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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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

More stupidity from Jimmy Patsos

Earlier this season, we got word that Jimmy Patsos had thrown a fit in the second half in a game against Cornell and sat in the stands rather than coach his team.

Now, we get this story, which is all over every media outlet.

SI begs the question: Was Patsos' strategy unsportsmanlike?

Let's put it this way: In this post, I wrote that what has really irked opposing coaches hasn't been the sideline tantrums or his outrageous behavior toward officials, but his insistence on getting involved with opposing players.

And that's exactly what he did last night, only in a much more obvious -- and embarrassing -- way.

Look, no one is saying there's anything wrong with double-teaming a player -- especially a national player of the year candidate your lousy team is incapable of stopping. But isn't the point of doubling a player like that to put your team in a better position to win the game? If that's the case -- and last time I checked, it certainly is -- double-teaming Curry in the final minute of a 30-point laugher is reprehensible.

Monday, November 24, 2008

MAAC still rollin'

MAAC associate commishioner Ken Taylor sat next to me at the Rider-Lafayette game, and he was thrilled with the recent success MAAC teams have been having, which included a blowout win yesterday by Fairfield and a come-from-behind triumph by Rider.

The Trentonian's other two teams -- Princeton and Rutgers -- were on different ends of close games.

The Tigers pulled one out in OT over Army. The Scarlet Knights, meanwhile, lost a shocker to St. Bonnaventure.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tale of two games

Two MAAC teams played major-conference schools yesterday in the Caribbean, and the results were strikingly different.

In Saint Thomas, Iona put a scare into No. 25 Wisconsin. But in Puerto Rico, Fairfield looked overmatched against Missouri.

In Piscataway, Rutgers stepped up on D and got a big game from Mike Rosario in a win over Robert Morris.

Six MAAC teams are in action today: Saint Peter's takes on BU in Boston; Niagara hosts Appaliachian State; Marist plays Robert Morris in Piscataway; Canisius hosts Long Island; Manhattan plays Fordham and Siena hosts Cornell at the Times Union Center.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More on the Broncs' win

I made it back from the beautiful Northeast extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and am ready to wrap up the Broncs' 69-68 win over the Mountain Hawks.

First, a link to my gamer in today's paper and one to the box.

Now, a few thoughts:

* Man, what a game! A 12-point second-half comeback, an old fashioned 3-point play that proved decisive, and a buzzer-beater that WOULD have tied the game if it were a 3, not a 2. Too bad virtually no one was there to watch it, which gets me to my next point ...

* The people at Lehigh were great and even provided Dominoes pizza in the media room, so this is nothing against them. But would it have killed any of the students or basketball fans in the area to have actually showed up? Stabler Arena's capacity is listed at 5,600. The crowd today was 982, which I'm willing to bet will be the smallest crowd at a Rider game this year other than the one played at Saint Peter's.

* Harris Mansell has a mild elbow sprain and probably won't play Sunday against Lafayette, but will be back the following Saturday when the Broncs host Cal State Northridge in their home opener. Tommy Dempsey said he's hopeful Justin Robinson and Jermaine Jackson are back for that one too. Jackson, whose knee injury and subsequent arthroscopic surgery occured after Robinson's, is ahead of schedule, while Robinson remains on schedule.

* Seven players combined for 197 of Rider's 200 minutes, but fortunately for the Broncs, nobody appeared tired in the second half, when Rider's full-court press took Lehigh out of its offensive flow and aided the comeback. This team was built for track meets, not low-post battles, so it'll be interesting to see how much Dempsey decides to run and press when everyone's healthy.

* A few more stats that stood out: Novar Gadson shot 3-for-13 from the floor against Saint Joe's (seven points) and 6-for-8 last night (17). ... Rider had eight assists and 15 turnovers against Saint Joe's. Those numbers were 17 and 9, respectively, last night. ... Lehigh out-rebounded the Broncs 45-34 . ... Lehigh's Marquis Hall came in averaging 18 points per game. Last night, he scored seven on 2-for-11 shooting. ... Zahir Carrington, last week's Patriot League Player of the Week, was impresive, scoring 15 oints on 5-of-10 shooting. The big guy even made five of six free throws. ... This isn't really a stat, but chasing after a loose ball in the second half, Pat Mansell jumped up on the press table and nearly knocked over Daryl Fein and Steve Rudenstein's radio equiptment. ... Rider was only 14 of 25 from the line. Mike Ringgold (1-for-4 with an air ball) and Brandon Penn (2-for-5) were a combined 3-for-9.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rider 69, Lehigh 68

What a thriller. Would have loved to have live blogged it, but like the Broncs' ability to score and play defense, my wireless capability only kicked in late in the game, when it was too late to even start a thread.

There's plenty of stuff I couldn't fit in my gamer -- which will be online in a few hours -- and I'll put it up when I get home, which should be in about two hours.

The strange story of Jimmy Patsos


In many ways, Jimmy Patsos is simply a prototype of the man who was his boss at Maryland.

Like Gary Williams, Patsos can be a sideshow on the sidelines. He yells, screams, jumps up and down, and in typical College Park fashion, sweats through his shirt in every game.

Yet since becoming the head coach at Loyola -- and reviving a program that was one of the worst (THE worst?) in the country when he took over -- he has taken sideline antics to a level rarely seen in college basketball.

I don't know Patsos, though I've talked to him on a couple of occasions and attended several of his postgame press conferences. Most people I've talked to who know him say off the court, he's a good guy -- friendly, fun-loving, and enthusiastic. On the court, though, his antics -- often not only yelling at officials, but at opposing players and assistant coaches -- have offended some people and at times gotten him in trouble.

Few scenes, though, were more unusual than the one from Tuesday night, when, after being assessed a technical in the first half, he retreated to the end of the Greyhounds' bench, talking to the players sitting near him but not those on the court, and letting his assistants essentially coach the game.

In the second half, the situation became more unusual. When according to Patsos, official John Gafney came over near the Hounds' bench and inexplicably confronted him, the coach jumped up into the stands, where he sat with Loyola athletic director Joe Boylan before returning to the bench.

The incident, which took place during Loyola's 82-72 loss to Cornell in the preseason NIT, has provoked Patsos to do some soul-searching, as this piece in the Baltimore Sun details.

Attitudes around the MAAC are mixed toward Patsos, with some coaches regarding him as unusual but relatively harmless and others taking great offense at his antics. Patsos' behavior toward officials and his penchant for over-the-top sideline celebrations often draw attention, but are sometimes not THAT far removed from the norm in a sport that was dominated for decades by the official-harassing, chair-throwing Bob Knight.

What has irked opposing coaches has been Patsos' attempts to engage opposing players and assistant coaches in trash talk.

The situation nearly boiled over in the 2007 MAAC tournamnet when Patsos and Ed Cooley got into a shouting match at halfcourt, and the Hounds were also involved in a verbal sparring match last year at Niagara that nearly turned into a postgame brawl.

It's these kind of actions that have to make Boylan and others in the Loyola administration uncomfortable, and it's strange antics such as those Patsos exhibited Tuesday -- producing the picture featured above of him sitting wide-eyed on the bench as his team huddles with assistants 10 feet away -- that are turning into an embarrassment for the school.

Patsos the basketball coach has been one of the biggest mid-major successes in the past decade. He took a program that went nearly an entire season without a win and turned it into one that, even in a rebuilding year, was picked fifth in the preseason MAAC coaches' poll last month.

That success on the court has certainly earned him enough good will in Baltimore that his job can't be in immediate jeopardy, no matter his behavior.

But if I were the Loyola administration, I'd stage a serious sit-down meeting with Patsos to tell him he can get excited on the sidelines without demonstrating poor sportsmanship toward 20-year old college students or embarrassing the program and the university.

And if I were Patsos, I'd make a serious effort to get my act together.

Exciting night

It's freezing in New York, making me wish I was covering Fairfield this morning in Puerto Rico instead of Rider at Lehigh in Bethlehem, Pa. But what are you gonna do?

Last night provided some excitement, particularly in Riverdale, where Antoine Pearson's last-minute offense and Darryl Crawford's last-second defense helped Manhattan get past Morgan State.

As Sean Brennan writes, it's a game the Jaspers may not have won last year, but in Barry Rohrssen's third year and with a more veteran-filled roster, they made the big plays when they needed to and improved to 2-0.

Down in Philly, Niagara turned in a respectable outing against an injury-plagued Villanova team, keeping the deficit in single digits for most of the game before falling 77-62.

That's the kind of game that, even against a team battling some injuries, can has the ingredients -- ranked team, hostile environment -- to get out of hand, so credit Niagara for hanging in there.

Saint Peter's, meanwhile, did nothing to demonstrate any improvement.

In Princeton, the Tigers lost another heartbreaker.

Ed Cooley says Fairfield fans have to be patient if the Stags slip up in Puerto Rico, where they're set to tip off in less than 90 minutes.

Lastly, here's the preview of tonight's Rider-Lehigh game. I'm not sure if the gym at Lehigh has wireless. If it does, I'll have live updates. If not, we'll have to wait until after the game.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tonight's games

Three MAAC teams -- Niagara, which plays at Villanova, Manhattan, which hosts Morgan State, and Saint Peter's, which takes on Wagner -- are in action tonight.

The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that the Purple Eagles are loaded with local guys, including former Wildcat Bilal Benn and Bucks County native Tyrone Lewis.

It'll be interesting to see how the 1-0 Purple Eagles handle a ranked team in a hostile environment, which the Pavilion can certainly be. If they can keep Nova's lead in single digits for most of the game, it'll be a good sign, especially coming off a blowout win in their opener. The Wildcats are 2-0, with wins over Albany and Fordham.

Those of you blessed with ESPNU can watch it on TV.

It should also be interesting to see how Manhattan does in its first game against a legitimate Division I opponent. (The Jaspers cruised past NJIT in their opener, helping the Highlanders tie the NCAA record for consecutive losses). The Bears, whose football team was in the Tri-State area in September to play Rutgers, are 1-1 with a win over UMBC and a close loss at LaSalle.

This link gets you to the Manhattan game notes.

Saint Peter's and Wagner are both looking for their first win as the sqaure off on Staten Island.

In New Jersey, Princeton is looking for its first win as it hosts Maine at Jadwin Gym.

Tuesday/Wednesday

Apologies again for the down time, but we're back with a look at last night's games, and will be back later on today with a look at tonight's games.

Last night, Fairfield took care of business and beat cross-town rival Sacred Heart for the second straight year. The good news for Fairfield, as Chris Elsberry writes, is that Herbie Allen had a solid game after disappearing in the season opener against Memphis. The other good news though, that four starters -- not including Allen -- were in double figures. If Greg Nero and Anthony Johnson are clicking as a one-two post punch and if Warren Edny is a consistent scorer at the 3, this will be a big year at Harbor Yard.

More Stags-Pioneers coverage:

The gamer in the Fairfield Mirror.

The gamer in the Connecticut Post.

The box.

In Buffalo, Canisius lost a tough one when John Boyer's 3 gave local rival Buffalo a 69-64 win and sent the Golden Griffs to an 0-2 start.

Chris Gadley had 20 points off the bench and Frank Turner had 16 for the Griffs, but three of Canisius' starters combined for nine points. That can't happen if Tom Perrota's squad wants to turn thins around. Canisius' full-court pressure caused the Bulls some trouble, so expect to see more of that down the road.

Here's the box.

And in Boston, the most interesting -- and bizarre -- piece of news from Loyola's 75-63 loss to Cornell in the preseason NIT is that Jimmy Patsos essentially stopped coaching after receiving a first-half technical and even sat in the stands for about a minute of play in the second half.

Here's the box for that one.

Lastly, today's Trentonian has coverage of the Rutgers women's' thrashing of in-state rival Princeton.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fairfield at No. 13 Memphis

Here you go, Stags fans.

WHEN: Tonight, 8 p.m.

WHERE: FedEx Forum

ON THE AIR: www.fairfieldstags.com (Bob Heussler, Joe DeSantis)

SERIES: First meeting

SCOUTING FAIRFIELD: The Stags return five starters from a team that went 14-16 and finished tied for fifth in the MAAC, making for high expectations on North Benson road for Ed Cooley’s third season. Senior point guard Jonathan Han, the MAAC leader in assists per game, minutes per game last year and 3-point percentage, is a preseason first-team all-MAAC selection. Six-nine junior center Anthony Johnson, a preseason second-team all-MAAC pick, is Fairfield’s leading returning rebounder (7.3 per game) and second leading scorer (9.6). Five-10 senior Herbie Allen will start at shooting guard, with 6-4 sophomore Warren Edney and 6-7 junior Greg Nero joining Johnson up front. Han carried the Stags last year and likely will to an extent this year, but better production from Nero – who led the team in scoring in his first six games as a freshman but has been average since – could help them contend for a conference title.

SCOUTING MEMPHIS: The Tigers came within a Mario Chalmers buzzer-beating 3-pointer of the national championship last year, and even without stars Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts and bruising forward Joey Dorsey, they’re still the class of Conference USA and a contender to play deep into March. John Calipari’s team doesn’t return a double-figure scorer, but has several candidates to step up, led by senior guard Antonio Anderson, forward Robert Dozier and 6-6 freshman guard Tyrke Evans – on a short list of the top freshmen in the country. Junior Willie Kemp will start in the back court along with Anderson and Evans, and junior Shawn Taggert will start up front with Dozier, who led the Tigers with 21 points and 10 rebounds last week in an 83-62 exhibition victory over Christian Brothers University.

FAST FACTS: The game is part of O’Reilly’s Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament, the duration of which takes place Nov. 20-23 in San Juan. … Memphis has won 30 or more games three times under John Calipari, including a school-record 38 last year. … Fairfield is 6-7 all-time against teams from Conference USA, including an 80-68 win over Tulane in the 2005 Hawkeye Classic. … The Stags are opening the season in Tennessee for the first time. The only time they played further south in a season opener was in 1978, when – led by DeSantis – they beat North Texas State and New Orleans to win the New Orleans Classic.

Manhattan at NJIT

Here's the first of two previews of today's games. We'll also take a look at the Fairfield-Memphis matchup. Apologies for not posting one for Saint Peter's-Lehigh or Canisius-Akron. When I was getting all this together yesterday, game notes were nowhere to be found on the Peacocks' or Griffins' web sites.

WHEN: Today, 2 p.m.

WHERE: Fleisher Center

ON THE AIR: www.gojaspers.com (Ed Cohen, Brian Mahoney)

SERIES: Tied 1-1

LAST MEETING: Manhattan won 70-28 last year.

SCOUTING NJIT: A loss for the Highlanders, losers of 33 straight and owners of an 0-29 record last year, would tie Sacramento State’s NCAA record for consecutive losses. The record was set from Dec. 22 1997 to Jan. 27 1999. NJIT hasn’t won since February of 2007 and likely won’t win today, meaning more infamy for the Newark school, which is in its third year of Division I basketball but hasn’t yet found a conference. Jim Engles, a former Columbia assistant, took over last March for Jim Casciano, who stepped down at the end of the season. (Former Fairfield coach Tim O’Toole was also a candidate for the job). What’s more, the Highlanders lost their leading scorer from a year ago, 6-8 power forward Nesho Milosevic, leaving 6-9 center Dan Stonkus, who averaged 4.3 points per game last season, as their best returning player.

SCOUTING MANHATTAN: The Jaspers, led by 6-2 junior guard Antoine Pearson, return four starters and 88 percent of their scoring from a year ago, when they finished seventh in the MAAC in Barry Rohrssen’s second year. Six-six forward Devon Austin (11.6 points last year) and 6-3 point guard Chris Smith (9.9) give Manhattan two more reliable scorers, while 6-6 sophomore Andrew Gabriel and 6-8 senior Herve Banogle fill out the starting five.

FAST FACTS: NJIT upset the Jaspers 56-55 in 2006. … Manhattan is 1-1 in openers under Barry Rohrssen. … Twelve Manhattan players started at least one game last year and eight started at least 10.

Links

Stories on last night's games:

Saint Joe's pulled away from Rider.

Rutgers sneaked past Marist

Freshman Doug Davis nearly carried Princeton past Central Michigan, but the Chipewas held on.

Iona stepped up on defense in a win over Hampton.

Mount Saint Mary's topped Loyola in a battle of ancient rivals.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Saint Joe's 69, Rider 57

Here's the box.

The game story should be up at www.trentonian.com in a few hours.

Iona beat Hampton 59-46 to bring the MAAC its only win of the night, although Marist came close to pulling an upset in Piscataway, falling to Rutgers 63-61. That story will be on the web site soon as well.

Mount Saint Mary's got the best of ancient rival Loyola, 84-76 at Reitz Arena.

Four MAAC teams are in action tomorrow: Manhattan hosts NJIT at 2; Saint Peter's hosts Lehigh (who Rider plays next Thursday) at 4; Canisius plays at Akron at 7; and in the nightcap, Fairfield plays at Memphis at 8.

I'll have some kind of preview of at least a couple of those games up tomorrow morning.

Until then, goodnight from the City of Brotherly Love.

Rider-Saint Joe's open post

Greetings from the Wachovia Center, where Rider and Saint Joe's are set to tip off in 65 minutes in the season opener.

Rider just finished its pregame shootaround, and the Hawks just took the floor for theirs.

I'm interested to see the extent to which the arena fills up when the gates open, which should be shortly.

Update, 7:00: We're a few minutes from tip time, and the lower bowl is starting to fill up. The biggest concentration of fans is in the Saint Joe's student center behind one of the baskets, and it looks like a pretty good turnout on their part. It looks like they chose, wisely, not to open the upper deck, excluding the luxury boxes. The Hawks have a pretty good band, a cheerleading squad, a dance team, and -- best of all, coming from a Fairfield grad -- a Jesuit on the bench.

Here are the starting lineups:

Rider: Matt Griffin, Harris Mansell, Ryan Thompson, Novar Gadson, Mike Ringgold

Saint Joe's: Tasheed Carr, Darrin Govens, Garrett Williamson, Idris Hilliard, Ahmad Nivins

Update, 7:14: So far, so good for the Broncs, who lead 9-0 with 16:59 left in the first half. Mike Ringgold got the Broncs on the board with a layup with 19:07 left. Novar Gadson tipped in his own miss to make it 4-0 with 18:36 left; Matt Griffin's 3 made it 7-0 with 18:05 left, and Ringgold's up-and-under layup made it 9-0, forcing Phil Marteli to burn a 30-second timeout.

Update, 7:17: Rider's lead is 12-4 at the under-16 media timeout, with 15:36 left in the first half. Saint Joe's got on the board with a pair of Ahmad Nivins free throws, Harris Mansell answered with a 3 from the right wing, and Idris Hillard's bucket made it 12-4. Rider's ball-movement has been outstanding.

Update, 7:28: It's 16-12 Broncs with 11:13 left in the first half. Saint Joe's has scored 10 of the last 14 points after Rider took a 12-2 lead, and if you're the Hawks, you've got to be happy with where the game is. Rider has hit a bit of a lull offensively, with one field goal in the past 4:35. Brandon Penn came in off the bench and has been replaced by Lamar Johnson.

Update, 7:39: A pair of Darrin Govens free throws with 8:02 left in the first half gave the Hawks their first lead at 20-18, and that's where it stands at the under-eight media timeout, with 7:36 left in the first half. The lower bowl here filled up nicely, and I'd say we've got a crowd of around 7,000 -- enough to fill the Palestra, where the game was originally supposed to take place.

Update, 7:50: Darrin Govens leads all scorers with 11 points, and with 3:39 left in the first half, the Hawks lead 30-26. Harris Mansell's 3 got the Broncs within two before Govens' floater stretched the lead back to four. Govens reminds me of Rip Hamilton (though he's not nearly as explosive). He's been killing the Broncs on mid-range jumpers.

Update, 8:00: We're tied at 30 at the half. Rider would have taken a lead with 1:34 left when Lamar Johnson banked home a runner, but Johnson was called for an offensive foul and the basket was waved off. Ryan Thompson has eight points to lead Rider, while Harris Mansell and Mike Ringgold have six apiece. Darrin Govens still has 11 to lead Saint Joe's and Ahmad Nivins has eight. Mount Saint Mary's leads Loyola 34-33 at the half in Baltimore. The ESPN scoreboard I'm looking at doesn't have an Iona-Hampton score despite the game having been scheduled to start at 7:30. As I type, Marist and Rutgers should be getting ready to tip at the RAC. Princeton had a 23-22 lead at the half over Central Michigan, and they're under way in the second stanza at Jadwin.

Update, 8:21: Tough start to the second half for Rider, which now trails 38-31 after buckets by Idris Hilliard and Amhad Nivins and a traveling violation on Mike Ringgold. Looks like a good one developing in Baltimore, where Mount Saint Mary's leads Loyola 45-41 with just over 16 minutes left in the game.

Update, 8:28: Saint Joe's is proving to be too big, too strong and too quick for Rider. The Hawks have outscored the Broncs 16-4 in the second half and lead 46-34 -- their biggest lead of the game -- with 14:51 left. The biggest mismatch on the court is Matt Griffin guarding 6-4 Hawks point guard Tasheed Carr, and Carr showed why a minute ago, taking a pass on a give-and-go and muscling in a layup while being hacked by Griffin.

Update, 8:38: Thanks to Ahmad Nivins (game-high 21 points) this game is on the verge of getting out of hand. Nivins is killing the Broncs inside and out (he just hit a 16-foot jumper from beyond the free-throw line), and the Hawks have stretched the lead to 58-42 with 9:53 left. Winning tonight was never extremely likely for Rider, but if you're the Broncs, you've got to come up with a good few minutes here and prevent it from getting really ugly. Morale-wise, there's a big difference between losing on the road by five and losing by 25.

Update, 8:46: A 3-point play by Brandon Penn and a layup by Novar Gadson have brought the Broncs back to within 58-48 with 7:43 left.

Update, 8:54: Four more minutes off the clock, same differential. With 3:33 left, the Hawks lead 63-53 and Rider isn't quite dead yet.

Update, 9:04: When the buzzer sounds, I've got to book it to the media room, which is on the other side of the building, so I might not have the final right away. But Saint Joe's leads 69-57 with 40 seconds left and is going to hand the Broncs a double digit loss.

Hampton at Iona

As promised, a look at tonight's matchup between Iona and Hampton:

WHEN: Tonight, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Hynes Athletics Center

ON THE AIR: 1230 AM in the New Rochelle area, or www.wfasam.com (Gary Stanley, Bill Daughtry).

SERIES: Iona leads 2-0

LAST MEETING: Iona won 91-72 in 1996.

SCOUTING HAMPTON: The Pirates, picked second in the preseason MEAC coaches poll, went 18-12 last year and finished tied for second in the conference. They lost to eventual conference champ Coppin State in the MEAC tournament quarterfinals. Michael Freeman and Vincent Simpson are both preseason second-team all-MEAC picks.

SCOUTING IONA: The Gaels return just four starters in Kevin Willard's second year and will start two freshmen guards: Scott Machado at the point and Trinity Fields at the 2, with 6-3 sophomore Rashon Dwight joining them in a three-guard lineup. Six-nine senior power forward Gary Springer is their leading returning scorer and rebounder. He'll be joined in the starting front court by seven-foot junior Jonathan Huffman.

FAST FACTS: Iona is 46-15 in season openers but just 11-12 in its last 23. ... It's the first season opener at home for the Gaels since 2001. ... The Gaels are 12-2 against current MEAC teams, including a loss to South Carolina State last year in the Las Vegas Invitational. ... The Gaels signed Chirs Pelcher, a 6-9 power forward from Albany, to a letter of intent on Wednesday.

Happy opening night

As promised, the Iona-Hampton preview will be up a little later on.

First though, a few links:

Today's story advancing the Rider-Saint Joe's game.

A letter to fans from Saint Joe's coach Phil Marteli

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Rider at Saint Joe's

A look at the Broncs' opener, of which The Blog will have live coverage tomorrow from Philly.

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Wachovia CenterON THE AIR: 107.7 FM (Daryl Fein and Steve Rudenstein); 990 (Tom McCarthy, Joe Lunardi) SERIES: Saint Joe’s leads 16-2

LAST MEETING: Saint Joe’s won 76-53 in 1981.

SCOUTING RIDER: The Broncs begin the post-Jason Thompson era with high expectations, having been picked third in the preseason MAAC coaches’ poll. They will, though, be shorthanded at least for the rest of November, with point guard Justin Robinson and power forward Jermaine Jackson both sidelined with knee injuries. Matt Griffin will start at point guard, with Harris Mansell and Ryan Thompson at the other guard spots and Novar Gadson and Mike Ringgold at forward. The Broncs have high hopes for Gadson, a 6-7 freshman from Philadelphia, in spite of a shaky exhibition game last Saturday in which he scored two points on 1-of-11 shooting. They’ll rely heavily on Thompson, a pre-season first-team all-MAAC selection who averaged 15 points per game last season.

SCOUTING SAINT JOE’S: The Hawks return three starters from a team that went 21-13 and earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Six-nine center Ahmad Nivins, a preseason all-Atlantic 10 selection, averaged 14.4 points last year and has led the A-10 in field goal percentage in each of the past two years. Six-five foward Garrett Williamson, a likely candidate to guard Thompson, is on the preseason A-10 all-defensive team. Six-four point guard Tasheed Carr averaged 10.8 points last year and ranked second in the A-10 with 5.6 assists per game. ... Six-one guard Darrin Govens averaged 9.8 points last year and is the Hawks’ leading returning 3-point shooter at 38 percent. Six-seven sophomore Idris Hilliard, who averaged 1.2 points in 5.7 minutes last year, will start at power forward.

SIDELINES: Griffin played at Saint Joseph’s Prep and is the son of former Saint Joe’s coach John Griffin. ... Nivins could become the first player since George Washington’s Alexander Koul in 1995-98 to lead the A-10 in field goal percentage for three consecutive seasons. ... Rider has three players from Philadelphia: Ringgold (Roman Catholic High School), Gadson (John Bartram) and Penn (Paul Robeson). ... The game was initially scheduled for the Palestra, but had to be moved to accommodate the Penn-Yale women’s volleyball game. Saint Joe’s’ field house is under renovation and will re-open next year. Neither team has ever played at the Wachovia Center. ... The schools were Middle Atlantic Conference rivals in the early 1970s and East Coast Conference rivals from 1974-82.

Marist at Rutgers

The Red Foxes-Scarlet Knights' preivew, complied by Trentonian Rutgers beat writer Ryan Feldman:

WHEN: 8 p.m.

WHERE: Louis Brown Athletic Center

ON THE AIR: Radio: 710, 1450 (Chris Carlin, Dick Lloyd)

SERIES: First meeting

SCOUTING MARIST: The Red Foxes finished tied for fifth in the MAAC last season at 11-7 in the conference and 18-14 overall. This team is extremely young and inexperienced with just two seniors and two juniors. Junior point guard David Devezin, who averaged 9.7 points and 4.5 asssists per game last season, is the team’s leading returner in points, assists and steals. Devezin is the only Red Fox who averaged at least five points per game last season. The team’s leading returning rebounder is senior forward Ryan Schneider, who averaged just 2.5 rebounds per game last season.

SCOUTING RUTGERS: Like Marist, Rutgers will also be playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores. Unlike Marist, the Scarlet Knights return almost their entire roster from last year. Freshman guard Mike Rosario had 23 points and was 5-for-8 from 3-point range in Monday’s exhibition game, and he is expected to be the team’s leading scorer in many games this season. Marist has just two players taller than 6-foot-7, so Gregory Echenique, Hamady Ndiaye and Christian Morris should be able to dominate in the paint. With the talented youth on this team, it will be important for senior point guard Anthony Farmer to play efficiently and take care of the ball.

FAST FACTS: Rutgers sophomore guard Corey Chandler did not suit up for Monday’s exhibition game due to what head coach Fred Hill described as personal issues, but he will be in uniform and playing tonight. The Scarlet Knights will be without seniors JR Inman and Jaron Griffin, who are suspended indefinitely. While Inman and Griffin are out, role players like Earl Pettis, Patrick Jackson and Christian Morris will have to step up.This is the first ever meeting between Rutgers and Marist. Canisius is the only other MAAC team that the Scarlet Knights have never faced. Rutgers is 46-19 all-time against MAAC teams, including 1-2 last year. Along with tonight’s Robert Morris-St. Bonaventure game, this game will tip off the inaugural Garden State Challenge, a series of games between Rutgers, Marist, St. Bonaventure, Delaware and Robert Morris.

Mount Saint Mary's at Loyola

Loyola and Mount Saint Mary's meet tomorrow for the 164th time. Maryland's oldest rivlary tips off our series of previews of tomorrow's season openers.

WHEN: Friday, 7 p.m.

WHERE: Reitz Arena

ON THE AIR: TV: MASN (Scott Garceau, Kevin Greevey); Radio: http://www.loyolagreyhounds.com/ (Mark Zinno, Gary Lambrecht)

SERIES: Mount Saint Mary’s leads 94-69

LAST MEETING: Mount Saint Mary’s won 70-58 last year.

SCOUTING MOUNT SAINT MARY’S: The Mountaineers, picked first in the preseason NEC poll and ranked 22nd in the preseason collegeinsider.com mid-major poll, beat Sacred Heart in the NEC title game and Coppin State in the NCAA play-in game before running into North Carolina in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year. Five-nine point guard Jeremy Goode, a first-team all-NEC selection and a collegeinsider.com mid-major All-American, is their leading returning scorer at 14.5 points per game. Six-seven senior Markus Mitchell, at 5.9 per game, is their leading returning rebounder. Six-three sophomore Jean Cajou will start with Goode in the back court, with 6-5 junior Kelly Beidler (seven points, 4.7 rebounds last year), Mitchell, and 6-7 senior Sam Atupem in the front court.

SCOUTING LOYOLA: The ‘Hounds, picked fifth in the preseason MAAC coaches poll to the surprise of coach Jimmy Patsos (who said he thought they should have been lower), will rely heavily on guard play, having lost starting post players Omari Israel and Michael Tuck – along with leading scorer Gerald Brown – to graduation. MAAC Co-rookie of the year Brian Rudolph is back at the point, along with junior Brett Harvey in the backcourt. Sophomore Tony Lewis will start as part of a three-guard offense , with sharpshooter Marquis Sullivan – last year’s MAAC sixth man of the year – again providing Jimmy Patsos instant offense off the bench.

FAST FACTS: Both schools are celebrating the 100th anniversary of their first games, and the rivalry dates back to 1910, when the ‘Hounds beat the Mountaineers 35-24 in Emmitsburg. … Mount Saint Mary’s has lost nine straight season openers and 38 straight November road games. The Mountaineers’ last road win in November was an 83-54 rout of Navy on Nov. 28, 1988. They are 15-87 in non-conference road games since joining Division I in 1988. … The teams met in the championship game of the Division II Mason-Dixon Conference tournament for four straight seasons in the mid 50s. Mount Saint Mary’s won all four times. … Loyola is 15-12 in season openers since joining Division I in 1981.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Checking In

My apologies for the lack of blogging over the past week. The good news is The Blog is back up and running for the start of the regular season Friday, when four MAAC teams are in action.

While I was off in football land, Rider managed to get by East Stroudsburg despite a depleted lineup that didn't include Justin Robinson, Jermaine Jackson, Lamar Johnson or Brandon Penn. Tomorrow, the Broncs will have Johnson and Penn but still be without Robinson and Jackson, both of whom are still recovering from knee injuries.

Princeton is also in action tomorrow night, hosting Central Michigan, so www.trentonian.com will have three Division I game stories. It so happens that this time, we'll be covering two MAAC games, since Rutgers is hosting Marist at the RAC. Ryan Feldman will be at the RAC, Joe O'Gorman will be at Jadwin Gym for the Tigers, and I'll be at the Wachovia Center for the Broncs and Hawks.

We'll also have coverage of the Rutgers women against Saint Joe's tomorrow (preceding the men's game) and the Rider women on Sunday against Colgate.

We're going to try something tomorrow that I hope we'll be able to pull off throughout the year. The Blog is something I mostly do on my own time, and sometimes my real job at the paper gets in the way (hence, the lack of blogging for the previous week) so I can't make any promises. But tomorrow, we'll have a preview of all four games involving MAAC teams. It'll essentially be the same format as the gameday boxes we have in the paper, which I think it will give fans a nice glimpse around the league.

Bracketologist -- and Saint Joe's color commentator -- Joe Lundardi has his first version of bracketology up, and it forecasts a 5-12 matchup between Gerogetown and Siena in the first round.

Lastly, kudos to the MAAC champion Fairfield women's soccer team, which could make things extra fun for FU grads in New Jersey by upsetting Oklahoma State and setting up a second-round showdown with Rutgers in the NCAA tournament.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Division Series

Fairfield took care of business Thursday night with a 74-66 win over Division II Bridgeport at the Arena at Harbor Yard. The Stags won despite playing sloppy basketball at times that included missed jumpers, missed dunks and a variety of other lapses.

But they won, saving themselves the embarrassment that would have surely come from losing to a team presumably worse than even the worst Division I team in the country.

Here though, is something to keep in mind, especially as Rider fans look forward to the Broncs' exhibition game Saturday against Division II East Strousburg: Losing exhibition games to Division II teams is by no means a good way to head into the regular season. It is not, however, something that guarantees an unsuccessful season, or something that should be met with much more criticism than a sloppy win against a weak Division I opponent in November.

This is particularly relevant this year, because with Justin Robinson (knee), Jermaine Jackson (knee), Lamar Johnson (concussion) and Brandon Penn (suspension) out for Saturday's game, and with only eight players at Tommy Dempsey's disposal, there is a real chance Rider could lose.

East Strousburg, a run-and-gun team that uses full-court pressure almost throughout and went 18-10 last year, is exactly the type of team that could beat the depleted Broncs, whose bench will consist only of backup shooting guard Pat Mansell and seldom-used forwards Robbie Myers and Kevin Vosilla.

With his lack of personnel, Dempsey is correct to worry that things might not go well. Certainly, a loss could be demoralizing for the players, it could turn away some fans, and it would draw ridicule from college hoops junkies across the country who would see the score on the ESPN sports ticker and assume, wrongly, that Rider is going to lose 25 games.

I'm not saying that's what's going to happen. For all I know, Ryan Thompson might prove too much for East Strousburg to handle, Novar Gadson might dazzle in his collegiate debut (Dempsey was raving, with good reason from what I could see, about Gadson today after practice), and Rider might win by 25.

But here's a message to Rider fans: If it does happen, do not -- I repeat, do not! -- hit the panic button.

If it does happen -- and again, I'm not predicting it will -- it will be a result of Rider playing the wrong team with the wrong lineup at the wrong time, not an indictment on the ability of a team that won 23 games last year and might be just as good or better this year.

And if it does happen, Rider fans would be wise to look at history, which shows that although losses to lower division teams are never a good thing, they aren't always a sign of horrible things to come.

Sometimes, they ARE a sign of horrible things to come. In 2006, Iona lost to Division III Rhode Island College, then went on to lose its first 21 games of the regular season before beating -- guess who? -- Rider to end the nation's longest losing streak.

Sometimes, though, they don't mean much. Case in point was last year, when eighth-ranked Michigan State -- with nowhere near the injury issues Rider has right now -- lost at home to Division II Grand Valley State. The high point in the program's history? Certainly not, but the rest of the season wasn't canceled, Tom Izzo wasn't fired, and the Spartans went on to have a very respectable season in which they won 27 games and advanced to the Sweet 16.

A week later, another Big 10 team -- Ohio State -- lost to Division II Findlay. The Buckeyes didn't make it to the Final Four or even to the Big Dance, but they did win the NIT, an accomplishment plenty of teams would love to claim.

Lastly, IF the Broncs lose, it'll be important to remember that especially in exhibition games, when getting people playing time and testing things out, a close loss -- which would get national attention -- isn't much worse than a close win, which gets almost no attention.

Case in point: Louisville got all it could handle Saturday in a thoroughly unimpressive 74-67 win over Division II Georgetown College. But people aren't exactly jumping off the Cardinals' bandwagon, nor should they be.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Broncs banged up

Joe O'Gorman, The Trentonian's Princeton beat writer extraordinaire, recovered quickly from the knee injury he suffered earlier this week (unrelated to the knee injuries we'll get to in a minute) and was able to make it to the Tigers' media day today, so check back tomorrow for what Joe has to report.

There is, though, news from Rider: The Broncs will be without starting point guard Justin Robinson for about a month because of a knee injury he sustained in practice earlier in the week, and freshman power forward Jermaine Jackson will also miss Saturday's exhibition game against East Strousburg with a knee injury that coach Tommy Dempsey said is less severe.

Jackson has been experiencing soreness and will have an MRI tomorrow. Dempsey said he could probably play Saturday, but there's no point risking anything in an exhibition game. The Broncs will also be without freshman forward Brandon Penn, who is suspended for the game for a violation of team rules that took place in September, and senior guard Lamar Johnson, who has a concussion. 

Rider, therefore, will be extremely shorthanded Saturday against an East Strousburg team that presses for most of the game.

With Robinson out, Matt Griffin will start at point guard, along with Harris Mansell, Ryan Thompson, freshman Novar Gadson and Mike Ringgold. If Jackson's knee injury turns out to be more severe than the Broncs think it is, that will almost definitely be the starting five for the Nov. 14 opener against Saint Joseph's. If Jackson is back, you could see a bigger lineup with Thompson at the point and Jackson, who at 6-8 is the tallest guy on the roster, playing in the low post alongside Ringgold.

Saturday's paper will have a story on Ringgold, who has been shooting 200 free throws a day, trying to get up toward 50 percent from the line after shooting a dreadful 32 percent last year.

Fairfield and Bridgeport are underway at the Arena at Harbor Yard, and The Mirror sports blog has live coverage.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

News and notes


A few quick hits:

The happiest coach in the country today has to be Oregon State's Craig Robinson (above, at practice today with his team), whose sister, Michelle, will be America's next First Lady.

A tip of the hat to fellow MAAC beat writer and politics junky Keith Connors, who did a great job, along with Chris Haliskoe and the rest of the crew, covering the election for The Mirror. They even gave me a shot at being an amateur political analyst during a spot on their live webcast.

Ex-Suns star Kevin Johnson has a new job.

Marist's Rachele Fitz is a candidate for the women's Wooden Award, more evidence that the Red Foxes are head and shoulders above any other MAAC men's or women's team.

A commenter points out that I sold Jason Thompson short in my last post. JT, as the reader points out, entered tonight's game against Memphis with four double-figure scoring outputs in four games, not three as I wrote. Somewhere in the confusion of keeping an eye scores while designing pages, I missed the bucket that got him to 10 points in the Kings' 103-77 loss to Miami on Halloween night.

I've got a doubleheader on tap for tomorrow, with Princeton media day at 3:30 and Rider practice at 5.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day musings

Happy Election Day!

A somewhat serious question for you to ponder as you head out to the polls: The race hoops-crazy North Carolina is really close. So if Barack Obama wins the Tarheel State by one percentage point, to what extent can he thank the pickup game he played in May with the North Carolina men's basketball team for pushing him over the top?

From what I understand, UNC alums (and probably to some extent, Heels fans in general) lean a little to the left anyway (John Edwards went to law school there while the Dems once tried to draft Dean Smith as a Senate candidate), while Duke fans (Richard Nixon went to law school there and Coach K's Republicanism is well documented) lean to the right. But regardless of the schools' political leanings, Obama was smart to work out with the State U squad, which has more fans state-wide.

And how about Indiana? Who would have thought 20 years ago that in 2008, a Democrat would have a chance to carry the state, while the Hoosiers would be facing a massive rebuilding project and be a consensus choice to finish last in the Big 10?

That's about all the basketball-related Election thoughts I can come up with (I'm sure plenty of you have them, so please drop a few comments), so I'll end the election talk with this: I don't care if you vote for Obama, McCain, Ralph Nader, Bob Barr, or Jimmy Patsos. But get out the the polls, wait in line if you have to, and vote.

And finally, some news: Raise your hand if you saw this coming from Jason Thompson.

Sure, it's early, and sure, things could change, but man, is Thompson making the Kings look good for using that lottery pick on him, or what?

The Kings got walloped last night by the Sixers, but not because of a lack of production by JT, who dropped 17 points and six rebounds, and has scored in double figures in three of his four NBA games.

Not bad for an unheralded kid from a Mid-Major, eh?