Don't let the start of football make you forget that College Hoops is just around the corner. Teams across the nation have begun to drop their schedules, including your 2022 NEC Champion, Bryant Bulldogs. Now in the America East, they are ready to take on the big-bad Vermont Catamounts, for their shot for the bid to the Big Dance.
The schedule has some notables, including a local matchup against Brown, and a big game against Cincy, but the game I am most excited for, as an alumni/fan/reporter, is the rematch at the Carrier Dome. Well now it's called the JMA Wireless, but it will always be the Carrier in my eyes.
Nevertheless, nearly two years on the dot, Coach Grasso and the Bulldogs will return to Syracuse to take on long-time Head Coach and historic program, Syracuse, a game that put the Dawgs on the map back in 2020.
Back during the COVID season, the little Rhode Island school that could marched to upstate New York and challenged the Hall of Fame coach at home. At half, the Bulldogs had a 7 point lead against Syracuse, ultimately losing the game 85-84.
Coach Jim Boeheim didn't want to accept the results of the game, making excuses that the game should have been cancelled because of COVID quarantines and delays. He might not be wrong, but his tone of "this is BS" wasn't accepted nationally. On the other hand, Coach Grasso recounted how the game was scheduled differently.
"Am I supposed to give an honest reaction? Let me give an honest reaction -- we gave them five opportunities to cancel the game. They wanted to play it. We asked to move the date five times. We felt the same way.
They were coming off quarantine. They asked to play it. They wanted to play us. We should have beat them at their place. If that's going to be their excuse, so be it. Now I got angry because we had this conversation with them a dozen times about moving the date.
They decided not to move it. I know I'm not supposed to say that. He's a Hall of Fame coach. I'm a nobody. But the reality is we tried to change the date and give them the opportunity to change the date. They decided not to.
Is that the reason we should have beat them? If they want to use that as an excuse, they can. But we came up here and we should have beat Syracuse at Syracuse. It's hard for me not to be blunt. I apologize.
I would have wanted to cancel the game if I was in their shoes. They didn't want to cancel the game. They made that decision. We came up here to play and came up here to win and deserved to win. We didn't make enough plays to.
They're a very good team. He's a Hall of Fame coach. I have nothing but respect for him. But for them to say they wanted to cancel the game is just completely false." - Bryant coach Jared Grasso postgame after Boeheim stated they wanted to cancel the game
TELL EM COACH! The Orange wanted to play, and almost lost. My respect in Grasso skyrocketed at that moment, and two years later, he's ready to take on the challenge.
Both teams will look much differently going into the game. Syracuse obviously still has future Hall-of-Famer Boeheim at the helm, and his 2-3 zone, but Buddy Boeheim, Jimmy Boeheim, and Cole Swider are all gone. They have three seniors on the team in the likes of Joe Girard III, Jesse Edwards, and Symir Torrence. Sophomore forward Benny William showed potential last season, and could provide some serious upside for the Orange and incoming guard Judah Mintz can provide great athleticism for the backcourt.
Then there is Bryant. Led by Charles Pride, who will look to fill the Peter Kiss role after averaging a steady 17.7 ppg on 45% shooting. They have added some incredible talent from the transfer portal, including Saint Peter's Tournament Darling, Doug Edert, former top recruit and Memphis transfer Earl Timberlake, and Ocean State URI transfer, Antwan Walker.
With this new retooling of Bryant, I am all for the upset, even though I don't think they should be considered underdogs at all. I am so ready for this matchup, and I can't wait for College Basketball to return. Dawgs to the Dance round 2 incoming...