Iona (101) vs. Rider (110) 02/25/18

#65 of 351  18%

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This arena is an oxymoron. It was very new looking but very small with an capacity of 1650 seats. Usually newness in my experience equals large capacity. The design encourages a loud following from the Rider fans. I had first row seats center court and was thrilled to see a high scoring slug fest.

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I was sitting behind the announcer. When he spoke of a Rider score, his voice became inflated and animated. When he announced an Iona event, the voice was muted. I have to see in the future if this a style unique to him or whether all court side announcers do this. I am also curious whether there was a reason they left the “O” out of the BRONCS nickname. The BRONCS ZOO name for the student section is clever.

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Rider with this win captured first place in the regular season standings for the MAAC. They returned just 5 players from last year and eight players gaining their first experience on the court. They are a well balanced team to watch with a nice mixture of shooters and brawn underneath. Give kudos to coach Kevin Baggett for assembling this team of little experience into a first place club. This is one club that I would be afraid to face as a possible 15-16 seed in March.

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I saw that Shadrac Casimir of Iona was on the roster. When he was a freshman, I saw him light it up back in 2015 against Marist. Here what I posted about him:

IONA had this freshman named Schadrac Casimir. For you CT high school basketball buffs, this is the kid who led Trinity Catholic to the state finals two a years ago and prepped at Kent for a year. He has the face of a cherubic angel standing 5’10″” weighing 155 pounds. He stood in the corner and waited for the ball. When he was passed to, he jacked up a three making 9 of 14 attempts. Up to this game, he was averaging 14.9 ppg.

He missed most of one year to an injury so he is now a junior. He is only averaging 9.9 points a game this year. I think the lack of a true point guard for Iona has hurt him or perhaps the injury has slowed him down. He only had 9 points tonight.

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The player of the game was Iona guard Ricky McGill who had 40 points. He had one of those silent games where you don’t notice him scoring but at the end of the game, you look up and wonder how he got all those points.

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My buddy Kevin took this picture of me in my first row seat. Look for the red circle in the picture and the guy with the mustache.

With this game, I have completed all the schools in New Jersey.  My fourth year of Operation is now complete. I hope that all of you have a great summer. God willing, I will be back for season 5 in November. Now off to the first tee!

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Dartmouth (47) vs. Princeton (64) 02/24/18

#64 of 351  18% complete

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I nominate the Jadwin Gymnasium at Princeton as the most interesting arena that I have visited to date. I felt like I was walking into Space Mountain at Disney. The basketball court occupies just one piece of this huge structure. The orange seating in contrast to the whiteness of the lights and ceiling made a cool contrast.

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I learned two interesting rules about Ivy League competition from my fellow college BB traveler Greg. I was flipping thru channels on Friday night before my trip to New Jersey on Saturday. I see Princeton playing at home on ESPNU. This was indeed a LIVE game. I immediately panicked and went to check my ticket for Saturday. I verified that Princeton is playing Saturday night as well.

So I learned that the IVY League plays their games on Friday through Sunday. I also learned that the home team on Friday will switch colors (dark/white) for its Saturday home game because there is not enough time to wash the uniforms. Thanks Greg!

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I always search out the Hall of Fame at the older schools. The Hall of Fame area always brings up one of my heroes from the past.  I came across Princeton graduate Bill Bradley who was the unsung hero of the 1969 champion New York Knicks. I can still hear Marv Albert saying “Bradley from the top of the key. YES!!!”

I always take a picture of a mascot statue whenever I see one. Many of statues would stand on their own as museum pieces. I present to you the Princeton Tiger.

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Both Princeton and Dartmouth were out of the running for the top four playoff spots in the Ivy League. It was senior night which is always emotional even if you are not familiar with the players. Princeton dominated the whole game led by Amir Bell of Princeton playing his last game before the Princeton crowd.

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Okay I have to show one more cool statue in the lobby.2018-02-24 18.46.53.jpg

From the Princeton web site:

“The life-size bronze statue, depicting an under~graduate in football uniform, an academic gown slung over his shoulder, a pile of books in his left arm, was a memorial likeness of W. Earl Dodge 1879, leader of a group of students who formed the Intercollegiate Y.M.C.A. in 1876 in nearby East College. Remembered by his classmates as “79’s great hero of college days,” captain of the championship football team, president of the student religious organization, the Philadelphian Society, an honor student who graduated near the top of his class, Earl Dodge died suddenly at the age of twenty-five. “The statue was given by his brother Cleveland H. Dodge 1879.

Rest in peace W. Earl Dodge.

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Next game: Iona at Rider 02/25/18

 

 

 

Lafayette (80) vs. New Jersey Institute of Technology (96) 11/14/17

#49 of 351 14% complete

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I am pleased to begin my fourth year of journeying through college basketball arenas heading towards that elusive goals of visiting all 351 Division 1 teams on their home court.  I will be making trips to Mississippi, D.C., Philly, Delaware and Buffalo with some oddballs thrown in, God willing barring any life-changing events and weather, I hope to attend 17 games this year.

For all the newbies (if any are reading), I do not count big off campus arenas unless that is their primary home. For example, I would include UCONN’s Gampel Arena as a visit but not the XL Center. Conversely, Georgetown only plays their home games in the Verizon Center. If I have visited a college and they build a new arena, I do not plan to go back and do it again, This mission is school-based not arena-based.

I attended my first game of this year traveling to Newark, New Jersey to see the NJIT Highlanders. As I have answered many times, they are a Division 1 basketball team. I am glad I waited till this year because the game was held in the new Health and Wellness Center. I was happy to park for FREE in an adjacent parking garage owned by the school. I think all schools should provide free parking as an incentive to come out in the cold especially in cities like Newark.

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The new arena is a multi purpose building that supports many sports at the school. It is huge. I am sure that it saves the school money combining facilities like this but give me the old small smelly gym any day.  So here is one complaint which is true for many schools. If you reside in an area that has not good cell reception, please provide WiFi for the crowd. I like to tweet and Facebook during the game but it was difficult with no WiFi and a ‘1X’ signal strength for Verizon.

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This was another case where the size of the arena is waiting for the crowd to catch up. The place was mostly empty but I give the fans credit for providing some spirited noise. I paid $15 for a near court-side seat with a back rest.

The NJIT Highlanders was a fun team to watch. You can tell that many of the players were schooled on the playgrounds. The suburban kids from Lafayette did not stand a chance. They were out quicked, out run and and out played. NJIT put on a show with impressive whiry dirly moves driving the basket and long threes raining from the arc. Many shots drew a gasp from the crowd.

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Wagner beat NJIT 60-49 in the first game of the season for NJIT. Either Wagner is very good or Lafayette is really bad. I find it hard to believe that NJIT was held to 49 points based on their talent and style of play. I will be following NJIT the rest of the year hoping that they find success this year. It would not surprise me to see them pull a few upsets along the way.

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I usually name players of interest from the game but the NJIT players all played the same style. They were interchangeable pieces in a fast paced game that Lafayette tried to slow down but to no avail.

Goodbye Newark. Unless I am taking off in a plane, I am done with this part of New Jersey. It has been the longest ride for me without staying overnight.

 

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Next up:  UMASS Lowell at Wagner    12/05/17

Quinnipiac (76) vs. Monmouth (95) 01/28/17

#44 of 351    12% complete

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After a 2 hour and 50 minute ride, I have decided that is my limit for driving to a game without staying overnight. I was there early and got a chance to peruse the college store. It brought back memories of when my children attended college and looking for cool stuff to wear. On display was a T-shirt displaying the various theatrical displays from the Monmouth bench. Some examples are the “Heart Attack”, “The Trophy Fish” and the “Human Scissors”. They occurred when a teammate made a three point shot or a spectacular play. I did not see any of those displays during tonight’s game which I may have missed but I was actually watching the game.

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Monmouth’s offensive capabilities were on full display tonight. They are a tremendous three point shooting team that scores frequently at least 80 points a night. They were led by senior guard 5’8″ Justin Robinson who is super quick driving the paint or pulling up for a jumper. Micah Seaborn also contributed heavily with his three point shooting. I could see them doing some damage in March but their lack of a post game will limit their chances.

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I was impressed by the size of the crown and their enthusiasm. They have a 17-5 record and are currently in first place in the MAAC. There is so much disparity in facilities between the mid major schools. Some remind you of your old high school gym and others make you wonder how could they afford the modern arena and trappings. Monmouth is in the latter category. For a small school, everything was top notch.

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Did you every sit next to a guy that jumps up and complains about every call against his beloved home team? I had one next to me last night. It got to the point where everyone in the area was laughing when he did his complaining. As I said before, there is a bit of Americana at each game I see.

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My player of the game is freshman Peter Kiss from Quinnipiac. He scored 22 points and was surprisingly poised for a freshman. He made some athletic moves and was a great ball handler for his 6′ 5″ size. Coach Moore has a gem in this kid and should be fun to watch over the next four years. Quinnipiac did not have enough fire power to keep up with the run and gun of Monmouth’s offense.

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Minnesota (53) vs. Rutgers (75) 03/05/2016

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This is the last game in Operation351 for this year. As I am running out of sites that are doable in one day, next year will bring more overnighters. I was hoping to get to 35 games this year maintaining an average of 35 games every 2 years. This will lead to a completion of Operation351 in 18 years with 2 years under my belt. I fell one short but am pretty satisfied with my progress. I have visited new cities and made new friends along they way. Next year, I have 5 arenas in NYC, University of New Hampshire and Northeastern to complete all the New England states and NYC.

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I did not pick a very good game today with Rutgers having a very off year plus Minnesota being wracked with suspensions. Minnesota did not have one starter on the court from the beginning of the year. I can honestly say that the Gophers were the worst team that I saw this year. The Rutgers crowd were very happy to have a win irregardless of the circumstances.

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I remember the RAC from the days when UCONN would have epic Big East battles here. It was a place to be feared. It was like I could almost hear the ghost voices of the raucous crowd that would create a very tough arena to win. Those days are gone with Rutgers occupying the bottom of the Big Ten. The crowd was relatively quiet and resigned to another losing season.

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Well a first did happen here today. In my 34 games, I have never caught anything tossed into the crowd. Today, I caught a beer holder  with the big “R” on it. Not sure if I would ever use it but it gave me hope for the future. Later that night at the UCONN hockey game, a T-shirt bounced off my crotch into the row in front and out of my reach. Life is full of ups and downs!

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The RAC looked like a Big 10 arena but had the atmosphere of the Ohio Valley Conference. I think most fans are in a state of a shock on how poorly Rutgers has played this year. I was impressed by the play of sophomore guard Mike Williams who scored 29 points off an array of outside shooting and whirling layups. It is hard to tell how good he actually is against the Gophers porous defense but he looked impressive.

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I was joined for this final game by my friend Andy who shares my craziness about sports. We followed this game by a ride to Hartford to see UCONN’s last hockey game this year. Our spouses just shake their head in amazement at our travels.

So my friends, I hope that you all have a great summer. God willing, I will back in November for season 3 of Operation351. Thanks for sharing this journey with me!

 

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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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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

 

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