MAAC BracketBusters Preview
Illinois State was paced by Champ Oguchi with nineteen points, but he looked to be the only Redbird to find any kind of offensive rhythm. Osiris Eldridge struggled mightily, going 1-for-10 from the field and finishing with just three points. Emmanuel Holloway had ten points and five steals, but he also had five turnovers in the defeat. Niagara picked a good time to give one of the better defensive efforts of the season, slowing down a capable offensive team just two days after giving up ninety at Rider. Now I'm not going to make an argument for the Purple Eagles receiving an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament, but I do have a question in regards to that: if there were a bubble team from a BCS conference with a 13-5 road/neutral record would they be ignored in the way that Niagara has?
I do understand that Niagara has a strength of schedule ranking that's a bit low (174 according to realtimerpi.com), but something has to be said for a team with such a record. Maryland, Kentucky and Providence are schools who have had their names tossed onto the bubble in recent weeks, and none of those schools have a road/neutral record within the ballpark of Niagara. I guess what I'm asking for is the truth to be told when it comes to using strength of schedule for at-large discussions: BCS schools on the bubble get far more opportunities to boost their computer numbers than schools outside of those leagues, and they don't even have to win those games.
Niagara's win is the first for the MAAC, with nine more games (two on television) to be played Saturday. Siena hosts the co-leaders of the Missouri Valley in Northern Iowa, but the Panthers have hit a rough stretch with losses in three of their last four. And in the other television pairing, Fairfield will host Hofstra with Greg Nero (back) slated to return to action after missing the loss to Niagara. The other seven MAAC schools will also have non-conference games, but none are slated to be shown on the ESPN family of networks.
BracketBusters Games (televised by ESPN family of networks)
Northern Iowa (18-9) @ Siena (21-6), 3 PM on ESPN2
This could be the game that covers the Saints should they falter in the MAAC Tournament next month. An RPI of 31 right now does not feature a win over an RPI Top 50 team, but Siena has seven wins over schools ranked in the 51-100 range. They won't be able to hang their hat on that record, so beating a Panther team that has a lot of frontcourt size will be key in regards to any possibility of an at-large berth. UNI has 6-9 Adam Koch and 7-0 Jordan Eglseder up front, a vertical challenge for a tough yet undersized Siena frontcourt. But the difference in Albany could versatile swingman Edwin Ubiles, who has the ability to hurt on either end of the floor. Look for good days from both he and Kenny Hasbrouck in a Saints victory.
Hofstra (18-9) @ Fairfield (15-12), 7 PM on ESPN360
Fairfield should regain the services of Greg Nero, but they may have to go about attacking the Pride in a similar way to what they tried against Niagara last Saturday. Senior guard Herbie Allen was needed to make plays on offense, and he did just that with twenty-four points. But due to injury and departure they lack the depth to beat the better teams that they've faced in recent weeks. Charles Jenkins and Zygis Sestokas had phenomenal games in Hofstra's double-overtime win over James Madison, and Tom Pecora has other options as well to hurt the Stags with. Fairfield will look to limit Jenkins with their many defensive looks, but the lack of depth will catch up with them. Hofstra wins.
Iona (12-15) @ Boston University (14-12), 1 PM
The Gaels have struggled mightily at times on the offensive end of the floor, something that can't be said for Dennis Wolff's Terriers. The perimeter tandem of Corey Lowe and John Holland is one of the best that many people nationwide have not heard much about, and they'll provide quite a test for Scott Machado and company. Any shot of Iona winning in Boston will fall upon the shoulders of their frontcourt, most notably Gary Springer and Alejo Rodriguez on the boards. At the end of the day, however, look for BU to have too much offensive firepower.
Canisius (8-18) @ Bowling Green (15-10), 2 PM
Will the recent arrest of assistant coach Lazare Adingono be a distraction for the Golden Griffins? Not sure what the answer to that question is, but it certain won't help matters for a team that's just 4-11 on the road this season. Bowling Green is 8-3 at home, but one of those losses recently came at the hands of Eastern Michigan, one of the worst teams in the MAC. Frank Turner, Julius Coles and Greg Logins have been the most consistent scorers of late for Tom Parrotta's team, but Canisius has negated their defensive ability (one of the best in the MAAC) with questionable shot selection on the other end. Nate Miller and company aren't much better offensively, but the Falcons tend to take better shots for head coach Louis Orr. Look for Bowling Green to have little trouble with the Griffs.
Manhattan (15-11) @ William & Mary (9-17), 2 PM
The Jaspers have won four of their last five games, and that's been without consistent play from Antoine Pearson. Head coach Barry Rohrssen needs more from his junior point guard, not so much for this game but for next month's MAAC Tournament. No matter how well Chris Smith and Darryl Crawford play, the Jaspers cannot be a threat in Albany without Pearson. The Tribe, just a year removed from a surprising run to the CAA Tournament Final, is led by David Schneider and Danny Sumner in their half-court system. With William & Mary under .500 (6-7) at home, a good opportunity to pick up a road win is in Manhattan's hands. And they'll take advantage of the opportunity.
UMBC (12-14) @ Rider (15-11), 4 PM
The Retrievers have been a bit of a disappointment this season, but do not let that fool you when it comes to how dangerous they are. Jay Greene and Darryl Proctor are still the main men for UMBC, possessing a championship mettle that makes this team a threat on any given night. The Broncs should be flying high following a tough win over Niagara Wednesday night, and they've been a better offensive team ever since multi-dimensional Ryan Thompson was moved to the point. Novar Gadson provides scoring punch off the bench, an area in which the Retrievers may struggle to keep pace. Look for Rider to defend their home floor and build up even more momentum heading into the final week of the regular season.
St. Peter's (9-17) @ Youngstown State (10-16), 4:35 PM
St. Peter's has won their last three games, but they struggle (4-10) on the road. Ryan Bacon has stepped up to provide John Dunne with a formidable interior presence, which makes things a bit easier for guards Nick Leon and Wesley Jenkins. The Penguins aren't necessarily a large team themselves, with Kelvin Bright and DeAndre Mays leading the way from the guard slots. But they are a better offensive team, and YSU also owns home wins over Cleveland State and Green Bay this season. St. Peter's has played well of late, but they're going to have a tough time winning in Youngstown.
Loyola (MD) (11-17) @ Drexel (14-11), 5 PM
The Greyhounds are headed in the opposite direction of the Peacocks, losing their last five games to fall into a tie for seventh with St. Peter's. Jamal Barney can light it up on a moment's notice, but he needs consistent help from the likes of Marquis Sullivan and Brett Harvey if Jimmy Patsos' team is to snap out of its funk. And with those issues one team you don't want to face is Drexel, with Bruiser Flint's team being one of the CAA's best defensively. Scott Rodgers may only average thirteen points per game, but he can go off if you don't slow him down. Combining that with a good home-court advantage, the Greyhounds see their losing streak go to six.
Hartford (6-22) @ Marist (8-20), 7:30 PM
If UMBC has been somewhat disappointing for their record following a trip to the NCAA Tournament, what's there to say for the team they beat in the America East final? The Hawks have dealt with injuries throughout the season, but they've lost eleven straight to fall into last place in America East by two games. Jaret Von Rosenberg and Joe Zeglinski lead the way for Dan Leibovitz's team, and swingman Michael Turner has reached double figures in five straight games. But do they have an answer for Ryan Schneider? He, combined with point guard David Devezin, will be the difference in Poughkeepsie in a Marist victory.