Colgate (80) vs. Loyola MD (84) 02/16/2020

Game #95 of 353 26% complete

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The campus of Loyola features many Gothic buildings located in a residential neighborhood of northern Baltimore. The basketball arena is situated in a huge athletic center. You need to walk through an inviting food court before proceeding upstairs to the arena. I was very impressed by the four digital scoreboards situated around the four corners of the court. I was confused by the senior graduating ceremony for the players and cheerleaders because there are two remaining home games left. Nevertheless, it is always a heartwarming sight to see the parents and family escort the seniors through the lined up players and cheerleaders to receive an award.

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A banner above listed years that Loyola MD were the champions of the Mason Dixon Conference. My curiosity was peeked to say the least. From WIKI, the league is a defunct NCAA Division 2 athletics conference, formed in 1936 and disbanded in 1974. Its members were predominantly from states bordering the Mason Dixon line. Other notable schools over the years included American University, University of Delaware, John Hopkins University, Mount St. Mary’s and UMBC. I guess that being a champion of any conference is worth celebrating but I could go 50/50 on the merits of raising this banner.

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The favored first place Colgate Raiders were upset by the home team Greyhounds despite the Raiders winning earlier in the year by 22 points. I was very impressed with the Greyhound freshman center Santi Aldama who hit three jumpers from the three point line and played strong in the paint. Aldama’s father played for Spain’s 1992 Olympic team. Santi was named the MVP of U-18 European championship in 2019 leading Spain to the gold medal. Aldama was a four-star prospect and rated the No. 61 overall recruit in the 2019 class, according to the 247 Sports Composite rankings. A knee injury at the beginning of the season sidelined him but he is back at full strength. I tried to find the answer to the obvious question: why did he choose Loyola MD?

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I finished the night eating at the Birroteca restaurant bar and watching my Uconn Huskies pull out an exciting win over Memphis with a sad note pulling for Akok Akok to recover from his torn Achilles. I will be back in Baltimore next year to see Morgan State and Towson to complete all the schools in Maryland.

It was long weekend that included a 2 hour stop today at the Baltimore Zoo. The lion sleeps tonight and so will I!

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Next game: LSU at Georgia 03/07/2020

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Boston University (77) vs. Navy (54) 02/16/2020

Game #94 out of 353   26% complete

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The 6 hour train ride from Connecticut went fast as I caught up on reading and surveying the urban blight of America from my window. With help from my wife dropping me off at a nearby train station,  I saved myself from the usual airport hassles. Yes it takes many more hours to get there but a late day afternoon game (4PM) and an early train makes it possible to take Operation 351 on a more leisurely pace. Adding in a shuttle from the train station to the airport and another shuttle from the airport to the car rental facility takes the idea of leisure to a new level.

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My fellow basketball traveler Greg provided me with a guide to visiting the Navy campus. The guide stated that you need to park in the football stadium for a $5 fee and present your driver’s license as proof of identity. As I approached the stadium parking lot, there was not attendant in the booth so I went ahead and parked. I boarded a school bus for a 5 minute trip to Alumni Hall. I looked around again for some authoritarian person to present my license to but none were in sight. I entered Alumni Hall wondering if I breached security at the hallowed training grounds for the Navy. After the game, I thought of walking the grounds to take pictures of the impressive buildings but I feared that I had already pushed my luck.

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The ride to Alumni hall was entertaining seeing various fighter jets placed throughout the grounds. Many of the buildings were off limits guarded with metal gates and concrete barriers. As I walked into the arena, I witnessed a presentation by two naval cadets addressing about 30 young kids sitting on stairs answering questions. One kid asked if you can have another job besides being in the Navy. The cadet earnestly answered that the dedication required to be in the Navy is all consuming and that a naval cadet would just not have time for two jobs. I almost hung around to hear the other questions. I am sure there were some funny ones.

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Knowing that football is king at Navy and basketball is the ugly step sister, I was very impressed with Alumni Hall. The modern facility was half full but had padded seats and great sight lines to the court. I was surprised with the lack of cheerleaders and naval cadets.  I pictured a large contingent of cadets cheering like they do in the Army/ Navy football game. My interest peaked when I heard that T shirts would be tossed to the crowd after every three pointer. My hopes were dashed because I saw a three year old in the aisle next to me playing with his toy truck. How can I grab a t shirt headed for this kid and not give it to him? Fortunately, no T shirt ever came close to me.

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Boston University completely dominated Navy throughout the entire game. I was amazed to see that Navy had defeated the Terriers in OT back in January. Currently in second place behind Colgate, the Terriers were impressive with Connecticut natives Walter Whyte and Jonas Harper along with Max Maloney keeping the Midshipmen a comfortable distance apart in the score.

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I had another first at the game. After the game, the crowd was asked to stand for the “Blue and Gold” song. I thought it was just another alma mater song for which I never stand but the entire crowd stood. There were many Navy veterans around me singing the words. The Navy team shouted “Beat Army” at the end of the song . This alma mater has a much deeper meaning for the Navy cadets and veterans.

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Next Game: Colgate at Loyola MD 02/16/2020

 

Wake Forest (73) vs. Syracuse (75) 02/08/2020

Game #93 of 351 26% complete

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This game completes all the New York state schools including the schools in the five boroughs. When I get to do 2 games on one day,  that is gold for me. After the completion of the Colgate game around 4PM, I made the hour trek to Syracuse over some dicey roads at times wondering whether AAA will come this far to pull me out of a ditch.

As a UCONN fan, I have watched many battles with the Syracuse at the Cuse Dome. My impression of the dome was a huge building in the country surrounded by open parking lots much like a professional football stadium. I had that impression dead wrong. The stadium is in the heart of Syracuse campus buildings. There was only parking garage space available which I loathe given the amount of time it takes to leave the garage after the game. That being said, it was a breathtaking view when I first walked into the dome. The stands were filled with orange and the court brightly lit against the white dome overhead.

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I had excellent seats courtesy of Stub Hub, sitting in the lower section mid court. I was confused at first because my section 123 was in the grandstand area and not the 123 section used for football and displayed in the hallway. I did a couple of circles trying to figure out why section 123 was not in the vicinity of the court ’til I broke down and asked an usher.

I try to root for the home team on my journey but as any UCONN fan can attest, it was not possible to root for the Cuse. I showed considerable restraint when Wake Forest made a valiant comeback to almost win the game. I had a fleeting thought of yelling “GO UConn” during a quiet moment during a Cuse foul shot but my rational brain took over and shut that thought down.

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During the time when Syracuse was shooting fouls shots, Coach Boeheim would pull his players from the foul line area and have them stay at the other end of the court thus preventing any Cuse rebounds off of a missed foul shot. I heard a couple of Cuse fans asking the same question.

I was very impressed with the coach’s son Buddy Boeheim. He had 23 points and has a smooth shooting stroke. This 6’6’’sophomore is going to give Dad some good years for the Orangeman. Freshman Brycan Goodine scored the winning basket with 1.5 seconds left for his only 2 points of the night.

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When Syracuse hits the 70 mark in scoring, your stub can be turned in for a free taco. As I was walking out, I saw an older gentleman scouring the aisles for dropped ticket stubs. I was thinking how many tacos could one person eat. Then I overheard him telling his buddy that he hands out the stubs to his clients at the homeless shelter. We need more folks like this!

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As I was leaving the dome opening the door to the outside, I was hit with a gust of wind thinking that there was a storm outside. I then realized that this gust has something to do with air pressure in the dome. The dome is a very impressive architectural wonder that should make the Cuse fans proud.

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Good bye New York!

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Next game: Boston U at Navy 02/15/2020

Navy (60) vs. Colgate (67) 02/08/2020

Game #92 of 353 26% complete

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The drive from Connecticut to the sleepy little hamlet of Hamilton, New York took about 4 hours which is my upper limit for driving. I was fortunate to miss a big snowstorm the night before that dumped a foot of snow in the area. Over the years, I have developed a few rules of the road which I will share off and on in future posts. My first rule states that if at all possible, find a local restaurant to eat. Do not go to a franchise chain! Although the food is sometimes hit and miss, overhearing conversation through parts of this country gives you different perspectives on people’s lives. I often use Trip Advisors to find the good places. If the restaurant has a name in it like Tony’s or is family owned, all the better!

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I saw something very moving during the national anthem at the game. Three cheerleaders stood out in front of the line and signed the anthem for the hard of hearing folks in the crowd. This was a first for me which I think more schools should do.

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The winterly scenes was very picturesque but some of the unplowed roads made for some nervous driving. There was not much room for parking but I found a spot across the street. When I left the game, I was blocked in by somebody visiting their daughter. The mother held a cute Yorkie in her arms and apologized profusely. What could I say?

Colgate is in first place of the Patriot League. With an NCAA appearance last year in March Madness, they seem posed to make another run. The Raiders lost a heart-breaking game to Tennessee last year. They have very talented and experienced team with height and quickness. Navy put a valiant fight but was just did not have the chops to keep up. Rapolas Ivanauskas a 6’ 10” junior forward put on a show for Colgate at the end dominating the glass on both ends of the floor.

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Cotterell Court is an old-style arena built in a barracks fashion. The ceiling is curved supported by steel arches. Built in 1959, it shares a building with the hockey rink just like Merrimack does as noted in my last blog. Unfortunately, I sat near a fan who complained loudly about each call against the Raiders. For about 99% of the time, he was wrong in his assessment but I loved his enthusiasm.

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I have a big shout out to Brigid St. Leger who is the Assistant Athletics Director for Marketing and Fan Engagement. She put me in touch with Robert Cornell after the game. Robert was the Colgate Sports Information Director for 33 years and shared some stories about Colgate basketball. Adonal Foyle put Colgate on the basketball map back in the nineties. Foyle was born in Canouan, St. Vincent and the Grenadines. At the age of 15, Foyle was adopted by Joan and Jay Mandle, professors at Colgate. His illustrious career at Colgate resulted in Foyle being the 8th pick of the 1997 first round NBA draft. Robert told the story how reporters and photographers would make him stand in the New York snow to contrast his birth in a hot Caribbean country. Foyle absolutely hated doing this. Robert also credits the Colgate coach Matt Langel with rejuvenating the basketball program which was primarily a hockey school. Thanks, Brigid, for your hospitality!

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Next game: Wake Forest at Syracuse 02/08/2020  (later that night)

Long Island (59) vs. Merrimack (70) 02/01/2020

Game #91 of 353              25% complete

2020-02-01 15.39.592020-02-01 15.57.592020-02-01 15.58.03One of the few disconcerting parts of this journey is the moving target towards the final goal. It is especially disheartening when you have an accomplishment that goes awry because a school decides to go to Division 1. I had all the New England states complete till Merrimack made the move to Division 1 this year. The hole in my accomplishment ego was too much to bear so I made the trip to Andover, Massachusetts to re-accomplish my goal. My rule of adding new Division 1 schools to my list over the course of my journey includes schools moving up the ladder to D1. Conversely, I will not be visiting Savannah State since they dropped to D2. So an interesting scenario comes to mind. What if I visit a school then they drop out of D1? Do I pull it out of the blog or sequester it to a separate part of the blog with a special notation? I will cross that bridge when I have to.

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The away opponent Long Island University also brought up a special situation. I had visited LIU Brooklyn in February of 2017. Since then, the LIU Post campus (a D2 school) merged with LIU Brooklyn (the D1 school). Do I consider this a new school requiring a new visit? Since my mission states that my mission is to visit every D1 campus to see a game (except when there is no campus arena like Georgetown), I have satisfied this requirement with LIU. This rule holds true even if a new arena is built on campus. I do not go back to visit new arena where I have previously visited. My journey, my rules!

2020-02-01 16.06.002020-02-01 16.06.20I went in the worn entrance to Merrimack athletic center and had to walk through the hockey rink to get to the basketball arena. The Merrimack hockey program has been a national power for years. Quinnipiac and Merrimack are the only two schools I have visited that have a building sharing a hockey rink and basketball courts as separate facilities under one roof. On a side note, the new UCONN hockey arena holding an insufficient seating capacity of 2500 seats should be ditched and a new building holding a basketball and hockey arena would make more sense. Sorry for the digression but perhaps some UCONN official is reading this.

2020-02-01 17.02.432020-02-01 17.03.03I am sure that there are financial shortcuts needed when first transitioning from a D2 school to a D1 school. That was evident watching the audio/visual set on display during the warmups. When the Merrimack starting line up was introduced, the lights went out and the recorded music started blaring. There was a person in the corner of the court with a small single spotlight attempting to make circles with it as he pointed the light towards the starting players as they were introduced.  You would catch a face here and there as each player was introduced. After seeing some pretty cool laser and light shows throughout the journey, Merrimack should look to upgrade its warm up show.

2020-02-01 17.05.20Congratulations to Merrimack in their first year of D1 basketball! They are currently in first place in the NEC league with an 8-1 record including an impressive road at Northwestern. I was impressed with their stifling zone defense that gave LIU fits all afternoon long. The place was filled with loud fans with many waiting at the door to come in during the time outs. Head coach Joe Gallo ( yeah I thought of My Cousin Vinny too) is in his fourth year with an impressive 75-42 record.

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Next game: Navy at Colgate 02/15/2020