Thursday, March 15, 2012

Two Men's Teams Advance, Now 4 At 20-Win Mark

We can't bring a lot of detail because neither of its games were televised, but two MAAC men's teams advanced in the post-season tournament last night.

Manhattan, behind George Beamon's career-high 34 points, upended the University at Albany, on UA's home court, 89-79; and, Fairfield used an inspired second half after a reportedly lackluster first half to get past Yale, 68-56 as junior guard Colin Nickerson scored a career-high 22 points.

The victories set up a likely meeting between the two MAAC schools in the event's next round (tournament officials will release match-ups for the next round later today). Fairfield has already been announced as hosting the next round, Sunday at 4 p.m. at its on-campus Alumni Hall facility.

What we do know is that this is part of the golden era for MAAC basketball, at least among the upper-echelon levels of the conference.

Fairfield's victory Wednesday night was its 20th of the season (20-14), making it the fourth team from the conference to reach the 20-victory plateau.

Iona, which lost to BYU in the NCAA tournament, finishes at 25-8. Loyola, which plays Ohio State tonight, is 24-8. Manhattan's victory last night pushed its record to 21-12.

Only one other season has produced four 20-victory teams. That was last season when Fairfield concluded 25-8, Rider was 23-11, Iona was 25-12 and Saint Peter's was 20-14.

Of course the jaded will note that teams play more games these days than they once did, mostly due to the advent of so-called "exempt" early season tournaments that allow teams to play three or four games that count as a single outing against the maximum-allowed number of games that can be scheduled during the regular season.

Right now, teams in the MAAC average 32.1 games played (and that will go up some since three teams all have at least one more game to play).

Still, in recent years, conference teams have averaged similar game totals, at least a 31-6 per-team average starting with the 2006-07 season. For several years prior to that teams averaged at least 29 games each.

One has to go back to the 1995-96 season when teams averaged less than 29 contests apiece (27.5 that year), but the per-team average had consistently been about 29 for much of the league's history until the recent six-year run when per-game averages of teams went over 31.

Of course, more games means more opportunities for wins, and part of that ... now, that I think of it ... is the advent of two additional tournaments (the CIT and the CBI) that joined the long-standing national post-season events (NCAA's, NIT) a few years back.

Still, four 20-victory MAAC teams in the same season has only happened twice ... last season and the current year.

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