Sports with Chuck McGill Dedicated to the stats and the silly in sports

Monmouth and AP hoops poll history

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The Monmouth men’s basketball team has been one of college hoops’ best — and most entertaining — stories this young season.

First, check out the Monmouth bench mob:

That’s lovable March Madness stuff right there … but Monmouth isn’t a brief tournament fairytale. This is a good basketball team. So good, I thought, that I ranked them No. 25 on my ballot for this week’s Associated Press poll.

I didn’t know I was going to be part of the school’s basketball history.

My vote — the lone one from the 65 sportswriters who hold ballots in the AP poll — is Monmouth’s first-ever for the men’s hoops program. The Hawks received five total points from the coaches, and I feel like coaches know a thing or two about good basketball.

I decided to rank Monmouth on the strength of a 4-2 start. Now, we can’t ignore the two losses, but they’re hardly huge hiccups: at much-improved Southern Cal and against Dayton. Monmouth owns wins at UCLA, at Drexel, against then-No. 17 Notre Dame and then, Sunday, against USC in a rematch.

Look at the schools in the ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC who have at least three wins against Power 5 schools.

Iona was picked to win the MAAC this season, with Monmouth a close second. The Hawks have December games at Georgetown and Rutgers, but if they run through the MAAC schedule, I have no problem keeping them in top 25 consideration for the long haul.

It’s what a team does on the court, not the name on the front of the jersey, that should determine a team’s qualifications for the top 25.

Consider me in.

3 up, 3 down — Mark Snyder edition

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This is the overlap, my friends. The time of the year for sports media when heads spin because football is winding down and basketball is gearing up. Yikes. As the schedule-maker here at the Charleston Gazette-Mail, it’s not an easy task. But man, it’s tons of fun.

So, this week’s edition of 3 up, 3 down will feature a little of the roundball and a little of the … oblongball. Enjoy.

3 up

Mark Snyder — What? Really? The same Mark Snyder who was dismissed as the head football coach at Marshall … and then held defensive coordinator jobs at South Florida and Texas A&M? Yep. Guess what he’s doing now? He is an assistant football coach at Michigan State.

But that’s not all.

Snyder is not only the linebackers coach, he is in charge of special teams.

That means the ridiculous play that ended the Michigan-Michigan State game was his unit

And the game-winning kick against Ohio State this past Saturday was his guy:

I covered Coach Snyder for one season at Marshall — my first year with the Charleston Daily Mail. It’s good to see coaches bounce back.

WVU football — The Mountaineers were perfect in September (3-0), the wrong kind of perfect in October (0-4) and are again perfect in November (3-0). They still haven’t lost to an unranked team. Now the Mountaineers are receiving top 25 votes again. They only received one from the sportswriters — Kansas City Star’s Rustin Dodd — and six total points from the coaches. WVU is the only 4-loss team on Dodd’s ballot.

It’s not unthinkable that WVU could return to the top 25 with wins in the final two weeks.

WVU basketball — I spent my week in hoops venues last week. First at the Charleston Civic Center on Monday for WVU-JMU, then on Tuesday at the Henderson Center in Huntington write about Dan D’Antoni and his continued comments toward Bob Huggins, and then on Friday to cap the week with WVU-Stetson.

And let me tell you, these Mountaineers are dang good.

The Associated Press top 25 poll will be revealed again Monday. I had WVU at No. 19 in the preseason and No. 19 after the first weekend. I’ve shifted the Mountaineers to No. 16 this week … and feel real good about that spot for now. This is a Sweet Sixteen team from a year ago that looks a lot better in some ways, and I think the real key will be how the team improves as the year progresses (and if they can stay healthy).

3 down

My W.Va. high school football playoff bracket — It’s in shambles, folks.

Being a college football head coach — Syracuse has fired its coach. Iowa State canned Paul Rhoads yesterday. Other vacancies: Southern Cal, Miami, Virginia Tech, South Carolina, Missouri, Maryland, UCF, Illinois, North Texas, Hawaii and Louisiana Monroe. Really, at this point, it’s questionable to let go of your current coach even amid dissatisfaction, because the job market is going to be so competitive next month and beyond.

The Walking Dead — My interest has had its peaks and valleys in the six seasons of the show, and I’ve continued watching through disinterest at times, but I might be ready to call it quits after next week’s midseason finale. If you watch the show, you might understand my frustrations. I’m a huge fan of the books and loved the show at its outset, but too much troubles me. Thoughts?

 

Dan D’Antoni and ‘friendly ribbing’

I didn’t know Dan D’Antoni’s Sunday comments about WVU — when he said the Mountaineers might not play as hard as Division II Newberry College — were going to strike a nerve. I didn’t know until Monday night, when I arrived at the Charleston Civic Center and everyone from members of the media to fans to coaches asked me about it.

So, with Gazette-Mail beat writer Doug Smock on vacation this week — it’s an off week for the football team — I drove to Huntington on Tuesday and asked D’Antoni about the comments.

His initial reply was amusing:

You ruffled feathers. They wouldn’t have heard if y’all wouldn’t have said anything. I don’t know why you all pin that on me, that’s you guys. I just said something and then y’all told ’em.

D’Antoni then settled into honest thoughts about the Mountaineers, legendary coach Bob Huggins and the Capital Classic series, which is played once a year in Charleston. You can read that story here.

I love the game for multiple reasons: I’m a Charleston native, so I’ve been going to WVU-Marshall games since I was a young boy; it’s obviously geographically pleasing to the Gazette-Mail because we don’t have to commute to Huntington or Morgantown for this one; it’s generally fun, aside from the terrible Civic Center internet connection.

I also like trash talk. I didn’t understand D’Antoni’s post-game comments last year, but it made for good reading. I understood Huggins’ fiery response on his radio show a few days later, but hoped his threats to end the series were empty. I was baffled as to why D’Antoni would mention WVU in the wake of an exhibition loss to a Division II program on Sunday.

But I appreciate D’Antoni’s honesty on Tuesday. Above all, I appreciate his stance that the “friendly ribbing” won’t end anytime soon. My days are fun in this job, but a little smack talk certainly adds to it.

AP poll: Extreme voting

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The Charleston Gazette-Mail is home to the state’s lone representative in the Associated Press poll for football (Mitch Vingle) and basketball (me). The preseason AP top 25 poll for men’s hoops dropped yesterday (Monday), and one of my favorite websites, College Poll Tracker, has logged the 65 individual ballots for our perusal.

A neat thing the website does is chart the most and least popular ballots, and the most and least extreme ballots. Among the preseason ballots, mine falls under none of those categories.

Here, however, are a list of what the website characterizes as my most extreme preseason selections.

No. 4 Gonzaga — The Bulldogs are No. 9 in the actual poll, so I’m five spots off. That’s the minimum requirement to be considered “extreme” by the website. No one else has Zags ranked as high, but I love their front line. They’ve got a challenge non-conference schedule, so we’ll find out a lot early.

No. 7 Kentucky — The Wildcats are ranked No. 2, so I’m five spots off here, too. UK received 10 first-place votes, third-most to UNC (35) and Maryland (14). Look, I love Coach Cal and talent funnels into this program every year, but I’ll wait and see before nudging the Wildcats up the ladder. I’ll have my eye on that Nov. 17 clash with Duke.

No. 12 Duke — Uh oh. The Blue Devils came in at No. 5 in the AP poll, so I’m seven spots off the mark. Actually, I have Duke ranked the lowest in the country by two spots.

No. 14 Notre Dame — The Irish are No. 19, so unlike UK and Duke, I have Notre Dame overvalued in comparison to others. The highest ranking was 12 and 15 voters left ND off their ballots, so there’s a wide range of opinions here.

No. 18 Butler — I love the Bulldogs’ defense, and so do others. Butler is No. 24 overall, so the six spot differential isn’t too extreme. One voter has Butler No. 13 and 19 voters left the Bulldogs off the ballot entirely, so fellow Indiana school Notre Dame, the opinions vary here.

No. 19 West Virginia — The Mountaineers are unranked, but officially compiled the 28th-most points from the 65 voters, so technically I’m nine spots off. This was a tough call for one of the Mountain State’s two Division I hoops programs. Juwan Staten and Gary Browne were huge pieces from a Sweet Sixteen team, but Esa Ahmad is a huge addition and the backcourt of Jevon Carter, Dax Miles, Jaysean Paige and Tarik Phillip is going to get better. The front line can be downright scary. If WVU can make it to New York City in early December undefeated, it’ll set up an intriguing matchup with Virginia.

No. 21 Providence — I was surprised I was so alone on the Friars. They’re not in the top 25 (technically No. 40 overall), so I’m 19 spots off. I, obviously, had Providence the highest of anyone in the country. Of the 65 voters, 62 left Providence outside the top 25. We’ll see.

No. 24 Wisconsin — I didn’t initially have the Badgers in my top 25, but the more I read, the more I liked. I’m seven spots off the Badgers’ No. 17 national rankings, so let’s see if my tune changes as the season progresses.

No. 25 Boise State — This team intrigues me, but I was only one of two voters to rank the Broncos (the other, Jerry Carino, slotted them No.2 3). Boise State technically ranks No. 44 overall, so this is tied with Providence as my most extreme pick of the preseason.

Luther Campbell, the 54-year-old Miami native who is known as the leader of 2 Live Crew, has opined on the Miami Hurricanes coaching search several times, is at it again.

This time he didn’t refer to WVU coach Dana Holgorsen as Dana Hologram (dang you, auto-correct!), but Holgorsen is on his mind again, according to FoxSports.com:

“Dana’s not going to win at West Virginia and he knows it,” Campbell said. “Dana is in the Big 12. He can’t win in that s**t. … He can’t win playing against Texas and TCU and Baylor and all them.”

Oh.

Campbell has plenty of interesting things to say about Holgorsen and other potential Miami targets, and why they’d be a fit with the Hurricanes. Click on the link above for more.

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Each Monday I’ll highlight three goods and three bads from the weekend in sports. This week, we’ll venture back as far as Thursday night, when TCU routed WVU, 40-10, in Fort Worth.

Our Mike Casazza was there, and he had a unique same-day look at the Mountaineers’ loss, the head coaching situation and the fans who’ve emailed the higher-ups at WVU to clamor for change or offer support. Good, good read.

3 up

College football — This felt like one of the best weeks of the season to date. Outside of WVU, Thursday proved to be a harbinger with the UNC-Pitt game (and Ryan Switzer’s continued destruction of the Panthers) and the three-overtime game between Oregon and Arizona State.

Saturday didn’t let up, from Notre Dame’s narrow defeat of Temple in front of ESPN Gameday and a nationally televised audience to the 123 points scored between Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

(By the way, this Saturday will be my first game in the stands at any college football venue since 2008. I’ll be in Morgantown for Texas Tech-WVU, so be kind.)

Now on the eve of the first College Football Playoff rankings, it’s shaping up to be a November to remember. There are 10 undefeated teams in the top 25, and that includes multiple Group of 5 teams, plus the Big 12’s Oklahoma State and the Big Ten’s Iowa. The Big 12 situation will begin to be sorted out this week with the Pokes play TCU in a battle of unbeatens.

Ryan Switzer — He’s good. Really. When he was piling up Kennedy awards at George Washington High School, the thought was he’d end up at childhood favorite WVU. He didn’t, of course, for one reason or another, and he became an All-American for the Tar Heels.

He lit up Pitt (again) for a career-high 126 yards last Thursday, which included a 71-yard touchdown reception. It was his 10th career receiving TD, which have covered 502 yards. That means Switzer is averaging 50.2 yards per touchdown reception (!).

By the way, Pitt is the only opponent Switzer has receiving TDs against in multiple games.

College hoops — It’s here. WVU Tech played an official game against West Virginia State on Saturday, and then hosted Ohio Eastern on Saturday. I’m devoted to football and basketball, but man I’m elated to have the hoopyball back in my life.

Of course, that means from now through bowl season I’m scheduling my staff through football and basketball. Yikes.

3 down

“The Five” — Quincy Wilson has “The Run,” John Pennington has “The Catch,” and Dana Holgorsen has “The Five.”

Holgorsen’s hand-slap with TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin drew a fair amount of attention (and criticism) last Thursday, but that’s not why this is under the 3 down category. I just simply don’t get the ire.

Yes, I saw former players like Pat White scolding the coach on social media. Yes, I witnessed the outcry on Twitter and Facebook from fans. I get it. Dana Holgorsen isn’t a football fan’s favorite person right now, with the four-game losing streak and all.

But my opinion is this: Holgorsen was in a no-win situation. Boykin, if you’d watch, initiated the interaction. He raises his right hand and starts to bring it toward Holgorsen. At this point, Holgorsen has two options: go through with the high-five, or ignore one of the most pleasant and high-profile college football players in the country. Can you imagine the ire directed at Holgorsen — and the WVU program — had the coach ignored an enthusiastic opposing player in the heat of the moment? It might’ve fired up the fan base, but it would’ve been a terrible look.

If you become a regular follower of this blog, you’ll come to realize how much my 3-year-old son plays into my thoughts. Above all else, I’ll teach him about the joy of sports. Let’s have a little fun, OK?

Referees — Story time. Once upon a time I coached in a youth basketball league with my cousin. A friend of mine and I were asked to officiated one of the games, and with no experience, we agreed. It was a terrible experience. Awful. We were booed off the floor, the league decided to not count the games, and as my friend and I exited the gym at DuPont High School, we dropped our payment for the day in the concession stand bucket. We didn’t feel we earned it.

The lesson for me, as a teenager, was that the job is darn tough. I’ve always embraced the human element in sports, which includes officiating, and never criticized it in my work.

But boy, what happened at Miami-Duke, was simply atrocious. That end game play by Miami was an attempt to create chaos, and for that they were successful.

Kudos for the ACC for reacting swiftly and strongly. Thumbs down to the crew that significantly altered Duke’s season.

College football vacancies — It’s peculiar to see so many college football openings on Nov. 2. Halloween is barely in the rearview and Thanksgiving is three weeks away, but here we are with major jobs available at Southern Cal, South Carolina, Maryland, Virginia Tech, Miami, Minnesota and Illinos, plus North Texas, UCF and Hawaii. Sheesh.

You have to wonder how this will play into the minds of athletic directors who are also considering a move this offseason? If more premium landing spots join the aforementioned, it might not be the best offseason to join the fray in search of a new coach.

Know what I mean?

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The Associated Press will release its annual preseason top 25 men’s basketball poll at 1:30 p.m. I am one of 65 voters (the only representative in West Virginia). I last held the hoops vote in 2013, as myself and fellow Gazette-Mail sports staffer Mitch Vingle rotate between football and basketball each season.

Below you’ll find my preseason poll. I agonized over it. I’m sure I’ll get ridiculed for certain parts, especially my ranking of Kentucky and Duke. I urge patience. I prefer to rank and evaluate on actual performance, not paper, so anticipate wild adjustments in my poll once the games begin.

That said, I love discussion and debate, and all of your thoughts are welcome here.

Happy hooping …

Chuck McGill’s preseason top 25 poll, as submitted to the Associated Press:

1) North Carolina
2) Virginia
3) Maryland
4) Gonzaga
5) Kansas
6) Iowa State
7) Kentucky
8) Wichita State
9) Villanova
10) Oklahoma
11) Indiana
12) Duke
13) California
14) Notre Dame
15) Vanderbilt
16) Arizona
17) Michigan State
18) Butler
19) WVU
20) UConn
21) Providence
22) Utah
23) Baylor
24) Wisconsin
25) Boise State