Here's another preview of women's teams as the MAAC tournament approaches.
MARIST (No. 1 seed)
Plays Friday at 1:30 p.m. vs. the winner of Thursday's Canisius-Saint Peter's game
WHAT MARIST HAS: A little bit of everything. Start with Player of the Year candidate Corielle Yarde, a 5-8 senior guard who leads the team in points, rebounds and assists. Another senior, forward Brandy Gang, has been playing her best down the stretch, averaging 19.7 points in the team's last three games. On a given night, though, nearly anyone can be featured. Five different players have led the team in scoring in a game. Marist has a former Atlantic 10 Conference starter, Kristina Danella, coming off the bench. Marist is the league's highest scoring team, and has the best field goal defense percentage in the conference. It also takes care of the ball (441 assists, 397 turnovers) and has the MAAC's best assist-to-turnover ratio by far. The team just knows how to win games, and that's testimony to the work of head coach Brian Giorgis who, somehow, creates something special out of his basketball laboratory every season. And, this season, considering the graduation/transfer/injury losses since the end of last year, might have been his best work.
WHAT MARIST DOESN'T HAVE: You almost have to go searching for possible weaknesses. For instance ... it "only" outscores conference opponents by an average of 14.4 points per game. But, that comes after it had a margin of 26.3 points per game the previous year. The team's last three games have been won by "just" two, 14 and seven points. Marist doesn't rebound exceptionally well. Its top rebounder is a guard (Yarde), and it has the second-worst rebound margin in the MAAC. If an opponent can get Marist's offense out of sync and, then, rebound the Red Foxes' missed shots it has a chance. But, that's still a tall order, much easier said than done. Marist will also be tested in its semi-final round contest against the winner of the Loyola-Niagara quarterfinal-round contest. Niagara took the Red Foxes to double overtime in their last meeting, and Loyola's losses to Marist have been by 7 and 8 points.
HOW MARIST CAN WIN? Just by being itself. It played its worst game in recent memory earlier this season in its only setback in conference play, and still only lost by four points to a good Manhattan team. There's a reason Marist has now won or shared nine straight league titles. It's because the Red Foxes are better than everyone else. It would be a surprise if Marist doesn't win what would be its seventh straight tournament title. The rest of the league has narrowed the gap a little this year, but it's still there.