Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC.
Reader’s Take I
Conference Tournament Changes Venues: The MAAC championship will be staged at Springfield’s MassMutual Center. How the March 1- 5 event manages to be received and attended will be followed closely by many observers. The conference and MassMutual Center staff have been working feverishly to provide the best possible product for fans. With the nearest school, Siena, roughly 90 miles away, providing an attractive event to draw fans is paramount and, as noted, will be tracked. The MAAC will have the tournament in Springfield from 2012-14.
MAAC Participates In Non-Conference Events: The MAAC will be represented in the annual Sears BracketBuster event in February. The conference will also host the Old Spice Classic in Orlando during the Thanksgiving weekend (with representative Fairfield a legitimate threat). Prior to March, a few MAAC schools will test out the MassMutual Center in the expanded Hall of Fame Classic on December 9. UMass will face Siena and Fairfield opposes Old Dominion.
Glover Fits For Wooden List: Iona senior forward Michael Glover has been named to the Wooden Award preseason Top 50 list. Glover transferred from Seton Hall to Iona and instantly made an impression as one of the MAAC’s brightest stars last season.
Sydney Johnson Brings His Coaching Talent to the MAAC
New Coaches On Board:SydneyJohnson takes over at Fairfield and has a wealth of talent on hand. Johnson got his start in D-I basketball only seven years ago as an assistant for John Thompson, III, before spending four seasons as Princeton’s head coach. Steve Masiello is the new man at Manhattan. Masiello does not have the talent Johnson has, but is not short on enthusiasm and expectations. Masiello knows the MAAC well, having assisted Bobby Gonzalez for several years at Manhattan before heading to Louisville to work as a member of Rick Pitino’s staff.
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.
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)
Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences.
A Look Back
Fairfield is now the front-runner in the MAAC, with a two-game lead just past the conference midway mark. Coming off two convincing wins at home, St. Peter’s has sole possession of second place. Despite early season injuries, coach John Dunne has kept the Peacocks on track and now they look very dangerous heading into the stretch.
BracketBuster pairings were announced Monday. They will be held February 18-20. The MAAC’s involvement includes a variety of intriguing matchups:
Canisius at Boston University
Austin Peay at Fairfield
Iona at Liberty
Loyola at Towson
Manhattan at Stony Brook
New Hampshire at Marist
Central Michigan at Niagara
Delaware at Rider
St. Peter’s at Loyola-Chicago
Maine at Siena
1. Fairfield (17-4, 10-1). A perfect three-game stretch as the Stags won 57-49 at Niagara, then edged Manhattan 61-59 at home, and dropped Canisius by 15. OE was just 85 at Niagara, but they limited the Purple Eagles to a 73 efficiency. The game with Manhattan was a lot closer than anticipated. Credit the Jaspers with a 37-26 OREB percentage edge and for forcing Fairfield into a 25% TO rate. The defense prospered again at home against the Golden Griffins.
Notable: Derek Needham scored 16 points including the game-winning three pointer with 8.7 seconds left against Manhattan. The sophomore guard has paced Fairfield in scoring five of the last six games.
2. St. Peter’s (13-9, 8-3) Extended their win streak with home conquests of Marist (85-53) and Rider (80-60). On the season, St. Peter’s’ offensive efficiency is 92. In those two games, the OE was 125 and 111, respectively. The Peacocks are not neglecting the defensive end, as they limited the opposition to 78 and 83 efficiencies in those two respective games.
Notable: Ryan Bacon earned player of the Week honors in the MAAC by averaging 18.5 points and eight rebounds. Bacon also shot 67% from the floor during the two-game stretch.
3. Rider (15-8, 7-4) Split with a road win 61-59 at Iona followed by an 80-60 loss at St. Peter’s on Sunday. The Broncs held Iona to an 89 efficiency mark on the defensive end. St. Peter’s, on the other hand, rang up an 111 OE. Broncs had their second-lowest offensive efficiency of the season, 83, at St. Peter’s, largely due to a 28% TO rate.
Notable: Senior Justin Robinson had 19 points, including 18 in the second half in the win at Iona. Robinson made a crucial basket to give the Broncs a four-point lead with 15 seconds left.
4. Loyola (11-10, 7-4) – The Greyhounds split at home, losing to Siena 76-59 before edging Iona 88-85. Defense, or a shortage thereof, was an issue. Loyola surrendered efficiencies of 112 and 113 in the respective contests. They pulled the Iona game out with a 117 OE of their own and an outstanding 13% TO rate.
Notable: Freshman guard Justin Drummond earned MAAC Rookie of the Week honors with his first career double-double. Drummond scored 14 points, grabbed ten rebounds and blocked four shots in the win over Iona.
5. Iona (13-9, 7-4) – The Gaels have dropped three straight following losses to Rider (61-59) and at Loyola (88-85). Offense was tough to come by in the Rider matchup; the Gaels posted a 42% eFG percentage and managed only an 89 OE. At Loyola the offense picked up with a 53% eFG and 113 offensive efficiency. The defense struggled, allowing Loyola an 117 OE on their end.
Notable: Junior KyleSmyth scored 17 points on 7-13 shooting) in the loss to Rider. Junior guard ScottMachado added 12 points and seven assists.
6. Siena (9-12, 6-5) – The Saints inched over .500 in the MAAC by defeating Loyola 76-59 in Baltimore before edging Niagara 61-59 at home. Siena posted an outstanding 112 OE at Loyola, limiting the Greyhounds to an 87 efficiency on defense. Against Niagara, the Saints shot a torrid 56% eFG mark but a 26% TO rate made this a nail-biter.
Notable: RyanRossiter became the second in school historyand just the eighth player in the MAAC to reach the 1,000 rebound mark. Rossiter did it in the win over Loyola.
7. Canisius (10-11, 4-7). Two home games and the Griffs took advantage, before an unsurprising loss at the hands of Rider. They edged Iona 75-73 before handling rival Niagara 69-54. Canisius shot a torrid 63% EFG percentage against the Gaels. They continued to show a hot hand with a 55% eFG performance and 117 offensive efficiency against Niagara. It was reported recently that Kansas State big man Freddy Asprilla will pack his bags for Buffalo to join Tom Parrotta’s troops.
Notable: Julius Coles had 20 points in the win over Niagara. Coles shot 7-12 overall and 4-6 from three in that contest. Senior Elton Frazier added 11 points and seven boards.
8. Marist (4-19, 3-8) Dropped an 85-53 decision at St. Peter’s before returning home and losing a 60-59 heart breaker to Manhattan at the McCann Center. The Red Foxes gave up an 125 efficiency on the defensive end at St. Peter’s. Offensively, they managed just 78 OE. Against Manhattan, they had an outstanding 16% TO rate but again the difference was defense as Marist allowed a 109 efficiency.
Notable: Sophomore swingman Dorvell Carter earned his first career double-double with a 14-point, ten-rebound effort against Manhattan. Carter has started the last seven games for Marist and is averaging 10.9 points and 5.6 rebounds during that time.
9. Manhattan (4-18, 2-9) Split on the road dropping a tough 61-59 decision to Fairfield before edging Marist 60-69. The Jaspers forced Fairfield into a 25% TO rate. The Marist matchup was little on the low scoring side but had offense. Jaspers had an offensive efficiency edge (109-107) and both teams were over 50% eFG percentage.
Notable: Freshman Michael Alvarado hit a 55-foot buzzer beater to defeat Marist. Alvarado had six assists and no turnovers in that game. His shot was termed ‘biggest play in college basketball this year’ by ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.
10. Niagara (4-19, 1-10). Dropped contests at Canisius (69-54) and Siena (61-59). Niagara averages 69 possessions, but in the Canisius game, it was a 59 possession pace. Despite a slower tempo, the Purple Eagles struggled with a 25% TO rate. Defense was commendable at Siena. Niagara allowed only a 94 efficiency on the defensive end, 11 below their season average.
Notable: Guards Anthony Nelson and Marvin Jordan combined for 42 points against Canisius. Jordan paced all scorers with a career high 23 points in that game. Jordan followed that performance up with 18 points at Siena. Kashief Edwards added the same scoring total against the Saints.
Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and the NEC.
Around The MAAC:
Changes at the Helm: Fran McCaffery, off his outstanding run at Siena, is in Big Ten country at Iowa. The Siena administration did the right thing in promoting assistant MitchBuonaguro to take his spot. Buonaguro recently added Craig Carter, who was on Fred Hill’s Rutgers staff, as an assistant.
Iona replaced Seton Hall-bound Kevin Willard with Tim Cluess. At Division-II CW Post, Cluess made himself quite a name in just four seasons. He is revered as an outstanding tactician. Realizing other facets of the game have to be covered to succeed at the Division-I level, Cluess made outstanding hires in John Morton and Jared Grasso. Morton, formerly of John Dunne’s St. Peter’s staff, knows the MAAC extremely well. Grasso did a commendable job in a tough situation as a Fordham interim head coach last winter. He knows the area and has outstanding contacts with AAU and high school coaches which will serve well in recruiting.
Picking Up the Pieces: The MAAC also was in the news regarding a coaching move of three years ago. The Matt Brady exit from Marist to James Madison is still a point of contention and debate in Poughkeepsie. Marist is still trying to recover on the men’s side, and their leadership filed suit against Brady alleging that he breached his contract by asking prospective and then-current Marist players to accompany him to JMU. A hearing is set for December.
On The Tube: On the women’s side, it was announced the conference championship will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The change of the women’s championship from a Sunday to Monday afternoon time slot was crucial in securing the national audience. The possibility of another finals appearance by Marist, one of the most celebrated and successful mid-majors in the women’s game, didn’t hurt, either. If a viewer tunes in has an opportunity to learn a little more about the MAAC, that exposure should benefit the men’s side as well. Getting your name and product out there is the thing. And this can only help the conference.
Marist looks to recover from its ugly divorce with Matt Brady. (jmusports.com)
Siena: Recent glory years appear to be at an end with the departure of Edwin Ubiles, Ronald Moore and Alex Franklin. Despite losing that trio and weathering a coaching change, it would be wise not to write the Saints off as of yet. Junior guard Kyle Downey, senior Clarence Jackson, a dangerous outside shooter, senior forward Ryan Rossiter and junior forward Owen Wignot are all proven players who have experienced success. Siena is not the program they were the past two seasons, but they are very good and won’t give up the title without a fight.
Iona: Twenty-one wins, 12-6 and third place in the MAAC — it was a fine showing by the Gaels last season and things should keep headed in a similar direction this year. Scott Machado, an outstanding performer at guard, and Jermel Jenkins are two of the headliners back for Iona. The Gaels did lose some inside presence with the graduation of Jonathan Huffman. At 7’0, Huffman was more apt to shoot a three but still afforded a respectable presence in the paint. In his absence, there’s a stocked cupboard for new coach Tim Cluess to work with, a rarity for new coaches at this level.
St.Peter’s: ADJohn Dunne brought in veteran coach Bruce Hamburger to replace John Morton, who exited for Iona. Marlon Guild was also promoted to full-time assistant, along with Dalip Bhatia, who makes the leap from video coordinator. On the floor, everyone is back from a surprising 11-7 MAAC finish last season. There’s no sneaking up on anyone this season and there’s a strong veteran cast to meet the challenge. Ryan Bacon returns in the low post, Nick Leon is a tough three-point shooting and penetrating guard and Wesley Jenkins is a proven offensive threat. This is a team that should contend. Read the rest of this entry »
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.