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

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