Sunday, March 16, 2014

ATM: Many News & Notes From Around The MAAC

Some thoughts while waiting to see where conference teams will go in national post-season play.

And, these will be mostly related to the recent conference post-season event ...

- The world did not spin off its axis, the sun still rises in the east, and the Marist women's basketball team are headed to the NCAA Tournament (it learns its seeding position, opponent and location on Monday evening) for the ninth consecutive time and the 11th time in the last 12 years.

Can any other mid-major level program anywhere match that string?

Marist had to do it, though, by rallying from a 17-point deficit with four minutes remaining in the first half against a very good Quinnipiac opponent in the MAAC event's championship game.

ESPN's women's "bracketology" feature perceives Marist will be a No. 10 seed in a 16-team bracket and face off with California, a No. 7 seed.

The College Sports Madness site is predicting the same match up, Marist vs. California, in a first-round contest with Marist an 11th seed and Cal a No. 6.

- The two most highly regarded bracketology sites for men both predict Manhattan will be a No. 13 seed when the NCAA field is released later tonight.

Joe Lunardi of ESPN has the Jaspers meeting Creighton in a first-round game, while Jerry Palm for CBS, is predicting a first-round meeting for Manhattan against Michigan State.

- Niagara's junior standout guard Antoine Mason led the MAAC in scoring and was second nationally with his point-per-game average as pretty much the lone scoring threat for his team this past season.

But, is there a second act for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound guard?

Although Mason has one more year of eligibility, he is expected to graduate in May. He has been at the school for four years, having sat out a season to recover from an injury.

The situation, in which the NCAA allows graduates of a four-year program to transfer elsewhere for graduate-degree study without having to sit out the traditional transfer season, could mean that Mason will look for another location to play for 2014-15.

The Buffalo News newspaper is already speculating on the possibility, as its Bob DiCesare wrote recently: "It could be an attractive option after Niagara suffered through one of its longest seasons, finishing 7-26."

Still, if Mason stays in place he could become Niagara's all-time leading scorer. With 1,934 career points so far, he would appear to have a good chance to surpass Calvin Murphy's career school record of 2,548 points. Mason scored 846 points this past season.

"I've got to sit down with my parents and talk it over," Mason told the Buffalo newspaper. "I'm not sure."

- He is loud, brash, blunt and has rubbed more than a few people the wrong way at times, but there was plenty of class on display from Manhattan men's coach Steve Masiello after his Jaspers defeated Saint Peter's in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC tournament.

When that game ended, Peacocks' standout junior guard Desi Washington was disconsolate, tears streaming down his face. He finally got off his team's bench, the last Saint Peter's player in the post-game hand-shake line with Manhattan.

When Masiello reached Washington, the Manhattan coach embraced the Saint Peter's player, held him tight and whispered in his ear for several minutes.

"I told him to hold his head up, that he had no reason to be embarrassed," said Masiello. "I told him that he's one of the best players in our league, that he can learn from this and to use it as fuel for next year. I told him that he could handle this, and that he can be a leader for his team. His teammates will follow him next year because of this."

- There was another Mason who showed some offensive firepower at the MAAC tournament. That was freshman guard Stephanie Mason of the Rider women's team.

Mason entered the MAAC tournament averaging less than 10 minutes of playing time per game, and only saw three minutes of action in the team's first-round contest.

In the quarterfinal round, though, she came off the bench with a huge effort, scoring 14 points in 18 minutes and, at one key second-half juncture, mad three consecutive three-pointers that helped the Broncs rally from a nine-point deficit into a four-point lead against Fairfield with less than four minutes remaining.

Rider won that game, 63-56, and, then, gave Marist a scare in the semifinals before losing, 70-59.

But not before Mason turned in her best performance of the season, making 5-of-6 shoots from the floor and scoring 18 points in 25 minutes. And, a star might have been born.

She also delivered one of the best post-game comments of the tournament.

When asked what she thought about Fairfield resorting to a zone defense, to protect players with foul trouble, in the quarterfinal-round contest, Mason admitted: "I'm a long-range shooters. My eyes just lit up."

- The tournament made its final appearance in Springfield, Mass., on the third year of a three-year contract.

It initially seemed like a good idea for the event to move to the birthplace of basketball as school administrators sought a neutral site for the post-season games.

The MassMutual Center did indeed provide neutrality (the top-seeded men's team failed to win in any of the three years there), but little else in terms of atmosphere.

The total crowd count of the first year of Springfield's tournament run was abysmal and, then, just got worse after that.

The first year's attendance in Springfield (2012) was 16,127. Last year's turnout was 14,395. And, this year's final numbers, released recently, were 13,972.

The last time the tournament was played in Albany, by comparison, total turnout was 53,569.

The event returns to Albany's Times Union Center for the next three years.

League officials indicate they'll consider Springfield for future MAAC tournaments, particularly if that city has a casino in place, as is expected, in the near future. Theoretically, a casino would serve as another attraction in the city, another reason for basketball fans to make the trip to watch the tournament.

But, the feeling here is that the MAAC tournament shouldn't be relying on attractions besides basketball to bring fans to games.

- More movement? For the first time in several years it appears that every men's coach is secure in his respective position for next season.

But, that doesn't mean one or more would move on for proverbial greener pastures.

That one, though, doesn't appear likely to be Iona's Tim Cluess, whose team captured the MAAC's regular-season championship.

Cluess was the choice when Hofstra's position was open last year and, according to sources, had even accepted the job there before that school wasn't willing to meet the sizeable buyout in the coach's contract for his release from Iona.

Just before this year's MAAC event, Iona announced a contract extension for Cluess, tying him to the program through the 2018-19 season.

Unsaid was whether the school received its share of security related to the contract, whether there was a clause for an even larger buy-out should another program seek to hire away the Iona coach. And, the strong belief is that a larger buyout clause was part of that agreement, making it very difficult for Cluess to move on.

Just pure speculation here, but there might be an opening at Boston College where former Cornell coach Steve Donohue has worked for the last four seasons to very little success. Donohue has just one year left on his contract, and a columnist for the Boston Globe newspaper has written that it's time for that school to move on from Donohue.

Could a MAAC coach be in the mix should that job open?

Masiello would certainly appear to be an attractive candidate to move on, and maybe even Siena coach Jimmy Patsos, who is a Boston native.


Mike D'Amico said...

Patsos isn't going to Boston College. Cmon Steve.

Steve Amedio said...

How could you know?
You don't.
For that matter, I don't, either.
Never said Patsos was going to BC. Just presenting the fact that a Boston Globe columnist is writing that BC should fire Donohue (and, BC has not commented on Donohue's status).
As my "blurb" indicates ... purely speculation, but Masiello and Patsos would appear to be our league's two most-viable candidates to eventually move on. And, very, very few coaches in the MAAC remain in place when a big-time offer comes his way.