Vermont in NCAAs; 4 N.E. teams make N.I.T.

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Vermont in NCAAs; 4 N.E. teams make N.I.T.

Updated 10:33 p.m.

As expected, Vermont -- the America East champion -- became the only New England representative in this year's NCAA tournament when the seedings were announced Sunday night.

But four other N.E. teams -- Connecticut, Northeastern, Rhode Island and Quinnipiac -- will continue their seasons in the National Invitation Tournament, and another, Boston Unversity, will compete in the College Basketball Invitational.

The Catamounts won't have far to travel: They're headed to Buffalo, N.Y., where, as the 16th seed in the West Regional, they will face No. 1 Syracuse on Friday. Should they manage to pull off what would be a monstrous upset, they would face the winner of the Gonzaga-Florida State game on Sunday.

The N.I.T., meanwhile, will have a distinctly local tinge . . . and two of the New England teams will play each other in the first round. Northeastern travels to Connecticut for a first-round game Tuesday night at 7 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPN2.

In the other part of that bracket, Quinnipiac will play at Virginia Tech Wednesday at 7 p.m. The winners of those games will play each other in the second round, with the date and site to be announced.

The University of Rhode Island will host Northwestern Wednesday night at 7 p.m. If the Rams win, they'll play the winner of the Nevada-Wichita State game in the second round.

One set of NCAA games this weekend will be played at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, and two Big East teams are headed to Rhode Island. Villanova, the No. 2 seed in the South Regional, will face No. 15 Robert Morris, and Georgetown, the No. 3 seed in the Midwest Regional, plays No. 14 Ohio. The two other games in Providence: No. 7 Richmond vs. No. 10 Robert Morris in the South Regional, and No. 6 Tennessee vs. No. 14 San Diego State in the Midwest Regional.

The games in Providence will be played on Thursday and Saturday.

One other New England team -- Boston University -- will compete in the 16-team College Basketball Invitational. The Terriers play at Oregon State, coached by President Obama's brother-in-law, Craig Robinson, on Wednesday. The Beavers are the CBI's defending champions.

Get complete NCAA coverage from CSNNE.com's STATSAssociated Press page. Also get news and video from Comcast.net Sports' 2010 March to Glory page. Follow the N.I.T. at www.nit.org. Follow the CBI at http:www.gazellegroup.comeventscbiindex_main.htm.

Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

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Some questions and answers when it comes to Miller contract

A day after the Bruins announced a much-maligned four-year contract extension for defenseman Kevan Miller, B’s general manager Don Sweeney held court with the media to equal parts explain/defend the $10 million deal. Sweeney pointed to the very high character of a hardnosed player in Miller, and the relatively low mileage given that he’s played only 159 games at the NHL level.

There was also mention made of the room to grow in Miller’s game, though it’s difficult to imagine a much higher ceiling for a 28-year-old player than what the former UVM produced showed in 71 games last season.

“Kevan brings incredible character. His signing provides us with the necessary depth on our defense that all teams need. His relative low-mileage, having just played 160 games, we identified that we think Kevan has room for continued growth and development,” said Sweeney. “We certainly saw that in his play this year when he had an expanded role. Relative to the free market place, very, very comfortable with where Kevan fits into our group, and this provides us with the opportunity to explore the marketplace in every way, shape, or form, in having Kevan signed.”

Here’s the reality: Miller is a 5-6, bottom pairing defenseman on a good team, and a top-4 defenseman on a team like last year’s Bruins that finished a weak 19th in the league in goals allowed. The five goals and 18 points last season were solid career-high numbers for a player in the middle of his hockey prime, but he barely averaged 19 minutes of ice time per game as a front top-4 defenseman. Miller struggles with some of the fundamental needs in today’s NHL if you’re going to be a top-4 D-man: the tape-to-tape passes aren’t always accurate, there’s intermittent difficulty cleanly breaking the puck out of the defensive zone and Miller was exploited by the other team’s best players when paired with Zdeno Chara at points last season.

Certainly Miller has done some good things racking up a plus-55 rating during his three years in Boston, but executives and officials around the league were a bit surprised by the 4-year, $10 million contract extension. It’s viewed as a slight overpay in terms of both salary and term, but it’s more the redundancy of the contract that’s befuddling to some.

“Miller is certainly a rugged guy, but you already had one of those at roughly the same value in Adam McQuaid. I believe that you can’t win if you have both McQuaid and Miller in your top 6 because they are both No. 6 D’s in my mind,” said a rival NHL front office executive polled about the Miller contract. “You look at the playoffs and the direction that the league is headed in, and you need to have big, mobile defenseman that can quickly move the puck up the ice. You have too much of the same thing with Miller and McQuaid, and I think you can’t win with that in this day and age.”

The one facet of the four year Miller contract that might make it okay for some Bruins fans: the tacit connection to the Jimmy Vesey sweepstakes. According to several sources around the league, the Bruins taking care of Miller now will very likely have a positive impact on their chances of landing Vesey when he becomes a free agent on Aug. 15, and makes them the front-runner for the Harvard standout’s services. Both Miller and Vesey are represented by the same agent in Peter Fish, and those are the kinds of behind-the-scenes connections that many times factor into free agent signings and trades around the NHL.

So many, this humble hockey writer included, may owe Sweeney a slight apology if paying a $10 million premium for a bottom-pairing defenseman in Miller now pays dividends in landing a stud forward like Vesey that’s drawing interest all around the league.

First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 win over Rockies

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First impressions from Red Sox' 10-3 win over Rockies

BOSTON- First impressions from the Red Sox' 10-3 win over Colorado:

 

Steven Wright is the very picture of consistency.

In nine starts this season, Wright has pitched at least six innings and allowed two earned runs or fewer eight times. In the one start in which he failed to do so, he was pitching in a mini-monsoon and unable to properly grip his signature pitch.

On Wednesday, he battled some early-inning wildness with the knuckler, resulting in two wild pitches and four passed balls, but eventually settled down.

His 4-4 mark hardly represents how well he's pitched. A more telling stat is the 60 2/3 innings he's pitched in nine outings, just shy of seven per game.

 

It could be a costly night for injuries.

Ryan Hanigan left the game after 2 1/2 innings because of illness. Dustin Pedroia came out in the fifth as a precaution after experiencing some tightness in his right hamstring. And Xander Bogaerts jammed his thumb in the eighth.

Let's assume that Hanigan's illness is a temporary thing, and since Bogaerts remained in the game, that, too, seemed minor.

But the Pedroia hamstring is potentially a red flag, since it was that same hamstring that sidelined him for almost half of last season.

 

For the past 19 home games, the Red Sox have averaged more than eight runs per game.

Nineteen games isn't exactly a small sample size. In fact, it's almost exactly one-quarter of the home schedule. To average more than eight runs per game over that long a stretch, covering parts of three different homestands, is pretty remarkable.

 

Blake Swihart's speed is something else.

Swihart hit two triples to the triangle Wednesday night, and on the second, to see him shift into higher gear as he approached second base was really something to see.

It's difficult to think of another catcher -- and yes, I understand that Swihart has been playing left field exclusively of late; but he remains primarily a catcher -- who ran as well as Swihart does.

When the Sox and other independent evaluators remark about Swihart's athleticism, that's one of the things to which they're referring.