The bad news and the silver lining from Saturday's games
Remember last week, when the MAAC was the toast of mid-major college hoops after going 5-2 on opening night?
That seems like 10 years ago tonight, after a day in which seemingly everything went wrong. On a day when Rider was the only team that seemingly stood no chance of winning, the league went 3-5 and Siena took itself out of top 25 consideration by blowing an early lead and losing at Temple.
Making matters worse was the way a few of these teams lost.
Rider went into Rupp Arena hoping to keep the game relatively close and ended up getting its doors blown off by a Kentucky team that suddenly figured out how to play perimeter defense. Saint Peter's, which had been impressive in its first two games, acted out of sorts with a tip later than 6 a.m. and lost at home to Youngstown State. Perhaps worst of all, Loyola shot an absurd 27 percent from the field in a 63-44 loss to Mount Saint Mary's.
Some of what took place Saturday was what many observers expected.
MAAC fans should be pleased that Iona has looked like a truly improved team and that Canisius avoided embarrassment by taking care of a dreadful Saint Francis of New York team. Then there's Manhattan, which lost at home to a good William & Mary team that had no business entering Draddy Gym as a two-point underdog.
There was, though, a significant silver lining on an otherwise gloomy day: On the road against a Central Florida team that had beaten its first three opponents by an average of 12 points per game, Niagara posted a thoroughly impressive 63-46 win.
The Purple Eagles (3-1) held Marcus Jordan and Co. to 31.6 shooting, including an ice-cold 17.4 percent from 3-point range. And that was without Tyrone Lewis, who missed his second straight game with a foot injury.
With Lewis out, Joe Mihalich played his starters a combined 170 minutes, and the Eagles struggled to find offense. But Anthony Nelson (11 points, 5 assists, 38 minutes) helped Niagara come up with more than enough scoring.
After coming unglued in the last two minutes against a lousy Auburn team, the Eagles deserved to take a back seat to Siena and Rider last week in the MAAC pecking order.
But they gave us strong evidence yesterday -- against a team that beat that same Auburn team by 10 points its last time out -- that they haven't regressed from last year, when -- in case anyone forgot -- they won 26 games and reached the MAAC title game.