Wednesday, January 7, 2009

In which I realize the history of Hofstra basketball goes back at least five years

Who knew, in 1998, that the first and oft-repeated line of this Third Eye Blind song was about Flying Dutchmen fans circa 2009?

As the song goes (not the one above...that'd be too predictable), I was wrong Tuesday when I wrote a Tom Pecora never had to rebuild a team’s wounded psyche on the fly. Actually, that’s not how the Social Distortion song goes at all. A California punk/blues rock band writing a song in 1996 about Tom Pecora rebuilding a team’s wounded psyche on the fly would just be weird.

Anyway, the Flying Dutchmen also skidded ashore after a red-hot start in 2004-05, when a team picked to finish seventh in the CAA took advantage of a lightweight non-conference schedule to begin the season 9-0—the program’s best start ever at the Division I level—but immediately thereafter endured a 1-5 stretch that included four straight conference losses.

That season’s slump and the current 1-4 skid that has followed an 8-1 start by a team picked to finish seventh in the CAA aren’t mirror images of one another. For one thing, this is much deeper: The Dutchmen have been outscored by 49 points in the losses and their point total has dwindled in each of the five games—from 81 to 64 to 62 to 56 to 50. In 2004-05, the Dutchmen were outscored by 28 points in the five losses and they scored at least 66 points in every game but one in the six-game stretch.

In addition, Hofstra has trailed wire-to-wire in its last two games, a “feat” not accomplished in any of the five previous seasons (the box scores at the Hofstra site go back to 2002-03).

But there are plenty of notable similarities. The 1-5 run four years ago began with the game that had long been identified as the biggest challenge on the OOC—an 80-75 loss to Syracuse. This one began with the 97-81 hammering by UMass, which was one of only two games on this year’s OOC against a school from a major conference.

The fourth loss in the 2004-05 stumble was a 70-58 defeat at the hands of VCU in which the Dutchmen made a key lineup change—senior Wendell Gibson, who was recovering from knee surgery, became a starter in place of Aurimas Kieza—set season-lows for points and assists (six) while committing a season-high 20 turnovers. Carlos Rivera and Antoine Agudio shot a combined 0-for-9 in the first half as the Dutchmen were limited to 18 points overall.

These Dutchmen suffered their fourth loss in five games against Northeastern Monday, when Tony Dennison was benched for the first time this season as Greg Johnson made his first start. The Dutchmen scored their fewest points and committed their most turnovers and missed the season low in assists by one. Charles Jenkins and Cornelius Vines shot a combined 1-for-6 during Hofstra’s 18-point first half.

This team has a lumbering senior center with injury-wracked knees in Dane Johnson. That team had Gibson. This team’s two best players are sophomores Jenkins and Greg Washington. That team’s three best players were sophomores Rivera and Loren Stokes and redshirt freshman Agudio. This team features a senior point guard in Johnson who has one more shot to live up to the high expectations bestowed upon him when he arrived on campus as a freshman—just like the 2004-05 team and Woody Souffrant.

And speaking of high expectations, this team has a trio of JUCO transfers who were projected to make an immediate impact in Dennison, Vines and Miklos Szabo. Four years ago, JUCO transfers Kenny Harris and Adrian Uter were touted as potentially valuable big men.

Here’s another similarity the Dutchmen hope to experience tonight when they host much-improved long-time rival Delaware: The 2004-05 team snapped its losing streak against the Blue Hens with an 80-66 win at the Arena.

And here’s another reminder to follow Michael Litos’ suggestion and step away from the ledge (says the guy who has written 2,000 mostly fretful words over the previous two days): The Dutchmen didn’t immediately turn their season around following the Delaware win and were 6-6 after 12 conference games that season, but they won their final six contests to earn a first-round bye and led top-seeded Old Dominion by 10 points in the second half of a conference semifinal before falling to the eventual champions. The Dutchmen earned a bid to the NIT, where they fell in the first round to St. Joseph’s to finish 21-9.

Of course, if they lose tonight and look as disjointed as they did Monday, feel free to re-enter panic mode. Then I’ll really begin to wonder if this is 1995-96 all over again. More on ’95-‘96, win or lose, tomorrow. In the meantime, Darren Townes is again the pick to click. And come back later today, when I may have something really interesting for you. How’s that for an enticement to make a return visit this afternoon?

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1 comment:

MLB1974 said...

They'd better pull this off. I do not pay good money to see Hofstra lose to Delaware!