Monday, November 30, 2009

Hofstra By Two

75-73 with 3;52 left. Amazing how the stags have not got the ball inside to Johnson in the second half.

Jenkins Unreal in Second Half

Charles Jenkins has now 27 points. Pride up 67-64 with 8 minutes left.

Fairfield Up A Deuce at the Half

Fairfield's Anthony Johnson already has a double double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Stags up two on the Pride 42-40 at the half.

Stags Make A Run

10-0 run by Stags 27-22

Hofstra Up Early

Pride lead 17-14 over Fairfield, 11:27 left first half.

It's Monday Night Bball

Forget the Pats and Saints. It's the Stags and the Pride from the Mack Center in Uniondale. Live updates to come.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Wild Wild West Coast Conference

I gave serious thought this past college basketball season to heading out to Vegas to watch the West Coast Conference Tournament. I thought that there would be at least two teams making the NCAA Tournament from the WCC since three - Gonzaga, St Mary's and San Diego made the NCAA tournament the year before. And there would again be some great basketball to watch with the possibility of seeing multiple WCC teams make the big dance.

Unfortunately, due to my younger son Jonathan's condition, it was not possible (nor was the CAA tournament, the first time in many years I did not go). It also wrongly turned out that only one WCC team made the NCAA Tournament, Gonzaga, since the Zags blew out St Mary's in the WCC final (which might have been the dagger to the Gaels' at large hopes).

However, after following the WCC closely this past week, I am again seriously thinking about heading out to Vegas to see the WCC tourney. That's because I think there is not only the strong possibility of multiple teams from the WCC in the NCAA tournament but it is possible that four teams could vie for the WCC title.

It started of course with perennial WCC stalwart, Gonzaga. The Zags, who made the sweet sixteen last season, were supposed to be in rebuilding mode. With Jeremy Pargo, Josh Heytvelt and Micah Downs all graduated, and Austin Daye stupidly leaving early for the NBA draft, the "experts" had Gonzaga unranked. But after barely losing to #2 Michigan State at East Lansing in a game where the Zags led most of the way, Gonzaga rebounded by winning the Maui Invitational. There Gonzaga came from 16 down to defeat Colorado, then downed Wisconsin by 13, then defeated Cincinnati in a rugged knockdown overtime game to win the tournament title.

Simply put, the Zags have not rebuilded, but have retooled. They returned their best player, guard Matt Bouldin, along with junior sharpshooter Stephen Gray. They have got significant contributions from sophomore center Robert Sacre Bleu, freshman forward Elias Harris ( who I think can be better than Daye by the time he graduates) and sophomore guard Demetri Goodson. Of the five starters, only Bouldin is a senior.

The question with Gonzaga may be their depth off the bench which is mostly freshmen and sophomores and the giant 7 foot 5 senior Will Foster (who has never really reached his potential). They will be battle tested before WCC play with non conference home games against undefeated Washington State, Wake Forest, and Oklahoma along with road games at #7 Duke and Illinois. Then comes a killer road trip on January 9 at Portland then January 14 at St Mary's. If the Zags win several of those key non conference games and split the start of that road trip, Gonzaga will again be in the Dance.

Speaking of Portland, the Pilots have been a mid major team with lots of preseason hype. And why not, when you're returning all five starters from a 19 win team that finished third in the WCC last season behind Gonzaga and St Mary's. Especially when one of the starters is all First Team WCC guard Nik Raivio who averages 16 points and 8 rebounds per game. Then combine that with point guard TJ Campbell elevating his game (18 points and 5 assists per game) and you have the makings of very solid team.

Well the Pilots have been flying high with wins over Oregon and Seattle (don't laugh, Seattle won at Utah). Then Portland came into the first round of the 76 Classic having to face a UCLA team, though that may be in a down year, is still dangerous as long as Ben Howland is coaching the team. Portland went out and spanked the Bruins 74-47 as the Pilots shot 54 percent from the field including 11 of 19 from beyond the arc. Then if that wasn't enough, Portland knocked off #16 Minnesota in the second round; a Gophers team that had soundly defeated #10 Butler in the first round.

If Portland can somehow defeat #8 West Virginia in the final and finish in the top two of the WCC with 23-25 wins (and the Pilots still have a road game at #14 Washington), you can basically punch a ticket to the Dance for the Pilots.

Meanwhile, many "experts" had St Mary's being down this year after the graduation of star forward Diamon Simpson and the equally stupid early entrance of star guard Patty Mills into the NBA draft. Someone forgot to tell the Gaels' team as they won four of their first five games, with the only loss a two point heartbreaker to nationally ranked Vanderbilt. Omar "Enter the Sandman" Samhan has continued his dominating ways averaging a double double with 20.6 points and 11.2 rebounds per game while shooting nearly 65 percent.

However it's other Gaels players who have helped lessen the loss of Simpson and Mills. Part of the Mills Australian pipeline, freshman guard Matthew Dellavedova has averaged 15 points and nearly 5 assists per game while shooting 45.5 percent from three. Wayne Hunter and Mickey McDonnell have also averaged double figures in scoring. Another Australian, Ben Allen is nearly averaging double figures in scoring with 9.6 points per game and 7 rebounds per game.

The Gaels test of how far they have come along will be a road game vs Utah State along with their annual road game vs Oregon, and then finally, the Gaels will be playing in the Diamond Head Classic around Christmas time first against Northeastern (then potentially USC and UNLV among others).

Then there is San Diego, with the returning Brandon Johnson. Out the past season with a torn ACL, Johnson has averaged 16 points per game leading the Toreros to the finals of the Great Alaska Shootout before losing to Washington State in the final. The Toreros are off to a 4-2 start with also a win over Stanford. Johnson is joined in double figures by senior guards Chris Lewis and De'Jon Jackson, two fellow members of the 2007-08 team that made the NCAA tournament and defeated UConn in the first round.

The WCC tournament is again being held in Las Vegas, March 5-8 2010. Four teams with a legitimate chance of winning the tourney. Possible multiple NCAA Tournament bids on the line. Definitely a tempting thought for a quality basketball road trip.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

For My Mom

First, I wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

In the four years that I have written this blog, I have never had to write a more difficult article. Despite a lot of things that have happened to me in those four years, my younger son's kidney condition, a bout with depression, everything pales in comparison.

For those of you that read this blog, recently I have talked about my mom being in the hospital. My mom (far left in this picture) was admitted to LIJ Manhasset on Sunday, November 15 with a heart attack that she had suffered the previous Friday, the Friday I was in Kansas. She had thought it was heartburn from something she ate. She felt better Saturday, but felt very sick on Sunday. When my little sister Gwen got there, she called for an ambulance. Outside of recently taking medication for high blood pressure, my mom had never had heart problems.

When she was first admitted, her heart briefly had stopped. And we were told that she had suffered "severe" damage to her heart and that she was very ill. Her kidneys and liver had suffered severe shock. She was being sustained by an external pacemaker and a heart pump. Yet for the first three days, she was very cognizant of her surroundings. She practically ordered me on my son Jonathan's birthday to continue having the family birthday party we scheduled for this Saturday (and we did). She admitted to me one day that she annoyed my older brother the night that he stayed to watch her, but she said he was annoying her too. And people wonder where I get my sense of humor from. :-)

Someone I used to care about very much once told me that "Moores Don't Give Up Easily" to describe my personality. I am very proud of that trait and that was all due to my mom. My mom was a single parent by the time I was 13, in fact I think even sooner (thanks to a deadbeat dad that I haven't talked to in 30 years). She went from a stay at home mom, to a full time working parent keeping the house afloat for her kids. It was my mom who wanted me to go to college full time. And when my grandmother died of cancer the first week of my first semester at Hofstra, my mom told me not to miss class because grandma would have wanted it that way. My mom persevered through her long work days as an assistant bookkeeper and worked full time into her late 60's.

And in the hospital she set out to show that. First, her kidneys, that looked to be a definite candidate for dialysis, came back to normal. Her liver, which was in trouble, came back to normal. Her platelet count came back up. And if that wasn't enough to show you how tough and resilient she was, here's a great example of it. After a few days, due to lack of sleep, she would wake up in the middle of night disoriented and want to get out of her bed. Well last Friday night, she did get up out of bed and attempted to pull wires out of her. My 115 pound mom had to be restrained by FIVE people. That's how strong she was. They gave her a sedative and she slept most of Saturday. She wasn't like that again and felt bad that she did that to the nurses. She needed the sleep.

I didn't work last Thursday and Friday and stayed with her throughout the day in the hospital as we all did. I watched her get better over several days, which amazed her doctors who thought she would only last a couple of days when she was admitted. On Monday morning, while my brother and I were at the hospital, they decided she was well enough to take the heart pump off her. Her kidneys were strong, her liver strong, her platelet count well enough and stable. And for the better part of Monday, her heart was fine off the heart pump. I stayed till 4:30 when my older sister got there. She texted me at 8:00 pm that evening to say that mom was fine and her numbers were very good. I was ready to go back to work on Tuesday figuring my mom had turned the corner.

Late Monday night, my mom had some trouble breathing and her blood pressure got very low. The doctors tried some things for her to get better. But my mom long ago had told us that if the situation occurred, she didn't want to be on life support, no breathing tubes etc. When she was first admitted in the hospital, she was adamant in having my brother, who was her health proxy, to sign a "Do Not Resuscitate" Order.

The doctors contacted my little sister, who contacted the rest of us to come to the hospital immediately due to her condition. When my wife woke me up and told me, I raced to the hospital. Unfortunately none of us got there in time.

At around 1:00 AM Tuesday morning, my mom passed away. She did it on her own terms and knowing mom, she probably didn't want us there when she passed. She fought valiantly as only she could, but in the end, my mom's heart damage was too much for the heart to sustain.

My mom was 79 years old. She was well aware of the Great Depression (and that's probably the reason she had over $3000 in $50s in her house which my brother found out yesterday), saw World War II and the loss of her older brother Harry to that war. She saw the 5o's boom, had her first two children, then the turbulent 60's with Kennedy's assasination, civil rights and Vietnam and had me during that time. 1970 came my little sister and later that decade with that her divorce from my dad. She got us through the rest of the 70's and 80's through her determination and at the end of the 80's saw her first of two grandkids. The 90's brought Mom her second grandson and her third child get married (that was me). The new decade saw mom retire from work, celebrate her 70th birthday with a limo and a broadway show (the Music Man - very good). It then brought her two more grandsons, my two children.

After seeing her that first Sunday evening in the hospital, I had a dream. I was at a party with people I knew, when suddenly everyone went away and my mom suddenly appeared. I told her "What are you doing here, you're supposed to be in hospital." My mom replied in the dream "Don't worry Gary, I have lived a full life." I remember her putting her arm around me as we sat on the couch in that dream room and the dream shortly ended after that. I told my wife the next morning but didn't tell the rest of my family after she passed away.

She did live a full life. One of the last things she did in the past year or so was go with us to Pittsburgh in the summer of July 2008. I wanted to do something with the kids and I had a plan to drive across Pennsylvania, first going to Pittsburgh and seeing my Aunt Syl (mom's sister), her husband, my Uncle Elmer, catch a Pirates game, then drive back across visiting various things in Pennsylvania, including my brother at the Carlyle Nationals with our 67 Barracuda.

I asked mom to go and at first she wasn't sure. She didn't like traveling in a car for a long period of time at her age and honestly, she didn't get out of the house much after she retired. Still I thought the opportunity to see her sister might win out.

It did. My mom came with us in our trip across Pennsylvania in our CRV. It was cramped in the back with our two kids in the car seats and mom there. But she didn't mind, didn't complain and she was quite happy to be there with them. She was very happy to see her sister and her brother in law. We went to the Pittsburgh Zoo together and she stayed with Aunt Syl and Chelle (my wife) with our younger son Jonathan, while Uncle Elmer, Matthew and I went to the Pirates game. She spent time with them while we went to the National Aviary, which is one of the best unknown treasures in Pittsburgh.

When we left Pittsburgh, she was there with us on our trips to Hershey Park, Dutch Wonderland, the Strasburg Railroad and finally, Carlyle. She was an absolute trooper, walking around on very hot days, didn't complain, but did tell us when she was tired and needed a rest. She stayed at the hotel room that night we went to the Harrisburg Senators game, but we knew she needed the rest. She was so happy about that trip that she talked about it all the time since, including at the hospital. She remarked how her and Aunt Syl loved Jonathan's smile (he does have a great smile).

The picture above is the picture of her, Aunt Syl and Uncle Elmer from that Pittsburgh trip. We gave her copies of all the pictures from that trip and I know she treasured that picture. It was the last time she would see her sister and brother in law in person. I had been keeping Aunt Syl and Uncle Elmer updated on mom's condition and I knew how much Aunt Syl appreciated hearing the updates. When mom passed, my brother decided to call Aunt Syl to tell her the news and she was quite sad upon hearing it. Like the rest of us, she thought mom was getting better.

Everything I have in my life right now is due to my mom. She not only gave birth to me, she allowed me to go to Hofstra full time. During Tuesday afternoon, I thought about all the dear people in my life; my wife, my friends, my children. It's all due to being at Hofstra. I met my dear partners in college basketball crime - my friends, Tony Terentieff and Mal Galletta, through my years at Hofstra with Tony, both of us computer science majors. That's how I know my good friend Tony Bozzella also, via Tieff as do I know my good friend Bob Sugar, who does the shot clock for all the Hofstra home games. My dear friends Joe Goldberg, Sandra Vrejan and the rest of that gang I know from my friend Peggy who I went to Hofstra with during my four years as an undergrad.

Then there is my wife, Chelle, who I met at my first day working at Hofstra Law School. I remember my mom giving me the "I am starting to worry about you speech" when I was 28 about not being married. And I said "Well who knows, maybe this girl I am starting to date (Chelle), might be the one". She was and still is.

And there's all my Hofstra Law friends such as KU alum and Jayhawks expert Grant Hayden etc etc. I could go on and on and if I didn't mention your name, don't be upset, I love you all.

My point is that everything is a six degrees separation of my mom's goal of me going to school full time. It's all due to her and I could never thank her enough. Due to my mom, we shared a love of the color blue, butterscotch pudding, Sinatra, and Montauk Point.

I think I once said in this column, you haven't lived until you see the sunrise on Montauk Point. It was mom's favorite place. And when my colleague and friend at work Mary Giacomazza said that the law school wanted a place to send donations, at first I didn't know of any charity that mom was fond of. Neither did the rest of my family.

Then, for once in my life, an idea struck me. The Montauk Historical Society has a preservation fund for the lighthouse there. You can check it out at Click on "Tower Restoration" once there.

I have asked that in lieu of flowers that people donate to the Tower Restoration fund. You can donate by going online above or sending a check to the MHS Lighthouse Museum at the address below in my mom's name, Gladys Moore.

MHS Lighthouse Museum
P.O. Box 943
Montauk, New York 11954

I know that this wasn't exactly about college basketball. But if not for my mom, there wouldn't be this column (and she knew about my trip to Kansas and asked about it). Thus, in a way it is. Thanks Mom. For everything.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

So What Does the Last Week in the CAA Mean?

So, with a week's worth of games played last week, plus a few games into this week for some of the CAA teams, what do we know about the various CAA teams? Well it's hard to get a full picture after four or five games, but I think I have some thoughts already.

Old Dominion - The Monarchs have played a very soft schedule so far, with their toughest game a home win over Marshall. Their first round game in the South Padre Invitational against Missouri will provide a better test (other teams playing are Mississippi, Richmond and Chattanooga).

The Good - The ODU forwards - Gerald Lee, Ben Finney, Frank Hassell and Kevon Carter are all shooting 45% or better from the field. The Bad - Point guard Darius James is shooting 31.8 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three. James, Kent Bazemore and Marsharee Neely need to shoot well from the outside to keep teams from packing it in.

Northeastern - The Huskies had an early double digit lead on Siena but couldn't close the deal, losing to the Saints on their home court 59-53. The Huskies rebounded with a close win at home over a perenially solid Utah State team 64-61. Northeastern was down 15 in the first half before coming back to win.

The Good - It's only two games but Matt Janning is shooting better than last season with his 45.8 percent from the field. Janning leads four Huskies averaging double digits in scoring. The Huskie defense is as solid as ever, as opponents are shooting 5 of 27 from beyond the arc. And considering the teams were two of the best in the mid majors, Siena and Utah State, that's a nice feat. The Bad - Northeastern as a whole is struggling from the field, shooting 38.4 from the field, including a very bad 23.5 percent from beyond the arc. Despite averaging 11 points per game, Chaisson Allen is averaging 33 percent from the field and also is averaging more turnovers per game, three, than assists, two.

VCU - Three games. One bad game at Western Michigan. One good win over nationally ranked Oklahoma at home (I am not including the win over Bethune Cookman, cupcake to the CAA - VCU won by 26 at home vs. the Cook, while ODU won by over 3o at home over the Cook). A nice win on the road over perenially pesky Hampton was also important (VCU had lost its last road game vs Hampton in 2007-08). The next two games vs. Nevada and Rhode Island should give the Rams a better indication of where they are at.

The Good - Jay Gavin was shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc, giving the Rams the legitimate outside threat needed so that teams don't double up on Larry Sanders. The Bad - Gavin went 0 for 5 vs. Hampton. The Rams will need Gavin to shoot the three consistently because Joey Rodriguez is struggling from the field. 29 percent overall, 27 percent from beyond the arc.

George Mason - Got to watch a lot of the Patriots during the Puerto Rico Tip Off Tournament. They are athletic, deep and talented. Michael Morrison simply dominated against Indiana Sunday morning with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks. Cam Long added 18 including the game winning 3 point shot (did Long call "bank"?) in the 69-66 win over the Hoosiers.

The Good - Cam Long is definitely All First Team CAA material. Ryan Pearson is just getting better and better. And redshirt freshman forward Kevin Foster is very good. Throw in Andre Cornelius and some talented freshman guards in Luke Hancock and Sharrod Wright, and Mason is good to go. They had a really impressive showing in the Puerto Rico Tip Off, almost knocking off #6 Villanova, hanging against a very athletic #19 Georgia Tech and the win over Indiana. The Bad - Paging Louis Birdsong. Mr Birdsong, please pick up the white courtesy phone and let us know where you are. Birdsong is averaging only 14 minutes per game with 2.2 points and 1.2 rebounds. Pearson, Morrison and now Foster have all eclipsed Birdsong in the rotation.

James Madison - Without Devon Moore, the Dukes struggled out of the gate. In fact, in their first two games against Ohio State and Murray State, they lost by 28 points each. JMU struggled to score, scoring 44 and 43 points respectively shooting 29 percent from the field and 13 percent from beyond the arc. The Dukes have righted themselves by winning their next two games, shooting 52 percent from the field and 54 percent beyond the arc against FIU, then followed up with a 54 percent from the field shooting against NC Central.

The Good - Darren White and Julius Wells are doing their best to make up for the loss of Moore, combining for 27 points per game. Pierre Curtis is averaging a 2-1 ratio for assists to turnovers. Dazz Thornton is slowly rounding into shape after back surgery. The Bad - The Dukes are shooting 28.6 percent from beyond the arc. That's Drexelesque. And that's not a good thing. Julius Wells is struggling from the field, shooting 36.5 percent. The Dukes need Wells and Andrey Semenov (23 percent from the field) to step up and shoot better. Otherwise, could be a disappointing year for JMU.

Hofstra - The Pride had a very eventful seven days last week. Four games, two nationally ranked teams. One near upset. The Pride showed a lot of heart in their game against UConn. Down double digits early, they hung in the first half despite poor shooting. Then in the second half, they shot the lights out and nearly pulled out a big win despite foul trouble and a lack of depth.

The Good - Charles Jenkins is a second half monster. In the game against UConn, Jenkins and the Huskies' Jerome Dyson were the two best players on the court with Jenkins scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half (he had a similar game against Kansas). . That's saying a lot considering all of the Huskies' talented players. The Pride has two real gems in freshmen Chaz Williams and Halil Kanacevic. Nathaniel Lester has played very solid ball since his clunker against Kansas (though he regressed badly against Charlotte last night). The Bad - As my friend Tony Terentieff so aptly put it, Miklos Szabo is a fouling machine. Greg Washington is not far behind him. Both players need to play smarter since the Pride do not have a lot of depth in the frontcourt until David Imes comes back. The Pride need Brad Kelleher to come back and provide minutes and Coach Tom Pecora needs to give Yves Jules some playing time to get better. Playing seven players on a regular basis won't cut it in the CAA.

Drexel - The Dragons have struggled from the beginning, losing three close games to St Joe's, Niagara and Rutgers before getting their first win yesterday in typical ugly fashion against Penn 58-49. Drexel is learning to play without their best player of last season, Scott Rodgers, who graduated.

The Good - Jamie Harris is taking the lead as far as scoring duties. Harris had 22 points against Penn, his second 20 plus scoring night of the season. The junior has continually progressed in his shooting percentage each season, which stands currently at 41.7 percent. Evan Neisler has had 10 rebounds in two of the four games. Drexel is holding opponents to 39 percent from the field. Drexel leads the CAA in average rebounds per game at 44. The Bad - Chris Fouch, my key player for the Dragons due to his outside shooting ability, hasn't shown it yet. Going into last night's game against the Quakers, Fouch was shooting 10.5 percent from the field while averaging 18 minutes a game (he went 1 for 3 from the field in 12 minutes against Penn). Going into the Penn game, Drexel was shooting 34 percent from the field (they shot 44 percent against the Quakers), including 27 percent from three.

Georgia State - The Panthers have only one win over a Division I team, a 24 point win over Howard. Otherwise it's been a struggle for the Panthers who have yet to score over 60 points against a Division I team this season.

The Good - Well, there's not much good when you are scoring less than 60 points per game, shoot 23 percent from three, average six more turnovers than assists and have a 2-3 record with one of those wins over Carver Bible College. Ousman Krubally though has been a pleasant surprise for the Panthers averaging 7.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. The Bad - Well just about everything. Joe Dukes is again the leading scorer for the Panthers, but he is shooting only 11 percent from three and his field goal percentage is down from last season (40 percent as opposed to 43 percent last season). Only Drexel has a lower FG percentage in the CAA than Georgia State.

Towson - The season started off nice with a win over Miami of Ohio. Then a tough loss in overtime to Buffalo. Both games at home. Then they went on the road last night and got blown out by 17 to Navy. Navy. We're not talking the David Robinson Navy. We're talking about "The only team we beat until last night was cupcake Longwood" Navy (no offense Midshipmen).

The Good - Calvin Lee has been "The Handful". Averaging 16 points and 59 percent from the field, Lee is making Michael Litos look like Nostradamus. Towson is shooting well from the field (45 percent going into last night's game against Navy). Rashawn Polk could be a gem. In his first game for Towson, the juco transfer Polk had 19 points vs. Navy. The Bad - It's all about the defense, or the lack thereof. The Tigers are next to last in the CAA in FG percentage defense, 47 percent (only the swiss cheese defense of Delaware is worse). Josh Thornton continues to regress for Towson. After averaging 13 points and 47 percent from the field as a sophomore, Thornton only averaged 11 points and 38 percent from the field as a junior. As a senior, Thornton is averaging 10.5 points shooting 26 percent from the field. Thornton went scoreless last night against Navy. Not good.

William and Mary - After two tough losses to UConn and Harvard in OT, the Mary has bounced back big time with impressive wins over Richmond and a road win in Craddy Gymnasium over Manhattan. The Mary can get over .500 with a win over Hampton at home tonight. There are very few better game coaches than William and Mary's Tony Shaver. He gets more out of his team than most coaches do. I will always remember his game plan against VCU in the 2008 CAA semifinals. That game should be shown to all coaches on how to beat a press.

The Good - The trifecta of David Schneider, Danny Sumner and Quinn McDowell have combined on average to score 49 points per game . The Tribe average four more assists that turnovers per game (16 to 12). They are shooting 44 percent from the field and over 40 percent from three. In fact, the Tribe average 12 three pointers per game. TWELVE. It's like the old Intellvision WW II game "Bombs Away!" The Bad - The Mary are struggling on the defensive end, as opponents are averaging 75 points per game and the Tribe is allowing 36 percent three point shooting.

UNC Wilmington - The Seahawks have been very very surprising. After losing two of their players from last season Jerel Stephenson and Kevon Moore to transfer, the outlook was not bright for UNCW. However, the Seahawks 2-4 record does not show how well they have played. UNCW has beaten defending NIT champ Penn State, run out to a 22-8 lead vs Miami,Fla before losing a close 67-60 game. The Seahawks also played South Florida close before losing. Wilmington came back with a solid 20 point win last night over VMI.

The Good - Chad Tomko has been terrific for the Seahawks. Tomko had 20 points and 12 assists last night in the win over the Keydets. Tomko has upped his game this season averaging 17 points on 52 percent shooting from the field including 40 percent from three. Tomko is also averaging 5 assists per game. John Fields has been equally terrific averaging 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, shooting nearly 63 percent from the field. The East Carolina transfer is a real find for coach Benny Moss. The Bad - The defense still is not great, as the Seahawks allow 46 percent shooting from the field. But it's not as bad as last year's team.

Delaware - When the Hens lost Brian Johnson to a torn ACL before the season started, that was not a good sign. When two recruits delayed their enrollment into Delaware, that was another bad sign. Then the season started, with three losses by sixteen or more points. Even a worse sign. The Blue Hens do have a double overtime win over Penn as their only win, but as I told my friend Mal last night "Penn stinks." (sorry they do)

The Good - Jawan Carter has been very solid for the Hens. He had a career high 35 versus Penn and is averaging 20 points per game. Alphonso Dawson and DJ Boney are each scoring in double figures and at least give Delaware a decent offense. The Bad - Delaware's defense is giving up 84 points per game. That's 2008-09 UNC Wilmington bad. Opponents are shooting nearly 50 percent against the Hens. It's bad outside defense (37.3 pct three point FG percentage defense) and bad inside defense. Delaware averages one block per game. One. Larry Sanders has one block in the first minute of a game. Last night, Delaware got outrebounded 43-25. Eek.

Overall Thoughts

Overall, the CAA looks to be pretty solid in the early going. I had the Mary finishing tenth, Wilmington eleventh and Delaware last. Only Delaware is living up to my expectations. The Mary and UNCW look much better than advertised, while Towson and Georgia State look terrible early on.

Some other things to note - Perhaps Northeastern knows how terrible its outside shooting is. The Huskies have only thirty four attempts from beyond the arc on the season. THIRTY FOUR! That's as many as the Mary have in one game! Northeastern has only hit 8 of them for next to last in the CAA in three poing FG percentage (Georgia State is last) ODU has the second least attempts with 52, but have made 23 of them (we'll see how long that lasts). Half the teams in the CAA are shooting under 30 percent from three.

Hofstra has been much better with the assists to turnover ratio. Wonder if that has anything to do with the new point guard Chaz Williams. Despite losing last night to Charlotte, Hofstra's assist to turnover ratio was 3-1 (18 to 6). Now if they can just get Brad Kelleher and David Imes back and get some depth.

Mason looks so so good. Outside of Birdsong, not one senior in the bunch. And Birdsong is losing his playing time fast.

Memo to Jeff Capel - VCU thanks you for agreeing to put in the stipulation in your buyout contract that Oklahoma had to travel to Richmond in your second season. An out of conference win against a ranked team goes a long way come selection day. May your team play really well the rest of the season to help the CAA multiple bid selection cause.

Will be curious to see how ODU plays against Missouri on Friday. Love Blaine Taylor. Love their frontcourt. Dislike their backcourt.

When Drexel plays Georgia State, will either team break fifty points? Who wants that bet?

Message to the NCAA (No Clue At All) - Can you please decide on how many games Hofstra's Kelleher will be out due to playing games in his native Australia? Kentucky's John Wall gets to sit out one game by the NCAA Clearinghouse, meanwhile Kelleher continues to sit. Let's be consistent, shall we! Oh I forgot, these are the same geniuses who decide the at large qualifications of teams for the NCAA tournament.

Hofstra plays Wilmington on February 13, 2010. A Saturday night. That's a first I do believe for the Pride and Wilmington (they always played in Wilmington mid week). That is my birthday weekend. Hmm, been to the city of Wilmington before. Lovely city. Road trip?!

That's it for now.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Charlotte Too Much Inside for Hofstra

The 49ers wore down Hofstra in the second half with a lot of inside play as Shamari Spears and Chris Braswell combined for 41 points as Charlotte defeated Hofstra 80-72 in the fourth round of the Preseason NIT consolation at the Mack Center in Uniondale.

As noted, Spears did most of the damage, scoring 17 of his 26 points in the first half. Spears was 7 of 8 from the field in the first half while the rest of his team was only 7 of 22 from the field. Spears was held to only 2 of 5 from the field in the second half but the rest of the team picked it up, shooting 9 of 20 from the field, including Braswell's 5 of 8 from the field. Braswell also had 8 of his 11 rebounds in the second half as the 49ers outrebounded the Pride 45-36 for the game.

Charles Jenkins led the Pride with 25 points while Greg Washington had a career high with 18. However, Jenkins would only have three of those points over the final seven plus minutes as it seems the Pride inexplicably went away from going to Jenkins over the final several minutes.

Charlotte was up by many as 10, 68-58 with 5:40 left, but Hofstra cut the lead to three on Jenkins' only three points of the final seven minutes, a layup plus the free throw on the foul, to make the score 71-68 with 2:43 left. The Pride got the ball back, but Nathaniel Lester's three point attempt to tie the game rimmed out with 2:14 left. The Pride would never get any closer as Charlotte shot 24 of 33 from the line including 17 of 23 in the second half to ice the game.

The 49ers are now 4-1 while the Pride are now 3-3.

Charlotte Using Inside Play To Maintain Lead

Spears too much for Hofstra. 49ers up 7, 70-63 with 3:45 left.

Charlotte Up Five

7:11 left in the game, Charlotte up 63-58.

Stats at the Half

Spears is 7 of 8 but the rest of Charlotte is 7 of 22 from the field. Hofstra is 14 of 30 from the field, including 5 of 10 from beyond the arc.

A Dandy at the Mack

Charlotte's Shamari Spears has 17 points on 7 of 8 shooting from the field, but Hofstra has a 41-39 lead at the half. Greg Washington and Charles Jenkins are doing most of the damage for the Pride.

Very Entertaining at the Mack

With 10 minutes left in the first half, Charlotte leads Hofstra 21-20. Greg Washington leads the Pride with 10 points.

Live From the Mack

I am here for the second game of the second day of the Preseason NIT tournament. Hofstra vs. Charlotte. In the first game, Yale came from behind to beat Elon 69-65.

The Pride will need to survive the 49ers press while Charlotte will try to accomplish what Kansas and UConn couldn't do; contain Charles Jenkins.

Hofstra Doubling Up Elon

The Pride up 42-21 at the half.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Update at Hofstra

The Pride started out to a 24-5 lead. Right now, it's Hofstra 30-15 over Elon with 8:52 left in the first half.

Greetings From the Mack Center

Charlotte defeated Yale 90-72 in the first game of the Preseason NIT consolation at Hofstra. Hofstra now plays Elon in the second game. Charles Jenkins is fine and in the starting lineup. Hofstra is out to an 8-0 run to start the game.

So What Are You Doing This Evening?

While my mom is having work done here at the hospital, i just want to let you know that Hofstra will be hosting a consolation NIT round doubleheader today and tomorrow at the Mack Center.

Today's games are Yale vs. UNC Charlotte at 4:30 pm and Elon vs. Hofstra at 7:00 pm. Tomorrow's games are Yale vs. Elon at 4:30 pm and UNC Charlotte vs. Hofstra at 7:00 pm. Good seats are available at the Hofstra Ticket Office at the Mack Center located on the north campus of Hofstra University.

Why don't you go down and see some good college basketball.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

This Past Week in the CAA

Sorry that I have not posted a lot of articles lately. With my mom in the hospital this past week, I have spent most of my time there. So, I hope to make up for it with a long article about the past week in the CAA.

As noted in my live blog updates, Hofstra hosted Farmingdale State Friday night at the Mack Center as their first home game of the season. It was also the fourth game in a week for the Pride, which started at Kansas last Friday, then two games at UConn; a win over Yale on Monday and a close loss to #12 UConn on Tuesday (more on that in a little bit) and culminating with a 39 point win over Farmingdale State, 87-49.

As noted in my Friday live updates, 2009 Haggerty Award Winner and First Team All CAA member Charles Jenkins landed awkwardly on the floor after being fouled by Farmingdale States' Mike Campbell. Jenkins stayed on the floor for a few minutes and had to be helped off the court. He appeared on the bench in the second half and was somewhat woozy. He should be ready for the Monday night NIT consolation bracket game vs. Elon. Nathaniel Lester scored 21 points, Yves Jules scored 12 points, Chaz Williams had 11 points and 9 assists and Miklos Szabo had a double double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Hofstra used a 32-10 run to turn a three point game into a a 53-28 halftime lead. The Pride would cruise from there.

It was a very wild week for the CAA as several of the member teams played high profile games on ESPN, a couple of which were against ranked opponents.

The CAA played a part in three featured games during Tuesday's 24 hours of college basketball on ESPN, which my former subordinate at work used to pronounce as "S-PIN", one of the many reasons I don't talk to her anymore. :-) All three teams gave solid performances on the road but couldn't get the job done.

First, it was an 8am wakeup call for the Dragons of Drexel as they took on the Purple Eagles of Niagara. Drexel held high scoring Niagara to 34 percent shooting from the field but too much Bilal Benn (19 points and 14 rebounds) and Purple Eagle free throw shooting (25 of 31 from the line) slayed the Dragons at the end. Niagara won Gerald Colds led Drexel with 18 points while Niagara's Rob Garrison scored 20 points to lead all scorers.

Then Siena, one of the darlings of the NCAA Tournament the last two years, used a 18-3 run to start the second half to come from behind to defeat Northeastern 59-53. The Huskies got off to a 20-6 lead, but the Saints scored 12 straight points over six minutes, helped by four Huskie turnovers and four missed shots to cut the lead to 20-18 before Northeastern stretched the lead back out to six, 26-20 at halftime. Then the Saints went on that big second half run and Northeastern would never get closer than five points the rest of the way. Edwin Ubiles led Siena and all scorers with 26 points, while Matt Janning led Northeastern with 14 points.

Then came the evening Preseason NIT matchup, Hofstra vs. #13 UConn. Little did everyone know that this would become one of the best games of the day. UConn would storm out early to a 19-9 lead, which was still ten at 26-16 with 5:36 left before the Pride cut the lead to seven, 30-23 at the half. Hofstra had struggled shooting in the first half, shooting 9 of 40 with Charles Jenkins shooting an abysmal 2 of 10 with only four points. Yet they were only down seven to the Huskies. My friend Grant Hayden e-mailed me saying if they hit just a few of those missed layups, they would be ahead.

Grant was channeling Nostradamus because the Pride would get red hot from the outside in the second half. With UConn up 40-33 with 14:35 left, Hofstra would go on a 21-5 run over the next five minutes, capped by a three pointer by Cornelius Vines to put the Pride up 54-45 with 9:10 left in the game. Vines would have two three pointers in that run, as would Halil Kanacevic and Jenkins had one of his own as well. My friend Tony Terentieff was at the game and he said "It's raining threes here".

The Huskies would come back thanks mainly to Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker and Stanley Robinson. Tyson's tip in with 4:14 left gave UConn a 63-62 lead, one they would never relinquish. This was due in part to a bad charge call on Charles Jenkins that would have potentially given Hofstra the lead with 1:58 left. The replay clearly showed that the UConn player did not have position and was still sliding his feet when Jenkins went into him. The score remained 65-64 UConn and the Pride would never get any closer. In fact Dyson would score the next nine points for UConn as the Huskies held on for a 76-67 win over a game Hofstra squad.

Dyson had 23 points for the Huskies, while Walker chipped in with 16 and Robinson with 15. Jenkins had 21 of his 25 points in the second half while Vines had 18 on six three pointers and Kanacevic had 8 points and 10 rebounds.

Then on Wednesday both VCU and Delaware lost by double digits. At least in the VCU game, the Rams were up at halftime at Western Michigan 42-35. However, VCU shot poorly in the second half (30 percent for the game) and scored only 25 points in the second half while Western Michigan scored 48 points as the Broncos went onto win 83-67. Bradford Burgess led the Rams with 16 points by going 8 of 8 from the charity stripe. Meanwhile Delaware got clocked at home by Bucknell 82-66. Down 20-18, the Bison went on a 16-4 run to go up 14 at the half and never looked back. Jawan Carter led the Fighting Blue Hens with 17 points.

Thursday brought another opportunity for a huge national upset and George Mason nearly pulled it off. The Patriots were taking on #6 Villanova and they took it to the Wildcats early. George Mason were up by 13 with 1o minutes left in the first half before taking a nine point halftime lead 37-28. However, Nova's 42-29 rebound advantage played a major part in their second half comeback. Isaiah Armwood's three pointer with 13 seconds left put the Wildcats up one. The Patriots could not get a shot off the rest of the game and Villanova won barely 69-68. Ryan Pearson led the Patriots with 14 points and 8 rebounds.

UNC Wilmington finally got off the schneid and won their first game in a big way. The Seahawks stunned the defending NIT champion Penn State 80-69 in the first round of the Charleston Classic. Chad Tomko scored 21 points, including four three pointers to lead UNCW. Wilmington was 10 of 16 from beyond the three point arc. William and Mary also got off the schneid, stunning a solid Richmond team 78-71 at Williamsburg. David Schneider had four of the Mary's thirteen three pointers and led the Tribe with 25 points. Finally ODU gave the CAA a 3-1 record on Thursday as they squashed another cupcake, a Seth Curry less Liberty squad 73-41 (Curry transferred to Duke after his freshman season at Liberty). Kevon Carter's 17 points, including 3 of 3 from beyond the arc, led the Monarchs.

Friday saw six CAA teams in non conference action, including the above mentioned Pride's slaughtering of Division III Farmingdale State. However, the Pride was the only CAA team to win Friday night. UNC Wilmington tried again for another upset in the Charleston Classic, going out to a 22-8 lead on Miami Fla. Alas the Hurricanes stormed back and downed the Seahawks 67-60. Tomko again led the Monarchs with 16 points. Georgia State lost their first round game in the Daytona Classic to Drake 67-58. Joe Dukes led the Panthers with 20 points on 6 of 13 shooting. However, the rest of Georgia State shot 14 of 48 from the field.

Drexel lost a typical low scoring Dragon slobberknocker fest, 58-56 at Rutgers. Gerald Colds
led the Dragons with 12 points, but his 4 of 14 shooting from the field was the example of Drexel's cold shooting on the night. The Dragons shot an abysmal 26 percent from the field, including 3 of 18 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile in the first round of the 2K Sports Classic in Miami, James Madison suffered their second pounding of the season, a 71-43 drubbing by a pretty good Murray State. The Dukes were ice cold from the field shooting 28 percent from the field, including 13 percent from beyond the arc. JMU was also equally cold from the line, shooting 8 of 14 from the charity stripe.

Finally George Mason suffered a letdown from their near miss of an upset vs. Villanova. A combination of cold shooting plus a very athletic Yellow Jacket team put the Patriots in a early second half hole, as Georgia Tech was up 43-23 with 15 minutes left. Georgia Tech held on a 70-62 win over Mason. Redshirt freshman forward Kevin Foster had 15 points and 9 rebounds to lead the Patriots.

Saturday brought much better results for the CAA, as the Colonial teams went 6-1 in their seven games. Georgia State knocked off Howard 57-33 in the Daytona Classic as Trey Hampton had a double double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. The Panthers outrebounded the Bison 41-24. It took two overtimes, but Delaware got their first win of the season, a 97-94 win over Penn. Jawan Carter had a career high 35 points, including 19 from the charity stripe for the Blue Hens. Towson suffered the only loss for the Colonial, losing at home in overtime 78-69 to Buffalo. Troy Franklin, Calvin "The Handful" Lee, Jarrel Smith and Josh Thornton combined for 61 of the 69 Tiger points.

Old Dominion finally had their first non cupcake win of the season, 70-62 over Marshall. Gerald Lee scored 22 points as the Monarchs shot 52 percent from the field, despite shooting 2 of 11 from beyond the arc. ODU is now 4-0 on the season. The Mary evened up their record at 2-2 on the season as they went 12 of 27 from beyond the arc in their 75-70 win at Manhattan. Danny Sumner, David Schneider and Quinn McDowell combined to score 57 of the 75 points in the win. Northeastern got a very solid non-conference win over the always good Aggies of Utah State 64-61. Matt Janning had 14 points for the Huskies.

Finally, after two near misses, the CAA finally got that signature win over a nationally ranked team. VCU at home knocked off #17 Oklahoma 82-69. Jay Gavin showed his three shooting process nailing four threes for 20 points to lead the Rams attack. Larry Sanders added 17 for VCU. The Rams got out to a 40-23 first half start and coasted the rest of the way. The Rams held the Sooners to 5 of 26 from beyond the arc.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Jenkins Back on Hofstra Bench

Charles Jenkins is back on the Hofstra bench. It is doubtful that Jenkins will be back. It's not like they need him. Pride up 32, 61-29 with 16:52 left.

Update at Hofstra

Jenkins has not come back on the court for the start of the second half. Also there was an altercation between Farmingdale State's Michael Campbell and a fan behind the Farmingdale bench. Hofstra is up 53-28 at the start of the second half.

Hofstra Extends lLead But Loses Jenkins

Hofstra star guard Charles Jenkins was helped off the court after falling awkwardly to the floor during a layup attempt. Jenkins appeared to possibly have suffered a concussion on the play and appeared quite woozy.

The Pride have gone on a 28-8 run to go up 49-26 with 2 minutes left in the first half.

Update from the Mack

Hofstra always plays everbody close, including DIII Farmingdale State. Pride up 3, 21-18 with 11 minutes left first half.

It's Friday Night CAA

I am here at Hofstra for Hofstra-Farmingdale State tonight at the Mack Center. Not quite UConn or Kansas but is the Pride's first home game of the season. Thanks to an Iphone app, I will give live updates throughout the night.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Would You Like Bacon With Your College Basketball?

As much as I often hate ESPN's overhype on things, it's 24 hours of college hoops is a great thing for mid major schools. It started at midnight and continues through late this evening. Right now on ESPN (not the U, the big channel) is Saint Peter's and Monmouth which tipped off at sunrise, 6:00 am. And the St Peter's gym is packed and loud.

As I was watching the game, I heard "Bacon spinning in the lane" from Bob Wischusen, the announcer covering the game. as in St Peter's forward Ryan Bacon scoring one of his baskets. How you can not have breakfast and college basketball at 6:00 am without "Bacon spinning in the lane?!" Awesome!

The second game on the 24 hour slate was a rematch of the NIT Quarterfinal from last season and revenge is a dish best served cold and late night. St Mary's smoked San Diego State 80-58. Mickey McConnell had 24 points and Omar "Enter the Sandman" Samhan had 17 points and 16 rebounds. Even without Patty Mills, who left St Mary's early to go to the NBA (again a huge mistake in my book), the Gaels look good. They deserved this game after barely losing to San Diego State on the Aztecs homecourt in the NIT AFTER they had beat them on a neutral court in the regular season. I talked about it when it happened back in March. Yes, I am not good at letting things go, C.M. Newton.

There are several good games today. Of course ESPN is promoting about the Kansas/Memphis and Gonzaga/Michigan State games that are on tonight. But dig deeper and you'll see other good games to watch.

To me, the game to watch is the noon tip off between Northeastern, my preseason pick for CAA champ and Siena, a team that has won three games in the NCAA tournament the last two years. It's Alex Franklin, Edwin Ubiles and Ryah Rossiter vs. Matt Janning, Chaisson Allen and Manny Adako. Both teams return four of their five starters from last season so it should be a very good game.

Another good game is the 8 am contest Drexel vs. Niagara, another CAA vs. MAAC showdown. Niagara looks to rebound from a tough loss at Auburn while Drexel tries to come back from it's own heartbreaker, an OT loss at St Joe's.

Last night at Storrs, Hofstra nearly blew a 17 point second half lead but held on for a 68-63 win over Yale. Nathaniel Lester bounced back from a disappointing game vs. Kansas to lead the way with 19 points. Charles Jenkins added 17 and Halil Kanacevic had 8 points and 9 rebounds for the Pride. Hofstra shot 49.5 percent from the field, 75 percent from the line, and outrebounded Yale 37-19, but kept the Bulldogs in the game by committing 22 turnovers. The Pride now play #13 UConn in the second round of the "UConn Pod" of the Preseason NIT.

My friend Tony Terentieff should be at the Hofstra-UConn game tonight (I will be unable to make it) and I will try to get his comments up later on this evening.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Quick Musings

Some quick things here. First, I was going to be at both rounds of the preseason NIT tomorrow and Tuesday and potentially provide live coverage. However, I have an urgent family matter to take care of. So I won't be there tomorrow for sure and Tuesday is in doubt.

My friend Tony Bozzella's Iona women's team host it's annual Tip Off Classic this weekend. They lost a heartbreaker in overtime yesterday to Arizona (to get Arizona to come out to Iona is a testament to Bo) and then they beat Bucknell today. Good comeback after a tough loss. Looking forward to see the Lady Gaels make their run to winning the MAAC this year.

As for those of you who follow this site, our feature coverage is the CAA. William and Mary is really snakebit. Two close games, two close losses. They played nationally ranked UConn as close as they could, losing by nine to the Huskies. Then today, the Mary, as Tieff calls them, came back from a first half deficit to force overtime. Then a second overtime. Then a third overtime. Then Harvard's Jeremy Lin hit a three pointer at the buzzer at the end of overtime as the H beat the Mary 87-85.

Speaking of the Mary, I was sitting in my non working room phone/no toilet paper hotel room in Kansas Saturday morning watching ESPNNews. The UConn/William and Mary highlights came on and the broadcaster talked about how close the game was. However, there was NOT ONE highlight of the Mary. It was all UConn dunks. If you are going to talk about how close the game was, how about you show one of the Tribe's thirteen three pointers in the game. Horrible coverage.

A couple of things I didn't note about the Hofstra- Kansas game in my column yesterday. First, when the Hofstra lineup was announced, the entire Kansas student section held up newspapers to their faces, as if to feign indifference/ignore the Hofstra team. No vulgar language, no "You Suck!" as a certain team's fans yell during the opposing team's lineup. It was both funny and classy.

I failed to give Tyshawn Taylor credit for his defense on Charles Jenkins in the first half. Taylor held Jenkins to five points before Jenkins went off on a second half run. Also, Halil Kanacevic had a double double Friday. Didn't realize that till my friend Grant said that to me in the car. Makes his performance even more impressive. If I was Tom Pecora, I would start Kanacevic tomorrow against Yale and sit Greg Washington as a reward for his good play.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hofstra Gets Swept Up By a Kansas Tornado

When we got back to our hotel room from our combination of a delicous ribs meal washed down with a DQ Blizzard, Tieff fell asleep, while I finished my afternoon column yesterday. Then I fell asleep. I got woken up by Grant's phone call at 4:00 PM. We dashed out of the hotel room that didn't have a working phone nor any toilet paper and met up with Grant.

Grant drove us to the Free State Brewery in downtown Lawrence. We met up with Grant's friends, Pat, George and Barry. They are all great guys, very knowledgable about Kansas and very respectful of Hofstra. They asked me a lot of questions about the Pride and I filled them in the best I could. As for the brewery, great beer brewed on the premises at an inexpensive price ($4.00 per pint which to me is great). And the cheddar soup was good too! There's nothing better than a pregame brew, good soup and great basketball conversation.

Now I write mostly about mid majors, but I do watch a lot of major college basketball as I previously mentioned in yesterday's very early morning column. And I was about to experience quite possibly the mecca of college basketball.

Now obviously Kansas is the home of Mr. Naismith, the father of basketball. But the recently renovated Allen Fieldhouse Hall of Fame promenade is a museum to Kansas sports, mostly basketball. You see the 2008 NCAA Basketball championship (as well as the 2008 Orange Bowl Championship Trophy, completely stocked with oranges), There are columns with historical biographies of players such as Wilt Chamberlain. I would show more pictures but my old pocket camera is past its prime and several pictures are out of focus.

As you can see from the first picture above, when you walk onto the court of Allen Fieldhouse, you can just soak up the history. When one of Grant's friends asked me "What do you think of Allen Fieldhouse? Old?". I replied "No, historical". It seats 16,300 and last night for the first game of the season, of course it was a sea of blue. As far as the fans, well the student section was full a good hour plus before game time. And when the band and the cheerleaders start up "Rock Chalk Jayhawk", even a mid major guy like me is impressed with the zealous Jayhawk student section, who stayed standing for the entire game.

I could tell how much of a factor the crowd was during the pre game warmups. In the early warmups, Hofstra was hitting their shots from the outside. When it came to five minutes before the game tap, the KU student section behind the basket Hofstra was shooting at got REAL LOUD and you could tell that it was affecting Hofstra. As the game started, early on you could see the crowd affecting Hofstra. You can't blame them. Even for the five returning starters, they have NEVER played in front of a crowd so loud. But Hofstra did win the tap, and if you look closely at the blurry photo, Miklos Szabo's short jumper put Hofstra up 2-0 to start the game.

However, that was the last lead for the entire game for the Pride. Kansas would score 11 of the next 13 points led by Xavier Henry's nine points in that two minute span. Hofstra would score the next four after that to cut the lead to 11-7. Then the Jayhawks went on a 12-0 run to go up 23-7. The Jayhawks athleticism and size were very noticeable during this nearly five minute span. Seeing Kansas' Sherron Collins lined up next to the Pride's Chaz Williams was like seeing a high school senior lined up next to a sixth grader.

During this time, one thing I noted in my Blue and White Scrimmage article on Hofstra was occurring. Both Hofstra bigs, Greg Washington and Miklos Szabo had two fouls each not even five minutes to the game. And as my good friend Tieff immediately pointed out, they were stupid fouls, whether it was out of position or reaching in.

But the Pride wouldn't quit and went on a 15-8 spurt to cut the lead to nine, 31-22 with six minutes left. It was during this time that the Pride would find out that they have two gem freshmen, Halil Kanacevic and Chaz Williams. Kanacevic repeatedly drove by All American candidate Cole Aldrich when they were matched up. Kanacevic scored four points and had an assist during that run. Kanacevic is much quicker than I thought and shows good court presence with a very nice touch (and he did show his three point shooting prowess, hitting two three pointers). Williams gave the Jayhawk guards fits as he was able to drive through traffic and make good passes. He is incredibly quick.

However, the Jayhawks size and athleticism were too much for the Pride. Henry, Collins and Aldrich led the way for the Jayhawks as they outscored Hofstra 17-5 over the final six minutes for a 48-27 halftime lead. Amazingly, the Jayhawks only shot 20 percent from beyond the three point arc (though they shot 56 percent overall). Meanwhile Hofstra had 18 fouls in the first half, including four by Washington, and three each for Szabo, Jenkins and Kanacevic.

The second half was much of the same. Xavier Henry would score eleven points over a two minute span to put Kansas up 61-34 with 16:21 left. Charles Jenkins would do his best to keep Hofstra going, scoring 18 of his 23 points in the second half (amazingly Hofstra just didn't get him the ball in the first half).

But it was not enough to hold off the onslaught of a very deep and very talented Jayhawk team. Nine Kansas players played at least 15 minutes and Kansas was missing guard C.J. Henry due to an ankle injury and transfer center Jeff Withey. Led by Henry's Kansas freshmen record of 27 points and Sherron Collins' 23 points, the Jayhawks rolled to a 101-65 win over the Pride.

Kansas Pluses - Xavier Henry is the real deal. 6 foot 6 guard who can drive to the basket or can bury the three (5 of 8 from three). What might even have been his best stat of his 27 point night - no turnovers in 24 minutes. Kansas has great depth with three terrific freshmen, with Henry, Thomas Robinson and a real sleeper in Elijah Johnson. Sherron Collins is in mid season form and Aldrich is a force underneath. When CJ Henry and Withey get back, Self is going to have so many different lineup he can go with. The Jayhawks definitely deserve their number one ranking.

Kansas Minuses - Henry is only going to be at Kansas for one year. He has lottery pick written all over him. He is that good. Kanacevic repeatedly was able to get by Aldrich, Thomas Robinson and the Morris brothers. In a post game interview, Coach Bill Self said the Kansas bigs did a "poor job" in allowing the Hofstra bigs to be able to drive on them. Somehow I think he will get this resolved though.

Hofstra Pluses - Kanacevic and Williams are real finds for Hofstra. They more than held their own against some of the top players in the country. Williams had six assists and NO turnovers in 37 minutes against Sherron Collins, possibly a first team all american guard. That is an impressive stat. Grant's friends were really impressed with him. Kanacevic is going to be very good too. He had a double double with his 12 points and 12 rebounds. When Hofstra starts playing lesser caliber teams, I think you are going to see how good Kanacevic and Williams are. And Charles Jenkins, the best player in NYC college basketball, more than held his own against the best team in the country with 23 points.

Hofstra Minuses - First, the Pride were without freshman David Imes who has an injured foot and JUCO guard Brad Kelleher, who apparently is going to be ineligible for a few games due to some games he played over in Australia. The Pride need them back for needed depth. Second, the Pride MUST get Greg Washington to play like a 6 foot 10 forward, not a 6 foot two guard. Most of his fouls were of the reach in kinds. He hs to play like the imposing shot blocker he is. Miklos Szabo also must cut down on his fouls and get better position on the defensive end. Nate Lester must play with more intensity and cut down on dribbling in the lane in traffic.

Kansas looks to be the real deal and I'll be curious to see how they matchup with Memphis on Tuesday. As for Hofstra, as I noted in that aformentioned Blue and White Scrimmage preview, this game was not an accurate reflection how the Pride will play this year. But with Kanacevic and Williams, along with the terrific Jenkins, the Pride should be solid in the CAA this season.

Well, Allen Fieldhouse Is Really Nice. But...

Allen Fieldhouse is everything they say it is. Historic, entertaining, loud. A great venue to watch a game. But for Hofstra, Allen Fieldhouse was a house of horrors tonight.

The Pride went out to a 2-0 lead, but that was the last lead they had. #1 ranked Kansas crushed Hofstra 101-65. I will have more on this tomorrow.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Toto, We're Not in Hempstead Anymore

Greetings from Lawrence, Kansas. Home of the Jayhawks. We landed at 8:30 central time. We rented a car and Grant drove us to the campus of Lawrence. Eastern Kansas is not what I expected. It actually has hills and Lawrence is on top of hill. The campus is a giant U around Lawrence. There are some very scenic areas as shown here.

The campus has a lot of old sandstone buildings and the architecture is quite impressive. We have already seen the front of Allen Fieldhouse, which looks like a fieldhouse. Downtown Lawrence is also very pretty, with a variety of stores, including Weaver's, a department store that's been around since 1857.

It's actually a very warm day in Lawrence. It's currently 65 degrees and hazy. After Grant gave us the tour of Lawrence, we drove to the rural town of Williamsburg to meet up with his mom, a Kansas native and her boyfriend Jodie. Driving to Williamsburg was what we expected of Kansas. Rural, with lots of farms, lots of cows, some new developments, but lots of open land. Williamsburg is the classic small Kansas town. A general store, a small town hall and one terrific little restaurant.

Guy and Mae's is one of the best barbecue places in Kansas. In fact Grant's mom pointed out that Doc Severinsen once talked about Guy and Mae's on the Tonight Show during Johnny Carson's tenture as host. It's part of a small building complex, which includes the Town Hall next door. It has a brick facade and a small Guy and Mae's Tavern sign on the door and a G&M sign on the window. You could very easily miss it.

Once in there, it's like the classic tavern in a small town. But it's more than a tavern. It's barbecue heaven. We ordered three whole slabs of ribs. They bring the slab of ribs out covered in large tin foil with newspaper underneath to support the slab.

The ribs are just simply delicious. I can't even describe how good they are, especially with the home made barbecue sauce. The ribs came out super quick too. Down it with their iced tea, and you're good to go. By the way, Grant's mom and her boyfriend Jodie are two of the nicest, funniest people you can meet. Now I know where Grant gets his sense of humor from.

Once we were done with the great meal, we were off to go to our hotels. But before we got to our hotels (more on that in a minute), we had to stop off at a Dairy Queen for a Blizzard! So if you add the Blizzard to the great ribs we ate, it was a total of 3000 calories for Tieff and I respectively (Grant passed on the ice cream).

Then it was on to our hotels. We are in separate hotels because it turns out that not only is Kansas hosting Hofstra in men's basketball tonight, Kansas is hosting Nebraska in football tomorrow. Thus just about all the hotels in Lawrence are sold out. I was fortunate to book a double bed in Econo Lodge in Lawrence. Grant had booked his room sooner.

As for this Econo Lodge, well there are two strikes on it already. First, there was no toilet paper in our room. Second, when I tried calling the front desk from our room, the phone didn't work. Well I guess you get what you paid for. But since there was a scarcity of rooms in Lawrence this weekend, I paid $200 for this double bed room (Tieff is splitting the cost, so its actually $100 each). So actually, we're not getting what we paid for.

But that's ok, we are only hours away from seeing Hofstra vs. Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. Grant's mom described the place as "loud". My ears are prepared and I can't wait.

The Season Really Starts Today

I will write my last part of the CAA preview on Sunday. Just not enough time to do it now. And yes, I watched some of the James Madison - Ohio State game on the Big Ten Network last night. Off shooting night for the Dukes and Ohio State is very good. Just wish the Dukes had Devon Moore. May not have made a difference, but you always wonder.

Ok now to the article at hand.

As I write this, it's 2:00 AM in the morning. I woke up fifteen minutes ago and decided it was time to stay up. I have to be at my friend's house at 4:45 so that we can drive to LaGuardia and catch a 6:30 flight to Kansas City. All this to go to Lawrence, Kansas for basically a long overnight.

Explain to me why I am doing this????

No, you don't need to explain to me. Just like I went to Charleston last November. Or the year before to Worcester, Mass. Or the trips over the years to Syracuse (twice), Providence, Binghamton, Fairfield and countless other places. The seemingly annual trips to Delaware, Towson, Philadelphia and of course, Richmond. All the years of going to Madison Square Garden for whatever tournament or games were played there.

It's a love of college basketball, specifically a team with a Dutch Heritage. Forget the Pride. Never liked that name. It's been often about the Flying Dutchmen.

My love affair with college basketball really started around when I was 10-11 years old. Back in the late seventies, I started watching college basketball on TV. I remember Roosevelt Bowie and Louis Orr on Syracuse and the Duke team of Mike Gminski, Jim Spanarkel and Gene Banks (when Duke was cool). I remember watching Louisville and Dr Dunkenstein, Darrell Griffith. All those cool teams. Then it morphed into the 80's with the St John's Teams of Carnessecca, Georgetown, Phi Slamma Jamma etc.

One of my favorite games was being in the Garden in the late 80's watching Syracuse against St John's. It was a close game at the end and I was sitting up in the nose bleeds with my ex girlfriend Mary Reilly (oh Tieff remembers her). I had binoculars and I watched Mark Jackson being guarded by Sherm Douglas. I could see Jackson look away from Douglas for a split second and then Douglas stole the ball and the Orangemen (as they were called at that time) won a close game.

In the l1976 and 1977, Hofstra had a very good team with Richie Laurel and David Taylor. They were champs of the East Coast Conference (ECC) two years in a row when Temple and St Joseph's were in that conference. They made the NCAA tournament two years in a row. Lost the first year to UConn in overtime and the next year, lost a relatively close game to Notre Dame, when the Irish had Kelly Tripucka and Tracy Jackson. Laurel actually got drafted by Portland.

The ECC over time would rot away and in fact Hofstra won the last ECC basketball tournament. But by that time it had lost its automatic bid and Hofstra eventually joined the America East Conference (at the time it was the North Atlantic Conference). In a interesting piece of irony, most of the remaining East Coast Conference teams would eventually become the Summit League (which is a Midwest league if you know your mid major basketball). Now the East Coast Conference is a Division II conference.

I always loved college basketball but I really fell back in love when under Jay Wright, Speedy Claxton and Norman Richardson, Hofstra went to two consecutive NCAA tournaments in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. The first year they hosted the America East final, I was in a hotel in Washington D.C. for a conference. I remember being down at the bar asking them to turn on ESPN. And to see the broadcast show "Delaware Fighting Blue Hens vs. Hofstra Flying Dutchmen" was one of the coolest things I ever saw (admit it, those are two great mascot names).

Then I was there for the America East championship in 2001 when Hofstra hosted Delaware again. The Mack Arena had just opened up that season. The place was ROCKING! And I said to myself, I need to start coming in here all the time. Thus I got my season tickets. And then the road trips started to occur. I found two cohorts in crime, Tony Terentieff and Mal Galletta who shared my love of college basketball and we share our season tickets together, go to MSG for many college basketball games and many road trips (mostly with Tieff).

And in December 2005, I decided to start writing about my love of College Basketball. It's been a very long time love affair. Longer than my relationship with my wife. My mistress, college basketball. I've been with her in barely half filled gyms in Patchogue to watch a Division III team like St Joseph's come of age under a Jim Larranaga disciple, John Mateyko. Or my trips to Iona to see my good friend Tony Bozzella's Iona women's team. Or in the early days at the Mack Arena when often in the early 2000's it was maybe one third full. And of course all those road trips, trysts to be with my mistress. I'd be with her no matter what. There is nothing like her, especially when the place is full to see her, whether in Hempstead, the DAC in Philly, Richmond or Raleigh.

And that's what takes me to this moment. After I finish writing this, I will take my shower, make sure I have all my belongings, then drive out to Woodbury to pick up my old friend, my partner in crime for just about all these trips, Tony Terentieff. Then go to LaGuardia and meet up with my friend Grant Hayden, a KU alum and whose idea this was to do this trip.

I get to go to a mecca of the mistress I love, Allen Fieldhouse. Home of Mr. Naismith and the #1 ranked Kansas Jayhawks. A jam packed, raucous place in which Tom Pecora recently called it "Duke on Steroids" (meaning Cameron). I'll be showing my allegiance by wearing by CAA sweatshirt, because it's not just about Hofstra. It's for every mid major dreaming to beat a #1 ranked team on their homecourt. I even have my headline picked out for my next column when I get there.

And I'll be soaking up the first real day of the college basketball season, where there will be 125 other games played this day. All for my mistress, college basketball. She doesn't judge who you are, what day you may have had or even who you root for. She's grateful that you came and that you cheered and that you enjoyed her. Because that's what college basketball is to me. Sheer enjoyment of a beautiful sport still played by amateurs. That's why I am taking this trip. That's why I write this column.

C'mon, admit it. You love her too. That's why I have always said you need to see her live.

Enjoy the start of the best season in sports, the best sport in athletics!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Greetings from my iPod

I am testing out my iPod and a blog writing app for it. I forgot that James Madison was playing at #17 ranked Ohio State tonight.

It will be interesting to see how the Dukes play without Devon Moore who is out for the year with at torn ACL. So far it's the Buckeyes leading by 3, 14-11 with 10 minutes left in the first half

Miscellaneous CAA

While I still have to finish my CAA Preview, I wanted to let you know a few miscellaneous CAA things going on.

Hofstra Men's Basketball Coach Tom Pecora was on the Mike Francesa Show on WFAN here in New York yesterday. Listen to the interview here. Pecora talked about how they got to play Kansas this Friday night (hint - Pecora has an old friend working at Kansas). This was also noted in the Pecora interview - While it's not on the official schedule, Hofstra will play two more games in the Preseason NIT on November 23, 24. Teams and location to be announced. Hofstra is already playing in the "UConn Pod" of the Preseason NIT next Monday and Tuesday, November 16, 17. If they beat Yale on November 16, they will play UConn on November 17.

When Francesa commented about Charles Jenkins, the 2008-09 Haggerty Award winner for best player in the NYC area taking Hofstra to the "promised land" this season, Pecora made an excellent comment about that. He noted that they have won 20 plus games four of the last five years and made the NIT's three of those four years. He then went on to say that it is so difficult to get into the NCAA and NIT, noting that only NINE mid major teams total went to both the NCAA and NIT last season. Wow, I didn't realize it was THAT low.

One other thing I noticed about the interview with Pecora was the tail end. Francesa said, "Maybe we'll get you on again before the St John's game". Now Hofstra plays St John's in the Holiday Tournament at MSG on December 20. That's more than one month after the game this Friday night. During this time, Hofstra very well could be playing nationally ranked UConn next Tuesday night. How come Francesa won't interview him before that game potentially, or better yet, why over a month before interviewing him again period? Hofstra has the best player in New York with Charles Jenkins returning, but yet can't get consistent media coverage on WFAN, the largest sports radio station in the tri state area. This is why decent mid major teams can't get the publicity they need.

Ok enough with the soapbox. on to more CAA stuff. Michael Litos has some tidbits, including Hofstra possibly not having two players available Friday night against Kansas (how did I miss that..I know why, been too busy with Microsoft Outlook installs at work!). Hofstra is not the only CAA team playing a nationally ranked team Friday night. William and Mary plays #14 UConn around the same time on ESPN 360.

Also one last note, but not CAA related. #10 Butler hosts Davidson in a rematch of their Bracketbuster game from last season Saturday afternoon at 2 pm. Sadly this game would have had more publicity had Stephen Curry stayed in school. However, it should still be a fun game.

Hope to finish my CAA preview tonight. Well I have to, because I will be leaving for Kansas early tomorrow morning. :-)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

CAA Fun for the Crowd Preview - Part II

Well, this is what happens when you write a preview. One injury can change a lot of things. And Michael Litos has reported that we had one when James Madison guard Devon Moore tore his ACL the past weekend and is out for the season. Having seen Moore play, this is a devastating loss for the Dukes. I now have to temper expectations for “my sleeper” team.

Also for you Hofstra fans, since I am a Hofstra Pride fan club member, I received this e-mail yesterday

“Hofstra Basketball Fans - Join members of the athletics staff to “watch Hofstra take on #1 Kansas this Friday night at Miller ‘s Ale House in Levittown! The Pride will be facing a top-ranked team for the first time in program history….”

Now I have actually been to Miller’s Ale House several times and it’s a great place to see a game. But in my case, I am going to the best place to see the Hofstra-Kansas game…Allen Fieldhouse in Kansas. ☺

Now back to my second part of my CAA preview. I was very torn with who I was going to put seventh through ninth. Drexel, Georgia State or Towson all are pretty even. All three teams bring back their cores of their teams. So for seventh, I am going to go with the team whose coach is one of my all time favorites.

Drexel – I just love watching Bruiser Flint coach. It’s truly fun watching Bruiser work the refs, giving that classic “Bruiser Stomp” when a play doesn’t go his way. He even is a great interview.

Bruiser is not just a showman, but also a really good coach. Drexel last year was picked last in the preseason coach’s poll. But the Dragons bolted out to a 10-5 conference record and a sixth place finish. However, the Dragons would lose their last three games in conference and then were unceremoniously bounced in a major upset by Towson in the first round of the CAA tournament.

The Dragons lost their leading scorer and a terrific defender in Scott Rodgers. However Drexel returns their four other starters. Guards Gerald Colds and Jamie Harris combined for 17 points per game while forwards Leon Spencer and Evan Neisler combined for 14 points and nearly 12 rebounds a game.

The Dragons have also some bench strength in forwards Kenny Tribbett and Samme Givens who provide more rebounding and physical play off the bench. The key player though may be a redshirted freshman, Chris Fouch. Fouch a highly touted sharpshooter from Rice in NYC tore an ACL before last season. Drexel has sorely needed an outside shooting presence and Fouch may be that player.

One thing is for certain; the Dragons will be a physical defensive oriented team. It’s a trademark of a Bruiser Flint team. The Dragons love low scoring slobberknockers with the scores in the fifties. And considering how poorly they shot the ball last season (at the bottom of most CAA offensive categories), to finish 10-8 is a testament to Flint, who was named CAA coach of the year.

The Dragons have a lot of big tests the first two months of the season; at Niagara, at #6 Villanova and at #5 Kentucky. It will be interesting to see who picks up the scoring that was lost with Rodgers’ graduation. And I have a hunch who that might be.

Key Player – Chris Fouch. Fouch was a very highly touted recruit for Flint last season. Sitting out a year with the ACL injury has put him under the radar. But if he lives up to his high school reputation as a deadly three point shooter, he will bring the much needed outside shooting presence that Drexel sorely needs.

Georgia State – The Panthers were the hype of the CAA preseason in 2008-09. There was the much talked about ESPN article about how the five transfers who sat out the 07-08 season constantly beating the five regulars during practice, resulted in many picking Georgia State as their sleeper team. Unfortunately, the sleeper team slept for most of the season in the CAA. Then the Panthers before won five of their last eight games in conference and won their obligatory first round CAA matchup before losing to eventual CAA champ VCU in the quarters.

The Panthers are led by the entertaining senior Joe Dukes, who averaged nearly 13 points per game. He is joined by fellow seniors Trae Goldston, Xavier Hansboro and Trey Hampton. Goldston is the only other double digit scorer but Hansboro and Hampton showed some scoring potential in their preseason scrimmage win over Shorter.

The Panthers fifth starter most likely will be long range shooter, Dante Curry, who came off the bench last season. The most anticipated player though is Rashanti Harris, a 6 foot 10 monster who is considered one of the top 50 players in the country. Getting Harris is a coup for coach Rod Barnes. However, Harris won’t be on the team until at least December since he took his ACT test late (Hello McFly?!).

Surprisingly, the Panthers have a relatively weak schedule with their only major non conference test a road game at North Carolina State along with a tournament at South Alabama. If the Panthers win a few games early, then if Harris can provide a spark when he comes aboard, picking the Panthers eighth might be a little low.

Key Player – Joe Dukes. If Georgia State wants to finish in the upper half of the CAA standings, Dukes must elevate his game. It will be curious to see when Harris joins the Panthers how long it will take to get acclimated into the offense. The Panthers could be a late season CAA darling but expect them to struggle early.

Towson – The Tigers struggled for most of last season in conference, finishing eleventh. But then came the CAA Tournament and two major upset wins over Drexel then Northeastern. The Tigers would give Mason all they could handle before losing in the semifinals. Can the Tigers use this as momentum for the 09-10 CAA season.

The Tigers return several starters including guard Josh Thornton who hit 43 percent of his threes last season. Thornton came on late last season and his 15 points against George Mason in the CAA semifinals kept the Tigers close with the Patriots. Now with Junior Hairston having graduated, Thornton will be the main focus of the offense.

The Tigers also have point guard Troy Franklin, and capable forwards Brian Morris, Jerrel Smith, Calvin Lee and Robert Nwanko. Franklin was one of the main catalysts in the Tigers’ upset of Northeastern in the CAA Quarterfinals. Smith had 20 points and 11 rebounds vs. NC State. And Towson is expecting big things from Lee this season. In fact, Litos has called Lee “The Handful”. The talent is there.

The question with the Tigers is “Were the two wins in the CAA Tournament last season a glimpse to the Tigers future or was it an aberration?” Considering Towson finished 11th last season, you can only think they can move up in the standings this season. However, they must play better defense - they finished at the bottom of most CAA defensive categories. And when I saw them at Hofstra last season, their defense was quite weak.

The Tigers have a relatively soft non conference schedule with their toughest game being at #22 Dayton. So perhaps a few wins under their belt come CAA regular season time might give them the confidence they need.

Key Player - Josh Thornton. With Junior Hairston having graduated, Thornton must step up and be the main scoring threat for the Tigers. If Thornton can average 15-17 per night, that will open up things inside for "The Handful", Smith and others.

Due to time and length, I will have my final part of my CAA season preview tonight.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

CAA Fun for the Crowd Preview - Part I

It’s funny, this is only my fourth CAA Men’s preview since this blog started in December 2005. It seems like I have been doing this longer. It's the first CAA preview I have written without Eric Maynor involved. Yes, the king is dead, or in this case, graduated and gone to the NBA. The rest of the CAA no longer needs to worry about the two time CAA player of the year and first round pick of the Utah Jazz burying the three point jumper or knifing through the lane for a floater layup.

The league is now up for grabs. No one team really stands out to me. Each team has a significant weakness, whether its depth, guard play, youth, lack of scoring options etc etc. However, the CAA coaches had to pick some team to finish first and they voted Old Dominion as the preseason top team. In fact, if you want to see the predicted order of finish, check out Michael Litos’ article on it.

Well we know how accurate the coaches are with their preseason poll. They had Drexel at the bottom of the league last preseason (then again, so did I). Let’s see if I can do any better. This is in order of predicted finish.

Northeastern - I am a little uneasy about picking the Huskies first overall because they were hands down my award winner for “2008-09 CAA Enigma Team of the Year”. They truly deserved the award after starting out the season 3-4, then winning 12 of their next 14 games. This included starting off 10-1 in conference. But then they lost five of their last eight in conference to finish third in the conference. Then they topped that with an embarrassing CAA Tournament quarterfinal loss to Towson.

The Huskies however return four of their five starters from last season’s team (only Eugene Spates graduated). Senior guard Matt Janning, who was the poster child for Team Enigma, leads the Huskies. Janning did worse in most categories last season than the season before. In 2007-08, Janning averaged 16.1 points per game, shot 44.7 percent from the field, shot 37.6 percent from beyond the arc, and shot 81.2 percent from the free throw line. In 2008-09, Janning averaged 14.3 points per game, shot 40.6 percent from the field, shot 32.3 percent from beyond the arc, and shot 81.2 percent from the free throw line. Yet somehow, he was voted First Team All CAA over a much more deserving Darryl Monroe from George Mason.

Janning must have a better season if the Huskies wish to finish first. However Janning has lots of help from senior forward Manny Adako, senior center Nkem Ojougboh and junior guard Chaisson Allen. They have better overall starting five balance than the team picked to finish first by the coaches, Old Dominion. However, they need to be consistent from start to finish if they are to be the best team in the CAA. Also they need quality minutes from Vinny Lima and Baptiste Bataille, who are really the only other two players back from last season’s team. The Huskies have six incoming freshman and they will provide the depth off the bench.

Northeastern immediately gets several big tests as they first start their season at Siena on November 17, followed by a home game against the always impressive Aggies of Utah State on November 21. Games against St Mary’s and Santa Clara will also be tests. If the Huskies can win a big game or two early against some impressive non-conference teams, that should bode well for CAA play.

Key Player Matt Janning, duh! Forget 2008-09, Janning must improve on his good 2007-08 season to bring the Huskies to the promised land. If he continues playing in that 2008-09 funk he was in, then the Huskies will be lucky to finish in the top four.

Old Dominion - I know the Monarchs had a great inaugural CollegeInsider.Com tournament, winning the whole shebang. The Monarchs won 25 games last season, which helped give them an average 24 wins per season the last 5 years. They are returning all five starters; First Team All CAA forward Gerald Lee along with fellow frontcourt starters, juniors Ben Finney and Frank Haskell and senior guard Marsharee Neely and junior Darius James. They have an emerging sixth man in Keyon Carter. They have one of the two best coaches in the CAA in Blaine Taylor (the other is Jim Larranaga). Taylor is always guaranteed to have a deep team that plays nine to ten guys on average.

So why don’t I have them finishing first despite all the evidence above to the contrary? Well I am not very enamored with their outside shooting, specifically from their guards. Neely was the best of the three guards in shooting from three at 38 percent (40 percent overall), but there was a significant drop from there with James shooting 32 percent (38 percent overall) and Kent Bazemore shooting 26.5 percent (43 percent overall). And none of the three guards shoot higher than 66 percent from the line.

Still, Taylor finds away to overcome deficiencies by using his trademark depth and physical play. Often Taylor will make hockey line changes, bringing in three players in at one time in his continued attempt to grind down opponents. Taylor will count on Carter and Bazemore for significant minutes. And of course, Lee is a terrific post player who can also hit the outside jumper.

The Monarchs start the first two months of the season with road games at Missouri, Dayton, and Georgetown (the last two teams ranked). This will show how good the Monarchs really are. Three seasons ago, Old Dominion punched their ticket for an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament by winning at Georgetown

Key Player – Darius James – If the Monarchs are going to finish first in the CAA, James has to become a much more consistent outside shooter, otherwise teams will collapse in and double team Lee, Finney and Haskell on the inside.

VCU is coming off a CAA championship and a heartbreaking one point NCAA first round loss to UCLA. The Rams also lost the aforementioned all CAA guard and first round pick, the King, Eric Maynor. They also lost coach Anthony Grant to Alabama. Still the Rams bring back four starters from last year’s NCAA team and their new coach, Shaka Smart is another assistant from Florida.

With Maynor gone, this year truly promises to be “The Larry Sanders Show”. The junior 6 foot 10 forward has a wingspan that’s nearly a foot longer. He averaged over 11 points a game, nearly 9 rebounds a game and nearly 3 blocks a game. The CAA Defensive Player of the Year altered a lot more shots than he blocked and provided a second scoring option for the Rams. Now Sanders is the primary scoring option that must cut down on his fouls to be effective.

Sanders gets support from senior guard Joey Rodriguez, whose three point shooting (41.6 percent) is much better than his assists to turnover ratio (85 assists, 79 turnovers) . Rodriguez must now handle the point guard duties since Maynor graduated. Also returning are starters Bradford Burgess and Kirill Pishchalnikov (Pischalnikov in Russian stands for “five fouls”). Burgess will be counted on for additional scoring and Pischalnikov, well, Russian muscle.

The Rams likely fifth starter is Marist transfer Jay Gavin who averaged 12 points per game as a freshman for the Red Foxes. The other possible fifth starter could be returning Rams guard Brandon Rozzell. Smart also has returning players TJ Gwynn, Ed Nixon and Wake Forest transfer Jamie Skeen, giving the Rams a very deep bench.

But without King Maynor and most likely a new system under coach Smart, the Rams most likely will struggle early to find their own identity. A home game early on vs. former coach Jeff Capel’s #16 ranked Oklahoma Sooners will be a test of their identity. The Rams have a lot of depth returning but I think the loss of Maynor will result in a team that will struggle to scores at times. But their athleticism , pressing defense and non foul prone Sanders will keep them in every game, where they will win most of them.

Key Player – Joey Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the only real returning guard able to play the point. He almost transferred to a Division II school before Smart convinced him otherwise. He must improve on his turnover to assists ratio for the Rams to be successful.

James Madison – Second year coach Matt Brady turned the Dukes fortunes around as they won 21 games and made the semifinals of the College Insider tournament (where they got smoked by fellow CAA member ODU by 38 points). Gone are forwards Kyle Swanston Hungry Man Dinner and Juwann Jamming at the James. However, a solid nucleus of Pierre Curtis, Devon Moore, Julius Wells and Andrey Semenov are back.

Moore, Semenov and Wells, the CAA Rookie of the Year, are all sophomores and will only get better. Dazz Thornton, who came on later in the year for the Dukes had offseason surgery and will be back in December. Another player they should have in December is transfer Denzel Bowles, who comes to the Dukes by way of Texas A&M where he was one of the top 100 incoming players in the country as a freshman (but hasn't shown that talent yet).

The Dukes don’t have the depth per se of Old Dominion or VCU, but I was so impressed with Moore and Wells at the end of the season, especially Wells’ game vs. Hofstra at Hempstead. I think both will be second team All CAA players this season. And if Bowles is as good as they say he is and Thornton stays healthy, the Dukes first six players are as good as any team in the CAA.

The Dukes first game is at #17 Ohio State. Neither Thornton nor Bowles will be playing in that game. But once those two big men are in the lineup the Dukes should roll. I have the Dukes as my sleeper team in the CAA. I wouldn’t be surprised if come the end of the CAA regular season the Dukes are the team that no one wants to have to face in the Richmond Coliseum.

Key Player – Pierre Curtis – Lost in the shuffle with the terrific trio of freshman was the solid year Curtis had. He shot 50 percent from the field, shot 40 percent from the field and cut down his turnovers. However, his assists were down from the year before. If he can get his assists up and feed the terrific trio for the Dukes, while maintaining his other stats, the Dukes will be a very difficult team to beat in the CAA.

George Mason – Coach Jim Larranaga lost three fifths of the team that lost to VCU in the championship and then lost a heartbreaker to eventual champion Penn State in the first round of the NIT. Gone are Jon Vaughan, Dre Smith and Darryl Monroe, the second, third and fourth scorers on the Patriots team.

However, leading scorer junior Cam Long returns along with forward Louis Birdsong. Another terrific sophomore trio in Ryan Pearson, Michael Morrison and Andre Cornelius will join them. The three sophomores combined to average 48 minutes a game, so they have significant game experience. They will be counted on a lot more this season. Here’s a real interesting piece of trivia. Both Pearson and Morrison are left handed, which is unusual to see two big men who are lefties.

Long will be counted on for more scoring and Birdsong must get more touches to take advantage of his 48.8 percent field goal shooting and 70 percent shooting for the line. Birdsong getting more touches will be the responsibility for Cornelius.

Unlike past Patriot teams though, this George Mason team is short on depth. Basically it’s guard Isaiah Tate and crop of talented but unproven freshmen. Also there is the question of who will pick up the scoring for the three seniors who graduated. Only Pearson averaged seven or more points per game besides Long. Thus why I think Mason will finish fifth in the CAA.

The Patriots will find out early on how well this new nucleus will be able to score against good competition. The Patriots will be playing in the Puerto Rico Tip Off Tournament and their first opponent is #6 Villanova. (Mason potentially can also play ranked teams Georgia Tech or Dayton in this tournament as well). Plus regular season games vs. #22 Dayton and perennial Missouri Valley Power Creighton.

Key Player – Andre Cornelius will be responsible for getting his players the ball. He must improve on his one to one assists to turnover ratio, otherwise the Patriots will really struggle to score.

Hofstra – When I read Michael Litos’ article about the CAA preseason poll and that Hofstra was picked sixth, I thought it was somewhat low. That’s because the Pride finished fifth last season and three of their five starters at the end of last season were returning, including all CAA first team member Charles Jenkins (the other two starters are junior guard Nathaniel Lester and junior shot blocking forward Greg Washington. They also have former starter and sixth man Cornelius Vines returning, who averaged double digits last season.

Then I saw the Hofstra Blue and White Scrimmage
and I left the scrimmage saying, yeah sixth is about right. That’s because outside of the three starters and Vines returning, only forward Miklos Szabo is back from last year’s team. The rest of the bench is supplied by four incoming freshman and one JUCO guard.

Normally I do not talk about freshman in my preview, but one freshman player on Hofstra could be very important. Freshman guard Chaz Williams is a highly touted point NY city point guard. He is listed as 5 foot 9, but he looks to be 5 foot 7. But he is cat like quick and seems to possess good instincts and is known for his stylish passes.

Hofstra will be in the mix though because of Jenkins. The 2008-09 Haggerty award winner is a force of nature. He is 6 foot 3 220 pounds and is built like a Miami Hurricane strong safety (and yes he is that strong). He averaged nearly 20 points, nearly 5 rebounds a game and over 4 assists per game. My favorite statistic is that Jenkins shot 82 percent from the line hitting 192 of 234 free throw attempts (only Maynor had more attempts and more free throws in the CAA than Jenkins). Jenkins is a true assassin.

Another lingering question is will Nathaniel Lester step up and be the complimentary scorer to Jenkins. Lester was almost as equally as touted as Jenkins coming out of Canarsie High and at at times has shown that potential. But often Lester disappears. He came on late last season and the Pride need him to be that second scorer.

The Pride will get the ultimate early test of their freshman depth. Hofstra travels to #1 ranked Kansas on Friday, November 13 (and I get to be there!). Then it’s off to Storrs, Connecticut with a likely second round matchup against # 14 UConn.

Key Player – Chaz Williams. I hate to make a freshman the key player for a team. But if Williams can become a legitimate point guard in his freshman season, it will take pressure off of Jenkins to play the point, which he often did last season. Jenkins is so very good off the ball because of his speed and strength. Allowing him to play less point will give him more scoring opportunities. Williams’ play will dictate whether or not that happens.

The second half of the CAA preview will be done by Wednesday.