Tag:Siena Saints
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 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 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.

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