Thursday, March 31, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Long before we ever got to the doorstep of #8Wins4CAA, there was the seemingly Quixotic hashtag that turned into reality and made all of this—VCU’s incredible, historic, orgasm-is-an-anagram-for-GORAMS run from the First Four to the Final Four—possible. And so, as we congratulate VCU and Rams fans on unprecedented achievement and direct you to those who can do this story justice—Mike Litos and Kyle Whelliston—we also pay homage to those who stood their ground and will enjoy this as much as anyone outside of RamNation, beginning with the ones who treaded what had to be the loneliest patch of grass in the yard.
Our good friends and William & Mary alums @Gheorghetheblog and @batogato were the ones who started the #3Bids4CAA movement on Twitter back before Valentine’s Day and they, along with Litos, kept the faith even as the odds and hope seemed to dwindle. It was Litos who on Selection Sunday—15 days that feel as if they happened 15 years ago—channeled Tug McGraw (Google him, kids!) and implored us to believe in the two percent.
We thought they were crazy. Turned out they were prescient geniuses. Enjoy this, gents, you believed before, and with more fervor than, anyone else.
This VCU run is also for those of us who displayed a different fervor five years ago, for the Hofstra fans who pushed away the spoon and refused to swallow the feel-good Cinderella story being spewed by a nation that didn’t know the truth, didn’t know what we knew about THEIR run and HIS way. Most people—especially THEIR fans—wondered how we could derive nothing but sickness and heartache out of THAT run, how we could let our contempt and, yes, hatred consume us during the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to root for a school in the same conference as Hofstra—Hofstra, for crying out loud, a school just 12 years removed from winning the championship in a conference that didn’t have an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament—to reach the Final Four.
Once-in-a-lifetime or not, how we felt and reacted in 2006 was the right thing—the only thing—to do. This—a seemingly twice-in-a-lifetime opportunity, emphasis on seemingly—is a reward for us, a second chance nobody ever expected to get. If they didn’t understand why we felt how we felt five years ago, then they’ll never understand the sense of peace that came over all of us yesterday afternoon, of seeing a team whose Final Four run wasn’t hatched via felonious acts of assault and underhanded backroom politics and whose coach delivers inspirational speeches that sound authentic, heartfelt and spontaneous and not hackneyed and scripted for television.
2006 is a footnote now—one that will always gnaw at us, to be sure, but one we no longer have to hear parroted every goddamn March by people who don’t know any better. We are free. Now and forever, the Cinderella standard is five wins over five BCS league opponents to get to the Final Four. Now and forever, we are searching for—and hoping to become—the next VCU.
This VCU run is for those who cover entire leagues and an entire genre (for lack of a better word) of basketball in the type of comprehensive and outstanding fashion they deserve, and not as the niche the gatekeepers wish it was. Once again, this is for you, Mike Litos, a man I am proud to call my friend and someone who inspires me everyday to be a better writer and person, and for you, Kyle Whelliston, so accurately dubbed the bard of the mid-majors.
Of all the Tweets generated by VCU’s stunning upset yesterday, my very favorite was from Northwestern State broadcaster Patrick Netherton: “Funny that this season, with all ESPN’s experts, the guy most knowledgeable about half the Final Four teams is @midmajority, who they fired.”
Whelliston was fired for daring to suggest “The Sports Bubble” that was created by ESPN is unsustainable. The mainstream kicked him out, and not coincidentally, has deemed the CAA a conference unworthy of big-time coverage or a seat at the big boy table. So Litos and Whelliston ran an end-around and made their own breaks, and this weekend, they will be covering VCU in the Final Four.
Most of all, this VCU run is for all those who stood our ground and refused to believe the notion that the mid-major basketball we love is somehow lesser than power conference ball. It’s for those whose world views are shaped not by what ESPN tells us is REALLY IMPORTANT but by heading out to smaller arenas and gymnasiums and seeking out those of our ilk on what must be the best community on the Internet. It is a place where a Hofstra fan and a Mason fan can tell each other to go fudge a kite, and then come to appreciate and respect the other’s passion for his alma mater, all in a single day.
It is a place in which everyone went to bed last night (or this morning) dreaming of the day their team is the one tugging at uniform tops after knocking out Drago. The odds are long—very long. But three mid-majors have made the Final Four in the last five years. As Final Four-bound VCU coach Shaka Smart might say: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance.”
Yes there is. The last song I heard before I got out of the car last night was the Rocky IV anthem—and Hofstra Arena staple—“No Easy Way Out.” That’s a good enough sign for me. We can be the next VCU. The hashtag is #HUF4. Pass it on.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Friday, March 25, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Have fun with Vicki (err, VCU), Bill (err, Mike)! This clip will also be enjoyed by Son of CBI Craziness leader Craig. In fact, it might just serve as his prize. I don't know.
Have fun with Vicki (err, VCU), Bill (err, Mike)! This clip will also be enjoyed by Son of CBI Craziness leader Craig. In fact, it might just serve as his prize. I don't know.
Sometimes life really sucks. The beautiful part about rooting for a mid-major is the shared collective geekdom. We are perpetual outsiders, doomed to always be gazing through the fence at the beautiful people as we laugh at our own inside jokes about Airplane! quotes and John Waite songs and remind ourselves we wouldn’t want to be THEM anyway.
Once in a great while we might be invited to their party, but we are usually escorted from the premises after wolfing down some pigs in blankets and are home in our rented apartments and ratty sweats by the time the main course is served. It really is like the adult version of high school.
But this never happened in high school. Not only was one of our friends invited to the big party, but well after most of the guests have left, the prom queen is doing her damndest to give him mono. Or, in this case, our so-called good friend Mike Litos traveling to San Antonio to chronicle VCU’s Sweet Sixteen appearance for both CAAHoops.com and VCU’s official website.
We always imagined how awesome it would be if this—going to the Sweet Sixteen, never mind actually covering it—happened to one of us, but a.) the one of us is never anybody else in the group and b.) we never ACTUALLY wanted it to happen to anybody else in the group. We’re selfish, small bastards wracked by jealousy. We’re not happy for our friend, we’re wondering what the hell the prom queen sees in him. I HELPED YOU WITH YOUR HOMEWORK IN HOMEROOM AND LOCKERED NEXT TO YOU FOR FOUR YEARS, WHERE’S MY MONO?!
Anyway. While Litos is off living the dream, we’re here posting the standings to Son of CBI Craziness—the adulthood version of gathering in a fellow geek’s basement and watching some movies that have to be back at the video store by Monday morning.
No, wait, this is much worse. Nothing in high school was ever as bad as sifting through the Son of CBI Craziness while our so-called geek friend is off sucking face with greatness. Life sucks, boo hoo.
In all seriousness, we are as thrilled for Litos as we are sick of the CBI and all gambling pools associated with it. But we committed to this stupid thing so we may as well see it through and show the standings through two rounds as well as remind all of you the semifinals start tonight and that you need to send in your picks for the remainder of the tournament. Because, as you may or may not have forgotten, the CBI is so awesome, it tears up the bracket and starts anew for the semifinals. Yay!
Emails/Tweets/Facebook messages will be sent as well, but in case you’re in the pool and you stumble across this, pick the winners of the semifinal games (Central Florida at Creighton and Boise State at Oregon) as well as the winner of the championship series and the number of games that damn thing takes. You get four points for each semifinal game you pick correctly and eight points for correctly picking the winner of the championship series (seriously, CBI, a championship series?!).
Get your picks in tonight by 8, which may or may not be an hour after the first semifinal game starts. Who cares for crying out loud? It’s the CBI.
All that said, I am seriously considering ending this now, not only because it sucks but because semi-Loyal Reader Craig Smith is lapping the field. He broke an eight-way tie for first place by somehow picking all four winners in the second round, which means—duh—he has all four finalists and that he almost surely can’t be beat if Central Florida wins the whole thing and he gets a 16-point bonus for picking them before this charade started. Congrats, Craig. I think. Damnit now I have to find a prize.
Four other contestants, led by Loyal Reader Mike Brodsky, are in double digits. Make sure to add that to your resumes! At the other end, I am no longer in last place, thanks to fellow Extreme and Scrubs fan Joe Suhoski, but hey, there’s still two rounds to go, plenty of time for this CBI experience to get even worse!
Anyway, the standings. Let us never speak of this again, or at least until after the semifinals tonight.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
Thursday, March 17, 2011
This idea was worse than any of those.
This idea was worse than any of those.
I’ve had some bad ideas in my life. I once tried to forge my Mom’s signature on a particularly poor progress report (brilliant move, trying to perpetuate academic fraud on a teacher—dear beloved late Mom smelled that one out a mile away). I went on a blind date with a girl with a criminal record (hey, maybe she was framed—no, she wasn’t).
I wore a mullet until my second semester at Hofstra—that was the spring of 1994—until one of my fellow editors at The Chronicle finally screamed some sense into me. I invited my future wife to spend New Year’s Eve with me in Connecticut in 1995 and assured her it wouldn’t take me that long to cover that New Year’s Day road race the next morning. Do you know how long it took to get race results during the infant days of the Internet? Let me tell you: A damn long time.
Anyway, all the forged progress reports and girls with criminal pasts and 1994 mullets and freezing New Year’s Day mornings spent waiting for race results with a very cold and very unhappy future wife combined couldn’t match the epic suckitude of my latest and worst idea yet: A SECOND CBI pool. Because really, the first one led to such great things for the Flying Dutchmen, and ended so well (prize is in the mail, @VCUPav!). This is the faux gambling version of green-lighting the sequel to The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
Sure enough, forming a CBI pool was once again terrible karma for the Dutchmen—good news, though, Hofstra was not the first team to fall to 0-2 in CBI play, thank you very much Nevada!!!—which is just one reason why this will not happen again. Mostly because if Hofstra ever even THINKS of accepting a bid to the CBI in the future, I’ll be too busy (climbing to the top of Shuart Stadium and vowing not to leave until the school changes its mind) to run a pool.
But since I made the commitment to a CBI pool while fueled on adrenaline and a lack of sleep, I may as well try to see it through and PRAY either my wife or Loyal Reader @NUHF—both of whom are among the eight people tied for first—win it all because then I won’t have to ante up a prize.
Alas, my wife, like just about everyone else in this game who has ever taken a class at Hofstra, picked the Dutchmen to win it all, so her chances aren’t that good. Speaking of the Dutchmen, nobody will be perfect in the most imperfect bracket game ever because EVERY SINGLE ONE of our 21 contestants (hey that’s not bad for six hours) picked Hofstra to beat Evansville Tuesday night. I’m shocked. I figured someone—a Mason fan—would have joined just to pick Evansville and piss me off.
Oh and guess who is tied for last, with only one semifinalist left. Worst. Idea. Ever.
I’ve already spent way too much time on this. There will be no Just The Facts: CBI Bracket in which I break down the stats on how each game was picked, but you’ll get over it. Now I will post the standings and be done with this, thankfully, until after the second round Monday!
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Call it cheesy if you must but tell me this doesn't sum things up.
So here’s where the story ends. The Flying Dutchmen endured an itinerary straight out of a John Hughes film (thanks to Loyal Reader Missy for that analogy), all to lose to a .500 team in a Division II gymnasium in the central time zone in something called a CBI (seriously, and I mean it this time, if I ever—EVER—stump for a CBI bid again, give me the Tony Skinn treatment).
It ends not with drama or excitement for the Dutchmen or another YouTube moment for Charles Jenkins, but with Jenkins capping the finest career in school history with just 14 points—a total he exceeded 31 times in his first 32 games this year and in 93 of his first 127 games at Hofstra—as the Dutchmen fell to Evansville, 77-70, in the first round of the Can’t Believe I thought it was a good idea for Hofstra to play in this tournament (yes, I’m going to the well again with that one).
It ends with fellow seniors Greg Washington and Brad Kelleher concluding their careers with desperate, meaningless 3-point attempts in the waning seconds. It ends with Mike Moore authoring the biggest last-minute head-scratcher by a Dutchmen since Greg Johnson drove for two against George Mason with Hofstra down three. A season defined by frantic, inspired comebacks ends with the Dutchmen closing within a possession of Evansville eight times in the final 10-plus minutes yet losing a game they led at halftime for just the second time all year.
Nobody ever said life was fair, or that endings were just or anything other than abrupt and unsatisfying. But geez, didn’t we ALL deserve something a little better than this after one of the most exciting seasons in Defiantly Dutch history, one that got our hearts thumping and our imaginations racing and inspired all of us to believe this would be the winter of our impossible dream?
“Tough night,” Mo Cassara said by phone afterward. “It’s a tough ending. It’s a tough way to end after such a great year. You can lose sight of that a little bit because we’re out here in southern Indiana and you feel almost lost a little bit right now from what’s gotten us here.”
Whether it was the uninspiring setting, the travel or just a team that finally ran out of gas, the Dutchmen drifted off course (get it?) and played an unfamiliar game at the most inconvenient time. Jenkins had as many field goals as assists (six), took just 12 shots (only the ninth time this year he shot 12 or fewer times) and, amazingly, went to the free throw line just once, which means he had one free throw attempt combined in his final two games in a Hofstra uniform.
The Dutchmen don’t blow multi-possession leads in the second half, but they squandered leads of seven points and six points in the first six minutes of the second half and never led in the final 11:37. The Dutchmen, who—groan—pride themselves on taking care of the ball and set a CAA Tournament record with just two turnovers in a quarterfinal win over William & Mary, turned it over 14 times, their highest total since the loss to Western Kentucky. Not coincidentally, that was also the first time this season the Dutchmen lost a game in which they led at halftime. Kelleher, who had 45 assists and eight turnovers in his previous 11 games, had three assists and four turnovers.
“We had a couple chances to get control of the game, we just couldn’t,” Cassara said. “A lot of credit to [Evansville], they implemented their game plan. Very similar to Wright State, they held and grabbed and kept the ball out of Charles’ hands and we couldn’t get into any flow for the game. Had a couple opportunities to try and separate ourselves a little bit early in the second half and we just couldn’t do it.”
David Imes, who averaged 8.7 points and 9.3 rebounds in 35 minutes over his final seven games, had just five points and six boards in 17 minutes, only the third time this year he played less than 20 minutes. Early foul trouble for Imes and Washington (who scored the Dutchmen’s first seven points and nine of their first 12 points overall but didn’t score again until an old-fashioned 3-point play with 26 seconds left completed the scoring for Hofstra) forced little-used Stephen Nwaukoni into extended action for the second straight game and he pulled down eight rebounds in the first half before sitting the final 13:45 with four fouls.
Jenkins and Moore scored 12 of the Dutchmen’s first 13 points in the second half as the Dutchmen took those two big leads, but when Hofstra needed a 3-pointer later in the second half, it got it not from Jenkins, Kelleher or Moore but from Yves Jules, who had a season-high eight points and hit both his attempts to twice pull the Dutchmen within a possession.
Jenkins, Kelleher and Moore were a combined 3-of-11 from beyond the arc and Moore’s final miss turned out to be the final shovelful of dirt on the season. After a rare missed free throw by Evansville star Colt Ryan with 24 seconds left kept the Dutchmen within three points at 73-70, Moore raced down the court and attempted to create contact with a Purple Aces player as he fired up a long 3-pointer. He didn’t get the call and the ball didn’t even hit the rim and bounced out of bounds.
Evansville hit its final four free throw attempts to hand the Dutchmen—who displayed impressive resiliency all year in going 6-4 after a loss and 5-2 after double-digit defeats—just their third losing streak of the season. “We always found a way to come back,” Cassara said. “Unfortunately, we can’t come back out there and play. It’s just not the place we wanted to end our season.”
Most teams will utter some variation of that lament (of the 345 Division I teams, only four will walk off the court victorious in a postseason tournament), but the commonality is little consolation when seasons, impossible dreams and careers— whether they are as brilliant as the one produced by Jenkins, as workmanlike as Washington’s or as cruelly brief as Kelleher’s—come screeching to a halt.
“I had some time to thank each of them individually in the locker room,” Cassara said. “The three of them have given us everything they have. At some level, it’s a little bit of shock, a little bit of just ‘Wow it’s really over, we’re not going to get another chance to go out there and play.’ I think it’s going to take a little time for that to sink in, because we had so many games—a bunch of games—where we didn’t play well and those three guys brought us back and we got to practice and found a way to [win]. Ultimately, this was our last opportunity to do this as a team this year.”
The abrupt finality of Tuesday makes it difficult, at least initially, to remember how much Hofstra has to be proud (pun most certainly intended) of this season, how Cassara’s steady hand helped turn a campaign that surely seemed headed for disaster turned into something memorable and how he managed to coax 21 wins and the program’s best-ever CAA finish out of Jenkins and a roster that was the basketball version of a pot luck supper.
But the ending is also a reminder that the odds of achieving the ultimate goal—winning the conference tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament—will always be long, especially for certain northern schools in certain southern-based conferences, and that it’s important to revel in the moment even if it happens in November, December, January or February because there are no guarantees that the ultimate celebration will happen in March.
Someday soon, we will look back on the 2010-11 season with a smile on our faces, and as long as the Internet exists the reminders of Jenkins’ late-game exploits and ability to unite a famously apathetic Hofstra community—and how those talents symbolized the 1,220 days in between his atypically quiet first game (five points on 1-of-7 shooting against Holy Cross Nov. 10, 2007) and last game—will only be a click away.
But as of late last night, all Cassara could think about was the long road back from Indiana—one more long bus ride and one more plane to catch in a remote airport in a season full of interesting travel challenges—taking him into his first long off-season at Hofstra, and, like the rest of us, bemoaning how the first day of practice five months ago could feel so recent while the next first day of practice could feel so much further away than seven months away.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet—I’ve been pacing around here in my room,” Cassara said. “I don’t think any of us have had a chance to process what we’ve really done. Big picture, there’s so much to be proud of, and it’s amazing. I think the thing that we really have to be proud of is the excitement that this team has created on campus and in our basketball community and our Hofstra community. My phone won’t stop buzzing from Twitter and Facebook and people who generally are upset that it’s over, like we are.
“As a team, I don’t think it’s really hit us yet.”
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
1.) I don’t even know why I’m bothering doing this. Evansville’s video feed is non-existent (I want my $6.99 back!). Better yet, according to Evansville’s live stats, the game has not begun yet, but Hofstra is winning at halftime, 37-32, and trailing 62-58 with 4:34 left. Really.
1b.) Anyway, Charles Jenkins has to get untracked. He has just two points—giving him 2,501 for his career—on 1-of-6 shooting as Evansville suffocates him from coast to coast. Even with Jenkins struggling, the Dutchmen bounced back from a slow start (they fell behind 7-0) to shoot 47 percent and take a 36-34 lead at the half (yes, I just broke the cardinal rule of sportswriting by not making the real score the first one I listed, but geez, Evansville is traveling ahead in time on its website!), but Greg Washington has three fouls and Mike Moore has just four points so it’s hard to see the Dutchmen advancing if Jenkins doesn’t get hot.
2.) Washington continued his inspired play by scoring the Dutchmen’s first seven points and nine of their first 12 before foul trouble ensnared him again. Who would have imagined he’d turn into such an offensive weapon that we’d beg Mo Cassara to tell him to just stand still on defense so he can contribute on the other end?
3.) Stephen Nwaukoni has been outstanding in place of Washington with four points and eight rebounds (I think), just five shy of his season and career high. Shemiye McLendon and Yves Jules each have two points as the Dutchmen have gotten far more from their young role players—one of the goals of participating in the CBI—than last year.
4.) Other than a couple turnovers, Brad Kelleher has been excellent again with seven points and a couple assists. He needs to continue running the point as effectively as he has the last few weeks in order for the Dutchmen to move on.
5.) This game is reminiscent of the Wagner game the day after Thanksgiving, when Nwaukoni pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds and Jenkins looked as bad as he’s ever looked in the first half before turning it on in the second half and scoring 17 of his 19 points in the final 13:31 to lead the Dutchmen back from a 10-point deficit. It’s hard to envision Jenkins struggling for 40 minutes. At some point in the second half, he’s going to flick the switch on. I sure hope so, anyway. My CBI Craziness bracket depends on it!
1.) After playing in a frenzied big-time atmosphere the last few weeks, the Flying Dutchmen will return to 2009 when they visit Evansville at the 2,500-seat PAC Arena (shouldn’t a facility hold more than 2,500 people to be dubbed an Arena?) on the campus of Southern Indiana. While the Dutchmen will have to adjust to the environment, it shouldn’t present the type of problem they encountered last year, when the sight of 5,000 empty seats at the Arena seemed to suck the life out of everyone.
2.) Evansville doesn’t have a lot of height—the Purple Aces’ center is an ACTUAL Flying Dutchman, 6-foot-10 Pieter van Tongeren, who averages just 6.1 points and 2.3 rebounds per game, and their leading rebounder is Kenneth Harris with an average of 6.2 per game—so this is a good matchup for the Dutchmen and Greg Washington and David Imes, each of whom played well down the stretch. Washington was on his way to perhaps his best game ever before the Southern Bias refs reared their ugly heads against Old Dominion while Imes averaged 8.7 points and 9.3 rebounds per game in his final seven games.
3.) The Dutchmen will be focused on Evansville’s best player, Colt Ryan, who leads the Purple Aces with 15.7 points per game. Ryan rolled an ankle in practice last week, and if he’s shut down, whether because of injury or the Dutchmen, then Evansville doesn’t have much else. Nobody else on the Purple Aces averages as many as nine points per game.
4.) Don’t be surprised if the Dutchmen get off to a slow start. The Dutchmen stumbled early against William & Mary after a week-long layoff before routing the Tribe. Between the lack of preparation time for this game and the long rest, don’t panic if the Dutchmen look rusty.
5.) Unlike a year ago in the CBI, playing with a sense of urgency shouldn’t be an issue for the Dutchmen, who have three seniors in the starting lineup and two players, Imes and Mike Moore, who have never started a postseason game before. And, of course, one of those seniors is Charles Jenkins, who is one point shy of 2,500 for his career and by far the best player on the court. If this is close late, expect him to go into Wolf/Beast/Takeover mode.
Don't make me regret gorging on the CBI again, Dutchmen!!!
All you need to do is take one look at my waistline to know I lack willpower. But my resistance is just as poor away from the dinner table too, as evidenced this week when I embraced the idea of playing in the CBI with the type of enthusiasm I usually reserve only for a dinner of chicken parm and Carvel cake. (But honey I’m almost HALFWAY to my birthday!)
I did this last year, too, and on The Morning After felt so awful and so bloated and so regretful I swore I’d never do it again, and asked my loyal readers to smack me upside the head (figuratively speaking) if I started pining for a non-NIT bid at any point in the future.
Which, of course, I started doing about as soon as the Flying Dutchmen lost to Old Dominion in the CAA semifinals. My thinking, even before the NIT field filled up with mid-major regular season champions that lost in their conference tournaments, was that I’d rather see the Dutchmen have a shot at hosting (and winning) a few games at home and maybe even win the whole thing in the CBI or CIT rather than have to fly to some BCS school and put up with BCS Bias and, probably, lose a first-round game.
Who didn’t love the idea of watching the Dutchmen a few more times? And who among us doesn’t love the idea of Charles Jenkins winning his very last collegiate game?
Alas, now that the postseason is here and Hofstra is once again in the CBI, I find myself hoping I’m not sitting here, a couple hours or a few days from now, wishing I hadn’t gotten what I’d hoped for.
Part of it is the urgency of the postseason. One more loss and it is really, truly, finally all over for Jenkins, Greg Washington and Brad Kelleher. One more loss and we have to start gazing at the calendar and willing October to get here. The senses and nerves are heightened, the margin for error officially gone. Now that what we wanted is here, we’re nervous. Makes sense.
We’re also nervous because the Dutchmen will hit the road for at least the first round (and likely the second, if they get that far) and will tip off in Evansville tonight a mere 44 or so hours after they found out their destination, barely 24 hours after flying out of New York and less than 18 hours after bussing (yes, bussing) to Evansville from Nashville. That’s a lot of traveling and not a whole lot of preparation in a short period of time, but Mo Cassara said yesterday he was confident the Dutchmen could rely today and tonight on the lessons they learned during this season’s challenging road trips.
“I think so much of today and really into tonight and traveling is more about us getting our mental frame of mind kind of in line,” Cassara said. “It’s much more about us, about our energy and our overall effort and our attitude and then our execution.
“I think as disappointing as the result was at Wright State, it’s a good learning tool for this trip. Another challenging trip to the Midwest against a very hard-nosed, tough Evansville team. In Wright State we know we didn’t play very well and we weren’t as prepared as we thought, so we can use that as a measuring stick going out to Evansville.”
Also a cause for concern: That the disappointment over missing the NIT will impact the Dutchmen once they get on to the court of the played-in-obscurity-at-a-Division-II gym CBI. That disappointment—among fans and, particularly, the players and staff—was higher than I expected. I think most of us were resigned to missing the NIT, but VCU squeezing into the field gave us all hope, however short-sustained, that the NIT couldn’t possibly fail to invite the highest non-NCAA Tournament qualifier in a great mid-major. Nope. It’s the NCAA. It can screw up anything. (This is the first time since 2000 the CAA has not sent a team to the NIT, by the way)
Cassara was as unhappy as anyone that the Dutchmen didn’t get an NIT invite, but during a 20-minute meeting yesterday he reminded the Dutchmen to take—warning! pun ahead!—pride over how far they have come in five months and in the opportunity to keep playing, both for themselves and for the graduating seniors as well as the university.
“I wrote two dates on the board: One was Oct. 15, the other was today,” Cassara said. “And I drew a line in between. I said ‘Think of this journey, going from this date to that date.’ I think, if we said on the first date that we’d be 21-11 and finish tied for second in the CAA and playing in the postseason, we’d be pretty happy. So let’s go play our butts off and have some fun, because we deserve to be in this position for all the hard work we put in along this journey.”
For whatever reason, the Dutchmen did not seem happy to be there a year ago tomorrow night, when IUPUI never trailed in a 74-60 rout. Those memories are hard to shake for the 27 of us who were in the stands and who walked out figuring it would have been better to put away the basketballs after a frantic rally in the second half of the season ended with the double overtime loss to Northeastern in the CAA quarterfinals.
But this Dutchmen team is far more deserving of postseason play than a year ago, when Hofstra had the fourth-lowest RPI of anyone in the CBI and the seventh-lowest of the 31 teams that received at-large bids to the CBI or CIT. This year, the Dutchmen have the second-highest RPI of anyone in the CBI, behind only Central Florida.
In addition, Jenkins, Washington and Kelleher remember how last year ended—though only Jenkins played in the game, Washington was out with an ankle injury and Kelleher was in NCAA purgatory—and don’t want history to repeat itself.
“I talked to Charles and to Greg about the postseason experience from last year and obviously it wasn’t one that they like to talk about or are real proud of,” Cassara said. “I said ‘Let’s not make that happen again.’ As I say all the time: If we do what we’re supposed to do and execute our game plan and have the right mental approach and play hard, winning will take care of itself.”
The Dutchmen’s “Why not us?” mantra didn’t translate into the CAA title that everyone so desperately wanted, but it could work here, even “Why not us?” doesn’t resonate quite as well in the CBI. There’s 140 teams participating in postseason basketball and only four will win their last game. Why can’t the Dutchmen be one of those, make this CBI experience as pleasant and as last year’s was disastrous and give the program a building block for years to come?
“We’re pretty upset we didn’t get a bid to the NIT, but we’ve got our second wind,” Kelleher said. “We really want to go out and win this tournament…look at VCU last year: They won this thing and now they’re in the NCAAs.”
“The seniors, I told them it’s their last tournament and last go-around, play as hard as you can and give everything you can to this team and to the program,” Cassara said. “Because I think [their] effort and attitude will help move this program forward. And hopefully we’re playing in the postseason in a different tournament in years to come.”
CBI Craziness: The only thing less obscure than the final season of The Drew Carey Show!
Because it worked so well last time! That’s right, like episodes of The Drew Carey Show airing on ABC in the summer of 2004, you can’t kill CBI Craziness (subhead: The world’s biggest—and only—CBI pool!), you can just hope it airs in obscurity!
I really wasn’t going to unveil a second edition of CBI Craziness, because, duh, I hoped Hofstra would be playing in another tournament and last year’s CBI experience was such a lousy one for the Flying Dutchmen and their 17 fans who went to the game against IUPUI that I didn’t even officially congratulate our winner. But that lucky man, VCUPav, asked me last night (surely in jest) if he could defend his title and that was all I needed to get the band back and do it again!
Rules are simple, or as simple as can be for a tournament that is freaking reseeded for the semifinals and whose champion is determined in a best-of-three series. Check out the CBI bracket here and pick ONLY the first two rounds and your champion today. We will pick the semifinals and finals once those matchups are announced. So your picks should look something like this:
Monday, March 14, 2011
This time, Hofstra goes to Indiana for the CBI (Or: Everything you ever wanted to know about Evansville but were afraid to ask!)
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Will the Dutchmen be dreaming a little NIT dream tonight?
One of the reasons I was more melodramatic than usual after the Flying Dutchmen lost to Old Dominion—and let’s face it, my usual melodrama is enough for 10 CAA bloggers, and I’m not even sure we HAVE 10 CAA bloggers!—a week ago today was the purgatory-like uncertainty that accompanied the defeat.
We figured the Dutchmen would play again this year, even if their NCAA hopes were obviously extinguished, but where would they play? And how do you mourn the demise of the big dream, and put that into context, without shoveling dirt on the entire season, even when you don’t know where the rest of the season will be played?
Watching the Dutchmen in the CAA Tournament last weekend wasn’t like watching a baseball team fall six games behind in the playoff race with five to play. For a team like Hofstra—with 20-plus wins and a top 100 RPI on its resume—the end of the conference tournament is really only the first goodbye. That’s both good and bad, as we’ll try to discuss in between previewing the Dutchmen’s next game, whatever and wherever it is.
And as of now, a little more than an hour before the NIT selection show, the odds of the Dutchmen being invited to the NIT are much better than they were before the usually moronic NCAA Tournament Selection Committee shockingly invited VCU, made #3Bids4CAA a reality and sent elitist snobs Digger Phelps, Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and Hubert Davis into a fit of fury on ESPN.
The Dutchmen will probably still miss out on the NIT, since 14 regular season mid-major champions received automatic bids after losing in their conference tournament, but if the committee places an emphasis on conference performance—a long shot, to be sure—then the Dutchmen should be the pick to represent the CAA.
If it’s not the NIT, then the Dutchmen will very likely make a return trip to the CBI. The CIT, which is exclusively for mid-majors, has already issued 20 of its 24 invites, according to ChicagoNow.com, while the 16-team CBI has received confirmations from six teams.
The CBI, which has invited multiple schools from major conferences (defined by me as BCS leagues, the Atlantic 10 and the Mountain West) in each of its first three seasons, could provide an incremental boost in publicity for the Dutchmen. Follow me on Twitter all night long as we try to figure out where the Dutchmen are playing next and tune in tomorrow for the very latest analysis.