Friday, November 09, 2012

Futile Superfans, Mount Up

A year has passed since I wrote my note (about the 2011-12 William & Mary Tribe hoops outlook). I should have known this (that they'd finish 6-26, 4-14 in the CAA) right from the start. Only hope (that this year might be significantly better) can keep me together. Love can mend your life or love can break your heart.

 

The Wrens open the 2012-13 season tonight at home against Hampton, hoping to get off to a better out of conference start than last year, when injuries and inexperience turned preseason positivity into a liftoff fizzle right out of the Wide World of Sports intro. W&M opened the year 1-8, capped by three consecutive 30-point losses. Even if we weren't in the irrational exuberance business, it'd be hard to see a scenario where this years version of the Green and Gold isn't more competitive in the early going.

Competitive, in this case, doesn't necessarily mean winning, as SOS means something entirely different than what Sting was singing about. While W&M opens with very manageable games against Hampton, Liberty, High Point, and Miami (Ohio), much of the rest of the pre-conference slate wears big boy pants. Between November 23 and January 2, the Tribe plays at Wake Forest, at Richmond, at Purdue, and at Vanderbilt. Throw in a homer against Old Dominion in the CAA's annual December appetizer, and the good guys' early lift looks daunting. We'll know we have something if the Tribe can stay close in those contests, and perhaps sneak out of one of them with a win - anything better than 6-6 heading into the meat of the conference schedule will be noteworthy.

2012-13 promises to be one of the more unique CAA seasons in memory. VCU left the conference to join the Atlantic 10, taking with it arguably the league's best team and inarguably the CAA's best facial hair. Old Dominion and Georgia State made clear their intention to follow suit next year, so the conference banned the always-tough Monarchs and the rising Panthers from postseason play. UNCW and Towson got on the wrong side of Dean Wormer's double secret probation, and found themselves also prohibited from competing for the league's autobid to the NCAA Tournament.

As a result of those machinations, the CAA finds itself with only seven schools eligible to participate in the 2013 conference basketball tournament. From a personal perspective, this is disappointing - it means my annual tradition of taking the first day of tournament off from work to play hooky in Richmond takes a year off. But from the Wrens' viewpoint, it means a worst-case scenario needing two wins to get to the tournament final and a one in seven chance at a miracle.

Regardless of how good this year's team may be (patience - we're getting there), a miracle (or at least fortune's kind graces) may be the only way it goes deep in Richmond. Drexel is the punditocracy's nearly unanimous choice to win the league's regular season title and a fashionable early-season mid-major darling of the national media. Ken Pomeroy gives Bruiser Flint's boys an 83.6% chance of winning the league. The Dragons boast a deep, physical, talented squad, led by All-CAA guard Frantz Massenat, the league's preseason player of the year, and sophomore Damion Lee, the returning CAA Rookie of the Year. Drexel finished 29-7 last season and lost to VCU in the CAA tournament final.

Delaware's Devon Saddler and Jamelle Hagins both join Massenat and Lee on the preseason All-CAA team, giving the Hens a formidable outside/inside tandem. Though this observer expects them to struggle more than usual, George Mason is still George Mason. Northeastern's Jonathan Lee leads a Husky team that got better as the year went on in 2011-12. JMU's arguably the most experienced team in the league, with five fifth-year seniors, and the knowledge that it'd be nearly impossible to be as unlucky this season as they were last. Hofstra's a wild card, with several talented transfers that could make them dangerous. The question is whether they'll pose that danger on the court or in the local community.

And while ODU, Georgia State, UNCW, and Towson won't compete for a title, all four teams will play a regular season conference schedule. ODU has a lot of question marks after losing Kent Bazemore to the NBA, but they'll still battle on the defensive end and they'll rebound effectively. Georgia State looks to build on Ron Hunter's 20-win 2011-12, and they'll do so after adding his son R.J., a very highly recruited wing, to an already talented team. Towson will be significantly better than last year's one-win team after adding both freshman and transfers that will contribute immediately. UNCW is decidedly worse on paper after losing several players via transfer, but senior stud Keith Rendleman returns to wreak double-doubles on conference foes.

Most experts look at the state of the conference and slot the Wrens squarely in the league's lower tier. Based on last year's results, it's hard to argue that expectation with much conviction, but if W&M is to threaten the league's preseason favorites, Marcus Thornton will be the biggest reason. The 6'4" Thornton was selected second-team All-CAA on the strength of his scintillating - if sometimes erratic - rookie campaign. He averaged 11.1 ppg, saving his best games for the toughest opponents, dropping 50 on VCU in two matchups, and scoring 23 at George Mason. Thornton's athleticism and confidence in his abilities are undeniable, as is his importance to the Tribe. The single most important factor in W&M's success in 2012-13 will be how much Thornton improves from his freshman to sophomore seasons.

If the preseason buzz is to be believed, W&M has reason for real optimism. Our sources tell us that Thornton has been both an extremely efficient scorer and a highly effective distributor of the ball in early scrimmages. He's teaming effectively with junior frontcourt mate Brandon Britt, who seeks to bounce back from a 2011-12 clouded by personal loss and inconsistent play. If Thornton and Britt - both of whom thrive with the ball in their hands - find a way to work together effectively, their speed and versatility will challenge opposing guards.

Cult hero Tim Rusthoven returns fully healthy from the beginning of the season, a vast improvement on last year. Beasthoven's early-season health struggles last year were a significant contributor to the Tribe's slow start. Despite never fully getting into game shape, the junior still led W&M in rebounding 14 times and and averaged 10.3 points and 6.6 boards a game.

Senior guard Matt Rum has been lauded by Tribe observers as the team's most consistent player in preseason action. He's compared favorably by insiders with the recently-graduated Kendrix Brown - a player who did the dirty work that allowed others to thrive, rebounding, defending, and grinding. Rum came to Williamsburg as a shooter - it's a testament to his team focus that he's remade himself in Brown's image. As the only senior expected to get significant minutes, Rum's leadership will be critical.

For my money, while Thornton's the obvious key to W&M's success, the return of junior forward Kyle Gaillard to full health is nearly as important. When we last saw Gaillard, he was the most athletic player on the court (for either team) in the Tribe's heartbreaking 2011 NIT loss at North Carolina. Gaillard tallied 25 against the Heels, with five dunks - several of which were in traffic against the massive Carolina interior defense. His 2011-12 season ended before it began, as he was lost to injury in the summer. At 6'8", he adds much needed size and all-court skill, shooting 47.5% from the floor in 2010-11 (34.8% from three) in 2010-11.

Freshman Terry Tarpey is a hyper-athletic 6'5" guard who'll get lots of run as a defender while he learns to play offense at the D-I level. Junior Julian Boatner is working his way back from a knee injury, but will need to regain his long-range touch to give the Tribe another deep option. Fred Heldring and his 6'9, 245 lb. frame will pair with 6'9" freshman Sean Sheldon to help Rusthoven battle the Jamelle Hagins' and Keith Rendlemans of the league.

But for better or worse, the Tribe's fortunes will rise or fall with Marcus Thornton. The prolific tweeter (@MarcusWM3) has spent the entire offseason exhorting himself, his friends, and his teammates to 'Do Better'. Observers say he's worked extremely hard to get stronger and handle the ball more effectively. It's not a stretch to say he has a chance to be the best W&M player ever.

In this, the first season of the CAA's agreement with NBCSports, we'll have a wealth of opportunities to see if he and the Tribe can, indeed, do better. W&M's home contest against Miami (Ohio) is nationally televised (NBCSports), as are games against Wake Forest (ESPN3) and Purdue (ESPN3). Eight other games will be broadcast on regional cable. The CAA as a whole will have terrific exposure in this, the first post-VCU season. The league's broadcast schedule is available here.

W&M's hopes of ending the much-discussed NCAA Tournament drought may be meager (The aforementioned Ken Pomeroy says we've got a 0.1% chance of winning the league's regular season title.), but they exist, futile and irrational though they may be. A great number of things must break really well, most of them in March, for the Wrens to dance. I'm not here today to tell you it's going to happen. I merely offer this message in a (blog-shaped) bottle: we've got a puncher's chance, friends.

71 comments:

zman said...

Your knowledge of CAA hoops is impressively deep.

rob said...

got one of those internets at home. keeps me all filled up with smarts.

Clarence said...

Let's not forget that the football season, while a huge disappointment, isn't done yet. The Wrens take on ODU in Norfolk tomorrow, and I for one will be there drinking heavily with several other Tribespeople. Rob, if you feel like a world-beater after running the marathon, come on down. It'll probably only take you one beer to get loaded.

Squeaky said...

There are so many ridiculous things going on in this video. You have to watch it.

Guys dressed up in superhero customs, check.
Drunk angry white guys, check.
Police officers watching fight, check.
Knock out punch, check.

rob said...

teejay's boy mike brown, fired

Danimal said...

rob. i asked you this the other day but you chose to ignore me. it's okay, i'm not that angry. but refresh my memory - location of race tomorrow?

Mark said...

Mike Brown...get the fuck out.

That escalated quickly.

rob said...

richmond, virginia, danimal. the capital of the confederacy.

weather forecast is lovely. 45 degrees at race start (8:00) going up to 65 at noon.

most of me feels pretty good, but i've had a bit of a tweaky left knee over my last few long runs. not cool, left knee.

getting ready to drive down in a hour. macking on some pasta, drinking a 20 oz. stone arrogant bastard, getting to sleep early, then holding on for dear life.

Clarence said...

Speaking of the Confederacy, hey Ole Miss and Hampden-Sydney students, way to perpetuate the crappiest stereotype and set your respective (not respectable) colleges back decades with hideous bigotry in the wake of the election. It's not a descriptor I like to use, but "inexcusable" seems to fit. Nice work, assholes.

zman said...

Awesome way to spend the afternoon: getting a quote for window treatments and buying a new dryer.

Mr. Truck said...

good luck rob! and good luck to your nipples, too!

Mark said...

Hampden-Sydney! Thats a name I haven't heard in some time. We played them home and home every year at my old college. I had my freshman year high in scoring against them...17 points. That college is (much like first college) a dump.

Mark said...

(much like *my* first college)

Danimal said...

Good luck brother Rob. Get up extra early to get your poop on.

Mark said...

This is your reminder that Florida plays Georgetown tonight at 9 pm on the deck of the USS Bataan. Temperature at tip off will be about 50 degrees. Sounds fun, huh?

Also, Florida will be sporting the (possibly) ugliest uniforms of all time. Bright orange camo. Yes, you read that right.

Mark said...

Also, Florida will be playing without it's starting small forward(concussion) and point guard (being a jackass) so I'm sure they'll look awesome.

zman said...

Doesn't the bright orange color defeat the stealthy intent of camo?

Danimal said...

Though the game is in my backyard I can't find where it is on the Telly....a little help.

Mark said...

NBC Sports Network, Danimal.

Mr KQ said...

Rob - a sincere wish of good luck tomorrow. I advise starting out slow...

BTW - had some beers with Dan Lyle and Dave Hodges the other night, who were in town to meet with the NFLPA. Got a good chuckle out of them when I mentioned I knew some dudes who went to school with Hightower.

Mark said...

Marquette-Ohio State being cancelled due to too much moisture in the court. The court that sits on the deck of a naval ship. Shocking, I know.

Seems like there's a chance it may happen to the Florida-Georgetown game too.

Mark said...

Also, T.I. (yes, the rapper) is a part of the Hawks broadcast team tonight. Can't say I ever saw that coming.

Mark said...

I'd wear UConn's camo shorts. Pretty clean as camo basketball shorts go.

TR said...

Be a lot cooler if it was P.I. (the Magnum).

zman said...

Manliest man on the continuum.

zman said...

Speaking of bad unis, wtf is Maryland wearing?

zman said...

And the hi top fade is back?

Mr KQ said...

Mason giving UVA a go. They've never beat them.

Mark said...

It is, Z. Norris Cole is rocking it for the Heat these days. I went to a high school basketball game last year and four kids were rocking high top fades.

zman said...

So Patrick Ewing's do is back in style!

Mr KQ said...

CAA representing over ACC.

Mark said...

Four guys on the court for this Florida-Georgetown game are wearing long sleeves. These naval ship games may have outlived their usefulness.

rob said...

strong effort by the tribe

Mark said...

FSU lost at home to South Alabama. Bad night for the ACC so far.

Mark said...

I love Will Yeguette so much. I may have to do a post on him.

Mark said...

And the Florida-Georgetown game has been cancelled after the 1st half. No more games on battleships please.

Shlara said...

Good luck in the marathon Rob!
And I think this is the year for the Tribe

rob said...

efficient 24 for thornton, 17 for britt, 18/7 for beasthoven. great start.

Clarence said...

Somewhere on a crowded Richmond Road, our little buddy's little legs are churning and burning. Godspeed, Robbie. As fast as the wind, but no faster than the slowest neophyte.

Meanwhile, it's Tribe tailgate time. Bacon and Bloodys being made right now.

Mark said...

Bacon and bloodys sounds amazing.

zman said...

Question for Bacon Baker: what type of bacon do you use? Is it all the same or do you have a favorite?

Greasily yours,
zman

Mark said...

Speaking of bacon, convinced the wife to learn how to make bacon wrapped shrimp this weekend. Pretty excited about that.

mayhugh said...

Tribe giving ODU a game, down only 6 and knocking on the door with less than a minute left in the first half.

mayhugh said...

Where has Michael Graham been? This guy is having a Jonathan Moxon day.

Danimal said...

Rob has completed his sojourn....way to go big fella!

rob said...

never solved the nipple conundrum, but wore a dark shirt today so my bleeding was less obvious. none of my big worries came to pass, but my feet hurt like a motherfucker from mile 19 or so. still, 26.2, bitches.

Mark said...

So how 'bout them Gators! And yes, I'm fully aware that was amongst the luckiest wins of all time. But I'll sure as hell take it.

Mark said...

Texas A&M might be a bigger problem than your nipple bleeding, Rob. Can't say I saw this coming.

zman said...

Do they make running pasties? Pasties are great.

rob said...

um, what's happening in tuscaloosa?

Danimal said...

I just don't understand the incessant nip bleeding. You either have huge soft sensitive nipples or you just refuse to wear body glide or your shirts are made of something like sandpaper.
Bama down 20-17 in 3rd....bama will win.
The gator win was something....

rob said...

bodyglided like a motherfucker - still didn't help. thinking about having my nipples surgically removed.

rob said...

gators won on a walkoff blocked punt? sporty.

TR said...

Congrats Rob. What was your time?

rob said...

4:14. was through 13.1 in 2:00 flat, but slowed over the last 8 or so. props to danimal for the pre-race poop call - made me faster.

rob said...

so oregon and notre dame for all the marbles? this is displeasing.

Danimal said...

Getting kind of interesting. Manziel is nice.

Danimal said...

Unreal. Not over tho.

Danimal said...

Holy shitballs

rob said...

yeah, neat

zman said...

Congrats roberto. Do not get your nipples removed. There was a Nip/Tuck episode about that and it ended poorly.

Mark said...

I'm drunk. Florida guaranteed that. Cant believe Bama lost in that fashion. Not too upset about losing my Bama based bet though.

Danimal said...

Nd will make their game interesting tonight. How could they not? Only gut wrenching memories of bc nd games.

Mark said...

I have an a love too great for both 'Mercy' and 'New God Flow'. I'm guessing my infant will reflect this.

zman said...

Mercy was my guilty pleasure of 2012. New God Flow is dope. You should listen to this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ubXn2dVK0Vs

It'll make you snap your fingers or wiggle.

Mr. Truck said...

nice job rob! my advice is never do it again . . .

Mark said...

I'm thinking (because I'm lazy and I like using my new kid as an excuse) about writing about the new Kendrick Lamar album this weekend. Also, Joey Bada$$ has the worst name in rap, but he's dope so I should should probably talk about him too.

Mark said...

Yes, I noticed the stolen sample on that clip too, Z.

Dave said...

hip hop recommendations from mark . . . the real reason to come to g:tb.

still a big fan of brother ali.

Mark said...

Brother Ali is still among the best live hip hop shows I've ever seen. Did half of his first album acapella. Powerfully.

Clarence said...

Hi, Gheorghies!!