When the final buzzer rang on the America East quarterfinals, it put an end to an up and down third season for head coach Tommy Dempsey at Binghamton.
In the game’s final minute, the Bearcats’ chance to tie came down to freshman Willie Rodriguez driving the lane, kicking out to an open Justin McFadden whose open shot was one of three three-pointers that went in and out of the rim.
Even despite ending up short, Binghamton proved over the second half of the season that they could compete with the top teams in the conference. They beat second place Vermont for the first time since 2012, and the Bearcats’ style has started to fluster teams. In their quarterfinal loss at Stony Brook, the 2-2-1 press gave the Seawolves plenty of problems.
“We learned to trust our press and trust our defense,” Dempsey said. “We are getting better and better and I think the issue that we had, was not only shooting, but we struggled to score the ball.”
Binghamton struggled on the offensive end, managing just 57.7 ppg, second worst in the nine team conference. But Dempsey doesn’t worry about the offense, after all two of his best shooters – Nick Madray and Dusan Perovic – missed the second half of the season with injuries.
“I think we can be unique,” Dempsey said. “I do think we’re recruiting one of the most, if not the most athletic group in the league. I think we are going to have we’re going to have good speed, we’re going to have good athleticism as we move forward because that’s we’re going to play a style that I’m very committed to.”
The school is also committed to Dempsey building the program of the future with the Bearcats. Encouraged by the progress the school extended the head coach until the end of the 2018-19 season. Binghamton’s pressuring style has proven to work, its turnover rate ranked third amongst all America East teams, generating turnovers on 20.4% of defensive possessions.
“I’ve told the guys all along don’t worry about the offense, the offense will come,” Demspey said. “We have to just stay locked in to getting better at our defensive system and getting to that, our pressure defense and everything will fall into place as we get better at that.”
Dempsey’s teams have always been high volume three-point shooting teams, but soon some of those three-pointers that went in and out will likely go in once Madray and Perovic return from their end of season injuries. They also add John Schurman, who sat out this past season, and bring in Thomas Bruce, a 6’8″ forward from DeMatha who should help at the back end of their press.
The one priority as the Bearcats hit the offseason is to figure out how to add strength in the weight room. For a team that was the youngest in the country last season, playing five freshmen at times, struggled against some of the more physical teams in conference play.
“We’re ready to turn the corner,” Dempsey said. “I think as much as anything, we just need to spend time in the weight room with our strength and conditioning coach for the next six, seven months. That’s going to make a big difference.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.