By Lenn Robbins
The most disliked man in metropolitan area sports has tested positive for the most insidious virus in most of our lifetimes. James Dolan, owner of the Knicks, Rangers and The Garden, became one of about 60,000 New Yorkers to have contracted this disease. That number grows as I type.
It is not some karmic justice that Dolan has COVID-19. It’s a sad, unfortunate coincidence.
Some feeble-minded fans have taken to social media, which at times serves as the cesspool of society, to express their glee. Which means this is an ideal opportunity for a COVID-19 realty checkpoint.
This consists of my knowledge of this coronavirus: It has no agenda but to thrive, which means finding as much sweat, saliva spit and snot as possible and hitch a ride from person to person. It does not ask for, or even has any interest in, a person’s ID – rich, poor, tall, short, white, black, blue collar, white collar, no collar.
It has no conscience. Neither do some Dolan haters.
If you’ve visited this space you know we have no love lost for Dolan. We’ve asked Knicks fans to boycott. When that didn’t have the desired effect, we suggested fans appeal to Dolan’s love of the Knicks and try to convince him to sell for the good of the team. That, too, has not succeeded.
We will continue to try to be an agent for change.
In fact, we think the sooner he sells the Knicks, the quicker the team’s fans and, possible Dolan himself, will find happiness. He can enjoy their future success just like any other fan.
But only someone lacking in soul, like the virus itself, wants to see real harm come to Dolan. He is, after all, a husband, father of five, son, musician and absolutely incompetent owner when it comes to the Knicks.
Yet on the same day that the Knicks announced on Twitter that Dolan had tested positive it was reported by The New York Post that the owner had established The MSG Relief Fund to keep paying venue employees at least through May 3. Initially funded with a $1 million donation from the Madison Square Garden company and matched by the Dolan Family Foundation and a $300,000 from the MSG team.
I couldn’t care less if this is all one big tax deduction. It’s a right thing to do and Dolan did it.
Look, it’s fine to find some humor in this coronavirus plague. Humor is good medicine. Trevor Noah’s joke, that even COVID-19 doesn’t want anything to do with the Knicks, is true comedy. So is his mission to make Social Distancing an Olympic sport.
When it comes to feeling happy that Dolan has the virus takes away our essence as humans, which just might be COVID-19’S end game. Here’s our message to Mr. Dolan:
Get well soon. Then sell the team.
HIS BEST ASSIST: Former Knicks point guard and Coney Island native Stephan Marbury is trying to secure the purchase of 10 million N95 masks for hospital workers and first responder. After a 14-year career in the NBA, Marbury’s professional and financial careers got huge boosts in the Chinese Basketball Association.
Marbury teamed with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to help with delivery arrangements. Marbury reportedly will purchase the masks at cost ($2.75) as opposed to $7.50 retailers have been trying to rip off the city.
“At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn,” Marbury told The Post in a telephone interview from his home in Beijing. “This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”
Yes, this is difficult. We are home and staying safe. We are dealing with a Coronavirus pandemic and making that adjustment. This was supposed to be the first weekend of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
We were five days away from Opening Day of the 2020 baseball season. Instead, at Citi Field, a makeshift hospital and relief center is being planned
We are without sports. We are adjusting to viewing daily updates from the White House, your Governor, and Mayor. We are isolated and hoping this crisis will pass soon.
Saturday and Sunday, and next weekend, CBS Sports is televising memorable games from past NCAA tournaments. MLB Network, the regional networks, are also replaying memorable games.
The baseball fix in New York includes a Mets marathon on SNY. The Yankees showing their classic series on YES, and audio feeds of the Michael Kay sports talk show on ESPN Radio.
The NBA and NHL channels also do their part to keep us entertained.
How the WWE will stage WrestleMania, a reformatted two day event, and with no fans at their Orlando performance center in two weeks will be interesting and different.
WrestleMania, a highlight show on the wrestling calendar for the WWE and fans, was supposed to be held before 75,000 or more at Raymond James Stadium, Sunday April 5 in Tampa .
Instead, the evening before, with reportedly some taped matches, will highlight the mega event. No pyro, no fans, and matches scrapped. Pro wrestlers are making the adjustments and it will be similar to a rehearsal or audition they have experienced before gaining their stardom to the top.
We are in this together. And, said here again, sports are not the priority here as much as the world of fun and games would be a diversion from this crisis that confronts our world and nation.
So without sports, there are some options as we continue to isolate in our homes. This past week, in between some writing and dealing with the isolation, there were some good options to get your fix.
Sports books, the classic events and movies to pass the time are becoming a norm. Though there is nothing better than viewing a live event, and we could be without that for the next few months, .
Any hope for the start of the 2020 season is not anytime soon. The hope, as can be determined, MLB season openers are on hold at least to June.
And that is being optimistic, all depending of course on how long the Coronavirus Pandemic abates. Talking to numerous sports personnel over the past few days, and the overall opinion is MLB and other leagues will await the first move of the NBA when it comes to resuming their schedule.
Why the NBA? The National Basketball Association was the first to shut down and seem to be at the forefront of taking control. Other sports leagues will follow their path.
In addition, with the 2020 MLB season, players would need another two-week spring training period for conditioning and the schedule would need a major readjustment. That means doubleheaders that are rare on a schedule and a shortened season which are not the norm.
Again, that is speculation as we go day-by-day with this crisis and hope for the best.
Pitchers were at the point of throwing at speeds where they should be. The hitters, always behind the pitchers, they will need more time to catch up and that is usually the case during a normal spring training period..
Let’s say 81 games or fewer, instead of a regular 162-game slate and no All–Star game. Players would get paid when the season begins.
Now, as understood, the MLBPA and owners are working out details of the specifics as to their contracts and payment and pertaining to details about pay scales in cases such as a national state of emergency.
The other sports will deal with specifics, perhaps not as complicated for the NHL and Major League soccer. Boxing will resume with lucrative network deals and promotions at Top Rank, PBC, Matchroom, Golden Boy, and others.
They will saturate the market with events every weekend for the boxing fan as the non mainstream fighters train at home and await their next payday. Most, if not all of the boxing gyms have been closed due to the pandemic.
The Kentucky Derby, Masters Golf Tournament, major events on the spring calendar, have announced they are rescheduling their major events to a later time.
Still up in the air is how the USTA will handle the U.S. Open In Flushing Queens. That was scheduled for the later part of August.
In the meantime some books to suggest to get your fix:
- Staying Positive The Story of The Real Paul Banke (Boxing)
- Once There Were Giants. The Golden Age of Heavyweight Boxing (Jerry Izenberg)
- Inside Pitch. My Life As a Major League Closer (Skip Lockwood)
More to come in the coming days as we go through the pile with some of the best books and classic sports to view.
Most of all be SAFE! We are in this together and will get back to normal in due time.
Comment: Ring786@aol.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
I am okay here in the Bronx and taking precaution.
Yes, we are changing routines and isolating and in due time this Coronavirus crisis will pass. So, before I head to a scheduled doctor appointment that was on the docket, here we go.
Sports are dark. My livelihood, as with others in all walks of life, has been disrupted. Sports have always been a diversion from a crisis but not now. We need to adjust, adapt, come together as a community.
You see, as the medical professionals handling this crisis say, we could be in this for the long haul. Adapting to no sports is an adjustment and you learn to do other things in the safety and comfort of your home.
Catch up on some reading. I have finished reading two books that were half way in. Watch classic movies and relive the sports classics that are the alternative programming on various sports networks.
Of course, I will admit, “The Walking Dead” episode Sunday night had some shocking developments and outcomes. Though. admit. not the proper program to watch with our society in a crisis and keeping up with a television series did not change the routine.
And reacquaint with your loved ones. We do tend to get lost with our love and passion for sports.
The only sports programming, and limited, bowling tournaments and NASCAR. The NFL, the only sport in the offseason with their new labor agreement , trades, and free agency.
Well, that is the only bit of news to talk and write about as Major League Baseball facilities are closed and the 2020 season is pushed back further into late May or June.
As Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said, “This is bigger than baseball.” Indeed, baseball and all sports is not the priority now, The specifics of schedules, not just with baseball, will be determined. The economic impact, of course, will be huge.
The sport of boxing has come to a halt, and at a time when major fights have been put off the schedule. Top Rank, Premier Boxing Champions, and Matchroom Boxing, among the big three promotions, stand to lose a significant amount of revenue and at a standstill with new subscribers to their networks.
Talent, the fighters, many who depend on a purse, are basically at a standstill and out of work as boxing gyms have closed their doors. The streaming networks ESPN, DAZN, have to readjust when the sport resumes.
According to a source, FOX Sports and Showtime, a major part of the boxing schedule, will be forced to double up shows on weekends which is good for the boxing fan. But, too much saturation of the sport, at the same time, could work to a disadvantage when the sport resumes with the chaotic rescheduling of fight cards.
According to the promoters, all ticket orders will be refunded from the original point of purchase. And for fans, many with a economic loss due to the Coronavirus pandemic, paying for the network streams could become a financial burden.
“The health and safety of the boxers, fans, and those working the events are of utmost importance to us,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB promotions and lead promoter of the cancelled PBC shows.
He added, “We are all disappointed and as we get more information we will address future events.”
And this goes beyond the major sports leagues and promoters.. The little guy and personnel. They secure safety of venues, ticket sales personnel, concession workers, vendors, and more feeling the impact of a sports shutdown.
They, too, are taking a hit and realizing safety is first. Many are paid seasonal, and a six month baseball season does pay the bills. Some security personnel, on a full time basis, have been asked to stay home.
“It will be a hardship,” said a seasonal worker that is employed as one of many security personnel at Citi Field and Madison Square Garden. It is expected with federal funding they will recoup some of their losses.
Some also will be able to qualify for unemployment insurance as seasonal employees at the ballpark qualify.
Regardless, sports in the dark is having that type of impact.
Impact of sports programming also is being felt with broadcast talent and production personnel. They are employed as freelancers and sitting on the sidelines.
They, the freelance talent, will sustain a financial loss. So, basically the impact is all around the sports industry. We as a society are all feeling the impact and need to adjust.
In the days and weeks to come, we will try on these pages to provide readers as to how this impact of the Coronavirus is having an impact. The impact on all walks of life no matter what you do.
You see, it’s not just about sports going dark. It’s a nation, a city, and some points of the world all in that readjustment period of time.
We are in this together. BE SAFE!
Comment: Ring786@aol.com Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
By Lenn Robbins
The Gym Rat Coach is back.
Back in the metropolitan area where his love affair with basketball began. Back in the college ranks, which he is more suited to than the NBA. Back in the gym of a small Catholic college not that different from his prep days at St. Dominic of Oyster Bay.
The shock is where Rick Pitino has resurfaced.
It is not the NBA, or a power five school, or a Big East school such as Providence, where he first garnered national attention. Iona College, a birthplace of college basketball coaches, announced Saturday that Pitino, one of the most polarizing figures in the game, will coach the Gaels next season.
It immediately makes Iona’s games and practices must-see basketball. On and off the court, Pitino stirred the pot with his, how do we phrase it, passionate and competitive nature.
Those traits helped Pitino win two NCAA titles, a Greek Cup and Greek Basket League championship and transforming the 1988-89 Knicks into the Bomb Squad, the most exciting show in the NBA.
His high-strung persona also found him embroiled in an alleged pay-for-play scandal at Louisville, a lawsuit against the university and Adidas, an extortion case in which a Pitino admitted to having an extra-marital sex with a woman who tried to extort him, and almost started a Civil War in basketball-crazed Kentucky by winning NCAA titles at with the Wildcats and then Cardinals (vacated).
But what can never be questioned is Pitino’s standing as one of the greatest innovators and motivators in the game. His before and after records are astonishing:
BU was 10-15 before Pitino arrived; 17-9 in his first season. Kentucky was 13-19; 22-6 in Pitino’s second season. The Knicks were 24-58 before Pitino; 52-30 in his second season. Louisville was 12-19 before; 19-13 the next.
After playing point guard at UMass, Pitino began his coaching career as an assistant coach in Hawaii. The journey led to Syracuse, Boston College, the Knicks, Providence College, the Knicks (head coach), Kentucky, Celtics, Louisville, Greece and now Westchester County.
Iona is in many ways the perfect ending. He has made enough money to not need another big payday. He doesn’t need more validation, yet craves it.
This will be coaching at its purist – college players who have not been fawned over since they were in junior high.
Pitino takes over for Tim Cluess, who missed this season with illness. Cluess had followed in the footsteps of Jim Valvano, Tim Welsh, Jeff Ruland and Kevin Willard – Iona coaches that won and went on.
“My passion in basketball started in New York and will end there at Iona College,” Pitino said in the statement. “Tim Cluess has done a spectacular job creating success and a winning spirit. I wish Tim a speedy recovery and Iona will always cherish his accomplishments.
“At Iona, I will work with the same passion, hunger and drive that I’ve had for over forty years. There is a real professionalism in how things are run here and this is a very tight, strong community.”
True. The Westchester County college has a rabid fan base that enjoys heated rivalries with Fordham, Manhattan and other Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schools.
It isn’t hard to imagine him leading the Gaels into next year’s NCAA Tournament and scarring – if not upsetting – a much higher seed. Pitino took the Friars to the 1987 Final Four.
Will he have that level of success at Iona? Doubtful. But the Hynes Center just became one of the top basketball labs in the country.
Wednesday evening we left the Barclays Center in Brooklyn after the first round of the Atlantic-10 Basketball championship tournament. I had this empty feeling with the increased cases of the Coronavirus.
And then it happened. Sports were shut down. Not just the NCAA conference tournaments. Not the NCAA Mens and womens basketball tournaments of March Madness, but all sports.
One-by-one. The NBA, NHL, MLS, boxing, golf. And the anticipated start of Major League Baseball has been pushed back for two weeks, but that is just an estimate.
The start of the 2020 Major League Baseball season could be on hiatus and longer than that two week time period.
It will take time to adjust as arenas and stadiums go dark. This is a circumstance, from this perspective, worse than the events and aftermath of September 11, 2001. Worse, because it has impacted you, me, the city of New York, the world.
The difference, an impact for a long period of time as we adjust.
It’s about the individual well being of all. We can’t fight a virus that is not under control and this comes as the sports analyst and by no means is this writer a medical authority or pretend to be.
It’s common sense and listening to the authorities that advise how to deal with this situation. But sports is on the sidelines. We are looking in, making adjustments, hoping for the best.
The transition to do other things is here. There always will be things to write about. Pick up a book, watch a classic movie. Check on family, friends, and neighbors.
And in due time, like all bad situations, this will pass. The Coronavirus and implications will become history, talked about for years to come, and we can resume our daily routines.
But, New York City in that state of emergency will not have a complete shutdown. A source, within New York City Government circles informed this columnist that a shutdown will not occur unless Coronavirus cases reach the thousands .
Thankfully, we are not at that point of this crisis. And hopefully we won’t get there.
In the meantime, the world of fun and games, sports as it is called, is on hiatus.
Down in Port St. Lucie Florida, at the New York Mets spring training complex, spring training games have been suspended. The game of baseball is in suspension.
“Obviously with the sensitive information , we have to take extra precaution,” said the Mets’ J.D. Davis.
He continues to stay prepared with the entire Mets contingent and hopes that the crisis will pass so the 2020 season can commence.
“As a team, we will continue to get ready for the season,” Davis said. “It’s definitely different. And we have to improvise to get better everyday and be ready. We don’t know the future, however, we have to have the mindset that we are having our opening day in two weeks.”
He said, the details are still coming in to players and personnel. Meetings are ongoing to answer any concerns with questions.
“Hopefully, in the next couple of days, we will have a better understanding on where to go from here,” Davis said.
That understanding could mean the players leaving Florida, Or, they head to their respective homes or come up north to their seasonal homes in New York.
The Mets season opener was two weeks from yesterday. It is assumed , when MLB resumes, that the team will still have their season opener at Citi Field.
Friday afternoon, the Yankees also remained in place down at their spring training facilities in Tampa. Similar to the Mets ,they are in a holding pattern.
The team released a statement to update fans and the media. They were scheduled to open the season at Baltimore two weeks from yesterday.
“The Yankees fully support this decision and will continue to proactively monitor current events in conjunction with medical experts, government officials and Major League Baseball,” said the statement.
The statement continued “We recognize that our great fans have a variety of questions. However, given the unprecedented nature and fluidity of what is taking place, we appreciate your patience as we diligently work through the many aspects and details of this continually evolving situation.”
In the meantime stadium workers are also victims of this Coronavirus pandemic. Concession workers and security personnel at Citi Field, Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, and the Barclays Center will lose a substantial part of their income.
The players will still get paid. though reductions will come to their contracts as it pertains to a national emergency when games are suspended. According to an agreement with owners and players.
But those who secure and provide at the venues, they will be hurt in the pocket.
“Understand, but safety does come first,” said a long time concession worker who works at Citi Field and Yankee Stadium They earn from the individual vendors that have contracts with the teams.
With March Madness gone, and with sports in the dark, the waging of sports is also taking a hit. That industry, too, is in a holding pattern and this time of year the NCAA Tournament does see sports wagering at a peak.
The NCAA and with a loss of games will lose millions with the CBS and Turner television contracts that deliver these games to us. The eligibility of senior student-athletes, many who missed an opportunity to compete for a championship, reportedly will be extended.
Boxing promoters have cancelled their shows around the nation. Two in New York City in the span of four days, promoted by Top Rank and ESPN were called off Thursday evening.
The events were scheduled in the Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. Initially, when the crisis in New York unfolded, fans were banned from events scheduled for Saturday night and St. Patrick’s Day evening.
Thursday, Top Rank had a final press conference at the Garden. The fighters, officials, and personnel were there and the shows were still a go.
Later, the New York State Athletic Commission got the call form Albany. The commission, that regulates boxing was informed to consult with Top Rank and cancel the shows for the safety of personnel and the fighters.
The Garden is dark, could be for months, and with a state of emergency, events with 500 people or more is a risk. The Theatre is in that category of risk.
Millions of dollars are being lost. The estimates and figures will continue to pile as this crisis continues and when it is finally resolved.
Yes, sports are in the dark. Even media, many who depend on income to report the games and events will see cutbacks and a loss of income.
Realize, we must stay safe. Take caution. The sports world will resume. And hope the Coronavirus, like a bad hurricane, will fly out to sea.
Comment: Ring786@aol.com/ Twitter @Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso
By Lenn Robbins/An editorial by The New York Extra,Editor – in- Chief
COVID-19 is a thief.
It has no conscience, no empathy. It will steal the most precious heirlooms – family and health – if we allow it.
Already it has stolen all of our spring conference tournaments, the NBA, the NHL, Spring Training, and pushed back Opening Day, soccer and tennis matches. You name a sporting event, chances are it’s gone for the foreseeable future.
“I’ve got to tell you, it breaks my heart,” Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said Thursday after canceling her conference tournament midway through the St. John’s-Creighton game. “This is the greatest college basketball tournament ever. But we respect the decision of authorities. We’re very mindful about what’s happening nationally. We do not want to be imprudent as it relates to the safety of our participants and our fans.
“And it’s terrifying, frankly, what’s evolving here as the science and the assessments of the science are progressing. And I don’t think any of us know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
It was disheartening to turn on the TV at 7:00 p.m. and not to choose between the ACC and Big East tournaments.
It was jarring to receive texts from my Rutgers students asking what would comprise the midterm exam now that there is no Selection Sunday to cover.
It was surreal walking into my CVS and seeing empty shelves where there had once been five brands of toilet paper.
And yet all of us can be the lucky ones.
As I passed a neighborhood schoolyard, I saw a father and his junior high school aged daughter shooting hoops. A couple of friends played ping pong. A group of grade school kids played pickup basketball. Couples and families and friends strolled to the rhythm of their own laughter.
It is not the fault of COVID-19 that we have been increasingly isolated by the greatest communication tool in history – the Smartphone.
It is not the fault of COVID-19 that streaming has replaced conversation at the dinner table.
It is not the fault of COVID-19 that texting is replacing talking as the favorite means of communication for teenagers.
COVID-19 can push us further apart or we choose to draw closer together.
We can mourn the loss of sports, or we can try to help low-wage workers whose income is dependent on taking tickets or serving hot dogs or cleaning arenas.
We can mourn a spring without NCAA and conference tournaments, or we can support all of the seniors who will miss a chance to make a priceless memorial.
We can the mourn the possibility that we might have witnessed the end of some of our favorite professional athlete’s career or we can hold on to the memory of the joy they provided.
This is what we can make sure COVID-19 doesn’t take. As social animals, we need each other. We need compassion and empathy. We might not be able to congregate in large numbers but we can offer large and open hearts.
Many around the world have lost friends and family. COVID-19 will take more lives. It will take more sports. But it can’t take our souls. That’s worth any sacrifice we have to make.
By Lenn Robbins
Nolan Richardson, creator of “40 Minutes of Hell,” once said this about his former player, Mike Anderson:
“There are those that play to play and those who play to win, and Mike was playing to win in every ball game.”
For the first 20 minutes of Wednesday night’s opening round game of the Big East Conference Tournament, Anderson’s St. John’s team was playing (pathetically) to play. In the second half, the Red Storm played like their coach, erasing a 15-point second half deficit with a 23-0 closing run to storm past reviled rival Georgetown, 75-62, in The Garden.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said forward LJ Figueroa, who had a game-high 22 points. “Coach always emphasizes we’re never out of game. We just go out there, play as hard as we can. I mean, honestly, I don’t think anybody knew on the court that we were on a 23-0 run. It just felt like we were out there having fun, and that’s how it’s supposed to feel.”
It was the biggest come-from-behind victory for The Johnnies in 41 years of conference tournament play, an impressive achievement for Anderson, who is in his first season in Queens. He assembled this team on the fly after getting the job in mid-April.
The Big East announced that it will limit attendance for the rest of the tournament because of the spread of the coronavirus. Each team will receive an allotment of 200 tickets per game.
St. John’s is not the most talented team in the Big East but you could do worse walking down a dark alley with these guys by your side. Even after missing their first seven shots of the second half (and committing one turnover) the Johnnies, continued to play to win after falling behind 48-33.
When Georgetown’s Terrell Allen made a layup with 6:31 left, the Hoyas had repulsed a couple of St. John’s mini runs and coach Patrick Ewing seemed to have his team in control with a 62-52 lead. They didn’t score again.
“I thought the last six minutes was a classic,’’ said Anderson.
Not for Georgetown.
“It still doesn’t feel real, to be honest with you,” said guard Jagan Mosley. “After their, I guess, 20-0 run, it kind of still hasn’t hit me that the game ended like that.”
St. John’s forced 10 straight misses and four turnovers. The Hoyas finish 15-17 unless they get a bid to minor postseason tournament.
St. Johns’ 17-15 will face top-seeded Creighton (24-7) at noon Thursday in what will be a near-empty Madison Square Garden. DePaul (16-16), a 70-65 winner over Xavier (19-12) will face Villanova.
St. John’s scorched the Bluejays, 91-71, on March 1st. It was Creighton’s worse conference loss of the season. Creighton will be without guard Marcus Zegarowski who will have surgery on his right knee to repair a torn meniscus suffered in the regular-season finale.
But for one night Anderson should cherish the night they went from playing to play to playing to win.
Fordham was the last and 14th seed in the Atlantic-10 Basketball Championship that commenced Wednesday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Prior to their game, 12th seed George Mason advanced in the opening round with a 77-70 win over 13th seed Saint Joseph’s
This first day, though, that belonged to the Rams. And they did not resemble a team that finished last in the conference, 2-16, 6-12 overall. Fordham took comamnd early and advanced to the second round with a commanding 72-52 win over 11th seed George Washington.
Thursday night, Fordham will try and keep this going as they oppose 6th seed Duquesne, the finale of six games that tips off at 8:30PM
So, for the first time in five years ,the Rams have advanced to the second round. Then, in 2015, Fordham lost to VCU under coach Tom Pecora.
And for coach Jeff Neubauer, this is the first time in five years he and his Rams’ are moving on in the tournament.
Realizing this conference is one of the elite in the NCAA, and with Fordham the extreme underdog, this win was special. Of course if they advance Thursday, then there will be talk about Neubauer and his Rams playing the Cinderalla story.
Aso realize, Fordham, should they advance, would get one the top seeds in the tournament. Top seed Dayton, also ranked third in the nation, begins their run to an NCAA championship with a noon game Friday.
“The goal of any coach, more importantly of any team is to play the best basketball of the year and that was my message to this team after the game,” Neubauer said. “W’eve been building to this moment at the offensive and defensive ends.”
He said, “This is the best game we’ve played.”
The reality is, Fordham has been an improved team as the season came down the stretch. They also took three games from GW this year, including the tournament win Wednesday,
And the difference maker has come from a freshman Joel Soriano, who got more playing time. Sophomore forward Onyi Eyisi went down with a foot injury in mid February.
Soriano, 6-11, from Yonkers, adds that versatility. He came into the game recording a double-double in four of his past five games. He got the Rams going and put their first two points on the board.
Soriano finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“When we recruited him, its obvious he’s going to be a terrific player ,:” Neubauer said. “It took him a little time to adjust to the divsion 1 level. Onyi, got hurt giving him the oportunity and he seized the opportuity.”
He has been a major part of the Fordham offense. He can also grab the rebound.
“A major reason we played well down the stretch,” Neubauer said about his freshman. And that the Rams did, play well. Beleive it or not, Fordham could have won 12 of the 16 games they lost, and that includes a 10-game losing streak down the stretch.
“Rebuilding my confidence each and every game,”Soriano said. “Work and shoot the ball. Before the game we talked about this. We got the first one.”
Fordham looks like a team with momentum. Now the task is meeting Duquesne. The Rams lost in overtime, 58-56 on the road in their first meeting back in January. Three weeks ago, in their second meeting up at Rose Hill, the Rams made it close and lost it down the stretch 59-54.
But Thursday evening in Brooklyn, the difference could be Soriano. It could also come from the continued consistency of Jalen Cobb (15 points Erten Gazi (12 pointsO and Antwon Portley who added 10.
“He’s been shooting the ball well from three, a big reason why we are playing well,” Neubauer said.
Now the attention turns to Duquesne, a quick turnaround that surprised Neubauer. He said it will be an interesting matchup for Soriano.
“It will be interesting because Duquense is a paint team, they play close to the basket as they can. And other things effectively they do is the offensive rebound.
And the short turnaround, said Neubauer, really is not a concern. Fordham has played a night after day this season In Jamaica. But the coach was caught off guard.
He said, “Iiterally had no idea what time we played tomorrow, was shocked . Our guys will be very happy more than 24 hours to play our next game.. We’ve been through this.’’
“We didn’t beat Duquesne, but our guys really fought and competed overtime and one or two possessions at home. Will be a great game. a battle. It helps us.”
And the Rams have that momentum That is the key.
ADVISORY FROM THE ATLANTIC 10 CONFERENCE:
CORONAVIRUS CAUSES REMAINDER OF TOURNAMENT TO BE PLAYED IN EMPTY AREA: The Atlantic 10 Conference announced tonight that the 2020 Men’s Basketball Championship at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY., will be played without fans and spectators for its remaining games.
Beginning tomorrow, all remaining contests in the championship will be restricted to teams, network television, working media, essential personnel, and team affiliated families/guests. First round games were played today (Wednesday, March 11) at Barclays Center, with George Mason defeating Saint Joseph’s 77-70, and Fordham topping George Washington 72-52.
“Although this was a difficult decision it’s imperative that the Atlantic 10 act in the best interest of our student-athletes, teams and member institutions. This is a very unique and serious situation given the global impact of COVID-19, and as disappointing as this is for our fans and spectators, this decision had to be made,” states Commissioner Bernadette McGlade. “I want to thank everyone who is and has been supporting our basketball programs this season and encourage all to tune in to our games on our television partners.”
Thursday’s games and Friday’s quarterfinal contests will be televised on NBCSN and accessed digitally on the NBC Sports App, starting at noon. Saturday’s semifinal contests will be aired on the CBS Sports Network, beginning at 1 p.m., and Sunday’s championship game will be televised on CBS at 1 p.m.
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By Lenn Robbins
The time between the end of the regular season and the beginning of conference tournament play is a little like the NFL Combine: Players that have had solid seasons are stripped to their undies while scouts try to find flaws.
No wonder why Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard is in damage control.
The Pirates had, by any measure, a terrific season. They went 21-9 overall and grabbed a share of the Big East regular season title at 13-5 with Creighton and Villanova.
They did this despite losing top scorer Myles Powell for a couple of games with a concussion and versatile forward Sandro Mamukelashvili for 10 games with a broken wrist. The Pirates beat Maryland and snapped a 17-game road losing streak at Villanova.
Heckuva year. Until the final week.
Villanova edged Seton Hall, 79-77, in The Prudential Center. Then the Pirates got drilled 77-60 at Creighton. Had Seton Hall won either of those two games they would have claimed their first outright league title since 1993.
While the Pirates sat in a funereal visiting locker room in Creighton’s CHI Health Center, the Bluejays, who claimed the No.1 seed in the Big East Conference Tournament, partied with their fans and cut down the nets.
Seton Hall had gone from the team to beat to the team that couldn’t close it out.
“I wish I could bring my kids out here right now because they’re cutting down the nets and I’ve got 13 kids who think they failed miserably,” Willard told reporters after the game. “I just tried to tell them, this is an unbelievable accomplishment.
“Yes, we had a chance to win it outright, we had two chances and it didn’t come through for us, but to take away from what this team has done and what this team accomplished, it would be a big mistake.”
This would be another mistake: Picking against the Pirates to win the Big East Conference Tournament which begins Wednesday night in The Garden. St. John’s (16-15) and Georgetown (15-16), two of the most storied teams in the league, tip off at 7 p.m. followed DePaul (15-16) vs Xavier (19-12).
Seton Hall, the No.4 seed, opens Thursday night against Marquette (18-12). The Hall won both regular-season games, 69-55 and 88-79. A third win (not easy) would set up a likely semifinal round rematch with Nova, the No. 2.
The Pirates are the pick because of their experience, toughness, defense and the ability of Powell to turn a game. That’s what it takes to cut down the nets.