Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Early Season Women's News & Notes

Some early impressions on women's play around the conference. And, even while each team has only played two league games thus far, some definite trends are emerging.

For instance ...

- Marist is, once again, the class of the MAAC. Any surprise there? If the Red Foxes don't win the conference crown yet again this season, we all might also be looking for the sun to rise in the west.

How good is Marist? 10-2 so far and losses only to St. John's, currently No. 19 in the USA Today-ESPN Top 25 Coaches' poll, and a better-than average St. Bonaventure (10-5) squad. Victories include one over Nebraska, which was rated No. 21 nationally at the time of the game and still check in at No. 40 in the coaches' poll.

And on Tuesday Marist showed the distance between its team and everyone else with a 73-43 victory over Iona, the unanimous No. 2 pick in the conference coaches' preseason poll. Marist was ahead 24-1 as Iona went without a field goal for the first 12:29 of the contest. Iona isn't exactly a bottom feeder. In the past five seasons it has a 60-30 record against league opponents ... 0-10 vs. Marist and 60-20 against everyone else. Marist's victory yesterday was its 23rd in a row over the Gaels.

- The importance of point guards. At the next level, teams are often athletic enough and possess enough individual talent to survive without a true point guard. But not at the mid-major level where success is almost always predicated on good, team-oriented play that begins with a good on-court director.

Iona, right now, is playing without its senior standout Suzi Fregosi, who suffered a hip injury recently. Her 1.7-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio through the eight games she did play this season leads the MAAC. With her in the lineup Iona was 3-5 against a difficult non-league schedule. Without her the Gaels are 1-4. With Fregosi Iona had averaged 64 points per game. Without her the Gaels score just 51.4 ppg.

Niagara is also playing without its standout sophomore point guard Kayla Stroman, who was averaging 12 points and 4.4 rebounds per game before suffering a knee injury after the Purple Eagles' eighth game this year. She is expected back soon, but has not played since the injury. With her Niagara averaged 58.4 points per game. Without her the per-game scoring average is 44.0.

- Here's how MAAC teams, overall records in parentheses, are rated by Real Time RPI, through Tuesday's games:

Marist is No. 71 of 343 Division I programs nationally; Fairfield (8-3), 170; Iona (4-9), 298; Canisius (4-8), 209; Siena (4-8), 245; Loyola (4-8), 246; Saint Peter's (1-11), 273; Manhattan (8-5), 274; Rider (0-12), 305; Niagara (1-11). 332.

- Through the first two games of MAAC play, four teams recorded 2-0 records: Marist, Loyola, Fairfield and Siena. The Saints are the proverbial gate-crashers in the bunch, picked in the preseason poll to finish eighth. But, they went on the road for wins at Iona on Sunday and at Manhattan on Tuesday, teams picked to finish second and fourth in the preseason poll, to get wins and establish themselves as, potentially, candidates in the race to finish second to Marist this season.

- Congratulations to Canisius coach Terry Zeh, who became his program's all-time leader in victories with 109 when his Golden Griffins defeated Saint Peter's, 60-56, on Tuesday. Zeh moved ahead of Sister Maria Pares and her 108 career victories at the school in the 1980s.

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