The countdown has officially begun: 198 days until the Binghamton men’s basketball team opens its 2014-15 season.
The Bearcats are scheduled to face Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Nov. 14 in the season opener and first game of the 2014 Hall of Fame Tipoff. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which will host the eight-team tournament’s weekend at Mohegan Sun, announced the brackets today.
In addition to visiting the Fighting Irish, Binghamton will clash with 2013-14 Big East champion Providence at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Nov. 17.
From there, the event moves to Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The Bearcats will face 2013-14 MAAC champion Manhattan there on Nov. 22, with a game the following day against either Navy or Northeastern.
Freshman guard Marlon Beck II and a young Bearcats squad gained invaluable experience against then-No. 4 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in December. The memories from that game, Beck said, will only strengthen Binghamton’s approach against a Notre Dame program that had made four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances before falling short last year.
“This is a completely different game and year,” Beck said. “We will be more physically and mentally prepared to go into South Bend with a hunger and will to win and not to enjoy the experience of playing a big-time school.”
Beck and his fellow freshmen began their college careers against Loyola Md., a Patriot League school. Next year’s freshmen will hit the hardwood at the Edmund P. Joyce Center, a 9,149-seat arena, in their first game as Bearcats.
“I got excited knowing that we were going to start off the season against a good and tough team,” said Wilfredo Rodriguez, a 6-foot-7 forward from Cheshire Academy.
“Bring your game not your name…,” Romello Walker, a 6-foot-6 guard from South Kent Prep, wrote in a text message to Pipe Dream, “we’re comin ready for war!”
Analysis of Binghamton’s Hall of Fame Tipoff opponents
Last season: With Pat Connaughton dunking all over Jabari Parker in Notre Dame’s Jan. 4 win over Duke, the Fighting Irish looked like they could survive life without Jerian Grant. Reality set in shortly thereafter, however, as Mike Brey simply did not have a go-to scorer. Notre Dame went just 5-13 after stunning the Blue Devils.
Eric Atkins and Garrick Sherman have exhausted their collegiate eligibility, and Brey did not sign a single ESPN top 100 recruit.
How they play: In 12 seasons under Brey, the Fighting Irish had allowed opponents to score more than 100 points per 100 possessions just once (2006). They ranked No. 204 in Ken Pomeroy’s adjusted defensive efficiency ratings last season, coughing up 106.4 points per 100 possessions.
Brey’s teams have never forced turnovers at absurd rates, and that didn’t change last season. But the Fighting Irish couldn’t clamp down on defense as they had in years past — opponents posted a 51.4 percent effective field goal percentage.
Last season: Bryce Cotton was the best guard in the northeast not named Shabazz Napier — yes, ahead of Tyler Ennis. Cotton took a mediocre Big East team and morphed it from an afterthought to a bubble team and a bubble team to a trendy NCAA tournament upset pick.
The Friars went 23-12, the last loss coming by two against No. 6 seed UNC in the Round of 64. Cotton scored 36 points in the defeat.
Personnel: Cotton has exhausted his collegiate eligibility, as has classmate Kadeem Batts. The Friars could contend for the Big East title in 2014-15 if point guard Kris Dunn stays healthy and LaDontae Henton mitigates the scoring void left by Cotton.
Ed Cooley, who inked a pair of top 100 recruits, also received promising sophomore campaigns from Tyler Harris and Josh Fortune.
How they play: In three seasons under Cooley, Providence has not struggled to score efficiently. Last year was the peak at 114 points per 100 possessions, a mark the Friars likely won’t even approach without Cotton.
Providence’s offense has always outperformed the defense under Cooley, but the former Fairfield coach has fielded teams that play with intensity on both ends of the court. Tommy Dempsey will have no choice but to send his freshmen — each of the six recruits stands between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-9 — into battle here to combat Providence’s length.
Last season: The Jaspers posted their most successful season since 2003-04, when they went 25-6 and upset No. 5 seed Florida in the NCAA tournament. Manhattan nearly staged another upset in 2013-14, but Luke Hancock buried two dagger 3-pointers in the final two minutes to help No. 4 seed Louisville survive. The Jaspers finished with a 25-8 record.
Personnel: George Beamon, Rhamel Brown and Mike Alvarado will all graduate this spring, leaving gaping holes on both ends of the court. Beamon could score with anyone at the mid-major level, Brown could block shots better than any other 6-foot-7 center and Alvarado could fearlessly sacrifice his body for the team’s success.
Emmy Andujar showed he can take over games as a point forward, and Ashton Pankey, at times, looked like the Atlantic Coast Conference recruit he was in high school. Manhattan has other pieces, including a highly regarded recruit in Samson Usilo, but Andujar and Pankey bringing their ‘A’ games on a nightly basis will be key to the team’s success.
How they play: The Jaspers wear opponents down with stifling full-court pressure. They’re most efficient when their defense forces turnovers, leading to easy transition buckets.
Binghamton turned the ball over on 21.5 percent of its possessions last season and did not sign a point guard to join Beck and classmate Yosef Yacob in the backcourt, though a few incoming recruits have the handling skills to help break the pressure.