February 15, 2014
The Hofstra men’s basketball season is better than 2/3 over, so it’s time to revisit an earlier article entitled, “….Is There Hope on the Horizon?” Their current record is 8-17 overall, and 4-6 in the Colonial Athletic Association (CCAA), including a thrilling come-from-behind (15 point) victory this past Saturday over UNCW. So, is there hope? The answer is a qualified “yes.” Here is the basis for this assessment.
The team’s record is not a true measure of the capability of the team. Remember, this is/was supposed to be a “recovery” and/or “rebuilding” year under new coach Joe Mihalich. It also turns out that several of the losses could have gone the other way; here’s my call on why they didn’t.
1. There has been a commitment to an 8-man rotation that primarily involves 6 players. Injuries to two starters – Nesmeth and Allen (still out) – has exasperated the rotation scheme.
2. There was an inability to effectively stop the inside offensive game of several of their opponents. Hofstra’s three big men have done an adequate job but have been outmanned during a few of the games.
3. An inability to stop the premier point guard of some of their opponents added to the team’s woes. Last year, Stevie Mejia (the best defensive point guard I’ve ever seen) put Machado of Iona College and Massenat of Drexel in his hip pocket. Machado had a field day this year that resulted in a loss. Perhaps a box-and-one or a triangle-and-two would help at crunch time.
4. There was a failure to get back on defense to prevent (easy) fast-break points during several games. This effectively provides the opponents with layup practice. As I’ve always said: you can’t beat taking layups. Players need to understand the need to run back – not walk or jog – when there is a change of possession.
5. An occasional porous defense existed when playing zone. Although there are times when a zone is the defense of choice, I’ve always maintained that your grandmother can guard you in a zone. Since one can relax defensively in a zone, coach Mihalich may have opted for some zone because of his short bench.
Overall, coach Mihalich has done an excellent job with the hand he has been dealt. In addition, the team has played with intensity on both offense and defense. Seniors Upshaw (perhaps the most outstanding player in the CAA) and Nesmith are the team’s two best players. Freshman Jamall Robinson has been Rookie of the Week on several occasions and will no doubt emerge as the team’s star the next three years.
Finally, I need to pass judgment on the upcoming CAA Tournament Championship during March 7-10. It is a 4-game playoff over 4 days where anything can happen. And, the winner of the CAA Tournament gets an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament starting in mid-March. Hofstra’s only hope to land in the NCAA field is to win the tournament outright. But, winning the tournament – which is not totally out of reach because of the present parity in the CAA – will require playing and winning games on four consecutive days. That probability will be reduced because of a strained manpower that will arise playing with a 7-man rotation. Nevertheless…..anything can happen.
As noted on numerous times in the past, attending Hofstra games still remains the best sports buy in the New York Metropolitan area. There is ample free parking, the concession stands are not a rip-off, there isn’t a bad seat in the house and its $5 for seniors and children. Three home games remain: Delaware, 2/19, 7:00PM, Drexel 2/22, 7:00PM, and James Madison (homecoming), 3/1, 7:00PM.