Holy Cross 122, Sacred Heart 118
For those of you who were wondering which game would be the highest-scoring game to show up in OBW’s recaps this year… well, you can stop looking now. This would be a contender even without overtime. The Crusaders (1-1), fresh off a reasonably impressive 10-point defeat against Harvard at TD Garden in Boston, got right to work on offense, scoring 49 points before the intermission. As if that wasn’t enough, Holy Cross added on 49 more points in the second half, and as it turned out, all 98 points in regulation were necessary, because Sacred Heart (0-2) wasn’t messing around on offense either. Both teams shot fairly well – 50 percent for Sacred Heart, 47 percent for Holy Cross – but the real show was at the free throw line. The Pioneers and Crusaders combined for a borderline-insane 94 free throws, producing some gaudy stat lines. This is to say nothing of the 28 points Steve Glowiak (brother of former Hartford Hawk Brian Glowiak) poured in on 9-of-11 shooting. It’s hard to analyze a game this bizarre, other than to note that three discrete and overlapping forces were at play at the Hart Center. One, it’s the middle of November. Two, Sacred Heart may be a particularly foul-prone team – the Pioneers defensive FTRate was over 60 percent in their home opener. And three, the NCAA’s mandate to enforce rules that are already on the books, particularly rules governing contact initiated by defenders and freedom of movement, has noticeably skewed free throw rates higher this year compared to last year.
Archive for the ‘One-Bid Wonders’ Category
Holy Cross 122, Sacred Heart 118
Projected starting lineup:
G – Sandro Carissimo, Sr., 6’2” 170
G – Candon Rusin, R-Sr., 6’4” 190
F – Brian Voelkel, Sr., 6’6” 230
F – Clancy Rugg, Sr., 6’8” 195
F – Luke Apfeld, R-Sr., 6’7” 215
So here we are: The top of the mountain, the cream of the crop, the team to beat, the Alpha dog – or in this case, Alpha Catamount. By process of elimination (or, perhaps, discrimination, depending on who you listen to), we’re left with Vermont as the One-Bid Wonders’ preseason favorite to win the America East.
If you only listen to certain media mouthpieces, or read certain publications, you may be shocked and chagrined – mortified and stupefied – to learn that Vermont has been entrenched as the premier basketball program in the America East for more than a decade – the league’s very best.
It’s not even remotely close.
For the past 11 years, Vermont has flat out dominated the America East. Over that time, the Catamounts have punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament five times — as many times as the other eight current members of the conference combined.
Vermont head coach John Becker and his staff of assistants Kyle Cieplicki, Chris Markwood and Matt O’Brien have established themselves as some of the league’s very best. Plain and simple, they recruit good kids, who excel on the court and in the classroom, leave everything they have on the hardwood and execute.
And all they do is win. And they do so with a pittance of a recruiting budget, a high-school gym and without the hype machine powering much of college basketball (they don’t even have a full-time men’s basketball media contact. International recruiting budget? Sure, if by international you mean beyond Brattleboro).
In his first season, Becker – who eschews the “look at me now” era of modern coaching and sideline antics, opting instead to quietly get the job done – led the Catamounts to the NCAA Tournament, bludgeoning a previously bullet-proof Stony Brook squad on the Seawolves own campus. In front of more than 4,000 partisan fans, Becker was unflappable and his roster and staff followed suit.
Despite losing their top two scorers from the 2012 NCAA team, in his second year at the helm, Becker led the Catamounts to a second place finish, second-straight 20-win season, and a second-straight championship game. Vermont’s offense – inconsistent for much of the year – fired blanks in the championship game and the Catamounts suffered a last second loss on their home court to Albany, but Vermont returns their entire roster from last season with the exception of one-year transfer Trey Blue and looks primed to emerge at the top of the America East.
Like his predecessor before him, Mike Lonergan, Becker loves the flex-offense, which relies on screens, ball movement and ball reversals. He emphasizes patience and puts a premium on taking good shots as opposed to volume shooting.
The Catamounts are extremely deep, experienced and athletic. With six seniors – two of them fifth-year players – two fourth-year juniors, five players who know what it takes to run the America East gauntlet and make the NCAA’s and 12 players who know what it feels like to come up just short of their dreams, Vermont is battle tested, hungry and motivated to get back to the Big Dance.
Becker runs the flex-offense to perfection and seems to be one of the rare America East coaches who loves to run his offense inside-out, pounding the ball into the low-post and dominating the trenches around the hoop to open up the perimeter. And he has the roster to do it.
Brian Voelkel is the engine – along with the heart and soul, the lifeblood, the toughness and the sheer, stubborn, refusal to lose — that makes the Catamounts go.
Perhaps no player in the league looks more out of place – and outright awkward – on the court than Voelkel. Listed at 6’6” and 210 pounds (and likely closer to 6’5” 250), Voelkel is built like a Rhinoceros and runs like a penguin. He isn’t going to wow you with any run-and-jump athleticism. To say his jump shot isn’t pretty or textbook is a massive understatement (to even call his one-hand, chest-heave devoid of any upward lift a “jump” shot at all is questionable).
What Voelkel is, is 77 inches of hustle and muscle, with an motor constantly running on overdrive and an Albert Einstein-like basketball IQ and a preternatural ability to rip rebounds away from a swarm of opponents, drop no-look dimes to cutting teammates, defend the bejesus out of the ball, and generally frustrate and scare the daylights out of opponents.
Voelkel is a straight ‘baller, pure and simple; capable of literally dominating a game without scoring a basket (as evident by the 2012 Championship game).
The league’s premier enforcer, intimidator, rebounder, and glue-guy, Voelkel runs the Catamounts offense as a point-forward while anchoring Vermont’s defense and generally leading the league in floor-burn, hustle-plays and hurt feelings.
While Voelkel still looks to pass first, second and third on offense, he does have the ability to create his own shot and if left unguarded will knock down the occasional three. Defensively, Voelkel uses tremendous angles, physical strength and instincts to bottle up and smother both more athletic players on the perimeter and taller players on the blocks.
Voelkel is neck-and-neck with Jameel Warney as the preseason favorite for Player of the Year honors.
While Voelkel will run the offense and ensure his teammates get the ball in a position to score, he will need someone – or several someones – to finish off his dishes. (more…)
(Zaporozhye, Ukraine) — As soon as Jake O’Brien disembarked from his plane, it was apparent to the former Boston University forward that he was worlds away from his native New England.
“Very few people here speak English, and the ones that do can barely speak it,” said O’Brien, sitting in his apartment in Zaporozhye, an industrial city on the banks of the Dnieper River. Taking a breather from training camp with Ferro-ZNTU Zaporozhye, a team in the Ukrainian Superleague with whom he will begin his professional career, O’Brien reflected on the drastically different landscape from life in Boston.
“It’s kind of weird… [They’re] definitely 20-plus years behind as far as buildings, cars – just the overall landscape,” said O’Brien.
The last year has been a whirlwind journey for O’Brien, who was supposed to spend his entire career in Boston – punctuated by leading his hometown Terriers to the bright lights of the Big Dance – only to have fate get in the way.
A near career-ending injury, two surgeries, four college coaches, a post season ban, a transfer, and a graduate degree later, O’Brien finally can bask in his memory of the grand stage of the NCAA Tournament.
“I definitely gotta’ remind myself how fortunate I am,” reflected O’Brien. (more…)
(Queens, NY) — Earlier this month, former Boston University Terrier and America East star Rashad Bell went head-to-head – and word-for-word in some serious smack talk – with one of the best players on the Planet. In a dimly lit gym in the bowels of the Bronx, NY, Bell played NBA All-Star and Olympic Gold Medalist Kevin Durant as an equal while their two teams battled to a standstill.
Twice during the grudge match, Bell stripped the 6’9” Oklahoma City small forward of the ball. And twice, Bell flew through the lane and above the fray, soaring over the 2008 NBA Rookie of the Year for thunderous dunks – a one-handed tomahawk and a two-hand baseline banger.
It wasn’t close to being the highlight of Bell’s summer. (more…)
(Burlington, VT) – A tidal wave of purple cascaded down over the wooden the bleachers of Patrick Gymnasium, burst through the green and gold floodgates and crashed onto the hardwood floor.
Amidst the sea of purple and gold chaos, first-year Albany assistant coach Jon Iati –who had helped lead the Great Danes to their first two NCAA Tournaments as a player – assistant coach Jeremy Friel – who had first competed against Iati at rival New Hampshire before coaching him as a member of the staff at Albany – and associate head coach Chad O’Donnell bear-hugged at center court; leaping and shouting in celebration – grown men turned kids again by the magic of the moment.
Iati’s younger brother Jacob, a fifth-year senior shooting guard who followed his brother to Albany initially as a walk-on transfer, fought frantically through the fray, searching for his teammate and best friend Mike Black. The diminutive-duo had stood tall as pillars of the program over the grind of the season, and in the biggest game of their lives Saturday, the pint-sized playmakers towered over the court, combining for 22 points.
When Iati finally found his back-court mate, tears were pouring from Black’s eyes and streaming down his face. Now, amidst the uproar, they shared an embrace.
Great Danes head coach Will Brown, wearing a sedated smile, quietly ducked out of the spotlight to find his family: kissing his wife Jamie and embracing his son Jackson.
The final buzzer had sounded. The clock read “0:00,” but it still hadn’t struck midnight on the Great Danes and their fairytale season.
Albany had run the gauntlet through the America East Tournament, exorcising demons and slaying dragons every step of the way. And now, the scoreboard read “Albany 53, Vermont 49” and the Great Danes were the America East Champions. (more…)
(Albany, New York) – Three minutes into the first half of the second semifinal of the America East Tournament, Stony Brook enforcer Tommy Brenton – the America East Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, and all-around baddest-mother-shut-your-mouth – lowered his shoulder into Albany forward Sam Rowley, sending the 6’6” 240 pound Australian sprawling to the hardwood.
“Sam! He’s not Tougher than you! There’s no way he’s tougher than you!” boomed Albany head coach Will Brown, his voice rising over the deafening din of the capacity crowd. “He is not out-toughing you! He is not tougher than you – not tonight!” Brown commanded, his voice raising another decibel level.
10 Months earlier, Brown was a lame duck coach playing out the string on the end of his career – in the eyes of most, at least – after his top two scorers, Gerardo Suero, a slashing wing and once in a decade athletic talent, and Logan Aronhalt, a big time shooter, unexpectedly abandoned the program (losing Aronhalt to Maryland and Suero on an ill-advised attempt to start a pro career). A month earlier, Brown was being torn to shreds, his accomplishments (among them the massive overhaul of the Great Danes during his tenure, capped by back-to-back NCAA Tournament berths) thrown on the scrapheap by the local media. And minutes earlier, before the opening tip, Albany was already all but declared the loser and Stony Brook anointed the league champion.
Two and a half hours later, Brown, the man with a quote – response, retort, witticism, joke, jibe, and hilarious comeback – for any and every scenario, was speechless, struggling to find the words after the Great Danes shocked the mighty Seawolves 61-59, to punch their ticket to the championship game.
The silence spoke volumes.
“That was a gutsy win; I have tough, tough kids,” said Brown, composing himself after coming to the brink of tears following the Great Danes win.
With 7.3 seconds remaining, and the score tied at 59, senior point guard Mike Black had stood at the top of the key, staring down highly-touted Seawolves freshman Carson Puriefoy. It seemed to be the tailor-made situation for a symbolic changing of the guard – from Black to Puriefoy as premier America East point guard and Albany to Stony Brook as the premier SUNY program.
Except it didn’t play out like that.
Just as he had almost exactly four months earlier in the Great Danes upset over Washington – the programs first ever win over a true-BCS school and arguably the biggest regular season win in program history – Black blew by his man off a crossover dribble, drove right through the lane, and finished in traffic at the rim, kissing the final of his 16 points off the glass for the win. (more…)
(Boston, Mass.) – The stage was set under the bright lights of the Agganis Arena for Boston University to end its final ride through the America East Conference in a victory lap.
Thanks to an America East Tournament ban – punishment for deserting the conference for the Patriot League at season’s end – the Terriers were counted out before holding a single practice. After opening the conference slate 0-2 following lackluster effort in back-to-back lethargic losses, the Terriers were down for the count.
Now, facing off against first-place Stony Brook – their heir-apparent as the America East’s Flagship – in their last game of the season, the Terriers hoping to turn their final curtain into a curtain call: One last conference title (with help from Albany on Saturday) in their final America East game after 34 years as a member.
Instead, they quickly found themselves playing for nothing more than pride as the miracle turned into a massacre.
Stony Brook exploded out of the starting blocks, using suffocating defense, sizzling offense, and Boston University’s snowballing shooting-woes, to race out to a 33-5 lead before hanging on to a 71-55 win to clinch their second straight America East regular-season title and third in four years.
“The simple fact is, we did not compete for 40 minutes against a really good team and we paid the price for it, severely,” said Boston University head coach Joe Jones.
“We played great defense in the first half and when we had to in the second half we played our kind of defense,” said Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell.
The Seawolves, who began the night ranked third in the nation in Field Goal Percent Defense, held the BU’s high-octane offense to just 38.2 percent from the floor (21-of-55) and 26.1 percent from behind the arc (6-of-23), blanketing, bodying, and downright beating up, the lightening-fast but drastically undersized Terriers. At the other end, the Seawolves shot a robust 52.2 percent from the floor (24-of-46).
Stony Brook hit just 3-of-16 three-point attempts (18.8 percent), but the Seawolves won comfortably, carried by a complete dominance of the paint. Stony Brook’s bash-brothers duo of senior forward Tommy Brenton and freshman center Jameel Warney combined for 29 points and 20 rebounds and powered the Seawolves to a 40-23 rebounding advantage.
“I loved our first half – didn’t like our second,” said Pikiell. “But we played unselfish [Brenton] was a horse, and Jameel didn’t miss a shot. (more…)
Over the past couple weeks you may have noticed a new “Donate” button pop up on the right sidebar of the website. You may have also noticed the new “Donate” page added to the menu bar at the top of every page. Instead of repeating everything written on that page, I’ll keep it short here: Running One-Bid Wonders for a full season is not cheap (although we try to keep things as inexpensive as possible), and at present we don’t have enough funds to continue beyond the end of this season. If OBW’s coverage is going to continue for the 2013-2014 America East season, we need your help.
To learn more about donating, you can visit the “Donate” page, or if you already know you want to donate you can click the button on the right sidebar. Thank you for your support of One-Bid Wonders.
As a reminder, all records omit games against non-Division-I opponents.
1. Stony Brook Seawolves (6-1, 14-5, W2)
Previous Ranking: 1st
Results: W 67-60 at UMBC, W 79-69 vs. Maine
Next week: Tuesday at Albany, Saturday at New Hampshire
A very solid bounce-back week for the Seawolves. The margins of victory don’t quite approach the demolitions Stony Brook was performing a few weeks ago, and the defense has been merely very good instead of otherworldly, but at the same time it’s hard to complain about two wins when neither of them were squeakers. And after a stretch that left us increasingly convinced the best player wearing red and white may be Jameel Warney, Tommy Brenton re-emerged (not that he was ever really gone) and put forth one of the best performances of the year, a 15/14/11 triple-double. Even 80 percent of that will go a long, long way towards helping Stony Brook avenge its only conference loss against Vermont on February 15. (more…)
(Boston, MA) – Sometimes, no matter what the scoreboard says, there are no losers.
On Wednesday night, a surging Northeastern squad and a stumbling William & Mary team took the floor between the steel beams and wrought iron girders of historic Matthews Arena – the oldest sports arena in the world. The Huskies raced out of the tunnel onto their home court riding a six game winning streak and stood atop the Colonial Athletic Association standings at a perfect 6-0. William & Mary stepped onto the hostile hardwood losers of seven in a row and 1-6 in conference play; second to last in the 11 team CAA.
But for 50 minutes of game time, the two squads played as equals, engaging in one of the most epic battles and grittiest, hardest fought and flat out best games you’re likely to see at any level of ball. The game featured break-neck-paced runs and slow, methodical ground based attacks; high-flying dunks and long-bombs from well behind the arc, as well as dirty work battles in the trenches below the hoop; offensive outbursts and suffocating defense; and enough tilt-a-whirl emotion and momentum swings to leave the teams, coaches and fans in attendance staggering.
Both teams were knocked down, and both pulled themselves back up off the mat and continued the frantic fight.
In the end, Northeastern emerged with a 95-91 double-overtime win. William & Mary certainly didn’t lose.
“I said to my players after the game, there’s a real mixture of feelings in me right now: Deep, sincere anger at the way we played the first half of this ballgame and great pride, great pride, in the effort and character they showed in responding to a pretty good challenge at halftime,” said William & Mary head coach Tony Shaver.
“There were a lot of mistakes in the second half, but what a really admired was the mental toughness and togetherness we displayed,” said Northeastern head coach Bill Coen.
Senior guard Joel Smith led the Huskies, tying a career-high scoring 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Senior point guard Jonathan Lee added 19 points on 7-of-13 shooting while playing all 50 minutes of game-time.
“I thought it was the mental toughness of our senior back court, and particularly Joel Smith, who stepped up possession after possession and made huge plays for us,” said Coen.
Freshman guard David Walker missed his first two shots of the night for the Huskies but didn’t miss again, scoring a career-high 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting including 3-of-5 from behind the arc. Forwards Zach Stahl and Quincy Ford added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
The Tribe were led by junior forward Tim Rusthoven, who for 38 minutes was the best player on the floor. The 6’9” banger scored 25 points on 10-of-16 shooting to go along with 11 rebounds, five blocks, two assists and two steals. Rusthoven played a huge role in neutralizing the Huskies’ frontcourt of Ford and Reggie Spencer, who shot a combined 4-of-21 from the floor. (more…)