Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Around the League: 12.31.08

Wednesday's games:

Stony Brook 67, Air Force 64
The Seawolves finished off their non-conference schedule with a three-point win against Air Force to give SBU seven non-conference victories -- their best start since joining Division I basketball in 1999. The seven wins rank second behind Vermont and Albany in America East for the most non-conference W's so far this season. As for the game, freshman Bryan Dougher scored a game-high 22 points (4-of-9 from beyond the arc), including a pair of clutch free throws with eight seconds left to give SBU back its three-point advantage. Muhammad El-Amin chipped in 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, while Demetrius Young led the team in boards with 10. Air Force's Matt Holland attempted a 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied the game, but it clanked off the back iron. Anwar Johnson netted a career-high 25 points for the Falcons and the mark was also a season-high by any Air Force player this year. Up next for the Seawolves will be a bout against defending conference champion -- Maryland-Baltimore County on Saturday at the RAC Center.

Thursday's games:
No games scheduled. We wish you all a very happy and healthy new year.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Around the League: 12.30.08

Tuesday's games:

Vermont 84, Colorado 59
The Catamounts went through Colorado's defense like a knife through butter last night, recovering nicely after Monday's loss to Colorado State. Vermont (8-4) shot nearly 57 percent from the field and turned the ball over just six times in a dominant offensive performance. Mike Trimboli led all scorers with 24 points on 8-of-9 shooting, including a perfect 4-of-4 from beyond the arc. Colorado (7-5) did nothing to embarrass itself on the offensive end but couldn't keep up with its opponent's firepower as Vermont collected its first win against a Big 12 opponent.

Binghamton 73, Marist 71
How do you keep up with an opponent who shoots 12-of-25 from beyond the arc? Binghamton (7-4) managed to protect its home floor by taking care of the ball and dominating the interior. The Bearcats outrebounded their opponent by eight, shot 36 free throws to the Red Foxes' 20, and held a plus-three turnover advantage, enough to secure a victory in a closely contested game. D.J. Rivera scored more than 20 points for the sixth consecutive contest. Marist is 5-9.

Kansas 79, Albany 43
It's not necessarily a national championship-caliber Jayhawks squad, but Kansas (9-3) is still a formidable force. Albany (8-5) somehow managed to equal its opponent on the boards but was outclassed in the shooting department. The Great Danes shot 0-0f-15 from beyond the arc and a sickly 30 percent overall, not nearly enough to compete with the Jayhawks' 56 percent. Kansas starters averaged less than 23 minutes played in a game that was essentially over by halftime.

Saint Louis 81, Maryland-Baltimore County 60

Darryl Proctor showed up to play for the Retrievers, scoring 29 points on 11-of-18 shooting. One man, however, is not enough to beat the Billikens. Saint Louis (8-5) spread the ball around in a 53 percent shooting performance, more than enough to dispatch UMBC (6-6). The Retrievers' issues with turnovers on defense continued: Saint Louis had just seven on the night. Maryland-Baltimore County won the battle on the boards but couldn't do enough with its possession to keep this one close.

Stanford 69, Hartford 55

Stanford improved to 10-0 with a home win, but Hartford (4-9) acquitted itself reasonably well considering its performance so far this season. The Hawks' defense was more solid than expected, as Stanford shot 44 percent overall with 12 turnovers and 13 of a possible 38 offensive rebounds. The trouble came on the other end. Hartford turned the ball over 18 times, including 14 from the trio of Jaret von Rosenberg, Andres Torres, and Michael Turner. Early-week games have not been kind to the Hawks -- the team is 0-5 in games played on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Canisius 56, Maine 43
This result in particular is not a good sign for Maine, which has lost eight of its last 10 games after starting 3-0. The Golden Griffins played fast and loose with the basketball, turning the ball over 19 times to go with 35 percent shooting, but the Black Bears paired their 18 turnovers with even worse shooting. Maine shot 28 percent from the field. Worse yet was the rebounding performance: minus-13, inexcusable considering the Griffins' shooting performance. Canisius (5-7) lost to Albany by 26 -- that should give an approximate idea of the separation between Maine and the upper tier of America East.

Wednesday's games:
Stony Brook vs. Air Force, 5:00 p.m.

The Day After: Cornell 89, BU 59

One lineup shuffle, one embarrassing loss and one powerful quote later and this is where the Boston University men's basketball team stands.

[For those of you who haven't yet read the quote, here it is: "I don't have a lot of answers right now," BU coach Dennis Wolff said after Monday's 89-59 loss to Cornell. "We are at a crossroads and we are going to either fight our way out of it or we're going to be exposed as somewhat of a phony team. And that's going to be determined by the way we handle the next few days."]

To begin the game, Carlos Strong started for the first time this season in the place of a fully healthy John Holland, who started all 10 games prior to Monday's loss. Wolff said the shuffle was due to terrible practices the team had for a week following its loss to the University of Delaware (70-68), and given Holland's practice history, it's not unfathomable to expect Wolff to have made this move at some point this year. Holland will no doubt need to prove himself in practice (as well as games, now, as he's had two pretty bad ones in a row) before he regains his starting spot.

But Holland wasn't the problem Monday night. At least not the only problem, as the entire team appeared flat from the start and got literally flattened as a result as Cornell had four dunks before the first media timeout. Again, we find ourselves talking about why this team lacks the grit, hustle and determination Wolff was searching for following a loss to Marshall University (84-80). It's become an all-too common theme when discussing a veteran team picked to win the conference for a second-straight year. It shouldn't be an issue. But it is, and it's unclear who's to blame.

Are the players truly void of a strong passion to win? With leaders like Tyler Morris and Matt Wolff on the team, that's very hard to believe, especially after the effort the entire team gave against Notre Dame, which was one of its best in three years. Does the coaching staff not know how to properly excite (for lack of a better word) the team prior to games? Or are the Terriers simply an anomaly -- a team that can look fabulous one night (like they did in wins against Northeastern and Harvard) and terrible the next (like they did against Cornell and Delaware). If that's the case, it's going to make conference play quite interesting.

Part of being a veteran group, however, is knowing how to fight through these types of losses and to respond to Wolff's words. If the players want to prove that they're not a "phony" team, then they must come to practice with the proper attitude. When a coach says after a game he "kind of expected" the beating was coming, things aren't going well internally. Wolff presented the challenge to his players and coaching staff and the result will become clear as winter turns to spring.

All that being said, the loss to Cornell doesn't mark the end of the world, and certainly not the end of the season. Before you condemn the Terriers, just remember how awful things appeared to be last season before BU made a prolific push to the postseason, winning nine of its last 12 games. It's early. It's very early. And while the defeat is certainly a low point through 11 games thus far, problems have plenty of time to be solved. It does mean that, perhaps, there are more problems with this team than was initially thought, but that's going to be the case with any team that's on a three-game losing streak.

What's important for the Terriers right now is to keep a level head and not let this loss (and Wolff's comments) impact them negatively if they wish to remain a conference power. Every team in the conference is going to experience a loss where nothing goes right and where it's not prepared. The key is how well that team rebounds from the blowout and how well it keeps mentally focused on achieving its preseason goals (which were set very high).

No doubt, practice prior to BU's final non-conference game on Jan. 2 is going to be brutal, and if the Terriers answer the call, it's all but guaranteed (due to a bevy of extremely talented players) things won't look or feel as gloomy as they do right now.

-- Jeff Pelage's play: The freshman forward logged a career-high 19 minutes and recorded career highs in points (8) and rebounds (8). It also appeared he wasn't coughing nearly as much as he usually does in practice (albeit that was on observed on a grainy Internet feed), but if Pelage can continue to give BU those kinds of minutes it will change the look of the Terriers' interior defense for the better.
-- Timing: Far better to have this type of loss occur in non-conference play than during the America East schedule, or even worse, the America East tournament.

-- Defensive rebounding: The Terriers were killed on the defensive glass by a margin of 31-13. Matt Wolff didn't have a defensive rebound as Cornell's Jeff Foote simply had free range of the interior.
-- John Holland's shooting: For the second-consecutive game (after lighting it up against Notre Dame), Holland struggled from the field. He shot just 2-of-11 and, combined with the loss to Delaware, is 5-of-19 in his last two contests. Not only that, but he was bounced from the staring lineup for the first time this year. BU will need him to get his act together quickly if it hopes to end its losing streak.

Cornell sends reeling Terriers to third-straight loss
Ithaca Journal story & live updates
Big Red's big men stand tall
Photo gallery (Ithaca Journal)

Monday, December 29, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: Carlos Strong starts over John Holland

For this first time all season, BU coach Dennis Wolff went with a different starting lineup against Cornell, giving junior guard Carlos Strong the start over sophomore forward and reigning America East Rookie of the Year John Holland. Holland entered the game with 17:35 remaining in the first half. Still, odd that Wolff chose this as the first time all season to change his starting five. We're not sure what the reason for the switch was, but as soon as we find out, we'll let you know.

Also, related to breaking news from before the Delaware game, Jeff Pelage dressed for the Cornell game and is seeing significant minutes for the third time this season.

Also (again), on an unrelated note. For those of you wondering why there was no live blog, it's only for games we attend live. We figured it'd be silly for us to live blog after listening to the game on the radio or watching online. Sadly, there won't be a live blog for BU's next game against Holy Cross (1/02/09) but we'll be back in full force for the start of conference play when BU travels to Albany.
EDIT (12/30/08): There will be a live blog for the Holy Cross game. Free Press columnist Brian Fadem will cover the game courtside starting at 6:30 p.m.

State of America East

Non-conference play is always somewhat unfamiliar territory. Sure, some of the teams are regular yearly opponents, but no two non-conference campaigns look alike. At last, the road to an America East title is beginning to make itself known. Conference play approaches. Who are the contenders and pretenders?

America East Power Rankings (records vs. D-I opponents only)

1. Vermont Catamounts
(7-3, RPI 52, SOS 92)
Last week: W 83-72 at George Washington (neutral court)
This week: 12/29 at Colorado State (neutral court), 12/30 at TBD (neutral court), 1/3 vs. New Jersey Institute of Technology

It was questionable for a while whether the Catamounts were the clear-cut favorite to win an America East title this year, but with non-conference schedules finally coming to a close there is no debate. Vermont's comfortable victories away from Patrick Gym against Delaware and George Washington compare favorably to the Terriers' two close losses versus those foes. Call it an extra gear Vermont can shift into, call it versatility, call it a veteran presence, call it whatever you want, but right now the Catamounts have it and nobody else does.

2. Boston University Terriers
(5-5, RPI 189, SOS 229)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12/29 at Cornell, 1/2 vs. Holy Cross

Prior to the December 21st loss to Delaware, the Terriers' non-conference results could easily be termed a success. Winning two of the final three non-conference games would put BU at 7-5 heading into America East play with plenty of experience against opponents of similar strength. A loss to the Blue Hens coupled with Vermont's recent performance, however, changes things. Compared to the Catamounts, the Terriers appear to be decidedly average with obvious weaknesses. A win tonight would erase a lot of bad memories from a weekend ago and put the Terriers back on solid footing heading into the new year.

3. Albany Great Danes
(8-4, RPI 87, SOS 237)
Last week: W 68-56 at Saint Francis (NY)
This week: 12/30 at Kansas, 1/3 at Hartford

Saint Francis is a fairly weak opponent, so not much can be taken out of the Great Danes' victory last Monday. In a sense, that's a good thing. After letting a couple of games stay competitive instead of stepping on the opponent's throat, a comfortable win is a positive sign. At worst, Albany is going to be a tough out for the top teams in the AE. On their best days, the Great Danes are one of those top teams, something few outside of the capital would have expected in early November.

4. Binghamton Bearcats
(5-4, RPI 84, SOS 117)
Last week: W 69-58 vs. Rider, W 74-73 at Tulane
This week: 12/30 vs. Marist, 1/3 at Maine

Tulane isn't a BCS-conference team, but Conference USA resides above Kyle Whelliston's "red line" separating big-money programs from the rest of Division-I. Regardless of your perspective, it's a big win for Binghamton and America East. D.J. Rivera refuses to be held down: after managing just three points in the first half, the Bearcats' leading scorer dropped 21 in the second half to finish with 24 and eight boards. If Theo Davis can acclimate himself and become an effective player down low, Binghamton will be a threat.

5. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
(5-5, RPI 123, SOS 120)
Last week: W 66-64 at Nebraska
This week: 12/30 at Saint Louis, 1/3 vs. Stony Brook

Speaking of teams with wins versus big-conference opposition. UMBC absolutely stunned the Cornhuskers last week with a massive first-half run. After getting embarrassed by American, the upset victory completely reverses the Retrievers' momentum. One big reason for the victory was the play of Chauncey Gilliam. After his underwhelming one-point performance against the Retrievers' rivals, Gilliam caught Nebraska off guard and took advantage. Gilliam's 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting was a game-high. With only six regular contributors, Randy Monroe needs his starters to step up night in and night out; for one night, they did.

6. Stony Brook Seawolves
(5-5, RPI 211, SOS 251)
Last week: W 68-52 at Saint Peter's
This week: 12/31 at Air Force, 1/3 at Maryland-Baltimore County

BU couldn't dispatch the Peacocks until the game's closing minutes. In contrast, the Seawolves made short work of their opposition in their most recent game. It's dangerous to compare teams on the basis of individual games, but Stony Brook is handling its admittedly weak schedule the way top contenders are expected to do. Winnable games are won with ease, not kept close or allowed to slip away. With a few obviously subpar teams at the bottom of the conference this year, similar performances against those foes will put Stony Brook solidly mid-pack -- something which isn't often heard about the Seawolves.

7. New Hampshire Wildcats
(2-7, RPI 300, SOS 256)
Last week: L 60-56 at Fordham, L 62-57 vs. Hofstra
This week: 1/4 vs. Santa Clara

Another week, another golden opportunity wasted. Make it two for the Wildcats in the past seven days. With all the close losses, New Hampshire is better than its ugly RPI suggests -- but not by much. Ignoring the non-Division-I win, the Wildcats have two victories, neither of which was impressive. There won't be opportunities for more unless Bill Herrion's team learns to play a full 40 minutes. Putting a stop to ugly shooting performances would help too. Tyrone Conley was 0-of-13 from the field against Hofstra, and it was a home game to boot. That isn't going to cut it against anyone, let alone a CAA contender.

8. Maine Black Bears
(4-7, RPI 199, SOS 170)
Last week: L 99-61 at Boston College
This week: 12/30 vs. Canisius, 1/3 vs. Binghamton

There are certain power conference teams against whom a blowout loss is understandable. Boston College is not one of those teams. Maine's record may be better than that of their nearby hockey rival, but New Hampshire's close losses suggest the Wildcats may win some more games in the near future. When Maine loses, the Black Bears are thoroughly outclassed, which doesn't bode well down the road.

9. Hartford Hawks
(4-8, RPI 197, SOS 115)
Last week: L 74-59 at Baylor
This week: 12/30 at Stanford, 1/3 vs. Albany

A month ago, Hartford would have lost to Baylor by 30 or 40 points. From that perspective, the Hawks have improved. Still, even as Hartford's vice-like grip on the cellar loosens, it will take another win to escape the bottom of the power rankings. This week isn't promising, but after these two tough games the following three are at New Hampshire, versus Yale, and versus Maine. Yes, opportunity knocks -- it's a new calendar year. Maybe the Hawks' new year's resolution will involve rebounding.

Conference performance
OOC record: 45-48 (last 7 days: 6-4)
Conference RPI: 13 out of 31 (last week: 15)
Conference SOS: 17 out of 31 (last week: 17)

As non-conference play approaches its end, the America East RPI has risen once again. Expect the RPI to fall a couple of slots in conference play, but at this point the end result is likely to be no worse than somewhere in the mid-teens. America East has to have a .500 record against itself, which is very similar to both the conference's current strength of schedule and its overall record to date. This will keep the components of the RPI from fluctuating wildly as the season progresses. Provided one of the stronger America East teams wins the autobid, a reasonable NCAA seed is likely. If Vermont wins, a 13-seed (what the Catamounts earned the year they beat Syracuse in the round of 64) is a reasonably likely proposition -- ESPN has the Cats as a 14-seed and rising.

Tempo-free statistics

In case you weren't willing to believe it earlier, it's time to give up and acknowledge Stony Brook's presence as a legitimate team in America East. The bottom three teams in the conference are going to struggle to beat the Seawolves, and the teams in the middle of the pack will have their hands full. Even Vermont shouldn't expect an easy win.

Binghamton's offense is now averaging over a point per possession for the season thanks to D.J. Rivera's play. Rivera takes more than 32 percent of his team's shots while on the floor, but he's not your prototypical volume shooter. For one, he relies much less on his perimeter shooting than most volume shooters at this level. Perhaps more significantly, he's an efficient player despite the load placed on him. Rivera's turnover rate of 10.3 percent ranks in the top 100 nationally among qualifying players, and his eFG% is nearly 53 percent. None of the other scoring guards in the AE is a particularly good match for Rivera. The best match, interestingly enough, might be Tim Ambrose: the Albany guard is slightly less efficient but takes an even higher percentage of his team's shots while on the floor. The difference? Ambrose is a much better distributor, with an excellent assist rate of 33.9 percent.

New Hampshire continues to rebound well on the defensive end, grabbing 71.4 percent of available boards. Why can't the Wildcats rebound on the offensive end? It's not necessarily true that a strong defensive rebounding team is a strong offensive rebounding team, but the Wildcats are only slightly better than awful on the offensive glass despite cleaning up at the other end. Dane Diliegro has been the Wildcats' one strong offensive rebounder, ranking 153rd in offensive rebounding percentage. If it's a conscious decision by New Hampshire to forego the offensive glass in favor of preventing fast breaks, that choice might be worth reexamining. A lack of second chance opportunities makes it awfully hard to sustain offense over extended periods of time, and scoring droughts have been frequent in Wildcat losses.

GAMEDAY: Boston University vs. Cornell University

Following an eight-day layoff, the Terriers will play their final game of 2008 against a team they've never faced before -- Cornell University. The Big Red will be the third Ivy League team BU's faced this this year, but Cornell's markedly better than both Yale and Harvard (two teams the Terriers beat earlier in the season). After a disappointing loss to the University of Delaware before Christmas, tonight's matchup at the Newman Arena -- a place where the Big Red have won 10 consecutive games and is 4-0 this season -- marks a chance for both teams to turn it around.

Picked to win the Ivy league, the Big Red have struggled recently, dropping four of their last five contests -- though those four were against quality opponents: Indiana, Syracuse, Minnesota and St. Joseph's. All four of those losses were also on the road, as Cornell has been a very difficult team to play at home all season.

BU, on the other hand, is coming off what was arguably its worst loss of the season after such an encouraging loss against the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. Following the game, BU coach Dennis Wolff mentioned it was the first time he was disappointed in his team, so keep an eye on how much intensity and desire the Terriers begin the game with. As much as Cornell's been floundering, the Terriers have lost lost three of their last four games. This contest and one more non-conference game (against Holy Cross) remain before BU beings to take on America East foes, so it's now or never if the Terriers hope to establish a rhythm that will carry them through conference play.

First, however, they'll need to deal with a prolific scorer in Ryan Wittman, who's averaging 21.4 points per game, 4.0 rebounds per game and 3.0 assists per game. His season low in points is 11 as he's reached double digits in scoring in every game this season, with a season-high 33 on Dec. 3 against Syracuse. Sure, he's no Luke Harangody, but he's still, the 6-foot-6 forward extremely dangerous player who will present a tough matchup for whoever BU puts on him. John Holland and Matt Wolff will most likely spend the bulk of the time guarding Wittman, as forward Jake O'Brien will be busy with 7-foot center Jeff Foote, who's averaging 13.5 points per game and 6.6 rebounds per game. If, however, Cornell decides to keep Foote on O'Brien on the defensive end, it could work in BU's favor, as the freshman forward may draw Foote away from the interior and help the Terriers' rebounding cause.

That said, Cornell isn't particularly strong at rebounding, despite Foote's size, so if BU can hold its own on the boards, the game should be close. In addition, the Terriers will need to convert 3-pointers at more than a 23.3 percent rate as they did against the Blue Hens. BU is actually fifth in the nation in regard to 3-point shots taken to total shots taken -- 47.5 percent of all the BU's shots are from beyond the arc. Thankfully, for the Terriers, they've been a much better 3-point shooting team on the road than at home. At Case, BU's shooting 28 percent from beyond the arc. At Agganis, they're converting 39 percent of all 3-point shots, while on the road the Terriers are knocking down 41 percent of their shots from beyond the arc. If the Terriers hope to topple their toughest Ivy League foe to date and continue Wolff's 12-game winning streak against the Ivy's, the 3-point shot will no doubt hold the key to success.

Probable starting lineups:

Around the League: 12.29.08

Monday's games:

Colorado State 82, Vermont 76
UVM forward Marqus Blakely was held under double digits in points and rebounds for just the third time all season as Colin McIntosh (22 points) and Nick Vier (18 points) led the Catamounts in scoring. Five players from Colorado State reached double digits in scoring, led by Marcus Walker, who had 26. Vermont (7-4) had its three-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the Rams, who will play in Tuesday's championship game of the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic in Hawaii. The loss is somewhat of a letdown for the Catamounts, who were playing very good basketball coming into the semifinal matchup. The Rams opened up a 42-36 lead at the half and used a 13-6 run at the start of the second half to create some distance. UVM will play in the third-place game Tuesday against Coppin State, which lost to Pepperdine, 58-56. And in case you missed it, here's the official UVM blog of their cross-country trip: click here.

Tuesday's games:
Coppin State vs. Vermont, 5:00 p.m.
Canisius vs. Maine, 7:00 p.m.
Marist vs. Binghamton, 7:00 p.m.
Maryland-Baltimore County vs. St. Louis, 9:00 p.m.
Albany vs. Kansas, 9:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
Hartford vs. Standford, 10:30 p.m.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Around the League: 12.28.08

Sunday's game:

Stony Brook 68, St. Peter's 52
Not sure what to think when Stony Brook dismantles a team the Terriers only beat by five earlier in the season other than the Seawolves could be for real. Regardless, Muhammad El-Amin scored a season-high 27 points for an SBU squad that snapped a two-game losing streak. The Peacocks scored the first basket of the game, but a 7-0 run by the Seawolves cemented the game, as they never trailed again. SBU (6-5) outscored St. Peter's 41-23 in the first half as two other Seawolves reached double digits and Tommy Brenton was one rebound shy of a double-double. Wesley Jenkins led St. Peter's in scoring with 20 points.

Monday's games:
Colorado State vs. Vermont, 4:00 p.m.

Stat of the Week


The number of points/rebounds Matt Wolff had in BU's most recent loss to the University of Delaware (70-68) for his first career double-double. Wolff was 3-of-5 from the field (including his third 3-pointer of the season and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line, none bigger than the two he knocked down with 12.3 seconds left to (temporarily) give BU the lead. In addition to Wolff's scoring effort, he added 12 rebounds -- one short of his season high -- as he consistently brings a toughness to the court BU coach Dennis Wolff is searching for.

There's a reason Wolff is one of the co-captains on the team and it's because of the way he leads on the court. The loss to Delaware provided a particularly good example of the ways Wolff -- who takes a lot of flack from fans for a variety of reasons -- commands the respect of his teammates. When BU's 3-point shots weren't falling (the Terriers were just 7-of-30 in the game) Wolff cleaned up down low, getting timely put-back layups and hauling in important rebounds. While his game may not be flashy, Wolff's effort is a large part of the reason the Terriers have stayed in every game they've played as he brings a constant presence of intensity for a team that's been searching for it for a large majority of the season. It's a given BU will have a few more off-shooting nights and Wolff will no doubt be a key player in those contests.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Around the League: 12.27.08

Saturday's games:

Binghamton 74, Tulane 73
The Bearcats continue to improve with every game, with their most recent win over Tulane being (perhaps) their most impressive. D.J. Rivera led all scorers with 24 points, including 10-of-12 from the charity stripe, none more important than his four freebies in the final 24 seconds to seal the deal for Binghamton. Rivera also hauled in eight rebounds as four other Bearcats (6-4) scored in double digits. Binghamton trailed 36-35 at halftime, but went on a 12-6 run with the score tied at 62 to pull as far away as they could have in a very tightly contested contest. Daniel Puckett led the Green Wave with 20 points, while two others reached double digits, but it wasn't enough to down the Bearcats, who have now won two-straight games and have a chance to enter conference play on a three-game winning streak if they can defeat Marist on Tuesday.

Hofstra 62, New Hampshire 57
This would have been a gigantic win for the Wildcats, but they weren't able to pull off a gigantic upset and comeback after trailing by as many as 16 points (17-1) in the first half. UNH led 57-56 with 3:01 remaining, but a Greg Washington jumper put the Pride ahead for good with 2:31 left. The Wildcats (3-7) failed to score for the remainder of the game. One wonders if this game would have been different had Tyrone Conley hadn't gone 0-of-13 from the field. He missed the first shot he took and four in the final 2:31, making for a very rough evening. Opposite Conley's performance, who hadn't made less than two field goals in a game all season, was Dane Diliegro. The center recorded his first double-double of the season with 10 points and a game-high 11 rebounds. UNH's Rony Tchatchoua led all scorers with 17 points, while Washington led all Pride players with 13.

Vermont 83, George Washington 72
Well that was easy. The Catamounts made quick work of their first-round opponent in the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic in Honolulu and became the first America East team to down the Colonials this season. UVM (7-3) never trailed as Maurice Joseph led the Catamounts in points with 18, while Marqus Blakely continues to rack up the double doubles with 13 points and 12 rebounds. Two other UVM players recorded double digits as the Catamounts were able to stave off a monster performance by Rob Diggs (25 points, 14 boards). Damian Hollis was the only other Colonial to reach double figures (15). The Catamounts will face Colorado State on Monday. Also, if you're interested in more from the trip, for UVM's official blog: click here

Sunday's games:
Stony Brook vs. St. Peter's, 2:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Century of Tradition: Christmas Edition

First off, Merry Christmas (and Happy Chanukah, and Happy Kwanzaa, plus other holidays I can't think of). I hope your holidays are filled with joy and plenty of good basketball.

The Terriers are enjoying their Christmas break and won't be returning to the court until December 29th, which prompts the question: What is the Terriers' record on Christmas? After some quick research, we have the answer. Drumroll please!

As it turns out, it's a trick question. BU has never played on Christmas Day, or at the very least they haven't since the university began to record dates of games in the 1950-51 season. Nor have the Terriers squared off against an opponent on Christmas Eve. That leaves us with Christmas' proverbial third wheel.

Yes, I'm talking about Boxing Day. Back in year one of the Mike Jarvis era, BU made the trip to Portland, Oregon for the 1985 Far West Classic. The Terriers would manage just a single win in their three games, but it was a good one -- a 67-56 victory against Oregon on December 26th.

Of course, BU won't be doing anything like that this season, what with the week-long gap between Delaware and Cornell, so if you want Christmas basketball your best bet is today's NBA quintuple-header. But you can always wish for a late gift. Maybe a trip to the alternate universe where Tyler Morris decides to drop 30 on the Big Red would be nice.

Enjoy yourselves, and we'll be back in a couple of days with more coverage as next Monday's game approaches.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Around the League: 12.23.08

Tuesday's games:

Boston College 99, Maine 61
This one was never close. The Eagles locked down Maine's best player, Mark Socoby, and held his scoreless for the first time all season (0-of-4 from the field). The loss is Maine's third in a row as the Blackbears (5-7) never led. BC's Corey Raji had quite the day as he netted a career-high 26 points. Not only that, but he did so on an astounding 12-of-12 from the field. The only two shots he missed all afternoon were from the charity stripe, where he went 2-of-4. Three other BC players reached double figures as the Eagles outrebounded Maine, 45-28 and shot 55.6 percent from the floor. Maine's leading scorer was Gerald McLemore, who has 18 points, including three 3-pointers.

Fordham 60, New Hampshire 56
The first meeting between these two schools was neck-and-neck down the stretch after UNH closed a lead by Fordham that grew to as many as 14 points in the first half. Fordham's Jio Fontan scored 18 points, including the go-ahead layup and two free throws in the final minute to seal the Rams' second victory of the season. Tyrece Gibbs converted two from the charity stripe with 1:01 left, but Fontan's layup came seconds later. Tyrone Conley led all Wildcats (3-6) with 12 points and six rebounds as UNH shot just 4-of-20 from beyond the arc.

Binghamton 69, Rider 58
Five Bearcats scored in double figures as Binghamton outscored Rider in both halves. Despite 25 points by Rider's Ryan Thompson, Binghamton easily handled the Broncs thanks to a strong run midway through the second half. D.J. Rivera led all Bearcats (5-4) with 22 points as Binghamton connected on eight 3-pointers in the game -- quite a turnaround from two times this year when they failed to hit a single trey.

Maryland-Baltimore County 66, Nebraska 64
Darryl Proctor had just one block in the game, but it came at an incredibly important time -- with one-tenth of a second left in the game, preventing a tie and a ferocious comeback by Nebraska after the Cornhuskers trailed from wire to wire. UMBC (6-5) ran its lead to as much as 20 points in the first half, but Nebraska mounted a steady comeback, making for a very interesting ending. The Retrievers didn't convert a field goal for the last 6:34 of the game, but did make 9-of-11 from the line during that stretch. Rookie Chanucey Gilliam led all UMBC players with a career-high 21 points (9-of-11 shooting), while Proctor notched his fifth double-double of the season with 15 points and 13 boards. Ade Dagunduro led Nebraska with 19 points. UMBC's win snapped a 31-game non-conference win streak by Nebraska on their home court.

Wednesday's games:
No games scheduled until December 27.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Around the League: 12.22.08

Monday's games:

Albany 68, St. Francis (N.Y.) 56
After a competitive start to the game, the Great Danes pulled away midway through the first half and cruised to their third-straight victory. Anthony Raffa made eight free throws to aid his team-high 14 points while both Will Harris and Brian Connelly contributed 13. The win was Albany's (8-4) fourth on the road this season as the Great Danes are in the midst of a four-game road trip, that will end with their first conference game against Hartford on January 3rd. For the Terriers (no, not those Terriers), forward Nigel Byum netted a team-high 14 points.

No. 22 Baylor 74, Hartford 59
The Hawks gave a valiant effort playing their second-straight game without Joe Zeglinski, who's out with a sprained ankle. Jared Von Rosenberg led the team in points (19), assists (9) and rebounds (6) but BU's (no, not that BU) Curtis Jerrells edged him out. Jerrells notched a triple-double, piling up a team-high 17 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. The Hawks (4-8) pulled within three points twice in the second half, but couldn't stave off the nationally-ranked Bears. Jerrells' triple-double was the first by a Baylor player since Brian Skinner accomplished the feat on Nov. 29, 2007.

Tuesday's games:
Maine vs. Boston College, 1:00 p.m.
Rider vs. Binghamton, 7:00 p.m.
New Hampshire vs. Fordham, 7:00 p.m.
Maryland-Baltimore County v. Nebraska, 8:00 p.m.

The Day After: Delaware 70, BU 68

Well that certainly wasn't the outing Terrier fans were hoping for.

Following about as encouraging a loss as a team can have against then-No. 12 Notre Dame at the Joyce Center in South Bend, Ind., the Terriers had a chance to assert themselves as one of the top teams in the conference with a resounding victory over a team that should have beaten.

As was mentioned in the post-game press conference, once the Terriers went up 19-7 against the University of Delaware, BU coach Dennis Wolff said his team thought the Blue Hens weren't going to keep playing. In most circumstances -- and in the circumstances that create a champion -- the team leading should have continued to pour it on and bury the opponent. BU didn't.

Instead, the Terriers were outscored in the second half for the fifth time this season (in all five of their losses) and dropped another game by a single-digit margin -- this loss being their most heartbreaking given the dagger 3-pointer by D.J. Boney with four seconds left on the clock. After playing solid defense in the first half, BU became lackadaisical in the second half, as the Blue Hens shot 57.1 percent from the floor. It didn't appear that BU was tired, just not getting to the proper spots on the floor. That's not taking credit away from Delaware, they executed very well offensively, but the Terriers have guarded far better than that on multiple occasions this season, so it was troubling to see such a shoddy effort. On the other side, UD's defense was better than it's been as it allowed 68 points after entering the game having given up 74.3 points per game.

One of the biggest problems with the loss was BU's lack of attention to detail. Multiple times Wolff was visibly upset coming out of a timeout when his team seemingly forgot the play, didn't execute it well enough, or it wasn't conveyed properly in the timeout. It's not clear whether the timeout gameplans need to be described better to the players or there's a listening problem, but it's happened far to often this season for BU to be considered an elite club in the AE.

The Terriers are on their first losing streak of the year and things aren't going to get easier against Cornell, the defending Ivy League champion and a team that's unbeaten on its home court. If you thought the game against Delaware was a test of BU's fortitude, that game will be dwarfed by the importance of the Terriers' trip to Ithaca. If BU wishes to still be considered one of the premiere teams in America East, they're going to need to start playing like it soon as only two non-conference games remain before the Terriers are thrown into the fire of conference play against Albany and Vermont.

-- Comeback ability: Jake O'Brien's high-pressure 3-pointer and Matt Wolff's free throws were the highlight of a very collected BU comeback after trailing by eight with 3:44 remaining. A good sign, all things considered, as there's not much you can do about an unlikely 3-pointer from the Blue Hens.
-- Matt Wolff: Again, Wolff's aggressiveness kept the Terriers in the game at points, especially when BU's 3-pointers weren't falling. He had a few key rebounds and his free throws at the end were huge. Not to mention he notched his first career double-double.

-- Holland's defensive effort: While did dive on the floor for loose balls, Holland finished the game without a defensive rebound in 21 minutes. It's the second time it's happened this year and despite the "dumb luck" that brings certain rebounds to spots on the floor, he really should have had at least one.
-- Back-to-back losses: One of the best things about the Terriers' season until Sunday's loss was their ability to recover from a defeat and win their next game. It didn't happen this time, and even worse, the loss came at home.

Late 3-pointer does in Terriers
Boston University Terriers left feeling blue
Boney's late 3-pointer lifts Hens in Boston

State of America East

Finals are over and Christmas is right around the corner. Without further ado (or a long-winded speech about the significance or lack thereof of this week's rankings), let's get down to business.

America East Power Rankings (records against D-I opponents only):

1. Vermont Catamounts
(6-3, RPI 76, SOS 119)
Last week: W 84-79 vs. Quinnipiac
This week: 12/27 vs. George Washington (neutral court), 12/28 vs. TBD (neutral court)

The Catamounts continue to dispose of opponents efficiently. Ignoring the loss to Pittsburgh, Vermont has won five straight heading into the Outrigger Hotels Rainbow Classic. Vermont has had eight different players score in double figures, and while Blakely and Trimboli are the Catamounts' only true stars, the depth of quality offensive options provides a clear advantage.

2. Boston University Terriers
(5-5, RPI 182, SOS 206)
Last week: L 70-68 vs. Delaware
This week: No games scheduled

Dennis Wolff was less than pleased with the Terriers' performance against Delaware. With eight days separating Sunday's loss and the team's next contest, Wolff and his coaching staff should have more than enough time to get their message across. With the loss, however, the Cornell game on December 29th becomes somewhat more important. If the coaching staff's work over the next week isn't readily apparent in Ithaca, there won't be much time left to make adjustments before conference play.

3. Albany Great Danes
(7-4, RPI 105, SOS 230)
Last week: W 60-59 at Sacred Heart
This week: 12/23 at Saint Francis (NY)

Talk about learning a lesson and then applying it. After snatching defeat from the jaws of victory against Lehigh, the Great Danes imitated the Mountain Hawks' performance by snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against the Pioneers on Saturday. Bryant and Canisius aren't particularly formidable opponents, but considering the three power-conference foes and other capable teams on the schedule, to be guaranteed a winning record in non-conference play with two games remaining is an accomplishment for such a young team.

4. Binghamton Bearcats
(3-4, RPI 119, SOS 106)
Last week: L 86-80 vs. Manhattan
This week: 12/23 vs. Rider, 12/27 at Tulane

Theo Davis' Bearcat debut was underwhelming to say the least, but don't pin Binghamton's home loss squarely on a him. 15 of the 19 Bearcat turnovers had nothing to do with Davis. Davis also can't be blamed for the 45 free throw attempts surrendered by Binghamton, as the 6-9 forward committed only one foul. While Davis may prove to be a useful player for the Bearcats down the road, it's been years since the Gonzaga transfer has played significant minutes. Give him some time to adjust.

5. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
(4-5, RPI 166, SOS 140)
Last week: L 74-61 vs. American
This week: 12/23 at Nebraska

How does Binghamton pass the Retrievers in the power rankings while losing? Even ignoring how American had disposed of UMBC by halftime, Binghamton's loss was primarily due to issues the Bearcats have shown the ability to correct -- turnovers and playing defense without excessive fouling. The Retrievers, on the other hand, have been consistently unable to defend at even an average level. That includes field-goal percentage defense, defensive rebounding, and turnover rate. UMBC doesn't turn the ball over on offense, which is certainly important, but if the opponent isn't relieved of possession every so often ball control becomes somewhat less valuable.

6. Stony Brook Seawolves
(4-5, RPI 230, SOS 234)
Last week: L 91-57 at Connecticut
Next week: 12/28 at Saint Peter's

Stony Brook wasn't going to beat UConn. That's a given. Saint Peter's, on the other hand, is a team the surprising Seawolves should be able to handle, even on the road. Yes, you read that right: expect Stony Brook to win on the road. These aren't your mother's Seawolves anymore -- they play defense, pass the ball, and win games they should win. I know the phrase "your mother's Seawolves" is somewhat nonsensical considering the program's recent jump to Division-I, but truth be told, Stony Brook looks decent. That's saying an awful lot.

7. Maine Black Bears
(4-6, RPI 205, SOS 203)
Last week: L 76-63 vs. Harvard
This week: 12/23 vs. Boston College

Maine doesn't have a wealth of efficient scorers, so it's critical that the Black Bears take care of the basketball. Of course, given the team's slot in the power rankings, "How well do the Black Bears take care of the basketball?" has an obvious answer. Maine has donated the ball to its opponent on 24.3 percent of possessions, last in the conference. Yes, that's just 0.4% worse than the Catamounts, but the Catamounts make up for that by doing just about everything else correctly. Maine doesn't have that luxury.

8. New Hampshire Wildcats
(3-5, RPI 260, SOS 248)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12/23 at Fordham, 12/27 vs. Hofstra

UNH has plenty of offensive talent on the perimeter. It's down low where the Wildcats find themselves lacking. It's not just subpar offensive rebounding ailing New Hampshire. Bill Herrion's team isn't getting to the free throw line. Between the lack of interior scoring and lack of free throw attempts, there isn't any consistent, high-percentage option for the Wildcats -- just shoot threes and hope they fall. With an effective field goal percentage even worse than the Black Bears', the threes aren't falling often enough. Oh, and the field-goal percentage defense is abysmal. That too.

9. Hartford Hawks
(4-7, RPI 219, SOS 166)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12/22 at Baylor

Baylor might score 100 points against the Hawks tonight. Baylor happens to be pretty good this year, so that's not a huge embarrassment for Hartford -- plus there's also the alternate scenario where Hartford plays defense and keeps the Bears below the century mark -- but the strength of many Hawks opponents shouldn't distract from the problem with Dan Leibovitz's team. It doesn't matter how good the offense is if the defense is non-existent. Frankly, this should have been evident last year. The Hawks managed to get the two-seed in the America East tournament, but poor team rebounding and a negative point differential in conference play screamed "average team." Without McLendon, the already-poor rebounding has somehow managed to get even worse; without significant improvement this year will not end well for the Hawks.

Conference performance
OOC record: 39-44 (last 7 days: 2-5)
Conference RPI: 15 out of 31 (last week: 15)
Conference SOS: 17 out of 31 (last week: 21)

Despite consecutive subpar weeks in the win-loss department, a surging strength of schedule has helped the AE maintain a top-half RPI. Compared to last year, this is a marked improvement and bodes well come tournament time.

Tempo-free statistics

Stony Brook has fallen from first to fourth in efficiency margin after getting blown out by UConn. In fairness, Stony Brook's previous position atop the table was a product of the Seawolves' absurdly weak strength of schedule. A SOS correction has moved the Seawolves to a more appropriate position. What is interesting -- and reinforces the idea of Stony Brook being a decent team -- is the gap between the Seawolves and a respected-but-flawed Maryland-Baltimore County team. Even Binghamton still lies south of the Seawolves. Ladies and gentlemen, the third-fiddle SUNY school is for real this year. Even if "for real" means average.

Just to show how different offensive styles and personnel sets can be effective on offense, consider UMBC and Vermont, the two most efficient offensive teams in the league right now. The Retrievers are built around ball control and rely on a pass-first point guard who stands 5'8". It's rare to see Randy Monroe use more than six players in a game -- perhaps the need to preserve energy while using a tight rotation has something to do with the Retrievers' pace, the slowest in the conference.

In contrast, Vermont plays at a pace that far exceeds anything else seen in the AE, more than six possessions per game faster than any other school. Nick Vier is the closest the Catamounts come to having to a point guard; Mike Trimboli, who does much of the handling, is really a combo guard. The Catamounts' roster is deep, experienced, and balanced, but doesn't take particularly good care of the ball. Vermont's offense doesn't look much like the Retrievers', but both are effective.

Stat of the Week


Theo Davis put up a nice round goose egg in his debut performance for the Bearcats on Saturday. The Gonzaga transfer was ineligible last semester per NCAA regulations, but many expect him to provide Binghamton with a major upgrade for the second half of the season.

Early returns on Davis have not been particularly auspicious. In his first game of the season, the Bearcats' 86-80 loss to Manhattan, Davis shot 0-of-5 from the field and turned the ball over four times in just 14 minutes. While it's inadvisable to read into one game's worth of play from an athlete who has been hampered by injuries, suspensions, and ineligibility restrictions, repeat performances are not going to cut it. Jaan Montgomery is not a scoring threat, leaving Reggie Fuller as the only interior offensive presence for the Bearcats. Binghamton needs Davis to give the frontcourt depth and balance.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Post-game Audio & Photos (Delaware 70, BU 68)

No photos this time. All our photographers were already home from break, but here's audio from BU's 70-68 loss to the University of Delaware.

BU coach Dennis Wolff's opening statement

UD coach Monte Ross' opening statement

Wolff doesn't think the layoff can be used as an excuse

Wolff wasn't pleased with the mindset of his players

Wolff knows his offense could have played much better

Ross wanted to key-in on defending the 3-pointer by BU

D.J. Boney reflects on the game-winning shot

Ross had high praise for Boney's recovery after missing four free throws

Around the League: 12.21.08

Sunday's games:

Vermont 84, Quinnipiac 79
Mike Trimboli was perfect from the field as he converted all seven shots he attempted (one from beyond the arc) and tacked on 9-of-11 from the charity stripe for a team-high 24 points. Marqus Blakely added 16 points and six rebounds while Maurice Joseph contributed 15 to the winning cause. The Bobcats (6-4) trailed by 20 with just over 7:00 remaining, but trimmed UVM's (6-3) lead to eight points with 4:17 left. Quinnipiac's leading scorer, James Feldeine (26 points) hit back-to-back treys to make it 82-79 with nine seconds to go, but the Bobcats couldn't finish the comeback. QU forward Justin Rutty had 22 points and 10 boards for his third double-double of the season.

Harvard 76, Maine 63
Harvard's Jeremy Lin was Mr. Do It All for the Crimson in this one as he led the team in points (18), rebounds (7), assists (6) and steals (2). Lin shot 67 percent from the field(6-of-9) and Harvard (5-5) converted 54 percent of its field goals, taking the lead for good with 11:30 left in regulation. Four other Crimson players notched double figures in Harvard's second victory over an America East school this season. Maine has struggled of late, winning just twice in their last eight games and one of those wins came against a Division III opponent. Gerald McLemore led the Blackbears (5-6) in scoring with 18 while Troy Barnies contributed 17 to the losing effort.

Monday's games:
Albany vs. St. Francis College (N.Y.), 7:00 p.m.
Hartford vs. Baylor, 8:00 p.m.

BREAKING NEWS: Jeff Pelage out

BU freshman forward Jeff Pelage, who hasn't played since December 6 against Marshall and hasn't logged meaningful minutes since the second game of the season against Bucknell (12 minutes) is in dress clothes for this afternoon's game against Delaware. He's said to be out because of "flu-like symptoms" but it's most likely he's sitting because of the cough that's been hampering him all season. BU coach Dennis Wolff was growing impatient because of his inability to perform in practice due to his coughing fits and now it appears that it's finally caught up to Pelage. We'll keep you posted if we hear anything else.

Live Blog: University of Delaware v. Boston University

This afternoon's game between the University of Delaware Blue Hens (4-6) and the Boston University Terriers (5-4) at Case Gymnasium tips off at 12:00 p.m. and is televised locally on CN8.

Here are the starting lineups:

University of Delaware Blue Hens
01 G Marc Egerson
03 G Jawan Carter
05 G Brian Johnson
11 G Alphonso Dawson
34 F Jim Ledsome

Boston University Terriers
02 F Matt Wolff
13 G Corey Lowe
21 F Jake O'Brien
23 F John Holland
24 G Tyler Morris

Final score: University of Delaware (5-6) 70, Boston University (5-5) 68

Leading scorers:
UD -- Alphonso Dawson, 20
BU -- Corey Lowe, 20

Leading rebounders:
UD -- Jim Ledsome, 6
BU -- Matt Wolff, 12

Leading assists:
UD -- Jawan Carter, 9
BU -- Tyler Morris, 4

GAMEDAY: University of Delaware vs. Boston University

This time of year is usually interesting in college basketball. You've got tons of holiday hoops tournaments going on this week and next, yet students aren't in class at the majority of institutions around the nation and players have just had an extended practice break because of final exams. These games sometimes have the ability to feel like a shell of contests the team has played earlier in the season, when the students were in school and able to cheer on their team. Even given BU's sparse crowds at Case Gymnasium, the spectators will most likely be even more spotty Sunday afternoon for a 12 p.m. tip-off.

That means that both the Terriers and Blue Hens will need to rely on their own energy to win -- which is no easy task given the two squads just finished their finals, haven't played a meaningful game in over a week and the crowd will be a non-factor. This, perhaps, is an even bigger test of BU's fortitude than playing against nationally-ranked Notre Dame was last Saturday. It's pretty easy to get pumped up for a game against the then-No. 12 team in the nation, but a game against an unranked opponent from the CAA (albeit a former rival from in the North Atlantic Conference and America East) the task may not be as effortless (BU trails the all-time series, 16-10).

What has been a bone of contention with BU's coaching staff and team for the first six games of the season (the lack of gritty plays) has all but been eliminated -- 1) with a stout defensive effort against Yale and 2) with an incredibly focused hustle performance in a narrow loss to Notre Dame. BU's contest against Delaware will be a huge benchmark into determining whether the lack of grit BU coach Dennis Wolff spoke of earlier in the season is truly gone, as it appears to be. If the Terriers are able to get up for this game -- three days before Christmas and after an eight-day break -- and down a team they lost to last season in Delaware (73-55), it will be an extremely encouraging sign regarding the mentality of BU and its goals for the season. Another story line to follow will be the continued improvement of Tyler Morris, who managed 23 points in his first six games, but has 32 points and 16 rebounds in his last three and played one of the best games of his career against Notre Dame. Interestingly enough, Morris' first game back following his Rookie of the Year campaign was in BU's lopsided loss against the Blue Hens last season.

Delaware, like the Terriers, isn't particularly strong in the interior, so expect a lot of 3-pointers attempted on Sunday. The bulk of the Blue Hens' scoring comes from three players: Marc Egerson (averaging a double-double at 14.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game) Alphonso Dawson (17.3 ppg) and Jawan Carter (18.6 ppg). It's not likely that the Terriers shutdown all three, but if BU can manage to hold one of them under double digits or limit Egerson's second-chance opportunities as the team's best rebounder, they should be in good shape. Delaware is a good matchup for the Terriers as UD dosen't have anyone who can do serious damage in the post. The Blue Hens mainly rely on perimeter shooting, which BU excels at guarding against.

Projected starting lineups:

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Around the League: 12.20.08

Saturday's games:

Manhattan 86, Binghamton 80
The Jaspers' trip to Vestal was a back-and-forth affair. Binghamton (4-4) built a 38-29 lead with a 12-3 run ending with 2:03 in the first half By halftime, Manhattan (6-3) had tied the game at 38. The Bearcats opened up a 10-point margin early in the second half, only to surrender five consecutive buckets. At 72-all, the Jaspers made one last push, leaving Binghamton in a 79-73 hole. The Bearcats cut the lead to two but never caught their opponent. 19 turnovers ultimately proved fatal for the home team. D.J. Rivera led Binghamton in scoring with 23 points; he has been the Bearcats' top scorer in every game this season.

Albany 60, Sacred Heart 59
With 4:23 remaining in the second half, the Pioneers were up by seven on their home floor. From there, things unraveled in a hurry. In the remaining minutes, Sacred Heart (3-5) missed every shot from the field, grabbed just one rebound and turned the ball over four times, allowing Albany (7-4) to steal a road win with a Mike Johnson free throw. The Pioneers couldn't even manage a last-gasp shot due to a turnover. Sacred Heart shot 52 percent to the Danes' 36 percent but repeatedly shot themselves in the foot, coughing the ball up 23 times to go with Albany's 20 offensive rebounds.

American 74, Maryland-Baltimore County 61
Garrison Carr broke the 1,000-point barrier and did so in style, dropping 34 on the Retrievers to give American (5-5) a road win against a local rival. UMBC (5-5) displayed its usual impeccable ball control but was overwhelmed by the Eagles in the first half. American led 39-17 at halftime, a substantial enough margin to absorb the Retrievers' second-half surges and snap a four-game losing streak. Derrick Mercer added 11 for the Eagles, finishing one point shy of the 1,000-point mark himself; he will likely break the mark against Maryland on Monday.

Sunday's games:
Vermont vs. Quinnipiac, 12:00 p.m.
Harvard vs. Maine, 1:00 p.m.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Around the League: 12.19.08

Friday's game:

Albany (6-4), Sacred Heart (3-4) -- no score
The game was postponed due to some serious snow in New England. No word yet on Saturday's games, but as soon as we find anything out, we'll let you know.

Saturday's games:
Manhattan vs. Binghamton, 2:00 p.m.
American vs. Maryland-Baltimore County, 7:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Century of Tradition: Raising The Roof

With one more non-conference game at Case Gymnasium remaining (Saturday at noon against the University of Delaware), we figured this would be as good a time as any to look at the home of the Boston University Terriers since 1972 -- Case Gymnasium, aka The Roof. Nestled away behind Rich Hall in BU's West Campus area (and adjacent to Nickerson Field) BU has played the majority of its home games at Case, but this year marks the fewest number of games the Terriers will play there since the 1992-93 season.

The gymnasium -- which has no seating along the baselines, only five sections on either side of the court -- comfortably seats 1,800 and provides an intimate atmosphere that can be very intimidating to opponents when full. The problem, however, has been that The Roof isn't usually filled to capacity, so the feeling can be lackluster at times. Still, when rocking, Case is one of the loudest home courts in the conference.

Termed The Roof, because it was built above Walter Brown Arena -- the former home of the BU men's hockey team and current home of the women's hockey team (as well as the home of BU basketball in 1982-83 and from 1985-1993) -- Case Gymnasium has housed a steady stream of winning since the Terriers played their first game there on December 5, 1972 (an 87-74 victory over Northeastern).

In 284 games in 36 seasons at The Roof, the Terriers have won an astounding 200 games, with their 200th victory coming on December 10 against Yale (55-43). That's good for a winning percentage of .704. Even more impressive is the fact that over the last eight years (2000-08, plus two games this season) BU has a record at Case of 67-21 (.761).

It's no secret that the Terriers have become accustomed to the atmosphere and shooting background at The Roof, which has remained relatively the same since it was built, but perhaps the gym's finest moment came in 1997, when BU swept its home schedule for the only time in The Roof's history (10-0), including a 68-61 victory over Drexel in the America East Championship game. Roughly 2,200 fans filled the gym, for the largest crowd in Case history. That win came in the midst of a 15-game home winning streak -- the longest in the building's history -- which lasted from Feb. 23, 1996 to Nov. 20, 1997.

Recent Terriers have also had their fair share of luck at The Roof, beginning with 15th year coach Dennis Wolff, who holds a career mark of 114-42 (.731) on the court. Additionally, sophomore guard John Holland set the all-time high for individual scoring by a Terrier when he netted 38 points against Hartford last February in BU's 97-66 win.

Also, junior guard Carlos Strong holds the record for 3-pointers made when he converted eight (and was 10-of-13 from the field) against Binghamton in BU's 66-54 victory in February of 2007.

The most points ever scored by BU at The Roof is 124 (against New Hampshire on Feb. 17, 1979) while the most an opponent has scored is 102 (Harvard on Dec. 13, 1972 and Maine on Feb. 20, 1980). Also, the Terriers have the most all-time wins at Case against New Hampshire, with a 19-5 record.

BU has five more game remaining at The Roof this season and if they were to sweep them, would go undefeated at Case for only the second time (exclusing a 2-0 season in 1980-81) in Terrier history.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Day After: Notre Dame 74, BU 67

OK, more like three days after, but it's taken a while for us to settle in after the 14+ hour car ride back from South Bend. Still, what an experience.

It's fairly safe to assume that not many people expected the game to be as tightly contested as it was, not the least of whom was No. 12/13 Notre Dame coach Mike Brey, who said that he told his team at halftime that the Terriers were a Big East caliber team. What BU accomplished in Saturday's 74-67 loss was about as impressive a feat since the team's last winning season in 2004-05. While the Terriers literally did everything they needed to do but actually win the game, it was really the effort and energy put forth by BU that mattered most.

From the tip-off, BU looked as though they could hang with the Fighting Irish. Nobody on the team appeared frightened and if intensity was a problem earlier in the season (mainly the four-point loss to Marshall), it shouldn't be any more. It was the kind of performance that can change a season and one that, presumably, the Terriers will be able to look back on for inspiration once conference play begins. In contrast to previous games where players let rebounds slip through their hands and weren't diving on the floor for loose balls, this game was different. BU appeared more powerful and aggressive than one of the more powerful and aggressive teams in the nation. Even Scott Brittain, who BU coach Dennis Wolff has been riding hard for being less forceful than he has in the past, was very assertive in the paint and had two big blocks, including one at the end of the half that preserved BU's seven-point lead.

One of the bright spots not mentioned in the Free Press' article (John Holland's start, Corey Lowe's second half, BU's rebounding and aggressiveness) was the play of Tyler Morris. Morris looked the best he has all season, if not close to the best he has in his career. He was feeling it from beyond the arc, but also completed nice drives to the bucket and was smart with the basketball. He picked up four steals compared to turning the ball over just once. While Morris said his performance had nothing to do with being back in his home state of Indiana, Wolff will be ecstatic if Morris can replicate his performance at the Joyce Center for the rest of the season.

The Terriers showed Saturday what they've been saying they're capable of over the past two seasons, and now that they've performed like that against such a formidable opponent, it will be harder to take losses should they happen to unranked teams -- especially America East teams. While this game by no means guarantees anything regarding how conference play will go (as Brey said, "College basketball, man"), there's little doubt it can only help improve BU's mindset and make the Terriers feel as though they can play with literally any team in the nation.

-- Mindset: BU could have easily been deterred by Notre Dame's 40-game winning streak at the Joyce Center prior to the game, as well as their national ranking and inside-outside combo in Kyle McAlarney and Luke Harangody. They weren't, though, and led for roughly 34 minutes of the game.
-- Tyler Morris' play: Can't stress enough how good he was in this game (not that Holland and Lowe weren't), but if he performs like this the rest of the way, the Terriers will be very difficult to beat.

-- Jeff Pelage's playing time: Wolff has had Pelage tested numerous times to fix what he calls a "phantom cough" that has been plaguing him for most of the season and hampered his ability to practice 100 percent, but the tests have yielded no results. Until Pelage stops coughing, or starts learning how to play through it so it doesn't effect the team, he'll remain on the bench.
-- Inability to win close games: Even though it was against a nationally ranked team, the Terriers still dropped another close contest. All four of BU's losses have been by less than 10 points and all have been close down the stretch. It's been a recurring theme with this group (inability to close games out) , but perhaps a new found confidence from their performance in South Bend will change that.

No such luck
Irish protect streak
Harangody's double-double helps Irish finish Terriers
Video: Free archived video of the game can be seen here

Monday, December 15, 2008

Around the League: 12.15.08

Monday's game:

Connecticut 91, Stony Brook 57

Perhaps the most impressive thing to come from this game (from an America East perspective) was they play of SBU's freshman forward Danny Carter, who scored 20 points in 24 minutes to lead the Seawolves against the No. 2 team in the country. Brian Dougher, another rookie, was the only other player on SBU's roster to score in double figures as he had 10, albiet on 3-of-12 shooting. All five UConn starters reached double digits as the Huskies set the tone on the first play of the game with a one-handed jam by Hasheem Thabeet (18 points, nine rebounds). The Seawolves got out-rebounded, 43-21, but only turned the ball over seven times compared to UConn's 16.

Tuesday's games:
None. In fact, no games scheduled until Friday (Dec. 19) so sadly, you'll be without your Around the League fix until teams are done taking finals.

State of America East

College basketball mirrors the college academic schedule in many respects. Early success renders neither a team nor a student immune to future pressures. Early failures, though concerning, can be corrected via progressive improvement. In both schoolwork and basketball, it's not how you start, it's how you finish. We're nowhere near the end of the road for this college basketball season, but with academic finals knocking on the door, it's time for some regularly scheduled evaluations.

America East Power Rankings (records against D-I opponents only):

1. Vermont Catamounts
(5-3, RPI 118, SOS 136)
Last week: W 89-68 vs. North Carolina-Wilmington
This week: 12/21 at Quinnipiac

The Catamounts continue to take care of business, winning every game they should win and frequently doing so in style. As the season progresses, Vermont continues to demonstrate its versatility. Sunday's 21-point win despite just eight points and six rebounds from Marqus Blakely is an example. The Catamounts may not be a truly dominant force against the top half of the AE -- four of Vermont's five wins have come against relatively unimpressive foes, compared to a 1-3 mark against George Mason, Maryland, Delaware, and Pittsburgh -- but taking care of business against the bottom half goes a long way toward capturing the top seed in the conference.

2. Boston University Terriers
(5-4, RPI 153, SOS 215)
Last week: W 55-43 vs. Yale, L 74-67 at Notre Dame
This week: 12/21 vs. Delaware

For schools competing at the lower levels of Division-I, there is a such thing as a good loss. Losing by seven to Notre Dame on the road qualifies. BU's perimeter play has been the best in the conference, Vermont included. Where the Catamounts edge the Terriers is down low. BU has no match for Marqus Blakely. What the Terriers do have, though, is a recipe for success when Vermont shows up on the schedule, one honed against a McAlarney-Harangody duo that trumps Trimboli and Blakely. BU can't out-Blakely Blakely, but the Terriers won't need to if they can replicate their performance from last Saturday.

3. Albany Great Danes
(6-4, RPI 132, SOS 249)
Last week: L 65-64 at Lehigh, W 74-46 vs. Canisius
This week: 12/19 at Sacred Heart

Albany finally looked like a young team last Monday, blowing a 15-point lead in their 65-64 loss to Lehigh. Learning how to step on an opponent's throat is a difficult task for a young team. If Tim Ambrose hadn't rescued the Great Danes against Central Connecticut State earlier this season, perhaps coach Will Brown's team would have learned its lesson earlier. In any case, the Danes rebounded nicely in ther 74-46 win over Canisius. The Danes have youth with upside and more than one or two players capable of carrying the load, evidence suggesting the Danes' relatively strong performance to date is sustainable.

4. Maryland-Baltimore County Retrievers
(4-4, RPI 130, SOS 134)
Last week: W 67-56 vs. Central Connecticut State, L 91-56 at Pittsburgh
This week: 12/20 vs. American

The Retrievers were the latest victim of the Pittsburgh steamroller, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Still, the Retrievers continue to demonstrate some concerning tendencies, none of which have improved significantly in the past few weeks. The Retrievers are one of the worst teams in the country at ending opponents' possessions, sporting both a horrendous defensive rebounding percentage and a subpar opponent turnover percentage. Throw in below-average field goal percentage defense and you have a recipe for a bad defensive team.

5. Binghamton Bearcats
(3-3, RPI 100, SOS 149)
Last week: L 63-60 at Bucknell
This week: 12/20 vs. Manhattan

Binghamton looked to be flying high after a three-game winning streak, but a familiar Bearcat nemesis reappeared against Bucknell. The Bearcats' roster is virtually devoid of perimeter shooting, which will pose a problem against most of the rest of the AE. Binghamton's athleticism suggests an offensive style designed to embrace dribble-drive penetration, but if the Bearcats can't hit open jumpers, opponents will be free to focus on protecting the area around the rim and dare the Bearcats to shoot. Binghamton has been surprisingly good at protecting the ball recently and forces plenty of turnovers, none of which will matter unless shots start to fall.

6. Stony Brook Seawolves
(4-4, RPI 260, SOS 295)
Last week: L 61-56 vs. Hofstra
This week: 12/15 at Connecticut

The Seawolves' early-season performance -- close losses against teams of questionable quality -- failed to inspire confidence. Stony Brook's play the past couple of weeks, however, merits a closer look. Neither Maine nor New Hampshire nor Hartford has a win as impressive as the Seawolves' 71-50 dismantling of 6-3 Lehigh. The Seawolves' most positive indicator may be last Wednesday's close loss to CAA contender Hofstra. Stony Brook has made a habit of being a bottom-feeder since joining America East for the 2001-02 season, but none of the Seawolves' talented freshmen contributed to those years of mediocrity. Stony Brook's resume is deserving of a middle-of-the-pack AE team, not a doormat.

7. Maine Black Bears
(4-5, RPI 148, SOS 161)
Last week: W 67-56 vs. Colgate, L 78-52 at Oklahoma
This week: 12/21 vs. Harvard

Nobody expected the Black Bears to beat Oklahoma. Truth be told, even a horrendous result against the Sooners is preferable to more games against the likes of Maine-Presque Isle. Maine did manage to avoid the spectre of an extended losing streak by taking care of business against Colgate. The Black Bears' statistical profile reveals a team whose perimeter shooting and perimeter defense masks an inability to do anything else well. In a conference flooded with perimeter shooting (Binghamton excepted), Maine is in danger of being overmatched.

8. New Hampshire Wildcats
(2-5, RPI 255, SOS 235)
Last week: L 88-56 at Rhode Island, L 76-72 at Long Island
This week: No games scheduled

Should the Wildcats have beaten Rhode Island? Certainly not. That doesn't make the 32-point margin excusable. Nor is Long Island isn't a particularly strong opponent. When New Hampshire beats a team, the win comes despite repeated Wildcat attempts to waste the effort; when the Wildcats lose, reasons for optimism are few and far between. For all the talk about the talent Bill Herrion has assembled, there's been little to no return on investment.

9. Hartford Hawks
(4-7, RPI 197, SOS 146)
Last week: L 72-62 at Brown, W 59-55 at Sacred Heart
This week: No games scheduled

Believe it or not, the Hawks are making progress. Hartford held Sacred Heart below 40 percent shooting from the field. Excluding the 50-37 snoozefest versus NJIT, that qualifies as the Hawks' best defensive performance to date. With games against Baylor and Stanford lined up, Hartford appears headed for a disappointing 4-9 record at the beginning of conference play, but the Sacred Heart win gives the Hawks some reasons for optimism. Combine better field goal percentage defense with improvement -- any improvement -- in the rebounding department and the Hawks might be able to win some games in the AE after all.

Conference performance

OOC record: 37-39 (last 7 days: 6-9)
Conference RPI: 14 out of 31 (last week: 13)
Conference SOS: 21 out of 31 (last week: 24)

A relatively rough week for the conference has pushed the OOC record below .500, but an improved strength of schedule -- courtesy of games against Oklahoma, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame -- goes a long way toward maintaining the AE's surprising conference RPI. No AE school can be found in the 300s, balancing out the lack of any top-99 RPI teams (Surprisingly, it's Binghamton that checks in at 100).

Tempo-free statistics

Stony Brook's weak strength-of-schedule continues to inflate the Seawolves' raw efficiency margin, but with each passing week the Seawolves' position atop the table becomes more difficult to ignore. Compared to the rest of the conference, Stony Brook's defensive efficiency is extremely impressive. Desmond Adedeji gives Steve Pikiell an interior weapon few America East teams can match. Expect the Seawolves to be competitive at the very least.

On the other hand, the Retrievers' abysmal defensive numbers are becoming increasingly apparent. While it's true that UMBC's thrashing at the hands of Pittsburgh took a toll on the Retrievers' defensive efficiency numbers, Maryland-Baltimore County's poor defense has been evident all season. The adjusted efficiency numbers tell the story: at 110.2, the Retrievers' adjusted defensive efficiency is even worse than their raw efficiency. UMBC's three departed transfers were highly regarded for their abilities on the offensive end, but given the Retrievers' offensive prowess, it appears Randy Monroe may miss their defensive talents even more.