Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rider Releases Nonconference Schedule

Kevin Baggett and Rider attempt to prove their second-place regular season finish last year was no fluke, and Broncs' nonconference schedule suggests nothing different, with trips to Purdue and Villanova among highlights. (Photo courtesy of the Times of Trenton)

Four down, seven to go.

Rider University today became the fourth MAAC school to release its men's basketball nonconference schedule, joining Manhattan, Siena and Niagara before them in unveiling a nine-game ledger that will showcase the mettle and strong defensive game of Kevin Baggett's Broncs, who surprised fans and critics alike last season with their second-place showing in the regular season, Baggett's first at the helm as successor to Tommy Dempsey, who left southern New Jersey for Binghamton in the summer of 2012.

Following a November 2nd exhibition at venerable Alumni Gym against West Chester University of Pennsylvania, the alma mater of former San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers linebacker Lee Woodall, the Broncs officially christen their 2013-14 campaign on November 12th in the Keystone State, when they travel to the Stabler Arena in Bethlehem for a meeting with Lehigh, the Patriot League foe known in national circles for producing No. 10 overall NBA Draft pick C.J. McCollum, who led the Mountain Hawks to their iconic upset of Duke as a No. 15 seed in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. Five days later, Rider will head to Indiana for the first meeting in school history with Purdue, who will use the contest as a tuneup for fellow MAAC program Siena, who comes to Mackey Arena on November 22nd.

Following the trip to the Hoosier State to face the Boilermakers, Rider heads to the Detrick Gym in New Britain for a November 23rd collision with former Northeast Conference adversary Central Connecticut State, their final game before the Broncs' home opener three nights later against Will Brown and reigning America East champion Albany. From there, Rider will travel across the country to participate in the Cable Car Classic on November 29th and 30th, a tournament that has also attracted Rice and North Dakota State to join both the Broncs and event host Santa Clara. A two-week hiatus for final exams and, presumably, the start of MAAC play, ensues before Rider returns home to Alumni Gym on December 14th to take on native New Jerseyan Bashir Mason and Wagner College.

Rider has two other nonconference contests, the first coming on the road when they take on Villanova from The Pavilion December 21st, with Penn serving as the Broncs' final non-league opponent when the Quakers journey across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge for a December 29th showdown in Lawrenceville.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Breaking Down Niagara's Nonconference Schedule

Despite losing head coach Joe Mihalich and point guard Juan'ya Green to Hofstra, Chris Casey still has several key pieces on roster at Niagara for Purple Eagles to defend MAAC regular season title. (Photo courtesy of the Buffalo News)

Chris Casey may not have had any head coaching experience at the Division I level prior to being hired at Niagara this past April, but it hasn't changed his outlook on the coming season, nor his chances of defending the Purple Eagles' status as reigning regular season MAAC champions. In fact, where some may say that the team was gutted in the wake of former coach Joe Mihalich leaving for Hofstra and taking guard Juan'ya Green and swingman Ameen Tanksley with him, the Niagara roster is still quite formidable at first glance for this writer, with Casey retaining a core of players led by first team all-MAAC honoree Antoine Mason, not to mention Tahjere McCall and deadly outside shooter Marvin Jordan.

Earlier in the week, Niagara released their nonconference schedule, an 11-game slate featuring three home games and a neutral site game in Buffalo against Bob McKillop and Davidson, with several other favorable road matchups. Last night, we had the chance to break down the schedule with their new head coach, as well as get Casey's thoughts on the team he inherits, the style he intends to play, and even some memories of our time at St. John's University, (Casey was Norm Roberts' director of basketball operations and third assistant coach while this writer was a student and play-by-play announcer there) something you can see below:

Casey on Niagara's inclusion in the NABC Coaches vs. Cancer Classic: "I think it's got a lot of positives to it, Jaden. First, it puts you in a tournament atmosphere, and any time you can do that during the course of the year, it's going to help you prepare for the conference tournament at the end of the year. The preparation is quick, the games are one right after another, so it has a lot of similarities to the conference tournament, and I think it's going to help us in that regard. The other way it's going to help us is that it's quality opponents. We all know that the MAAC is a very, very challenging conference with a lot of good coaches and a lot of good players, so I think to prepare for the conference, you have to play some good teams out of conference, and go up against the competition."

Saturday, November 9th at Seton Hall: Niagara opens its season at the Prudential Center with this preliminary round game in the NABC Coaches vs. Cancer classic against Kevin Willard and the Pirates, and it should be a very competitive game for the Purple Eagles right out of the gate. Seton Hall is three years removed from Bobby Gonzalez having been dismissed, but his last recruit is still in South Orange; that being senior swingman Fuquan Edwin, who will enter this season as the face of the program. After a strong first year in the Big East, Gene Teague will look to build on his brute strength up front for the Pirates, while junior forward Brandon Mobley should be completely recovered from a surgically repaired shoulder that sacrificed the second half of his season last year. The arrival of Texas transfer Sterling Gibbs should also help clear up the point guard issues that plagued Seton Hall last season, with prized in-state recruit Jaren Sina also poised to make an impact. "Coach Willard has done a very good job at Seton Hall," Casey said of his first opponent as Niagara's head coach. "He's got somewhat of a veteran team coming back, Fuquan Edwin has proven himself as an outstanding Big East player, so it's going to be an extremely challenging game, especially on the road. We'll prepare for it like we do every other game, but it's going to be a great experience for our guys to go into Seton Hall; which is a quality program with very good coaching, to come in right away and see what we have."

Wednesday, November 13th vs. Buffalo: Bobby Hurley and the Bulls come into the Gallagher Center for the Purple Eagles' home opener against one of two MAAC teams that Buffalo is presently scheduled against at this time, with a matchup against Manhattan coming in December at the Barclays Center. Hurley inherits a team ready to compete in the Mid-American Conference, with leading scorer and rebounder Javon McCrea leading a promising young group that includes rising star point guard Jarryn Skeete and sharpshooting Virginia expatriate Will Regan, who shot 42 percent from three-point range last season.

Thursday, November 21st at Kent State: The first of three subregional Coaches vs. Cancer games in Ohio comes against Rob Senderoff's Golden Flashes, who come off a 21-win season and an appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, where they lost to Loyola and former coach Jimmy Patsos, now at Siena. Leading scorers Chris Evans and Randal Holt have graduated, leaving junior shooting guard Kris Brewer as the top returning offensive option while 6-5 combo forward Darren Goodson is on the precipice of a breakout season as a senior.

Friday, November 22nd vs. USC Upstate: The Spartans come back this season after a 16-17 campaign with all five starters presently returning to a team that shot 35 percent from three-point range and only yielded 67 points per game to their opponents on average while scoring 70. Senior swingman Torrey Craig returns on the heels of a breakout season that saw him average 17 points and nearly seven rebounds per contest, while junior shooter Ty Greene will once again be his running mate in the backcourt. Senior forward and burgeoning big man Ricardo Glenn, the Spartans' leading rebounder last season, could be a double-double per night player this year even before Atlantic Sun play begins.

Saturday, November 23rd vs. Western Carolina: Next up for Niagara on the schedule is another team that returns all five starters, as the Catamounts (one of only two schools in Division I with that nickname, Vermont being the other) are intent on moving up the ladder in the Southern Conference. Senior guard Trey Sumler, Western Carolina's leading scorer last season, could be a dark horse to average 20 points per game, with 6-8 forward Tawaski King back for his final campaign after ending 2012-13 as the Catamounts' leading rebounder.

Tuesday, November 26th at Penn: Niagara's last game before Thanksgiving will feature a trip to the iconic Palestra to take on a Quakers team that is rebuilding after losing guards Zack Rosen and Tyler Bernardini in recent years. The good news for head coach Jerome Allen is that all three of his double-figure scorers from last season are back, led by senior forward Fran Dougherty, who led Penn in scoring and rebounding last season. Senior Miles Cartwright and sophomore Tony Hicks return to anchor the backcourt, with 6-8 wing Henry Brooks and 6-11 sophomore Darien Nelson-Henry rejoining Dougherty inside as the Quakers contend in the Ivy League once again.

Saturday, November 30th at Northwestern State: The reigning Southland Conference champions return most of their productive bench last season for longtime head coach Mike McConathy, with sophomore point guard Jalan West leading the charge after a rookie season that saw him average over five assists per game in the Demons' uptempo style. West should start this season alongside 6-7 senior DeQuan Hicks, the team's leading scorer and rebounder despite only starting three games last year.

Tuesday, December 3rd at Arkansas State: The Red Wolves (formerly the Indians, as we were actually unaware of the nickname change until today) and head coach John Brady, who once led LSU to a Final Four, will attempt to maintain their competitive balance after a 19-12 campaign last season. Leading rebounder Brandon Peterson is gone, but senior shooting guard Ed Townsel remains after leading Arkansas State in scoring last season while also shooting 34 percent from three-point range. The Red Wolves also retain sophomore guard Cameron Golden and 6-7 brute Kendrick Washington, whose 275-pound frame will cause matchup problems in and out of the Sun Belt this season.

Wednesday, December 11th vs. Davidson: Bob McKillop comes to the First Niagara Center one year before joining the Atlantic 10, and this productive mid-major is showing no signs of letting up after their recent success has proven the Wildcats were not just a one-hit wonder after Stephen Curry guided them within a shot of the Final Four in 2008. The test for Davidson this year will be replacing three of its starters, but senior swingmen De'Mon Brooks and Chris Czerapowicz, the latter of whom shot 39 percent from long range for the Wildcats last season, will go a long way in picking up the slack. Sophomore sharpshooter Tyler Kalinoski should step into the starting lineup this year, and senior point guard Tom Droney returns for one more year as the team's "glue guy" who just breeds a winning attitude whenever he takes the court.

Saturday, December 21st vs. St. Bonaventure: Mark Schmidt and the Bonnies will face at least three MAAC teams this season before beginning Atlantic 10 play, with Iona and Siena being the others. Charlon Kloof and Matthew Wright provide this young team with experience from St. Bonaventure's 2012 NCAA Tournament run, as well as seven-footer Youssou Ndoye, who could be one of the better big men most of the nation has yet to hear of.

Sunday, December 29th vs. Brown: Mike Martin and the Bears retain the services of inside/outside senior duo Tucker Halpern and Sean McGonagill for one more season, while 6-9 Brazilian big man Rafael Maia looks to take the next step in becoming a walking double-double as he goes into his junior season. A challenge for Brown this season will be getting their role players to step up, as six freshmen are waiting in the wings for critical minutes on this up-and-coming squad.

Casey on the basketball atmosphere in western New York: "By all accounts, it's important to everybody. Those programs all have natural rivalries, and any time you can get rivalries in college basketball, you get some outstanding basketball games. I'm just looking forward to being in the mix with that. All the programs have experienced coaches and guys who have done a good job, and I'm looking forward to just playing those games. These are games we'll traditionally play every year, so I'm looking forward to experiencing college basketball in western New York."

On homecourt advantage and three early games at the Gallagher Center: "You'd love to play all your games at home if you could. We get a good crowd, we have a lot of supportive and vocally supportive fans, so any time we get in our own gym where we practice every day and we're comfortable, that's always a big plus, and I think we have some good matchups in that gym, especially with Buffalo coming in and Bonaventure coming in, and especially Canisius in the conference, so (we're) definitely looking forward to playing those home games at Niagara."

On his first three months since replacing Joe Mihalich, and how his new players have responded to him: "Well, the players have been outstanding. They're a very hard-working group, which I'm not surprised, (to see) Joe obviously did a very, very good job up here, had tremendous success, and I expected coming in that he would have left behind a group that works very hard. They've shown everything plus that, they've been great to work with, and I'm looking forward to getting to practice in September and getting our whole team on the floor. Joe left some great pieces. I think the thing that has to be done when putting the roster together is add to our depth, and add to our scoring ability, because we've lost some of that."

On similarities and differences between Antoine Mason and his brother, Anthony Mason Jr., whom Casey coached as an assistant at St. John's: "Both are terrific people. They're both outstanding basketball players, but more importantly, both terrific people, both great attitudes, both hard workers. Different games, you know, Anthony may be a little more athletic and a little bit more of a transition player, Antoine (is) very strong going to the basket, very physical, can really score the basketball, and does it very efficiently. So, their games may be slightly different, but the basis, the foundation that they both have, is the same: Great attitude, hard work, coachability, those are the things that are important to be a successful player."

On what to expect from a Chris Casey team: "Well, the foundation on anything has got to be what I just mentioned with the Mason brothers, it's going to be work ethic, terrific attitude, coachability, and the idea that it's about us, it's not about individuals. That has to be very, very apparent before you go on to anything else, before you go to offenses and defenses, so that's going to be our foundation. Offensively, we'd like to get up and down the floor and score points, we'll play a lot off ball screens, and defensively, we're going to be a man-to-man team. We're going to be a team that tries to get after you and turns over to help us get out in transition, and off the court, Jaden, we want to be students, we want to be successful, we want to be good citizens, we want to set an example to have that same work ethic and positive attitude that we exhibit on the basketball court. We want that to transcend into our campus personalities and our campus life."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Breaking Down St. John's Nonconference Schedule

St. John's welcomes back everyone from last year's team, including D'Angelo Harrison, which should help Red Storm survive strong nonconference schedule that includes matchups with Wisconsin and Syracuse. (Photo courtesy of Rumble In The Garden)

Last season, Steve Lavin and St. John's endured one of the tougher finishes to a season that a program could imagine, yet still managed to compete; and win a game in, the National Invitation Tournament to salvage what some would consider a rather disappointing end to a promising season. Four months later, Lavin and the Red Storm enter the 2013-14 campaign with mounds of potential and promise in the restructured Big East Conference, with the ultimate goal for a year that the Johnnies' fourth-year head coach has targeted as the realization of his grand vision and rebuilding plan since taking over for Norm Roberts in 2010 being a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and the journey starts with this nonconference schedule released yesterday by the residents of Queens. As we have done with Manhattan, Hofstra and Siena before St. John's, we once again break down the 13-game non-Big East ledger for the Red Storm. Sadly, Lavin was unavailable for a one-on-one interview with us, but St. John's sports information director and senior associate athletic director for communications Mark Fratto was gracious enough to provide quotes from the head coach in his press release:

Lavin's thoughts on the schedule overall: "At the dawn of a new era for the Big East, our squad will face a rigorous nonconference schedule. We will travel to meet Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers, and host a slate of formidable opponents, including Syracuse. Our Johnnies will play at Madison Square Garden, Carnesecca Arena, and the Barclays Center. Once again, our nonconference schedule showcases all of the prominent venues in New York City, and gives our fans the chance to support our team in the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn; and of course, at the 'World's Most Famous Arena' in midtown Manhattan."

Friday, November 8th vs. Wisconsin: The token road trip to face one of the nation's elite programs is actually being played at a neutral site, as St. John's faces the Badgers inside the all-new Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Wisconsin loses four-year warriors Jared Berggren and Ryan Evans, but they return the services of point guard Traevon Jackson and sharpshooter Ben Brust in the backcourt, with sophomore wing Sam Dekker on the precipice of a breakout campaign on the heels of a rookie season where he averaged nearly ten points per game and shot 42 percent from three-point range. The Badgers also welcome back Josh Gasser after he sat out last season due to a torn ACL. "Playing a Bo Ryan-coached Badger team gives us an early season test and an opportunity to get a report card following an offseason that will include a European tour," Lavin said. "Having covered the Big Ten for seven years with ESPN, I have developed an appreciation for the cohesive brand of basketball Bo Ryan's teams play."

Friday, November 15th vs. Wagner: The Red Storm entertain the pride of Staten Island in their home opener at Carnesecca Arena in a matchup the Verrazano Warriors nearly won the last time both schools met in 2010. The Seahawks, who reached their second consecutive Northeast Conference semifinal last season, return both halves of their starting backcourt in seniors Kenny Ortiz and Latif Rivers; as well as junior point guard Marcus Burton, but second-year coach Bashir Mason will have his work cut out for him on the front line, as he will have to replace versatile power forward Jonathon Williams and glue guy Josh Thompson. Mario Moody should have a breakout season with his freakish athleticism inside, while Valparaiso transfer Jay Harris is a shooting machine waiting to be plugged in.

Tuesday, November 19th vs. Bucknell: Score this one as a deceptively strong game against a competitive mid-major, maybe even a trap game. Dave Paulsen's Bison will have a significant makeover this season without Mike Muscala and Bryson Johnson, but the reigning Patriot League champions return junior swingman Cameron Ayers, who now becomes the face of the team. If his name sounds familiar to St. John's fans, it's because his older brother Ryan played against the Red Storm while at Notre Dame, and both Ryan and Cameron are sons of former Ohio State coach Randy Ayers.

Friday, November 22nd vs. Monmouth: King Rice and the Hawks move into the MAAC this season, and one of their first tests before they play their first game in their new league comes against the Johnnies at Carnesecca Arena. Led by junior swingman Andrew "Red" Nicholas, Monmouth is a young team looking to build for the future, and athletic forwards Khalil Brown and Tyrone O'Garro will go a long way in helping the Hawks compete over the coming months.

Tuesday, November 26th vs. Longwood: The Lancers come off an 8-25 campaign to invade Carnesecca just before Thanksgiving, and La Salle transfer Tristan Carey returns for his senior season after leading Longwood in both scoring (15.6 points per game) and three-point shooting (37 percent) as a junior. Leading rebounder Michael Kessens is no longer around for the Lancers, but junior and Brooklyn native Jeylani Dublin returns on the heels of a sophomore campaign in which he averaged ten points and nearly six rebounds per game.

Friday, November 29th vs. Penn State: St. John's first of three games at the Barclays Center this season comes against the Nittany Lions, who should be even more improved this year than they were eight months ago as they prepare for year three of the Pat Chambers era. The best part of the season for the legions of fans in Happy Valley is that Tim Frazier returns for a sixth year after getting a medical redshirt following a torn Achilles tendon last season. Frazier joins junior point guard D.J. Newbill, who was also Penn State's second-leading rebounder, in the backcourt, while junior wing Ross Travis could blossom into a double-double per night player. Pay close attention to freshman guard Geno Thorpe, a highly regarded recruit who turned several heads in last month's Mary Kline Classic.

Saturday, November 30th vs. Georgia Tech or Mississippi: Regardless of whom St. John's faces in this matchup at the Barclays Center, it will be an intriguing contest either way. Brian Gregory is in charge of a sleeping giant as he enters his third season in Atlanta, and will soon have the Ramblin' Wreck resembling his amazingly underrated teams at Dayton. With Trae Golden transferring in from Tennessee to join leading scorer Marcus Georges-Hunt in the backcourt, the Yellow Jackets now have a one-two punch of guards to join their imposing interior duo of sophomore Robert Carter Jr. and senior big man Daniel Miller, who does a little bit of everything. If St. John's faces Andy Kennedy and the Rebels, they will get a stern test in the backcourt with point guard Jarvis Summers returning to anchor the guard stable that also includes shooters LaDarius White and 5-10 sophomore Derrick Millinghaus. However, Ole Miss loses a combined 24 points and 17 rebounds per game from big men Reginald Buckner and Murphy Holloway after they both graduated, not to mention the team has still yet to make a decision on the future of lightning rod star Marshall Henderson.

Saturday, December 7th vs. Fordham: For the fifth straight year, the Johnnies and Rams lock horns, and will do so in the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden for the third consecutive season. After two straight years of exacting revenge against Fordham following a blown 21-point lead at Rose Hill in 2010, St. John's faces a much tougher matchup with Tom Pecora's scrappy bunch of up-and-comers than they have in any other year. Chris Gaston has graduated, but the trio of Travion Leonard, Ryan Rhoomes and Ryan Canty; the latter of whom had one of the games of his life against the Red Storm last year, will provide the perfect complement to Pecora's trademark backcourt trio, which this year adds freshman Jon Severe to the firmly entrenched combination of senior Branden Frazier and sophomore Mandell Thomas, not to mention junior Bryan Smith off the bench.

Sunday, December 15th vs. Syracuse: As much as everyone would love to think this is a misprint, it sadly is not. Syracuse is officially a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference now, but Jim Boeheim and the Orange will return to their home away from home at Madison Square Garden to make this matchup a de facto road game for a Red Storm team that does not play a true road game outside of Big East play this season, something Lavin had done several times in his first three seasons. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams and shooting guard Brandon Triche are gone, but Syracuse returns arguably one of the most underrated players in the nation in C.J. Fair to serve as the game-changing wing in Boeheim's world-famous 2-3 zone defense. With Baye Keita, Jerami Grant, DaJuan Coleman and Rakeem Christmas all returning to the Carrier Dome, the Orange's massive interior depth will make up for their huge losses in the backcourt in this front end of a two-year home-and-home series, with the return match to be contested in Syracuse next season.

Wednesday, December 18th vs. San Francisco: Former NBA role player Rex Walters remains at the helm of the Dons, who upset St. John's in California last December, and now return the favor by traveling to Carnesecca Arena. Senior swingman Cole Dickerson joins his fourth-year classmate Cody Doolin, who singlehandedly torched the Red Storm last season, to lead San Francisco yet again after the two were the leading scorers on last season's 15-16 squad. If you like sweet-shooting guards, UCLA transfer De'End Parker and sophomore Avry Holmes will be two players you'll want to watch, as the two shot 45 and 47 percent from beyond the arc, respectively, on a team that averaged 40 percent from long range last season.

Saturday, December 21st vs. Youngstown State: Youngstown State is more than just the school Jim Tressel led to widespread success in Division 1-AA before he met his untimely demise at Ohio State, it is a program coming to Carnesecca Arena off an 18-win season and appearance in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. Senior point guard Kendrick Perry loses his running mate Blake Allen after he graduated this past May, but burgeoning big man Kamren Belin will have more than his share of opportunities to pick up the slack for the Penguins.

Saturday, December 28th vs. Columbia: The third and final game for St. John's at the Barclays Center comes against the school that Lavin picked up his first win at the helm of the Red Storm against when the two schools met last in November of 2010. Kyle Smith's Lions have improved since then, and the upward mobility should continue on the Upper West Side this season even without superstar point guard Brian Barbour, who graduated in May. In his place, sophomore Grant Mullins will step in easily after a rookie season that showcased his mounds of potential, and will join lethal outside shooter Steve Frankoski to form one of the best backcourts in the Ivy League. With Mark Cisco having graduated, do not be surprised to see Alex Rosenberg have a breakout season up front, as the 6-7 power forward displayed a versatile blend of physicality and offense on multiple occasions last season.

Saturday, January 18th vs. Dartmouth: The last nonconference game for the Johnnies comes at Carnesecca Arena against a Big Green unit that went 9-19 last season, and returns everyone to a roster that only has one senior on the squad in guard Tyler Melville. Leading scorer and rebounder Gabas Maldunas returns for his junior season, and the 6-9 Lithuanian should make some fans recall the deft shooting touch of former St. John's Lithuanian import Tomas Jasiulionis, while Alex Mitola returns as the starting shooting guard after a rookie season that saw the New Jersey product shoot 39 percent from three-point range.

Marist Women's Basketball Releases Nonconference Schedule

Senior guard Casey Dulin is one of many integral parts of last year's Marist team to return this season as Brian Giorgis and Red Foxes look for ninth straight MAAC championship and tenth in eleven seasons. (Photo courtesy of Marist College)

Not surprisingly, the road to Springfield goes through Poughkeepsie, until proven otherwise.

After yet another MAAC season ended with Marist cutting down the MassMutual Center nets for their eighth straight conference championship and ninth in ten years, the questions going into the 2013-14 season do not revolve around whether or not the Red Foxes will emerge victorious, but rather, the margins of said victories for Brian Giorgis' Dutchess County powerhouse, who this afternoon released a nonconference schedule that rivals some high-major teams throughout the nation in terms of the opponents it features.

Marist gets tested right out of the gate on November 8th, when they open the season on their home court at the McCann Arena against Kentucky, who defeated the Red Foxes in Lexington last season and will be making their second trip to New York in a nine-month span after winning two games at Carnesecca Arena in Queens to reach the Bridgeport Regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. Six days later, the Red Foxes make their first road trip of the season, traveling to New York's state capital to face Albany, with a voyage to New Jersey coming on November 17th, when Marist faces Princeton at Jadwin Gym.

From there, Marist returns to the site of some of their recent glory, as they will be among the participants in the inaugural Hall of Fame Challenge, played at Springfield's MassMutual Center; but not before a trip to Columbus on November 22nd when they meet Bowling Green, with Ohio State next up on the following day and Old Dominion waiting in the wings on November 24th. Marist then heads to Springfield on December 1st to take on St. Bonaventure, their last contest before a hiatus for final exams.

Following the twelve-day layoff, the Red Foxes will take the court at the Agganis Arena on December 14th for a matchup with Boston University, their final nonconference road game before two home dates that culminate the non-league ledger. Northeastern is the first of these two, making the trip to McCann on December 18th, with Oklahoma coming into Poughkeepsie three days later.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Niagara Releases Nonconference Schedule

Niagara will appear different this year, but leading scorer Antoine Mason is back to usher in Chris Casey era and enter his junior season as a MAAC Player of the Year contender for Purple Eagles. (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)

Niagara University welcomed a new era three months ago this week, when C.W. Post head coach Chris Casey was introduced as the replacement for longtime program leader Joe Mihalich, who left Monteagle Ridge for Hofstra. While Mihalich took star point guard Juan'ya Green and swingman Ameen Tanksley with him to Hempstead, Casey still has several key pieces to help guide him through his first season in western New York, which starts with the nonconference schedule that the Purple Eagles released earlier today.

As part of their participation in the preliminary rounds of the NABC Coaches vs. Cancer Classic, Niagara will open its season on November 9th at the Prudential Center against Seton Hall, with local rival Buffalo and first-year head coach Bobby Hurley serving as the Purple Eagles' opponent for their home opener, to be contested on November 13th at the Gallagher Center. Niagara will then travel to Kent State University for a subregional series in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament, taking on the Golden Flashes; along with South Carolina Upstate and Western Carolina, for three consecutive days from November 21st-23rd.

Niagara's final game before Thanksgiving takes place on November 26th, when they travel to the Palestra to take on Penn, with a trip to reigning Southland Conference champion Northwestern State awaiting four days later. After opening the month of December on the 3rd at Arkansas State, the Purple Eagles will welcome Davidson into the First Niagara Center in Buffalo on December 11th before their final pair of nonconference opponents invade the Gallagher Center, those being St. Bonaventure on December 21st and Brown on December 29th.

Please continue to follow A Daly Dose Of Hoops for nonconference schedule releases and breakdowns, complete with insights from several head coaches, throughout the remainder of the offseason.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

St. John's Releases Nonconference Schedule

Steve Lavin and JaKarr Sampson lead St. John's closer to promised land with favorable and challenging nonconference schedule to prepare Red Storm for life in restructured Big East. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)

We once again interrupt your offseason proceedings (whatever they may be) with another nonconference schedule release of one of the teams this site is privileged to cover. After three announcements in as many weeks from the likes of Manhattan, Hofstra and Siena, St. John's University followed suit earlier today, revealing a 13-game slate that will acclimate the Red Storm to fierce battles and marquee opponents long before the Big East commences its new era with the start of league play on December 31st.

Following exhibition contests at Carnesecca Arena against San Francisco State (November 2nd) and Humboldt State, (November 5th) Steve Lavin officially opens his fourth campaign at the helm of the Johnnies on November 8th, in what has come to be a Lavin specialty of scheduling an inherently difficult season opener; this year's honoree being Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers, who will face St. John's on a neutral court in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The matchup between St. John's and Wisconsin will be the first between the two schools since the Badgers defeated the Red Storm in the 2002 NCAA Tournament, a contest that has since been vacated by St. John's in the aftermath of the scandal that helped cost former coach Mike Jarvis his job midway through the 2003-04 season.

The Johnnies return to Carnesecca Arena for their home opener on November 15th, taking on Wagner for the first time since their close call against the Seahawks in December of 2010, a game in which the Red Storm only won by eight points after withstanding a late rally from then-coach Dan Hurley's Verrazano Warriors. This year, second-year coach Bashir Mason returns his starting backcourt of seniors Kenny Ortiz and Latif Rivers, but will need to replace the versatility and productivity of power forward Jonathon Williams, who graduated in May. Reigning Patriot League champion Bucknell comes to Carnesecca four days later, with MAAC newcomer Monmouth following suit on November 22nd, while Longwood invades Queens on November 26th to conclude a four-game Red Storm homestand.

This season, St. John's surprisingly does not play a true road game in the nonconference portion of the schedule, something Lavin had done actively and aggressively in his first three seasons, with trips to Saint Mary's, Kentucky, Detroit and San Francisco appearing on the Johnnies' ledger. Following their homestand, the Red Storm will play Penn State in the semifinals of the Barclays Center Classic on November 29th, with either Georgia Tech or Mississippi awaiting them the following day before a week off prior to the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden; where they will once again face Tom Pecora's Fordham Rams, the fifth consecutive season in which the Bronx's college team takes on St. John's, who has won three of the last four against Fordham, yet has not had to face a backcourt as strong as Pecora's current contingent of Branden Frazier, Mandell Thomas and freshman Jon Severe in any of those previous four meetings.

Once the collision with Fordham enters the record books, St. John's will play host to a nonconference matchup that will seem surreal to rabid college basketball fans, as Syracuse makes its first Madison Square Garden appearance as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference on December 15th in the front end of a two-year home-and-home agreement between the Red Storm and Jim Boeheim's Orange. Following their renewal of the rivalry with their archrival from central New York, the Johnnies welcome San Francisco to Carnesecca Arena on December 18th before wrapping up a three-game, seven-day stretch on December 21st, when Youngstown State comes to Queens.

One week later, St. John's will play its third game of the season at the Barclays Center when they face Columbia on December 28th in the opening game of the Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival, a tripleheader that also includes Kansas State vs. Tulane and VCU vs. Boston College. After a brief hiatus from the non-league slate to begin Big East play, St. John's will welcome Dartmouth to Carnesecca Arena on Saturday, January 18th, 2014.

Please continue to follow A Daly Dose Of Hoops for further offseason news involving St. John's University, as well as our St. John's correspondent Jason Schott, who covers the Red Storm for BrooklynFans.com in addition to this site.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Breaking Down Siena's Nonconference Schedule

Jimmy Patsos is wasting little time turning Siena into a contender after releasing 11-game schedule that will be one of toughest nonconference tests in nation, let alone MAAC. (Photo courtesy of the Albany Times Union)

One of the first comments from Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos about the schedule that his Saints will play before the MAAC slate begins was that it will be one of the toughest schedules in the nation. With an uptempo style that will instantly become a fan favorite, Patsos has left no stone unturned in trying to find games that will not only test his new team, but also help them develop in the process while remaining competitive going into the conference portion of the ledger.

With four true freshmen on the roster, along with Coppin State transfer Patrick Cole, Patsos welcomes five newcomers to the Siena program just months after replacing Mitch Buonaguro on the heels of an eight-win season, and the colorful head coach has already put his own stamp on the Siena roster, blending a group of highly regarded recruits with a returning core led by guards Rob Poole and Evan Hymes in the hopes of bringing the first MAAC championship to Loudonville since Fran McCaffery won his third straight in 2010. As we have already done for both Hofstra, who faces Siena on December 23rd, and the Saints' MAAC rival Manhattan, we will once again break down the first tests for Siena, with quotes and insights from the always-engaging Patsos, who was gracious enough to give us 27 minutes of his time in what became the second-longest interview in our four-plus-year history, (only Bobby Gonzalez, with whom we spoke for 35 minutes at Big East media day in 2009, went longer on time) along the way:

Patsos' thoughts on the schedule overall: 
"I've been around, I helped Gary (Williams) schedule at Maryland, I scheduled at Loyola. I'm doing the quick math: MAAC, road games, Old Spice, strength of schedule out of conference, I'd be surprised if it's not one of the toughest ones in the country. We have the toughest schedule Siena's had in a long, long time, but I'm going to stay positive, because what matters is the MAAC and the three games in March. Everybody knows mid-majors want a second bid, and the only way to get a second bid is to play some good teams. You can't have cupcakes and get a second bid, we all know that."

On the Saints' August trip to Montreal: 
"It's four games in six days, which is something my friend Joe Mihalich clued me in on, he did it at Niagara. This is a really good opportunity for us to grow as a team, learn about each other. Look, Jaden, we're going to play nine or ten or eleven guys. Yeah, I know every game in college basketball is important, but I want to have stuff figured out by the time we hit the MAAC, and remember, we play two games early in the MAAC."

Friday, November 8th vs. Albany: The Saints' home opener will be perhaps the game with the largest attendance on opening night, as it is almost certain to sell out the Times Union Center with over 12,000 fans packed in to see Patsos open his tenure in Loudonville with this intracity matchup against Will Brown and the Great Danes. Guards Mike Black and Jacob Iati, both of whom were instrumental in leading Albany into the NCAA Tournament last season, have each graduated, leaving the Australian duo of forward Sam Rowley and sharpshooting sophomore guard Peter Hooley to pick up the pieces on a team that will still be expected to challenge Stony Brook for the America East championship. "It's definitely going to be a great test," Patsos said of the season opener. "Will (Brown, Albany's coach) has done a great job there, and we always play at the arena (the Times Union Center) because it's the only one that can accommodate all the fans, but each team does get a chance at the home team. I think it's a great game, it's a great game for recruiting, the crowd's great, there's a lot of buzz."

Tuesday, November 12th at Vermont: Patsos and the Saints complete the back end of their two-game America East swing with this deceptively strong road matchup against John Becker and the Catamounts, who lost to Albany in the America East championship game last season. Senior forward Brian Voelkel returns for one more shot at a second NCAA Tournament, and with enough of a productivity increase, he could be a contender for the America East Player of the Year award. Clancy Rugg and Luke Apfeld, Vermont's leading scorers on a long and athletic Catamounts team last year, both return as well, as do sharpshooting senior guard Sandro Carissimo and one-time Marist expatriate Candon Rusin. "John Becker is a very good friend of mine," said Patsos of the Catamounts' head coach. "He coached with Mike Lonergan, he's done a very good job of taking over. Once again, another very good game. Vermont has a nice fan base, we have a nice fan base, so I'm really looking forward to that game, they've got a 6-5 forward (Brian Voelkel) who kind of does a little bit of everything. We played them at Loyola, we had a great rivalry with them."

Saturday, November 16th at La Salle: Just like fellow MAAC program Manhattan, who opens their season at Tom Gola Arena against the Explorers on November 9th, Patsos and Siena will also make the journey to northern Philadelphia to meet the team that Dr. John Giannini took to the Sweet 16 on the way to being the last remaining Atlantic 10 program in the NCAA Tournament. La Salle's unique guard set is back once again to cause nightmarish matchup problems for its opposition, as Tyreek Duren, Sam Mills and Tyrone Garland will return to assist Steve Zack and Jerrell Wright up front.

Tuesday, November 19th vs. St. Bonaventure: The Franciscan Cup rivalry begins in Albany with this matchup against the alma mater of our own Ray Floriani. Mark Schmidt no longer has Andrew Nicholson from his 2011 Atlantic 10 championship team, but Charlon Kloof and Matthew Wright are still around from that season's great success, with seven-foot big man Youssou Ndoye primed to make a bigger impact for the Bonnies this season.

Friday, November 22nd at Cornell: The Newman Arena welcomes the Saints the week before Thanksgiving, with Bill Courtney and the Big Red returning senior swingman Shonn Miller a year after he was Cornell's leading scorer and rebounder on a 13-18 team. Sophomore Nolan Cressler should have a bigger impact after a rookie season that saw the Pittsburgh native shoot 40 percent from three-point range, with junior guard Devin Cherry also on the precipice of a breakout campaign.

Patsos on the Old Spice Classic: 
"Do you want to go 0-3? Nobody wants to go 0-3, I know the drill, but we're trying to get better. How can the Old Spice not help you get better? But you've got to be careful not to get beat up too much once you get down there. I'm not a phony, you know? I've never been a phony, you've got to be realistic, and the Old Spice is something they're going to remember. Whether we win two games or we lose two games, they're going to go to Disney World."

Sunday, November 24th at Purdue: The marquee road game for the Saints comes against Matt Painter and the Boilermakers, whose lackluster 16-18 season last year ended with a loss to eventual CBI champion Santa Clara. Senior guard Terone Johnson has followed in the footsteps of former Purdue guards JaJuan Johnson, (no relation) E'Twaun Moore and Lewis Jackson on his way to leading the Boilermakers in scoring last year, with his younger brother Ronnie looking to build on a freshman season in which he averaged more than four assists per game. Keep a close eye on seven-foot sophomore A.J. Hammons, who averaged over ten points per game to go with six rebounds and two blocked shots last year. The Gary, Indiana native could very well be Purdue's best center since Brad Miller. "We're flying into Chicago," Patsos said when we asked about potential ideas for his patented educational field trips while on the road. "That's an easy one, it's limitless there."

Patsos on Siena's travel itinerary and plans in Chicago: 
"We're going to hit Chicago, who knows, I might try and get Theo Epstein to come in. I know it'll be cold, but we're definitely going to drive by Wrigley, depends on what museum exhibits are there. Any time you get these kids to see Chicago, it's one of the greatest cities in the world. I would normally take them to the stock exchange, you know, where they did 'Ferris Bueller' down there? But it's a Saturday, so they're closed, but I will find something for them to see, as well as the outside stuff."

Thursday, November 28th vs. Memphis: Siena's first game in the Old Spice Classic is a Thanksgiving night tipoff against Josh Pastner and the Tigers, who may be one of the favorites in the new American Athletic Conference, along with Big East expatriates UConn and reigning national champion Louisville. All five of Memphis' leading scorers return, led by point guard Joe Jackson and bruising power forward Adonis Thomas, as well as sharpshooters Chris Crawford and Geron Johnson, with 6-9 senior Tarik Black continuing to serve as a mentor to Shaq Goodwin on a team that welcomes highly touted recruit Kuran Iverson into the fold. "Josh Pastner, good guy, doesn't get enough credit for the job he does coaching," Patsos said of his 35-year-old counterpart. "Thanksgiving, 6:30 pm, it's a really important game, and we're really grateful for that. The MAAC got us in that, Rich Ensor, our commissioner, got us in there, and that's great for the kids."

Friday, November 29th vs. Louisiana State or Saint Joseph's: Regardless of who they will face, Siena has a tough matchup ahead of them. If it is LSU, 6-9 junior big man Johnny O'Bryant will most likely be the strongest interior presence the Saints will have faced up to this point, and it will prepare them well for the eventual meetings with Manhattan and their imposing duo of Ashton Pankey and Rhamel Brown. The Tigers are also paced by leading scorer Anthony Hickey, who returns for his junior season to anchor the backcourt in Baton Rouge alongside senior Andre Stringer, who torched the nets shooting 41 percent from three-point range last year. Sophomore forward Shane Hammink may not play much, but if his name rings a bell, it's because his father Geert also played for LSU under legendary coach Dale Brown, sharing the paint with a 7-1 phenom named Shaquille O'Neal. As far as the Hawks are concerned, Phil Martelli loses the services of warrior guard Carl Jones, but keeps the continuity in his backcourt with the returning Langston Galloway and Chris Wilson, as Halil Kanacevic will be counted on more this year to fill the void up front that C.J. Aiken left by announcing his intentions to turn pro and forgo his final season on Hawk Hill.

Sunday, December 1st: TBD

Patsos on the MAAC: 
"I know the MAAC this year is pretty wide open, you know. I know Iona is going to be good, and Manhattan got people back, but in terms of who lost what, and I know the league pretty well, a team that plays well has a chance this year in the MAAC. We have Monmouth and Quinnipiac, you know? King Rice's team is better, and Tom (Moore) is a really great coach at Quinnipiac, I've seen him on TV, entering our league. That's going to make it interesting."

Monday, December 23rd vs. Hofstra: Patsos gets to see his old friend Joe Mihalich, who was his counterpart in nine years of MAAC wars when the two coached at Loyola and Niagara, respectively, and he will face a new-look Pride team that will match up very well with Siena. Despite only returning four scholarship players from the Mo Cassara era, Stephen Nwaukoni is a double-double per night player on his best effort, and swingman Jordan Allen will likely have a breakout campaign with former Monmouth transfer Dion Nesmith there to feed him inside. Pay close attention to freshman Chris Jenkins, a New Jersey product who was Mihalich's first signee in Hempstead and can shoot as well as anyone in the nation. "See, I'm one of those freaky guys that actually likes other coaches," Patsos said when talking about Mihalich. "I'm really old-school, and our business has got a lot of interesting people. I like Joe, maybe I like coaches too much. I know one thing: Joe Mihalich's a great coach, and he's a great offensive coach, so people at Hofstra are going to be really happy. He plays an exciting style, quality guy, and he runs quality programs."

Monday, December 30th vs. Fordham: The final nonconference test for the Saints will be a shot at retribution after the Rams defeated them the Sunday before Christmas last December at Rose Hill Gym. Tom Pecora is just starting to turn the corner in the Bronx, and adds New York State Mr. Basketball Jon Severe as the third piece in his trademark troika of guards, with the Christ the King star set to join Branden Frazier and Mandell Thomas. One of the biggest keys for Fordham this season will be its frontcourt development, especially now that Chris Gaston has graduated. Sophomores Ryan Rhoomes and Travion Leonard each displayed multiple signs of becoming stars in the making last year, as did junior Ryan Canty whenever he was not in foul trouble. If Fordham can maintain its six-man rotation, with junior guard Bryan Smith serving as a potential X-factor off the bench, the Rams could challenge a lot of teams in the Atlantic 10. "Tommy can coach, I've known him since he was at Hofstra," Patsos said of Pecora.

Patsos on Mihalich and Pecora: 
"I kind of followed them. Tommy could have stayed at Hofstra forever, he's a great coach, he's got a good situation. Joe could have stayed at Niagara forever, I would like to think I could have stayed at Loyola for a while after what we did, but sometimes you want to take that next challenge. I looked at that (Pecora going to Fordham) and said 'that's a gutsy move.' So I admire those two guys, because they just said 'you know, we're not going to just sit here and be content.' They had great jobs, but they took that next challenge. I think all three of us are in the same situation, kind of taking the next step for New York basketball."

On this year's team and the blend of youth and experience: 
"Brett Bisping is probably going to start at the 4. The way I look at it, we've got four or five guys that are left over and four or five guys that are our people. Rob Poole's good. Obviously, Marquis Wright and Lavon Long can play, I already know they can help us right away. Javion, (Ogunyemi) I got to know a little better, and I think he looks pretty good. Mike Wolfe may redshirt, Patrick Cole has to sit out, he's a very good transfer from Coppin State. In a year, he's going to be very good. So, we'll have four of five old guys and four or five new guys, and it's a situation where we're going to learn as we go, but it's going to be a nice group. For everyone reading into this and thinking 'we're going to go to the Sweet 16, we're going to go 30-1,' it's going to be a grind, it's going to be a learning experience, and every day, we're going to get a little better in practices. It's important that we get better in practice, and use the games as learning experiences to try and be ready for the MAAC."

On Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello: (this question was submitted by friend of the site David Rochford) 
"He's done a great job, I really like Steve. Steve and I are friends, we were grinders. He was doing the hard work with Bobby Gonzalez, he was with Pitino, I was with Gary Williams. He's a really good guy, I like Steve a lot. John Dunne's probably my best friend in the league, but I like all the coaches. I think Tim Cluess doesn't get enough credit for how good of a coach he is, but Steve is; without casting aspersions, a really good coach. He's a program builder, you know? He's got them in the right direction, (and) I wonder how long he'll be there. I really like Steve, I see him going to the next level, he's one of those guys I see as a riser, but I like him, I talk to his mom before the games, and he's done a great job. He's done it the right way, too: He's getting the right kids, making them play hard, holding them accountable, and I think he's done a really great job. I think he'll be picked to win the league this year, Manhattan's (No.) 1, Iona's (No.) 2, and I don't know anyone else after that, but it's going to be real interesting to see Steve's growth as a coach. He's a good person, he's intense and all that, but he's a good dude. That's what I think of him."

On where Siena and MAAC men's basketball will be thought of on the national stage in five years: (this question was submitted by friend of the site David Freeman) 
"I think it's very strong with the eleven teams, (Rich) Ensor did a great job. Whether we'll get a twelfth, I don't know. Let's just go with the eleven we've got, it's a great eleven, it's turned into a great transfer league, it's always been one of the things I enjoy about the MAAC. A kid can always transfer home or guys that want a little more playing time, it's one of the first leagues transfers look at, that's just its reputation. I expect it to continue the same way, and by the way, Canisius with (Jim) Baron's son, (Billy) who's probably going to be the best player in the league, watch out for them, and he's a transfer. I think MAAC basketball's going to continue the way it is. Can it get stronger? Sure, but it's a pretty good brand. With the facilities and stuff we have, I think we're the little engine that could; it's pushed by people like John D'Argenio and Bob Byrnes, but Rich Ensor deserves a ton of credit for what he's done with the MAAC. It's always going to be a basketball league, and that's why I like it, and Siena's a good basketball job."

On the MAAC Tournament's return to Albany, beginning in 2014-15: 
"Hey, Jaden, you ask good questions! Would I like to see it in the Barclays? Sure, but it's not viable. You've got to find a situation that suits your league financially, whether it's Albany, Bridgeport, or Springfield. I like the Hall of Fame, Bridgeport's grown on me, the (WebsterBank) arena's a nice place, but Albany puts the most people in the stands, and that looks good for recruiting, and that looks good whether the tournament is played with Siena in it or not. It's got a great airport, it's got a train station, you can drive to it. There's fans there, there's rabid college basketball fans. This is a good college sports town. It's about putting numbers in the seats and sponsors and all that, and Albany's done a great job. I was just being an innocent bystander when I said that five years ago. To me, you've just got to be honest sometimes and say 'well, what is best for everyone, and what's best for the league?'"

"This is a business, look at the All-Star Game last night at Citi Field. I like baseball, I thought it was great, I watched the whole thing. I watched the Home Run Derby. This is a total package business, and I think Albany is the best place to have it. What's wrong with wanting to go up in March to the MAAC Tournament? If they want to stay at a nice hotel, they have it. If they want to go get a steak at Prime 677, which is my favorite restaurant downtown, they can. If they want to go up to Saratoga for the day and see a beautiful town, they can. You know, these people are making a choice in spending their money, so we've got to give them a lot. Once again, I like the whole Hall of Fame/Springfield thing, but the attendance and the numbers just weren't there. Remember what Hyman Roth from 'The Godfather' taught us: 'This is the business we have chosen.' We're competing with the Big East, and now, the ACC, in New York. The Atlantic 10 has got a strong presence here, the America East is getting better, (you've got) the Patriot League doing their thing, there's the NEC, and stuff like that. You're competing for people. I just think Albany is a great place and it's a great deal, and it's affordable, it's a drive for most people, if you want to fly, it's got an airport. People at Loyola loved it because they loved the airport. If we played at 9:00 at night, they went to Saratoga for the afternoon."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Siena Releases Nonconference Schedule

Guard Rob Poole is one of many dynamic backcourt talents that will lead Saints into Jimmy Patsos era, which begins with 11 nonconference games. (Photo courtesy of the Albany Times Union)

Our third nonconference schedule release is upon us, as Siena College today became the latest of the teams we cover to reveal their non-league agenda, doing so six days after Joe Mihalich unveiled his first nonconference ledger at the helm of Hofstra University.

The Saints will open what head coach Jimmy Patsos has deemed one of the toughest nonconference slates in the nation on November 8th at the Times Union Center, when they host archrival Albany in their annual skirmish that Patsos told us should be the season opener every year when we spoke to him back in April. From there, Siena embarks on a two-game road trip, traveling to Vermont on November 12th to play the final game of a four-year series between the Saints and 2005 NCAA Tournament darling Catamounts, with Dr. John Giannini and reigning Sweet 16 participant La Salle next on the docket from Philadelphia on November 16th. Three days later, the Saints will welcome St. Bonaventure to Albany in the battle for the Franciscan Cup, with a road trip to Cornell coming next on November 22nd before Siena heads to Indiana to meet Matt Painter's Purdue Boilermakers on November 24th in a preliminary game tied into the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

Speaking of the Old Spice, the tournament makes up the next three games on Siena's schedule, with American Athletic Conference favorite Memphis being the first opponent for Patsos and the Saints on Thanksgiving night, November 28th. Louisiana State or Saint Joseph's will await the following night, with either a championship or consolation game concluding the Saints' stay in the Sunshine State on December 1st.

Following a near-three-week break for final exams and the start of MAAC play, Siena's final two nonconference games have New York City area flavor, with Joe Mihalich and Hofstra returning a BracketBuster game from two seasons ago on December 23rd, while Tom Pecora takes Fordham into Albany for the third game of a four-year agreement on December 30th. A Daly Dose Of Hoops will have a detailed breakdown of the Siena nonconference schedule later in the week, along with quotes from head coach Jimmy Patsos about the eleven games to help his team prepare for MAAC play, so please continue to follow us throughout the offseason.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Breaking Down Hofstra's Nonconference Schedule

Joe Mihalich gets 15-game nonconference schedule to help ease transition of young Hofstra team as it turns page from seven-win season last year. (Photo courtesy of the YES Network)

Hofstra University attempts to embark upon a massive turnaround this season, with new head coach Joe Mihalich placed in charge of resurrecting a program that managed only seven wins amid the off-campus incident that saw four first-year players in the program dismissed and former coach Mo Cassara unfortunately axed at the end of the year.

With only four scholarship players returning for the 2013-14 season, Mihalich has had to hit the ground running, in his own words, to procure talent for this year's roster; and has managed to double the roster in just three months, bringing three true freshmen and two graduate transfers to Hempstead, not to mention three additional players who will sit out the 2013-14 season while completing their mandated year in residence. The smaller, nine-team Colonial Athletic Association also assists Mihalich greatly this season, as he gets the benefit of a 15-game nonconference schedule to prepare his team for a CAA season in which they can make great strides. Just as we did last week with Manhattan College and Steve Masiello, we've enlisted Mihalich to provide some insights and previews of what lies ahead as the Pride turn the page in search of their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2001:

Mihalich on his scheduling philosophy and opening the year with three games in five days: "Well, Jaden, scheduling is the hardest part of the job. It's not the most important, but scheduling is the hardest thing to do because dates have to work, locations have to work, you get into tournaments, you're home, you're away, travel, missed class time, it's endless, and there's only 340 teams. You're probably not going to start a home-and-home with Wyoming, right? It's an interesting topic, it's very much an inexact science. It's just not going to be perfect no matter how hard you try. What we try to do is to sharpen our teeth for league play, get the team prepared for league play, whether it's James Madison, College of Charleston, Drexel or Delaware, what have you. You want to play all kinds of teams, put them in tough situations, put them in good situations, and with our guys, it's going to be a thriller of a job. They're going to be young, and they're going to be learning on the job."

Friday, November 8th vs. Monmouth: The season starts at the Mack Sports Complex this year, as Hofstra takes on a Monmouth team moving into Mihalich's former home in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Led by third-year head coach King Rice, the Hawks bring junior swingman Andrew "Red" Nicholas back to the Jersey Shore as the leader on a young team whose core will be together for at least two years barring any transfers, as Monmouth does not have a senior on this year's roster after Dion Nesmith graduated and opted to spend his final year at Hofstra, adding an intriguing subplot to the opener. "First of all, they beat us last year by like 40 or something like that," (it was actually only 29, 91-62) Mihalich said of the Hawks, "so I'm sure we'll take some clips out of that tape and show it to our team so they can remember that. Their coach played at North Carolina, so he understands good basketball, and it will be a great test, it'll be a great game."

Sunday, November 10th vs. Fairleigh Dickinson and Sunday, January 5th at Fairleigh Dickinson: An unconventional nonconference home-and-home joins the Hofstra ledger this season, as the Pride will engage the Knights and new head coach Greg Herenda in a two-game series similar to what Stony Brook and FDU's Northeast Conference rival Sacred Heart scheduled against one another last season. Gone are forward Kinu Rochford and guard Melquan Bolding, which means the lone remaining New Jersey school in the NEC will have to rebuild around a supporting cast led by Danish sharpshooter Mathias Seilund.

Mihalich on the Hall of Fame tournament: "I love tournaments. Tournaments are like mini-seasons. It gets you ready for your playoffs, you know? We're excited about it."

Tuesday, November 12th at Louisville: Hofstra starts the year with three games in five days, and makes its first road trip as part of the Hall of Fame Tournament, in which they will square off against the reigning national champions in a preliminary round of that event. Rick Pitino no longer has Gorgui Dieng or Peyton Siva after they were drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons, respectively; but Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell will be an effective tandem of burgeoning big men while Russ Smith returns for his senior season to anchor the Cardinal backcourt alongside Kevin Ware, who has said he will be ready for the season opener after his tragic leg injury in the Elite Eight against Duke, with both Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear returning on the wings. "It's Louisville, it's the national champions, it's a Hall of Fame coach, that's what we want to do," Mihalich said of the matchup with the Cardinals and how it fits into his schedule and vision for the program. "These are the teams you want to play. I remember Al McGuire, when I was an assistant at DeMatha, told the guys 'Use basketball, don't let basketball use you,' and I've always kind of thought about that with scheduling. Let's use our schedule to give these guys experiences they'll never forget the rest of their lives. I mean, these guys will never forget playing Louisville when they have a national championship banner hanging from the year before."

Tuesday, November 19th at Richmond: Chris Mooney will make fans forget about his uncharacteristic meltdown at the Atlantic 10 Tournament rather quickly, as he will once again have the Spiders positioned for a postseason appearance despite the losses of both Darien Brothers and Greg Robbins. Guards Cedrick Lindsay and Kendall Anthony, the latter of whom was the 2011-12 Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, both return, as do one-time St. Anthony's (NJ) power forward Derrick Williams and sophomore shot blocker Alonzo Nelson-Ododa, who could be one of the pleasant surprises in the A-10 this season.

Saturday, November 23rd vs. Hartford: Hofstra travels to Mohegan Sun for the finals of the Hall of Fame Tournament and draws John Gallagher and the Hawks in their first Nutmeg State contest, with Hartford looking to make strides in the America East behind junior forward and leading scorer Mark Nwakamma and sharpshooting junior guard Yolonzo Moore II. If junior forward Nate Sikma's name sounds familar to some of our older fans, it's because former Milwaukee Bucks legend Jack Sikma is his father.

Sunday, November 24th vs. Belmont or Holy Cross: Based on how the preliminary game between the Bruins and Crusaders turns out, Hofstra will find out who their second Connecticut opponent will be. Belmont is a much younger team this season than the one Rick Byrd guided to the NCAA Tournament last year, but the Bruins will still be a force in the Ohio Valley despite the loss of all three of their leading scorers. The departures pave the way for senior swingmen J.J. Mann and Blake Jenkins to carry the team, and Mann was a 39 percent shooter from three-point range last season. As for Holy Cross, Milan Brown brings back both halves of his inside-outside combo of 6-9 senior Dave Dudzinski and 5-9 junior sharpshooter Justin Burrell, no relation to the former St. John's forward.Junior forward Malcolm Miller could be a force to be reckoned with on the glass.

Saturday, November 30th vs. Manhattan: Hofstra returns home to face a team Mihalich knows well from his days at Niagara, as the Pride take on Steve Masiello and the Jaspers for the third straight year, with Manhattan this time getting 6-10 forward and Maryland expatriate Ashton Pankey to join Rhamel Brown and Emmy Andujar up front while George Beamon and Michael Alvarado anchor the backcourt with Shane Richards serving as Manhattan's sixth man. "I have great respect for Steve Masiello," Mihalich said of the Jaspers' coach and leader of one of the prohibitive favorites to win the MAAC this season. "We had some great battles, the Niagara games were terrific, he does a great job, and this should be a great basketball game."

Wednesday, December 4th vs. Sacred Heart: For the second straight year, Hofstra hosts a Northeast Conference team on December 4th, as the Pride welcomed Wagner into Hempstead last year. The Pioneers have a new coach this season, as Dave Bike's retirement has allowed longtime assistant Anthony Latina to move into the head chair on the bench. Sacred Heart loses all-time great Shane Gibson, but gets continuity in the backcourt in the form of junior point guard Phil Gaetano and the returning Evan Kelley, with Gaetano finishing in the top five in the nation in assists last year. Louis Montes will once again be one of the stars of the Pioneer front line, with the X-factor being sophomore Tevin Falzon, who demonstrated his diamond in the rough value down the stretch as Sacred Heart fought for a spot in the NEC Tournament.

Saturday, December 7th at Southern Methodist: The Pride return the favor by traveling to Dallas after Larry Brown and the Mustangs came to Long Island last December, and will take on a member of the new American Athletic Conference that features an all-Lone Star State backcourt of senior Nick Russell and junior Jalen Jones, both of whom were SMU's leading scorers last season. Junior guard Ryan Manuel had a big game against Hofstra last year, as did Texas transfer Shawn Williams, and both of whom will return in an attempt to recapture the magic. "There's not that much difference between that and Louisville or Richmond," Mihalich told us with regard to Hofstra's trip to Texas. "I don't know that you would put our schedule in tiers, but if you did, SMU would be in our top tier."

Sunday, December 15th vs. Central Connecticut State: Howie Dickenman and the Blue Devils caught a major break when junior guard Kyle Vinales, who averaged nearly 22 points per game last season, decided to return to New Britain just weeks after announcing that he would transfer to a high-major program and having a change of heart after briefly committing to Toledo. Vinales will team with junior point guard Malcolm McMillan to anchor the backcourt while senior swingman Matt Hunter will have an increased workload as Joe Efese's graduation leaves Terrell Allen as the most experienced frontcourt player in Dickenman's rotation.

Monday, December 23rd at Siena: Hofstra returns a 2011-12 BracketBuster matchup with Siena in this pre-Christmas matchup at the Times Union Center by taking on the Saints and new head coach Jimmy Patsos, who arrives in Loudonville after nine years at Loyola. Despite the graduation of all-time program great O.D. Anosike, Siena will be an offensively gifted unit that will look to run the floor with greater ability under Patsos. Evan Hymes and Rob Poole will anchor the backcourt for the Saints this season, and Patsos' incoming freshman group led by Lavon Long and Marquis Wright should have a profound impact on the MAAC's largest fan base in their rookie seasons. "Jimmy is a real good friend, a great coach, and this is another great place to play," said Mihalich. "When you get it going like Fran McCaffery had it going, there's going to be 10,000 people there, and they won't be cheering for the opposing team," he said of the homecourt advantage in Albany.

Saturday, December 28th vs. George Washington: Mike Lonergan and the Colonials serve as Hofstra's second Atlantic 10 opponent this season, and the team from our nation's capital is a deceptively strong foe this year behind their pair of swingmen, senior Isaiah Armwood and sophomore Patricio Garino, the latter of whom will emerge as a household name if comes anywhere close to the form he displayed toward the end of his freshman season. "GW was a very, very young team last year, on the verge of winning some really big games," Mihalich said. "They're big, they're physical, it'll be a battle, a junkyard brawl."

Monday, December 30th vs. NJIT: The Pride's final nonconference home game will be a different NJIT than what many teams and fans had grown accustomed to over the years. Gone is the token low-major cupcake, replaced instead by a scrappy and valiant group that Jim Engles has molded into winners under the radar and away from all the hype. Do-it-all guard Chris Flores has graduated, as have each of the Highlanders' other three leading scorers. As the saying goes, there can only be one, and that man will be junior forward Daquan Holiday, who shot 57 percent from the field last season. "Jimmy Engles has brought that program a long, long way," Mihalich said of NJIT's coach, one who gets nowhere near the respect he deserves for taking the last remaining independent and turning the Highlanders from a one-win outfit into an above-.500 team. "They used to be one of those teams that you just get them on the schedule and you'll win, but not anymore. He's done a terrific job."

Thursday, January 2nd at Tulane: Hofstra opens 2014 with this rematch from a matchup at the Barclays Center last season, one in which Tulane dominated the second half on the way to a convincing victory. However, just like Monmouth in the season opener, Tulane is a young team as well, with each of their four leading scorers having departed to leave behind junior forward Trevante Drye; who averaged 4.6 points per game last year, as the top returning scorer for Ed Conroy's Green Wave.

Mihalich on Brian Bernardi, whose transfer to Hofstra from SMU was officially announced yesterday: "Brian's a terrific shooter, but more than that, he's a terrific player. That's what's more important. When all you're going to do is one thing, teams can defend that, but Brian's more than that, he's a basketball player. When Jeff Hathaway (Hofstra's athletic director) and I talked about rebuilding this program, we talked about doing it the right way and doing it brick-by-brick, and that's what we're doing. Brian might be a little bit bigger brick than some of the others, but we're excited to have him and everyone else in our program."

On graduate transfers Dion Nesmith and Zeke Upshaw: "They bring experience, they bring miles on their tires. They're ready to play right away. You know, freshmen are unknown guys, but these guys are licking their chops and waiting for this last year to make it one of the best years of their lives."

On freshmen Eliel Gonzalez, Chris Jenkins and Jamall Robinson: "We've only been with them for a couple of weeks, but they're great kids, and we're excited about what they can become."

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Jon Rothstein On Fordham

Mike Watts of WFUV at our home away from home of Fordham University, spoke to the great college basketball insider and friend of the site Jon Rothstein last night at an open gym session at the Rose Hill Gym, and Jon offered his thoughts on the Rams and how they may improve in the fourth year of the Tom Pecora regime. You can hear what Jon had to say about Fordham by following the link below:


Hofstra Releases Nonconference Schedule

Senior forward Stephen Nwaukoni is one of four Mo Cassara holdovers leading Pride into new era under new coach Joe Mihalich, who revealed nonconference schedule this morning. (Photo courtesy of Hofstra University)

Eight days after Manhattan College became the first local college team to release its nonconference schedule, Hofstra University followed suit this morning, unveiling a schedule that will test a new-look Pride team early and often under first-year head coach Joe Mihalich, who arrived in Hempstead this past April after fifteen years at Niagara.

Hofstra's thirteenth season since reaching a second consecutive NCAA Tournament under Jay Wright begins on November 8th, when the Pride welcome the Monmouth Hawks; now members of the Metro Atlantic Conference that Mihalich is the winningest all-time coach in, to the Mack Sports Complex, and will play King Rice's squad looking for their first win against Monmouth in almost 30 years. Fellow New Jersey program Fairleigh Dickinson comes into Hempstead two nights later for the front end of an unconventional nonconference home-and-home series.

Following Hofstra's clash with the Knights, the Pride hit the road for the first time in 2013 when they travel to the Yum! Center for a November 12th collision with Rick Pitino and reigning national champion Louisville, the first preliminary game in the Hall of Fame tournament that Hofstra is participating in. After a trip to Richmond on November 19th, Hofstra will meet Hartford four days later at the Mohegan Sun Arena, with either Belmont or Holy Cross to follow the next day from Uncasville, Connecticut.

Hofstra concludes the month of November with a renewal of their series against local rival Manhattan, who comes to Hempstead on November 30th after emerging victorious from a hard-fought defensive battle at Draddy Gym when Steve Masiello's Jaspers barely defeated the Pride last November. Mihalich's team opens December on the fourth of the month with a home game against Sacred Heart, who just recently hired former Hofstra women's basketball assistant coach Jessica Mannetti as its head women's basketball coach. Following the Sacred Heart game, the Pride hit the road for a December 7th showdown with Southern Methodist University and Larry Brown, returning the favor that Brown and the Mustangs extended last year when they faced Hofstra on Long Island.

The third of four games against Northeast Conference teams comes on December 15th, when Hofstra will play host to Howie Dickenman and Central Connecticut State in their final home game before Christmas. The Pride's third and final nonconference game against Mihalich's former MAAC rivals comes on December 23rd, when Hofstra returns a BracketBuster game against Siena by making the trip up the New York State Thruway to meet the Saints and new coach Jimmy Patsos at the Times Union Center. Hofstra returns home five days later to close out 2013 when they take on George Washington from the Mack Sports Complex on December 28th, with their final nonconference home game before CAA play begins coming two days later against NJIT.

It is worth noting that the departure of George Mason for the Atlantic 10 gives Hofstra two extra nonconference games, which makes fifteen in total to go with the 16-game, double round robin, CAA schedule that the nine-team league will announce later in the offseason.

Hofstra's final nonconference games will open 2014, first against Tulane on January 2nd in New Orleans, a reprisal of last year's contest at the Barclays Center, with the back end of the Fairleigh Dickinson home-and-home closing out the non-league ledger on January 5th. A Daly Dose Of Hoops will have a detailed breakdown of the Hofstra nonconference schedule, along with quotes and analysis from head coach Joe Mihalich later in the week, so please continue to follow us for Hofstra basketball news.