Friday, March 2nd (first round)
1. #8 Canisius vs. #9 St. Peter's 7:30 PM EST
2. #7 Rider vs. #10 Iona 10 PM EST
Saturday, March 3rd (quarterfinals)
3. #4 Siena vs. #5 Manahttan 2 PM EST
4. #1 Marist vs. Game 1 winner 4 PM EST
5. #2 Niagara vs. Game 2 winner 7:30 PM EST
6. #3 Loyola (MD) vs. #6 Fairfield 10 PM EST
Sunday, March 4th (semifinals)
7. Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner 6 PM EST
8. Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner 8:30 PM EST
Monday, March 5th (championship)
9. Game 7 winner vs. Game 8 winner 9 PM EST (ESPN2)
In a game that can be seen on ESPN2 at 11 am EST, Siena will visit Marist in hopes of winning a share of the MAAC regular season title. A Siena win today would also give surprising Niagara a shot at the title, so long as the Purple Eagles, winners of their last seven, take care of Rider on Sunday. Siena's Kenny Hasbrouck and Marist's Jared Jordan make up one of the better guard matchups in a game this season, but whichever team can get something from their bench today will win this one. Of the two teams, Marist (12-0 when their bench outscores the opponent's reserves) gets a little more on the average from their reserves, such as Wilfred "Spongy" Benjamin and Shae McNamara. Foul trouble, especially to the big men on both teams, could force both coaches to go past their comfort levels when it comes to how to use their bench. Due to the home court advantage, I like the Red Foxes to claim their first outright MAAC title ever. And if you're a Red Fox fan going to the game, be sure to wear white.
I begin this blog with a quote from my last post:
"Although you normally want to wait until a team plays more than two games to state that they are the clear favorite to win their conference, can anybody truly challenge Penn at the top of the Ivy League? Preseason prognosticators tabbed Princeton to finish second, but they're sitting in last place right now. Maybe Cornell or Yale? Who knows, but I'll take the Quakers over the field." (January 29th)
Whoops. After this weekend's games (a sweep of Princeton and Penn), James Jones' Yale Bulldogs are atop the Ivy League with a 5-1 conference record. Yale is led by the tandem of guard Eric Flato and guard/forward Casey Hughes. This is an experienced ballclub that should hang around for the duration of the season and challenge for the league's automatic bid. They've played two more games than Penn, which explains the two-game lead in the win column (they're tied in the loss category), and they've got the Columbia/Cornell road swing this coming weekend. If they can get through that with at least a split, if not a sweep, the Bulldogs have their next four games at home. The season ends with games at Penn and Princeton, and those games could indeed decide who represents the Ivy in the NCAA Tournament.
The first college basketball weekend of 2007 has delivered some interesting results. First off, how many people expected Hartford and Maryland-Baltimore County to be on top of America East after the first weekend of play? The Hawks, led by first-year head coach Dan Leibovitz, won a 62-60 thriller at Maine on opening night, then followed that win with an 80-75 double-OT home win over Boston University. The Hawks only have two seniors on the roster, so it would be understandable if people looked to their future instead of the present. Of course the two seniors, forwards Bo Taylor and Alex Zimnickas, are important contributors, but the Hawks also have some solid youngsters playing a part in their success. Freshman guard Joe Zeglinski is the team's second leading scorer, and sophomores Jaret Von Rosenberg, Michael Turner and Fabrice Tafo combined for 26 points off the bench in their win at Maine. A young team has its bumps in the road, but the future could be now for the Hawks.
Has there been a more unpredictable start to the season in recent memory? A Preseason NIT final of Butler and Gonzaga...how many people picked that one? Butler, in wins over Indiana and Tennessee, has played stifling defense and got some timely baskets when needed. Their best offense of the three-game run to the final was in their overtime win against Notre Dame, a game in which the Fighting Irish shot 48% from the field themselves. Maybe being able to see that they can beat solid competition with offense and defense can be seen as a positive for the Bulldogs. As for the Bulldogs from Spokane, is Josh Heytvelt something else or what? He missed a lot of games the past two seasons due to injuries, so many people don't know of his actual skill set. Yes, a lot has been mentioned about him (especially early last season), but the average fan probably lost sight of him after he hurt himself in the Maui Invitational final against UConn. Well, he's back and healthy. Brandan Wright was able to do some things for UNC in the semifinal Wednesday night, but the Heels play as well as Tyler Hansbrough does, and Heytvelt did an excellent job of containing the preseason National Player of the Year candidate.
Marist is the unanimous favorite to win the MAAC.
Well, the 2006-07 season officially began Friday night, when schools across the nation put held their first practice of the season. This probably shouldn't even be called a practice, since it primarily consists of player intros, contests, and a scrimmage run at the pace of a glorified jog. The primary goals of the players and coaches are to avoid injuries and put last year behind them. This is what I saw in watching Florida's event the other night. Dropping the replica Sears Trophy after raising their national title banner was the perfect way to say that last year is over, and there are new things to accomplish. The must see TV takes place the following morning, when the coaches get to do their thing...and run their players into the ground. But this will never be on TV, so the Friday night style will have to suffice.