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The 2017-18 season is here: Opening thoughts

November 12, 2017 Columns No Comments

Some thoughts as the season tips off…

OK we are well aware of the shop “lifting” spree of UCLA’s LiAngelo Ball, Codey Riley and Jalen Hill during the Bruins trip to China. For a minute, the latter part of the sentence bears questioning – what is UCLA doing in China playing Georgia Tech?

Given travel, drastic changes in time zones and preparation to get acclimated to the Asian venue, both schools needed nearly a week to adjust. That is a good five days. Five days of lost class time, it might be added. The powers that be call the trip “cultural”. Fine, but aren’t the summer tours schools take (not during class time) serving the purpose of a competitive and culturally educational purpose? Just wondering.

By the way UCLA earned a 63-60 victory in that contest.

Getting back to the first thought of theft in a not-too-friendly foreign locale such as China, I really do not know how well the team was briefed before the trip, but it should have been emphasized foreign governments like the Chinese are extremely harsh in their justice. Entitlement and the fact you play for UCLA do not carry any weight in their system of justice.

Legendary coach John Chaney had an effective way of preparing his team for road trips, whether here or overseas. According to a social media contact who started for the Owls in the late eighties, Chaney would gather the team and say, “If you do something to get arrested (on the road) your ass is in jail. You get yourself out and when you come home to Philadelphia turn in your uniform. You are done.” It worked. Temple players got Chaney’s message loud and clear.

My first active coverage Friday saw Seton Hall defeat the Saint Peter’s women 91-49 at Walsh Gymnasium. A year ago, the Pirates slipped to an uncharacteristic 12-19. The three preceding seasons under coach Tony Bozzella each saw over twenty wins and post season play. For Bozzella, it was a case of bringing in some new faces better suited to his uptempo and pressure defense approach. One game does not a season make, but judging by a defense forcing 33 turnovers (as well as a 43-4 edge in points off turnovers), the Pirates appear headed in the right direction.

A big year is expected at St. Bonaventure. It did not get off to a rousing start Friday evening as the Bonnies dropped a 77-75 decision to Niagara. Granted, Jaylen Adams did not play (sore ankle), but this was a game many Bona faithful entered in the ‘W’ column. Coach Chris Casey and Niagara never got the memo.

Before the proliferation of conferences, St. Bonaventure, Niagara and Canisius formed the Little Three. They faced each other twice a year in a ‘tooth and nail’ rivalry. The Little Three still exists as conference play has taken over. Niagara and Canisius are in the MAAC and Bonaventure is in the Atlantic 10. Still, the schools face each other once annually and there still persists the rivalry and “bragging rights” element.

Niagara has a team poised to do appreciable damage in the MAAC. They were anything but an easy out even with the game played at Bona’s Reilly Center. In these rivalry meetings throw records and expectations out the window. For Mark Schmidt and his Bonnies is solace in the coaching cliche that the season is a marathon, not a sprint.

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