Thursday, February 28, 2008

Shut out at home

The plain facts are sobering: The Black Bears' 85-68 loss to UMBC Thursday completed a winless America East season at Alfond Arena - 0-8.

Overall, the Black Bears completed the regular season with a 2-10 record vs. D1 oppponents on their home court. The loss also drops the Black Bears to 7-21 overall. UMaine falls into a tie for last place with Stony Brook at 3-12. The 21 defeats represents a program record. UMaine will finish the regular season Sunday at Vermont and most likely enter the conference tourney as the No. 9 seed. The Catamounts lost at New Hampshire Thursday.

On the bright side: The Black Bears Thursday were tied with regular-season champ UMBC 32-all at the halftime. As has happened many times, however, UMaine turnovers at the start of the second half helped fuel an opponents decisive spurt. The Black Bears once again showed the ability to hang tough only to be undone by turnovers. Despite its inconsistencies, two of the Black Bears' three league wins are against the first-place (UMBC) and second-place (Albany) teams in the standings.

UMaine and Stony Brook will open the America East Tournament on Friday, March 7 with the winner advancing to a quarterfinal date with UMBC. Stony Brook beat the Black Bears in both regular-season meetings, thus leaving the Black Bears as the No. 9 seed.

UMBC at UMaine

According to pregame media notes, Black Bears projected starting lineup for home finale vs. UMBC includes Junior Bernal and Jordan Cook.

Bernal has not played since sustaining a foot injury at New Hampshire (Feb. 9). Cook sprained an ankle in practice and has only played a few minutes since Feb. 9.

Game time: And as suspected, the pregame media notes were not accurate. Bernal is not playing.

Packing heat

Things got a little hot last night in Binghamton. After Albany dusted the host 74-62, Bearcats coach Kevin Broadus had some words of wisdom for Great Danes mentor Will Brown. The admonition pertained to some nuggets Brown shared with the media after Bing's win in Albany earlier in the season.

When an Albany assistant stepped in, Broadus apparently pushed him aside and a few tense moments ensued.

The best part of the deal? If the standings hold, Albany and Binghamton will square off in the quarterfinals of next week's America East Tournament at Binghamton's Events Center as the No. 3 and 6 seeds, respectively. No word yet on whether AE would schedule that one at high noon.

Hodger's National Notes

Bubble Notes (Feb. 28)
1. Kentucky continues to roll, beating Ole Miss at home. It's now really pretty simple for the Wildcats. If they somehow win at Tennessee on Sunday (highly doubtful), that would all but punch UK's ticket to the NCAA.
2. West Virginia, a winner at DePaul, is probably the Big East's weakest bubble team. But if the Mountaineers finish 11-7 in the Big East (currently 9-6), it will be difficult for the Selection Committee to leave them out.
3. Mid-major conference leaders and/or at-large candidates Davidson, George Mason, Illinois State & VCU all win at home. ISU's win over Creighton (#53 in the RPI) is especially significant, as it gives the Redbirds another top-100 win (now 6-2 vs. top 100) while at the same time knocking Creighton completely out of the at-large picture.
4. Squarely-on-the-bubble Florida gets a must-win in Athens vs. Georgia.
5. Houston still solidly in the mix (only because the bubble is weak) after routing Southern Miss at home. Ditto for UAB, which picks up a crucial top-100 road win at #93 UTEP.
6. Western Kentucky wins at FIU, keeps alive its slim hopes for an at-large bid.
7. Three weeks ago Rhode Island appeared to be a lock for the NCAA field. Now, after losing its fifth straight, this time to lowly George Washington, URI is off the board.
8. Nebraska on the board for the first time after routing Oklahoma. The Huskers (#96 in the RPI) have won three straight, all vs. likely NCAA squads (K-State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma).
Wednesday's Most Significant Win? Illinois State over Creighton (MVC might get its 2 bids after all).
Thursday's Bubble Slate
Saint Louis at Saint Joseph's (ESPN2)
Maryland at Wake Forest
New Orleans at South Alabama
UCLA at Arizona State
Washington State at Cal

AE fan favorite

Voting is underway for the annual America East fan favorite. Jay Greene got my official vote.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Perimeter weighted

If nothing else, the recent signing of combo guard Gerald McLemore should certainly make for a crowded and competitive climate among perimeter players when the Black Bears begin preparations for next season.

McLemore is a 6-3 guard out of Scripps Ranch HS in San Diego and Worcester Academy. His senior year at Scripps Ranch, he earned third team all-county honors from the San Diego Union Tribune, averaging 17 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal per game.

McLemore was playing small forward at Worcester before enrolling at UMaine for the winter semester.

He'll join a list of backcourt candidates next season that includes: Junior Bernal, Mark Socoby, Kaimondre Owes, Robby Hanzlik and Malachi Peay.

Classroom notes

Congratulations to Junior Bernal, Kaimondre Owes and Jordan Cook for their outstanding performances in the classroom during the fall semester. The three of them led the basketball program to what coach Ted Woodward called "continued outstanding academic success. ... "

Former guard Jon Sheets completed his requirements this fall and in December was awarded his degree in communications.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Don't look now

With the next loss, the Black Bears will establish a program record for losses in a single season. The previous mark is 20 (done three times).

Hodger's National Notes

Bubble Notes (Feb. 25)
1. Saint Joseph's wins at Rhode Island, remains in line to be the A-10's second or third bid.
2. Illinois State snaps Wright State's 11-game winning streak, moves Redbirds to the bubble.
3. Wake Forest loses in Chapel Hill, but favorable schedule down the stretch could help Deacs earn at-large bid.
4. Syracuse misses a chance for a marquee win, loses at Notre Dame, remains on the bubble.
5. Ditto for The Ohio State, which is free-falling its way toward the NIT after losing at home to Wisconsin.
6. Oskie (Cal) loses to the Tree (Stanford), meaning Cal is still a longshot to make NCAA field.
7. Dayton loses at home to Xavier, knocking Flyers completely off the at-large board.
Sunday's Most Significant Victory: Saint Joseph's over Rhode Island (A-10 looking more & more like a 3-bid league, at most)
Monday's Bubble Slate
Marquette at Villanova
Presbyterian at South Alabama

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Hodger's National Outlook

Bubble Notes (Feb. 24)
1. Villanova snaps UConn's 10-game winning streak, vaulting itself back into the bubble discussion.
2. Easily the most significant Bracket Buster win of the weekend, Kent State wins at St. Mary's to greatly enhance its at-large chances. Both teams pass the "eye test" and should be in the NCAA Tournament.
3. Miami (Fla) moves from the bubble to solidly in the field with a home win over choking Maryland. The Terps had put themselves in good shape for a bid but choked it away this week and now once again reside on the bubble.
4. A clutch win in Pullman gets Arizona back off the bubble. With its difficult nonconference schedule, all the Wildcats (7-7 in Pac 10) need to do to assure a NCAA bid is finish 9-9 in the Pac 10.
5. Struggling Baylor earns a LARGE win over K-State, despite 44 points from Michael Beasley. The Bears are back in the Field of 65 for now, but they better not relax. ... their work isn't finished.
6. Despite a high RPI (71), for now Arizona State is in the field and off the bubble after its road win over U-Dub.
7. UNLV gets a must-win at Wyoming to remain on the bubble.
8. West Virginia remains on the bubble with a home win over reeling Providence.
9. Look out, Steve Alford's New Mexico Lobos are in position to get a bid after winning at the Huntsman Center (Utah). Beat BYU and UNLV (both at The Pit) in their next two and the Lobos have a legitimate shot to go dancing.
10. CAA leader VCU wins at Akron, still in at-large discussion if it doesn't win conference tourney.12. Close doesn't count for Oregon, as it led UCLA for much of the game before falling. The Ducks are now a longshot, but if they win their last three (doable) to finish 9-9 in the Pac 10, they have a shot.
13. Kentucky remains on the board but is still a longshot after its home win over Arkansas.
14. Western Kentucky still a longshot despite beating UL Monroe.
15. Seton Hall's miniscule at-large hopes still flicker after home struggle over DePaul.
16. A Bracket Buster loss to Ohio means George Mason's at-large hopes are all but kaput, but I'll keep them on the board.17. Ole Miss is voted off the island with an embarrasing loss at LSU. Hard to believe the Rebs are completely off the board.
Saturday's Most Significant Victory: Villanova over UConn ('Nova works its way back to the bubble by beating red-hot Huskies).
Sittin' On the Top of the Bubble (11) -- 8 of these 11 would make my Field of 65
(34) UNLV (19-6)
(38) West Virginia (18-8)
(42) Rhode Island (20-7)
(43) New Mexico (22-6)
(46) Syracuse (17-10)
(48) Ohio State (17-9)
(49) Villanova (17-9)
(55) Saint Joseph’s (16-8)
(58) Florida (20-7)
(65) Maryland (17-11)
(67) Wake Forest (16-8)
Longshots (10)
(33) Dayton (17-8)
(51) Illinois State (18-8)
(56) Oregon (15-12)
(59) Western Kentucky (20-6)
(62) Houston (20-6)(64) Kentucky (15-10)
(68) UAB (19-8)
(70) George Mason (19-9)
(73) Seton Hall (16-11)
(78) Cal (15-9)
Sunday's Bubble Slate
Syracuse at Notre Dame, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Xavier at Dayton, 1 p.m.
Saint Joseph's at Rhode Island, 3 p.m.
Wake Forest at North Carolina, 5:30 p.m. (FSN)
Wright State at Illinois State, 5:30 p.m. (ESPNU)
Cal at Stanford, 8 p.m., (FSN)
Next Bracket Projection: Tuesday, Feb. 26

Martin to Maine?

To this date, all we'd heard was that Ryan Martin was considering walking on at UMaine. Apparently, a decision has been made. This from today's Maine Sunday Telegram:

Ryan Martin, a 5-9 guard who has led the Black Bears in scoring for three seasons, scored 15 of his 23 points in the first half to help propel Maranacook to a 47-26 lead after the first 16 minutes.
“You don’t get this far with one player,” Maranacook Coach Rob Schmidt said. “You get this far with a lot of good players, a lot of hard work, and guys stepping up when you need it.”
Martin, who is headed to the University of Maine in the fall, had plenty of help.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

0000000 for Alfond

A 10-point halftime lead and a 7-point edge with 4:36 to go against the last-place team in America East wasn't enough for UMaine to notch its first home win of the league season. Stony Brook outscored the Black Bears 17-5 in the final 4 minutes for a 56-51 win.

A Brian Andre rebound basket with about 20 seconds to go cut the deficit to two, but the Black Bears bench apparently called a timeout it didn't have (television announcers, along with incorrectly describing the tournament implications the whole game, didn't know what had happened). Stony Brook made both the technical foul shots to effectively put the game away.

UMaine's search for an AE victory at Alfond Arena comes down to one game ... Thursday vs. league leading UMBC. The Black Bears' Alfond record is now 2-9 overall (D1 games) and 0-7 in America East.

The Black Bears' hopes of avoiding the play-in game were severely dashed by the loss. Maine would have to beat UMBC, win at Vermont and hope that New Hampshire loses its last two games.

We'll figure on seeing the Black Bears and Stony Brook, Friday night, March 7, at the Events Center in Vestal, N.Y. Hey, at least it won't be at Alfond.

Friday, February 22, 2008

High school hoop tourneys

Class A East championship
UMaine recruit Jon McAllian, a finalist for state's Mr. Basketball , scores 17 Friday night as Bangor advances to state title game next week. McAllian scored many of his 17 during a key stretch in the second half when the Rams pulled away.
Class C West championship
Winthrop vs. Dirigo ... Sam Leclerc scores 12 and Winthrop moves on to Class C title game.
Thursday's semifinal results
Dirigo 48, Boothbay 45 (ot) ... Knight, 12 points
Winthrop 59, Traip Academy 46 ... Leclerc, 19 points
Class B East championship
Ryan Martin, another Mr. Basketball candidate and maybe-UMaine walk-on, scored 23 Saturday to lead Maranacook past Camden Hills and into the state title game.

Stony wall

UMaine needs a victory Saturday on two fronts: A.) to claim the season's first America East victory at Alfond Arena and, B.) to retain any hope of getting out of the play-in game at the upcoming conference tournament.

New Hampshire can make the latter a moot point with a victory at UMBC, but that's unlikely. Because the UMaine/Stony clash is at noon and UNH doesn't begin until 7 p.m., the Wildcats will know if anything's at stake come tip-off time down in Maryland.

Black Bears should be in an ornery mood after back-to-back blowout losses. To mount any type of last-gasp surge, turnovers must be cut down and defensive effort must pick up. The last three games will present an opportunity to show they haven't gone into hibernation just yet.

Fight for the 7 seed
Games remaining
UMaine: Stony Brook, UMBC, at Vermont
UNH: at UMBC, Vermont

A little to the north in the standings, the shakedown takes a break as four AE teams take part in Saturday's Bracket Buster: Boston U. at St. Peter's, Vermont at UNC-Wilmington, Binghamton at Manhattan, Albany at Canisius.

The second through sixth seeds in America East will get sorted out beginning Wednesday, Feb. 27, when Albany travels down the interstate to take on Binghamton.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Say it ain't so

The Black Bears are staring straight in the face of posting the program's first single-digit win season since the 1998 club went 7-20. Since the league was formed in 1979, Maine has failed to win at least 10 games on only four occasions ('98, '89, '86 and '82).

Maine's average record during 27 years of America East/North Atlantic play?


Future bear

UMaine recruit Jon McAllian (6-5 G/F) had six points and Bangor advanced to the Eastern Class A championship game with a 44-21 win over Mt. Blue.

Ryan Martin (5-8 G), who has reportedly been invited to walk on at UMaine, put up 27 in Maranacook's 89-70 conquest of Mattanawcook Academy in an Eastern Class B semifinal.

The highly touted and uncommited Sam Leclerc (Winthrop) and Thomas Knight (Dirigo) are playing in respective Class C West semifinals tonight.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BU blues

For some reason, that Animal House line, "Thank you sir, may I have another," kept playing in my head while watching the Black Bears go quietly into the Boston University night by a 73-54 count, and it wasn't that close.

In play-in relatd action, New Hampshire took care of Stony Brook and winds down the America East schedule with a roadie at UMBC and Vermont at home. The Black Bears are faced with having to win two out of three to get out of the play-in game.

Judging by the past two games (pastings from the two BUs), Black Bears might not have enough fuel in the tank to even come close. The Bears finish with Stony, UMBC and then conclude the regular season at Vermont.

Not sure what hurts more, the back-to-back spankings or the fact 8-6 at this point in the season is good for third place and UMaine isn't even within sniffing distance.

Play in or play out

While UMBC moves ever closer to clinching the top seed for the upcoming America East Tournament, the war for the remaining eight slots runs rampant.

Just two losses separate the No. 2 through 6 positions with most teams having three or four games to play. Meanwhile, our attention is focused on the epic steel cage match for the seventh position.

Going into tonight's games, New Hampshire holds a half-game lead on the Black Bears and a two game edge on Stony Brook. Why is the No. 7 seed so important? Nobody ever wants to play on Friday night, turn around and play the No. 1 seed the next day. Never a good thing at mid-major conference tourney time.

Wounded Bears have played the past two games without guard Junior Bernal, and centers Brian Andre and Jordan Cook. Somehow, the team needs to scrape out a victory or two down the stretch.

Decision week:
UMaine (7-18, 3-9 AE) at Boston U. (10-15, 7-6) ... After a slow start, Terriers have been showing a little bite lately. ... Already turning the ball over at an alarming rate before Bernal went down, UMaine picked up the pace with 26 giveaways at Bing. ... BU probably started salivating around 3 p.m. Monday.
Stony Brook (5-20, 2-11) at UNH (7-18, 4-9) ... Coming off an upset (?) win at home over Vermont, Seawolves need this one to stay in the hunt with a game in Orono on the weekend. ... Either way this one turns out, Black Bears' game Saturday is a must win.
Stony Brook at UMaine

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Young guns

Went up to Augusta Monday night to see Sam Leclerc (Winthrop) and Thomas Knight (Dirigo) play in their teams' respective Class C West quarterfinal matchups. Black Bears coach Ted Woodward stopped in to catch some of the action also.

Leclerc, a 6-1 point guard, scored 28 in Winthrop's win over Hyde. The game featured absolutely no defense whatsoever. It looked like the NBA's rookie-sophomore challenge (minus the acrobatics, of course).

Knight is a raw-boned 6-8 frontcourter with a nice-looking lefthanded shot. He seems to have a lively body and went to the floor several times to scrap for loose balls. Other than that, because North Yarmouth Academy held the ball for much of the game, there wasn't much to see. Actually bolted with a few minutes left on the game clock because NYA's game plan was sleep-inducing and had a ways to drive home. Dirigo won handily.

Lee Academy coach Carl Parker, who coached both Leclerc and Knight in AAU ball, was at courtside.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Court jesters

It would seem Bearcats thoroughly enjoyed taking Black Bears to the woodshed. Kudos to Binghamton coach Kevin Broadus.

From the Press & Sun-Bulletin:

"One of the things that disturbed me was, with 15 minutes to go, guys were laughing and joking on the court," Broadus said. "I told them, when we're trying to win a basketball game, you don't joke around until the clock reads (zeroes). You have to be all business. You can't let up. The really good teams play for 40 minutes."
Still, there was plenty to celebrate for BU on Sunday. Freshman walk-on Chad Henry provided the final exclamation point with his first collegiate basket on a fast break layup late in the game.
"It was fun," Jackson said. "We were rebounding and pressing and getting steals and making shots, and the crowd was into it. There a lot of good things happening out there."

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Stony joins the fray

UMaine offers up 16 turnovers in the first half. Binghamton says, 'Thank you, very much,' and administers an 80-55 thumping today at the Events Center. Junior Bernal, Brian Andre and Jordan Cook did not play and radio broadcast did not mention their status.

The loss keeps the Black Bears (7-18, 3-9 America East) in eighth place, a half game behind New Hampshire (7-18, 4-9). But look out behind as Stony Brook (5-20, 2-11), by virtue of a 71-70 overtime win over Vermont, has entered the race to avoid the AE tournament play-in game.

Stony Brook has games at UNH and UMaine next week.

UMaine at Binghamton

Good news? Black Bears are on the road again. Bad news? Black Bears taking on a Binghamton club that is still stinging from a recent four-game slide. The Bearcats hit the skids immediately after their win in Orono elevated them to 6-2 in the league and into first place ... ever so briefly.

Binghamton (11-14, 7-6 America East) got back into the win column Thursday with a 56-54 verdict over UNH and with a favorable closing schedule (UMaine, Albany, at Stony Brook), could rise back up the standings by tournament time. The Bearcats will host the America East Tournament (March 7-9) at the Events Center for the third time in four years and figure to be highly motivated to earn as high a seed as possible. Binghamton leads AE in attendance.

For the Black Bears (7-17, 3-8 AE) it's all about avoiding the play-in game on March 7. A win at Bingo would be a huge step toward passing UNH in the standings. In addition to its inconsistent play, UMaine will have to overcome some injuries as guard Junior Bernal and frontcourters Brian Andre and Jordan Cook sat out Thursday's loss to Albany.

Little known fact
Thursday's loss likely has assured the Black Bears program a fourth straight losing season for the first time since 1988-91. For UMaine to finish .500 or better, they'll have to win 11 in a row (five regular season, four AE tourney, 2 NCAA tourney).

Hoop heroes

UMaine recruit Jon McAllian scored 15 points last night as Bangor routed Brunswick in a Class A East quarterfinal.

Next up for some of Maine's best high school hoopsters:
Monday, Feb. 18
Winthrop (Sam Leclerc) vs. Hyde, 4 p.m., Augusta Civic Center
Dirigo (Tom Knight) vs. North Yarmouth Academy, 8:30 p.m., Augusta Civic Center
Wednesday, Feb. 20
Maranacook (Ryan Martin) vs. Mattanawcook, 3:35 p.m., Bangor Auditorium
Bangor (McAllian) vs. Mt. Blue, 8:30 p.m., Augusta Civic Center

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Martin, Maranacook escape

Top-ranked Maranacook and high-scoring guard Ryan Martin ducked a first-round haymaker from Rockland this morning and held on for a 59-57 win in an Eastern Class B quarterfinal. Martin scored 18 in the first half and put up 25 for the game.

Another highly-ranked Maine high school hoopster, 6-8 Tom Knight of Dirigo, begins Class C West tournament play Monday with an 8:30 p.m. quarterfinal against North Yarmouth Academy.

The anticipated final is Dirigo vs. Winthrop (and Sam Leclerc). The two teams met in late January with UMaine coach Ted Woodward in the audience. Dirigo won the low scoring affair by four points.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Tourney time

UMaine recruit Jon McAlian, a 6-5 guard/forward, and his Bangor High team begin Class A tournament play Saturday at the Augusta Civic Center. Bangor (18-0) takes on Brunswick at 9:30 p.m.

Winthrop's Sam Leclerc, a 6-3 point guard, is reportedly fielding some D1 interest including from UMaine. Winthrop begins Class C tourney play Monday in Augusta. The Ramblers (17-1) take on Hyde School at 4 p.m.

Maranacook is 18-0 and will tip off at 11:05 a.m. Saturday against Rockland at the Bangor Auditorium. Maranacook is led by sharpshooting guard Ryan Martin, who recently dropped 58 on an opponent. Martin has been reportedly asked to walk on at UMaine. Martin measures out at about 5-8, 5-9, but don't let that fool you. He can shoot it and apparently has serious work ethic. He's been seen at Alfond on a number of occasions this year.

Couldn't help but draw a parallel between Martin and UMBC's Jay Greene. Check out the article at on Greene. The 5-8 wizard is among the NCAA leaders in assists and assists-to-turnover ratio.

Greene torched UMaine for some big hoops and clutch free throws last year, leading UMBC to a win in an America East quarterfinal at Agganis Arena. Through the years, America East has had plenty of small guys with big hearts.

Ryan Stys of Hartford was one of my more recent favorites. Not big of stature, but a guy that gave you every ounce he had, every night. There is room for these guys in America East. One of them is playing in the NBA right now: Jose Juan Barea (Northeastern).

O for Alfond

The Black Bears remain in search of their first home win of the conference season, dropping a 74-60 decision to Albany Thursday. Maine is now 2-8 (vs. D1 opponents) overall on its home floor this year.

UMaine played Thursday's game without both centers (Brian Andre, broken nose) and Jordan Cook (sprained ankle) and guard Junior Bernal (undisclosed foot injury suffered in the Feb. 9 game at New Hampshire).

Despite the depleted roster, Maine jumped to a 23-13 first-half lead, then wilted as Albany closed the first half with a 20-0 run.

On the plus side (not many of them this year), the Black Bears remain in the hunt for the No. 7 seed in the upcoming America East tournament by virtue of UNH's 54-52 loss at Binghamton. UMaine trails the Wildcats by a half-game and only needs to tie the Wildcats in the standings in order to avoid the 8 vs. 9 play-in game.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Albany at Alfond

Tonight's game vs. Albany at Alfond Arena begins the Black Bears' stretch drive to move up the America East standings and stay out of the play-in game at the America East tournament. The eighth- and ninth-place teams in America East square off on Friday, March 7 for the right to face the No. 1 seed the following day. Right now, that figures to be UMBC.

The Black Bears are currently one-half game behind UNH for seventh place. But the two teams are even in the loss column. I figure the Bears must win two out of their final six to move out of the eighth-spot. Both UNH and UMaine have tough closing schedules. The Wildcats will be favored to beat Stony Brook at home and will be the underdog in every other game. If the two teams tie for seventh, Maine, with its win over UMBC, most likely would take the tie-breaker.

The Black Bears close the season with these games: Albany, at Binghamton, at Boston Univ., Stony Brook, UMBC, at Vermont.
UNH's closing run is made up of: at Binghamton, at Hartford, Stony Brook, at UMBC, Vermont.

Albany is coming off a solid 64-61 win Monday at Vermont's Patrick Gym and is 13-13, 7-5AE. The Black Bears (7-16, 3-7) posted an upset win at Albany earlier this season and the Danes will be looking for revenge.

A big key for the Black Bears will be the availability of Junior Bernal. The junior guard suffered an injury during Saturday's UNH game. He finished the second half, but was obviously in some pain. Without Bernal, Maine's backcourt takes a hit, especially on the defensive end where he figures to guard Albany standout Brian Lillis.