Friday, February 26, 2010

Of Senior Day, streaks and the four for 10

Back in my day, Senior Day was called Completed Athletic Eligibility Day. And I played while tying an onion to my belt, which was the style of the time...

I was going to pick the Flying Dutchmen to win big against Georgia State tomorrow even before the snowstorm made getting here quite the hassle for the Panthers (the rumor earlier this afternoon was they would fly into Washington D.C. and then bus to Long Island if necessary) and even before crack basketball SID Jeremy Kniffin unearthed the factoid of the year regarding Hofstra and Senior Day.

According to Kniffin’s game notes, the Dutchmen have won their last 12 Senior Day games since a loss to Vermont on Feb. 25, 1996. I’m not saying that was a long time ago, but Cornelius Vines and Miklos Szabo were nine years old, the Dutchmen seniors were mostly Butch van Breda Kolff recruits and Jay Wright somehow forgot to put me into the game at the old Physical Fitness Center.

The Dutchmen are not unbeaten in the home finale over that span: Tom Pecora’s first team lost to Towson Feb. 25, 2002, but that squad had no seniors.

So yeah: Recent and ancient history alike suggests a resounding win for the Dutchmen, who can continue perhaps the greatest second half run in CAA history by beating the Panthers to finish 10-8 in the CAA after a 2-7 start.

Georgia State gave Old Dominion quite a scare in Atlanta on Tuesday, but the Panthers have lost their last seven CAA road games, their last nine road games overall and have never won in Hempstead. Plus, figure the Dutchmen’s five veterans will be eager to inflict some Senior Day damage upon Georgia State, which thrashed the Dutchmen 76-55 on its Senior Day a year and one day ago.

Look for Our Man Corny to continue his remarkable resurgence—I mean, honestly, has there ever been anyone better suited for the Senior Day stage than Vines?—while Greg Washington or Chaz Williams once again flirts with a triple-double and Charles Jenkins makes one last push for CAA Player of the Year with another 20-plus point effort.

You should be there, because any good sports fan should be a sucker for the pageantry and poignancy of Senior Day. But if you’re not at the Arena, follow along with me on Twitter, where I will try to come up with more Pecora-themed Airplane! references than Litos (whose game previews today are absolutely hilarious must-reads, here’s hoping he continues prognosticating even if he doesn’t end up as the head coach at UNCW).


A quick look at the games tomorrow involving the four teams vying for the eighth through 11th seeds tomorrow and a guess at who will end up facing the Dutchmen in the 7 vs. 10 game next Friday at 6 p.m.:

8) Georgia State (5-12). @Hofstra. Duh, you know what we’re picking there.

9) UNC Wilmington (5-12): W&M. A good friend of mine who—ahem—“dabbles” in gambling asked me, on a scale of 1 to 10, how much I liked Drexel against UNC Wilmington on Wednesday. “27,” I said. I know nothing. Drexel’s second-half fades are becoming pretty troublesome, but that was a nice win for a UNCW program that has really fallen on hard times. I don’t see history repeating itself Saturday, but who would have imagined William & Mary laying an egg against Towson with the chance to win the no. 2 seed at stake?

10) Towson (5-12): UD. Towson will honor its 1990 East Coast Conference championship team before the game as those of us old enough to remember when Towson and Delaware were Hofstra’s annual tormenters bellow about how our backs ache. Fun fact: If Towson wins, the Tigers will have gone 5-4 in the second half, making them just the third CAA team since 2001-02 to start 2-7 or worse and post a winning record in the second half. Does anyone know the second team to do so? Anyone?

11) James Madison (4-13): Drexel. Pegged this as an upset last week, and I’m not changing my tune now. JMU is going to be one scary team next year, or maybe even next week.

If everything goes like I predict (ha!), then Towson will be alone in eighth while Georgia State, UNC Wilmington and James Madison will tie for ninth. If that’s the case, Georgia State is the nine seed based on its 3-1 record against the other 5-13 teams, UNCW is 10th based on its 2-1 record and JMU is 11th based on its 0-3 record. Having spent all this time projecting this means it almost surely won’t happen, so just enjoy all the tiebreaking lunacy and stop back Monday as we begin our week-long preview of the CAA Tournament.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Hofstra 73, Northeastern 62 (Or: In which for the first time ever a Tom Pecora Q&A serves as a game recap)

And I had a whole riff based on More Than A Feeling ready to go and everything. Damn you paying work!

No wordy intro from me today, just an apology that this took so long to post. Thanks to Tom for taking the time to chat Thursday afternoon. More coming later tonight!

After coming so close to knocking off an upper-tier team this season, what does it mean to finally close out a big win on the road over a top team like this?

A few years ago, I probably would have been riding Charles for turning the ball over all the time. I just let him play through it and he had the confidence and he was able to make the plays at the end of the game to help us win. The way we won recently on the road—at Delaware, at Madison, at Towson early in the year—we won by double figures on the road and we found a way to go win another road game by double digits. We were able to build off those past experiences.

Is this the biggest regular season win for the program since the days of Loren Stokes, Carlos Rivera and Antoine Agudio?

I’m so bad with that stuff. [SID] Jeremy [Kniffin] would be a better answer. But yeah, the one that sticks in my mind is going to Old Dominion and they had a long winning streak when we had Stokes, Rivera and Agudio and we won at ODU. That was a great one. This was an important one for us because we wanted to have an opportunity to have a winning record in conference and this gives us that, if we win Saturday. And also, if we win Saturday, it probably makes us the hottest team going into the tournament.

The term we used before the game was ’40 minutes,  our will to win.’ We can’t play 20 minutes against them. At our place we didn’t play the second half the way we’re capable of playing. Everybody stayed on task [Tuesday] and especially [with] the defensive effort in the second half. And [as for Jenkins] hey, look, that’s what the great ones do, take over a game when we need them to win.

The win might not have been possible without Halil Kanacevic’s performance, particularly in the first half. How impressed were you with him playing so well in such a big road game as a freshman?

We kid around: How scary is he going to be when he’s a senior if he can do that kind of stuff as a front court player as a freshman? I think him and Chaz might negate [each other] for Rookie of the Year and [Drexel’s Chris] Fouch might win it. I couldn’t only put one of them on the ballot. I’d rather have both of them be all-rookie team than have one of them win it and the other not be on the rookie team. He’s just—they’ve both been great.

How pleased were you with Cornelius Vines on defense and what in particular did the team do so well overall on defense in the second half?

I was very pleased with [Vines] defending Janning and doing a great job. Janning shot 3-of-13. And [Vines is] a different player and we’re a different team when he’s making shots early in the game because it creates such space offensively when they have to worry about him well beyond the arc. And that really gave an opportunity to Chaz to get into the lane and wreck havoc.

We really took it to another level defensively [in the second half]. We stayed disciplined, we didn’t bail them out of any possessions with silly fouls or jump shot fouls late in the clock. We made them beat us over the top and we really kept the ball in front of us.

Did you sense the momentum change when Chaisson Allen missed that free throw that would have given them a 62-61 lead?

I really thought when Charles missed the two [technical free throws] on the other end—I was like oh man, instead of us going up [six], we’re only going to be up [four]. But the worm turned after that.

Your goals are obviously not all met yet, but how proud are you of the team and your coaching staff in terms of how everyone has been able to turn this season around?

I’m very, very proud of them. The thing I said to them—and this goes from Van [Macon] to our GAs [graduate assistants] every time in staff meetings was ‘Guys, we’ve just got to grind it out. They can’t see that we’re rattled. We’re just going to grind it out and push them and good things will happen.’ And I truly believe that. Sometimes, as a coach, you kind of convince yourself of it. But I think this is as good a job as my staff has ever done. They’ve really done a wonderful job to get us where we’re at now. And hopefully that can continue.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Northeastern, 2/23)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Halil Kanacevic
1: Cornelius Vines

Charles Jenkins 60
Chaz Williams 27
Halil Kanacevic 22
Miklos Szabo 21
Nathaniel Lester 19
Cornelius Vines 15
Greg Washington 15
Yves Jules 1

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bits and Bytes: Of tiebreakers, top six losses to bottom six and tough schedules

Rob Washburn, above, realizes he forgot to carry the 1.

Sorry for the lack of a post thus far today, been a crazy week with some paying work (that’s not a misprint, Fairfax fans!) taking precedence and then some medication-induced insomnia throwing me for a loop. Slept about six hours combined Monday and Tuesday night thanks to some IV steroids (there goes my dream of playing third base for the Yankees) I’ve been taking for a Bell’s Palsy diagnosis and it finally caught up to me late last night.

So apologies again. I did speak earlier in the afternoon to Tom Pecora and I’ll have that Northeastern-themed Q&A up late tonight. And stop back for a Senior Day feature at some point tomorrow as well as a couple other things that I hope I can brew up by then.

In the meantime, I once again humbly offer fine work produced by others, most notably CAA publicist Rob Washburn, who broke out his abacus and his protractor and his slide rule and his Texas Instruments calculator circa 1982 to figure out all the tiebreaker scenarios heading into the final game of the regular season. As Litos says in presenting the facts as found by Washburn: Read this four times…and then read it another four. How Rob maintained his sanity figuring this out is beyond me. Excellent work.

—We’ll tackle tomorrow the regular season finales involving all potential opening round opponents for the Dutchmen, but rest assured I was right last night when I wrote that eight through 12 would look the same today as yesterday. It wasn’t because I know what I’m talking about, though.

Last night was Exhibit 1-A of why I do not gamble on sports, because if I did, I would have thrown away money I don’t have on Drexel drubbing undermanned UNC Wilmington and William & Mary keeping alive its hopes for the two seed by trouncing Towson.

Of course, precisely the opposite is what happened, which is why we love this time of year. Everything went pretty much according to form during the first two-thirds of the CAA season, during which, as Gary Moore puts it, the haves and have-nots were clearly separated. But with more upsets the last two days than in the entire first half of the conference schedule combined, all hell is breaking loose at just the right time, and I suspect Flying Dutchmen fans aren’t the only ones thinking four in four is possible.

Here’s the list of lower six upsets over upper six, by order in which they took place. Each team’s record prior to the tipoff of the upset in parentheses.

Jan. 2: Delaware (0-1 CAA) 62, Drexel (1-0 CAA) 58
Jan. 4: UNCW (0-2) 62, William & Mary (2-0) 61
Jan. 27: James Madison (2-7) 65, William & Mary (6-3) 63
Feb. 3: Georgia State (3-8) 61, George Mason (10-1) 57
Feb. 10: Hofstra (5-8) 75, Drexel (9-4) 64
Feb. 13: James Madison (3-11) 76, VCU (9-5) 71
Feb. 23: Hofstra (8-8) 73, Northeastern (13-3) 62
Feb. 24: UNCW (4-12) 75, Drexel (10-6) 69
Feb. 24: Towson (4-12) 83, William & Mary (11-5) 77

While our minor blog bias has us believing there’s not a bigger upset than the Dutchmen’s win over Northeastern, I think the real shocker of the year is Towson over William & Mary. Georgia State and George Mason were also separated by seven games in the standings prior to the Panthers’ win, but that game was in Atlanta while Towson knocked off the Tribe in Virginia.

—As if I didn’t have enough reason to be jealous of WRHU’s Mike Leslie, who not only has youth and talent on his side but is also a dead ringer for Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz, who is more famous for dating a Penthouse model and marrying one of the Deal or No Deal ladies than for throwing a no-hitter in his second career start.

Now the damn kid is trumping my statistical geekdom by trying to determine if the Dutchmen have indeed played the toughest schedule in the CAA, as so many of us have theorized this season. Damn you Buchholz. I will get you!

Not surprisingly, Mike’s findings—for each school, he added up the conference wins of its opponents—indicate that the CAA’s lesser teams have played tougher schedules while the better ones have faced an easier road: Last-place Delaware has faced teams that have compiled a CAA-high 168 wins while first-place Old Dominion has faced a CAA-low 128 wins.

But no over-.500 team has faced as many wins as the Dutchmen, whose January schedule was indeed as brutal as we remembered: Seven of the eight teams they faced from Jan. 2 through Jan. 23 have at least 10 conference wins.

Here’s Mike’s raw data:

Delaware 168
James Madison 156
UNCW 152
Georgia State 152
Drexel 144
Towson 144
William & Mary 142
VCU 139
Northeastern 132
George Mason 130
Old Dominion 128

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The imperfect five vying for the perfect 10: The Sequel

Those of us who remember Stephanie Seymour's debut in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue know that a.) that was no swimsuit and b.) her career did not peak with her turn as Axl Rose's doomed lover in the "November Rain" video.

Been a hectic day here, so just a quick look at the schedule tonight for the potential 10 and two seeds before I borrow a page from Litos’ book and link you to really good stuff other people wrote.

First the 10 seeds, because we want to stay on the good side of basketball karma and not look too far ahead (who the hell am I kidding, I’m trying to figure out how the wife and I can be in Richmond 12 days from now for the championship game). My guess is eight through 12 will look exactly the same in the morning as it does tonight, but here’s the rundown for those of you who are crazy like me and hoping to spend all night hitting refresh on the CAA scoreboard.

8.) Georgia State (5-12): OFF

9.) UNC Wilmington (4-12): @Drexel. UNCW beat reporter Brian Mull reports Chad Tomko, John Fields and Montez Downey won’t be available tonight against the Dragons, so if you are reasonably athletic, still possessing some collegiate eligibility, can swing 12 credits at UNCW and are in the Philadelphia area, get to the DAC now, poor interim coach Brooks Lee can use you.

10.) Towson (4-12): @W&M. Two schools nursing wounds from a Bracket Buster MAAC attack. Can’t see William & Mary, with a legit shot at the two seed (more on that in a moment), letting this one slip away.

11.) James Madison (4-12): @VCU. Root for the Rams, James Madison is the scariest of the potential 10s (he says, thereby giving everyone else bulletin board fodder).

12.) Delaware (3-13): GMU. Root for the Blue Hens just for the hell of it. Hi Mason Nation!

As for the race for the top two seeds, the Flying Dutchmen really helped out William & Mary as well as Old Dominion last night. ODU, obviously, is the one seed if the Monarchs beat visiting VCU Saturday or if Northeastern loses at George Mason earlier in the day.

And William & Mary’s path to the two seed opened up last night as well. The Tribe, with the easiest remaining schedule of the three teams contending for the two, will be the second seed if it sweeps Towson and UNC Wilmington and Northeastern loses. William & Mary wins the tiebreaker via its one-point head-to-head win over the Huskies. As for Mason, the Patriots can’t finish any higher than third because they lose the tiebreaker to Northeastern at 13-5 (Northeastern went 1-0 against Old Dominion while Mason went 1-1).


Some good stuff for you to read while surfing for scores tonight:

—Litos has a tremendous piece at College Chalktalk about Bill Coen’s remarkable rebuilding job at Northeastern. Some great quotes and some great color about a bunch of overlooked players coming together and gelling under a guy who used to write software for strategic missile defense systems. Nobody’s lacking for proper perspective at Matthews Arena.

Said it on Twitter last night and I’ll say it again: Northeastern is incredibly easy to root for and there’s a pretty big part of me that feels bad Matt Janning and Co. lost on their Senior Night. I hope Hofstra doesn’t see those guys again until the title game (damnit, there I go again, looking ahead).

—Meant to post this Monday but forgot to do so: Jack Styczynski, the original Hofstra blogger, put the world’s most indestructible tape recorder to good use Saturday in profiling Charles Jenkins and Rider star Ryan Thompson for the New York Times’ “Quad Blog.” Thanks to Jack for linking to my preseason feature on Jenkins, and while it was good to finally meet him Saturday, I may kick him in the shins if he tempts fate by showing up to the Georgia State game or in Richmond (inside joke, I’m not really going to kick the guy).

Mull wonders if there will be a better seventh seed in any mid-major conference tournament than the Dutchmen. Forget what others say about you, Brian, you’ll always be OK by me!

—Finally, Patrick Stevens, who was among those who lost their jobs when the Washington Times made the AWESOME decision to kill its sports section, has been all over the mid-Atlantic college sports scene since his layoff (note to Patrick: If you say anything bad about George Mason, the knuckle-dragging faction of Mason Nation will declare you deserve to be out of work). He has five thoughts on the CAA today, the second of which is that nobody should want to play the Flying Dutchmen in the tournament next weekend. You’ll always be OK by me, Patrick! Check him out at Twitter at @D1scourse.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

The deepest cuts are healed by faith

Yeah I'm going to the well with Pat Benatar again. You wanna make something of it?

The usual game story will be coming later today, after I hopefully get the chance to talk to Tom Pecora, because the Flying Dutchmen’s seismic 73-62 win last night over Northeastern certainly deserves a perspective other than my own. But I could not let the morning come and go without making some observations about the game in general and what has suddenly turned into one of the most memorable seasons of the Defiantly Dutch Era.

I may repeat some of these thoughts later, who knows. Who cares. Last night was just freaking awesome.

It was the program’s biggest regular season win since the days of In Guards We Trust—certainly since the 77-66 win over nationally ranked George Mason exactly four years earlier (sweet freaking serendipity, how did I miss that?!) and surely the biggest and most unexpected and joyous road victory since the Dutchmen came back from a six-point deficit in the final 36 seconds of overtime to stun Drexel, 76-75, on Jan. 28, 2006.

The Dutchmen took on the most experienced and perhaps best team in the CAA, a squad that outscored them by 33 points over the final 35 minutes in Hempstead just 17 days earlier, and finished off Northeastern on its Senior Night. A team that has blown so many second half leads in agonizing losses this year outscored Northeastern 12-1 after the Huskies tied it at 61-61 with 3:19 to play.

I’m not usually one to bellow declarations about how fans should act, since fandom is by its very definition not exactly the most logical thing in the world and everyone is entitled to have out-of-whack expectations. But if you’re sitting there today still squawking about how Pecora has something to prove, or how Player X and Player Y still suck, or how this team’s season will be a disappointment if it ends short of the NCAA Tournament for the ninth straight year, then you know what, just go freaking root for one of those insufferable BCS teams. You don’t deserve Hofstra, and Hofstra doesn’t deserve you.

Do you realize what we are seeing here? Last night was confirmation: This is the finest job Pecora has ever done, and if you don’t want him to stay here forever, again, you are just rooting for the wrong school or irrationally mad at him because the president likes him and his sport and didn’t execute it.

The Flying Dutchmen were absolutely finished—2-7 in a conference so competitive that just nobody ever bounces back from such a wretched start. And yet here they are this morning, at 9-8 and already very likely the authors of the greatest second half run in the history of the CAA (I’ll get to checking on that in the next couple days).

Pecora took a broken team, devoid of confidence as well as any sort of proof it could beat an elite team, and he put Humpty Dumpty back together. He did it with his usual combination of fire, compassion and, yes, motivational cheese (“Climb To Glory,” anyone?).

He stayed patient with his five veterans when everyone else—myself most certainly included—was ready to bag 2009-10 and see what Yves Jules, David Imes, Halil Kanacevic and Chaz Williams could do with Charles Jenkins at the expense of Cornelius Vines, Miklos Szabo, Greg Washington and Nathaniel Lester.

And look at how the core made possible a win that was unimaginable not even three weeks ago. The game-ending run featured the maturation moment we’ve all been waiting for: Jenkins scoring eight of those points and emerging as a true superstar in the vein of Speedy Claxton or Loren Stokes. It was a great player willing himself out of a subpar performance—Jenkins flirted with the most unlikely QUADRUPLE double in the history of basketball by compiling 20 points, nine turnovers, eight rebounds and seven assists—and refusing to let his team lose.

Vines played perhaps his best game ever in a Hofstra uniform, draining 3-pointers on consecutive possessions that gave the Dutchmen their first leads in the first half, playing suffocating defense throughout and playing 40 minutes in regulation for the first time. Washington was in foul trouble early and wasn’t much of a factor, but the one-time timid presence in the paint is suddenly a force down low, putting back missed shots, grabbing rebounds and tipping loose balls to teammates.

Lester made an incredibly pivotal play with just under seven minutes to play, when he chased down a loose ball near the Northeastern bench, saved it and dished it to Vines, who hit a 3-pointer that gave the Dutchmen a 61-55 lead. Szabo scored just two points in three second half minutes—a huge put-back for the first points of the half by either team and a basket that quelled fears of a repeat second half fade for the Dutchmen—but combined with Kanacevic to limit Northeastern big men Nkem Ojougboh and Manny Adako in the first half.

Is this how Pecora would have drawn it up in October, getting 15 minutes a night most nights out of Lester and being generally unsure from one game to the next what Szabo and Washington will do? No. But a great coach knows when to stop demanding a player turn into something he isn’t, and coax out of him what he is.

A great coach recruits a Williams or a Kanacevic, who are tough enough and talented enough to handle the fire of the CAA as freshmen. If not for Kanacevic (16 points, 11 rebounds) stepping in for Washington and Szabo last night, Jenkins never gets a chance to carry the Dutchmen to victory in the waning minutes.

A great coach takes advantage of a winnable stretch of games to turn a team riddled by self-doubt into one bursting with belief—in each other and in their coach. In the process, he does the same thing with the rest of us.

As fans, we get too high and too low because that’s what we do. We call a season a disaster in January, even when the team is wracked by injury and the program’s history suggests February is always much better. Coaches know you’re never as good or as bad as you seem. We can’t seem to get that through our collective thick skull, but it’s OK, because sports is the one thing in which we can be as passionate and irrational now as we were then.

The rest of life makes us bitter and jaded and skeptical, but sports is always there, inviting us to believe despite the knowledge that disappointment is likely somewhere on the horizon, driving the wrong way on a one-way street and quite possibly in a vehicle sporting colors suspiciously like those worn by Northeastern or Old Dominion.

What is happening right now will not be diminished, not one bit, by a loss in the CAA Tournament. Sure, there will be disappointment, because there is always disappointment when the season ends short of the NCAA Tournament.

But regardless of the eventual outcome, we should enjoy what is turning into the most wonderful of sports seasons, the one that delivers unexpected joy out of what appeared to be unfulfilled expectations. This team deserves your belief, your faith and, yes, your pride.

And you know what? You—we—deserve to make the investment, too.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Of ambitiously fake tiebreakers and the ambiguousness of Barone Bowl II

Hey honey! Come look at what I figured out!

Before we get into the really relevant business of pondering how tonight will determine the Flying Dutchmen’s potential second opponent in the CAA Tournament (which begins in 10 days, holy hell, where did the time go), let’s get really goofy and ponder what the final week of the regular season might have meant for the Dutchmen if the first two games of January turned out just a little bit differently.

By little bit differently, of course, I mean had the Dutchmen beaten William & Mary and George Mason on Jan. 2 and Jan. 4 instead of suffering gut-wrenching last-minute losses. A few of us blogger/broadcaster types were chewing this over after the Dutchmen defeated Rider Saturday and I declared I am convinced (CONVINCED I TELL YOU) that had the Dutchmen held on to beat William & Mary—whom they led for the first 39 minutes and 43 seconds—they also would have beaten Mason in Fairfax.

That’s admittedly a pretty big leap to take—even for someone like me, with the most pronounced blog biases in all of the CAA!—given Mason’s success at Patriot Center (the Patriots had won 18 straight CAA home games until William & Mary won there last Tuesday). But the Dutchmen had a six-point lead with less than eight minutes to play and twice closed within two points in the final minute. I really think beating William & Mary would have fueled the Dutchmen with the confidence and momentum necessary to close out the Patriots.

Of course, at that point the Dutchmen would have been 3-0 with a home game against Towson coming up on Jan. 6, so it’s fairly inconceivable that they would have fallen apart as badly as they did the rest of the month. It’s also impossible to assume that the rest of the season would have played out as it has for William & Mary and Mason.

But for the sake of this blog, let’s just assume that the first two games of January were the only ones to turn out differently. Because to do so is fun. Because if that was the case, the standings today would look like this:

Northeastern 13-3
Old Dominion 13-3
William & Mary 10-6
VCU 10-6
Drexel 10-6
Hofstra 10-6
George Mason 10-6

Ohhhh yes. That’s like the tiebreaker version of Viagra. I could go all night…figuring out those permutations!

And I did. OK fine I didn’t spend all night, but I still spent more time than anyone should on a completely fictitious possibility. The five-way tie is listed in the order in which it would be broken. William & Mary would be 5-2 against the fellow 10-6 teams, followed by VCU (3-3), Drexel (3-4), Hofstra (3-4) and Mason (2-3). Drexel gets the fifth spot ahead of the Dutchmen by virtue of its sweep of Northeastern. There are no more games scheduled between the 10-6 teams that aren’t really 10-6, so this would be good to go if there was an actual fictitious tie come Saturday night.

The Dutchmen would have an uphill climb towards one of the byes in this scenario, since William & Mary, VCU and Drexel combine to play just one team with a winning record in conference this week (VCU visits Old Dominion Saturday). But can you imagine the fun we’d have tonight, tomorrow and Saturday watching the Dutchmen, tracking the other relevant games and hoping for an ODU win over VCU and an upset by someone like UNC Wilmington (over William & Mary or Drexel), Towson (over William & Mary), James Madison (over VCU or Drexel) or Delaware (over George Mason).

I’m not complaining: There’s not much fluky about an 18-game season and the old Bill Parcells saying really does apply here. And the Dutchmen are perhaps the most perfect .500 team ever—not good at all for a few weeks and then really good for a few weeks.

That they’ve managed to turn tonight’s game into something meaningful says a lot for how far the team has come. But still…man, those tiebreaker scenarios for the five-way tie for third would have been FUN.


Battling for a first-round bye also would remove the ambiguity attached to tonight’s Barone Bowl II in Boston. Obviously, we should root for a Dutchmen win, because momentum is a delicate, finite thing and Tom Pecora and crew would love to enter the CAA Tournament on the hottest second-half run in the history of the conference. (Also, we should root for a Dutchmen win because rooting for the Dutchmen is what we do here)

But a loss would not be the worst thing in the world. As I wrote last week, Northeastern scares the hell out of me as a potential quarterfinal opponent. The last-time-around Huskies are too experienced and too mature to get caught flat-footed next Saturday.

Beating Northeastern tonight would likely drop them to second place for good—while the Huskies visits Mason in the season finale, ODU hosts VCU. (ODU hosts Georgia State in the only other CAA game tonight and wins by both the Huskies and Monarchs assure they will finish in the top two)

And to beat Northeastern—which thoroughly dominated the Dutchmen in Hempstead 17 days ago to hand them their only loss in the last eight games—on its Senior Night would certainly build a bigger buzz around the Dutchmen and quiet much of the skepticism that their recent hot streak is simply a matter of fattening up on the league’s bottom-feeders.

“I feel we can beat anybody now,” Pecora said Saturday. “I think we can go and play anyone and beat them. So whether we win or lose Tuesday, I’m going to feel like we can beat Georgia State Saturday and then whoever gets in our way the rest of the way. Tuesday won’t dictate that.”

But it probably will for the rest of us, for whom tonight will largely determine the mindset we’ll possess next Friday. While Dutch Nation (snort) is beginning to believe again, it is also exercising caution. Things were going so sour in January, it was impossible for even the most optimistic of people to avoid looking ahead to 2010-11.

But now this season matters again. Do we dare to believe? Do we dare to ignore the looming likelihood of heartbreak and invest, once again, in the hope that the Dutchmen can make a Cinderella run at the CAA Tournament?

Of course we do. A win tonight and nobody’s fretting about who the Dutchmen might face a week from Saturday. Even a close loss won’t necessarily send people back to the CAA Zone to call Pecora the worst coach to call Hofstra home since Rich Kotite. Another lopsided defeat though, and that bandwagon will be empty except for the blogger in the driver’s seat.

I can’t see Northeastern losing a second straight home game, especially on Senior Night, but this one will be far more competitive than the one at Hofstra. Any hopes the Dutchmen have of pulling off the upset rest on Chaz Williams, whose recent slump (he is shooting just 26 percent in his last six games and had more turnovers than assists Saturday for the first time in 11 games) has been mostly concealed by the Dutchmen’s red-hot play. But any chance the Dutchmen have of winning multiple games in the CAA Tournament are reliant on Williams finding his earlier form and doing a passable impersonation of Carlos Rivera circa 2006.

Greg Washington needs to continue his resurgent play and combine with Miklos Szabo, Halil Kanacevic and maybe even Nathaniel Lester to limit the damage of Northeastern big men Nkem Ojougboh and Manny Adako, the latter of whom scored 12 second half points in Barone Bowl I.

It should be a good one, either way, and I wish I was up there to see it in person. As is, we’ll be hitting Applebee’s for the ESPNU game (thanks again, Cablevision!). Tune in and follow along with me on Twitter as I wreck my fledgling diet by attacking the half-price appetizer menu!

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hofstra 92, Rider 89 (Or: Let it ride)

The Flying Dutchmen will still have their momentum as well as their big stack of chips heading to Northeastern tomorrow night. (BTW, you would be surprised at how many X-rated pictures show up in an images search for "poker." Just saying.)

For the Flying Dutchmen, interrupting the CAA season to play a thoroughly meaningless Bracket Buster game against Rider was the college basketball equivalent of taking a red-hot poker player away from a high-stakes Texas Hold ‘Em tournament and plopping him into a nickel-dime-quarter family game.

In theory, whether he wins or loses in the family game, the poker player can still return to the real tournament with his chips intact and his surging status unaffected. But the reality is the risk/reward scenario is way out of whack for the World Series of Poker wannabe, that winning a meager pot doesn’t make up for the possibility that a couple bad beats—regardless of how irrelevant and inexpensive—can change his mindset, mess with his momentum and screw up everything for the games that matter.

Such was the situation for the Dutchmen, who not only rebuilt their once-shattered confidence by winning six of their previous seven games entering Saturday but also established themselves as perhaps the most dangerous of the eight teams that will play in the first round of the CAA Tournament.

There was seemingly little to be gained from a win over Rider but a whole lot that could be lost in a, well, loss. What if the delicate mix the Dutchmen had created over the last four weeks was somehow affected by a defeat?

Turns out, though, that the Dutchmen did in fact find something valuable and pivotal in a 92-89 overtime win: Nathaniel Lester.

The performance of the junior swingman was a bit lost in a box score that busted at the seams. For the second time in eight games, five Dutchmen scored in double figures and a sixth player missed it by a point.

Greg Washington (12 points, 11 rebounds, eight blocks) once again flirted with the first triple-double in school history and kept multiple possessions alive by using his height to “tap” a loose ball to a teammate. Three other players, including Lester, came within either a point or a rebound of a double-double.

“I like to say that’s Hofstra basketball,” said Tom Pecora, who recorded his 152nd win as coach, tying him for second all-time with Paul Lynner. “We’ve always told our guys: We want players, we don’t want specialists. Our best teams here, we’ve always had guys who can fill up box scores [in] every category.”

The 92-point outburst also marked the second time in eight games the Dutchmen reached 90 in regulation or one overtime. The Dutchmen scored 90 points in regulation or one overtime just once in the program’s first 109 home games under Pecora.

Charles Jenkins scored 31 points, the second straight game he’s reached 30 points and the third time in four games overall. He had just 10 points midway through the second half but scored 10 in a row in a five-minute span late in the half and 21 in the final 15 minutes overall.

“What he did, once again, he had a quiet 30, and he did it in a way where he wasn’t a pig with the ball,” Pecora said. “He was making smart plays, he was still giving the ball up. He’s really matured as a player.”

Freshmen Halil Kanacevic (nine points and 10 rebounds) and Chaz Williams (12 points, nine rebounds, five assists, five steals, six turnovers) also just missed a double-double as the Dutchmen recorded their narrowest win of the season.

“[In] January, we couldn’t have won in an overtime game,” Pecora said. “We only had seven guys. [Jenkins] was banged up and Chaz was banged up. I don’t think, physically, we could have hung with teams for this long a game and this intense a game in January. But we’re a better team now than then.”

But without Lester’s best effort in seven weeks, the Dutchmen probably fall short, which leaves Pecora both less forgiving of the Dutchmen’s defensive performance (Rider star Ryan Thompson scored a career-high 38 points, tied for the most ever by a Hofstra opponent at the Arena and two shy of the Arena record held by Speedy Claxton, and the Broncs were 18-of-37 from the field in the second half and overtime) and forced to spend most of his time before tipoff Tuesday night trying to boost the Dutchmen’s collective morale.

Lester had 14 points and nine rebounds in 33 minutes and made up for a costly turnover at the end of regulation—his pass under the basket was intercepted and led to the tying basket by Rider with 13 seconds left—by scoring six points in overtime and draining the jumper that put the Dutchmen ahead for good at 79-77. He also blocked a 3-point attempt by Patrick Mansell with six seconds left, pulled down the rebound, drew the foul and his two free throws to ice the game.

In the first half, meanwhile, Lester played 14 minutes and put up six points and five rebounds as he filled the gap in the front court created when Kanacevic was forced to the bench with three fouls and Miklos Szabo was limited to four minutes by the flu.

“I thought Nat Lester made some big-time plays for us,” Pecora said. “He made a couple big jumpers, he had that big block. I was proud of the way he played.”

The 33 minutes were the most for Lester since Jan. 4 at George Mason while the 14 points marked his most since Jan. 2 against William & Mary and the nine boards only the third time since that oft-lamented loss to the Tribe that he’s had that many rebounds. He was also a perfect 8-for-8 from the free throw line, marking only the second time he has taken eight free throw attempts since he took 10 and eight attempts, respectively, in consecutive games against Florida Atlantic Dec. 29 and William & Mary.

Those efforts seemed to signify Lester was finally ready to emerge as the long-sought second option to Jenkins, but Lester slumped immediately thereafter, playing fewer than 30 minutes in each of the six games following the first Mason loss and averaging just six points and five rebounds in that span. He lost his starting job to Cornelius Vines prior to the UNC Wilmington game and entered Saturday having played more than 20 minutes just once in his first seven games as a reserve, which coincided with the Dutchmen’s 6-1 run.

“He’s been good off the bench a few other nights,” Pecora said. “I think he’s fitting into that role now, of coming off the bench for us and doing certain things. I think he’s very versatile—he’s like your utility infielder on a baseball team or a guy who can catch and play third and play a little bit of left field. You can play him at two, three or four. You can guard him on a big guy like Ryan Thompson, at times you can post him up when teams play small if he’s at the guard spot. So he’s a very important part of what we do.”

Still, for all of Pecora’s complementary words Saturday, the truth is nobody within the program expected Lester to be its Super Joe McEwing with just weeks left in his junior season. Lester was considered one of the best players in New York City during his senior year of high school in Brooklyn and was viewed as one-third of the Dutchmen’s new core—along with Jenkins and Washington—at the start of this season.

But Saturday was not the day to wonder why the Dutchmen haven’t gotten more from Lester, not after he gave them plenty more than anyone could have anticipated out of a Bracket Buster fraught with potential peril.

“This is Bracket Buster, we’ve never lost in it, and that’s something I had to use to motivate these guys,” Pecora said. “It can be a bit of a distraction—you’re so into your league and so into winning conference games and doing all those things. But the game gets started, your competitive juices get flowing and then you should be off and running.”

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. Rider, 2/20)
3: Charles Jenkins
2: Greg Washington
1: Nathaniel Lester

Charles Jenkins 57
Chaz Williams 27
Miklos Szabo 21
Halil Kanacevic 20
Nathaniel Lester 19
Greg Washington 15
Cornelius Vines 14
Yves Jules 1

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

For Hofstra, is there more to the MAAC Bracket Busters than just geography?

Shawn Hunter, left, will be rooting for Rider today when the Flying Dutchmen host the Broncs in a Bracket Buster!

Bracket Busters weekend has arrived (note to ESPN: I’m not going to play by your rules and turn the term into a compound word), and as usual, Hofstra is participating in the shadows.

It reminds me of every weekend in high school, when me and my dorky-ass buddies would rent a couple movies and slam a few sodas while our cooler classmates partied and drank the finest cheap beer a fake ID could buy. Sure, technically, we all had the opportunity to hang with the socially elite, and sure, the Dutchmen could be playing on ESPN or ESPN2 this weekend.

But in reality, the rarefied air is for the Old Dominions and Northeasterns of the world, or the star quarterback, the cheerleader and those 16-year-olds who actually looked 16 and not 12. Leave me alone. The rest of us are watching “Heathers” and “Kentucky Fried Movie” for the 150th time.

Or, in this case, playing a middle-of-the-road MAAC team for the fourth time in five years. I’m not complaining (for once): With no at-large bid to be won, the best thing the Bracket Busters can do for the Hofstras of the world is cause the least amount of season-interrupting annoyance.

And this marks three straight years in which the disruption has been minimal for the Dutchmen as well as their fans, a few of whom (raises hand) took short trips to MAAC schools Iona in 2008 and Fairfield in 2009. The home game against Rider assures a doable road trip in the return game next year, as well.

But what if there is more to this spate of MAAC Bracket Busters than just geographical convenience? What if these games are also allowing MAAC powers-that-be to evaluate Hofstra as a potential addition?

Let me make this clear: I don’t think there’s anything going on here. But I find it interesting, and wonder if the MAAC is actually the best solution for Hofstra’s chronic conference woes.

The Atlantic 10—or Atlantic 14, or whatever number of schools it’s up this morning—would infuse Hofstra with the type of prestige its athletic programs have never enjoyed, but the travel there would be as bad as it is in the CAA, even if Saint Louis departs to make room for Hofstra. With just three schools (Canisius, Niagara and Loyola) located more than three hours from campus, the MAAC would be a far more convenient long-term home for Hofstra. There are also multiple natural rivals already in place in Manhattan, Iona and Rider.

And while the MAAC is not the A-10 in terms of national profile, it has won six NCAA Tournament games since 1995 (two of which were in the play-in game) and seven NIT games since 2000. Siena is now recognized as one of the best mid-majors in the country and played Butler in a nationally televised game this morning. So moving to the MAAC would allow Hofstra to continue raising the profile of its men’s basketball program.

Of course, this is much easier said than done, and my sense is Hofstra is thinking A-10 or bust. And after nearly two decades of conference uncertainty, better for Hofstra to hold out for the place it really wants than yet another short-term solution, I’m sure the MAAC knows how badly Hofstra wants the A-10, as well, and doesn’t have any interest in providing a stopover in the transition from the CAA.

Plus, the MAAC is in a perfect situation now, with a 10-team alignment that allows for an 18-game conference schedule. To expand to 11 would create the need for bye weeks and to go to 12 would likely introduce the wretched unbalanced schedule, unless the MAAC split into two divisions (unlikely) or decided to play 22 conference games (quite unlikely).

There’s also not an even number of schools that could join Hofstra in moving to the MAAC. Northeastern and Drexel are obvious candidates to accompany Hofstra to any new home, but why would the MAAC expand to 13 and enter two media markets it doesn’t really need?

Still, it’s fun to ponder, and I would be surprised but not shocked if we saw a lot more of Rider in the coming years. So make that Arena sparkling clean, today, Hofstra, just in case anyone’s watching.


As for the game itself, I must point out an astute observation made by men’s basketball SID Jeremy Kniffin, who wondered last week if this counts as an ECC game. Now that the Flying Dutchmen have clinched the Mythical ECC title, I can safely say yes, yes it does. But imagine the pressure today if the Dutchmen had lost to Delaware!

I’d expect an entertaining, high-scoring affair today. Rider has four players who average double figures—including senior Ryan Thompson, whose brother, Jason, was a first-round draft pick of the Sacramento Kings out of Rider two years ago. But the Broncs allow opponents to shoot nearly 45 percent from the field, which should make for a—warning! bad pun ahead!—field day for a Dutchmen team that is red-hot offensively.

Cornelius Vines will continue channeling Craig Hodges and Demetrius Dudley and Greg Washington, who is three inches taller than any Rider starter, should have a big game as well as the Dutchmen go for yet another double-digit win. I’d guess that the margin is in single digits but that there isn’t much suspense in the final minute.

As always, follow along with me on Twitter. I’ll see how many times I can mention “Boy Meets World” and The Doors in relation to Rider.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rider reunion provides reminder of relaxed rivalry

Hofstra, left, and Rider (or is it Rider, left, and Hofstra?) pose for a picture in advance of their reunion at the Bracket Buster tomorrow.

The Flying Dutchmen’s Bracket Buster game tomorrow against Rider also serves as a reunion of sorts between two long-ago, long-forgotten East Coast Conference rivals. But no matter how it turns out, neither Tom Pecora nor Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey should have to worry about it setting off a chain of events that ends with him serving as the commissioner of a doomed conference.

Despite the proximity of the two schools to one another (Rider is located just outside of Trenton, about 70 miles south of Hofstra) and the competitiveness of the series, there were few unforgettable duels between the Dutchmen and the Broncs. In fact, the most memorable game between the schools made an indelible impression for all the wrong reasons.

On Jan. 18, 1989—41 days before Charles Jenkins was born—John Carpenter, the longest-tenured head coach in Rider history, basically got himself fired by taking college basketball back to the pre-shot clock era as the Broncs fell, 48-34, at the Physical Fitness Center. The 34 points remain the fewest allowed by Hofstra since the school moved up to Division I and it would be another 20 years—until last Dec. 9, when the Dutchmen edged Manhattan 44-39—before an opponent scored fewer than 40.

“He would just hold the ball until there were like 10 seconds on the clock the entire game,” said Rider sports information director Bud Focht, who has been at the school for 28 years. “The players didn’t want to do it, it was the first game we tried it and the only game we tried it. The game before, we scored in the 80s. And then that game he did that. And it was just bad. We were bad that year. I guess he figured he couldn’t win a 40-minute game, but maybe a 20-minute game.

“There was such an uproar after that game. All the players were upset, the players’ parents were upset, the alums were upset. It was a major uproar and that was the end of Carpenter.”

Carpenter, who was also Rider’s athletic director. was replaced after the season by local up-and-comer Kevin Bannon. But Carpenter and Bannon didn’t get along and so Carpenter left his AD post after Bannon’s first year to become…the commissioner of the ECC. Carpenter remained in that position even after Rider left the league following the 1991-92 season and tried multiple times to keep the ECC afloat before it finally folded for good after the 1993-94 school year.

The horror show of that game in January 1989—which took place during the last season in which the Dutchmen climbed back to .500 in conference after falling at least four games under, a ha, it all ties together!!—ran counter to the normalcy that accompanied most Hofstra-Rider games.

Indeed, if, among the alumni of the ECC, Hofstra and Delaware are the one-time inseparable best buddies who have irreparably grown apart and have nothing in common, then Hofstra and Rider were the equivalent of the high school kids who shared a bunch of classes and whose paths were always crossing yet who never really had any sustained interactions.

Hofstra and Rider first met during the 1942-43 season and have split 34 meetings all-time. The two schools played each other at least twice a season for nine straight years from 1983-84 through 1991-92, after which the ECC (which was down to just seven schools and just three—Hofstra, Rider and Towson State—with more than two years of league membership) disbanded for the first time.

At that point, the Dutchmen had played just two schools more often than Rider—Wagner (49) and Manhattan (44). Even today, Rider still ranks as Hofstra’s ninth-most frequent opponent.

The games between the teams were almost always competitive: Fourteen of the final 19 games were decided by 10 points or less, including seven that were either settled by three points or less or in overtime.

Yet there were no real classic duels, either. Neither program was a powerhouse—Hofstra failed to win a title in the final 15 years of the conference, though of course it won the one-off ECC reboot in 1994, while Rider won just one crown (1984) in 19 seasons in the league—and the two schools met in the ECC Tournament just once. The Dutchmen won a first-round game, 77-68, in 1986.

The longtime friendly strangers probably won’t recognize one another any more now than they did then, even though the schools have had plenty in common and have remained intertwined since graduation, err, the splintering apart of the ECC.

Both schools made back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances after leaving the ECC (Rider won the Northeast Conference in 1993 and 1994, Hofstra won the America East in 2000 and 2001). The coaches who directed those tourney teams parlayed their success into Big East gigs (Bannon went to Rutgers in 1997 while Jay Wright, of course, left for Villanova in 2001).

Neither school made its first post-ECC home a permanent one: Rider was in the NEC for five years before it joined the MAAC in 1997. Hofstra, after a year as an independent and a year in the threadbare 2.0 version of the ECC, was accepted into the North Atlantic Conference for the 1994-95 season and bolted along with former ECC foes Delaware, Drexel and Towson to the CAA after the 2000-01 school year.

Even this year, the two teams are traveling similar paths: As Jeremy Kniffin notes in the press release accompanying the game notes, both teams are 15-13 overall and 8-8 in conference play.

Still, there remains at least one major difference between the schools: Just like the last time the two met on Feb. 15, 1992, Hofstra will get to see in Rider—which had already agreed to join the NEC—a school with the type of secure and satisfying conference fit it can only wish it had. Rider is firmly ensconced in the MAAC while Hofstra is unhappy in the CAA and still looking for a permanent home, nearly 20 years after the initial disbanding of the ECC.

“I think we’re pretty much set in the MAAC now—I don’t think there’s any place for us to go,” Focht said. “The MAAC is a perfect fit for us. I don’t think we can go bigger and we definitely wouldn’t want to go smaller. Geographically, it works. We have Loyola to our south [in Maryland] and everyone else to our north, but not all that far. Two to three hours [away], the teams in Buffalo are the only far trip. It’s a perfect fit for Rider.”

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Projecting the perfect 10 and searching for the imperfect five

Sorry, but if you read the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue for the articles in the late 1980s, Kathy Ireland is the perfect 10, not Bo Derek.

Absent in Wednesday’s post—i.e. lost in the aftermath of the wild ECC championship celebration Tuesday night—was the news I posted on Twitter before the party began: The Flying Dutchmen, by virtue of their win over Delaware and VCU’s win over Drexel, are locked into the seventh seed for the upcoming CAA Tournament. My guess is nobody’s ever clinched such a middle-of-the-road seed with two games to play, but even I’m not that warped to go and spend hours confirming it. I think.

Anyway, it is officially time to look ahead 15 days and to the Dutchmen’s potential opening round opponent (which, at this moment, would be Towson). So while everyone else is pondering six for four, we’ll begin breaking down five for 10. Below you’ll find a list of the teams fighting for the eighth through 12th seeds as well as their remaining schedules and how any current ties are broken.

8.) Georgia State (5-11): ODU, @Hofstra.

9.) UNC Wilmington (4-12): @Drexel, W&M. Seahawks the nine seed at the moment by virtue of 2-1 record vs. JMU and Towson.

10.) Towson (4-12): @W&M, Delaware. Tigers the 10 seed at the moment by virtue of 2-2 record vs. JMU and UNCW.

11.) James Madison (4-12): @VCU, Drexel. Dukes the 11 seed at the moment by virtue of 1-2 record vs. UNCW and Towson.

12.) Delaware (3-13): GMU, @Towson.

It’s crazy to try and predict how eight thru 12 will shake out, but if I had to guess I’d  bet that Towson splits its final two games to move out of 10th and that the Dutchmen play either UNC Wilmington or James Madison in the opening round. (Though skidding Drexel at James Madison in the finale screams potential upset) If those two teams tie at 4-14, UNC Wilmington would be the 10th seed by virtue of its head-to-head win over the Dukes.

As for the identity of the two seed, it’ll almost certainly the matchup we didn’t want against Northeastern or Old Dominion after our hopes for a quarterfinal rematch with George Mason all but disappeared when the suspension-wracked (snicker snicker snort snort) Patriots fell to William & Mary Tuesday.

William & Mary and Mason are tied for third, two games back of co-leaders Northeastern and Old Dominion, so one win apiece by the Huskies and Monarchs will cement for them a top-two seed. If the two teams finish the season tied, Northeastern is the one seed by virtue of its head-to-head win over Old Dominion.


I may not be warped enough to figure out if the Dutchmen are the first team to clinch the seven seed with multiple games left in the schedule, but I’m not going to lie to you: Spending a few overnight hours surfing to find out the last time anyone in the CAA or America East reached .500 after falling at least five games below the break-even mark was more fun than anything else I could have done with my pants on. Wait, did I just type that?

If only there was a use for these skills and this information outside of my living room, I’d be king of the freakin’ world. Anyway, the research was fun and still left my question unanswered: At no point since 1993-94 (the official start of the Defiantly Dutch Era) has a team in a conference that Hofstra has occupied in that span ever climbed back to .500 after being as many as five games under. Whoohoo, more late-night digging to come!

The Flying Dutchmen appear to be in unchartered territory a little closer to home as well. The only Hofstra team to come back from four games under .500 to reach .500 in conference play was the 1988-89 team, which opened ECC play with a 2-6 mark but finished 7-7 and took eventual champion Bucknell to overtime in the tournament semifinals.

As for the CAA and America East, here is the raw data I found—the list of teams that were three and four games under .500 in the CAA or America East since 1993-94 who managed to reach .500 at some point. With the America East, I was originally going to go back to only 1994-95—Hofstra’s first year in what was then known as the NAC—but I was surprised nobody in the CAA had come back from five games under .500 so I figured I’d play it out to today with the Dutchmen’s former conference as well.

Overall, a CAA team has gone from as many as three games under .500 to .500 just six times since 1993-94. Half of those happened during the wild, parity-heavy 1996-97 season, when Old Dominion and UNC Wilmington tied for first at 10-6 and the next six teams finished within three games of the co-leaders.

It has happened more often in the America East, where nine teams have gone from at least three under .500 to .500, including eight since Hofstra and Co. left the conference after the 2000-01 season. Four America East teams have moved from four games under .500 to .500.

One red flag: None of the teams listed below won their conference tournament and NCAA Tournament berth. But none of them came back from five under .500 to get to .500, either!

CAA teams that moved from four games under .500 to .500

Old Dominion 1999-2000 (opened 1-5, improved to 5-5, finished 6-10)
American 1996-97 (opened 0-4, improved to 5-5, finished 7-9)

CAA teams that moved from three games under .500 to .500

VCU 1998-99 (opened 2-5, improved to 7-6, finished 8-8)
VCU 1996-97 (opened 2-5, improved to 8-5, finished 9-7)
William & Mary 1996-97 (opened 3-6, improved to 8-6, finished 8-8)
American 1994-95 (opened 1-4 and 4-7, finished 7-7)

America East teams that moved from four games under .500 to .500

Maine 2006-07 (opened 0-4, improved to 5-4 and 6-5, finished 7-9)
Hartford 2003-04 (opened 0-4, improved to 4-4, finished 6-12)
Stony Brook 2002-03 (opened 0-4, improved to 5-4 and 6-5, finished 7-9)

America East teams that moved from three games under .500 to .500

Vermont 1999-2000 (opened 2-5, improved to 5-5 and 10-6, finished 11-7)
New Hampshire 2008-09 (opened 4-7, finished 8-8)
Stony Brook 2008-09 (opened 1-4, improved to 8-7, finished 8-8)
Boston University 2007-08 (opened 2-5, finished 9-7)
New Hampshire 2005-06 (opened 0-3, improved to 6-5, finished 8-8)
Northeastern 2002-03 (opened 0-3 and 1-4, improved to 7-6, finished 8-8) 

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at