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Friday, February 09, 2007

New York Post story on Calloway/MU

MONMOUTH TRIES TO SHORE UP BID

Today's Article in New York Post - by Tim Sullivan
(He attended the Bunch triple double fest vs.SFNY)

February 9, 2007 -- THERE are 17 mid-major Division I schools in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area. At one time, many helped shape the game's national landscape.


Clearly, times have changed. In fact, only one has strung together six consecutive winning seasons. It just happens to be the same program responsible for the area's lone NCAA tournament victory last season.
Stumped yet? You're not alone.
West Long Branch, N.J., some 52 miles from Manhattan, doesn't exactly roll off the tongue when talking about basketball hotbeds. But its tenant, Monmouth University, owns those aforementioned markers.
As Bruce Springsteen once sang, "Down the Shore, everything's all right."
Or is it?


Like many area programs, the Hawks, the defending Northeast Conference champions, have struggled at times. They are 11-13, 6-6. The winning-seasons streak, obviously, is in jeopardy.
"The pressure is on," said Monmouth coach Dave Calloway, whose Hawks defeated Wagner last night, 70-63. "We need to get on a roll. We still have the pieces to the puzzle. We just have to make them fit."


The puzzle is similar to the previous nine Calloway, 38, molded at Monmouth. A former guard for the Hawks, Calloway typically blends Jersey kids with City kids, including current guards Mike Shipman of The Bronx and T.J. Tibbs of Staten Island, who is redshirting. Add a little international flavor from Serbia-Montenegro, Austria and Israel, and you have a steady, mid-major formula, one that has produced three NCAA tournament appearances in six years.


And it helps when you can lean on John Bunch, a 7-foot-2, 320-pound senior center. His 70 blocks lead the league.
"I try to go out there thinking every game can be special," Bunch said. "Sometimes, shot blocking is a rhythm. That's my job, to defend the house."
The Hawks have indeed protected homecourt with a 9-3 mark. But they're 2-10 on the road.


CONTINUED
"Obviously, if I could put my finger on the problem, I'd fix it," said Calloway, whose club has stemmed the tide with four wins in the last five games. "We've really been a roller coaster."
As have several NEC members, though, which leaves the door open for any of the top eight to win the automatic berth.
The problem with the conference - and its RPI ranking of 28 out of 32 leagues - is that the champ may again have to win the NCAA opening-round game. Last season, the Hawks hammered Hampton, 71-49, to earn a No. 16 seed, before bowing to Villanova, 58-45.


"It's a difficult situation. To play in that game - the only game on, in front of the nation - and to win, was great," Calloway said. "But you don't want to keep landing there, because that means you're one of the worst conferences."


As you maintain mid-major success, though, like Monmouth has done - the recent hiccup notwithstanding - it's not inconceivable that you can springboard to some even greater things.


Ask Gonzaga or Butler sometime.

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