Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
ESPN’s Ashley O’Connor attended the Metro Atlantic Conference meetings last summer in hopes of finding a pair of teams to fill a specific time slot for the network’s “24 Hours of College Basketball” event this Tuesday.
The network had Drexel and Niagara lined up for an 8 a.m. game and Clemson and Liberty set for a 10 o’clock tilt. But it needed two teams to fill another slot.
“They didn’t have anybody slated for the 6 a.m game,” St. Peter’s head coach John Dunne said Monday by phone. “When they were talking about it in the meeting, me and Pat Elliott, our AD, were making eye contact.”
After the meeting, Dunne got on the phone to Monmouth coach Dave Calloway to see if he was interested in playing that tilt. The two teams were scheduled to play a regular season game this Wednesday.
“He called me from the meeting and said if we move it to Tuesday we can play on ESPN,” Calloway said. “He said, ‘We have to play at 6 o’clock.’
“I said, ‘That’s OK.'”
“He said, ‘a.m.'” Calloway added.
“I thought about it and said, ‘Let’s do it.'”
Both coaches talked it over with their respective university presidents and athletic directors and now the two teams will square off at the Yanitelli Center at 6 a.m. on Tuesday.
“We’re just excited about it so there will be some time to rest afterwards, I guess,” Dunne said.
Both teams are coming off games against in-state rival Seton Hall.
The Pirates routed Monmouth, 87-72, on Sunday behind Jeremy Hazell’s 26 points and Herb Pope’s 15 points and 17 boards in Monmouth’s new $57 million Multipurpose Activity Center.
Monmouth (1-1) was coming off a victory Friday night over Isiah Thomas and his Florida International squad in which the former Knicks coach and executive was verbally harassed all game long by the student section.
St. Peter’s played Seton Hall much closer on Friday, losing 53-51 on a last-second buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Pirates point guard Eugene Harvey.
“It was like a 27-foot running one-handed double clutch shot,” Dunne said. “It was a heck of a last-minute shot, that’s for sure.”
St. Peter’s and Monmouth will each prepare differently for the contest.
“Today we’re not going to have a full practice,” Dunne said. “We’ll do some fullcourt and halfcourt skill work at about 4 o’clock.”
The St. Peter’s players won’t wake up until 4:30 Tuesday morning before coming to the gym for breakfast. Head manager Dalip Bhatia gets the job of making wake-up calls.
“We’re talking about a 4:30 wakeup, which is really close to the game,” Dunne said. “We’ll call them to make sure they’re awake by 4:30.”
While the players are getting taped, they can munch on bagels, oranges, bananas, Gatorade bars and juice before the game. Dunne said his players would move upstairs to the gym 22 minutes before the game.
The Monmouth players will already have been on a bus for more than an hour before the St. Peter’s players even wake up.
“We have a bus leaving at 3:15 a.m. and we’ll load it up with bagels and juice,” Calloway said.
What if the players oversleep? Who calls them?
“They’re big boys. If they want to play on TV, they’ll be there on time,” the coach said.
Calloway, who hoped to be asleep by about 9:30 Monday night, said the trip up the Garden State Parkway shouldn’t take more than an hour at that time of day and he plans to arrive by 4:15, “the latest.”
In an effort to spur interest in the game around campus, Dunne and assistant John Morton, a former Seton Hall star, hit the school cafeteria last Thursday to inform students of the game.
A free breakfast will be served at 4:30 for students and at halftime of the game, there will be a halfcourt shooting contest. Winner gets free tuition for the spring semester.
“We had a really, really good reaction,” Dunne said. “They were all saying they were going to be there, that they were coming.
“Whether they get up when the alarm goes off at 4:30, well see.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.