Sunday, February 26, 2012

Game time set

America East has released the bracket and game times for the upcoming conference tournament. The Black Bears will play Vermont 6:05 p.m. March 3 in the first game of the evening quarterfinal session.

Sunday, Feb. 26 results

Stony Brook 55, Black Bears 48 ... Seawolves fight off UMaine for regular season title and No. 1 seed. Black Bears will be the No. 7 seed and take on No. 2 Vermont.

New Hampshire 58, Binghamton 49 ... Wildcats move up to the No. 5 seed and will play No. 4 Albany.

Today in America East

Only two games left in the America East season and both play a key role in determining seeds for next weekend's league tournament.

Black Bears at Stony Brook
A UMaine win puts the Black Bears into the No. 6 slot opposite No. 3 Boston University and leaves the Seawolves in a first-place tie with Vermont. The Catamounts own the tie-breaker and would be the No. 1 seed. ... A Stony Brook win gives the Seawolves the outright regular season title, the No. 1 seed and most likely puts the Black Bears into the No. 7 slot against No. 2 Vermont. Either way, the Black Bears open with a team that swept them during the regular season.
The pick: Black Bears shock the world - well, at least Long Island - and go into the tournament on a two-game roll.

Black Bears summary
Win or New Hampshire loss: No. 6 seed vs. Boston University
Lose and New Hampshire win: No. 7 seed vs. Vermont.

Binghamton at New Hampshire
UNH would move up to the No. 5 slot (moving Hartford to No. 6) with a victory and a UMaine loss. If the Wildcats and Black Bears both win, the 5-6-7 slots would read: Hartford, UMaine and UNH.
The pick: For UNH, the payoff is huge in this one. A win gets them a date with Albany in the 4-5 game or a matchup with Stony Brook or Vermont in the 2-7. Wildcats win this one.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Saturday, Feb. 25 results

Vermont 80, UMBC 49
Boston U. 64, Hartford 55

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Thursday, Feb. 23 result

Albany 74, Binghamton 63

Tonight in America East

Albany at Binghamton
Bearcats host their rivals coming off first win of the season. Can they make it two in a row? Great Danes are dealing with some injury problems, but still figure to be the No. 4 seed for next week's America East tournament.
The pick: Albany

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday, Feb. 22 results

Black Bears 71, New Hampshire 58 ... signs of life from UMaine with a solid, wire-to-wire performance in the home finale. .. The victory moves the Black Bears into sixth place in America East. UMaine is tied with UNH at 6-9, but hold the tiebreaker. ... The win snaps a five-game losing streak for the Black Bears. ... New Hampshire had won four straight and five out of six.

Boston U. 73, UMBC 52

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wednesday night in America East

New Hampshire at Black Bears ... How do you motivate the unmotivated? Try a billboard-sized sign at shootaround that reads, "Binghamton 57, Vermont 53 ... What are you guys waiting for?" ... America East has been mediocre to weak each of the past three years and, somehow, the Black Bears have found a way to play their worst basketball of the season by the time the conference tournament rolls around. Can this year's edition find a way to reverse the trend? There are two games left in the regular season. ... I'll write it again, Binghamton 57, Vermont 53.
The pick: Nothing wakes up a hiberating bear ... UNH.

Boston U. at UMBC ... Well, if Binghamton can beat Vermont, the Retrievers certainly can topple the Terriers, true? No.
The pick: Boston U.

Tuesday, Feb. 21 Results

Binghamton 57, Vermont 53 ... The team with the worst record, worst RPI rating and longest losing streak in America knocks off the hottest team in America East that was two wins from locking up a share of the league title, the No. 1 seed for the conference tournament and and a guaranteed NIT bid. ... So, Black Bears, are you paying attention? Do you think you might be able to muster up the energy to play for 40 minutes?

Stony Brook 74, Hartford 50 ... Seawolves take care of business and now a victory over UMaine from earning the No. 1 seed.

Tonight in America East

Vermont at Binghamton
Catamounts on their way to at least a share of the league title and the No. 1 seed for the America East tournament. ... Bearcats still searching for first win only three years removed from a league title and NCAA bid.
The pick: Vermont all day, every day.

Stony Brook at Hartford
Had the Black Bears shown up last week in Hartford, this tilt would have carried some import in the race for the No. 5 spot. The Hawks, after a one-win non-conference run, are .500 in America East and still have a shot at the No. 4 seed. Stony Brook, looking for a piece of the regular season title, won't roll over like UMaine.
The pick: Stony Brook

Friday, February 17, 2012

BracketBuster weekend

America East's Bracket Buster schedule:

America East record: 5-4

Marist 77, Maine 71
Albany 70, Rider 61
Radford 64, Binghamton 59
Loyola of Maryland 69, Boston U. 56
Hartford 67, St. Peter's 51
Canisius 73, UMBC 66
New Hampshire 72, Towson 58
Stony Brook 76, Northeastern 69
Vermont 92, Niagara 70

The fortunes for the Black Bears and their BracketBuster opponent, Marist, have flipped nearly 180 degrees since the day ESPN announced the pairings.

UMaine was coming off a solid nonconference performance and had seemed to stabilize themselves in America East. Marist was in the throes of a long losing streak. But the Red Foxes are coming of a string of strong performances that include a nine-point loss to MAAC leader Iona and a win over contender Loyola of Maryland.

The Black Bears will enter Saturday's game against Marist on a four-game losing streak that includes an inexplicable 14-point loss at Hartford Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wednesday, Feb. 15 Results

Hartford 64, Black Bears 50
New Hampshire 56, Boston U. 54
UMBC 70, Binghamton 56
Vermont 50, Albany 47

The Black Bears sleepwalked through their loss at Hartford and will end up as either the No. 6 or 7 seed in the America East tournament. UMaine appeared totally disinterested in participating in the competition from the outset. ... New Hampshire, the Black Bears' next league opponent, continued a late-season surge with its first win at Boston U. in 18 years. UMaine bears little resemblance to the team that won 80-69 at UNH just two weeks ago. ... The Black Bears were thoroughly outplayed by pair of Hartford freshmen, Nate Sikma and Mike Nwakamma. Offensively, UMaine spent the entire game dribbling around aimlessly and jacking up off-balance jump shots. Defensively, the Hawks continually burned the lazy UMaine effort with back doors and basic give-and-gos.

America East tonight

Black Bears at Hartford
UMaine must avenge its loss at home to the Hawks to retain any hope of landing in the 4-5 game of the America East tournament. Hartford has been starting three freshmen so the experience and chemistry factor would seem to favor the Black Bears. Black Bears next two games are against the teams competing for the No. 5 position.

Hartford is 6-7 in AE and finishes with UMaine, Stony Brook and at Boston U. (so a win tonight for UMaine will almost assure the Hawks of finishing at 6-10. ... UNH is 5-8 and has already lost to the Black Bears. The Wildcats finish at Boston U., at UMaine and at home vs. Binghamton. ... UMaine finishes at Hartford, home against UNH and at Stony Brook.

Gerald McLemore passed Kevin Reed on UMaine's all-time 3-point list. Reed, in 2005, was a member of the last Black Bears team win an America East tournament game, a feat G-Mac no doubt would also like to match in his final year. Tonight in Hartford would be a good place to start building toward a tournament win.
The pick: Black Bears

Vermont at Albany
The Catamounts just keep winning. Mike Lonergan built a program and John Becker is picking up where he left off. Vermont finds ways to win. Mostly by playing smart, consistent basketball. If Vermont and Stony Brook win out, the Catamounts will grab the No. 1 seed courtesy of their sweep of Boston U.
The pick: Vermont

New Hampshire at Boston U.
Wildcats are improving, but Terriers have too much muscle underneath and, oh, yeah, Darryl Partin and D.J. Irving on the perimeter.
The pick: Boston U.

UMBC at Binghamton
These two teams will square off again in 15 days during the play-in game of the America East tournament. Bearcats in search of win No. 1, still lead the league in attendance.
The pick: Binghamton

Monday, February 13, 2012

Black Bears held Lin to 2

The recent explosion of Jeremy Lin fever in the NBA sent me scrambling for a review of a long ago game I attended between the Black Bears and Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion in Cambridge.

Basketball's newest sensation, Lin, played his college ball at Harvard and I figured he just might have been with the Crimson for that November game in 2006. Although I was there, I had no recollection of him.

What I did remember was Harvard shooting a lot of free throws in a close game.

Sure enough, Lin came off the bench and played 25 minutes for the Crimson. He scored two points on 1-for-6 shooting, had six rebounds, two assists and four steals.

As for the foul shots? Harvard made 28 of 37 to the Black Bears' 10 of 15 and won the game, 75-71.

So, there you go. The Black Bears held Jeremy Lin to two points.

Two years later, however, Lin and Harvard visited Orono and posted a 76-63 victory and Lin did what he's doing now in the NBA, filled the stat sheet.

In the December 2008 game, Lin led the Crimson with 18 points. He also had seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and a blocked shot.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sunday, Feb. 12 Results

Vermont 68, Stony Brook 49
Hartford 62, Binghamton 60
New Hampshire 66, UMBC 60 ... 'Cats move into sixth-place tie with Black Bears

America East today

New Hampshire at UMBC
Wildcats, coming off their win over Albany, can pull even with Black Bears for sixth-place with a victory in Baltimore.
The pick: New Hampshire

Binghamton at Hartford
A victory would improve the Hawks' grip on the No. 5 position in America East. Binghamton still in search of win No. 1.
The pick: Hartford

Stony Brook at Vermont
Stony Brook won the first meeting, 65-59. The Catamounts can pull even in the loss column with a victory. The Seawolves lock down the regular season title with a victory.
The pick: Vermont

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Saturday, Feb. 11 Result

Albany 76, Black Bears 68
UMaine concluded a crucial three-game stretch of games (two of them at home) with an 0-3 record. The loss leaves the Black Bears a virtual certainty for the No. 6 or 7 seed for the upcoming America East tournament.

The Great Danes rolled into Orono coming off a loss Thursday at New Hampshire and controlled the game from about the midway point of the second quarter. Albany won without second-leading scorer Logan Aronhalt, who was out with a knee injury.

Despite the loss of Aronhalt, the Black Bears could do little to slow down Great Danes leading scorer Gerardo Suero, who tallied 28 points.

America East today

Albany at Black Bears
Both teams need this one in the race for the 4/5 game of the America East tournament. Black Bears are coming off two straight losses to league contenders Vermont and Boston U. Center Ali Fraser may be back in the lineup after an ankle injury kept him on the sidelines for the above games. Albany is reportedly dealing with injury issues, too. The status of guard Logan Aronhalt (15 points per game) and forward Luke Devlin for today's game is uncertain.
UMaine must maintain the defensive focus displayed in the Vermont and Boston U. losses and smooth out some rough edges on the offensive end.
The pick: Black Bears.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Keep it simple and get a shot

Bill Parcells said he refused to complain or make issue of injuries, experience and other peripheral items because what he found, is that when players hear or read that, it gives them an excuse for poor performance or losing.

So, that said, I hope the Black Bears didn't read Pete Warner's recent "analysis" of the ballclub.

Basically, what Warner wrote was: The Black Bears don't have enough experience, chemistry, talent and have too many injuries to contend in America East.

It read like a menu of excuses should the Black Bears care to dine at his whine and cheese factory.

I've seen enough America East games to not only believe the Black Bears are capable of contending, but to say, they should be contending. This America East, like each of the past couple of years, is there to be had. UMaine is not in contention, but that's not the point.

The point is continuing to fight and get better. Capitulate? Never, ever. You do that and a team will never improve.

I went down to Boston U. last night and watched as the Black Bears, minus Ali Fraser, fought back several times against a Terriers team contending for first place. I didn't see a juggernaut at Case Gym.

Of UMaine's top eight in the rotation, five of them (Gerald McLemore, Mike Allison, Andrew Rogers, Raheem Singleton and Fraser) are all players with plenty of America East battle scars.

Freshmen Justin Edwards is going through some customary first-year adjustments, but he's been an impact player and is the odds-on rookie of the year in America East. Freshman Xavier Pollard is providing some good minutes and plays with strength.

Jon McAllian is a veteran of the program and played what would have to be considered his best game as a Black Bear at Boston U. last night. Travon Wilcher and Kilian Cato have supplied some minutes in the frontcourt, too.

To say this team doesn't have enough experience is flat out baseless. Chemistry? Injuries? Those are excuses. Every team has injuries to deal with. Chemistry is a cop out.

Back to Parcells. You give people a reason to fail and, most likely, you know what's going to happen?

So don't listen, Black Bears. The doughnut-munching media want to give you an out. Don't take the bait.

Keep playing hard, play together (make simple plays and protect the ball on offense; that's my not-so-expert analysis) and dig in on defense every trip.

Keep it simple and get a shot.

Great middle class

Recent results in America East have thrown the Nos. 4 through 7 slots in America East up for grabs.

A week ago, Albany appeared to be a lock for the No. 4 spot and Hartford and UMaine would make up the 5-6 places. Not so fast.

Albany is now just a game ahead of UMaine and Hartford in the loss column (the Great Danes visit Orono Saturday) for fourth place while New Hampshire is two back in the loss column and breathing down the necks of the Black Bears and Hawks.

Last night's loss at Boston U. leaves UMaine tied with Hartford for No. 5, but the Hawks own the tiebreaker right now with their win in Orono.

Those four teams will fight to avoid a quarterfinal matchup with Stony Brook, Vermont or Boston U.

Remaining schedules:
Albany (7-6): at Black Bears, Vermont, at Binghamton.
Hartford (5-7): Binghamton, Black Bears, Stony Brook, at Boston U.
Black Bears (5-7): Albany, at Hartford, New Hampshire, at Stony Brook.
New Hampshire (4-8): at UMBC, at Boston U., at Black Bears, Binghamton.

Thursday, Feb. 9, Results

Boston U. 67, Black Bears 54
Made the trip down to Commonwealth Ave. last night and left disappointed with the loss, but excited about the Black Bears' intensity and resilience.

UMaine fell behind early and spent the rest of the evening climbing uphill at Boston U.'s Case Gym, aka, The Roof. The Terriers took advantage of UMaine's cold shooting and also pounded the Black Bears on the boards.

Despite the rebounding disparity, the Black Bears fought back several times from double-digit deficits, but couldn't hit crucial shots at crucial times to complete the comeback. The Black Bears' defensive effort was solid all night long and, if combined with better offensive execution, gives reason for optimism going down the stretch.

Mike Allison had a double-double down low without his sidekick, Ali Fraser, who was out for a second straight game with an ankle injury. After the contest, Fraser tweeted he would probably be back for the Albany game Saturday.

Allison competed well against Boston's trio of bangers. Jon McAllian came off the bench and provided a lift for UMaine.

New Hampshire 69, Albany 64
Recent wins by Hartford and New Hampshire are tightening things up in the middle of the America East standings. The Wildcats pulled off a surprise last night in Lundholm Gym and sent the Great Danes on their way to Orono with a loss.

Stony Brook 80, UMBC 68
The Retrievers led for much of the game before first-place Stony Brook pulled away late, setting up a first-place showdown with Vermont Sunday in Burlington.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

America East tonight

Black Bears at Boston U.
UMaine center Ali Fraser missed Monday's game vs. Vermont. Black Bears need his inside presence to help open up the perimeter for Gerald McLemore. Terriers torched UMaine from 3-point land in the first meeting. Boston's D.J. Irving and Darryl Partin are an explosive duo. Partin scored an America East season-high 33 points in the Terriers' comeback win at Albany. UMaine must commit to a 40-minute defensive effort and become more efficient on the offensive end. Black Bears have the talent to contend better with the upper half teams in America East, but have yet to beat anyone other than UMBC, Binghamton or UNH.
The pick: Boston U. keeps its No. 2 seed hopes alive.

Albany at UNH
The Great Danes gave up a 16-point lead in the final 11 minutes in a loss to Boston U. Monday and will be looking to get back on track in Durham. The Wildcats don't figure to have enough offensive firepower to keep up with Albany's backcourt trio.
The pick: Albany.

UMBC at Stony Brook
Long Island is not the place you want to visit coming off a home loss to Hartford. Seawolves set up showdown with Vermont.
The pick: Stony Brook.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

No hoops jones in Maine

Interesting column in the Portland Press Herald this morning on the apparent lack of interest in the UMaine men's basketball program.

Steve Solloway attended the Vermont game and noted the small crowd of fans at The Pit. His search for explanations centered largely on recent happenings, i.e., last season's fall from grace (first place at the midway juncture only to lose seven out of eight down the stretch), up-and-down play this season and the injury to standout sophomore center Ali Fraser.

All miss the big picture.

Interest in the men's basketball program (at least interest calculated by fannies in the seats) has always been lacking – even during the "up" years. Fans are slow to jump on the men's bandwagon, if they jump at all, and quick to offload.

That comes from years of frustration and years of being Orono's forgotten program on the winter roster.

UMaine's identity crisis, however, didn't begin last year or last week. It goes far deeper than that. Support is not only measured by fans in the stands, but also in terms of funding and expectations. In short, Maine citizens have the type of Division 1 sports program for which they are comfortable paying.

If there was any real groundswell of support (other than the Alfonds and Mahaneys building and renovating stadiums and arenas), there would be "real" change. Short of that, UMaine is stuck on a treadmill of doing more with less and admiring the occasional exploits of Black Bears teams on a sporadic basis. In other words, there's no will to compete on a larger scale.

Men's basketball is a bit-player in the equation when compared to football, hockey and women's basketball. We all understand that. But even considering those circumstances, interest in the men's program shouldn't be gauged based on last year or this year alone.

Even if most of the state's basketball fans are not fully aware of the gory details, the men's hoop team is cognizant of the fact it hasn't won an America East conference tournament game since 2005.

That's nearly two full class cycles of players who have never tasted victory at in a league tournament game.

That late-night quarterfinal game at Binghamton University in Vestal, N.Y., has become but a fuzzy memory for this typist. Chris Markwood's shot with a couple seconds to go to beat third-seeded Boston U., spurred a post-game celebration at Applebee's, and still induces a smile. It's part of the reason we go to the games and will continue to go to the games.

But Chris Markwood has been an assistant coach (first at UMaine, now at Vermont) for four or five years now. Kevin Reed and Joe Campbell came up huge in the closing seconds of that game. Kevin Reed and Joe Campbell?

Many fans may not know the specifics, but they do know it's been a long time.

In addition to the conference tournament woes, the Black Bears have a history of playing well in December and January only to falter down the stretch. It weighs mightily on the staff and players who are trying to shed this yoke.

Since 2005, the Black Bears are 16-32 in the month of February and 1-8 in March. Those are the months when interest should be reaching a crescendo. The Black Bears have consistently found ways to throw sand into the engine.

So, go ahead, blame this season's win-two-lose-two mode or the memory of last year's meltdown, but it goes deeper than that.

As always, however, the Black Bears will attempt to break the cycle in near anonymity. Good times, bad times, in between times. That doesn't change.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tuesday, Feb. 7 Results

Hartford 76, UMBC 70

America East tonight

Hartford at UMBC
A UMBC victory would leave the Retrievers even with Hartford and New Hampshire in a virtual dead heat (all three with eight league losses) in the race to stay out of the conference tournament play-in game. ... Hartford has lost five straight since its Jan. 22 win over the Black Bears. ... UMBC has lost four straight.
The pick: UMBC

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday, Feb. 6 Results

Chalk ruled tonight.

Vermont 73, Black Bears 63 ... UMaine played without reigning America East player of the week Alasdair Fraser
Stony Brook 57, New Hampshire 48
Boston U. 81, Albany 78

Fraser out

Black Bears center Alasdair Fraser is not playing against Vermont. He injured an ankle late in the game at UMBC Saturday.

Contender or pretender?

In boxing terms, Maine's got three prize fights this week. Here's how I'd define the four possible scoring outcomes:

3-0: Still swinging with a puncher's chance.
2-1: Capable of counter punching.
1-2: Cut over both eyes, bleeding badly.
0-3: TKO.

What's it going to be?

Now or never

It's put up or shut up time for UMaine. After a narrow escape at eighth-place UMBC Saturday, the Black Bears' schedule this week is loaded with opportunity – opportunity to join the America East race.

Vermont, winners of six straight, visits The Pit tonight. That game is followed with a date at Boston U. Thursday and visit from Albany Saturday. Three games against three of the top four teams in the America East standings.

If UMaine is to make a serious run at a top four seed for the conference tourney, it'll begin this week.

Tonight's America East schedule

Vermont at Black Bears
Vermont is led by do-everything forward Bryan Voelkel, a rugged player who leads the team in rebounding and assists. The Catamounts have a well-balanced attack with nine players averaging between 12 and 29 minutes per game. They don't make many mistakes and will pound the glass.
Black Bears center Alasdair Fraser injured an ankle late in the win at UMBC. His interior presence will be needed against Vermont.
The pick: Black Bears pick up a much-needed "quality" win.

Boston U. at Albany
Great Danes follow up Saturday's seven-point loss to league front-runner Stony Brook by hosting Boston U. Great Danes can throw themselves into the race for the No. 2 or 3 slot with a victory.
The pick: Albany's Big Three of Gerard Suero, Mike Black and Logan Aronhalt get it done vs. Boston's Big Two, D.J. Irving and Darryl Partin.

Stony Brook at New Hampshire
Seawolves can suffocate an opponent and Wildcats don't have the arsenal to fight it.
The pick: Stony cruises.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Saturday, Feb. 4 Results

BLACK BEARS 77, Maryland-Baltimore County 76 OT
Vermont 82, Hartford 56
Stony Brook 76, Albany 69
Boston U. 68, Binghamton 53

Friday, February 3, 2012

New York state of mind

While all of New York is focused on the Giants' Super Bowl showdown Sunday against the Patriots, there is a small sliver of hardcore Empire State hoop fans saving room on the sports menu for Saturday's America East appetizer in Albany.

League-leading Stony Brook and its gritty defense travel upstate to take on the Great Danes at SEFCU Arena, where Will Brown is getting it done with scoring. The Seawolves will be tested by Albany's high scoring trio of guards. Gerardo Suero (21.6), Logan Aronhalt (15.9) and Mike Black (13.0) combine for 50.5 points a game for the Great Danes. Stony Brook won on Long Island, 81-68.
The game is the part of Albany's annual Big Purple Growl event and is a sellout.
The pick: Albany announces its arrival as a contender with an overtime triumph.

Saturday in America East

UMaine at UMBC
Chase Plummer, a 6-6 forward, leads the Retrievers with 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He had 17 in Retrievers' loss in Orono. Bears look to get back to .500 before hosting Vermont on Monday.
The pick: Black Bears

Hartford at Vermont
Vermont does not have a single player averaging as much as 30 minutes per game, but it does have nine players averaging between 12 and 29. The Catamounts' balance is highlighted by stalwart forward Bryan Voelkel's 6 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists per game. ... Hartford has one player averaging double figure points, Andres Torres at 11.9.
The pick: Vermont rolls into Monday trip to Orono

Boston U. at Binghamton
Bearcats trying to avoid a winless season. Terriers coming off a tough one-point loss to Vermont look to bounce back.
The pick: Boston U. victorious in Vestal

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Anxiety about separation

Happens every year ... the separation.

Teams begin to lock in on a target area of the America East standings and the separation begins. Some years it happens right away. Others it takes a bit longer.

Just past the half-way marker and it appears as if Vermont and Stony Brook are breaking away from the rest of the pack.

Boston U. and Albany look like solid contenders while UMaine (once considered a possible lead horse), New Hampshire and Hartford will fight it out for the middle ground.

Binghamton and UMBC are destined for the Thursday spotlight dance at the America East tournament.

If the Black Bears do not want to get left in the dust, they must make a move in the next four games. Best they can do, and should do, is finish in the contender grouping with Albany and BU.

Noteworthy from last night's games: Albany got 60 points from its three guards last night. Gerardo Suero (32), Logan Aronhalt (21) and Mike Black (7) led the Great Danes to an 87-76 win over UMBC.