The basetball season opens today with sort of an FIU doubleheader except the games are in different cities.
Of course new FIU men's coach Richard Pitino begins his college coaching career with a game at Boston College. It follows Pitino's life pattern that's seen New England be a place of beginnings and transitions. He was born there while his dad was Boston University head coach. He went to Saint Sebastian's School, then Providence College. His first true assistant's job was at Northeastern.
Then, at 6 p.m. at The Branch, FIU's women host North Florida in what should be the first victory of another 20-win season. What FIU's athletic department would love to see, in addition to the win, would be a stellar statistical game by guard Jerica Coley. They're all set to campaign for Coley to get full All-America recognition after she was an Honorable Mention last year. When FIU says "posterize" with Coley, it means putting the junior on posters as a shining symbol of FIU's athletics.
A week and a half ago, if Nick Silver had been asked about the probability math on FIU's chances of getting into the Sun Belt Conference tournament, his summary likely would've been "Worse than Romney."
The plane crash sequence of events necessary involved 8-18 FIU beating FAU; Troy, which was 9-4 in the Belt and 19-10 overall; and completing a series of South Alabama losses by beating the Jaguars Saturday night at The Branch.
Friday, FIU beat Troy 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 14-25, 25-21) as junior Kimberly Smith, freshman Lucia Castro and senior Marija Prsa ran up 40 kills. Smith also had six blocks, second for FIU behind sophomore Silvia Carli's seven. Senior Ryanne Milligan had 18 digs.
The day before FIU trounced FAU, South Alabama lost to middling Middle Tennessee (7-8, 10-22). USA followed with the predictable 3-0 loss to 29-3 Western Kentucky. Friday night, USA lost to FAU 3-2.
But, Saturday night, USA took a 2-0 lead on FIU. One set from extinction, the Panthers took the third 25-19, the fourth 25-20 and got hte last two points from 13-13 to clinch a spot in the Sun Belt tournament. Marija Prsa had 19 kills and 10 digs. Smith added 16 kills. Castro had 13 kills and 112 digs, freshman Ashlee Hodgskin had 38 assists, 10 digs and three service aces. Levorin had six blocks and Milligan had 29 digs.
Yeah, sure, it'll be the Western Kentucky Beatdown Invitational but getting in the tournament's an achievement for a team that's crashed through the season after losing its best player, Jovana Bjelica, in warmups before the season opener.