ATB: Crosstown Rivalry Plays Out With Minimal Fuss, The Pitino Family Tilt, and Texas\’ Misfortune…

Posted by Chris Johnson on December 20th, 2012

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Normalcy Reigns In One Of College Hoops’ Best Rivalries. The organic hate developed as a historical byproduct of uninterrupted competition is what makes rivalry games hum. Those sentiments spilled out of bounds in last season’s rendition of the Crosstown Shootout, when Xavier and Cincinnati’s annual meeting erupted into a full-out brawl that led to multiple suspensions, a relocation of the series from campus gyms to a neutral site arena and a name change to diffuse violent tensions (Crosstown Classic). The repackaged form of the Crosstown whatever ensued Wednesday night, only without most of the protagonists from last year’s melee, and with each program in a completely different place than it was a year ago. This time around, Cincinnati – owners of the nation’s 6th-rated defense on a per-possession scale, a relentless backcourt trio and an undefeated record – had the upper hand; Xavier is still incorporating a host of young pieces and learning on the fly after losing five starters. The end result was pretty much what you might expect: Xavier mustered enough emotion and pride to hang around for most of the night, but was eventually outlasted by Mick Cronin’s team. The outcome was less important than the event itself. There were no punches thrown, no pre-game radio waves trashtalk, no nonsense in the postgame news conference. It was organically competitive basketball, with all the natural emotions of a rivalry contained to enhance, but not dominate, the actual game being played. The Crosstown Shootout is no more; the refurbished edition isn’t all that much different (the variations are cosmetic, much less inherently structural). And that’s good news.

Your Watercooler Moment. Father-Son Coaching Matchup Highlights Louisville-FIU.

The elder Pitino was all smiles after dispatching son Richard\'s FIU team (Photo credit: Getty Images)

The understudy didn’t have the manpower or the experience to spring the upset on his old man – not when Rick Pitino’s Louisville Cardinals are playing some of the best basketball in the country, not when Peyton Siva connects on a career-high five three-pointers and sophomore Wayne Blackshear notches 18 points (also a career-high). This was an unfair fight from the start, both tactically and personnel-wise; the younger Pitino never really stood a chance. Louisville was expected to cruise to a win, and that’s exactly what happened. For Richard Pitino, this game wasn’t about making a statement by beating one of the nation’s best teams. It was about the younger Pitino getting his first real shot in the national spotlight, and despite the lopsided scoreline, there was nothing embarrassing about his first jab at the man that showed him the coaching ropes. Not all young coaches are instantaneously successful. The Brad Stevens’ and Shaka Smarts of the world are not how most coaches break into the profession. Richard Pitino has the bloodlines to be successful, and that’s as auspicious a natural advantage as any young coach could ask for. Who knows how long or how fruitful the younger Pitino’s career will be. As it stands, his development is an interesting storyline to keep tabs on. The longer he coaches and the more he learns, I suspect Richard Pitino to develop many of the same mannerisms and principles – the feet stomping, the sideline death stares, the trademark defense-first philosophy – as the future Hall of Famer who raised him.

Tonight\’s Quick Hits…

  • Signs Of Progress For Texas. The main story of Texas’ season thus far is the continued absence of point guard Myck Kabongo, which reached a climactic end Wednesday night with the Yahoo! Sports report that revealed sophomore point guard has been suspended for the season after lying to NCAA investigators. Another angle is the Longhorns’ youth, which is evident in large quantities all over the floor, albeit extremely talented. The undertold narrative of the Longhorns’ slow start is their remarkably stout defense, which ranks fourth in the country on a per-possession scale and first overall in effective field goal percentage. The Longhorns lived up to their statistical bona fides on the defensive end by stifling the one-dimensional UNC Tar Heels into 21-of-67 shooting, including 3-of-19 from beyond the arc. Throw in 15 points from sophomore forward Jonathan Holmes and 18 from freshman Cameron Ridley, and what you get is a dominating 18-point dismantling of Roy Williams’ team. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 22nd, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC.

Top Storylines

  • Canisius Surprises. Not a big surprise given the pool of talent here, a good bit better than a lot of people anticipated, and the coaching of Jim Baron. A win over ‘Little Three’ rival St. Bonaventure was particularly sweet for Baron, a former Bonnie player and coach.
  • St. Peter’s also merits a note. A preseason pick at the bottom of the league, the Peacocks have wins at Rutgers, Cornell and a home conquest of Central Connecticiut. A loss to Binghamton doesn’t damper the early enthusiasm in Jersey City.
  • Manhattan Winless. At Louisville and at Harvard. Not an easy way for anyone to open up its season. In the long run these tests should be a benefit for Steve Masiello’s Jaspers.

Reader’s Take

Player of the Week: Lamont Jones– The Iona senior guard averaged 30.5 points over the first two games in the Virgin Islands Paradise Jam. He set a tournament record 40 points in the Gaels’ overtime loss to Quinnipiac.

Momo Jones Is Off To A Running Start. (Iona Athletics)

Rookie of the Week: Tyler Hubbard– The Loyola redshirt freshman guard came off the bench to spark the Greyhounds’ Hall of Fame Classic championship in Springfield. He scored a career-high 17 points in a win over UMBC.

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Morning Five: National Championship Monday

Posted by nvr1983 on April 2nd, 2012

  1. In a rather surprising move, Kansas State announced that it was hiring Bruce Weber to be its next head coach. Weber replaces Frank Martin who left the school earlier in the week to take over at South Carolina (technically that was more surprising than the Weber hire). Weber, who has a 313-155 record in stops at Southern Illinois and Illinois, reached the national championship game at Illinois in 2005, but was criticized by Illini fans for having done so with Bill Self’s recruits and then failing to land many of the top recruits out of Illinois. Now he will be tasked with running a program that Martin revitalized and will also have to deal with a familiar foe in-state: Bill Self.
  2. Less than a month after getting fired from Tulsa, Doug Wojcik has found a new head coaching position at Charleston. Wojcik, who went 140-92 at Tulsa in seven seasons, replaces Bobby Cremins, who retired due to health issues. Interestingly, Wojcik was fired in large part because of his inability to make the NCAA Tournament, but he takes over a program where Cremins was widely praised despite his inability to get his team to the NCAA Tournament. Will Charleston be as forgiving if Wojcik continues to fail to make the NCAA Tournament when he is at Charleston?
  3. Mississippi State is taking another route to find its next head coach. Instead of hiring a retread the Bulldogs are going with Rick Ray, who has served as assistant at Indiana State, Purdue, and Clemson. Although Ray has not had any experience as a head coach he has experienced a good amount of success as an assistant and comes in with high praise based on the quotes we have seen. Some may view hiring someone without head coaching experience as a risky proposition and it is to some degree, but we would rather see a program do that than hire someone with a track record of mediocrity as a head coach.
  4. Like Wojcik, Jim Baron did not have to wait long after being fired to find another job. The former Rhode Island coach, who was fired after going 184-165 in 11 seasons, but went 7-24 this past season is set to be named as the next head coach at Canisius later this week. Even though we have been critical of teams hiring retreads (see above) this seems like it would be a decent hire for Canisius as Baron’s team had won 20 or more games in the past four seasons, which would be a huge turnaround from where Canisius has been recently.
  5. In a sign that the times may be changing, Ohio is reportedly has taken Jim Christian away from TCU. Yes, a (soon to be) Big XII school might be losing a coach to a MAC school. Christian’s record at TCU (56-73) is not exactly inspiring, but he was very successful at Kent State, another MAC school, going 138-58 there including 10-5 against Ohio. The school has not released a statement on the topic, but is expected to introduce Christian on Tuesday so we suspect that an official announcement would come out some time later today.
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Checking In On… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on February 24th, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

Reader’s Take

 

Opening Tip

  • Iona holds a slim lead and finishes the regular season at home with meetings against Fairfield and St. Peter’s. Regardless of how the top four play out, they are all very much in the hunt. Loyola’s final game at Manhattan on Sunday guarantees that a fair amount of scoreboard watching will be in vogue.

Player of the Week

  • Scott Machado, Iona, 6’1″, Sr. G – Averaged 14.5 points, 12 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 3 steals for the week. The versatile  Machado had 16 points in a win at Rider, hitting all ten of his free throw attempts.

Co-Rookies of the Week

  • Chavaughn Lewis, Marist, 6’5″, Fr., G/F – A starter for three weeks now, Lewis has 14 double figure games to his credit. Against Maine, Lewis recorded career highs in points (24), rebounds (9) and assists (5).
  • Evan Hymes, Siena, 5’8″, Fr., G – Outstanding in a 21-point, 7-assist showing in the upset of Manhattan. Playing 40 minutes for the 14th time in 16 games, Hymes averaged 13.5 points per game for the week.

Standings

Team, MAAC record, overall record:

1. Iona 13-3, 22-6
2. Loyola (MD) 12-4, 20-7
3. Fairfield 12-4, 17-11
4. Manhattan 11-5, 19-10
5. Rider 8-8, 11-18
6. Niagra 7-9, 12-17
7. Siena 7-10, 12-16
8. Marist 6-11, 12-17
9. St. Peter’s 4-12, 5-23
10. Canisius 1-15, 5-22

Team Rundown

  1. Iona– Won on the road at Rider before coming home to defeat Nevada in the Bracketbusters. Sean Armand led five double figure scorers for the Gaels with 22 points against Rider. Armand was 7 of 13 from three-point range. Against Nevada, a 90-84 victory,  Lamont Jones paced Iona with 18 points. Five Gaels were in double figures and Scott Machado handed out 15 assists.

    Michael Glover and Iona Are The Team To Beat In The MAAC Tourney (AP)

  2. Loyola – Lost at Marist before defeating Boston University in the Bracketbuster. Shane Walker had a 16-point, 12-rebound night in the losing effort at Marist. A team with a defensive efficiency of 96 during the MAAC season, Loyola allowed Marist a huge 114 rating in their 72-54 loss. Four Greyhounds hit double figures against BU with Robert Olson’s 17 points leading the way. Olson added 4 rebounds and 3 assists. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 27th, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences. The records listed are up to date, but the analysis is just through Wednesday’s games.

Reader’s Take 

 

Leading Off

A sobering, down to earth thought and time of reflection. Marist College cancelled last Sunday’s game with Fairfield and Monday’s Women’s contest against St. Peter’s. This came following a tragic fire in Poughkeepsie, NY that took the lives of three people, two of them Marist students. In a statement MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said, “the MAAC member schools share in the grief of the Marist community and offers its condolences to the families of the students who died or were injured in this tragic fire.” Ensor also noted rescheduling of the games will be done later as the conference consults with the involved schools. Our thoughts and prayers are with those victims and their families as well.

The Week That Was

Player of the Week: Scott Machado, Iona, 6’1″, Sr., G – Posted an 11-point, 15-assist, 9-rebound effort in the win over Rider. Machado narrowly missed being Iona’s second triple-double performer in school history. Machado had only two turnovers in that win.

Iona's Scott Machado Has Been On Fire Lately

Rookie of the Week: Antoine Mason, Niagara, 6’3″, Fr., G – Averaged 20.5 points, 5 rebounds and 2.5 assists in a 1-1 week for Niagara. Mason has led Niagara in scoring the last three games. The highlight,  a 22 point effort in the victory over rival Canisius.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking In On… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2012

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences. The records listed are up to date, but the analysis is just through Wednesday’s games.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • The conference slate is already one quarter in the books. Throw away those predictions. At this juncture Iona is the team to beat. Inside play (Mike Glover), an excellent lead guard (Scott Machado), the go-to scorer (Lamont Jones), and perimeter threat (Kyle Smyth) all add up for the Gaels. Not to mention, the man on the bench, Tim Cluess, who knows his X’s and O’s, thank you.
  • Loyola, Fairfield, and Manhattan stay within striking distance. Slowly, Rider has got things straightened out and is much improved after an awful start. Regardless, the Gaels lead the pack. And will be tough to reel in.

Player of the Week

  • Mike Glover, 6’7″, Sr., F, Iona – Averaged 20 points, six rebounds and three blocks the last three games (all victories) for the Gaels. Shot 64.7% from the field and 80% from the line. Enjoyed a 31-point outburst in the win at Marist.

Rookie of the Week

  • Evan Hymes, 5’8″, Fr., G, Siena – Averaged 15.7 points and 4.1 assists as the Saints captured two of their last three games. Led Siena with 22 points in a loss to Iona at Madison Square Garden. Ran the team extremely well, logging the full 40 minutes in both wins over Fairfield and Niagara.

Mike Glover Had A Big Week (AP)

Standings

Team, MAAC record, overall record

1. Iona 5-1, 13-4
2. Loyola (MD) 4-1, 11-4
3. Manhattan 4-2, 11-7
4. Fairfield 3-2, 8-8
5. Sienna 3-3, 8-8
6. Marist 2-3, 7-9
7. Niagra 1-4, 6-11
8. Rider 3-3, 6-12
9. Canisius 0-5, 3-12
10. St. Peter’s 2-3, 3-13

Power Rankings

  1. Iona: Won three straight sweeping their two conference games the past week. Iona knocked off Niagara, 73-61, behind Mike Glover’s 19 points and seven rebounds. The Gaels then traveled to Marist, scoring a  100-76 victory. Offensive efficiency was a gaudy 127.0. Glover again was the leader with 31 points and seven boards. Kyle Smyth added 17 points on 5 of 8 shooting from three. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 31st, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

Reader’s Take 

 

The Week That Was

  • Recapping: Now we can get on with the conference games. The early portion of the schedule gives you the opportunity to face local rivals in other leagues (Manhattan-Fordham for one) and the chance to visit different sections of the country. Frequent flier miles may be added by a visit a few time zones away. By this time, though, everyone is ready for conference play to begin. Two MAAC games per team are in the books. St. Peter’s is 1-1 and 2-11 overall. After Wednesday’s 76-67 loss to Lehigh, John Dunne spoke of his St. Peter’s team and their mindset. “We are young and early our kids did not know how to stay in games,” he said. “Now they can stay in but we have to learn about closing them and winning. It’s all a process.” Dunne pointed out the 1-1 MAAC record and the conference schedule provides a “second season. Our kids are upbeat and working,” Dunne said. “They take the MAAC schedule as a chance to start over again.” New Year’s brings new hope and resolutions. Into the MAAC schedule everyone goes, sharing those positive aspirations.
  • Player of the Week:  Brandon Penn, 6’8″, Sr., F, Rider – In a win at Monmouth, Penn tied a career-high with 26 points while setting personal bests of 15 rebounds and six 3-point field goals.
  • Rookie of the Week: Evan Hymes, 5’8″, Fr., G, Siena – Scored 22 points while handing out six assists in the Saints’ big win over Princeton.

Iona's Lamont "Momo" Jones Is A Strong Candidate For MAAC POY Honors (AP)

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Checking In On… the MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 3rd, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC.

Reader’s Take

 

On-Site: St. Peters vs. Siena

The conference’s two most recent champions, St. Peter’s and Siena, tipped off last Thursday night. Defending champion St. Peter’s hosted a Siena team trying to get through injuries and searching for their identity. Sophomore point guard Rakeem Brookins is out for the season. The Saints are still not getting the services of Owen Wignot, a good inside player. Early on, the Peacocks built a 21-7 lead as yet another slow start by the Saints put them in an early hole. Down nine at the half, Siena stayed tough. Even faced with a 16-point deficit on the road with fourteen minutes and change to play, Mitch Buonoguro’s group stayed focused. The lead was built courtesy of a tough man-to-man defense by St. Peter’s. Siena ws able to slowly get back in as their 2-3 zone and a St. Peter’s dry spell open the door. The Saints drew even late, but never get the lead, which Buonoguro later pointed out as very significant. Down the stretch, St. Peter’s nursed a slight five-point lead and with less than three minutes to play. Brandon Hall, who hadn’t hit a shot all night, buried a crucial three-pointer for the Peacocks. That made it a three-possession game and proved to be the dagger for Siena. “This was a tough game,” St. Peter’s coach John Dunne said afterward. “It’s the type of game you will see a lot of in this league.”

Accolades

  • Player of the Week: Scott Machado, Iona. The senior guard scored a career high 34 points in the Gaels’ 104-99 double overtime victory over St. Joseph’s. He is just the fifth MAAC player in history to record 1,200 and 600 assists.

Iona's Scott Machado Might Win Several of These

  • Rookie of the Week: Chavaugh Lewis, Marist. Lewis had a career high 23 points in Marist’s victory over Colgate. A freshman guard, Lewis averaged 15 points in a two-game stretch.

Power Rankings

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Checking In On… the MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.

Nonconference play is the norm and story around the country, but especially in the MAAC. Iona’s near-takedown of Purdue raised eyes and caught attention. The Gaels rebounded to defeat Western Michigan in the consolation round in that tournament in Puerto Rico, though, so not all is lost. On Thanksgiving, naturally Macy’s Parade and turkey are the order of the day, but the Old Spice Classic tips off as well with MAAC representative Fairfield entering the eight-team field as a viable threat.

Iona Was Very Close But Hummel Saved Purdue

MAAC Honors

  • Player of the Week : Maurice Barrow, 6’5″ So. F, Fairfield. Barrow scored 19 points while grabbing six rebounds in the Stags’ win over Quinnipiac.
  • Newcomer of the WeekDonovan Kates, 6’6″ Fr. G, Manhattan. Kates scored ten points, including two late threes to help the Jaspers edge NJIT at Draddy Gymnasium.

Power Rankings

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RTC Conference Primers: #17 – MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 19th, 2011

Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC.

Reader’s Take I

 

Top Storylines

  • Conference Tournament Changes Venues: The MAAC championship will be staged at Springfield’s MassMutual Center.  How the March 1- 5 event manages to be received and attended will be followed closely by many observers. The conference and MassMutual Center staff have been working feverishly to provide the best possible product for fans. With the nearest school, Siena, roughly 90 miles away, providing an attractive event to draw fans is paramount and, as noted, will be tracked. The MAAC will have the tournament in Springfield from 2012-14.
  • MAAC Participates In Non-Conference Events: The MAAC will be represented in the annual Sears BracketBuster event in February. The conference will also host the Old Spice Classic in Orlando during the Thanksgiving weekend (with representative Fairfield a legitimate threat). Prior to March, a few MAAC schools will test out the MassMutual Center in the expanded Hall of Fame Classic on December 9. UMass will face Siena and Fairfield opposes Old Dominion.
  • Glover Fits For Wooden List: Iona senior forward Michael Glover has been named to the Wooden Award preseason Top 50 list. Glover transferred from Seton Hall to Iona and instantly made an impression as one of the MAAC’s brightest stars last season.

Sydney Johnson Brings His Coaching Talent to the MAAC

  • New Coaches On Board: Sydney Johnson takes over at Fairfield and has a wealth of talent on hand. Johnson got his start in D-I basketball only seven years ago as an assistant for John Thompson, III, before spending four seasons as Princeton’s head coach. Steve Masiello is the new man at Manhattan.  Masiello does not have the talent Johnson has, but is not short on enthusiasm and expectations. Masiello knows the MAAC well, having assisted Bobby Gonzalez for several years at Manhattan before heading to Louisville to work as a member of Rick Pitino’s staff.
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RTC Summer Updates: MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 15th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our MAAC correspondent, Ray Floriani.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

The MAAC should provide another interesting race for the top. Two of last year’s best programs, Iona and Fairfield, will slug it out. The Gaels were tournament runners-up to St. Peter’s while Fairfield was the conference regular season champion. Off the floor, the wheels are already in motion as the conference plans the move to Springfield, Massachusetts, where the men’s and women’s championships will be contested at the MassMutual Center.

  • A Busy MAAC HQ: The headline for a good part of August concerns the conference postseason tournament. ‘The Road to MAAC-achusetts‘ began on August 3, with marketing representatives from each MAAC institution meeting at Siena College. Reps from the MassMutual Center, the host site, were also in attendance. Among the presentations and objectives were league-wide advertising of the championships on ad pages and in media guides, in game promotions allowing fans the chance to win tickets to the tournament and grassroots marketing efforts in the communities of each school. Ticketmaster also outlined social media opportunities which will allow fans to follow the MAAC schools and see who may be attending a particular session of the tournament. “There are great synergies developing between the championship marketing team and the MAAC,” said Marissa Skibbe, Global Spectrum’s Director of Marketing at the MassMutual Center. “Together, we have created an extensive and fun plan that is moving like a well-oiled machine. We can’t wait to see the creative elements come to fruition.” The tournament isn’t the only place where the conference’s administration is making waves, however. MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor was recently named to the WCBA board of directors. One of the most highly-respected administrators in college basketball, Ensor recently completed a five-year term on the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.
  • Dunne rewarded at St. Peter’s – Fresh off the school’s first 20-win season in two decades and first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1995, St. Peter’s awarded coach John Dunne with a new contract extending through 2015-16. Dunne’s first two teams at St. Peter’s recorded just eleven wins total, but the win total over the past three seasons is 47, including 30 victories in MAAC play. The Peacocks finished this season 20-14 and captured the MAAC Tournament crown at Harbor Yards. They appeared in the NCAA Tournament, but were defeated by Purdue in the opening round. Dunne’s name was starting to surface as a few openings arose in the spring. The financial details of his new contract were not reported, but the extension marks a notable increase in pay over his former contract. “Throughout his [Dunne’s] tenure, he has guided our student-athletes to success both on the court and in the classroom, St. Peter’s AD Pat Elliott said. “We are excited about the future of St. Peter’s basketball with Coach Dunne leading the way.”
  • New Faces: Steve Masiello took over at Manhattan, replacing Barry Rohrssen. Masiello mostly recently was on Rick Pitino’s staff at Louisville. He knows the conference, however, having served as an assistant on Bobby Gonzalez’s Jaspers staff before heading south. After turning around the program at Fairfield, Ed Cooley was summoned to do the same at Providence in the Big East. Replacing Cooley is highly-regarded Sydney Johnson, formerly of Princeton. Last season, Johnson led Princeton to the Ivy title and NCAA Tournament, where they lost to eventual Final Four participant Kentucky by just two points. Johnson will inherit a strong group of returnees at defending regular season champion Fairfield. On the court, Lamont Momo” Jones decided he was ready for a different role after playing a supporting part with Derrick Williams in the Arizona Wildcats’ head-turning NCAA Tournament run and transferred to Iona (more after the jump).

Momo Jones' Transfer To Iona Will Spell Trouble For Gaels Opponents. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

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MAAC Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 4th, 2011

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC. Get set for the MAAC tournament, which starts on Friday, by taking a look at RTC’s preview and regular season recap.

Postseason Preview

Last year, it was Albany. The next three years, Springfield, Massachusetts. The MAAC is on the move. This season’s postseason tournament will be at Harbor Yards in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  The MAAC format is a unique one in that both the men’s and women’s tournaments are contested at the same site. This makes it easier for the fans and gives an opportunity to showcase each member’s program on both the men’s and women’s side.

The men’s tournament tips the evening of March 4, with both men’s and women’s finals the following Monday. The MAAC will be a one-bid league. Iona, Fairfield and Rider have impressive records, but not enough to get an at-large bid. The conference tournament will be winner-take-all and on to the Big Dance.

Fairfield coach Ed Cooley would be the first to admit home court advantage is nice, but it’s no guarantee. Any of the top four could emerge as champion. At any rate, a prediction must be made and the choice is Fairfield.  The Stags have a nice inside/outside combination. A 66 possession paced team, the offensive efficiency is moderate at 100 but the defense, an outstanding 89. Defensively, they force opponents to give up the ball on 25% of their possessions. With Derek Needham at the point, the Stags TO rate is an impressive 18%. The Stags also boast a plus-four edge in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Credit that to the presence of seven foot junior Ryan Orlander, 6’5 senior Yorel Hawkins and 6’5 freshman Maurice Barrow.

The MAAC, with Siena in recent seasons, has been represented well in the Big Dance. Fairfield, with good guard and interior play, could prove a tough first round matchup. A lot depends on the draw and how Fairfield and the opposition line up. The early season schedule had a few tough tests and they were away from home. Cooley wanted a team ready not just for the MAAC, but the challenges of post season as well.

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