How are college basketball's contenders built? SI.com's Luke Winn breaks down five different sets of Hoops Architectural plans.
PLAN NO. 4: HOFSTRA
ARCHITECTURAL STYLE: Beauty In Obscurity
CHARACTERISTICS: The Pride put themselves on the map by building a critically acclaimed, three-winged backcourt from undervalued talent. Seniors Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera and junior Antoine Agudio have become the nation's highest-scoring guard trio, averaging a combined 45.3 points per game, and are viewed as serious a threat for a Cinderella run in the NCAA tournament. Coach Tom Pecora has used a unique assembly process, combining prospects from Hofstra's home turf, New York, with imports from both Lithuania and Puerto Rico.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY: Said Pecora, "At the mid-major level, if you have good guard-play, you can compete -- and we play three guards because I think there's more of a talent pool out there for outstanding guards than there is for outstanding big guys.
"We are not going to get finished products for our big guys. We try to recruit big guys who we can develop into capable players by their junior or senior year. What we can get, though, are guards as good as anybody at any level. We work hard to sign guards who might lack a feature -- size, for instance -- that the big programs are looking for, but have everything else."
PROJECT STATUS: Finished 26-7 last season and third in the Colonial Athletic Association. Didn't receive an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament despite having an RPI of 30 and a pair of wins down the stretch over eventual mid-major darling George Mason. Now considered a prime candidate to become "The Next George Mason" and make noise in the dance.
PRIMARY MATERIALS: The aforementioned small-ball gang of Stokes (17.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Agudio (17.2 ppg) and Rivera (11.7 ppg, 3.5 apg). All three were overlooked by major programs for various reasons, but have established themselves as elite D-I guards. All three came in the class of 2003, when Hofstra was coming off an 8-21 season and had only immediate minutes to offer as a selling point.
Pecora said that in the case of his star, Stokes, "people were scared off from him because he was 6-3 and only 155 pounds -- but those things didn't scare me." He saw a guard who, intangible-wise, reminded him a lot of former Pride star Speedy Claxton, and was intrigued. "Loren was explosive athletically, and showed bursts of energy on the defensive end," Pecora said. "He went after rebounds and filled up the box score; he was a complete player."