So it wasn't exactly the type of FIU sports weekend you'll tell your kids and grandkids years from now, but at least we learned some things from the Panthers baseball and basketball teams.
First, we'll talk hoops, because it's easy what we learned: FIU basketball needs some major work. After losing at Troy -- a team FIU beat by more than 25 points in January -- you might as well put the final nails in the FIU hoops coffin.
The Panthers hoopsters don't travel well and that's what they will be doing for the 1st round of the Sun Belt Tournament. Currently, the No. 10 seed in the SBC, FIU has the two best Sun Belt teams at home this week: Western Kentucky and South Alabama, both who are 14-2 in the conference. Don't see FIU winning either game so that means a likely trip to New Orleans or Denver for the tourney's 1st round. Can you say: One and done?
The FIU baseball team got off to a rocky start against USC. Nobody panic, it was just three games and there are still 53 to go. The Panthers had a chance in two of the three games, but some of the same bug-a-boos from last year plagued FIU to start this season.
TT was concerned in the offseason about the pitching depth and we all saw his worries come to life in Sunday's game when the bullpen couldn't hold two leads and ruined a nifty performance by starter Steven Stewart, who missed all of last season with an elbow injury.
There seems to be some talent in the FIU 'pen, but not enough. One thing I noticed about several of the FIU pitchers this weekend was that they did not attack the strike zone and nibbled too much. Which when you nibble and fall behind in the count, it left those USC batters salivating, waiting for a strike, which when they got it, they drilled it. Got a feeling TT is going to load up on pitching in his next recruiting class.
Also, there is no speed on this Panthers team and if you attended any of the three games you witnessed first hand what having speed can do for a team. The perfect example was USC centerfielder Nick Buss, who made several catches in the power alleys to thwart FIU rallies.
On the basepaths, USC was able to steal. FIU was not. Some people think the stolen base is overrated, like the sabermetrics stats geeks in the Major Leagues, but I'll take a few guys on my team that can move around the bases any day. FIU needs some more Dennis Diaz-type baserunners (DD is FIU's all-time steals leader). I'm sure TT will address that in his next recruiting class as well.
Remember, TT was hired last June so he DID NOT have an entire year to put together a recruiting class. TT was in the same recruiting boat as MC in year one. And we all saw what kind of class MC got when he had a full year to recruit.
What else did we learn? FIU can hit. That should not be a problem all year long. If this team can figure how to get some outs, it can have a much more successful season than last year's 26-29 team.
In what seems to have become, a Hamlet type of baseball question (you remember from English Lit in school or the Mel Gibson movie - "To be or not to be"), the thought here is there is no way you bunt Raimy Fuentes in that situation, down 5-3 with runners on 1st and 2nd and no outs and your No. 3 hitter, Fuentes, up who was 4 for 8 to that point.
I can see where you want to move the runners over, but Fuentes was swinging the hottest bat on the weekend. I say roll the dice and let him swing away. Turns out he hit a smash off the pitcher's leg and the ball luckily ricocheted right into the shortstop's hands for a DP. But hey, that's the beauty of baseball where there will always be more than one way to approach a situation.
UltimateFIUFan: FIU does not have a radio package, but that's not unusual. Heck, USC, who has 12 national championships and has been in business since 1880, does not have a radio package for baseball. The Trojans media relations director called all three games against FIU on the web back to Los Angeles.
The hoops recruit you are thinking of is J.C. Otero, a local kid, who was at BYU and plays forward. He is supposedly headed to FIU next season.
Messod: The crowds were pretty good all weekend. Even Sunday's game under the hot 1 p.m. sunshine drew a nice crowd. I've said it before and I'll say it again, once FIU starts winning on a consistent basis, the crowds will take care of themselves. Winning is addictive.
Here is the official list of entries for the Win a GPP Blog II:
gpantera: 56-0 (College World Series champs); Messod: 41-15 (Lose in Super Regional); 2006PA: 40-16 (Lose in Regional); FIUVoice: 40-16 (Lose in Regional final); MaXx: 39-17 (Lose in Regional); Baltimorepanther: 38-18 (Lose in Regional); NY Josh: 38-18 (Lose in Regional); The OC Panther: 38-18 (Lose in Regional); UltimateFIUFan: 37-19 (Lose in Regional); CrazyCane: 36-20 (Lose in Regional); FIU Fanatic: 36-20 (Lose in Regional); CJ: 35-21; FIUChris: 35-21 (Lose in Sun Belt final); FIUJM: 33-23 (Lose in Sun Belt final); WhosHouse: 32-24 (Lose in Sun Belt semifinal); Baseball Fan: 31-25; fiufan751: 31-25 (Lose in Sun Belt 2nd round); FIU0406: 30-26 (Lose in Sun Belt semifinal).
* If no one has the exact final win-loss record, then we will do like the "Price is Right" -- the closest to the actual FIU loss total without going over. For example: If FIU finishes: 34-22, then CJ or FIUChris would win (depending on how far FIU goes in the postseason), because they each had 21 losses, the closest number of losses to 22.