Athletics


Guest blogger: Bob Ferrara ’67, senior director for strategic planning, communications and alumni relations, MIT Division of Student Life

MIT students (really!) surround President Susan Hockfield at year’s Division III sectional finals.

MIT students (really!) surround President Susan Hockfield at last year’s Division III sectional finals.

**Scroll down for updates from Feb. 22; March 1—NCAA tourney, here we come!; and March 8**

And we thought MIT Men’s Basketball fans could relax after the thrills of last season’s unforgettable journey. No way. This year’s team—with only two seniors—was to have a rebuilding year but instead is well on the way to becoming the winningest team in our program’s 109-year history! Their record is currently an astounding 21-2. With two regular-season games left, MIT is ranked—number 11 in Division III nationally and number one in the NEWMAC conference standing. Coach Larry Anderson has just passed the 200 career victories mark, an achievement unmatched by any of the other great Institute coaches before him.

So get ready for the home stretch and our own version of March Madness! The last two games are away, the first is Wednesday, Feb. 17, at Wheaton College at 5:30 p.m., and the final is at Springfield College on Saturday, Feb. 20, at 1:00 p.m. After this, the Conference Championships and, we hope, a bid to the Division III tournament. Just as our students, alumni, and friends rallied last year to such great effect, we need to be there to support these terrific young teams.

If MIT holds onto first place, the conference championships would be held at Rockwell Cage in Cambridge on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 27 and 28. You can follow the team at the MIT Athletics site or the brand new MIT basketball blog, Tech Hoops. The blog is purely volunteer effort, the work of former Assistant Coach Baris Polat, now an MIT grad student, and former MIT Sports Information Director James Kramer, who now lives in Austin, Texas.

Mike Oglo ’48 raises the banner in Providence. Our MIT fans turned this into a home game.

Mike Oglo ’48 raises the banner in Providence. Our MIT fans turned this into a home game.

The team and coaching staff were quite overwhelmed by the support at the Harvard game this past December, when we had close to 1,000 fans and outnumbered the Crimson supporters in their own gym. And alumni support really was crucial in last year’s run, as those who witnessed the Rhode Island College miracle know. Hopefully, Mike Oglo ’48 still has his pennant from last year. As Mike says, he has waited a long to time to wave it; here we go again.

Update, Feb. 22
Our guys did it! Our guys did it! Today at Springfield College, the Men’s Basketball Team accomplished what no others have done in the 109-year history of our program. In a down-to-the-wire battle, they prevailed 66-62 over a very talented Springfield squad in the last game of the regular season. With this victory, this remarkable group set at least three major MIT records—most wins in a season (22), first ever NEWMAC regular season championship, and best regular season winning percentage (.880).

The team has followed their dream in the usual MIT sports manner—with lots of hard work and dedication but in relative obscurity with little fan support. We can completely change that for the postseason that awaits us, especially since our team has home-court advantage by virtue of winning the NEWMAC regular season.

MIT will play in the first conference championship semifinal game on Saturday, Feb. 27, at 1:00 p.m. The finals will be Sunday, Feb. 28, at noon. All these games will take place right in our own backyard in Rockwell Cage.

Alumni support really was a key ingredient in last year’s run. Let’s be there for them again in force.

Find more team info and see the whole NEWMAC playoff picture.

Team Makes it into NCAA Division III Tournament!

Fans at the MIT game.

Rockwell Cage was packed with cheering fans—extra stands had to be brought in to accommodate the overflow crowd.

Despite losing to a red-hot Clark University squad in the NEWMAC Conference semifinals, the MIT team received the last bid in the 61-team post-season championship. MIT will play DeSales at William Patterson University in Wayne, NJ—about 20 miles from NYC—on Friday, March 5, at 6:00 p.m. The second round will be played March 6. It would be great to have local alumni there to support our team! For those not living nearby, the games will be available to watch live online, thanks to D3hoops.com.

View the entire Division III playoff picture (pdf).

MIT men's basketball team in action against Clark University

MIT men's basketball team in action against Clark University. The Logarhythms sang the national anthem and even serenaded the hot dog dispensers. An impromptu band picked the musical pace, while cheerleaders and students kept the crowd engaged. You wouldn’t have known you were at MIT! Photo here and above: Robert Krawitz ’87.

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Update, March 8
Our guys lost a tough overtime match to DeSales University of Allentown, Pennsylvania in first-round NCAA play. Read details. This season was positively remarkable in so many ways. The team compiled the most wins ever and Larry Anderson became the winningest head coach in our 109-year history as well. The Institute also had the highest number of scholar-athletes of any school on the winter Academic All-Conference Team in our NEWMAC Conference. Of the 25 MIT students selected for this honor, four were basketball players. Congrats to each of them and the entire team and coaching staff for a truly magical ride this past year.

Aaron Barzilai

Aaron Barzilai ’93

If you love basketball and statistics, check out basketballvalue.com, a trove of data on every team and player created and maintained by Aaron Barzilai ’93, the quantitative analyst for the Memphis Grizzlies—a once-ridiculed franchise that was among the NBA’s best over the last two months.

The site, constantly updated, provides a snapshot in numbers of the approximately four million seconds a ball is in play during an NBA season. It provides advanced statistical analysis and the downloadable raw data (as far back as the 2005-06 season) for such analyses if you’re the do-it-yourself type. Find out how the Celtics match up with the Knicks, for example, or the top five-man units playing the game.

Screen shot of basketballvalue.com

Screen shot of basketballvalue.com.

You’ll find net (on-court/off-court) ratings for overall team performance, offense, defense, and offensive and defensive rebounding as well as adjusted plus-minus (+/-) ratings—which, According to Barzilai, are “an advanced statistical approach to estimating a player’s effect on the game while controlling for the performance of his teammates and opponents.”

Learn more about what Barzilai, a former varsity basketball player for MIT, does for the Grizzlies and his take on the value of plus-minus stats in this interview with ESPN.com. Or follow him on Twitter.

Long jump contenders have quite a history at MIT. In 1936, senior Stanley Johnson was an MIT senior on a mission, competing for an Olympic berth to Berlin against the likes of Jesse Owens, Ohio State; Kermit King, Pittsburg, Kansas; and Al Olson, USC. He was the only non-scholarship athlete vying for this honor.

Stanley Johnson '36

Stanley Johnson ’36

Although Johnson fell a bit short in the Olympic trials, his record long jump of 24’2” at MIT still stands! In hot pursuit is Stephen Morton ’10 who finished 8th at the 2008 NCAA National Division III Championships with a long jump of 22’3”. His personal best at MIT is 23’8”, just 6 inches short of Stan’s record.

“The story is a great one for MIT and for collegiate sports in general,” says Professor Donald Morrison ’61, PhD ’82, a member of the “top 6” long jump club at MIT. “Stanley has done something quite special and we want to celebrate his accomplishment as well as give Stephen Morton the incentive to leap to greater distances before he graduates in 2010.”

Read the full story to find out about the rest of the top six long jumpers from MIT.

DeRon BrownProfessor Patrick Henry Winston ’65, SM ’67, PhD ’70

I went to the last football game of the season last night. I went because it wasn’t just any last football game, it was DeRon Brown’s last football game. I was drawn to it as if it were the last solar eclipse of the century.

Now priorities are such that our football team is a true Division III team, and the players play for the love of the game. So when one of our players reaches DeRon’s level—rushing for 170 yards per game, attracting national attention—I just have to go see him play.

I had taught DeRon Artificial Intelligence in 6.034 when he was a junior. As soon as I saw him, I went to the web for a look at the MIT football roster, and as I expected, there he was, along with the emerging story of his amazing record. DeRon showed up regularly in class, looked interested, and did well.

So, I had to go, and I dragged my daugther, Sarah, also a senior, along on the trip to Endicott College. We quickly spotted DeRon’s mom, Kim, and dad, Chris. Kim wore a jacket with a big number 20, her son’s number; Chris looked just like his son. They had driven seven hours or so from their home in the small town of Galax, Virginia.

Alas, DeRon got a mild concussion early in the game, so it wasn’t a night for his usual spectacular performance. But he was fun to watch anyway. He looked fast even when he was just standing still on the sidelines.

After the game, I ran into David Nackoul, a standout lineman who graduated with a course VI degree a year ago. I asked him why DeRon was so good. He explained that DeRon is unlike other backs who, when they get in trouble, run sideways, run backwards, or start stutter stepping. “When DeRon makes a cut,” he said, “he always keeps moving forward.”

What a motto that would make! Always moving forward. I must find someone who can translate that into Latin for me.



Skydivers in formationSamantha Joseph MBA ’09 was among 181 of the world’s top female skydivers who set a new world record in women’s formation skydiving on Sept. 26. The effort, which was sponsored by Jump for the Cause and held at the Perris Valley Skydiving Center in Perris, Calif., raised more than $900,000 for breast cancer research. Learn more about the jump, including how long Joseph had to practice both on land and in the air, in the News @ MIT Sloan weekly newsletter. Joseph became the youngest female accelerated freefall instructor in the country at age 20. To date, she has more than 2,300 skydive jumps under her belt.

Last Saturday, the student athletes of the MIT Cycling Team won the Division II team omnium (overall award) at the 2009 USA Cycling Collegiate Track National Championships in Trexlertown, Pa., for the second year in a row—in only their third showing at this national competition. In addition, MIT’s Mike Garrett, a grad student studying nuclear engineering, took fifth in the individual men’s omnium, and Laura Ralston, a grad student studying economics, took 12th in the individual women’s omnium.

The MIT Cycling Team actually has a history of doing well at the different national competitions, winning cyclocross, road, and track at least once each in just the last four years and placing individuals on some of the top podium steps. Two years ago, for example, Jason Sears was the men’s individual champion at the track nationals. Given the level of competition, those are all fantastic achievements, especially for a club sport.

In this points race, Mike Garrett (center, on black and white bike) managed a heroic effort and actually lapped the field. That doesn't happen often in this level of competition and he shot up in the ranking because of it. All photos courtesy Nick Loomis.

In this points race, Mike Garrett (center, on black and white bike) managed a heroic effort and actually lapped the field. That doesn't happen often in this level of competition and he shot up in the rankings because of it. All photos courtesy Nick Loomis.

Some of MIT's women cyclists.

Some of MIT's women cyclists.

Members of the MIT community helped support the team. The 484 Phi Alpha Foundation, a group of involved MIT alumni who have helped the cycling team in the past and have sponsored K-12 science mentoring programs at MIT, provided funding for a larger group of students to attend the tournament this year. The team is also sponsored by alumni-owned companies Exponent and k3 Corp, along with FXDD and Morgan Stanley.

Members of the MIT community helped support the team. The 484 Phi Alpha Foundation, a group of involved MIT alumni who have also sponsored K-12 science mentoring programs at MIT, provided funding for a larger group of students to attend the tournament this year. The team is also sponsored by alumni-owned companies Exponent and k3 Corp, along with FXDD and Morgan Stanley.

The champs celebrate on the podium (left). Members of the MIT Cycling Team, in no particular order, are: Yuri Matsumoto, Martha Buckley, Laura Ralston, Guo-Liang Chew, Zach Labry, Matt Blackburn, Jose Soltren, Nick Loomis, Mike Garrett, Tim Humpton, and Jason Sears.

The champs celebrate on the podium (left). Members of the MIT Cycling Team, in no particular order, are: Yuri Matsumoto, Martha Buckley, Laura Ralston, Guo-Liang Chew, Zach Labry, Matt Blackburn, Jose Soltren, Nick Loomis, Mike Garrett, Tim Humpton, and Jason Sears.

Cricket is roaring back at MIT. The MIT Cricket Club was founded in 1996 by enthusiastic students who brought the love of the game from their homelands, primarily India and Pakistan. After a few years, this group graduated and the club slumbered. But last year a new generation of cricket-crazed students hosted the first ever cricket tournament at MIT last summer. And they have stayed hot.

Grad students Srinivasan Jagannathan, left, and Ankur Sinha check the taped tennis balls in preparation for a cricket match at MIT. Tech Photo: Noah Spies.

Grad students Srinivasan Jagannathan, left, and Ankur Sinha check the taped tennis balls in preparation for a cricket match at MIT. Tech Photo: Noah Spies.

This summer, ten teams participated in the MIT Cricket Club’s summer tournament, including the MIT Electrons and the MIT Protons; university teams from BU, UMass, Yale, and elsewhere; and community teams such as the Cambridge Cricket Club.

Of course, there has to be an MIT twist. These games were dubbed “MIT tennis ball cricket” because they were played with taped tennis balls. Using taped tennis balls on an Astroturf surface “added to the novelty,” according to a Tech article, which reported the “tense and riveting encounters punctuated by awe-inspiring sixes, intimidating yorkers and bouncers, and match-turning catches.”

Taped tennis balls, adopted in 2008 after thorough investigation, also have a safety feature. Graduate student Ankur Sinha told The Tech that the standard cricket ball, made of leather, could not be used on Astroturf “because it bounced too high and could injure players. The organizers experimented with many different kinds of balls and finally settled on hard tennis balls with tape. This type of ball bounces less than the hard leather ball, but more than a softer tennis ball. The tape reduces friction and makes the ball slide over the surface so that it comes onto the bat well. As with everything else, MIT students brought innovation into cricket as well.”

Check the MIT Cricket Club for stats from past matches plus the details on the upcoming fall MIT Cricket Weekend Series.

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