Columbia (73) vs. Stony Brook (66) 11/11/2016

#35 of 351

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Welcome to the start of season 3 for Operation 351. My goals this year are to complete the New England states and the New York City teams. I will also be taking trips to Chicago, Mississippi, Maryland and D.C.

I toyed with the idea of taking the ferry from Bridgeport. But the $52 fare plus the possibility of missing the last boat  dissuaded me. So I drove the 2 1/2 hours from Connecticut instead. I had my usual pre game supper and beer at the  The Bench & Bar & Grill in Stony Brook. The bar was populated with a few fans excited for the new season. They will be disappointed tonight.

Stony Brook is coming off a big season winning the America East championship last year. Tonight they unfurled the championship banner in a pre-game ceremony. Unfortunately, their excellent coach from last year Steve Pikiell took the head coaching job at Rutgers as as result of his success. Jell Boals the long time assistant at Ohio State has taken the position of head coach at Stony Brook.

Columbia also has a first year coach in Jim Engles. He  returns to Columbia after spending the past eight years as head coach for the New Jersey Institute of Technology.

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I was very impressed with the Island Federal Credit Union arena as the home of the Seawolves. The school’s recent successes fuel a strong spirit in this sleepy little Long Island town. It is reflected in this new arena and student support during the games especially the loud and raucous pep band. Although I have to mention that there were many empty seats on this opening night which surprised me.

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Columbia surprisingly dominated most of the game until Stony Brook battled back in the second half to make the game close. The big basket at the end to give Columbia a safe margin was a double pump three point shot by Columbia guard Mike Smith leaving the crowd speechless.

I have to give shout outs to two Columbia players.

Mike Smith is a 5’10” freshman from Illinois that was quicker than anyone else on the court last night. Despite his small size, he penetrated with ease and hit some mid jumpers. He had 14 points for the night. Not the typical Ivy league player, he appears ready to make a name for himself in the years to come.

Luke Petrasek is a 6’10” junior who is as comfortable shooting a 3 pointer as he is posting inside. He scored 20 points despite playing only 22 minutes. I expect that Columbia will make some noise this year in the Ivy League.

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I believe that Stony Brook will have problems this year duplicating the success of last year. While that have some good fundamental players, their lack of size and quickness will come into play during the season. Perhaps they will need time adjusting to Beal’s coaching philosophy.

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I am thankful that the college basketball season has started after the horrendous UCONN football season. Till next time….

 

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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

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.

Seton Hall (72) Vs. St. Johns (85) 02/21/2015

#13 of 351

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This was the first basketball game where I had to go through a metal detector. The lines were very long entering the arena. God bless you Louie but this arena is a terrible place to watch a game. For those in the upper sections, the upper half of the center court scoreboard is hidden. The halls in the outside of the arena are not too wide. The few concession stands  had lines at least 100 folks long at half time. Others just trying to walk by created a traffic jam. In the  upper level rows, there was not enough room for people to walk by especially if you were of a wide girth. The whole place makes the Hartford XL Center look good.

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I will say that the lower level seats were right on top of the court lending a positive experience for those fans and players. St. Johns has a 31-4 record playing here so it must be a great place to play for the team. This was a key game for both teams who are on the bubble.

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There were boos every time Seton Hall freshman Isiah Washington touched the ball. Not only did he choose Seton Hall over St. Johns, he tweeted that no one in the city would want to go to St. Johns. He did not have a good game.

Nice to see Chris Mullen along with other Seton Hall hall of famers honored at half time.

All the fans were supposed to get a Malik Sealy bobblehead doll. Unfortunately, the doll was a casualty of the west coast shipping strike. The dolls are still on some boat in the harbor. Sealy was an ex St. Johns star who died tragically at the age of 30 in a car accident.

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St Johns pulled away in the end with some excellent 3 point shooting. I was eager to get out of there to beat the snowstorm. I give the fans credit for packing the place although there were many Seton Hall fans as well.

Review from Stadium Journey : http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/carnesecca-arena-s551

 

Marist (67) vs. Iona (87) 02/08/2015

#12 of 351

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All I know about New Rochelle is that TV Dick Van Dyke lived there. The IONA campus is smack in the middle of a residential area. The crowd was mostly older man and families. I am guessing that IONA basketball it the thing to do in New Rochelle.

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IONA had this freshman name 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.

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This arena has the strangest system for reserved seats. The seats in my section do not have numbers. The sections are along the side walls not from the top down. I never did find my seat but sat down in the general area where I thought it was. The two ushers I asked just pointed me in a general area. very confusing!

I thought I saw the ghost of Jeff Ruland in the mens’ room.

 

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Review from Stadium Journey: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/news/03-28-2014/599/college-basketball-arena-rankings-2014/