Maryland-Baltimore County at Binghamton (America East)
Mid-Majority Events Center - Vestal, NY
7:05 PM EST
We strongly suggest that you tune in for the Morehead-Murray matchup
on ESPNU tonight if you haven't seen either strong OVC contender. But here in the calm before this weekend's storm of crucial games, a chance to take a look at a penultimate matchup as the league race in the America East draws to Saturday's close.
SUNY-Binghamton (19-8, 12-3) is riding a seven-game win streak as well as the hot hand of 6-4 Saint Joe's transfer D.J. Rivera
(20.4 ppg). This is a program just eight years removed from Division II, and is on the verge if clinching at least a share of its first-ever A-East regular-season championship, which should be cause for celebration. But the Bearcats are now known amongst the country's liberal arts 2.0 crowd as SUNY-Thugville, thanks to a recent New York Times article
penned by Pete Thamel. It's a chronicle of the arrests, academic issues and general shenanigans that have gone on since BU decided to take a win-at-any-cost approach to basketball, and people have asked me (as somebody who's railed against this practice in the past) for comment. Here goes.
The Bearcats are not the first squad to employ short-term basketball mercenaries, nor is BU the first team to take on players with negative track records in the name of NCAA Tournament dreams. Binghamton is, however, one of the few places at this level where a wall is being built between the athletic department and the school -- the program claims that it can take care of its own messes and that university administrators (and intrepid journalists) should butt out. That annoys me to no end. But I can't get worked up about it anymore, because dealing with hyper-defensive Kool Aid-drinking fans is a real grind and a drag. None of the teams I've had morally-charged run-ins with in the past are relevant at the moment, and that's because basketball karma always works itself out.
Bringing in hired guns for a year or two, players who have no reason to love or respect the school they play for, is a vicious cycle. Especially vicious for the program, which has to keep beating the bushes for condottieri
every single summer. That doesn't allow for much positive identity or progression or consistency, and it's virtually impossible to dominate a league long-term using this method. Just ask UMBC, the league champions, who made the NCAA's with four transfers last season on the way to a 24-9 overall record. The Retriever squad is the pantheon of saints compared to Binghamton's bunch, but without ex-James Madison players Ray Barbosa and Cavell Johnson, UMBC is scoring 10 points fewer a game and has stumbled to a 12-15 mark (6-8 A-East)... former Coppin State Eagle Darryl Proctor
scores 30 percent of the team's points and isn't getting much help. The moral is that you can win the America East with transfers, but to rattle off strings of championships like Albany or Vermont did, it takes players who love their school and stay for a while. Binghamton may well win the league in 2009, but who will remember in 2012?Basketball State Box/Preview