Saturday, March 31, 2007

Another Call for Guest Columns

I've just received some great news. Baseball in Lorain County is one the rise. Lorain has renovated its Class F field into a professional-caliber stadium. "The Pipe Yard" will be Cleveland State's (Cleveland isn't a state) home field this year, and it will also host several games for Lorain County Community College. The long-term - or more appropriately, medium-term - hope is to lure a professional baseball team to Lorain.

A Frontier League team did "flirt" with Lorain a few years back, but nothing came of it. However, the nearby city of Avon recently announced that it has reached a deal with a Frontier league team.

With this recent upsurge, the local paper put out a search for a new baseball writer. On a whim, I threw out a resume and some sample work. Ladies and gentlemen, you're looking at (or reading the words of) The Morning Journal's new college and pro baseball writer.

The position is only on a freelance basis, so I'll still be keeping my day job. Between work, writing, and school, my calendar is book. That's where you come in. I'm going to need much help from my loyal readers in the form of guest columns, or else the site may have to go on hiatus for a while.

Again, this is an exciting time for me. But if you're a fan of Kanka's Sports Page, I'll need your help to keep it going.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)

Written by Steve Hofstetter, Adam Hofstetter, Cody Marley, Ryan Murphy, Rich Ragains, Elliot Steingart, and Chris Strait

Editor's Note: Kanka's Sports Page is taking another step towards the big time. I'd like to welcome Steve Hofstetter (whose credits include Sports Illustrated and Maxim and his staff, who graciously offered to allow this site to syndicate their Sports Minute (Or So) for free. The Minute can also be seen in 31 newspapers and heard on 162 radio stations. For more, see the link at the end of this column.

The World Chess Federation says it's going to start testing for performance enhancing drugs. Like No-Doze.

In cricket, a pathology report has indicated that Pakistani coach Bob Woolmer died of manual strangulation. Latrell Sprewell was unavailable for comment. It's believed to be the biggest sports choke since the 2004 ALCS.

Major League Baseball mandated each team watch a film on the dangers and consequences of steroid use. In an interesting twist, the film was projected on the back of Barry Bonds' head.

Basketballer LeBron James has acquired a minority ownership of Cannondale, a manufacturer of high-end bicycles. It's nice to see James will have something to fall back on in case this whole basketball thing doesn't work out. James has been advised to invest wisely, so that when he retires, he will be able to put gas in all 8 of his private planes.

At the world swimming championships, the United States won four gold medals and set three world records. The United States has the second most powerful swimmers in the world, just behind Tom Brady.

And inspired by his brother's performance on Saturday Night Live, Eli Manning will begin working with a comedy troupe: the Giants minicamp. Eli also proposed to his girlfriend of five years this week which frustrated Giants fans: they are still waiting for Manning to come around. Congratulations, Eli – this is probably the only ring in your career.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

(Last) Weekend in Review

St Patrick's Day 2007 Edition

By midweek, things were really starting to come together. Dave was going to fly in Friday night, coincidentally on the same plane my sister would be on, for a weekend of frolic that would include F-Bomb's birthday and St. Patrick's Day. To make things better, Klondike planned to get out of work early so he could also make the drive out to the Cleveland area. On Thursday night, F-Bomb and I went on a supply run to stock up for the weekend.
Then the East Coast Weather Bias hit. A dusting of snow caused LaGuardia to shut down all commuter jet flights, including the one Dave and my sister were supposed to be on. To make things worse, everything from New York was booked until the following Monday. We scrambled to reschedule for the next weekend, but flights that weekend were triple the cost of Dave's original flight. In the scheduling panic, Klondike missed his window of opportunity to drive out here, so it looked like things were off.
After a disappointing workday Friday, I tried to salvage things at an in-office retirement party. It was an OK time, and I did make a good impression on a pair of semi-retired board members. Afterwards, I did my best to at least lock in my local friends for festivities on Saturday, so the weekend wouldn't be a total waste. Then I got the news: my dad was supposed to drive my (other) sister out to Pittsburgh for the women's basketball tournament, but the weather was looking bad and my dad was worried about making it back in time for another retirement party Saturday evening. So guess who got volunteered to play chauffeur on Saturday? Yours truly. After cancelling my new plans with local friends, I decided to call it an early night so I could leave early Saturday morning.
The drive to Pittsburgh was uneventful - and the weather was nice, by the way - and we arrived early afternoon. At that point, I decided that while I was out there, I would at least attempt to make something out of the drive and attempt to get a ticket. The athletic department liason, Charmelle, spotted me, noticed my band jacket, and confused me for a current band member. After explaining my situation to her, I mentioned that I needed a ticket. She told me that the president of the ND club of Pittsburgh might be able to help, but that she didn't have the guy's number on her, so instead she gave me her business card. One Sam Sanchez was out on the town, so I decided to wait in the hotel lobby and watch basketball until he got back. It was then that I experienced Xavier grasp defeat from the jaws of victory while sitting just outside a crowded bar of Ohio State fans. (Ohio State's women's team was not playing in Pittsburgh, so I have no idea why the fans were there.) After waiting for a few hours, I decided to give Sam a call. After a few minutes, he was able to track down the name and number of the ND Club of Pittsburgh president. I gave said president a call, and he gave me two contacts: a representative of the ND ticket office in Pittsburgh, and a contact in the Pitt ticket office who had sold the ND Club a suite. I called both and left voicemails. Maja from the ND ticket office called back first, so I decided to arrange things with her. The woman from the Pitt office also called back, and I told her that I would call her if Maja couldn't come through. But Maja was able to come through - $16 for a two-game session. Not bad, compared to the $50+ rate for men's sessions.
That took care of Objective 1. Objective 2 was finding a place to stay that night. I went with my sister and a few band kids to a corner pizza shop named Pizza Parma, and mentioned my predicament. The lone bass in our group, a guy named Matt, offered floor space, and I gladly accepted. Objective 2 was quickly accomplished.
Objective 3 was finding a place for my car to stay the night. I originally had a spot in the underground garage below the hotel, but in my indecisiveness over staying I moved it to a garage that closed at 1 AM. By the time I had decided to stay, the hotel garage was down to valet spaces only. Valet spaces were $22 compared to the regular 8. Plus, when I asked about the rate, I was told that it was charged directly to my room bill. Being as I didn't have a room, I figured I was out of luck. As I was walking back to the garaged that housed my car, I spotted another garage sponsored by the city of Pittsburgh. It had an overnight rate listed on the sign, but I walked in and asked the attendant just in case. "Yes, you can park your car here for as long as you want." Objective 3 complete.
With everything set, I settled in for a relaxing night of watching basketball in "my" room. The next morning, I threw on my "PROPERTY OF ND WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BAND" shirt and band jacket, and was able to sneak onto the band/cheerleader bus. (Interesting note: while the cheerleaders have white adidas shoes with blue stripes, the Leprechaun is given white shoes with green stripes, gold trim, and the Leprechaun logo stiched onto the side of the heel.) We rode to the Petersen Events center behind the team bus and a police escort (not as cool as the escort for the 2001 Women's Big East in Connecticut, which included a snowplow, but still) and I followed the band as far as I could until I had to separate and find my seat.
My seat was pretty nice - on the sideline, about even with the free throw line, and maybe about 10 rows up. My ticket said row "K," so I figured the 10th row was in fact the right place. But after grabbing a few hot dogs and settling back into my seat, an usher came up with a few people who thought I was in their seat. The usher checked my ticket and pointed to the extra few rows of seats on the floor. "You're down there. You got an upgrade!" When I walked down to the floor section, sure enough there was row K, although it was only about the 6th row. As I got to the section, Wendi Nix of ESPN was interviewing Melissa Lechlitner's parents. It didn't take me long to figure out that I was in the parent's section. I was stuck in the corner of the last row, with a stair railing blocking half my view, but I didn't care one bit. Muffet McGraw's husband was seated six rows directly in front of me in a green derby. Erica Williamson's brother, who could pass as her twin, was three rows in front, then Erica Barlow's family, then the Lechlitners, then me. I couldn't figure out whether I was sitting next to the D'Amicos or the Tsipises, but it really didn't matter. The woman next to me kept apologizing for her 4-year-old boy acting like, well, a 4-year-old, but I didn't care one bit. Hey, I thought it was great that he would echo the Victory March or some of the cheers after the band or cheerleaders finished.
The game was an exciting one, and it was interesting to see the different reactions from the various family members. Down the row from me, there were a few people who weren't too happy with the refs. In front of me, Erica Williamson's brother was acting as goofy as his younger sibling supposedly does. The Lechlitners were silent and motionless, save for two audible gasps when Melissa missed back-to-back free throws late in the game. But in the end it was a win, and everyone was happy.
After the game I was able to sneak to the bus with the band (it's amazing what a band jacket, and "women's basketball band" shirt, and a "if you act like you know what you're doing, people won't bother you" attitude can do for you), and it was there that I spotted Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. I hope Coach Dixon wasn't parking in his normal spot, becuase it was a rather long walk from the arena. I said hi to Coach Dixon, he returned the greeting, and then spotting who we were, he asked us if we won. From the arena, the band and cheerleaders headed to the Cheesecake Factory for an early dinner. On the bus, Sam mentioned that people were still needed to play for Tuesday's game. In fact, the only trombones at Sunday's game were Matt Merten and Bob Casarez, who had arrived in Pittsburgh at 4:30 that morning from the previous night's hockey game in Detriot. I gladly volunteered my services, and it was then that people asked why I hadn't played in Sunday's game. It turns out that the NCAA likes to have an official list of participating band members at least a day in advance. If that wasn't the case, Matt and Bob could have brought a trombone down for me, or I could have participated as the cowbell player. (Yes, I definitely would have called everyone I knew before/during Sunday's if I was to be playing the cowbell at a women's tournament game.) That was a moot point, and all that mattered was that I would be back on Tuesday to play bone for the second round game against North Carolina.
I picked up a full cheesecake for mini-Kanka's Super Sweet 16, which was that day, and then the bus headed back to the hotel. In the lobby, we were greeted by a very friendly "Hey guys!" from Crystal Erwin. Right before I left for home, I stopped by Sam's room, now occupied by Bob and Merten, to say goodbye. Crystal Erwin walked up right behind me, and it turned out that she was staying in the room right across the hall. I congratulated her on the game. "Thanks! Hey, you're right across the hall from us!" After I explained that it was my room, we struck up a little conversation until it was broken up by one of the managers. After saying goodbye to Bob and Merten, and reminding them that I would be back Tuesday, I headed home to plan my work schedule so I could make a return trip.
After alluding to my weekend on the message board, F-Bomb asked if he could join me. After discussions that included him, Bob, and Sam, we were finally able to work things out. It turned out that we would actually make things easier on Sam - in addition to playing, we could also pick him up in the Pittsburgh airport after he dropped off the rental van he was going to drive from South Bend. (Sam had to return to ND after Sunday's game a) to return the school van that Bob and Merten had driven from school to Detroit to Pittsburgh, and b) to bring back more band kids.) I left work a little early on Tuesday, and picked up F-Bomb in Cleveland when he got out of work at 4:30. (By the way, I was wearing my other "PROPERTY OF ND WOMEN'S BASKETBALL BAND" shirt on Tuesday.) After F-Bomb and I both took a detailed personality test that work had given him (and one that confirmed my attraction for outgoing types and creative types), we arrived at the airport to pick up Sam. Sam had us drive back to the hotel, where the band hadn't yet left for the 9:30 PM game. We were able to follow the bus from the hotel to the dropoff point next to the arena. But there we were in a bit of a jam. Where were we supposed to park? An arena traffic guy pointed to the line of cars crawling along in the opposite direction. He said that we needed to follow them, but that if we did, we'd never make it to the game on time. He agreed to let me park in a small spot on the curb between our bus and the fire hydrant, as long as we put something to identify our allegiance to the ND band in the windshield. That "something" was actually three things: a handwritten sign that said "NOTRE DAME BAND," my band jacket, and a Sam Sanchez business card.
We walked into the arena, but we were actually not allowed to watch the Tennessee-Pitt game that was going on before ours. So we were hearded onto a practice court with the cheerleaders and the North Carolina band and cheerleaders. It was there that Bob handed out part assignments for the bones. Merten had caught strep sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, so he wasn't playing. With Merten out, Bob handed me the trombone I folder. Awesome, thanks Bob. Someone found some basketballs, and a giant game of knockout was started between the two bands. The North Carolina bandos were very proud that their basketball-rich school had a few band kids who were actually mediocre enough to consistently beat our band kids. (Most of our band kids, and even most of the UNC band kids, made me look good.) The bones chose not to play, instead opting to shoot the breeze while F-Bomb scoped out the UNC cheerleaders.
As Tennessee put the finishing touches on their win over Pitt, we were moved to a tunnel just outside court and the Tennessee locker room. I'll admit it - it was kinda cool seeing Candace Parker in person and being no less than 10 feet away from her.
When we finally made it to our seats, North Carolina was warming up on our end of the court. I decided that Notre Dame might need a little help in this 1 vs. 8 matchup, so I started heckling Ivory Latta from the moment the pregame clock started. As the game went on, Latta actually gave me a few good reasons to heckle her - she chose to cover our shooting guard instead of our point guard, she cherry picked each time the Tar Heels got a defensive rebound, she was held to 3 points in the first half, and her fiery attitude almost got the best of her at one point - after being bumped around in the key on her defensive end, she got up and gave an ND player a shove right in front of one of the referees.
I recapped the game the other day, so I really don't need to go over it again. The parents' section was just to our left, and from time to time Ashley Barlow's dad (or uncle) would do his best to get the band cheering. After the game, Crystal Erwin walked by us in the tunnel, and needless to say the senior wasn't in the same friendly mood she was in the other day.
The ride home was uneventful, insomuch that neither F-Bomb (who drove much of the way) nor I fell asleep. We got to F-Bomb's place at 3 AM, and he was at work by 8. I was a bit more of a slacker. I made it home at 3:30, and blessed the fact that I told my boss I wouldn't be in until noon. Go leftover Veteran's Day hours!
The end.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

MLB Preview #6: AL Central

Minnesota Twins

Luis Castillo 2B
Nick Punto 3B
Joe Mauer C
Mike Cuddyer RF
Justin Morneau 1B
Rondell White LF
Torii Hunter CF
Jason Kubel DH
Jason Bartlett SS

Johan Santana
Ramon Ortiz
Boof Bonser
Carlos Silva
Matt Garza
Scott Baker
Glen Perkins

At first glance, you see essentially the same lineup that won the division last year. A pessimist would point out that at least half of the lineup had career years, and that those players's numbers are bound to revert to the mean this season. Of course, an optimist would point out that most of these players are young, so their numbers are simply on the rise. Which is the case, then? Mauer and Morneau are no doubt on the rise, although they may have trouble duplicating their MVP-caliber 2006 performances. Luis Castillo has just been consistent throughout the years. Punto may have just had a career year, but then again, hitting in front of Mauer didn't hurt last year and it won't this year. Cuddyer's numbers may dip, or maybe he's just finally living up to his big hype. Hunter put up his second best offensive performance in 2006, and only now is he going into a contract year. So the offense will still perform. On the bench, the outfield is deep, but that's about it. The outfield depth is a good thing, though, as White is aging, Hunter's body is starting to break down, and Jason Kubel has yet to prove himself.
Well, the lineup had better perform, because they're not getting much help from the rotation after Johan Santana. Francisco Liriano is out for the year, and the best replacement avilable was Ramon Ortiz. Carlos Silva struggled last year, and statheads would point to his tendency towards low strikeout totals and high home run totals as a cause. Boof Bonser has had a slow road as a prospect, and it's finally time for him to step up. Matt Garza admitted to succumbing to pressure last year, so look for him to improve the second time around. If anyone falters, the Twins still do have JD Durbin on the horizon. Of course, Minnesota can afford to give a little with their rotation, because their bullpen is traditionally lights out. Always a farm for future pitching stars, the Twins pen features closer Joe Nathan, perhaps the best in the game at what he does. Jesse Crain, Pat Neshek, and Juan Rincon all have futures as closers. If that isn't good enough, they added Dennys Reyes, who only went 5-0 with an ERA of 0.89 in 66 games last year.

Detroit Tigers

Curtis Granderson CF
Placido Polanco 2B
Pudge Rodriguez C
Gary Sheffield RF
Magglio Ordonez DH
Carlos Guillen SS
Sean Casey 1B
Craig Monroe LF
Brandon Inge 3B

Jeremy Bonderman
Kenny Rogers
Justin Verlander
Nate Robertson
Mike Maroth
Zach Miner
Wilfredo Ledesma

This team only made the World Series last year, and then all they did was add Gary Sheffield. Granderson doesn't quite have the on base numbers to bat leadoff, but he appears to be there by default. The only question I have for this lineup is whether Rodriguez will bat third, or whether he will move down to 6 and bump everyone else up a spot. I suppose that all depends on his production. Either way, though, this is the second competitive lineup in a competitive division. The bench is deep, with veteran backstop Vance Wilson; three guys who can play shortstop (and several other positions) in Omar Infante, Neifi Perez, and Ramon Santiago; and Chris Shelton, who may have trouble breaking camp this year. Former starter Marcus Thames will spell Sheffield and Ordonez in right field, when Shef and Mags aren't spelling each other in the DH spot.
It was just a few years ago when Jeremy Bonderman, Nate Robertson, and Mike Maroth were racing to not be "that guy" with 20 losses. Now they're the core of a rotation that also features a resurgent Kenny Rogers and star sophomore Justin Verlander. Rogers is one of the most athletic pitchers in the game, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that his body has held up so well. Verlander, meanwhile, ran out of gas somewhere in late August, and the wear and tear on his arm will no doubt carry into the beginning of this season. Like Minnesota, Detroit has stocked is bullpen with potential closers. Todd Jones is the current closer, but that may not last long. As long as Joel Zumaya can lay off the Guitar Hero, the fireballer may be Detroit's closer by the trading deadline. Speaking of fireballers, Fernando Rodney isn't too far behind. And for good measure, the Tigers also brought Jose Mesa back to the AL Central.

Chicago White Sox

Scott Podsednik LF
Darin Erstad CF
Jim Thome DH
Paul Konerko 1B
Jermaine Dye RF
AJ Pierzynski C
Joe Crede 3B
Tadahito Iguchi 2B
Juan Uribe/Alex Cintron SS

Jose Contreras
Mark Buehrle
Jon Garland
Javier Vazquez
Gavin Floyd

In theory, this is a decent lineup. In practice, however, things may not play that way. Ozzie Guillen will stubbornly keep Podsednik and Erstad at the top of the lineup, even though Iguchi is much better at getting on base. JI
JIM THOME, Konerko, and Dye could go either way as they continue to age. Juan Uribe's future may be in jeopardy after legal accusations in his home country. If Uribe can't go, Chicago does have two capable backups in Alex Cintron and Pablo Ozuna. The outfield bench features former prospect Brian Anderson, whose hitting never panned out and who may be on the trading block, and the versatile Rob Mackowiak.
The Sox traded away Freddy Garcia for a package that included Gavin Floyd, whose career ERA is a shade under 7 in the National League. This rotation struggled to repeat its success from the 2005 season, and it won't be able to repeat that success this year either. The bullpen isn't much better. They did add a former closer (and starter) in Mike MacDougal, but other than that there isn't much in the cupboard. Without some major moves (including, perhaps, a manager), I would be surprised if this team finished above fourth in a very competitive division.

Cleveland Indians

Grady Sizemore CF
David Dellucci LF
Travis Hafner DH
Victor Martinez C
Trot Nixon RF
Casey Blake 1B
Jhonny Peralta SS
Andy Marte 3B
Josh Barfield 2B

CC Sabathia
Jake Westbrook
Clifford Lee
Jeremy Sowers
Paul Byrd
Fausto Carmona
Adam Miller

This lineup is by no means static. In fact, this is only the lienup against righties; heavy platooning will factor into the lineup against southpaws. Between Dellucci and Nixon, the #2 and #5 spots will depend on each's production. Against lefties, Jason Michaels will take over for Dellucci in left and Blake will move to right. From there, it looks like Kelly Shoppach will catch against lefties, moving Victor Martinez to first. That is, of course, unless either Ryan Garko can prove that he can play a competent defensive first base, or Travis Hafner can prove that his elbow is healthy enough to play first. In that case, Martinez would stay at catcher and Garko would join the lineup. As of right now, though, it appears that Garko will begin the season in AAA. Also beginning the season in AAA is Shin-Soo Choo, a left-handed corner outfielder who has been pushed behind Dellucci and Nixon on the depth chart. Look for a big rebound this year from Jhonny Peralta. Last season, Peralta admitted to poor eyesight, but refused to wear the contacts prescribed to him. This offseason, he opted for laser eye surgery, although if he would have waited until April 10, he could have picked up some Wild Thing glasses. I kid you not. Peralta also claimed that his left arm was essentially paralyzed for the last two months of 2006; that condition has since improved, so look for Peralta's defense to improve with it. On the bench, as mentioned, look for Garko and Choo to start in the minors. There is a three way race for the utility infielder spot, and it appears that no on wants it. Joe Inglett has just returned from injury, and he was believed to be the third best of the three options coming into camp. Hector Luna flat out hasn't played well. Former Twins infielder Luis Rivas was playing well until he was sidelined by an injury. Perhaps that won't matter, though - with all the platooning, the utility infielder will be the only Indians player not to have a regular role against righties or lefties.
The rotation, at least the top of it, is rated by some experts as one of the best of the game. Cliff Lee will start the season on the disabled list; he will be replaced by the much-maligned Fausto Carmona. The crafty and wily Paul Byrd has been working on adding splitfinger pitch to his arsenal. Top prospect Adam Miller was untouchable in the big league spring training camp, but he will still start his season in the minors. The good thing about the Indians bullpen in 2006 was that, um, well, at least no one forgot their pants. This year Cleveland looked to improve their bullpen by signing nearly every reliever available. Originally, Joe Borowski and Keith Foulke we destined to fight for the closer's role. With Foulke's retirement, Borowski will now be the stopper. Supporting Borowski will be fellow veteran additions Aaron Fultz and Roberto Hernandez (who is only 19 years older than Sowers and Carmona). Effective side-armer Matt Miller will return from an injury. Fernando Cabrera, once this team's future closer, will look to bounce back from a rough 2006.

Kansas City Royals

David DeJesus CF
Mark Grudzielanek 2B
Mike Sweeney DH
Reggie Sanders LF
Emil Brown RF
Ryan Shealy 1B
Alex Gordon 3B
Angel Berroa SS
Jason LaRue C

Gil Meche
Odalis Perez
Luke Hudson
Jorge De La Rosa
Brian Bannister
Scott Elarton
Zack Greinke
Jimmy Gobble

This lineup doesn't look that much different from last year's, with two notable exceptions. Jason LaRue was picked up from Cincinnati. LaRue platooned with the Reds, and I wouldn't be surprised if he platooned again with last year's starting receiver, John Buck. Super prospect Alex Gordon has been named the starter at third base, displacing Mark Teahen. To keep Teahen's bat in the lineup, he will attempt to play the corner outfield spots. Considering Reggie Sanders' age and Mike Sweeney's injury history, Teahen should still see decent playing time. Angel Berroa has spent the last three seasons proving that he didn't deserve the 2003 rookie of the year award, and now he may be on his way out. Sports Illustrated went as far as suggesting that Teahen move to shortstop, even though that's a tough move up the defensive spectrum. The bench is highlighted by Ross Gload and Justin Huber at first; Huber played for Team Canada in last year's World Baseball Classic. In the outfield, Joey Gathright is perhaps the fastest man in baseball, but he's still trying to develop his other skills to complement that speed.
The Royals were criticized for spending big money on Gil Meche in the offseason. Like the Pirates, the Royals need that spending wisely is far more important than just spending. Meche may only be the third most important addition to this rotation, however. The Royals also picked up former Mets prospect Brian Bannister. And Zack Greinke, a year removed from serious thoughts of retirement, will hope to conquer his psychological issues to return as Kansas City's top pitching prospect. (Or, at the very least, their top pitching prospect not named "Hochevar.") After years of trying and failing with prospects in the closer's role, the Royals have picked up an established veteran in Octavio Dotel. If nothing else, Dotel has a reputation of warming the closer's seat for a future star. (See Lidge, Brad, and Street, Huston.) Supporting Dotel are David Riske, now playing for his third AL Central club, and a bunch of guys that not even I've heard of before.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

North Carolina 60, Notre Dame Women's Basketball 51

Maybe this was how the season was supposed to end. The underdogs had overachieved all season. They pushed the mighty #1 seed to the limits, but in the end the favorites prevailed.
It didn't look like this would be a fair fight. Other than the diminuative Ivory Latta, everyone on the North Carolina squad had a distinct size advantage over their Notre Dame counterpart. Yet this was a very even game for the entire first half. The Irish were able to shut down Latta in the first period, holding her to a single field goal. But the Tar Heels wouldn't be a top seed if they didn't have other weapons, and those weapons made it a game.
Part way into the second half, local girl Charel Allen and senior Tulyah Gaines took their teammates on their shoulders. It seemed like Gaines was able to drive the lane at will. Offensive sets geared around cuts to the basket for easy layups was working to perfection. When Gaines couldn't find anyone with an easy look under the basket, she simply took matters into her own hands, and it seems like everything she threw up went down. Gaines finished with 8 points and 8 assists. Allen, meanwhile, was on a tear. When she wasn't driving for a short jumper, she was hitting money three after money three. Allen finished with 21.
But even as it seemed that the Irish had all the momentum, the tide was starting to turn in favor of the Tar Heels. UNC started using their size advantage, and managed to get both Melissa D'Amico and Erica Williamson in foul trouble. Ivory Latta had a terrible night from the field, but good scorers always find a way to put points on the board. In this case, Latta went to the line 9 times, converting 8 free throws. She had 17.
In the end, Notre Dame didn't have an answer to North Carolina's final run. What they do have, though, is a promising future. While this team will lose the experience of Crystal Erwin and Breona Gray, they will have Allen, Gaines, Ashley Barlow, Melissa D'Amico, Melissa Lechlitner, and Erica Williamson back a year older and wiser, and will see Lindsay Schrader return. The number 8 seed that the Irish received this year may be the worst they see in a while.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Notre Dame Women's Basketball 62, Cal 59

Editor's note: regular readers may scroll down to see the winner of this year's KankaNation Laetare Medal.

Notre Dame stormed out of the gates, playing like the team who had more tournament experience, even if most of that experience didn't come from its current player. The lead touched double digits, and things were looking good. Cal's top scorer Devanei Hampton was held to 2 points in the first half, and was sent to the bench with 3 fouls. But Cal wasn't going to give up easily, and forward Ashley Walker stepped up late in the half. She was the game's leading scorer at halftime, thanks to some points in the paint and several trips to the line. But by the intermission, the Irish lead was still 9.
It was Cal's turn to storm out of the gates in the second half. The Bears won the battle of halftime adjustments, as Walker and Hampton picked apart Notre Dame's 2-3 zone. ND's frontcourt for most of the game consisted of Charel Allen at the 3, Crystal Erwin at 4, and Melissa D'Amico or Erica Williamson at center. (D'Amico in fact got the start alongside Erwin to combat Cal's size.) Walker would take the ball down to the block on Erwin's side and move in until she drew coverage from the center. Then all she had to do was pass off to Hampton, who had a great size advantage over the slender Allen. When that didn't work, Walker and Hampton had great success taking 4-footers over D'Amico and Williamson. Walker also made 12 total trips to the charity stripe, converting 10. As Cal's momentum grew, Notre Dame's freshman inexperience started to show. Eventually the Bears took a slim lead before the Irish fought back.
The drama escalated with 31 seconds left. With a chance to ice it, Melissa Lechlitner missed the front end of a one-and-one, drawing the only reaction from her parents during the whole game. But Cal's golden opportunity was lost when Hampton lost the ball out of bounds under the basket. On the ensuing throw-in, Tulyah Gaines was fouled and made both free throws. But it wasn't over yet. Ashley Barlow, who finished with 10 rebounds, was called for a foul on what looked to be a clean block of a three point attempt by the Bears. The first two free throws were made, but the Irish gathered in the rebound after the third was missed. A long outlet went to Lechlitner on the breakaway. She had a chance for an easy layup with 5 seconds left, but with an impressive display of awareness she instead chose to dribble out the clock and wait to be fouled. With just under three seconds left, Lechlitner got her redemption by hitting two free throws to cap the scoring. With help from a 5-for-7 performance from the stripe, Lech finished with 12 points, second on the Irish to only Charel Allen's 13.

The Irish next face #1 seed North Carolina Tuesday night at 9 PM Eastern on ESPN2. Look for some familiar faces in the trombone section for that one.

Laetare Sunday

Albeit a few days late, for the second straight year Kanka's Sports Page is proud to announce the recipient of the KankaNation Laetare Medal. The KankaNation Laetare goes to the KankaManiac "whose genius has ennobled the arts and sciences, illustrated the ideals of Kanka's Sports Page and enriched the heritage of humanity." This year the award goes to two people, thereby assuring that I'll run out of people for the award within five years. But without further ado, those two are:

Dave (seen in the corner) and Klondike

It may or may not be a coincidence that these two were scheduled to come out to the Cleveland area this past weekend (East Coast Weather Bias be darned). Dave runs KankaMatic Fantasy Football, and has contributed several articles for the site. Klondike is the proud parent of the famous football countdown clock, and several other bells and whistles on the site.

Dave and Klondike are currently planning to receive their awards, which come in liquid form and have their own glass display cases, in person at a date yet to be determined.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Friday, March 09, 2007

Georgetown 84, Notre Dame Men's Basketball 82

In recent years, the Notre Dame-Georgetown rivalry has meant one, if not multiple, overtimes. Friday night was the exception, as the game ended in regulation.
Early on, it appeared that overtime wasn't even going to be a question, as Notre Dame stormed out to a 14 point lead. But the Hoyas slowly fought back, sparked by Patrick Ewing, Jr. off the bench. (An aside: Junior doesn't really resemble his father when you look at him straight on. But if you look at the younger Ewing from an angle - any angle - you see that their heads are the exact same shape. Craziness.) At the half, the Irish lead was cut to 2.
The game continued to go back and forth until about halfway through the second period, when Georgetown showed why it is the number nine team in the country. Using a smart and deliberate offense, and an athletic and even smarter defense, the Hoyas pulled out to 7 point lead. The Irish countered with poor shots and sloppy passing.
Then Tory Jackson showed up. Jackson tied the score by singlehandedly going on a 7-0 run. Following an offensive rebound (he had 7 total rebounds on the game), Jackson almost made it a 9-0 run. That shot was missed, but Rob Kurz was fouled on the putback and made both free throws to give the Irish another lead.
The game was back and forth again until Georgetown had a 3 point lead with a minute left. Luke Harangody was fouled and made the first of two free throws. He missed the second, but the Irish got the rebound, and guess who! Jackson struck again to tie the game with 40 seconds left. Those two gave him 20 on the game.
Following a timeout, Georgetown milked the clock until there were about 20 seconds left. With 13 ticks to go, leading scorer (30) Jeff Green made a shot from the elbow and was fouled by Luke Harangody. Green missed the free throw, and Russell Carter got the rebound. Carter handed off to Jackson, who dribbled up the court.
At this point, the Irish were down 2. Was another overtime classic in store? When Jackson got to the top of the key with about 5 seconds remaining, he handed the ball back to Russell Carter. Carter launched a three that was off, and Georgetown was able to tip the ball around until time expired.
In the end, I'm not sure how to end this writeup. Notre Dame did blow a 14 point lead, had some very sloppy stretches, and settled for a wild shot at the end of the game. But at the same time, they took a top 10 team to the wire, saw their freshman point guard emerge as a game changer on the national stage, and solidified their spot in the NCAA tournament. From here on in, though, moral victories won't cut it.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

MLB Preview #5: NL Central

St. Louis Cardinals

David Eckstein SS
Juan Encarnacion RF
Albert Pujols 1B
Preston Wilson LF
Scott Rolen 3B
Jim Edmonds CF
Adam Kennedy 2B
Yadier Molina C

Chris Carpenter
Kip Wells
Anthony Reyes
Adam Wainwright
Braden Looper
Brad Thompson
Mark Mulder

The lineup shows virtually no turnover from the end of 2006, when the Cards rode some momentum into the World Series. The only change is Adam Kennedy, who is a negligible change compared to Ronnie Belliard. Eckstein and Kennedy came up together in Anaheim, so if anything the St. Louis defense improves thanks to familiarity. Predictably, Tony LaRussa's bench is very veteran-heavy. Journeyman catcher Gary Bennett will back up Molina. Aaron Miles returns to the team, this time as the utility infielder. Playoff favorite Scott Speizio returns as well, as do Chris Duncan and defensive specialist So Taguchi in the outfield.
Where the turnover comes for this team is the starting rotation. Mark Mulder is out until at least July, and Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan, and Jason Marquis have bolted for other clubs. After Chris Carpenter, Kip Wells is the only established veteran on the staff. For all of Anthony Reyes' success in the playoffs, he carried a 5-8 record and 5.06 ERA in the 2006 regular season. Of course, Reyes has yet to make 20 starts in the Majors. Lost in the hulaballoo of Jonathan Papelbon moving from closer to the starting rotation is the fact that Adam Wainwright is doing the same. Wainwright has been groomed as a starter, so while he may not repeat his 3.12 ERA, he should still have decent numbers. The man filling the #5 spot is a surprise. Coming off of a year that essentially resurrected his career, BLooper will be asked to make his first start after 9 years after a reliever. The Cardinals can afford to move some relievers to the rotation, because they have faith in who's left in the bullpen. Jason Isringhausen is recovering from hip surgery, but should be back sooner rather than later. He'll be supported by the likes of ageless LOOGY Ricardo Rincon and the versatile Ryan Franklin who has logged 106 starts and 141 relief appearances in his career.

Houston Astros

Craig Biggio 2B
Chris Burke CF
Lance Berkman 1B
Carlos Lee LF
Morgan Ensberg 3B
Luke Scott RF
Brad Ausmus C
Adam Everett SS

Roy Oswalt
Jason Jennings
Woody Williams
Wandy Rodriguez
Brandon Backe
Ezequiel Astacio
Fernando Nieve
Jason Hirsh
Chris Sampson
Matt Albers

The Astros have a second baseman of the present in Craig Biggio, and a second baseman of the future in Chris Burke (who will play center after Willy Taveras was traded away). So it was interesting that second biggest offseason move was to sign Mark Loretta, a guy who's still better than most starting second basemen in the league. It will be interesting to see how Loretta is used. Granted, Biggio and Morgan Ensberg probably won't stay healthy all year. And while Adam Everett may be the second best defensive shortstop in the game, he carries a career on base percentage of .301. Of course, the Astros are rather thin in the outfield, outside of Carlos Lee, so Loretta could play first while Lance Berkman moves to center or right. In fact, I'd argue that that's there best lineup. But how will Mike Lamb and Eric Bruntlett, who both had respectable offensive years, fit into the mix? Will Jason Lane be the odd man out if he can't fight Lamb and Luke Scott for time in right? Or will Houston confuse everyone by keeping Orlando Palmeiro and/or Charlton Jimmerson on the roster?
The pitching rotation appears to be in good shape. After putting up a 58-56 record and 4.74 ERA in six years in Colorado, Minute Maid will look like the Polo Grounds to Jason Jennings. All Woody Williams did in 2006 was put up a 12-5 record at the age of 40. The last few spots may be up for grabs, but there are several capable players available to fill the spots. In fact, on paper this looks to be a marginally better team than the Cardinals. Of course, the games aren't played on paper. Brad Lidge will be back as Houston's closer, and all eyes will be on him. What caused his poor performance last year: confidence issues, or a windup that tips his pitches as he removes his throwing arm from the glove and brings it down by his hip? Lidge will again be setup by Chad Qualls and Dan Wheeler, and Mark McLemore (no, not that Mark McLemore will again try to make the opening day roster.

Cincinnati Reds

Ryan Freel RF
Alex Gonzalez SS
Ken Griffey, Jr. CF
Adam Dunn LF
Scott Hatteberg/Jeff Conine 1B
Brandon Phillips 2B
Edwin Encarnacion 3B
David Ross/Javier Valentin C

Aaron Harang
Bronson Arroyo
Eric Milton
Kyle Lohse
Matt Belisle
Elizardo Ramirez
Bobby Livingston
Kirk Saarloos
Homer Bailey

With both Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns gone, utilityman Ryan Freel will settle in in right field. Unless, of course, a challenger comes out of spring training. Former top pick Josh Hamilton has spent as much time over the past few years fighting drug addictions as he has playing in Tampa Bay's minor league system. (Tampa Bay, who has also drafted Delmon Young and Elijah Dukes, apparently feels that it needs to look past character issues and just take any talent it can get.) As a Rule V pick, Hamilton must stay on Cincinnati's 25-man roster for the entire season, and he may just earn his keep. Hamilton has been hitting the lights out in spring training, including some reportedly mammoth shots. Or maybe both Freel and Hamilton will play in the same outfield. Between Griffey's tendency to get injured, and Dunn's ability to play first base, the Reds have decided to go with a very deep outfield rotation that includes the additions of Bubba Crosby and Jeff Conine, and returner Chris Denorfia. Like the outfield, the infield will feature some familiar names. The Alex Gonzalez playing shortstop is the one who played for Boston last year and Florida in the years prior (as opposed to the one who played for the Cubs via Toronto). Brandon Phillips is expected to have a big year at the plate, even in spacious Great American Ballpark. Hatteberg, Conine, and Dunn will rotate at first, or so I would assume. Juan Castro will again be the utility infielder, unless Jeff Keppinger can push him from the spot. If the Reds carry three catchers, as they usually do, Chad Moeller will be backstop #3.
Aaron Harang had a 2006 that has laid the groundwork towards becoming a major league ace. Bronson Arroyo flourished after the move to the NL and a pitcher's park. Milton, Lohse, and Saarloos have the name recognition, but if they can't get the job done, it won't be long before Homer Bailey sees the mound in Cincy. Bailey was the number one pitching prospect in the game until he was recently passed (in some people's minds, at least) by New York's Phillip Hughes. Continuing the Reds theme of name recognition, closer David Weathers will be set up by Rheal Cormier, Gary Majewski, and Mike Stanton.

Milwaukee Brewers

Rickie Weeks 2B
Tony Graffanino/Ryan Braun/Craig Counsell/Corey Koskie 3B
Geoff Jenkins LF
Prince Fielder 1B
Bill Hall CF
Johnny Estrada C
Corey Hart RF
JJ Hardy SS

Ben Sheets
Chris Capuano
Jeff Suppan
Claudio Vargas
Dave Bush
Zach Jackson
Carlos Villanueva
Ben Hendrickson

The Brewers don't look as promising as they did a year ago, but they may still be able to compete in this division. Third base is a question, especially with Corey Koskie's injury. The Brewers can go with veteran infielders Graffanino or Counsell, or they could give top prospect Ryan Braun a shot. Adding Braun to Fielder, Weeks, and Hardy would of course complete THE MOST GAMMONSESQUE INFIELD EVER EVER EVER. Allowing for Hardy's contribution to that infield is the decision to move Bill Hall to center field on a "permanent" basis. Of course, he'll probably be needed elsewhere at some point, and in reality he's only keeping the spot warm for Tony Gwynn, Jr. (or Brady Clark if he decides to start hitting again. Corey Hart looks to get the full time nod in right, moving Geoff Jenkins back to his natural position in left. But Kevin Mench will compete with both of them for at bats. The edition of Johnny Estrada strengthens this lineup, and he will be backed up by former scab Damian Miller.

Chicago Cubs

Alfonso Soriano CF
Mark DeRosa 2B
Derrek Lee 1B
Aramis Ramirez 3B
Clifford Floyd LF
Michael Barrett C
Jacque Jones RF
Cesar Izturis SS

Carlos Zambrano
Ted Lilly
Jason Marquis
Rich Hill
Mark Prior
Wade Miller
Shawn Marshall
Angel Guzman
Carlos Marmol
Juan Mateo
Kerry Wood

I normally loathe the idea of batting Alfonso Soriano leadoff, but he did have a career high .351 OBP last year. And the Cubs don't have many other options, unless they go super-Moneyball and put Michael Barrett in the top spot, or elect to go with Matt Murton (not this Matt Merten) over Clifford Floyd (or over "fan favorite" Jacque Jones). But this is a nice lineup as it stands - especially when you can afford to bat Barrett sixth - unless you consider that they need to find a way to play four left fielders (Floyd, Murton, Soriano, and Jones). Soriano in center is sure to be an adventure, considering a) the wind at Wrigley and b) it's Alfonso Soriano. But other than that this team shakes down pretty well. For all the complaints over the Mark DeRosa signing, he did put up an .813 OPS, 13 HR, and 74 RBI in a full season of work last year. It will be interesting to see if Ronny Cedeno can even make this team after the emergence of Ryan Theriot. And it will be interesting to see how new manager Lou Pinella balances Barrett's top-of-the-line offense with Henry Blanco's top-of-the-line defense. (Hey, Barrett did play two games at shortstop for Montreal in 1999.)
After Carlos Zambrano, the rotation gets interesting. A thin pitching class led to big money for Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis, but can they be #2/#3 starters on a pennant-contending club? Assuming Rich Hill has the 4th spot locked up, who from the "cast of thousands" (to borrow a term from a beloved local celebrity) will emerge at #5? (Tangent: When Minnesota had the first overall pick in the draft a few years back, they were berated for passing up Mark Prior in favor of some local high schooler named Joe Mauer. But you know what they say about hindsight, sweetheart - everyone's got one of those.) The bullpen is in good shape, and returns a bunch of recongnizable names, including Ryan Dempster, Neal Cotts, Scott Eyre, and Bobby Howry. Some guy named Jeff Samardzija made the 40-man roster (and was invited to the big league camp, and was named the #80 prospect by Baseball America...), but he may have to settle in in the minors with Rocky Cherry. (And not only his his name Rocky Cherry, but his full middle name is "Ty." Gotta love baseball.)

Pittsburgh Pirates

Chris Duffy CF
Freddy Sanchez 3B
Jason Bay LF
Adam LaRoche 1B
Xavier Nady/Jose Bautista RF
Ronny Paulino C
Jose Castillo 2B
Jack Wilson SS

Zach Duke
Ian Snell
Paul Maholm
Tom Gorzelanny
Tony Armas
Bryan Bullington
John Van Benschoten
Shawn Chacon
Shane Youman
Marty McLeary
Sean Burnett

Finally, the Pirates make an addition that isn't overpriced and washed up. It cost them a star young reliever and a good shortstop prospect, but Adam LaRoche is a step in the right direction. (His brother is arguably better, but that's a story for another day.) If Xavier Nady can get healthy, then the run of Sanchez, Bay, LaRoche, Nady, Paulino, and Castillo actually looks pretty good. Jack Wilson (from Jimmy Clausen's hometown) was always known as a good field, no hit shortstop, but his bat appears to be improving just a little. And Duffy will have some competition (relatively speaking) from Nate McClouth and Jody Gerut (if Gerut's knees decide to start working again). Paulino's backup is Ryan (god_)Doumit.
The rotation starts with Zach Duke. After him... well... Ian Snell has a nice Dugout screen name... and Chacon is never as terrible as some people think... and Armas is supposedly having a good spring... and Gorzelanny and Van Benchoten are still supposed to be decent prospects. I'm not sure who will assume closer duties for the Pirates, but they do have Salomon Torres (who has become a good reliever 15 years after he was labeled a top starting prospect) and Damaso Marte, and John Grabow is coming off of a good season.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bubble Watch

Notre Dame Men: The men have an RPI of 31, and 21 of the spots ahead of them are filled by at-larges. (That number changes to 22 if Butler loses tonight's Horizon League championship to Wright State, unless Butler would move below ND in the RPI as a result.) I'd say the men are safe.

Notre Dame Women: Like the men, the women are #31 in the RPI, but they have only 20 potential at-larges ahead of them. Although the women have one less at-large slot to vie for, I'd still say that they are safe as well.

Dave's Flight Watch

Three out of four sources from last week now have the men at a #6 seed in Lexington, meaning they would begin play on the 15th.

But just for fun, let's calculate the rough odds of Dave being in the air for both a first and second round game. Last week, I said that there was a 1/8 chance of the Irish being picked for a 7 PM game on March 16, when Dave is en route to Cleveland. For laziness' sake, let's say ND has a 50% chance of winning their first round game. There are two second round games at each site, and for the sake of argument let's say that one of those games will be played at 7, while Dave is flying home. That gives us a 1/8 * 1/2 * 1/2 = 1/32 chance that Dave will miss the entirety of both Notre Dame games.

(If anyone feels so inspired and has a calculator handy, here are some variables you can add for a more robust calculation: odds ND will be a 6 seed as predicted, odds that a 6/11 first round game will be played at 7 PM, odds that a #6 seed wins their first round game, odds a 3/6 second round game will be played at 7 PM, odds that Dave's flights will run on time.)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

DePaul 76, Notre Dame Women's Basketball 71

Big East First Round

Editor's Note: I was only able to catch about 15 minutes of a close but otherwise uneventful 73-66 win by the men's basketball team over Rutgers. Dave was there, so I'll let him decide if he wants to do a full writeup.
The men next play in the Big East tournament. Notre Dame knows that it has a first round bye, meaning their next game is on March 8, but they do not yet know their seed. At the time of this writing, they stand in fourth place, half a game back of Louisville. But if Louisville loses at home on Sunday to lowly Seton Hall, the Cards and the Irish will have the same in-conference regular season record. Since Notre Dame beat Louisville earlier this season, the Irish would move ahead and take the #3 seed.

As Marquette is to the Notre Dame men, DePaul is to the Notre Dame women. By virtue of being nearby Catholic schools, Notre Dame and DePaul already faced each other on a regular basis. Now that the Blue Demons have joined the Big East, the rivalry has already intensified. ND and DePaul had already faced off twice this season, including once just this past Monday, and each time the home team won. This contest, at the ever-so-neutral Hartford Civic Center, would be the decider. To add to the intensity, at least from DePaul's perspective, the Demons were playing for a spot in the NCAA tournament, while the Irish were merely playing to improve their seed in the tourney.
The first half was predictably well-fought, albeit very sloppy. The Irish, led by Breona Gray's 12, took a 36-34 advantage into the locker room after a half that saw 10+ turnovers from each team. In the second half, DePaul came out like they had something to play for. The Demons built a double digit lead, and ND compounded the problem by panicking and forcing bad jumpers. Things were looking dire: Tulyah Gaines and Melissa Lechlitner already had 4 fouls, Gray had gone cold, Ashely Barlow was scoreless, and Charel Allen was uncharacteristically quiet.
Finally, with about 10 minutes to go, the Irish started to find success with their backdoor-cutting offense. Unfortunately, though, while they had started scoring again, they weren't yet making stops. Finally with about 6 minutes to go did the momentum began to turn. But I have to give major credit to DePaul head coach Doug Bruno in this one. Instead of waiting for Notre Dame to come all the way back, and then react, he cut the rally (or rallies) off before they could even start. Bruno called a time out the first time the lead was cut to 8, and then a few minutes later when the lead was first cut to 6, as if to say, "This is the break-even point. We're not going to let them get any closer than this."
Notre Dame did get closer, and at one point had the game tied at 66. Charel Allen took over the scoring, Ashely Barlow went on the hard-nosed attack on both ends of the floor, and Erica Williamson became a presence on defense. But the Irish were never able to take the lead after that point, and DePaul held on to win 76-71.

Other random observations from this game:
  • Lechlitner is money on jumpers from just inside the free throw line. If she can build her game around that, she's in great shape.

  • Barlow is listed at 5'9", and at one point she had to guard DePaul's 6' Jenna Rubino. Rubino looked a little more than 3" taller than Barlow, so I'm guessing that 5'9" is a little generous. (Of course, I'll probably walk by Barlow on campus one day and find out that listing myself at 5'10" is a little generous, but now I'm just getting off topic.) If Barlow was half a foot taller, she could easily become one of the most dominant forwards in the game. (See Parker, Candace, and yes I know I'm actually admitting to liking a Tennessee player.) But because she is a physical player that's good down low, it's easy to forget that she can also shoot from the outside and make her free throws very well. So maybe national attention still isn't out of the question.

  • In case you couldn't tell, I think the backcourt duo of Lechlitner and Barlow will be very good in the years to come.

  • Either she just had one bad game, or Melissa D'Amico hasn't yet learned how to use her size effectively. Her positioning was poor on defense and on rebounding opportunities, and that neutralized her height advantage. I'm not trying to call her out for poor play - like I said, she may have just had a bad day. I'm just saying that she has potential to use her 6'5" to a great advantage.

  • At this point, I've already mentioned Notre Dame's other two promising freshman, and their other center, so Erica Williamson is probably starting to feel left out. As a freshman, Williamson isn't a finished product, but she did play well enough for a deserved spot alongside Lechlitner and Barlow on the Big East All-Freshman team. This is the first time three players from the same school have been named Big East All-Freshmen.

  • It's amazing how Charel Allen and Russell Carter's careers have paralleled each other's. Both are athletic guard/forwards. They can make the three, but their strength is in driving to the basket. Two years ago, they were simply bench players with promise. Last year, they were the first option off the bench. This year, they're the energetic team leaders on offense. Even their stats are eerily similar: for the regular season, both Allen and Carter are among the Big East leaders for averaging almost exactly 17 points per game. Fortunately for the women, Charel Allen is only a junior.