Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC conferences.
SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – The standings of the MAAC as of January 16th.
About the only constant in the MAAC these days is Siena just keeps on posting the Ws. The Saints are off to their best start over their 19 year history in the conference. Trivia question, what conference did Siena play in prior to the MAAC ? The old North Atlantic which many of its members today call the America East as home. Siena’s junior point guard earned MAAC Player of the Week honors with a 14.7 ppg, ,6.7 assists and 5 rebounds per game showing over a three game stretch.
Since his 40 point explosion in Davidson’s first round victory over Gonzaga last March, college basketball fans have been bombarded with the Stephen Curry lovefest that has been spearheaded by Dick Vitale and ESPN. The WWL and other hoops aficionados loves to point out that Curry was ignored by every major school including Virginia Tech, the alma mater of his father NBA All-Star Dell Curry. Like every other basketball fan we love the way Stephen plays and his sweet stroke from the perimeter that has been augmented by a surprising ability to get to the hoop and finish. Since last March, it has been hard to find anybody that would be critical of the baby-faced assassin from Davidson, but here at Rush the Court we like to let our minds not our hearts analyze the situation.
We have a lot of links to get through despite rtmsf’s best efforts to cover for me so I’ll get right into the links. . .
Seth Davis making the case that college basketball’s regular season is more meaningful than college football’s regular season. While Seth has ventured over to RTC on several occasions and left kind words, I don’t agree with him here. The BCS is far from perfect, but that doesn’t mean its regular season is diminished. Having said that, the fact that the college basketball regular season is relatively less important than the college football regular season doesn’t mean that college football is superior to college basketball.
Eric Devendorf appears to be in trouble. You would think that the Kelvin Sampson fiasco last year would have taught people to avoid using cell phones and text messaging if they are going to do something bad. [Ed. Note: RTC does not endorse violence against women or text messaging]
I’m sure most of you have heard about Rodney Rodgers and his unfortunate ATV accident that left him paralyzed. I still remember watching him at Fleet Center as a key part of the 2002 Boston Celtics Eastern Conference Finals team (acquired along with Tony Delk in the Joe Johnson trade–doh!) and it’s still shocking to know that he’s paralyzed now.
It’s never too early to prepare your bracket. Prepare all you want, but that freshman girl down the hall who drinks a little too much on the weekends and only remembers the “cute” players on your school’s basketball team is still going to kick your ass in March anyways.
Comparing this year’s top freshman to Victoria’s Secret models. To be perfectly honest, this list makes no sense at all, but you probably won’t notice once you get to the diaper dandies counterparts.
Indiana & Kelvin Sanctions (cont.). The big news of the day was of course that Indiana managed to avoid postseason sanctions even though they’ll formally be on probation for the next three seasons. Kelvin Sampson, to his credit, took responsibility for the complete lack of oversight at Indiana ‘while on his watch,’ but at least once Tom Crean gets this program moving in the right direction again, the Hoosiers won’t also be burdened by the crimson scarlet letter of postseason sanctions. Recruits can still be sold on the basis of playing in the postseason at Indiana (although admittedly, that seems farfetched at this point, even within three years). Sampson is now working for the Milwaukee Bucks as an assistant, but he’s now effectively barred from coaching in the NCAA for the next five years as part of a ‘show cause’ restriction (a school would have to show cause for the NCAA to allow it to hire him). Frankly, this seems to us like a penalty that was ‘easy’ for the NCAA to prove, but one that doesn’t necessarily fit when we know of so many other obvious recruiting violations that are simply untidy for prosecution and therefore ignored.
Games of the Night. We had two great games today, for the first time all season.
Notre Dame 81, Texas 80. This game was nearly everything we expected, and a little more (featured by Justin Mason, below). Notre Dame was led by Luke Harangody’s 29/13 and a 40-footer at the shot clock expiration to what seemed like a solid win with a minute to go, up 79-71. Then the bricks started – Tory Jackson missed two from the line; Zach Hillesland missed two from the line; then Harongody missed both with five seconds left, leaving the door open for Texas to win the game with a two (ND was only up 81-80 at that time). Luckily for Notre Dame, AJ Abrams’ 60-footer at the buzzer was just a bit short (but right online). Good performances abound – ND’s Kyle McAlarney had 19/5 including five threes, and Texas’ was led by AJ Abrams’ 23/5 and Damion James 11/12. Both of these teams are top ten worthy, in our opinion, and we expect Notre Dame to give Carolina all they want tomorrow evening.
Syracuse 89, Kansas 81 (OT). This was a phenomenal game with enough eye-popping plays to cause Beetlejuice to take notice. Kansas appeared as if they were going to blow the game open in the mid-second half until Jim Boeheim changed his trapping defense up and seemingly stole the ball a dozen straight times for dunks and layups. This 13-2 run led to a tight game down the stretch which was capped by Jonny Flynn’s (25/5 assts) dagger three with 6.4 seconds remaining (see below) to effectively send the game to overtime. Cuse continued its hot shooting in the OT – Andy Rautins and Eric Devendorf combined for six threes in the game – and KU appeared to lose its confidence in the extra period. KU’s Cole Aldrich (15/14) and SU’s Arinze Onuaku (19/12) both showed a strong skill set in the post as each tried to one-up the other during the game. Both of these teams are going to be very good this season.
What’s Wrong with Steph Curry?Davidson 78, Loyola (MD) 48. Nothing, that’s what. As in Steph Curry put up a donut tonight in the points column (get a good look below because we doubt you’ll ever see it again). The word is that Loyola head man Jimmy Patsos strategized to take Curry completely out of the game by double-teaming him on every offensive possession, anywhere he went on the court. Curry, happy to let his teammates play every possession 4-on-3, stood in the corner and watched as they got open look after open look (14 threes went down). Remember, Jimmy Patsos is the coach who decided to leave the bench last week during a game to sit in the stands. We’re starting to seriously worry that he could be losing his mind. We’re not sure if a player averaging over 35ppg has ever had a scoreless game, but jeez, Steph, what happened on the three shots you missed?
Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and the NEC Conferences.
NEW YORK CITY – Niagara placed two on the weekly honor roll. Tyrone Lewis was a co-player of the week for his 20 point, 8 block outing in a win over Towson. The eight blocks is not a typo. Lewis, a 5-11 guard, just missed the school record by one. Naturally he set an NU record for guards. Presumably he also has some kind of record for rejections by players under six feet in height.
Co-Player of the Week with Lewis was Brett Harvey, a junior guard for Loyola. Harvey averaged 23.5 ppg and a gaudy 4.0 assist/turnover ratio as the Greyhounds split a pair their opening week.
Kasheif Edwards, a 6-5 freshman forward for Niagara earned Rookie of the Week for a five point, nine rebound outing off the bench in a win over Towson.
Caught Marist’s narrow two point loss at Rutgers last week in the Garden State Classic. Off that contest a number of observers were surprised the Red Foxes were picked at the bottom of the MAAC. They did have a change or overhaul of personnel and there is a new coach in Chucky Martin. He brought the dribble-drive motion offense learned under John Calipari as an assistant at Memphis. The DDM proved to be tough to defend and was instrumental in keeping Marist in the contest. Two nights later, the Red Foxes were routed at home by St. Bonaventure. It’s going to be that type of year. Still, the DDM will be a challenge for conference schools and don’t be surprised if Martin’s club pulls a few surprises along the way.
The Jimmy Patsos incident the other night was a bizarre one to say the least. Patsos can be a little on the ‘vocal’ side on the bench. In a game against Cornell this week Patsos earned a T (technical foul). To his credit he tried to avoid a confrontation with an official and risk ejection even to the point of seeking refuge with Loyola AD Joe Boylan in the stands. From all accounts, the official seemed to continue the exchange by yelling at the bench. I’m not here to criticize an official (I have been officiating two decades and know we are not perfect). I will say the camps I attend for officiating want you, if a T is warranted, to make the call and get back in position away from the bench. Let a coach do something crazy to earn another one but avoid being confrontational.
Saw MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor at Coaches vs. Cancer at MSG. Ensor was stopping by before heading to the Old Spice Classic which the MAAC operates. Why aren’t you in Puerto Rico (for Fairfield) I asked. “Even for me that would be a bit much,” he said laughing. Ensor and Co. are excited about the Old Spice Classic which features a Tennessee-Siena meeting in the opening round.
Amidst the rancor of all the games last night, we missed what might have been the most bizarre incident of the evening, and quite possibly, the new season. During Loyola (MD)’s game with Cornell, Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos got into a dispute with referee John Gaffney and earned himself a tech. Later in the game, Patsos claimed that he was attempting to avoid a second technical foul when the following occurred. From the AP report:
Gaffney then “yelled at me and my assistants,” Patsos said. Patsos had no idea how to react. “I didn’t want to get tossed out. I had my hands up in the surrender position,” he said. Patsos said video of the scene shows Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan in the stands, placing his hands on his head in astonishment. Seconds later, Patsos climbed about two rows into the seats to sit behind Boylan and ask for some advice. “I didn’t want to hurt the school or the program, but at that point I really didn’t know what to do,” Patsos said.
Didn’t know what to do? This may be way out on a limb, but how about… continuing to coach your team without regard to the referee? You said that you didn’t want to get thrown out, but weren’t you effectively throwing yourself out with this maneuver? Patsos eventually came back down from the stands and sat with his team on the bench, but he let his assistant continue to call the plays. Apparently, this was just one of several bizarre decisions that Patsos made during the game (according to Jeff Goodman). Cornell, incidentally, won the game 82-72.
We old-timers immediately recalled when then-Northwestern coach Ricky Byrdsongpulled a similar stunt in a 1994 game with Minnesota. This led to a 12-day, four game absence for Byrdsong (and persistent questions about his sanity prior to his death in 1999) and we wonder if Patsos is heading down the same path in dealing with the stresses of coaching. To his credit, he’s rebuilt the Loyola (MD) program from a 1-27 disaster in the year prior to his arrival to three consecutive winning seasons. We just hope that this incident was an isolated one and not a signal that larger issues are facing Patsos than simply how to beat a zone press.
Ray Floriani from College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Northeast (NEC) and Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAAC) conferences.
Predited Order of Finish:
Siena (15-3, 20-8)
Niagara (14-4, 21-10)
Fairfield (13-5, 19-10)
Rider (12-6, 19-10)
Loyola (MD) (11-7, 16-13)
Manhattan (9-9, 16-13)
Iona (7-11, 11-17)
Canisius (6-12, 10-19)
St. Peter’s (5-13, 11-18)
Marist (4-14, 10-20)
WYN2K. The MAAC was formed in the 80s and tipped off the 1981-82 season. Yours truly covered the first MAAC contest ever, an Iona romp over Army at the Gaels’ Mulcahy Center. The MAAC began with six charter members – Army, Fairfield, Fordham, Iona, Manhattan and St.Peter’s. Four schools – Fairfield, Iona, Manhattan and St.Peter’s - remain from that original group as change has altered the league over the years. The conference tournament previously alternated between Buffalo and Albany, but two years ago it was in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Last year Albany, NY, hosted it and will once again showcase it come this March. Some brief notes…
Siena, the defending champion, returns a strong cast with three players who could be considered for player of the year honors: 6-3 senior guard Kenny Hasbrouck, 6-6 forward Edwin Ubilies and 6-5 forward Alex Franklin, both juniors.
Niagara’s fine junior guard Tyrone Lewis was MVP of the MAAC tournament as a freshman. Niagara captured the title in 2006-07.
Niagara and Canisius (the ‘dreaded’ western New York swing) are a few miles apart, but six of the league members – Rider, St.Peter’s, Iona, Manhattan, Fairfield and Rider – are within a 120 mile radius, which makes for a not too distant road trip.
Predicted Champion.Siena (#13 NCAA). The Saints captured last season’s MAAC tournament championship, then gave a great showing in the NCAAs, as Siena defeated Vanderbilt 83-62 (see below) before falling to Villanova in the second round. That momentum of March should carry over into this year as coach Fran McCaffery has virtually everyone back. Siena, in theory, could make this a two bid league. If the Saints earn 15 or 16 conference wins, have a respectable non-conference showing against a murderous slate and get knocked out of the MAAC tournament, they could go as an at-large based on last year’s strong NCAA showing. That idea, however, is not one the competitive McCaffery is looking at as a realistic option, nor is it likely to happen.
Others Considered. Niagara and Fairfield are the prime candidates. The Purple Eagles return an outstanding guard in junior Tyrone Lewis. Big East transfers Bilal Benn (Villanova), a 6-5 guard and 6-2 guard Rob Garrison (UConn) will contribute to a strong cast. Fairfield has a defensive reputation anchored by 6-8 junior Anthony Johnson (7.3 RPG and 43 blocks). Senior lead guard Jonathan Han is vital on offense. Han averaged 11.7 ppg while handing out 6 assists per outing. Rider is a dark horse. The Broncs have a sharpshooter in senior guard Harris Mansell (13.7 ppg) and return another Thompson. Ryan Thompson, Jason’s brother, is a 6-6 junior forward who is a strong player (15 ppg) in his own right.
Key Games/RPI Boosters.
Rider @ St.Joseph’s (11/14/08)
Fairfield @ Memphis (11/15/08)
Niagara @ Villanova (Hoop Group Classic – Philadelphia) (11/19/08)
Siena v. Tennessee (Old Spice Classic) (11/27/08)
Marist @ Memphis (12/2/08)
Rider v. Rutgers (Trenton) (12/3/08)
Niagara @ Loyola (MD) (12/7/08)
Seton Hall v. St.Peter’s (Jersey City) (12/13/08)
Siena @ Pitt (12/17/08)
Iona @ Ohio State (12/20/08)
Marist @ St. John’s (Holiday Festival) (12/20-21/08)
Fairfield @ UConn (12/26/08)
Loyola (MD) @ Duke (12/31/08)
Siena @ Kansas (1/6/09)
Manhattan v. Iona (MSG) (1/24/09)
Siena @ Niagara (2/27/09)
Loyola (MD) @ Iona (3/1/09)
Jimmy Patsos has been on the job four years at Loyola (MD) and he has the second LONGEST tenure in the conference. The ‘grey beard’ among the group is Joe Mihalich who has been at Niagara for a decade. Mihalich has only had one season below .500 during his tenure.
Siena committed only 11.1 turnovers per game last season. Their turnover rating (TO divided by possessions) was 15.4 (anything under 20.0 is excellent).
Niagara has won at least a dozen MAAC contests in 8 of the past 10 seasons.
65 Team Era. MAAC schools have been a traditionally tough out and in several cases, got a win under their belt before a competitive second round exit. The conference is 6-25 (.194) over the era, but two of those wins are from the PiG (2002 and 2007). But in four of the last seven NCAA Tournaments, the MAAC has won a game in the Big Dance. Last year Siena thoroughly dominated #4 Vanderbilt in the first round, which should help the Saints cause several ways this winter. Besides Siena, LaSalle (1990) and Manhattan (1995 and 2004) were the other conference schools to post a first round NCAA win.
It was ironic that NBA scouts monitored the progress of Rider big man Jason Thompson last winter because the MAAC, for years, has been known as a guard oriented league. Thompson was the twelfth player to go in last June’s NBA draft.
The MAAC runs a unique postseason tournament (others conferences do it but there aren’t many) in that both the men and women play their tournaments at the same site. This gives the true hoop junkie a chance to see each school’s program showcased on the men’s and women’s side. It also makes for a real ‘good feeling’ atmosphere that reaffirms what college athletics is all about. It’s not uncommon to see a men’s team take a break from preparations to sit in the stands and cheer the women’s team on and vice versa.
Under the watch of veteran Commissioner Rich Ensor, the MAAC has been a pleasant media experience and the same for its fan base.
Cold winter nights at Manhattan’s Draddy Gym are classic. Where else can you sit press row with the ‘ubiquitous’ Ronnie (the ultra Jasper supporter) on one side and the school’s president, Brother Thomas Scanlon, on the other?