Welcome to the final regular season installment of Around the Dorm! Sports editor Allison Singer has jam-packed this round of AtD with three of her favorite topics: the Yankees, college football and Lions athletics. News editor Brandon Lee and staff writers Justin Jez and Michael O’Donnell will compete for bragging rights as well as the points that could earn them higher seeding in the playoffs.
1. Who do you think the New York Yankees should have chosen as former manager Joe Torre’s successor?
BL: I thought that Don Mattingly would have probably been Torre’s successor, but I agree with the Yankees: Joe Girardi is the best choice. He took a young and inexperienced Marlins team to the playoffs a few years ago. He knows how to handle and develop young players, and the Yankees have plenty. Mattingly is unproven and more lackadaisical. Girardi also knows Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada from past championship years. Maybe signing Girardi will bring some of that old Yankee aura back.
JJ: I think in this situation where you have a manager that was so essential to the team’s chemistry and identity, it’s best to look in-house as the Yankees did. The departure of Torre, who was a father figure to the older Yankee players, will have an impact on guys like Derek Jeter and Posada next year. Bringing in Mattingly, who the players also respect very highly, would have been their best bet. First-base coach Tony Peña is not a strong enough character to control the superstars in the Yankee lineup. I think Mattingly should have gotten the job because he has the best chance of connecting with the players and the fans in New York. If anyone could have somewhat soothed the pain of Torre leaving, it was Mattingly.
MO: Girardi is undoubtedly the best choice for Yankees manager. The 2006 Manager of the Year is all too familiar with the organization and will not need much time to adjust to the New York scene. As Marlins manager in 2006, Girardi took a sub-par team to a wildcard-contending 78-84 record, a respectable effort for a team with the lowest payroll in baseball. Even more fitting was his first notable action as manager of the Marlins, which was the prohibiting of facial hair. This policy is similar to that of George Steinbrenner, making him the perfect fit as the new skipper of the “Bronx Bombers.”
AS: Mike, I like your point about the facial hair rule – it shows how Girardi really embraced his Yankee training. You get the 3. Brandon, I’m giving you 2. I agree Girardi is best for the job but, though I’d love to see the “old Yankee aura” come back, it can be tough for players to accept an old fellow player as a manager they will respect. Jez, you make a good argument for Mattingly, but much of it could also apply to Girardi. Sorry, but you get the 1.
2. Five college football teams have lost to an unranked opponent while ranked in the top three in the AP poll this year. Which of these losses had, or will have, the most impact on the fallen team?
BL: Wisconsin used to be No. 5 until it lost to unranked Illinois in early October. It also lost to Penn State the next week and is currently out of AP’s top 25. Senior QB Tyler Donovan is having a solid year with 12 touchdowns and eight interceptions and sophomore running back P.J. Hill has 13 touchdowns, but Wisconsin’s rushing defense is its Achilles’ heel. Both Illinois and Penn State rushed for over 200 yards on them. I don’t care what level of football you’re playing, if you can’t stop the run, you’re not a championship-caliber team.
JJ: In today’s college football landscape, upsets have become the norm instead of a rarity. The competition is so tight that teams move up and down the rankings almost weekly. Even the players will tell you AP rankings mean nothing on the field. At any rate, I think the loss South Florida had against Rutgers-New Brunswick was the best upset and will have the most impact. South Florida was looking like a powerhouse coming into the game. Since 2001, South Florida was 48-5 in games where they scored 20 or more points, and the final was 30-27. A fake punt and a fake field goal helped Rutgers edge out another team looking to win a National Championship. That one loss probably cost South Florida a legitimate shot at getting to the Championship game.
MO: Every loss by the teams in the top three this year had an effect, but the loss that had the biggest impact was that of USC, who lost to the overlooked Stanford Cardinals 24-23 on Oct. 6. This loss dropped the formerly No. 1 Trojans all the way down to No. 10 and all but dashed their BCS title hopes. Trojans QB and then-Heisman frontrunner John David Booty was also hurt in that game, which certainly will test the rest of the offense to step up. Once hailed as possibly the greatest college football team by the media, USC’s loss to the Cardinals and subsequent loss to No. 5 Oregon signified that their time at the top of the polls may have finally come to an end.
AS: Mike gets the 3 – USC’s loss immediately dropped the team to No. 10, and even though it’s won every other game, it’s currently rated at No. 12. Goodbye, National Championship. Brandon, I’m glad you pointed out Wisconsin’s dropping out of the top 25, but it was the two losses, not just the one, that put them out – 2 points. Jez, while you’re right about upsets becoming the norm, South Florida had a loss coming to them eventually and the team’s loss to Connecticut on Saturday proved that. Their time at the top was only temporary – 1 point.
3. The winter sports season is just beginning. Which Lions winter team has the best shot at a championship this year?
BL: The wrestling team is arguably one of the stronger athletic programs at the College. Although the team lost Joey Galante (he’s an assistant coach now), seniors Steve Carbone, Ray Sarinelli, Lenny Goduto and junior Greg Osgoodby will lead a solid group of grapplers. The program can thank the strong mentoring of head coach David Icenhower and Joe Pollard, the National Wrestling Coaches Association Assistant Coach of the Year, for molding All-Americans every year. With coaching like that, they’re a lock for another championship. The women’s basketball team squeaked into the postseason last year. Led by junior center Hilary Klimowicz, a former Division I player for the St. Joseph Hawks, the Lions will be well off but she needs more help from the rest of the team if they want a crack at a championship. The men’s basketball team returns senior forward Mark Aziz but has a new head coach, Matt Hunter. Hunter was an assistant coach at the College for three years and graduated from Salisbury University in 2005 as team captain. The big question is whether the rookie head coach can take a young team to the playoffs. I think it’ll take some time.
JJ: I’m going to make a case for the men’s basketball team having a good chance to take home the trophy this year. I know the team finished the year with a 12-14 record last season, but if they do not win the conference this year, they will at least be the College’s most improved squad. The core of the team is back in senior guard Corey Gilmore and senior forward Mark Aziz. Gilmore has been a solid player for the last two seasons and keeps improving every year. Aziz, who was the team’s leading scorer and rebounded last season has been said to have improved his game even more going into this season. His ability to hit long range shots and to run the court creates matchup problems for other teams. Also returning is junior guard Jeffrey Molinelli who has gained size this year and can be used as a forward. With other teams in the conference losing some of their key players, look for the experienced Lions to be in the running for a title this season.
MO: The College’s wrestling team has the best shot at a championship this season. After two Lions took second at the Division III National Championships last year and the team finished overall in fifth place, the wrestling squad is poised to have another breakout season. With returning veterans, such as Sarinelli and Carbone (who went a combined 33-13 last season), and with younger talent on the rise, such as Osgoodby and Tyler Branham (they went 33-16 combined last year), the Lions are bound to see themselves competing for a national championship in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, this year.
AS: Brandon gets 3 for going with wrestling, a solid bet, and I’m throwing you an extra point for your detailed breakdown of women’s and men’s basketball. Jez gets 2 – though men’s basketball is a long shot, you make the case well. I’d like to see them go far this season too. Mike, I agree that wrestling could go the farthest, but you just don’t give me as much as Brandon and Jez – 1 point.
In an 8-7-4 victory, Brandon takes the final regular-season title.