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.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Round of 32


There were improbable 3-pointers, multiple overtimes, and moments that MAAC fans will never forget.

Only this time, it wasn't the MAAC tournament, it wasn't Niagara-Rider, and it WAS something of which every college hoops fan in the country took note.

I was at work, unable to watch Siena's thrilling, 74-72 double overtime victory over Ohio State until the final minutes of regulation. But I saw all the best parts, heard Ronald Moore's interview on Mad Dog Radio in the car on the way home, then I flipped on my TV and listened to an array of talking heads breaking down the Saints' win.

Hundreds of mid-major coaches are sitting at home right now, wanting what Fran McCaffery has: a team that's in the Round of 32 for the second straight year, soaking up national attention and moving toward long-term status in the upper echelon of mid-major hoops.

As I type this, there are countless high school freshmen and sophomores -- the must-have recruits of the future -- who hear "Siena" and think "NCAA tournament."

The Saints are miles away from being Gonzaga. Gonzaga wasn't the Gonzaga we now know -- big enough to be a major conference team in a mid-major conference -- until close to a decade of doing damage in the NCAA tournament.

But programs like the Zags' are built not through winning road games in December, but through winning in March, when everything's on the line and everyone's watching.

For two Marches now, Siena has won with people watching. This time, the Saints didn't take anyone by surprise or slip under the radar.

They were considered worthy of Ohio State's attention and of the nation's respect. Then they did what you have to do if you're going to build something big: They showed all that attention and all that respect was justified.

***
My bracket in the MAAC group on ESPN.com is in bad shape. I've lost four Sweet 16 teams and two Elite Eight teams (Wake Forsest and Florida State). The one thing that would make it look good is if Siena rewards me and shocks Louisville.

So the questions for you, MAAC maniacs, are these:

1) What are the Saints chances?

2) If they're going to pull it off, how are they going to do it?

3) And since it's a fun topic of conversation: Where does Siena's recent success rank among the best stories in MAAC history?

***
East Tennessee earned Fairfield some good pub, in an odd way: Pitt's margin of victory over ETSU was the smallest by a No. 1 seed over a 16 seed since the Stags gave North Carolina a scare in 1997.

***
Lastly, this video has the shot that inspired Bill Raftery describe Ronald Moore's "garden variety" onions.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

0-for-2


The good news for the MAAC is that if Siena beats Ohio State and advances to the Round of 32 for the second straight year, THAT is what a whole lot of people will remember about the league's postseason showing.

The bad news is the conference went 0-for-2 last night, with Niagara falling to Rhode Island in the first round of the NIT and Rider getting manhandled by Liberty in the CIT.

As Chris Lang of the Lynchburg News & Advance writes in today's Trentonian, Rider trailed by 22 in the first half and was never in it after that.

The Broncs finished 19-13. The Trentonian's web site has a poll up asking what grade fans would give their season. For what it's worth, I'd probably give it a B+ (which isn't an option on the poll, so I settled for B). Regardless of Ryan Thompson's health status, last night wasn't a good way to go out, and no team wants its conference season to end in the league tournament semifinals.

But the body of work was pretty good. You can talk about the lackluster non-conference strength of schedule, but plenty of MAAC teams would sign up for 19 wins and a postseason appearance, regardless of who they beat to get some of those wins and regardless of what postseason tournament they played in.

And next year should be interesting for a number of reasons. Rider's schedule will include a game at Kentucky and an appearance in a preseason tournament in Cancun, so there will be non-conference tests and opportunities to get their RPI into the top 100.

The Broncs return every contributor except for Harris Mansell and will be picked no lower than third in the MAAC behind Siena and Niagara.

As for Niagara, winning at least one game in the NIT would have been fitting given the year the Purple Eagles had, which included 26 wins, an RPI in the 50s, a signature BracketBuster win and a trip to the MAAC final.

The Eagles, though, couldn't hang on to a first-half lead and couldn't overcome sixth-seeded URI, which got 10 second-half points from Keheim Seawright and will play second-seeded Penn State in the second round.

Losing Benson Egemonye will hurt. He had the biggest impact this year of any big guy, and that kind of play is tough to find in the MAAC. But everyone else is back, and that gives Joe Mihalich a lot to work with.

That leaves us with Siena.

It's hard to quantify what an NCAA win means compared to a win in any postseason tournament, but I think the average college hoops fan can tell you Siena won a game in the Dance last year and has no idea who won the NIT (coincidently, it was Ohio State, the Saints' first-round opponent).

Let's get some chatter going. How would you grade Rider's and Niagara's seasons? And who ya got in the Siena-Ohio State game and why?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Let the games begin



Postseason play begins tonight.

That means many things to many people and, I suspect, nothing to some people, since the NCAA Round of 64 is still two days away.

In the MAAC, though, two of the league's three postseason teams play tonight, with Niagara hosting URI in the NIT and Rider playing at Liberty in the CIT.

The Purple Eagles are 4 1/2-points favorites, the Broncs 4-point underdogs.

If you're dying for NCAA tournament hoops, Moorehead State and Alabama State tip off at 7 p.m. in the "opening round" game in Dayton. Morehead State is a 3 1/2-point favorite to advance to a first-round date with Louisville and of course, a second-round clash with Siena. (OK, so that isn't likely to happen, but technically, it's not IMPOSSIBLE).

Here in Jersey, the buzz is about unbeaten UConn heading to the Trenton regional in the NCAA women's tournament.

And we've got college hockey, with Princeton soon heading to the Times Union Center for the ECAC semifinals.

I'm playing sports editor for the week and will not be in Lynchburg tonight. Apologies to Rider fans for not being able to make the trip. If the Broncs win, they'll play in the quarterfinals next Monday, and I'll do my best to get there.

One last betting note: Siena is a 500-to-1 longshot to win the national championship. If you think those odds are long, they're nothing compared to the 9999-to-1 odds for Alabama State, Binghamton, Chattanooga, Cal State Northridge, ETSU, Morehaed State, Morgan State, Radford and Robert Morris.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bracketology







Thanks to Princeton blogging machine Jon Solomon, someone on the blog took care of posting the final two MAAC postseason selections -- Niagara as a 3 seed in the NIT and Rider as a road team in the CollegeInsider tournament -- while I was on deadline in the office.

So thanks, Jon, for taking care of that. As always, thanks to everyone for commenting. It seems that in the spirit of March Madness, reader McAff Attack -- a frequent commenter and frequent critic of mine -- even softened up and neglected to insult me.

And hey, if you're a MAAC fan, why not be in a (relatively) friendly mood?

Siena is representing the conference as a 9 seed and could make it two NCAA tournament wins in two years by beating Ohio State in Dayton. Niagara has a home game against URI and a realistic chance to get to the Garden for the NIT Final Four if it plays well. And although they will still be endlessly ridiculed in the comments section, Rider is going to the postseason for the second straight year.

I talked to Tommy Dempsey about an hour after the Broncs accepted the CIT bid, and Dempsey said the Broncs were "in the mix" for the CBI, which at the time hadn't finished its field. Rider got an offer from the CIT to play at Liberty, didn't have an invite to the CBI at the time, and accepted the invitation to travel to Lynchburg, Va. Tuesday night for a date with Seth Curry and the Flames.

So would Rider have gotten a CBI bid if it waited?

A look at the CBI field reveals that, as many people predicted, Rick Giles and Co. settled for some pretty weak teams who were willing to fork over $60,000 to host first-round games. The field includes Oregon State (156) and Wichita State (158), both of whom have less impressive resumes than most of the CIT field. Because of the financial disparity between the teams, those two teams have the least impressive resumes but are hosting games while the likes of UTEP (RPI 80) and Vermont (97) are on the road.

Since Rider wouldn't have hosted a game, it's likely a CBI invite would never have come. Aside from St. John's (RPI 141) -- a team included because of its name recognition and not its resume -- the CBI road team with the lowest RPI is Boise State, which at 110 is 13 spots ahead of Rider.

That isn't to say Rider didn't have a shot, and all postseason discussions have to come with the disclaimer that RPI is a general indicator of relative strength and not an ABSOLUTE indicator of strength. But the point remains: if you remove the teams who wrote a $60K check to host a game and you remove St. John's because of the name recognition factor, there isn't a CBI team whose resume is clearly inferior to Rider's.

With all that said -- and tournament inclusion speculation is always a fun thing to do -- it's tough to argue it makes much of a difference. The CBI clearly has a stronger field (average RPI of 109 to the CIT's 131) but the difference between the fields is minimal compared to the gap between the NIT and CBI (and of course, the NCAA and NIT).

So if you're a Broncs fan, you can wake up today knowing your team's season isn't over. For at least some fans, I suspect that will be enough.

If you're a Purple Eagles fan, you can wake up today knowing that with four starters coming back next year, the NIT could provide a nice springboard for a team that could be in at-large discussions next year.

And if you're a Siena fan, you can wake up today and finalize your travel plans for Dayton.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Siena gets Ohio State


The NCAA tournament committee awarded Siena a No. 9 seed and matched the Saints against Big 10 tournament runner-up Ohio State in Dayton, Ohio. A win would give Siena a second-round game against top-seeded Louisville.

Selection Sunday


Greetings from the Trentonian newsroom, where my day job is preventing me from doing as much blogging I'd like on this important day in college hoops.

The NCAA Selection Show is at 6 p.m., with the NTI brackets to be unveiled shortly after and the CBI and CollegeInsider brackets to come after that.

First, we'll see where Siena is headed and as what seed. I'm hoping the committee will put the Saints in Philadelphia and I'll be able to make the short drive down 95 to see them play. Most projections have them as a 10 seed, but a 9 is certainly possible.

NITology.com has Niagara listed as a 6 seed in the NIT and Fairfield as a likely CBI or CIT team. Rider isn't listed, but the Broncs are expecting to be invited by at least one of the two sub-NIT tournaments.

It'll be interesting to see how the CBI field looks compared to the CIT field. The CBI, like last year, is requiring a $60,000 check from teams hosting first-round games, while the CIT is asking for only $28,500.

Why the difference? Essentially, because the Princeton-based Gazelle Group, which runs the CBI, is looking to turn a big profit. The CollegeInsider folks are looking to cover their expenses and put on a good tournament, which I think they'll get.

We'll probably see at least a few mediocre BCS conference teams like Seton Hall (who might be willing to fork over $60K) in the CBI, and a lot of mid-majors with RPIs near 100 in the CIT.

Last year, the CBI bracket wasn't released until well after midnight. With the adition of the CIT this year, we could be waiting until 2 or 3 a.m. before the entire postseason field is clear.

Fortunately, I should be done with print newspaper work by around midnight, and I'll turn my attention to brackets after that.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Midtown Madness



If I hear one more person say “major conference tournaments don’t matter,” I’m going to lash out in defiance.

They – particularly the Big East, whose tournament has the tradition, excitement and drama that others lack – matter because they give us some of the best basketball that has ever been played.

They offer us teams and coaches who know each other inside and out, players whose pride is on the line, and fans who have bragging rights on the line, their heads full of memories of tournaments past.

Last night, the Big East tournament offered us a game that will be remembered for decades when Syracuse outlasted UConn in six overtimes. (The video is of the full ESPN highlights, which are worth watching in their entirety, but if not that, at least in part.)

I was in the news room, actually waiting to see if we could get the result of the game in our late edition. If Eric Devendorf’s 3 at the end of regulation had counted, the result would have been in the print edition and I would have gone home.

Instead, I stood there with the two other people left in the building and watched in amazement for six overtimes that saw big play after big play and everyone but the mascots and cheerleaders coming in off the bench.

If conference tournaments didn’t matter, I wouldn’t have cared, and neither would anyone else across the country or in the Garden.

How about you? How many overtimes did you watch?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chaos

I found two of these on YouTube. One was more than nine minutes long. This one, I thought, was short, sweet, and a good way to capture the court storming.

Unlike last year, I did not get hit by a shoe.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

MAAC Madness wrapup


Thanks to everyone who stopped by the Blog over the weekend, and an especially big thanks to everyone who took part in the live chats during games. Thanks also to everyone who sent in Pick Em entries, which gave us a fun game to play for the second straight year.

The Pick Em winner for Year 2 is Fred Sakai, who turned in a perfect ballot and edged Mike Vitale by one point for the title. If Iona had found a way to beat Marist in Friday's play-in round, Mike would have gone 9-for-9 and Fred would have come up short.

If Tyrone Lewis' miracle 3-pointer hadn't gone in off the glass with 1.7 seconds left in Sunday's semifinal, and Siena had gone on to beat Rider in the title game, the winner would have been Eric Gruber, who turned in an impressive performance in his Pick Em debut.

If Niagara had won tonight, it would have come down to a tiebreaker between Tom Cleary and defending champ Keith Connors.

The final standings are below:

1. Fred, 26
2. Mike, 25
3. Antonio, 24
4. Eric, 21
5. Tom D., 20
6. Tom C., 17
6. Keith, 17
8. Scott, 16
9. Chris, 15
10. Dan, 12
11. Felix, 8
12. Todd, 7
13. Ryan, 4
...

For those who weren't with us in the live chat, my tournament ballot had the MVP who wound up winning (Kenny Hasbrouck) and four of the five all-tourmanent winners. I had Ronald Moore, Kenny Hasbrouck, Tyrone Lewis and Ryan Thompson, but I had Ryan Rossiter -- who made big play after big play in Monday's title game and finished with 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds -- on instead of Bilal Benn, who I thought just came up too small Monday night (11 rebounds but only six points) to earn such honors.

Beagle weighed in and said he would have put Rossiter on instead of Franklin. What does everyone else think?
...

A quick summary of what the Blog will have over the next few weeks: I wish we could go full throttle with all these games the way we do with the tournament games. Unfortunately, the MAAC tournament is the only stretch of the year when I have five days to dedicate strictly to covering basketball. As of this week, I'm back to being the Assistant Sports Editor of The Trentonian, which doesn't permit a TON of time for writing, let alone blogging.

With that said, the Blog certainly isn't going away. I'll do my very best to keep up on potential postseason destinations for MAAC teams, and if Rider gets a postseason bid in a location I can get to without missing too much desk time, I'll be there. I've also got my fingers crossed, hoping Siena somehow lands in Philadelphia for the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. If that's the case, I'll do my best to be there.

Also, since the live game chats seemed to be a big hit, I'm thinking about holding chat sessions on a regular basis just to talk MAAC hoops. I'd be happy to answer any questions folks might have, and of course, it'd also give the fans of various teams who stopped by during the tournament an opportunity to talk a little good-natured trash. If you'd be interested in at least occasionally taking part in a feature like that, leave me a comment or write me an e-mail (bdoody@trentonian.com) and let me know. If there's enough interest, we can do it a few times between now and the end of the NCAA tournament.

In the meantime, keep stopping by, keep leaving comments, and keep helping me make this a better blog. March has gotten off to an exciting start, and I'm sure there are more good games and more good discussions to come.

I don't have the actual MAAC highlight film that goes with the song, but in the absence of that video, here's the original music video of "I want it Now," the quasi-official song of this year's tournament.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Let the speculation begin

Heading into today, Joe Lunardi had Siena as a 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. We'll see how that plays out, but I think 10 is a good bet.

But the tournament picks don't stop there. For the second straight year, I strongly recommend checking out NITology.com, a site that has been remarkably efficient in the past few years at picking the NIT and (last year) CBI fields.

As of March 1, NITology had Niagara as a 6 seed in the NIT and Fairfield as a likely CBI or CollegeInsider team. No mention of Rider, but with 19 wins and a 124 RPI, the Broncs certainly have a chance. We'll see what the next update looks like.

All-tournament team

MVP: Kenny Hasbrouck
All-tourney:
Alex Franklin
Ronald Moore
Tyrone Lewis
Bilal Benn
Ryan Thompson

Live coverage, men's title game

'One for the Ages'


Greetings from cold, rainy Albany, where six hours from now, Siena and Niagara will tip off on ESPN2, with fans across the country tuned in and a guaranteed trip to the Big Dance on the line.

If you’re the MAAC, ESPN, or a casual basketball fan somewhere in the country who happened to catch the Saints and Purples Eagles’ BracketBuster wins, this is the matchup you wanted when the tournament began on Friday.

If you’re a Rider fan, you’re mourning today after a gut-wrenching double-overtime loss that would have been a win had it not been for Tyrone Lewis’ miracle 3 off the glass in the final seconds of regulation.

If you’re a Niagara fan, you’re giddy today, knowing that your team gets another shot at Siena and a chance to win its second MAAC title in three years.

If you’re a Siena fan, you’re surely excited that this day has finally come, even if Kenny Hasbrouck will be far from 100 percent if he’s in the lineup.

No matter who you are, it’s tough to disagree with the opening statement from Joe Mihalich’s press conference late, late last night.

“A game for the ages,” Mihalich said. “Two teams going toe to toe. I’m not surprised it was that competitive and that close. But clearly that were a lot of heroes there.”

There were heroes on both sides.

There was Lewis, who, even though he admitted “I didn’t call glass,” hit one of the most memorable shots in MAAC tournament history.

There was Bilal Benn, who played 48 of a possible 50 minutes and had 20 points and 19 rebounds.

There was Benson Egemonye, who had 22 and 11 and showed why he’s the best big man in the MAAC with room to spare.

There was Ryan Thompson, who turned in a performance for the ages in a losing effort, playing all 50 minutes and carrying the Broncs with 27 points and 13 rebounds.

There was Mike Ringgold, who had 20 points, 12 rebounds and – very quietly – a game-high five assists.

There was enough suspense and drama, and there were enough jaw-dropping plays, momentum swings and clutch performances to make it one of the best tournament games in history.

There’s no denying it was the most riveting tournament game in at least five years.

The last time there was a tournament game like it was six years ago to this day, when Luis Flores (30 points) and Manhattan outlasted Juan Mendez (31 points, 16 rebounds) and Niagara in the semifinals at Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton.

“Manhattan got us that time,” Mihalich said, “so we had one coming to us.”



Had Harris Mansell fouled Lewis, it’s likely none of this would have happened.

Dempsey acknowledged leading by three points with less than five seconds left was “the perfect situation” to foul, and Mihalich said the situation would have been “really desperate” if Lewis had gone to the line needing to make the first free throw and intentionally miss the second.

But Mansell appeared to miss Lewis, and the first-team all-MAACer, who had been 2-for-18 from the floor, had his prayer answered when the ball bounced off the glass and in.

“If he fouls on the catch, it’s really desperate, because you have to make the first foul shot, then miss the second one on purpose and get a rebound,” Mihalich said. “So Bilal, because he has such a good basketball IQ said it in the huddle: they’re going to take a foul, so the idea was to run something where we could get a shot off right away before they had a chance to take a foul. In the huddle we said when you catch the ball, be in shooting motion because they’re going to take the foul.”

“In that situation, I think if there’s under five seconds left I’ll consider it,” Dempsey said of fouling. “I figured once he caught it, some time had to elapse and it would probably be under four. I thought that was probably the perfect scenario to foul. That’s something that’s always debated, but I thought that was really the perfect situation to foul. Both Harris and Justin (Robinson) took a swipe at him, I guess we didn’t foul him, but I know they both tried to, and he got the shot off.”



Thanks to Soup for pointing this out on the live chat last night: Jay Bilas, usually part of the crew that does the MAAC title game, won’t be here tonight. But Sean McDonough will still have the play by play, with Bill Raftery doing color.

McDonough, once the youngest TV broadcaster to do play-by-play for the World Series, was in town last night and sat with Fran McCaffery watching the Rider-Niagara game. Raftery arrived today.

Should be a great broadcast.

Hopefully it’ll be a great game, too.

MAAC Pick Em standings


In case you haven't heard, top-seeded Siena will play second-seeded Niagara Monday at 9 in the MAAC tournament title game.

Thanks to a group of loyal readers, the blog has had a great weekend, with live coverage of every session and commentary from a lot of fans throughout the conference.

I've been pretty busy this weekend and done what I think is a pretty good amount of work. Saturday, I was at the Times Union Center for the Fairfield-Canisius women's game at 9:30 and didn't leave until after the Rider-Saint Peter's men's game, which ended at about 12:15 a.m.

One thing I have, unfortunately, neglected to do until now is post the MAAC Pick Em standings. We have 13 entries, which is slightly more than we got last year and, if nothing more, a healthy enough number that doing it again next year seems like a good idea.

Kudos to Fred Sakai, whose bracket is absolutely perfect heading into Championship Monday. Fred is the only contestant to have gotten everything right so far, and will become Pick Em champ in the most impressive of manners if Siena wins tonight.

Nice job also by Mike Vitale, whose only blemish so far was picking his home-town Iona Gaels to beat Marist in the play-in round. Unfortunately for Mike, since Fred has the same winner tonight and one more point, he's out of contention.

The other two contestens still in it are Tom Cleary and defending champion Keith Connors, who turned in identical brackets that, like Mike's, are perfect except for the Iona-Marist game. Tom and Keith both picked Niagara, so if the Eagles win, it'll come down to a tiebreaker.

Here are the full standings through three rounds, with each contestant's champion listed so we can see who has a chance to add more points tonight.

The scoring system, as it was last year, is one point per game for the play-in round, two for the quarterfinals, four for the semifinals, and eight for the championship.

1. Fred (18 points, Siena)
2. Mike (17, Siena)
2. Tom C (17, Niagara)
2. Keith (17, Niagara)
5. Antonio (16, Siena)
5. Scott (16, Niagara)
7. Chris (15, Niagara)
8. Eric (13, Siena)
9. Dan (12, Rider)
9. Tom D (12, Siena)
11. Felix (8, Rider)
12. Todd (7, Rider)
13. Ryan (4, Rider)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Live coverage, men's semifinals

Live coverage, women's finals

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Live coverage, men's quarterfinals

Live coverage, women's semifinals

Friday, March 6, 2009

Live coverage, men's play-in round

Live coverage, women's quarterfinals

Live blogging that Canisius-Niagara game seemed like a better idea yesterday than it did this morning at 9:30, at which point I opted for another hour of sleep. The second-seeded Golden Griffs beat the 10th-seeded Purple Eagles 71-46 to advance to tomorrow's semifinals, where they'll play the winner of the Fairfield-Siena game. About midway through the first half of the Stags-Saints game, we'll resume the live blogathon.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

MAAC awards


The coaches agreed with me on the men's Player of the Year (Kenny Hasbrouck) but opted instead for my second choice for Rookie of the Year (they picked Scott Machado over Novar Gadson), Defensive Player of the Year (they went with Tyrone Lewis; I picked Bilal Benn) and Coach of the Year (they went with Fran McCaffery over Joe Mihalich, who was my choice).

I completely forgot to pick a winner for Sixth Man of the Year, but the coaches voted in Siena's Clarence Jackson, adding to the hardware that the Saints had already compiled.

You could have also made a case for Gadson for Sixth Man of the Year, but it's hard to argue with Jackson, who gave Siena a valuable spark off the bench, fitting the role that Loyola's Marquis Sullivan rode to the award last year.

On the women's side, Rachele Fitz -- surprise, surprise -- was voted Player of the Year for the second time; Canisius' Terry Zeh -- a shoo-in -- took Coach of the Year honors after his team posted a seven-win improvement; Iona's Kristina Ford was named Rookie of the Year; Canisius' Brittane Russell was named Defensive Player of the Year; and the Golden Griffs' Ellie Radke was named Sixth Player of the Year.

That's all I've got for today. Tomorrow's Trentonian has a story on the Rider women's loss and a story on the awards banquet. The blogathon will continue bright and early at 9:30 tomorrow, with the 10th-seeded Niagara women playing their cross-town rivals from Canisius, the No. 2 seed.

The rest of tomorrow's schedule is as follows:
11:30 a.m.: No. 3 Fairfield women vs. No. 6 Siena
1:30 p.m.: No. 1 Marist women vs. No. 9 Loyola
3:30 p.m.: No. 4 Saint Peter's women vs. Iona
7:30 p.m.: No. 8 Loyola men vs. No. 9 Canisius
9:30 p.m.: No. 7 Iona men vs. No. 10 Marist

Remember to send your bracket picks to bdoody@trentonian.com by 7 p.m.tomorrow.

With that, thanks to everyone who's visited the Blog today. Until tomorrow, so long from Albany.

Live coverage, women's play in round

In order to make sure we don't bury earlier posts, we'll use this entry for both women's play-in rounds. We'll begin coverage about half way through the Niagara-Rider game, in which the Purple Eagles are absolutely on fire in the early going:

MAAC Madness


At long last, greetings from Albany.

I'm court-side at the Times Union Center, where the seventh-seeded Rider women will tip off against 10th-seeded Niagara at noon.

That game will be the first in the Full-Court Press blogathon, which will (technology permitting) carry every women's and men's game of the tournament, from this one to the men's title game Monday night.

A couple of things to get to on this first day of MAAC Madness:

1. I'm pleased to announce the second annual Full-Court Press bracket challenge. If anyone is interested in picking women's games, let me know, and if there's sufficient interest we'll give it a shot next year. For now, though, we'll just do the men's tournament. The prize will be a MAAC sweatshirt. To enter, simply send me your picks one of three ways:

A) E-mail your picks for each game to bdoody@trentonian.com. Just write which teams will still be standing in each round. So if you think all the favorites are going to win, just e-mail me the following:

Quarters: Iona, Loyola, teams with byes
Semis: Siena, Niagara, Rider, Manhattan
Finals: Siena, Niagara
Champion: Siena

B) Get a bracket from the MAAC web site, fill it out, scan it and e-mail it, or ...

C) Fill out a bracket, track me down at the Times Union Center, and hand it to me.

The deadline for submission is 7 p.m. Friday, a half hour before the Loyola-Canisius tip. Include your first and last name with your picks.

2. The MAAC awards ceremony is tonight. The media votes on the all-tournament teams, but the coaches vote on the all-MAAC teams and other regular season awards. So I don't have a ballot, but if I did, it would look like this.

Player of the Year:
1. Kenny Hasbrouck, Siena
2. Ryan Thompson, Rider
3. Edwin Ubiles, Siena

Rookie of the Year:
1. Novar Gadson, Rider
2. Scott Machado, Iona
3. R.J. Hall, Marist

Defensive Player of the Year:
1. Bilal Benn, Niagara
2. Tyrone Lewis, Niagara
3. Ryan Rossiter, Siena

Coach of the Year:
1. Joe Mihalich, Niagara
2. Fran McCaffery, Siena
3. John Dunne, Saint Peter's

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A chat with the commish


With the festivities in Albany two days away, we e-mailed some questions to MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor, who promptly responded.

Our Q&A with the commish is below.

FCP: We’ll start off with an easy one, since this particular easy one also happens to be relevant: A number of men’s coaches – with Fran McCaffery leading the chorus – have been saying all year this is the best from top to bottom that the league has ever been. Do you agree?

RE: Certainly one of the best. 1995-96 also comes to mind. The league is very comeptitive, currently the rpi is 13th as a league. Highest I recall the MAAC reaching in the past was 11th, but you're talking decimal points on these numbers. 13 is very repectable and reflects the league depth of strenght.

Is it good or bad for the league that the Marist women lost two conference games in the regular season?

Competitiveness is important to any league's long term success, so to the degree losses by any team reflect the development of a number of strong programs in the MAAC than its a good thing for the league.

It seems like every time I turn on a spring training game, there are half as many people in the stands as there were for games last year, since fans have really cut down on traveling to sporting events because of the economy. Are you concerned that the recession will negatively impact attendance at the tournament?

The state of the economy is a major concern for us as athletic administrators, educators and citizens. That said, I think the league is ok this year on ticket sales for the championships. Currently, we are ahead in all sessions and gross dollars amount from 2008 which was an very strong year for the league. Partily this is because the league made some adjustments to its allocations, developed some premium seating sections and increased single session prices in midcourt sections all of which has increased rvenue flow and maintained all sessions prices at 2008 price levels. The fact that so many teams have played well is also driving some sales. We'll need the revenue, as sponsorships for the broadcast package are down significantly and need to be offset by other revenue sources. The league is also providing some family discount options and group rates to keep the event affordable for all our fans. We also cut Friday telecasts from the tourney to reduce operating costs, these games will be avilable as a pay per view webstreaming option on the www.maacsports.com web page.

The MAAC has reached out to representatives of various venues to gauge interest in hosting the tournament from 2012-14. How many of those representatives will be attending the tournament this week? What kind of things will they be looking for if they’re in attendance?

Still finalizing, but expect at least four sites, plus the Albany hosts. We will make a presentation on this year's tournament, bid specs, decision timeline for 2012-14 and give them a tour of the arena setup.

Which team, player or coach most surprised you during the regular season?

I think Tom is showing the league that Canisius is on the upswing, the multiple injuries to Fairfield were a bad development but Ed's ability to coach his team and be competitive has been impressive.

What did you make of the all-MAAC teams announced yesterday? Any predictions for the awards that will be announced Thursday?

Some pretty good players missed the cut, show depth of the league that even with 3 teams players are not selected that have played strong all year. No predicitions.

Last one: You must be able to at least OCCCASIONALLY leave the Times Union Center during these tournaments. Is there a restaurant or watering hole in Albany that you recommend fans visit while they’re in town?

Its not often during tourney we leave the building, tend to eat a lot of chicken tenders and nachos. We do eat as a staff at some of the family restuarnts on Wolf Road, Olive Garden, PF Chiangs. Downtown, I suggest Lombardos on Madison or 74 State Street.

More from the conference call


Way back when I arrived at The Trentonian news room 12 hours ago, I had the intention of adding some extra highlights from the MAAC conference call at some point in the afternoon. Then the sports section got in the way, but at 1:13 a.m. there are no more pages to do and I have a minute, so here it goes:

The comments section was full of folks weighing in on Tommy Dempsey's comments about the all-MAAC teams -- the topic of my story in today's paper.

Dempsey was annoyed that neither Harris Mansell nor Mike Ringgold was voted on to any of the all-MAAC teams. He wasn't positively irate, and he didn't go on and on and on about the injustice inflicted by his fellow coaches. But he was irritated enough that when I asked him to make an argument for Ryan Thompson as Player of the Year, he brought up Mansell and Ringgold.

"There’s certainly a case now considering that neither Harris Mansell nor Mike Ringgold made an all-league team," he said. "If they’re not worthy of being on an all-league team that must be a hell of a statement about how good people think Ryan is. To only have one all-league player in a year when we went 12-6 in the league, I was surprised, so I think that that being said, if he’s our only league player, that shows how special he is."

Then, the coach offered the bulk of his case for Thompson.

"He’s handled the move to the point guard very well," he said. "He’s been very unselfish. He only takes about 12 shots a game and shoots over 50 percent from the field. He’s second in the MAAC in 3-point field goal percentage, he’s won four games in the last 10 seconds. He’s just been a rock for us. If he has any selfishness at all he’d average 22 or 23 points a game, but that’s not what he’s comfortable with. I’m biased. I think he’s the best player in the league, but like Joe (Mihalich) said you could argue for any of those five."

The only other mention of a player getting snubbed was made by the coach of a DIFFERENT team than the one the player in question plays for.

That gripe came from Ed Cooley, who offered his endorsement of Ryan Rossiter and said he thought (though he didn't seem certain) that Rossiter was on the first team on his ballot.

"Interesting to see my man Rossiter from Siena, who I think is one of the best big men, not there but that’s for another discussion," Cooley said. "We’re excited to be there and see what we can do. "

A TV reporter from Albany asked Cooley why he thought Rossiter was omitted.

"I don’t know," Cooley said. " I know we voted for him. I think we put him first team, to be honest with you. I think he’s one of the most improved players in our league, which is a very talented league and a well-coached league, but I don’t know. I have no idea. I love the kid. I think he’s a tremendous player and a great asset to the MAAC."

Fran McCaffery, content with the four Siena players on the first and second teams, didn't make a fuss about Rossiter's omission.

“If you want to say he deserved to be on there, then you have to say someone shouldn’t be on there,” McCaffery said. “I don’t think you could say that. I don’t think it’s fair to the kids that were on it. Ryan Rossiter had a fabulous year. All the players that were on there also had great years.”

...
I've been following sports for my entire life and have never heard a coach say of a potential opponent "Oh yeah, they stink. We'd love to play them." If UConn plays Princeton in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Jim Calhoun will rave about Doug Davis and say the Tigers are dangerous for this reason and that. A whole lot of the time, of course, coaches are simply being polite and trying to avoid giving their opponents bulletin-board material.

So every coach on the conference call had SOMETHING good to say about the opponents they're going to face Friday or Saturday.

But for the coach whose team won 23 games this year and is seeded second, Joe Mihalich had the pleasure of being able to praise BOTH of his potential quarterfinal opponents and actually tell the truth in doing so.

"For finishing second we’re rewarded with having to play either Iona or Marist," Mihalich said. " Iona beat us on our home court and Marist embarrassed us down there in Poughkeepsie. Two coaches that are rising stars in Chuckie Martin and Kevin Willard. Those are the guys who when the positions were filled and they were hired, you said ‘oh man,’ because they are rising stars in this profession. We finished second but when you look up and see who you’re going to play, it brings you right back down to earth. "

...
Chuck Martin's evaluation of his first year as a head coach:

"I chose to look at the season as a great learning experience. I’m excited about the following season. I know we finished last place but we lost 13 games by six or less, four in overtime and we did it with nine guys and one walk-on. I think this league is a really really competitive league. I think there are good coaches in this league, some really talented kids in this league. I feel good that we had a chance to do some good things in this league. As time goes on we’ll have a chance to bring in some new players and our returning guys (will) return mature physically and mentally."

...
A reader wrote in the comments section of my Sunday morning "post" that a post was deleted.

If a comment was deleted and it didn't contain foul language or some kind of threat, it was NOT intentionally deleted. If you wrote a comment and it was deleted, tell me and I'll include it in my next post. I don't recall deleting any comments in the past few months, and I know I haven't deleted any posts that I've written unless there was some kind of technical problem, in which case they're usually deleted within minutes and re-posted without the error.

So again, if someone can tell me what was deleted, I'll gladly re-post it.

Thanks to everyone who's commented lately. The more comments, the better the blog will be going forward.

Monday, March 2, 2009

And the nominees are ...


Men's first team all-MAAC (nominees for Player of the Year):
Kenny Hasbrouck
Edwin Ubilies
Bilal Benn
Tyrone Lewis
Ryan Thompson

Men's second team:
Jamal Barney
Benson Egemonye
Ronald Moore
Alex Franklin
Ryan Schneider

Men's third team:
Frank Turner
Greg Nero
Wesley Jenkins
Daryl Crawford
Gary Springer

Men's all-Rookie (nominees for Rookie of the Year):
Scott Machado
Anthony Winbush
RJ Hall
Novar Gadson
Kyle Downey

Women's first team:
Marie Warner
Beandu Lowenthal
Tazina Cook
Rachele Fitz
Juliane Viani

Women's second team:
Heather Stec
Tania Kennedy
Kelly Regan
Tammy Meyers
Brittany Ruseell

Women's third team:
Liz Flooks
Erica Allenspach
Stephanie Geehan
Anda Ivkovic
Amanda Cavo
....

Ed Cooley said he's shocked Ryan Rossiter was left off any of the teams. "I love the kid," Cooley said. "I think he's a tremendous player and a great asset for the MAAC." ... Cooley also said he should no by the end of the day whether the Stags will get Greg Nero (injured back) back for the MAAC tournament.

Barry Rohrssen said there's a chance Devon Austin could return, and that "that's a medical decision" that will have to be made by Austin and the Jaspers training staff. "We'll take it day by day," he said.

Tommy Dempsey said he was surprised neither Mike Ringgold nor Harris Mansell made all-MAAC teams, and that if they're not good enough to be recognized, that must mean Ryan Thompson is really great to have carried the Broncs to a 12-6 record.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

What the heck is going on out here? .... Here's what


No matter how great or how boring the regular season is, the last day of it is a whole lot of fun if like me, you get a kick out of figuring out wacky contingency plans for tournament seeding.

It so happens that this season was, in my opinion, pretty exciting. The MAAC is as good as it’s been in recent memory, with two teams already at the 23-win mark and one – Siena – getting mentioned every 10 seconds on ESPN as a potential Bubble team.

But independent of all that stuff, what better to spend Sunday morning mapping out who will finish where if what happens and why. (A mouthful, huh?)

Now, the implications of this year’s tiebreakers aren’t all that big, especially compared to last year. And today, no matter what happens, won’t rival that wacky day last March when FIVE teams entered play with a mathematical chance to win the regular season title, and Siena ended up winning the No. 1 seed and automatic NIT bid by virtue of sweeping sixth-place Marist.

The situation was so confusing that I talked to MAAC associate commissioner for basketball Ken Taylor about a minute after the Rider-Fairfield game and he was still trying to figure out what the heck was going on.

Today, the only games that have serious seeding implications are those that involve Saint Peter’s and since one of those teams will avoid the play-in round while the other won’t.

So after going through every potential scenario and figuring out why everything is the way it is, here’s the breakdown:

Siena has clinched the No. 1 seed
Niagara has clinched the No. 2 seed
Rider has clinched the No. 3 seed
Manhattan can clinch the No. 4 seed with a Fairfield loss and can finish no lower than fifth.
Fairfield can clinch the No. 4 seed with a win and can finish no lower than fifth.
Saint Peter's can clinch the No. 6 seed with a win and can finish no lower than seventh.
Iona can clinch the No. 6 seed with a win AND a Saint Peter’s loss, and can finish no lower than eighth.
Loyola can clinch the No. 7 seed with a win AND a Saint Peter’s loss, and can finish no lower than eighth.
Canisius can clinch the No. 9 seed with a win OR a Marist loss
Marist can clinch the No. 9 seed with a win AND a Canisius loss

Now, for those cooky explanations, in order of the seed at stake.

No. 4 seed: If Fairfield and Loyola both win, Fairfield wins the tiebreaker by virtue of its 2-0 record against Loyola. If they both lose, Manhattan wins the tiebreaker by virtue of its 1-1 record against Rider. Not that it matters much, since the Stags and Jaspers will be playing in a 4-5 game Saturday no matter what.

No. 6 seed: If Saint Peter’s wins and Iona beats Loyola, the Peacocks win the tiebreaker over the Gaels because they swept the season series. Loyola then gets the 8 seed. If Saint Peter’s wins and Loyola wins, SPC finishes alone in sixth place. That would leave Iona and Loyola in a seventh-place tie. Iona wins the tiebreaker by virtue of its 1-1 record against Niagara and Loyola gets the 8 seed.

If Saint Peter’s loses and Iona beats Loyola, Iona would finish alone in sixth and Saint Peter’s would finish alone in seventh, with Loyola in eighth.

If Saint Peter’s loses and Loyola beats Iona, there will be a three-way tie for sixth.

This is where it gets interesting.

The MAAC rulebook states that in case of a three-way tie, the teams place in order of their placement in the mini-conference involving the three teams. The teams’ records in the miniconference would be as follows:

SPC: 3-1
Loyola: 2-2
Iona 1-3

That means SPC gets the 6 seed, Loyola gets the 7 and Iona the 8.

No. 9 seed: This one is pretty simple, since Canisius swept the season series with Marist. So if the teams are still tied at the end of the day – by far the most likely scenario since they’re both likely to lose – Canisius gets the 9 seed. If Canisius shocks Siena and Marist loses to Niagara, the Griffs will finish alone in ninth. The only way Marist can get the 9 seed is if the Foxes upset Niagara and Siena takes care of Marist.

How do you think it will all shake out?