“It’s been night and day,” Larranaga said. “Last year he had moments where he started us on defense. This year he’s done it from Day One. When he attacks on defense, we’re a different team.”
Cornelius did that Saturday, making the ODU guards miserable. Normally a team that pounds the ball inside — thus Taylor’s point about where his team shoots from — the Monarchs launched 10 three-point shots in the first half. Kent Bazemore made the first one. After that, ODU was 0 of 14 from beyond the arc, which will get you beat on almost day, even if you get to the line 18 times in the second half, as Taylor’s team did.
There was plenty of energy in the building all afternoon. People were lining up in the rain long before the doors opened, knowing how important the game was for both teams. The CAA is a very good league this season, one that should merit three NCAA tournament bids. Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason are very good teams, and so is Old Dominion. Teams like Hofstra, James Madison and Drexel aren’t that far behind. And yet the conference will be hard-pressed to get three bids.
“I don’t think we get forgiven as much as some of the schools in the BCS leagues do for losses like this,” Taylor said. “Someone in a BCS league loses on the road to a good team by double digits and it’s chalked up to the old college try and no big deal.
“I always say be careful what you wish for. I can remember league meetings where we said to one another, ‘Gee, it would be great if we were deeper, if we had more good teams.’ Well, we’ve got that now and we’re beating up on each other a little bit.”
Actually quite a bit. The other night, William & Mary won at James Madison. George Mason lost at Hofstra in January and Old Dominion lost its conference opener at Delaware. All of which means the CAA tournament should be a donnybrook.
As Larranaga and Taylor passed in the hallway about 20 minutes after the game ended Saturday, they shook hands. Seeing his rival with his head down, Larranaga said, “Hey, Blaine, it’s a really good league.”
One with very little margin for error from here to Selection Sunday. Taylor already knew that. He knew it at halftime. Larranaga knows it, too. Saturday was a big-time game in a big-time atmosphere between two very good teams.
The question now is whether the selection committee will understand that five weeks from now.
For more from the author, visit his blog at www.feinsteinonthebrink.com.