Friday, March 18, 2011

Murphy moves on

From America East all-rookie team to playing for Leo Rautins on the Canadian National team; from starting 46 of 56 games at UMaine to leading the Black Bears in scoring against Maryland and Penn State to riding the bench the final four games of his sophomore season ...

The Murphy Burnatowski era at UMaine is over. And most likely, Black Bear fans will never know why.

Best wishes to Murphy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

NABC honors

Congratulations to Troy Barnies and Gerald McLemore, named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches 2011 Division 1 All-District 1 team.

Barnies, a 6-7 senior forward from Auburn, Maine, and McLemore, a 6-2 junior guard from San Diego, were selected to the second team.

NABC Division 1 All-District 1

First Team
Ryan Rossiter, Siena; Mike Glover, Iona; Derek Needham, Fairfield; John Holland, Boston University; and Justin Robinson, Rider.
Second Team
Evan Fjeld, Vermont; Scott Machado, Iona; Barnies, Maine; Wesley Jenkins, St. Peter's; Anthony Nelson, Niagara; and McLemore, Maine.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Opportunity wasted

As a once promising season quickly melted down, we were haunted by the prospect of a lost opportunity.

That feeling has been cemented with Stony Brook's 22-point dismantling of regular season champion Vermont in the America East semifinals. Without checking, it just might be the worst loss ever for a No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Shocking? No, not really. America East this season was there for the taking. The top tier of the league was as unimpressive as we have ever seen it.

This doesn't take anything away from Vermont and the season it put together. But it does point out that UMaine, after deservedly establishing itself as the midway-point favorite in the league, absolutely flushed a golden opportunity to get into the championship game again and quite possibly win it.

Instead, the Black Bears entered the tournament with a whimper and went down for the second straight year against the No. 6 seed. Opportunities like this don't come around often and when they do, teams have to grab it by the shoulders and hold on tight.

The Black Bears appeared to completely disregard the opportunity before them. How else do you explain a 1-8 finish? How else do you explain defensive performances that would make the old Loyola-Marymount teams blush.

UMaine had the talent, the depth and the versatility to play with and defeat anybody in America East this season. Yet, the team was barely functioning by the time February and March rolled around.

What happened to the Black Bears is a puzzle that needs to be solved in Orono.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Sad ending

For the sixth straight season, the Black Bears were eliminated in their first game of the America East tournament.

Sixth-seeded Hartford upset the third-seeded Black Bears 66-63 Saturday night.

UMaine finished the season at 15-15 after having a 14-7 record midway through the league season. The Black Bears lost in familiar fashion, unable to hold a lead and giving up too many easy baskets in critical situations.

The Black Bears have not won an America East tournament game since 2005. UMaine has lost as the No. 3 seed for two straight years.

Genesis Maciel scored a career high 19 points for Hartford. He hit five 3-pointers, the biggest coming late in the game with Hartford clinging to a 1-point lead. The Hawks called timeout and set up a play for Maciel to get a shot on the right wing. He got open and nailed it to give Hartford a 4-point lead.

Hartford entered the game 341st in the country in field goal shooting at 38 percent. Only six teams in all of NCAA Division 1 have a worse team shooting percentage. The Hawks shot 50 percent against the Black Bears.

UMaine shot 52 percent for the game and had five players in double figures, but missed free throws and leaky defense were costly. That and allowing Maciel to have a career night.

As the game ended, Hartford students stormed the floor, pouring salt into the Black Bears' wounds.

Ready to roll

Spent the morning visiting with Black Bear and America East fans in the hotel lobby. As is customary at the tournament, everybody's a little on edge waiting for the tipoff.

Vermont's on edge regarding the injuries to star players Evan Fjeld and Brendan Bald. Word circulating around the arena Thursday was the Boston University star and America East player of the year John Holland was not responding to ankle treatments as well as hoped.

Maine has its own issues with Terrance Mitchell's ankle injury. It sounds as if he may give it a go, but it's unclear how it will impact his play.

Bigger question for the Black Bears is which team is going to the show up. The one that zipped to an 8-1 start in America East play or the team that finished 1-7?

The consensus among America East fans gathered in Hartford is that this bunch of Black Bears have the ability and the pieces to pull it off. We shall see.

Will be heading over to the arena for the Albany/Stony Brook game shortly.

It's a great time of the year. Let's hope we can join in the fun and celebrate a victory tonight at the hotel. It's been a long time. Six years since a small gathering of us partied late into the Binghamton night after Chris Markwood's shot that beat Boston University.

Barnies named first team

Congratulations to Troy Barnies and Gerald McLemore who picked up America East all-conference honors.

Barnies, a senior forward, was named to the first team. He's averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds a game. McLemore, a junior guard averaging 13 points per game, was selected to the second team.

Joining Barnies on the first team were John Holland, Boston University; Darryl Partin, Boston University; Tim Ambrose, Albany; and Evan Fjeld, Vermont.

Holland was named player of the year. Vermont's Bryan Voelkel was rookie of the year. League champion Vermont also picked up the defensive player of the year (Brendan Bald) and coach of the year (Mike Lonergan).

Friday, March 4, 2011


Hello from beautiful Hartford, Conn.

Looks like Terrance Mitchell will be a game-day decision for the Black Bears. Let's hope he can make a go of it.

Arrived late Thursday afternoon and immediately met up with some America East friends before heading over to the play-in games.

UMaine women appeared dead in the water, stuck in mud, running in quicksand ... just pick a cliche ... and were never really in the game against Stony Brook.

Binghamton set a new single-game tournament record with 17 3-pointers in a 91-65 win over UMBC. The two teams combined for 23 trifectas, also a new America East record.

Word around the hotel lobby is that Vermont studs Brendan Bald and Evan Fjeld are also facing game-day decisions with their injuries.

Steve's and Doria's picks

Steve picks for this weekend's America East tournament

Binghamton over UMBC

Albany over Stony Brook
Vermont over Binghamton
Boston U. over New Hampshire
Maine over Hartford

Vermont over Albany
Boston U. over Maine

Boston U. over Vermont

Doria (my daughter), also weighed in:

Binghamton over UMBC

Albany over Stony Brook
Vermont over Binghamton
Boston U. over New Hampshire
Maine over Hartford

Albany over Vermont
Maine over Boston U.

Maine over Albany

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tourney picks

First Round

Binghamton vs. UMBC

Retrievers haven't been the same since they scored 51 points in the second half and rallied to beat the Black Bears in Orono. Bearcats have Greer Wright and Mahamoud Jabbi.
Pick: Binghamton


Albany vs. Stony Brook

Albany may be playing as well as anybody in America East down the stretch. Stony Brook won't back down. Stony Brook star guard Bryan Dougher faces a tough afternoon with Great Danes backcourt of Mike Black and Tim Ambrose.
Pick: Albany

Vermont vs. Binghamton

Catamounts should cruise past Binghamton. A couple years ago, Binghamton had speed to burn. Vermont won't be confused with those title-winning Bearcats, but they get the job done with efficiency on offense and defense.
Pick: Vermont

Boston University vs. New Hampshire

If you were asked to pick a possible blowout in the quarterfinals, this is the game most folks would look at. Boston U. has the talent to win the tournament. UNH has fought its way through injuries and whatnot to remain competitive.
Pick: Boston U.

Maine vs. Hartford

Nobody's played worse in America East down the stretch than the Black Bears, who have dropped 7 of 8 after leading the league at 8-1. UMaine has every reason in the world to enter this one with its eyes wide open. Hartford swept the season series and the game is on the Hawks' home floor. Big question is will Black Bears show up and play defense. If not, it's going to another quick exit because Hartford has some weapons. Black Bears can't possibly lose a sixth straight opening game in the tournament, can they?
Pick: Maine


Albany vs. Vermont

A victory here wouldn't be as shocking as the one the Great Danes pulled off a couple years ago in Albany. That team had no business toppling the Catamounts. Vermont's got a great record this year, but their margin for error is a lot smaller than some of the vintage Catamounts teams.
Pick: Albany

Boston U. vs. Maine

Hard to envision a Black Bears win here. UMaine's defense in the second half has been downright criminal. You see better defense in Sunday evening open gyms. Make no mistake, a win here by the Black Bears would have to be considered a huge upset ... that's how far the UMaine stock has fallen since midway through the America East season. But one thing we've learned about the Black Bears in recent years, they rarely play the way you expect.
Pick: Maine


Albany at Maine

Great Danes make a return trip to Orono two weeks after their overtime conquest of the Black Bears. But Black Bears will be ready this time. The school may even allow the team to put the basketball floor over the ice and get a work out on their home court prior to the championship game. Go crazy, folks. Go crazy. UMaine and its loyal following set an NCAA standard for the least-celebrated NCAA tournament berth in history.
Pick: Maine 77, Albany 76 (3 overtimes)