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Getting schooled 

Big Media has eroded local sports. These days, if an event isn't shown on ESPN or a national broadcast network --- if people aren't talking about it on The Jim Rome Show --- it's widely considered minor league, unimportant nationally and locally.

Many Rochesterians let national media coverage determine how they feel about this city. I'm guilty of that myself. We relegate Rochester to minor-league status based on the rest of the country not caring about what goes on here in sports. And we're conditioned to think the sports here are unimportant or just not any good.

So we dream of national attention: "If we only could only get Major League Soccer here, or another Oak Hill PGA event, or if Annika Sorenstam would just play the Wegmans Rochester LPGA, or if we could just get a Division I sports program, THEN we'd finally be on the map."

But why keep trying to impress the rest of the country? A major-league city is homogenized like a Big Mac. And there's no prestige in looking the same as everyone else.

Here in Rochester, we're as unique as a white hot. We should celebrate what makes us different from other US cities. In fact, we should just tell the outside world to talk to the hand.

Of course, I'm still a proponent of RIT transitioning its sports program to Division I. I can only have people talking to my hand for so long before my arm gets tired.

From Tuesday through Saturday at St. John Fisher, SUNY Geneseo, and RIT, the JPMorgan Chase Scholarship Tournament hits the courts. The 39-year-old tournament, which invites eight men's and eight women's area teams, is the United States' longest-operating and largest in-season NCAA Division III basketball competition.

It would be nice if the tournament returned to downtown, where the War Memorial used to host it more than 20 years ago. But when attendance dwindled, tournament directors moved it to the local college campuses.

The games, of course, draw students and alumni from the local schools, but they don't seem to register with general local sports fans.

I tuned in to sports talk radio Monday morning and all I heard was how disgusted people were when Vikings receiver Randy Moss pretended to moon Packers fans after scoring a touchdown on Sunday. I opened up the newspaper to find out the JPMorgan Chase tournament seedings, and there was just a blurb, underneath this massive story about how two Rochester teams, Indianapolis and Denver, played each other in an AFC Wild Card game, and Indianapolis won.

Sure, when there's a fight between Nazareth and St. John Fisher fans people will talk about local college basketball. When there's compelling competition, without scandalous headlines, interest subsides.

But it shouldn't. Here's why you should go to the JPMorgan Chase Scholarship Tournament:

According to the latest national statistics, top-seeded St. John Fisher is 10-0, and --- the most comprehensive Division III men's poll --- ranks it the nation's 18th best team. The Cardinals rank 17th in scoring, averaging 86.7 points per game, and are the nation's fifth best team in scoring margin, beating opponents by a 20.3 points-per-game average. The team is hitting 50.6 percent of its field goals, which ranks eighth in the nation.

Second-seeded University of Rochester (9-2) has the nation's 12th-best D-III defense, giving up just 60.3 points. Though unranked, Rochester was a preseason No. 5 in the national poll, and there's a possibility it can meet Fisher in the finals. That would be a mouth-watering match-up of good defense vs. good offense, and a rematch of last year's championship, which the Yellowjackets won.

Rochester 6'6" senior forward Seth Hauben (Newton, Massachusetts), considered by some the area's top local player, is the nation's fourth-best D-III rebounder, averaging 12.6 rebounds. He is also 37th in scoring, averaging 20.4 points. On Wednesday, Rochester opens at Geneseo (1-7), which features 6'3" senior guard Joe Zera (Buffalo/Canisius High School) --- the nation's 11th-best scorer, averaging 23.7 points.

Fourth-seeded Brockport (5-3) hosts fifth-seeded Nazareth (4-6) at Fisher. The Golden Eagles play an up-tempo style and were the nation's 18th-best scoring team, averaging 86.6 points. Brockport 6'3" junior guard Ben Bellucci (Syracuse) ranks as the nation's 13th best scorer, averaging 23 points. Nazareth is 31st nationally with a 48.7 field-goal percentage and 6'8" senior center Ryan Shipley (Macedon/Palmyra Macedon High School) ranked 50th nationally with a 59.4 field-goal percentage. Nazareth won the JPMorgan Chase title in 2003.

I pick Rochester to defend its title because it plays tougher competition. So go watch. Otherwise, talk to my hand.

39th Annual Men's JPMorgan Chase Scholarship Tournament. Quarterfinals, Wednesday, January 12: (5) Nazareth vs. (4) Brockport, 6:15 p.m. at Fisher; (6) Roberts Wesleyan vs. (3) RIT, 6:15 at Geneseo; (7) Geneseo vs. (2) Rochester, 8:15 at Geneseo; (8) Keuka vs. (1) St. John Fisher, 8:15 p.m. at Fisher. Semifinals, Friday, January 14, at RIT: Nazareth/Brockport vs. Keuka/Fisher, 6:15 p.m.; Roberts Wesleyan/RIT vs. Geneseo/Rochester, 8:15 p.m. Finals, Saturday, January 15, at RIT, 8 p.m.

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