MAAC First Round Preview: Bottom Four Look to Extend Season

March 5th, 2010

"First Round Friday" is here with a pair of games to kick off the men's basketball tournament at the Times Union Center. If there was ever an opportunity to see which teams/players want to keep playing and which ones have simply "checked out" this is it. Marist is back in the tenth seed with hopes of duplicating last year's feat of winning their first game in Albany. But they'll be taking on a Canisius squad that not only has whipped them in both meetings but also should be ready to play hard for departing senior Frank Turner. The winner gets Fairfield in the first game of the night session Saturday. 

But the first game of the night is the one that could offer up the most drama despite Loyola sweeping the regular season series. The last meeting was just five days ago with Jamal Barney scoring 24 points off the bench in the 12-point victory. Both teams have guards who can fill it up when they get going, but both backcourts can also struggle with shot selection and turnovers, which could very well lead to a helter-skelter contest. The winner gets the opportunity to take on Siena on the Saints' home court in front of what should be an energized crowd. Who wants to stay in Albany for more than one day? We'll find out. 

#8 Loyola vs. #9 Manhattan (7:30 PM; MAACSports.com)
Regular season meetings: Loyola 62-56 (February 7th at Manhattan) and 71-59 (February 28th at Loyola)

The last meeting wasn't particularly close; Rico Pickett played just eight minutes for the Jaspers, who shot a frigid 32% from the field. Another key area in that meeting was rebounding; led by Shane Walker's 14 boards the Greyhounds were a plus-12 (49-37) on the boards. Both teams average right around 35 rebounds per game but while Loyola nearly breaks even in regards to rebounding margin the Jaspers are a minus-3. Darryl Crawford scored 21 for Manhattan in the last meeting and is their second-leading scorer but the Jaspers need a big night from Pickett if they're to win. Also keep an eye on Andrew Gabriel and Brandon Adams on the boards; Crawford also had eleven rebounds in that defeat. It's good to have the senior helping on the glass but if Gabriel and Adams aren't getting the job done that's a bad sign. 

Barney's return from a leave of absence has been a nice offensive boost for Jimmy Patsos' squad to say the least; at the same time the Providence transfer left the team Brett Harvey was dealing with his own injury issues. While Harvey isn't 100% now at least he's back and the Greyhounds can also lean on Barney for bench scoring. Brian Rudolph is a distributor first for Loyola; Walker and Robert Olson both have the ability to post a double-digit scoring night if called upon. Both teams struggle with offensive efficiency and turn the ball over on either just above (Loyola) or below (Manhattan) the 20% turnover rate. Whichever team wins the battle on the boards and keeps their turnover rate under 20% will win this one. 

#7 Canisius vs. #10 Marist (approx. 10 PM; MAACSports.com)
Regular season meetings: Canisius 72-57 (January 9th at Marist) and 71-56 (February 12th at Canisius)

Tom Parrotta's Golden Griffins won both regular season meetings with relative ease, and given their decisive advantage in regards to experience and it's not difficult to see why. Neither team shot well from the field in the second meeting but the Griffs knocked down eleven three-pointers on their way to the fifteen-point win at the Koessler Center. The backcourt of Turner and Julius Coles hasn't been a good matchup for Chuck Martin's team in either meeting; their ability to get up and down the floor to make plays either off the dribble or with the perimeter shot has been a bit much for the young Red Foxes to contain. Add in Canisius' relative depth with Greg Logins, Elton Frazier and Tomas Vasquez-Simmons up front and it's easy to see why they won both games by double digits. 

Marist has five players averaging at least 6.7 ppg but with none of those guys being the kind of player who can go out and get you baskets to either close out a game or simply stem the tide they've suffered. Candon Rusin leads the team in scoring on the wing while Korey Bauer is essentially their only physical option inside. Both teams have turnover rates of more than 21% but Canisius makes up for that offensively with an offensive rebounding rate of more than 34%. That explains the advantages in points per possession and offensive efficiency when looking at these two teams. Can Marist win? They'll need to catch the Golden Griffins sleeping and/or lamenting their luck of having to play on Friday. Other than that, this is a very tough task for them.