Sunday, November 10, 2013

Some Opening Opinions on Men's Opening Games

The college basketball season is here. MAAC teams begin play on Friday, and we can start making some early judgments.

So, here are some "opening volleys," from your Hoopscribe, men's version.

- The Siena men should be entertaining this year, despite a 74-62 loss to UAlbany.

Your blogger was there to see the Saints get out to a 16-point lead late in the first half against a very good UAlbany team before the Danes' experience and power game took over to outscore Siena, 58-30 over the last 25 minutes, or so.

Siena ran well for the first 15 minutes, but couldn't compete with Albany once the Danes were able to enforce a half-court style on the contest.

Four of Siena's freshmen played 107 of the available 200 minutes, and they all looked like quality young players. They also looked like they will go through some growing pains this year, but future years, finally, look bright for the program.

Still, while fans thought Siena's play was more exciting than it had been under previous coach Mitch Buonaguro, there's this cautionary fact: Siena's 62 points against a team picked to finish third in the America East Conference, was just two more than the per-game average of a year ago.

- Newcomer Monmouth gets off on right foot.

The Hawks' first game as a MAAC member came against one of the conference's legendary former coaches, Joe Mihalich who is now at Hofstra.

Monmouth earned an 88-84 victory, indicating that Mihalich has brought his up-tempo style of play from Niagara to Hempstead, Long Island.

Monmouth, picked to finish last in the MAAC, had six players score eight or more points, led by 22 from Deon Jones, a transfer from Towson.

The victory came with two freshmen in Monmouth's starting lineup, 6-10, 260-pounder Zac Tillman and 5-8 point guard Justin Robinson. It looks like, as predicted many times in past blog items, that Robinson is going to be a very good MAAC-level point guard. He had 11 points and five assists, against a single turnover, in his college debut.

- Marist drop opener to Stony Brook

The first game of coach Jeff Bower's era at Marist resulted in a 16-point, 71-55, loss at Stony Brook.

But, that's far from an embarrassment. Stony Brook is a strong America East team, picked to finish second in that league's preseason poll ... a spot higher than the UAlbany team that handled Siena.

Good and bad on one front for Marist. Isaiah Morton, who rarely looked for his own shot as the Red Foxes' point guard last season, led Marist in scoring vs. Stony Brook with 15 points, while taking 12 shots (the most by any Marist player).

The bad news? He had just one assist against five turnovers.

- Saint Peter's falls to LIU-Brooklyn.

Another tough opener for a MAAC team against a team better than MAAC followers might think.

LIU, which won this game, 88-81, has won the Northeast Conference's championship for the past three seasons, although is picked fourth this year, in the preseason coaches' poll.

Good news for Saint Peter's ... the usually defensive-minded, offensively challenged Peackocks put up 80 points, matching the program's single-best point production of the past two seasons. The last time the team scored more than 80 was an 85-point outburst in a game against Marist midway through the 2010-11 season.

Marvin Dominique, a 6-7 transfer from Fordham, had a huge game with 32 points and 14 rebounds.

- Iona drops opener at Cleveland State

Not that surprising since Iona is again adjusting to some newcomers, a situation it went through a year ago as it didn't seem to put things together until late in the season while making its eventual run to the NCAA tournament.

Iona now needs to adjust to playing without last season's Player of the Year, Momo Jones. It looked good in the first half while building a 15-point lead at the intermission and, then, got outscored, 44-25 over the final 20 minutes (shooting just 24.3 percent from the field) in losing, 73-69.

Returnees did much of the work for the Gaels. Forward David Laury had 19 points and 10 rebounds, senior guard Sean Armand had 17 points and Tre Bowman, coming off the bench, chipped in with 14 points.

- Big victory for Manhattan

The Jaspers, who used a slow-down offense and smothering defense to advance to last season's MAAC championship game after it lost top scorer George Beamon after four games a year ago, are offensively challenged no more.

The Jaspers put up 99 points in a 99-90 victory over La Salle (an NCAA tournament team a year ago), albeit in a two-overtime contest played in Philadelphia.

La Salle needed a three-pointer late in regulation to force overtime.

Manhattan then got a basket by Rhamel Brown with five seconds left in the first extra session to tie the score and, then, survived as Brown blocked a shot by La Salle at the buzzer.

La Salle then grabbed an 86-85 lead in the second overtime before Manhattan went on a 14-4 run to close it out.

Beamon, who led the way with 24 points, and Alvarado (16 points, eight rebounds, six assists) combined for 11 of those final 14 Jasper points.

- Quinnipiac also gets first MAAC victory

Quinnipiac joined Monmouth as MAAC newcomers getting a season-opening victory, nipping intra-state rival Hartford, 82-77.

Senior forward Ike Azotam, a third-team all-MAAC preseason selection, certainly lived up to the hype with a big game, a 20-point, 13-rebound double-double.

- Tough opener for Niagara

First-year Purple Eagles' coach Chris Casey faced one of the tougher openers for a MAAC team, having to play at Seton Hall, which knocked off Niagara, 83-72.

Those who thought Niagara would have rebounding woes, though, were proven wrong as it held a 41-36 edge on the boards in the game.

Scoring? Who else? Junior guard Antoine Mason had a 34-point explosion and those who thought he very well might lead the nation in scoring this year (your Hoopscribe believes that) saw him take a step in that direction.

Another unexpectedly strong game came from freshman 6-foot-5 forward Ramone Snowden who had a game-high 15 rebounds.

Monmouth transfer Marcus Ware, a 6-8 senior forward, also had a nice game with 10 points and seven rebounds.

- Newcomer Gilbert helps Fairfield

Malcolm Gilbert, at 6-11, is one of the conference's biggest players. And, in Fairfield's season opener, a 67-54 victory over intra-state rival Sacred Heart, he had the biggest hand in the result.

With Fairfield trailing by 10 early in the first half, Gilbert came off the bench to restore order for Fairfield with four blocked shots over the next nine minutes to end Sacred Heart's early run.

Gilbert, a transfer from Pitt, came off the bench to score five points, grab 11 rebounds and block eight shots in 24 minutes of court time.

It was mostly all good for the winners, except for an up-and-down debut for freshman point guard K.J. Rose. He did have nine points (3-of-5 shooting), but also committed nine turnovers.

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