In a way, Binghamton University’s men’s basketball team’s winter break was much like many of yours. It had its ups, like that kick-ass road trip you took (shout out to Syracuse, Nassau County, and Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann). It had its downs, like when you realized that now that you are home you need to obey your mother’s curfew, which she set for around the time you would normally be going out if you were at Bing (moms of Binghamton students, we still love you all).

When you get back to school and ask how everyone’s break was, there are those who tell you it downright sucked and they never want to go home again, and there were those who tell you it was four weeks of ecstasy. If I were to ask the Bearcats about their break, they would just shrug and say “eh.”

So as their caring friend, I ask them to clarify. And it turns out it was not all bad. They had one of the most impressive regular season wins in the program’s young history when they beat the cream of the 2010 America East Conference’s crop, the Stony Brook Seawolves. They also defeated a very talented La Salle Explorers squad of the Atlantic-10 Conference, which generally has one or two of its teams ranked in the top 25 nationally. A win over a solid team from a good conference is always a huge confidence booster and program builder for a college sports team.

And, although they have probably been the biggest surprise disappointment in the America East Conference this season, any time the Albany Great Danes face off against Binghamton, major bragging rights are on the line for the two SUNY schools. Bing was able to hold on to those rights which they earned last season when they swept through the America East Conference Tournament, hosted at SUNY Albany, by defeating the Great Danes 62-57 on Jan. 7.

We also saw growth in a very raw squad. Junior transfer forward Greer Wright has emerged as a go-to scorer at the end of games and a reliable scorer throughout the game. Elder statesmen Moussa Camara and Chretien Lukusa have continued their solid play and each had a few breakout games in important spots to help propel the Bearcats to victories. And although its performance was not great, the team had a great experience by traveling across the country to Des Moines, Iowa and Moraga, California to compete. For a small conference team like the Bearcats, cross-country road trips are rare but could serve as valuable experience. Freshman Pina Guillaume also saw his role expand, as the talented big man was seeing more minutes and giving some much-needed help to Binghamton’s front court.

Why, then, was the winter intercession just “eh” for the men’s basketball team?

The two aforementioned conference victories for the Bearcats are, well, the only two conference victories they have. The Bearcats’ conference record is currently below the .500 mark at 2-4.

As for non-conference play, the Bearcats struggled. Winter intercession served as a cruel reminder of the mass exodus of talent suffered by the Bearcats over summer 2009. Starting on Dec. 7 (yes, before break, but still worth including in the conversation), the team struggled mightily as it suffered double-digit losses in four of its next six games. One of these two games in which Binghamton was able to come close was against the Drake Bulldogs of the emerging Missouri Valley Conference, which like the Atlantic-10, generally has one or two of its teams nationally ranked. The Bearcats fell to the Bulldogs 77-76 in Des Moines, Iowa, thanks to senior guard Josh Young sinking two free throws with four seconds left to propel his team to victory. And of course positives can be taken from a one-point loss to a good team from a good conference, but the Bearcats let that loss cost them another game. The Bearcats lost to a very mediocre South Dakota Coyotes squad the next day.

The low point of the winter came a few days ago at the hands of the Hartford Hawks, who are a very beatable America East team. The Bearcats blew a 10-point lead in the last 4:52 of the game and went down by one point on a 3-pointer by Hartford junior guard Joe Zeglinski. With 17 seconds remaining on the clock, the Bearcats were not able to score and ultimately fell 64-63.

So now we are all back at school with our good friends, the Bearcats. The team will look to improve its conference record and put itself in a good position to make it into the deep rounds of the America East Tournament. You can go and support them as they host four more conference games at the Events Center this semester.