Checking in on the… MAACPosted by nvr1983 on January 10th, 2009
Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC Conferences.
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The race is slowly starting to take shape.
Do the stats lie? Not really, but they need a closer look.
According to the MAAC, St.Peter’s has the best defense in the conference allowing just 62.6 points over their first 14 games. Tempo free analysis puts St.Peter’s at a tie for fifth (with Manhattan) as both have a defensive efficiency of 96. Once again, pace is a factor as the Peacocks play at a pedestrian 61 possessions per game. If you walk it up the floor, there are less possessions and chances for opponents to score no matter how bad a defense is (and we are not saying that their D is poor). Actually a figure of 96 is pretty good. The league leader in defensive efficiency is, amazingly, last-place Canisius at 91. According to MAAC stats, the Griffs are third surrendering 66.5 points per outing.
With the non-league slate is in the books, Siena’s overall record (10-5) will get better as MAAC play progresses. However, don’t start engraving the the Saints name on the championship trophy yet. Niagara has a very dangerous team and is guaranteed to have a say in who is named conference champion. Mark it down! The teams will meet January 24 at Siena and February 27 at Niagara. One of the strongest points of Niagara’s game is their defensive pressure as the opposition TO rate is 24%.
It’s been a rough going for Marist but last Friday’s win over St.Peter’s put them at 2-2 in the conference. One more bright spot for Marist has been R.J. Hall, who earned a starting job late December and MAAC Rookie of the Week honors. The freshman guard averaged 15 points while shooting 55% from the floor.
Player of the Week honors went to Jamal Barney of Loyola. The sophomore guard averaged 23 points and 6 rebounds for the week. Don’t write off the Greyhounds. They are 1-3 in conference play but the schedule makers haven’t been kind. Jimmy Patsos’ club has faced Siena once and Niagara twice over the course of their first four contests. And their lone win, over Canisius, was on the road. Loyola hosts Fairfield tonight (Friday) and is at St.Peter’s on Sunday. Those games should give us a better read about how good Loyola actually is.
Final tempo free note…Through fifteen games two MAAC clubs are over 100 in offensive efficiency. Niagara leads the MAAC at 102 while Siena is just behind with 101. The fastest paced team? Siena at 73.8 possessions per game.
JERSEY CITY, NJ – No matter the opposition, road wins, especially in conference play are valued. Niagara entered Yanitelli Center on the St. Peter’s campus with a 3-0 record. The home Peacocks were 1-3. Niagara exited unblemished but had to scrap it way to a 62-55 victory.
At the half Niagara owned a 36-23 lead, largely due to forcing 13 St. Peter’s turnovers. The second half saw the Purple Eagles get out to a good start and increase the lead to 18 with just over 14 minutes remaining. Down the stretch the resilient Peacocks battled back. Niagara went through a cold spell with just 4 field goals over the final 12 minutes. On the other end, Nick Leon had a hot hand at the guard spot and Ryan Bacon was doing the damage inside. The score was 60-55 with four minutes to go. Oddly, neither team scored a field goal during the last four minutes. The only points came on two late Niagara free throws. Niagara, a dangerous offensive club, showcased its defense to seal the deal. In the final minutes two St. Peter’s penetrations in transition were rejected and Wesley Jenkins was forced to hoist a contested shot from beyond NBA three-point range.
“We didn’t have our ‘fastball’ tonight,” said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich. “It was a battle but we found a way to win.” St. Peter’s coach John Dunne, despite a loss was encouraged. “I’m proud of our guys,” Dunne said. “They battled back, played with great energy and put ourselves in a position to win with three minutes to go.”
Tyrone Lewis led Niagara with 18 points while Bilal Benn, dangerous in the lane or on the perimeter, added 11 points and 9 boards. Leon led all scores with 25 while Bacon added 18 points and 9 rebounds. In the second half, Leon and Benn accounted for 8 of St. Peter’s 9 field goals. “I think it’s a sign of a good team when you get the ball in the hands of a player on a hot streak ,” Dunne said. “We looked for Leon especially because with his shooting he was just in a groove.”
Mihalich was asked his opinion of a MAAC race just about at the quarter turn. “I still say the road to the title goes through Siena,” the Niagara mentor said. “They are the defending champions and the team to beat. But I think there are three or four and we might see five teams that can challenge them.” Niagara is certainly in that group.
For the tempo free followers…The pace was more to St. Peter’s liking, but the numbers reveal the quality of Niagara’s defense.