The 2009-2010 Springfield College Men's Basketball Outlook
After reaching the New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Tournament Championship game a year ago, it is clear that the Springfield College men’s basketball program is on a successful track. Last season, Springfield finished with a 15-13 record and won five of its final six games en route to reaching the conference championship contest against MIT. Head Coach Charlie Brock ’76 will lead a Springfield team this season that returns four main players from last year’s team as the Pride will look to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005.
Entering his 12th year on the sidelines at Springfield College, Brock sits just six wins away from capturing his 400th career victory as a college basketball coach. Brock continues to be an important name in Division III circles. He was selected Chairman of the NCAA Division III Men’s Basketball Committee after serving as the Northeast representative of that committee for several years. He will serve in both roles this year.
“As always, our non-conference schedule is designed to prepare us for a challenging conference schedule,” said Brock. “Our objective once again is to be at the top of the NEWMAC standings heading into the conference tournament as we try to earn an NCAA berth.”
Once again, Springfield will square off against some impressive competition throughout New England. In a national preseason poll, six teams on Springfield’s schedule were at least receiving votes. including UMass-Dartmouth, Rhode Island College, Amherst, Williams, MIT, and WPI.
“As for our team, I think our strength will be our inside game. We will need to capitalize on that this season,” said Brock. “We will need to find a balance between our inside and outside game quickly as we will be sorely tested early by our difficult schedule. As a team, we are going to have to hit the ground running and be especially good at the beginning of games.”
Leading the way for Springfield this season will be NEWMAC First-Team All-Conference selection, Pat Crean. The Pride's leading scorer with 14.5 points per game, Crean, a forward, also led the team in assists with 85 a year ago. He led the team in free throws made (114), free throws attempted (167), and field goals made (138). He was second on the team in steals (46), and minutes played (874). Undoubtedly one of the top players in the conference, Crean took his game to the next level last year as he put Springfield on his back down the stretch. Crean was outstanding as he tallied 17.8 points per game and added 7.7 rebounds in the final six games. He led the team in assists with 17 and added 11 steals while shooting 48.6% from the floor and connected on 36-of-49 (73.5%) from the charity stripe in that stretch.
“Pat is such a versatile player for us, and with his improved ball handling, he continues to be a difficult matchup for our opponents,” said Brock. “Expectations will be very high for him in his senior season.”
Springfield’s other senior, guard Ryan Blackmon, looks to make his final season for the Pride his best yet. Springfield’s best deep threat, Blackmon started all 28 games as a junior and connected on 47 three-pointers, 32 more than any other member of the team. Blackmon averaged 11.9 points per game as he shot 38% from the floor and 36% from beyond the arc. He also chipped in with 3.8 rebounds per contest and snagged 32 steals on the season.
Junior forward Matt Cavalieri will join Crean and Blackmon as Springfield’s captains for the upcoming season. Cavalieri showed flashes throughout the year that he could be a serious impact player as a slasher who can get to the rim. For the year, Cavalieri averaged 8.2 points and 5.9 rebounds, while connecting on 50% of his shots on the season. The 6-6 lefty creates matchup problems with his ability to hit the outside jumper or back down his opponent to the basket. Cavalieri scored a career-high 19 points in SC's big 61-46 victory over WPI in last season's NEWMAC semifinal on WPI's home court.
“As he continues to improve, Matt has become more versatile and active with the ability to making an impact both inside and outside,” said Brock. “We are counting on him to really crash the boards this season.”
Running the point in just his sophomore season will be Conner Flynn. Flynn appeared in 27 games as a freshman and averaged just over 10 minutes of play. In his first year for the Pride, Flynn served as a backup and recorded 20 assists, 16 steals, and 47 points, while shooting 42.5% from the field. “Conner will be our floor general this season. He is such a coachable player,” said Brock. “Now that he really understands our system, he can run our team and continue to be a threat on the perimeter.”
Anchoring the paint for Springfield will be 6-7 sophomore forward/center Ryan Coburn. Coburn burst onto the Springfield basketball scene as a freshman, playing in all 28 games, while starting 12. The tall, lanky post player has a true knack for blocking shots as he registered 52 blocks in his first season, ranking first in the conference in that category. While his offensive game is still improving after averaging 3.8 points per game, Coburn snagged 4.1 rebounds per contest and shot nearly 43% from the floor.
Adding depth to the Springfield frontcourt will be sophomore center/forward Evan Christner. In his freshman season, Christner saw action in 17 games and made the most of his time as he netted 46 points while shooting 64% from the field. He also grabbed 21 rebounds and will look to continue to crash the boards with his 6-4 frame.
Springfield has a handful of newcomers on its squad that Brock anticipates will make some impact on the court. Freshman George Adams is a very strong addition to the frontcourt. Brock says that Adams can score, rebound, and is a very active player on the blocks. Freshman guard Matt Pascuzzo has also impressed early with his speed and ability to handle the ball. Pascuzzo can really speed up the game with his baseline to baseline ability and is adept at breaking down full court pressure.
The NEWMAC once again appears to be a balanced and competitive league. “Once again, the league looks to be extremely competitive,” explained Brock. “In our league, teams are also so very well prepared, which is a testament to the great coaches in the conference. Our games are always so competitive and that’s because of the great balance between all the teams.”