Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - The College Hardwood Year in Review in Pictures

2010 was a wonderful year to follow college basketball. And it was a lot of fun being able to write about a lot of great live college basketball. Perhaps the best way to describe it is in pictures.

The 2010 calendar year for this blog started on January 2nd with Hofstra hosting a William and Mary team that had already defeated Wake Forest, Richmond, and Maryland, all of which would eventually make the NCAA Tournament.  At this time, the Mary, as Tieff calls them, were considered a serious contender for an at large berth.  Sadly, the Tribe would suffer a couple of bad losses to lower level CAA teams but would make the NIT.  Here, the Tribe would rally to defeat the Pride at the Mack Center.

The week after, on January 6th, I would see Hofstra defeat Towson, as shown above.  More importantly, I would be able to get home and watch the second half of the Cornell - Kansas game.  The Big Red gave the Jayhawks everything they could handle and more before losing at Allen 71-66..  But having seen Cornell in December of 2009, I wasn't surprised, for I thought the Big Red were for real.  And we would find out later in March.

On January 12, on a nationally televised game on ESPNU, VCU dominated Hofstra 81-68.  Actually it was "The Larry Sanders Show on the U", as Sanders scored 31 points in front of numerous NBA scouts at Hofstra's Mack Sports Complex.  The performance had to help him, because Sanders would be drafted 15th overall in the 2010 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks.

In the middle of January, I wrote an article called "There's Something About the Mary's" which sang the praises of William and Mary and St Mary's.  As I noted before, William and Mary eventually made the NIT.  St Mary's would finally dethrone Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament Final and then make the Sweet 16.

On Wednesday, January 27, I got to witness what many called was an eight point play during Hofstra's 93-54 win over UNC Wilmington.   It would also be the last game Benny Moss coached for the Seahawks as he was fired, or shall I say "reassigned" two days later.  It would also be the beginning of one of the bigger coaching search messes that I have ever seen/heard of in the years I have followed college basketball.

On February 5th, I went up to Poughkeepsie to see Marist host Iona in women's basketball on 'Pack the House Night", or as I called it "Hoosiers on the Hudson" at a sold out McCann Center.   Both teams were tied for first place in the MAAC at 9-1.  Marist would win in front of their raucous home crowd 68-58.

One day later, I was back at Hofstra as they hosted Northeastern in men's action.  The Huskies hit the Pride with a 16-0 "Noreaster" run and the Huskies would go on for a 75-55 win.   Hofstra would gain revenge and beat Northeastern on their home court later in the month.  That would setup the rubber match at the CAA Tournament.

On Wednesday, February 10, 2010, Long Island got hit with a major snowstorm, not unlike the one we just got this past Sunday.   However, unlike the Philadelphia Eagles, the Drexel vs. Hofstra game was not cancelled, since both teams and officials were already in the area.  So that night, in front of a crowd of 893 (and trust me it wasn't that many), the Pride downed the Dragons 75-64.  It also featured a classic Bruiser Flint moment.

A little more than a week later, I was in New Rochelle to watch the William and Mary vs Iona televised ESPN Bracketbusters game.   After hitting the Beechmont Tavern across the street for dinner and watched Northern Iowa defeat ODU in another Bracketbusters' game, we got back to see the Gaels down the Tribe 69-53.  That national TV loss probably ended any hope the Tribe had of making the NCAA's as an at large.

The next day, two of the New York/New Jersey region's best players, Hofstra's Charles Jenkins and Rider's Ryan Thompson put on a show as Hofstra won 92-89.  Thompson had 38 points while Jenkins had 31.  The win gave the Pride their seventh win in their past eight games.

The weekend after saw me seeing three games in the span of 24 hours.  First, I traveled to New Rochelle to see the rematch between Marist and Iona in women's basketball.  In a very exciting overtime thriller, Marist squeaked by Iona 82-80.  Marist would eventually win the MAAC Championship and Iona would go to the WNIT.

The next day, I took my older son Matthew to the Garden to see Pittsburgh take on St John's.  In front of a crowd that was one third the capacity of MSG, we stayed for the first half only as the Panthers downed the Red Storm 61-54.   This probably put the nail in Norm Roberts coffin.   We had to head back so I could see the third game in 24 hours.

That third game was senior day at Hofstra as they hosted Georgia State.  The Pride would win their ninth out of ten games with a solid 87-74 win.  It would setup a rematch between the two teams in the first round of the CAA Tournament.  It also featured the craziest thing I ever saw on a scoreboard as all five players on the court for Hofstra had exactly seven rebounds.  Sevens were wild that night!

Then there was March.   Before the true March Madness, there was the madness of the CAA Tournament, which I was at for three days.   The day session first round games saw two blowouts as Towson crushed UNCW and VCU downed Delaware and its one fan pictured above.  The evening session games were much different as Hofstra's Greg Washington hit a jumper with 16 seconds left then denied Joe Dukes of any game winning shot attempt as the Pride won by one over Georgia State.  Then James Madison upset Drexel in the evening in an absolute foul-fest.

Then came day two, the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament.  The first day session quarterfinals game wasn't much of one as #1 ODU routed #9 Towson.  The second game was an all out Virginia war as #5 VCU held off #4 George Mason.  The evening quarterfinals were very exciting as Northeastern outlasted Hofstra in double overtime while William and Mary rallied to defeat James Madison.

Then came day three, perhaps the most exciting CAA semifinals ever.  In front of what basically was a Rams home crowd, ODU had to rally furiously to force overtime vs. VCU.  The Monarchs would then defeat the Rams in OT.   Then in the second game, Northeastern rallied furiously from a fourteen point deficiti in the second half to take a lead against William and Mary.  But the Tribe bounced back to take the lead then fended off the Huskies in the wildest 30 seconds of the CAA season to advance to the finals.  ODU would beat William and Mary for the CAA title.

Before the madness began on Thursday, March 18, Wednesday March 17 was the tale of two other post-season games.  In front of a crowd of only 952 (barely more than the crowd listed for the snowstorm Drexel game), Hofstra lost to IUPUI in the first round of the CBI. It would be a game where it was so quiet you could hear everything on the court.  And it would be the last time I would ever say anything in support of the CBI.

Meanwhile, that same night, we thankfully left after the first half of the Hofstra-IUPUI game to go to Stony Brook.  There, Stony Brook hosted the first round of the NIT game due to a scheduling conflict for Illinois.  In front of a sold out, raucous crowd of Seawolves' fans, the Illini held off the Seawolves to advance to the second round of the NIT.  It was truly a fun atmosphere, the complete antithesis of the Hofstra - IUPUI game.

Then came perhaps the greatest day in the history of mid major college basketball.  On the first day of the NCAA Tournament, Thursday, March 18, six mid-major teams- Old Dominion, Murray State, St Mary's, Butler, Northern Iowa and Ohio all won their first round games.  The second day of first round games saw mid majors Cornell and Xavier advancing as well.  The season of the mid-major would continue in the second round as Northern Iowa stunned number one seed  Kansas, St Mary's rolled past Villanova, while Butler beat fellow mid major Murray State.   Then Cornell would wax Wisconsin and Xavier would gain revenge on Pittsburgh for the previous NCAA Tournament.

Five mid-major teams would make it to the Sweet Sixteen (we'll give Xavier an exemption this time and this time only).  Of the five that made it to the Sweet Sixteen, sadly, only one, Butler, would stand out.  While the other gallant mid major teams all lost (including Xavier's classic double overtime loss to Kansas State), Butler moved on.  And boy did they ever.  The Bulldogs stunned #1 West Seed Syracuse in the Sweet Sixteen, then knocked off #2 Kansas State in the West final to make the Final Four.

But before the NCAA Final Four would take place, the NIT final four took place at the Garden and I was there.  In what many thought (including myself) was going to be the last NIT, North Carolina would outlast Rhode Island in overtime in the first game.  Then in the night cap, Dayton downed Mississippi in the nightcap. The Flyers would eventually win the NIT.

April came and so did the Final Four.  For the first time since George Mason in 2006, a mid major team made the final four.    Butler, however, was no cinderella in my eyes.  They had been one of my top sixteen teams all season.  However, in the eyes of most of the country and even the college basketball world, they were the living embodiment of "Hoosiers".   And the Bulldogs did their darnedest to live up to the movie.  They would knock off Michigan State in the semifinals.  And in the finals versus Mighty Duke, Butler fought toe to toe with the Blue Devils.  And the Bulldogs were just a fraction away from a three point field goal at the buzzer from winning it all.  And thus ended the 2009-10 college basketball season.

But there is always an off-season and there was truly a coaching carousel this off season.  In the span of a little more than a month, Hofstra had three coaches - Tom Pecora, who left for Fordham, Tim Welsh, then after Welsh resigned to a DUI arrest, Mo Cassara was correctly hired off Welsh's staff to be the head coach.  Bobby Gonzalez got canned at Seton Hall, who then hired Kevin Willard from Iona.  Iona then hired Tim Cluess, formerly of C.W. Post.  UNCW needed nearly eighty days to hire Buzz Peterson as their head coach.  Then there was the despicable act at Wake Forest where Dino Gaudio was fired, AFTER leading Wake Forest to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for a coach who never won a NCAA Tournament game.

The summer came and went.  And with late Fall, comes the new basketball season.  For me, it started with a weekend double header.  After watching the Hofstra women lose to a good Virginia Cavalier squad Friday, November 12,  Hofstra hosting Farmingdale State at the Mack Center on Saturday, November 13.  In front of an energized 3727, the Pride easily handled the Division III Rams.

November basketball means pre-season tournaments.  And I went to two pre-season tournaments.  First there was the 2K Classic, which really wasn't a tournament.    But there were two good games at the Garden.  First Pitt was impressive in knocking off Maryland.  Then Texas gave Illinois the two step and the Longhorns beat the Illini in overtime.

Then there was the NIT Pre-season Tipoff before Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving, both days that I attended.  On the party night of the year, Tennessee held off VCU  and then Villanova knocked off UCLA in the semifinals.  On the second day, VCU defeated UCLA in the consolation game, with help from their terrific Rams Pep band.  In the championship game, which we left at the half, Tennessee upset Villanova to win the championship.

The two days of the Pre-season NIT Tipoff were part of my four games in twenty five hours marathon.  The third part was Hofstra overcoming Wagner and Bill Murray that Friday night.  The next day on Saturday, the Iona women defeated Brown for their first win of the season.

December came and I got to witness history at Riverdale, New York.  On a cold Saturday night on December 18,  Charles Jenkins would score his 2000th point for Hofstra in the first half of a solid win over Manhattan.  On this night, he would also pass Speedy Claxton on the all time Hofstra scoring list.  Claxton was in attendance scouting Jenkins for the Golden State Warriors.

Finally, a few days ago, I got to see how good the Iona Gaels were under their new coach Tim Cluess as Iona hosted Hofstra.  The Gaels using a balanced attack, dominated the Pride, winning 87-62.  It was as impressive a performance I had seen live by one team in the past year.

So there you have it.  365 days of college basketball this year.  It may have been the most exciting year of college hoops that I can ever remember.  Can 2011 top it?   There's only one way to find out.  Come 12:00 am, January 1st, we'll get to see what the New Year brings.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

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