Cornell (65) vs. St. Peters NJ (62) 12/28/2015

#23 of 351

 

 

With all due respect to the residents of Jersey City, I can safely say that this will be my last voluntary visit to Jersey City. Stadium Journey had warned that finding a bite to eat around the campus would be tough but I was confident that there would be someplace to grab a burger and a brew. As I saw each potential eatery pass by with absolutely no parking anywhere to be found or blocked by construction paraphernalia, I drove through some sketchy neighborhoods before my hungry stomach settled on a Burger King with a parking lot.

With an attendance of 611 folks, the gym was not loud except for a Cornell parent sitting near by who cheered with exuberance for the entire game. To see that much excitement over a game with little national significance is one thing I love about college basketball. Passion for a local sports team is that one constant across the nation that knows no bounds defined by politics, nationality or religion.

There were two first for me in this game.

1). This was the first D-1 gym that I visited that did not have any seat-back chairs not counting the $50 courtside seats.

2). The St. Peter’s team threw out a t-shirt to the the crowd after being introduced in the starting lineup. More teams should do this.

The game was dominated by guards particularly Antwon Portley (St. Peters) and Robert Hatter (Cornell). Both guards were on the thin side but had great quickness and jumping ability. They were the perfect guards who excelled in this level of competition but would probably struggle in one of the higher echelon leagues. As I see more games, I begin to see the difference among player’s skill levels and why they are playing at the level they are.

I was impressed with Cornell’s fan base who made the trip down here. They easily out numbered the home crowd.

It was an awkward moment when fans were asked to stand and sing the St.Peters alumni song. I counted 6 fans participating.
Stadium Journeys: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/yanitelli-center-s556

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Florida Atlantic (54) vs. Hofstra (68) 12/22/2015

#22 of 351

According to Stadium Journeys, the train station was quite a distance from the arena. I decided to drive into the bowels of Queens instead. A 2 hour ride turned into a 3 hour ride as I was wall-to-wall with cars from the Whitestone Bridge to the arena. I gained a much better appreciation of taking the train into the New York when I can. Fortunately, the ride home was uneventful.

I stopped at the Roosevelt Field Mall for a bite to eat before the game.  This mall is the second largest mall in the state of New York. Much to my surprise, a Johnny Rockets restaurant awaited me. Nothing beats a Johnny Rockets milk shake.  Listening to the news on the way home, I was shocked to hear that there was a stabbing, attempted robbery and gunshots taking place earlier that afternoon in the mall. Folks ran for the exits not quite sure what was happening. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary when I was downing my hamburger a couple of hours later.

This was my first time driving through this part of Queens. I noted the names of the cities remembering their names from the NY traffic reports on the Fan (660 AM). Bayside was interesting in the fact that I felt as I was driving through Korea. Seriously, the store signs were predominately in Korean with very little English. Well, I should say Korean, Japanese or Chinese since I can’t tell the difference.

I arrived at the Mack Sports Center about 15 minutes before the game. As I took my first row seat, I look at the scorer’s table and see Jeff Hatheway who doomed UCONN football for many years when he hired Paul Pasqualoni as coach. I googled his name with Hofstra just to be sure it was him. Sure enough, he is the Vice President and Director of Athletics at Hofstra. He moved away before I could thank him for the Coach Paul hiring.

It was a quiet night since the students were away. The arena was bigger than what I was accustomed to for a program Hofstra’s size. I was intrigued by the PA announcer’s voice who was directly in front of me. He has one of those deep sing-song deep voices announcing the players and fouls during the game yet he looked like a small guy. I was almost going to ask him if the microphone was enhanced to make him sound like that.

As has been the case this year with my games this year, the game was not close with Hofstra pulling away early in the second half. In a way, I was kind of grateful for a non overtime game considering the ride I had home. Amazingly, there were a handful of fans from Florida Atlantic in the stands. Looking at the roster, I am guessing they were parents from the NYC schools seeing their kids play.

Hofstra was simply more athletic and wore down Florida Atlantic as the game went on.  I was very impressed with the leaping ability of Hofstra stars Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley.
Stadium Journey : http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/mack-sports-complex-s563

 

St. Francis (Brooklyn) (60) vs. Manhattan (71) 12/14/2015

#21 0f 351

Here is a word of advice if you want to attend a game at the Draddy Gymnasium. Be prepared to climb a whole lot of stairs to get to the gym perched on a mountaintop. Well it seemed like a mountain. Also, do not be afraid to ask students where it is once you get on campus because it is difficult to find.

The gym is part of a large building that also holds track and other sporting venues. I wasn’t sure if I was walking into a basketball gym  because it looks like a huge field house. The basketball court is one area in the middle.

With attendance at 614 patrons, the building was not loud or enthusiastic except for the exception of the pep band playing some pretty good music. Both teams are mediocre this year so I don’t see any NCAA aspirations for either one.

The gym had a huge HDTV screen over the visitor’s bench detailing stats. That was a first for me.

Interesting to see that Manhattan had three players from Lagos, Nigeria with heights of 6’4″, 6’8″ and 6’10”. What do they feed those boys in Lagos? St Francis had two players from Iceland.

Before the game, I ate at the Bronx Alehouse on 238th St. It is a few steps from the subway stop. I had a New Holland Carhatt Woodsman (pale ale barrel aged) and a Victory Winter Cheers (winter white ale). The walk to the gym was no more than 10 minutes but I did ask the bartender if it was safe to walk. After looking  at the neighborhood, I was ready to kick in another $3 to go one subway stop up to 242nd St. He assured me  that it was okay and it was since I am alive this morning. Walking next to the Van Cordlandt park did make me a little uneasy walking in the dark with tall coop buildings all around me.

Stadium Journeys: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/draddy-gymnasium-s554

Hartford (65) vs. Dartmouth (74) 12/5/2015

#20 of 351

 

A shout out to my friend Andy who accompanied me to Hanover, New Hampshire (about a 2 1/2 hour ride from Connecticut). He is crazy about sports like me. Two wild and crazy guys spending a Saturday afternoon somewhere in God’s country watching college basketball. It doesn’t get any better than that.

It has been a recurring pattern that I have absolutely no problem getting to the campus but once I am there, finding the arena is a challenge. Sometimes the arena is not on the map but the whole fitness facility center is. Sometimes the arena is nowhere near the entrance where you first came in. I can always judge the popularity of the men’s basketball program by the answers I get asking where is the basketball arena. Today, I got three wrong answers by students and adults walking in the campus. Can you imagine anyone on Storrs (UCONN) not knowing where Gampel is?

The result today was a shock to me. Seeing last night Marist being demolished last night by Iona and seeing that Marist had beat Dartmouth earlier this season, I would have imagined an easy win for Hartford. WRONG!

Dartmouth had too much height inside. Ivy league seniors are the ones that always step up with the big plays. Kudos to Dartmouth seniors Brandon McDonnell and Connor Boehm with yeoman’s work on the boards. Hartford could not match up physically with Big Green. I don’t think Dartmouth is on the same level as Yale or Columbia but they will make some noise this year.

Did you know that Dartmouth has been to the final four twice?

Stadium Journey: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/edward-leede-arena-s712

Iona (101) vs. Marist (66) 12/4/2015

#19 0f 351

As I drove past FDR’s home and headed towards the Hyde Park Brewery for supper, I recalled last year’s game in Iona when I coincidentally saw Marist as the opponent. Recalling a lopsided game, I was hoping for a more contested game. However, the run and gun game of Iona completely overwhelmed Marist from the opening tip.

 

 

I was looking forward also to seeing Schadrac Casimir from Iona play again. He torched Marist last year for 33 points. Tonight, I see him sitting on the bench in street clothes. I never did find out why.

I was very impressed with Jordan Washington of Iona. Sitting 3 rows behind the Iona bench, the man is a specimen at 6’8″ and 255 pounds yet he was whirling dervish (not sure what this cliche means)  on the offensive end hitting some spectacular shots near the the rim.

Marist does a good job with the fan experience with an excellent pep band and an older gentleman singing the Marist pep song before the opening tip. It’s almost like they are apologizing for the team’s shortcomings with an exaggerated lights and noise experience.

Marist does have a beautiful campus which I got to see by parking somewhere 15 minutes north of the gym. Season ticket holders get to park close and other one timers like me park further away using a shuttle. I decided to walk so I could get a glimpse of Marist’s impressive architecture.

The only game excitement of the night was whether IONA would hit 100 points.

Stadium Journey – http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/mccann-arena-s751

Lehigh (61) vs. Columbia (88) 11/22/2015

#18 of 351

I took the Metro North train from New Haven to Grand Central, the 7 line from Grand Central to Times Square and the 7 line uptown to 116th St. I am now in the middle of the Columbia University campus in upper Manhattan. I looked at the laminated campus map on the street searching for the Levien Gym. I see nothing on the map even though I had read that it was no more than a block from the subway stop. So I asked a passing student and learned the SECRET. The gym is labeled as the “Macellus Hartley Dodge Physical Fitness Center” where the Levien gym is one component of the center.

 

So I arrived at the game a couple of minutes after game start due to the delay of getting the subways and my search for the gym.

It was a decent crowd for a Sunday afternoon 4PM start. You had the usual stereotyped guests at an IVY league game: 1) the rich season holders dressed up in their chair-backed seats and 2) the student section always cheering with traditional chants as old as the ages.

I was impressed with two of the players. Keep an eye on Tim Kempton for Lehigh. The 6’10” center/forward has a nice three point shot coupled with tremendous agility on the inside. He made several good passes and was the high scorer for Lehigh as the only bright spot for the Mountain Hawks. (wouldn’t that make a good trivia question on Jeopardy  – the Mountain Hawks is the name for this team from Pennsylvania?).

I was also impressed with Maodo Lo (love that name) from Columbia. He is a 6’3” guard from Germany who in a small way reminded me of Jeremy Lin of Harvard. Very strong with ball and possessing a nice jumper, he stood above the rest of his Colombian teammates this night.

It is very cool to hear a lion growl after every made Columbia foul shot.

Columbia led from the start and in my opinion are the favorites to win the IVY league title. I did see Yale this year but Columbia is a taller and more balanced team.

Valparaiso (58) Vs. Rhode Island (55) 11/17/2015

#17 of 351

Welcome to season 2 of my journey to visit all 351 Division 1 campus arenas. I begin this year in Rhode Island traveling 2 hours from Connecticut for a 10am start. The game was part of ESPN’s Tip Off Marathon where one could watch basketball for 24 hours straight. This particular visit earned me the Rhode Island stamp on the Basketball Passport site (http://bbpassport.com/) since I have now completed visiting all four of the D1 campus sites in RI.

 

I was pleased to meet Russell Steinberg and Peter Casey. Both are college basketball junkies like myself who I became acquainted with on Twitter. Peter runs the excellent college basketball site (http://bbpassport.com/) which logs games and achievements  by subscribers for all major sports. Russell’s tweets have made me laugh many a time over the past year. To top it off, they gave me their extra ticket in section 112 replacing my nosebleed seat in section 302.

The Rhody’s fans expectations have been tampered a bit with the loss of star guard E.C. Matthews for the season from an ACL injury. Yet the crowd and especially the student section were there in full force. Rhody hung with Valparaiso for most of the game. Two missed three point baskets at the end by Rhody would have sent the game into overtime. In the end, Rhody’s poor foul shooting was the cause for the loss.

It was interesting to see Kuran Iverson playing for Rhody. As a UCONN and local high school basketball fan, I followed Kuran from high school. He is a Connecticut resident that played for Memphis before transferring to Hurley’s club. He appeared to be labeled for stardom out of high school but has quickly withered on the vine. He is athletic but too much a shoot first mentality for my taste.

Overall, Ryan Center looked modern and clean but again as with many of the college arenas, they leave very little room in the hallways for folks to move around. I guess money has to be saved somewhere. I ate at the Mew Tavern in Wakefield upon the recommendation of the Stadium Journey site. It was funny to watch the frazzled bar staff trying to cope with a extremely large crowd because of the game considering Tuesday’s lunch time is relatively slow.

Stadium Journey – http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/thomas-m.-ryan-center-s704)

Stadium and Arena Visits – http://stadiumandarenavisits.com/visitsreviews/100-ryan-center/

Brown (62) vs. Harvard (72) 03/7/2015

#16 of 351

This is the second game of the day for me. It was a short 10 minute car ride from Conte Forum. We had time to kill since we got here early.

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We entered Harvard Stadium and walked around the bleachers. The field was covered within an artificial bubble. The bleachers and underneath were pocketed with snow. Given the ancient look of the stadium, it did look  like a scene from the  the apocalypse. We heard some cheering from afar wondering who the hell would be playing outside in the 30 degree weather.

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We ambled over to a lighted scoreboard. There was a women’s lacrosse game  with Harvard playing Columbia. The fans were few and far but were very loud. I suspect that most of them were parents of the players.

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We did watch for about 15 minutes and noticed one strange event happening after a score. The scorer would put her “racket”on the ground. The ref would inspect it and give it back to her. We asked another spectator about this. The ref has to insure that the racket meets specs before allowing the score. You learn something new every day.

So onto the game. As it turned out, this was a very important win for Harvard. Yale would lose later on that night forcing a playoff for the NCAA dance invitation.

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The crowd was energetic with a nice showing by the students. As with B.C,  this was senior night. I still get choked up when the parents walk out with their kid thinking about how many times have they watched their son play over the years.

This was a typical Ivy league game with each team making the extra pass. Harvard did that much better and opened up to a big lead in the second half.

Someone started a “Go Dartmouth” chant hoping as they did beat Yale. Yale had beat Harvard the night before on this very floor.

There was a power failure before the game that threatened the game. Fortunately, it was fixed because I would have been very upset driving to Boston for only one game (B.C.).

The game was shown on CBS Sports invoking the wild crazy cheering when the camera was pointed at fans.

Review from Stadium Journeys: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/lavietes-pavilion-s713

 

Wake Forest (61) vs. Boston College (79) 03/07/2015

#15 of 351

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We had lunch at Eagles’ Deli before the game. This place is an excellent choice for a burger and fries. The owner came over and chatted with us awhile. I told him his place was noted on the Stadium Journeys site. My buddy Andy gets the Godzilla burger unknowingly that it consisted of two slices of humongous meet. I am proud that he downed it but he did feel the afterwards all afternoon burping up burger.

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We also took a walk around the neighborhood noticing the cars buried in snow except for an occasional tail light sticking out.

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Conte Forum does have an impressive array of plaques , memorabilia and pictures of past great B.C. athletes and teams. They had more than any other arena I’ve seen.

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There was absolutely no student presence in the crowd perhaps indicative a 2PM Saturday start. I compare these crowds to the old Big East battles with UCONN. They are like night and day. I miss those days! I just did not sense the passion in the crowd. Being among the perennial bottom dwellers in the ACC may account for this.

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Review from Stadium Journey: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/silvio-o.-conte-forum-s700

St. Francis Brooklyn (51) vs. Bryant (61) 02/28/2015

#14 of 351

Can Bryant University spend a couple of bucks putting up signs on the campus to the Chace Arena? Even the arena building itself does not have the name on it. I was driving around for a few minutes before I luckily found the team bus parked in front.

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I did a double take looking at the program seeing that Bryant played St. Francis four times in the year. There are two St. Francis teams in the league –  one from Brooklyn and one from Pennsylvania. I can’t think of another league that has this situation.

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I was very impressed with the Bryant student section. They were loud the entire game. Given the fact that St. Francis was 15-2 in the NEC, the win by Bryant (11-6 in the NEC) was an upset.

St. Francis had a player Gunnar Olafsson from Iceland. I have never seen a collegiate basketball player from Iceland before. I would have gone far enough to say that Iceland did not have a basketball within its borders.

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A shout out to Stadium Journey for recommending Parente’s Restuaraunt down the road. I would have driven right by this place otherwise. I finished the evening off with salmon, fries and garlic bread.

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Review from Stadium Journey: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/chace-athletic-center-s716