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

 

Advertisements

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

 

 

St. Francis (PA) (67) vs. Buffalo (82) 11/08/2018

#66 of 351  19% complete

Driving from the airport, I was reminded that I will be seeing the Buffalo Bulls tonight.

2018-11-06 14.38.10.jpg

I am excited to begin my fifth year visiting college basketball arenas with the goal of seeing a college basketball game at all of the 353 Division 1 schools. I have been asked several times about “Operation 351” when there are 353 schools. Given that this domain name and various media tied to my journey have the “351” incorporated into the name, it would foolish  to change the name every time a school pops in and out of Division 1.

Here is a link to the latest changes to Division 1 status: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_schools_reclassifying_their_athletic_programs_to_NCAA_Division_I

I attempted to visit Buffalo last year but had to cancel because of a blizzard. The lesson learned is to schedule cold weather schools early or late in the season. Therefore, I will be visiting  Buffalo, St. Bonaventure, Binghamton and Cornell in the first two weeks of November. The weather for this Buffalo game was 55 degrees but with a wind blowing very hard.

2018-11-06 15.29.02.jpg

If you come to a Buffalo game, prepared to look long and hard for parking if you are a visitor with no special privileges. There was a football game going on that night in the stadium next to Alumni Arena which may have exasperated the problem but it was a long blustery walk to the arena.

Many college basketball fans forget that #14 seed Buffalo defeated #3 seed Arizona last year in the first round of the NCAA tournament. I believe that the UMBC win over Virginia overshadowed the Buffalo win.  Buffalo returns three very talented seniors this year and is picked to finish first in the MAC. C.J. Massinburg was picked to be the preseason MAC player of the year. St. Francis (PA) was picked to be first in the NEC.  It is rare when two good evenly matched teams play in a season opener.

The game start time was 4PM so as to not clash with the 7PM football game start. The stands were virtually empty at the start but filled up with fans gradually. Given that I travel far and wide for games these day, I get a little paranoid showing up and finding out that the game was sold out. I buy my tickets ahead of time on the school site, Ticketmaster or Stub Hub. There was very little selection left last week so I picked an upper level seat probably paying more than I should have on Stub Hub. As it turns out, many sections are reserved for students and season ticket holders giving the appearance of scarce seats available to the general public.  The Alumni Arena has great viewing from all levels so I was happy with my seat even though it was out of range from the many t -shirts thrown into the crowd at every three point basket made.

I vote this gentleman as the best singer of the national anthem in my travels so far. I did not catch his name but his voice belongs in an opera.

2018-11-06 15.57.58.jpg

2018-11-06 16.03.01.jpg

I was very impressed with the defense of the Buffalo guards. They drew numerous offensive charges instead of playing the matador defense I am used to seeing these days. Although their three point shooting was off tonight, their relentless pressure on the ball caused St. Francis to take many contested shots.

I saw a first tonight for me in terms of the rules. A player was called for a offensive foul. The refs conferred and reviewed the play. The call was overturned to a blocking foul. I did not not know that this call could be reviewed!

Buffalo pulled away in the second half. One could tell that this team is experienced by the ball flow on offense. They always seem to make the unselfish pass. Look for good things from this Buffalo team as they take on a tough out of league schedule including West Virginia and Cuse.

2018-11-06 16.04.30.jpg

The highlight of the day was meeting Nate Mendelson who is the sports editor of the Spectrum newspaper at the University of Buffalo. He saw my posts on Reddit and came over to meet me at my seat. He interviewed me for an article in the paper. But the best part was that he invited me to the post game press conference. After the presser was over, he introduced me to coach Nate Oats and told him about my mission. He was genuinely interested as we chatted about Operation 351, his team and his friendship with UCONN coach Dan Hurley.  Coach Oats, you have won over this guy to be a lifelong Buffalo fan. Good luck the rest of the way!

2018-11-06 18.29.21.jpg

2018-11-06 18.12.37.jpg

Next Game : Bucknell vs. St. Bonaventure 11/8/18

2018-11-06 17.52.00.jpg