Quinnipiac Women’s Basketball held their home-opener tonight (a 72-69 season-opening victory over Holy Cross), and Quinnipiac Men’s Basketball will hold their home-opener tomorrow night against Concordia. With the new season upon us, it’s time to take a look at 26 things to watch in 2006-2007 at the Burt Kahn Court (and starting on January 27, the TD BankNorth Sports Center). Here’s a look at the Bobcats, from A through Z:
Akinyanu, Victor and Anderson, Karl – They are the big men down low for the Quinnipiac men’s squad. Akinyanju and Anderson will be key for the Bobcats to see success in the NEC this year. Both are forces on the floor, but in the past it has been keeping them on the floor that has been the problem. Staying out of foul trouble will be key, and if both can avoid the injury troubles that have plagued their careers, the Bobcats could be in for big things this winter. When on the floor, they will either score bucketloads of points, or else occupy the opposing defense, creating open space for Van Crafton, Etienne Labrecque, DeMario Anderson, and Casey Cosgrove to create offense and find open looks. Whether or not it always shows up in the box score, Quinnipiac will go just as far as their big men can carry them.
Boomer – The lovable, furry Bobcat mascot is always present and always entertaining. Whether it’s visiting with the little ones, high-fiving students, being interviewed on TV, or vexing an opponents free throw, Boomer is sure to be doing his best to lead the Bobcats to victory.
Central Connecticut State – Mark your calendars now: January 29. The Central Connecticut State University Blue Devils come calling on a Monday night at the sparkling new TD BankNorth Sports Center for a clash between the two schools’ arch-rival men’s basketball teams. DeMario Anderson transfered from Central Connecticut to Quinnipiac, citing a strong dislike for Blue Devils bench boss Howie Dickemann. One of Anderson’s goals for the season is to light up his former team, so look for him to have a big night. The atmosphere is sure to be electric, and if there’s any truth to the pre-season coaches’ polls, this match-up could figure big in deciding who can earn a home game in the conference tournament.
DeSantis, Joe – The head coach of the Quinnipiac men’s team may use as much energy coaching his team as his team does playing the game. It is not unusual to look up as a timeout is called and see DeSantis 10 or 15 feet out on the floor. Also prone to hopping up and down throughout the coaches’ box (and often outside of it) and having animated discussions with the officials, DeSantis is always sure to entertain, and is also one of the nicest guys in the game off the court. Keep an eye on the coach’s suit jacket as well. He’ll wear one out of the locker room and onto the bench, but it’s almost always off within the first minute (or less) of play.
ESPNU – The Bobcats extended their media footprint last year when they began broadcasting basketball and hockey games on the New England Sports Network (NESN). This year Quinnipiac looks for a little national exposure as they get some games on ESPNU, the all-collegiate network of The Worldwide Leader. Sure, nobody actually gets it in their cable package, but it is available nationwide.
Fabbri, Tricia – The bench boss of the Quinnipiac women’s team. Generally less animated than her counterpart on the men’s side (though she has her moments), coach Fabbri simply knows how to get the best out of her players. Watch her during a timeout: always teaching, always imparting that last bit of knowledge into her players and milking out the last bit of effort. Also watch for her husband, sure to be sitting in the stands in the opposite corner of the building from the Quinnipiac bench: he’ll do his share of “coaching” from up there as well.
Guegbelet vs. Lee – That’s Gabriella Guegbelet, a 6’0″ senior forward at Central Connecticut, against Monique Lee, Quinnipiac’s 5’11” junior forward. Both were First-Team All-NEC selections a year ago. However, Geugbelet was a unanimous selection for the all-conference pre-season team this year, while Lee was left off. The two will square off twice this season: on January 24 at the Burt Kahn Court and on February 10 at Central Connecticut, and all eyes will be on the two of them on both occaisions. Last year they met twice, with Lee’s Bobcats taking the upper edge both times. In the first meeting they pretty much cancelled each other out: 18 points and seven rebounds for Lee against 17 points and 12 rebounds for Guegbelet. Lee dominated the second meeting on February 1, dumping in 20 points to go with nine rebounds against Guegbelet’s 11 points and 13 rebounds. That said, if the Blue Devils key too much on Lee, look for the Bobcats guards to shoot the lights out.
Heavin’ it Up – Playing in a conference like the NEC, some bad shots are a given. It is limiting these poor looks that will seperate the good teams from the bad ones. Both the men’s and women’s teams must be paitient enough on offense to ensure that they are taking shots which they have a good look at. There is nothing wrong with mid- to long-range jumpers so long as they are open looks. It’s when the guards start forcing jumpers over their defender or even a double-team that gets teams in trouble. Both the Quinnipiac Men and Women move the ball fairly well, especially by NEC standards. They need to utilize this to make sure they get open looks.
Inflatable Bobcat – Purchased last year, the inflatable bobcat has become a staple at Quinnipiac Basketball games and various other campus events. Seriously, what’s not to love about this thing?
John Winchester is Gone – And he probably doesn’t leave a minute to soon for the Quinnipiac Men’s team. The highly touted transfer from the University of Tennessee lasted only one season in Hamden before leaving the team. While Winchester provided a few highlight reel plays, expect the Bobcats to play a much more balanced and a much more team-oriented game now that he’s gone. Also look for Quinnipiac to finish a handful of spots higher in the standings without him.
Kerner, Erin – The point-guard on the women’s team took the NEC by storm in her freshman campaign, collecting the conference’s Rookie of the Year award and Second-Team All-NEC honors last season, in addition to being named to this year’s pre-season all-conference team. Look for more electric play from the Erie, Pa. native who finished top-ten in the NEC in seven statistical categories last year and set a Quinnipiac Division I single season record with 2.6 steals per game. Kerner picked up the NEC’s Rookie of the Week award four times last season; look for her to pick up some Player of the Week awards this time around.
Little Things – In the end, it always comes down to the little things. Both Bobcat teams must be sure to execute well in even the simplest parts of the game. This means setting picks for teammates, communicating on the floor (especially on the defensive end), playing hard-nosed defense, positioning themselves for rebounds, hitting free throws, and limiting turnovers. All these things seem obvious enough, but the teams that do these things well are almost always the ones left standing at the end.
Monique Lee – Mentioned above, Lee is the power down low for the Quinnipiac women’s team. Lee was a NEC Player of the Year candidate last season (losing out to Sacred Heart’s Amanda Pape) and will certainly be a contender for the award again this year. A First-Team All-NEC pick last season, Lee should feel slighted that she was left off of the all-conference pre-season team. However, Coach Fabbri has in the past criticized Lee for taking plays or series off, but hopefully an extra year of experience will help cut down on the lapses. Lee bore an awful heavy load as a sophomore, and should be that much more able to deal with it as a junior, in addition to having a supporting cast that is now a year more mature all around. Much like Anderson and Akinyanju with the men, Lee can be a force even if she isn’t piling in the points if she can manage to draw some attention and create some open looks for the Bobcats’ guards.
Not in Our House – The two Bobcats basketball programs went a combined 20-8 at the Burt Kahn Court last season, and 13-5 in the NEC at home. With a sparkling new building set to open in January, look for Quinnipiac’s home-court advantage to continue.
Obie Nwadike – Nwadike is a 6’4″, 224 lb. senior forward at Central Connecticut. One of the league’s premier big men, Nwadike was a member of the pre-season all-conference team and piled 16 points and 13 rebounds on the Bobcats in a February meeting in Hamden last season. The matchup down low between Nwadike and Akinyanju/Anderson is going to be one of the more intriguing match-ups of the year.
Point Men/Women – Both Bobcat teams like to run the floor and run it often, and that means added pressure and focus on the point guards, who need to be able to read the floor, make moves, and distribute the ball at a very quick pace. Kerner showed last year as a freshman that she can handle it, and looks to continue to shine as a sophomore. On the men’s side, new-comer Casey Cosgrove has looked good in early exhibitions and against Connecticut, and is trying to put together a strong freshman campaign of his own.
Quinnipiac Student Body – Student support is always key. Nothing charges up a team quite like looking around and seeing their own peers trying to pull them to victory. After some down times, the student presence at Bobcats sporting events has slowly been on the rise the last couple of years. If a new freshman class embraces the Athletic Department, and if the students continue to come in droves to the new building even after it has been open for a couple weeks, Quinnipiac can become an even less fun place for opponents to have to play.
Relax – Both teams have a number of freshmen who are going to see plenty of playing time. Somewhere along the line, it is likely that these freshmen will run into troubles on the court. It is important for the youngsters to not panic, take a second to chill out, gather themselves, and continue to play the basketball they know how to play. It’s also important for the veterans that are around to do everything they can to ease the transition period for the young guns.
Sparkling New Building – Construction of the TD BankNorth Sports Center is on schedule and the building will open with a hoops doubleheader on Saturday, January 27. If you can’t get excited for this place, you need to check yourself for a pulse.
Tempo – Both of these teams love to run an up-tempo, fast-paced offense, and love to run the floor anytime they are given a chance. Especially on the men’s side with a freshman point guard, it is imperative that the Bobcats don’t run so fast that they can’t keep up with themselves. That said, the fast tempo does benefit both the men’s and women’s teams, and so long as they keep it under control, both are at their best when they are able to dictate the tempo and control the flow of the game.
Upperclassmen – On the women’s side their aren’t many of them who will see regular playing time: Nicole Duperron (junior), Monique Lee (junior), Hanalee Pervan (junior), and Charmaine Steele (sixth year). On the men’s side, there’s plenty: Victor Akinyanju (senior), DeMario Anderson (junior), Karl Anderson (junior), Van Crafton (senior), Adam Gonzalez (senior), Dale Meinbresse (senior) and Chris Wehye (senior). Oviously the leadership of these veterans will be key to the success of the Bobcats’ basketball teams.
Versatility – If everyone stays healthy and out of foul trouble, both Quinnipiac teams are built to play pretty solidly all around. For the men, Anderson and Akinyanju are the primary front-court threats, while Meinbresse and Wehye can play down low some too, and they have a whole host of three-point threats. For the women, Lee and Pervan will work down low, while many others are threats to shoot or drive with dribble for a layup or a drive-and-dish. This versatility will be key for the Bobcats. If one part of their game gets shut down, they need to adjust and try another aspect of it to see if they can find something that works, because there are plenty of options to go to.
Welcome Aboard – For the men, frehsmen Cosgrove and Labrecque figure to get playing time immediately and often. On the women’s side, the same goes for Megan Barnum, Courtney Kaminski, and Sarah McGowan. If the more established players for the Bobcats do their job, it will allow the coaches to let these players find themselves and their style on the court, and allow them to experiment with what works and what doesn’t. If things break down, it will be a big test for these youngsters to deal with the pressure of trying to right a ship they’ve just boarded.
X-Rays (Hopefully Not Many of Them) – One thing that can surely derail the Bobcats is injury. Kathleen Neyens for the women, and Labrecque for the men went down before the season even started, and it is unclear when either will return (though most signs point to a redshirt year for Neyens). Hopefully the injury bug stays away from Hamden this winter.
Yesterday Means Nothing – For the men, it’s a matter of forgetting the last few years. The Bobcats have perennially underachieved for the last three years, but if the pre-season hype means anything, DeMario Anderson, Cosgrove, and Labrecque could be the pieces that have been missing from the puzzle. It is important for the men to forget about what has happened in the past and focus on the season in front of them, because they have a chance to improve by leaps and bounds. For the women, they cannot let the successes of last year go to their head. They need to not think they can cruise through the league after a second place finish and a NEC Championship appearence last March. The Bobcat women will need to stick with what got them there and continue to work hard all season.
Zebras – The officials in use in NEC contests are far from the NCAA’s best, and sometimes it can affect the quality of play. Look for better games on weeknights, when less games are being played nationwide. On the weekends, when seemingly every team is playing, look for the better officials to get swooped away by bigger conferences while inexperienced and perhaps ineffective officials are left for the NEC contests.
A few links I found interesting over the last few days:
Online Embargo on Newspaper Content – An opinion article from the San Francisco Chronicle. Yes, newspaper circulation is going down the tubes, but somehow I don’t think withholding the news is the solution.
Public Ownership Proposed for the Los Angeles Times – Interesting article in the Los Angeles Times promoting an ownership method similar to that of the NFL’s Green Bay Packers, where many local citizens own a portion of the franchise.
Mayor Candidate Gets Zero Votes – A mayorial candidate in Waldenburg, Ark. got no votes in the recent election, despite his insistance that he in fact voted for himself on Tuesday. An investigation is underway.
Giuliani Exploring 2008 Presidential Candidacy – This could be exactly what this country needs; one of the nation’s great leaders in office, as opposed to whatever shmucks both sides currently plan on putting on the ballot.
Voting Underway to Determine New Seven Wonders of the World – Very, very cool idea.
Woman Kicked Off Plane for Breast-Feeding Baby – You just can’t make this stuff up. The lady has filed a discrimination complaint with the airline.
Turkey Disrupts Triborough Bridge Traffic – A wild turkey wandered into the bridge’s toll plaza and messed things up just before rush hour on Tuesday.
Katie Holmes Spends $3000 on Wedding Lingerie – This begs the question: did she really need to spend that much for something that’s just going to end up on Tom Cruise’s floor.