By Bill Campbell
It’s Basketball Time
Basketball is about to take over. As it does, I call your attention to 6′ 4″ senior guard from Virginia Commonwealth – a unique player if ever there was one.
His name is Troy Daniels and last Wednesday night he set an Atlantic Ten record with 11 three-point baskets and 10 rebounds for a most unusual double-double. For this season which has barely gotten underway, Daniels has attempted 136 three-pointers but only 15 two-pointers. His stat line also includes 5 free throws, 7 assists and 9 turnovers. He shoots 45% from deep and his coach, VCU’s Shaka Smart, says, “He is the best shooter I’ve ever coached and he has really put in a lot of work to get to this point.” He may be the best long-distance shooter that anyone ever has coached, based on his singular basketball statistics. It seems like the further away he stands from the basket, the more fun the game is for him. Keep an eye on Troy Daniels.
Another guy worth talking about is Davidson’s Jake Cohen, a graduate of Conestoga High School, who just became his team’s all-time leader in blocked shots last Wednesday night. Cohen has run up a total of 160 after incredible back-to-back performances against Richmond and Duke, respectively. That Duke game was his 103rd career start. For the season, he’s averaging 13.2 points and 5.5 rebounds a game as well. A hometown guy to follow.
As we get our bearings in the basketball world, we see a lot of familiar names. Coach Jim Boeheim has to pass only one man to become the most winning coach in the NCAA Division One. The guy he’s chasing is Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who’s riding a strong horse himself at the moment. Boeheim, who recently moved ahead of Bob Knight with his 903rd win, lately said, “This game is not about numbers, how many points you get, how many assists. It’s really about all the people you meet on the way. It’s been an unbelievable experience.” You have to hope that every coach has that attitude. So we make the move from football into basketball eyeing new players but enjoying the fact that some familiar names and classy coaches are still in the hunt. We’re lucky to have so much college basketball to follow around the country and here in Philadelphia.
College Basketball Overall
The art of forecasting the top 25 college teams in the country before the start of the season produced its share of surprises. Now, 8 teams that were ranked nationally, led by Number 3 Kansas, are no longer in the Associated Press’s rankings. The replacements are headed by two Big Ten teams: Number 9, Minnesota, and Number 11, Illinois. And speaking of surprises, the Atlantic Ten team with the best non-conference record is Charlotte at 12-2. The experts had picked Charlotte to finish 12th. As the conference teams begin their league schedules, St. Joe’s Hawks, who overcame Morgan State last weekend 70-60, are currently rated 10th, which also is a bit of a surprise. St. Joe’s and Butler will open the Atlantic Ten basketball schedule this evening.
LaSalle looks like the most under-rated college basketball team at the moment. They beat Penn last week, 74-57. It’s been a long season for the Quakers so far and it may become even longer. Temple blew a lead against Kansas late in the game out in the Allen Field House in Lawrence. Coach Fran Dunphy said, “I think the Allen Field House is unique in and of itself” which is true – but what a win that would have been. Drexel lost again over the weekend to Towson State, 69-66. The Dragons are a serious candidate for most disappointing team of the year so far. But Duke won again, 80-62, over Wake Forest, which means Duke is now 14-0. Rutgers beat Pitt, 67-62, to go 10-3 in the Big East. Virginia Commonwealth beat Lehigh, 59-55. Marquette hung on to get a 49-40 win over Number 15, Georgetown, while Herb Magee got his 949th career victory, 77-53. Philadelphia University also won over Post, 77-53, while Delaware downed Old Dominion, 84-72.
The 76ers finally reached the day they must have thought might never arrive: the day their brutal, eight-game western trip would end. They not only lost most of the games; they were overwhelmed in some. There may have been some satisfaction in beating the Lakers in Los Angeles, but that wasn’t enough to take the bite out of a long, losing trip.
Jrue Holiday is the heart and soul of the Sixers these days and the basketball usually is in his possession. But on the last game of the trip in San Antonio, he had a game that probably will haunt him for a while. After a triple-double in Phoenix, he fell to 11 points, 8 rebounds and 8 assists. Early in the game he looked like he might run off another triple-double but he just ran out of gas. Tony Parker led a balanced Spurs team with 20 points, assisted by Manu Ginobili with 19 off the bench. Six San Antonio players ran up double figures. I should mention that, with that win, San Antonio beat the Sixers for the 8th straight time and for the 25th time in their last 26 meetings. The Sixers haven’t won a game in San Antonio since January 3, 2004. That game in Texas last week came after they’d lost to the Nets, Warriors, Blazers, the Thunder and the Spurs. Fortunately, it ended their road trip against all NBA Western Conference teams. At its start, the team was 13-14, 6 ½ games behind the New York Knicks in the Atlantic Division. At its end, the Sixers were 15-20 overall, 9 games behind the Knicks. It was a journey to forget
Now the team hopes to regroup and take advantage of their home court, though they are 9-7 here so far. Beginning with a game against Brooklyn this week the Sixers will play 11 of their next 13 at home. They’re close to playing their 40th game of the season – certainly enough time for their coach, Doug Collins, to figure out who can and can’t do what and make some changes. Maybe we will see Andrew Bynum on the court some time soon. You never know.
Hockey Strike Ends
We will have a hockey season after all. It will be short. It will start in less than two weeks. But it’s a season. Scott Beckenbaugh, the federal mediator who laid the groundwork for the agreement reached last weekend, must know how to make a deal. He met separately with both sides for 12 or more hours to broker this agreement and he also was the mediator in the NHL’s 2004-05 labor dispute that resulted in a cancelled season. The players will lose approximately $815 million in salaries, which is about half of the owners’ losses. They will play a 48-game season with players receiving about 58% of their salaries for the year. Management and the players’ union together pulled in something like $3.5 billion in revenue last season. During this abbreviated season, they will be fortunate enough to receive about $2 billion. But they have a ten-year deal now which will provide for a more equitable share of the profits between owners and players in the future. I guess it’s better for both sides – though you can’t help but wonder whether or not it all was worth it. There will be a week for training camps starting on Saturday so the Flyers will be skating at their Voorhees practice facility to prepare.
The last question to be answered in this dispute is up to the fans: they’ll have to decide how much they really care about the game and whether they still want to show up and root for their teams after this long hold-out. How many will continue to buy those expensive season tickets is up for grabs. I guess we’ll find out once the puck is dropped.
It was a busy week in football too. Alabama met Notre Dame for the national title and just killed the Irish. It wasn’t even close. Andy Reid inked a deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, receiving a surprisingly enthusiastic reception there. The Eagles say they have permission to interview Seattle’s defensive coordinator, Gus Bradley, and it’s rumored that Lovie Smith will meet with Mr. Lurie and Company as well about the head coaching job here. Oregon’s Chip Kelly is staying put as is Penn State’s Bill O’Brien.
The NFL wild card games ran true to form though Robert Griffin III suffered a possibly debilitating knee injury, tearing both his ACL and LCL. He faces more surgery and a long rehab in the off-season. Cincinnati really tested Houston, but the Texans finally prevailed over the Bengals, 19-13. Audubon High’s Joe Flacco now has been to the play-offs in all of his 5 seasons, taking his Baltimore Ravens to the AFC title game twice. Star Ravens linebacker, Ray Lewis, retired after spending 12 weeks sidelined with a torn right bicep this season. His presence and determination seemed to have inspired his teammates on Sunday.
And here’s a thought for you: pitchers and catchers will report for spring training in Clearwater, Florida, on February 12th and the Phillies will open there against the Houston Astros on February 23rd at 1:30 p.m. All’s right with the world.