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Welcome back to the Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog. Yes, we're still alive, and with the 2015-16 season rapidly approaching, it's time to fire up the old blog for another season. Check back here throughout the year for updates on all things Rider and Princeton, including coverage of both the MAAC and Ivy League. Feel free to drop me a line on twitter @kj_franko ( or email

Friday, January 4, 2008

Conference Play

Thanks to everyone who responded to my question about nicknames. Somewhere in the back of my mind I must have known that Division II Assumption (a 40 minute drive from my home town in Western Massachusetts) was nicknamed the Greyhounds. I did not, however, know that the joint affiliation of Harvey Mudd College and Claremont-McKenna College called itself the "Stags." As a Fairfield alum, however, I can still say I went to the only Division I school named the Stags. I also had not heard that as one reader pointed out, Manna Bible College joins Siena as a school nicknamed the "Saints."

And a good call by the same reader that UT-Pan American is also the Broncs.

That still means, however, that if our research was thorough, eight out of the 10 MAAC teams are the only teams in Division I with their respective nicknames. If anyone can find another conference with 80 percent unique nicknames, I'd be interested to hear which conference it is. I'd be surprised if there are any, especially since some conferences have multiple schools with the same nickname. Zach Mengel, a friend of mine who's a life-long UMass fan with a degree from Richmond, pointed out to me that the A-10 is one such conference: URI and Fordham are both the Rams. There are also two Tigers in the SEC (LSU and Auburn.)

A couple of fun tidbits that web site had about Rutgers:

Rutgers is not the only school in the country nicknamed the Scarlet Knights. Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa. also goes by that name; there are also three other schools with nicknames including the adjective "Scarlet:" the Scarlet Hawks of the Illinois Institute of Technology and two other schools that get asterisks next to their names because they don't really count as different schools: Rutgers- Newark is the Scarlet Raiders and Rutgers-Camden is the Scarlet Raptors.

A cooler Rutgers factoid is this: only two Division I teams are nicknamed the Bulls, and the Rutgers football team (whose bowl game I'm in Toronto as I type this to cover) played both of them this season: Buffalo and South Florida.

Now, on to some real basketball stuff. ....

Conference play is back now for good, with some teams (including Rutgers) playing their conference openers over the past couple of games and some others (including Rider) resuming their conference schedules after taking a fairly long break for final exams.

Last night featured some intriguing games in the Big East: DePaul upset Villanova, Notre Dame beat West Virginia, Marquette demolished Providence and Jerome Dyson carried UConn to a win at Seton Hall.

With conference play about to get into full swing, I thought we'd play a little game: I'll run down the teams in the MAAC and the Big East and put them into three categories: teams whose stock has gone up since the season tipped off in early November, teams whose stock has stayed more or less the same, and teams whose stock has dropped.

I'm interested to see what you guys think, so please let me know on which teams you agree with me and on which teams you disagree. Below is a rundown of the MAAC. Later today -- after I get my football work done and possibly go on a field trip to the hockey hall of fame -- I'll give you my Big East stock market watch.

Teams are listed in order of their finish in the preseason coaches' poll. Below that is my rankings based on how each team has done against its non-conference schedule and the early portion of its conference schedule.

1. Siena (7-5 overall, 2-0 MAAC) -- stock has stayed the same, which, since the Saints were picked to win the league, is a good thing.

At first glance, the record doesn't look great, but they've played an absolutely grueling schedule -- probably the toughest in the league -- and came out of it above .500 overall, having stolen a win at home against Stanford and given Syracuse all it could handle. Their most recent loss is to Memphis, which for my $0.02 is the best team in the country with room to spare.

2. Loyola (5-7, 1-1) -- stock has gone down.

A couple of the non-conference losses are excusable, including losing at Dayton and at Illinois. But a 92-68 loss at Iona? That's the type of thing that can't happen if you want to be considered an elite MAAC team. More importantly, it's something that can't happen if you want to secure a top seed in the MAAC tourney, and if it happens a few more times, the Greyhounds are certain to stay in the middle of the pack in the standings.

3. Niagara (9-3, 3-0) -- stock has gone up.

No one questioned that the Purple Eagles had a chance to win the conference. But at least judging by the way the votes were handed out, no one thought they were the team to beat. Joe Mihalich's team still shouldn't garner the respect that Siena gets, especially since the Eagles don't have a signature non-conference win. But they've won all three MAAC games convincingly and as he was last year, Charon Fisher is awfully tough to stop.

4. Rider (8-5, 1-1) -- stock has stayed the same.

Jason Thompson is the best player in the league and the rest of the starting five is filled with players who fit their roles very well. The Broncs have a marquee win over Penn State and haven't played poorly in a game yet. Had they beaten Niagara on the road or pulled out a win over either Murray State or Drexel, they'd be in the "gone up" category. But 8-5 is about what I expected, and I think the same thing now that I thought before the season began: they're a good team with a very realistic chance to win the league, but they don't yet deserve to be ahead of Siena or Niagara.

5. Marist (7-6, 1-1) -- stock has stayed the same.

We'll learn a lot about the Red Foxes -- and about Rider -- when the two teams square off tonight at Alumni Gym (there's an advance in today's Trentonian). They lost a LOT of talent, beyond just Jared Jordan, who I think was the best MAAC player in the last five years. But Syracuse transfer Louis McCroskey is a big-time player, the Foxes are well-coached and just about every player on the roster knows what it's like to play for a winning program. Like Siena and Rider, their record would look better on paper if they hadn't played a tough non-conference slate; Miami, Houston, UMass and Temple (in overtime) are among the teams to which they've lost.

6. Fairfield (3-9, 1-1) -- stock has gone down.

This is the team that won 10 of its last 14 games last year? There's no excuse for playing the way the Stags have played early, including losing to St. Francis of New York and getting pummelled at home by Siena. The league record looks OK, but the win came in overtime at St. Peter's -- a team last year's Stags would have beaten handily. Despite the loss of Michael Van Schaick -- who developed into an unstopable shooter who could create his own shot and knock -em down from anywhere-- there's a lot of talent here. But Ed Cooley's honeymoon period is going to be over pretty soon, and the folks in Southwestern Connecticut are sick and tired of watching mediocre teams.

6. Manhattan (7-5, 1-1) -- stock has stayed the same.

The Jaspers are talented (when haven't they been?) but have five freshmen and haven't gotten big enough contributions from upperclassmen like Devon Austin. They don't have any really impressive wins and their one conference win was at home, by three points over St. Peter's. The team from the Bronx needs to borrow a saying from Brooklyn: Wait til next year.

8. Iona (5-10, 1-2) -- stock has gone up.

It hasn't gone way up, but the Gaels are a legitimate team that can beat anyone in the MAAC. That doesn't mean they're going to, but during the debacle of a season they went through last year, there were plenty of nights -- even against weaker teams in the conference -- when they had no chance of winning.

9. Canisius (0-2, 2-10) -- stock has stayed the same, which is to say it's very low.

At least the Golden Griffs have won a couple of games and, with a young team, should improve as the season goes on. But at least right now, things aren't pointing in the right direction. Maybe they should sneak into one of Niagara's practices and see what they're doing differently.

10. St. Peter's (3-9, 0-2) -- stock has gone up)

That sill means John Dunne's team isn't very good and that the Peacocks have virtually no chance to finish in the upper half of the league. But as awful as Rutgers is -- and the Scarlet Knights are embarrassingly bad -- St. Pete's wouldn't have won that game a year ago.

If I had to turn in a MAAC poll, it'd look like this:

1. Siena; 2. Niagara; 3. Rider; 4. Loyola; 5. Marist; 6. Manhattan; 7. Iona; 8. Fairfield; 9. St. Peter's; 10. Canisius

What do you guys think?


Blogger Tom Cleary said...

Big win for Fairfield over Loyola, the Stags have the talent to play in the top 5 of the league, but they have to put it together, which is tough for them to do.

Also Marist with a nice win over Rider, the MAAC is completely unpredictable right now, but should be exciting. The Loyola-Fairfield re-match at Harbor Yard next week should be a good game.

January 5, 2008 at 5:35 PM 

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