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The Hot Commonwealth

December 21, 2001 Columns No Comments

The Commonwealth vs. the CAA
Making A Case For The Red-Hot Rams

by Adam Shandler

So being a fan of the JRR Tolkien trilogy Lord of the Rings, I just had to get me one of those light-up promotional goblets being offered at Burger King. My quest to the nearest BK took me ten blocks away – a mere stroll compared to the harrowing journey of the Fellowship to Mount Doom.

I got to the counter and made my request to the gregarious button-puncher on the other side.

“Just the glass,” I said, like the would-be ruler about to usurp the throne. My hand was at the hilt of my wallet, ready to brandish the $1.99.

“You need to buy a value meal of some kind,” retorted the guardian of the register.

The knave!

My strict diet of Swedish fish and Slurpees prohibits me from eating whoppers and deep-fried chicken-style products. But I really wanted that glass. It was a must-have for Frodo geeks like myself. I found the King of Burger’s rules to be constrictive, but, in an effort to be the better man in this quarrel, I relented. I spent an extra $4.25 on the Whopper Value Meal (the sentry at the register had the gall to ask me if I wanted my meal upgraded in size. Hah! I spit in his direction!), and walked out.

Upon exiting the Kingdom, I spotted a homeless man and approached him. (Hmmph! Some kingdom. Can’t even tend to its own loyal subjects.)

“Here you go,” I said to the poor fellow, handing him the greasy bag. “Happy Holidays.”

The man hesitated, as most have-nots do when accepting give-aways from the haves, but finally accepted my feast. He opened up the bag and examined the contents, knitting his eyebrows all the while. After brief self-deliberation, he cocked his head my way and gave me a begrudged look.

“Hey,” he said. “Isn’t this meal supposed to come with a Lord of the Rings cup?”

So let it be known that New York’s homeless are the most consumer-conscious in all of this great land of ours.

Oh, the hoops, the hoops! Of course.

The Virginia Commonwealth Rams are winning a lot of games early in the season. That’s not the traditional M.O. for mid-level, mid-major teams. At this writing, Mack McCarthy’s club is 9-2 (15th in the mid-major poll) and granted, while VCU isn’t making major headlines with their wins, the college hoops community better take notice.

Scattered among victories to softies like Gardner Webb, Prairie View, Towson and North Carolina A&T are solid, confidence-building conquests over Rutgers, Richmond, UAB and a couple of tough, close losses to Tulane and Northwestern. Their next greatest challenge probably comes on January 9th when the Rams visit Hofstra. That’s when Colonial play really gets rolling and we’ll see if VCU is the same team in ’02 that they were in late ’01.

Virginia Commonwealth has what few teams in this conference, or any other in mid-major play, have. Balance. And lots of it. Kind of unusual for a team that returned only two of its starters. But those returnees are experienced and they have the incentive of overcoming a few mediocre years in recent history. The Rams have three players averaging in double figures, one of them – Antoine Willie (CAA Player of the Week – December 10th) has only played in six games. Willie Taylor, a 6-5 swingman, (20.3 points per game and 39.1 from 3-point range) has not had a scoring output below 13 points thus far, and he’s even making contributions in rebounding (5.3 per).

Many Colonial teams do not have a big man that can match up with the fluidity of 6-11 Russian center L.F. Lickcholitov (no wonder they give you 300 points on your SATs just for spelling your name right!) He’s averaging just under 9 ppg but we all know he’s not there to score. He boards like a crazy person (anything less than 7 is an off-night) and defensively, there is no better center in the conference. L.F. tallied 8 blocks in the loss to Tulane.

Are the Rams destined for the NCAA tourney this year after a few NIT-guaranteed seasons? Only the committee can make that verdict. Their schedule is nothing to snicker at (maybe chortle, but not snicker). They have done the deed of scheduling (and winning) games against C-USA, Big East, Big 10 and Atlantic 10 opponents. But the Colonial, with the induction of Hofstra and Delaware from the A-East, is tougher this year, and there are four teams that could easily vie for the conference title.

Starting off 9 and 2 certainly doesn’t hurt though.

We’re adjourned till March.

Unsolicited Commentary:

My two cents about the Tamir Goodman issue. His father Karl says New York is where his kid should be, but Karl – bubala – it has to be a New York team that not only accommodates your son’s religious beliefs (forsaking games played on Friday and Saturday nights) but also feels that he’s still a good ballplayer. I suggest he lay a little lower than he has been in the last two years but do it in Division I style. Albany and Binghamton, newly of the America East Conference, have huge Jewish student populations and will support Tamir both socially and on the field of play. Look into them, Karl. My fiance went to Albany – she’ll be happy to get you an application.

[Ed. Note – Several years ago, Hofstra changed their team name from the Flying Dutchmen to the Pride. Certain alums just can’t accept change. Like Adam, for instance.]

Hofstra had high hopes for upsetting St. John’s for the second year in a row. Well, the Dutchmen fell 89-75 but sophomore guard Joel Suarez proved his point guard maturity. He netted 20 points, a career high, while three of Tom Pecora’s recruiting gems also performed well: Wendell Gibson (12), Chris McRae (9) and Woody Souffrant (8) all had their season highs in scoring.

UNC-Wilmington, the preseason favorite to win the CAA, is struggling in the early going. The Seahawks fell to 4-5 after tight losses to Bowling Green (84-83) and always-pesky College of Charleston 60-58. Brett Blizzard is averaging just over 19 points per game and has scored 20 or more points in five games.


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