Sunday, March 3, 2013

Previews, Expectations for Tournament Coming Up

Call this a "Stay Tuned for What's Ahead" reminder ...

As always, we'll be previewing teams and games, both for men and women, in coming days as we approach the conference's post-season tournament that begins with preliminary rounds for women on Thursday in Springfield, Massachusetts (or, MAACachusetts, as event promoters like to call it).

Who plays who, and when, all unfolds for us today as the last regular-season contests of the year will be played. Until then, there remains much scrambling for position and, it appears, there will be more than a few tie-breakers required as many positions in the standings are still so tight.

But, that will all be in place after today's final contest, when the Loyola women play at Saint Peter's at 4 p.m.

And, then, let the blogging begin later this evening and, probably into the early hours (and, every day through the MAAC event.

But this is truly "March Madness," and college basketball fans would surely be "mad" not to consider this the most-enjoyable time of the year. It makes writing about all of it a real labor of love.

Upcoming previews will take a look at the current status of each team and its players, as well as overall team strengths and weaknesses, and what each individual team will have to accomplish to have a chance to ultimately win the upcoming league tournament.

Yet while there is much still to be determined from today's games, the top of the MAAC standings, for both men and women, has already been decided.

The Marist women clinched the regular-season championship, its unprecedented 10th straight, long ago. The Red Foxes are 17-0 in league play, while the current occupant of second place, Iona, is 12-5.

If Marist can win its final game today at Fairfield this would be the Red Foxes' third 18-0 finish in conference play in the past six seasons.

On the men's side, Niagara clinched the regular-season crown last night with a 78-61 victory over Saint Peter's. The Purple Eagles finished conference-season play with a 13-5 record. Rider, which knocked off Canisius (65-61) last night, is next at 12-6. Loyola, which hosts Manhattan in a game today, also has six losses (11-6).

Congratulations to the regular-season champs ... an expected one by Marist, and an early coming-of-age season by Niagara, which fields one of the league's youngest teams.

And, now, the stakes increase ... NCAA tournament berths are there for the taking for the post-season tournament's winners.

It gets no better than that. So, let the games begin. We hope you enjoy what's to come, both on the court and on this blog.

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