Friday, February 5, 2010

Of Alumni Day, Faux Homecoming and the inaugural Barone Bowl

The annual men’s basketball Alumni Day is scheduled for tomorrow, which in and of itself is typically no big deal and barely, if ever, receives any actual promotion from the school. Ex-Flying Dutchmen show up, maybe scrimmage a little bit before the game and ignore the paunchy, occasionally bespectacled guy sitting a few rows up in John Stockton shorts and Michael Cooper socks begging for some run. C’mon guys I’m an alumni too!! I’ll just play the point, I won’t shoot. I promise.

But this Alumni Day is different than the rest. It’s the first one since Hofstra killed football, and not coincidentally, it’s getting a bit of publicity (free food and drink at City Cellar afterward, whoohoo, ride out the blizzard on Hofstra’s dime!) as Hofstra tests run the concept of a winter Homecoming. Geez, just typing those words makes my stomach ache.

A Homecoming centered around basketball, of course, is even more inevitable than the NCAA Tournament expanding to 96 teams, and it seems to be a particularly cruel coincidence that the beta version takes place when Northeastern visits the Arena. You know, the same Northeastern whose decision to drop football Nov. 22 had absolutely nothing at all to do with Hofstra following suit a mere 11 days later. If I didn’t know any better, I’d suspect someone way high up in the food chain scheduled it this way to have a laugh at our expense.

Regardless, Hofstra and Northeastern are the closest thing either has to a kindred soul in the disjointed mess that is the CAA, even though the schools opposed each other once in men’s basketball before Hofstra joined the North Atlantic Conference in 1994 and hadn’t played each other in football in 28 years before Hofstra became a member of the Atlantic-10 in 2001.

Give credit to Husky at the CAAZone boards, who recognized the hilarious absurdity of it all and suggested the winner of the game Saturday receive the football that Frank Barone caught when an unnamed Hofstra kicker (David Ettinger? Walter Olshanski?) booted a world-record 68-yard field goal in a 2001 episode of Everybody Loves Raymond (hey look at that, promotion for a Division I-AA program, oh the humanity!)

Faux Homecoming, the Barone Bowl and potential blizzard aside, this game is plenty compelling on its own. The Dutchmen are on the verge of sucking us all back in after a three-game winning streak, but in order to really get us back on the bandwagon and enter the CAA Tournament with legitimate aspirations of playing Cinderella, they need to record a Signature Win.

Tomorrow may be the Dutchmen’s best and last chance to record it. Drexel, which visits Wednesday, is a legitimate championship contender as well, but Northeastern is in a three-way tie for first place and receiving national attention after turning its season around following a 2-7 start. The Huskies are 13-1 since then (a loss to Drexel in Boston last weekend snapped an 11-game winning streak).

Northeastern is awfully reminiscent of the Loren Stokes-Carlos Rivera-Antoine Agudio era Dutchmen: Three players are averaging at least 33 minutes per game and the quintet of Matt Janning, Chaisson Allen, Manny Adako, Nkem Ojougbah and Alwayne Bigby combining to make all but four of the Huskies’ starts.

The game will be a tasty battle of strengths, as Northeastern ranks first in the CAA in field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage while the Dutchmen rank first in field goal defense and second in 3-point defense.

The Huskies might be the most road-tested team in the CAA (they won at Wyoming in the CBI last year and participated in tournaments in Hawaii and San Francisco this season). But the Dutchmen are 3-1 against Northeastern at the Arena since the latter joined the CAA, including last year’s 57-52 upset win that knocked the Huskies from the ranks of the CAA’s unbeaten and jumpstarted Hofstra’s season-ending 11-4 run.

I’ll freely admit I don’t know what to expect tomorrow. I had a bad feeling going into the game Wednesday, and the Dutchmen were barely threatened in the final 30 minutes of a rout over James Madison. Hot is hot, even if the three-game winning streak came at the expense of a trio of scuffling teams, and the Dutchmen should enter Saturday more confident than they’ve been since early December.

The Signature Win will happen if Charles Jenkins shoots anything like he has the last three games (22-for-34), Cornelius Vines suffocates Allen like he did Julius Wells Wednesday and the Dutchmen’s big men limit Ojougbah like they did Denzel Bowles.

Sounds like a lot, sure, but a lot has already happened to make tomorrow matter. Either way, we are going to be there, snow be damned. I’ll leave the house at noon to get there if necessary (of course, my saner wife may have something to say about this). Follow us along on Twitter and come by and say hi if you brave the elements. I’ll be the guy randomly yelling out the names of former football players from Hofstra and Northeastern.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

1 comment:

Husky said...


Thanks for the shout out for the Barone Ball. Today was a game of two halves. A real gritty first and a one sided second.

On a side note; I couldn't imagine how nice the Mack is. It was my first visit and I was really surprised at the amenities. Real nice....

Anyways, I'll post a picture of the painted ball over on CAAzone when I get back to Beantown tomorrow.

-A Husky named Monty