Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hofstra-ODU Preview and a Hofstra Chronicle Article

Tonight at 7:00 PM on ESPNU, Hofstra (15-9, 7-6 CAA) hosts Old Dominion (15-8, 8-6 CAA) at the Mack Arena.   The game could very well determine who will be in fourth place by the end of tomorrow.  ODU is tied with Drexel and James Madison for fourth place with Hofstra one game back.  Drexel is at Northeastern tomorrow, while James Madison is at VCU.

The Monarchs have won four straight conference games to pull into that tie for fourth place, including an impressive 63-53 win at Drexel on Saturday.  The main reason, the play of junior forward Gerald Lee.  In those four games, Lee has averaged 22 points per game.  In the last two games, Lee has averaged a double double.  Lee shoots 57 percent from the field, which is third in the CAA and nearly 80 percent from the free throw line.  The Monarchs have shot 47 percent or better in three of those four games and is fourth in the CAA at 44.5 percent from the field.  

The Pride came from behind at home to beat Towson 71-68 to snap a two game conference losing streak.  Hofstra got 24 points from Charles Jenkins, the second leading scorer in the CAA averaging 18 points per game and who is also second in the CAA in free throw attempts (he trails Eric Maynor in both categories).   Nathaniel Lester had a big game on Saturday scoring 19 of his 21 points in the second half, many of which while Jenkins was on the bench with four fouls, to lead the comeback. 

It will be a battle of the two best rebounding teams in the CAA, as ODU and Hofstra are one-two in rebounding margin.  The Pride also lead in rebounding offense and field goal percentage defense (the only team under 40 percent in the CAA).  ODU leads the CAA in assists per game at 15.8 while Hofstra is dead last in that category at 11.  The Monarchs also lead the CAA in assist to turnover ratio while Hofstra is again dead last.  

The game will be decided by several factors.  One, the Pride need to contain Lee and win the rebounding margin.  As a result, the Pride will probably collapse on the front line of the Monarchs.  This means that the ODU guards must hit their outside shots to keep the Pride honest.  On the defensive end, ODU must contain Charles Jenkins with double and even triple teams when he drives to the basket without fouling him.  Towson failed to do so and Jenkins burned the Tigers for 24 points.   Jenkins must find the open man then and he may finally have some help in Nathaniel Lester.   The Pride also have to shoot better from the field at least 40 percent.  What will help is that ODU is in the middle of the pack in that category giving up an average 42.7 percent from the field.

What to expect?  Expect a physical slugfest of  a game with lots of fouls.  ODU has played very well on the road, having won two big games at Drexel and James Madison.  And Hofstra and ODU always play close games.  It's why they are being featured on rivalry week.  If it comes down to free throw shooting, Hofstra has an advantage.  The Pride average the second most free throw attempts in the league, while 7th in percentage at 67.8 percent but have been much better recently.  Meanwhile, ODU is next to last in the CAA in free throw percentage at 64.3 percent and that's with Lee averaging 79.6 percent.   

Remember, the winner of this game probably controls the destiny for the fourth and final first round tournament bye spot.  Hofstra and ODU only play each other once due to the uneven CAA schedule and will have the tiebreaker on the series.  ODU has a tougher schedule remaining with VCU still at home and at Northeastern to finish the season.  Hofstra has an easier schedule remaining with their toughest game left James Madison at home.

Prediction-  It's going to come down to the last second, and somehow, some way, the Pride are going to pull this out.  Don't ask me why.  It's just a feeling.

Speaking of feelings, apparently Hofstra Chronicle columnist Nick Bond seemed to have bothered the feelings of the Hofstra student section, known as the Lion's Den this past Saturday.  The students chanted some nasty words at Bond and held up an article, which apparently was his.  So I went on to the Hofstra Chronicle web site and read the article.

First thing I thought, was "Thank You Nick Bond for finally saying something that a lot of fans have thought."  Having been a season ticket holder for the past six seasons and having attended just about every game, I can honestly say Nick is right.  Every game,  when the starting lineup for the opposing team is announced, the Hofstra Student section ends each name announced with "Sucks!".  Great?  No.  Original? Not.  Vulgar? Yes.    They have also said some other dandies that I can't repeat here, including what they called Nick Bond on Saturday.   And its not just me who thinks that.  Everyone in my section thinks that.  Friends of mine who go to games think that.  Even my friend's ex boyfriend who played at Nevada with Nick Fazekas pointed that out immediately a couple of years ago.

The student section does have a history of being very creative.  In 2004-05 when I was at the CAA tournament, during the second round of the tournament, ODU was playing William and Mary before Hofstra's game vs. Drexel.  The Pride student section, the largest contingent I had seen from Hofstra until the next season, came into the arena and sat behind us near the ODU student section at the one end of the court.   Since the Pride had recently beaten ODU, the Hofstra fans started some creative chants and the ODU fans returned in kind.  (Hofstra fans chanted "We just beat you!" while ODU fans chanted "Drexel's gonna beat you")  It was hilarious the back and forth.  And both student sections and the fans in general got a kick out of it.

That's the way its supposed to be. No vulgar chants.  No sucks.  No words that can't be repeated on regular TV.  

Bond also hit upon something that I wrote in an article this past week.  The Hofstra fan base is not as large or as loud as other CAA home teams have (VCU, Mason, or ODU for example).  The turnout for the VCU game was incredibly disappointing, considering also the game was on TV.  But it has been this way for a long time, sans the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons.  I was at the Hofstra opening home game in the  2001-02 vs. Florida Atlantic, which was after two consecutive NCAA tournament appearances.  The size of the crowd for that game.  1800 fans.  It was embarrassing and its been that way for most of my time at Hofstra games, sans those two seasons.  I don't know if its the history of Hofstra being mostly a commuter school, but considering now there are a lot more of out state students at Hofstra, that should change.  Both recent home games averaged 3000 fans out of 5000 seat arena.  That's only 60 percent capacity.

Hofstra fans, Nick wasn't trying to upset you.  He was trying to challenge you.  He was challenging you to show up, to be passionate for the entire game and to be creative in your chants with no vulgarity.   Like me, Nick wants a loud supportive fan base at Hofstra.  And a large, loud student section helps in a game.  It really really does.   

Now did the Hofstra fans cost the Pride the game vs. VCU by calling Eric Maynor overrated.  No I don't think so.  I was there.   It was Eric Maynor being Eric Maynor  and the Pride shooting bricks in the second half that resulted in VCU winning.

But that's not the point.  The point is Nick is right.   A large supportive fan base helps the home team.  And it also provides a wonderful atmosphere for college basketball, the best sport around.  I remember the sellout games vs. Mason , ODU and Nebraska in 2005-06.  The place was rockin.  And it can again.  But that's up to you Hofstra fans.  You have a national game on TV tonight vs. ODU.  Come down, be supportive, be creative and be loud.  And you just might make a difference.   Thanks Nick for reminding us of that.

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