Conference Primers: #23 – Metro Atlantic

Posted by rtmsf on October 19th, 2007

Season Preview Banner 3

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Loyola (MD) (19-9) (14-4)
  2. Siena (18-9) (13-5)
  3. Marist  (16-11) (12-6)
  4. Manhattan (16-12) (11-7)
  5. Niagara (13-13) (9-9)
  6. Rider  (11-16) (8-10)
  7. Fairfield (10-18) (8-10)
  8. Iona (8-21) (6-12)
  9. St. Peter’s (7-21) (5-13)
  10. Canisius (5-23) (4-14)

 MAAC Logo

WYN2K.  The Metro Atlantic, or the MAAC in local parlance, is a league that usually has a handful of good teams that can consistently compete with the mid-majors and beat the low-majors, but just doesn’t have the horses to run with the high majors.  As a case in point, the league went 1-19 against BCS teams last year (Marist 63, Minnesota 56), but still managed to have one of the best low-major records against nonconference opponents over the last three years (122-174, .412).  This is also exhibited by the league’s average seeding (#13.8) in the NCAA Tournament over the last decade – only two times has the MAAC received a #16 seed (2001 – Siena; 2007 – Niagara), and both times it won the PiG as a result.  As such, the league is typically competitive at the top, and this year is no different as we can foresee as many as five teams making a run at the title. 

Predicted Champion.  Loyola (MD) (#15 seed NCAA).  We’re a bit of a sucker for a great turnaround story, and none this year could possibly be better than Loyola.  In 2004 the Greyhounds endured a 1-27 season, tied for the fewest victories in D1.  Enter Jim Patsos, a smooth-talking optimist who guided Loyola to 6 wins, then 15 wins, then 18 wins last season as he has re-energized the program.  Now in his fourth year, the Greyhounds are poised to win the MAAC and earn an NCAA bid, led by former transfers such as Gerald Brown (22.2 ppg – #8 nationally) from Providence, Hassan Fofana (a 6’10 bruiser) from Maryland and Joe Miles (an instant-offense guy) from Marshall.  With four returning starters from a 12-6 conference record last year, we think that Loyola is the team to beat in the MAAC this year. 

Others ConsideredSiena is another school that returns a slew of talent from a 12-6 team, including Kenny Hasbrouck, the 2006 MAAC ROY and an all-league selection last year.  The Saints won nine of their last ten games last year before losing to Niagara in the MAAC title game, but we feel that the loss of big man Michael Haddix gives Loyola the edge here.  It will be a close race in any case.  Last year’s regular season champ Marist returns a good amount of experience and adds some key transfers (including former Syracuse guard Louis McCroskey), but the loss of second-round NBA draft pick point guard Jared Jordan, who led the nation in assists for two years in a row, will be tough to replace.  We also expect Manhattan to make some noise this year, as the Jaspers return seven sophomores from a team that surprised the MAAC by going 10-8 last season.  Niagara also should be mentioned even though it lost four starters from its NCAA team; after all, the Purple Eagles have won two of the last three NCAA bids, and the one starter returning is all-MAAC forward Charron Fisher, who will be assisted by the MAAC conference tourney MVP Tyrone Lewis.  We’d also be remiss if we didn’t mention Rider, if for no other reason than they have an NBA prospect named Jason Thompson on the team, the only returning 20/10 player in all of D1 this season. 

Games to Watch.  We’re still in the low-majors, so only one game matters.

  • MAAC Championship Game (03.10.08). ESPN2.

RPI Booster Games.  The MAAC doesn’t play many BCS games in a typical season, and this year is no different with 21 on the slate.  As always, there are a few opportunities to grab a handful of wins against some BCS bottom-feeders in addition to improving the overall profile of the league simply by showing up and taking your medicine.   

  • Siena @ Syracuse (11.12.07)
  • Marist @ Miami (FL) (11.15.07)
  • Stanford @ Siena (11.17.07)
  • Loyola (MD) @ Seton Hall (11.20.07) 
  • NC State @ Rider (11.22.07)
  • Fairfield @ Georgetown (12.01.07)
  • Niagara @ St. John’s (12.15.07)
  • Loyola (MD) @ Illinois (12.28.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Once again, for the record, zero.

Neat-o Stat.  Former Pitino assistant Kevin Willard takes over for Jeff Ruland at Iona after the Gaels’ horrendous 2-28 performance last season.  How do you lose that many games?  Well, first, you turn the ball over on more than a quarter (26.1%, 329th nationally) of your possessions; and second, when you manage to hang onto the ball long enough to get to the foul line, you convert at only a 57.7% rate (334th nationally).  Iona lost six conference games by <5 points or in overtime – you think extra possessions and making foul shots might have helped?  

64/65-Team Era.  The MAAC is 5-24 (.172) over this era, which actually accounts for the second-best record among the traditional low-majors (only the Mid-Continent is better), but this is a little misleading because two of those wins were from PiGs.  As we stated above, the league tends to receive a favorable seed (among low-majors), averaging a #13.0 over the entire period.  Still, only three teams have managed to win a true first round game, and one of those was as a surprising #4 seed (1990 – LaSalle and Lionel “L-Train” Simmons over #13 Southern Miss 79-63 – believe it or not, we found a clip of the L-Train in action in 1988 below).  The other two upset victories for the MAAC were in 1995 (#13 Manhattan over #4 Oklahoma 77-67) and 2004 (#12 Manhattan over #5 Florida 75-60).  Seems as if only the Jaspers can pull off the upset from this conference.    

Note:  video cannot be embedded, so double-click on the YouTube logo above to get it to play.

Final Thought.  The MAAC as a whole has seen better days, but really it’s the bottom half of the league that’s keeping it down.  It’s an exaggeration, but it seems as if every year the worst team in America (as judged solely by records and media coverage) comes from the MAAC.  Several years ago it was Loyola, and last year it was Iona.  Part of this probably derives from increased media attention due to its location of schools centered in and around New York.  Nevertheless, the perception of this league is worse than its actual performance.  Still, it has been slipping a smidge over the past couple of years and it needs to put together a strong season this year to earn back some of that respect.   

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NBA Predraft Camp Thoughts

Posted by rtmsf on June 5th, 2007

Thanks to the guys over at draftexpress.com, we’re just getting our first look at some of the height/weight and athletic numbers coming out of the NBA Predraft Camp last weekend in Orlando. We don’t put a lot of stock in drafting players based on these measurements – after all, if a guy can play, he can play (tip of the hat to Jonathan Givony for making this very point perfectly on draftexpress.com) – but it’s always fun to see who wins for the “incredible shrinking” award (aka the Lonny Baxter Trophy) as well as who appears to be the top athletes coming out of college this year. Note we said “appears.”

mj-and-jw.jpg

The Logo and MJ discussing the talent in Orlando

Why wasn’t Maryland better this year?

Guard D.J. Strawberry was rated the top overall athlete this year, and Ekene Ibekwe had some of the most eye-popping big man numbers, featuring a 7’6 foot wingspan and a thirty-nine inch veritical leap. This is yet another example of superior basketball skills and IQ (see: Florida Gators) trumping a stable of athletes. Either that, or Gary Williams was too busy resting on his laurels to teach these kids anything the last four years.

Durant needs to beef up

We realize he’s only eighteen and he can score on just about anyone already… but zero bench presses of 185 lbs. is pathetic. That stat, combined with his surprising lack of speed and agility in the drills, may suggest that he’ll face long obstacles in becoming a solid two-way player in the long run. He’s also going to take a beating on drives into the paint the next few years unless he commits himself to a weight training program to improve his strength.

Perhaps not surpisingly, most of the one-and-dones were weaker than their older peers. Durant, Julian Wright (2), Brandan Wright (2) and Daequan Cook (4) combined for a total of just eight bench presses at the 185-lb. weight. Mike Conley, Jr., (13), Javaris Crittenton (11) and Spencer Hawes (9) did better. Greg Oden sat out that event due to his injured wrist.

Lonny Baxter Award

Corey Brewer. Routinely listed at 6’9 at Florida, he came in at just 6’6.75 by the camp measurements. Lucky for him, he’s not a post man, so this won’t likely affect his draft status too much. Another Floridian, Al Thornton, deserves a nod here too. FSU listed him at 6’8, but the measurements put him at a mere 6’5.75. Considering that Thornton logged significant minutes on the interior, this puts him at a major disadvantage going into the draft.

Who Knew?

Aaron Gray is a legitimate seven feet tall, and Joakim Noah is a solid 6’10.5. We would have guessed both were shorter. ACC bigs Brandan Wright and Josh McRoberts are both 6’8.75 tall, but Wright has the slightly longer wingspan and McBob needs to put… the… coffee cupcakes… down (camp high 13.7% body fat).

Guys who’ll get a look based on their measurements alone

SEC big men Major Wingate and Jermareo Davidson. Both measure in the solid 6’9-6’10 range, have extremely long wingspans (7’4) and solid if not spectacular athleticism. Clemson’s James Mays could be a Renaldo Balkman type – a 6’7 jumping jack with a 37″ vertical and long arms (7’1.5″ wingspan).

Major Wingate and Chris Richard

Wingate & Richard battle in the post

Watch for these guys in a future NBA dunk contest near you

  • Al Thornton – 6’6 with a 7’1 wingspan and a 41-inch vertical – wow!
  • Nick Young – 6’5 with a 7’0 wingspan and a 40.5 inch vertical
  • Jeff Green – 6’8 with a 7’1 wingspan and a 38-inch vertical.

Dis-honorable Mention – Jared Jordan, who managed a standing still 14.5-inch vertical (to be fair, he doubled it to 28.5 inches in the running vertical).

jared-jordan.jpg

Can you outjump this JJ?

Quick bigs and slow guards

  • Greg Oden, Ekene Ibekwe and Chris Richard. We covered Oden yesterday and Ibekwe above, but how about super-sub Chris Richard? He never struck us as very fast. At 6’7.5 he’s a classic tweener, but his length (7’4.5 wingspan) and agility might just get him a spot somewhere eventually.
  • Marcelus Kemp and Sammy Mejia. Both of these guards were slower than big-ass Mario Boggan and a host of other big men at the three-quarter court sprint. Kemp in particular may need to think about heading back to Nevada for another season.

Classic Tweeners

Hard-luck Villanova forward Curtis Sumpter and BC forward Jared Dudley. Both are ferocious rebounders in the paint, but both happen to measure at around 6’6. Their only real chance at the next level is to re-invent their games to face the basket, akin to what Corliss Williamson and more recently, Chuck Hayes, have done.

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Oden Even More of a Beast than Originally Thought

Posted by rtmsf on June 4th, 2007

Greg Oden

Somewhat lost amidst all the Billy Donovan and Lebron talk in the hoops world this weekend were reports from the NBA’s predraft camp, coincidentally also held in Orlando.  We’ll get to who helped and hurt themselves in a minute, but we have to first mention that Greg Oden is apparently a gazelle trapped in a seven-footer’s body.  Consider this report from the Portland Oregonian:   

Oden is faster than Durant in the 3/4-court sprint, quicker in the lane-agility drill, and has better numbers in the running and standing vertical leaps. And, Oden has a mind-boggling 7.8 body-fat percentage … most big men are north of the 12 percent range. For instance, other top-rated big men such as Washington’s Spencer Hawes (13.0), Duke’s Josh McRoberts (13.7) and Pitt’s Aaron Gray (10.8) don’t compare. [...]  Oden is 6-foot-11 without shoes, 7-feet with shoes. He weighs 257 pounds.   His wingspan is 7 feet, 4.25 inches (fourth best in the draft). His standing reach is 9 feet, 4 inches (the highest of anyone in the draft). His standing vertical is 32 inches, his running vertical 34 inches.

For a big man, these numbers are sick, as he outperformed the smoother and more fluid-looking Durant in every athletic category.  What this essentially means is that Oden has guard-like athleticism (not to be confused with guard-like skills – see: KG) as a traditional back to the basket seven-footer.  No wonder the scouts have been drooling over this guy since he was in ninth grade.  There shouldn’t have been much question, but if there was any at all, these athletic numbers will put to rest the notion of Portland taking Durant over Oden in about three weeks. 

Players Who Helped Themselves (draftexpress.com): 

  • Jared Dudley (Boston College)
  • Taurean Green (Florida)
  • Demetris Nichols (Syracuse)
  • Aaron Gray (Pittsburgh)
  • Zabian Dowdell (Virginia Tech)
  • Jared Jordan (Marist)
  • Ramon Sessions (Nevada)
  • Jermareo Davidson (Alabama)
  • Antanas Kavaliauskas (Texas A&M)
  • Ali Traore (France)

Players Who Didn’t Help Themselves (espn.com‘s Chad Ford – insider access required):

  • Dominic James (Marquette)
  • Joseph Jones (Texas A&M)
  • Sean Singletary (Virginia)
  • Marcellus Kemp (Nevada)
  • James Mays (Clemson)
  • Dominic McGuire (Fresno St.)
  • Ron Lewis (Ohio St.)
  • Kyle Visser (Wake Forest)
  • Aaron Brooks (Oregon)
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