The last time I saw Binghamton basketball in action live, it was a seemingly short two and a half years ago, I was storming on our home court, celebrating a 61-51 victory over UMBC: an America East Conference Championship and a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.
Jump ahead to last Friday Night, and I hardly recognize B.U. basketball. The last remaining player from the 2009 Championship team, Kyrie Sutton, was dismissed days before this season began. Before Sutton, five other players from the championship team were dismissed as well, for various academic and legal issues. These players were transfers, brought in by then Head Coach Kevin Broadus. They were talented second and third chance players with checkered backgrounds.
Shortly after the player dismissal, Broadus, multiple assistant coaches, and Athletic Director Joel Thirer, were fired in the aftermath of an alleged academic scandal involving the Men's Basketball team, which ultimately yielded a secondary NCAA recruiting violation.
As I listened to B.U. assistant coach Ron Brown preach patience with the young team at our alumni event before the game, it almost sounded like an apology for what was about to happen on the court. But we were reassured that the 2011-12 version of Binghamton hoops was being run the right way, clearly inferring the wrong way of the Broadus era.
Rolling onto the campus of Fordham University with three of my friends after an hour and a half of New York gridlock, I almost immediately forgot I was in the middle of the Bronx. Fordham has an old school look, with cobblestone roads, and buildings over a century old dotting the campus. We were there for a Binghamton Alumni event, held in a conference room across from Rose Hill Gym, the oldest gym in Division 1. The event was executed flawlessly. Food, drinks, and some B.U. gear, all for a price a financially struggling young alum like myself can afford.
The same cannot be said about the game. Shortly after arriving to our seats in the quaint, yet immaculate Rose Hill Gym, the game seemed to slip away from the Bearcats. Fordham Head Coach Tom Pecora, just in his second year after leaving Hofstra, has seemed to amass a solid group of young guards to compliment Junior forward, Chris Gaston. Gaston with Sophomore Branden Frazier, and freshmen Bryan Smith and Devon "Fatty" McMillan scored 20 points on a 22-0 Fordham run, which essentially sewed it up for the Rams with 9:30 to go in the First Half, sending me and the other Binghamton alums to Dagger Johns, the bar under Rose Hill, at halftime.
Third-year head coach Mark Macon has his most difficult task at Binghamton to date. With no seniors on the team, Macon is essentially starting at square-one with this team. Sophomore guard Rob Mansell and true freshman forward Ben Dickinson have stepped up to become the go-to scoring options, but little seems sure after them. Mansell was off this night 2-11 from the field, with five turnovers. However, Dickinson put up a great effort with 17 points, but he was alone in double-digits, and ended up fouling out late in the second half. Pecora, always cognizant of the opponent, called off the dogs early in this one and Fordham cruised to a 65-49 victory.
The "right way" means different things for different schools. It is still too early to tell if Binghamton men's basketball's new found dedication to academics will trump winning to the point that it will hurt performance on the court in the long run. Many schools under the red line would argue that is the proper trade-off.
I cannot condone the actions of the Kevin Broadus era at Binghamton, but there was some merit to the idea of giving players second chances and getting the school excited about the team. As a senior during the 2009 championship season, I could sense a camaraderie forming around the school as the team won that was not around in previous years. The camaraderie from that time could still be felt during the alumni event almost three years later. Unfortunately, those days are slipping further into the past, and we can only hope that the team is on the right way back to success.
at FORDHAM 64, BINGHAMTON 49 11/18/2011
BINGHAMTON 0-3 (0-0) -- J. Gray 1-7 0-0 3; B. Dickinson 6-12 5-8 17; O. Richards 2-5 5-6 9; R. Mansell 2-11 2-2 6; C. Francis 1-2 3-4 6; J. Williams 1-2 0-0 2; C. Longoria 0-4 0-0 0; J. Ralling 3-3 0-0 6; A. Ogundadegbe 0-0 0-0 0; K. Brown 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-47 15-20 49. FORDHAM 1-1 (0-0) -- C. Gaston 6-12 2-4 15; B. Frazier 7-12 1-2 18; B. Smith 6-13 1-3 14; D. McMillan 4-8 5-8 14; M. Dominique 0-2 0-0 0; K. Bristol 0-0 1-4 1; R. Canty 0-0 0-0 0; L. Samuell 0-0 0-0 0; A. Estwick 0-1 0-0 0; J. Short 1-1 0-0 2; R. Hage 0-0 0-0 0; K. Robinson 0-1 0-0 0; L. Zivkovic 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-50 10-21 64.
Three-point goals: BING 2-17 (J. Gray 1-7; R. Mansell 0-3; C. Longoria 0-2; C. Francis 1-2; B. Dickinson 0-3), FORD 6-17 (C. Gaston 1-1; B. Frazier 3-8; D. McMillan 1-3; B. Smith 1-5); Rebounds: BING 24 (J. Gray 6), FORD 29 (C. Gaston 11); Assists: BING 7 (J. Gray 3), FORD 10 (B. Frazier 4); Total Fouls -- BING 21, FORD 17; Fouled Out: BING-B. Dickinson; FORD-None.