Sunday MAAC Preview

January 24th, 2010

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. Two of the conference's better point guards will be on display as well, with freshman Derek Needham (Fairfield) and sophomore Scott Machado (Iona) on the floor.

Needham has been sensational from day one for Ed Cooley's squad, leading the team in scoring with just over fifteen per contest and the odds-on favorite to win MAAC Rookie of the Year. And Machado's no slouch himself, displaying a better feel for the tempo of a game and understanding what each in-game situation calls for. What Iona will need to do is make sure their depth is a factor. Coach Willard will play at least ten players throughout the course of a game, and with the Gaels' pressure defense they can tire opponents out. Other key contributors for Iona include Kyle Smyth and Rahson Dwight on the perimeter and Alejo Rodriguez and Jonathan Huffman (who can also step out and hit the three) inside.

As for second-place Fairfield, Anthony Johnson has been a force inside and Yorel Hawkins has played well on the wing. Those two and Needham all average at least 13.8 points per game and will do the majority of Fairfield's scoring this afternoon. The key for Coach Cooley's squad will be the ability of his guards to handle the Iona press and Johnson avoiding early foul trouble. Iona ranks third in the MAAC in field goal percentage defense and they're also among the best in field goal and three point percentage, which should make for an exciting game at the Hynes Athletic Center.

Sunday's Schedule

2p Saint Peter's at Canisius 
2p Siena at Manhattan 
4p Rider at Niagara

Game of the Day: Saint Peter's at Canisius
Both took care of business on Friday night, with the Peacocks winning at Niagara while the Golden Griffins whipped Rider. Two of the league's better guards will be on display in Canisius senior Frank Turner and Saint Peter's Wesley Jenkins. The key matchup, however, may be Ryan Bacon going up against Greg Logins. Logins is one of the better defensive players in the conference and if he can neutralize Bacon the Golden Griffins will have a very good chance of pulling off the weekend sweep of the Jersey schools. Other players to watch include SPC's Nick Leon and the Canisius tandem of Julius Coles and Elton Frazier.

Most Important Game: Rider at Niagara
This one's the pick and when the season began that would have been understood. But not for the reason any of us would expect as both find themselves fighting to avoid that 7-10 area which means you play on Friday night in the MAAC Tournament. The Broncs have struggled defensively while Niagara's issues have come on the offensive end of the floor. Tyrone Lewis and Bilal Benn will be needed to step up for the home team while the same mandate applies to Rider's Ryan Thompson and Justin Robinson. Area to watch: rebounding. Outside of Benn the Purple Eagles are somewhat pedestrian on the boards (9th in rebounding margin) while Rider isn't much better. The winner takes a step up the MAAC ladder while the loser finds itself in even more trouble.

Saturday's Result

Loyola 80, Marist 64
Brian Rudolph led four Greyhounds in double figures with 18 points as Loyola pulled away for good in the second half to win in Poughkeepsie. The Greyhounds were a +13 in points at the foul line and +11 in rebounding margin on their way to their tenth win of the season. Korey Bauer led the Red Foxes, who have lost eight in a row, with 21 points.