The America East conference can't thank the Binghamton men's basketball program for much in last couple of seasons. By now, most of you know the scandal that has pretty much crippled the Bearcats. But America East can thank Binghamton for keeping me from writing a scathing review of their trying to turn the University of Hartford into a tournament atmosphere.
The regular parking lot I usually go to was cut off, and there was another lot where a shuttle would take me to the arena. Screw this, I said, I'm a stubborn bastard, and I decided to walk, you ain't gonna get me on no shuttle to get to Chase Arena.
The Final Four? I'll think about it. America East Tournament? No thanks.
And then 20 minutes later, I was wandering around the (beautiful) Hartford campus completely lost. Yeah, that'll teach me.
Finally, I followed a bus that led me back to civilization and the Arena, only the regular entrance was cut off and I was directed to the "Fans Entrance", meaning the only way to actually get into the arena was through a maze of booths and phenomena that were designed to add to my experience here.
Just the basketball, ma'am. You can hold the mustard.
Thankfully, this was still early in the morning, and my enthusiasm was duly restored once I finally got into the gym. The wonderful sound of dueling bands and sight of a kaleidoscope of colors from various teams. A real-live tournament atmosphere.
See, America East, you don't need no stinking FanFest. Let the game, and the barn-like loud gym do the talking
And these guys:
Mo "Reese" Taylor and the Binghamton University Pep Band, four hours from home, could care less that their team was 2-28, they were going to put on a show. Hell, the Bearcats were 1-28 a couple of days ago, and it's not like they were playing Kentucky, although Stony Brook was the top seed.
Sadly, other than a couple of people behind the bench, the count of real-live Binghamton faithful was a quick count. One.
It started with five guys in front of me dressed in red who gave Binghamton a standing ovation as they came out on the floor.
What the hell? A closer examination of the front of their shirts said "Boston". Oh, I get it. Boston University is the No. 3 seed and upsets not involving your team are always good, especially in a conference where the highest remaining seed hosts the final.
The Seawolves took a while to get going, and got to within 16-14, leading the Boston guys to give them a standing ovation, but in an early start, most of the neutrals were still in apathy mode.
Stony Brook threatened to pull away, but point guard Jimmy Gray and some free throw shooting kept Mark Macon's squad within 34-28 at the break.
Well, good show, Bearcats, but surely they'll get blown out in the second half, I thought.
Then Chris Longoria drilled a three-pointer to bring the Bearcats within three. A murmur from a couple of sides, including a big contingent of green behind the Binghamton bench.
Thirty seconds later, it was Ben Dickinson's turn. The game was amazingly tied at 38. Crowd now engaged, if not ready to commit themselves fully to the cause.
A minute later, the Bearcats were ahead and when Dickinson was open for another three, all kinds of colors: Vermont green, Albany purple, Boston red stood with their hands in the air. Swish. Steve Pikiell had no choice but to call time, his team was down 47-43 with 12:17 left, and Chase Arena (minus the Stony Brook section) stood as one to cheer on their new-found heroes.
Welcome to March.
At this point, the Albany coaches were frantically trying to get their team into the locker room to prepare for their quarterfinal, which was next, but were met with rather stubborn resistance.
"Coach, are you watching this? We have to watch this. This is crazy."
There's always a period in games like this, when a team is a massive underdog, that is crucial, and it's usually about that time, middle of the second half. If you can survive to the Under-4 timeout, all bets are off. But you have to get through that danger time first.
Alas, much to my chagrin and most of the crowd's, it didn't happen this time around. Five minutes later, Stony Brook was up 13 and the roars had given way to murmurs, back to relative apathy. Gray and Longoria continued to make unbelievable shots to keep it semi-interesting, but in the end Stony Brook had seen off what would have been an unbelievable upset bid, 68-59.
As Taylor and his band played for the final time, I tried to get my obligatory shot of the scoreboard before I was to run to the MAAC quarterfinals. Somehow, my camera was stuck, and before I could get the shot, the scoreboard had changed to the participants of the next game: Albany and New Hampshire.
I did have this shot on my camera, though.
What might have been.
That's OK, though. The Bearcats proved that no matter what the records, come tournament time (more than any other), the game's the thing.
STONY BROOK 78, BINGHAMTON 69 03/03/2012
BINGHAMTON 2-29 (1-15) -- J. Gray 6-15 0-0 16; B. Dickinson 8-14 2-2 20; C. Longoria 6-8 2-2 17; O. Richards 3-5 0-0 6; J. Ralling 1-2 2-2 4; M. Horn 0-1 0-0 0; J. Williams 0-1 3-4 3; T. Johnston 1-1 0-0 3; A. Ogundadegbe 0-1 0-0 0; B. Brown 0-2 0-0 0; C. Rice 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-50 9-10 69. STONY BROOK 21-8 (14-2) -- D. Coley 4-11 6-12 14; T. Brenton 5-7 4-6 14; B. Dougher 4-11 4-4 13; D. Joyner 4-6 5-8 13; A. Rapier 3-4 0-0 6; A. Jackson 4-6 3-4 13; D. Carter 1-2 0-0 3; M. Rouse 1-3 0-0 2; L. Hayes 0-2 0-0 0; E. McAlister 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-52 22-34 78.
Three-point goals: BING 10-21 (T. Johnston 1-1; J. Gray 4-10; B. Brown 0-2; C. Longoria 3-4; J. Williams 0-1; B. Dickinson 2-3), SB 4-14 (D. Carter 1-2; B. Dougher 1-5; T. Brenton 0-1; M. Rouse 0-1; L. Hayes 0-1; A. Jackson 2-4); Rebounds: BING 21 (O. Richards 5), SB 31 (T. Brenton 11); Assists: BING 16 (J. Gray 9), SB 11 (D. Coley 4); Total Fouls -- BING 28, SB 14; Fouled Out: BING-B. Dickinson; SB-None.