UMASS Lowell (80) vs. Wagner (96) 12/05/2017

#50 of 351   14% complete

I am excited to begin my fourth year of Operation 351. I have 15 games scheduled for the year pending bad weather and life changing events. They are listed below:

Lafayette at NJIT (Newark)                          11/14/17

UMASS Lowell at Wagner                             12/05/17

William Mary at Delaware                           01/05/18

South Carolina State at Delaware State     01/06/18

Southern at Mississippi Valley State          01/15/18

Vanderbilt at Mississippi State                    01/16/18

Gardner Webb vs. UNC Asheville               01/23/18

UNCW at Northeastern                                 02/03/18

Northwestern at Maryland                          02/10/18

Seton Hall at Georgetown                            02/10/18

George Mason at Lasalle                              02/17/18

 Duquesne at St. Joseph’s (PA)                      02/17/18

Houston at Temple                                        02/18/18

Dartmouth at Princeton                               02/24/18

 Iona at Rider                                                   02/25/18

Last night’s game at Wagner had two special milestones in my journey. I hit the fifty mark and completed the “NYC” challenge seeing every Division 1 school in the five boroughs. To make it extra special, I took my first trip ever on the Staten Island Ferry.  I have a childhood memory of watching an “I Love Lucy” episode where Fred and Lucy get seasick on the ferry. There was nothing spectacular about the free 25 minute ride from the tip of Manhattan to Staten Island but it was cool to ride on such a historic vessel. I was also pleased to be joined by new son-law John who loves all sports with a passion.

 

 

Wagner provides a convenient shuttle from the ferry to the school. After a short walk in the rain, we were at the Spiro Athletic Center.  Upon entering the arena, we were greeted with ear-splitting rap music while the players warmed up. I guess that my favorite genre country music  will never make its way to a college basketball gym.

The General Admission tickets were $10 which provided us with very close to the court bleacher seats. I was still stinging from Wagner’s upset of UCONN last year so I was curious how the Seahawks would do tonight.

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Wagner does not go out of its way to provide a Division 1 experience at the game. The scoreboards were plain. I have a pet peeve in that I declare a scoreboard deficient if it does not show the total points for a player at some point during the night. The student crowd was sparse and quiet. The pep band tried to draw up some energy but to no avail. Perhaps Tuesday nights are not the best night to see excitement.

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Wagner was clearly the superior club. UMASS Lowell tried to hold on but were not strong or quick enough to keep up with the Seahawks. As I journey my way through Division 1 basketball games, I try to identify freshman who are playing under the radar but show something intangible to me. Most times, I don’t find such an individual but tonight I did.

Keep a lookout for freshman Chase Freeman of Wagner. This kid from Tennessee has not seen much playing time but he is talented despite his small stature. I was watching his ball handling skills and shooting during the warm ups and made a point to key on him during the game. He played well for the few minutes he was in tonight. As a point of reference, I had seen a kid named Makai Mason from Yale who you made have heard of. He has blossomed into a potential draft choice although he has been sidelined by injuries the past two years.  I had the same feeling about him when I saw him as a freshman at Yale.

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The player of the game was Blake Francis from Wagner. He and the rest of his teammates went on an incredible 3 point barrage in the first 5 minutes of the game. He likes to shoot but he is deadly accurate.

Tonight also set a couple of other records. Number one – John and I were commenting how many times the referees were cleaning up wet spots on the floor. I get the injury liability but I was looking at a long ride home which did end up with a bedtime of 1:36AM.  Number 2 – This ride to get to the game involved a drive to the Bridgeport train station, a trip on Metro North to Grand Central, a subway ride to the tip of Manhattan, a ferry ride over to Staten Island and finally a shuttle to the gym. This trip wins the “Can’t I just take a helicopter to the game?” award.

 

 

So goodbye New York. I will visit you again but under the guise of sight seeing or play watching.

Next Game: William Mary at Delaware                           01/05/18

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Wagner (75) vs. Sacred Heart (86) 02/05/2015

#11 of 351

I was asked by the ticket person “Would you like to upgrade to court side seating for an extra $2”. Oh yeah was my response. Court side seats mean you are basically sitting on the court itself just off beyond the sideline. I will always try to get court side seats which is entirely possible when visiting a smaller arena like the William Pitt Center.

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Another advantage of sitting this close is the appreciation of how athletic some of these kids were. Seeing a flying dunk at close ground level looks impressive to say the least. You also get an appreciation of the intensity of the athletes in action.

I was going to go with my cousin Mike but unfortunately his wife Tammy came down with the flu. He had to stay home and take care of her. A friend Andy and Mike are two that love sports as much as I do. They have both accompanied to some games.

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At the beginning of the game, I hand counted (not including the band and cheerleaders) 78 folks in the stands on this very cold Thursday night. I probably drew from stares from people thinking why would that person pay extra for a game like this. Yes both clubs were having mediocre seasons. But to really experience a game, you need to get as close as possible to hear the players shout instructions, hear the trash talking going on and occasionally hear the referees question calls among themselves.

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I saw that one player Noel Long on the Wagner roster who hailed from Waterford CT. I texted my buddy Rick from Waterford to see if he knew him. Yes he replied that they were friends of the entire family. Small world!

Kudos to the Sacred Heart band! Not only did they play loud but they were the only ones in the stands cheering their team on. I was impressed with their numbers.

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Review from Stadium Journey: http://www.stadiumjourney.com/stadiums/william-pitt-center-s719