Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tonight the first of many tests for Fairfield

As the Stags prepare to face the Pioneers tonight at the Arena at Harbor Yard, there is a buzz in the air, writes Chris Elsberry. The excitement on campus is palpable.

But, for a second, look deeper than this game. Consider that Cooley and company, despite what in many respects was an admirable loss against Memphis last Saturday evening, are clear-cut favorites in this game, a position Fairfield does not normally find itself in too frequently. A win is just a job well done; a loss could be catastrophic.

Fairfield flies to Puerto Rico four hours after tonight's game ends, and there waiting for them will be three opponents from powerhouse conferences. Even the most optimistic fan will tell you that 1-2 is probably a best-case scenario.

The Stags then come back to campus for two of their more challenging out-of-conference games: a Thanksgiving weekend game at Alumni Hall against American, last season's Patriot League champions, and then Holy Cross, a talented team that downed Sacred Heart in its season-opener and has beaten Cooley in each of his first two seasons.

Translation: If the Stags lose tonight, they could be staring at 0-6 going into MAAC play. Another slow start. The same script all over again.

Granted, in the Metro Atlantic conference, the only chance that Fairfield has to clinch a berth in the NCAA tournament is to run the table in Albany come March. Still, a second preseason ranking means higher expectations. The best way for Fairfield to match those expectations is to win the games the are supposed to win. No more St. Francis or Yale games, like a year ago.

Tonight is one of those games.


  • Siena looked every bit the team they are projected to be last night in their home-opener against Boise State. Still, we won't see what this team is really made of until those out-of-conference stunners: Pittsburgh, Kansas, and (in just nine days) Tennessee.
  • Albany and Siena: the perfect couple. The Times-Union center has become the place to be in the Capital Region, writes Mark McGuire.
  • Niagara's Tyrone Lewis stepped right in to the go-to scoring role in the team's 79-62 win over Towson. It will be interesting to see the Purple Eagles offense evolve sans Charron Fisher. Up next: No. 23 Villanova.Link
  • BC spanked Jimmy Patsos and the Greyhounds on Monday night, 90-57. Anyone get the hint that Cooley leaked a word or two to get back at their rivals? Just saying.
  • The good news for the 'Hounds: Providence transfer guard Jamal Barney scored 18 points and looked dangerous. Very dangerous.
  • St. Joseph's (Pa.) defeated Rider, 69-57, in the Broncs' season-opener. Not sure what to make of this one, but I can't say that it is a bad outing for a team that: 1) just lost its best player to the NBA, 2) was playing a great mid-major and a regional rival, and 3) had its best freshman (Jermaine Jackson) and point guard (Justin Robinson) hurt. All things considered, not bad at all.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Reflections on Ted Spencer

Now that the dust has settled and reality is beginning to kick in, here's a few things that have been kicking around in my head over the past 24 hours about Ted Spencer and his new position at FU:

  • I can't say that this is bizarre timing given the end of his contract, coupled with the realignment of Men's Lacrosse divisions, especially the ECAC. The Stags have been overly unimpressive since moving into the division in 2006, finishing with a cumulative 8-13 conference record no higher than tied for fourth overall. Maybe Doris and Co. felt a change was needed to take "the next step".
  • 13 seasons is an awfully long time for anyone to be a head coach at one school. Dianne Nolan and the Coach K's and Jim Calhouns of the world aside, Spencer should be considered a tenured and successful face of the program.
  • Spencer's coaching career was a remarkable run that will be remembered as a watershed moment for Fairfield Athletics. Before Spencer, Fairfield lax was an infant; today, its a national powerhouse. That alone is his legacy, and he earned every bit of it.
  • Did the game pass him by? Doubtful, but sometimes a new voice is needed. I can remember sitting in the stands with Tom Cleary (we used to sit in the parents section for a different angle) late last season and hearing a few voices of displeasure at the team's offensive schemes against the Loyola zone defense. Some of that was probably due to the five freshman on the field on offense, but it's possible coaching had something to do with it.
  • Favorite Spencer story: Coach and I would talk about once a week in his office during lax season about the team, upcoming games, and other random stuff. He was really a genuinely great guy who would love to sit down and talk about his passion. Anyway, one day my freshman year I made the mistake of wearing a 'WE ARE ND' green shirt to his office (I'm a big Irish football fan. I know, I know...) I could tell he noticed - he kept glancing at it the entire interview. Finally, at the end of our talk, he stopped me as I walked out and pointed to a picture of the game winning goal in South Bend from back in 2002. "Greatest game of my career," he said with a huge smile. "Remember now, Keith, you're a Stag now," he threw in for good measure. It was the first time I really fell apart of the Fairfield family.
  • For those who were unhappy with the team's progress (see above about Loyola game), than maybe this move is a necessary evil. But you have to say this about Spencer: even in the face of an expiring contract and after a comeback from cancer, he still had the presence of mind to begin a youth movement and turn to a talented freshman class last year. It must've been challenging - imagine that conversation with Matt Scanlon or Chris Atwell - but he did not shy away from going young on the field (especially on offense). Whoever inherits this team gets some fantastic underclassmen and (from what I'm hearing) another impressive incoming group.

Which brings me to my next topic: Who is next in line?

More to come.

Friday, March 21, 2008

K-Rock's March Bracket Brawl

For those of you who are either Rock fans and/or live in the NY area, K-rock radio (NY's number one rock station) is holding a March Madness-esque bracket matching up the greatest bands in rock history. The regions are: '70's, 80s, '90s, Modern Rock. Really, really tough. Some of my favorites:

Here's some thoughts:
  • My Final Four: Zeppelin, Foo Fighters, Metallica, and Chili Peppers. Kind of a no brainer.
  • Some good match-ups in the '70s: Sweet 16 saw Hendrix vs. Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd vs. Led Zeppelin. Does it get much better?
  • '80s: I love U2, probably one of my favorites, but Guns n' Roses had to get the nod to go to the Elite Eight. Unfortunately, they saw Metallica.
  • '90s Sweet Sixteen: Pearl Jam vs. Chili Peppers and Sublime vs. Nirvana. Love it.
  • Modern Day had some good match-ups from the outset, probably since big time bands are still establishing themselves. For me, it came down to Foo Fighters and Green Day (Linkin Park gave a run, though)
Head on over to Krockradio.com to try one yourself. Any thoughts?

Change of Plans

Not many people read the 'Mirror Sports Blog'. Sad, but true. Even less read my own personal blog. As a result, I'm changing the running NCAA blog over to our main page (hopefully we'll pick up a few RSS feeders and stuff Cleary's Gmail box). So head on over there for more coverage. I'll just stick to random thoughts and Duke on this page.

More to come, though.

Surprises Abound in Noon Games

I'm a little shocked to say the least at a few of these games. It's currently halftime all around, so let's do a quick run down:

  • Tennessee leads American, 29-22 - That's it? I'm a little surprised with the Vols. This is the same team that our Stags defeated handily a few months ago. I'd expect a big half from Bruce Pearl and Co. coming out of the half.
  • Gonzaga leads Davidson, 41-36 - Disclaimer: I'm one of the few that picked Davidson as a sexy sleeper in my bracket. That being said, I'm expecting better from Davidson in the second. The 'Zags have been out of their mind shooting in the first half. Almost too good. Gray has 15 on 5-of-5 from three alone! I expect a drop off. At least I hope.
  • St. Mary's leads Miami, 32-27 - Not too shocked by this one. Miami seemed like the big conference school that had a few big wins to sneak in (cough, Duke). St. Mary's is a legitimate team from the WCC, an extremely underrated conference that has produced three (count 'em, three) NCAA teams. Mary's should win.
  • SHOCKER OF THE DAY: Western Kentucky leads Drake, 47-38 - It's come to this. Now it's a shock when a little darling school like Drake is losing. Personally, I liked Drake so much that I had them taking down UConn (don't tell Cleary) in the second round. What's the story here? The Hilltoppers are shooting the lights out. 60% from the field and seven threes to boot. The Gonzaga effect may kick in here too.
Much more to come. Stay tuned

Mid-Majors All Around

It's another great day to be a hoop fan (obviously), but it is a particularly good morning to be a fan of mid major teams. I'm splitting my time between a Cinderella 7/10 battle between Gonzaga and Davidson. On my laptop, I'm checking out St. Mary's trying to upset Miami in the East Region's 7/10 game.

If that's not enough for you, American (yes, the same American that Fairfield beat earlier this season) is giving Tennesse a run for its money early on. I'm not sure how far that will last, but so far they've looked good.

I guess Belmont inspired everyone a little.

Updates at the half.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Cats' Show Fight, but Marquette Moves On

Ramel Bradley's three pointer with 24 seconds pulled the Wildcats to within two, but it was just not enough. The Golden Eagles pulled away with some late free throws, and they're moving on up in the tournament.

A plus for KU: Joe Crawford was an absolute monster in this game - 35 points on 13-of-22 shooting. He single handily kept Kentucky in this game. The stats do not even do justice considering some of these points were during Marquette's two second-half runs.

Marquette's guard play and fast-break offense are downright scary. Jerel McNeal and Dominic Jaynes (with Lazar Hayward at the 3) were fantastic - scoring 20, 15, and 16 respectively.

It'll be interesting to see how Marquette's quickness and speed matches up with (presumably) Stanford' two big boys.