Tag:Niagara Purple Eagles
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: November 17, 2009 2:44 pm

Metro Atlantic (MAAC) Goes 3-0 In ESPN's Marathon

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) had three teams win nationally televised games today as part of ESPN's 24-Hour Marathon Tip-Off. But that's not what has the MAAC making headlines this year. The MAAC is generally a on-bid Mid-Major conference. This year however, do not be surprised to find two teams from the MAAC dancing in March.

But let's go over the today's games first before I get ahead of myself.

St. Peter's 58, Monmouth 34 -- 6 AM EST -- Easily the hardest starting time for the whole marathon, St. Peter's battle New Jersey rival Monmouth while most people on the East Coast were eating breakfast. Naturally, St. Peter's F Ryan Bacon scored the first points. (Seriously, you can't make this stuff up.) The Peacocks then went on to hold the Hawks to just 21% shooting (10-47) from the field for the game en route to a blowout win in Jersey City.

Niagara 76, Drexel 69 -- 8 AM EST -- Drexel lead early in this game, but after Niagara took the lead 20-16 with 9:37 left in the 1st half, Niagara led the rest of the way. The Dragons made it interesting at the end of the game coming back from 15 down, but never got closer than three points. Rob Garrison (20 pts) and Bilal Benn (19 pts) led the way for the Purple Eagles.

Siena 59, Northeastern 53 -- 12 PM EST -- Northeastern led by 14 points in the first half, but were unable to hold of the Saints in the 2nd half. Edwin Ubiles led the way for the Saints with 26 points on 11-18 shooting from the field. Siena as a team only shot 38.5% (20-52) from the field for the game but held the Huskies to 35% (22-63). Matt Jenning had 14 points for Northeastern.

All of these were home games for the MAAC teams, who all started the season on the road. Siena won at Tennessee St., Niagara blew a late lead at Auburn and St. Peter's lost on a buzzer beater to Seton Hall. Combine those games with Rider (2-0, wins @ Miss St, vs. Lehigh) and 2-0 Fairfield ( CCSU and Fordham) and you've got the makings of a pretty good conference resume so far. Rider will also visit Virginia and Kentucky later this week. Fairfield plays at Maryland tonight. Siena plays at Georgia Tech and Northern Iowa later. That means that the MAAC's conference power rating (related to the RPI) should be pretty high and a few more high-profile wins in November, could go a long way come March.

And with three legitimate contenders for the MAAC title, don't be surprised a MAAC team get an at-large bid come March. Siena is a few weeks away from potentially breaking into the Top 25 polls. Rider has a resume building win at Mississippi State, projected to win the SEC West. Niagara has played tough non-conference teams well in the past. Don't be surprised, especially if the Saints fall in the MAAC title game, to see them get an at-large bid. They have won 1st round games in back-to-back seasons and gave #1 seed Louisville a great game last March as well. Rider and Niagara have been very close gaining other postseason bids (NIT, CBI, etc.)

As always, the MAAC conferences games are always competitive, and look for the top half of the league to slug it out with each other in the coming months. Also, the road to the MAAC Championship once again goes through the Saints, figuratively and literally. The MAAC title game is in Albany, NY at the Times Union Center, the home of the Siena Saints.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com