Thursday, February 28, 2013

Game Day: RMU at Bryant, the rematch

The Robert Morris Colonials (20-9, 12-4) will head to Smithfield, Rhode Island to challenge the Bryant Bulldogs (18-9, 11-5). A win for the Colonials will clinch the regular season NEC title and home court advantage throughout the conference tournament. Bryant can also clinch the regular season NEC championship with wins in their next two games. Tip is at 7:00pm and you can catch the game on or tune in on 730 WPITAM with Chris Shovlin on the call. You can also catch post-game coverage starting at 9:00pm on RMUradiocom. Andrew Chiappazzi of writes about how important home court advantage is for RMU, we encourage you to give it a read:
"Everybody in the league, when their building is packed, feeds off that energy and that environment," Toole said. "It makes it that much more difficult to go in and beat teams in their own buildings." 
Home court is what's at stake Thursday night against Bryant. Robert Morris will clinch home court throughout the NEC Tournament with a win. A loss ties them with Bryant in the standings and gives the Bulldogs the tiebreaker. Robert Morris would need to beat Central Connecticut State on Saturday and hope Bryant falls to St. Francis (Pa.) to claim the top seed again. Otherwise, RMU would be stuck with No. 2. 
So why has the Sewall Center been so good to the Colonials? Being a good team certainly helps. But for a team whose head coach preaches being comfortable in unique situations, a familiar gym erases some of the other issues of game day. 
"I just think it's the comforts of home. Being able to be comfortable is important, and I think when you go on the road you put yourself in uncomfortable situations," Toole said. "It makes it that much more difficult.
This is what it comes down to, folks. After two home losses two start conference play, your Robert Morris Colonials will be on the road in Rhode Island and Connecticut to revenge the two most perplexing and stomach-churning losses of the year. What more can you ask for?

January 3rd saw a confident Bryant team march into the Charles L. Sewall Center, fresh off a win at Lehigh and their first ever mid-major top 25 ranking, destroy RMU's heralded defense with ball movement and efficiency rarely ever seen. The result? An 84-77 "we're-for-real-and-here-to-stay" win for Bryant. Dynami Starks and Frankie Dobbs went for a combined 55 points making 12 of their 20 three pointers, many of which were open looks due to said ball movement. 

Bryant averages 73.9 points per game, best in the NEC and good for 41st in the country. Bryant also averages 15 assists per game (31st in the country) and shoots an unbelievably efficient 47 percent from the field as a team (27th in the country). Starks, Dobbs, and forward Alex Francis could all potentially find themselves on the first team all-NEC team. 

The journey of Robert Morris has been well chronicled here. The injuries, inconsistencies, and whatever else has been thrown at this teams way have only built them up for this moment. Velton Jones said last Saturday his shoulder/chest injury is "about 85 percent" towards its full health. These are the games Jones lives and thrives off of. Don't be naive: he's going off tonight in a Steph Curry unstoppable type of way. It's inevitable. Don't fight the greatness, just sit back and enjoy.

Their are plenty of other story lines we could look at: Robert Morris' top-ranked defense vs. Bryant's top ranked offense, Karvel Anderson's wrist, the Chace Athletic Center's "black-out", how every game for Bryant is now the biggest in their programs history, etc. None are bigger than the fact that first place is on the line. Are you excited?

Prediction: The colonials defense is much better this time around than last, as is Lucky Jones and Russell Johnson. Robert Morris pulls out a gritty, comeback win on the heroics of Velton Jones, 77-75. 

--Chris Capella

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Around the NFL

What Alex Smith will Kansas City get? 

The 49ers have announced they have traded former first overall pick and current backup quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for two second round picks, one this year and one the next, according to Jeff Reynolds of There are a few thoughts I have on this, like…

  • Alex Smith for TWO second round picks!? Washington must be drooling with the potential offers they’ll get for Kirk Cousins next offseason.
  • The Chiefs haven’t drafted a quarterback that’s won them a game since Todd Blackledge “beat” (I put “beat” in quotes because of his 6-of-15 for 79 yards and one interception stat line) the Chargers 20-13 in September of 1987. This year, the Chiefs have the top overall pick with a real chance to develop a young star… So naturally they have passed up on that possibility. We’re going to look back at the day Kansas City traded Alex Smith and passed up on Geno Smith as a foolish one.
  • With that being said, you'd have to like Smith's prospects at being at least a little successful, right? He’s got a solid running game and a go-to target in Dwayne Bowe, assuming they resign him. The biggest question is, are we going to see the Alex Smith from the pre or post-Harbaugh area? Last season Smith was on pace for about 3,200 yards passing, 23 touchdowns, about eight-to-ten interceptions, and a 70 percent completion percentage-- solid numbers by all means. It should also be noted Smith has only played in 16 games twice in his seven year career.
  • San Francisco now has 15 picks in the upcoming draft, making them suspects in any rumored big trades… I’m looking at you Darrelle Revis and Percy Harvin. Does anybody need to see the Super Bowl tape of Anquan Boldin against that secondary? Also, don’t rule out San Fran trading up into the top 15 (San Diego at eleven?) for a defensive tackle.

The cap-strapped Jets cannot afford Darrelle Revis, but do the
Jets truly need him?
The New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers are reportedly talking about working out a deal for Darrelle Revis, the best cornerback in the NFL, according to Yahoo! Sports. Obviously the Jets would like to keep a player with the talent of Revis but, I mean, c’mon, you can’t pay a cornerback $16 million dollars a year when you have as many holes to fill as the Jets. Trading Revis would allow the Jets to free up money to possibly bring back safety Laron Landry and were the second-best ranked pass defense even with Revis playing two-and-a-quarter games this year and Kyle “where’s the ball?” Wilson stepping in as the second corner. Could the Jets get a one and a three plus a position player from the Niners? I think so.

Meanwhile, things are getting more and more optimistic in New England. Tom Brady has signed an extension through 2017 guaranteeing him $57 million dollars in that span, kind of similar to what the Jets did with Mark Sanchez last year. Brady saved the Patriots nearly $15 million dollars and it’s easy to speculate that that money will go right towards getting Wes Welker and Aqib Talib new contracts.

It was announced today that Pittsburgh has restructured the contract of stud linebacker Lawrence Timmons, the best linebacker on their roster. Like a lot of the restructures, Timmons will get nearly all of his money up-front and guaranteed. Pittsburgh was roughly twenty million dollars over the cap to start the week and this move save them five million dollars. The Steelers, facing one of their most important offseasons in recent memory, will more than likely ask quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, safety Troy Polamalu, and linebacker James Harrison to restructure their deals too. If Harrison refuses to, it wouldn’t surprise anybody if he’s cut.

Manti Te'o didn't help himself with a 4.82-40. 
Pittsburgh will also meet with wide receiver and Pittsburgh native Steve Breaston this week, who was released by Kansas City last week. Besides Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, and Dallas all have interest in Breaston.

Other notes: As everyone knows, the NFL combine has taken place over the course of this past week. A lot of noise has been made about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o who has been underwhelming in just about everything. I think he goes in the mid-second round… The Jets and Brady Quinn are close to a deal… Miami and Greg Jennings made a lot of sense until the news that leaked this week that Jennings and current Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin might not have the best relationship... Gil Brandt of has Oakland taking West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith with the third overall pick in his last mock draft… Former LSU defensive back and Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu apparently performed pretty well in Indianapolis… The NFL will investigate Colorado tight end Nick Kasa’s claim that a team asked him about his sexual orientation. 

--Chris Cappella

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

NEC stretch run possibilities

It’s been a pretty busy and hectic few weeks in the Northeast Conference. For those looking for some clarity, we’ll try our best to help you out. Here is what the updated conference standings look like:

-Robert Morris 12-4
-Bryant 11-5
-Quinnipiac 10-6
-Wagner 10-6
-Long Island 10-6
-Mount St. Mary’s 9-7
-Central Connecticut State 8-8
-Sacred Heart 7-9
-St. Francis (Brooklyn) 7-9
-Monmouth 5-11
-St. Francis (PA) 5-11
-Farleigh Dickinson 2-14

Things are certainly crazy all over the place, but things have a funny way of playing themselves out. Wagner and Long Island played a classic on ESPNU Sunday night with Wagner pulling out a last-second win, giving them the season sweep over the Blackbirds. Robert Morris and Bryant will go head-to-head Thursday in Rhode Island, which will likely determine the outright regular season NEC championship. Sacred Heart and St. Francis Brooklyn will play each other in Brooklyn the last game of the year to determine the last team in. Because I have no life, here is a team-by-team breakdown (referencing this page to help with tiebreakers), starting with…

Senior Russell Johnson has never been short on talent. 
Robert Morris: The colonials are fresh off a 43 point drumming of NEC bottom feeder FDU. The win in itself wasn’t impressive but there are some things I took away, like Velton Jones shooting jumpers. His right shoulder/pec has been bothering him a lot lately and you could tell in past games but not so much Saturday, where he dropped 20 and went 4-of-5 from three.

Velton told me in an interview after the game he feels like he’s at 85 percent, which is probably a little better than guard Karvel Anderson, who is battling a wrist injury and told me before the game Saturday he “only shoots when the team needs him too”, an obvious statement if you’ve watched his game of late. Lucky Jones and Russell Johnson continue their tremendous play and center Mike McFadden remains the teams most efficient offensive player with a 56.2 percent field goal percentage, good for seventh in the NEC.

Up next: The Colonials are sitting a game up on everybody but by no means have clinched a one seed. Robert Morris finishes things out on the road at Bryant Thursday and Central Connecticut State Saturday, two teams RMU lost to to begin conference play at home. CCSU is fresh off a big victory over Quinnipiac and have a very dangerous player in Kyle Vinales, who dropped 34 in the teams last meetings. If RMU wins at Bryant Thursday (and by the way, I think they do), the CCSU game will become meaningless.

Possibilities: RMU gets the one seed with a win over Bryant./ OR a loss to Bryant, a win Saturday at Central Connecticut, and a Bryant loss to St. Francis (PA)
-The two seed with a 1-1 finish OR and 0-2 finish with Quinnipiac and Long Island both going 1-1 AND Wagner goes 2-0/ OR and 0-2 finish with Wagner and LIU both going 2-0.
-The three seed with and 0-2 finish AND a Long Island and Wagner 2-0 finish and a Bryant loss to St. Francis (PA)/ OR and 0-2 finish AND a Bryant, Wagner, and Quinnipiac 2-0 finish.

Bryant: The Bulldogs sit one game behind RMU and just dominated Sacred Heart 84-68 Monday's make-up game. Bryant is just 4-5 in the last month of basketball and you have to wonder if there are some tired legs for coach Tim O’Shea’s squad, who tends to only give significant minutes to seven guys. The trio of Frankie Dobbs, Dyami Starks, and Alex Francis still remain an especially lethal offensive threat but I’m worried that this is a squad that has never been in this situation before.

Up Next: As noted above, Thursday’s home game against Robert Morris will likely determine the NEC regular season champion and give that team home court throughout the NEC tournament. Saturday, Bryant will play St. Francis (PA) at home. The Possibilities are endless for Bryant, especially if Wagner gets upset in any of their games. I'm sure I've missed a few combinations here and if you see a glaring one leave a comment.

Possibilities: Bryant gets the one seed with home wins over Robert Morris and St. Francis (PA)/ OR any combination of RMU, Bryant, Wagner, LIU/Quinnipiac being 12-6 would result in the one seed.
- The two seed with a win over Robert Morris but a loss to St. Francis of (PA) and a RMU win over CCSU AND 2-0 finishes from Wagner and Quinnipiac/ OR a loss to St. Francis (PA) and RMU win over CCSU AND a head-to-head tie over Wagner (meaning they go 2-0 and LIU and QU each lose a game) or head-to-head tie or Quinnipiac (meaning LIU and Wagner each lose a game).
-The three seed with a win over Robert Morris, a loss to St. Francis of (PA) and a RMU win over CCSU AND 2-0 finishes from Wagner and Quinipiac/ OR a win over Robert Morris, loss to St. Francis (PA) and RMU defeats CCSU AND Long Island wins out and Wagner finishes 1-1.
-The four seed with a 1-1 finish AND Wagner and LIU win-out.
-The five seed with losses to RMU and St. Francis (PA) AND Mount St. Mary’s, Wagner, and LIU goes 2-0, and Quinnipiac losses at least one game.
-The six seed with loses to RMU and St. Francis (PA) AND Mount St. Mary’s, Wagner, and Quinnipiac goes 2-0 and LIU goes 1-1.

Quinnipiac: Tom Moore has led his squad to a hot streak, making them winners of six of their last seven. The Bobcats are riding their huge front court and the health of point guard Dave Johnson, who gives QU a nice flow to their offense.

Up Next: Quinnipiac has maybe the toughest weekend of any NEC school, making a trip out to Brooklyn to play St. Francis Thursday and Long Island Saturday. There’s a lot on the line, but with a little help, QU could potentially be the NEC regular season runner-up. 

Possibilities: -The two seed with a 2-0 finish AND Robert Morris losses to Bryant and Central Connecticut State/ OR a 2-0 finish AND Bryant loses to Robert Morris/ OR a 2-0 finish AND Bryant goes 0-2/ OR a 2-0 finish AND Bryant defeats Robert Morris and Robert Morris defeats Central Connecticut State
*Reminder: Quinnipiac going 2-0 (thus 12-6 in conference) means Long Island could at best finish 11-7*
-The three seed with a 2-0 finish AND Bryant finishes 2-0, Robert Morris 1-1, and Wagner either 2-0 or 1-1
- The four seed with a 1-1 finish AND Wagner and Mount St. Mary’s finishes 1-1 and LIU finishes 2-0.
- The five seed a 1-1 finish AND both LIU and Mount St. Mary’s finishes 2-0 and Wagner finishes 1-1/ OR the same situation but Wagner and LIU switch roles.
-The six seed with a 1-1 finish AND Mount St. Mary’s and Wagner both go 2-0

Wagner guard Kenny Ortiz finishes at the rim. 
Wagner: The Seahawks have gotten healthy and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Winners of seven of their last ten, they defeated Long Island Sunday on a classic for a national audience to see. Latiff Rivers is one of the best in the NEC at creating his own shot and while it has been a long season for Michigan State transfer Dwaun Anderson, it seems like he’s finally starting to hit his groove and played a vital role in their last win. Mario Moody and Jonathan Williams have also been playing solid basketball. 

Up next: Wagner will finish the season with two very winnable games, at Monmouth and at a dreadful Fairleigh Dickinson squad, who may be without their best player Kinu Rochford.

Possibilities: -The two seed by going 2-0 AND Bryant going 0-2 and Long Island going 2-0.
- The three seed by going 2-0 AND Bryant going 1-1 and Long Island going 2-0/ OR going 2-0 AND Bryant and Long Island going 2-0 and Robert Morris 1-1.
-The four seed by going 2-0 AND Bryant going 1-1 and Quinnipiac going 2-0/ OR going 2-0 AND Bryant and Quinnipiac going 2-0 and Robert Morris goes 1-1/ OR going 1-1 AND QU goes 1-1 and the Mount goes 2-0/ OR going 1-1 AND Long Island and Quinnipiac switch roles/ OR in a scenario where Bryant, Wagner, Long Island, and Mount St. Mary’s all finish 11-7
-The five seed by going 1-1 AND Long Island goes 2-0 and Quinnipiac and Mount St. Mary’s 1-1.

Long Island: Long Island, all things considered, has had a solid season. The first two conference games they had suspensions to lots of key players and just before the start of NEC lost Julian Boyd (last years NEC POY) to a torn ACL. In my opinion, Jamal Olasewere is the clear-cut NEC player of the year and whenever you have someone to the caliber of him on your team you have a chance to win an NEC title. Justin Brickman is one of the best point guards in college basketball and C.J. Garner is the gel that sticks the offense together, in my opinion.

Up Next: Two home games against a desperate Sacred Heart squad and a reeling Quinnipiac team. Both games are must-wins or LIU could very easily face the possibility of going on the road every round of the NEC tournament.

Possibilities* -The two seed by going 2-0 AND Bryant and Wagner going at best 1-1.
-The three seed by going 2-0 AND Wagner going 2-0 and Bryant going 0-2.
-The four seed by going 2-0 AND Wagner going 2-0 and Bryant going 2-0 or 1-1.
-The five seed by going 1-1 AND the Mount going 1-1 and QU and Wagner going 2-0/ OR going 1-1 AND Quinnipiac, Wagner, and Mount St. Mary’s goes 2-0.
-The six seed by going 1-1 AND Quinnipiac goes 1-1 with a loss to St. Francis (Brooklyn) and Mount St. Mary’s goes 2-0/ OR by going 0-2 AND Quinnipiac and the Mount go at least 1-1/ OR by going 0-2 and the Mount goes 2-0.
*Assume all one-loss scenarios are to Quinnipiac and not Sacred Heart.

Mount St. Mary’s: The Mount’s “Havoc” style of play is perfect for this time of the year and it’s showing. No team wants to see 40 minutes of a full-court press defense… it’s exhausting. Sam Prescott’s offense has been great as of late; he’s averaging over 30 points per game the last five games and went for 44 against Bryant. You also have to like what junior guard Rashad Whack has done this year:

Up Next: Winners of seven of their last eight, the Mount will hit the road with two very winnable games against the NEC bottom feeders-- at Monmouth and at Fairleigh Dickinson. A lot like Bryant, there are tons of different combinations. Please comment if there are glaring omissions

Possibilities: -The two seed with a 2-0 finish AND Bryant, Wagner, and LIU all finish 0-2 and Quinnipiac finishes 1-1
-The three seed with a 2-0 finish AND Bryant, Wagner, and Quinnipiac all go 0-2 and an LIU 1-1 finish. 
-The four seed with a 2-0 finish AND Wagner goes 2-0, Bryant and Quinnipiac 1-1, and Long Island 0-2.
-The five seed with a 2-0 finish AND Bryant, Wagner, Quinnipiac, and Long Island all go 1-1. 
-The seven seed with and 0-2 finish AND  CCSU 2- finish. 

Central Connecticut State: The Blue Devils had a huge win over Quinnipiac Monday due to the heroics of sophomore guard Kyle Vinales. If it wasn’t for the awesomeness of LIU’s Olasewere, Vinales would be my pick for NEC player of the year. Besides him, junior guard Matt Hunter has been a more than capable secondary scorer. CCSU could be a tricky first round match-up for anyone due to the capabilities of those two.

Kyle Vinales could be a first team all-NEC teamer. 
Up Next: CCSU will have two home games against St. Francis (PA) and Robert Morris. I’ll be interested to see how the colonials handle Saturday’s game if they win Thursday; CCSU could potentially see a lot of back-ups while Robert Morris rests some key guys.

-Possibilities: -The six seed by going 2-0 AND Mount St. Mary's goes 0-2.
-The seven seed by going 2-0 AND Mount St. Mary's goes 1-1.
-The eight seed by going 0-2 AND St. Francis (Brooklyn) or Sacred Heart go 2-0.

Sacred Heart: It’s been a tough go for the Pioneers as of late, losing seven of their last eight. Shane Gibson has been an incredible yet again, averaging 21.2 ppg and just became the fifth player in NEC history to reach 2,000 points after his 30 and 6 game Sunday at Bryant. Unfortunately for him, part of his legacy will be he won one playoff game in his SHU career, assuming an upset does not occur in the first round of the NEC tournament.

Up Next: The stretch run remains tough for the Pioneers as they go to Long Island and St. Francis Brooklyn. Those are going to be two tough games but I do not believe they can lose tiebreakers to Monmouth or St. Francis (PA) if it comes to that situation.

Possibilities: -The seven seed by going 2-0 AND CCSU goes 0-2.
-The eight seed with a win over St. Francis Brooklyn 
-Out of the tournament with and 0-2 finish.

St. Francis (Brooklyn): It’s been an odd year for the other team in Brooklyn, who came out of the gate in conference play with the most lock-down defense in an otherwise offensive conference year. The Terriers played very well up to their win against Robert Morris; since then they have been 2-5 and have only held one team below 70 points in that stretch. Forward Jalen Cannon and guard Ben Mockford have held steady on the offensive end.

Up next: Brooklyn will play host to Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart, controlling their own destiny on if they get in or not.

Possibilities: -The seven seed  by finishing 2-0 AND CCSU finishes 0-2
-The eight seed by defeating Sacred Heart.

Monmouth/St. Francis (PA)
It’s been a disappointing year for Monmouth especially; as they were a more popular pick to at least make the NEC tournament. To be fair, the Hawks have been without their leading scorer Andrew Nicholas for the stretch run (I believe his last game was in a January loss to CCSU). The Red Flash faced injury problems earlier in the conference year but have played teams really tough despite that and are currently winners of three of their last four.

Up next: St. Francis will head to Central Connecticut State and Bryant while Monmouth gets home games against the Mount and Wagner.

Possibilities: Eliminated
What I would most like to see: As this is an RMU site created by RMU students, I would like to see RMU clinch up a one seed by beating Bryant Thursday. In return, I’d like to see Bryant beat St. Francis (PA) thus finishing 12-6 in conference, Quinnipiac lose to St. Francis (Brooklyn) and beat LIU, and have Mount St. Mary’s win out forcing a three-way tie for the 4-5-6 spots in the conference tournament (Wagner is going to finish 2-0). If the Mount, QU, and LIU all finish tied in this scenario, Mount St. Mary’s will get the four, Quinnipiac the five, and Long Island the six, making the first round matchups:

(1)   Robert Morris- (8) St. Francis (Brooklyn)
(2)   Bryant- (7) Central Connecticut State
(3)   Wagner- (6) Long Island
(4)   Mount St. Mary’s- (5) Quinnipiac

My Prediction: 

(1)   Robert Morris- (8) St. Francis Brooklyn
(2)   Wagner- (7) Central Connecticut State
(3)   Long Island - (6) Quinnipiac
(4)   Bryant- (5) Mount St. Mary’s

--Chris Cappella

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Game Day: RMU vs Monmouth

The Robert Morris Colonials (18-9, 10-4) will play hosts to the Monmouth Hawks (10-17, 5-9) at the Charles L. Sewall Center. This is an important game for Monmouth, winners of two of their last three, as they find themselves on the outside looking in for the NEC tournament, which takes eight of the twelve possible teams. Tip-off is at seven and you can catch the game by heading out to the Chuck (suggested) or by listening in on 730 WPIT AM. We encourage you to take a look at the's game preview, as Andrew Chiappazzi puts a lot of focus on the near-future of Colonial guard Velton Jones:

But Jones is an integral part of the team. With road contests looming against Bryant and Central Connecticut State, might an extra few days of rest benefit him? That's the dilemma Toole faces. Does he sit Jones and hope the rest of his team pulls out wins like they did Saturday against Sacred Heart? Does he risk playing Jones both games to ensure he's playing with a full deck? Or does he sit Jones on Thursday and play him sparingly so his star senior can be recognized with fellow starterRussell Johnson and walk-ons Treadwell Lewis andShane Sweigart on Saturday?
Toole wasn't tipping his hand, saying Tuesday he'd discuss all the options with his staff, Jones, and the team trainers.
"One of the things about Velton is he's earned the right to make some decisions about his career and how he wants to finish it out," Toole said. "He has a lot of trust of the coaching staff, so it'll be a conversation about what he thinks is best and how he's feeling."
Those are some interesting comments by Toole there,as he essentially said it's up to Velton on if he wants to play or not. As we saw last Thursday at Quinnipiac, Jones was in street clothes until about 20 minutes from tip when he decided he wanted to give it a go. Not the smartest idea (especially in hindsight, although I said he shouldn't have played the whole time) after a 3-13 shooting night, but I get it. He's Velton Jones, one of the toughest players in college basketball and he's earned the right in his senior year to decide on whether he wants to play or not. 

With all of the being said, I hope Toole is really careful with this situation. I would prefer to rest Jones up this game and play him very sparingly Saturday against FDU... let him enjoy senior night but have him ready to go for the last two games on the road at Bryant and Central Connecticut State. 

This could be a tricky game. Jones is banged up with his shoulder/pec and Karvel Anderson could be limited with a wrist. Monmouth is a desperate team who needs to leapfrog St. Francis Brooklyn and CCSU in the standings to make the field of eight. It has been a disappointing season for a still-young MU squad, who were a darkhorse pick by some to finish at least in the middle of the pack in the NEC. Still, the Colonials defense is going to have to show up and shut down sophomore Andrew Nicholas, who is averaging nearly 14 points per game. 

Overall, RMU needs this one to stay atop the NEC. LIU is taking on a hot Mount St. Mary's team on the road, which could be a tough game for them. If Velton is a no-go, expect a lot of am Anthony  Myers-Pate-Coron Williams-Lucky Jones-Russell Johnson-Mike McFadden lineup with not a lot of subbing with Anderson battling his wrist injury and David Appolon's recent poor play. 

Score prediction: RMU takes down Monmouth, almost effectively ending their season, 70-59.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mid-week links

  • What needs to happen for the NEC conference champion to avoid a 16 seed? (
  • This crazy RMU basketball season through the eyes of my good friend and RMU student Danny Bonaventura (Shutdown Sports Corner)
  • Zach Lowe of Grantland takes a look at five storylines for the second half of the NBA season (
  • Ian Thomsen looks at some players and teams to watch as the NBA trade deadline looms (
  • A look at the late Jerry Buss (
  • An anonymous Steelers player ripped Lamarr Woodley this week (

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Pirates, Historically Bad: Is the end in sight?

The Pittsburgh Pirates have not made the playoffs since 1992. I was not even born yet! My mom was born
and raised in Pittsburgh and she was able to watch the days of Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente, Manny Sanguillen, Dave Parker, and World Series titles in 1971 and 1979. In my lifetime I have never seen the Pirates have a winning season! They have been the epitome of bad over the last two decades. They’ve had their great players though, Barry Bonds, pre steroids, Jason Bay, and now Andrew McCutchen who is an MVP caliber player. The Pirates have been turning it around in recent seasons, the 2011 season saw them in first place as late as July 25 before falling off and ending 18 games below .500. However General Manager Neal Huntington has been doing an excellent job building the farm system and making smart deals to help get this organization back on track.

It started with the 2008 MLB draft when he took Vanderbilt third baseman Pedro Alvarez with the second overall and pick and this was met with a good amount of criticism and rightfully so. Three picks later at number 5 overall the San Francisco Giants took Florida State catcher Buster Posey who was widely regarded as the best player in the draft. In 2009 he took Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez who has yet to make a major impact on the club but is widely regarded as the future behind the plate for the Pirates and is said to be a great defensive catcher which is one thing Huntington has stated that he wants. Since then, he has taken high risk/reward pitchers like Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie who will eventually have profound impacts on the pitching at the MLB level along with 2011 first overall pick Gerrit Cole who is expected to make his debut sometime this season and pack that with Taillon, you can have one of the most potent 1-2 punches in the league. It’s not just those guys though, as the Pirates have a multitude of talented prospects including Dominican shortstop Alen Hanson, speedster Gregory Polanco, and the big young Mexican Luis Heredia just to name a few. These players are anywhere from one to three years away still but it does show that help is on the way for the Pirates.
There's a lot of hype surrounding Gerrit Cole. 

This year though they still have to go on with what they have but Huntington has done a nice job with this year’s team which boasts a good amount of experience, youth, and talent. Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano are the two big names to join the team this season and hopefully propel them to a winning season. As a Yankee fan I have watched Russell the last two seasons and while his high usage while in Los Angeles has prevented him from becoming the star he was on track to become, he is still a very serviceable catcher, something the Pirates have lacked since the heyday of Jason Kendall. Liriano, as we all know, hasn’t been the same since Tommy John surgery in 2006. However he has shown some flashes that he can be that same pitcher if he keeps his walks down. We all know about the super talent that is Andrew McCutchen, and Starling Marte showed last season that he can and will be an effective player at the big league level. The signing of Jonathan Sanchez could prove to be a big one as well. When I do season outlooks for each team I’ll get into more depth about the roster for this season.

20 seasons since a winning year for the Pirates and fans are certainly anxious. Neal Huntington has been doing a nice job in recent years of bringing this team closer and this season may be the season they finally break the .500 barrier. Even if they don’t though, Pirates fans can be sure, it is coming soon!

--Kenny Celelli

Sunday, February 17, 2013

NEC Stretch Run

Does Frankie Dobbs and Bryant have any gas
left in the tank?
Velton Jones health will have a huge
say in how far RMU goes.
As we come down the stretch, the Colonials are in a battle for the all important number one seed as they try to get healthy for the all important NEC tournament. The battle at the bottom of the conference will be just as intriguing as teams battle for the last spot in the NEC tournament. Here is where things stand in the NEC with just four games left. 

RMU and LIU sit at the top of the conference at 10-4. RMU owns the tie breaker because of that head to head win. Bryant is just behind the two at 9-4. Wagner is 9-5 (the Colonials have the tie breaker over Wagner as well) and plays LIU at home Sunday on espnU @ 8pm (huge game). QU is coming up fast at 8-5. They got that huge win over RMU and are still in the hunt to get a home game in the NEC tournament. 

Sacred Heart in 7-6 and fading fast, losers of 4 of 5 and the lone win over last place FDU. Mount, like QU, is coming on strong at the right time. They have a huge home stand this weekend against SFNY and LIU. If they win both, they could sneak into the top four (though its doubtful). CCSU is slipping but still 6-7. SFNY is 6-8 and has fallen apart since their big win over RMU. Monmouth is holding onto hope they can get hot and get in. They are 5-9. Two of those five won't make it. Monmouth will likely be one team out. 

Now that we have the completely confusing and jumbled standings laid out (and of course they will change drastically over the next week). Here are some thoughts. 

I think Bryant is running out of gas: Four guys are averaging 30+ minutes a game.. and they only play 6-7 guys a game. That's got to wear down a team. Not to mention they play three games in five days coming up... If there is one positive, out of their last five games, four are at home. With that said, only the last game, home vs SFPA is a gimme. I could easily see RMU, Wagner, and LIU, three teams that have depth and experience, finish ahead of Bryant.

As Andrew Chiappazzi noted on Colonials Corner, RMU could take hold of the conference this weekend: "
Thursday begins a set of crucial five days for Robert Morris. It begins with them having to take of business while trying to get guys like Velton Jones healthy (or at least some close approximation to being healthy).

Provided Robert Morris takes of business and wins as expected against Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson, they're in prime position to get some help.

Mount St. Mary's plays LIU fresh off of taking down Bryant. Quinnipiac and Sacred Heart play each other. And Bryant has to play Central Connecticut State. Though CCSU is slumping, they can match Bryant point-for-point. 

That's all just Thursday night. Bryant has to turn around and play Quinnipiac on the road on Saturday, while Wagner and LIU face off on Sunday.

Kenny Ortiz and Wagner are getting
hot at the right time.
Oh, and Monday, Bryant hosts Sacred Heart, which the Bulldogs lost to earlier in the year."

The Colonials could find themselves a game up (and tiebreakers over LIU and Wagner) on everybody Monday morning.

Sacred Heart is in loads of trouble: Losers of four of five, Sacred Heart went from battling for home court, to battling just to stay in the NEC tournament. They have a tough stretch to end the year, and are continuing to battle injuries. They get QU at home Thursday, and then CCSU. The game against the Blue Devils is a must win (for both). After that, three straight road games, starting with Bryant and then LIU. Their final game at SFNY could basically be a NEC tournament play in game.

I'll take a stab at predicting the final standings, but my guess is it will be like throwing darts at a dartboard blindfolded based of the way things have played out this season...

1) RMU-- Even without Velton , RMU could win all four remaining games, but I think the senior will play a major role in the final road trip at Bryant and CCSU.
2) WAG-- The Seahawks have finally found some offense, and it looks like it has came at just the right time. Three of their final four are on the road, but they are all against teams outside the top eight. Their final home game, senior night Sunday vs LIU on espnU.
3) LIU-- Blackbirds have a tough road trip this weekend, and I think they get a split. If they lose the game to Wagner, they will not have the tie breaker. The way Mount is playing, I don't see LIU grabbing both of those games. With that said, these are the two time defending champs, and I wouldn't be surprised if they sneak into the one seed.
4) Bryant-- The lack of depth and experience really worries me. They haven't been in this position like the teams around them. I think they lose to QU, and RMU.
5) QU-- Here is where things get real fun. I'm all but certain that the above four will finish in some order. Five through 10 will be crazy. The Bobcats are playing well. I think they can get the five seed. Last year they won in the first round as the five seed.
6) MSM-- The Mount is playing really well right now, and their havoc style seems to be wearing teams down at a higher rate as the season drags on. Their final two games are at the jersey schools but first a huge home stand vs LIU and SFNY.
7) Sacred Heart-- No way Shane Gibson lets the Pioneers miss the NEC tournament, I have them finishing 2-3, and that should get them in.
8) CCSU--The Blue Devils can score with anyone in the NEC, but have really struggled on defense lately. They probably need at least two more wins to get in. SFPA should provide one win. I think they beat QU at home and squeak in.

Out) SFNY-- They aren't playing well at all, and will really regret those losses to SFPA (at home) and Monmouth. Three of the final four are at home but none are easy games. They beat Wagner on the road earlier this year, but this is a different Seahawk team. They also do not have the tiebreaker over CCSU, and have already lost to Sacred Heart.

Now that I have this out here, SFNY will win out, Bryant will get the one seed, and Wagner will end the year 1-3! Enjoy the final 4-5 games! Hope to see everyone out at the Chuck this weekend!

--Lee Kunkel

Saturday, February 16, 2013

RMU back on top

The Robert Morris Colonials (18-9, 10-4) defeated the Sacred Heart Pioneers (9-15, 6-6) by a score of 68-63. It wasn't always pretty, and Robert Morris was without their leader Velton Jones, but a Wagner 89-75 win over Bryant has RMU atop first place for the first time all season. Long Island defeated Fairleigh Dickinson so they also have improved to 10-4 in conference, but Robert Morris' win earlier in the season over the Blackbirds gives them the tiebreaker.

Before I get more into the NEC overall, I have a few thoughts on this game. RMU lost to Quinnipiac the other night for two main reasons: They went 5-of-13 from the stripe and had seven offensive rebounds to QU's 19. This game, those stats tilted towards Robert Morris' favor as they went 23-of-27 from the line and had 36 rebounds to Sacred Heart's 32. Lucky Jones again led the team with seven rebounds.

RMU overcame the loss of Velton Jones
at SHU (photo courtesy northeastconf
RMU played an efficient game for the most part. Again, Velton Jones did not play with his shoulder/chest injury and don't be surprised if he doesn't play in the last two home games next Thursday and Saturday against Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson, respectively. There's a rumor floating around that Jones has a slightly torn pec, which makes sense if you remember watching how the original injury happened at St. Francis-Brooklyn and how he's used his right arm sense (he pretty much hasn't). I don't remember seeing Jones take a jump shot since the injury and teams are eventually going to start playing way of of him, taking away passing lanes, and make him beat them with his left-handed floater.

Lucky Jones, Anthony Myers-Pate, Karvel Anderson, and Mike McFadden all had double digits in scoring and Coron Williams and Russell Johnson had eight and nine respectively. Williams had been M.I.A prior to these last few games but has been very efficient from the field. Karvel Anderson went on a nice scoring stretch in the middle of the second half to put RMU up double-digits. Anderson went 4-of-11 from the field but 3-of-5 from three and I am liking his aggressiveness despite battling a minor wrist injury.

Here's the problem though: this should not have been a five point game. I know Shane Gibson got hot towards the end of the game, but time and time again we've seen a late-game offense that isn't getting points and turning the ball over at an alarming rate. It's difficult without Velton Jones, because when you're running the shot clock down you find your guards in a lot of iso situations having to create shots for themselves, and no one does that better than Jones... but still, you have to find a way. I think there are times late in games where if shooters are open, you have to take the shot, even if it's early in the shot clock. Why not? It's better than anything else they've shown late in games.

The parity of the NEC has been unreal this year; anyone can go down on any given night. With that being said, isn't it funny how with four games remaining things are really shaping up like everyone thought? RMU and LIU are atop the standings and Wagner is only a half game back of third place. Even Quinnipiac, winners of six of their last seven, are looking a lot more like the team who was five minutes away from the NEC championship game last year. Bryant has been a nice story and I still think they can win the NEC, but like we've said all year, it's hard to go a whole season and play at a high level with a seven man rotation. I doubt RMU and LIU have enjoyed all the injuries they've endured all year but the whole roster has been tested. For example, David Appolon has seen more minutes this year than anyone could have imagined.

There are four games left. The formula to home court is simple: win out. Anthony Myers-Pate is going to have to continue his strong play at point guard with Velton Jones out and both Coron Williams and Karvel Anderson need to be a bit more consistent. All and all, I do believe this squad wins out and goes into the NEC tournament as the one seed.

--Chris Cappella

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Game Day: Robert Morris at Quinnipiac

Tonight, the Robert Morris Colonials (17-8, 9-3) will travel to Hamden, Connecticut to take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats (10-13, 6-5). Both teams are on a bit of a hot streak, as RMU is winners of nine of their last ten and QU has won four of their last five. Tip is at 7:00 an you can catch the game on As always, Andrew Chiappazzi of has a solid pre-game article on the site, here is some of it:
This six game stretch won't be without obstacles. The first came this weekend, though it left Robert Morris unscathed. Two games were cancelled because of a huge winter storm that dumped feet of snow on the Northeast. Quinnipiac, Central Connecticut State, Sacred Heart, and Bryant all haven't played since last Thursday. Quinnipiac and Central Connecticut State had their Saturday game pushed to February 25, and the same happened for Bryant and Sacred Heart. It means those four teams, including the league leading Bryant Bulldogs, wrap up the season with five games in ten days.
"It definitely can have an effect on some of the teams involved. I think everyone understands how important each and every game is," Toole said. "I don't know if it'll have too much of an effect, but anything that can break your routine sometimes can throw you off the slightest bit."
There are six games left in the regular season. Six. It's nice to finally see the team getting healthy coming down the stretch run. Anthony Myers-Pate was a no-go Saturday with concussion symptoms but passed his impact test beforehand, so I would assume that was more of a precaution and he will be good to play tonight. Velton Jones is still hindered by his right shoulder injury but has had almost a week to rest that up and still played 30+ minutes Saturday. Other than that, Mike McFadden has rejoined the team and will give the guys a much-needed low post scorer and Keith Armstrong continues to shake off the rust coming back from his Achilles injury and is proving that he can play valuable minutes when needed.

Before jumping into tonight's match-up, I have a few thoughts on Saturday's overtime win against Wagner. RMU probably played their best half of basketball all season in that game, and it was encouraging to see Coron Williams get going and Russell Johnson and Lucky Jones continue their outstanding play. The second half was a different story, as we saw the colonials continue to have problems breaking the full-court press, which apparently has been one of the few problems in the Toole era. Russell Johnson got off a clean look at the end of regulation for the win but it did not go. RMU played solid in OT despite having little momentum and no point guard after Velton Jones fouled out. Free throws were key to icing the game, and the team escaped with a much needed win. 

The team might have blown a big lead, but this was probably my second favorite win of the year after the LIU game. I've complained more than once about RMU not having to scrap out a win all year, but they did exactly that in this one. Their backs were against the wall and they managed to pull out a win. Wagner made some really tough shots to climb back into this one but I was proud of the guys for finishing off their effort. Also, good job to the 1,200 in attendance who stood up and got loud when it mattered most.

With all that being said, tonight's game scares me. I've said all along I think RMU trips up one more time before the Bryant match-up in the second to last game of the season, which isn't the worse thing that could happen (RMU owns at least a one game cushion and a tiebreaker with LIU, Wagner, and Sacred Heart). Tom Moore's squad needs this win bad, as they're fighting for position in the middle of the NEC. Quinnipiac is a very good rebounding team and was without starting point guard Dave Johnson in the last match-up, an 87-75 RMU victory. The Bobcats combination of Azotam and Hearst in the front court are a handful offensively and on the boards, an area that the Colonials struggle in. 

Prediction: RMU trips up but gets bailed out by Mount St. Mary's, who beats Bryant. QU 79, RMU 74 

--Chris Cappella

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love is in the air!

Ah, Valentines day! A day to show your true love and appreciation for the one (or "ones", your life, not mine) that you care about. The earliest evidence of Valentines day can go ball the way back to the 14th Century, in a poem titled the "Parliament of Fowls". The events of the poem occur on Valentines day and talk of birds, who's actions represent that of humans, finding partners.

There are plenty of things I have come to love as a sports fan. In honor of that, I have created a list. Enjoy: 

  • I love the New York Jets. I do. I hate to admit it because there are times that I truly do hate that franchise. Tim Tebow? Seriously? Shonn Greene as a feature back? A whole season of Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, and Eric Smith on defense? Could any of them beat me in a 40? That's enough to drive anyone away. But I was caught early:  Wayne Chrebet across the middle on third downs, Curtis Martin doing Curtis Martin things, the competitivness of Chad Pennington, Herman Edwards and his rants... the list could go on. Damn you Jets. Happy Valentines Day.
  • I think I love Kate Upton. I definitely love the SI swimsuit edition. 

Ok, I'm definitely in love with Kate Upton, and anyone who says they're rooting for her and Justin Verlander to work out are liars. 
  • I love Robert Morris and all the opportunities it has given me. I've been lucky enough to work with some incredible people like Mike Barker of TribLIVE radio and Andrew Chiappazzi of and my friend and co-host Lee Kunkel. I'm very grateful to all of the guests on our show, including the guys on the basketball team, who not only are incredible basketball players but the most respectful group of guys I've come across.
  • I love the the lovable group of losers that make the New York Mets. We might have missed out on Michael Bourn, but who needs an outfield anyway! (I actually think that's the slogan for this years team)
  • I love how much Brent Musburger loves Katherine Webb.
  • I love how much A.J. McCarron likes to poke at Darnell Dockett.
  • I love Brandon McCarthy's awesomeness. That is the best twitter fight in the history of twitter fights.
  • I love the crazy season of college basketball. The parity of it is ridiculous. We just had Louisville and Notre Dame play in FIVE OVERTIMES Saturday and it wasn't even the best game that day. I love that TCU can beat Kansas and Miami is good enough to host Dwayne Wade and LeBron courtside. Speaking of...
  • I love LeBron. There I said it. I tried hating LeBron, I really did. It was absolutely exhausting. Here's a guy who can guard anyone at any position, can run like a horse, pass like a point guard, and can post up like a big man. Stop hating and just appreciate greatness as it's happening.
  • I really, really, love this VISA commercial. "Patrick... I want 100 PERCENT COMMITMENT!"

  • I love how Kentucky players carried off Nerlens Noel after his torn ACL and how Gator fans were a class act the whole time. 
  • I love this story by Chuck Culpepper, the best story I've read this year by far, about being a gay sportswriter and his interaction with Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. 
  • I love that Ray Lewis went out a champion. You might hate him as a person and a player, but Ray Lewis was one of the most passionate guys to ever step onto a field. We'll be lucky if we ever see such a talented leader in our lifetime. 
  • I love rivalries. Rivalry week in college basketball has been fantastic. Duke-UNC, Uconn-Syracuse, Michigan State-Michigan, Kansas State-Kansas...
  • I love the excitement in the air for baseball season and the World Baseball Classic. Doesn't it seem like a lifetime ago since we've had the WBC?
  • I love that Gus Johnson gets to call soccer games now. 
  • I love how J.R. Smith runs possibly the best professional athelete twitter account, whether he knows it or not. You can catch Smith tweeting at all hours, taking compliments, dishing out hate, and... the misspellings. His classic "why so quite" tweet after an early season win is hilarious on so many levels. 
  • I love this clip of Will Ferrell kicking Shaq out of a Lakers game. 
  • I still love Tony Romo. 
  • I love the new NBA countdown crew of Michael Wilbon, Magic Johnson, Jalen Rose, and Bill Simmons, who is the most creative man in the sports industry in my opinion. 
  • I love all of the ESPN 30for30's, especially the Bo Jackson one. 
  • I love Bill Walton. If you ever flip to a basketball game that he's calling, just stop and listen to it. He'll take you on one big, goofy ride.
  • I love that Vin Scully, at 85 years young, is coming back for his 64th season of Dodgers play by play. Scully is the greatest to ever call a baseball game and what he does is truly a unique art form. 
  • There's so much more I could write about, like the Tyson Chandler tip backs, Mr. Met, hockey being back, the Olympics (even on a time delay), Michael Phelps still showing Ryan Lochte how it's done, the Beyonce half time show, a super bowl in the cold, Bill O'Brien, Alabama, Beaver Stadium, the Rock-Chalk Jay Hawk chant, the Mets getting a no-hitter, R.A Dickey, and others. 
Sure there are a lot of things to dislike in sports right now: PED's, the mega-contracts, some of the types of "journalism" we're seeing, where the NFL is going, ESPN First Take, etc. But today is Valentines day, can't you feel the love in the air?

--Chris Cappella

Mid-week links

Catch up on your reading with some of these suggestions...

Andrew Chiappazzi tells us to keep an eye on some of these new Robert Morris football recruits (

The Charlotte Observer's Tom Sorensen asks if South Carolina stud defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney should risk playing this year (

This is a little late, but columnist Chuck Culpepper writes a moving piece about his personal experiences and his interaction with Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo (

Michael Vick restructured his contract to stay with Philadelphia and now believes he can rush for 1,000 yards ( Can he play corner too?

The newly released Paterno Report was a joke, writes CBS' Gregg Doyel (

Even Masters champion Zach Johnson knows the IOC's decision to drop wrestling is a foolish one (

Our friend Ryan Peters takes a look at the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly from the past week of NEC hoops. (Big Apple Buckets).

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Off-season Diagnosis: Chicago Bears

In week nine, halfway through the NFL season, Charles Tillman forced four fumbles, Brian Urlacher had an interception return for a touchdown, Jay Cutler threw three touchdowns, the Bears special teams blocked a punt for a touchdown (all of this en route to a 51-20 beat down on Tennessee), Chicago was 7-1, and the Bears were the best team in the NFL.

Yet, somehow, Chicago found themselves out of the playoffs for the second straight year, having as much of a chance to win a super bowl as the Cardinals or Panthers.

The Bears finished the season 10-6, meaning they went 3-5 in their last eight games for all you math majors out there. Jay Cutler had one of his worse seasons as a pro and continually fails to live up to his expectations as a 25 year old coming from Denver. To compact the problem, the playmakers on the offensive side of the ball are scarce to say the least and the offensive line is pitiful.

Firing Lovie Smith was the right move for the Bears.
General manager Phil Emery made the decision to fire coach Lovie Smith after missing the playoffs for two straight years and five out of the six past seasons. In fact, Chicago has won one playoff game since they’re super bowl appearance in 2006. This move was criticized by many (including the players: Brian Urlacher said he was “shocked” and Devin Hester almost retired) but was the right move in my opinion. How many coaches keep their jobs after missing the playoffs five times in six years? How many coaches keep their job after a collapse like Chicago had? Smith is a great defensive mind but clearly has little grasp of how to manage an offense, as evidenced by:

a)      The inability to ever surround an extremely talented quarterback with any sort of talent.
b)      The inability to understand the concept of an offensive line and how all good teams have a good offensive line. In his eight years as Bears head coach, Chicago’s personnel department took an offensive lineman in the first round twice. Pretty odd to address such a glaring need with very little attention.
c)      The inability to find an offensive coordinator and stick with an offensive philosophy and identity. What exactly is the Bears identity? Are they a ground and pound team? Are they a vertical, stretch it out offense? When you go through three coordinators in eight years (by the way, Mike Tice was fired this offseason, so I guess you can make it four), doesn’t it begin to reflect more on the leadership of the head coach? That’s what the downfall of Rex Ryan is going to be in New York.

So Lovie Smith is now gone and has been replaced with Canadian Football League coach Mark Trestman. You may laugh at this, but Trestman is well respected in nearly all football circles and has worked wonders with just about every quarterback he’s touched. I would list them all, but it’s too long so I’ll assume that you’ll either trust me or look it up yourself. Besides being a solid offensive mind, Trestman is even more well-known for putting together good, experienced staffs, something that was not Smith’s strong suit, as I just pointed out.

There are a lot of big decisions that will directly impact the future of the Bears and it couldn’t have come at a much better time. This is from Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times:

There will be an incremental increase in the salary cap to $121 million, and the Bears’ combined cap number of their top 41 players is about $14.5 million under that. That includes a carryover of space from this season. According to a league source, the Bears are among the top 10 teams in terms of cap space.

The Bears have to work on long term deals on guys like Jay Cutler (assuming that’s the road they want to travel, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be), Lance Briggs, Charles Tillman, and Brandon Marshall. I’m not sure how realistic it is to sign everyone, and if one had to go I’m sure it would be Briggs.

Make no mistake about it though, the face of the franchise, Brian Urlacher, will dominate Chicago’s media, as they decide on whether they want to bring him back (he says he wants to) or let him walk an unrestricted free agent. I think Urlacher can still play but not in a full-time role. He’s certainly lost some speed with age (he’s 35) and simply cannot be counted on to stay healthy. If there was ever a time to break ties with a face of a franchise as controversial free as possible, it would be now. Who could blame them? Urlacher posted a -11.2 season according to the stat-based site, which is good for fifth worse among all eligible ILB free agents.

I would let Urlacher walk and look to draft a linebacker with the 20th overall selection, perhaps Manti Te’o or Georgia’s Alec Ogletree. If they do bring back Urlacher, I would guess that the deal would be two years with an option for a third and would have a base salary of two and a half million dollars per year with incentives that could double it, and the deal will only be that much because, well, it’s Brian Urlacher. 

Chicago should also focus on tight end and offensive line in the draft. When was the last time Chicago had a true pass-catching threat at tight end? Greg Olsen? Yuck. Now more than ever, quarterbacks need that big, athletic mismatch in the middle of the field. Chicago needs to get with the time by either signing a guy like Martellus Bennett or drafting Stanford’s Zack Ertz.

Obviously, the Bears needs to work on their offensive line, but I think the feeling is they’re content to let their young tackles develop and could be looking for a guard. Alabama’s Chance Warmack is the guard of the draft but won’t make it to twenty. Look for Chicago to make a run after former Bills guard Andy Levitre, one of the best pass blocking guards in the game. If they do look tackle, Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson is a definite possibility.

Time for the Bears to move on from the face of their franchise.
Personally, I would let Urlacher go and take Ogletree at twenty. I’d sign Levitre at guard and take a tight end in the second round, like Florida’s Jordan Reed, who kind of reminds me of what Dustin Keller could have been if the Jets knew what they were doing or what Dennis Pitta is now. Reed is really good in the slot and would be another playmaker for Cutler.

Make no mistake about it though, this team will go as far as Jay Cutler takes them. Despite not having a very good line, Cutler had an awful year. Health will play a factor too: Matt Forte is one of the best backs in the league but can never go a full 16. The Alshon Jeffrey injury was unfortunate for a lot of reasons, but none bigger than the reason that it doesn’t let him continue to develop into a top receiver, which he can be with his rare size and speed.

The Bears are a good team, we’ve seen it many times throughout the past few years where they go on good runs but can’t stay healthy or consistent enough to finish it off. I like adding Trestman and the experienced staff that will come with it and I believe that with a few simple offensive upgrades the words “Bears” and “Super Bowl” belong in the same sentence for this upcoming season. 

--Chris Cappella

Monday, February 11, 2013

Let the Madness Begin

There have been a lot of "SC highlight of the night" provided by
college hoops. Expect more!
What a crazy wild ride it has been so far this year for college basketball. There seems to be so many story lines as we approach mid February. Not one team appears to have locked up a one seed and the bubble is as wide open as ever. In the one bid leagues teams are jockeying for position as conference tournaments near. As we have seen in the Northeast Conference there are so many story lines and many programs still have the dream of reaching the Big Dance. In the next month teams will continue the battle to get into the dance and it all starts this week with rivalry week. After that comes Bracket Busters, conference tournaments, and of course; Selection Sunday. Without doubt we will see more overtime thrillers, buzzer beaters, upsets, and plenty of court stormings. Let the madness begin...

(We will start this series with a look at the potential number one seeds.)

Battle for the four number one seeds: I have been following college basketball religiously for about seven years now, and I cant remember a year in which we were approaching March, and not ONE team has the makings of a sure fire number one seed. This year, it is WIDE open. At this moment, Duke, Miami, Indiana and Michigan would be my selections for that one seed. Here is where things get fun. Miami still plays at Duke, and Indiana still plays at Michigan. Of course, after that we still have the conference tournaments, and they could both meet again! I can all but guarantee that these four will not be the final #1 seeds come March 17th. Syracuse, Florida, Gonzaga, Arizona, and possibly even Michigan State have a chance to make the move up.

I believe the final one seed line will look something like this. 

Duke's season may rest on
Ryan Kelly's foot.
Duke: Beat Miami at home, and win the ACC tournament. Coach K knows how to win the postseason conference tournament, and if they can grab that and a win over Miami, they should be good. They also need Ryan Kelly back. Of course he will help improve the team on the court, but the selection committee will validate those early wins with him back in the fold. Without him, those wins won't carry AS MUCH weight. (Remember, Duke was the best team in the country before he went down).

The Big 10 will have a lot to say
regarding the top line.
Indiana and Michigan: Both should finish a top the Big 10 and it could come down to the last game of the regular season when the two renew the thriller we had last week. Their resumes are both impressive, and they will benefit from the strength of the conference. Michigan gets the nod in terms of non conference resume, while Indiana is a game ahead of the Wolverines and beat them in their head to head meeting. What is most intriguing about these two teams? The battle for the Mid-West regional. Playing close to home is a huge advantage, and the mid west regional is in Indianapolis. Who ever grabs the higher one seed wont have to travel much until potentially the Final Four in Atlanta. Right now, I think Indiana has the edge, and I expect them to keep it. The Hoosiers dominated Ohio State this past weekend, and coughed up that game at Illinois. I don't expect them to blow any more games. The team that will may have the most to say about the top of the Big 10? Michigan State. Izzo's gang still play arch rival Michigan twice, and get the Hoosiers at home. If Sparty get hot, they could find themselves on that top line. (NOTE: Indiana and Michigan State are tied for first at 9-2 while Michigan is second with Wisconsin and 8-3). 

The battle for the last number one seed will be very interesting. If Miami loses to Duke and slips up against, say FSU or UVA and doesn't win the ACC tournament, they will have a tough case to make. Miami is playing as well as any team in the country  but remember, they have loses to Florida Gulf Coast, and Indiana St. They also got clobbered by Arizona. I'm going to take Florida: The Gators have been straight DOMINATING the SEC. There was that hiccup at Arkansas but other than that, they have been rolling. They play UK at home tomorrow, and still play on the road at UK and Mizzou. Those are three quality wins to add to an already impressive resume. If they want a one seed, they have to win out, and take the SEC tournament, but they should be heavy favorites in every game.

David Stockton and the Zags will
be dangerous come March.
The team I would LOVE to see grab the last one seed would be the Gonzaga Bulldogs. That melt down at Butler likely cost the Zags this opportunity. Mark Few's team could easily finish 31 and 2, with no loses in the WCC, but they don't have any BIG TIME wins that are needed to garner the consideration. One other likely candidate; the Arizona Wildcats. If it weren't for a slip up to Cal (at home) this weekend, the Cats would be one the line right now. Their non conference resume is as impressive as anyone. Wins over Florida, Miami, and San Diego State will go a long way come Selection Sunday. The problem, the Pac 12 stinks. They already have three losses (two at home), and can't afford to take another one. Arizona probably needs to win the regular season title and make a deep run in the conference tournament. Games at Colorado and at UCLA remain, but those are probably their only opportunities to make a statement.

The Orange of Syracuse will need some help to move back up to the one line. The Big East is once again one of the better conferences in the country, but it is down compared to recent years. Four of the Cuse last five games come against teams currently ranked, so they will have an opportunity to prove their worth, but for now, keep winning and hope a few teams ahead of them slip up.

Feel free to share your thoughts one the battle for the number one seeds. Who will fade? Who will emerge? Which four will earn a spot on the top line?

---Lee Kunkel

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Game Day: RMU vs Wagner

Tonight, the Robert Morris Colonials (16-8, 8-2) will play in their biggest home conference game of the year, as they take on the Wagner Seahawks (13-9, 7-3) at the Sewall Center. Because it is a Robert Morris home game, you cannot catch it on but can join in with Chris Shovlin on 730am WPIT. Tip off is at 7:00.

We were joined by Velton Jones and Russell Johnson on our show Thursday and learned through Jones that Mike McFadden will rejoin the team for tonights game. In my humble opinion, McFadden is not the defensive player that freshman Stephan Hawkins is, but is a much needed, reliable, low post scorer. His 57 percent shooting percentage is good for best on the team and sixth best in the NEC. At the very least, McFadden is another body that the frontcourt desperately needs, with Vaughn Morgan leaving, Lijah Thompson being gone with a torn ACL, and Keith Armstrong still recovering from a torn Achilles.

The health of both point guards, however, is a little more questionable. Anthony Myers-Pate has passed his IMPACT tests after hitting his head Wednesday against St. Francis PA. Velton Jones did not play Wednesday and gave us the dreaded “taking it day-by-day” quote regarding his right shoulder. This is a huge game, and not many are tougher than Velton Jones, so I would expect him to give it a go on at least a limited role. Myers-Pate is more than capable of playing a solid game and I’ve been very impressed with his play lately, but make no mistake about it, this team goes when #2 is on the floor.

Lee made an awesome point on our show Thursday. Wagner guard Kenny Ortiz, the reigning NEC defensive player of the year, could be spending a lot of time on Karvel Anderson if Velton Jones is a no-go. With Coron Williams struggling, that could put a lot of the burden on Russell Johnson and Lucky Jones. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because those two guys are very capable scorers but when you’re facing a team the caliber of Wagner that can be a dangerous combination. Coron Williams needs to get going.

Wagner is a team that has been pretty inconsistent this year, especially offensively (this includes a 38-36 win at NC Central in the third game of the season), but are finally getting healthy and figuring things out. Guard Latif Rivers missed some games earlier in the season but has came back and had a typical Latif Rivers year (12 points, 40 percent from the field per game). Like I said earlier, Ortiz is a lock down defender and a capable scorer (11 points per game) but the guy Robert Morris needs to key on is senior forward Jonathon Williams, averaging 14.6 points per game and seven rebounds. Overall, Wagner is a balanced team offensively and it’ll take a complete team effort defensively.

My prediction: RMU never fails in these big home games. If the students come, they will respond: Colonials win 74-70.