Monday, March 8, 2010

Title Game: Current No. 1 vs. Future Power

Tonight's MAAC tournament men's championship game will either be a continuation of a stretch of the best four-year run in conference history, or the beginning of, maybe, a new era of extended success.

Siena is the team trying to continue its domination of league play in tonight's 7 p.m. championship game against Fairfield, and a victory by the Saints tonight would confirm that program's position among the MAAC's all-time elite.

Here's what Siena has accomplished since the current senior class of forwards Alex Franklin, Edwin Ubiles and point guard Ronald Moore joined the program:

- Its overall record of 96-37 accounts for the second-highest victory total by a conference team over a four-year stretch. Only former conference member La Salle, which won 100 games (100-31) from 1986-87 through 1989-90, has won more games over a four-year stretch.

- Siena is one of three MAAC teams to reach the league's post-season tournament's championship game in four straight seasons. Manhattan (1991-92 through 1994-95) and Iona (1981-82 through 1984-85) are the only other teams to do that.

- If Siena wins tonight, it becomes only the second MAAC men's team to win the post-season tournament title (and an NCAA berth) in three consecutive seasons. Only former league member La Salle (1987-88, 1988-89 and 1989-90) has done that so far.

On the other hand, Fairfield's future looks bright no matter the outcome of tonight's game.

- The Stags have one of the all-time best freshmen on their roster, 5-foot-11 point guard Derek Needham whose 16.3 points-per-game average is fourth best among MAAC players this year. Needham is one of four players in conference history to average at least 15 ppg. as a freshman. The only others are Saint Peter's Keydren Clark, La Salle's Lionel Simmons and Rider's Jerry Johnson.

- Although Fairfield loses standout senior big man Anthony Johnson after this season, it has three expected starters recovering from injuries. Forwards Greg Nero and Warren Edney have missed all of the current season and swingman Yorel Hawkins has missed the last 13 games. All could play next season and if all three return the Stags will likely be the preseason pick to win the 2010-11 regular-season title.

It certainly makes for an interesting championship game tonight, and will answer this question:

Does the present prevail, or does the future begin a little early?


Mulldog said...

Might as well give Fairfield one last chance to prove me wrong again, but I don't think they stand a chance tonight. Congrats to them for making the championship and I don't really know how anyone is going to beat Needham in this conference the next three years so I do agree there. Along with Nickerson and Hawkins, and these other guys, as much as losing Johnson will hurt they should be the early conference favorites next year. I don't think Siena or Niagara are going anywhere and Iona should be improved as well. But Fairfield will have the best player and likely be considered the favorites.

Disappointing and fitting end for Niagara last night. That was their season in a nutshell. Another loss to a team that had no business beating them. Still not entirely sure how it happened other than the officials turning a disadvantage for Fairfield into an advantage (refusing to call Johnson for a 4th foul for some reason). Still, NU needed only make a couple shots over the last seven minutes to hold off Fairfield, yet when they went to the whip they had no response. Mihalich was too slow to get Gillette back in the game, who was doing an excellent job denying Johnson the the time he did Fairfield had closed the gap and Niagara ran out of answers.

Hoping Siena gets it done tonight and makes it three straight years with a NCAA tournament win.

Steve Amedio said...

Mulldog --
Couple of points.
I pretty much agree on tonight's game. I don't see Fairfield winning either, but... it could be interesting. Cooley is a terrific coach, and he's got two tough matchups with Johnson/Needham.

Fairfield will clearly be next season's favorites, if the injured players all return.
Siena won't be bad (probably the No. 4 pick in the preseason), and Niagara won't ever be bad because Mihalich is terrific.
Right now, Iona and St. Peter's should be in the top three, as well, for next season.

Niagara pretty much ran out of gas last night ... Just not a lot of depth. I have to believe that neither Benn, nor Lewis is 100 percent. Neither was playing like they had in previous years.

We'll strongly disagree on officials ... John Cahill is one of the top two or three officials in the country. That was the best crew to officiate a MAAC game all year.. They let guys play, but were consistent with their calls.

Gillette flashed some ability, but he wasn't "ready" yet this year. I like his potential, but he needs 15 pounds of muscle, and a better grasp of how to play before he's a serious factor. He made a lot of mistakes last night, so I don't fault Mihalich for his use of him. But, you can see where he's going to be good at some point