Blogs > The Full-Court Press

The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Old Spice Classic field

I'm back from Big East football media day, where I did some blogging on Knights Notes, and we'll resume our MAAC Madness series later today with a look at Buffalo. First though, my apologies for the fact that this is a day old already, but the complete field was announced for the Old Spice Classic, which includes Siena and a few teams with realistic Final Four aspirations. 

Here's the schedule with times and TV listings. 

Thursday, Nov. 27: 
Game 1: Siena vs. Tennessee, Noon, ESPN2
Game 2: Wichita State vs. Georgetown, 2 p.m., ESPN2
Game 3: Maryland vs. Michigan State, 7 p.m., ESPN2
Game 4: Oklahoma State vs. Gonzaga, 9 p.m., ESPN2

Friday, Nov. 28: 
Game 5: Game 1 loser vs. Game 2 loser, 10: 30 a.m., ESPNU
Game 6: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 1 p.m., ESPN
Game 7: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 5:30 p.m., ESPN
Game 8: Game 3 loser vs. Game 4 loser, 8 p.m., ESPNU

Saturday, Nov. 29: 
Game 9: Game 5 loser vs. Game 8 loser, 10:30 a.m., ESPNU
Game 10: Game 5 winner vs. Game 8 winner, 12:30 p.m., ESPNU
Game 11: Third place game (Game 6 loser vs. Game 7 loser), 5:30 p.m., ESPN2
Game 12: Championship game (Game 6 winner vs. Game 7 winner), 7:30 p.m., ESPN2

Sunday, July 27, 2008

MAAC Madness in Bridgeport

Part 2 of our rundown of candidates to be future MAAC tournament sites brings us to the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn. It's No. 2 on our list because it was the last non-Albany site (in 2007) and it'll be the next (in 2011.)

A closer look at the home of the Stags:

Attendance for past tournament: 23,561 in 2007
Local newspapers (circulation): Connecticut Post (76,014 daily, 85,032 Sunday); Stamford Advocate (23,088 daily, 24,086 Sunday)
"Host" school: Fairfield
"Host" school's 2007-08 men's home attendance: 2,505 (second in the MAAC)
Driving distance from league schools:
439 miles (seven hours, 22 minutes) from Niagara
419 miles (seven hours, seven minutes) from Canisius
139 miles (two hours, 49 minutes) from Siena
74 miles (one hour, 45 minutes) from Marist
41 miles (51 minutes) from Iona
50 miles (one hour, four minutes) from Manhattan
74 miles (one hour, 33 minutes) from Saint Peter's
117 miles (two hours, 24 minutes) from Rider
250 miles (four hours, 31 minutes) from Loyola
Average distance: 178 miles (three hours, 17 minutes)

The Skinny: The best way to describe The Harbor is this: It's a nice building, it's easy to get to (you could practically throw a Scott Burell-style baseball pass and hit it from I-95 and it's walking distance from the Metro North and Amtrak stop), and its located in what I'd consider a pretty basketball-saavy area.

But I was a student at Fairfield for four years and, almost without exception, I never went to downtown Bridgeport -- only five miles away from campus -- for any reason other than attending sporting events and working as an intern at the Connecticut Post. Moreover, if I had taken a poll of my classmates, I'd be willing to bet at least half of them had never been within a mile of Harbor Yard (excluding driving by it on 95) when they weren't going there for a game.
That does NOT mean the area is even slightly dangerous.

It simply means that even compared to a city like Albany, which has a tiny but vibrant downtown, the place doesn't scream out "fun" to potential visitors. That's by far the biggest negative, and it's likely at least part of the reason the attendance in 2007 was nowhere near what it typically is in Albany.

Having said that, there are reasons that it's getting a second chance to host the tournament in a five-year frame, while Buffalo, which hasn't hosted it since 2005, isn't, including but not limited to those listed above.

The best thing going for it as a major player in the future may be geography. Though the average driving time from other MAAC schools is two minutes longer than Albany, it's far easier to get to on public transportation, and the driving distance is skewed in favor of Albany because of the Buffalo schools, which get little representation at tournaments not held in their back yard.

Also, an important note that is seldom recognized: Despite all the clamor among some Fairfield fans about the necessity of moving the majority of home games back to Alumni Hall, and in spite of a reprehensible lack of support from the student body, the Stags' average home attendance last year was higher than any MAAC school but Siena.

From a standpoint of getting a big turnout from home-town fans, that clearly doesn't place it ahead of Albany. But it means that in a year when the Stags are a serious contender (in 2007 they were the No. 6 seed and lost in the first round to Loyola), they could be a major drawing card.

Friday, July 25, 2008

MAAC Madness in Albany

As promised, The Press is diving into the future of the MAAC tournament. Here’s how we’ll do it: Each day, we’ll take a look at one of the sites that is likely to be in the running to host the tournament from 2012-14.

As MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor told us in last week’s Q@A, the lobbying will begin after next year’s tournament in Albany, and Stafford Sports, L.L.C will help the conference’s Council of Presidents come to a conclusion.

For those new to the discussion, here’s a quick rundown of the situation: The tournament will be held at the Times Union Center in Albany next year and in 2010 and at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Conn in 2011. Historically, the tournament has had by far the biggest attendance figures in Albany, and for that reason, officials at Siena and in Albany County had been pushing for Albany to be the tournament’s permanent site, a la Madison Square Garden with the Big East. That doesn’t appear likely, but you can bet on Albany being a major player in the future after hosting it every two years for the past decade.


Since no decisions have been made and no official negotiations have taken place, none of the sites we’re going to look into are guaranteed to be hosts at any times. By the same token, just because we don’t examine a particular city doesn’t mean that city has no shot at being a host. But eight sites appear to be on the MAAC’s radar, and those are the ones The Press will delve into: Albany; Bridgeport; Buffalo; Mohegan Sun; the Atlantic Yards arena in Brooklyn; the Prudential Center and Meadowlands in Newark and East Rutherford; Atlantic City; and the Baltimore Inner Harbor.

As Ensor said in our chat, there are a number of factors the league will look at when deciding whether to award the tournament to a site. Some are tough to quantify, like the quality of the night life and hotels. Some are a little bit easier, such as the amount of media coverage, which we’ll take a stab at measuring by looking at newspaper circulation. (Though that doesn’t account for TV and radio coverage, or make any attempt to measure how much coverage the mentioned newspapers give to the tournament.) Some are easy to quantify, like location (and proximity to each school) and attendance at past tournaments.

Anyone with thoughts on hotels and restaurants or the accessibility of public transportation in a given area, feel free to drop a comment. (And of course, bring on the comments on other related subjects as well) But here’s a rundown of some of the things we can try to quantify. First, a quick clarification: the reason the word “host” is in quotation marks on these charts is that unlike each regional and subregional site in the NCAA tournament, the MAAC tournament technically doesn’t have a host school. The contract for the tournament is between the conference and whichever arena that houses the games. That’s why in spite of Rider’s desire to have next year’s tournament in Trenton, the tournament was moved to Albany when Sovereign Bank Arena backed out of its contract with the MAAC.

Without further adieu, Albany leads us off.

Arena: Times Union Center:
Attendance during past tournaments: 39,412 in 1990; 32,529 in 1991; 31,829 in 1992; 28, 960 in 1993; 34,372 in 1994; 20,983 in 1996; 17,481 in 1996; 46,254 in 1998; 50,087 (all-time high) in 2000; 39,639 in 2002; 36,197 in 2004; 30,561 in 2006; 44,591 last year
Local newspapers (circulation in parentheses): Albany Times Union (89,256 daily, 141,064 Sunday); Schenectady Gazette (47,277 daily, 46,356 Sunday); Troy Record (13,755 daily, 15,001 Sunday):
“Host” school: Siena
“Host” school’s average 2007-08 men’s home attendance: 6,162 (first in MAAC)
Driving distance from league schools:
306 miles (4 hours, 52 minutes) from Niagara
287 miles (4 hours, 31 minutes) from Canisius
80 miles (1 hour, 28 minutes) from Marist
142 miles (1 hour, 51 minutes) from Fairfield
146 miles (2 hours, 31 minutes) from Iona
147 miles (2 hours, 29 minutes) from Manhattan
153 miles (2 hours, 39 minutes) from Saint Peter’s
190 miles (3 hours, 19 minutes) from Rider
332 miles (5 hours, 38 minutes) from Loyola
Average distance: 198 miles (3 hours, 17 minutes)
The Skinny: It's harder to think of reasons NOT to have the tournament in Albany than it is to think of reasons to have it there. The only things working against it as a permanent site are the unfair advantage such a plan would give to Siena, and the potential for bigger crowds and more media exposure in New York City. That's why the conference is reluctant to have the tournament there EVERY year. But to conclude that the tournament has been more successful in any other city would be absurd. The three highest attendance totals in tournament history have all been in Albany, and although the Empire State's capital is a minisule media market compared to New York City, no area in the northeast supports Mid-Major basketball better. Siena's average attendance last year was more than twice that of any other MAAC school, and the championship game last year between the Saints and Rider drew better than 10,000.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A new look

As you can see, The Blog  is undergoing a renovation, complete with a new template, a new list of links on the right side of the screen, and a new name, in honor of the most exciting weapon in college basketball. Here's to hoping it's more reader-friendly and has a little more character than the original setup. As always, suggestions on ways to further improve it are welcome. Next up on The Press' to-do list is a more detailed look into future possibilities for the MAAC tournament. 

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saint Joe's up first for Rider

The Rider men’s basketball team is tentatively scheduled to open the 2008-09 season Nov. 14 at the Palestra  against Saint Joseph’s and play at Lehigh (Nov. 20) and Lafayette (Nov. 23) before its home opener Nov. 29 against Cal State Northridge. 

The Broncs, regular season co-champions last year in the MAAC, will play additional non-conference home games against Rutgers (Dec. 3 at the Sovereign Bank Arena), Monmouth (Dec. 10), New Jersey Tech (Dec. 20), Drexel (Dec. 27) and an opponent to be determined in an ESPN Bracket Buster game on Feb. 21.

Games at LaSalle (Dec. 17) and Binghamton (Dec. 23) round out the road portion of the non-conference schedule.

 Rider, which returns four starters but lost MAAC Player of the Year Jason Thompson to the NBA, went 5-1 last year against teams on this year’s slate, with wins over Cal State Northridge, Rutgers, Monmouth, NJIT and Binghamton and a loss to Drexel. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The commish weighs in

With a lot of chatter out there about the future of the MAAC tournament, The Blog e-mailed a few questions to MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor. The commish touched on a few topics, from the process of securing and developing tournament bids to which cities and venues could be future sites. Later in the week we'll go into some detail on the pros and cons of prospective sites. But there's no better a way to start a discussion than with a few answers from the commish, so here they are:

Blog: First, just to be clear on the basics: Can you give me an overview of how these decisions get made and who ultimately makes them?

Commish: The Process has varied from bid cycle to bid cycle, with the one constant being that the MAAC Council of Presidents has the decision making authority. For the 2012-14 bid cycle, the MAAC has hired a consultant, Stafford Sports, LLC, which also assisted with the recent 2009 relocation to the Times Union Center in Albany and the 2011 bid to the Arena at Harbor Yard. It was agreed for the 2012-14 cycle that the bid process will start after this upcoming 2009 championship and the league looks to pick the sites by the December 2009 MAAC Council of Presidents meeting. Stafford Sports will be handling the securing of the bids, developing bid specs, etc.

From what I've read in various stories and from the statements the league issued last month when the 2009 and 2011 sites were announced, it seems like you guys are intent on having Albany be a major player for the foreseeable future, but not sure it's a good idea to have the tournament there EVERY year. Is that an accurate way to access the league's viewpoint?

I would say that the Times Union Center is very interested in having the tourney there every year and that the league recognizes its historically the best performing site from an attendance view and has other positives such as many hotel options, an active downtown with many dining and entertainment options and as a result it has been awarded bids on a regular basis. From a league perspective, you have other factors that weigh in, like nuetrality or travel costs and the natural desirability by any league member to host the conference's premeir sporting event. As such, its unlikely any arena would become a permanent site, although Albany has hosted more years than any other past MAAC site, and likely will remain in the mix as long as it continues to do a great job of hosting. Competition is a good thing, it keeps all the elements of the bid process, arenas, hotels, convention/hotel bureaus interested and producing quality events.

You're giving Bridgeport another shot at hosting the tournament in 2011. The attendance in 2007 was about 23,000 -- not bad compared with previous years at other sites, but nowhere near what it was last year in Albany. Do you think there's room for improvement regarding the attendance there, and if so, why?

Well, the only MAAC championship that regurlarly sells out is the swimming championship at Loyola College, so there is always room for impovement with attendance. However, attendance itself is only one measuing tool for a successful championship. Arena operations, hotels, transportation network, media coverage and some of the issues I mentioned above all factor in to the equation.

Andy Katz from ESPN reported last week that the league is looking at Mohegan Sun is a possible venue. Can you confirm that? If so, what intrigues you about that possibility?

The conference is discussing so-called 'destination' options as part of the strategic planning for the 2012-14 bid process. In that realm the Mohegan Sun, Atlantic City or the Baltimore Inner Harbor have been discussed as options as well as the MAAC's 'traditional' venues for possible championship sites. The discussion has gone no further than listing possible destinations within the MAAC geographic footprint that might drive more fan travel and also provide for a more nuetral tourney setting.

I've seen various sites mentioned that have not been used in the past but may be in the future, including the Prudential Center and the new Nets arena in Brooklyn. Are those possible future venues? And what other venues, if any, are being mentioned as possibilities?

Both have been mentioned, again in the context of possible sites. I would also add the Izod Center (Meadowlands), which would bring the MAAC back full circle to its first arena venue for the championship.

. . .

On another note, a correction from the previous post on Jason Thompson: As a reader pointed out, Thompson is NOT the highest player drafted from the MAAC. That honor goes to Lionel Simmons, who was taken (also by the Kings) with the seventh pick in 1990 out of LsSalle. Thanks for pointing out the mistake, and my apologies for making it. What is true, though, about Thompson, is that he's the highest drafted player since the MAAC has been made up of these 10 teams. The highest drafted player ever from a school that is currently in the MAAC is Rik Smits, who was drafted second overall out of Marist in 1988. The great Calvin Murhphy, in case you're wondering, was drafted out of Niagara with the 18th pick in the 1970 draft by the San Diego Rockets.