Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hofstra Blog Swap!

Me, above, after winning the rumble with Gary Moore at the muddy intramural fields across from Enterprise Hall!

Good afternoon and welcome to the first-ever HOFSTRA BLOG SWAP! Gary Moore of The College Hardwood and I will each pen a piece for the other’s blog this week as we get ready for the CAA Tournament. Gary, a veteran of CAA Tournament trips, will recap his experiences in Virginia and let you know what to expect if you’re heading to Richmond.

This caps an eventful year for Gary and I in our battle for Hofstra blog supremacy. See, we’re all very territorial here and we initially viewed each other as a threat. We’d give each other the stink eye from our seats at the Arena. I’d follow him out to his car and yell insults about his friend from Iona, then duck behind a snow bank so he didn’t see me. Soon after, I’d hear comments about how only a sissy fails to grab the free T-shirts flung in his direction.

Finally, we had enough and decided to determine the biggest blog on the block the way the kids did in 1967: With a rumble. But Gary’s an IT guy and I grew up in the middle of nowhere in northwestern Connecticut, where we only read about rumbles in S.E. Hinton books, so we couldn't figure out who would be the greasers from the wrong side of the tracks. Eventually we decided to forget the rumble and became friends. The end!

Hope you enjoy Gary’s entry today and please check out his blog later today or tomorrow for my piece on the history of the Flying Dutchmen in conference tournaments.


First I want to thank Jerry so much for the opportunity to write an article for such a great blog, Defiantly Dutch.  Being a Hofstra grad ('88), I truly appreciate the man I call the "Hofstra Basketball Historian."  No one, with the possible exception of Jeremy Kniffin, knows more about Hofstra basketball or Hofstra sports than Mr. Beach. I often cite Jerry's articles in my blog.  And his article on the amazing Hofstra turnaround is a Hofstra and CAA stat lover's version of a Friendly's Super Sundae with all the toppings.

For those of you who don't know me, I write a blog called The College Hardwood, formerly MidMajorHoops.Net, which Jerry still links to on his blog by that name. It was started as an answer to a dare by two dear friends, Mal Galletta and Tony Terentieff (known to my readers as Tieff and Mal). They thought I knew a lot about college basketball and thought I should write about it.  My blog started in December 2005 in the midst of the greatest season in CAA history, the 2005-06 season.

Knowing that I have attended many CAA tournaments, Jerry proposed a blog swap of two Hofstra basketball fanatics.  I would write about my CAA tournament experiences and Jerry would write about Hofstra's history in the CAA Tournament.  This will be my seventh CAA Tournament and hopefully for Hofstra fans, it's a lucky seven.

The Road Trip

After listening to the WRHU telecasts of the 2002 CAA Tournament, I decided that I wanted to go the next CAA Tournament. Tieff happily joined along and thus we drove to Richmond in March of 2002 for Hofstra's second CAA Tournament. It's about a five and half hour drive (traffic permitting) from Long Island to Richmond.  And you need to time it so that you avoid rush hour on the Capital Beltway, otherwise your trip will be much longer. Thus we leave early in the morning or better yet, Thursday night, like this year.

If you are taking a team bus, like the Hofstra law student I spoke to on Wednesday, well, get some sleep.  It's a long haul.  When you're not sleeping pull out your iPod or Blackberry and talk CAA stats. Wow your friends with William and Mary's Assist to turnover ratio, or the fact that the best rebounding team in the CAA, Old Dominion doesn't have a player in the top ten in rebounds! Trust me, Tieff and I talk stats all the way down there and it doesn't get old. Maybe I can kidnap Beach.

CAA Tournament, Richmond and the Richmond Coliseum

From 2001-02 through 2004-05, the CAA was a 10-team league. The Tournament was still four days then as it is today. However, in those years, the top six teams got a first round bye, and the bottom four teams played in an evening session play in round, starting around 5:30 pm. The first game was eight vs. nine then the second game was seven vs. ten. There was no afternoon session back then.

The CAA Tournament is now a 12- team, four-day tournament. On Friday and Saturday, there is an afternoon session and an evening session. The afternoon sessions are two games that run from noon to 4:30. The evening sessions are two games that start at 6:00 PM.  The semifinals on Sunday start at 3:30 PM.  The championship is Monday at 7:00 PM.

Most of the fans that attend are VCU fans. That's because the VCU campus is literally right down the road on Broad Street near where the Richmond Coliseum, the host venue for the tournament is located in downtown Richmond.  There are decent contingents from other Virginia schools like ODU and Mason (when UNCW was good, they brought a large group of fans too). But not many from the America East group of the CAA—meaning Drexel, Delaware, Towson, Hofstra and especially Northeastern. Guess it's too long a trip from Boston and apparently there's not any good chawder in Richmond.

The Richmond Coliseum is well, let's just be kind and call it dated.  Or better yet, the South's version of Nassau Coliseum.  How's that?  Well, just like the Nassau Coliseum, it needs work. Apparently, lots of it. If you are driving to the Richmond Coliseum, get there early because the Broad Street exit of I95 will back up. More on the Richmond Coliseum in a little bit.

And we learned immediately one thing about the Richmond Coliseum our first year of the tournament. If you are going to the Richmond Coliseum for the first time this weekend, pack a sweatshirt for each day you will be there, because it's cold. Freakin’ meat locker cold. I am convinced that there are so many low scoring games with teams not shooting well due to it being so cold in the arena that you need time to warm up. And I truly think this leads to some of the upsets, especially for teams that have first round byes facing decent teams in the second round.


OK, this is very important.  If you learn one thing from this article, it’s about food choices in Richmond.  The food at the Richmond Coliseum is bland typical arena concession fare.  And the only place to eat in walking distance is the food court at the Marriott hotel.  Other than that, the area around Richmond Coliseum has NO place to eat.   Our first year there, I remember Tieff and I distinctly walking around downtown Richmond near the coliseum during the break between sessions looking for a place to eat.  It was like right out of those "End of the Earth" disaster movies where you walk the streets of a city and the streets are deserted.  Yup, it's exactly like that.

I hope you have a car, because if so, you have choices.  If not, well you're in worse shape than the Richmond Coliseum.  Drive west on Broad Street and you will hit lots of malls with food choices.  Thanks to my friend Alyssa, who went to the University of Richmond, we found a good Italian restaurant in Richmond called Pasta Luna. And we have gone there every year since. Yes, there is good Italian food in Richmond, Also, as much as I like Waffle House, the breakfast place to go to is Aunt Sarah's Pancake House.

If you want to go by the river, there is Buffalo Wild Wings on East Cary Street. On a weekend night, you will have to pay for parking in the lot across the way. But no better place to have a beer and rejoice in your team winning...or drown your sorrows if they lose.

Things to Do

Tieff and I learned some things on our second trip.  Since the Sunday session starts at 3:00 pm, you can also get 18 in early enough. There are some very good golf courses around Richmond and we have played several over the years. River's Bend is a very scenic course and we greatly enjoyed it. I don't know how the courses are this year due to melting snow, so call ahead.

As noted Buffalo Wild Wings is a good place to go and catch other tournaments being played.  And they get every tournament feed, including the MAAC Women's championship game which occurs Sunday morning (they open at 11 am on Sundays).

CAA Tournament Catchphrases

What is the CAA Tournament Catchphrase? Well in the past, it was "Jammin on the James" or "CAA, Fun for the Crowd", which was a turned into a very hokey yet catchy song. There's also “Let’s Go Krogering,” which is for Kroger, a regional supermarket that is a main tournament advertiser.  "Let's Go Krogering" may be perhaps the dumbest promotional line I ever heard.

Six Years of CAA Tournament Memories


In our first tournament in 2003, it was Hofstra playing William and Mary in the 8 vs. 9 game. When we got to the Coliseum, there weren't many people there.  It became a running joke for the following play in rounds for all the CAA Tournaments.  "So Tieff, where do you want to sit?" Not many people showed up for the play in rounds and you could basically sit at any seat you wanted.

So with seven wins all season in 2003, Hofstra knocked off the Mary, as my friend Tieff calls them, and with their eighth win, they got the right to play #1 seed UNC Wilmington with Brett Blizzard, Craig Callahan and a young John Goldsberry, who I think played 10 years for UNCW. Now here's the kicker: Back then, the winner of the 8 vs. 9 game had to play the top seed at noon the next day. Eek!

Hofstra kept the game close at the half and actually took the lead early in the second half before Blizzard put on a clinic and the Seahawks ended up winning by 20. In that loss, Woody Souffrant had the game of his life for Hofstra with 22 points. After the game we were standing online in the Marriott Food Court waiting to order and I was wearing a Hofstra sweatshirt.  One of the UNCW fans turns to us and says "Where did you get that Souffrant fella from? He's really good." Alas, that was Woody 's best game ever and he became irrelevant once the Agudio/Stokes/Rivera guard group arrived.


And two thirds of that group arrived in 2004. The Flying Dutchmen improved greatly, doubling their win total from the season prior and finished fifth in the conference. That gave them their first first round bye in the CAA. No Friday game.

The Dutchmen faced Old Dominion in the quarterfinal round.  And it was the beginning of the end of the Kenny Adeleke era. Adeleke had a horrible game, shooting 3-of-9 from the field and 5-of-9 from the line. During a timeout in a game they would lose 82-68, we watched the Dutchmen huddle. As Pecora talked, Adeleke looked away seemingly into outer space. Mentally, Adeleke was gone and later that year, he was physically gone too.

We also unfortunately learned as we listened to the local radio station covering the tournament, Sports Radio 910, that there truly is a Virginia bias. During their morning broadcast from the Richmond Coliseum, the hosts went through all the teams that had a chance to win the tournament. Not one non-Virginia school was mentioned. I remember Tieff just going off on that.


In 2005, the fifth seeded Flying Dutchmen, who had a breakout year with 20-plus wins were playing in the same bracket as #1 seeded Old Dominion.  As the Monarchs were beating William and Mary, the Hofstra student section fans came into the arena and sat down near us.  Since Hofstra had beaten ODU at the Constant Center to end the regular season, the Dutchmen fans and the Monarchs fans went into a chant challenge. Hofstra fans had a chant of "We Just Beat You" while ODU fans came back with a hilarious "Drexel's Gonna Beat You!"

And it was a pertinent chant in that Hofstra had never beaten Drexel since the two teams joined the CAA.  And there were the Flying Dutchmen facing the Dragons in the quarterfinal round. But thanks to Loren Stokes 31 points, the Dutchmen finally ended the Drexel curse, winning 89-77.

Hofstra would then face ODU in the semis. The Dutchmen were ahead by nine at the half, but Alex Loughton and company would outscore them by 23 in the second half and ODU would win 72-58 on their way to winning the CAA Tournament.


2006 was special for so many reasons.  First, before the tournament, you had all the talk about the CAA potentially getting multiple bids.  Second our friend Mal joined us on the trip and convinced us to make it a four day affair and stay in Atlantic City Thursday evening.  We played $2 -$4 poker that night and at the end of one of the hands, Mal beat an older man.  The guy then bellowed to Mal for no reason "What, do you think I play crap hands?!"  Every so often we say that to each other.

This was the first season that the now 12-team CAA had four first round games, with the first session starting at noon.  I actually had brought my laptop and did live updates for my blog.  We got there in time for the second half between Delaware and Drexel.  It was here late in the second half the referees forgot how many fouls were on Delaware and basically caused a Bruiser Flint meltdown.

In the second game, I learned the JMU mascot is very friendly and I reminded my readers the JMU pep band is the best band in the CAA.  Sorry folks, the George Mason and VCU bands get all the publicity and both are very good.  But back then, for me, the Madison band was simply better.  Hopefully a year away hasn't changed things.

Also, we got to see John Feinstein and Lefty Driesell at the Georgia State game. There were also a lot of scouts there during the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds. I remember seeing former Washington Bullet Kevin Grevey there doing scouting and we ended up talking to a scout from the Memphis Grizzlies as well.

The quarterfinal round had a major upset with Northeastern stunning defending champ Old Dominion in the afternoon session.  It almost had a second major upset in the evening session, when George Mason had to rally late in the second half against Georgia State and won in overtime.  We were there rooting heavily for the Panthers but they couldn't get it done.

The next game to finish the evening session was classic.  Hofstra, the 3 seed playing the 6 seed and basically host VCU. It was the Antoine Agudio show that night. He scored 34 points. The Dutchmen went out to a 10-0 lead and NEVER trailed. VCU came back but despite the home town fans and if you asked us, the home town refs, the Flying Dutchmen survived with a 72-66 win.

So Sunday came and I had never been so nervous for a basketball game ever. ESPN Bubble Watch noted that the winner of Hofstra-George Mason was likely to receive an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament.  After watching UNC Wilmington easily dispatch Northeastern (the three of us thought ODU would have given UNCW a much harder time), it was now down to the Dutchmen and the Patriots, Beach's dreaded foe.

Of course in the Hofstra-Mason game, we had the famous Tony Skinn incident where he punched Stokes in an oh so sensitive place. We didn't see it but news got through the crowd and we found out pretty quickly. But that incident overshadowed the best half of basketball I think I ever saw a Hofstra team play. The Dutchmen completely shutdown Jai Lewis as they outscored Mason 31-16 in the second half, winning the game 58-49.

I never felt such jubilation as I did after that game.  All the Hofstra fans felt at that moment that we had just clinched an at-large berth. As noted above, we had to drive home and couldn't stay for the championship game, won by UNCW. But as we drove home, for hours we all talked about what seed Hofstra would have in the NCAA Tournament if they were an at-large or if they were the CAA champion. Alas, thanks to as Beach would call a screwjob, Hofstra would be headed to the NIT, while Mason would head into history and the Final Four.


In 2007, the three of us again went down to Richmond but we flew this time.  2007 brought disappointment.  First our hotel was the America's Best Richmond Airport Hotel. Talk about a dump.  The first night, the couple next door to us was, well, having intimate relations all night.  And the woman was loud.  Very very loud. And the walls were quite thin. Suggestion, don't EVER stay there.

As for the basketball, that brought us disappointment too. Hofstra, the 3 seed, was playing the 6 seed Mason again for the second year in a row. The Patriots jumped out to a big halftime lead, 43-28. Hofstra would rally late and actually have a chance to tie. But Greg Johnson suffered a major brain cramp and drove for a layup instead of kicking out for a open three. Hofstra would lose and head to the NIT. It was a long plane flight back.


2008 was not much better than 2007 from a Hofstra perspective.  Tieff and I just went that year and for the first session, it was just me. Tieff had an important meeting on Friday, thus I drove down alone to Richmond in a rain storm and barely made it there before Hofstra's noon game on Friday vs. Towson. It was quite possibly one of the worst games I ever saw Hofstra play. The Dutchmen scored just 13 first half points and lost 81-66. I picked up Tieff that night from Richmond Airport and filled him in on all the gory details.

However, the 2008 CAA Tournament did bring one magical moment. In the first semifinal on Sunday, William and Mary took on defending CAA champ and #1 seed VCU. When then Rams coach Anthony Grant walked in, he was greeted like a rock star from the crowd and it seemed like the Tribe didn't have a chance. But W&M played perhaps the greatest game in program history and upset VCU in front of all the Rams faithful 58-56.

Which Leads Us To Today

Due to my son's kidney surgery, I missed the 2009 CAA Tournament. But I will be there this year. I picked up my tickets yesterday at the Hofstra Ticket Office. Ah yes, the familiar section of 19L. I looked them over with the giddiness of a guy about to go on date with his gorgeous high school dream girl. Yes, that's what a year away from the CAA Tournament does for me.

But this is what the CAA Tournament is for me. It's 10 games in three days seeing some of the best mid major players and teams in the country. It's also the experiences you get to witness and the memories that will remain with you for a lifetime. Like meeting very friendly UNCW fans, or watching the best mascot in the CAA, the Delaware Fighting Blue Hen surfboard over the Blue Hens Cheerleaders.  It's listening to the JMU pep band play “Frankenstein.” Or trying to keep warm while watching a first round CAA tournament game and commenting HOW FREAKIN COLD IT IS IN THE RICHMOND COLISEUM (apologies to Rob Washburn). It's hearing the same chants for VCU, ODU and JMU.  It's eating at Aunt Sarah's while reviewing the previous day's games with your best friend.

So I hope to see you this weekend in Richmond.  I will be somewhere around section 19L, so feel free to drop by and talk about who should be player of the year or  why didn't Cam Long take the last shot vs. Northeastern, or who deserves CAA Coach of the Year more, Tony Shaver or Tom Pecora.

The CAA Tournament: It truly is "Fun for the Crowd.”

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