What a difference a week makes

Clearing my head on a rainy day.

Timing is everything. Just ask the organizers of the NCAA Men’s Soccer College Cup at UCSB.

Imagine if the semifinals and final were held this past weekend. The dreary weather would have had organizers freaking out. Except for the loyal fans of the participating teams, the rain might have kept most people inside, watching the game on television.

Thankfully, the final four teams and their fans were treated to a Chamber-of-Commerce weekend in Santa Barbara last week. It was so nice that players and coaches of national champion Akron took a plunge in the ocean after beating Louisville in the final.

KUDOS FROM LEBRON: He may be the least popular person in northeast Ohio these days, but NBA star LeBron James expressed his loyalty to his hometown of Akron by sending a congratulatory message via Twitter to the Zips soccer team after it won the College Cup.

His tweet: “Big S/O and Congratulations to the AKron U Men’s Soccer Team on winning the National Cup Championship today! Great for them and for my HomeTown!!”

James was born in Akron and graduated from Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

MORE KUDOS: The Zips also received recognition from Ohio Governor Ted Strickland.

In a statement, Strickland said: “The Zips have made Akron and Ohio proud. Throughout the season, the tournament and the College Cup, the team played hard and showed true perseverance as they captured the first-ever team national championship for The University of Akron. I would like to congratulate the entire men’s team and head coach Caleb Porter. The weather yesterday in California may have been a little warmer than it was here in Ohio, but ‘the sun was surely shining’ on The University of Akron.”

A PERMANENT HOME: The great weather and ideal venue for the College Cup raised thoughts over the prospects of Santa Barbara being a permanent site for the final four.

“Finding a community that can adopt the event and host it over a number of years and see if we can grow it and turn it into a special event that isn’t just about the Final Four but a number of things around it, where the community supports it would be ideal,” Lolla said. “I’m not sure where that place is; Santa Barbara

has obviously done a great job putting it on. It would be great to build what Omaha has with baseball (College World Series) somewhere in the U.S.”

The Men’s College Cup is in Birmingham, Ala. next December. UCSB is expecting to bid for the 2012 Cup.

STAY OR GO PRO: UCSB senior defender Michael Boxall received an invitation to the Major League Soccer Combine next month in Florida.

Besides college seniors, the combine, which MLS coaches and GMs attend to evaluate players before the league’s SuperDraft, includes underclassmen who decide to leave school and sign Generation adidas pro contracts.

UCSB has had two players go the Generation adidas route: Eric Avila and Ciaran O’Brien following the 2007 college season. Avila was drafted by FC Dallas and O’Brien went to the Colorado Rapids.

Avila remains with Dallas, and last month he played in the MLS Cup. O’Brien struggled to make the senior roster in Colorado and was recently waived by the team.

The scuttlebutt on soccer message boards has Danny Barrera, Michael Tetteh, Luis Silva and Sam Garza opting to go pro.

You can be sure coach Tim Vom Steeg will be having some serious conversations with his players about the pros and cons of leaving school early.

WORTH WATCHING: It doesn’t bring in top teams from throughout the country like it did in the 1990s (too expensive), but the Santa Barbara girls basketball Tournament of Champions still attracts quality teams and Division 1-level talent.

This year’s 32-team, two-bracket tournament, which runs Monday through Thursday at the SBHS, San Marcos and Dos Pueblos gyms, features defending CIF Div. 4-A champion St. Joseph of Santa Maria, 3-AA runnerup Agoura and semifinalists Buena.

Among the players to watch are Santa Barbara’s Tess Emerson, who has committed to Pepperdine, Buena’s Keani Albanez, a Gonzaga recruit and Agoura’s Kylie Cunningham and Camille Mahlknecht.

For the tournament brackets and game times, go to sbtoc.com.