Binghamton (63) vs Maine (74) 01/30/2016

#29 of 351

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My wife Linda accompanied me on this trip. She is not a college basketball fan but to balance the ying and yang, her attendance at the game was followed by a trip to L.L. Bean and many outlets in Freeport, Maine. She did admit that it was not bad to watch considering that her last attended sports game was a football game in the cold. I have marked out the University of New Hampshire for a weekend trip with her next year.

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This is the first time that I have seen a head of the mascot serve as a portal to the men’s locker area. That is a black bear in case you are wondering. But what was even cooler was this very tall statue of a lumberjack man in front of the arena.

The arena was surprisingly large from what I expected for Maine basketball but it serves also as the hockey rink for the beloved hockey team. Yes Maine is one of the D-1 schools where hockey takes precedence over basketball. It was not a bad crowd for a mild winter day in Bangor.

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I have seen Maine previously this year against UMASS-Lowell. Again, I will sing the praises of Connecticut native Issac Vann. This guy’s athletic ability far surpassed anyone of the floor. I would love to see how he would do in a major conference. He took over in the second half and led his team to victory.

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The public announcer for the game was a woman. This was a first for me. Not that it is  bad thing but it was a surprise.

I do remember watching UCONN play Maine in the old Yankee conference league back in the 60’s. I would not have guessed back then as a kid that I would be here 40 years later watching Maine on their home floor.

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St. Johns (60) vs. Seton Hall (79) 01/27/2016

#28 of 351

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Should I ever venture into Newark again, I will take into account the massive traffic jams before leaving. Despite giving myself a one half hour cushion, I was late and missed the first five minutes of the game. Someone needs to take a serious look at the traffic lights in downtown Newark. They go green for about 5 seconds if you are on a side street going into a main road. But I digress.

This is the home of the New Jersey Devils that is not accustomed to hosting a college basketball game. Black curtains are lowered about the upper levels. The outside halls are adorned with Devil’s memorabilia and history. The Devil’s championship banners are hanging from the rafters. It just doesn’t have the feel of a college basketball arena.

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Given that I had witnessed a classic old Big East battle a few days ago between UCONN and Georgetown, I was looking forward to another official Big East battle. I was sorely disappointed as Seton Hall dominated the Johnnies throughout the entire game. Coach Mullins must be wondering what he got himself into after watching the hapless Johnnies look like a high school team playing with the big boys.

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I was surprised not to see much fan support from the visiting Redmen. I thought that this game is one of the natural rivalries that emanate from a geographical closeness but perhaps the fact that St. Johns has lost 11 in a row contributes to that apathy.

I was very impressed with Seton Hall players Khadeem Carrington and Desi Rodriquez. This team has talent but not enough in my opinion to make the big dance.

After spending $29 for the ticket, $20 for parking and $15 for chicken tender/fries, I look forward to the next game at a small time arena in Maine. Cheap, cheap and cheap!

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Army (65) vs. Holy Cross (69) 01/20/2016

#27 of 351

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Seeing the statue of Bob Cousy in front of the gym and looking through the trophies and plaques in the lobby, one is reminded of the glory days of Holy Cross basketball where they were the premier New England basketball team in the forties and fifties.

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Army was missing their top scorer Tanner Plomb so I expected a close game which it was. Looking at the trim and fit Army players, you wonder how anyone could keep with them but this a basketball game not a boot camp training exercise. Holy Cross players were quicker led by  freshman Karl Charles and junior Malachi Alexander. They consistently drove the range invoking fouls with their quick slashing movements.

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There were no cheerleaders, pep band or loud student section. But as always in these small gyms, there is one very loud older fan doing his best to urge his Crusaders on. His constant chant of “defense” rang through out the arena.

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The head coach for Holy Cross is Bill Carmody who coached Northwestern for many years and spent four years at Princeton. I always wonder how coaches for teams like Holy Cross spin their recruiting talks. Holy Cross is an excellent academic school so I guess you would start there but playing for sparse crowds in the Patriot league must be a tough sell.

I was accompanied by my friend Tony “Doc” Priore who recently retired. I was glad to give him a close exciting game to watch. He is older than me and appreciates the old days of college basketball like myself.

For anyone attending a Holy Cross game, be sure to check out the Brew City Grille. I had their signature hamburger with  dozens of choices for a brew.

Be sure to check out the view of Worcester from the arena. Being that Holy Cross is on a hill overlooking the city, it is a great view.

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Stadium Journeys: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/hart-recreation-center-s720

 

 

Maine (95) Vs. UMass-Lowell (81) 01/13/2016

#26 of 351

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I had the pleasure of watching both these clubs on TV because they had UCONN as a common opponent this year. It is true that the level of play rises to the level of competition because both clubs played much better against UCONN than against each other today.

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One big advantage of watching games at smaller schools and smaller gyms is that you can sit anywhere. Sitting three rows from the court, you can see the play develop and watch like a basketball coach would. These teams play just as hard as the big boys. You can see the effort and pain on their faces being this close.

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As this was an 11AM start, I expected to see very little folks in the stands. As it turns out, the place had a lot of fans being the recipient of multiple high school groups coming into to watch them. It must have been a school holiday in the Boston area.

I was very impressed with Maine freshman Devine Eke a 6’7″ forward from Plainfield, NJ. He seemed to elevate above all others and had the paint to himself. He played well against UCONN and would probably do very well at a higher level.

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Kudos to the pep band who actually sounded like a band! They were into the game cheering to the end. UMass-Lowell came back and brought it down to 1 point deficit before Maine went crazy with a barrage of three pointers to put the game away.

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So for an off topic moment. I do not like the plush recliner seats that all the theaters are installing for two reasons. One is that they now force the attendee to get there earlier because there are less seats. More importantly, I can NOT stay awake watching a movie in one of these chairs. I went to Chili’s for lunch after the game and had 3 hours to kill before meeting my daughter Kristie ( a grad student at Merrimack) for supper. I spied a Showcase Cinema next door and went into to catch the next available movie. I paid for “The Forest” and went to my reserved seat. I reclined back and before you know it, I  was in never never land. The movie was one of those where stuff pops out at unsuspecting characters eliciting a scream. I would wake up at each of these screams with a “where the hell am I” spasm and would end up scaring the couple next to me more so than the movie scream. After a couple episodes like this, the couple apologized and decided to move elsewhere.  Call me old fashioned but I want the uncomfortable hard theater seats to keep me awake.

Stadium Journey: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/costello-athletic-center-s1861

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Albany (69) vs. Vermont (57) 1/09/2016

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My wife Linda was supposed to accompany me for an overnight to Burlington but she fell sick the last minute. My friend Kevin stepped in as the substitute. All I can say is that the weekend changed from a trip to the mall and Ben & Jerry’s factory site to a night drinking beer watching football and my beloved UCONN.  Linda will be making another attempt in Maine later this month.

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When I first walked into the gym, I was shocked at the number of folks in the stands. Up to now, my experience with small gyms has been a vista of sparsely scattered fans in the stands. The large crowd made for comfy seating as Kevin and I stepped over people to get to our seats. However the lack of cheerleaders and a pep band did result in a quieter crowd.

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As I drove up to Vermont on I-89, I wondered what people do up here for fun. Most of the scenery were trees and farm. You very rarely saw a house. Perhaps UVA basketball provides that fun and thereby results in a bountiful fan showing.

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I was very impressed with Albany. They are fundamentally sound and have some big horses underneath to cause any team fits. I am looking forward to seeing them in the big dance. Two of the Albany players were from Australia which seems to have more players than ever playing in the NCAA. One benefit of this journey is that it will be fun watching the league tournaments with now having some knowledge of the teams playing.

Seeing Vermont play brought back memories back to 2005 when they defeated Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA dance. I remember the big man Taylor Coppernath becoming the darling of the tournament.

Stadium Journey: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/roy-l-patrick-gymnasium-s709

 

 

 

Bryant (85) Vs. Fairleigh Dickinson (80) 01/04/2016

#24 of 351

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While most of you were enjoying the triple OT game between Kansas and Oklahoma, I was taking in a game in Hackensack, New Jersey. Because of the student break, there were no pep bands or cheerleaders. Due to the cold night, there were only 468 fans in attendance.

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The gym was very small but cozy. It is hard to believe that a D-1 program has a facility like this but I imagine it must be very fan friendly for a more meaningful game. During a time out, the PA announcer yelled “Who wants some T-shirts? Make some noooooooise!!!!”. The announcer was greeted by silence. During the next time out, he tried again. I think a few fans who were uncomfortable the first time around stood up and waved their arms to appease the announcer. I did too. A student tried to throw me a t-shirt but missed horribly and threw it into a face of an unsuspecting  student. He could probably use the t-shirt more than me.

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I was amused by the Fairleigh Dickinson coach Greg Herenda. When he wanted to get his players’ attention or to emphasize a play call, he would do a repetitive 2 foot stomp that echoed throughout the empty gym.

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I was very impressed with Bryant freshman Marcel Pettway. He is a bit undersized as 6’5” for a forward but is very strong and overpowered FDU  with 26 points.

FDU make a big comeback to close out but Bryant held on for the 5 point victory. Both teams lack that big center which would make them better suited to handle to upper echelon clubs.

As always, I can’t explain it but I still enjoy watching these types of games between smaller schools in small gyms. That’s why I do what I do!

Stadium Journey: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/stratis-arena-s557