Lost Games

I did not start this blog until a little bit into my journey. As a result the following teams are not in the blog but do count toward the 351 mark: The teams are listed here: UConn, Central Connecticut, Hartford, Quinnipiac, Yale, Providence, Brown, Fairfield, UMASS and Army.

So I thought it would be prudent to show proof that I actually attended these games since no blog post with pictures exists otherwise.

UCONN

img_2217

Central Connecticut

jpg314jpg323.jpg

 

Hartfordjpg315.jpg

Quinnipiac

jpg316.jpg

jpg330.jpg

Brown

jpg317.jpgjpg325.jpg

Army

jpg318.jpg

UMASS

jpg319.jpg

jpg326.jpg

Fairfield

jpg320.jpg

jpg327.jpg

Yale

jpg321.jpg

jpg328.jpg

Providence

jpg322.jpg

jpg329.jpg

 

Advertisements

Savannah State (67) vs. Coppin State (73) 01/05/19

Game #75 of 353  21% complete

2019-01-05 16.49.08.jpg

Coppin State is in a not so nice area of Baltimore. Riots protesting the 2015 Freddie Grey shooting was very near the Coppin State campus. That being said as I drove through run down neighborhoods, I was a little on edge. Having been unsuccessful finding a spot to park on campus, I parked along the street in front of the Physical Education Center. As I walked into the arena, I was greeted by smiles by the staff as I went through security. I found a seat in the center of the court and witnessed a very entertaining basketball game. No worries!

2019-01-05 16.55.47.jpg

I tend to make UCONN connections as I continue on my journey. The head coach of Coppin State was Juan Dixon who scored 27 points for Maryland in a win against UCONN in the Eastern Regional final in 2002. The Savannah State coach was Horace Broadnax who played in a few Big East battles against UCONN in the 1980’s and helped Georgetown win the 1984 NCAA championship.

 

2019-01-05 16.56.07.jpg

I rooted extra hard for Coppin State because they were winless at this point. Both teams showed so much individual talent that might suffice in a one-on-one battle but lacked the fundamentals needed for a winning ball club. There were many individual highlight plays but there was just too much individual vs. team basketball. Savannah State is dropping to Division 2 next year so I was wondering about the mindset of the players who expected to be playing Division 1 ball.

2019-01-05 18.56.24.jpg

It was great to see the excitement of the Coppin State players winning their first game of the season. They had only lost by seven points at Notre Dame the game before so the talent is there. Good luck Eagles!

Next Game: Lafayette at American 01/19/19

 

Maine (52) vs. UMBC (61) 01/05/19

Game #74 of 353  20% complete

Arriving in Baltimore early morning well before the 1PM UMBC game, I drove to the Inner Harbor to tour the USS Constellation and a submarine the USS Torsk. I highly recommend this diversion because it gives one a true sense of the lack of comfort for sailors on these boats. Besides constantly ducking to avoid beams and the especially tight quarters on the submarine, my destiny back then would not have been in the Navy.

I chatted with a volunteer on the USS Torsk who happened to be fixing a fan but was working in the same area that he worked in back in 1965. He was in charge of some levers that controlled the throttle speed of the submarine. The submarine’s mission back then was to listen in on Russian subs near the Ireland coast. The torpedoes looked impressive and menacing.

I resolved this year to eat more healthy and to being visiting vegan restaurants on my Operation 351 journey.  As I finished touring the boats, the digestive juices did swirl triggering a look for a close by food place. Across the street I saw a Shake Shack calling my name. Another New Year’s resolution goes down the tubes!

So on to basketball….

2019-01-05 12.22.56

Not yet! I like to tour the campus sometimes before a game to get a little exercise. I ran into a dog named True Grit – the mascot of the University of Maryland at Baltimore County Retrievers. Rub his nose and you will get a lifetime of good luck. The model for the statue was a 5 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever named Nitty Gritty. Although the university chose the name “True Grit” to symbolize the nature of the school, the dog Nitty Gritty did have the honor of pulling off the cloth at the 1987 dedication.

So really on to basketball..

2019-01-05 12.32.21.jpg

The UMBC Events Center is a brand new slick arena built last year. As I entered the lobby, I was greeted by a sign proclaiming the event heard around the world. On March 16th, 2018, 16th seeded UMBC defeated #1 Virginia 74-54. It was the first time in history that a sixteen seed defeated a number one seed. In the team fan shop, there are t-shirts and signs proclaiming the win for sale.

2019-01-05 13.45.43.jpg

2019-01-05 13.02.21.jpg

This game was the America East league opener for both teams. UMBC standing overall at 8-7 and Maine at 2-15 were evenly matched in the first half but UMBC pulled away in the second half led by 6′ 10″ UMBC sophomore Brandon Horvath. His combination of three pointers and inside play proved the difference.

The Events Center arena proved to be an ideal place to watch a game. However, I do have one complaint. I am very used to looking at the scoreboard in the center of arena but this new arena did not have one. One has to look over to the side scoreboards or view the televised game up on the side wall. I kept looking up and then looking over to see the score.

2019-01-05 13.03.34.jpg

2019-01-05 13.03.44.jpg

2019-01-05 14.55.48.jpg

To conclude, I am at the airport in the TSA line. I over hear a gentleman discussing a 20 dollar bill that he found on the belt. The TSA man was reluctant to take it because I am sure there is no procedure on how to handle cash. I looked over and saw a Maine basketball backpack on this gentleman. As I took a closer look, I recognized him to be the head coach of Maine Richard Barron. As we both exited the TSA area, he was walking to the gate with his assistant Edniesha Curry. She is the only women coach for a D-1 men’s basketball program. So I introduced myself to them and told them about my journey. They seemed genuinely interested.  I told them that I was from Connecticut. Barron said that he was good friends with Geno. We said our goodbyes and we went off to our separate gates. I was mad at myself for not asking for a picture. Considering that he just lost a game and some stranger was talking to them while they had a plane to catch, both of them were very nice.

So I had time to catch a bite to eat and headed off to the nearest food place with beer. I am sitting there at the bar but guess who walks in. Yep and this time I was not going to blow it. I went over and asked for a picture. As I gave the camera to Ms. Curry,  Mark Curran said that Edniesha was really the “shining and upcoming star “.  So he asked a bar patron to take  a picture of all three of us.  Mark and Edniesha – I hope you reading this. I really appreciate you taking time to humor this old college basketball nut! Best of luck to you and the Black Bears!

2019-01-05 19.54.47.jpg

Next Game: Savannah State at Coppin State 01/05/19

 

 

 

Elon (65) vs. Drexel (79) 01/03/19

Game #73 of 353  20% complete

My cousin Brian and I started off the night at Abner’s for an old fashioned Philly cheese steak. Located near the Drexel campus, it came highly recommended by a coworker of Brian who is a Drexel graduate. Although the more famous Pat’s and Geno’s may be the hot tourists spots, Brian has had them all and said that Abner’s was equal to the task.

2019-01-03 16.42.17.jpg

The wall at Abner’s was adorned with Drexel memorabilia. As you can see from the sign above and much to my surprise, Drexel is not part of the Big Five (otherwise it would be known as the Big Six).  I had to research this and came upon the following article giving a good history of the Big Five – http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~dsodacp/about/bigfive.html.

Basically, Drexel does not share the history of the other schools. Also, it has become increasingly difficult to schedule non league opponents given the plethora of tournaments and increasing demands from leagues to increase their inter league play. Drexel is on friendly terms with the other schools and does play them on a regular basis.

The Palestra is a couple of blocks away from Drexel so it makes for a great weekend of basketball should they both be playing at home.

2019-01-03 18.17.27.jpg

2019-01-03 18.19.19.jpg

So this has to win the “coolest” entrance so far in my journey. The dragon eyes for the Drexel Dragons greet you as you make your way into the arena. As the Drexel team was introduced, two steam spouts blew behind the bench simulating a dragon’s breath. These were very cool special effects!

During the pre-game warm ups, the band, dance team and  some random fans gathered around the Drexel team. They all did a group cheer and wished the team well. That was the first time I have seen that done.

2019-01-03 18.46.37.jpg

The arena was sparse this evening of fans. Perhaps because the students were on break but I did not sense an excitement from the fans about the program.  I will give kudos to the pep band for providing some encouraging sounds throughout the night.

2019-01-03 19.04.47.jpg

I try to include the opening tip in all my blog posts. It is rare when I can time it with my crappy Apple 5S to capture both hands tipping the ball at the same time.

I spring for courtside seats when the price is reasonable which happens with small schools like Drexel. Although the view was great, there were times when I wanted to tell the referee to move out of the way.

2019-01-03 20.02.39.jpg

2019-01-03 20.00.05.jpg

Brian came up with a great observation during the game. He found out that Elon player Steven Santa Anna made national headlines last year for being tripped by Grayson Allen. The incident led a national shaming for Allen who followed up with a tearful apology. Santa Anna was clearly the best player for Elon tonight and is leading his team in scoring this year.

2019-01-03 19.05.06.jpg

This game marks another milestone in the journey as all the Philly schools are now checked off.

2019-01-03 20.47.42.jpg

Next game: Savannah State at Coppin State 01/05/18

 

 

 

 

Depaul (68) vs. Villanova (73) 01/02/19

Game #72 of 353  20% complete

2019-01-02 20.35.35.jpg

It was good to be back on the road after a holiday break. I am near Philadelphia  completing the last two schools in this area –  Villanova and Drexel.  The new on-campus Finneran Pavilion was under construction for the past two years so I purposely held off to see Nova till its completion.

2019-01-02 20.35.43.jpg

So  I think it is appropriate at this time to restate two rules I have about my journey. The first is that my goal is to visit every campus once to see a game in whatever arena is available at the time. Should a school build or rehab an arena after my visit, I do not go back to see a game there again. The second is that I always will go to a campus arena unless there is none like in the case of Georgetown. Nova also plays at the Wells Fargo arena but I will not go to a game there. My journey – my rules.

2019-01-02 20.18.57.jpg

 

I was very impressed when I walked into the Finneran Arena. You enter a circle of Nova memorabilia with mutli-media displays, plaques and trophies well bathed in bright lights. It is definitely a WOW moment. I reminisced over a display of Kerry Kittles who torched UCONN back in the Big East days. It was an impressive to see the multiple national basketball trophies with the basketball net placed over the glass trophy ball. More teams should do this with their dead space surrounding the arena.

2019-01-02-20.19.16.jpg

Did you ever think that a school was in one location but found out it somewhere else? I always thought that Nova was closer to Philly because it was always lumped with the downtown schools there. It is actually in Radnor which is about 1/2 hour away from Philly. I admittedly did not do much research on this because I was traveling with my host cousin Brian who was driving. BTW Brian is my backup for Operation 351 should I meet my ultimate demise.

2019-01-02 20.45.20

I was surprised that the Pavillion only holds 6500 seats. I am guessing that because it replaced the old Field House that perhaps they were limited in space. Interesting to note that the student section holds 2500 seats. Because the game was at 8:30PM, we did not have a chance to walk the campus. There was good and bad for parking. There was a free parking garage (good) but it does take a while to exit after the game (bad). We got home about midnight. One perk about being retired is that I did not have to get up for work the next day.

2019-01-02 20.48.58.jpg

Depaul led most of the way till Nova pulled away in the end. Eric Paschall for Nova was the star of the game leading everyone with 24 points. He is a unique player who is big and strong with a nice touch from the outside. When he drove the lane, he was unstoppable. He will be an interesting pick for the NBA GMs. I wonder whether his game will translate to the NBA but I believe he will do well.

2019-01-02 23.03.01.jpg

As we exited the arena, the ushers were handing out chocolate cookies and English muffins. I was too late for the cookies but did grab one of the last packages of muffins. I am enjoying some now as I type. Definitely a first for me in Operation 351!

Next game: Elon at Drexel 01/03/19

Sacred Heart (64) vs Lafayette (62) 12/02/18

Game #71 of 353   20% complete

2018-12-02 12.35.03.jpg

The rain continued to fall in the Lehigh Valley as we headed over Sunday to Easton to see the Lafayette Leopards. As we drove up to the Kirby Sports Center, the building looked historically old as we drove around looking for parking. Going around to the other side, we encountered a morphed building with a modern look. A little WIKI research found the following explaining the dual look : “Dedicated on June 2, 2000, the $35 million Allan P. Kirby Sports Center includes a new, 110,000-square-foot  intramural and recreational sports facility attached to the previously existing Kirby Field House. The field house itself received a $2.5 million face lift and interior renovations.”

The campus reminded me so much of the Holy Cross campus. The school buildings are situated on a hill side mixed in with older style residential houses.

Here are a couple of pictures of the cool looking football arena adjacent to the field house.

I had to call the ticket office last week to inquire about courtside seats. I always tell my Operation 351 story to anyone who might be interested. As I was picking up the tickets, I met the women manning the ticket office who immediately started asking questions about the mission. They thought it was pretty cool which always gives me that added dose of adrenaline to keep this this quest going.

2018-12-02 12.46.51.jpg

The halls were filled with displays of Lafayette sports history. The red uniform above was an 1890 football uniform. Another case had a basketball from the early 1900’s.  I  believe that every campus arena should have these displays with the Palestra being the model.

2018-12-02 14.07.54.jpg

2018-12-02 14.08.57.jpg

Being from Connecticut, it is always a treat to see a local club (Sacred Heart) come in as a visitor far away from Connecticut. However, my rule is to always root for the home school with the sole exception when I see UCONN as the visitor.

So I have been asked, “If you are such a die hard UCONN fan, how can you miss games like the Arizona/UCONN game Sunday to see a game in Pennsylvania?” My answer is that it getting increasingly difficult to schedule back to back games that minimize the cost and time traveling from Connecticut. I also have to insure that the games fit into my personal schedule given that I do have a life outside of Operation 351 and also with other Operation 351 games previously scheduled. When the opportunity presents itself, I grab it knowing that I can always watch UCONN delayed afterwards. I did die a slow death watching the end of the Airzona/ UCONN game live on the TV in the arena hall at halftime.

2018-12-02 14.11.56.jpg

This was a very entertaining back and forth game to watch. I am always concerned about an overtime game when it is the last game to see before heading home. With the score tied at 62, a missed three pointer by Sacred Heart was tipped in with three seconds to go by Jare’l Spelman to give the Pioneers the win. The 6’10” Spelman had a long reach and frequently out rebounded the smaller Lafayette team. Hard to imaging that Spelman was a transfer from Division 2 school Florida Southern. He must have truly dominated down there.

                                                  Happy Holidays to everyone!

2018-12-02 16.00.24.jpg

Next game : Depaul at Villanova 1/2/19

 

 

Arkansas State (70) vs. Lehigh (82) 12/01/18

Game #70 of 353  19% complete

2018-12-01 13.14.40.jpg

The 3 1/2 hour ride from Connecticut was made easier with the company of my friend Andy who has completed 12 Operation 351 games with me over the years. I am anticipating one more car ride to Philly this year and a couple more to Pennsylvania and New York next year before turning to plains and trains.  It is a sign of progress for me that I have run out of driveable games to go to. Although technically any game can be driven to but I cut it off at the 4 hour mark.

2018-12-01 14.07.12.jpg

The Stabler Athletic and Convention Center was opened up in 1979 and showing her age. The old lady could use a fresh coat of paint on the walls and floors. It is rare that I can take my half time walk around the perimeter halls and encounter nothing but a couple of concession stands. I always look for school memorabilia and achievements but there was absolutely nothing. The stands were void of students except for the cheerleaders and pep band. I assumed it was class break but the last day of classes are December 8th unless I am misunderstanding the academic schedule. Given that Lehigh is one of the stronger teams in the Patriot League, I expected more excitement.

2018-12-01 14.13.07.jpg

One of the joys of visiting small arenas is the opportunity to sit in court side seats for a reasonable price. This was the case for this game and the Lafayette game. One does not appreciate the speed and quickness of the games till you are sitting eye level and up close. You also get a better sense of the offensive scheme and patterns a team runs from this perspective.

2018-12-01 14.10.50.jpg

This game was a classic case of size (Lehigh) vs. quickness (Arkansas State). The height advantage underneath was too much for the Redwolves (love this name) to overcome. I was very impressed with Arkansas State guard Ty Cockfeld who scored 30 points with an all around solid game. Lehigh answered with Kyle Leufroy who scored 20 points with clutch shooting down the stretch.

2018-12-01 14.07.53.jpg

2018-12-01 14.07.43.jpg

I used some well honed begging techniques to acquire this t shirt from a cheer leader. Although I am like many of  who have too many t shirts, this is one more piece of memory from my Operation 351 journey.

IMG_0260

Perhaps this is the game I should have gone to!

2018-12-01 15.58.35.jpg

Next game: Sacred Heart vs. Lafayette 12/02/2018

 

 

 

Misericordia (64) vs. Binghamton (107) 11/12/18

#69 of 353  19% complete

2018-11-12 18.34.47.jpg

I always report on “firsts” in this blog. Tonight was the first time that I heard a school’s fight song blaring from loud speakers outside the entrance.

2018-11-12 18.37.34.jpg

I really try to avoid seeing D2/3 teams playing D1 teams in my travels. The truth is that it becomes difficult trying to find back to back games fitting into my schedule that make a long trip worthwhile. Given that the mission is to attend a game at every D1 campus, I will put up with a groaner game every now and then. BTW Misericordia is from Dallas, PA.

2018-11-12 19.03.10.jpg

It was an interesting contrast seeing the skill and athletic ability of the D3 team Misericordia players vs. the D1 players. A D3 player was typically a star on his high school team but lacks one or more athletic or basketball skills to compete at the D1 level. They may be a great outside shooter but slow as molasses. They may be tall but have hands of stone underneath the rim. The D3 players makes up for these weaknesses with hustle and effort but as the score indicates, that will only take you so far. The first half of the first half did make for a competitive game much to the chagrin of the old Binghamton fans sitting around me. As the game wore on, the Misericordia players worn down as the score margin became wider and wider.

2018-11-12 19.03.48.jpg

This is the fourth time that I have seen Binghamton play. The freshmen that I saw in the first game against Maine on 01/30/16 are now seniors. I actually remember Tim Rose as a confident ball handling freshman who is now one of the leading assist makers in the America East Conference.

2018-11-12 19.55.13.jpg

With all due respect to Binghamton, the city is a tough place to hang out in November. Most attractions close down for the week and are only open on weekends.  I do recommend two Italian restaurants that served great food: Michelangelo’s and Le Venice. Without an exercise room in the hotel, my net poundage did increase this trip. A five mile walk in Ostiningo park did help a little.

2018-11-12 19.10.06.jpg

A nice little perk that Binghamton does is to throw out a t shirt to the crowd for every Binghamton three point shot made. Also, each fan was given a coupon for a free donut at Dunkin Donuts because there were three Binghamton dunks.

Next game:  Arkansas State Vs. Lehigh 12/1/18

2018-11-12 20.49.07.jpg

 

Colgate (73) vs. Cornell (57) 11/11/18

#68 of 353  19% complete

2018-11-11 12.19.12.jpg

After a 4 hour ride from Connecticut, this venue met all the requirements for an relaxing afternoon. The parking lot was free and a short distance from the entrance. The ticket was cheap and close to the court. No traffic or lines were encountered.  It was a beautiful day to admire the rolling hillsides of the Catskills. All the check boxes were checked.

This game will almost complete for me all the schools in the Ivy League. For all you old Sports Passport fans, I would earn a “Ivy League” stamp. I am often asked “How did you get started doing this insane journey?”. I came across the Sports Passport site about 5 years ago.  As you attend each event, you can check in and record your visit. Stats are accumulated totaling up the number of games, venues, players, etc. There are supplemental functions like friends and earning badges. My 68 games are out there under the name “Operation351”.

The original Sports Passport site had college basketball badges for each state and each league completed. The current site pared down the badges to more general achievements much to my chagrin. There were also some specialty badges but one badge caught my eye. It was titled “351” which was earned when someone visited all 351 D1 venues. No one had earned the badge.  The light bulb went off in my head thinking about my love of travel and college basketball. So here am I 68 games later!

IMG_0179.JPG

2018-11-11 14.04.04.jpg

I saw that fellow college basketball junkie John Witkowski tweeted that he was at the Cornell game. He titles his quest “Mission351” and is currently at 115 games. That is quite an achievement considering he is much younger than me and working full time. After exchanging tweets, it turns out that we were in the same row a few seats apart. We chatted at half time about upcoming plans and experiences with our travels. It is comforting to know that there are other crazies out there like myself. Safe travels the rest of the way John!

2018-11-11 13.09.01.jpg

Syracuse Jim Boeheim’s son Jim plays for Cornell.  Coach Jim and his wife were sitting one section over from me. I noticed that not one person came over to him during the game so I decided against playing the obnoxious fan part asking for a picture. See below for a picture of little Jim on the court and Big Jim and Mrs. Jim walking out to the parking lot.

2018-11-11 13.10.362018-11-11 14.47.16

Cornell was hoping to go 3-0 for the first time in two decades but Colgate was the better team today, Colgate sophomore guard Jordan Burns was very impressive today slashing the lanes multiple times for layups. He also made some pull up jump shots to hold the Big Red at bay. BTW – Jimmy Boeheim did not have a good day so I suspect Dad was not in a good mood.

Did you ever go looking for one Waldo but found many?

2018-11-11 12.47.22

Next Game : Misericordia at Binghamton 11/12/18

2018-11-11 14.44.31.jpg

 

 

 

Bucknell (88) vs. St. Bonaventure (85) OT 11/07/18

#67 of 353  19% complete

2018-11-07 18.11.40.jpg

This was my first time to this part of the country. The ride south from Buffalo to Allegany was picturesque to say the least with rolling hillsides and farms populated with small houses and hundreds of acres behind them. I was stuck behind a school bus part of the way down.  Usually the frequent starts and stops can make one a little anxious but I was surprised how calming it was because it gave me a chance to check out the scenic views with each stop.

With a few recommendations from REDDIT, I had to stop and try the burger at Burton’s along with a couple of brews. The place slowly filled up with Bona fans adorned with their official  t-shirts. I asked an older gentlemen next to me on how did he think the team would do this year. He was very unsure because they lost superstar Jaylen Adams and other key personnel. The incoming freshman were heralded but untested, But there was universal consensus among the patrons that the Buffalo Bills are the worst team in football. Yes the burger was excellent!

2018-11-07 18.54.08.jpg

I classify the Reilly Center as an arena with lots of “SOL”. By “SOL”, I mean small,  old and loud. These are my favorite type of venues. As you can see, the student body showed up in force on opening night. The Bonnies are riding off a high from last year when they defeated lower seed UCLA in a First Four contest in Dayton. A banner was unfurled in a ceremony before the game. There was a moment of confusion on my part when the banner read “First Round”. They won so how could it read “First Round” but then I realized that the First Four games were not considered a round.

2018-11-07 19.31.41.jpg

2018-11-07 19.07.07.jpg

I sometimes highlight young and upcoming talent here. I would like to do that now from both clubs.

For St. Bonaventure, I was impressed with freshman Dominic Welch and Osun Osunniyi. Welch is a local Buffalo product who averaged 30 points a game in his senior year. He has a nice stroke and should improve his all around game with more experience. Osunniyi is a thin 6’10” center from New Jersey who dominated the boards at times offensively and defensively.  Both of these kids made key freshman mistakes down the end but coach Mark Schmidt has a couple of keepers on his hand.

For Bucknell, I was impressed with Paul Newman a 6′ 9″ sophomore from Philly, He had a street game that resulted in several great plays keeping the Bisons in the game when the Bonnies tried to pull away in the second half.

2018-11-07 21.08.14.jpg

St. Bonaventure was at a distinct disadvantage this game because they were missing their best player injured  Courtney Stockard. He erupted for 26 points last year against UCLA. Nevertheless, this was an exciting game as most overtime games are. The game was interrupted several times by the referees reviewing plays. I understand the concept of getting it right but sometimes the excessive reviews slows down the game and momentum for whoever has it at the time.

2018-11-07 18.32.25.jpg

A shout out to Bucknell senior guard Kimbal Mackenzie from Ontario. His 28 points and clutch foul shooting was the difference down the stretch. Both teams will be a handful for any opponent in March.

A lesson in life was learned tonight. Always remember what entrance you come into the arena. Should there be a similar entrance on the other side of the building like the Reilly Center which you exit from and walk a mile looking for your car in the opposite direction, you wish that you were more careful!

2018-11-07 21.38.06.jpg

Next game : Colgate Vs. Cornell  11/11/18