Tag:Metro Atlantic
Posted on: February 25, 2011 9:29 am
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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.)

ST. PETER’S PEACOCKS (17-11, 11-5 MAAC)

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…

TIEBREAKER HELL

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 29, 2010 12:20 pm
 

MAAC Leads Early Coaching Carousel

Two of the first "BCS/Power" conference teams with coaching vacancies have filled them, with coaches from the Metro Atlantic. Perhaps the most stunning is the Iowa Hawkeyes prying Fran McCaffery away from Siena (and perhaps the St. John's and Seton Hall openings in the greater NY area). Seton Hall fired former Manhattan Jasper coach Bobby Gonzalez after four years and have replaced him with 2010 MAAC Coach of the Year, Kevin Willard of Iona.

First, the most suprising of the moves, McCaffery to Iona. McCaffery has been rumored to fill numorous jobs, assuming that he would leave MAAC powerhouse Siena, who have three NCAA appearances and two NCAA wins in three years. It seemed a more natural fit for McCaffery to take one of the vacant Big East jobs in the NY area, Seton Hall or St. John's, especially since he has recruiting ties to the area. However, taking the Iowa job might have been the right move. I think it is much easier to finish in the top half of the Big Ten (and making the NCAAs) than it would be to finish in the top half of the Big East (and making the NCAAs).

Think about it. At St. John's or Seton Hall, you have to compete not only with about 6 (or more) basketball powerhouses and even more "bubble teams" that are consistently competitive throughout the years. Iowa had a bad few years under Todd Lickliter, who replaced current New Mexico coach Steve Alford in 2007 after he left for the Lobos job. Personally, I think that this is a great hire for Iowa from a basketball sense. Certainly McCaffery will need a few recruiting assistants for the unfamiliar midwest region, but that can be solved. Certainly I think that Iowa can compete in the Big Ten, where Minnesota was one of the last teams in to the NCAAs and Illinois one of the last teams out.

Next, Kevin Willard is an up and comer and pretty much the polar opposite of the recently released Bobby Gonzalez. (I told you at Rider Bobby, to get off our court. You didn't listen. Whoops, sorry, conditioned response.) Willard very quickly turned around an Iona program that had a two win season a few years ago, and a 12-win season in Willard's first year. Also likely to be hired is Willard's top assistant/recruiter, Shaheen Holloway, a former Seton Hall point guard.

Willard might not be the big-name hire Pirate fans wanted, but I think Hall has a good coach on their bench. Willard's father is a former head coach and currently Rick Pitino's top assistant at Louisville. Plus, Willard is again a much more calming force and will not blow a gasket like a former Pirates coach. Remember, Seton Hall wasn't that far off this season. I think Gonzalez's firing was more to due with Hall's off the court issues and his coaching antics (7 Tech fouls this year). Even if Willard cleans up Seton Hall's program, that would be considered a positive right now. Seton Hall certainly has a good chance at a NCAA tourney run in the next few seasons.

And what about Gonzalez's coaching search. I heard on SNY yesterday that he was interested in the Hofstra job, but the people at the Pride said that he is not being considered for the position. Excellent. Never liked him.

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 8, 2010 10:40 am
 

Marist Women Continue Domination of MAAC

Yesterday the MAAC Women's Tournament concluded with a sight about as familiar as the UConn Women winning in recent years.

Marist 66, Fairfield 49

With the win, Brian Giorgis' squad clinched their 5th straight MAAC tournament title thanks to star-player Rachel Fitz (named Tournament MVP) and her 15 points and Corielle Yarde's 17 points. It was the teams' 7th straight regular season and title appearance, the teams only loss in the title game was against Canisus in 2005.

Marist will make their 5th straight NCAA appearance and 6th in the last 7 years. Prior to the Red Foxes run, the MAAC had only one Women's NCAA victory (9th seeded La Salle over 8th seeded UConn in 1989, UConn's first NCAA appearance), and Marist has three of them in a two year span. In 2007 as a 13 seed, Marist knocked off 4th seed Ohio State and then 5th seeded Middle Tennessee St., another good women's mid-major program. Marist also scored a victory as a 7 seed in 2008 over 10th seeded DePaul.

And yes, Marist did get attention during that 2007 tournament because anytime a 13 seed makes it to the Sweet Sixteen in the Women's NCAA, it's kind of a big deal. Marist even spent a good portion of the 07-08 season in the Top 25, something unheard of in the unheralded Metro Atlantic.

So how does a team like Marist dominate a league for this long and have it go unnoticed by the mainstream public? Because if it's not the UConn Huskies, Tennessee Vols or another women's power house, the public doesn't care. Mainly because the media doesn't care about it since the only women's stroies this year is UConn winning and Baylor's Griner throwing a punch in a game. So the fact that Marist is 110-12 in the MAAC since the 03-04 season is something that very few outside of Poughkeepsie NY probably know. And that's a real shame.

Because it's very hard for a men's mid-major to sustain success at a high level (like Butler) and get national attention. It's next to impossible for a women's program to do it for as long as Marist has, yet aside from their '07 NCAA run, Marist has gotten basically no media attention.

So Marist isn't on a 70-game winning streak. They aren't ranked in the Top 25 and probably get a double-digit seed in the NCAA tournament. But ask the 11-ranked Oklahoma Sooners how they felt after winning in overtime at Marist in the beginning of the season. They know how good this team is and how dangerous they could be in March.

It's just a shame that no one else does.
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 9:41 pm
 

MAAC Quarters Update - Siena Survives, Rider WIns

In two games so far up in Albany, the two teams that played complete games have been the winners. St. Peter's dug themselves a hole against Rider by committing 16 turnovers in the first half and Manhattan melted down emotionally against Siena in a second half that saw the Jaspers start with the lead and lose by 17.

Rider 69, St. Peter's 57

Ryan Thompson led four Broncs in double-figures, leading his team to victory against rival St. Peter's. The Peacocks couldn't comeback from a 15-point half time deficit and were on the wrong end of a 17-3 run to start the game. St. Peter's owned the boards, especially on the offensive end, holding a 44-29 edge in total rebounding. Rider owned the free throw line, going 31-46, most of the misses coming from Mike Ringgold (7-15 FTs, 15 pts), who is only a 31 percent shooter on the season. Ryan Bacon lead the Peacocks with a double-double, scoring 24 and grabbing 13 boards. Thompson's 22 point, 5 rebound, 4 assist preformance paced the Broncs, while Gadson, Robinson and Ringgold added double-digit points.

St. Peter's guards never got anything going, as starters Raymond, Leon and Jenkins went a combined 5-28 from the field and totaled only 13 points between them. Rider let St. Peter's back into the game late before putting the game away from the free throw line.

Siena 78, Manhattan 61

Manhattan held a 40-36 advantage at the break, but couldn't hold off Siena in the second half as this game turned into a blowout. The first half was back and forth after a quick Manhattan run to start the game. The Jaspers led the whole half and early in the second before Manhattan seemed more interested jawing with the Saints than playing basketball.

Losing that focus in the 2nd half cost the Jaspers their upset bid. That and Fran McCaffery probably laid into his Siena team at the break. The Saints forwards were able to dominate this game and Siena was able to contain Manhattan's guard play in the 2nd half, holding the Jaspers to just 21 2nd half points.

I'll have the two night games later. Currently Fairfield is looking to close out Canisus late in the 2nd half. Iona and Niagara wrap up the MAAC quarterfinals later.

 
 
 
 
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