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. While Rider's Ryan Thompson and Siena's Edwin Ubiles are two of the more versatile players in the MAAC, if you ask some members of the media who cover the league the early pick for Player of the Year would be Siena PG Ronald Moore.
The senior from Conshohocken, PA may be the lone member of Fran McCaffery's starting lineup not in the Top 20 in scoring but he's the "straw that stirs the drink", leading the MAAC and the nation with eight assists per game. You don't have to light up the scoreboard to be the most influential player on the floor and Moore is proof of that. Rider's Justin Robinson, who is averaging 13.1 points per game, will have to bring his best on the defensive end of the floor tonight. Both teams boast a number of scoring options, meaning that the outcome will likely hinge on defense and rebounding.
Siena leads the MAAC in scoring with an average of 75.2 points per game while the Broncs rank 4th at 70.2, and the Saints also lead the conference in field goal percentage (46.3%). But defensively is where the Saints may hold the deciding edge; Rider is last in points per game allowed (70.9) and ninth in field goal percentage defense (45.2%). Of course some of this can be attributed to a tough schedule that's included Kentucky, Mississippi State, Rutgers and Virginia but how good this team can be defensively in conference play remains to be seen.
Novar Gadson and Mike Ringgold add to Tommy Dempsey's potent attack but anything they and the rest of the rotation can add defensively would be a bonus. Rebounding is another issue, with Alex Franklin and Ryan Rossiter leading the conference's third-best team when it comes to rebounding margin (+1.3). Rider comes in sixth in that stat, essentially breaking even (-0.1) on the season; Ringgold and Jermaine Jackson will be key tonight against the Saints' starting frontcourt.
And lastly the Saints will be adding La Salle transfer Kyle Griffin following his NCAA-mandated year on the sidelines. He's the kind of guard that can afford Siena the luxury of resting Moore on occasion if need be and a solid player on both ends of the floor. I like Siena in what should be a hotly-contested game in Albany.
5:30p Canisius vs. New Orleans (Hattiesburg, MS)
The Golden Griffins are playing their third game in three days at the Southern Miss Christmas Classic and they've got a good chance to head back to Buffalo with two wins. Led by Frank Turner's 30 points Canisius knocked off the host Golden Eagles 59-56 on Tuesday night. Joe Pasternack's Privateers are led by Charles Carmouche and Georgia transfer Billy Humphrey, who was under the weather in their loss to North Florida (If UNF beats Southern Miss they'd win the event) last night. If Canisius can hit the boards with the likes of Greg Logins and Tomas Vasquez-Simmons they've got a very good chance at picking up the victory.
7p Iona at Fairleigh Dickinson
It's been said quite often in recent weeks: Iona may be one of the most dangerous 0-2 teams in the MAAC in recent years. They've won three in a row and six of the last eight games in this series. Greg Vetrone's Knights have talent, most notably prolific scorer Sean Baptiste, but they have a hard time putting it all together on a consistent basis. Iona's young but they seem to be rounding into form at just the right time: this contest marks the beginning of a six-game road trip. If the starting backcourt of Scott Machado and Kyle Smyth can get the ball rolling look for the Gaels to push their win streak to four.
Tuesday Results and Assorted Notes
Loyola 72, Indiana 67
Lehigh 66, Marist 55
Niagara 77, St. Bonaventure 71
Rutgers 66, Saint Peter's 42
Canisius 59, Southern Miss 56
Biggest win: Loyola over Indiana. The Greyhounds sprinted out of the gates, leading by as many as 24 in the first half on their way to a 46-28 halftime lead. The Hoosiers fought back to take a lead in the second half but it was short-lived; Loyola ended the game on a 10-2 run with Brett Harvey (25 points) leading the way. Reigning MAAC Player of the Week Jamal Barney added thirteen points off the bench and the Greyhounds shot 53.3% from the field in their first win over a Big Ten foe in eight tries.
No Drummond for Marist: This bit of news actually broke on Monday, with Villanova transfer Casiem Drummond being declared academically ineligible for the year. Drummond was to play for the Red Foxes at the end of the fall semester, and to say the least the 0-8 squad could have used the large body inside.
MAAC Tournament awarded to Springfield: The MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass. was awarded the MAAC Basketball Championships for the 2012-14 period. The Times Union Center (Albany), which has hosted the last two tournaments and will host again this March, was a finalist as was The Arena at Harbor Yard. The MassMutual Center also hosts the NCAA Division II Elite 8 annually and Springfield is the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame. Prevailing wisdom had it that the majority of the presidents wanted a neutral venue for the event, giving the edge to Springfield.
Weekly Honors (announced on Monday)
Player of the Week: Loyola G Jamal Barney
Rookie of the Week: Fairfield G Derek Needham