Friday, March 4, 2011

Eight reasons we’ll all be going crazy after the Dutchmen go all the way and win the CAA Monday night!

I bet Loyal Reader Missy is the only other one who remembers this fine one-hit wonder! "The Flying Dutchmen are...dancing in the Richmond Coliseum!"

It’s finally here—the weekend we’ve been waiting for the last 51 weekends, the best weekend of the year for a basketball fan and the only one that really matters, at least until Hofstra makes the NCAA Tournament!

The equal parts anticipation and urgency is overwhelming. We can’t wait for this weekend, oh man it’s already here. We have done a good job of savoring this special Flying Dutchmen season, but there’s something a bit jolting about the thought that one loss this weekend will, for all intents and purposes, send us into next season, and into the era none of us wants to enter.

Charles Jenkins stood outside the media room at Richmond Coliseum a year ago tomorrow night and said he wasn’t ready for his senior season to begin. Well, now, we’re not ready for it to end. Oh sure, Jenkins’ career and the Dutchmen’s season almost surely won’t end this weekend—there will likely be a postseason tournament for the Dutchmen if they lose this weekend, but we don’t want one of THOSE tournaments. We want the big one, in Jenkins’ last season.

There are no more tomorrows (not the last time you’ll see that cliché this weekend, or even in this piece!), no more chances for coaches and players to say it’s early after a loss, no more opportunities for them to say they can learn from such defeats. It’s all or nothing, joyous euphoria or crushing disappointment, nothing in between. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Enough with the buildup and finishing up the day job work. We just want to get to Richmond, get in our seats, buckle up and watch the Dutchmen win the whole bleeping thing. Here’s eight reasons why they will, and why we’ll be singing that Sly Fox classic among others Monday night! And as always, stop by here regularly and follow me on Twitter. As long as Hofstra is playing (i.e. through Monday night!) I’ll be splitting my time between press row and the stands, trying to give you the inside dirt and a taste of what’s going on in the SOUTHERN BIAS!!!! capital of the world.

1.) They got the bye: Man it is so nice to not have to sit here all week and come up with reasons why the Flying Dutchmen can be the first team to ever win the CAA championship by winning four games in four days. It’ll happen, at some point, because just about everything short of the Cubs winning the World Series happens at some point, but the odds are really stacked against it. Only two teams that have played on Friday have advanced to the title game since the CAA expanded in 2001-02 (George Mason in 2007 and William & Mary in 2008). As I noted in Just The Facts Thursday, the no. 3 seed is 7-2 against its first-round opponent since 2002 and has outscored that opponent by just 5.5 points, which suggests teams that play on Friday are already feeling the effects on Saturday. Sit back and enjoy the games tonight, Hofstra!

2.) The Dutchmen are finally well-rested: Here was the Dutchmen’s itinerary beginning Feb. 8: Fly to Georgia State, play Panthers Feb. 9, fly home Feb. 10, travel to Delaware Feb. 11, play Blue Hens Feb. 12, come home that afternoon, edge William & Mary in The Greatest Game Ever Played Feb. 15, fly to Dayton Feb. 18, get smoked by Wright State Feb. 19, fly home (through Charlotte?!) that night, fly to Wilmington Feb. 22, play Seahawks Feb. 23, fly home Feb. 24, host Delaware and honor seniors and retire Charles Jenkins’ jersey Feb. 26. That’s me taking 89 words to say what I could sum up in the following 12: The Dutchmen needed this week off more than anyone in the league. They’ll actually get more rest than anyone: By the time the Dutchmen tip off at 8:30 Saturday, only five teams will still be alive in the tournament. The fresh legs—the Dutchmen’s longest since taking six days off for final exams from Dec. 12-17—will come in very handy Saturday night.

3.) They have veteran leaders instilling a sense of urgency: Do you think there’s any player in this tournament hungrier than Jenkins, who has accomplished absolutely everything at Hofstra short of leading the Dutchmen to the NCAA Tournament? Greg Washington is a fellow fifth-year senior and Brad Kelleher is a 24-year-old playing his only season of Division I ball, so there will be no shortage of reminders from the seniors for the rest of their teammates that—warning! cliché alert!—there are no more tomorrows.

“Right now is the time you want to come closer,” Washington said after the Dutchmen beat Delaware 79-60 Saturday afternoon. “We’re going into battle and I really wouldn’t rather have any other group of guys than what we have now. They trust me, I trust them, we trust our coaching staff [and] the strategies that are going on. It’s time to pin the ears back and let’s go.”

4.) The Dutchmen have won on the road, have proven resilient and are well-tested in close games: Playing in Richmond isn’t easy, but traveling far south with a northern-based team to play in a conference tournament is nothing new for Mo Cassara and the Dutchmen won’t be intimidated by any situation they encounter this weekend. The Dutchmen went 7-2 on the road in CAA play and 10-4 in road games overall. They were 8-3 in games decided by six or fewer points, including 3-0 in February. The Dutchmen lost six games by at least 15 points, but went 4-2 in their next game and all three of their four-game winning streaks began immediately after one of those lopsided losses. In addition, they won three in a row after an 11-point loss to Old Dominion in January and won their last three regular season games after the 26-point loss to Wright State in the BracketBuster.

5.) Mike Moore is going to have a big weekend. I’ll admit I was a little concerned about Moore after he ended the season by shooting just 11-of-33 from the field and 3-of-14 from beyond the 3-point line in the Dutchmen’s final three games. And my opinion might be clouded by just writing a feature about him in which Moore said he felt good and was looking forward to this weekend. But this is a guy who thrived in elimination spots in high school, when he led Hillhouse in New Haven, CT to two straight state titles as a junior and senior, has waited a long time for this and is calm enough to not let the moment overwhelm him. Telling you: Three big games coming up for no. 23.

6.) The Dutchmen are peaking at the right time: Part of Cassara wished the Dutchmen DIDN’T get this week’s long rest, because he was thrilled with how the Dutchmen played in the final week of the regular season against UNC Wilmington and Delaware. Sophomores David Imes and Yves Jules really came on in February—Jules, in particular, has thrived in his role as defensive stopper—while freshman Shemiye McLendon bounced back from the first DNP-CD of his career with a passionate performance on both ends of the court against Delaware. The Dutchmen finally FEEL like a deep team even if they still only go seven or eight deep, and the presence of Jules and McLendon—each of whom can hit a 3-pointer—lessens the pressure on Moore and Kelleher.

7.) The Wolf solves problems: Yes, Jenkins is so good, he must be mentioned twice. I don’t know if the Dutchmen are going to win it all—who am I kidding, yes I do—but after losing in heartbreaking fashion in the quarterfinals each of the last two years, Jenkins is going to have at least one and quite possibly three games in which he channels great seniors from CAA past (Eric Maynor, Gerald Lee, Matt Janning) and absolutely refuses to let his team lose. His MidMajority-coined nickname—“The Takeover”—will prove to be appropriate this weekend.

8.) “Why not us?”: My heart skipped a few beats when avowed Yankees fan Cassara said those three words were the Dutchmen’s philosophy following the win over Delaware 20 days ago. I have very fond memories of covering the 2004 Red Sox, a bunch of (well-compensated, 96-win) underdogs who rode the “Why not us?” theme all the way to the most historic World Series win in history. So hey, if it worked for them, it can work for a Flying Dutchmen team that overcame real obstacles and that everyone had buried back in October, right?

“Believe me, it’s not a Red Sox theme,” Cassara said with a laugh that afternoon in Newark. “But basically I just said to the guys ‘There’s no reason we cant’ win out. There’s no reason.’ People have doubted us since we got hired in May and since we put this team together in May. Why can’t we win? Because we believe we can. And our guys believe that and they’ve kind of rallied around that.”

9.) It’s meant to be, damnit: Every year, I sit here and come up with reasons why the Dutchmen are going to win it all, and every year it feels like I’m trying to convince myself more than anybody else. Not this year. For one thing, history has been kind to three seeds, who have reached the championship game six times in the last nine years.

Mostly, though, it just FEELS like this team, which went through so much before the season even began and which has withstood flurry after flurry during the season, is going to be the Cinderella that goes all the way. I said it on the first Monday of the year and I feel even stronger about it now.

I know there are multiple teams and fan bases every year that feel this is their year, and that only one of those squads is left standing Monday night, and that having a team led by desperate seniors guarantees nothing. Who can ever forget the heartbreak Northeastern endured last year, when its senior-laden team missed more than a half-dozen shots in the final minute of a 47-45 loss to William & Mary in the semifinals?

But still—this is Hofstra’s year, I can just sense it. Plus, look at that bracket: Would there be any sweeter result ever than winning the CAA by beating George Mason in the final? That victory would provide the tastiest revenge for everyone who has ever played coached or rooted for Hofstra—from the 2006 team that got screwed by the Patriots in multiple ways to Cassara, who was utterly freaking robbed of coach of the year last night by people who are paid to know better, and everyone before and in between.

I’ve been daydreaming and nightdreaming about this weekend for weeks, and every time I see the same thing: Jenkins, the player who has carried the Dutchmen on his back for three years, is triumphantly carried off the court by his teammates and the Dutchmen fans who joyfully storm the court at the Richmond Coliseum. After celebrating, my wife and I drive home, fueled entirely by adrenaline, in the middle of the night, and she doesn’t mind that I crank a certain Extreme song the whole damn way.

I can’t bear to ponder any other outcome. The Dutchmen go dancing after Hofstra 72, George Mason 69. So let it be written, so let it be done.

Email Jerry at or follow Defiantly Dutch at

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