Saturday, February 14, 2009

An IPod Influenced Basketball Column

It’s 6 am in the morning. On the IPod is “Love on the Air” by David Gilmour (actually written by Pete Townsend). Kind of fitting for a Valentine’s Day Post, don’t you think?

Well, I am off to Delaware today to watch Hofstra take on the Fighting Blue Hens in the Bob Carpenter Center. I know what you are saying. It’s Valentine’s Day and shouldn’t you be spending it with your lovely wife and two children. Well, tomorrow is my birthday and my wife and I always celebrate both days then. As a birthday present to me, she is letting me go down to Delaware with my friend Tony Terentieff. His wife has appointments in the city all day, showing off the family’s apartment building in the city, which is up for sale. Thus he is free too.

Back, to the Blue Hens and Pride. I still remember back in March 2000 watching ESPN’s coverage of the America East Championship between Hofstra and Delaware from the PFC. I was in Washington DC at a conference and I snuck out to watch the game from the bar in the hotel I was staying at. I remember the bartender asking where Hofstra was located. Turned out he had relatives in Massapequa. ☺ But what struck me the most was the beginning screen;

Delaware Fighting Blue Hens
Hofstra Flying Dutchmen

As Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” now plays on my IPod, I remember that so vividly. It was the last season I believe of the Flying Dutchmen. Shortly thereafter, the name was changed to the Pride. I guess Flying Dutchmen was not PC enough. The change was made by then President James Shuart. I really wish he had just shortened it to Hofstra Flying Dutch. Two Dutch Emigrants, Kate and Willie Hofstra founded the school. That would have been PC, gender neutral, but alas, no it had to be the Pride. To be honest, I can’t stand that nickname. Sounds conceited. As the Moody Blues “Talking out of Turn” is playing on my IPod, I can’t help thinking that as a Hofstra employee, I might be talking out of turn. Oh well, so be it.

Anyway, I just thought those were two of the most unique mascot names in college basketball. There are tons of teams nicknamed Wildcats, Tigers, Panthers, and Lions etc. But names like “Fighting Blue Hens” and “Flying Dutchmen” make college sports so unique and so cool. Well for me today, when I watch the game at the Bob Carpenter Center, it’s the Fighting Blue Hens and the Flying Dutchmen. Kicking it old school. It’s the only way I know how.

Watching both George Mason and St Mary’s lose Thursday, I can’t help but think I am watching two teams play themselves out of the NCAA tournament. Now, I know what you’re saying, George Mason didn’t have anywhere the at large hopes that St Mary’s had. True, but at one time the Patriots were a viable contender for the CAA regular season championship. And a number one seed in the CAA tournament often goes to the Dance. In fact, off the top of my head, three of the last four number one seeds in the CAA tournament, Old Dominion in 2005, UNC Wilmington in 2006 and VCU in 2007 won the CAA tournament. Only last season did a non #1 seed win the tournament - #3 George Mason.

As for Mason this season, the Patriots have lost five of their last seven, all on the road. In fact, all eight of their losses on the season are on the road. The latest was their loss to Delaware 66-58. The Blue Hens shot the lights out from three (11 of 27) on a usually good defensive Patriots team. Also, the Patriots killed themselves at the line. They shot 10 of 23 including 3 of 10 by Darryl Monroe, who otherwise had a monster game with 27 points and 11 rebounds. As “Who’ll Stop the Rain” plays on my IPod, the Patriots must find a way to win their two remaining road games (Bracketbuster at Creighton and at UNCW) or they’re not going to survive a neutral site tournament, especially if they stay in third place and have to play VCU in the semifinals in what amounts to a home game for the Rams.

As for St Mary’s, as Jeff Healey’s version of “Hoochie Coochie Man” is playing on my IPod, I can’t help thinking about St Mary’s Patty Mills. Correlation you ask, well Mills is obviously the difference maker, "the man" for the Gaels. With him, only one loss and a halftime lead on the Zags. Without him, the Gaels have lost four out five including that game against Gonzaga. Give them an A for effort for hanging with Gonzaga on Thursday night. But too many turnovers down the stretch doomed them against the Bulldogs (another frequent nickname of teams) as they lost 72-70. The Gaels now have to win their next three games including their Bracketbuster next Saturday vs. Utah State to have any chance to get an at large.

As “Clocks” plays on my IPod there are several late stretch games in the Mid Majors today. First, in the WCC, the aforementioned Gaels have a home revenge game vs. Portland. The Pilots who are in second place a game and a half ahead of St Mary’s crushed the Gaels by 18 on their home court in the previous meeting. In the CAA, The aforementioned Patriots try to end their slide by hosting first place Northeastern. In the Horizon, the second place Wisconsin Green Bay Phoenix try to continue their rise as they face a re-emerging Cleveland State. In the Sun Belt, the two best teams in the east division face off as first place Western Kentucky, 11-2 in the Sun Belt, travels to Troy to take on the second place 11-3 Trojans. In the Big West, third place Portland State travels to first place Weber State. And Utah State looks to keep their undefeated WAC record in tact when they travel to third place Boise State.

As for me, in a few hours I will be heading down to Delaware to kick it old school. What’s on the IPod right now? Bob Seger’s “Roll Me Away”. How fitting. Enjoy your Valentine’s Day.

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