930 And You: The 2011 Tournament Under The New APR Rule

Posted by jstevrtc on August 17th, 2011

The new APR rule is a fact. 930 Or Bust is happening. So let’s talk about it.

On the ESPN blog last week, Diamond Leung, a gentleman we’re happy to file under Official Friend Of RTC, posted an article in which he listed the 12 teams that would not have been eligible to compete if the new APR standard had been applied to the 2011 NCAA Tournament. #1-seed Ohio State? Watching from home. Kawhi Leonard and San Diego State? Sorry, they’d have been studying for finals and not playing basketball. Leung also noted how eventual champion Connecticut would not be invited to the 2012 edition to defend its title since, according to the latest numbers, over the 2006-07 to 2009-10 academic periods the Huskies managed an APR of just 893. They could go undefeated throughout the entire 2011-12 season and it wouldn’t matter. In that scenario they’d win as many NCAA Tournament games as Centenary.

Bill Carmody and Northwestern (18-13) May Have Been Dancing Last Year, Had the New APR Rule Been In Play

Mr. Leung’s article got us thinking: if there would have been 12 fewer teams in the Dance last March, who would have replaced them? Among the unlucky 12, seven were automatic qualifiers through conference tournament titles and five were at-large entries. A quick examination of who would have replaced the disqualified teams shows how putting a binary, all-or-nothing, you’re-in-or-you’re out emphasis on a specific number would have affected the Tournament; as you’ll see, the reverberations go deeper than just the aforementioned 12 teams.

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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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Weekend NCAA Diary From Chicago

Posted by rtmsf on March 21st, 2011

As you’re no doubt aware, we’ve had our cadre of correspondents traveling around the country to each of the eight NCAA sites over the weekend. We’ve asked the guys to produce a weekend diary of the games they witnessed including analysis, commentary and opinion concerning the sights and sounds at their venues. Our hope is that the diaries will give you insights into the games that you may not have otherwise had from watching them on television or catching the highlights package afterward. Let us know how we do…

Note: for all of the opening weekend diaries, click here.

Location: Chicago, IL
Round: Third
Teams: Notre Dame, Florida State, VCU, Purdue
Date: 20 March 2011

Joey Rodriguez Believes VCU Can Go All the Way

 

  • JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore’s careers ended before they could get the finish that they and their coach wanted. Moore, who became Purdue’s all-time leading three-point shooter on Friday against St. Peter’s, couldn’t get into a groove with only 10 points on 5-15 shooting, including 0-3 from beyond the arc. Johnson scored 25 points and grabbed 14 boards, but he was forced to watch a layup line go to the basket around him on defense. “You want those guys to go out with a bang,” Matt Painter said. “They deserved better than this.” To his credit, Painter took the high road when discussing the difficulties his team faced this season, including the loss of Robbie Hummel to injury and the suspension of Kelsey Barlow right before the start of the NCAA Tournament. “I don’t think that had anything to do with it,” Painter said about Barlow’s suspension. “Obviously, he gives you athleticism and length. He’s a versatile guy you can put on a lot of different people. We still get beat with him. There’s no question. They were very good. They were beating a lot of people tonight.”
  • Joey Rodriguez is VCU’s little engine that can. The 5’10 senior point guard has been as enigmatic as his team this season. On Sunday he played almost perfectly with 12 points, 11 assists and no turnovers. “I thought Joey Rodriguez was excellent,” said Matt Painter. “I thought he was the difference in the game. He ran the team. He found shooters. He found guys diving. He was persistent, very determined.” Shaka Smart went even a step further, “These guys are hungry guys. Joey’s nuts. He wants to win the whole thing, I guarantee you. And he kind of leads the way for everybody. So I’m not worried about there being a letdown.” If Rodriguez plays like he did on Sunday the Rams have a chance.
  • The Florida State Seminoles are that elusive extra something that the ACC has been looking for since the 2006 Boston College Eagles: a team besides North Carolina and Duke that makes the Sweet Sixteen. Leonard Hamilton’s crew will be joining those two blue bloods in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament after two convincing wins over Texas A&M and Notre Dame. “For me personally as a coach I’ve felt all along that we could get to this point,” said Hamilton. “Our goals are to be a program of significance in the ACC and on a national basis.”

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.19.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 19th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • George Mason took out a fizzling Villanova in the first round, and continues to carve its own identity separate from the 2006 Final Four squad. The Wildcats’ season is over, and considering it lost 11 of its last 16 games, including its final six, perhaps it’s for the best.
  • The blistering performance Marquette put on Xavier Friday night sent a big message to its doubters. The Golden Eagles shot 57% on their end, and put the clamps on star Musketeer Tu Holloway. Next for Buzz Williams‘ team is Syracuse, a team Marquette beat earlier this season.
  • The Tar Heels broke out in the second half to pull away from Long Island. The high-scoring final outcome, 102-87, didn’t take long to become a polarizing talking point between tempo-free stat-heads (UNC gave up 0.89 points per possession) and traditional analysts (87 points allowed to a lower-tier mid-major)
  • Syracuse stuck to its game plan of feeding Rick Jackson and polished off Indiana State. The game ended at 12:41 AM local time in Cleveland (more on this later), and set up an intra-conference battle with Marquette on Sunday (this too).
  • For Lorenzo Romar and company, winning away from home has been a large concern, but it shook off the stigma, if only for one night, in their win against Georgia. Is it open season on Bulldogs head coach Mark Fox?
  • West Virginia may mix in a 1-3-1 look on defense today when the Mountaineers clash against Kentucky. The game is a rematch of last season’s regional final in Syracuse, when WVU bested John Calipari‘s team in the Carrier Dome.

Southeast

  • The Southeast region has a full slate on Saturday, including a battle between Florida and UCLA. Though the rosters have turned over, UCLA can exact revenge from elimination at the hands of the Gators in the 2006 and 2007 Final Fours.
  • Gonzaga faces the same question posed to the 35 teams on BYU‘s schedule to this point – how do you stop Jimmer Fredette? It seems like there’s nothing out of the realm of possibility from 30 feet in for Fredette, so Gonzaga’s defenders need to be on high alert.
  • Free throw proficiency has been a major factor to Wisconsin‘s success this  season, which is on the line in Saturday’s game against Kansas State. The Wildcats need to show patience in defending Wisconsin’s attack, and play smart defense.
  • Butler guard Ronald Nored had to swallow his pride and accept a late-season move from a starting to role to a contributor off the bench. Will he provide a spark against the top-seeded Pittsburgh Panthers?
  • For all the attention Jacob Pullen receives (and deservedly so), Rodney McGruder is one of Frank Martin‘s more underrated players. Six-foot-four guards who average six boards a game don’t fall out of the sky.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits – 03.17.2011

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 17th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • When Jay Wright speaks, his Wildcat squad listens. The veteran coach knows how to communicate with his players and that is one of the reasons he has had such a successful tenure.
  • A key for West Virginia‘s resurgence this season has been the turnaround of senior guard Casey Mitchell. Mitchell, who was thought to be a consistent player for the Mountaineers, battled inconsistency and conduct problems throughout the early part of the season.
  • UNC head coach Roy Williams revealed guard Dexter Strickland has been battling a knee injury for a few weeks. Strickland’s health will be a key to Carolina’s chances of making a deep run.
  • Marquette has struggled with defensive inconsistencies all season, but they have had great success getting to the hoop and drawing fouls. Look for Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom to exploit the Musketeers in an attempt to get easy hoops.
  • #13 seed Princeton is seeking a monumental upset as they prep to face Kentucky. The Tigers do have a history of pulling huge shockers in March, as they stunned defending champion UCLA in the first round in 1996.

Southeast

  • Kansas State standout guard Jacob Pullen is battling the flu, but is expected to be a full participant in tonight’s tilt with Utah State. If Pullen is not 100%, one can assume Utah State’s chances for an upset get significantly stronger.
  • The fresh infusion of talent provided to Gonzaga by the emergence of Marquise Carter, David Stockton, and Sam Dower have been key to the Zags’ late season run. The play of all three will undoubtedly dictate if Mark Few‘s squad will make any noise.
  • Tom Izzo knows this season did not go exactly the way he wanted it to, but an experienced squad can be a huge factor if the Spartans make a run. Izzo is a great veteran coach, who has Final Four experience, so a big run may not be that surprising.
  • St. John’s associate head coach Mike Dunlaphas interest in the opening at Wyoming. Dunlap has a great track record as an assistant and a lower-level head coach and could thrive as the head man at Wyoming.
  • An interesting story has emerged about how Old Dominion head coach Blaine Taylor has endured bouts with alcoholism. His road to redemption is quite inspiring, as he did not let his demons put an end to his career.

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Around The Blogosphere: On The Eve Of The NCAA Tournament

Posted by nvr1983 on March 17th, 2011

If you are interested in participating in our ATB2 feature, send in your submissions to rushthecourt@gmail.com. We are talking a slightly different approach to this post today due to the nature of the NCAA Tournament, but we will add to this post throughout the day as the submissions come in so keep on sending them.

East Regional

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The Other 26: Bracket Analysis Part II

Posted by KDoyle on March 17th, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC Contributor.

Call it what you want with this seemingly erroneous preamble of the NCAA Tournament known as the “First Four,” but the opening game of this year’s edition of the Dance could not have been much more entertaining. We have already had a clutch shot in the final seconds and an overtime game under our belts. Many people will not even remember that UNC-Asheville and Arkansas-Little Rock even partook in the Tournament, but for a few hours last evening the stage was all theirs. Even if it is merely a play-in game—errr, first round game—this is the NCAA Tournament and keen basketball observers were no doubt glued to their screens and smartphones last night tracking the game.

Just as a refresher in case you missed yesterday’s look into the Other 26 teams in the East and West Regions, I elected to break down the 16 teams by inserting each into one of the four categories: 1) Have a legitimate shot at actually advancing far into the Tournament; 2) Can win a game, but not much more; 3) If their shots are falling and their opponents are not, they have an outside shot; and, 4) We are just happy to be here.

Ability to advance to the second weekend

(8, Southwest) UNLV—After the conclusion of the 2010 Tournament, there is no doubt that a bitter taste was left in UNLV’s mouth. The Runnin’ Rebels lost to Northern Iowa in the final minute and then two nights later, in one of the gutsiest shots in Tournament history, Ali Farokhmanesh drilled a three from the wing to seal the victory over Kansas. UNLV had to painfully watch the remainder of the Tournament and endure the arduous offseason pondering the question: “Why couldn’t that have been us?” Now, UNLV is in a similar situation, as they are in the 8 vs. 9 game again. They are an experienced bunch with Tournament experience under their belts; if they are fortunate enough to get by Illinois, they will ironically play none other than Kansas.

(12, Southwest) Richmond—The Spiders were upset by St. Mary’s last year, and this year they are the ones who will have to be playing spoiler. Richmond has arguably the most dynamic player in the field with 6’10 senior forward Justin Harper. To make a comparison, Harper is the Atlantic 10’s version of Dirk Nowitzki. Although he spends most of his time inside the arc, his ability to step outside and hit a three poses endless match-up problems for opponents. Harper is complemented nicely by his running mate Kevin Anderson. Richmond matches up well against Vanderbilt, but containing John Jenkins—maybe the best shooter in the Tournament—will be a challenge. Expect a variety of match-up and 2-3 zones from Chris Mooney.

 

Harper is a Tough Matchup for Vandy

(3, Southeast) BYU—It is painfully obvious that the loss of Brandon Davies has detrimentally affected BYU’s play considerably; in the first game after his absence the Cougars were thrashed by New Mexico 82-64 on their home floor. While there is little doubt that Jimmer Fredette is the face of the program and their top player, the country is now officially seeing that there is much more going on in Provo, Utah, that can be attributed to BYU’s success  other than simply Fredette. While a deep run no doubt becomes more difficult without the services of Davies, the backcourt of Fredette and Jackson Emery has the ability to carry the Cougars to the second weekend.

(9, Southeast) Old Dominion—ODU presents all of the intangibles to be successful in the Tournament. They have an intelligent and proven coach in Blaine Taylor, a senior-laden team with NCAA experience, and the confidence that they belong here and can win—especially after knocking off Notre Dame as an 11 seed last year. It is more than merely intangibles for ODU though. The Monarchs are quite possibly the best rebounding team in the field, incredibly tough on the defensive end—according to Frank Hassell: “We go 50% man and 50% zone”—and run a deliberate offense that minimizes their opposition’s possessions. Blaine Taylor has created a formula for his team to have success in the NCAA Tournament.

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The Week That Was: Mar. 1-7

Posted by jstevrtc on March 8th, 2011

David Ely is an RTC Contributor.

Introduction

Congrats are in order for the following teams that locked up automatic NCAA berths this week: St. Peter’s (MAAC), Old Dominion (CAA), Wofford (SoCon), Gonzaga (WCC), Indiana State (MVC), Belmont (Atlantic Sun) and UNC-Asheville (Big South). It’s always fun watching these teams celebrate their conference championships because the excitement just feels more honest than, say, when an Ohio State or a Pittsburgh wins its conference tournament. Championship Week is great for television purposes because there are so many great games to watch, but there usually is less urgency among the teams from the major conferences. For them, conference tournaments are about posturing for seeds and surviving the weekend injury-free. Roy Williams once called the ACC Tournament a big cocktail party, and it’s not surprising that his two title teams both bowed out in the semifinals.  

What We Learned 

 

Davies Will Obviously Be Missed, But Charles Abouo's Emergence Has Mitigated the Sting

 

If you’re a big time recruit and have BYU in your top five, you might want to reconsider your stance on the Cougars. Seriously, why would a player with options want to go to BYU now that its draconian honor code system is in the national spotlight. By now, everyone knows Brandon Davies (BYU’s third leading scorer and leading rebounder) was suspended from the BYU basketball team for allegedly having premarital sex with his girlfriend. Davies’ suspension is a crushing blow for the Cougars, who have gone from a sexy popular national title pick to a team some think won’t make it out of the first weekend.

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RTC Live: St. Peter’s vs. Iona (MAAC Championship)

Posted by rtmsf on March 7th, 2011

Game #171. Another team will punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament tonight as the MAAC Championship will be decided between the talented Iona Gaels and upstart St. Peter’s Peacocks.

Many expected Iona to advance to championship game on Monday evening, but their road to the NCAA Tournament figured to run through a different team. The Gaels boast two of the better players in the MAAC this year with Scott Machado running the point and junior college transfer Michael Glover throwing bodies around in the paint. As for their opposition in tonight’s game, it is not the Fairfield Stags nor is it the Rider Broncs. Believe it or not, the Peacocks from St. Peter’s have gotten hot at just the right time and have put themselves in a position to go dancing for the first time since 1995. St. Peter’s shocked Fairfield in the semifinals as they got out to a 40-15 halftime advantage and, while the Stags would make a great run in the second half, St. Peter’s used a tough zone defense to stymie the run. While Iona will unquestionably be the favorite in tonight’s game, head coach Jeff Dune has St. Peter’s believing they can win the MAAC title. Belief, more than anything in March, is what makes a team so dangerous. Join RTC Live this evening from Bridgeport, CT, as St. Peter’s looks to upset Iona for the right to represent the MAAC in the NCAA Tournament.

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Set Your Tivo: 03.07.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 7th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Four automatic bids will be handed out this evening in places stretching from Connecticut to Las Vegas. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

Colonial Championship (at Richmond, VA): VCU vs. Old Dominion — 7 pm on ESPN (****)

Old Dominion looks like a safe bet even if they lose but VCU more than likely has to win this game to make the NCAA Tournament. The Rams and Monarchs split the season series, each winning on the other’s home floor. This game will be all about pace and one team’s strong defense against the other’s potent offense. If Old Dominion can keep this game in the half court, they can let their stellar two point defense and rebounding take over. The Monarch’s are the best offensive rebounding team in the country while VCU ranks #303 in defensive rebounding percentage. Old Dominion also ranks highly in defensive rebounding, placing them among the best overall rebounding teams in the nation, led by Frank Hassell, averaging just under 15/10 on the season. Over his last eight games, Hassell has been even better, averaging 19/10 down the stretch. Not coincidentally, the Monarchs have won all eight of those games and 12 of their past 13. ODU is #9 in two point defense but allows 36.9% three point shooting, #298 in America. That has been the bugaboo for Blaine Taylor’s group and the Rams are one team that can really take advantage of that. Four out of ten VCU field goals attempted are threes and they shoot it at a pretty good clip, 35.6% this season. However, that percentage drops to 33.7% when you look at CAA games only. The Rams must create offense through their defense by forcing turnovers. That will offset part of the rebounding edge ODU is almost sure to have. An energetic and aggressive defense can help push the pace and take Old Dominion out of its rhythm. The Monarchs struggle to shoot and score, relying on their defense and rebounding to win games most of the time. Shaka Smart should use some zone from time to time in order to force Old Dominion to make jump shots, something they don’t do well. Rebounding out of a zone is always difficult (especially against the #1 offensive rebounding squad) but we feel it’s worth the risk. VCU shouldn’t spend all game in a zone but mixing it up defensively will greatly help their cause. Old Dominion gets 57.5% of its points from two point range but they have a few threats from deep, most notably Kent Bazemore. He’s arguably their best three point shooter and also a terrific defender, ranked eighth nationally in steal percentage.  The Rams shouldn’t have that much trouble answering Old Dominion from the arc considering they have a number of quality shooters, including Bradford Burgess (16/13 vs. George Mason yesterday), but they need to get some looks inside for Jamie Skeen. The Wake Forest transfer has had a terrific year in Richmond and is averaging 21.7 PPG over his last three. It’ll be tough to score against Old Dominion’s interior defense but Skeen should look to get to the free throw line where he’s a 73.7% shooter. VCU is a good free throw shooting team overall and they’ve made it to the line on 41.5% of their possessions in conference play. Foul trouble for Old Dominion would open up the interior a bit and allow the Rams to spread the floor easier. VCU had lost four of their last five games heading into the conference tournament but seems to have found new life just down the road from campus in Richmond. They’ll be slight underdogs tonight but this is anybody’s game. Old Dominion will likely win the rebounding battle but whoever controls the turnover margin and the tempo will likely win this game and clinch the automatic berth.

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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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Checking in on… the MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 16th, 2011

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC.

A Look Back

Fairfield maintains a lead. The Stags have now won 20 games two consecutive years for the first time in school history. St. Peter’s was a heartbreaking loss away from knocking off Fairfield on Sunday. Despite the setback, coach John Dunne (the choice of yours truly as MAAC Coach of the Year) feels his club is in a very positive mindset as the home stretch and conference tournament draws nearer.

Power Rankings

1. Fairfield (20-5, 13-2): Two victories on the road for the first-place Stags. Fairfield won at Manhattan (65-56) and at St. Peter’s (70-69 in overtime). The game with St. Peter’s was a battle of defenses, as Fairfield had a slight 92-91 OE edge. Defense was reflected in TO rates, as the Stags were guilty of 25% of their percentages ending in turnovers while they forced St. Peter’s into a 26% rate.

Notable: Derek Needham captured Player of the Week honors averaging 20.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists in the Stags’ two road wins over the weekend.

2. Rider (18-9, 10-5): A homestand wound up at .500. Rider dropped a close (67-65) nail-biter to Canisius before bouncing back (61-50) against Niagara. A few oddities in these two games: Against Canisius, the OE was 107 and TO rate 15%. In the win over Niagara, the Broncs’ OE was 88 with a 28% TO rate. Defense was the answer, as Rider allowed a 110 OE against Canisius but only a 73 two days later.

Notable: Seniors Justin Robinson, Mike Ringgold and grad student Patrick Mandel have won 77 games over their Rider careers. Robinson has hit 44 of his last 46 free throw attempts. Freshman Danny Stewart is emerging of late, ready to carry the torch. He scored 17 points to accompany nine rebounds against Canisius.

3. Iona (16-10, 10-5): A sweep predicated on the simple formula of good offense plus good defense. The Gaels won over Siena (69-65) and at Marist (85-70). Their offensive efficiencies were 105 and 120, while they allowed 98 and 99 OE ratings. Taking care of the ball was paramount with 17% and 10% TO rates. On the other side, opposing offenses were disrupted into 27% and 25% rates.

Notable: Junior Scott Machado registered the 1,000th assist of his career against Manhattan. Mike Glover averaged 19 points for the Gaels and senior Alejo Rodriquez is coming on of late. Rodriquez averaged 9.3 points and rebounds for Iona during the week.

4. St. Peter’s (15-11, 10-5) One of two with a victory (66-54) at Marist followed be a heartbreaker (70-69 in OT) to Fairfield at home. The turnovers reared their ugly heads once again – St. Peter’s TO rate is 24% on the season and they were at 27% and 26% in the two respective games. The Peacocks shot a 61% eFG at Marist to boost the offense, but were only 41% against a better defensive team in Fairfield.

Notable: Jeron Belin scored 22 points in the loss to Fairfield. Ryan Bacon had 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in the win at Marist.

5. Loyola (13-12, 9-6) Two home games resulted in a split. The Greyhounds were upset by Niagara (59-57) before bouncing back for a win over Canisius (72-57). Loyola managed  meager 89 offensive efficiency clip against Niagara. A 41% eFG percentage and 22% TO rate led the offense to stagnation. They got  back on track, posting an outstanding 114 OE against Canisius.

Notable: Justin Drummond, a freshman guard, earned Rookie of the Week distinction. Drummond scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds in 22 minutes of action in the Greyhound victory over Canisius.

6. Canisius (13-12, 7-8). A road split for the Griffins. Canisius defeated Rider (67-65) before dropping a meeting at Loyola (72-57). At Rider, the Griffs put up an outstanding OE of 110. On the other hand, their OE at Loyola was 91, with the defense a 114. Chalk a good part of the blame to TO rate. At Rider the number was a very creditable 15%, at Loyola a ridiculously high 32%.

Notable: Senior forward Elton Frazier averaged 15 points, 6.5 rebounds and shot 63% from the floor. Frazier had 20 points in the loss at Loyola. Sophomore guard Gaby Belardo hit the game-winner at Rider. It was the third time he hit a game clinching shot this season.

7. Siena (10-15, 7-8) Saints went zero for two on the New York swing. They dropped close games at Iona (69-65) and Manhattan (84-81). A 27% TO rate was largely the undoing in New Rochelle. Against Manhattan, the Saints, a 101 defensive efficiency team, allowed a 108 mark. Pace was also a factor, as the 69-possession Saints got into a fast paced 78 possession outing against the Jaspers.

Notable: Sophomore Jonathan Breeden filled in for injured Rakeem Brookins at point guard. Breeden scored a career high 24 points against Iona and had 20 in the game against Manhattan.

8. Niagara (6-21, 3-12): Two road games and a split. They Won a close one (59-57) at Loyola before getting turned back (61-50) at Rider. Defense was solid with 89 and 88 efficiencies in the two outings. Offense? A good- enough-to-win 92 at Loyola followed by a less-than-adequate 72 against the Broncs. The latter game saw Niagara hit a 25% eFG mark (their season low) while committing a 26% TO rate. Purple Eagles have a borderline 20% TO rate on the year. Against Rider, it was too far on the negative side.

Notable: Niagara erased a 13-point second half deficit for their first MAAC road win of the season at Loyola. Scooter Gillette had ten points and a career-high eight rebounds.

9. Manhattan (5-21, 3-12): The Jaspers earned a home split, losing to Fairfield (65-56) before surprising Siena (84-81). The efficiency margin was a -15 against the Stags but improved to a +4 against Siena, thanks to a sterling 108 OE. Manhattan had a 57% eFG percentage against the Saints. It was sorely needed to offset a 24% TO rate.

Notable: George Beamon, the Jaspers’ outstanding sophomore guard, hit a career high 35 points in the win over Siena. Beamon was 12-19 from the floor and 10-10 on the charity stripe. Beamon averaged 19.3 points, 4 rebounds and 3.3 assists for his last three games.

10. Marist (4-23, 3-12): The Red Foxes dropped home games to St. Peter’s (66-54) and Iona (85-70). Efficiency margins were a respectively poor -19 and -21. They let up a 120 efficiency to Iona largely due to the Gaels 56% eFG mark. The Red Foxes struggled both games on the offensive end failing to reach a 100 offensive efficiency either time out.

Notable: Sophomore guard Sam Prescott exploded for 34 points in the loss to St. Peter’s. It was the first time in four years a Marist player broke 30 points. The last was Will Whittington with 31 in an NIT victory at Oklahoma State on March 13, 2007. Prescott was 5 of 7 from three against St. Peter’s.

A Look Ahead

Wednesday, February 16:

  • Rider at Loyola
  • St. Peter’s at Siena
  • Canisius at Niagara
  • Iona at Manhattan
  • Marist at Fairfield

Saturday, February 19: The MAAC joins several mid-majors in the annual BracketBusters event:

  • Austin Peay at Fairfield
  • Central Michigan at Niagara
  • Manhattan at Stony Brook
  • Canisius at Boston University
  • Iona at Liberty
  • Delaware at Rider
  • St. Peter’s at Loyola-Chicago
  • Maine at Siena
  • Loyola at Towson
  • New Hampshire at Marist
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