March 16, 2010

Game On! IUPUI vs Hofstra, CBI First Round!

IUPUI will be in their first post-season tournament since 2003 when they won the Summit League Tournament. The Jaguars are set to take on Hofstra on Wednesday night at David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex (aka The Mack). I'm sure you're asking the same question my auto-spell check was, "Who the HELL is Hofstra? Aren't they Flying or something?" Well, sort of, I think. I am lucky enough to know someone from HU (who is out of the Colonial Athletic Association, the same as George Mason, Old Dominion, and William & Mary to name a few). 

Here to help me with figuring out who the hell the Pride of Hofstra are is @DefiantlyDutch himself, Jerry Beach.

Where exactly is Hofstra?
Hofstra is located in Hempstead, New York, about 30 miles east of Manhattan. The school often declares it is 30 MINUTES from Manhattan, but the only way you’re getting into the city in 30 minutes is if you sprout wings and fly. It’s about 45 minutes via train and an hour with traffic via car. It’s a good place to go to school: Nice, leafy suburban campus (though the area to the west of campus is not good, to say the least) yet close enough for students to enjoy all the advantages of city life (great internships, good restaurants/clubs, Broadway, concerts at Madison Square Garden, etc).

Why the name change? (Flying Dutchmen to The Pride)
Oh don’t get me going on that! The school’s booster club was founded in the late 1980s and dubbed the Pride Club. Our mascot is a lion and a pride is a pack of lions. At some point in the ‘90s, President James Shuart (a former Hofstra football player) decided that we could be called either the Pride or the Flying Dutchmen. The latter nickname originated shortly after the school’s founding in the late 1930s, when a gym teacher mocked a slow kid in his class by saying “Look at the Flying Dutchman.” That’s right, our nickname honors a lack of athleticism. You can see why I went here. Anyway, President Shuart retired in 2001 and a few years later the new president spent a lot of money and a lot of time and decided to “rebrand” the school’s identity and go exclusively by the Pride. I don’t like the nickname, as you can tell. Flying Dutchmen was original and awesome—everyone who heard it knew it meant Hofstra. But hey, nobody asks me for my input about anything.

What kind of student turnout and participation is there?
Not much unfortunately, and it’s been a problem since long before I went to school there in the mid-90s. Hofstra is trying to change its reputation as a commuter school, but a lot of kids still return home on the weekend. And those that do remain on campus need constant reminders that Hofstra plays Division I basketball. Every year, Tom Pecora wonders where all the kids are, and every year they begin showing up in February—just in time to say goodbye. The cycle repeats anew in the fall. With so many professional teams in our area, Long Islanders are sports snobs and don’t get excited about mid-major hoops. Plus, like kids anywhere, those who grow up on Long Island want to get off the Island for college. Nobody really wants to go to school locally and root for the Dutchmen.

How does the community view Hofstra?
Pretty much the same way as the students. There’s a small segment that appreciates having affordable Division I basketball down the street, and the school does a good job of drawing kids groups (Boy/Girl Scouts, local youth leagues, etc) to weekend games. But generally speaking, the community would rather sit home and watch the Big East on television than show up to Hofstra and get courtside seats for the action. Hofstra is lucky to get 3,000 people to a 5,000-seat arena most nights.

Is the CAA as competitive as other Mid-Major/Mid-Atlantic conferences?
Absolutely. It’s not quite on the level of the Atlantic 10—the CAA has earned an at-large to the NCAA Tournament just three times since 1986—but it’s deep and tough. The league was a little more lopsided this year—seven teams won 10 games and the other five all won six or less—but the ol’ clich√© still applied: On any day anyone can beat anyone. William & Mary probably lost an at-large because it fell to also-rans Towson and James Madison while Georgia State began George Mason’s downfall (started 10-1 but finished 12-6) by shocking the Patriots in Atlanta. Haha, too bad Mason!

Who is Hofstra's biggest rival and how bitter is it?

Hey, speaking of Mason! I loathe George Mason—the school, not the man—but I think I’m the only Hofstra fan still livid over the 2006 Selection Sunday fiasco in which Mason—whom Hofstra beat twice in the season’s final 11 days—received an at-large bid while Hofstra was excluded. Did I mention that Mason’s athletic director was on the Selection Committee, or that a thug on Mason punched Hofstra’s best player, Loren Stokes, in the nuts in the waning seconds of the second Hofstra win? The Mason thug (I refuse to name him for fear the paste-eaters in Mason Nation will Google him and find this entry) was suspended for Mason’s first postseason game while Stokes played the CAA title game 24 hours later with one grotesquely swollen testicle. Hofstra lost by 11 and we’re all convinced the Dutchmen win that game with a healthy Stokes. Mason of course made the Final Four while a nation of blithering idiots cooed over cute Cinderella. My ass. I’m not over it and I’ll never get over it. Mason under Jim Larranaga continues to operate a renegade program, and I made a bunch of friends in Mason Nation when I blasted Mason for running up the score in a January rout of the Dutchmen. Oh well, I’ve befriended some of those fans, and some of the idiots provide hours of free entertainment.
Our biggest rival used to be Delaware, whom Hofstra followed into the North Atlantic Conference (now the America East) in the mid-90s and whose success Hofstra tried to emulate. Hofstra did exactly that, riding hot young coach Jay Wright to back-to-back NCAA berths right after Delaware and its hot young coach, Mike Brey, won two straight America East crowns. Wright (Villanova) then followed Brey (Notre Dame) to the Big East. Hofstra and Delaware were among the four schools that left for the CAA after the 2000-01 season, but while Hofstra has been competitive in the CAA, Delaware’s program has fallen apart.
So to answer your question, we really don’t have a rival. We hope Northeastern turns into one though.

What were Hofstra's biggest wins and ugliest losses this year?
Beating Northeastern in Boston Feb. 23 was huge. The Dutchmen had won seven of eight to turn their season around but hadn’t beaten any elite teams. And Northeastern had smoked Hofstra, 75-55, just 17 days earlier at home. It didn’t end up happening, but beating Northeastern got most of us believing a Cinderella tournament run was possible. Ugliest loss was definitely Mason, which was the fourth of five straight losses an undermanned Hofstra squad suffered in January.

Just how good is Charles Jenkins?
Really damn good. He’s one of just five players in Division I averaging at least 20 points, four rebounds and three assists per game. He won the CAA Player of the Year this year and already has 1,746 points as a junior, seventh-most in school history and well ahead of the school record pace. He really came of age in the Northeastern win, when he committed nine turnovers yet scored eight points in a game-ending 12-1 run. His line in that game: 20 points, nine turnovers, eight rebounds and seven assists. How awesome is that? That wasn’t a fluke either (except for the turnovers, hopefully): Jenkins doesn’t just score, he makes plays—he had the assist on the winning basket in Hofstra’s one-point win over Georgia State in the CAA Tournament. The best thing is he’s a natural leader to whom teammates gravitate. He’s the perfect face for a program.

When he's on the bench, where does the production come from?
Beats me, Jenkins never sits! He averages 36.2 minutes per game. No, seriously, freshman power forward Halil Kanacevic (8.5 points, 7.6 rebounds per game) has been a revelation. But any hopes of a deep CBI run rest on senior 3-point specialist Cornelius Vines staying hot (he has 26 3-pointers in his last seven games after hitting just 34 3-pointers in his first 25 games) and freshman point guard Chaz Williams snapping out of his funk. Williams made the CAA All-Rookie team along with Kanacevic but is shooting just 26 percent in his last 10 games after shooting 43 percent in his first 22 games.

Does HU fare better in barn-burners or slow games?
If you’d asked me this in January I would have said slow games for sure. Pecora loves defense and loves winning 63-60 rock fights. But the Dutchmen finished the regular season on a six-game losing streak, during which they scored at least 73 points in every game. They’re confident and healthy and clicking offensively and Pecora is smart enough to stay out of the way when things are working.

What kind of defense can we expect from The Dutchmen?
I corrected you on the nickname there! The answer is: Swarming. Hofstra prides (doh!) itself on crashing the defensive boards and limiting the number of second chance points an opponent gets. They also rank among the nation’s top 10 in both blocked shots and 3-point defense. Center Greg Washington already has the school record for blocked shots as a junior and Vines typically does a really good job taking on the opponent’s best guard. As well as the front court has played, Washington and Miklos Szabo are prone to foul trouble and the Dutchmen really only go three deep with their bigs. So early foul issues for Hofstra will be a good sign for IUPUI.

What do I get if IUPUI wins?
Get off my lawn! The best gift would be a Long Island pizza, but that’d probably spoil in the mail. We’re not known for much here other than malls, bad accents, worse hair and Billy Joel. Hey! That’s it! You get Billy Joel’s greatest hits on CD (oh right, I forgot how young you are, a CD was a spherical thing on which music was recorded before iTunes was invented). Joel is best friends with Indiana’s own John Mellencamp, so it works out well. But you’re not getting that Joel CD, because Hofstra is going to win by 70!!!

We'll see, we'll see...I definitely like Billy Joel...Hopefully this game is as close as it needs to be until IUPUI pulls away. Hofstra has some problems with Georgia State, a foe of IUPUI in a very early season tournament (in which IUPUI prevailed). Up for grabs from Indianapolis if IUPUI were to (somehow) lose: An official Indianapolis Motor Speedway souvenir...See as Indianapolis is know for one thing and one thing only, racing. (I never said I was upset about that, it's just the truth). Good luck to both teams!

Robert Glenn - 19pts, 4reb, 1blk, 1ast
Alex Young - 22pts, 3reb, 2stl, 1ast
Leroy Nobles - 15pts, 2reb, 1 stl, 2ast
Billy Pettiford - 4pts, 6reb, 4stl, 4ast, 2blk
John Ashworth - 5pts, 1reb, 3stl, 3ast
Jon Avery - 8pts, 4reb, 1stl, 2blk
"True" Bench - 8pts, 2reb, 1stl, 3ast
IUPUI - 81, Hofstra - 75

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