Monday, January 24, 2011

Bye, Bye, Binghamton

Binghamton has officially shown their true colors. UVM won 70-52 against the Bearcats, who lost their fourth straight game after starting conference play in America East 3-0. The good Cats, the Catamounts, won to improve to 5-2 in America East and 14-5 overall.

Vermont won doing what has become traditional fashion: they started off slow and finished strong. They went into halftime with a 31-27 lead, relinquished the lead at 35-37, and then poured it on to win by 18 points. The scoring was again exceptionally balanced: Freshman Luke Apfeld had a huge game, scoring a career-high 13 points, Brandon Bald matched that 13, and the usual suspects, Evan Fjeld and Joey Accaoui, added 12 and 11, respectively.

Two seasons ago, I couldn't stand the Bearcats. They procured America East's lonely tournament bid, despite matching UVM's 13-3 conference record. They did it on the strength of transfer D.J. Rivera and the swagger of point guard Cameron "Tiki" Mayben. The program suffered under the intense scrutiny of the media while facing NCAA recruiting and academic violations the following summer. While not a whole lot became of those allegations, the program was in shambles. Despite this, Binghamton persevered to a respectable 8-8 conference record in the 2009-2010 season only to be left out of the conference tournament in a last-minute decision. Ever since, I have felt awfully bad for the Binghamton Bearcats.

It is an interesting dilemma that faces the college basketball media conglomerate: is it worth destroying a small school's reputation based on NCAA allegations? Let's face it, that Binghamton team got way more negative press coverage than it could ever have gotten positive press coverage, barring a T.J. Sorrentine-like moment. Or is it Binghamton's fault? Is this a dilemma that faces mid-major programs across the country? Clearly, some crooked things happened behind the scenes in Binghamton. Clearly, the infractions were not nearly as bad as they were initially thought to be. Is it worth it, to have North Carolina-sized dreams about your basketball program, when you play in a conference like America East? Can it really aid your college's reputation if your basketball team is good enough?

As a serious college basketball fan, this is a tough subject to think about. What is the role that college sports should have in American society? Because as it stands, that role seems far too vast. A school's entire reputation can be based on their sports teams. And that's a lot of pressure on a bunch of 20 year-olds.

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