Last Friday night at Harbor Yard, we got the appetizer.
It wasn't pretty, but Fairfield gave us a glimpse into the season ahead. One thing is for sure: this is a deeply talented team that has a lot of options beyond the starting five. One can look no further to that fact that Marty O'Sullivan and Mamadou Diakhate, two returning veterans, did not play as much as Lyndon Jordan and Sean Grzeck.
Now, in all honesty, it is only a scrimmage. But if we learned anything about head coach Ed Cooley last season, it's that he isn't afraid to go to a younger lineup.
It's hard to envision Fairfield finishing sixth in the MAAC. Still, with a young roster of up-and-comers, it isn't out of the realm of possibility than 2007-08 still may be a rebuilding process. However, one can't help but think that there is a chance that things may gel, the team may hit the ground running, and the Stags could find themselves playing basketball in March.
And it's not out of the realm of possibility that Cooley and the gang could pull a 180-degree turnaround and perform well in a tough out-of-conference schedule. With powerhouses like Kentucky and Michigan State falling to small, mid-major schools in scrimmages, why can't the Stags follow in suit? Especially given the transitional nature of Wake's team right now.
Oh, the beauty of the pre-season.
- Jon Han was The Man for Fairfield against Bridgeport. The Stags were able to overcome a sluggish start and hold on for a win over the Purple Knights.
- Ed Cooley did his best to rotate players and avoided going into the playbook all night. After the game, he was as calm as ever. He told me, "I just can't wait to go home and watch (the Boston College) Eagles game tomorrow, man."
- Wake Forest, after a tumultuous off-season, is ready to roll. In many respects, the season begins with a heavy heart for the Demon Deacons. For many, like junior guard Harvey Hale, it's to focus on the game; a welcome distraction after a tough loss. As a Duke fan growing up, I can say that Skip Prosser's Wake teams were as tough as they come. It's a loss that will most-definitely be felt.
- As Lenox Rawlings writes, a pre-season prediction for Wake to finish near the bottom of the pack in the ACC (the team is starting four freshman and a red-shirt sophomore) just adds fuel to the fire for hard-workers like Hale.
- There are plenty of questions surrounding the Deacs as they head into the season.
- Early Scouting Report on Wake from a Fairfield perspective: expect to see a lot of match-up zone. From what I've heard, Fairfield has prepared all week to face a lot of the 2-3 zone on Friday night - probably due to a lack of respect for the Stags' outside shooting sans Michael Van Schaick.
- Fairfield signed a blockbuster deal with Cablevision that will provide game coverage as early as this season. AD Gene Doris hopes that this will develop into a great partnership - with a possible full season televised schedule on the horizon. Great news for FU from an exposure and public relations standpoint.
- To add more fuel to the so-called Cooley/Jimmy Patsos rivalry, Loyola (Md.) has received a great deal of publicity in the pre-season, as his Greyhound squad is largely considered to be the favorite in the MAAC. The reason? Senior guard Gerald Brown (22.2 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 2.7 apg), a 6'4" kid from Baltimore who led the MAAC and ranked eighth in the nation in scoring. He's that good.
The 1997 miracle run of the Stags was one of the more remarkable in the school's history. After an injury-plagued, underachieving season, Fairfield caught fire just in time for the MAAC tournament. The Stags (11-18 on the season) downed St. Peter's, Canisuis, and top-seeded Iona to clinched an NCAA tourney berth.
In the 1-16 game, the Stags pushed North Carolina to the brink. The Stags started the second half strong and took a 37-28 lead early, but their bid to become the first 16 seed to claim a top-seed as their victim, but ultimately fell short, 82-74.
The host city of that game? Winston-Salem. The arena? Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Hey, you never know.