Everything is ruined. David Stern announced the cancellation of all NBA games through the end of November and we have nothing to get us through a cold New England autumn…unless of course you hate the NBA and live for the college brand of hoop…like me!!!
The college kids tip it off tonight in what promises to be another thrilling season. Last year history was made when two mid majors made the Final Four. Butler went all the way to the finals out of the Horizon League for the second year in a row, beating VCU out of the CAA in the semis. In 2008 Davidson went to the Elite Eight out of the Southern Conference. In 2006 it was George Mason in the Final Four from the CAA. The UConns, Carolinas and Dukes still reign supreme in college hoops, but the mid majors are more of a force to be reckoned with than ever before.
Unfortunately the mid major landscape isn’t too bright in the New England states with Rhode Island graduating leading scorer Delroy James. The additions of transfers Andre Malone (Auburn) and Billy Baron (Virginia) will help lighten the blow, but it doesn’t look like they will end their tournament drought in 2012.
Northeastern is nothing but an afterthought in the emerging mid major power conference that is the CAA. BU has a chance to win the America East again, but they’ll look to do so with a new coach and without the reigning player of the year in John Holland. Unfortunately the winner of the America East Conference is lucky to avoid a play in game.
Two mid major schools in New England do have a chance to make a splash on the national scene. One of them is right in the heart of the Boston area and the other school is only technically considered a New England school, but there is nothing “New England” about Fairfield County in Connecticut. Still, Fairfield is my alma mater, so you will read my thoughts about the Stags and you will like it! Harvard and Fairfield both have an opportunity to not just dance in March, but make some “Power 6” conference teams a little squeamish.
In 2010-11, Harvard had their most successful season in decades under Tommy Amaker. They narrowly missed their first NCAA tournament appearance in 64 years when they lost a one game playoff to Princeton for the Ivy League crown on a buzzer beater. The Crimson gained national attention with non conference wins against Colorado and Boston College, but ultimately even with an RPI of 35, the committee deemed their 23-6 record not enough for a tournament bid. Harvard’s season ended with a first round loss to Oklahoma State in their first ever NIT appearance.
Once again, 2011-12 appears to be a two horse race with Princeton for an Ivy League title. Harvard brings back Ivy League POY Keith Wright as well as three other starters. Princeton not only lost two starters of their own, but they will try to repeat under first year coach Mitch Henderson. Henderson will replace Sydney Johnson who left to take the job at Fairfield. (More on them shortly!)
The Ivy League is the only conference in Division I that awards their regular season champ with a tournament bid since there is no conference tournament. In addition to the returners, Harvard landed top 100 recruit Wesley Saunders. Penn is a dark horse in the Ivy league, but it seems like the conference is Harvard’s to lose.
Non-conference games to watch:
Thursday 12/8 @ UConn
Thursday 12/29 @ Boston College
Saturday 1/14 vs. George Washington
The Princeton Tigers’ loss was the Fairfield Stags’ gain as they landed head coach Sydney Johnson. The Stags suffered a devastating blow when Ed Cooley left for the Providence job after Fairfield was upset in the MAAC conference semi finals by St Peter’s on their home floor. Fairfield had to settle for their second NIT bid since they last made the NCAA tournament in 1997. They beat Colorado State in round one, but lost to Kent State at home ending their season with a school record 25 wins (and 8 losses)
Fairfield lost a couple of key components in Yorell Hawkins and Warren Edney, but they will be replaced with highly anticipated transfers Desmond Wade (Houston) and Rakim Sanders (Boston College). The Stags also return stand out guard Derek Needham and seven footer Ryan Olander. The 2010-11 Fairfield squad was the best team the school has seen in years. The 2011-12 version of the Stags looks even better. In a trip to Italy this fall, Rakim Sanders shined as the Stags went 4-0 in exhibition games against four different Italian pro teams.
The Stags are a better team than they were a season ago, but so are their top competitors from New Rochelle, NY. Iona College lost to St Peter’s in the MAAC tournament finals, but the Gaels are poised to make an impressive run as well with the pre season conference player of the year Mike Glover and Arizona transfer Momo Jones. Jones was an integral part of the Wildcats Elite 8 run a year ago. He doesn’t have to sit for a year because of a hardship waiver as he transferred to be closer to home and his ailing grandmother.
Fairfield will have a tougher test within their conference than the Crimson will in the Ivy League, and the Stags also have a tougher non conference schedule which provides a chance to prove themselves to the committee against a handful of “Power 6” conference competition
Non-conference games to watch:
Monday, 11/14 vs Providence
Thursday, 11/17 @ Minnesota
Thursday, 11/24 vs Arizona St (Old Spice Classic)
Friday, 11/25 second round of the Old Spice Classic (Wake Forest/Dayton)
Friday, 12/9 vs Old Dominion
Thursday, 12/22 @ UConn
Wednesday, 12/28 @ Drexel
So don’t mope around over the loss of a bunch of NBA games. If they do salvage part of the season, it helps an aging Celtics team that probably can’t contend after the grind of an 82 game season. If they aren’t able to save the season, it’s one more year in his prime that Lebron James goes without a title!
If that’s not enough to get you hyped up, I’ll leave you with this…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkiM3tBJVhk