Sunday, October 31, 2010

Exhibition place

The Black Bears downed Cape Breton Saturday in an exhibition game at Alfond Arena.

Steve attended the game and called in a report:

* Sean McNally appeared to have trimmed down a bit and was moving very well on the inside until an apparent ankle injury knocked him out of the exhibition early in the second half. According to published reports, the injury is not serious. McNally was on the bench for the duration of the contest.

Hopefully, the injury won't become a lingering issue.

* Raheem Singleton (above) doesn't mind physical play; an important characteristic for guards in America East. Once conference play begins, guards who can't withstand constant hand-checks, clutching and grabbing get pushed around and eventually out.
* UMaine dominated the rebounding (to be expected), but also committed a ton of turnovers (not necessarily expected).

* Troy Barnies brought his usual energy and effort.

* Murphy Burnatowski came off the bench and looked good. The starters were Gerald McLemore, Singleton, McNally, Barnies and Malachi Peay.

* Terrance Mitchell and Travon Wilcher were held out of the game.

Next stop Utah Valley State on Nov. 12.

Friday, October 22, 2010

First look

Fans will get their first look at the 2010-11 Black Bears Sunday at the annual Blue-White game. It's safe to say that expectations for a UMaine men's hoop team haven't been this hopeful for at least five or six years.

The Black Bears have a strong nucleus returning from a 19-11 squad that surprised last year and finished third in America East. Based on that performance, many publications and league coaches have picked UMaine to finish high up in the standings again.

The common refrain heard around the team is "if things break right and fall into place" maybe this club could do the unthinkable and win the league title and the program's first-ever NCAA berth.

To which we say, "whoaaaaaa, Nellie." There's a lot of turf to cover before the club gets to that point. One only has to look across the parking lot to the football field to find an example of a team talking bravely (and listening to glowing reports) before the season only to have it unravel in a matter of weeks.

Remember, this Black Bears basketball team hasn't won a postseason game since assistant coach Chris Markwood was lacing them up. This Black Bears team was the only higher seeded team to lose its America East quarterfinal game last year.

Sure, we all love to read the glittering reports about the Black Bears and once again enter a season with a little swagger. But remember, it's all just so much talk unless it is backed up.

Sunday we'll be re-introduced to the Black Bears. Three weeks from Sunday, another college hoops journey begins.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Longing for Pit renovation

UMaine announced today that it has received a $5.5 million challenge grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation for renovations at Alfond Arena and the planned renovation of Memorial Gym, aka, The Pit.

Of the $5.5 million, $2 million is a challenge grant for the $14 million renovation of Memorial Gym and Field House. A written release did not specify how much has been raised to date for the project.

Plans include a renovated facility to serve as home to the men's and women's basketball teams, replacement of the indoor track, renovated athletics department office space and other modifications, said the university.

The rest of the grant goes to renovations planned for the arena, which will continue to serve as home of the hoops teams for the foreseeable future.

Renovation work will begin at Alfond Arena later this fall. No time frame for work on The Pit was announced.

Now, if I could just win the Powerball ... UMaine would, in short order, be able to hold another press conference announcing a new home for UMaine hoops.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Preseason All-America East

UMaine junior guard Gerald McLemore has been chosen to the America East preseason all-conference team.

He's joined by Boston University forward Jake O'Brien, Vermont forward Evan Fjeld, Binghamton guard Greer Wright and Boston University guard John Holland.

Wright and Holland were unanimous selections.

Coaches poll

In the preseason poll of America East coaches, the Black Bears have been picked to finish third. UMaine received one first place vote.

Boston University, with six first-place votes, was picked to win the title. Stony Brook had the other two first-place votes and was selected for second.

The poll:

1. Boston U.
2. Stony Brook
3. Black Bears
4. New Hampshire
5. Vermont
6. Hartford
7. Binghamton
8. Albany
9. Maryland-Baltimore County

America East releases schedule

America East has finally released the league schedule. Some
initial observations about the Black Bears slate:

* A chance for a quick start with first two at home and
the first two roadies at UMBC and Albany. Alfond hasn't
been a stellar home venue, but this schedule gives
UMaine a chance to get a quick start.

* Nice non-league schedule with five, count'em,
five D1 home games against non-conference competition.
No reason for fans not to hop on this bandwagon
well before January rolls around.

* Money games. An interesting blend of
guarantee games: ACC (Maryland),
Big East (Notre Dame), Atlantic 10 (UMass)
and Big Ten (Penn State).

* Big game right off the bat. Black Bears
open AE season at home against conference contender
Boston University. The Terriers feature the
frontrunner for the league's Player of the Year
in John Holland. An opportunity to
open the league season with some sizzle.

* End of regular season. It seems every year, the
Black Bears are forced to travel (Binghamton and
Vermont come to mind) the weekend preceding the AE tourney.
In other words, always a short turnaround on the bus.
This year, that trend is stopped. UMaine will end
the regular season with its shortest trip (UNH)
and a home game (Albany). Sweet.

*Nov. 12: at Utah Valley
Nov. 14: at Maryland
Nov. 22: at Notre Dame
Nov. 29: at Quinnipiac
Dec. 4: BROWN
Dec. 8: at Massachusetts
Dec. 19: COLGATE
Dec. 21: at Penn State
Jan. 2: BOSTON*
Jan. 9: at UMBC*
Jan. 11: at Albany*
Jan. 18: at Vermont*
Jan. 29: at Binghamton*
Feb. 2: at Boston*
Feb. 6: UMBC*
Feb. 10: at Hartford*
Feb. 12: at Stony Brook*
Feb. 16: VERMONT*
Feb. 19: at Bracket Buster
Feb. 24: at New Hampshire*
Feb. 27: ALBANY*

Friday, October 1, 2010

Black Bears in Bracket Busters

The cast of ESPN's Bracket Busters just keeps getting bigger and bigger. This season, some 114 teams will participate in ESPN's annual nod to the low- and mid-major programs.

While the only games that receive the ESPN hype are those chosen for programming, it's still a nice marketing tool for all the programs that participate. Match-ups will be announced later.

UMaine has been selected as a road team for the event. Five other schools in America East will also participate: Boston University, Stony Brook, New Hampshire and Vermont. Boston U. and Stony Brook will have home games.

Speaking of Stony Brook, it was recently reported that stud forward Tommy Brenton will be out for an extended period with a dislocated knee. The Seawolves won the regular season title last year and Brenton, a junior, is one of America East's top rebounders.

Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiel has stocked his roster with solid players and the Seawolves will be good without Brenton. But make no mistake, Brenton will be missed. He's got a unique talent for being around the ball. He's an instigator.