Fran McCaffery Interview/MAAC BracketBusters Preview

February 19th, 2010
It's BracketBusters weekend and with all ten MAAC teams taking part it's one last respite from the rigors of conference play. Seeing a relatively unfamiliar face allows teams the opportunity to fine-tune things in advance of the upcoming MAAC Tournament. And the teams in the marquee matchups have an opportunity to bulk up their resume in regards to seeding or getting into the NCAA Tournament should they be an at-large possibility. Two MAAC schools earned televised appearances with Iona hosting William & Mary on Friday night (9 PM, ESPNU) and Siena visiting Butler (11 AM, ESPN2) Saturday morning. In advance of Siena's contest head coach Fran McCaffery was kind enough to spend a few minutes on the phone discussing the matchup and his team.

RJ: Talk about this game has centered around a possible at-large berth being on the line. Do you even worry about that at this point?

FM: We don't talk about it. What happens is that the media asks and I say that we don't talk about it, and then I tell the kids that they shouldn't think about it. You can't make too much about this one because you still have to play the next one. But it is a great opportunity to play the 13th-ranked (ESPN/USA Today) team in the nation in Butler.

RJ: Seeing Butler on tape, what's one thing that's impressed you that most people wouldn't notice?

FM: There's a perception that they're not as athletic as most teams. They're extremely athletic; they just happen to be a precision team that can execute. They can get into you defensively (as a result of that athleticism).

RJ: What are the similarities you see between Edwin Ubiles and Butler's Gordon Hayward?

FM: Both can play all five positions and they both really handle the ball well. They've got the ability to affect the outcome of the game even when they aren't scoring, and they're integral to their team's success.

RJ: What's the key in slowing down Hayward?

FM: We can't let him hit the offensive boards and score (in that fashion).

RJ: How do you go about defending Matt Howard inside? Will one guy get the assignment or do you switch it up and use multiple defenders?

FM: We would probably switch between Ryan Rossiter, Alex Franklin and O.D. Anosike. You can't use just one guy to guard him because he can wear your guys down and get them in foul trouble if you aren't careful.

RJ: What's been one area "under the radar" that Ryan Rossiter has improved on since last season?

FM: He's become a scorer. Last season he was a role player, a guy who played defense and rebounded. He's improved his post game and can score with both hands inside.

RJ: And Clarence Jackson?

FM: He's had a terrific year. Before the season began we wondered how consistent he could be as he came off the bench behind Kenny Hasbrouck last year. He's become a complete player and a more cerebral player (on both ends of the floor).

RJ: What does it do for the program to have Ronald Moore be named a finalist for the Cousy Award (given to the nation's best point guard)?

FM: I'm thankful that he's being recognized for his overall body of work. He's a guy who engineers wins and puts wins ahead of his own personal numbers and goals. It's good to see a guy get recognized for that.

MAAC BracketBusters Schedule

Televised Games
Friday: William & Mary at Iona (9 PM, ESPNU)
These two haven't met since 1984 with the Gaels holding a 2-1 series lead. The Tribe are currently tied for third in the CAA and their resume includes wins over Maryland and Wake Forest. Tony Shaver's club still holds out hope for an at-large due to their non-conference achievements (and schedule) so a win here would be crucial for them. David Schneider leads the way with an average of 15.6 points per game while Quinn McDowell and Danny Sumner are behind him in the scoring department. And William & Mary's assist leader should be familiar to some as Sean McCurdy played his high school ball for Bob Hurley Sr. at St. Anthony in Jersey City.

Outside of the rebounding margin and turnovers per game advantages held by the Tribe these are two evenly-matched squads. The key for Iona will be to turn the Tribe over and use their depth to wear the visitors out. To say the least this is a tough matchup for Kevin Willard's young team but a good test with the MAAC Tournament on the horizon. Scott Machado and the rest of the Iona backcourt will be tested by William & Mary's perimeter players, but a player like Alejo Rodriguez or Jonathan Huffman could have an impact up front. Look for this to be an entertaining nightcap to Old Dominion/Northern Iowa.

Saturday: Siena at Butler (11 AM, ESPN2)
The Saints are 3-1 all-time in the event; winning their two other televised appearances (beat Northern Iowa last year). But to take on a nationally-ranked squad that's been tested multiple times in the non-conference schedule may be their toughest test yet. Brad Stevens' club has already clinched the regular season title in the Horizon League with a 17-0 league record and they're essentially playing for NCAA Tournament seeding at this point. Siena, on the other hand, could do themselves a lot of good according to many of the nation's bracketologists should they win at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

But they'll have their hands full with the likes of Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard, and players such as Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored shouldn't be ignored either. Player to watch for the Saints: Clarence Jackson. If he can put up points this becomes a game the Saints can definitely win. He may be at the one position where Siena has an advantage among the starters, meaning that his play will go a long way in determining the outcome. The Saints are a slightly better offensive team and they'll need to get out in the open court and force Butler to play faster than they want to. If you don't care much for "College Gameday" hyping up UCLA/Washington be sure to tune in.

Non-Televised Games
New Hampshire at Loyola (1 PM)
Fairfield at Vermont (2 PM)
Towson at Manhattan (2 PM)
Buffalo at Saint Peter's (2 PM)
Rider at Hofstra (4 PM)
James Madison at Canisius (7 PM)
Marist at UC Irvine (7 PM)
Niagara at Milwaukee (7 PM)

Best Game: Fairfield at Vermont
Two of the better players in the Northeast will be on the floor in Derek Needham and Vermont's Marqus Blakely. Blakely will likely go up against the Stags' Anthony Johnson, and his versatility makes him a tough guard for Fairfield. Can Ed Cooley's team keep Blakely off the boards? Both teams boast multiple scoring options and that should mean an exciting contest.