Road Show: A Sunday in the UAA

Thank goodness for the University Athletic Association, where there are always great games to pay attention to on a Sunday afternoon. But usually, the atmosphere on a Sunday in the UAA isn’t nearly as raucous as it was inside Red Auerbach Arena this afternoon for the men’s game between top-ranked Rochester and No. 25 Brandeis.

The Judges had a significant number of fans there for their home game, but Rochester had a sizable Boston-area alumni gathering at the game as well. And Rochester pulled out to a 14-point lead early in the second half before Brandeis rallied to cut it to one, twice. You’ll see how John DiBartolomeo and the Yellowjackets responded in the video piece below.

In the second game, the first-place and last-place teams in the UAA looked like they did a role reversal, where last-place Brandeis took it to Rochester in a 62-49 win. I talked with Carol Simon after the game as well.

I also ran into MIT men’s coach Larry Anderson, who introduced me to women’s coach Sonia Raman. Lots of coaches seeing games this weeekend

Road Show: A chance meeting

Teams in airports are easy to spot, and I’ve certainly done that a lot in my travels. The most surprising sighting was one winter when I saw the Mary Washington tennis teams in the Minneapolis airport.

But in a UAA city, on a Thursday, it probably should not have been a surprise to run into the Emory basketball teams. Especially at the Delta baggage claim.

I am not seeing the Eagles play on this trip. Men’s coach Jason Zimmerman was well aware of this and let me know that he knew. I saw them play at home on the Southern Hospitality tour some years back, and I’m still trying to see some teams and gyms for the first time.

Emory is a shot away from being 6-1 in the league, specifically any of the ten 3-pointers Wash U’s Alan Aboona made against them a few weeks back. But the Eagles are rolling otherwise, beating teams by double digits.

Could Rochester sweep NYU and Brandeis this weekend? Zimmerman wouldn’t answer on the record. But he knows how hard it is on the road in the UAA.

Last time I was on this kind of road trip, it was really difficult to post a blog entry. Now there is an app and this post is done before I even get to the rental car place.

Case in Brazil: Rio de Janeiro

The Case Western Reserve men’s basketball team is in Brazil, and blogging about the experience as well. Colin Mulholland writes:

Today began with a 6:40 a.m. wake up call and was followed by a 7 a.m. sprint workout on the beach. As delightful as a beach workout may seem, think twice about running sprints in quick sand. During our workout and in between gasping for air, we witnessed several kids in wet suits riding humongous waves. The locals made the boogie boarding look easy … little did we know.

After the workout, we showered, ate, and made our way to the Christ the Redeemer statue. A brief tour of the city in route to the train stop which all seemed like common procedure; however, if you ask Kevin Carduff, he may tell you otherwise. Kevin spent the majority of the train ride with his head between his legs due to a tremendous fear of heights. He battled and was able to say that he saw one of the modern era seven wonders of the world. From the platforms, we were able to view the entire city. One of the key landmarks was a soccer stadium, which hosted the 1950 World Cup.

After the statue, we were given some time to spend in the hippie market or try our hand at bogey boarding. The cold temperatures and huge waves deterred most of the guys, from the ocean, but Bokan and I had decided to give it a shot. It turns out the other ten guys made the better decision. The current took us a couple hundred yards down the beach in a matter of minutes, and the only waves we caught were not by choice. We were thrown around for about ten minutes until “Scuba Sam,” the Brazilian life guard, in his manly Speedo and flippers decided it would be best if we got out of the water. We agreed.

Later in the afternoon, we were told that we would be in the stadium we saw earlier, amongst 60,000 crazy Brazilian fans watching a tournament game between the fifth seeded Internacionals and the first seeded, host Fluminense. The game ended with the local team from Rio, Fluminense, winning 3-0, but the real excitement was the fans. We were easily picked out in the crowd, but when we found out that screaming and jumping around was encouraged, we were just like everyone else. All in all, it was another incredible day in Brazil. We are headed towards Partay in the morning.

Cinderella need not apply

As you read this some unheralded team out there is about to go on an incredible run that will land them in the NCAA tournament. They will enter the conference playoffs as a low seed, probably a seven or an eight. They’ll upset teams with much better records, riding their momentum to the conference championship, a net cutting ceremony and an automatic bid. As long as you’re not stuck playing the role of the ugly step sister, Cinderella makes for a nice story.

But in some conferences, Cinderella need not apply.

They send a smaller group to the playoffs and let them fight for the top prize. This is the last week for teams in those conferences to fight for a place in the conference playoffs, just so they can start the struggle over again in those playoffs. And that’s a pretty good story, too.

Here are a few races to watch as teams fight for the right to fight for the right to party on Selection Sunday.

CCIW men (Five teams alive for four spots): The regular season has been everything we hoped and there’s a good chance the ending will be just as exciting. Five teams are within two games of each other with two games remaining for all but Augustana. The Vikings won the last two tournaments, but only lead Carthage for the last playoff spot by half a game. The Red Men control their own destiny but have to beat Raymond-recharged Wheaton (Ill.) and Elmhurst. All those “buts” mean ours will be on the edge of our seats until the very end.

Liberty League women: (Five teams for three spots in a four team tournament): Complicated tiebreakers notwithstanding, Union appears to be the only team safely in. Rival RPI is in good shape, too. Then there are four other teams for two spots including three – St. Lawrence, William Smith and Hamilton – who have accounted for five NCAA tournament appearances in four years.

MAC Commonwealth (Five teams for two spots in a four team tournament): These teams have been tightly grouped together all year long. Preseason favorite Widener has already secured the top seed and Elizabethtown has a playoff spot. Everyone else besides Arcadia is still in the mix. Widener only lost twice in conference but it was against Leb Val and Lycoming who could both miss the playoffs, underlining how close these teams are.

The ultimate anti-Cinderella conference is the UAA. Its automatic bid goes to the regular season winner and there is no tourmanent. Washington U. locked up the men’s bid but the women’s side has intrigue left. The February 22nd game between Wash. U and Rochester feels like a de facto title game. But Chicago has games left against both and can still impact this race, even if its own title hopes are slim.

Delaware Valley's Jason Goldheimer And while Delaware Valley fits the Cinderella mold nicely, the Aggies are also fighting for a conference playoff spot. Kudos to new coach Casey Stitzel who has Del Val a game ahead of Alvernia (and two in front of two other teams) for the final slot in the MAC-Freedom playoffs. Last year Del Val was 3-22 and winless in conference. If the Aggies can hold their lead for seven more days, they will have their first postseason berth since 1969.