Tuesday, September 6, 2011

In which I briefly & belatedly mark DD's anniversary before an exhaustive & self-referential look at the MBB schedule

If MTV still existed, and Adam Curry still worked there, then he definitely would have given Defiantly Dutch a shoutout on our third birthday!

If you’ve been visiting these parts for some or all of the past three years, you’ve learned a few indelible truths about yours truly. One is that I manage to combine horrible organizational skills with an unnatural ability to retain dates, facts, memorabilia and other minutiae regarding the history of Hofstra sports (or at least the history of Hofstra sports dating back to when I began paying attention, which, if ESPN and MTV have taught me anything, is when history actually began).

For example: I know the third anniversary of Defiantly Dutch was Aug. 25, but it came and went without a post. Until now! Whee! Happy anniversary to me! Thank you all for reading! And now that I have knowingly let the big day come and go without acknowledgment, I feel terrible shame and guilt. I’m an idiot.

Another is that I’m old, especially compared to the disrespectful smart-mouthed whippersnappers I have befriended on Twitter (except my bitter blogging rival Gary Moore—he’s older than me people! By parts of two decades!). As a result, I not only remember when people read newspapers, but when people of power would time bad news so that it was released late on a Friday because the Saturday newspaper had by far the lowest readership and circulation of the week.

And so it is that my first instinct, upon learning the Flying Dutchmen basketball schedule was FINALLY released on Friday—when most people had already checked out for Labor Day weekend—was to wonder what bad news was buried within. Were we playing Farmingdale State or another Division III school six times? Had we joined the CBI Conference, in which nobody knows who or where in the bloody hell they are playing until the night before the game? Were we spending the entire season on the road because the Arena was in the midst of year-long preparations for the 2012 presidential debate?

Of course it was nothing like that, and the schedule came out on the Friday of Labor Day weekend because that’s when it was ready to go. Why it takes so long, I have no idea. I do know, though, that if Hofstra had released the schedule a week or two earlier during a boffo prime-time telecast on Hofstra Television, I would have been honked off because I hate schools and leagues turning the release of a schedule into an epic three-part miniseries.

See, that’s another side effect of being old: You’re annoyed about everything. Hofstra didn’t make a big enough deal about the men’s basketball schedule. Hofstra made too big a deal about the men’s basketball schedule. There’s no in-between for us geezers. If she made it to middle age, Goldilocks never would have found a porridge that was just right.

Yet another side effect: Senseless rambling.

Anyway, the schedule is out, and after sitting in my recliner and carefully and rationally examining it the past 96 hours (I’m kidding. I got up to use the bathroom a couple times), I am 2,000 percent certain that we’re going undefeated this year. Or at least 39-1.

But seriously, folks, as usual, the release of the men’s basketball schedule brings with it the belief it is both challenging and one that sets the Dutchmen up for success. This is, as always, doubly true for the non-conference schedule, which this year includes six games against schools that advanced to postseason play last year—two NCAA participants, two NIT participant, one CIT participant and one It That Shall Not Be Named participant.

But five of those games are either at home or at true neutral sites. The Dutchmen will host reigning Northeast Conference champion Long Island University (which is actually in Brooklyn—this blew my mind when I was, like, seven years old) in the regular season opener Nov. 11 and will play defending America East champion Boston University (now coached by former Hofstra assistant Joe Jones) in the Legends Classic at the University of Rhode Island on Nov. 27.

The game against Boston U. will be the Dutchmen’s fourth in the Legends Classic and their third in as many days. The Dutchmen will face host fellow 2011 CBI refugee Rhode Island, the former school of starting Hofstra point guard Stevie Meija, on Nov. 25 (the day after Thanksgiving) and 2011 NIT participant Cleveland State (whose former coach, Rollie Massimino, brought with him to UNLV as assistants a couple of young’uns named Jay Wright and Tom Pecora) the next day.

The Dutchmen will start play in the Legends Classic on Nov. 16 at Oregon State. Why at Oregon State and why the 11-day gap in between tournament games, during which the Dutchmen will host St. Francis Nov. 19 and 2011 NIT participant Florida Atlantic Nov. 22? Because it’s the Gazelle Group, that’s why!

Anyway, the Dutchmen’s only long road trip of the non-conference schedule will be for that Legends Classic opener. While Oregon State is the lone BCS school on the Hofstra schedule, the Beavers are coming off an 11-20 season and have recorded just one winning record in the last 21 years. But hey they won the inaugural CBI in 2008! So taking on Oregon State (which is coached by Craig Robinson, who is the brother-in-law of President Obama, whose path to the presidency was fueled by his appearance at the debate at Hofstra—yes, I can tie any school on the schedule to Hofstra in six degrees or less, just try me) gives the Dutchmen a seemingly decent shot at their first win over a BCS opponent since St. John’s in 2006-07.

Once the calendar turns to December, the Dutchmen won’t leave the five boroughs and will play just one game away from the Arena. The Dutchmen host James Madison in the look-but-don’t-touch CAA opener Dec. 3, the first time Hofstra doesn’t play Towson in its December conference game since 2007-08 (UNC Wilmington). James Madison is a good December game for a Dutchmen team in transition since the Dukes will be without point guard Devon Moore for the entire first semester. Plus, the Dutchmen always beat the Dukes, usually in thrilling fashion—like here, here and here!

The Dutchmen take their lone road trip of December Dec. 6, when they travel across the Verrazano to take on Wagner. The Seahawks gave the Dutchmen all they could handle last season and should be among the Northeast Conference favorites after Dan Hurley recruited another impressive class of newcomers.

The Dutchmen round out 2011 with four straight home games, the first three of which—against Manhattan Dec. 10, Binghamton Dec. 17 and Colgate Dec. 22—look eminently winnable on paper. Manhattan is rebuilding after firing coach Barry Rohrssen, Binghamton is still recovering from starting from scratch after scandal ripped apart the program following its NCAA Tournament appearance in 2009 and Colgate is coming off a 7-23 season and has recorded just two winning records in the last 15 years.

Iona, coached by ex-Hofstra player Tim Cluess, coming off an impressive season in which the Gaels lost in the CIT championship game and heading into a season in which they should be the consensus favorite to win the MAAC, visits Hofstra on Dec. 29. I’m not worried at all about this game, since nothing bad ever happens when Hofstra plays Iona in December. Just like it didn’t happen here and here.

As usual, the CAA schedule gets underway with a flurry of games right after New Year’s Day. The “three-in-six” for Hofstra will be particularly challenging this year as the Dutchmen open real CAA play by hosting VCU Jan. 2. The Rams did OK last year, when they inspired us all to believe in fairness and goodness in sports by becoming the school to ever reach the Final Four by winning five games, after which Shaka Smart signed a new contract that made him the BMOC in the CAA and inspired ex-BMOC Jim Larranaga to take his basketball and faux good guy schtick and stomp off to Miami to get his ass kicked on a regular basis in the ACC. That really happened, didn’t it?

After that, the Dutchmen head to the road to take on improving Delaware Jan. 4 and dangerous UNC Wilmington Jan. 7. That’s the first of three two-game road trips for the Dutchmen, who have just one two-game homestand during CAA play.

This initially led me to believe the schedule was made with the idea of screwing over Pecora. But two of the three multi-game trips—and the two trips that take the Dutchmen furthest south—occur during Intersession (at James Madison and at VCU Jan. 21-23), which means the Dutchmen shouldn’t have to worry about getting back to school in between games. The other two-game road trip is Feb. 8-11 at George Mason (hi guys!) and Drexel, but the Dutchmen will presumably bus back from Fairfax and be on campus in the early morning hours of Feb. 9.

Then again, after returning home from UNC Wilmington, the Dutchmen host our friends from Northeastern in Barone Bowl I on Jan. 11, visit Old Dominion on Jan. 14 and return to face Drexel Jan. 18. And after the back-to-back games in Virginia, Hofstra hosts George Mason Jan. 25 before visiting Northeastern in Barone Bowl II Jan. 28 (forecast: 270 inches of snow). Hmm. Tasking Hofstra with all that travel and all those demanding, physical games in a row seems inherently unfair—an example of Southern Bias, even!

Anyway, a lot can change in the next five months, but February looks like it will present the Dutchmen with another opportunity to make a late-season surge. It begins with that two-game homestand against a pair of rebuilding squads in Towson and Georgia State before the Dutchmen head off to visit likely co-CAA favorites George Mason and Drexel (UNFAIR!!!). The Dutchmen host Delaware in a possible ECC title game Feb. 14 (hopefully none of their fans get food poisoning up here) before greeting someone in the Bracket Buster Feb. 18. Oh yay. A Bracket Buster involving two teams that almost surely won’t be on the NCAA Tournament bubble. Yawn.

The Dutchmen complete the regular season by visiting our friends (and hilarious Tweeters) at William & Mary and taking on the incredibly scary Tribe Feb. 22 (sonofagun, you mean I have to wait until the penultimate game to dip into my Scrubs bag of tricks?) before returning to the Arena to play UNC Wilmington in the finale Feb. 25. And a week later at the ever-lovable Richmond Coliseum, the top-seeded Dutchmen will record the first of the three wins they need to become CAA champions!

Or not, I don’t know. Declaring a transitional Dutchmen team will win the CAA might be crazy, but it’s not as crazy as writing 1,800 words about the release of the schedule. Is this what it’s like to be a college football fan in the south? Good thing Nov. 5—the date of the exhibition game against Queens College—is only 60 days away. No, I didn’t mention the exhibition game. I’m not insane, you know.

Email Jerry at defiantlydutch@yahoo.com or follow Defiantly Dutch at http://twitter.com/defiantlydutch.

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