Conference USA's women's basketball television schedule contains only one FIU game, Alabama-Birmingham at FIU, Jan. 11, at noon, but the upside is it's on Fox Sports Network as opposed to the cheshire "network," American Sports Network.
Conference USA's women's basketball television schedule contains only one FIU game, Alabama-Birmingham at FIU, Jan. 11, at noon, but the upside is it's on Fox Sports Network as opposed to the cheshire "network," American Sports Network.
The American Sports Network, available erratically in South Florida, says it'll broadcast four FIU men's basketball games this season:
Saturday, Feb. 7, UTEP at FIU, 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 19 Rice at FIU, 8 p.m.
Thursday, Feb. 26, FIU at Marshall, 8 p.m.
Saturday, Mar. 7, Alabama-Birmingham at FIU, 8 p.m.
Fox Sports Network also has the Feb. 12 FIU game at Southern Mississippi, a 9 p.m. tipoff
In FIU's four wins under Ron Turner, the Panthers pounced on 20 turnovers. That's five per game for those of you as mathematically short synapsed as Mike Russo (truly great reporter, very good writer, but the man can barely count change). Five turnovers a game. That's a lot. Two ways to look at that:
1. FIU's defense and special teams are among the nation's best at creating kiloton plays that swing a fight and crush opposing morale.
2. Five turnovers a game is a dicey way to thrive.
It reminds me a bit of organized crime wiseguys, the Henry Hills, the Jimmy Burkes, the guys like Lefty working under Sonny Red and Sonny Black. Maybe it's that I just watched the 30 for 30 documentary on the Boston College point shaving scandal that involved Hill and Burke. It's a throwaway line in GoodFellas, but a whole chapter in the source material, Nicolas Pileggi's book Wiseguy.
Anyway, street wiseguys must always hustle. They live off their schemes much as the Panthers live off their turnovers. Kids have to eat, wife has to dress, side chick needs to be taken care of and you can't give Tony Soprano or Paulie Cicero a light envelope come tribute time, when you pay up the food chain. So, they always have to have several schemes going -- loan-sharking here, extortion there, hijacking here, there, everywhere. Have a bad week? Bills still need to be paid. Points still need to be made.
In five games, Texas-San Antonio's thrown only six interceptions. The Roadrunners have fumbled only seven times and lost only one. Seven turnovers in five games, 1.4 per game. And, here's FIU forcing 3.5 turnovers per game this season, 4.2 per game in the last five games, 5.0 turnovers in the wins over the last two years and a defensive touchdown in each win this season.
That's the concerning statistical matchup today for the Panthers. If UTSA can keep the ball, can FIU produce enough offense and make enough defensive stops, especially in the red zone. If they need to, can the Panthers' pay the bills by getting a square job?
That's what UTSA wants to find out. The Roadrunners games don't feature much on special teams. Few turnovers either way. It's long-field offense vs. long-field defense both ways.
Maybe FIU keeps the cash stream of turnovers flowing and the Roadrunners, already on a four-game losing streak, sink into a depression.
You'd think having 20 returning starters and a national-high 36 seniors would shoot immunity to such emotions into UTSA. Only seven games left in your football lives, there's no point to spending much of it in the dumps. But this season's been disappointing already, particularly the last two weeks with a come-from-ahead loss to FAU and a face-plant against New Mexico.
UTSA's mental maturity didn't concern Turner as much as their physical maturity.
"You can tell seniors and juniors dominated," he said Tuesday. "And they've spent a lot of time in the weight room. They are very, very strong and very physical, both offensively and defensively up front and physical. Defensive line looks like Pitt up front."
That said, FIU moved the ball on Pitt, especially when going with the hurry up offense to make those big bodies move in the South Florida heat. The climate-controlled Alamodome takes away atmospheric help and forces freshman quarterback Alex McGough to run an offense in front of his first raucous college crowd. A gathering of 30,000 gassed up by day-long liquoring-up might be the Roadrunners best defense. UTSA's given up 7.3 yards per pass attempt, a 56.9 percent completion rate and allowed 41 percent of third downs to be converted.
What I wondered after that Turner description of UTSA's lines: would UTSA try to just buffalo FIU, as Pitt did? Look, only Pitt really stood up and pounded FIU's defense all game. You know the 411 on the decisive 4:11 of the Louisville game. The Cardinals scored FIU-style -- interception return, athletic cab-ride-long play, blown coverage big play. They didn't run the ball particularly well on FIU. Pitt ran the ball with big people slamming and pulling, leading the way for big-but-not-as-big ball carriers. They were Budweiser in the original Bud Bowl.
The Roadrunners I saw, against Arizona, didn't look much like Pitt. Turner said the same thing.
"They do a lot of shifting, a lot of motion, a lot of different plays and schemes," Turner said. "They're a veteran team, they should be able to do that."
But, he also said, "They're very efficient. Offensviely, put together a lot of long scoring drives. Unlike a lot of people in college football nowadays, who score in a minute and a half. These guys are averaging 3:30 scoring."
Why? Because they don't turn the ball over and are patient. That's what maturity does for you. FIU demonstrated offensive patience last week, a sign of growth in a young offense. And UTSA doesn't get turnovers -- only eight in five games.
If FIU sees this freshman quarterback Blake Bogenschutz today and UTSA stays with spreading the field, I say the Panthers feast just enough defensviely and land some monster blows offensively. Regular quarterback Tucker Carter's no Kolton Browning, but he won't give it up the way Bogenschutz would.
The Vegas crowd likes UTSA 27-17, 24-14, something in that area. It is tough to expect a young offense to have three consecutive solid performances without a diaper-filler in there somewhere. If I'm sitting in a sportsbook, I'd avoid this game like a Chinese food buffet without a sneeze guard. Watch it, don't bet it.
Very tough call. UTSA 24, FIU 13.
But that's one black-Irish-and-Native American man's opinion. I could be wrong.
Former FIU forward Tymell Murphy will work out soon for the Orlando Magic's NBA Developmental Leauge team. He's also got a workout scheduled for the Heat's D-League team.
Conference USA announced the results of its coaches' preseason men's basketball poll Tuesday. Or, rather, the teams in the happy zone -- No. 1 Louisiana Tech, No. 2 UTEP, No. 3 Charlotte, No. 4 Old Dominion.
Beyond that, the conference isn't saying. Hey, we know FIU's eligible for the tournament this year, so that's an upside.
FIU will move both home and visiting radio crews inside the FIU Stadium suite/press box area from the outdoor area colloquially and derisively called "Tent City." Complaints to Conference USA by visiting media and the washout of the FIU radio broadcast prompted the change.
Also, FIU's longtime charter plane company, Allegiant Air, canceled the school's contract, claiming passenger violations during FIU's trip to Birmingham two weeks ago. That trip suffered long delays coming and going, not the first time there were problems with Allegiant. So, FIU's happy enough to fly Sun Country the rest of the season.
I talked to cornerback/kick returner Richard Leonard today for a story that'll appear online tonight and in print tomorrow. After that, I asked Ron Turner what he saw from the offensive film of the Louisville game.
"I saw very poor trust in our techniques and fundamentals. I think the guys knew they were going against a really good team. They started seeing things that weren't there and thought they had to do something different than what they've been coached to do," Turner said. "You wouldn't expect that from, especially the offensive line, a group that all played last year. You'd expect that out of a freshman. That was disappointing. Stuff was showing up on film, technique-wise, that we'd never seen them do. They didn't do it in practice, theyd didn't do it in training camp. That's how you get beat. That's why we didn't execute.
"We're horrendous on third down (125th in the nation). We're not executing," he continued. "We've got guys open, we overthrow them. We've got guys open, we drop it. Guy runs a wrong route. Right guard doesn't block the right way, the right technique and gets beat. That's killing us. It's us. It's not anybody else but us. We've got to execute. We keep it about as simple as we can for them, we've got to go out and execute.
He liked some of FIU's running game, which gained 144 yards on 35 carries if you subtract the five sacks for 56 yards in losses.
"And, (Louisville's) good. At certain times, a lot of times, there was a physical mismatch, to be honest," Turner said. "You get a mismatch, youv've got to do everything perfect to give yourself a chance. If you're off a little bit, you have no chance and that's what we did."
Despite what Turner said, you have to wonder if FIU will add any new wrinkles on offense to insert more turbo to keep pace with an Alabama-Birmingham offense that barely has been forced out of fifth gear.
The line's moved from UAB by 11.5 all the way up to UAB by 16.5, 17 one place before dropping back to 16.5. In mid-major games, hardcores look for bad lines and jump all over them early before the books realize how far off they might be.
It should be noted in last year's conference opener, FIU was a 17-point underdog at Southern Mississippi before getting its only win of the season.
Conference USA announced that FIU's men's basketball team will appear at least once on national television, when it goes to Southern Mississippi Feb. 12 in a Fox Sports Networks game.
Former forward Tymell Murphy, of Brooklyn and FIU, has signed a NBA Developmental League contract. The D-League draft is Nov. 1. If you hear happy hollering with a Brooklyn accent that day, it could mean Murphy wound up with the D-League affiliates of the Heat, the New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets.
Or, it could just mean Murphy's just happy to have a D-League home and an outside shot at the big show.
FIU's women's basketball team will host Tennessee Tech, UCF, Cleveland State, Arizona and Auburn in non-conference games, according to the schedule released by FIU Athletics today.
The Nov. 14 opener against Tennessee Tech apparently will be part of a doubleheader with the men's basketball team's opener against Florida College. Expect they'll be playing on Replacement Lime Court at FIU Arena over the original Lime Court after last weekend's weight-dropping fitness competition left the floor -- and those of us who liked the beach-themed paint scheme -- all broken up.
FIU gets a hat trick of home games to start the Conference USA schedule, Jan. 4 vs. FAU, Jan. 8 vs. Middle Tennessee State and Jan. 10 vs. Alabama-Birmingham. The Boca Raton part of the FAU home-and-home is Jan. 24.
As far as in-state schools outside Conference USA, FIU goes to Florida Gulf Coast on Nov. 18 and hosts UCF on Dec. 6, then up to Jacksonville Dec. 14. FIU's back in Jacksonville the following weekend, Dec. 20 and 21, for the North Florida Tournament.
FIU faces Arizona Nov. 28 in The Thanksgiving Classic, and either Toledo or Virignia on Nov. 30. FIU's other annual tournament, The Sun & Fun Classic, Dec. 29 and 30, sees FIU vs. Auburn on Dec. 29 and against Bowling Green or Hampton on the 30th.
Miami's athletic Cold War thaws. South Florida sports Sadat will shake hands with Begin.
FIU and the University of Miami officially announce resumption of their muscular rivalry Friday morning. Football draws the most attention, of course. There's mutual benefit -- UM gets a home opponent other than Florida State or Virginia Tech that should draw something other than heat to Sun Life Stadium. FIU gets a guaranteed excellent crowd with a home game against UM, wherever the game's played. Both get a road game without all the road game travel expenses.
But extending the hugfest to other sports also can give everyone the warm streudel feeling.
Basketball: anything that puts a charge in college-affailiated basketball in South Florida should be pursued. The difference in the ACC and Conference USA matters none. You can put the UM in the ACC but you can't take the Hurricanes out of South Florida. Neither gender fills The Branch in Coral Gables. FIU improved its atmosphere and crowd last year, but still needs opponents with buzz included. I never understood UM's aversion to coming west.
Baseball: They recruit the same high talent area. The coaches don't like each other. Who's up first?
Women's soccer: No travel, a few bucks better at the gate, maybe a litle nastiness. The usual reasons...
Track & field/Swimming & Diving: Little in college sports provide the sustained sizzle with periodic intense jolts than a rivalry dual meet in these sports.
Sort of like the US vs. USSR on the track during The Cold War.
After two years being broadcast via Internet over smartphones, FIU football rejoins almost everybody else in FBS with an over-the-air radio deal for this season with 1210AM ESPNDeportes Miami, the station and school announced today.
In addition to the game broadcast, there will be the usual pre and post-game analysis. Expect Pete Pelegrin to remain as play-by-play guy. Here's hoping Pelegrin gets color help, especially on the road. Filling the air for a three or four-hour college football game solo is like blowing up a giant balloon without a helium tank.
OK, it's a Spanish language station (yes, the game broadcasts will be in English, for you smart alecky gringos), but it's still a sports station. Better that than the last station that carried FIU, which sold the slot before FIU games to some show discussing law and lawyers. I wish that had been in Spanish. It would've sounded more exciting. I don't have the instinctive hatred of lawyers some do -- I'm married to a fantastic, Harvard-trained corporate lawyer -- but you could've put a microphone in a Port-O-Let and gotten something that fired you up for a football game more than that.
Followers of this blog know I love to watch the setting and movement of odds, spreads and over/unders. No line's up yet on the Aug. 30 season opener vs. Bethune-Cookman. But I've searched up some win over/unders.
Covers.com has FIU's win over/under at two. Sportbet.com goes 2.5 wins. Chris Andrews of Againstthenumber.com gives FIU one of the lowest power ratings in the country, but still the most improved team in the country and a sleeper that's a good bet. He puts their win over/under at 5.5.
For what it's worth, I've done my game-by-game for The Herald's football preview section. It comes out 3-9, but not the three that everyone anticipates.
Tymell Murphy, FIU's best player over the last two seasons, will get a shot in the NBA Developmental League this year. Good for him. Where Murphy plays is to be determined.
Anyway, told ya so -- for the next three years, it'll be Ocean Bank Field at FIU Stadium, the athletic department announced today.
I don't know yet how much money Ocean Bank will pump into FIU, but expect it to be generous -- there's enormous cross-pollination between the bank and the school.
What happened to Alfonso Field, named after David Alfonso, who ponied up money to the FIU Foundation in 2011 for five years of Alfonso Field? He hasn't returned our calls. But here's a truism -- money-starved schools don't tend to end five-year deals with major donors after three years unless the money flow gets constipation. And that might have nothing to do with the school.
The next athletic department structure to get a revenue-bringing name will be Formerly Sunblazer Arena or What Once Was U.S. Century Bank Arena.
Monday's the first football practice. Aug. 22 is the first athletic event of the 2014-15 academic year, women's soccer hosting Arizona. Aug. 30, kickoff vs. Bethune-Cookman.
Who shrunk summer from back in the day, when it ran from Memorial Day to Jerry Lewis Telethon? Good golly, the week of no parking at Camp Mitch will be upon us soon.
Football coach Ron Turner said last week he was happy with recruiting for 2015 so far, especially coming off 1-11. He's certainly getting them out of Homestead, where he scored a committment from defensive back Ocie Rose. Rose transferred from Homestead to Booker T. Washington for his senior season, just as FIU commit Maurice Alexander did this year.
Ratings on Rose are all over the place. Rivals puts him at three stars. Scout.com puts him at two. ESPN.com and 247Sports.com don't have him rated themselves, but 247Sports has him at three stars on their composite rating. At 6-1, 185, Rose bloomed into a big safety who forced two fumbles last year in his 47 tackles.
Two-way interior lineman Richerd Desir-Jones, 6-4, 300, out of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas gave his pledge to FIU. He's rated at three stars by Rivals and Scout.com, unrated by ESPN.com and 247Sports.com.
Orange Park Fleming Island center Neal Mars, 6-4, 275, also wears an FIU pledge pin for 2015. He's unrated by the four recruiting sites.
For what it's worth...247Sports has FIU's 2015 class rated 94th nationally, ninth in Conference USA. Scout.com has FIU rated 90th nationally, seventh in C-USA. Rivals puts FIU 91st overall, sixth in conference. Lot of months, a lot of games, a lot of standardized tests and a lot of grades between now and Signing Day. Plenty of time to move in either direction.
First baseman Gunnar McNeill was picked as the Valley Baseball League's Staunton Braves MVP after leading the league in hitting (.402) and RBI (50) with a team-high six home runs. In the playoffs, he went four for eight with a double and two RBI. For FIU, McNeill also pitches. He made three apperances for Staunton, once as a starter and had a 9.00 ERA in six innings pitched.
We do like our academic achievement around here. So belated big ups to the women's basketball team for their 3.37 grade point average being Conference USA's best in women's hoop.
NFL TRAINING CAMPS
The AP's Mark Long on former FIU safety Johnathan Cyprien.
After going 1-11 in 2013, including 0-6 at home, maybe you'd expect FIU to give those who stuck it through last season a break on 2014 season tickets. Maybe give the game against FCS foe Wagner -- half of Hart to Hart, for Pete's sake -- as a freebie.
Well, in a way, yes.
CORRECTION FROM THE PREVIOUS:
Season tickets remain the same price, $150 total betwen price and forced donation, despite FIU having eight home games this year compared to the standard six. FIU faculty and staff prices have gone from $100 to $120 or $16.67 per game to $15 per game.
The Conference USA men's and women's basketball tournaments will be in Birmingham next year, Mar. 11 through the 14th. Long notice for you traveling FIU fans to hotel up.
I see former FIU guard Jerica Coley, who led the nation in scoring for the second consecutive season in 2013-14, has been waived by the New York Liberty. The Liberty signed Coley as a free agent rookie before training camp.
The NCAA threw out Public Recognition Awards to teams with Academic Progress Rates in the top 10 percent of their sports. One FIU team made it this year, with the APR rates based on the 2009-2013 academic years -- women's basketball.
All APR rates will be released later.
First baseman Stephanie Texiera was voted Second Team All-Conference USA and was a unanimous coaches' choice for Conference USA Freshman of the Year Award. Texeira and Gabby Spallone made the conference's All-Freshman team.
Still...how does the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament have only one player make first or second team all-conference?
One thing that wrinkled my already sun-wrinkled brow about FIU in this weekend's Conference USA softball tournament at FAU: the Panthers are busing up this afternoon for Thursday's 1:30 game against East Carolina.
What, I thought, they're worried about getting caught on the Turnpike behind some 1983 IROC Z28 Camaro rear-ending a beige Toyota Camry and being late to the Thursday afternoon game?
No, what they're worried about is 2012 Sun Belt Tournament at FAU Redux. FIU opened against Troy in a rain-delayed game that didn't get called for the night until Letterman. The Panthers dragged back home, got to bed in the wee hours and showed up groggy to finish a 4-1 loss. After an afternoon nap, a still sonambulent FIU got dusted 9-1 by South Alabama.
So, this year, they're busing up, getting into the hotel, getting a good night's sleep, then playing.
What is it with FIU athletes getting busted on weed-related charges five seconds after they finish their eligibility or degree?
Walk-on transfer Luke Bray started 10 of the 12 games he played for FIU last season, picked up no goals or assists, and three of five games in 2012. Bray has filed an affidavit for indigent status after getting busted on a felony possession charge and charged with possession with intent to distribute. His next hearing is May 29.
Funny how this might've fit under either of the headlines of the last two blog posts. Not as funny as Bray's name being removed from last year's roster on the FIU website and his bio removed once you click on his name in the 2012 roster.
Junior Shelby Graves garnered the last Conference USA Pitcher of the Week award after throwing a no-hitter against Southern Miss and allowed no runs in Sunday's save. She finishes the regular season with a 15-7 record, 3.37 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 32 walks in 135 innings pitched.
Mike Franco somehow didn't win C-USA's baseball Pitcher of the Week. Reid Love from East Carolina beat North Carolina, so he got the honor. Still, Franco's 0.96 ERA ranks fourth in the nation and FIU stayed atop the team ERA charts at 1.94.
The long and the short of it: 6-9 incoming freshman Larry Dennis from Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas and 5-10 junior college transfer Tayshawn Desir, a third-team NJCAA All-America selection for Monroe Community College. Dennis was unrated by 247sports.com and Scout.com, but got two stars from ESPN.com.
FIU pitcher Mike Franco again proved better on Friday night than pizza.
The Panthers gave Franco cushion against East Carolina, starting with a Brian Portelli home run, an RBI triple by Tyler Hibbert and RBI doubles by Josh Anderson and Julius Gaines. Franco just gave the Pirates problems, scattering six hits, striking out seven and walking none in a complete game 7-1 win. FIU's now 12-10 in the conference and up to sixth and only one game behind East Carolina.
Tampa Bowman Prep's Craig Bowman, a 6-3 point guard, announced his commitment to FIU the modern way, via Twitter. He'll be part of the 2014 recruiting class.
Bowman averaged 15.3 points per game, 4.1 assists per game and 2.9 steals per game as a senior and 10.0, 3.3 and 2.9, respectively, as a junior.
FIU senior guard Jerica Coley, two-time national leading scorer and one of the most liked athletes in FIU history, has signed with the New York Liberty as a free agent. The Liberty began training camp Sunday, begin the preseason May 4 and the regular season May 16 against Connecticut.
With sophomore Jerome Frink, 6-6, requesting his transfer, FIU loses its starting front line from the 15-16 2013-14 team -- Frink, starter of all 31 games this season and 25 of 32 as a freshman, seniors Rakeem Buckles and Tymell Murphy. Frink averaged 8.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field.
Even with 6-10 transfer Adrian Diaz and 6-7 incoming freshman Harold Givens, FIU might have as much quality size on the perimeter (6-7 guard Dominique Williams, 6-6 guard Jason Boswell) as up front.
FIU remains fourth, 16 shots behind leader Tulane, going into the final round of the Conference USA Golf Championship in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Sophomore Meghan MacLaren rebounded from her opening round 4-over 76 with a 1-under 71, FIU's best second round score. Freshman Camila Serrano's even par 144 two-round score puts her fifth overall, seven shots behind medalist leader Texas-San Antonio's Fabiola Arriaga.
What's more bothersome to FIU fans? That Mario Cristobal is the top ranked recruiter for 2015 in the nation, according to 247Sports.com? Or that FAU already has four commits for 2015, including two three star prospects and four-star running back Jordan Scarlett from University School, and FIU has none of note after the decommitment of Northwestern high defensive back Antonio Howard?
FIU volleyball on GoFundMe is $295 toward a goal of $6,000.
The official Academic Progress Rates for 2012-13 won't be announced until June. But the Dean Wormers at the NCAA have seen FIU's grades and have decided there was enough APR upward movement in the season under Richard Pitino to take FIU off punishment and let the men's basketball team return to postseason play next season.
SWIMMING & DIVING
Johanna Gustafsdottir went back home to Iceland to rip through her native land's national meet, walking out with three firsts, two seconds and a national record in the 400 individual medley of 4:53.24. She also won the 200 freestyle with a 2:04.94 and was part of the 800 free relay winners.
FIU's 400 IM ace, Sonia Perez, was named an Honorable Mention All-American by the College Swim Coaches Association of America this week. Perez became the first FIU swimmer -- and was the only Conference USA swimmer this year -- to score at the NCAA meet, taking 13th in the 400 IM. She also swam the 200 IM and 200 backstroke at the NCAA meet before being named Conference USA's Swimmer of the Year.
For the third consecutive year, the Associated Press has slotted senior guard Jerica Coley as an Honorable Mention when naming the All-America teams.
Once again, Coley led FIU in scoring (29.5 points per game), field goal percentage (42.5), free throw percentage (82.2), steals (1.8 per game), assists (3.9 per game), blocked shots (1.3 per game), autographs and being an all-around good person. She's the Tom Slick of the women's basketball team and maybe the entire FIU program.
The Shula Bowl, at FIU this year after two years at FAU, got moved up to Oct. 2.
Also, Saturday's open scrimmage has been moved to 7 p.m. Friday. Adjust your social calendars accordingly.