If you're wondering what game I am referring to in the title, that would be the overtime thriller between Utah and Rhode Island, won 85-84 by the homestanding Rams on Saturday. What could possibly taint a game like this? For starters, the game was nowhere to be found on television. Of course, a game between these two programs would be left off the major networks schedules, but shouldn't the game at least be televised locally? I don't live in either state, so I had to refer to the NCAA's TV schedule (http://www.ncaasports.com/broadcast/schedule/divi-m-basketball) to figure this one out. Had this game been on TV, we all would have some visual evidence to see whether or not the second negative was justified.
After the game, decided by two Jimmy Baron free throws with 18 seconds left in OT, Utah head coach Ray Giacoletti voiced his displeasure with the officials who "missed" a foul call in the game's final moments. Giacoletti referred to the lack of a foul call on Luke Nevill's attempt to win the game as "the most gutless thing" he had ever seen in his 21 years of coaching. It should also be noted that Coach Giacoletti led off the press conference by stating that the Utes needed to play better defense if they were going to win games. Of course, the Mountain West reprimanded Giacoletti for his comments, but what are we supposed to make of the statement if we can't at least see a replay? If you're a Utah fan, you most likely follow your coach and reason that your team was robbed on the road by the officials. If you're a fan of the Rams, you reason that he's whining because his team lost. The whole point of what I just wrote: ESPN Full Court needs to find a way in the future to include more games, and fledgling networks such as CSTV and ESPNU need to become more accessible.
It wouldn't be fair to mention the Rams without also noting that Saturday's contest is just another piece of evidence that we may need to bring back the "Runnin' Rams" moniker that the team answered to back in the day. In previous years, head coach Jim Baron had his teams play a half court at a time, relying on defense to carry the day. Now, with Will Daniels, Jimmy Baron (yes, he's the coach's son) and Kaheim Seawright leading the way, the Rams can play an uptempo brand of basketball. Of course, this comes with the negative of a sometimes porous defense (see: 102 points allowed to Houston, 95 points allowed to Providence), but the Rams could end up being one of the more entertaining teams to watch in the Atlantic 10 this year.
Speaking of changes, did you notice who's tied with Vermont for the best record in America East (5-4) right now? The Hartford Hawks, led by first-year head coach Dan Leibovitz, a former assistant to John Chaney at Temple. Hartford played seven of their first nine games on the road, and while they haven't played a murderous schedule, getting through their first nine with a winning record says something for a program that's pretty much been down on its luck since the days of Vin Baker. The Hawks, winners of five of their last six, take on St. Francis (NY) and Brown in their next two games. The Terriers have yet to win this year, and who knows what to expect from the Bears, who at 3-7 own a win over Providence. A win over Brown on the 22nd would make the Hawks 4-0 this year against the Ivy League, with wins over Dartmouth, Cornell and Yale to this point in the season.
Drexel, a team thought by many to have a chance to win the CAA this season, knocked off Villanova 81-76 on Saturday. While the result shouldn't be considered a shock, the fact that the Wildcats had just whipped Oklahoma in Norman just a few days prior caught my eye. Hangover or not, Bruiser Flint's Dragons notched an impressive road win that could have a lasting effect on Drexel and the rest of the CAA come NCAA selection time.
Maybe it's just me, but I think that UMass can make a run at an NCAA bid in the Atlantic 10 this year. Their leader is Rashaun Freeman, but Stephane Lasme has come leaps and bounds on the offensive end of the floor. On Saturday, Lasme put together a 19-point, 14-rebound effort in the Minutemen's 79-66 victory over Central Connecticut State. As Virginia transfer Gary Forbes becomes even more comfortable with his new teammates on the floor (as well as head coach Travis Ford's system), he should make this team even better. And with eleven points and eight assists on Saturday, I think he's making some strides.
Lastly, did anyone think that Sacred Heart would get through the first weekend of play in the NEC atop the league at 2-0? Probably not, but take a look at who the Pioneers played before heading into league play. North Carolina in Charlotte, and Connecticut on the road. You're bound to improve when facing that kind of competition. Five players average double figures in scoring for Dave Bike's ballclub, led by senior guard Jarrid Frye. It's still early in the year, but Sacred Heart should be able to hang around in the NEC. And don't expect Robert Morris (0-2 NEC) to stay at the bottom of the standings for too long either.
Thanks for reading. Good day.