Posted on: March 8, 2012 2:59 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 3:03 am

Blackbirds play big because of smallest man

Jamal Olasewere, left, and Julian Boyd, right, hold up Blackbirds point guard Jason Brickman behind LIU-Brooklyn head coach Jim Ferry, in front holding his son. (Matt Norlander)

By Matt Norlander

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The cube-like, royal blue scoreboard is mounted — it doesn’t hang — directly over midcourt at the Wellness, Recreation and Athletic Center on Long Island-Brooklyn’s campus. There are no other electronic indications of what the score is in the yellow-and-white-walled room. Players often retreat back on defense after a made basket and steal a look when their necks are forced to crane as the ball switches sides once again.

Jason Brickman, the shortest player on the floor, looks on every retreat. He has to.  

The pint, shy-as-hell point guard for Long Island University-Brooklyn has made himself into a role that’s vital and surprising. Vital because he’s a point guard, and so with that the vitality is obvious. Surprising because the 20-year-old is about as shy as any player commanding an offense in the country. Averaging 7.2 assists per game, he's fifth in the nation in successful distribution. He’s the counter to his booming teammates: NEC Player of the Year, Julian Boyd; and Jamal Olasewere, the flanking, flying, braggadocio wing that is at times even more unguardable than the formidable, big Boyd.

After the top-seeded Blackbirds earned their second straight NCAA tournament bed with a 90-73 home victory (their 26th in a row, the second-longest streak in the nation behind Kentucky) over No. 3 Robert Morris Wednesday night, when a media liason asked to have a microphone put in from of Brickman at the postgame press conference, teammate C.J. Garner, who had a team-high 21 points, responded, “He ain’t gonna talk anyway.” Boyd and Olasewere laughed. Then they said this:

Olasewere: “He controls the game night in and night out. Without him, we couldn’t do this. He’s a great point guard.”

Boyd: “I definitely wouldn’t have gotten Player of the Year, we wouldn’t have gotten all these accolades without him. I love that guy — just for now, though.”

The tongue-in-cheek post-note on the compliment came with a big brother’s sentiment of protection. Brickman is little brother that knows the way and leads the team and takes the jokes in stride, even coyly laughing along with them. The dynamic is an interesting one. He’s teased because his teammates know he can take it. He's grown into the role. He's tougher than he looks.

“I joke with them a little bit too, but I’m the serious type in the locker room,” Brickman said.

On the floor, his game is extremely serious. Brickman’s proved to be not a reliable, but a dangerous scorer in the second half of the season.  The personality patterns mirror each other. Boyd and Olasewere interact with the crowd and can be caught smiling constantly. Brickman goes about the game like he’s diligently finishing up Saturday morning chores for mom. Brickman finished with 18 points and 11 assists Wednesday night. Afterward, Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said he was clearly the most uncontainable aspect of the Blackbirds’ attack.

“I knew they were going to play hard on these other guys, they’re all-conference players, and I knew they weren’t going to leave them, so if I made a move I’d get to the basket,” Brickman said. “I think they were trying to play the pass more because I’m a pass-first guy. They were taking away the passing lanes, so it was opening the drives for easy layups.”

“I’ve always been a quiet guy, and don’t say a whole lot, but with these guys the relationships get better and I just try to lead by example,” Brickman said. “I don’t have a loud voice or a whole lot of emotions, but these other guys do.”

He’s not as nervous to talk to the media now as he was a year ago, or even two, when he was cripplingly shy, but he’s still avoiding eye contact when I’m talking to him and asking question.

“He fascinates me every day,” LIU-Brooklyn coach Jim Ferry said.


On his official recruiting visit, Brickman arrived with his little brother and his mom. At one point during the courting, when Brickman wasn’t around, his mother turned to Ferry asked the coach not to take her son’s reactions the wrong way. He was loving the visit, she said, he just wasn’t outward about it. It’s just the way he is. The rare silent and effective leader is proving by example and plus action how much he’s needed.

Early in the season, LIU-Brooklyn was not only struggling, it was under .500 on Dec. 17. During the team’s 2010-11 NCAA tournament season, the group was never below average. A big part of the team’s struggles were related to Brickman’s inhibition with creating offense for himself. Ferry brought Brickman in, sat him down, and told him he had to be more aggressive—at least with the ball, if it wasn’t going to happen with his vocal chords. Ferry talked to Brickman’s father about it, too.

“He was trying to be a distributor too much,” Ferry said. “He was turning the ball over trying to get everyone involved. I told him, ‘Jason, you put up 22 points a game in high school. Go for it.’

Since that conversation, LIU-Brooklyn’s lost two games. And as it’s been, the rules for Brickman are the rules for only Brickman. Ferry calls him “the perfect point guard.” In practice, when the 44-year-old coach is collectively telling his guys what they’re doing wrong and what they need to change, Ferry will discreetly pull Brickman to the side and insist he not change a thing.


Brickman ran the offense with Peyton Manning-like allowance in the NEC title game. He’d never been given so much leash so early and often in a game, but the noise mandated he run the team. Ferry’s voice couldn’t be heard, as his guys were running offense on the opposite end for the first 20 minutes. Brickman guides this team a way that’s unconventional. Often times you’ll hear the trite message of “leading by example,” only Brickman truly does that — because there’s no other way. Not only is he not shouting to players on the court, he’s likely not saying a word in huddles before free throws and during timeouts.

The only assumption you get upon seeing Brickman is that he could be the bus boy for famous Junior’s Restaurant, which sits a block from LIU-Brooklyn’s campus and proudly displays more than 40 cheesecakes of increasing flavor and calorie-count varieties in its windows.

“He’s a great point guard, and they’re very rare, so when you get them you have to cherish him,” Ferry said. “Those two guys’ personalities are so booming, it’s almost good there’s not another guy trying to get in there. Jason balances us. He controls the game.”

“Control.” An interesting word choice, because the team runs. It never stops running until the scoreboard stops counting. It’s not arrogant, it’s just the way they play — aggressive all the time. The NEC title game’s defining play came from a Garner alley-oop to Boyd that curled and unfurled, developed then exploded like a Hawaiian rip tide and gave the Blackbirds a 59-45 lead with 9:57 to go. The team practices those long-range, parabola passes when it closes out practices.

“I don’t think we ever threw one that far or that high,” Ferry said.

By the final two minutes, Robert Morris was reduced to a slow-death foul fest before the championship was taken again by the Blackbirds. All of this was a factor from Brickman’s heady play, which included many layups and four trips to the foul line.

After going nearly two decades without back-to-back representative in the NCAAs, the Northeast Conference has had repeated champs for four straight years. Brooklyn-born Spike Lee made the time to stop by and watch the game from underneath Long Island’s second-half hoop. The place was a constantly flaring nerve center for nearly two hours. And amid all that activity, the quietest person in the building killed and killed again the hopes and chances for Robert Morris.

Jason Brickman didn’t need to say anything and never will if he keeps playing like this. His teammates speak for, and up for, him. And the crowd always reacts; louder on this night than it ever had before.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 7, 2012 9:57 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 10:01 pm

Tiny Dancers: LIU-Brooklyn

When LIU-Brooklyn clinched homecourt advantage throughout the Northeast Conference tournament, the Blackbirds became the heavy favorites to win the automatic bid. After all, they have won 27 in a row at the WRAC in Brooklyn. Jim Ferry’s troops followed through, cruising to a 90-73 victory over Robert Morris in Wednesday’s championship game.

C.J. Garner led the way with 21 points, as LIU-Brooklyn will head to its second-straight NCAA tournament. In the second half, the Blackbirds turned an eight-point halftime lead into a run-and-gun show, including a halfcourt alley-oop from Garner to Julian Boyd that gave LIU a 14-point lead.

With Boyd and Jamal Olasawere dominating the paint, and Jason Brickman controlling tempo and making plays for himself and teammates, the Blackbirds won’t be an easy out. They like to get out and push the tempo, and they have plenty of finishers. LIU also has Big Dance experience, losing by 15 in the first round of last year’s NCAA tournament to North Carolina.

LIU-Brooklyn is heading to its second straight NCAA tournament after beating Robert Morris in the NEC title game. (AP)

Player to know: Julian Boyd. He was the NEC’s Player of the Year for a reason, and that reason is his dominance at both ends of the floor. The 6-foot-7, 230-lb. big man is a load to handle in the paint and on the glass, totaling 14 double-doubles this season. He had 18 points and 10 rebounds in the championship win, and has finished with 20 or more points in five of his last eight games. Boyd won’t be pushed off the block, as long as he stays on the floor (he’s fouled out five times). 

The Vitals:
Record: 25-8 overall, 16-2 in Northeast Conference
Most recent tournament appearance: 2011, 16 seed, lost to North Carolina
We’re thinking: 16 seed
KenPom ranking: 174
Sagarin ranking: 163
RPI: 90
Best wins: vs. Wagner, vs. Vermont
Worst losses: at Hofstra, at Norfolk State, at Monmouth
Notable stat: The Blackbirds don't fly -- they run. The team averages 74.5 possessions per game, third-most in the nation.

-- Jeff Borzello and Matt Norlander

Posted on: March 7, 2012 2:00 pm

NEC title game preview: Colonials vs. Blackbirds

We've got a repeat of the 2011 title game. Same teams, same location. Same result? If Long Island-Brooklyn wins, then yes. The Blackbirds ended a nearly 20-year NCAA tournament drought last season in a dramatic 85-82 overtime win. But Robert Morris has become the class of this league in the past half-decade.

Under Mike Rice, and now Andy Toole, the team is consistently in the top three of the NEC and always a threat to go to the NCAAs. It won the league in 2008, 2009 and 2010, going to the NCAA tournament those latter two years. The fact RMU is back again is a surprise for only this reason -- it's playing without its best player. Toole suspended Karon Abraham before the season started for violating team rules. It wasn't a five- or 10-game suspension. No, Toole told his guy he had to miss an entire year. And Abraham's taken it in stride. The team -- even more so. The team is 24-9; last year, it was 18-14.

Long Island-Brooklyn was the league's best this season, though. It is the No. 1, through and through, even if No. 2 Wagner wasn't far behind, the Blackbirds have the most talent. It went 16-2 in the league (Wagner was 15-3, RMU 13-5) and has the Player of the Year in Julian Boyd. Boyd's a joy to watch, as he's really versatile and could end up getting a shot in the NBA. What you'll want to watch: the tempo battle. LIU-Brooklyn averages 75 possessions per game, which is extremely high. It's third in the nation, in fact. RMU averages a full 10 possessions fewer per game.

The Colonials will want to drain the clock and keep it conversational in the half-court. Last year, it lost that battle for most of the game, and thus ended up losing. The teams met once this season, a 75-66 RMU win. If Boyd and Jamal Olasewere and LIU-Brooklyn point guard Jason Brickman play to their ceiling, the Blackbirds should somewhat comfortably win the rematch. If it's close, the Colonials' Verdell Jones will be the one involved. He leads the team in scoring (16.6 points per game) and is multi-dimensional on the offensive end.

-- Matt Norlander
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 28, 2012 5:15 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:37 am

What-to-know tourney previews: The NEC

The Northeast squads can push it. Averaging 67.9 possessions per game (that stat according to KenPom.com), the NEC was the third-fastest league in the nation. Collectively, what does it not do well? Block shots and hit 3s. So lot of run-and-gun, layups and mid-range jumpers should come about in the three-tiered, eight-team bracket play that begins Thursday night.

Long Island-Brooklyn is your head honcho. It finished 16-2 in the league, 22-8 overall and is the defending champ. It made its first NCAA tournament appearance in 14 years last season, and with most everyone back, the team looks even better. It boasts league POY Julian Boyd, a multi-faceted big who’s an adept ball-handler that averaged 17.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. He had 13 double-doubles this season and became the first Blackbird in 23 years to grab 20 boards in a game.

Beyond Boyd, Jamale Olasewere — fellow First-Teamer in the NEC — is a tough matchup problem. Toss in compact, fearless point guard Jason Brickman, who averages 7.1 assists per game (No. 5 in the country), and it’s tough to see why LIU-Brooklyn won’t win this thing two years straight.

The biggest competition comes from media darling Wagner. The Seahawks finished one game behind the Blackbirds in the standings. They are coached by Danny Hurley, brother of famous Duke guard Bobby Hurley, who’s also on staff. Many things have been written about this team’s resurgence. Danny is in just his second season there and already the team gets to a 24-5 regular-season record. In 2010, this was a 5-26 team. The Seahawks are a very aggressive team; they force a turnover one out of every four possessions. If Wagner makes it to the NCAAs, I promise you it will be one of the two biggest non-major conference storylines leading up to the opening weekend.

Julian Boyd and the Blackbirds want back-to-back appearances in the NCAAs for No. 1 LIU-Brooklyn. (AP)

Ironically, Danny Hurley didn’t win the league’s Coach of the Year award despite winning 15 games. St. Franics (NY) Glenn Braica earned the Jim Phelan Coach of the Year trophy. His team finished fourth after getting picked 11th in the preseason.

In the 3 spot is Robert Morris, a group that’s played extremely well all season and really cannot be ignored at all. Bob Morris represented the league in recent years and is the best offensive-rebounding team in the NEC. It also plays defense as well as Wagner. What it lacks: reliable shooting.

One last thing: this was how LIU-Brooklyn won the NEC title last year. What an atmosphere. If seeding holds, I’ll be back there again to witness it.



Schedule: March 1, 4, 7
Title game:
Wednesday, March 7, ESPN2.


  1. Julian Boyd, Long Island-Brooklyn
  2. Jamal Olasewere, Long Island-Brooklyn
  3. Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart
  4. Ken Horton, Central Connecticut
  5. Velton Jones, Robert Morris

Conference RPI: 24

KenPom.com rating: 26

Sagarin rating: 27

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: None

Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

  • Bryant: N/A
  • Central Connecticut State: 2007, 16 seed, a 78-57 loss to Ohio State
  • Fairliegh Dickinson: 2005, 16 seed, a 67-55 loss to Illinois
  • Long Island Blackbirds: 2011, 15 seed, lost 102-87 to North Carolina
  • Monmouth Hawks: 2006, 16 seed, won opening-round game over Hampton, 71-49, lost in first round to Villanova, 58-45
  • Mt. Saint Mary's Mountaineers: 2008, 16 seed, won opening-round game over Coppin State, 69-60, lost in first round to North Carolina, 113-74
  • Quinnipiac Bobcats: N/A
  • Robert Morris Colonials: 2010, 15 seed, lost 73-70 to Villanova
  • Sacred Heart Pioneers: N/A
  • St. Francis (NY) Terriers: N/A
  • St. Francis (PA) Red Flash: 1991, 15 seed, a 93-80 loss to Arizona
  • Wagner Seahawks: 2003, 15 seed, an 87-61 loss to Pittsburgh

-- Matt Norlander

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: February 5, 2012 10:25 am
Edited on: February 6, 2012 6:52 am

Homecourt advantage gives LIU edge in NEC race

By Jeff Borzello

NEW YORK -- Some teams downplay homecourt advantage, especially in a balanced league like the Northeast Conference.

Not Jim Ferry and LIU-Brooklyn -- they know what kind of edge playing at the WRAC gives the Blackbirds.

“It’s huge in this conference,” Ferry said. “It’s the most important thing.”

Long Island has won 21 straight on its home court, including Saturday’s 95-80 victory against Central Connecticut State -- a game that was marred by three technical fouls and a brawl during the post-game handshakes.

The win improved the Blackbirds to 11-1 in the conference, one game ahead of St. Francis (N.Y.). The two teams will play twice this week, but LIU has a pretty easy finish to the season after that. If Long Island ends up getting the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament again this season, mark it down: no one is beating the Blackbirds on their home floor. It doesn't matter if it's a sold-out gym or a sparse crowd, LIU-Brooklyn just plays with a different confidence on its home court. 

“I didn’t think about it until a few weeks ago, but we clearly shoot better,” Ferry said. “Being at home definitely helped us.”

Last season, LIU won the regular-season title, getting homecourt advantage throughout the conference tournament. The Blackbirds survived two close games in the semifinals and finals and got to the NCAA tournament.

Don’t be surprised if that happens again this season.

Long Island has won 12 of its past 13 games, including a road contest at Wagner two weeks ago that changed the momentum of the conference race. While this week’s two games against Brooklyn rival St. Francis (N.Y.) -- including the “Battle of Brooklyn” and a game at Madison Square Garden -- will decide the temporary league leader, it still looks like LIU has the inside track for the top seed.

Many of the same characters from last year’s team are still major factors on this season’s version. Julian Boyd (right) and Jamal Olasewere form the best inside tandem in the conference, with Boyd providing a go-to option offensively and Olasewere bringing his relentless activity at both ends. Jason Brickman is one of the best point guards in the league, and Michael Culpo can knock down shots. Kenny Onyechi provides legitimate depth inside. Long Island ranks third in the country in tempo, and many teams simply can’t keep up with them.

“We had so many good players [last year],” Ferry said. “We don’t have as much depth. Out returning players are better, we just don’t have the depth -- but we still have enough.”

The personnel is almost secondary to homecourt advantage, though. If the Blackbirds get the top seed in the conference tournament, they’re likely heading to the NCAA tournament.

Photo: US Presswire

Posted on: January 24, 2012 1:09 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2012 7:12 pm

The tightest league races right now

Drexel and George Mason are two of five teams chasing down the CAA crown. Many conference races remain four-team-or-more chases nearly halfway through league play. (US PRESSWIRE)

By Matt Norlander

We’re now more than halfway through the college basketball season (blink long enough and conference tournaments will be there before your eyes as you open them), and what intrigues me is the number of conferences with good races/clogs at the top. I wanted to see which leagues had the best tussles for supremacy right now, so I’ve laid them out on the table, so to speak. In three weeks, separation will become natural and many of the conferences featured below will either see the top of its respective mountains less crowded — or perhaps find a late bloomer making a spirited run.

For now, these are among the tightest, densest races and chases going in college hoops right now. Yes, there had to be some ground rules. First of all, you couldn’t be from the Pac-12. Secondly, you couldn’t be from any of the major conferences, because we’re all very aware of those marathons. Plus, those leagues are covered in a column I wrote today. To be fair to sample size, I set a bar: each team had to have played a minimum of seven conference games, eliminating C-USA for now, which could become really enrapturing, and the Atlantic 10 which, as of this post, had teams 1 through 12 with one to three losses. No one knows what’s going to happen in that league. As Tony Horton would say, “I hate it, but I love it.” Both of those conferences will get standalone posts on their prospects near the end of the month.

Lastly, conferences that qualified for this post needed at least four teams within two games of each other in the loss column in the top of the standings. You’ll notice I use points per possession and points per possession allowed in addition to league/overall marks. The format is similar to John Gasaway’s super Tuesday Truths, only I’m not using efficiency margins as means of ranking, and the PPP metrics are for all games, not in-conference, which John uses.

Here they are, college basketball’s six closest non-Big Six conference chases.


Team                     League   Overall      PPP     PPPA

George Mason          8-1       16-5         1.04    0.92
VCU                            7-2       16-5         1.04    0.90
Drexel                         7-2       15-5         1.03    0.89
Old Dominion            7-2       12-9         0.96    0.92
Georgia State            6-3       14-6         1.02    0.86

Prior to the start of the weekend, the Colonial was the only conference with a viable six-team quest. Since then, Northeastern fell out of favor. How about Mason, eh? That’s my preseason CAA pick. And it doesn’t play any of the top six teams again until Feb. 4, when it gets ODU. Speaking of the Monarchs, Old Dominion challenged itself greatly in the non-con, so the overall record doesn’t do justice to the ceiling that team has. Drexel, by the way, was the coaches’ pick for conference winner back in October. But it ain’t October no mo’.

Few leagues have been as defensively stout as the CAA. Its collective .97 points-per-possession-allowed is the best of any conference listed here. Georgia State still leads the league in efficiency margin — something to keep an eye on.

Upcoming games between top teams:

Georgia State at Drexel, Wednesday
VCU at Georgia State, Saturday


Team                   League    Overall     PPP     PPPA

Long Island             8-0       14-6         1.06    1.01
Wagner                     6-2       15-4         1.08    0.94
Central Conn.          6-2        9-9          1.02    1.00
Robert Morris           5-2       15-6         1.05    0.96
St. Francis (NY)       6-2       9-10         0.98    0.98

The Northeast Conference’s chase has been a long time coming. Four of the five teams fared well in the non-con, even CCSU, which is treading water overall. But Central Connecticut also could have the league’s best player, Ken Horton, and the best freshman, Kyle Vinales. Plenty’s already been written about Wagner (which could easily be 14-5, not 15-4), but now that LIU is still undefeated, the defending NEC champs should see an uptick in pub, including on this here blog.

It must be noted, again, that Robert Morris is playing so well despite suspending its best player, Karon Abraham, for the season. How many teams could duplicate that?

Upcoming games between top teams:

Long Island at Robert Morris, Thursday
St. Francis (NY) at Robert Morris, Saturday

Big South

Team                   League    Overall     PPP     PPPA

UNC-Asheville           9-1       14-7         1.15    1.02
Campbell                    8-2       14-8         1.08    1.03
Coastal Carolina       7-2       14-5         1.09    0.94
Charleston Southern 7-3       13-7         1.1     1.01

The Big South is the best league you don’t’ know anything about. Yeah, defense isn’t the motto — but the teams can score! And they can win out of conference, too; Charleston Southern is graded out to a top-20 non-con strength of schedule, according to KenPom.com.

Upcoming games between top teams:

Campbell at Asheville, Saturday

Rob Jones and the Gaels are off to the best start in league play since 1959. (AP)


Team                   League    Overall     PPP     PPPA

Saint Mary’s              8-0       19-2         1.17    0.91
Gonzaga                    6-1       16-3         1.1     0.94
Brigham Young         6-2       17-5         1.11    0.90
Loyola Marymount    5-2       12-8         1.01    0.96

Who knew Saint Mary’s would be THIS good? Tough games are upcoming, but still, the Gaels haven’t ever started West Coast Conference play 8-0 before. They started 8-0 in ’58-’59, back when they were a part of the West Coast Athletic Conference, which became the WCC. Kudos to them. What I love about this race is how each team can score — and isn’t allowing more than a point per possession. Some good old fashioned domination going on. I like Gonzaga to ultimately win the league in the regular season. Marymount’s going to remain to be a problem for everyone, though.

Upcoming games between top teams:

Saint Mary’s at Marymount, Thursday
Saint Mary’s at BYU, Saturday


Team                   League    Overall     PPP     PPPA

Cleveland State       7-2       17-4         1.04    0.92
Valparaiso                7-2       14-7         1.08    1.01
UW-Milwaukee        6-3       13-8         0.98    0.93
Butler                         6-3       12-9         0.97    0.95
Youngstown State    6-3       11-8         1.03    1.00

Look at cute little Butler, just hiding in the weeds at 12-9 and tied for second. It’s no secret this Bulldogs team has had trouble scoring, but at least they’re still, just barely, better on O than D. Cleveland State has done very well for itself, but I think the Horizon, which ends league play Feb. 25, before most other leagues, will see four teams own the top spot before the season ends. I don’t think Youngstown State is worth taking seriously, but they met the qualifications and are playing better than Milwaukee. Then again, the Penguins have had a much easier schedule than the Panthers.  

Upcoming games between top teams:

Butler at Milwaukee, Thursday
Cleveland State at Youngstown State, Saturday
Valpo at Milwaukee, Saturday


Team                   League    Overall     PPP     PPPA

Iona                        7-2       15-5         1.14    1.00
Manhattan             7-2       14-7         1.01    0.93
Loyola                    7-2       14-5         1.01    0.96
Fairfield                 5-3       10-9         1.00    0.96

In the preseason I expected Fairfield to narrow past Iona for the league title. Then it became clear the Gaels were far superior to the Stags, who are enduring one of the most disappointing seasons of any team in the country. They’re barely keeping chase to make this feature. Now Iona’s staggered after blowing an 18-point lead to Siena Monday night. Siena, as you can see, is not even in position to win the MAAC right now. The Gaels are still the best team this league has by a wide margin, but now they’re not to be trusted, despite having three all league-level players in Scott Machado, Mike Glover and MoMo Jones.

Manhattan has transformed itself in the first year under Steve Masiello. What a job. And talking to some in the league in the preseason, they expected Loyola to be a top-three team. That’s true so far.

Upcoming games between top teams:

Iona at Fairfield, Friday
Posted on: December 31, 2011 1:55 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 2:02 pm

Will refs be punished again for botched call?

By Matt Norlander

That's how Wagner defeated Santa Clara Friday night in the nation's oldest regular-season tournament, Santa Clara's Cable Car Classic. There is no dispute: the Seahawks' basket should not have counted.

First of all, before the game-winning shot is launched by Kenny Ortiz, the ball appears to land on the out-of-bounds line. The angle's not great, so it can be disputed, and if you'd like to do that, I won't fight you. But after that no-call, the circus shot -- fun as it is to watch -- should not count. From fifth-grade officiating on up, every stripe should and does know that if the ball falls through the hoop but has to take the roundabout way of travelling from behind the backboard to get there: no points.

If I'm breaking out rules, articles and sections, you know it's serious. Nonetheless, here it is, straight from the official rulebook. Rule 9, Section 3, Article 2, in all its succinct glory:
"The ball shall be out of bounds when any part of the ball passes over the backboard from any direction."
Go ahead and watch it again. Yep, Rule 9, Section 3, Article 2 is most definitely violated. Doesn't much matter, as Santa Clara is now
8-5 and Wagner's stellar season improves to 10-3. It was a 64-62 final; overtime should have been held.

Going forward, the question is, will the West Coast Conference punish its officials for costing a team a game for neglecting a fairly obvious rule?

It's happened before at the Cable Car Classic. Three years ago, in fact, and it was over a rule much less well-known. In 2008, coach Kerry Keating and Santa Clara were on the good end of a botched outcome. The Broncos defeated UTEP after John Bryant hit a game-winning shot. Only Bryant was subbed in after an inadvertent stoppage of time by the officials. With less than a minute remaining, such a substitution isn't allowed.

Bryant, of all people, had to be the one to give Santa Clara the W. UTEP didn't protest -- because it didn't know the rule either. The league reviewed it a few days later, and sure enough, that officiating crew was suspended for one game.

WCC director of officials Dave Libbey was at Friday night's Wagner-Santa Clara game. He knows what happened and he knows it was wrong. The league has yet to offer a retraction or apology. That should come soon, Monday at the latest. And if the league's going to be consistent with disciplining erroneous calls, the three officials from Friday night's game -- Mark Cook, Michael Rapp and Tony Padilla -- deserve to sit a game as well.

The Broncos move on with their season, looking ahead to conference play, but they're still owed a public apology for having a win against a good team ripped from away from them due to an egregious stripes oversight.
Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:32 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 3:50 pm

St. Francis play first home game of year tonight

By Matt Norlander

They’ll be home for Christmas.

St. Francis (NY) did the unthinkable: it went nearly two months of its season without a home game — and started its year that way. The Terriers are 3-9 and will host Albany tonight, the first of a well-deserved three-game home stand. It’s not often a team begins its campaign with nine consecutive road tilts, but the calendar and mandatory “guarantee” games aligned that way for Glenn Braica’s team.

“We couldn’t get anyone to come any earlier!” Brainca said by phone Monday, the enthusiasm in his voice at a palpable tone. “Honestly, with the dates we had, we couldn’t get anyone to come to our place sooner than this.”

The ironic factor to this: The Terriers have played just two BCS conference teams. Normally a big stretch of road games indicates the big boys are dictating you play in their house. But only Seton Hall and St. John’s were on the docket for St. Francis. The rest include Hofstra, Mount Saint Mary’s, Howard, New Jersey Institute of Technology, among others.

These kind of road woes to start seasons aren't common, but they are precedented. I put the feeler out on Twitter to see who else recently had nine or more road games to start a season.

-- David Harten says Arkansas-Pine Bluff had 13 last year, and starts with 16 road/neutral games this season.
-- NBCSports.com's Mike Miller pointed out to me how Pine Bluff actually rallied from this kind of scheduling and made The Dance.
-- Kyle Muncy, outgoing sports information director at UConn (one of the best; sad to see him advance his career like this) brought up Coppin State, which has made a habit of getting paid by so many when it sacrifices home game.

The best part of it is — the silver lining to the Terriers' 3-6 start— the team hasn’t had to hop on a plane yet. Everything’s been by bus, as Howard and The Mount were the furthest foes away.

“It’s tough to play nine on the road, though, I’m not going to lie to you,” Brainca, 47, said. “Coming back home, you’re worried … you wonder how they’re going to react in front of their own fans. I do think all those road games has to help them, make them tougher, though”.

St. Francis, which plays in the Northeast Conference, isn’t likely to run into such a scenario again, as the league doesn’t schedule home games in December. Because of that, it’s able to have flexibility with its scheduling and get a few games around Christmas, usually its members getting home game or close road tilts.

The team’s likely in for a long year, though, as it’s one of the shortest teams in the country (there is nobody playing significant minutes above 6-6). It’s also got eight freshmen or sophomores on the roster, and just lost starting point guard Dre Calloway for the season due to a shoulder injury.

Despite this, Jalen Cannon, one of the 6-6 guys, leads the country in offensive rebound rate. Pretty remarkable, but I’d suspect his 21.3 percentage of offensive snares will fall in the next month.

Photo via St. Francis athletics

Category: NCAAB
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