Friday, March 5, 2010

Seven reasons Dutchmen are headed for seventh heaven

Seventh heaven isn't too far away...only need to win four games in four matter what the haters say Hofstra will find a way yeaahhhhhh! Lay off me, a lack of sleep has made me delirious.

Here we are: The risk/reward weekend of the season. The odds are the Flying Dutchmen will head home disappointed, but how can we not spend the days leading up to the CAA Tournament pondering the awesomeness of the Dutchmen playing—and winning—on Monday? How can we not imagine what it’d be like if our beloved Dutchmen continue their sizzling second half by mounting the greatest Cinderella run in CAA history? How can we not daydream about how to storm the court and Tweet, all at the same time (OK, I won’t be storming the court)?

Pure euphoria or the poignant emptiness of knowing it’ll take an entire season just to get back to this point—there is no in between. Most awesome weekend of the year. Bring it on.

The games have already started and Towson is in the midst of its annual “Where the hell has this been all season” annihilation of its first round foe, so here are seven reasons why you should believe the Dutchmen will be dancing on Monday night, followed by tournament predictions. Stop back in a bit for a Q&A with Tom Pecora as well as a feature on the 1993 East Carolina team that won it all as a seven seed.

And if you like me, even just a little bit, root for the Dutchmen tonight, as my wife and I are VERY tentatively planning to head down tomorrow morning as long as the Dutchmen are playing. Either way, stop by here and visit our Twitter account all weekend long as we rant and rave about the Dutchmen and the CAA Tournament. And whatever you do, make sure to bookmark Litos as he provides his usual awesome coverage of the tourney.

1.) Charles Jenkins: No seven seed has ever had the player of the year. Jenkins is playing like a man possessed and became a true superstar with his effort against Northeastern in which he overcame a poor performance (by his standards) and willed the Dutchmen to a huge road victory. He’s been driven all year by the memory of missing the last shot against Old Dominion in the quarterfinals and knows his legacy is missing only one thing at this point.

2.) The supporting cast isn’t half-bad either: Jenkins scored more than half the Dutchmen’s points (27 of 51) in that loss to the Monarchs. Tom Pecora used 11 players, six of whom were on the court for 15 minutes or less—including senior starters Arminas Urbutis, Darren Townes and Greg Johnson. But these Dutchmen have had at least three players in double figures in seven of the last 10 games and have begun to roll with the tight seven-man rotation that has been the trademark of Pecora’s best teams.

3.) This sizzling run is sustainable: The Richmond Coliseum is the cooler—literally, according to Gary Moore—for hot-shooting teams, but the Dutchmen are well-positioned for a run even if they don’t continue to average 83 points a game. They rank first in both field goal percentage defense, 3-point field goal percentage defense, blocks and steals and second in rebounding margin. It’s worth noting the Dutchmen are only 10th in the league in defensive rebounding, but that is largely a product of their miserable January. In their last 10 games, the Dutchmen have had 148 more defensive rebounds than their opponents have had offensive rebounds. Also notable: The Dutchmen are first in the league in free throw percentage, a huge factor in any close tournament game.

4.) Pecora: Yeah, the critics are mad because he hasn’t led the Dutchmen to the NCAA Tournament, or because he doesn’t use a clipboard, or because he was in a bad mood one day and didn’t wave to the crowd, or because he coaches basketball and not football. But he is a flat-out great coach who is a master at getting his teams prepared and focused and playing their best ball at this time of the year. This is the third time in the last six seasons the Dutchmen have ended the regular season on a 9-1 run. The Dutchmen are 3-1 in Friday first round games under Pecora and 5-3 overall in their first game of the tournament. He is ready for anything that happens during a game this weekend and for any opponent the Dutchmen might face.

5.) Confidence: I’m a bit biased (no! really?) but it’s been at least four seasons since I’ve seen a Dutchmen team bursting with this type of good karma and mojo. Winning five straight league games by at least 10 points (only the 12th time a CAA team has finished the regular season by winning at least five straight conference games) tends to do that to a team. Confidence is a weird, delicate thing, seemingly impossible to regain once lost yet seemingly impossible to lose once things get rolling.

6.) Blissful ignorance of youth: Halil Kanacevic and Chaz Williams will not be intimidated by the big stage nor by the long odds facing the Dutchmen. Kanacevic is fresh off an outstanding performance against Northeastern big men Manny Adako and Nkem Ojougboh and, if the Dutchmen get to Monday, won’t be fazed by facing a Gerald Lee or Larry Sanders. Williams may be the most important player for the Dutchmen this weekend. If he can revert back to his December/early January form and channel his inner Jason Hernandez by hitting threes while efficiently running the offense, the Dutchmen will be doubly dangerous.

7.) It’s destiny baby!: This Dutchmen team also reminds me of the 1993-94 team that couldn’t buy a basket for the first half of the season before it started lighting up the scoreboard (that team averaged 79 points per game in its final 11 games after reaching 79 points just twice in the first 18 games) on its way to an unlikely conference championship. Obviously the old ECC is a whole lot different than the CAA, but there’s just something about this team that has me thinking a deep run is possible and that the Dutchmen can finally become the Cinderella their conference has lacked since 1995 (a team seeded first or second has won the title every year except 2008, when our pals at Mason won as the three seed). Last year was about convincing ourselves that three or four wins were possible if A, B and C happened. Not this year.

The Northeastern draw is tough, but you can’t ask for more than a true neutral site game in the quarterfinals (see? Told you I’d come up with reasons why it was better to face Northeastern than ODU!). If the Dutchmen get to Sunday, they’ll face either William & Mary (against whom they had sizable second half leads in both January games), Drexel (whom they beat by 11 in Hempstead three weeks ago) or James Madison (whom they beat by 20 in Virginia at the beginning of February). And if they get to Monday, they’ll be running on more adrenaline and momentum than any finalist in memory. And if they don’t, I’ll be kicking myself all summer for hexing it!


Some blog bias-fueled tournament predictions that are sure to be wrong!


8 Towson over 9 UNCW: You can check my Twitter, I predicted this before the Tigers sent the Seahawks back to Wilmington.

5 VCU over 12 Delaware: The Mike Pegues Bowl (look it up, kiddies!). This one may be even uglier than Towson-UNCW. Do you remember when Delaware was an elite program that hosted the conference tournament and seemingly had a bye into the semifinals every year? Yeah me neither.

7 Hofstra over 10 Georgia State: Duh. Boy will I look like a bigger jackass than usual if the Dutchmen get knocked out in the first round after I spent all week coming up with reasons why they’ll win it all. Will probably be closer than we prefer, since Georgia State is a nightmare on Friday (3-1 in first round games and should have beaten William & Mary as the 12 seed two years ago), but the Dutchmen hang on.

11 James Madison over 6 Drexel: This will anger my new friend and fello CAA Hoops contributor MetSox, but the Dukes are the scariest of tournament teams—a squad with high Division I talent but effort issues. Just the type of team to turn it on this weekend (hi Towson!). And Drexel, which lost to—IRONY THAT IS NOT REALLY IRONY ALERT!!!—Towson last year in the 6 vs. 11 game, is in the midst of another late-season fade.


1 ODU over 8 Towson: Another game that will probably be closer than we imagine, but with every win the Monarchs’ at-large chances increase. They’re not losing to the Tigers and Pat Kennedy’s awesome toupee.

5 VCU over 4 George Mason: Rams win by 75, paste eaters crash the CAA Zone complaining about how things would be different if the tournament wasn’t in Richmond. Honestly, is there anything funnier than Mason fans complaining about unfair advantages? (Can’t say this enough: They’re not all bad, swapping emails with the more intelligent ones is fun) Seriously, this will be the best and most entertaining game of the tournament, and given the history of Jim Larranaga-coached teams in the tourney, I won’t be shocked at all if the Patriots get their crap together and run off two or three wins. But it’s hard to make up for a season of foolishness in one weekend. Especially when the refs make it an 8-on-5 game, muahahahaha.

7 Hofstra over 2 Northeastern: Duh x 2. This matchup does scare me, because there is less than no chance the senior-laden Huskies overlook the Dutchmen. And I can easily foresee a scenario in which the Dutchmen are bussing back to Hempstead in silence around 10 p.m. tomorrow night. But here’s my favorite stat of the year: In the two games between the two teams this season, the Dutchmen pulled down 58 defensive rebounds while Northeastern had just 10 offensive boards. It’s another close one but Kanacevic has a monster game and Williams hits a couple huge threes in the second half.

11 James Madison over 3 William & Mary: Two straight years the 11 seed makes the semifinal!


ODU over VCU: Another classic, but just like last Saturday, the Rams blow a late lead with sloppy play and the Monarchs eke out a win.

Hofstra over James Madison: Duh x 3. Honestly, if the bracket breaks this way, I may not be able to contain myself. Scorching Dutchmen blow out the tired Dukes.


Hofstra over ODU: Duh x 4. All of Virginia turns out to cheer on the Monarchs and razz the damn Noo Yawkers, but there is no stopping a team of destiny as the Dutchmen become the first squad ever to win four games in four days and the first northern school to win the CAA. Our Man Corny hits a bunch of threes in the second half as the Dutchmen create some distance in a close game. Charles Jenkins flings the ball skyward as time expires and all seven Hofstra fans storm the court. Watch for me. I’ll be the guy jumping on Pecora’s back and Tweeting with my free hand as he tries to make his way to Blaine Taylor for the post-game handshake.

As usual, I retain the right to say I was right if Hofstra loses in the quarterfinals and its opponent wins it all!

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

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