State of the Colonial – State By State

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“These kids are away [from their families]and they’re out and they’re laying it on the line to entertain people. Something just doesn’t feel right about it right now,” Capel said Monday. “The numbers were what they were back in March. I look at it every day, man. It seems like every day it’s getting worse. I don’t know why you cancel it in March, but you say it’s OK to do it right now. But what do I know?”

“One of the things that has come about with all of this since everything happened in March when the season was canceled, I don’t think anyone can say anymore that these young men are amateurs,” Capel said. “That’s out the window. They’re not. They absolutely aren’t.”

 

Yes. As we trudge through the winter months, the icy cold gloom of greed is ubiquitous. Hey, I have an idea. Let us all play college basketball during a pandemic. Good news. If you have a valid identification, you can go to a liquor store after the game. No problem. Mom and pop stores?  Not so much. College basketball? There is far too much money at stake. What happens if a few kids get sick or worse? It is no big deal.

The Ivy League was the first to cancel the conference tournament. Ed Cooley felt “they are overreacting.” Once again, the Ivy league said “no” to the almighty dollar and “yes” to common sense. Unfortunately, smart people have no relevance. If they did, Jo Jorgenson would have received more than 1% of the vote. The Patriot league seems to think that playing basketball with masks on, is a sound strategy. Perhaps if you are reenacting a group bank robbery or perhaps if you are filming David Lynch’s vision of The Basketball Diaries? We know, neither is true. We know, they are playing college basketball, with unrelenting tests and empty arenas so the NCAA can grab the massive check that goes tete a tete with the NCAA tournament. It is entirely ridiculous. It is also January. So for the moment, lets swing that all to the side and focus on the hoop, as it is.  It is time to evaluate the state of the Colonial Athletic Association. To be clever, we will write a few words, state by state.

Massachusetts –  With the midweek sweep of Hofstra, the Northeastern Huskies become the favorite to win the conference. Northeastern began the year getting drilled at UMass. They edged UMass in the home rematch. A four-game road trip began with a close loss at Syracuse. It ended with a blowout loss at West Virginia. They enter conference with four losses in a row. No worries. Northeastern has all six feet of sophomore point guard Tyson Walker. They also have the great Bill Coen. What more does one need? Coach Coen tells us “the freshman are ahead of the curve.” We should listen. Bill Coen is rarely wrong.

Northeastern came from 19 down to win at Hofstra. Back home, they rode Tyson Walker and withstood Hofstra’s best shot to complete the sweep. At 4-0, Northeastern is defending with fervor. They may have to beat Hofstra a third time to make the NCAA tournament. By then, the freshman will have improved more. Tyson Walker will be a star. Bill Coen is still roaming the sideline. Whatever three seed they draw is already nervous.

New York –  The fucking pandemic. More than a few Hofstra fans uttered those words last year. By my power ratings, last year’s Hofstra team would have gone to the tournament as the highest rated Joe Mihalich team he’s ever had. It got worse from there.

In late August, Mihalich announced that he was taking a temporary medical leave of absence. Longtime assistant, Mike Farrelly is the stand in Head Coach, so not much will change. You will see a heavy dose of pick and roll, on offense. You will see a heavier dose of matchup zone on defense.

The Pride have run the gamut. They got blitzed at home by a very young Iona team. They also have the best win of the conference, as they went south and beat top 25 Richmond 76-71. Their conference season began with a home sweep of William and Mary and continued with the aforementioned back-to-back losses to Northeastern. Hofstra probably has the most talented team in the league. They are also likely playing for second after the sweep. We hope we see Coach Mihalich barking out orders sooner rather than later. He is an excellent coach. Hofstra basketball does not seem the same both on and off the court without him.

Pennsylvania –  With all 5 starters back, this is the team Spiker has built. It began well. They lost 83-74 to Pitt an ACC school, that has played well this year. They then handled a beat-up Quinnipiac team twice in “the bubble”, that is sometimes called, The Mohegan Sun casino. A win over a weary Coppin St team meant little. Drexel then got exposed losing to La Salle at home, 58-48. They were fortunate to catch a very cold shooting, St Joe’s crew, who was down three regulars, winning 81-77. Once again, they caught a team shorthanded as they ran out a crippled FDU squad, 85-68.

Running good and likely confident, league play begins versus you guessed it, a team down their best player. With Galloway out for the year, College of Charleston is a shell of themselves. However, they have Earl Grant on the sidelines. Drexel has Spiker. It is likely why Drexel is 0-2 in conference, inexcusably losing both games. This is a very down year for the Colonial. This is the best chance they have to make the big dance in a very long time. I am not big on blaming coaches, but enough is enough. Drexel continues to make mistakes. Spiker does not adapt well on the fly. The season is not over. Drexel has an excellent point guard. They have more talent surrounding Wynter than ever. Kurk Lee is far away in Lorman, Mississippi. He is happily not in Philly. He is sadly, injured once again. No matter, this is Wynter’s team. He is capable. To me, the jury is still out on his Coach.  This year should help clear that up. By the end of the year, it will be fair to have a conclusion on which way the Zach Spiker era heads at Drexel.  There have been positive moments and reasons to believe, and there have been continued mistakes.  Can he show himself able to adapt?

Delaware – Poor Martin Inglesby. Once again, his best player has gone to the dark side, something they call the transfer portal. It is reprehensible that so called “student athletes” can come and go like a subway. There is no loyalty. There is no joy. There is only greed. The power schools are all that matters. They see a talented player at a mid-major. They will have someone in his ear, telling him how he needs to play against better competition to help pursue a pro career. They shower him with a bunch of bullshit. They are kids. They are readily swayed. Ask the terrific Andrew Toole in particular.

Covid is an excuse for the NCAA to make transferring easier. Now, they have a new card to play. Instead of going to senior prom, high schoolers can graduate early. Hey son, do not worry. It is only the best half year of your life that you will sacrifice. It is not a big deal. You get to play with the big boys. It reminds me of the great line in the amazing The Color of Money. Tom Cruise realizes that Paul Newman has lived vicariously through him. Cruise says, “You used me!” To which Paul Newman replies, “Sure I used you, but you are with the big boys, you’re in Atlantic City, so it’s a wash!” And so it is.

The problem is, the NCAA gets it all wrong of course. Cinderella is always the main topic during the big dance. It is always a source of joy. Sure you will have the occasional Loyola Chicago’s, perhaps more than one this year, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to build a program if you are not one of the power schools. It is a sad state of affairs. Year in and year out, Inglesby coaches his ass off. Unfortunately, due to a ridiculous number of transfers and injuries, he always has less than a full deck. Inglesby has done an amazing job at Delaware. The league is weak this year. With a full roster, Delaware would be a notch below the best teams. However, already short on players, Aleks Novakovic got hurt prior to conference. He has missed all three conference games. Two minutes into their conference opener, senior point guard Kevin Anderson went down with an ankle injury. He has not played since. Still, they managed to hang on to beat College of Charleston in the opener, but with so few bodies, back to back days got them. They lost the next day rematch.

With seven bodies available, Delaware led most of the way at William and Mary, losing both the game and two more players along the way. It was not fair to expect the five that remained to all play 40 minutes with no rest. The game Sunday was mercifully cancelled. I hope Coach I catches a break. He has coached the absolute max out of what he has left, each and every year. Could anyone that is looking for playing time find their way to Newark in this transfer happy environment? Perhaps one of the three that has left Duquesne will come calling.

The only good thing to write about the current state of UD is that the William and Mary game was cancelled to injury, and not to COVID.

Maryland – The school kept its promise. They poured money into the basketball program. They built a new basketball facility. They told Coach Skerry, you have all the time you need. Coach Skerry is now in year 11. His football meets basketball approach can be brutal to watch. It also, at times has been effective. This year he had two starters returning. He also brought in some decent transfers, including Zane Martin, who has gone full circle. His hoops career began at Towson. He is now back for his senior year.

Towson began the year with four bad losses. Although underdogs in all, Towson did not play well. They finally found a team they could beat when local rival Coppin St arrived without their talented point guard. On December 26 Towson beat Coppin 78-73. Nothing has happened since. Welcome to college hoops pandemic style. Towson is on hold. They are scheduled to play UNCW next week end. Let us hope they get the injured Jason Gibson back. Let us hope, all players are healthy enough to play. The shit show continues.

I thought Towson would be a bit better this year, but with so many new faces from all over the country and with so little practice time, their struggles were somewhat expected. Prior to the season, I would have thought they would be in the middle of the pack, maybe higher. After five games I would have guessed middle of the pack, maybe lower. However, they will be sort of starting all over again, hopefully this weekend. The nonsense continues.

 

Be back with part two.

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