Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

So many positives, so little consolation for William & Mary

March 10, 2015 Columns No Comments

BALTIMORE – You have to feel for those in the William & Mary program. Losing once in a championship game, especially in heart-breaking fashion, is hard enough. Losing twice in a row is that much harder.

Much of the country watched on Sunday as the Tribe won an instant classic in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament in double overtime. They were going to get another chance – their fourth try in eight years – to break through and get to the NCAA Tournament. That’s a string of chances few probably thought they would ever get once upon a time, before Tony Shaver took over.

And while Shaver has had unprecedented success at the school, there’s no guarantee they’ll get another chance, even though the odds are that they will given what he has accomplished and where they are trending.

“I do believe if we keep knocking on the door, the door’s going to open,” Shaver said on Monday night.

You wouldn’t expect Shaver, or any other coach, to say otherwise. And there’s part of you that hopes he’s right one day.

William & Mary is a tough job. The academic requirements are on par with the Ivy and Patriot League schools, but the CAA is historically a tougher conference. It’s tough enough to find players with the academic credentials and talent to play in Division I to begin with.

Shaver first won at the school with less talent, masterfully crafting an offensive system that fit his personnel at the time. Gradually, though, you can see the talent base improving, and the offense evolving into one of the nation’s best shooting teams and a good defensive team. This year’s success didn’t come by accident, and now they have the best talent they’ve had in his 12 seasons at the school. They have their all-time leading scorer and their first CAA Player of the Year in Marcus Thornton, the Defensive Player of the Year in Terry Tarpey, and last season’s Rookie of the Year in Omar Prewitt. For good measure, three of their starters, including Tarpey and Prewitt, are sophomores.

This time around, it looked like things could be different, would be different. The Tribe came in as the top seed for the first time ever, and their attitude reflected that. They believed they were the top seed for a reason and should play like it, and they showed great confidence in how they played. They wanted to be the program’s first to reach the NCAA Tournament. They are, after all, competitive kids, and the opportunity to make history is something many competitors will embrace.

The win on Sunday captured the attention of many. The Tribe was a sentimental favorite, though you know they want more than that. The win was an emotional one, to be sure, and perhaps it was a bit too draining emotionally and more so physically. These are, again, competitive kids, so they wouldn’t admit if they felt like their legs were going on them; athletes thrive on adrenaline. They wanted this one badly. Shaver said that, not surprisingly, they were crushed in the locker room after the game.

There’s so much to like about this team and this program. Shaver is understated and down to earth, and an easy person to deal with. He’s won over 500 games in his career; his coaching chops are well-established. Though the main thing he ever wanted in a coaching job was high-character kids who wanted to be coached, he’s wanted to win, and he’s done that at a place where that’s not easy. And he has all that he’ll ever want.

As you might imagine, the program has plenty of good students and high-character kids. That’s why you feel for a guy like Thornton, who is similarly understated and simply wanted to win; his scoring was a known to the casual fan who knew of him, but he could always pass and showed that often, including on the game-winning shot in Sunday’s thriller. That’s why you feel for a guy like Tom Schalk, the latest in the program to win the Dean Ehlers Leadership Award, as they’ve had five in six years.

But none of that will take away the feeling they had after Monday night’s game.

The program’s progress is such that now they have a core of winning experience. The three sophomore starters have been to two championship games, and that experience helps. It will help offset the graduation of Thornton and a couple of others. Shaver has good freshmen waiting in the wings for a bigger role, and throughout his tenure he’s had players who know how to wait their turn and play well in limited roles and thrive when their roles expand later. After Monday night, Shaver noted that experience wins in the tournament, and his team will certainly have that.

William & Mary is what college athletics should be all about. They’re more than just a team to root for in hopes that they finally make it to the NCAA Tournament; indeed, they’re a team a neutral observer can really get behind. Ultimately, that’s why you have to feel for everyone in the program right now as they deal with heartbreak in the championship game once more.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Coaching Changes and NBA Draft Early Entrants

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Also, keep track of players who have declared early for the NBA Draft.

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 18, 2018

January 18, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about big road wins for a few teams, including a couple of bluebloods that looked destined for losses, as well as an unsettled Big Ten beyond one team, an SEC where you shouldn’t pay attention to bracketologists, and the problems with a proposed earlier start to the college basketball season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 11, 2018

January 11, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about several big pieces of news away from game play, one of which puts a lot in perspective. We also talk about the lack of dominant teams and how this has shown up in the results, especially this past weekend.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – January 4, 2018

January 4, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we start with a big game in the Big East, then move on to the sudden lack of undefeated teams, a big injury in the ACC, and a powerhouse that looks vulnerable in a stacked conference they have long ruled.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – December 8, 2017

December 8, 2017 by

In our latest podcast, we talk about a bizarre finish to an early-season tournament game, the Pac-12’s early struggles, Florida teams going in different directions and two northeast teams trending less relevant even as they excite fans at a famous arena.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – November 22, 2017

November 22, 2017 by

In our pre-Thanksgiving podcast, we look at a key injury that is likely to be devastating for his team and an under-the-radar 4-0 week, then move on to some early SEC impressions and a couple of teams that just continue to win.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.