Friday, February 1, 2013

James Madison 62, Hofstra 41 (Or: We all know the song)

There was a time not so long ago when last night would have been awesome. Like, say, two years ago, when any disappointment I felt at the Flying Dutchmen losing to James Madison, 62-41, in a game that seemed about twice as lopsided would have been erased by the overwhelming Schadenfreude (now I’m just making words up, as well as conferences!) of George Mason blowing a 22-point lead and losing to Drexel, 58-54. AT HOME. IN A GAME IN WHICH JUST 112 POINTS WERE SCORED.

That’s so bad, I wish there was a formula by which I could confirm it was the biggest blown lead in history, in terms of points overcome to total points scored (hey, I think I just came up with the formula). (Just so you know: There were 210 points scored when the Utah Jazz came back from a 34-point deficit to beat the Denver Nuggets, 107-103, in the biggest comeback in NBA history in 1996)

Two years ago, I would have mocked Ryan Pearson and wondered if he went home and wept into his stolen pillows. I would have laughed at the Patriots losing by the three dunks Mike Morrison missed. I would have come up with something to make fun of Andre Cornelius, because he was annoying even before he Tweeted VCU into the Final Four and got arrested twice. And of course I would have called Jim Larranaga all sorts of synonyms for Satan and mocked fellow GMU bloggers and superfans and brushed off their suggestions that I look at the standings.

But now? As I wrote 12 days ago, I’m all out of hate because The Great Satan is off beating the other Great Satan in the ACC. Plus, thanks to The Great Satan, Mason is really just one of us now, just another mid-major shooting star that streaked across the sky for a fleeting moment, only to disappear into the black of night, where it is indiscernible from the rest of the bodies surrounding it.

As Drexel and Mason lurched into the final media timeout last night (and oh boy, that was not a pretty game), I went to get something to eat instead of yelling bad things at the people wearing green on my TV and waking up the baby (which, admittedly, would have been tough to do two years ago, since she, you know, wasn’t here).

We have gotten to the point now where my usual post-game shenanigans with Ryan Sonner, my least favorite Mason frenemy, have leveled off to mail-it-in mode on both sides. Whenever our favorite teams lose, the other guy sends a text that reads simply “y’all win?” But this is how our exchange went last night:

Him 8:45 PM: Ugh Y’all win?

Me 9:04 PM: Y’all win?

Him 9:06 PM: We are both asking that entirely too often this year.

He roots for a team that is 5-4 in league play with 8-1 talent. I root for a team that is 2-6 in league play with 2-6 talent that constantly reminds us we probably had 6-2 talent prior to Nov. 30. What else is there to say?

As frustrating as it is to see the Dutchmen live the same script over and over and over again—the Dutchmen never led, but they trailed by one with 16:49 to play before being outscored 32-12 the rest of the way as they lost their 15th straight true road game and 17th game away from home overall—there won’t be any knocking of the players who are still out there, all of whom are stretched as the go-to guys they have to be on a team whose go-to guys should still be in jail.

Stevie Mejia was recruited here to be a facilitator, not a creator. He should have been the Jason Hernandez to someone else’s Speedy Claxton, the savvy floor general who sets everyone else up and drains the clutch shot at the end of the shot clock once or twice a week instead of forcing eight shots a night.

There’s a reason Taran Buie, who missed a year-and-a-half and didn’t start a game during his brief time at Penn State, opened the season as the Dutchmen’s sixth man. He has Charles Jenkins-esque talent, but he’s not yet Charles Jenkins. He should have been Hofstra’s Vinnie Johnson—instant offense off the bench—not the guy the Dutchmen need to be great every night.

With their versatility on both ends of the floor, David Imes (whose 10 points last night were the fewest for a team leader since Cornelius Vines had eight against Northeastern on Jan. 5, 2009) and Jordan Allen should have been great glue guys on a good team. They weren’t supposed to be the quasi-shooting guard and the guy tasked with shutting down the opposition’s best player every night, respectively.

Stephen Nwaukoni, Moussa Kone and Daquan Brown should be rotational guys out of whom six points (Kone’s output) or six rebounds (Nwaukoni’s output) should be a nice bonus, and not much less than what the Dutchmen need to win. Matt Grogan’s two 3-pointers should have been drained during a storybook Senior Day start and Adam Savion should be the best player at the Rec Center instead of seeing 10 minutes a game.

And Mo Cassara should be up nights trying to figure out ways to turn 11 into seven, eight or nine, instead of trying to turn six into nine. He should be utilizing his depth to mix and match his way to victory in a depressed CAA, and have options when players are underperforming, instead of hoping his potluck supper mix that included two walk-ons last night keeps the Dutchmen close for 40 minutes instead of a little more than 20.

What else is there to say on the first of February, except to wonder what could have been for the Dutchmen and to wonder what the four players who wrecked a season—and maybe much more—think when they see the smoldering mess they left behind?

Do they watch the dumpster fire that is the CAA—and I say that as lovingly as possible, but by God, the league is so down, it has to look up to see China, not to mention the America East—and wonder would could have been for Hofstra come the first weekend of March if it had the CAA’s rookie of the year at power forward as well as a fearless shooting guard and two more solid backup guards?

This is the mother of all “why not us?” years and with four more players—guys who accounted for 28.3 points and 13.7 rebounds per game before they got busted—I guarantee the Dutchmen and their faithful would have been thinking exactly that right now, instead of just simply wondering "why us?"

Do they wonder what they could have become over the next two or three years and how they could have begun authoring the next golden era of Hofstra basketball, if only they knew the difference between right and wrong? Do they think about what happened instead, and how they squandered great opportunities on and off the court, and regret their roles in authoring one of the bleakest chapters in the history of the athletic department? Do they wish they could take back their foolish acts?

Or am I the fool, trying to wring logic and remorse out of knuckleheads half my age who are probably lining up their second chances (except for the guy who used to wear no. 4, who made the mistake of getting arrested and kicked off the team AFTER he transferred from somewhere else—good move) and rarely thinking about Hofstra or the mess they left behind?

Am I the fool for wondering what could have been about four dopes whom I wouldn’t even think twice if they didn’t wear my favorite laundry? These are the only things left to say to myself, when I’m out of words with at least 11 games to play and Mason collapses don’t even bring me joy anymore.

3 STARS OF THE GAME (vs. James Madison, 1/31)
3: David Imes
2: Stevie Mejia
1: Moussa Kone

31: Taran Buie
28: Stevie Mejia
18: Stephen Nwaukoni
11: David Imes
7: Jordan Allen
5: Moussa Kone
3: Daquan Brown
2: Matt Grogan

***21 points vacated

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