Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Women's Tournament: A Look at Faifrield

Here's another in the series previewing women's teams for the MAAC tournament.

FAIRFIELD (No. 2 seed)
Plays Friday at 9:30 a.m. vs. the winner of Thursday's Iona-Rider game

WHAT FAIRFIELD HAS: A good deal of talent, particularly in first-team all-league pick Taryn Johnson, who is certainly a strong candidate for Player of the Year; and point guard Desiree Pina, a third-team selection. Those two, the Stags' best players, are both experienced seniors. Then, there's terrific outside shooters in Katelynn Linney (59 3's) and sophomore Alexys Vazquez (57), whose shooting percentage from three-point range is No. 1 nationally. The offense, with its myriad of set plays, is tough to defense. The Stags are also tough to score on. The 51.9 per-game average by opponents is 20th best nationally. Of course, the team's slow-down style limits opponents' possessions and precipitates lower scoring games.

WHAT FAIRFIELD DOESN'T HAVE: A particularly strong inside game, although that's where Johnson does her best work. The senior forward never takes a bad shot (she shoots a conference best 54.4 percent from the field) and is a good rebounder. But, the team's only players over 5-11 are, basically, role players. The Stags also have limited depth. Only six players average more than 11.6 minutes per game. But, the walk-it-up-the-court style helps keep the core players fresh.

HOW FAIRFIELD CAN WIN: It's not hard to envision Fairfield advancing to the championship game, and if it meets Marist there ... well, the Stags have had some success against the Red Foxes, beating the conference's dominant team in the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons and losing by just two points in a game in 2010-11. Its closest game with Marist this year was a six-point loss. Fairfield has beaten everyone else in the league twice except for its split with Loyola. Fairfield can advance and, even, win the tournament by inflicting its slow-down style on opponents and making intelligent decisions in the half court. Pina has become an above average floor-leader, Johnson is a solid inside scorer and the team has plenty of outside shooters.

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