The Other 26: Week Two

Posted by jstevrtc on November 27th, 2010

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.  For an introduction to this series, please click here.

Introduction

We are getting into the thick of the things as teams are now well into their non-conference slate. While many small-conference schools take their lumps at the hands of larger-conference opponents as often happens at this time of year, other are emerging as legitimate contenders within the world of the “Other 26.” At this point in most seasons the Maui Invitational controls much of the discussion within college basketball circles, and this year has been no different. The tournament encompasses some of the nation’s best teams, and for about a week the focal point of college basketball is the Lahaina Civic Center. Suited more for an AAU championship game than a premiere college basketball venue, the Civic Center witnessed one of the most dominating performances in the history of the Invitational. Averaging 30 points, missing only two of 28 free throws, and guiding the young Huskies to the title is the mark of a champion, and Kemba Walker did all of those. Walker’s first heroics of the Invitational came against Wichita State, who so nearly thwarted Connecticut’s chances at winning the Invitational on the first day. In the process, however, the Shockers garnered my full admiration in how they competed with some of the top teams in America. In the end, Kemba Walker and Connecticut prevailed, but Wichita State was heard and will continue to make noise throughout the year.

What team impressed the most?

Following a tough season-opening loss to Georgetown by three points, Old Dominion has run off four straight victories. Their wins were hardly against cupcake opponents either as two came against Clemson and Xavier (it should be known that both the Tigers and Musketeers have both fallen only to Old Dominion). It is a grave task for any opponent to combat the Monarchs’ attack as no one ODU player is far and away the most significant contributor. Frank Hassell is the team’s leader from a statistical perspective as he averages nearly a double-double and is an extremely efficient offensive player, shooting better than 60% from the field. Blaine Taylor, ODU’s coach, is the mastermind behind this balanced attack. Check out these numbers: six players are averaging between 5.5 and 8.8 shots a game, and seven players average between 4.2 and 12.6 points a game. While not a flashy team by any means, Old Dominion plays a true team game — a truce recipe for success come March.

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Bracket Prep: Northern Iowa, Old Dominion, Siena, St. Mary’s

Posted by rtmsf on March 12th, 2010

As we move through the next few days when automatic bids will be handed out on a regular basis, we’re going to break down the teams for you so that you can start thinking about your bracket ahead of time.  The pearls of wisdom are meant to help you better understand what these teams are good at and how to make fair comparisons between them — all too often, the capsules you see have a lot of information in them, but very little of it is actually helpful.  If you have additional ideas, leave them in the comments.  For the good/bad matchups, we’re not necessarily saying that Team X will win; we’re simply pointing out that in an ideal situation, some of that team’s strengths will be more likely to manifest against those particular opponents — so save the emails.  We’re still catching up, but these should be the teams through the early part of the week.

#5. Northern Iowa Panthers (28-4, 15-3 MVC) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #7-#9

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. It’s all about methodical offense and sticky defense for the Panthers.  This team will not beat themselves with mistakes, so you’d better be disciplined in your approach if you hope to beat them.  Sixty points is the magic number — the Panthers were 16-0 this year when reaching that score.  Possession basketball is the key; a 10-point deficit in the last five minutes against UNI is nearly impossible to recover from, as they take care of the ball (only 10.5 turnovers/game) and hit free throws (75.5%).
  2. Not many mid-majors have a legitimate seven-footer but UNI’s Jordan Eglseder is one such player.  He only plays about 22 minutes per game, but he’s an effective scorer in the low post, draws a lot of fouls and is one of the best per-minute rebounders in the nation on both ends.  He’s not a game-changer in the sense that he will own the paint, but he is a tough wrinkle to prepare for in the game plan.
  3. The Panthers beat up on some bad major conference teams this year (Iowa, Iowa State, BC) in addition to knocking off some mid-major powers in Old Dominion and Siena.  The one confounding loss was to DePaul in the Virgin Islands early in the year where Mac Koshwal (12/19) dominated Eglseder (2/6) inside.  Don’t assume that as a trend, though, as Eglseder played well against ISU’s Craig Brackins (20/14) and Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson last season (13/5).

Good Matchups:  Wake Forest, Clemson

Bad Matchups: Marquette, UNLV

#6. Old Dominion (26-8, 15-3 CAA) – automatic qualifier

NCAA Seed Range: #9-#11

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom:

  1. There’s no one player you have to stop to beat ODU, but if you can slow down 6’10 center Gerald Lee, you’ll have a better chance.  The versatile big man was seen in the CAA Tournament taking the ball upcourt against pressure on occasion, in addition to lending his usual 15/5 and 54% shooting from the field.  He has six teammates who contribute between six and nine points per game, so keying on any one of them is precarious because the Monarchs share the wealth.  They only had six occasions where a player scored 20+ points in a game this year, and five of those were Lee (Marsharee Neely was the other).
  2. ODU is another one of those mid-majors that thrives on possession basketball.  They limit your possessions by defending and rebounding among the best in the nation.  They also gang-rebound on the offensive glass, giving themselves an extra chance on nearly half of their scoring opportunities.  Those extra chances help to make up for what is a fairly lousy three-point (31.5%) and two-point shooting percentage (49.4%).
  3. ODU’s signature win was at Georgetown during Snowpacalypse I in December.  They did it by forcing GU point guard Chris Wright into a difficult game (2-8 FG; 4 pts) and collecting eighteen Hoya turnovers.  It should be noted that if you can turn over the Monarchs, as Missouri, Northern Iowa and Dayton successfully did in the nonconference slate, they struggle scoring enough points to win.

Good Matchups:  Oklahoma State, Texas

Bad Matchups: Clemson, Richmond

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2009-10 Conference Primers: #15 – MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2009

seasonpreview

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC conferences.   Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Siena                15-3
  2. Niagara            14-4
  3. Rider                13-5
  4. Fairfield           12-6
  5. St.Peter’s          10-8
  6. Manhattan        9-9
  7. Iona                  8-10
  8. Loyola              7-11
  9. Canisius           6-12
  10. Marist             4-14

All-Conference:

  • Ryan Thompson (G/F), 6’6 Sr., Rider
  • Ronald Moore (G), 6’0 Sr., Siena
  • Tyrone Lewis (G), 5’11 Sr., Niagara
  • Edwin Ubiles (G/F), 6’6 Sr. , Siena
  • Ryan Rossiter (C), 6’9 Jr., Siena

6th Man: Owen Wignot (F), 6’6 So., Siena

Impact Newcomer: Rico Pickett (G), 6’4 Jr., Manhattan

maac logo

What you need to know.

  • The MAAC is a ten member conference that hosts games from cozy campus locales to public arenas as Madison Square Garden, Arena at Harbor Yards and Times-Union Center to name a few.
  • Once again the conference will host the Old Spice Classic. The eight team event is November 26 through 29 at the Milk House Arena located in the Walt Disney World Resort Complex. Iona represents the MAAC with Alabama, Baylor, Creighton, Florida State, Marquette, Michigan and Xavier rounding out an impressive field.
  • Rivalries are huge. The charter membership gave us two games in the classic ‘Battle of the Bronx’ with Manhattan and Fordham. Iona and Fordham also got the pulse beating quicker. Membership has altered over the years but rivalries, largely due to geography and tradition,  still are a big part of the MAAC. There’s Iona-Manhattan. Upstate is Niagara-Canisius, a ‘holy war’ from the old Little Three Days. Then there’s Marist-Siena. The latter has the upper hand of late but that’s another meeting where you throw the records out the window. Bragging rights are at stake.
  • Iona captured the first title in 1982 with an overtime victory over St.Peter’s. The semis and finals were at Meadowlands arena (now Izod Center) in East Rutherford, NJ.
  • Jeff Ruland did not play in the MAAC. The 1979-80 was his last in a Gael uniform but he is a part of MAAC history having returned to coach his alma mater and leading them to three MAAC championships.

Predicted Champion. Siena (NCAA #9). The Saints return four starters from a club that went to the second round and gave Louisville fits before exiting in a close contest. It was the second straight year the Saints earned a first round win in the NCAA Tournament.  The lone loss was 6’3 guard Kenny Hasbrouck. Beside being MAAC Player of the Year and a double digit scorer, Hasbrouck provided outstanding leadership and inspiration to Fran McCaffery’s club. Filling in his spot will be Clarence Jackson, a dangerous three point shooter who can create his own shot. Ronald Moore, an outstanding lead guard, triggers the attack. The Ryan Rossiter, Edwin Ubiles, Alex Franklin backcourt is hands down the conference’s best. McCaffery has a habit of scheduling higher level opponents, usually on the road. It’s paid off as the Saints are a confident, battle tested group. Come tournament time they enter a game planning to win not just hoping.  The mix of returning talent, recent success and proactive attitude make Siena the MAAC favorite.  Given their recent NCAA success and strength of schedule Siena could be a #6 or #7 seed if things go right.

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Boom Goes the Dynamite: NCAA Tournament Day Two

Posted by nvr1983 on March 19th, 2009

dynamiteWe’d like to apologize for our coverage yesterday. We had some technical/communication issues regarding the post yesterday, but I’ll be back covering the games today so everything should be back to normal. Here’s a quick rundown of the games we’ll be covering today:

Early Games

  • 12:15 PM: #14 Stephen F. Austin vs. #3 Syracuse
  • 12:25 PM: #9 Tennessee vs. #8 Oklahoma State
  • 12:30 PM: #11 Utah State vs. #6 Marquette
  • 12:30 PM: #14 North Dakota State vs. #3 Kansas

Afternoon Games

  • 2:45 PM: #11 Temple vs. #6 Arizona State
  • 2:55 PM: #16 East Tennessee State vs. #1 Pittsburgh
  • 3:00 PM: #14 Cornell vs. #3 Missouri
  • 3:00 PM: #11 Dayton vs. #6 West Virginia

Evening Games

  • 7:10 PM: #16 Morehead State vs. #1 Louisville
  • 7:10 PM: #12 Arizona vs. #5 Utah
  • 7:20 PM: #10 USC vs. #7 Boston College
  • 7:25 PM: #13 Portland State vs. #4 Xavier

Late Night Games

  • 9:40 PM: #9 Siena vs. #8 Ohio State
  • 9:40 PM: #13 Cleveland State vs. #4 Wake Forest
  • 9:50 PM: #15 Robert Morris vs. #2 Michigan State
  • 9:55 PM: #12 Wisconsin vs. #5 Florida State

Quite frankly, today’s slate looks a lot more interesting than what was on yesterday. There are 3 games in each of the 4 groups that seem like they will be entertaining except for the afternoon set where only the 6/11 match-ups really catch my eyes. Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions on any of these games or the ones from yesterday in the comment section. I’ll be back around noon to cover the day’s action.

12:15 PM: Ok. We’re about to get underway. I was a little delayed by the fact that the bus to RTC East decided to pick up 3 people in wheelchairs, which slowed down my trip significantly (had to get them in/out during 6 stops). Is anybody rooting for Stephen F. Austin just because they can’t stand Eric Devendorf?

12:20 PM: “The best look the Lumberjacks have had so far”? That was only their 2nd possession of the game. The crows is awful in Miami. I know its early, but there is nobody there. I have to say the NCAA did a pretty poor job with their pod placement. I’ll have to double check, but Miami is probably the worst pod location in terms of distance from the participating schools (and the fact that they don’t care about sports in Miami).

12:30 PM: Rough start for Stephen F. Austin in Miami. Already down 10-2. Hopefully they can keep it close although this was probably the game that was the most likely to be a blowout in this group.

12:35 PM: Did anybody pick upsets in this group of games? I have North Dakota State and Utah State.

12:40 PM: Good game in Dayton (Ok State 14, Tennessee 13 with 12:20 left in the first half). In Boise, Lazar Hayward is up 7-5 on Utah State.

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NCAA Preview: Siena Saints

Posted by rtmsf on March 18th, 2009

Siena (#9, Midwest, Dayton pod)

vs. Ohio St. (#8)
Mar. 20 @ 9:40pm

Vegas Line: Siena +3

General Profile

Location: Albany/Loudonville, New York
Conference: Metro Atlantic — Tournament Champion
Coach: Fran McCaffery, hired 2005. Record at Siena = 84-43
08-09 Record: 26-7 (16-2)
Last 12 Games: 10-2, won 4
Best Win: vs Northern Iowa (Missouri Valley tournament champion), 81-75 — 2/21/09
Worst Loss: vs Wichita State, 70-72 — 11/28/08
Off. Efficiency Rating: 110.4 (48th)
Def. Efficiency Rating: 97.3 (92nd)

Nuts n Bolts

Star Player(s): Kenny Hasbrouck, 14.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg (though Edwin Ubiles has played as well, statistically)
Unsung Hero: Ryan Rossiter, 10.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 1.2 spg.
Potential NBA Draft Pick(s): Hasbrouck
Key Injuries: Hasbrouck fought through a calf injury in the conference title game, but it won’t be a factor for their R1 game.
Depth: 21.3% mins (329th nationally)
Achilles Heel: Free throws. 66.2% is 254th nationally. Would you want to rely on that in a close one?
Will Make a Deep Run if…: They take nothing for granted. It’s one thing to score an upset when nobody’s watching. After last year’s upset of Vanderbilt, Siena will be a popular pick for another first-round ‘upset’ win; they won’t catch any opponents by surprise.
Will Make an Early Exit if…: Their shot selection is sub-par. Siena’s defense is mediocre at it’s best so their offensive efficiency will have to be exemplary to score another upset.

NCAA History

Last Year Invited: 2008. Whipped Vanderbilt 83-62 in R1 then lost to Villanova 72-84 in R2.
Streak: Second consecutive year.
Best NCAA Finish: R32 (1-1) in both 2008 and 1989.
Historical Performance vs. Seed (1985-present): N/A

Other

Six Degrees to Detroit: None
Distance to First Round Site:
678 miles
School’s Claim to Fame:
1) Producing a bevy of politicians and priests. 2) Mariska Hargitay’s character on “Law & Order: SVU” (Olivia Benson) graduated from Siena College.
School Wishes It Could Forget: That it produces a bevy of politicians. And, the UConn Blog reference on the cheerleader article below.

Prediction: As noted above, the Saints won’t be surprising anyone this time around. But Siena is tough, confident, and they know they can play with anyone. Still not a bad squad to latch onto if you’re looking for a first round upset; after that, it’ll depend on how the draw falls for them.

Major RTC stories: Feasting On Feast Week, Do Not Boo The Cheerleaders (No Matter How Ugly They Are)

Preview written by: John Stevens, Rush The Court.

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MAAC Tournament Notes

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2009

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC Conferences.  He found himself in Albany last weekend witnessing the MAAC Championship.

ALBANY, NY – Following Siena’s quarterfinal win , Canisius coach Tom Parrotta was asked about the Saints’ Kenny Hasbrouck. “He made some big plays in the first half to keep us at bay,” Parrotta said. “That’s what seniors do.”  The play of Hasbrouck is probably the best or primary reason Siena cut down the nets last night following the 77-70 MAAC championship victory over Niagara at the Times Union Center. The stats show Hasbrouck shot 8 of 21 from the field. The stats do not reveal that the Saint senior battled through a calf injury that had his status questionable the day of the game.  During a 13-1 run that gave Siena a double digit lead midway in the second half, Hasbrouck buried a trey, took one to the basket, hit a midrange jumper in the lane and a twelve footer from the corner. He finished with 19 points to pace the Saints. More importantly, he was the heart and soul behind the Siena triumph. Niagara gave a solid effort a night after surviving a thrilling double-overtime win over Rider. The Purple Eagles appeared finished until Tyrone Lewis banked in a trey with 1.7 seconds remaining to force overtime. That Rider-Niagara semifinal was a classic battle, the type we see so often during the latter rounds in this tournament.

Think it’s a great idea the men’s and women’s tournament share the same venue. It gives fans a chance to see the programs of the member schools and gives the women a little more of a showcase.   Economics of the day called for it. A good number of  courtside press tables were removed to put in café style tables complete with waitress service. MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor made the decision to generate more funds and, at the same time, make other seating more affordable. No media were shut out due to this. Some were seated in the hockey press area in the upper level and not a bad vantage point by any means.

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ATB: 9 Down, 56 To Go…

Posted by rtmsf on March 10th, 2009

afterbuzzer1

Four More Automatic Bids Tonight.  We’re combining this feature tonight because every game of interest involved a conference tournament final.  The CAA, MAAC, SoCon and WCC all crowned champions tonight, and only one of the four would be considered a surprise.  The other three will all be very tough outs for whichever team(s) have to face up against them in the first round of the NCAAs next week.

#6 – VCU (24-9, 14-4) – Anthony Grant’s VCU Rams rode a home crowd to a 71-50 obliteration of George Mason for its second CAA championship in the last three seasons.  You already know Eric Maynor from his game-winner over Duke in 2007′s first round; also keep in mind his 6’9 frontcourt mate Larry Sanders (not the host of a dated HBO show), who dominated GMU with 18/20/7 blks tonight – this talented duo will make any higher seed nervous on Selection Sunday.

Projected Seed: #10

Something to Remember: VCU wasn’t a good road team this year, going 7-6 compared to 11-3 two years ago when the Rams last made the Dance, but they were 2-1 against the RPI top fifty (an 11-pt loss against Oklahoma).

This is Why We Love Championship Week (photo credit: AP/Steve Helber)

This is Why We Love Championship Week (photo credit: AP/Steve Helber)

#7 – Chattanooga (18-16, 11-9) – This is exactly why conferences are moving away from penalizing high seeds from playing on opponents’ home floors in conference tournaments – instead of having a Davidson in the NCAAs with a chance to win a game or two, the SoCon will send Chattanooga to become cannon fodder for a #1 seed.  Chattanooga came into the SoCon Tourney three days ago as a team with a losing record – tonight they left it with more than a winning record; they also got a ticket to the Big Dance by virtue of their 80-69 win over College of Charleston (who may have still been feeling the effects of knocking out Davidson yesterday).  The Mocs used a 20-0 run bridging the half to build a commanding lead that left CofC shellshocked.

Projected Seed: #16

Something to Remember: Chattanooga started the season 2-8, and has one of the worst defensive efficiency ratings in the nation (#296).  Take the over.

#8 – Gonzaga (26-5, 14-0) – The Zags made quick work of a St. Mary’s team that still looks a little lost while Patty Mills tries to return to form from his wrist injury, defeating the Gaels 83-58.  Six players reached double figures for the Zags, led by Josh Heytvelt’s 17/6.  Gonzaga won its nineteenth in twenty tries, with the only defeat coming at the hands of a red-hot Memphis team in February.  It’s definitely difficult to ascertain whether the ‘potential Zags’ have crossed over into actualization, but if things are clicking and they continue to play strong defense (#5 nationally), the Zags are a darkhorse for the Final Four.

Projected Seed: #4

Something to Remember: The Zags are the #1 team in America in 2-pt defense (38.9%), but when the Zags struggle (and lose), they also have a tendency for poor shooting – Memphis, Arizona, Utah and Portland St. all held them under 43% shooting from the field.

#9 – Siena (26-7, 16-2) – Siena was the best team in the MAAC, and after what the Saints did to Vandy in last year’s first round of the NCAAs, nobody is going to want to see Fran McCaffery’s team in their pod.  Tonight they held off a good Niagara team that had given them one of their two conference losses behind Kenny Hasbrouck, who shook off a 1-10 first half to score 17 second-half points on his way to 19/6/3 stls.  This is a dangerous team – they return the bulk of last year’s squad, and they were competitive early in the season in losses at Kansas, Tennessee and Pittsburgh.

Projected Seed: #9

Something to Remember: Siena is an offensively balanced team, with six players averaging between 8-15 ppg, and all six of those players having at least one game of 20+ this year. Who do you stop?

———————————————————————

QnD Conf Tourney Update.

The Big East, MAC, MEAC and WAC begin their tourneys tomorrow, but there are three more auto-bids in store.

  • Horizon League Championship – Butler vs. Cleveland St. RTC Live will be there.
  • Summit League Championship – North Dakota St. vs. Oakland. Here’s hoping Ben Woodside makes the Dance.
  • Sun Belt Championship – Western Kentucky vs. South Alabama.  WKU goes for its second straight trip to the dance against the upstarts from S. Alabama.

It’s the last chance saloon for Georgetown, Notre Dame and possibly Cincinnati beginning tomorrow.  Who wants to keep playing?

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Checking in on the… MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on December 21st, 2008

Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC Conferences.

LYNDHURST, NJ – The MAAC plays a few conference games prior to the New Year, so the time was appropriate to get a tempo free look at the results.

maac-efficiencies

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Feasting on Feast Week

Posted by rtmsf on November 26th, 2008

John Stevens is a featured columnist for RTC.  His columns will appear on Tuesdays throughout the season.

Ah, Thanksgiving week.  As if ESPN’s 24-hour binge of college basketball last week wasn’t enough, here comes the oh-so-appropriately-named Feast Week, another avalanche of hoops awesomeness spread out over seven days that not only launches college basketball right back into the middle of the sports radar where it belongs, but also goes great with Thanksgiving leftovers, paid days off of work, as well as pizza and garlic bread (in case you’re sick of all that turkey by Saturday’s games).  Aside from the month of March, it doesn’t get much better than this for college hoops fans.  The daytime games, the intriguing match-ups…good God, who would want to brave the lines on Black Friday?  THIS is the way to kick off the holiday season.

Maui Turkey

Maui Turkey

The holiday tournaments are a great time to familiarize oneself with the big boys of the game – see UNC in Maui, Georgetown in the Old Spice Classic (why are these tournaments called ‘classics’ when they’re 2-3 years old?), and so forth – since some of them might be making their first appearances on national television.  I’ve always thought one of the best things about the holiday onslaught of games was the opportunity to find a team that wasn’t getting much hype and, if they give one of the highly-ranked teams a game or even pull off an upset, follow them throughout the season and maybe use them in March when I’m doing way too much bracket-filling analysis, if there is such a thing.  I mean, we all know about Carolina and Oklahoma and Michigan State.  Who will we see that bears watching in these Thanksgiving tournaments that we haven’t been hearing a lot about?  Here, in my opinion, are a couple of squads to keep an eye on not just over this holiday weekend but also to see how they mature over the course of the season: Read the rest of this entry »

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2008-09 Season Primers: #17 – MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 26th, 2008

Ray Floriani from College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the Northeast (NEC) and Metro Atlantic Athletic (MAAC) conferences.

Predited Order of Finish:

  1. Siena    (15-3,  20-8)
  2. Niagara   (14-4,  21-10)
  3. Fairfield   (13-5,  19-10)
  4. Rider    (12-6,  19-10)
  5. Loyola (MD)   (11-7,  16-13)
  6. Manhattan   (9-9,  16-13)
  7. Iona   (7-11,  11-17)
  8. Canisius   (6-12,  10-19)
  9. St. Peter’s   (5-13,  11-18)
  10. 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)

Neat-o-Stats.  

  • 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.   

Final Thoughts.  

  • 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?   
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