Friday, March 8, 2013

Some Commentary On Post-Season Award Choices

With apologies to the late, great newscaster Paul Harvey, call this "Commentary on the News."

We temper that, though, by saying there isn't that much to comment on (although there is some) concerning the top individual award winners that were released at the conference's annual post-season Awards Ceremony held at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

First comment: The Hall is indeed a wonderful place to spend several hours or, even, an entire day. If you're a basketball fan, it is a must-visit destination.

The award winners:

Women: Joy Adams, Iona.
Men: Co-winners Amadou Sidibe, Fairfield; Shane Richards, Manhattan.

Women: Kristina Danella, Marist.
Men: Maurice Barrow, Fairfield.

Women: Leanne Ockenden, Marist
Men: Rhamel Brown, Manhattan.

Women: Brian Giorgis, Marist.
Men: Joe Mihalich, Niagara.

Women: Damika Martinez, Iona.
Men: Lamont "Momo" Jones, Iona.

And, now, the commentary ...

Very little disagreement, although your blogger dislikes co-winners of any award. Still, if that's how voting by league coaches comes out ... so be it.

The only disputes here are the top players. Those who have followed this space will know your blogger supported Siena's Lily Grenci and Niagara's Juan'ya Green for the top honors.

That's no knock on the winners, both of whom had just fabulous years. Martinez led the MAAC in scoring for the second straight year, and her team finished second in the regular-season women's standings; Jones is an explosive scorer who not only leads the conference in points, but is third nationally.

Yet ... Martinez had a mid-season blip, a stretch of games in which she wasn't the dominant presence she was late in the year. Grenci was consistently strong from start to finish, was the only player in the league who finished in the top three in the league in scoring (second) and rebounding (third) and did that against defenses geared almost entirely to stop her every night.

I would have agreed with the coaches' choice for the top women's performer had this been a "Most Valuable Player" award. Martinez' team finished in second, and Grenci's team finished sixth, so when it came to who did more to ensure success ... well, Iona finished a lot higher in the standings.

And, yet, it went the opposite way for men. Green was the best player on the MAAC's best men's team and didn't get the award. But, he finished third in scoring, second in assists (by just one-tenths of an assist) and third in steals. He hit two game-winning shots and did so much in late-game situations that his coach, Joe Mihalich, said Green's first name should be changed to "Win'ya."

Jones' Iona team finished fourth.

Again, it was apples/oranges for those awards, and the guess is that the balloting was close for both. But, this observer just thought both should have gone the other way.

Other commentary?

There are some notable "streaks" developing.

Giorgis' coaching award was his seventh, a record for conference coaches. Former MAAC coaches Gina Castelli (Siena), Dianne Nolan (Fairfield) and Mike Granelli (Saint Peter's) are each five-time winners.

Mihalich is just the second men's coach to be honored three times, joining former Saint Peter's coach Ted Fiore as the only three-time winners.

And, Martinez became just the second sophomore to be named the women's player of the year, joining former Marist star Rachele Fitz.

Fitz went on to become the conference's only three-time winner of the top individual award, an achievement Martinez could match is she adds two more to her resume.

And, Martinez is already ahead of Fitz in one other area of on-court achievement. A year ago she was the first freshman to ever lead the women's league in scoring.

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