Tournament time: America East

77981.jpg

Tournament time: America East

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

The 2010 America East Men's Basketball Championship tips off Saturday in Hartford. Here's a look at the quarterfinal match ups at Chase Family Arena. The winners will advance to Sunday night's semifinal round.

SATURDAY, MARCH 6

GAME 1 - NO. 1 STONY BROOK (21-8, 13-3) vs. NO. 8 ALBANY (7-24, 2-14), noon

Regular Season Results
Jan. 24 - at Stony Brook 67, Albany 61: Freshman Marcus Rouse lead SBU scorers with 17 points and sophomore Bryan Dougher's three-pointer broke a 58-all tie with barely a minute left to play. The Seawolves shot 46.3 percent for the game that housed 13 ties and 10 lead changes. Mike Black scored a team-best 15 points for Albany.
Feb. 19 - Stony Brook 68, at Albany 66: Senior Muhammad El-Amin scored the game-winning jumper for SBU with 1.8 seconds remaining. El-Amin scored 11 of his team-high 19 in the second half. Dougher hit three of five triples en route to 11 points. Will Harris led the Danes with 17 points and Scotty McRae scored 16.

Tourney Time
The Great Danes aren't just coming off one loss, but a streak of 11 losses in their last 12 road games. At least they generated some offense in Sunday's 85-79 overtime defeat to Hartford; Harris scored 26 points, Logan Aronhalt had 18, Black 14 and Fran Urli 12. Another positive: They managed to play Stony Brook tight twice already this season. This could be the perfect time Albany to finally exploit the Seawolves, as Stony Brook just had its 10-game winning streak snapped decisively by UNH on Sunday. Dougher and El-Amin scored 13 points each for SBU in the loss. The Seawolves can avoid the upset if they take advantage of their efficiency behind the arc and keep Albany off the glass.

GAME 2 - NO. 4 BOSTON UNIVERSITY (17-12, 11-5) vs. NO. 5 HARTFORD (8-21, 6-10) , 2:15 p.m.

Regular Season Results
Jan. 9 - Boston University 84, at Hartford 70: John Holland and Corey Lowe combined for 63 points to lead the Terriers. BU also held the America East's No. 3 scorer, Joe Zeglinski (16.4 ppg), to just one field goal. Morgan Sabia notched 11 points and 11 rebounds for Hartford, while Joel Barkers and Ryan Baker contributed 18 and 12 points, respectively.
Feb. 13 - at Boston University 58, Hartford 55: Sophomore Jake O'Brien nailed a 3-pointer with 5.6 left on the clock to earn the win for BU. O'Brien recorded 16 points and 14 rebounds. Holland posted 11 points, while senior Tyler Morris recorded nine points and five assists. BU shot a season-low 27.9 percent from the field as a team and also lost the rebound battle, 51-43. But the Terriers made 17-for-22 free throws to give themselves the edge. Barkers posted 19 points and 13 rebounds for Hartford, while Zeglinski contributed 10 points and 12 boards. UH shot a dismal 18-for-57 from the field and committed 15 turnovers to BU's nine.

Tourney Time
If BU is still riding the momentum that carried it through Saturday's 20-point demolition of Maine, then Hartford could be in trouble. John Holland, the league's most potent scoring threat (19.9 ppg) led a vicious BU attack with 23 points and seven rebounds. Seniors Tyler Morris, Corey Lowe and Carlos Strong combined for 34 points and 11 assists. The win was the fourth straight and sixth in their last seven games for the Terriers. Conversely, the Hawks' 85-79 victory over Albany on Sunday was only their first in six games. Milton Burton scored a career-high 24 points to lead Hartford. Zeglinski and Sabia added 19 points each. Hartford will need this kind of scoring to keep up with the Terriers. The Hawks already proved that they could compete with BU in February, as their upset bid was only buried by some last-second heroics by Jake O'Brien. Hartford will need to avoid sending Boston U to the charity stripe while elevating its own free throw efficiency, a la the Albany game (16-for-20 for 80 percent).

GAME 3 - NO. 2 VERMONT (22-9, 12-4) vs. NO. 7 MARYLAND-BALTIMORE COUNTY (4-25, 3-13), 6:05 p.m.

Regular Season Results
Jan. 2 - Vermont 73, at UMCB 58: Senior Marqus Blakely had 17 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists to lead Vermont. Three other Cats reached double figures; Senior Maurice Joseph with 16 points, junior Evan Fjeld with 13 points and nine rebounds, and sophomore Garvey Young had 11. Fjeld also set a new career-high for blocks with four. Vermont shot 48.1 percent from the floor for the game, while limiting the Retrievers to 37.7 percent. The Cats also controlled the boards with a 42-31 edge. Just two Retriever's finished the game in double figures. Robbie Jackson and Chauncey Gilliam led UMBC with 15 and 13 points, respectively.
Feb. 5 - at Vermont 79, UMBC 60: Young led UVM with 20 points, going 6-for-13 from the floor and 3-for-5 from three, and 10 rebounds. Blakely and Joseph each added 13 points and Fjeld chipped in with 11. Vermont never trailed in the game. Chris De La Rosa scored 18 for the Retrievers, while Gilliam chipped in with 15. UMBC shot just 33.3 percent in the second half.

Tourney Time
UVM holds a 13-4 edge in the all-time series which includes a sweep in each of the last two seasons. It's likely that Vermont will add to that win column this weekend. The Retrievers simply don't have an answer for Marqus Blakely, a versatile big man who sees UMBC as an opportunity to rack up stats in five columns. Blakely enters the tournament looking consistent and confident, having just punished Binghamton with 17 points, three blocked shots, and two steals in Vermont's 78-69 regular season finale on Sunday. In this year's meetings between these two teams UMBC did cut Vermonts lead at times and threaten within two possessions. It will be De La Rosa's job to spark the scoring by connecting with Gilliam and Jackson. Unfortunately, if those two aren't hitting De La Rosa is going to have to create his own offense because the options are quite limited.

GAME 4 - NO. 3 MAINE (19-10, 11-5) vs. NO. 6 NEW HAMPSHIRE (12-16, 6-10), 8:15 p.m.

Regular Season Results
Jan. 18 - Maine 56, at New Hampshire 42: Maine was led by Sean McNally's 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists. The Black Bears fought to gain a 45-35 edge on the glass. Though Maine shot just 35.4 percent, its defense held UNH to an even worse 27.8 percent. New Hampshire was led by Russell Graham who had six points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
Feb. 17 - Maine 72, at UNH 53: Gerald McLemore posted a career-high 30 points to lead all scorers. McLemore totaled 17 points, three rebounds and two steals in the first half. Murphy Burnatowski added eight points, three rebounds and two blocks. The Black Bears shot a red hot 54.5 percent in the first half and also clamped down on defense, limiting the Wildcats to 33.3 percent. The rebounding tallies were even at 15-all.

Tourney Time
Maine is enjoying unforeseen success this season. Its No. 3 seeding for the America East Tournament is its highest in a decade. But if the Black Bears were reveling in their conference record, Saturday's defeat by BU might have been a wake-up call. Maine, which boasts the league's best defense (just 61.3 ppg), surrendered its third-highest point total of the season in the 76-56 loss. Gerald McLemore's 15 points marked the only double-digit tally for the Black Bears that day. Meanwhile, the up-and-down Wildcats bagged a huge win on Sunday. Ferg Myrick scored 21 points in the 77-55 victory over America East Conference regular-season champion Stony Brook. The Wildcats hit nine 3-pointers and shot 53.6 percent from the field in the second half to end SBU's 10-game winning streak. The ferocity of the win was tough to comprehend after UNH's 29-point loss to UMBC less than one week earlier. This Wildcat team has lost more games than it has won, yes, but it has also beaten top-tier America East teams and can do so in this tournament.

Mary Paoletti is on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

Celtics-Wizards preview: Making of a matchup

BOSTON -- While it’s debatable whether the Boston Celtics and Washington Wizards are rivals, there’s no question there has been a heightened level of animosity towards one another when they play.

When these two met on Jan. 11, the Celtics came away with a 117-108 win.

But the game itself featured plenty of back-and-forth trash talk, finger-pointing, cries of dirty play and NBA fines.

IN FACT . . . Washington plans to bury Boston

“It’ll be a physical game,” said Jae Crowder who was hit with a five-figure fine for his role in a post-game incident involving Washington’s John Wall. “We have to answer the bell; we’ll be ready.”

Crowder knows he and his teammates must balance being the more physical team, with not losing their cool because if tonight’s game is anything like previous ones, there will be trash talk … lots of trash talk.

“They talk a little bit more than other teams,” said Crowder who added that was a factor in the incident him and Wall which cost them $25,000 and $15,000, respectively.

Crowder said a flagrant-foul committed by Washington’s Bradley Beal against Marcus Smart was what really cranked the level of animosity that was already at a high level.

But Beal probably hasn’t fully put behind him an incident last season in which Smart broke his nose and put him in the league’s concussion protocol program on a Smart drive to the basket.

As far as the hard foul that Beal delivered to him earlier this month, Smart said, “you take exception to every hard foul.”

Smart added, “It’s the game of basketball. You play with your emotions and intensity and everything like that. It comes with the game.”

While Crowder understands the Celtics have to play a physical brand of basketball, he’s not looking to do anything that might result in him having to cut another $25,000 check which was the amount of his fine from the Jan. 11 game against the Wizards.

“I’m looking at it as another game we have to win,” Crowder said. “I’m not looking at it as a rivalry or anything like that. I’m not coming in talking; they might.”

For the Wizards, winners in four of their five games since losing to Boston, a major key to their success lies in the play of their backcourt.

John Wall and Bradley Beal are the latest high-scoring backcourt tandem that the Celtics have to be worried about.

And making matters worse for Boston, the Celtics will have to try and make due without Avery Bradley who is still dealing with a right Achilles injury.

Celtics head coach Brad Stevens said the 6-foot-2 Bradley was not going to be with the team in Washington and would most likely be out all this week.

That means Boston will lean heavily on Smart to not only help the offense run relatively smooth, but also provide some much-needed defense to help limit Wall and Beal who collectively rank among the higher-scoring starting backcourts in the NBA.

“We have to slow them down; by any means we have to slow them down,” Thomas said. “We know they go as far as those two take them. It’s going to be a tough game. They have a lot of momentum at home. It’ll be a tough game for us. But we’re ready for the opportunity.”

Wall and Beal are just the latest in a string of high-scoring backcourts that the Celtics have had to contend with recently.

In Saturday’s 127-123 overtime home loss to Portland, C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard combined to score 63 points on 20-for-42 shooting from the field.

“This stretch of backcourts is exceptionally difficult,” Stevens said. “They (Wall and Beal) both should be and certainly are in the discussion for the all-star team. It’s a real difficult challenge. Our guys are going to have to be really good on both ends of the floor.”

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.