In case you hadn't noticed, the men's conference season began in full force earlier this week and produced more than a couple eye-opening, head-shaking results.
- SAINT PETER'S EDGED IONA, 64-62, ON WEDNESDAY
The Peacocks were just about universally picked to finish in last place in this year's MAAC standings, but to a 1-1 league start (4-5 overall) that includes this confidence-building victory over Iona, a team acknowledged to have as much talent as any in the league and picked in most quarters to finish in the top three or four.
Saint Peter's senior guard Blaise Ffrench capped off a big night (17 points, eight assists) with a tie-breaking, game-winning jumper with four seconds remaining, setting off an exuberant and much-understood on-court celebration when the final seconds ticked off.
Senior forward Darius Conley added 17 points and nine rebounds to help the Peacocks overcome a 31-21 halftime deficit with 43 second-half points.
Iona's senior guard Momo Jones, who entered the game as the nation's fifth-leading scorer, was held to 11 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
"Our guys were not passing the ball to each other," Iona coach Tim Cluess told an internet site after the game. "There was way too much one-on-one. When you play selfish like that good things are not going to happen. We've alternated from being selfish and being a team from one game to the next and (against Saint Peter's) we were very, very selfish."
NIAGARA NIPPED LOYOLA, 62-61 AT LOYOLA
The defending conference tournament champion and widely regarded favorite to win this season's regular-season crown (Loyola) got outplayed on its home court by a smaller, scrappy Niagara squad.
Late heroics were turned in by the Purple Eagles' Juan'ya Green, who stole a Loyola pass with six seconds left, was fouled and made both free throws to give his team a four-point edge. that enabled the winners to survive a last-second three-pointer made by Loyola's Robert Olson.
"Don't mistake this for us losing by one late in the game," Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos told reporters after the game this past Wednesday. "We lost this because they (Niagara) was the better team for 40 minutes ... we stopped having energy on defense, and they took advantage of that."
CANISIUS STOPS FAIRFIELD, 67-55, IN BRIDGEPORT, CT.
Last season's worst MAAC team by far, Canisius, is far removed from that description this season with a 5-1 overall start and Wednesday's conference-opening victory over a Fairfield program that has been among the league's upper crust in recent years.
But, a double-digit victory on an opponent's home court is cause for the continued rise of enthusiasm within the Buffalo program.
The outcome ended the Golden Griffins' nine-game losing streak in meetings with the Stags.
And, the winners' backcourt of Billy Baron and Harold Washington continued to make a case for being among the best in the MAAC as each scored 19 points in the contest.
MARIST NIPS MANHATTAN, 62-58
If the prognosticators weren't picking Saint Peter's to finish last among men's teams this year, then the choice was Marist.
And, those not predicting Loyola as this year's best MAAC team likely leaned toward Manhattan.
But, Wednesday's games had yet enough up-from-the-depths squad upending a perceived "elite" as Marist rallied from a 58-55 deficit with three minutes remaining to score the game's last six points and secure a victory.
The Jaspers, playing without defending conference scoring champion George Beamon (ankle issues), missed their final five shots after holding that three-point advantage.
Marist used a balanced scoring attack with four players in double figures, led by sophomore swingman standout Chavaughn Lewis' 17.