MAAC Basketball insight with coverage spanning from Baltimore
(Loyola) to Niagara Falls (Niagara) and everywhere in between!
Edited By: Raphielle Johnson
Friday's schedule may be light but there's some good action to take in as direction of the Ivy and Metro Atlantic races will be determined. Iona (19-5, 11-2) and Loyola (MD) (18-5, 11-2) are tied for first place with two games separating them from the pack (Manhattan and Fairfield leading that group), and the winner would take a big step towards grabbing the regular season crown. What should viewers look forward to?
Glover is joined on the first team by Fairfield University junior guard Derek Needham and senior center Ryan Olander, Iona senior guard Scott Machado and Rider University senior guard/forward Novar Gadson.
Iona received eight of the first-place votes and 97 points, followed by last season's preseason pick Fairfield University,which received two first-place votes and 92 points. Loyola University (Maryland) finished in third with 76 points.
You know it's March where there's midday college basketball to be discussed. Friday afternoon delivered just six games (one in progress) but there hasn't been a lack of drama. The Colonial, Missouri Valley and Southern conferences all had afternoon doubleheaders in their tournaments, with the MVC in the quarterfinals while the other two leagues are playing first round games today.
(8) Georgia State 58, (9) UNC Wilmington 52
The last time Fairfield reached the top of the MAAC was back in 1997, when they gave North Carolina all they wanted and then some in a first round NCAA Tournament loss. And with the release of the Preseason Coaches Poll, Ed Cooley's team is the favorite to win the conference in it's 30th year of existence. Fairfield picked up six first-place votes and totaled 96 points, beating out three-time defending champion Siena by five points. The Saints, who boast preseason Player of the Year Ryan Rossiter and fellow first-team member Clarence Jackson, received three first place votes.
With the release of the conference slate by the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Friday afternoon, member schools were able to put out their entire schedules. All teams play two league games at the start of December, and these games can have a significant impact on the direction of a team's season depending on the outcome. There are also some attractive non-conference matchups, featuring regularly scheduled games and in-season tournaments and an appearance in the ESPNU BracketBusters event come February.
An eventful offseason for New York metropolitan area college basketball is steadily transitioning into the 2010-11 season, with individual workouts and team lifting sessions leading into the start of practice in four weeks. That also means the official release of schedules for most of the team, and you can find them here.
The first half of the July open evaluation period ended yesterday, allowing the many recruiting analysts, coaches and players the opportunity to recharge their batteries for events in Orlando, Las Vegas and everywhere in between next week (I'll be in Vegas). But despite the emphasis on evaluating kids in the 2011 class and beyond there was still room for additions to help out area programs for the upcoming season.
The news was rather quiet for the area schools last week with the notable exception of the Big East releasing the home/road opponents for each of its' member schools this coming season. Hope springs eternal and the three coaching changes have injected some serious life (and buzz) into Rutgers, St. John's and Seton Hall. Mike Rice has the job that may require the most "rebuilding", but with veteran rosters (and some very good incoming recruits) the table is set for both Kevin Willard (Seton Hall) and Steve Lavin (St. John's) to make some noise.
The Met Basketball Writers Association announced their annual honors on Wednesday, naming Hofstra junior guard Charles Jenkins the winner of the Haggerty Award (Player of the Year). Winning the award for the second consecutive year, Jenkins joins the following list of players to have won the Haggerty two or more times in their collegiate careers:
Seven teams get to continue their seasons in postseason play; while the New York metropolitan area goes another year without a participant in the NCAA Tournament there's value in being able to play somewhere. Three schools will take part in the NIT with Seton Hall and Stony Brook hosting games while St. John's hits the road. Three other schools will play in the CBI and CIT tournaments (Quinnipiac added in for a full article), meaning that just under a third of the twenty-four schools will play in a postseason tournament.
All the talk leading up to the West Coast Conference final between Gonzaga and Saint Mary's focused on how much the Gaels would need this victory. Anywhere from "they're fine without it" to "they're in trouble with a loss" depending on which bracketologist you happened to be listening to at that particular moment. But at the end of the game at Orleans Arena there was a rather emphatic message from Randy Bennett's team:
Save that bubble talk for someone else.
The time to determine who will earn the MAAC's automatic bid is finally here and the matchup between Fairfield and Siena (7 PM, ESPN2) should not disappoint. Of course the Saints won both regular season meetings but they had to hold in in the second, winning by just two points at the Times Union Center on February 8th. Derek Needham scored 26 points in that game for the Stags but he also had five turnovers, as did Sean Crawford. That was essentially the difference (along with two more free throws for Siena): fifteen turnovers to ten for the Saints.
After a long and eventful day on Saturday (the Manhattan/Siena chippiness followed by the ejection of Frank Turner), the four teams pegged by the coaches in the preseason to be the best will play in today's MAAC Tournament semifinals. The first game matches a Rider squad that's playing better basketball, especially on the defensive end of the floor, and regular season champion Siena.
The MAAC quarterfinals take center stage on Saturday with the top six teams joining the fray along with Friday night winners Manhattan (94-79 over Loyola) and Canisius (72-54 over Marist). The biggest storyline: can Siena pick up their third consecutive MAAC crown? Anything less will likely mean a trip to the NIT despite a solid RPI due to their lack of any RPI Top 50 wins.
"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 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference announced its end of season individual honors on Thursday afternoon, and they are as follows:
Rookie of the Year: G Derek Needham (Fairfield)
6th Man of the Year: F Mike Evanovich (Fairfield)
Defensive Player of the Year: F Anthony Johnson (Fairfield)
Coach of the Year: Kevin Willard (Iona)
Player of the Year: F Alex Franklin (Siena)
The MAAC announced its all-league honors on Monday at the beginning of its' pre-conference tournament teleconference. They are as follows:
G Derek Needham (Fairfield)
G Kyle Smyth (Iona)
G Robert Olson (Loyola)
G Candon Rusin (Marist)
F Darius Conley (Saint Peter's)
G Ronald Moore (Siena)
G Ryan Thompson (Rider)
F Alex Franklin (Siena)
F Ryan Rossiter (Iona)
C Anthony Johnson (Fairfield)
Atlantic 10: Fordham freshman forward Chris Gaston was named to the league's Honor Roll on Sunday, averaging 23 points and 12 rebounds per game in the Rams' two contests.
Big East: A pair of Scarlet Knights were honored on Monday with Dane Miller winning his third consecutive Rookie of the Week award and Hamady Ndiaye being named to the Honor Roll. Miller averaged 12.5 points and 8.0 rebounds while Ndiaye added 14.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 blocks in Rutgers' 1-1 week.
America East: Stony Brook senior Muhammad El-Amin was named Player of the Week thanks to averages of 27.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in two wins for the Seawolves.
Tonight's game between Saint Peter's and Loyola has been postponed due to the snowstorm that hit the Mid-Atlantic this week. The game has been rescheduled for February 17th at 7 PM.
Game of the Night: Siena at Niagara (8 PM, ESPN2)
Atlantic 10: Fordham forward Chris Gaston won his third Rookie of the Week award, sharing the honor this week with La Salle's Aaric Murray. In the Rams' loss to La Salle last week Gaston scored 21 points and grabbed 15 rebounds, posting his thirteenth double-double of the season.
Four games are on the schedule today in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, with Fairfield's trip to Iona (3:30 PM) being the game of the day. The Stags have won eleven of the last fifteen in the series but the last eight games are even at four wins apiece. Both teams have been playing solid basketball of late and while it may be a stretch to expect the winner of today's game to catch frontrunning Siena, the winner takes a step towards that two-seed with eight games left in the conference season.
The MAAC slate offers up a split schedule before the weekend, with two games tonight and three more on Friday. Siena hosts a shorthanded Loyola squad and Fairfield visits Marist in tonight's games, but one of the better matchups could be the one that's being televised by ESPNU on Friday night. Iona, winners of four straight and nine of their last eleven, take on Manhattan at Draddy Gymnasium with tip time set for 9 PM.
League favorite Siena established further separation between itself and the rest of the Metro Atlantic with their win at Fairfield on Saturday, opening a gap of two games between themselves and the Stags. But for the solid play of teams such as Fairfield, Iona and Saint Peter's, the bigger story may be the struggles endured by preseason contenders Niagara and Rider. What's up with these two?
Included on Wednesday's area schedule are a pair of Big East games that the home teams can't afford to perform poorly in given the the pulse of the public. St. John's hosts Cincinnati in the first game of a doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, a game that many will watch because of the return of Brooklyn native Lance Stephenson. Stephenson had a few things to say in regards to why he chose Cincinnati instead of St. John's, but the Red Storm have more important things to worry about with their offensive efficiency being the chief concern.
With this being the final day of the decade this is a good time to pick my personal players of the decade in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The MAAC has gone through quite the transformation over the last ten years, with the balance of power shifting from the New York-area schools north to the likes of Siena and Niagara as we look forward to the next ten years. The program of the decade: Siena.
If told before the game that Seton Hall would shoot 16-for-33 from the foul line and 6-for-30 from behind the arc nine out of ten people would figure that Bobby Gonzalez's team were blown out. But what happened defied wisdom, with Seton Hall scoring twelve of the last fourteen points in regulation to send the game into overtime on a Jeremy Hazell three pointer. But all that shot did was delay the inevitable; West Virginia proved to be too much in winning the Big East opener 90-84 at the Prudential Center in Newark.
There are just three games on the MAAC schedule tonight but it's quite obvious which game is the most important. Two of the three favorites will get together at the Times Union Center at 7 PM as Rider (8-5, 1-0) visits Siena (6-4, 1-0). Unfortunately there's no TV for the game but it can be watched online for a fee at SienaSaints.com, and if you can tune in you'll be in store for a holiday treat.
Iona, Niagara Pick Up Key Road Wins
Picked to finish ninth in the MAAC preseason poll, not much was expected from Kevin Willard's Gaels due to their overall lack of experience. But they've been far more competitive than that prognostication would indicate, with the Gaels' most recent success being a win at Providence on Saturday night. Kyle Smyth, who was named MAAC Rookie of the Week, led Iona with twenty-one points as they picked up their sixth victory of the season.
The month of December is when college basketball heats up thanks to the end of the college football season. There are also mid-season defections and transfers to account for, along with injuries. That's what teams in the New York metropolitan area have dealt with recently, beginning with Fordham firing Dereck Whittenburg following the decision of PG Jio Fontan to transfer. Assistant Jared Grasso has taken over and picked up a win in his first game as head coach, beating Stony Brook and scoring 93 points in the process.
The first week of December also marks the beginning of conference play in leagues like the Metro Atlantic who play their conference tournaments the first weekend in March as opposed to the second. The conference picked up some good results in the first month of the season, with Rider opening the season by beating Mississippi State in Starkville and beating St. Joseph's earlier this week.
America East: Stony Brook F/G Tommy Brenton was named to the conference's Honor Roll due to his averages of 10.5 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last week. The Seawolves are 3-0 for the first time since 1994.
Atlantic 10: Fordham F Chris Gaston was named to the Honor Roll due to his averages of fifteen points and ten rebounds per game in three games. The freshman has a pair of double-doubles to his credit thus far.
About Raphielle Johnson
College sports has always been a source of excitement for Raphielle Johnson, be it through watching, writing, or taking a shot in the dark and walking onto a college football team just to live the life (Arizona Football, 2001). Raphielle is the assistant editor, providing his own work in addition to helping out with the site operations. When not writing for CHN, you can usually find him in front of a television set watching one of many pay-per-view sports packages that he owns. He can be followed at twitter.com/raphiellej.
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