Binghamton (65) vs. Albany (84) 01/19/17

#43 of 351    12% complete

 

 

This is my second 2 1/2 hour trip to Albany in 2 weeks. There is a marked contrast between the Siena arena and the University of Albany arena. The Times Union Center used by Siena was located downtown in a not too friendly looking part of town. Let’s just say it was a quick walk from the parking garage to the arena. The SEFCU arena used by Albany is on their campus and located in a suburban area marked by shopping centers and malls. I was surprised since Albany is part of the SUNY system (public) and expected that its campus would be less distinctive but I was wrong. The Albany campus was green and wide open. I had wished the  Albany game was during the day so I could take a look around.

img_0658

I have a complaint about the SEFCU scoreboards. Nowhere to be found was a point total by an individual player. There was some hot shooting for Albany and it would have been interesting to see the running total for certain players. The corners of the arena were filled with a huge TV broadcasting the game. Nice but useless in my opinion. This arena wins the prize for the most boring scoreboard.

IMG_0660.JPG

It seems that every mid major has a small point guard from the Chicago area. Tonight was Albany guard David Nichols who lit up the floor for 25 points. So another pet peeve –  can you list the player’s height in the program? I am guessing that Nichols was 6 foot. He was quick and had the mid jumper on fire. I was also impressed with sophomore Joe Cremo who was the freshman of the year last year in the America East. I appreciate guys who have an high basketball IQ. Cremo was also very hot but always distributed the ball at the right time.

IMG_0662.JPG

Binghamtom wins the prizes for the most appearances to date in Operation 351 – 3 so far. They were all away games for Binghamton. Their home game will require an overnighter along with Buffalo, Syracuse, St. Bonaventure and Cansisus. I am hoping to do Cornell and Colgate in separate one day  trips thus completing New York State.

IMG_0661.JPG

A special shout out to the Albany uniform. It was a combination of purple and gold. A very cool combination! Plus as a dog lover, the statue of the Great Dane in the arena was neat to see.

Albany completely outplayed Binghamton from the opening bell. I am surprised that they are only 11-9 for the year. They had some good shooters and played great defense. I expect them to make noise in the America East tournament.  Perhaps we will see them in March.

img_0664

BORING!

 

St. Peters NJ (54) vs. Siena (56) 01/08/2017

#41 of 351     12% complete

IMG_0601.JPG

The plan today was to drive to Boston to see Northeastern play James Madison. The snow storm in Boston led to an adjustment in plans resulting in this game in Albany.  WAZE took me on some state roads through the northwest corner of the state saving a few minutes instead of the interstate route of I-84/I-91 and I-90. Sometimes common sense must prevail instead of trusting an app. The roads were dark and slippery as we meandered north.

This was the second year in a row that I had to reschedule Northeastern and then found that there were no more available dates for the rest of the year. My goal of completing the New England states must wait another year. I will be hitting New Hampshire next week leaving Northeastern as the last remaining school in New England.

img_0603

This was my first trip ever to Albany. The lit up skyline was a sight to see as we proceeded on I-787 entering the city. The Trans Union Center was a short ride off of the exit. It was under some construction but it is your typical “way-too-big” arena for the teams it hosts like  Siena and the hockey Albany Ducks. As you enter the arena, you are greeted by large black curtains around the higher elevations.

img_0604

Kudos to the arena for holding the “Taste of NY Craft Beer Festival” during the game. For $15, you got samples of local craft beers and a place to stand on the floor during the game. Also many types of beer were sold at the concession stands. I have never seen so much promotion of beer at a college game.

IMG_0605.JPG

The was the first game in my Operation 351 journey where were no band, no cheerleaders, no dance team and no student section. It is not a school break when this might be expected. It was very quiet except for the cheering local fans. However, the attendance was more than expected with many families. Siena has not had much success lately so it was nice to see the local support.

IMG_0606.JPG

The game was close throughout in this MAAC affair. The old gentleman next me said that Siena lost some close heart breakers over the past couple of weeks so this was a great win for them. I love watching the old guys in the crowd complain about every call and cheer like there is no tomorrow. I see this more with smaller teams and venues vs. the P5 powers.

img_0614

The player of the game was Marquis Wright of Siena. This craft 6’1″ guard had some nifty moves and made some key shots at the end. One can tell who the team leader is by how they step up to the plate when needed.

Did you ever see a play where you know the coach is going to talk to the player after the game? With Siena leading by two points, Siena grabs the rebound. The player takes off down the court to what looks like an easy layup. Well he gets blocked. The St. Peters’ player grabs the rebound, dribbles up to half court and launches a game tying shot. The ball bounded off the rim. I can hear the Siena coach screaming now about running out the clock!

IMG_0616.JPG

 

Manhattan (61) vs. St. Francis Brooklyn (54) 12/20/2016

#40 of 351/ 11% complete

img_0505

This was indeed the smallest gym I have ever been to in my entire life. That includes countless middle school, high school, college and pro arenas. It does not get more intimate than this with a 1200 seat capacity. I attended the game with my daughter Hope who was visiting friends in New York City. She did ask on multiple occasions, “This is Division 1 basketball?”.

IMG_0507.JPG

Both rosters were filled with NYC players. Although the teams are in separate leagues, one could tell by the jawing back and forth between both teams that many of the players were on rival teams in the NYC high school scene. As you see the banners in the above picture, I noticed the absence of an NCAA tournament banner. Yes,  the St. Francis Terriers are also one of only five Division I programs to have never participated in the NCAA tournament.

 

img_0502

I don’t like to bad mouth any player but I can not resist when discussing Ahmed Ismail from Manhattan. I saw this 7′ 2″ Egyptian giant warming up  and was intrigued.  He would surely dominate this game with his height. On the contrary, I have never seen a worse big man on the college level ever. He hustled and was genuinely trying out there. However, he fumbled 95% of the balls that came to him whether they were passes or rebounds. I am convinced that Ismail was signed sight unseen strictly because of his height. I actually felt sorry for him as the game went on. He is in the center of the picture below.

img_0508

 

 

Player of the game goes to Manhattan guard Zavier Turner. This 5′ 9″ dynamo guard was quicker than anyone else on the floor plus was accurate with his 3 pointers. He is from Indiana so you have to wonder how he ended up in Manhattan. He led all scorers with 26 points.

For those looking for a great place to eat in Brooklyn, check out Harvey’s End. We had excellent salmon and gnocchi. As a key lime connoisseur, I had my first taste of Persian Key lime pie. I am still thinking about it this morning.

Since this will be my last game of the year, happy holidays to all my friends and family!

img_0509

 

 

 

New York Institute of Technology (75) vs. Fordham (101) 11/14/16

#36 of 351

IMG_0422.JPGThe Rose Hill Gym is the oldest on-campus venue currently in use by a Division 1 club. Opened in 1925, the gym is surrounded by stone walls as if someone dropped a basketball court in the middle of a mid-evil courtyard. These are the kind of gyms that ooze character and history much like Yale’s Payne Whitney gym. I inserted a picture  above of some cathedral windows overlooking the court. The arena is very small and unimposing but it makes for great viewing of a basketball game.

So for the scary part! I did not do a thorough job of researching the Bronx neighborhood and the route from the train station to the gym. I read that it was a short walk. As I exited the train station, I saw the campus behind me. So I used WAZE to map the streets to the gym. The smart thing would have been to use Google Maps to map out a walk to the gym. So as I meandered down the first street, my heat beat quickened as I saw that I was not in friendly territory.  As I passed shuttered store fronts and loud music emanating from wherever, I quickened my pace to a very fast walk. I discretely kept looking at the phone without advertising myself as a tourist. I was picturing a gang of youths hanging out on the street corner ahead licking their chops at this target walking towards them. Nonetheless, I made the 10 minute walk in record time. Once inside the campus walls,  I felt safer. After the game, I opened up Google maps and found a walking path from the gym to the station within the campus. Lesson learned!

Inside the campus, I asked an older gentleman where the gym was. He gladly showed me and as we walked, we conversed about his old days at Fordham when he graduated in 1961. He showed me the green area where he played intramural sports. He was a pharmacy major who later became a lawyer. The workload forced him to drop out of the four major sports he was playing except for baseball. As we walked by buildings, he would describe each one. These are the moments that make it all fun – interacting with the older alumni who love their school.

IMG_0418.JPG

The crowd was very small which I am guessing was due to their Division 2 opponent. NYIT kept it close during the first half but the Fordham completely overran them in the second half.

I have noticed a roster pattern when you have a small Division 1 school fighting for recruits among the bigger schools in the area. This is the case with Fordham and the other borough schools. If you examine the Rams roster,  half of the players are from other countries. Fordham has players from Germany, Canada, Czech Republic and Turkey. I suppose it is important for coaches in these situations to have contacts overseas that may bring in a good but unknown player.

img_0420

My player of the game  was Ram Joseph Chartouny from Canada. He had 17 points and 14 assists. One could tell that Chartouny knew exactly what he wanted to do with the ball making the right decisions on whether to shoot or pass. He was selected on the preseason  first team for the A-10. Given UCONN’s troubles lately,  he would add immense value to their offense.

img_0424

The pep band was loud and raucous. The noise must be outrageous for a game with a rival given the small size of the gym.

img_0421

So I have two NYC teams down this year  and three to go. On to Chicago for a 5 day/ 3 game trip!

img_0426

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

#35 of 351

img_0388

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.

IMG_0389.JPG

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.

img_0390

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.

IMG_0395.JPG

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.

IMG_0393.JPG

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

 

IMG_0398.JPG

 

 

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

img_1713

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.

img_1714

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.

img_1715

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.

img_1716

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