Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bits and Bytes: Senior Day

It's Senior Day. Make sure to show up to support those who wear the Blue...umm, on the road, at least.

If everything that has to go right today and tonight for the Flying Dutchmen goes right and the Dutchmen are residing in fourth place in the CAA by 10 p.m., it won’t really matter that the first-round bye was clinched while the players were scattered around campus for the evening and three or four thousands fans were nowhere near Hofstra Arena.

But still: Clinching a bye in such a fashion would feel a little anticlimactic—especially for a program that needs all the momentum it can generate with a mostly uninterested public.

Can you imagine the scene at the Arena this afternoon if the Dutchmen were in position to clinch a bye with a win on Senior Day over the last-place team in the conference? It would have been the most charged regular season atmosphere since the game against George Mason three years ago. Some of the students who are rooting for the Dutchmen with a renewed sense of urgency might have even spilled on the court if the Dutchmen won, which would be a reaction as cool as it would be inappropriate.

But, of course, there is no bye to be won against UNC-Wilmington. The two games that will determine the Dutchmen’s fate—if they beat the Seahawks; a loss guarantees the six seed for the Dutchmen—don’t tip off until 6 p.m. (Old Dominion at Northeastern) and 7 p.m. (Drexel at William & Mary).

That means the drama will be in watching the scoreboard to see if ODU and William & Mary can pull off the upsets—the former would be far less surprising than the latter—and catapult the Dutchmen to fourth. And let’s face it: It takes an especially sadistic, devoted person to sit at home on a Saturday night and hit refresh on the CAA scoreboard.

There won’t be much drama—at least hanging on the outcome of the game—at the Arena. Along those lines, I’ll bet you the loss Wednesday came at the cost of at least 500 walk-ups—and maybe closer to 1,000. Long Islanders love to jump on the bandwagon. Now? Not so much.

All that said, as neat as it would be to see the Dutchmen clinch a bye at home, I tend to agree with the posters on the CAA Zone: Even with the necessary caveats about playing on Friday—every team that’s won the CAA since the conference first expanded in 2001-02 has done so with the benefit of a first-round bye—falling to six might be better than jumping to fourth.

A first-round game against the 11 seed (probably William & Mary) should be winnable. And creating some momentum heading into the quarterfinals would be valuable for a Dutchmen team prone to self-destructive slow starts.

If the Dutchmen finish fourth, the fifth seed—Drexel or Old Dominion—will be a particularly dangerous one. The Dragons didn’t trail for a second in two wins against the Dutchmen this season while the Monarchs’ only loss in the last nine games was at Hofstra Feb. 10.

My guess is Drexel beats William & Mary, which guarantees the Dutchmen the six seed no matter how they fare earlier in the afternoon. Either way, if you’re a Dutchmen fan (and you probably are, if you’re here), root for Old Dominion to beat Northeastern in Boston and for George Mason (grrr) to beat Towson. That drops Northeastern to the three seed, and all you can ask for in this tournament is a true neutral site game in the quarterfinals against an opponent you’ve beaten once this season.

Of course, trying to predict this stuff is foolish, and the fact that so much has to go the Dutchmen’s way probably means it will. In which case, I’ll be here Monday telling you how awesome it was that the Dutchmen managed to finish fourth and how it’s a sign that they’re a charmed team heading into the tournament.

For all the Hofstra seeding permutations, check out the WRHU blog. And for the rest of the seeding permutations in the CAA, check out Litos, who is probably cackling in a straitjacket after crunching numbers and tiebreaker possibilities all week.


If you’re going to the game today, make sure to get there good and early—like by 3:40, which is when Senior Day festivities start. Hey, that’s what happens when you’ve got six seniors.

I’ve always been a sucker for Senior Day. I’m a nostalgic fool to start with, always wondering where the time has gone and possessing a selective memory when it comes to the good ol’ days while pessimistically wondering about the future, so to see players who have matured from wide-eyed newcomers to grizzled veterans in what feels like a blink of an eye makes me a bit melancholy.

Seeing a montage of the seniors to the tune of Tina Turner’s “The Best” always makes the hairs on my arm stand at attention. And the poignancy of honoring players who are almost surely in the sunset of their competitive days should resonate with anyone who has ever been on a team at any level (even someone like me, who sucked at track). So get there early and give Mike Davis-Saab, Dane Johnson, Greg Johnson, Zygis Sestakos, Darren Townes and Arminas Urbutis the reception they deserve.


The sheer quantity of seniors makes for some delicate lineup decisions for Tom Pecora. Six seniors not only means you can expect to see Charles Jenkins come off the bench for the first (and almost surely last) time in his career but that one of the honorees won’t get to start. Who draws the short straw?

Co-captain Davis-Saab will get a start to acknowledge his leadership and selflessness. Sestakos and Urbutis might be playing in front of family for the first time at Hofstra, so they’re in.

Greg Johnson has started the most of any senior this year, which would seemingly make him a candidate to take one for the team. But a lineup without him and Jenkins leaves the Dutchmen with no one resembling a point guard for a few minutes. So assume he’s in there, which leaves Townes and Dane Johnson battling for the last spot.

There’s no obvious tiebreaker here: Both are from New York, so presumably neither has a family member coming a great distance to see their son/brother/etc. Both are JUCO transfers, so there’s no rewarding a four-year member of the program with one final home start. The decision might be easier if Townes is still sick, but all things being equal, he’s provided more—of the tangible and intangible variety—over the last month than Johnson, who has proven more effective recently in short spurts.

Lingering injuries to Urbutis and Greg Johnson could also play a role in Pecora’s decision-making, but I’m going with the Davis-Saab/Sestakos/Urbutis/G. Johnson/Townes lineup. Though I reserve the right to change my mind and not tell anyone about it until just after 4 p.m.


And hey: Make sure to stay in your seat at halftime, when Rich Laurel’s no. 21 is retired, though I have no idea if Laurel, who coaches in Belgium, will be in attendance for the festivities.

Check out this thread at the CAA Zone for some very cool recollections of Laurel, who was a lethal scorer on the Dutchmen’s back-to-back NCAA Tournament teams in 1976 and 1977. And check out the awesome, resplendently ‘70s picture of Laurel from a story about him at the Hofstra athletics site. Man. I wish I was a teenager in the ‘70s. What I wouldn’t have done to wear a headband, knee-high socks and waist-high shorts, all while strutting to the Bee Gees. Oh wait. Substitute “Poison” for “Bee Gees” and that’s me at the Y 20 years ago. Never mind.


I interrupt this blog to offer my apologies for the sporadic posting this week. It’s been an exhausting few weeks at DDHQ and it was tougher than I anticipated to post with an out-of-state trip in the middle of the week. The batteries are recharged and the hope is to reward your patience by being all over the tournament—past and present—next week. And, fingers crossed, through the weekend and into the next week.


All that and no prediction/preview yet. Only three of the Dutchmen’s eight home CAA games have been determined by more than five points, and none have been determined by more than 10 points. But I think the Dutchmen win comfortably today, even against an opponent they edged at the buzzer in Wilmington exactly a month ago. Senior Day should provide a boost, the Dutchmen should be doubly hungry after the lopsided loss to Georgia State and their height advantage will be too much for the scrappy but undersized Seahawks to overcome.

Jenkins reaches double digits in assists on his 20th birthday (c’mon, Lions Den, serenade the guy), Sestakos remains red-hot from outside and leads the seniors in scoring and David Vallins steals the show with his first career points in the final minute. Whatever happens, see you there. I’ll be the guy yelling for Norman Richardson’s no. 21 to be retired along with Laurel’s.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Georgia State 76, Hofstra 55 (Or: Teams that shoot more than 60 percent from the field for a half win 100 percent of the time)

These Panthers must have gotten ahold of Brian Fantana's cologne.

This happens ALL THE TIME. And by ALL THE TIME, I mean it happened just about every damn week of the NFL season during my last two years at Hofstra. I’d sit there, poring over my fantasy football lineup for days and days and days (as for that science homework…ehh, I’ll catch up later, what’s the worst that could happen?) before submitting it.

Then I’d pore over the lineup some more, pondering all sorts of statistical minutiae and all sorts of what-if scenarios, and I’d convince myself to change my lineup. And what would happen, without fail? Scott Mitchell, banished to my bench, would throw four TDs while Jeff George threw for 87 yards and four picks…and I’d lose by like three points.

After that happened a whole lot, I said no more and decided that my first instinct is the one I always pursue. So the lineup I submit is the lineup I play, unless something stupid happens, like, oh, I don’t know, an idiot wide receiver shooting himself in the leg with his own gun. But c’mon. That would NEVER happen.

The point of all this is I should have left well enough alone and stuck with my original instinct about Wednesday night’s game against Georgia State. Even before the Panthers started—wait for it!!!—roaring, this game seemed like a potential trap for a hot Dutchmen squad.

But then I got a little goofy, and probably let my moderate amount of blog bias seep in, and I started envisioning this as a statement game for the Dutchmen as they continued to round into form for the CAA Tournament.

And my first instinct was the right one, even if this was a statement game. Georgia State 76, Hofstra 55 was the Dutchmen saying “Our coach is right to trademark the term ‘bipolar basketball.’”

On one hand, this loss shouldn’t be so surprising, even if the margin of defeat was jarring. A midweek trip to the southernmost outpost in the CAA is a dangerous one. There’s nobody hotter in the league than the Panthers, who, as Litos notes, are officially the team that could really turn the tournament upside down next week. Plus, it was Senior Day in Atlanta and the home team is always a little more enthused for that.

The loss also served as reminder of the relative youth of the Dutchmen. Charles Jenkins led the Dutchmen with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting, but he didn’t get untracked until the second half (he was just 1-of-6 from the field and committed two turnovers in the first half). Nathaniel Lester, who entered the game averaging 12.9 points and 5.6 rebounds in his previous nine games, finished with no points and two boards. Greg Washington had nine points and three rebounds, but picked up four fouls in 24 minutes.

The struggles of the sophomores were particularly noticeable on a team that didn’t come close to fielding its optimal roster. Darren Townes was left on campus to battle the flu bug, robbing the Dutchmen of some valuable intensity and fire. Greg Johnson and Arminas Urbutis started despite battling shoulder and hip woes, respectively, while Miklos Szabo was working off the rust in his first game since breaking his forearm against Northeastern Jan. 17.

And I’m not sure a fully loaded Dutchman squad—or anyone at all, for that matter—could have beaten the Panthers Wednesday, when they made seven of 11 3-pointers in the first half and shot 62 percent overall in the first 20 minutes. Even the stingiest team in the league is helpless when the other guys can’t miss. Gotta chalk it up as one of those nights and a blip on the radar.

But still…a blip on the radar squawks louder in late February than in late December, especially when it comes after the Dutchmen had scrambled into position to earn one of the first-round byes.

And maybe it’s related to the unpredictability of youth, but the Dutchmen seem particularly prone to “one of those nights.” This latest lopsided loss doesn’t go into the books as the Dutchmen’s fifth wire-to-wire loss of the conference season, thanks to the 4-2 lead they enjoyed 2:23 into the game. But it’s a reminder that this 19-win team, for all the toughness it displays in close and late situations, is remarkably susceptible to getting blown out of the building before the first media timeout. That’s not the most encouraging feeling knowing it’ll take three—and more likely four—wins in as many days in hostile territory to reach the NCAA Tournament.

Stewing over such a thorough loss and what could have been—thanks to Drexel’s loss to Northeastern Wednesday, a win over Georgia State would have allowed the Dutchmen to clinch the no. 4 seed by beating UNC-Wilmington—does the Dutchmen no good. All they can do now is win Saturday, hope for the best in the evening games…and hope the bipolarity is gone for good, at least for this season.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Georgia (State) on my mind

Why do I get the idea that anyone who called Ty Cobb the "Georgia Peach" got the living hell beaten out of him?

Every single trend and every single evaluation of the statistics suggests tonight’s Flying Dutchmen-Georgia State game will go down to the final minute, if not the final possession. The Dutchmen have played seven CAA games and 14 games overall that have been decided by five points or less. Georgia State has played five CAA games and 10 overall—including its last three—that have been decided by five points or less.

The Dutchmen and Panthers are red-hot—Hofstra’s five-game win streak is the longest active run in the CAA while Georgia State’s three-game streak ties it for second with Old Dominion—who have played their way back from the abyss multiple times. The Dutchmen, of course, opened the CAA season 2-4 and were 6-6 after consecutive losses to VCU and Mason earlier this month. The Panthers, who welcomed four transfers prior to the season, are finally developing some chemistry after going 0-9 against Division I competition prior to the New Year and enduring in-conference losing streaks of four games and three games.

The Dutchmen have played 16 CAA games, nine of which have been within six points at the 7:30 mark of the second half. From the file of “not really relevant but interesting to me nonetheless” is this: In four of the last five years, the Dutchmen’s penultimate (man I love that word) regular season game has been decided by six points or less.

And I wrote two weeks ago that this game—the furthest road trip of the season, against a sub-.500 team and in the middle of the week to boot—scared the bejeezus out of me.

So why can’t I shake the feeling the Dutchmen are going to win big tonight? This is nothing more than a hunch. I’m not trying to end up as bulletin board fodder for fans or anybody else.

But to watch the Dutchmen the last three weeks is to see a team that’s bursting with positive momentum and clicking on all cylinders. They are the hottest team in the league (the Dutchmen and ODU are both 7-2 in their last nine games, but the Dutchmen beat ODU so they get the tiebreaker…my blog, my tiebreakers for standings that aren’t really standings).

There are sophomores emerging as studs and seniors making contributions many of us were unsure they could provide. Everyone’s chipping in, there’s a different difference-maker every day (seriously, if I didn’t see it myself, I never would have believed Life of Corny’s eight-minute burst to end the win over Fairfield) and Charles Jenkins no longer looks as if he’s bearing the weight of the Dutchmen on his shoulders, even when he does shoot 4-of-17 from the field.

There are skeptics in the crowd who are enjoying the ride but not quite ready to think big. That’s understandable, given not only the Dutchmen’s bipolar nature but also the unpredictability of the CAA. As Litos pointed out yesterday, finishing fourth may not be much of a reward at all and is a seed fraught with peril. Multiple very good teams are going to be trucking home on I-95 by late Saturday night. Why fully invest if we could be shaking our fists at the sky 10 days from now?

You know what the skeptics need to even begin entertaining the thought of dreaming big? A big win—the type that makes everyone sit up and go holy smokes, these guys are for real and really dangerous. That win happens tonight.

And if it doesn’t, and if Nathaniel Lester becomes the latest player to hit a game-winning shot in the final minute—or, gasp, the Panthers win—don’t blame me. The conference is bipolar. It was like that when I got here. Either way, enjoy and tune in the old school way—radio only for the last time this season. No telecast or webcast available tonight, but I’m sure Mike Francesa will find a way to watch it anyway.


To try and figure out the various permutations and the other teams who can help out the Dutchmen over the final two games is an exercise for the sadistic…or the guys at WRHU (the link in the upper right is coming, gents, I promise). Great work here.

One more kick-in-the-teeth possibility for the Dutchmen: They could win out and still finish fifth if Drexel and ODU win out to finish 12-6 and Mason splits its final two games to finish 12-6. In that scenario, Mason would finish second (4-1 record against the other 12-6 teams), ODU third (2-2 against the 12-6ers), Drexel fourth (2-3 against the 12-6ers) and Hofstra fifth (1-3 against the 12-6ers).

I think that’s possible, anyway.

What you should root for, I think, is for Hofstra to win out (duh) and ODU to win out and Northeastern to beat Drexel tonight. That would give the Dutchmen the no. 3 seed by virtue of their 2-1 record against NU and ODU. Of course, the 3 vs. 6 game, almost surely against Drexel or James Madison, will be no walk in the park, but three sounds better than four and could come in handy if the Dutchmen need to hope for an NIT bid.


Lastly, how’s this for clutch? The Dutchmen have hit 18 3-pointers in their last three games. Eight have given the Dutchmen the lead and two have tied the score. The Dutchmen have taken the lead for good on a 3-pointer in each of the last three games.

In addition, Zygis Sestakos’ first 3-pointer Saturday was the Dutchmen’s first basket and his second one ended a 9-0 run by Fairfield. Sestakos’ fourth 3-pointer ended Fairfield’s 10-2 run to open the second half and pulled the Dutchmen within 33-32 while Cornelius Vines’ second 3-pointer ended a 7-0 run by the Stags and pulled the Dutchmen within 51-48.

More fun with numbers: The Dutchmen hit four 3-pointers vs. Delaware, six 3-pointers vs. James Madison, eight 3-pointers vs. Fairfield. That’s one trend I’ll use as evidence of big things to come tonight for the Dutchmen.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Same as it ever was…

Did you know David Byrne was singing about the home crowds at Flying Dutchmen games? It's true. You can look it up.

After the post-game handshake Saturday, Tom Pecora turned and looked at the Hofstra fans that had traveled up I-95 (or across Long Island Sound) to watch the Flying Dutchmen beat Fairfield. He waved at a boisterous student section and offered a smile that was as appreciative as it was bemused, as if he was wondering: This is awesome, but what is this? And why can’t we sustain it?

The Lion’s Den has responded to some pointed criticism with an impressive effort—home and away—over the last couple weeks, and interest should continue to build with the Dutchmen surging and threatening to make the CAA Tournament very interesting. But my guess is that this bounce is unsustainable, and that some year soon, another Chronicle writer (or Twitterer, perhaps) will bemoan the performance of the student section, because such complaints are a tradition that pre-date Pecora and will probably dog his successor, whether that guy arrives four weeks, four years or four Olympiads from now.

The problem is as generational as it is annual. This is New York, where people are more interested in the bright lights and the big names and not so much in mid-majors faced with decidedly uphill climbs to the NCAA Tournament. Eleven pro sports teams dominate the landscape (OK, fine…10 teams and the Islanders). Collegiately, there’s more interest in the non-local Big East teams (UConn, Syracuse) and the annual four-day orgy of world-famous hoops factories beating up on one another at the tournament at Madison Square Garden than there is in annual also-rans St. John’s and Rutgers.

Few adults are going gaga over Hofstra basketball, so that means few kids grow up watching the Flying Dutchmen and counting down the days until they can attend games on campus. Kids want to go away to school and craft their own identity during the college years. I could have gone to UConn or followed in my parents’ footsteps by going to Central Connecticut, but that would have been boring and I surely would have seen multiple people per day who remembered my gawky/geeky phase and how it lasted from, oh, first thru 12th grade.

In fact, of the Long Island natives in the Defiantly Dutch Army, no one rooted for Hofstra as a kid nor planned to attend the school. Ironically, in that it’s not ironic at all, Sully Ray began his collegiate career at UConn (does that mean, in an alternate universe, we’d be fighting each other for T-shirts at Gampel Pavillion?). Loyal Reader John started out at Oneonta. The wife and Loyal Reader Rob wanted to go to Syracuse and Virginia, respectively, but Hofstra made them offers they could not refuse.

The kids who do end up here, by and large, are still paying much more attention to the players they watch on TV than the players with whom they share a classroom. And it takes a lot to overcome that built-in disinterest. It was this way in 1995, when I wondered why nobody was coming out to watch a playoff-bound football team. It was that way in 2000-01, when the Dutchmen made their second straight NCAA Tournament yet drew an average crowd of 3,331 during the first full season at the sparkling Hofstra Arena.

It was that way in 2003-04, when I wrote a story about the Hofstra-Stony Brook rivalry and Pecora said he and the university were “…focusing on really getting the freshmen involved and creating a little bit of tradition here [in] getting people over to the game and making [it] part of the overall experience.”

A fine idea, no doubt about it, but one that has to be executed every single year. Easier said than done, as evidenced by the fact Hofstra is one win away from its fourth 20-win season in five years yet is still trying to lure fans to the Arena.

The average attendance the last five seasons:

2009: 2,604
2008: 2,740
2007: 3,623
2006: 3,023
2005: 2,352

The 2005 team started 9-0, was viewed as a viable contender for the CAA crown most of the season and was a safe bet to at least earn an NIT bid if it didn’t win the CAA, yet it drew fewer than 2,000 fans to four of its first five post-Intersession home games. The 2006 team had to draw at least 3,300 fans to each of its final six games (including two NIT contests) to reach an average of 3,000.

The boost from the Dutchmen making national headlines in 2005-06 lasted all of one season as we all learned again there is no margin for error for the program with the fan base. One sub-.500 season and it’s back to square one.

The Dutchmen aren’t helped by the built-in hurdles of the schedule, either. Let’s face it, November and December are filled with non-conference games lacking pizzazz—not exactly the enticement needed to lure students over to the Arena and on to the bandwagon.

Then there’s the world’s longest Intersession, which kills any momentum the Dutchmen had prior to Christmas—especially when students return to school with the Dutchmen seemingly destined for the middle of the CAA pack. There’s only a handful of home games in February, and half of those are usually played in the middle of the week. The Dutchmen have drawn more than 3,000 fans three times this year, all on Saturdays.

That said, February brings to students the same sense of urgency it brings the players—particularly the seniors on both sides: The feeling of oh my goodness, I only have ‘X’ games left to yell and cheer and paint my face and enjoy the best part of being a college student.

Only ‘X’ games left to have a chance at being part of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, which is the single greatest communal experience in sports. Only the diehards get worked up about the I-AA playoffs or the lacrosse tournament. I know, because back in the day I bragged to my friends and co-workers back home about Hofstra’s excellent football and lacrosse teams, and all I got in return were blank stares.

But EVERYONE knows about the men’s basketball tournament, and making it gives a school instant name recognition and swells its graduates with—wait for it!!!—pride. To be a student at a mid-major that goes dancing is a gift as random as it is serendipitous. There’s a finite amount of chances to experience that, even if you’re on the extended warranty plan like I was, and nothing will ever top it—for students and players alike.

“Winning a championship in the NBA was fantastic, but I don’t think a lot of people realize how special it was to get to the NCAA Tournament from a mid-major,” Speedy Claxton said after his number was retired Jan. 31. “When you go to a big school, they go to a tournament every year, so it’s really not a big deal. But when you get that automatic bid from a mid-major, it’s tremendous.

“That was the ultimate, ultimate experience. I don’t think anything will ever replace that.”

The size of the Dutchmen rooting contingent Saturday at the Arena at Harbor Yard—which basically served as a bonus home game for Hofstra—was an indicator today’s students are beginning to understand exactly what Claxton meant. The win over Fairfield probably helped build momentum and interest heading into this Saturday’s home finale, and I’ll wager the crowd there is easily the biggest of the season (especially if the Dutchmen stay hot tonight against Georgia State).

Hopefully there are fans in the student section wondering what took them so long to climb aboard. And if history is any indication—and trust me, in this case it is—there will be a bunch of students wondering the same thing at this time next year

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Litos was right (well, sorta...)

Apparently I'm allowed to use this photo once per month.

Sorry for the sporadic posting the last few days, we're out of state and it's a bit hectic. Got a couple posts today, including a Georgia State preview that will hopefully be worth the wait. Stop by this afternoon for those posts. As Beavis would say: Thank you drive through.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Hofstra 61, Fairfield 56 (Or: Not yet the 19th hole)

There won't be any serving boozehounds and answering crank callers for Tom long as the Flying Dutchmen keep playing like they did Saturday.

Some of us reacted to the Flying Dutchmen’s double overtime win over James Madison Wednesday by waxing poetic about how it was one of the best games we’d ever seen. Tom Pecora, on the other hand, pondered a career change.

Pecora’s dissatisfaction with a thrilling win wasn’t entirely Fellowship of the Miserable stuff. While the flirtation with triple digits can easily be explained by the two overtimes—Jon Wagner points out in the above link that the score at the end of regulation was both in the Pecora-preferred 60s as well as remarkably close to the final score in the Dutchmen’s win over Madison in January—the 10 point-heavy extra minutes wouldn’t have been necessary had the Dutchmen, who led Madison by eight points with 7:30 to play, been able to finish off the Dukes.

Of course, in their defense, it’s not like the Dutchmen are experienced holding a multi-possession lead so late in the game. The eight-point lead over the Dukes at the 7:30 mark of the second half was the Dutchmen’s second-largest of the conference season and their fifth-largest overall.

So the Dutchmen had Fairfield right where they wanted ‘em (note: I realize this is a grievous grammatical error. “Them” is plural and “Fairfield” is singular, hence, I should use “it” when referring to Fairfield. But “…had Fairfield right where they wanted it” sounds terrible, so I’m going to make the English teachers in the audience—hi honey!—cringe.) down one with 7:30 to play Saturday in Bridgeport.

And the Dutchmen really had the Stags (there, that’s better) where they wanted them down six with 4:19 to play before surging back for a 61-56 win in front of a pro-Hofstra crowd (more on that in a bit; the Arena at Harbor Yard is a really lame and inappropriate place for a mid-major team to call home) that keeps Pecora off the links and away from slinging Duffs, at least for another day.

Following the post-game handshake, Pecora loosened his tie as he walked off the court, as if to symbolize the tense nature of the victory, but his smile seemed to be equal parts relief and recognition. As in: This is more like it.

This was, in many ways, a textbook Dutchmen win: Start slow, get hot to get back in the game at the end of the first half (or, in this case, take the lead with a 13-2 run over the final 6:11), struggle for an extended stretch in the second half and then close the game with a victorious flurry.

The Dutchmen also outrebounded the Stags 35-24. Down In Front Johnson displayed his typical uncertainty when he got the ball beneath the Dutchmen basket, but he pulled down six boards, as many as he had in his previous three games combined and his most in a single game since Jan. 10 against VCU.

The impressive success from 3-point land—the Dutchmen shot a season-best 47 percent (8-of-17) from beyond the arc—isn’t usually part of the plan. Charles Jenkins wasn’t among the hot shooters: He was just 4-of-17 from the field, including 1-of-6 on 3-pointers, but his nine assists marked the third straight game he’s led the Dutchmen in that category.

And the 16-5 game-ending run wasn’t exactly a flurry. How’s this for irony that isn’t really ironic: The Dutchmen entered Saturday 11-0 when shooting at least 40 percent from the field. They made two of their final five shots Saturday and ended the game shooting…that’s right: Exactly 40 percent. Whoa.

If you think that’s freaky, how about this: The difference between victory and defeat Saturday was Life of Corny, who emerged from indefinite hiatus to score all 13 of his points—on 3-of-4 shooting from 3-point land and 4-of-4 shooting from the free throw line—in the final 8:18. He scored 10 points in the final 4:19 and accounted for both Dutchmen field goals—the first of which cut the deficit to three and the second of which snapped a tie and gave the Dutchmen the lead for good with under a minute to play—in that span.

LOC’s Saturday Night Special came after he went 0-for-7 from deep and scored six points total over the 34 minutes he played in the Dutchmen’s previous three games. In addition, he entered the game having hit just two of his 20 3-point attempts this month.

If you think his confidence was shaken at all by the extended drought as well as his benching, well, then you haven’t watched any of LOC this year, have you? After his tie-breaking 3-pointer, Vines sported his usual wide, mouthpiece-is-taking-up-his-entire-mouth grin and raised three fingers on each hand. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t informing us all that he’d just nailed more 3-pointers in eight minutes than he had all month.

He kept yapping and gyrating as Fairfield called a timeout, forcing Down In Front Johnson to corral him by the sideline in an attempt to settle him down. And that brazen defiance is why LOC is our favorite show (that isn’t really a show).

Pecora should get some credit for Vines’ ability to contribute after a month in mothballs. It’s no coincidence the Dutchmen have turned their season around (again) since Vines and Tony Dennison saw their playing time cut drastically following the loss to George Mason in which they shot a combined 7-of-34.

But Vines is a guy who can find his stroke in a single shot, so even though he’s played 13 or fewer minutes in four straight games, it’s enough time to determine if he can help the Dutchmen. Dennison doesn’t have the same potential to provide instant offense (not to mention instant entertainment) and is 0-for-4 from the field in just 18 minutes over the last five games.

The return of LOC, as well as 12 points from the still sizzling Jive Talkin’ Sestakos (so nicknamed because Pecora called him a matinee idol, a la a Bee Gee, during his appearance with Mike Francesa last Thursday…seriously, I can’t make that up), was vital because the new 1-2 punch of Jenkins and Nathaniel Lester had its (their?) quietest game since emerging against Towson. Jenkins scored 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting while Lester scored seven points, only the second time in the last 11 games he has not reached double digits.

Still, that Jenkins (who had a team-high nine assists, the third straight game in which he’s led the Dutchmen) and Lester (whose six rebounds marked the fourth straight game in which he’s at least shared the team lead) were able to contribute even when they weren’t filling the basket is an encouraging sign.

Not as encouraging, of course, as the Dutchmen exiting a Bracket Buster (I have been told that the two words are actually one, alas, I will continue to make it two) that won’t actually help anyone bust a bracket as healthy as they were entering it. The win and sustained momentum is a nice bonus. That’s five in a row and 19 overall, and a season that appeared ready to unravel just after the new year instead possesses plenty of promise heading into the final two games of the CAA slate. More on those possibilities later in the week.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

F.U., Bracket Busters!

How awesomely appropriate is it that the Flying Dutchmen’s opponent in today’s Bracket Buster has the acronym F.U.? The Bracket Buster concept has spent four years alternately annoying the Dutchmen and extending the longest finger on the human hand in their general direction.

The matchup against Fairfield University (snicker snicker snort snort) today marks three straight years the Dutchmen have neither been on the NCAA bubble nor played anyone remotely interesting. It was abundantly clear well before the Dutchmen edged NCAA-bound Holy Cross 64-63 in 2007 that only a CAA Tournament title would put the Dutchmen in the Big Dance. Last year, the Dutchmen blew out fellow sub-.500 also-ran Iona, 81-63.

The first year Hofstra was selected to participate in the BB was the one in which the Dutchmen needed to record the type of win that could, you know, ACTUALLY GIVE THEM A CHANCE TO MAKE THE NCAA TOURNAMENT AND BUST THAT FREAKING BRACKET.

Instead, Hofstra gets Siena, which went 15-13, while George Mason gets fellow mid-major power Wichita State. Hmm. Funny how that works.

Hofstra ended up beating Siena, 76-62, in a game most memorable for the wife of Siena coach Fran McCaffrey getting booted from the building for unleashing the seven words you cannot say on television to an official. Seriously, you’ve never seen anything funnier than that: Coach’s wife walks to the bathroom just to scream at the ref. Awesome.

Of course, three years later, Siena is one of the handful of mid-majors with a legitimate shot at an at-large bid and, of course, is not playing Hofstra. So I guess that means Fairfield will host Northern Iowa in 2012 while Hofstra travels to Central Connecticut State for a thrilling reunion of former ECC foes.

As Litos noted earlier this week at Basketball State, the Bracket Buster idea has long outlived its usefulness. It’s a watered-down product that exists largely for ESPN to further Spread The Brand and serves as a giant annoyance for 98 percent of the teams in the field. Who really wants to play a non-conference game during the late-season push for valuable conference tournament seeding?

But of course, when one or two mid-majors get the at-large bid, ESPN will remind us, on multiple platforms, that said mid-majors really built their case with a Bracket Buster victory. Really, it’s a lot like politics. Pound us over the head with the idea that something is universally helpful when, in fact, it only helps a sliver of the population.

The Fairfield game promises to be anticlimactic on an epic level. Like having a front row seat to a four-hour show by Bruce Springsteen one night and hitting a bar for a fourth-rate cover band called Darlington County the next. Or, perhaps more accurately, like having your first slow dance at the eighth grade class dance only to have her tell you the next day she likes you, but only as a friend. I don’t want to talk about it.

All that said, this matchup probably screws Hofstra the least. The school didn’t have to fork over a ton of cash to fly the team to this game. An overnight trip two hours (or six hours, depending on the traffic) up I-95 isn’t going to screw with the bottom line.

The Dutchmen could certainly use a game that doesn’t count after the epic double-overtime win over James Madison Wednesday. Tom Pecora told Mike Francesa (who is so awesome he apparently managed to watch on television a game that wasn’t even televised Wednesday, more on that tomorrow or the next day) Thursday that he won’t play Greg Washington (flu) or Greg Johnson (shoulder) if they aren’t 100 percent.

And the red-hot Dutchmen should be able to find a way to extend their winning streak to five against a Fairfield team that started well but is falling apart. The Stags’ top three scorers are out for the year due to injury or disciplinary reasons and a fourth double-digit scorer, Greg Nero, sat out their most recent game due to a back injury.

Plus, you know, it’s fairly convenient for me, and that’s all that counts. Playing Fairfield reminds me of the days when Fairfield was the only team in Connecticut capable of making the NCAA Tournament as well as the days when Fairfield was the most popular college among teenaged boys in the Nutmeg State. That’s right. The coolest kids strutted around school wearing F.U. hats. Damned if I can find an image, though. (Alas, F.U. eventually proved to be no match for Oregon State)

Fairfield plays its home games The Arena at Harbor Yard, right off the Bridgeport ferry I use so often to travel to the birthplace of Defiantly Dutch. Only a sadist would risk driving I-95 on a Saturday, so we’ll take a nice ride out to Port Jefferson and make the five-minute walk to the Arena.

Hopefully we’ll see you there. I’ll be the guy yelling for Fairfield to rehire Mitch Buonaguro…whose old gigs, by the way, include stints as an assistant to Rollie Massimino. Sound familiar?

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hofstra 99, James Madison 96 (Or: It’s times like these, time and time again…)

They were two throwaway lines, the first of which I actually threw away, that would prove to summarize one of the very best games ever played at Hofstra University.

I didn’t like how long the original title to Wednesday’s blog looked, so after a few hours, I returned to the admin and ditched the sentence “I don’t want to oversell it, judge for yourselves.” I figured what was left was more than enough to indicate the urgency and potential impact of the game.

As it turned out, even my intentionally overwrought headline did not oversell what happened Wednesday, when the Flying Dutchmen outlasted James Madison, 99-96, in a double overtime classic that was equal parts exhilarating, exhausting and euphoric. And, oh yeah, lifted the red-hot Dutchmen into a tie for fourth place in the CAA with two games left in the season.

The second throwaway line was the first sentence of the post, an easy way to get right to the point and an excuse to link to a favorite song. It ended up also serving as the appropriate soundtrack for a game that had the potential to be great and ended up being so much more than that, more for what it represented than for what transpired.

As compelling as the game was, it won’t be our Woodstock. Today, tomorrow, next week, next year—this won’t be one of those games in which 10,000 people swear they crammed into an Arena that can barely hold half that. It’ll remain the little secret of the 2,816 who were in attendance, all of whom will smile at the recollections and remember how this game reminded us why we fall in love with sports in the first place.

Sports unfairly test and exploit our devotion, especially once we hit adulthood and find ourselves wondering why we invest so much time in something in which we have no control and why we keep coming back even though the people who run the teams and play the games so often treat us like we’re idiots.

Quite frankly, we keep coming back because the world sucks and we want a diversion, no matter how foolish it may seem. We keep coming back because we remember how pure the games once seemed and we hope to recapture that feeling.

We keep coming back for the occasional night like Wednesday, when the routine becomes transcendent.

Madison was missing Andrey Semenov due to illness and lost starters Devon Moore and Dazzmond Thornton to injuries within a three-minute span in the second half, yet it made up an eight-point deficit in the final 7:49 of regulation despite making no substitutions and scored 51 points overall in the final 17:30. All 96 of its points were scored by six players. Juwann James, who has missed multiple games this season due to a heart condition, shrugged off a pair of collisions in the paint and played 36 minutes off the bench.

Hofstra was missing Greg Washington due to illness, lost Greg Johnson to a shoulder injury on the first possession of the second half and saw three post players (Arminas Urbutis, Dane Johnson and Darren Townes) foul out during the overtimes. Yet the Dutchmen, susceptible to Wall Street-sized shooting slumps, shot a season-best 53.8 percent, scored 32 points in the overtimes (they’ve scored 32 points or fewer in a half 29 times this year) and finished one point shy of the program’s first 100-point effort since Feb. 29, 1992, one day after Charles Jenkins turned three years old.

Many a season has been ruined when the future of a program becomes the present at the expense of the guys whose careers are mostly in the rear-view mirror, but the precocious duo of Jenkins and Nathaniel Lester were complemented by seniors Zygis Sestakos and Darren Townes, each of whom has been out of the rotation for extended periods of time this year. Jenkins had one of the all-time box scores (32 points, a career-best 13 assists, seven rebounds and a team-best four steals) and Lester (22 points and 11 rebounds) had a double-double two minutes into the second half.

Townes shattered his previous season highs with 15 points (on 6-of-7 shooting) in 39 minutes while Sestakos hit three 3-pointers in the second overtime, the first two of which tied the score and the last of which gave the Dutchmen the lead for good. Sestakos set career highs with 19 points in 43 minutes. He played 33 minutes and scored 12 points over a 13-game span from Dec. 20 through Jan. 31.

In the end, the last of the 195 points was the first for the Dutchmen’s Mike Davis-Saab, who sat the entire second half and the first 9:27 of overtime before he was pressed into duty by the mass DQs. And the last of the 124 shots was taken by Madison’s Scooter Renkin, who sat for the first 49 minutes and 57.5 seconds before he hoisted his first 3-point attempt of the season.

Renkin’s shot fell harmlessly to the floor, finally ending a game as pure as it was deceptively simple. It was one of 101 Division I games Wednesday and one of the dozens of off-the-BCS-path contests played in obscurity without a broadcast crew in the joint and only a handful of reporters typing away on press row.

It was no frills: Just two well-coached teams brimming with cohesion, chemistry and resiliency, playing themselves to exhaustion and beyond and rewarding everyone in the building. In times like these, who can ask for anything more?

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I know you loved the old February home games, but this one is going to be better than 10 Super Bowls!

Poochie the rockin' dog is excited for tonight's game, too.

Times like these are when I like being a graduate of a non-BCS school. Because if Hofstra was in one of The Big Six, ESPN would have the hype machine in overdrive going into tonight’s game against James Madison.

The game would be the featured attraction on Holy Freaking Crap Wednesday. Bobby Knight would be on campus for ESPN’s pre-game show, whoring himself out on multiple levels by working for the media he loathes so much and volunteering that he’d sure like the chance to coach Hofstra if Tom Pecora leaves for greener pastures (more on that sometime soon).

We’d see Charles Jenkins’ game-winning basket against James Madison from 25 days ago replayed 4,000,000 times (that’s OK, actually, here it is again). We’d see a montage of clips—set to symphonic music, or Metallica, or whatever artist has sold its soul in exchange for a few seconds of airtime on Sunday nights, seriously, how many times did a new AC/DC song accompany highlights last fall?—that is intended to make us believe the two teams hate each other.

We’d be subjected to footage from sanitized, nobody-says-anything-worth-a-damn press conferences in which Hofstra players downplay the Dutchmen’s winning streak against Madison and in which Madison players try to avoid falling into the trap of giving the money quote that ESPN can replay 486 times in 24 hours (you know, something like “We want revenge, we want to eat their children’s children”).

Rachel Nichols and Ed Werder would report from Hempstead and Harrisonburg and breathlessly tell us absolutely nothing of importance. “Tom Pecora told me today he likes to eat pasta at the team meal. He ordered six trays of baked ziti from a local Italian restaurant, because five trays isn’t enough and seven trays is too many. He hopes Hofstra hits at least six treys tonight. Back to you, John.”

Instead, ESPN thankfully leaves us alone (until this weekend, when we’re all subjected to Bracketbusters—another once-good idea ruined by oversaturation, oh boy, Hartford’s playing Marist!) and leaves the hyperbole and exaggeration to hard-working, anonymous bloggers like me.

And let me make this abundantly clear: Considering the tournament seeding implications, this is THE BIGGEST REGULAR SEASON HOME GAME THE DUTCHMEN HAVE EVER PLAYED UNDER PECORA!!!! And it’s the biggest one since the Dutchmen beat Maine on Feb. 20, 2000 to clinch the regular season crown and the right to host the America East championship game.

The game against nationally ranked George Mason Feb. 23, 2006 is probably the most notable late-season game the Dutchmen have played at the Arena, but there wasn’t much at stake in that one from a seeding perspective (and we all know what the 77-66 win did to boost Hofstra’s at-large candidacy). The Dutchmen were 12-4 entering that contest and needed one win in their final two games to clinch no worse than the no. 3 seed.

This year’s situation is far more volatile. As of this posting, the Dutchmen can still technically earn the no. 1 seed if they win out and anarchy breaks out in the rest of the conference…or finish eighth if they lose out, Old Dominion wins at least one more game and Georgia State wins out.

The reality is the Dutchmen will almost certainly finish somewhere in the middle—literally. Even if all hell breaks loose, it’ll be tough for the Dutchmen to finish above fourth thanks to their inability to win the tiebreaker against any of the current top four teams.

Any hope the Dutchmen have of finishing fourth and earning the final first-round bye almost surely requires a victory tonight. A win over Madison would catapult them into a tie for fourth with the loser of Mason-Drexel and ODU, if the latter beats UNC-Wilmington, as well as give them the tiebreaker over Madison. The Dutchmen would then need to win their final two conference games (against Georgia State and UNC-Wilmington) while the Mason/Drexel loser and ODU lose once more apiece. (Though the Dutchmen would win a three-way tiebreaker with Mason and ODU by virtue of their 1-1 record against the two teams; ODU is 1-2 against Hofstra and Mason)

The various five seed permutations all involve winning tonight, too. Winning out will assure the Dutchmen no worse than the no. 5 seed, since at 12-6 they’d have the tiebreaker over Madison (2-0) and ODU (1-0). In addition, beating Madison and going 2-1 in their final three games, coupled with one ODU loss, would assure the Dutchmen finish no lower than fifth.

A loss, though, and the Dutchmen will be no better than tied for sixth and likely alone in seventh. The CAA has been wacky this year, but hoping for a team to make up two or three spots in the standings over the final two games is probably too much to ask even in this league—especially since the Dutchmen would not have the tiebreaker over Mason, Drexel or Madison, the latter of which has beaten Mason and Drexel and would therefore have the advantage over Hofstra.

Of course, depending on how things shake out over the final 10 days of the season, finishing sixth or seventh might look more inviting than fourth or fifth. But those permutations are for another time. Let’s not let the goofy fun provided by tiebreaker possibilities overshadow what should be a nail-biter tonight.

Seeding impact aside, this is another statement game for the Dutchmen—another chance to build momentum and confidence as well as make a case for themselves as one of the most dangerous teams in the league heading into the tournament. It’ll be interesting to see if the Dutchmen can come out with the same type of intensity they displayed from the opening tap against Old Dominion. And I’ve got a hunch Charles Jenkins and Nathaniel Lester will need to be complemented by an eight- or 10-point effort from one of the Dutchmen’s senior post players: Darren Townes, Arminas Urbutis or Dane Johnson.

The resurgence of Madison—which has locked up its first .500 or better finish in the league since 1999-2000—under first-year coach Matt Brady has been remarkable, especially given the multiple extended absences of star Juwann James. Madison’s 10-man rotation doesn’t feature a player taller than 6-foot-8, but its resourceful and efficient offense—four players are averaging in double figures for the Dukes, who rank third in the CAA in field goal percentage and tied for first in 3-point field goal percentage—makes for a compelling strength vs. strength matchup. (Check out the JMU game preview from the Daily-News Record’s Dustin Dopirak here)

The law of averages suggests Madison, which has lost nine in a row to Hofstra, is due. But the law of averages also suggests Lester is due to hit a last-minute game-winner. You can guess on which one I’m betting

The magic numbers are 70 and 40. The Dukes are 3-7 when scoring less than 70 points and 14-3 when scoring more than 70 points. And the Dutchmen are 10-0 when shooting at least 40 percent from the field. Under 70 plus over 40 likely equals some legitimate talk about the four by this time tomorrow.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Of nines and fours and fives and the various possibilities therein

I bet world-class poker player Gabe Kotter could turn 4-5-9 into a winning hand. Or at least teach the Sweathogs how to turn it into a winning hand in a Very Special Episode of Welcome Back Kotter.

My favorite little quirk about Hofstra can be seen on a banner hanging from the Arena, on a plaque displayed in the trophy case in the lobby and in the fine print of the results section of the media guide. Said banner, plaque and fine print commemorate the Flying Dutchmen’s 1992-93 East Coast Conference championship.

But wait, you’re saying to yourself, wasn’t Hofstra an independent that season, playing a murderous cross-country schedule in which it racked up miles as well as defeats?

Why yes, yes it was. Yet there’s a paragraph in the 1993-94 media guide titled “ECC Champs…Again” in which it is explained that “…Hofstra was still an allied member of the three-team East Coast Conference” the previous season and that the Flying Dutchmen were awarded the 1992-93 ECC championship plaque by virtue of their two-game sweep of Central Connecticut State and Central’s split with Buffalo. And for 15 years now, Hofstra has been consistent in honoring that team, which was 7-18 against teams not named CCSU.

Anyway, the mind was wandering after the Dutchmen’s 69-59 win over fellow former ECC foe Delaware and I got to wondering who would be this year’s ECC champion. Alas, there will be no banner, plaque or fine print honoring Hofstra's 2008-09 ECC champs after Drexel locked up the mythical ECC title by beating Towson Sunday afternoon. Congrats, Dragons. You get neither a banner nor a plaque nor fine print beyond this.

2008-09 ECC STANDINGS (that aren't really standings)
Drexel 5-1
Hofstra 4-2
Towson 1-4
Delaware 1-4

At some point soon I may in fact try to figure out the mythical ECC champions dating all the way back to 1994-95. Because, you know, I am weird like that.

Back to reality and mythical championships which actually sort of matter, or are at least sort of relevant. The win over Delaware Saturday improved the Dutchmen to 7-2 in their last nine conference games, which ties them for the best mark in that span with—and now it all ties together very nicely!—ECC champion Drexel. Here are the standings over the last nine games:

Hofstra 7-2
Drexel 7-2
ODU 6-3
VCU 6-3
JMU 5-4
Northeastern 5-4
Delaware 4-5
George Mason 4-5
Georgia State 4-5
Towson 2-7
W&M 2-7
UNCW 2-7

The fun with stats is you can massage them any way you like and make the sample size as small or large as you wish to make your point. For example: Hofstra is 3-0 in its last three games, which places it all alone atop the CAA over that span!

But nine games is half a conference season, and with the regular season finish line approaching, a team’s record in its last nine games is pretty telling about where it is and what to expect from it in the tournament. Of course, the fine print here reads something like you’d read in a stockbroker’s tout sheet: Recent performance is not necessarily an indicator of future performance. If this season has taught us anything, it’s that coaches are right in pounding us over the head about how foolish and counterproductive it is to look any further than one game ahead.

With three league games still to play, there’s plenty of time for some more change and momentum shifts to occur in a conference that is truly the most unpredictable and hotly contested in the land. Seven-and-two could easily turn into a decidedly less imposing 8-4 or 7-5.

Still, remember these standings and chew on the probability that at least two—and, conceivably, three—of the hottest teams in the league come Feb. 28 are going to play the following Friday, which means there’s a pretty good chance that a team that surges into the tournament is going to go home before the semifinals.

As for Hofstra and Drexel, they could still finish anywhere from first to seventh. But Drexel has been fourth for weeks and a win by the Flying Dutchmen over James Madison Wednesday will go a long way towards assuring them no worse than the fifth seed. More on those possibilities tomorrow.

For now, ponder how the two most successful teams in the league over the final two-thirds of the conference season could end up playing not for the championship Monday but in the quarterfinals Saturday—in a game that could also serve as an NIT elimination game and the Mythical ECC Championship Game. Imagine how stressful that would be for those of us with a rooting interest…and how it would be the perfect symbol of a CAA season defined by equal parts competitiveness and unpredictability.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Hofstra 69, Delaware 59 (Or: We’re streaking!)

In lieu of a terrible Presidents Day pun about Greg Washington, I continue with the Old School motif and offer you a picture of Sully Ray, who is trying to explain to his wife how he had to unwind from a day of Home Depot and Bed, Bath and Beyond and celebrate the Flying Dutchmen's third straight win by going streaking behind Hofstra.

First things first: Do not attempt this at home. The wife and I had long planned to spend the weekend in Delaware (a sign you’ve married way up: your wife thinks two days in New-ARK centered around a two-hour basketball game is a great way to spend Valentine’s Day weekend), but Stuff kept Happening and it appeared as if we’d be home watching the game on TV.

Until 12:45 p.m., when I said screw it (or a similar two-word phrase) to Stuff Happening and decided we were going to the game. The wife, as she is wont to do, employed logic and said that’s impossible, it takes more than three hours to get down there and we’ll never make it. I said, much like a certain United States President, yes we can…with the caveat that if the Belt Parkway is a parking lot, we can always turn around.

Much heming and hawing followed until my wife walked into the living room sporting her 2001 America East tournament fleece. That’s her Golden Boy. She was done screwing around. It was time to go.

We left at 1:15. Two hours and 40 minutes of channeling Sammy Hagar circa 1984 later, we pulled into the Bob parking lot and had a panicked, horrified thought: What if they’re sold out?

They weren’t, but there was a guy in front of us channeling his Stewie Griffin and milking his purchase for all it was worth (for the love of God, guy, there were nearly 2,000 empty seats, you could have bought a ticket and sat just about anywhere you wanted) and ruining my plan to make it for opening tip. We asked for tickets behind the Hofstra bench, got Row D, figured that was pretty good and promptly learned it was a lot better than that.

Row D was actually three rows behind the Hofstra bench. Close enough to not only see Life With Corny spit into the wastebasket behind his chair, but for the wife to actually say “Eww. Gross.” Close enough to hear Charles Jenkins clap his hands at half-court after he hit a tie-breaking 3-pointer early in the second half. Close enough so that when Dane Johnson stood up, we couldn’t see a thing. (I’d hate to be that guy in a movie theatre. I think his new nickname is Down In Front) Close enough to not only read Tom Pecora’s lips, but actually hear every single word too. This just in: I think Quentin Tarantino would have enjoyed himself. (There’s absolutely no suitable-for-work scene of his to link, sorry) Or, as the wife said: “He’s more entertaining than I thought.”

All that and the Flying Dutchmen won their third in a row, 69-59. That’s right. Decided to go on the spur of the moment, made it there roughly on time, got great seats, Dutchmen win, post-game dinner at Cracker Barrel just inside the Jersey border, home by 11:30 to watch another crappy Saturday Night Live. Sometimes, life is like an episode of a 1980s TV show in which everything unfolds perfectly (except neither one of us was called out of the stands to play, maybe next time).

It wasn’t a thing of beauty—when is it?—but the victory Saturday was in some ways as encouraging as the win over Old Dominion last Tuesday. The Dutchmen didn’t lead wire to wire in this one—they trailed by seven early in the second half and led by only one before a 15-6 run over the final 3:14 made the final score look a lot less competitive than it was—and shot a miserable 2-for-17 over the final 10 minutes of the first half.

Yet even when the Dutchmen were misfiring—and they missed their first three shots from the field as well as their first two free throw attempts in the second half—there was an unusual calmness missing from other games in which the Dutchmen endured extended funks. It never felt, at least from three rows behind the visiting bench, that Hofstra was in danger of losing the game.

The easy explanation is it’s easy to be optimistic with the Dutchmen playing a sub-.500 team, but the Blue Hens have beaten three of the CAA’s top four teams at home. The truth is the Dutchmen are following the Pecora blueprint and playing better and with more confidence and cohesion in February (Hofstra is 35-10 in regular season games after Feb. 1 since the 2003-04 season) and utilizing the formula they’ll need to employ in order to make the CAA Tournament interesting.

Even when the Dutchmen struggle offensively, the defense is stingy enough to keep the game manageable. Delaware ended the first half on a 16-7 run but took just 10 shots in that span.

And lately, the Dutchmen have minimized their mistakes (they tied a season-low with 10 turnovers Saturday) and have been on the right side of the fine line between having a lot of scoring options and just enough guys to regularly rely upon. Jenkins and Nathaniel Lester have scored in double figures in each of the last three wins and have been joined by a different player in double digits each time—Arminas Urbutis against Towson, Darren Townes against Old Dominion and Greg Washington against Delaware.

Most importantly, a mix of sophomores and seniors have gelled and taken the pressure off the suddenly calm and steady Charles Jenkins. Sophomores Jenkins, Lester and Washington combined for 48 points Saturday and scored 35 of the Dutchmen’s 47 points in the second half, including the last 19.

Lester finished with 12 points and led the Dutchmen with nine boards, the team-best fifth time since Jan. 1 he’s led or shared the team lead in rebounding. The real revelation Saturday was Washington, who left me searching for appropriate President’s Day puns (all of which sucked and none of which will be foisted upon you) after he single-handedly sparked the late run that put the game away.

Washington, who had four fouls, re-entered the game with 3:34 left and the Dutchmen up one and scored the Dutchmen’s next three field goals—including two on short jumpers in the paint against Marc Egerson, who was also playing with four fouls and could do little to defend a player on whom he was giving up four inches—while also adding a steal that led to a Lester free throw.

Washington finished 5-of-6 from the field and drained three of the mid-range jumpers that used to make Pecora and the rest of us cringe. Not bad for 13 minutes.

Seniors Down In Front, Greg Johnson, Arminas Urbutis, Zygis Sestakos and Darren Townes combined for the other 21 points and generally played like Pecora has wanted them to play for weeks.

Down In Front, who seemed to be on the verge of irrelevancy, displayed some long-lost aggressiveness and fluidity down low in draining a pair of key hoops. Greg Johnson hit two early baskets and committed only one turnover in 25 minutes while Sestakos continued his resurgence by draining three 3-pointers, all of which put the Dutchmen ahead. Townes didn’t score and had as many fouls (three) as rebounds, but Urbutis contributed eight rebounds to offset a 1-of-7 night from the field.

Jenkins, meanwhile, capped off his best three-game stretch of the conference season by leading all players with 26 points and eight assists. He shot 9-of-18 overall and 5-of-7 in the second half, when he drained three buckets that either tied the game or put the Dutchmen ahead.

Jenkins has scored 65 points on 21-of-46 shooting in his last three games, during which he’s committed a Carlos Rivera-esque five turnovers in 92 minutes. If he keeps that up, and if he keeps getting a lot of help from a lot of different players, the Dutchmen will be one of the toughest outs in less than three weeks—even if the sheer number of tough outs ensures that multiple very good teams are going to go home after one or two games. More on that, sort of, in a bit.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ode to the UDee days

Sully Ray, above, makes many new friends at the Stone Balloon circa many a March weekend between 1996 and 2000.

The Flying Dutchmen play Delaware in a pivotal late-season conference game today, and the fact that there aren’t at least two carloads of us headed to New-ARK is a two-pronged reminder—beyond, you know, the birth certificates, graying temples (not me, though!) and growing paunch around the midsections (OK that’s me)—that we’re not in our early 20s anymore.

Back then, it was easy to jump in the car and cruise down I-95 for a weekend of socializing and watching an increasingly competitive rivalry—one with an authentic big brother-little brother dynamic.

Everyone gets married and everyone begins to make decisions with the head and not the heart. I spent the first three months of 2001 traveling everywhere to see the Flying Dutchmen—even North Carolina for the NCAA Tournament—even though I was unemployed and living on my maxed out credit cards. You know, if all of America followed my lead, the economy would fall apart.

Some lose interest in the fortunes of the alma mater. Some start families and spend their weekends toting their children to and fro. Some of those without children are consumed with buying some wallpaper and maybe some flooring at Home Depot and trying to figure out a way to fit in a trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond as well. I don’t know if Sully Ray, err, Frank will have enough time in the weekend.

We’re not young and foolish anymore. It’s no longer acceptable to funnel beers at the Stone Balloon and to streak naked through the streets of Newark (or, perhaps more accurately, take drunken trips to Dunkin’ Donuts and Cluck U.). And even if it was, the Stone Balloon and Cluck U. are long gone.

And sometimes Stuff Happens and makes it impossible to follow through on plans to get down there…like last Feb. 27, when Sully Ray and I planned to see Antoine Agudio break the Hofstra all-time scoring record, at least until Employer I Shall Never Mention Here (Probably) dropped the two-ton neutron bomb and unwittingly birthed this here blog.

The rivalry is different now, too. In the mid-to-late ‘90s, Delaware was everything Hofstra wanted to be. It was Delaware that recognized the sinking ship that was the East Coast Conference and bolted following the 1990-91 season for the North Atlantic Conference, where it won the championship and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in its first two seasons.

Midway through the decade, it was Delaware that hired a young, promising coach to revitalize the men’s basketball program and watched Mike Brey lead the Blue Hens to another pair of trips to the Big Dance before he landed the head job at Notre Dame.

In football, Delaware—with its multiple national championships and seemingly annual trips to the I-AA playoffs—was the standard by which Hofstra’s fledging I-AA program wanted to measure itself (even if Joe Gardi and Tubby Raymond had about as much use for each other as oil and water).

Like Hofstra, the Delaware campus was located in a market in which pro sports ruled. But Delaware’s success in football and basketball allowed it to carve a pretty good niche for itself in the Philadelphia/Baltimore area and to regularly play in front of near-capacity crowds at Delaware Stadium and the Bob Carpenter Center, which were two of the multiple sparkling facilities on and around the campus that helped Delaware emerge as the jewel program of the America East.

The biggest indicator of Delaware’s exalted ruler status occurred from 1996 through 2001, when the first three rounds of the men’s basketball tournaments were held at the Bob. Sure, it provided Delaware an inherent advantage—the Blue Hens made four straight finals from 1998 through 2001—but the flawless execution of the tournament made it tough to argue there was a better spot for it than the Bob.

But the rivalry has been dimmed somewhat by the CAA and the divergent directions taken by the basketball and football teams. Hofstra-Delaware is no longer the central rivalry in a southern-based conference whose men’s basketball tournament takes place in Richmond. Such placement unites Hofstra and Delaware fans in charging that the Virginia schools enjoy an unfair home court advantage. Isn’t it ironic?

Little brother has surely surpassed big brother in basketball. Jay Wright was hired a year before Brey and his rebuilding project at Hofstra took a bit longer, but Wright eventually followed in Brey’s footsteps by parlaying the Dutchmen’s back-to-back conference titles into a gig at Villanova. It seemed appropriate that the championship Dutchmen teams had to emerge from Newark—where anyone who played Hofstra was automatically the crowd favorite—and then beat Delaware in the title game.

Brey left for Notre Dame after the 1999-2000 season and was replaced by another former Duke assistant in David Henderson, who led the Blue Hens back to the A-East title game and to three straight .500 or better finishes in the CAA before the wheels fell off in his final two seasons. Wright was replaced by his assistant Tom Pecora, who may or may not be popular with the masses but, after opening his tenure with three straight losing seasons, has since led the Dutchmen to three NIT appearances and has this year’s squad in contention for another postseason berth.

Big brother continues to rule in football. The Flying Dutchmen became a regular playoff participant under Gardi, but it never quite got to the level enjoyed—on or off the field—by Delaware, which remained a roadblock for the duration of the Gardi Era. The Dutchmen’s first and most unlikely bid for a playoff berth in 1994 ended with the classic and unforgettable 41-41 tie at Delaware in the season finale. And Hofstra’s first two trips to the I-AA playoffs ended with first-round losses to the Blue Hens in Delaware.

The Dutchmen have won four or fewer games three times in the last six years. The Blue Hens lost eight games in 2008 for the first time in the program’s 117-year history. Even last year, Delaware drew more than 20,000 fans to each of its six home games, extending its streak of home games with at least 20,000 fans in attendance to 39. Hofstra didn’t draw 20,000 fans for the season (18,022 in five games).

Such passion is symbolic of the bond Delaware continues to enjoy with its fan base, one Hofstra can’t seem to match no matter how well its teams perform. The Arena turned into a ghost town again during last year’s 12-19 campaign, proving that all Hofstra has to do to keep fans turning out is go 26-7 and garner national headlines for getting screwed over every year.

Despite the meager crowds at the Arena, men’s basketball is the unquestioned engine of the Hofstra athletic program and the Hofstra-Delaware rivalry no longer gets the blood flowing up here. There are new rivals and new programs to emulate and, hopefully, one day surpass.

But maybe, with Delaware stirring—the Blue Hens shocked George Mason Thursday—and the Flying Dutchmen needing to win out to have a shot at a first-round bye, the two teams can turn back the clock for a couple hours this afternoon and play a game worthy of the late ‘90s. Maybe we’ll be there to see old school and new school meet…or maybe we’ll see it on MSG-Plus after spending hours at Bed, Bath & Beyond.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The bids are not always bigger in the other conferences

Sometimes, the attractive neighbors have deep, dark secrets best hidden.

I’ve always thought Newsday’s Steve Marcus gets a bad rap on the CAA Zone message boards, where his work is often mocked and scorned. I don’t know if it’s a kneejerk reaction to the Big Bad Mainstream Media or just a matter of a columnist continually pushing the wrong (or right) buttons. I do know that the belief that he’s got it out for Hofstra—or that he directs Newsday’s college coverage away from Hofstra—because he’s a Stony Brook grad is hilarious. Yeah, Newsday’s all over the Seawolves.

I have empathy for anyone who is shuffling desk chairs on the Titanic, especially someone like Marcus, who has been at Newsday for more than three decades and is on a beat that the newspaper barely even pretends to acknowledge anymore. Perhaps I’m remembering what I want to remember, but I remember weekly columns from Marcus during my college days. I didn’t always agree with the guy either, and my out-of-control ego believed he and the rest of the Newsday college staff based its Hofstra coverage on trying to beat The Chronicle, but those columns were good stuff.

That said, Marcus does tend to harp on the same issues. In the mid’90s, he was not shy in stating that nobody would care about Hofstra’s football team unless it made the leap to I-A—or failing that, at least played a I-AA schedule filled with the type of local rivals that made for full houses at Hofstra Stadium during the Division III days. This decade, he’s been steadfast in his belief that Hofstra made a mistake in thinking of its football team first in leaving the America East for the CAA following the 2000-01 season and that reaching the NCAA Tournament out of the CAA will be difficult in men’s hoops.

Marcus said as much again last week and, for at least the second time in 23 months, opined that Hofstra should try to move its athletic teams to the Atlantic-10. (Newsday’s archives are brutal, but I found, via the ProQuest archives at my library a March 7, 2007 column titled “At Hofstra, football throws hoops for a loss”)

Look, there’s no doubt that the move to the CAA was James Shuart’s going-away present to his beloved football program and that the current administration views scholarship football as a bad contract it can’t unload. With zero ties to the glory days of Hofstra football, the powers that be would love nothing more than to find a way to save $1.9 million in full rides (give or take a few six packs of soda at Dutch Treats) and either join the MAAC (oh wait a minute…) or turn football into a club sport.

But even if Hofstra could bolt to the A-10 in other sports without affecting its membership in CAA football—and only six of the 12 CAA football schools are full-time CAA members—there’s no guarantee that the highest-profile team on campus would benefit from what Marcus calls “…the logical move” to the A-10. And I’m awfully skeptical that the A-10 would be the upgrade—in terms of local and national perception—that Marcus believes.

Marcus writes A-10 “…opponents would pack the house, something Hofstra has not had with regularity since its last NCAA appearance.” There’s no arguing the recent leanness of crowds at the Arena (this Tuesday marks the two-year anniversary of not only the Dutchmen’s last home sellout but also the last time they drew at least 4,000 people), nor that Hofstra bolting for the A-10 and leaving behind storied rivals Delaware, Drexel and Towson would upset about three people: Me, the wife and Sully Ray.

But the common criticism of playing in the CAA—that the lack of history between Hofstra and the southern-based core of the conference makes it difficult for fans to get excited about conference play—would also apply in the A-10, which is neither entirely based along the Atlantic coast nor numbers only 10 teams.

Sure, there’s a natural local rivalry with Fordham and it’d be neat to rejoin a conference that features a trio of really old school ECC rivals in Temple, St. Joseph’s and LaSalle. But those are the only four schools the Dutchmen have faced more than five times. Do you think fans will breathlessly await games against UMass, Rhode Island, St. Louis, Duquesne, George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Dayton, Xavier, Richmond and Charlotte? Not so much.

When the Dutchmen moved to the CAA in 2000-01, it did so having never played five of its new rivals (and Old Dominion once) but with 184 games under its belt against Delaware, Drexel and Towson.

In addition, if you think the CAA’s unbalanced schedule is unfriendly to the fan, imagine the hand-wringing that goes on over in the A-10, which has two more teams than the CAA yet whose conference season is two games shorter. An A-10 team plays only three of its 13 league foes twice. In the CAA, a team plays seven of its 11 opponents twice.

Marcus also writes that Hofstra cannot assume it’ll receive regular bids as a member of the A-10 but that the conference “…has a much richer history of multiple bids.”

Historically, sure. The CAA has received multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament three times since it expanded to 64 teams. The A-10 has done so 12 times since 1993 alone. Massachusetts and St. Joseph’s spent the majority of the season as the nation’s top ranked team in 1995-96 and 2003-04, respectively. The CAA holds a 1-0 lead in Final Four appearances since 2000, but the A-10 holds a 4-1 lead in Elite Eight appearance since 2004 and has sent seven schools to the Tournament in that span compared to four for the CAA.

But in many ways, the events of even five seasons ago are ancient history. The continuing and hastening divide between the haves (the BCS conferences) and the have-nots (everyone else) means the CAA and the A-10 are in the same position and not only fighting for the same ever-dwindling number of at-large bids but also a respectable seeding for the winner of its automatic bid.

George Mason’s Final Four appearance only made the Selection Committee even more determined to keep Billy Packer happy by keeping Cinderella at home. In 2005, nine of the 34 at-large bids were awarded to non-BCS schools. That number dwindled to eight in 2006 and six apiece in 2007 and 2008.

The A-10 and the CAA have received the same number of at-large bids three times in the last four years: None in 2005 and one apiece in 2006 and 2007 (the A-10 received two at-large bids last year)

Don’t expect the A-10 to crash the Big Dance this year, either. With six teams ranked among Ken Pomeroy’s top 100—twice as many as the CAA—the A-10 is having an impressive season. Yet, and each have just two A-10 teams in their most recent tournament projections. and the latter two sites both have Dayton listed among the last four teams into the tournament (in all fairness, both pieces were posted before Dayton knocked off no. 14 Xavier last night) and none of the three labels an A-10 team as among its last four out or still under consideration

Most notably, the CAA champion’s seeding has been the same as or better than the A-10’s in each of the last four years. Old Dominion and George Washington were each 12 seeds in 2005, VCU and George Washington were each 11 seeds in 2007 and George Mason and Temple were each 12 seeds last year. In 2006, UNC-Wilmington was a nine seed while Xavier was a 14 seed.

If this sounds oddly familiar, it should. Eight years ago, similar figures had Marcus expressing uncertainty over the move from the America East to the CAA. Hofstra was a 13 seed in 2001 while CAA champion George Mason was a 14 seed.

Wrote Marcus Mar. 14, 2001: “The schools think the CAA will produce an at-large bid along with the automatic qualifier. But that is highly speculative.”

So, too, is the idea now that the Dutchmen would be better off in the A-10.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Two out of three ain’t bad, but it might not be enough to go fourth

Little known blog rule: You're allowed to use the same Meat Loaf photo three times per year.

The Flying Dutchmen did what they had to do Tuesday in order to have a shot at creating a four-way tie for the four seed this morning. Oh well, it was fun to think about. Thanks for nothing, Drexel. Booo. But The Maynor Rules…again.

Actually, the Flying Dutchmen’s chances of finishing in fourth place and earning the final first-round bye wouldn’t have been any more damaged had James Madison held on to upset VCU. (Though the top two teams in the CAA getting upset on the same night for the second week in a row—albeit this time by a pair of contenders instead of the cellar-dwellers—would have been a perfectly appropriate thing to occur in our favorite bipolar conference) The Dutchmen could have made up a JMU win last night by beating the Dukes next week to complete the season sweep.

But gaining two games on Drexel just got a lot tougher. The Dutchmen probably need to win out to have even a semi-decent shot at surging past the Dragons, who finish the season by hosting Towson, visiting George Mason, hosting Northeastern and visiting William & Mary. Drexel splitting those four certainly seems plausible, but as well as the Dutchmen play down the stretch under Tom Pecora (more on that tomorrow), are you willing to bet this unpredictable squad holds up its end of the bargain by going 4-0? Georgia State in the middle of the week worries me. Just saying.

Anyway, if the season ended today, the Dutchmen would be the five seed via the tiebreakers over fellow 8-6 teams ODU and JMU. Not bad for a team that was all alone in seventh and as close to eighth (taking into account tiebreakers) as it was fourth.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Hofstra 60, Old Dominion 51 (Or: Too high or too low, there ain’t no in between)

It's true. Long Island's most famous citizen had the 2008-09 Flying Dutchmen basketball team in mind when he wrote "I Go To Extremes" 20 years ago.

Imagine if there was a Hofstra fan out who was disgusted by the Flying Dutchmen’s latest dip and decided the sudden outage at the CAA Zone Friday was a sign to take a deep breath and neither read nor watch the Dutchmen—not even with the Dutchmen at home playing a televised game Saturday—until the boards were back.

Said Hofstra fan would have returned to us and the land of the obsessed Monday, and I wonder what he would have thought around 9 p.m. last night, after he watched the Flying Dutchmen defeat Old Dominion, 60-51. He’d probably feel like a guy who went to sleep with zombies ruling the world and woke up to see that everything was completely back to normal. You know, like my planned interpretative remake of my favorite “B” movie of all-time, Night of the Comet.

The Dutchmen, a week removed from a zombie-like performance against George Mason, made a far more favorable impression in their encore ESPNU appearance. A team prone to slow starts and ebbing confidence never trailed against ODU, which entered the game as the hottest team in the CAA. Considering the caliber of opponent and the importance of the game in the CAA standings, this was the most crisp, concise, complete and…umm…I can’t think of a synonym for satisfying that begins with a “c”…victory in a season filled with extremes.

Check out some of these stat lines: Nathaniel Lester (11 points, a season-high 10 rebounds). Charles Jenkins (15 points, eight rebounds, all defensive). Darren Townes (a season-high 10 points, seven rebounds and four blocks in a season-high 30 minutes). Greg Washington (four points, eight rebounds, three blocks and three steals in just 19 minutes).

Townes set the energetic tone on both sides of the ball by forcing a held ball following ODU’s first miss of the game, hitting the first basket of the game for the Dutchmen and celebrating it by racing down the court and pounding his chest. The Dutchmen never lost that momentum as they maintained a two-possession lead for the final 30 minutes. Old Dominion’s most sustained rallies were a pair of 5-0 spurts, both of which occurred in the first 13 minutes.

The Dutchmen limited Old Dominion to 27.5 percent shooting—the second-worst performance by a Dutchmen opponent this season behind Fordham (26.3 percent)—and impressively executed the defensive game plan by collapsing upon the Monarchs’ big men and either forcing them into bad shots under the basket or rejecting them entirely. The six Monarchs who stand at least 6-foot-5 shot a combined 31 percent (16-of-52). Gerald Lee scored 20 points, just under the 22 he averaged during ODU’s four-game winning streak, but he was just 7-of-19 shooting.

Seven players had at least one block for the Dutchmen, who finished with 13 blocks, one shy of the team record. Of the players who saw at least 10 minutes of action, only Zygis Sestakos didn’t record a block, but even he got a piece of an errant jumper by Lee early in the second half. In addition, the Dutchmen out-rebounded the Monarchs 49-38.

The Dutchmen didn’t produce a thing of beauty on offense: They shot 38.5 percent, just above their incoming average of 37.8 percent, but something is going right when they can win on a night in which Jenkins is just 5-of-15 from the field and Greg Johnson commits seven turnovers.
And that something was the type of scoring balance Tom Pecora has been seeking. Five players scored at least seven points, the first time that’s happened since before the New Year (six players scored at least seven points against New Hampshire Dec. 27).

Lester scored in double figures for the fifth time in six games and appears to have arrived as an offensive weapon, but if the re-emergence of Townes and/or Sestakos—who played through a 102-degree fever and shot 3-of-5 from long distance, including a 3-pointer he drained immediately after the Monarchs closed within four points for the only time in the second half—is legitimate, then the Dutchmen suddenly have the type of offense that can complement a stout defense.

They may also finally have an established rotation. Three days after nobody played 30 minutes, four guys logged at least 30 minutes. The Dutchmen are 5-2 with the starting lineup of Townes, Jenkins, Lester, Greg Johnson and Arminas Urbutis. Sestakos may be taking on the designated gunslinger role previously filled by Life With Corny (Vines was in uniform but didn’t play and seemed to be favoring his left ankle whenever he stood up). Washington continues to provide valuable relief down low and even Dane Johnson (10 minutes Tuesday, his most action in five games) contributed.

Versatile offense, stout defense, established rotation. Who are these guys and where have they been all year? More importantly, can they stick around for another month—especially if Northeastern and VCU beat Drexel and James Madison tonight to create a four-way tie for fourth place and give the Dutchmen a chance to shape their own destiny over the final four games of the regular season? Hang on. The ride may just be beginning.

Email Jerry at And join the Defiantly Dutch group at Facebook today!