Tag:Fairfield Stags
Posted on: February 25, 2011 9:29 am

The Race for 2nd in the Metro Atlantic (MAAC)

We’re a week away from the beginning of March, and that means it time for the Madness to ensue. This also means that I am long overdue in giving the readers (all twelve of you) a healthy dose of Metro Atlantic (MAAC) Basketball information. And because writing about the Big East would give me a headache and be about as useful as fishing in a toilet bowl.

Anyway, we contacted our resident MAAC tiebreaker expert (my college roommate Norm) and he was able to come up with all the doomsday scenarios for tiebreaker hell. We’ll touch on that a little bit later, but right now we need to address the three-way tie for second in the MAAC standings. There is no fight for first anymore since the Fairfield Stags wrapped that up last week. (And congratulations to Ed Cooley and his Stags, who have had recent seasons diminished by injuries, illnesses and other problems that not once have detered their competitiveness in the MAAC.)

Yes, that means the hosts of this year’s MAAC Tournament, being held in Bridgeport, CT, are the top seed, a trend that this former Rider Bronc can’t wait to see end when the tournament moves to Springfield, Mass in 2012.

(Moving the MAAC Tourament to Springfield, Mass., in my opinion, is a terrible idea. But considering Rider’s recent history against top-seeded hosts in MAAC Finals, I’m willing to try anything.)


Surprisingly, the Peacocks control their own destiny in the MAAC. If they win out vs. Iona and at Rider they will pass both in the standings for second place. Their first game at home against Iona is almost like a seeding semi-final. The Peacocks need a win otherwise they will have been swept 2-0 by the Gaels and Iona would have a head-to-head tiebreaker. If St. Peter’s losses to Iona but beats Rider in the finale, then they would hold have swept the Broncs and hold that ever important head-to-head over Rider.

RIDER BRONCS (20-9, 11-5 MAAC)

If the win out at Marist and vs. St. Peter’s they’ll hold the first tiebreaker in the MAAC if they are tied with anyone at the end of the year. This is by virtue of their win at Fairfield on Super Bowl Sunday in a very confusing set of MAAC tiebreakers. However, they aren’t in full control of their own destiny. They need Iona to lose one of its remaining games. Like if St. Peter’s beats Iona and Rider beats Marist on Friday, it will set up a defacto championship for the second seed in Bridgeport, CT the following week. Rider also has the easiest game on the schedule this weekend facing last place Marist.

IONA GAELS (18-10, 11-5 MAAC)

Iona is very much in the same boat as St. Peter’s. They need wins against St. Peter’s and Fairfield for the following reasons: to sweep the Peacocks and to equal Rider’s tiebreaker by beating the Stags. If that happens, then Iona could be in the driver’s seat for the second seed. But that leads us to…


Okay, my resident Metro Atlantic tiebreaking expert actually thought about this for five minutes. Which means this is bad. Very bad. Consider this: Rider and Iona go 2-0 this weekend, finishing St. Peter’s at 11-7 in conference. Rider and Iona would be tied at 13-5, having split their season series and each beating Fairfield once. The next tiebreaker would be the fourth place team, which would be at least St. Peter’s but also could be Loyola (MD) if they win both games in Buffalo this weekend. If Loyola loses one of its games, Iona wins the tiebreaker for second by virtue of its sweep of the Peacocks. If Loyola and St. Peter’s finish tied, both Iona and Rider finished 3-1 against these teams (Rider swept Loyola, split with St. Peter’s, vice virsa for Iona). So what’s the next tiebreaker…well…uhhh…skipping all the way down to the end of it, our expert believes that a coin toss could be possible. And here’s the scary part. That scenario above, is very feasible.

So there you have it, the first Metro Atlantic entry is in the books. Many more to come from your blogging leader of MAAC Basketball. And I can actually say that.

Posted on: March 9, 2010 10:14 am

Metro Atlantic (MAAC) Final - Siena Dancing Again

I am personally getting sick of saying this. Siena is the Metro Atlantic tournament champion.

Once again Siena is standing at the top of the MAAC mountain. Once again nine angry teams are wondering how in the world Siena managed to pull it off. Once again nine angry fan bases were rooting against the Saints. Siena has no friends in this league, they probably didn't have any at the start of the year either, but hey, that's what happens when you're the two-time defending conference champion.

Siena 72, Fairfield 65 (F/OT)

For the third straight game in the MAAC tournament, Siena rallied from a halftime deficit, this time down 11 to the fearless Fairfield Stags team, and won their thrid MAAC title in as many years. Fran McCaffery was brilliant in this game, especially late to foil any chance of a Fairfield buzzer-beater. Why he doesn't get looked at for Coach of the Year or major conference jobs is beyond me, but why would he leave Siena now? They are the Gonzaga/Butler of the Northeast. Great mid-major program in a competitive league that they dominate. Look at the teams 2-6 in the Metro Atlantic this year: Fairfield, Iona, St. Peter's, Rider and Niagara. The latter two were projected as Top Three finishers preseason behind Siena. Iona had the one of the biggest turnarounds of any program/team in the country and St. Peter's and Fairfield played well all season, with the Stags missing one of their best players for most of the year.

But let's face it, the whole conference was targeting Siena this year, and the Saints knew it. So what do they go out and do: dominate, again. They blew Rider out twice and their only loss was at Niagara, the toughest road trip in the conference (playing both Buffalo, NY area teams in the same weekend Niagara and Canisus). Three of the five MAAC player of the Year candidates and 1st-Team All-MAAC were Siena Saints, including the winner Alex Franklin. The other two starters were 2nd-team (Ubiles) and 3rd team (C. Jackson) and no other team in the conference had more than two players out of the 15 represented.

So what does that mean? That Siena has the best players? Among other things. But it's not just about having the best players. Siena struggled in their non-conference schedule this year, including a BracketBuster loss to Butler and because of that there was a good chance that Siena was on the bubble for an at-large bid if they lost in the MAAC tournament. They ended those conversations by getting an automatic bid. This team just knows how to win games. Good teams find ways to win, to overcome adversity, to adjust to teams on both ends of the floor. Siena did all of those things. They didn't lose their cool like Manhattan did. They adjusted to Rider's defense and got transition points in the 2nd half. They didn't panic when facing their third halftime deficit to Fairfield for the third time in three games. They just find ways to win games. And they did again last night.

So as the rest of the Metro Atlantic licks their wounds after another season, Siena knows that they won this tournament by the skin of their teeth. They survived Rico Pickett and Mahnattan, Ryan Thompson and Rider and Derek Needham, Anthony Johnson and the Fairfield Stags. They have been prepared for March for the last 3 seasons better than any other team in the conference. Why? Because they've been there before. I know it's an old cliche, but it's true, especially for smaller programs. Why do Gonzaga and Butler sustain Top 25 rankings and keep making it to the NCAA tournaments? Because they've done it before, with different players, coaches and student bodies cheering them on.

But today, Siena and Albany NY celebrate. Fairfield becomes the 9th team to take a dejected bus ride back home. Someone needs to give Bob Heussler (WFAN 660 NY/Fairfield Stags Radio) a hug, because you could hear how depressed he was calling the final minute of overtime as Siena was hitting free throws to seal the win. He more than anyone knows just how far this Fairfield team has come and what they had to do just to get to this game in the past few seasons. Ed Cooley and his Stags should be getting nothing but high praise for the work they've done the past several years. And I hope Siena gets a decent seed in the NCAAs (11 or 12) and plays well. Because they've earned another trip to the big dance.

But if they get pounded by someone in the first round, there's nine towns that won't shead a tear. Probably might hear some cheering too.
Posted on: March 7, 2010 10:02 pm

Metro Atlantic (MAAC) Final Set Between Top Seeds

The Metro Atlantic semifinals concluded and the top teams in the regular season will meet for the title. Here are the recaps...

Siena 72, Rider 62

I said in my preview that Rider would need to rebound and Siena would have to be patient in this game. Well, both teams accomplished thier goals, but it was Siena that took the game with a 16-0 second half run that Rider never recovered from. The Broncs lead for most of the game, including a 30-28 edge at the half, but were unable to hold off the Saints' huge run keyed by Roland Moore (15 pts, 10 ast). Ryan Rossiter (10 pts, 18 reb), Alex Franklin (18 pts, 8 reb) and Clarence Jackson (17 pts) were able to solve the Broncs' zone defense and score in transition in the 2nd half as the Saints pulled away and never looked back.

Rider was lead by the efforts of stars Ryan Thompson (21 pts) and Mike Ringgold (20 pts, 14 reb). Thompson scored the first 9 Rider points and got the Broncs out to a quick lead. Rider remained in control for most of the first half despite trading baskets and the lead with Siena. Siena's Jackson hit two three-pointers during that huge run in the second half to bury the Broncs.

One thing of note is the play of Siena's Edwin Ubiles. Siena has the best starting five in the MAAC, but they need Ubiles to be able to score and his 4-14 shooting against Rider and 5-12 against Manhattan aren't helping this team. But give credit to Fran McCaffery's squad. For the second straight game they found themselves in a hole but didn't panic and took over the game late. And also to Tommy Dempsey's Broncs for a great game plan, especially defensively with a 2-3 zone Cuse's Jim Boeheim would have been proud of.

Fairfield 69, Niagara 63

Our second semifinal was another comeback victory, this one for the Fairfield Stags. A late second half run carried the Stags to victory as Derek Needham had 17 points and star big man Anthony Johnson had 21 points and 8 boards. The Fairfield bench took offense to me calling out the Stags' depth and got two great preformances from Colin Nickerson (14 pts) and Ryan Olander (11 pts, 9 reb). Tyrone Lewis lead the Purple Eagles with 20 points and Bilal Benn, Kashief Edwards and Anthony Nelson were all in double figures.

Yesterday, Niagara's senior experience helped them overcome a spunky Iona team, but the Stags were just too much. Fairfield coach Ed Cooley has been through everything you can think of to plauge a team and a program, and they've been resilient through it all.

I'm still working on my Marist women's piece, which I think will be a great feature entry. And I'll have my MAAC final preview and recap tomorrow as well.

And I'm now 7-8 in my pre-tourney predictions. But I'd much rather be 6-8...
Posted on: March 7, 2010 3:48 pm

Metro Atlantic (MAAC) Semifinal Preview

This is the worst case senario for MAAC fans. You're team is playing Siena, at home, in the conference tournament. This is where my Broncs find themselves right now. But maybe it's not as bad as it seems. These two teams have met in the title game before, two years ago by my count, the first of Siena's two consectutive MAAC titles and NCAA appearances. Maybe it's better to play them in the semis, but if this season's games were an indicator of what's to come, I'm in for a long day.

And should fans be suprised that four of the top five scoring teams in the MAAC made the semifinals? Or how about the top three preseason teams (Siena, Niagara, Rider)? No, not really, but then again, that's why I went 4-for-4 in my picks yesterday. But I'll be rooting hard against my pick in the first game. Here's the previews.

No. 5 Rider Broncs vs. No. 1 Siena Saints - 4 PM / MSG

Siena swept Rider this season and niether game was much of a contest as the Saints tallied two blowout wins, including an 80-54 thrashing in Lawrenceville, NJ on Feb 26th. That wasn't all that long ago, and aside from that game, the Broncs have been pretty good down the stretch.

Battle To Watch: Mike Ringgold (RIDER) vs. Alex Franklin (SIENA) - Two of the best all-around bigs in the conference.
Battle To Watch II: Ryan Thompson (RIDER) vs. Edwin Ubiles (SIENA) - Thompson struggled against Siena in the regular season and Ubiles didn't have a great game against Manhattan in the quarters.
Player to Watch: Novar Gadson (RIDER) - Had 25 points off the bench in that 80-54 beatdown mentioned above.

Keys to a Rider victory: Rebounding. They didn't do it against St. Peter's but the Peacocks shot themselves in the foot with 16 first half turnovers. Also, no bad three point shots (I'm looking at you Pat Mansell).

Keys to a Siena victory: Patience. They stayed in the moment against Manhattan despite being down and they didn't panic and won the game going away.

No. 6 Niagara Purple Eagles vs. No. 2 Fairfield Stags - 6:30 PM / MSG

These two teams split their regular season meetings, each winning at home. Niagara did force overtime a week ago at Fairfield before falling.

Battle To Watch: Derek Needham (FAIR) vs. Tyrone Lewis (NIAG) - Freshman going against the senior in a battle of scorers.
Player To Watch: Bilal Benn (NIAG) - A double-double machine leading the inside players for Niagara.

Keys to a Niagara Victory: Free Throws. They shot poorly from the stripe against the Stags in their OT loss and were less than stellar yesterday against Iona, letting the Gaels back into the game late.

Keys to a Fairfield Victory: Foul Trouble. More importantly, staying out of it. This isn't a terriblely deep team for Fairfield, but their bench won't be relied on for scoring in bunches aside from sharpshooter F Mike Evanovich.

I'll be writing up an entry on the Marist Women's MAAC title (congrats to them), as well as a semifinal recap later on tonight. Thanks for reading.

Now don't bother me for the next two and a half hours. Maybe longer.
Posted on: March 7, 2010 10:49 am

MAAC Quarters Update - Niagara, Fairfield Advance

The Metro Atlantic quarterfinals are over, which means today's semifinals are set and ready to go. I went 4-for-4 yesterday in my predictions, picking both "upsets" in Rider and Niagara. But if you talk to persons familiar with the MAAC, they know those wins weren't upsets, but just good matchups between two teams. So let's wrap up the last two quarterfinals and prepare for a great day of action in Albany, NY that also includes the women's final.

Fairfield 67, Canisus 57

Derek Needham, MAAC Rookie of the Year, lead the Fairfield Stags with 29 points as they held off the Canisus Golden Griffins. Fairfield got out to a huge lead at the half, 35-14, using a late run to pad their advantange. The Griffs clawed back in the 2nd half, lead by Greg Logins 20 point, 11 rebound preformance and star Frank Turner's 15. Canisus got off to a big run to start the second half and were able to get the deficit to single digits, but no closer than five points.

Canisus' Frank turner was ejected late in the 2nd half for a flagrant technical on Needham, probably killing any hope of a Griffs comeback. Fairfield was not good from the free throw line, hitting just 55 percent (11-20).

Niagara 68, Iona 64

Probably the best game of the night (and early morning) as this back and forth contest went down to the wire. Tyrone Lewis lead the Purple Eagles with 21 points and 10 rebounds and Bilal Benn also had a double-double with 16 points and 11 boards. A three pointer by Lewis gave Niagara the lead and they hit 12-14 free throws in the final 90 seconds. That three by Lewis was the only FG Niagara scored in the final minutes, as their free throw shooting was enough to hold off Iona. The Gaels' Scott Machado had 17 points on 4-14 shooting from the field. Iona's Alejo Rodriguez added a double-double.

In the end, it was Niagara's experience that prevailed over Iona's youth. Iona was picked 9th in the preseason polls after a dismal 08-09 season, so this was a vast improvment for them and MAAC Coach of the Year Kevin Willard (son of former Holy Cross coach Ralph Willard). Machado tried to put the Gaels' on his capable shoulders, but need more help from his supporting cast late to finish the comeback effort.

I'll be back later with a look at the semi-finals and a quick recap of the women's tournament when that finishes early this afternoon.
Posted on: March 6, 2010 2:13 pm

Metro Atlantic (MAAC) Quarterfinal Preview

Sorry for not getting this up sooner, but I've been busy. So here are the quick previews for each game and a player to keep on eye out throughout the day.

No. 5 Rider vs. No. 4 St. Peter's - 2:30 PM

This could be the best game of the bunch as these two in-state rivals square off as it starts the quarterfinal round for the MAACs up in Albany.
Battle to Watch: Mike Ringgold (RID) vs. Ryan Bacon (SPC) in the paint. Both players are double-double threats.
Player to Watch: Ryan Thompson (RID) - Preseason MAAC player of the Year and the 2nd leading scorer in the conference.

No. 9 Manhattan vs. No. 1 Siena - 4:30 PM

Manhattan came out with one of its best games of the season yesterday. They have a quick turnaround, playing less than 24 hours ago and are playing the best team in the MAAC, the Siena Saints on their home floor.
Battle to Watch: Balanced Scoring - Siena has four players who average double-digit points, Manhattan only has two.
Player to Watch: Rico Pickett (MANH) - Did I mention he dropped 33 yesterday?

No. 7 Canisus vs. No. 2 Fairfield - 7:30 PM

Upstart Canisus takes on second-seeded Fairfield. This isn't an easy out for the Stags and the Griffs are looking for an upset and revenge for a season sweep.
Battle to Watch: Frank Turner (CAN) vs. Fairfield - Can the Stags slow down the Griff's star?
Player to Watch: Anthony Johnson (FAIR) - Stags leading rebounder and second in scoring this season.

No. 6 Niagara vs. No. 3 Iona - 10:30 PM
Another solid game pits the talented Purple Eagles against the suprising Gaels. Most preseason polls probably had these teams reversed in the standings, so it could be a great game.
Battle to Watch: Rebounding - Bilal Benn (NIAG) is one of the best rebounders for the league-leading board hogging Eagles.
Player to Watch: Tyrone Lewis (NIAG) - He's the best scorer for Niagara and third best in the conference. Scott Machado (IONA) leads the balanced Gaels' attack.

Posted on: March 5, 2010 11:46 am
Edited on: March 5, 2010 11:55 am

2010 Metro Atlantic (MAAC) Tournament Preview

2010 MAAC Tournament
Albany, NY - Times Union Center (8,065 cap.)

Ahhh...March Madness is once again upon us and that means an entire month in front of the TV watching college basketball. This is my favorite time of year, it beats the Super Bowl and NFL playoffs, baseball and the World Series, everything. Maybe it's the brackets. Maybe it's the upsets. Maybe it's just the best post-season format in sports (and adding thirty teams would kill it, but that's for another day).

Either way, I get 5 weeks of great college basketball with the Metro Atlantic tourney this weekend, the Big East tourney next week and the NCAA tourney from mid-March to April. Okay, so not everyone cares about the MAAC tournament, but the Big East tournament is going to have huge bubble implications and well, the NCAA tournament is just great. Especially the first weekend with the first two rounds. Nothing can top that week.

So, without further ado, my Metro Atlantic tournament preview...

MAAC Standings

The bottom four in the standings will play (7v10 / 8v9) Friday in the first round. Those teams will be reseeded, the lowest seed playing No. 1 Siena and the higher playing No. 2 Fairfield in the quarterfinals. The other two quarterfinals are set all ready set (3 Iona-6 Niagara / 4 St. Peters- 6 Rider).

The Favorite - No. 1 Siena

I am getting sick of this team. But that's what happens when you're dominating everyone in conference play. No one can beat these guys. It's the best team and program in the conference. Fran McCaffery's four-headed monster of Alex Franklin, Edwin Ubiles, Ryan Rossiter and Clarence Jackson (14 ppg or higher) have lead Siena to another regular season MAAC title and they're looking for their third consectutive NCAA tournament berth. But they'll likely need to win the tournament, as their resume lacks good non-conference wins. Either way, they're playing at home where they're 14-0 this season and are the odds on favorites to win.

The Contenders - No. 2 Fairfield, No. 5 Rider, No. 6 Niagara

Could Iona and St. Peter's (ranked 3 and 4 respectively) make noise in the MAACs, absolutely, but I wouldn't be picking them. Fairfield has quietly had the second best season in the conference, and they've been quietly good for a few years now. Ed Cooley's Stags have endured personnel problems, injuries and a host of other things in recent years and they still keep winning. Fairfield played Siena tough this year, though they lost both times, Siena had to hold on for a two-point victory in Albany on Feb. 8.

Niagara and Rider were pre-season favorites to contend with Siena for the MAAC title. Though they both didn't have great seasons, both overall and in the MAAC, both teams have the talent to beat Siena. Niagara actually has done it, an 87-74 home win Feb. 12. Niagara however lost the tie-breaker with Rider for the 5th seed since Rider swept the season series with the Purple Eagles. Personally, I'd want to be on the other half of the bracket, awaay from Siena, but that's because Siena crushed Rider in both meetings 84-62 and 80-54 this season. Rider however does have the MAAC's best non-conference win, at Miss. St, who was ranked 19th to open the season.

Cinderella Story - No. 7 Canisus

If you're looking for a team to win from the MAAC's bottom four and first round teams, the Griffs are your best bet. They'll have to beat hapless Marist (1-28) and then Fairfield to make the semifinals. Canisus lost both games to Fairfield this year, but by a total of only 8 points.

Quarterfinal to Watch - No. 5 Rider vs. No. 4 St. Peter's

These two in-state rivals split their season series, with each team winning on the other's home court. And these two student fan bases don't need much of a reason to get excited for this game. Only bad news - winner plays Siena.

MAAC Tournament Final That You Want To See... No. 2 Fairfield vs. No. 1 Siena

Okay, I know that chalk isn't all that exciting, but Fairfield has the best resume against Siena, even with two losses. They've been the only team to threaten Siena's home court this season, where the Saints are undefeated. For a national TV stage, these are the two best teams in the MAAC this season. Siena's NCAA resume probably won't be enough to make it into the big dance, so they'll need a MAAC tournament title to seal their fourth trip to the big dance.


First Round:
[7] Canisus, [8] Loyola MD
Quarters: [1] Siena - [5] Rider, [2] Fairfield - [6] Niagara
Semisfinals: [1] Siena - [2] Fairfield
MAAC Title: [1] Siena

Siena is just too good right now at home. Thankfully, the MAAC tournament is moving to Springfield, Mass for the 2012 MAAC tournament, a nuetral site for all Metro Atlantic teams. The 2011 Tournament will take place in Bridgeport, CT and the Arena at Harbor Yard, the off-campus home of the Fairfield Stags. Siena is the class of the Metro Atlantic right now and I don't expect that to change anytime soon. Regardless, even if Siena losses, they have earned an automatic bid to the NIT by virtue of their regular season MAAC title.

I'll be around all weekend blogging about the MAAC before focusing on the Big East next week. And now to channel my inner Dick Vitale..

March Madness is here BABY!!! Greatest time of the year!!!

Posted on: February 2, 2010 12:22 pm

Road Trip - Bridgeport, CT - Rider v. Fairfield

Okay, so Bridgeport, CT isn't much of a road trip. The Harbor Yard sports complex (Ballpark and Arena) sits just a short 15 minute drive away from my house. So when my Rider Broncs show up in town to play the Fairfield Stags, I don't need much of an excuse to go and watch my team play and remember the glory days of my time at Rider. Just for fun, I dragged my dad along with me.

Just to add a little more incentive, the Arena at Harbor Yard was celebrating its 1,000th event. The promotion, a free hot dog to all fans on the way in. Okay, it was a ticket to redeem the hot dog, and yes that sounds lame, but hey, I'm not going to start ripping on my home arena. Even if I could (and I can) I still wouldn't do it.

The highlights? Fairfield has a 6'9'' forward named Mike Evanovich who scored 24 points (not in the recap by the way, check the box score) who hit his first 8 3-pt FG attempts in the game. He was completely unconscious for the first half. My dad spotted him during warm-ups and said that he wasn't missing. I figured since he wasn't a starter that he could only hit uncontested jumpers. Boy was I wrong, but that's nothing new. Evanovich hit from everywhere on the court, 27-footers and probably a turn-around in there somewhere too. Rider had no answer for him. But that's the end of the Fairfield highlights.

Rider's Ryan Thompson, brother of the Sacramento Kings Jason Thompson, another Rider grad, is a nightmare for the Metro Atlantic (MAAC). The Stags had no answer for him either and if it weren't for Evanovich's shooting in the first half, this game would have been over well before halftime. Rider had verny balanced scoring in the first half before Thompson took over and led the Broncs to victory. There are NBA scouts giving him a look, and he has the skills. But he's a combo wing player (2 guard/small forward) at the next level and while I know he could play in the NBA, it would be hard for him to crack most starting lineups.

With about 7-5 minutes to go, a Fairfield fan sitting behind me promptly declared the game was over. Rider was up by double-digits and had all the momentum. Evanovich couldn't hit a three in the 2nd half (he played less due to foul trouble) and it took a late Fairfield run to get the defecit back to single-digits. Rider, not usually a good FT shooting team, shot 79 percent (26-33) and hit 10 of 12 in the final minutes to seal the win.

I also noticed Rider head coach Tommy Dempsey wearing sneakers for the game. I wasn't able to find the significance of this, but many basketball coaches have done this to support numerous charities in the past.

Overall, it was great seeing my old team win in my backyard. Rider had been struggling of late and it was nice to see the pull out a win. They'll need a good stretch in February to secure a good seed in the MAAC tournament in Albany, NY in March. And you can bet I'll be going to that.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com