Another installment in a series looking at the chances of teams in the upcoming men's MAAC tournament.
Up now, Canisius.
No. 7 CANISIUS (8-10, 14-16)
SEASON ANALYSIS: The 2008-09 team improved five games overall from the previous year, won four of its last six games and had every key player returning. This was supposed to be the year the Golden Griffins made an even bigger jump. Instead, the jump was a smaller one ... three more wins so far over 2008-09. None of any disappointment about this season can be traced to stellar senior guard Frank Turner, the do-everything dynamo who, to this blogger, was a first-team talent even though league coaches relegated him to third-team honors.
Canisius was a little better, but not a lot, because it was relatively easy to defend. Turner is the only player with any creativity handling the ball and he also had to do much of the scoring. Julius Coles is the only other competent scorer. The inside players are solid, but not spectacular. But, there was some joy this year ... a Jan. 29 overtime victory over proximitous rival Niagara, only the Griffs' second victory over the Purple Eagles in seven years.
HOW CANISIUS CAN WIN THE TOURNAMENT: With heady play from a group of upperclassmen who have exhibited that trait for short periods throughout the year, with superlative play from Turner and Coles and with rugged inside play. Canisius needs to make games ugly, get scores in the low-60's to have any chance.
That said, coach Tom Parrotta was almost jubilant, in a recent conference call with coaches, to have avoided the Siena side of the bracket. It doesn't mean his team has an easy route to the championship game, just a less-difficult one.
WHY CANISIUS WON'T WIN THE TOURNAMENT: It begins in the play-in round, so it would need to win four times here. It has a relatively easy first-round game with Marist and, then, faces No. 2-seed Fairfield in the quarterfinals with the winner of the Iona-Niagara game looming in the semis.
Canisius is 1-7 against the top four teams in the final standings and 7-3 against everyone else. Realistically, it just isn't good enough to expect to win three consecutive games in (beyond the play-in round) as a decided underdog. There just isn't enough offensive fire power here to win four straight games.
PREDICTION: Canisius wins with ease over Marist in the play-in round and plays tough against Fairfield before losing to the Stags in the quarterfinals.
WHAT'S NEXT? Probably more of the same. Canisius became competitive this season after several years of being an easy victory for most opponents, and the Griffs are likely to remain competitive next season. The only real loss is Turner, but that's a big one. Still, the team has South Florida transfer Gaby Belardo to step in next season. He won't duplicate what Turner did, but he'll be another solid piece.