Monday, April 2, 2018

Why we root for Jay Wright


The most dramatic national championship victory in the history of men’s basketball was not even 12 hours old when a friend and fellow Hofstra graduate who is about 10 years younger than me popped up in Facebook chat.

“It’s really odd that we celebrate Jay Wright like WE won a national title,” he wrote.
I didn’t completely disagree, but told him he had to be there during Wright’s tenure to understand it. One hundred and four weeks later, as Villanova looks for a second title in three years tonight in the national championship game against Michigan, I would like to amend my comment.

To understand why we celebrate and root for Jay Wright, my friend had to be at Nassau Coliseum the Friday before Christmas.

In the most macro of senses, we celebrated Jay Wright in April 2016 and root for him tonight for the same reasons we celebrated him when he returned to Long Island Dec. 22, when no. 1 Villanova cruised to a 95-71 win over the Flying Dutchmen: Because while he has been at Villanova more than twice as long as he was at Hofstra, every mention of his gobsmacking success with Villanova is a reminder his footprints in Hempstead remain fresh and visible every time we gaze downward.

Wright’s Hall of Fame tenure with Villanova reminds us that, as students, staffers or alums, we were there with him at Hofstra, experiencing and enjoying a tangible real-time stake as he helped lift the school from the very bottom of the Division I ranks.

I wore a 2016 Midnight Madness T-shirt under my sweater to Wright’s homecoming. Wright, of course, brought Midnight Madness to Hofstra (I should have worn that shirt, goodness knows it’s not bringing wins during its once-every-decade wearings). As I cleaned my living room earlier that Friday in preparation for a family party on Christmas Eve, I found the Hofstra Flying Dutchmen placard given out by the Buffalo News during the 2000 NCAA Tournament.

Thanks to Wright’s rebuild, Hofstra has, in less than a quarter-century, gone from playing in the ECC and facing Manhattan in something called the ECAC Challenge at Nassau Coliseum to playing in a league with two Final Four trips on its resume and taking on the no. 1 team in the land at Nassau Coliseum.

But the celebration would be less jubilant if Wright’s connection with Hofstra didn’t feel as strong as Hofstra’s connection with him, and if every glimpse of Wright strolling the sidelines at Villanova didn’t remind us he appreciates what this university’s done for him as much as we appreciate what it’s done for us.

For most of us, Hofstra was our first and maybe only shot to springboard ourselves into what we wanted to become. Most of us weren’t of the born on third base thinking we hit a triple variety. Most of us got to Hofstra by legging out an infield hit, or maybe blooping a double into the Bermuda Triangle in between second base and short right field.

I was a mediocre to awful student in high school who parlayed a good year-and-a-half at community college into good enough grades for Hofstra. The smartest people I knew during my days at Hofstra went there because the full ride made it impossible to justify going somewhere else with a more academically prestigious reputation.

What happens if Jim Garvey doesn’t do Rollie Massimino a favor deep in the hiring process and grant an interview to this 32-year-old assistant about whom Massimino raved? It’s easy to say now that Wright would have landed a job somewhere at some point and began his rocket ride to stardom. But there are no guarantees. All we know is he needed a break, and that Hofstra became his proving ground. 

Success was not instant at Hofstra for Wright, whose first three teams went a combined 31-51. Wright said to Pat Forde yesterday what he has said for nearly two decades: That the patience of Hofstra’s administration — specifically the late duo of former President James Shuart and former athletic director Jim Garvey — allowed him to survive those early seasons, during which he experienced frustrations and self-doubt, makes some mistakes and occasionally wondered if he was about to fall off the tightrope into the grand unknown below.

In other words, he went through what we all went through at Hofstra.

And if we were fortunate enough to achieve as adults what we dreamed as college students — political aide, lawyer, teacher, successful businessman, financial journalist, sportswriter — we appreciated those leaner times and never forgot the role Hofstra played in our development. We remembered the activities we participated in, the classes we took, the friends we made, the successes we enjoyed,  the laughs we had, the struggles we endured and the tears we shed, understanding it was all an indelible part of us and who we became.

We could be working in a dream job, doing what we were trained to do at Hofstra except at a higher level, but also forever understand that no one will ever know us like those who knew us decades ago, when we were at our most hopeful and our most vulnerable and our canvas was cleanest. 

To see those long-ago friends is to bring us back to those days, no matter where we are right now. That’s the trip Wright took 101 nights ago, when he spent half an hour after the game in the bowels of Nassau Coliseum with several members of his first teams who traveled distances great and small to see their head coach.

Jamil Greene, the first player recruited by Wright, came from Las Vegas to visit his alma mater for the first time this century. Tim Beckett, a member of Wright’s first freshman recruiting class, traveled from his home in Puerto Rico. Darius Burton, who played his final three seasons under Wright, raced to the Coliseum and made it for the second half after coaching a basketball game at Baldwin High School. 

Wright remembered stories about everyone. He began a tale with “one more, than I’ve got to go” too many times to count. Wright recalled Greene’s shyness in his first television interview, a car ride with Beckett during Beckett’s first recruiting visit and the New York-bred, we’ll-take-care-of-this demeanors of the senior leaders, James Shaffer and John Mavroukas, that he inherited from Butch van Breda Kolff’s final team.

Wright also remembered being in the driver’s seat for middle-of-the-night van rides and how each side pushed the other during nine-game losing streaks in his first two seasons. More than once, Wright thanked his first players for putting up with him when he was scuffling to figure out just what he was doing.

By the time the crowd finally broke up, after dozens of pictures, handshakes and hugs, everyone had a goofy grin on his face, as if dazed by the euphoria of the memories and the realization he had a stake in what Wright and Villanova had become.

Tonight those players, as well as anyone who was at Hofstra during Wright’s seven seasons at the helm, will be rooting for Villanova against Michigan. And if, come 11:30 or so, we are celebrating like we’ve won another national title, it’ll be because we see a little bit of ourselves and the best of the Hofstra experience in Wright, who parlayed his one chance into achieving his dream, all the while never forgetting where he built his foundation.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

We’re not sick but we’re not well


The CAA will determine its men’s basketball champion tonight. For the 15th time in 17 years, the Flying Dutchmen will not be on the court. Which means for the 17th time in 17 years, the Flying Dutchmen will not win the CAA title and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001, which, in an amazing coincidence, was the last year in which the Dutchmen were not in the CAA.

As far as things to be bummed out about goes, an NCAA Tournament drought that is old enough to drive but not old enough to drink isn’t that big a deal, especially, you know, if you happen to be living through a dystopian hellscape in real time. Even by sporting standards, the 17-year championship drought isn’t all that epic or extended, especially when compared to many of our CAA brethren.

But it’s still frustrating, especially right now, with the odometer fewer than 48 hours from rolling over via a 93-88 loss to UNC Wilmington (who else?) in the CAA quarterfinals. Like we had so many times in the previous 17 Marches, we’d convinced ourselves this was the year. This post was supposed to be about how tonight is what it means to be young and daydreaming about a championship the same day it could be won. Tomorrow (or Thursday, or Friday) was supposed to be the post I’ve always wanted to write, where I tried to describe the indescribable.

Instead, UNC Wilmington did UNC Wilmington things and Hofstra did Hofstra things, and so we get to watch College of Charleston and Northeastern play, and wonder what-if for the next 51 weeks and six days, at least, but if we’re being honest, it’ll probably be longer than that.

Again: Even as we lapse into self-pity and plantive wailing, we know many others, many of whom are our friends, have it worse. Hofstra’s NCAA Tournament drought falls will still be around the middle of the CAA bell curve of misery even if Charleston wins tonight and earns its first NCAA bid since 1999. Drexel (1996), Towson (1991), Elon (no NCAA Tournament berths since moving to Division I in 1999) and William & Mary (no NCAA Tournament berths since the dawn of time) are all enduring longer waits.

In addition, regardless of what happens tonight, the Dutchmen will still have as many or more NCAA Tournament berths in the last 25 years as everyone in the CAA except Charleston, Delaware and UNC Wilmington — a reminder that no matter how good a program is, it still needs some good fortune to reach the promised land.

By most other measures, things have been pretty good in the CAA for the Dutchmen, who have also received many reminders of how much worse things can always be.

The Dutchmen are not only over .500 all-time in regular season CAA play (159-145), they have the second-best record of the seven schools that have been in the league these last 17 seasons. Only Drexel, by a single game, is better. Since joining the CAA, Hofstra has 49 more CAA wins than Towson, which endured the only winless season in league history in 2010-11, and James Madison, which has won six or fewer CAA games 11 times.

No other current CAA program has produced as many player of the year winners as Hofstra, whose four honorees have combined for five awards. The two title game appearances for the Dutchmen are as many as Drexel, one more than James Madison and Delaware (though the Dukes and Blue Hens earned wins in their lone appearances) and two more than Towson and Elon.

Over the last five years, the Dutchmen have gone 48-40 in CAA play while earning an NIT bid, reaching the CAA Tournament title game once, making the semifinals twice and earning a top-five seed three times. Bet that would have sounded pretty good back in April 2013, when the Dutchmen had four players and no coach, especially if you were told all those wins would come with a grand total of zero arrests.

We have seen some all-time great players suit up for the Dutchmen over the last 17 seasons. Twelve of the 36 players to score 1,000 points for the Dutchmen have arrived since 2001, including three of the top four as well as Justin Wright-Foreman, who has put himself on pace to reach the top five. The combined point totals for those dozen players: 17,750 points.

Five of the top 20 rebounders played entirely during the CAA era, including Rokas Gustys, who is the most prolific rebounder in Hofstra’s Division I history and will likely surpass David Robinson as the CAA’s all-time leading rebounder if the Dutchmen play in the CIT (fine) or CBI (barf). Six of the players on the top ten list in assists have played during the CAA era, as well as six of the top 10 shot blockers.

So it has been pretty good, especially if you are old enough to remember the days of the piecemeal ECC with no automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. But it is possible to have more than we could have imagined almost a quarter-century ago and to still lament why we don’t have more, and to wonder if “more” is anywhere on the horizon.

The slow build with iconic four-year players such as Gustys, Charles Jenkins, Antoine Agudio, Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera didn’t yield an NCAA Tournament for the Dutchmen. Everything appeared aligned in 2006, but then Stokes got punched in the nuts and Tom O’Connor delivered a crotch shot of his own a few days later. Five years after that, Jenkins was going to be surrounded as a senior by two potential all-CAA teammates, but defensive-minded Tom Pecora left for Fordham and Halil Kanacevic and Chaz Williams followed him to the Atlantic 10 (and made the NCAA Tournament).

Going for the quick fix with a bunch of transfers in 2012-13, a season in which the CAA was in transition and only seven teams were eligible for the conference tournament, really didn’t work out very well. All those morons left, and one of them (a freshman, to boot) went to the NCAA Tournament at his next spot. Adding better transfers with better character following a regime change resulted in a lot more wins and a lot fewer court dates, but Juan’ya Green, Ameen Tanksley, Brian Bernardi and Denton Koon fell a win shy of destiny two years ago tomorrow, when Green had the very worst game of his life at the very worst possible time.

Offensive guru Joe Mihalich has built the first pipeline since the Pecora days for the Dutchmen, whose starting lineup this season was entirely homegrown. But it didn’t work out, again, and now Gustys is out of time and Wright-Foreman is down to one more chance and Eli Pemberton is down to two more chances and Jalen Ray is down to three more chances.

Things are about to get more complicated for Hofstra basketball. There will be a new athletic director soon, working for a president who cannot even muster up the energy to pretend he doesn’t loathe sports.

Beyond the challenges of that task, he or she will inherit Mihalich, a head coach who restored order and respectability to Flying Dutchman basketball, but whose style of play does not seem likely to translate into a championship, even in a league where defense has become as optional as offense once was. The Dutchmen blew a double-digit lead in each of their last three CAA Tournament losses. In 2015, they were eliminated by William & Mary after blowing a nine-point lead in the final five minutes.

You would hope Northeastern’s dismantling of UNC Wilmington last night — in which the Seahawks scored fewer points (52) in 40 minutes than they did in the second half alone (53) against the Dutchmen — would serve as the world’s biggest wakeup call that something has to change to get the program over the top. But do you think Mihalich has a Tom Coughlin streak in him? 

I would like to say he’d better, because otherwise we’re going to be here a year from now, sitting with a title drought old enough to vote and getting ready to watch two other teams play for the CAA title. Except deep down, I know better, and even if Mihalich and the Dutchmen find religion on defense, something else will go askew, leaving Wright-Foreman as the sixth man on the all-time no-time team and the rest of us in our own little purgatory, rooting for a program that is neither as sick as it used to be nor as well as we’d wish.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

I'll Be Quirky: UNC Wilmington (CAA quarterfinals)


Come for the Hofstra hoops, stay for the random baseball videos.

The pursuit of Hofstra’s first NCAA Tournament bid since 2001 will kick into high gear tonight, when the third-seeded Flying Dutchmen face sixth-seeded UNC Wilmington in the final CAA quarterfinals game at 8:30. That is late. Anyway, here is a look back at the Dutchmen’s conference tournament history and a look ahead to the Seahawks. Hope we do this again tomorrow!

OVER THE AIR
The CAA will provide a video feed of tonight’s game, as well as live stats, at CAA.tv.

THE DUTCHMEN IN CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT PLAY
The Dutchmen enter tonight 13-16 in CAA Tournament play since 2002, 22-21 in conference tournament play in the NAC/America East/CAA era (1994-present) and 25-21 in conference tournament play in the Defiantly Dutch era (1993-present), which, let’s face it, is the only era that matters because it includes the ECC. Hello Litos.

In the CAA, the Dutchmen have lost in the championship game twice, fallen in the semifinals four times, been eliminated in the quarterfinals times and lost on Pillowfight Friday four times. Dating back to 1994, the Dutchmen have won three championships (1994 ECC, 2000 America East, 2001 America East), fallen in the title game twice, lost in the semifinals six times, fallen in the quarterfinals eight times and been eliminated in an outbracket game five times (we didn’t call it Pillowfight Friday back in the NAC).

Last season’s loss to Delaware in an opening round CAA Tournament game marked the first time since 2012-13 the Dutchmen did not win at least one conference tournament game. It also marked the first opening round defeat for Joe Mihalich since 2001, when Niagara fell in the MAAC Tournament. Mihalich-coached teams are 15-4 in their first conference tournament games.  

TOP THREE OR ELSE?
History suggests the Dutchmen’s chances of winning the CAA were enhanced, albeit only slightly, by earning the third seed on the final day of the regular season. Top three seeds have accounted for 32 of the 35 championships in CAA history. The top seed has won 19 titles, the second seed has won nine titles and the three seed has cut down the net four times. No team seeded lower than third has won the championship since UNC Wilmington in 2000.

THE DUTCHMEN AS THE THREE SEED
The Dutchmen finished in third place in the CAA with a 12-6 record. This is the fourth time the Dutchmen have earned the three seed since joining the CAA in 2001-02 and the first time since 2010-11. Earlier, the Dutchmen earned the three seed in the America East tournament in 1999, when they fell in the semifinals (because Speedy Claxton was hurt, damnit).

The Dutchmen are 3-2 as the three seed in CAA Tournament play with a trip to the championship game in 2006 (grrr) and a trip to the semifinals in 2011 as well as a quarterfinal loss in 2007 (FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLAY STATION PASS THE BALL TO AGUDIO HE’S WIDE OPEN FOR THREE).

The three seed is 46-31 all-time in CAA Tournament play and, as noted, has won the championship four times (Northeastern in 2015, James Madison in 2013, George Mason in 2008, Richmond in 1998), lost in the finals 11 times, lost in the semifinals 12 times and lost in the first round eight times.

Since 2002, the three seed is 25-13, including 13-3 in its first game. In addition to winning three titles, the the third seed has lost in the finals six times since 2002, lost in the semifinals four times and been eliminated in the first round three times. The most recent three seed to lose its first game was Towson in 2016. Northeastern (2009) and Hofstra (you know when) also lost their first game.

SEEING THE SEAHAWKS AGAIN
The Dutchmen will face their most frequent CAA Tournament foe tonight. This will be the sixth CAA Tournament game between the Dutchmen and UNC Wilmington, which holds a 3-2 edge in the postseason series. The Seahawks won the 2016 CAA championship game, the 2006 championship game and a 2003 quarterfinal while the Dutchmen won Pillowfight Friday clashes in 2014 and 2009.

SCOUTING UNC WILMINGTON
The two-time defending champion Seahawks, under first-year head coach C.B. McGrath, went 10-20 overall this season and finished in sixth place in the CAA at 7-11. The Dutchmen and Seahawks split their meetings this season, with Hofstra cruising to a 96-76 win at the Arena on Feb. 1 and UNC Wilmington returning the favor with a 90-70 victory at Trask Coliseum nine days later. It was the first time in Hofstra’s Division I history that the Dutchmen have delivered and absorbed a 20-point beating to/from the same team in the same season.

The Dutchmen, who were picked fourth in the CAA preseason poll, entered today ranked 154th at KenPom.com. The Seahawks, who were picked fifth, entered today ranked 247th at KenPom.com.

According to the efficiency rankings at KenPom.com the Dutchmen rank third in the CAA in conference-only offensive efficiency (114.7) and fifth in conference-only defensive efficiency (109.3). The Seahawks rank seventh in the CAA in conference-only offensive efficiency (108.0) and seventh in conference-only defensive efficiency (110.6).

KenPom.com predicts an 86-80 win by Hofstra (he also did that for the game in Wilmington, eep). Per the wise guys in Vegas, for entertainment purposes only, the Dutchmen are 5-point favorites. Hofstra is 13-12-1 against the spread this season.

UNC WILMINGTON IN THE CAA TOURNAMENT
The Seahawks, the third-most senior program in the CAA, are 39-26 in the tournament since joining the league prior to the 1984-85 season. UNC Wilmington has won six league titles, the most of any current CAA school, and is looking to become the first program to “three-peat” since Navy from 1985-87. The Seahawks have won their last six CAA Tournament games, the longest streak since Old Dominion won seven straight from 2010-2012.

THINGS YOU CAN SHOUT ON TWITTER IF CALLS GO DO NOT GO HOFSTRA’S WAY
Southern bias! (It always works)
You’ve beaten us enough in the CAA Tournament bias! (Duh)
Trot Nixon bias! (The former Red Sox outfielder went to high school in Wilmington)

Let us have three more wins this week and I’ll probably never shout about bias again! (Duh)

Flip the switch into overdrive...

Come for the Hofstra hoops, stay for the Loverboy video.

I spend my summers watching the Mets because it’s like spending six months on line for a rollercoaster. Apparently, I like to watch people scream and cover their eyes and laugh and cry and feel their stomachs rise into their throats and their throats fall into their stomachs before I finally climb on the ride myself.

But even the recent Mets playoff teams eased into the chaos of the rollercoaster. The pennant-winning 2015 season began Apr. 6, when the Mets were no-hit into the sixth inning by Max Scherzer before coming back for a 3-1 win notable only because the save was earned by Buddy Carlyle, the only save he recorded in a big league career that stretched back to 1999.

The Mets won 11 straight in April and settled into a seemingly routine 90-win pace before the really nutty stuff — becoming the first team in nearly 30 years to fall under .500 after being at least 10 games over the break-even mark, employing John Mayberry Jr. as a cleanup hitter well into July, getting no-hit twice and trading but not trading a crying Wilmer Flores two days before he hit a walk-off homer that sparked their run to the World Series — began transpiring. 

The 2016 season opened in even more milquetoast fashion with a wire-to-wire 4-3 loss to the reigning champion Royals. The Mets then lapsed into an extended period of sustained, herky-jerky mediocrity before going from under .500 on Aug. 20 to a ninth-inning loss in the wild card game.

The Mets, in other words, are not our beloved Flying Dutchmen, getting their crazy on before the ride even starts.

Do you remember where you were 16 weeks ago Friday night? I was at the Arena, watching the 2017-18 season swing a weighted bat in the on-deck circle and wondering where in the hell Eli Pemberton was.

Pemberton, one of the members of last year’s CAA all-rookie team, was nowhere to be found as the Dutchmen began their layup line. Had he turned pro overnight? Dropped out of school to backpack across Europe? Been abducted by aliens? 

As it turned out, he was in sweats watching warmups, along with Kenny Wormley and Stafford Trueheart. The trio were suspended for a violation of team rules, which sounded innocent enough but still had me fretting and worrying about the season falling apart before the papier-mâché was even applied.

Finally, a friend pleaded for reason. 

“Don’t be that guy,” he said.

Don’t be that guy? Are you new around here?

Obsessing over worst-case scenarios quickly gave way to gripping the seats as the undermanned Dutchmen eked out a 79-76 win over Army, which was picked to finish seventh in the Patriot League (and finished tied for eighth). From there, the ride got a little more crowded — Pemberton, Trueheart and Wormley only missed the one game — but no less filled with hairpin turns and thrills turning to chills and back again.

Sixteen of the Dutchmen’s 30 regular season games were decided by six points or fewer or in overtime. To use that statistic alone to declare this season more dramatic than its predecessors would be to lapse into RECENCY BIAS! The percentage of close shaves actually falls in line with the Dutchmen’s propensity to play closer games in the 30-second shot clock era. The Dutchmen had 35 of 66 games decided by six points or fewer the previous two seasons, the first with the shorter shot clock.

But these games WERE wilder than usual. There were the comeback wins over Monmouth, James Madison and Towson that were either extended to overtime or completed with buzzer-beating shots, all of which landed the Dutchmen on SportsCenter. Such drama inspired daydreams of destiny, even amongst those of us who don’t have such thoughts wafting through our heads everyday from November through March.

But then there were the gut-wrenching losses to William & Mary, in which the Dutchmen squandered a five-point lead in the final 30 seconds, and Charleston, which came back from double-digit deficits in both of its wins. There were also the lopsided defeats to Northeastern, Elon and UNC Wilmington, the latter of which was a 20-point lashing delivered nine days after the Dutchmen beat the Seahawks by 20 points — the first time ever Hofstra has earned a 20-point win and suffered a 20-point loss against the same team in the same season. Such valleys inspired dark nights filled with angsty pessimism, even amongst those of us who don’t have such thoughts wafting through our heads everyday from November through March.

But even those of us who swore angsty pessimism would remain our default setting wavered over the final two weeks of the regular season, during which the Dutchmen won four straight — three by six points or fewer and the other one a wire-to-wire win during James Madison’s Senior Night — to earn the third seed in the CAA Tournament, which is noteworthy because only three teams seeded lower than third have ever won the CAA.

It’s exactly what you want to see, exhibiting a little bit of the closer’s instinct combined with the feeling the team is peaking at the right time. Of course, this is the time of year where every little thing is a sign that this is Our Year — for crying out loud, I wrote five preview pieces in advance of the 2012 CAA Tournament, when the Dutchmen completed their worst season of the Defiantly Dutch era (record-wise, anyway, the next season was worse in every other way) by opening and closing tourney play with a 35-point loss — so I will understand if you are reading this with a dollop of salt. Frankly, you should probably be doing that anyway. 

But still. In Justin Wright-Foreman, the Dutchmen have the CAA player of the year as well as the most prolific scorer most of us have ever seen, even if he’s not going to end up the program’s all-time leading scorer thanks to spending his freshman season playing just 110 minutes and scoring only 44 points. Rokas Gustys, as imperfect as he can be at times, is far and away the most prolific big man most of us have ever seen.

Pemberton has looked like Loren Stokes the last few weeks — sans, we can only hope, the nut punch this weekend. Since Desure Buie became the starting point guard, the Dutchmen are 10-4, a stretch in which Buie has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 61/18. Trueheart is a terrific glue guy on both ends of the floor.

And unlike any previous Joe Mihalich team, there’s depth behind the starters. Jalen Ray, a member of the CAA’s all-freshman team, looks like a future 1,000-point scorer. Gustys’ backup, Hunter Sabety, would have started for most Hofstra teams. Wormley is a solid reserve point guard. 

Beyond all the numbers lies the sense that this team has “it,” whatever “it” is. The statistical revolution will tell you clutchness can’t be measured, but anyone  parroting that has never seen Wright-Foreman or Ray at crunch time. There appears to be a cool chemistry, created by roster dominated by players who have spent their entire career at Hofstra. It was fun to watch Wright-Foreman mime a rebounder while Gustys was introduced at Senior Day last weekend.

The trip to Charleston (sorry, “North Charleston,” it’s a neutral site, wink wink nudge nudge) turned into something John Hughes — the movie John Hughes, not the basketball John Hughes — would have scripted, but the 14-hour train trek necessitated by Friday’s wild and windy storm doesn’t seem to have fazed the Dutchmen. There even seems to be an unusual calmness surrounding Mihalich, who, like most coaches, typically grows grumpier as the season wears on but is bordering on buoyant lately.

Of course, on the first weekend of March, we see and perceive what we want to see and perceive, and the previous 1,300-plus words will be even more disposable than usual if the Dutchmen lose anytime between tonight, when they begin tournament play against sixth-seeded UNC Wilmington, and Tuesday.

But a season that has been in overdrive since it was in park offers more promise than usual that this will finally be the year the rollercoaster ends with a euphoric whoosh instead of a thud at breakneck speed. Let this finally be the season I tell Mets fans about this summer, instead of another one with which I commiserate.

I'll Be Quirky: End of the regular season

When is the CAA Tournament gonna start, Marge?

The Flying Dutchmen concluded the regular season in winning style eight days ago, when they outlasted Towson, 91-86, to earn their fourth straight victory and clinch the no. 3 seed in the CAA Tournament. The Dutchmen will begin pursuing their first CAA title tonight, when they face sixth-seeded UNC Wilmington at 8:30 (!!!). Before jumping into the Seahawks and the CAA Tournament, here’s a quick look back at the win over the Tigers as well as the regular season.

THE MOST RECENT GAME SUMMARIZED IN ONE PARAGRAPH
Justin Wright-Foreman (27 points) bounced back from a quiet-for-him game to lead five players in double figures for the Dutchmen, who opened the second half on an 11-2 run and withstood a late rally by Towson. The Tigers got within two points with four minutes left before the Dutchmen scored on nine of their final 10 possessions. Desure Buie was 6-for-6 from the line down the stretch for the Dutchmen, who finished the game by hitting 11 of their final 16 free throws. Eli Pemberton and Rokas Gustys had 15 points apiece while Buie and Jalen Ray had 11 points each. Gustys added eight rebounds.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Towson 2/24)
3: Justin Wright-Foreman
2: Rokas Gustys
1: Eli Pemberton

SEASON STANDINGS
Justin Wright-Foreman 71
Rokas Gustys 43
Eli Pemberton 37
Desure Buie 10
Jalen Ray 9
Joel Angus 4
Kenny Wormley 3
Stafford Trueheart 1
Hunter Sabety 1

HONOR ROLL
Justin Wright-Foreman continued to join some pretty select company Friday, when he was named the CAA’s Player of the Year. Wright-Foreman is the fourth Hofstra player to win the award, following in the footsteps of Loren Stokes (2006-07), Charles Jenkins (2009-10 and 2010-11) and Juan’ya Green (2015-16). The four player of the year awards for Hofstra are the most for any CAA program since the 2001-02 season. Wright-Foreman earned second-team All-CAA honors last season.

In addition, Rokas Gustys earned second-team All-CAA honors while Jalen Ray was named to the all-rookie team. The All-CAA designation is the second for Gustys, who was named to the first team in 2015-16, while Ray is the second straight Hofstra freshman to be selected to the all-rookie team. Eli Pemberton made it last year. 

FINISHING FLOURISH
The Dutchmen ended the regular season with a four-game winning streak. It is the fifth time in the CAA era (2001-present) and the seventh time in the Defiantly Dutch era (1993-present) that the Dutchmen have entered the conference tournament with a winning streak of at least four games.

2015-16: Six games
2009-10: Six games***
2004-05: Four games***
2004-05: Six games
2000-01: 15 games
1999-2000: Four games

***Includes a Bracket Buster game (shudder)

FUN FEBRUARY
The Dutchmen and Joe Mihalich continued to live up to their track records by going 6-2 in February. Since joining the CAA in 2001-02, the Dutchmen are 82-59 (.582) in regular season games played on or after Feb. 1. In addition, Mihalich is 106-57 (.650) as a head coach in regular season games played on or after Feb. 1.

FUN FINALE
The Dutchmen and Joe Mihalich also continued to thrive in home finales, i.e. Senior Day. With last Saturday’s win, the Dutchmen improved to 21-4 in home finales in the DD era while Mihalich improved to 17-3 in home finales as a head coach.

FIFTY-POINT HALVES
The 50-point second half last Saturday marked the sixth time this season the Dutchmen have scored at least 50 points in a half. The Dutchmen have achieved the feat in just five games (they scored at least 50 points in both halves against Molloy on Nov. 30). Since Joe Mihalich took over as head coach in 2013, the Dutchmen have scored 50 points in a half 21 times and are 17-3 in games in which they have at least one 50-point half.

59 (2H vs. Molloy 11/16/15, 96-64 W)
57 (2H vs. Coppin State 12/10/14, 105-64 W)
56 (2H vs. Drexel 2/17/18, 88-76 W)
56 (2H vs. Molloy, 11/30/17, 107-72 W)
55 (2H vs. Monmouth, 12/6/17, 85-84 W)
55 (2H vs. W&M 2/23/17, 96-82 W)
53 (2H vs. W&M 1/24/16, 91-63 W)
52 (2H vs. SBU, 12/13/16, 96-58 W)
52 (2H vs. Appalachian State 12/6/15, 86-80 W)
52 (2H vs. St. Bonaventure 11/28/15, 89-83 W)
52 (1H vs. Jacksonville 11/14/14, 94-61 W)
51 (1H vs. Molloy, 11/30/17, 107-72 W)
51 (2H vs. FAU, 12/3/16, 88-80 W)
51 (2H vs. Canisius 11/13/15, 96-85 W)
51 (2H vs. Vermont 3/18/15, 85-81 L CBI)
50 (2H vs. Towson 2/24/18, 91-86 W)
50 (1H vs. Auburn 11/19/17, 89-78 L)
50 (1H vs. W&M 1/2/17, 95-93 L OT)
50 (2H vs. Delaware 2/13/16, 77-66 W)
50 (2H vs. Towson 2/18/15, 87-82 W)
50 (1H vs. Fairleigh Dickinson 11/10/13, 80-58 W)

DOUBLE DIGIT JWF
Junior guard Justin Wright-Foreman scored at least 10 points last Saturday for the 52nd straight game, the second-longest streak by a Hofstra player since 1989-90 (as far back as my records go, at least at home). The only player with a longer streak in the last 29 seasons is Charles Jenkins, who ended his career by scoring in double figures in his final 58 games for the Dutchmen. In addition, Wright-Foreman’s streak is the fourth-longest active streak in Division I, per Hofstra SID Stephen Gorchov.

Charles Jenkins 58 straight games 12/12/09-3/15/11*** 
Justin Wright-Foreman: 52 straight games 12/11/16-present
Antoine Agudio 48 straight games 3/6/06-1/17/08****
Juan’ya Green: 43 straight games 11/14/14-12/9/15 
Loren Stokes 41 straight games 2/20/06-3/14/07*** 
Loren Stokes: 34 straight games 1/14/04-1/31/05

***streak ended with the end of the player’s Hofstra career
****Agudio had three DNPs during his streak

FLYING TO FOURTEEN
With his 27 points last Saturday, Justin Wright-Foreman jumped from 16th to 14th place on Hofstra’s all-time scoring list. Wright-Foreman surged past Dave Bell and Barry White (no, not that one) and enters tonight 19 points away from moving past Ken Rood into 13th place.

13.) Ken Rood 1,368 (1973-77)
14.) JUSTIN WRIGHT-FOREMAN 1,350 (2015-present)
15.) Barry White 1,344 (1966-69)
16.) Dave Bell 1,330 (1969-72)

THE CLIMB RESUMES
Justin Wright-Foreman gained at least one spot on Hofstra’s all-time scoring list last Saturday for the 12th time in the 15 games he’s played since joining the 1,000-point club on Jan. 7. Here is his ranking following each game:

Elon (Jan. 7): 35th place
Towson (Jan. 12): 33rd place
Drexel (Jan. 14): 32nd place
Delaware (Jan. 19): 30th place
Charleston (Jan. 21): 29th place
Northeastern (Jan. 26): 26th place
Delaware (Jan. 28): 25th place
UNCW (Feb. 1): 22nd place
Charleston (Feb. 3): T19th place
Elon (Feb. 8): 18th place
UNCW (Feb. 10): 18th place
William & Mary (Feb. 15): 18th place
Drexel (Feb. 17): 16th place
James Madison (Feb. 22): 16th place
Towson (Feb. 24): 14th place

NUMBER THREE IS NUMBER SIX
Justin Wright-Foreman also continued another climb last Saturday, when he vaulted into sixth place on Hofstra’s all-time single-season scoring list. Wright-Foreman (726 points) jumped past Charles Jenkins (junior season) and Speedy Claxton and enters tonight 21 points away from again moving past Jenkins (senior season) into fifth place.

5.) Charles Jenkins, 746 (2010-11)
6.) JUSTIN WRIGHT-FOREMAN, 726 (2017-18)
7.) Speedy Claxton, 706 (1999-2000)
8.) Charles Jenkins, 702 (2009-10)
9.) Bill Thieben, 696 (1955-56)
10.) Steve Nisenson, 681 (1964-65)

THE CLIMB RESUMES (PART TWO)
Rokas Gustys also gained ground on Hofstra’s all-time scoring list last Saturday when he scored 15 points to move past Ted Jackson into 25th place. Gustys enters tonight 15 points away from surging past the pair of ex-teammates, Brian Bernardi and Juan’ya Green, who are tied for 24th place.

24t.) Brian Bernardi 1,186 (2014-17)
24t.) Juan’ya Green 1,186 (2014-16)
25.) ROKAS GUSTYS 1,172 (2014-present)
26.) Ted Jackson 1,159 (1958-61)

NEXT UP: THE ADMIRAL
Rokas Gustys’ recent rebounding pace slowed a bit again last Saturday, when he pulled down a merely human eight rebounds against Towson. Gustys, whose 1,295 rebounds are the most by a Hofstra player in the Division I era and the second-most in school history behind only Bill Thieben (1,837), is now 20 rebounds away from surpassing Hall of Famer David Robinson (1,314 rebounds for Navy from 1983-87) as the leading rebounder in CAA history.

At his current season average of 12.1 rebounds per game, Gustys would need to play two more games to move past Robinson. The Dutchmen, of course, are only scheduled to play one more game — tonight’s CAA Tournament opener against UNC Wilmington — which means they will need to win to allow Gustys to break the record at his present pace. However, Gustys has recorded at least 20 rebounds in 11 games, including three this season.

HUNTER ON TARGET
Senior Hunter Sabety, who drew his first start of the season on Senior Day, celebrated the occasion by going a perfect 3-for-3 from the field against Towson. It marked the sixth time this season and the eighth time in 62 career games he’s been perfect from the field (minimum three attempts). 

2/24/18: 3-3 vs. Towson
1/13/18: 4-4 vs. Drexel
1/5/18: 4-4 vs. James Madison
12/22/17: 3-3 vs. Villanova
12/12/17: 4-4 vs. SUNY-Stony Brook
11/10/17: 3-3 vs. Army West Point
1/14/17: 4-4 vs. UNC Wilmington
1/7/17: 3-3 vs. Charleston

THE 1-2 PUNCH AT THE 5
Hunter Sabety and Rokas Gustys each managed to improve their field goal percentages last Saturday — no small feat considering where they started the game. Sabety enhanced his chances of becoming the first player in the DD era to shoot better than 70 percent from the field while Gustys (6-for-7) moved further up the top 10 list. Sabety and Gustys have registered four of the 11 60-percent shooting seasons by a Hofstra player in the DD ear. 

HUNTER SABETY 2017-18 (51/71, 71.8%)
HUNTER SABETY 2016-17 (49/71, 69%)
Moussa Kone 2014-15 (97/144, 67.4%)
Lars Grubler 2002-03 (36/54, 66.7%)
ROKAS GUSTYS 2015-16 (192/291, 66%)
Roberto Gittens 2000-01 (123/187, 65.8%)
ROKAS GUSTYS 2017-18 (136/215, 63.3%)
Adrian Uter 2004-05 (77/122, 63.1%)
Moussa Kone 2011-12 (43/70, 61.4%)
Greg Springfield 2000-01 (70/115, 60.9%)
Wendell Gibson 2003-04 (102/168, 60.7%)

PEMBERTON’S PACE
Sophomore guard Eli Pemberton continued to keep some pretty good company last Saturday, when he scored 15 points against Towson. Pemberton has 472 points in 26 games this season and 869 points through 60 games in two seasons, a pace that compares favorably with the first 60 games played by the four most recent members of Hofstra’s 2,000-point club: Charles Jenkins, Antoine Agudio, Loren Stokes and Speedy Claxton. Here are their point totals through their 60th game with the Flying Dutchmen:

Charles Jenkins 1,038 
Antoine Agudio 960
Speedy Claxton 940
Loren Stokes 927

THE FRESHMEN 100
With his 11 points last Saturday, Jalen Ray moved into 10th place on the Hofstra freshman scoring list in the CAA era. Ray, who moved past Nathaniel Lester, enters tonight 29 points away from moving past Carlos Rivera into ninth place. Stafford Trueheart, who scored two points last Saturday, one game after he became the 21st Hofstra freshman in the CAA era to score at least 100 points. Trueheart enters tonight five points shy of surging past Woody Souffrant into 19th place.

This marks the first time since the 2009-10 season, when Chaz Williams and Halil Kanacevic each scored more than 100 points, that multiple Hofstra freshman have broken the 100-point mark. Let’s hope the similarities stop there, shall we?

1.) Antoine Agudio, 452 (2004-05)
2.) Charles Jenkins, 436 (2007-08)
3.) Kenny Adeleke, 433 (2001-02)
4.) Eli Pemberton, 397 (2016-17)
5.) Loren Stokes, 374 (2003-04)
6.) Chaz Williams, 325 (2009-10)
7.) Jamall Robinson, 312 (2013-14)
8.) Halil Kanacevic, 294 (2009-10)
9.) Carlos Rivera, 226 (2003-04)
10.) JALEN RAY, 198 (2017-18)
11.) Nathaniel Lester, 189 (2007-08)
12.) Shemiye McLendon, 178 (2010-11)
13.) Wendell Gibson, 153 (2001-02)
14.) Jordan Allen, 152 (2012-13)
15.) Chris Jenkins, 151 (2013-14)
16.) Rokas Gustys, 140 (2014-15)
17.) Mike Radziejewski, 138 (2001-02)
18.) Aurimas Kieza, 126 (2002-03)
19.) Woody Souffrant, 110 (2001-02)
20.) STAFFORD TRUEHEART, 106 (2017-18)
21.) Moussa Kone, 100 (2011-12)