queens and all of New York and one of greatest songwriters of the past half century, Billy Joel will sing the National Anthem.


So tonight it’s very simple, a Do or Die scenario (not to sound spooky), and the Mets Bats, all of them, have to get into the action.  Rallies would be nice, but a few shots out of the park to clear bases would be nice as well.  It would be great to see Cespedes bring back the magic on field as well as on the golf course, as is well documented.  Here’s hoping that the Captain can lead the ship tonight and everyone can get involved in the act, not just Duda.

As several retired players and commentators offered before the first game of the series in response to the question, “What do you recommend that the players do at this point”?  To a person, they each said “have fun” or “enjoy yourself”.  The Mets team in Kansas City appeared so down, with heads hanging and no smiles, even before the games were decided.  Let’s hope that the players heed that advice and perhaps diehard fans Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock can loosen them up with a few jokes before the game.

Taking a page from Mr, Joel’s Songbook, Mets need to #KeepTheFaith tonight (live at Shea):


Prediction:  Mets have to win tonight by any score or the season is over.  Even if they can take 2 at CitiField, the odds of winning 2 in K.C. have to be close to nil.


Posted in Game Commentary, Heroes, Pre-Game Commentary, Sports Business, Sports Facts | Leave a comment

World Series MetsVsRoyals: Game 1 to K.C. in 14-Inning Bout for the Ages

There is only one thing worse than a 14-inning epic Game 1 of the World Series, and that is, losing it, away, on a walkoff sac fly.  For the Mets, it wasn’t the way they wanted to start the Series in Kauffman Stadium, and for fans of both teams, this was a nail biter that didn’t end until the final sacrifice fly to score the winning run in the bottom of the 14th (Tied for the longest game in World Series history).

This game had everything, it seemed, except for a Daniel Murphy home run, but to his credit he continued his hitting streak in the post-season.  It even had a Fox broadcast failure when “”WTF”s were crowding Facebook, Twitter and smartphones throughout the MLB Faniverse.  That was a very strange event when viewers did not even miss a pitch as the game was stopped until the signal was restored.  Poor Harvey, standing on the mound to contemplate life for several minutes.  Eric Hosmer even pulled a Bill Buckner early in the game, and then later atoned for it with the winning sac fly.

Give credit to A-Rod who in the pre-game show, said he has the Mets in the Series “if they don’t drop the ball”.  Wow, was that prophetic!

This was about as even a game as I have seen all season, or in several seasons.  As to the Perennial Question, Bats vs Arms, last night it was neither.  It was Fielding.  Just as one cannot blame the basketball player who misses the final shot or free throw for “losing the game” for her team, one cannot blame Yoenis Cespedes for failing to field the ball in center field on the first pitch of the game to allow an in the park homer Alcides Escobar.  I don’t know, but that was a clear play for the CF and give rookie Michael Conforto for being right there on the spot if he needed to be there to catch it, which he would have done if Yoenis had called him off. I’ll bet this won’t happen again, and I see Juan Lagares in CF, and Cespedes in left for the rest of the Series.

Well, in any case, the Mets not only tied the game but pulled ahead only to lose the lead in a most UnFamilia way:  yes, Jeurys after 3 months finally has a blown save.  Last time it was July 30th and he had to get the next one out of the way before Game 2 begins.  In the 9th, Alex Gordon hit a shot off of Familia to straightaway center field, where all the troubles began for the Mets last night.  Familia is human and so is Murphy, so Niese entered in the 10th, followed by Bartolo and there is one thing that Mets fans cannot be upset about last night (except for Clippard?):  Mets Pitching.

Starting Pitching:  Matt Harvey had six solid innings with a modified strategy (fewer fastballs for the Royals to feed on) as did his opponent, Edinson Volquez.  However, my heart goes out to Volquez for his great personal tragedy last night:  as he finished his Game 1 World Series start, he learned that his father had passed away in the Dominican Republic prior to the game.  Condolences to him and his family.

Mets Hitting:  Something became abundantly clear last night–Cuddyer should be finished for the season.  He has been a non-factor in the post-season and struck out three times last night.  With Johnson and Uribe back, the former NL batting champion needs to sit for the rest of the Series, and I hope the Manager of the Year, Terry Collins, see this as clearly.  Other than that, the team showed the ability to get on base after a slow start but left too many stranded.  Need to ratchet up that RISP percentage starting tonight.

Mets Prominent Player of Game 1:  I give it to Grandy for the pop in his bat (searing line drive HR) and a defensive play in the field that would be running on every highlights reel today had the Mets won the game.



With limited time today and with the desire to break this down play by play, let’s get down to Brass Tacks:  The Mets must win Game 2.  Not to put all the pressure on the Man on the Mound who has grabbed the ball and succeeded in pressure situations in both Series, Ace Jacob deGrom, but deCalm must get through that critical first inning unscathed then settle into his groove.

Second, the Mets need to get to Cueto early and often.  This won’t be easy, but if the Mets engage in another nip and tuck battle with K.C. at the K, it won’t be good.  What they need to do is to take at least a 3 run lead by the 6th or 7th, and maintain it.  Prognosticators have spoken about the Mets weak middle relief.  With the exception of Clippard, I kind of fancy what Collins has put together, especially with Addison Reed, Niese and Colon.

Third, deGromination followed by Familia-ization. 

Fourth, a worthy DH:  Conforto, Uribe, those are my top 2. 

Fifth, Captain David Wright needs to play as if he wants to win this World Series, which I have no doubt he does but was Mr. Inconsistency last night, or only human.  To win a World Series, I submit, you can’t play as if this is a series in mid-July that you may win or lose.  This is all or nothing and I didn’t feel it from the Captain last night except for one great stab at third, matched by an error.

We are all exhausted and we will be back at it in less than 7 hours.  So for Mets Fans, Ya Gotta Believe, It Ain’t Over till It’s Over, and truly, we were destined to lose at least 1 game in this Series so why not have it be the first.

Prediction:  Game 2 to the Mets, 6-3.  Back to CitiField all tied up and ready to explode!


Please check this great article in Forbes by my friend and one of my favorite writers, David Seideman.


Posted in Game Commentary, Heroes, Play of the Day, Pre-Game Commentary, Sports Business, Sports Facts | Leave a comment