Opening Night in the MAAC
Seven games involving MAAC schools are on the schedule with all three of the expected contenders opening up on the road. Two-time defending MAAC champion Siena opens up at Tennessee State with four returning starters looking to make their way back to another NCAA Tournament. This talented, experienced group is led by seniors Alex Franklin, Ronald Moore and Edwin Ubiles. Games like this may not look tough to the untrained eye but it's the season opener and you never know what can happen.
Niagara and Rider will both hit SEC country with the Purple Eagles visiting Auburn while Rider takes on Mississippi State. Auburn's got some size up front but they're also woefully young in the frontcourt, so look for Jeff Lebo to lean on his wings and other perimeter players such as DeWayne Reed and Tay Waller in the early going. Joe Mihalich has a perimeter-oriented team that can more than challenge the Tigers with Tyrone Lewis and Bilal Benn leading the way.
Anthony Nelson and Rob Garrison will also have the basketball in their hands often, but the key will be how they go about replacing the graduated Benson Egemonye inside. Demetrius Williamson isn't an interior player but his versatility will be needed on the glass tonight and this could very well be a game in which the Purple Eagles walk out with the victory. Rider could also have issues inside but that's understandable when looking at Jarvis Varnado. The Broncs will face a Mississippi State team without John Riek and Renardo Sidney but they've got some good perimeter players at their disposal.
Rick Stansbury can look to Dee Bost, Barry Stewart and Ravern Johnson on the perimeter, and that's just three of the Bulldogs' options. The pressure will be on Ryan Thompson and company to hold their own outside while Mike Ringgold, Jermaine Jackson and Brandon Penn will take their chances with Varnado. Both MAAC/SEC battles should be entertaining tonight.
Loyola (Vermont) and Iona (Boston University) will open up with home games against two of the favorites in America East while Fairfield plays Central Connecticut State in the Connecticut 6 Classic. Rounding out the slate is Saint Peter's, who will make the short trek to Newark to take on Seton Hall at the Prudential Center.
The full schedule:
7 PM Vermont @ Loyola
Saint Peter's @ Seton Hall
7:30 PM Fairfield vs. Central Connecticut State
Boston University @ Iona
8 PM Niagara @ Auburn
Siena @ Tennessee State
9 PM Rider @ Mississippi State