Monday, November 16, 2009

Some Last Words On Sports (Until the Weekend); Coach Stringer, The AP Top 25, and What Was He Thinking?

Rutgers Women's Basketball Coach C. Vivian Stringer with former player Matee Ajavon

Lest regular visitors think that UT&MR has mutated into a fulltime sports and opinion blog, not so fast my, friends....and there I go again with a sports reference. Since a big part of my leisure time involves being a sports fan, and I do talk about what's going on in my life, the past four or five days involved a lot of time in front of a TV, or in a football stadium, and yesterday in a basketball arena.

There's time for politics and other true blood sports later.

A lot of time.

Yesterday I actually broke away from watching the Jets lose to Jacksonville (so what else is new?) to attend a womens's basketball game; #25 Rutgers hosting the #2 team in womens's basketball, the Stanford Cardinal. It was a special day in Piscataway even before tipoff; Rutgers Head Coach C. Vivian Stringer was honored by the athletics department by having a banner hoisted to the rafters at mid court recognizing her induction to the Naismith Hall of Fame. Coach Stringer was already a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Naismith Hall this year along with John Stockton, David "The Admiral" Robinson, and some guy who wore #23 known simply as Mr. Jordan. Coach was also given an award honoring her service to the university by AD Tim Pernetti.

Coach Stringer is one of the most gracious and courageous people anyone could ever hope to meet. We live in an age where the term "icon' is thrown around like a frisbee on summer day; there are few true icons, and fewer icons who are accessible to their public. Coach Stringer is one on that short list. Her biography Standing Tall is an inspiration, and is available at Coach

Actually there were two icons at The RAC yesterday, the other being Stanford's legendary Tara VanDerveer . The game was an 81-66 win for the Stanford Cardinal who simply took control of the game with their size, rebounding, and some deadly three point shooting by JJ Hones (five three's for 15 points). Stanford All-America center Jayne Appel was held to eleven points but had 12 rebounds. More damage was done to RU by Stanford forward Kayla Pedersen's 22 points, and Nnemkadi Ogwumike added 21 more for the Cardinal.

But the most telling stat was rebounding- Stanford held a 43 to 27 advantage; offensive rebounds went to Stanford big time, 24-7. RU was one and done too many times.

Rutgers was led by senior Brittany Ray with 17 points and Rashidat Junaid had 10 for Rutgers. RU has only three seniors, Ray, Junaid, and Myia McCurdy, and no juniors on the squad. Last year's front court of Kia Vaughan and Heather Zurich have departed via graduation to the WNBA and overseas respectively, and All-America Epiphanny Prince decided to forgo her final year of eligibility and play professionally in Russia. This is a very young team that will have to get better to contend in the Big East. Luckily, they have some interesting new talent on the roster. I was very impressed by new post player Monique Oliver, who was not intimidated by being matched up with All American Appel- Oliver scored nine points in her college debut. New guard Erica Wheeler chipped in five points (one three pointer) and new post player Christine Huber only played three minutes but contributed one block.

I haven't talked about the three sophomores yet and that's for a reason. Last year they were part of a five player class that was regarded as the best in women's basketball. Two of those young ladies decided to transfer; the remaining three had flashes of brilliance but for the most part their play last year needed a lot of improvement. The future and present of this program is in the hands of the trio of sophomores April Sykes, Nikki Speed, and Chelsey Lee. If RU is to contend for a Big East title and something more than one and done in the NCAA's in March, these three need to contribute more. Yesterday Lee had three points, five boards, one block; Sykes- eight points, five rebounds, one assist; Speed- no points, one assist, one rebound, two turnovers, and fouled out.

Collectively, they need to do more.

Next up- Tomorrow night versus Kean College.

More Rutgers Women's Basketball here.

RU Football #25 in the AP This was a pleasant surprise. Seeing Rutgers football ranked in the AP Top 25 for the first time in more than two years is quite an accomplishment considering how they started the season with the debacle with Cincinnati. This team just kept getting better as the season went on, particularly on the offensive side of the ball, which had to be rebuilt in some of the key skill positions. The defense was always there, and in my eyes what happened against Cincy was kind of an aberration. Could they beat the Bearcats in a rematch? Its hard to say- but I do think RU wouldn't lose by 32 like they did in September.

Does Rutgers deserve to be ranked with the relatively soft out of conference schedule they've played? The bigger question is this- on November 16 of the 2009 season are they one of the 25 best teams in America? Rutgers beat down South Florida 31-0, the same South Florida team that embarrassed the West Virginia Mountaineers in Tampa, and same USF squad that stuck it to Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium. And Rutgers found away to beat a good UCONN team (one that should beat Notre Dame)with 21 ticks left.

So are they- at this moment- one of the 25 best teams in the country? At this moment they are.

But then again, I'm kind of prejudiced.

Bill Belichick, what were you thinking? Finally....I have to get my two cents in on this one. Bill Belichick has forgotten more football than I will ever know. But what are you doing going for it on 4th down on your own 28 with a six point lead two minutes and eight seconds to play?

And the quarterback waiting to come in if you don't make it is Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts?

Punt, punt, punt, punt, punt!!!!

One more time...PUNT!

But I root for the Jets (stop laughing please)- if he didn't have three rings, Biil would be getting totally slaughtered here.

Probably the biggest bonehead move since the Miracle in the Meadowlands (Giants and Eagles) thirty years ago.


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