Monday, February 28, 2011

Women's Preview: Manhattan vs. Iona

Here's another in the series previewing the upcoming women's post-season conference tournament games:

No. 3 seed Manhattan (13-5, 21-8) vs. No. 6 Iona (7-11, 11-19), 11:30 a.m. Friday.

WHAT MANHATTAN HAS: Start with a terrific defense. Its 50.0 points allowed per game is No. 3 nationally. Of course that's helped by the fact that Manhattan plays a very deliberate style and the total possessions per game of opponents is kept below the national average. Still, the Jaspers make it tough to score against them. They also have Abby Wentworth, who moved over to point guard this season after three years off the ball and became one of the top two or three point guards in the league as evidenced by her league-best assist average. Manhattan also has long-range shooters, five players with at least 25 three-pointers this season, and the league's best 3-point shooting percentage.

WHAT IONA HAS: A very good one-two punch in forwards Kristina Ford (11.8 points, 6.1 rebounds0 and Anda Ivkovic (11.7, 5.8). Also, some inside height in Milica Palgoric, although foul trouble (one every five minutes) limits her court time.

WHAT MANHATTAN DOESN'T HAVE: Strong inside play, at least for much of the season, averaging 3.4 rebounds less than opponents, third-from-the-bottom in the MAAC in that statistics. But, things have gotten better of late with 6-2 junior Lindsey Loutsenhizer getting more minutes and averaging 13 points and 9 rebounds in the Jaspers' last three games.

WHAT IONA DOESN'T HAVE: Its point guard. Standout Suzi Fregosi, a stellar passer/floor general, got hurt in the team's eighth game and won't be back this season. With her Iona might have fulfilled the preseason predition, by league coaches, for a second-place finish. Without her ... well, they're not anywhere near as good as expected. Surprisingly the Gaels, who usually clean up on the boards, also get outrebounded this season by three per game.

HOW MANHATTAN CAN WIN: If Loutsenhizer can continue strong work on the boards, and Nadia Peter's (6.1 rebounds per game) can elevate their games just a little, Manhattan has enough otherwise to cause some problems, maybe even in a match-up with Marist if that happens. Otherwise, Wentworth is among the most-intelligent players in the league and finds ways to make big plays at key junctures. And, if opponents can't get out to shooters fast enough ... Manhattan can beat anyone if its shots are falling.

HOW IONA CAN WIN: Ford is capable of putting up points in a hurry. So, too, is Ivkovic, whose late-season knee injury last season still seems to limit her mobility. And Ivkovic seems much less selfish an offensive player this year ... maybe too much so. If the inside players can deliver, and Melissa Flagg, who stepped in for Fregosi, plays a solid game ... Iona can cause some problems. Still, the only team in the upper half the Gaels have beaten this year was Siena in an overtime contest. And, Iona has lost six of its final eight games.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The winner advances to a semifinal-round contest on Saturday in the same bracket with Loyola.

Women's Preview: Looking at Loyola

Here's another in the series previewing the women's post-season tournament games:

FRIDAY'S 9:30 a.m. Quarterfinal-round contest

No. 2 Loyola (15-3, 18-11) vs. the winner of Thursday's Canisius-Niagara contest.

WHAT LOYOLA HAS: Arguably the best perimeter players in the league and unquestionably the league's best point guard in sophomore Katie Sheahin (a glaring omission from the league's first-team all-star selections), who not only leads the conference in steals (3.6 per game), but is 2nd nationally. She also ranks 2nd in the MAAC in assists, while scoring 11.9 points and getting 5.8 rebounds per game. Her perimeter partners, 5-9 Miriam McKenzie (14.2 points, 7.2 rebound and a first-team all-MAAC pick) and 5-11 Erica DiClemente, who plays like the fifth-year senior that she is, complete the trio.

WHAT LOYOLA DOESN'T HAVE: An inside game to match its perimeter attack. The Greyhounds rank 7th in the league in rebounding and 5th in several defensive categories. It's indicative of how opponents take advantage of having an edge in the paint. That said, Loyola's only two losses until Sunday came against Marist. But, a loss to Saint Peter's on Sunday ... at home ... might be a sign of its vulnerability. And, when the ball isn't in Sheahin's hands the offense struggles. McKenzie leads the conference in turnovers (143), by far.

HOW LOYOLA CAN WIN: Keeping Sheahin out of foul trouble and the ball in her hands. It also helps that McKenzie has an inside/outside game that allows her to take over the offense load at key junctures, and that DiClemente seems to know when and how to deliver in clutch situations. There might be enough here to somehow upset Marist, if the teams meet. The Greyhounds, though, will literally need big efforts out of its slender front-court starters Meredith Tolley and Alyssa Sutherland to have any chance to win the tournament. But head coach Joe Frager, without much of an inside game and with a team lacking quality depth, turned in one of the best coaching efforts in the conference in recent years. Still, if Canisius gets past Niagara to advance to this game its height could present an interesting matchup.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: An advance to the semifinal round to meet the winner of the Manhattan-Iona quarterfinal round contest.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Women's Preview: Rider vs. St. Peter's

Here's another in the series previewing the upcoming women's MAAC post-season tournament.

No. 7 Saint Peter's (5-13, 5-24) vs. No. 8 Rider (5-13, 5-24), Thursday at 2 p.m.

WHAT SAINT PETER'S HAS: Strong youth ... that recurring theme, again. Off-guard Theresa Manigrasso and point guard Aziza May are two of the top freshman guards in the league. Jynae Judson is a 2nd-team all-MAAC pick. And, the Peacocks seem to be getting things together at the right time. They ended an 11-game losing streak this past weekend with wins over Rider and, then, the biggest upset of the women's season ... .a 60-57 victory at Loyola, handing the Greyhounds their third loss of the conference season. The only other team to beat Loyola this season was Marist.

WHAT RIDER HAS: Yes, young talent. Freshan forward MyNeshia McKenzie is the top frosh rebounder in the MAAC (7.30) and has an emerging offensive game. Sophomore 6-2 Caitlin Bopp (8.5) is No. 2 in the conference in rebounding. Junior Sarah Homan, a 6-3 forward, gets 6.2 rebounds per game. Rider is the conference's second-best rebounding team.

WHAT SAINT PETER'S DOESN'T HAVE: Enough experience to go very far. The Peahens still play bruising defense and still crash the offensive boards in traditional fashion, but don't have the height to make that style effective. Senior forward Jessica Coles, a slender 6-footer, is the tallest starter. Quiana Porter, at 6-2, provides the team's only height but she's a reserve. And the team doesn't take care of the ball very well when it's not in Aziza's hands. Judson has 111 turnovers, an unusually high amount for a player who isn't the team's primary ball-handler.

WHAT RIDER DOESN'T HAVE: Outside of its ability to pound the boards effectively ... not much else. The Broncs finished 9th in the conference in scoring (52.4 points per game) and last in points allowed (69.1), last in field-goal defense and 3-point field-goal defense. It also committed more turnovers than any other league team by 22 total.

HOW SAINT PETER'S CAN WIN: Play like it did against Loyola, earning a 49-36 edge in rebounding that resulted in 15 more shots than the Greyhounds took. Still, teams taller than Loyola, and there are several in the MAAC, won't allow the Peahens to control the boards like they did in that contest. Saint Peter's could advance to the quarterfinal round, but almost assuredly won't go farther than that.

HOW RIDER CAN WIN: Somehow find an offensive game, and play better defense ... but that's a mouthful. Its inside players all need develop a better touch around the basket. That's probably coming in the future, but probably not this season.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The winner advances to Friday's 1:30 p.m. quarterfinal round contest against top-seeded Marist.

Women's Preview: Canisius vs. Niagara

The fields have been decided, the seeding positions have been established.

That means it's preview time ... time to preview the upcoming MAAC post-season tournament. Women up first.

We'll start with Thursday's preliminary (play-in) round of games. All contests will be at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Ct.

No. 7 Canisius (6-12 MAAC record, 10-19 overall) vs. No. 10 Niagara (0-18, 1-27), noon.

WHAT CANISIUS HAS: Young talent, and that will be a theme for all four of the league's play-in round squads. The Golden Griffins have a "Fab Four" of freshmen in 6-4 forwards Jen Lennox and Jamie Ruttle, 6-1 Courtney VandeBovenkamp and 5-9 guard Jen Morabito and all four have won at least one conference Rookie of the Week award this season. Morabito and Ruttle both made the all-MAAC Rookie team, and Ruttle is a strong contender for Rookie of the Year honors. The Griffs also have some veteran standouts in senior guard Micayla Drysdale and junior Stephanie McDonald.

WHAT NIAGARA HAS: The recurring theme: Good young players and better days in future years. Forwards Shy Britton and Chanel Johnson had strong performances this year. Meghan Waterman is a defensive standout and senior Liz Flooks is one of the league's top long-range threats. Grace Cunningham, a junior, has been solid since moving into the starting lineup as point guard.

WHAT CANISIUS DOESN'T HAVE: Experience. The freshmen have been inconsistent, as freshmen are prone to be. The inside players need to gain strength and maturity. Canisius is also capable of turning it over as evidenced by 25 turnovers in Sunday's season finale at Siena.

WHAT NIAGARA DOESN'T HAVE: Bodies, for one. The Purple Eagles are down to eight players and recently finished a game with just four players on the court. Freshman forward Kate Gattuso, one of the team's top inside players, is no longer with the team. The team also lacks victories. Niagara's 0-18 conference record is just the second winless season by a MAAC team (Iona went 0-18 in 2002-03) since the league expanded to an 18-game schedule in 1997. Outside of Flooks, there's also not a lot of offensive firepower, particularly since all-league caliber point guard Kayla Stroman went down with an injury after eight games. Still ... Niagara lost by 7 points or less in four of its last nine outings, including a gutsy triple-overtime setback to Rider when it was forced to play a portion of the last OT with just four players due to fouls and injuries.

HOW TO BEAT CANISIUS: Pressure the ball-handlers and force the team into turnovers. A faster-than-desired pace also seems to affect the Canisius inside players.

HOW TO BEAT NIAGARA: Just play remotely well. Due to Niagara's injuries and inexperience it certainly isn't expected to win a game unless the opponent plays poorly.

HOW CANISIUS CAN WIN THE TOURNAMENT: It probably can't, but it could cause some trouble (it did beat fourth-place Siena this year) with its combination of height/length and perimeter athleticism. If its outside game is allowed to fire away, it can make treys. And if the tall inside players contribute, Canisius can be a difficult opponent.

HOW NIAGARA CAN WIN: While it won't win the tournament, there's a chance it could upset Canisius. Its battles with its proximitous rival are always spirited and the Purple Eagles could make this play-in game interesting. And, Niagara has proved itself to be a resilient bunch, playing its best basketball late in the season as the losses mount, so it will likely be on a mission to get a win in the tournament.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: The winner advances to Friday's 9:30 a.m. quarterfinal-round game against second-seeded Loyola.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

One Blogger's All-Star Picks for Women

We did it for the men, and, now, it's the women's turn for all-star recognition from this blogger.

- Serena Moore, 6-2 senior center, Siena

She leads the league in scoring, rebounding, is second in blocked shots and fifth in field-goal percentage. By far the most unstoppable inside force in the league. Siena's next tallest starter is 5-foot-10, yet the Saints have accumulated more rebounds than opponents this season. And, Siena has already secured its first winning record in MAAC play since the 2003-04 season.

- Erica Allenspach, 5-8 senior guard, Marist

She is the best player on the conference's best team. She ranks fourth in scoring, seventh in assists, 2nd in field-goal percentage and No. 1 in free-throw percentage. She is even her team's second-best rebounder. Clearly one of the conference's smartest on-court performers.

- Abby Wentworth, 5-8 senior guard, Manhattan

Primarily an off-guard much of her career, she made a successful move to the point this year. She is third in the league in scoring, first in assists and 2nd in steals. Another coach-on-the-floor type performer, her team far exceeded expectations and has 20 wins overall entering Sunday's final day of play.

- Miriam McKenzie, 5-10 junior forward, Loyola

The league's second-leading scorer who also ranks fifth in rebounding and fifth in field-goal percentage. An athletic player who can score from both long range and in the paint. She took over several games down the stretch for a team that also exceeded expectations.

- Katie Sheahin, 5-8 sophomore guard, Loyola

She is certainly this blogger's favorite player to watch. She probably wasn't ready when she got thrust into the starting lineup as a freshman, but she came back ready to go as a sophomore. There is no better example of the prototypical point guard in the conference for either women or men. She is clever, flashy and rarely makes a bad play. She makes teammates better. How much more can you ask from a point guard. Then, there's this: She is No. 2 nationally in steals.

Coach of the Year

Brian Giorgis. If the Red Foxes finish out an 18-0 conference season with a win on Sunday, there shouldn't be any debate. It would be just the second time in conference history that a women's team finished 18-0 (the 2007-08 Marist team also did it).

That said, Joe Logan of Loyola should be a close runner-up. Entering Sunday's game his team was 15-2 in confernece play with the only two losses coming against Marist.

Player of the Year

An extremely tough choice ... most-talented player, or most valuable player?

Both attributes describe Siena's Moore and Marist's Allenspach.

Allenspach's minutes (barely 30 per game) are limited by the lopsided nature of her team's victories. No fault of hers, but is has also hindered her statistical output.

And, the award isn't meant to reward value, but to recognize the top achiever.

As the top scorer and rebounder in the league ... that would be Serena Moore.

One Blogger's All-Star Picks for Men

I almost hate to go here, particularly since there's still one more game left in the regular season. But, in the interest of providing help to league coaches who might read this blog, here are one blogger's selections for the conference's men's first-team all-star squad:

- Ryan Rossiter, 6-9 senior center, Siena

Leads the conference in scoring and rebounding ... and, according to Siena's sports information office, no MAAC player has done that since Lionel Simmons' senior season. Rossiter also ranks No. 3 all time in career rebounds in the MAAC, and needs just 22 more rebounds to become the third player in conference history to record at least 400 rebounds in a single season. If the Saints win a first-round post-season tournament game then Rossiter is likely to set a league record for rebounds in a single season.

- Michael Glover, 6-7 junoir forward, Iona

The league's version of a human highlight film. He ranks second in the MAAC in scoring and rebounding, and second in field-goal percentage. He clearly could play at a higher level, and there aren't too many conference players that can be said about.

- Justin Robinson, 6-2 senior guard, Rider

His team is tied for second place entering Sunday's games, and he's a big reason. Robinson ranks No. 4 in scoring, sixth in assists and first in free-throw percentage. A complementary player in previous years, he has stepped into more of a featured role with a seamless transition.

- Scott Machado, 6-2 junior guard, Iona

Hard to omit the player who leads the country in assists. Machado is also seventh in scoring. But, he has noticeably matured as a player this season becoming as adept with his ability to run a team and find open teammates as he is in finding his own shot, which seemed to be his preference in his first two seasons.

- Derek Needham, 5-11 sophomore guard, Fairfield

No. 5 in the league in scoring, No. 4 in assists and arguably the most athletic guard in the league. Numbers don't begin to measure his value to the conference's best team. He is a true leader, despite his relative youth, and makes big plays whenever he senses they're needed.


That would be Niagara's senior guard Anthony Nelson, who ranis 5th in the conference in scoring, 2nd in assists and not only first in the MAAC in steals, but first nationally. Ask me on another day, and yours truly might have Nelson on the first team over Needham. The Purple Eagles' point guard will go down as one of the most underappreciated performers in conference history. But, if you watch him regularly you understand just how good he is. And, he is one of my favorite players from the MAAC in recent years. Had his team been able to win a few more games this season (and, I know, that's not his fault), he'd be a certain first-team pick.


Ed Cooley, Fairfield.

It's easy to pick the coach of the first-place team, but it's just as easy to see why Cooley deserves the honor. His team entered the final day of games with a three-game edge in the standings in a league that traditionally has the type parity the NFL strives for. Cooley's three top backcourt performers are two sophomores and a freshman in a league where experience usually comes out on top. And, he helped turn 7-foot junior Ryan Olander, a role player in past seasons, into a significant contributor who might wind up as a third-team all-MAAC pick.


Rossiter, Siena.

Forget the fact that his team might finish seventh, which would make Rossiter the first player to win the top individual award from a team that low in the conference standings. His season was historical at this level.

Coin Flip Possible After Final Games

There are far too many possibilities right now to figure out who is going to finish where (other than Fairfield long ago clinching the No. 1 seed for next week's conference tournament), but there is one in particular that is extremely interesting.

Siena and Canisius are battling for the sixth slot in the final regular-season standings. That's significant because teams that finish seventh and lower are required to play a preliminary round game, otherwise known as the "play-in" round, this Friday with winners advancing to join the top six teams in the post-season tournament's quarterfinal-round level.

So, why is it so interesting this year? Eighteen games of regular-season conference play could very easily come down to needing a coin flip to determine which team gets the No. 6 seed and which is No. 7.

Here's the scenario, courtesy of Siena's ever-vigilant sports information director Jason Rich:

If Canisius loses its final game Sunday against Loyola and Siena wins its season-closer Sunday against Marist the two teams would be tied with 8-10 league records.

Still, Siena would need two other favorable results, based on the conference's tie-breaking procedures, to have a chance to get the No. 6 seed. It would also need Rider winning at Saint Peter's and Niagara winning at home against Manhattan.

If all those things happen ... and they're not out of the realm of possibility by any stretch ... then all tie-breakers fail to break a tie should both Siena and Canisius finish with 8-10 MAAC records.

And, then, a coin flip would determine which team gets seeded sixth and avoids the play-in round.


Let's look at the possibilities:

- Loyola would need to beat Canisius. The Greyhounds are 11-7 in MAAC play thus far (Canisius is currently 8-9) and won the earlier meeting, 72-57.

- Rider would need to beat Saint Peter's. Although the Peacocks won the firnst meeting, 80-60, this one is on the Broncs' home court. And, Rider is 6-1 this month with a loss to Fairfield the only setback. It's a important game for Rider, too, in that a victory could secure second place in the final standings. Rider is currently tied with Iona for 2nd, and the Gaels finish up at Fairfield on Sunday.

- Niagara would need to beat Manhattan. The Jaspers edged the Purple Eagles, 51-49 in the first meeting, but this one is on Niagara's home court. Niagara is 4-13 and Manhattan is 3-14 in conference play. The Purple Eagles are finishing with a flourish, having won four of their last six outings.

Bottom line is that outside of Fairfield's relative domination in conference play, a 3-game lead in the standings heading into Sunday's final day of games, the MAAC standings are extremely close for other positions.

Close enough, in one key situation, to have us thinking about the possibility of a coin flip to determine avoidance of a play-in round game for either Canisius or Siena.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Saints' Rossiter Nears Milestone Rebound

The current season looks like it could be a historical one for a second Siena player in terms of individual statistical achievement.

This blogger's research recently discovered that only 13 players in the history of women's basketball within the MAAC had ever produced career totals of at least 1,000 points, 600 rebounds and 100 blocked shots (see the previous post). Siena's senior center Serena Moore joined that exclusive group last week.

And, now, her male counterpart at Siena, 6-foot-9 senior center Ryan Rossiter, is on pace for even more exclusive historical company.

Rossiter, the nation's No. 2 rebounder (13.4 per game), currently has 362 rebounds this season and if he continues to record his average down the stretch he will become just the third player in conference history with 400 rebounds in a single season.

Siena has two remaining regular-season games and at least one game in the conference's post-season tournament for Rossiter to reach the milestone.

The only players to pull down 400 rebounds in a season while playing in the MAAC are former Rider center Jason Thompson (2007-08) with 411, and former Fairfield forward Darren Phillip (1999-00) with 405.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

MAAC Women's Versatility List is Short

When Siena's senior center Serena Moore scored her 1,000th career point in Saturday afternoon's 57-40 victory at Saint Peter's she joined some very elite MAAC company.

Not just because of her scoring, but because it put her over the top in milestones of a "Triple Crown" of statistical achievement, and putting her in a small group of versatile achievers.

Moore, heading into Monday's game at Fairfield is now over these career statistical milestones: 1,000 points, 600 rebounds, 100 blocks.

If that doesn't sound overwhelming, then consider that in the 30-year history of conference play there have only been 13 women's players to hit those numbers in those three catagories.

The list below is restricted to players who accomplished their triple while playing in the conference. For instance ... Siena has five players to have reched the career triple, but only two of them while a conference member.

Here's the list, in no particular order:

- Patty Stoffey, Loyola class of 1995: 2,467 points, 1025 rebounds, 146 blocks

- Gail Strumpf, Fairfield 2001: 1,873 points, 1,106 rebounds, 244 blocks

- Katrina Fields, Fairfield 1985: 1,804 points, 1210 rebounds, 192 blocks

- Alison Marinsky, Fairfield 1985: 1,071 points, 734 rebounds, 268 blocks

- Stephanie Geehan, Fairfield, 2010: 1,112 points, 1,050 rebounds, 287 blocks

- Trish Elser, Fairfield 1992; 1,356 points, 795 rebounds, 231 blocks

- Ylande Doctor, Saint Peter's 1990: 1,012 points, 647 rebounds, 107 blocks

- Diesa Seidel Marist 2002: 1,248 points, 667 rebounds, 162 blocks

- Meg Dahlman, Marist 2008: 1,114 points, 627 rebounds, 131 blocks

- Rachele Fitz, Marist 2010: 2,447 points, 1,066 rebounds, 127 blocks

- Serena Moore Siena 2011: 1,011 points; 628 rebounds, 105 blocks

- Gunta Basko, Siena 2003: 1,833 points, 1,027 rebounds, 125 blocks

- Terri Vaccanino, Fordham 1985: 1,241 points, 703 rebounds, 147 blocks.

MAAC Teams 9-1 in BracketBusters Games

There haven’t been many better days for the MAAC men’s program as a whole than there was on Saturday’s BracketBusters’ series of games.

All 10 teams played against other mid-major level programs from other conferences and the MAAC came out with a sterling 9-1 record.

Let’s break down the good news:

- Fairfield sophomore guard Colin Nickerson continued his strong late-season play off the bench. The player Stags’ coach Ed Cooley calls the “Tasmanian Devil” was certainly a blur to the Governors. In 31 minutes of playing time Nickerson finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and had seven steals, a record for games played in the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yards. His backcourt mate, sophomore Derek Needhem, finished with 19 points. Fairfield, after starting the year with a 1-3 record, has won 21 of its last 23 games overall.

- Junior Kidani Brutus, a junior college transfer, scored a career-high 25 points in a Manhattan uniform while sophomore swingman George Beamon added 23 as Manhattan earned a 64-63 overtime victory over Stony Brook. Beamon’s jumper late in regulation sent the game into overtime. Manhattan then had to rally from a four-point deficit with 3:10 left in the extra session, but Brutus made a pair of three-pointers and forward Demetrius Jemison’s free throw gave Manhattan a 64-61 edge with a minute left and the Jaspers held on.

- Niagara guard Anthony Nelson finished with seven assists, the last of those tying the Purple Eagles’ program career record. Nelson now has 630 assists and his next one will break a tie at the top of that Niagara statistical category with 2005 graduate Alvin Cruz. His work helped Niagara earn a 61-55 victory over Cntral Michigan.

- Iona’s Mike Glover, Scott Machado and Alejo Rodriguez each posted double-doubles as the Gaels knocked off Liberty, 77-57. Rodriguez finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds while Glover had 12 points and 11 rebounds. Machado had 10 points and 11 assists.

- The senior backcourt pair of Wesley Jenkins and Nick Leon each scored 17 points as Saint Peter’s held off Loyola of Chicago, 71-67. Ryan Bacon added 14 points and Jeron Belin 13 for the Peacocks.

- Rider senior guard Justin Robinson continued to produce in a strong senior season with a career-high 31 points to lift the Broncs over Delaware, 95-86. Robinson is part of a senior class that now has more victories (79) than any other class in school history. Another senior, forward Mike Ringold, added 19 points.

- Lightly used J’hred Hall came off the bench to score 19 points, including 15 on five three-pointers, as Loyola defeated Towson, 75-57, in the 70th meeting between the local rivals. Four other Greyhounds also scored in double figures, including Robert Olson (16), Shane Walker (14), Erik Etherly (12) and Dylon Cormier 910).

- Ryan Rossiter scored 14 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and also had six assists to help Siena beat Maine, 71-60. On the season Rossiter averages 13.4 rebounds per game. Senior guard Clarence Jackson added 17 points for the Saints in one of his better performances in recent weeks.

- Marist got 18 points from Dorvell Carter and 15 ffrom Devin Price to knock off New Hampshire and snapping an 11-game losing streak.

- The only loss suffered by a MAAC team on Saturday came when Boston University of the America East conference knocked off Canisius, 70-62.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

ATM: Freaky Friday On-Court Happenings

Welcome to the latest version of “ATM,” otherwise known as Around The MAAC, and feel free to call this look a recent women’s basketball occurances a “Freaky Friday” report.


It doesn’t get any more so than Friday night in the conference’s great Northwest, otherwise known as Monteagle Ridge. There, host Niagara was immersed in what might have been its best chance, at least on paper, to get its first conference victory of the season.

The Purple Eagles worked overtime … and then some … but came up on the short end in more ways than one as Rider earned a 79-72 victory, but needed triple overtime to do so.

Niagara came up short not only on the scoreboard but on the court. The Purple Eagles started the game with nine healthy players, lost one early in the contest with an injury and, then, lost four other players via foul disqualifications through the overtime.

Over the last minute or so of the contest Niagara had just four players on the court as the Broncs held on for the victory.

“We finished the game with four people and we literally ran out of gas,” said Niagara coach Kendra Faustin.

One player who didn’t run out of gas was junior point guard Grace Cunningham, who played the game’s entire 55 minutes to set a program record. Cunningham finished with a career-high 14 points.

“(Grace) was amazing,” said Faustin. “It was the best game she played. She is playing through an injury, too, and is probably the most mentally-tough player I have ever coached.

It was Freaking Friday, too, not far down the road in Buffalo when Canisius hosted Iona.

Nothing freaky, though, about the Gaels’ 66-56 victory. Nor was there anything freaky in this statistic: Canisius, a program that has thrived from beyond the 3-point stripe for close to two decades, hoisted 12 bonus tries in the contest.

But the freaky thing is that Canisius misfired on all 12 attempts. Until the contest Canisius had the longest active streak of games with at least one made three-pointer, 510 consecutive contests.

The non-freaky version of ATM took place in Poughkeepsie where Marist won its 20th consecutive game overall with a 60-42 victory over Manhattan, which entered the contest in second place in the conference standings.

It was a night on which Marist retired the uniform of its former standout, 2010 graduate Rachele Fitz, one of the conference’s all-time best players.

Brandy Gang, a 6-2 junior forward and Fitz’ replacement in the Red Foxes’ starting lineup, did her best Fitz imitation scoring 19 points on 8-of-9 shooting.

Marist, rated 24th nationally this week in both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll, is now 15-0 in conference play and needs just three more victories to close out the second 18-0 finish by a conference team since the MAAC expanded to its current 18-game schedule for the 1997-98 season.

The only other team to finish 18-0 in conference play was the 2007-08 Marist team of which Fitz was a key member.

And, there was also this ... Baylor, which entered play on Saturday with the nation's longest winning streak of 21 straight, dropped a 56-45 decision to Texas Tech.

It means that Marist now has the nation's longest active winning streak with 20 in a row.

Friday, February 18, 2011

MAAC Crown Fits Fairfield Now, In Future

Le Roi est mort, vie le Roi!

Translation: "The King is dead, long live the King!"

The origin is the French version which traces roots back to the early 1400s, a proclamation of the accession of a new monarch for France.

And, now, it fits in the MAAC.

The new "King" is Fairfield, off to a 14-2 start in conference play. With the team's win over Marist on this past Wednesday and with just two league games remaining the Stags have clinched their first MAAC regular-season title since the 1995-96 season.

Actually Fairfield only shared the 1995-96 crown as its 10-4 record was tied with Iona's. The Gaels, though, were that season's No. 1 seed for the post-season tournament by virtue of tie-breakers.

The last time Fairfield won an outright conference title was 1985-86 when it finished 13-1 in MAAC play.

This year the Stags have outright possession of the league throne, displacing previous "King" Siena, which had won both the conference title and advanced to the NCAA tournament, by virtue of winning the MAAC's post-season tournament, in each of the past three seasons.

It appears that Fairfield is set up for that type of run now.

Although it will lose forwards Warren Edney and Yorel Hawkins, the team's No. 3 and No. 4 scorers, to graduation after this season there is not only much still in place but more-than-adequate replacements coming aboard.

The team has a returning and emerging big man in junior 7-footer Ryan Olander, a sophomore (Derek Needham) at guard who is one of the conference's best players, two other underclass guards in freshman Jamal Fields and sophomore Colin Nickerson and Rookie of the Year candidate forward Maurice Barrow.

As if that's not enough the program has two other key pieces in place in transfers Rakim Sanders, formerly of Boston College; and point guard Desmond Wade, formerly of Houston.

Sanders, a 6-5 swingman, has one remaining season of eligibility. He started regularly at BC, averaging 12.9 points as a sophomore and 11.3 points as a junior last season. The 5-8 Wade, who has two seasons of eligibility left, started 31 of 35 games at Houston last season and averaged 4.8 assists.

Both Sanders and Wade are practicing with the team this season and Cooley heaps much credit on their work on the practice court that enables current eligible players to work against better opponents every day while preparing for upcoming games.

And, then, it appears like another big man is coming aboard. There are reports that 6-11, 230-pounder Vince Van Nes out of Northfield (Mass.) Mount Hermon Prep School has given the Stags a verbal commitment and will sign a national letter of intent during this spring's late signing period.

But, that's getting ahead of things. This season is still ongoing and while the regular-season crown is nice, fifth-year head coach Ed Cooley knows there is much left to do.

Or, as he said: "There is still a long way to go."

Such as winning the conference's post-season tournament and the resultant automatic bid to the NCAA's.

That, though, goes through the Stags' home court as the conference tournament will be held at the Webster Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport, Ct.

"That's something we have to take advantage of," said Cooley. "I'm a big proponent of playing the event on a neutral court, but I didn't make the decision to play here. Yet because it's here ... we have to take advantage of the situation."

Already, though, this year's team has done plenty. It has 21 overall victories and will likely surpass the program's all-time best single-season victory total of 23 set last season.

Fairfield's current success, and what might be added to it in future years was almost easy to see coming.

After a 7-11 MAAC finish in 2005-06 the school replaced Tim O'Toole with Cooley and things got better almost immediately.

Cooley's first four seasons resulted in records of 10-8, 11-7, 9-9 and 13-5 last year. Including this season Cooley's record in MAAC play thus far is an impressive 57-31.

Yet, until this season, Cooley has never had a full roster as a variety of injury to key players left his team shorthanded for most of his tenure.

Last year's team, for instance, missed both Edney and another standout forward Greg Nero for the entire season while Hawkins missed the second half of the year.

Despite those losses the Stags went to last season's MAAC championship game and were a missed shot at the buzzer in regulation in that contest of upsetting Siena.

Afterwards Cooley said he'd like to have a completely healthy team and, then, to see what would happen.

He has that this year, and his counterparts knew what could happen when they made Fairfield the preseason choice to capture this year's conference crown.

But good coaches win when their team is favored and exceed expectations otherwise and Cooley has done all of that so far.

The key for Fairfield has been depth of talent, and that's no different this season.

"Our leading scorer (Needham) only averages a little over 14 points," pointed out Cooley. "We spread it around. That's what makes this so unique."

The other hallmark of Cooley's Fairfield teams is defense, and the current group allows an average of 57.9 points per contest which is No. 3 of 345 Division I teams nationally.

It has all created a justifiable sense of pride within the program that had struggled for more than a decade before Cooley's arrival.

But, maybe league-wide respect hasn't totally arrived yet.

Niagara coach Joe Mihalich, the conference's proverbial "dean" of coaches whose perspective on
things related to the MAAC is as good as anyone's, had this to say recently about the state of this year's overall conference strength:

"There's nobody in the league as good as we were the last three or four years and there's no one as good as Siena was the last three or four years. If that's going to upset [Fairfield coach] Ed Cooley or [Iona coach Tim Cluess], that's OK."

And, of course that upsets Cooley a little.

"I disagree with Joe (about Niagara's league status compared to Fairfield's, at least last season)," noted Cooley. "I recall that we beat them in back-to-back games last season (the second regular-season meeting and, then, in the MAAC tournament) and that we finished 13-5 in league play and in second place to Siena.

"We might not be there (as dominant as Siena's recent past) just yet, but who knows? Records are what they are. I personally don't think anyone is as good as Siena was in the last three years, but everything else is up in the air."

But what is no longer up in the air is this: There's a new "King" in the MAAC this season, one that appears to be settling into its throne and, maybe, staying there for several years to come.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

St. Peter's Men Making Program History

Two conference games remain for the Saint Peter's men's basketball team, and a victory in one of those two (against either Iona or Rider), turns 2010-11 into even more of a historical season for the Peacocks.

Already the program is 11-5 in conference play, marking just the second time in program history that it has had back-to-back seasons of 11 league wins (it finished 11-7 last season). The last time that happened was a 3-year run of 11-victory seasons from 1986-87 through 1988-89.

Another victory this season matches the program's best of 12 conference wins in any season (it was 12-6 in 2003-04), and wins in both of its final two games produces its all-time best single-season victory total within the MAAC in its 30-year affiliation with the conference.

One more win, too, gives Saint Peter's 23 victories over this season and last, the program's all-time best two-year run in league play.

It won't win the MAAC's regular-season title this year ... that honor has already been clinched by 14-2 Fairfield, which holds a three-game lead over its nearest competitors in the conference standings with two remaining games.

But, you can't blame those around the program for feeling pretty good about their recent run of success.

Perspective? Until the past two seasons Saint Peter's had just two above-.500 conference records in the previous 10 years. And after the 2006 graduation of the program's all-time best player, guard Keydren Clark, Saint Peter's had been 14-40 in MAAC play in the subsequent three seasons (2006-07/2007-08/2008-09).

But, it was a program clearlhy building toward something under fifth-year coach John Dunne, who took over when former coach Bob Leckie followed Clark out the door of the Jersey City, N.J., school.

Dunne's initial recruiting effort brought in the foundation for what is in place now, a senior-laden group that combines athleticism, aggressive play, enough inside strength, and standout perimeter shooting.

Teams that grow up together traditionally find success as they mature, and the current roster has four senior starters in guards Wesley Jenkins and Nick Leon and forwards Ryan Bacon and John Belin. The first three are four-year starters. Belin joined the program last year as a junior college transfer.

And, the Peacocks seem to be reaching their peak at the right time ... as the season closes out.
It has won seven of its last nine MAAC contests and its last two outings included an impressive 67-57 victory at Siena on Wednesday and a one-point loss in overtime to regular-season champion Fairfield.

Dunne admits his team's play against the conference's two most recent champions (Fairfield this season, Siena last season) is a confidence boost.

"Fairfield is tough," said Dunne. "They have all the pieces. They're the team to beat (in the MAAC tournament. But we showed we can play with them (in the overtime loss on Feb. 16).

"To me, the tournament is going to be wide open, and the way we've been playing recently has helped us in a confidence sense."

The Peacocks are playing better of late, too, because of the return to near full health of preseason first-team all-MAAC pick Wesley Jenkins, who has missed seven games this year with a knee injury.

Jenkins wasn't at his best against Siena (2-of-8 shooting for nine points), but played the near mistake-free ball expected of seniors recording five assists against one turnover.

Leon, who averages 10.6 points and has a team-best 80 assists, is certainly a candidate for post-season all-star consideration, as is Bacon (10.1 points, 7.5 rebounds per game and 49 blocks).

Bacon's 13 rebounds against Siena gave him 769 for his career, third on his program's all-time list. He is also second on the school's all-time list for blocked shots with 193 and needs just five more to match Todd Sowell's school record of 198 rejections.

Against Siena, though, Belin led a late-game rally getting 17 of his team-high 19 points in the game's final 12 minutes after Siena held a 42-34 advantage. After that, though, Bacon had more points (17) than Siena (15).

"John Belin is a talent," said Dunne. "Some of the league's bigger forwards have trouble guarding someone off the bounce like that. When he attacks the basket (like he did against Siena, it also opens up lanes for someone else to make plays. He has been a big key to our success."

Belin is the team's fourth double-digit scorer (10.9 points per game). He has now come off the bench for more than half of Saint Peter's games (starting only 13 of the team's 27 contests), making him the front-runner for the conference's 6th Man of the Year award.

There are two other key pieces in sophomore post player rugged Darius Conley (6.3 points, 4.9 rebounds) and sophomore guard Steven Samuels (7.5 points per game).

Unlike the most-recent glory days of Keydren Clark, who was something just short of a one-man team, the current squad can point in several directions for keys to its strong two-year run. Four double-digit scoring averages and two other offensive contributors make it difficult for opponents to devise a defensive plan.

It's a run, though, that's still not finished. And, it's one that's on the verge of historical significance for the program.

Niagara Men Making Late-Season Progress

Niagara's Joe Mihalich is not only one of the conference's better coaches, but also often serves as one of the MAAC's top spokesmen.

And, once again, Mihalich put his team's meeting with Canisius, the second of the two annual renewals of long-time and geographically proximitous rivals, in perfect perspective:

"That was one for the ages," Mihalich said. "I know we say it every year, but this is why you play the game. This is what college basketball is all about. There's nothing like it. When Niagara plays Canisius, just throw out the records. Nothing matters. It will probably come down to the wire. ... and I don't know if it can come down closer to the wire than this."

It was this close: Canisius rallied from game-long deficits to tie the score at 65 with 6.4 seconds left. That was enough time for Niagara's freshman guard Marvin Jones to get off a shot that was blocked by the Golden Griffins' Tomas Vazquez-Simmons at the buzzer.

Game officials checked replay monitors and determined there to be four-tenths of a second remaining. It was enough time for Niagara's Anthony Nelson to throw an in-bounds pass to teammate Kashief Edwards, who directed the ball towards the hoop. Canisius' 7-foot-3 reserve center Marial Dhal swatted it away, but Edwards' shot was clearly on its downward trajectory ... goal tending, two points for Niagara and a last-tick-of-the-clock victory for the Purple Eagles.

The outcome denied Canisius of its first victory at Niagara's Gallagher Center home since Nov. 30, 2002 and its first sweep of the series between the Western New York rivals in 16 years.

It also got Niagara out of the conference's cellar. The Purple Eagles are now 4-12 in league play.

Its 7-21 regular-season record with just three games remaining prior to the MAAC's post-season tournament ensures just the second sub-.500 record in Mihalich's 13 years with the program.

But, his team has stamped itself, of late, as a team no one wants to see in the upcoming conference tournament. Niagara has won two of its past three games, a 59-57 decision at Loyola this past Friday and, now, this two-point victory over a Canisius team with much on the line, including an opportunity for sole possession of sixth place in the conference, a position that would keep it out of the so-called play-in round for the MAAC tournament.

Instead, a Niagara team beset by injuries and inexperience, is finding ways to win close late-season games.

And, afterwards, Mihalich told the Buffalo News that there is so much optimism within his program that he wishes his team could start its season over right now.

But, there's a second season on the horizon, the post-season tournament. And Niagara is starting to look like a very formidable opponent once that begins.

League Promotes Breast Cancer Awareness

In recent years MAAC women's basketball teams have all added a worthwhile and commendable promotion to a selected game annually.

Those are the so-called "Pink Zone" games in which teams often wear pink uniforms and attendees are asked to wear a pink item of clothing. It is all done in recognition of breast cancer awareness. At many of the games there is a pregame ceremony recognizing breast cancer survivors. It is all done, at some schools as part of fund-raising efforts and at other just as reminder to female followers of programs to be examined regularly for breast cancer.

We are reminded of the promotional campaign by the Siena College sports information staff, with details surrounding that school's promotional efforts which appear to be the most-extensive among conference schools.

Included is a Pink Zone special 30-minute television production that will be aired several times over the Times Warner Cable Sports network, Channel 3 in New York's Capital Region beginning on Feb. 17 at 6 p.m.

The show, which is presented by Time Warner Cable and Key Bank, will air multiple times leading up to the 11th Annual Siena Basketball Pink Zone Game on Feb. 25, when the Marist women's team comes in for a game.

The show previews the upcoming event as well as the history of the game at Siena. Additionally, host and local TV sports anchor Marisa Jacques interviews Siena head coach Gina Castelli, student-athletes Brittany Wilwohl and Lily Grenci, Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer (CRAAB!) President Joan Sheehan and women’s soccer standout Jenna Placke and her mother Dawn, all of whom have had loved ones affected by Breast Cancer.

John Quigley, Area Vice President of Time Warner Cable in the Capital Region, is grateful the company can bring added attention to breast cancer awareness, to an audience across Albany and its surrounding communities.

"We all have family members and friends who have been impacted by breast cancer. It's an unforgiving disease that needs continued focus, awareness and research to work towards finding better treatments and eventually, a cure that will be a gift for so many," said John Quigley, area vice president of TWC in the Capital Region. "We're thrilled to be able to partner with Siena and bring these special athletes' stories to light."

The half-hour special will air a handful of times leading up to the Pink Zone Game. Scheduled broadcasts of the show are Feb. 17, 6 p.m.; Feb. 18, 4 p.m.; Feb. 19, 6 p.m.; Feb. 21, 9 p.m.; Feb. 22, 9:30 p.m.; Feb. 24, 6 p.m.; and Feb. 25 at 6:30 p.m.

Monday, February 14, 2011

ATM: Some Cases For Late-Game Defense

Welcome back to ATM, otherwise known as "Around The MAAC," and this version takes a look at more crazy occurances in the wild and crazy world of recent conference games.

Sunday's games gave some insight to the question of whether it's best to have possession at the end of a close game, or to be on the defensive and attempting to hold a lead.

The two closest games on Monday provided evidence for the defense:

- Siena trailed by 14 points with 2:23 remaining when a furious rally got it back to within 82-81 at Manhattan with 22 seconds remaining.

At that point, the Jaspers' Demetrius Jemison missed two free throws and the Saints' O.D. Anosike grabbed the rebound but had it quickly stolen away by Mohamed Koita. Kidani Brutus then made two free throws to make it a 3-point game.

And, Siena still had more chances. Its Jon Breeden missed a drive off the glass, but the ball went out of bounds off Manhattan. The Saints' final gasp was a 3-point attempt by Ryan Rossiter from the corner that bounced off the top of the backboard. Anosike got the rebound and put up a jumper from the baseline that fell short as the buzzer sounded and Manhattan held on for its third conference victory of the season.

- Meanwhile, Saint Peter's failed to convert its last-second opportunity to pull out a win when Nick Leon’s shot as time expired in overtime fell short Fairfield held on for a 70-69 over the Peacocks in Jersey City, N.J.

Saint Peter's did make shots at the end of regulation to rally from a 59-55 deficit with under a minute left. Forward Steve Samuels converted for the Peacocks with 55 seconds remaining. And, then, after a Fairfield turnover, senior guard Wesley Jenkins tied it with a driving layup with 18 seconds remaining.

Fairfield missed a shot to win the game in regulation, offering a little more support for the defense in this debate.

The Stags held a 70-67 lead in the closing seconds of overtime before Leon sank two foul shots with seven seconds remaining. Jenkins then stole the in-bounds pss to give Saint Peter's a final shot, but Leon's shot at the buzzer failed to fall.

The victory pushed Fairfield's conference record to 13-2 with three games remaining, ensuring it of no worse than a tie for a regular-season championship. Its closest rivals, Saint Peter's, Rider and Iona, all have five losses.

Elsewhere .... sometimes the Keepin' Track of the MAAC blog inflicts its "Sports Illustrated"-type jinx on those it highlights, and sometimes it doesn't.

In a recent blog, we reminded league coaches not to overlook Niagara's senior guard Anthony Nelson for first-team all-league honors. Nelson not only leads the country in steals, but entered Sunday's game at Rider as the conference's No. 4 scorer, the No. 3 assist man and with double the steals' total of any other MAAC player.

And, then, a day after that blog item appeared Nelson threw up probably the all-time clunker of his career, going 1-for-9 from the field, 0-for-4 from 3-plint range and 4-for-8 from the foul line for just six points in 40 minutes in a 61-50 loss to the Broncs. Nelson also had five turnovers in the contest.

One game, though, shouldn't matter. Unless Nelson falls flat in Niagara's final three contests his season's performance to date are still worthy of first-team post-season honors.

And, he wasn't alone in his woes in that game. The Purple Eagles, just two days after a optimism-inspiring upset at Loyola, shot 0-for-17 from 3-point range in the loss to Rider.

But ... maybe the jinx isn't in effect after all. In a recent item prophesizing future success for a young, but talented Manhattan team your blogger cited Jaspers' sophomore George Beamon as a major point producer and a potential future conference scoring leader.

Beamon, a 6-foot-4 sophomore swing man, made this blogger look good on that opinion by putting up a career game on Sunday, scoring 35 points against Siena. Beamon made 12-of-19 shots from the floor (1-for-2 from 3-point territory) and all 10 of his free throws.

Sunday's effort pushed his season's socring average from 14.9 to 15.7 and into fourth place among the conference's individual scoring leaders.

Beamon's work was the second-highest single-game scoring total by a conference player this season. Only Mike Glover's 39 points in a game against Canisius earlier this season has been higher.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Go West, Young Fan, For Friday Upsets

For a night everything was good in Western New York's version of MAAC basketball, at least for the teams from that region, even if Friday's results didn't occur near the land of the world's best chicken wings.

Niagara and Canisius, teams that had struggled through much of the early part of the season, got victories on the same night. And they weren't exactly beating lower-division teams to do so.

Both the Purple Eagles and the Golden Griffins went on the road Friday night for wins, knocking off teams playing for standings' position near the upper portion of the conference hierarchy.

Niagara went to Loyola for a 59-57 victory over the Greyhounds. Purple Eagles' guard Anthonly Nelson made a layup with about 15 seconds remaining to give the winners a one-point lead and freshman guard Marvin Jordan made one of two free throws with 10 seconds remaining for the final margin. Loyola missed two shots in the final 15 seconds.

Nelson had 20 points while adding to his nation-leading steal total with five.

(And, an editor's note here to league coaches: Do not forget about Mr. Nelson when casting your post-season first-team all-conference ballots. Nelson might be the most-versatile player in the MAAC, as well as one of its best. He already is the first player in Niagara history to produce 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 600 assists and 200 steals over a career. If you need further evidence, Nelson leads the entire country in steals this season.)

The victory was the second straight for Niagara, which previously won at Marist on Super Bowl Sunday.

Loyola fell to 8-6 in MAAC play and into fifth place. Fairfield is still first at 12-2, followed by Saint Peter's (10-4) and, then, Rider and Iona (each 9-5).

Rider had what looked like a nice opportunity to stay tied with St. Peter's for second place, but saw that slip away against resurgent Canisius, which has now won its last three games.

The Golden Griffins, at Rider, knocked off the Broncs, 67-65 when sophomore guard Gaby Belardo sank a jumper with 7.8 seconds remaining and a Rider 3-point attempt bounced off the rim at the buzzer.

(Editor's Note: Belardo's game-winner was his third of the season, and league coaches should not forget him, either, when filling out all-MAAC ballots, at least for a second-, or third-team mention.)

Canisius is now 7-7 overall, moving it into a tie for sixth with Siena (which lost at Iona on Friday night) as it attempts to earn a first-round bye in the MAAC's post-season tournament for teams that finish in the top six spots in the final standings.

Think that's not big news on the Buffalo school's campus?

Let's put sixth place, and an above-.500 overall record (the Griffs are now 13-11 overall) in historical perspective.

Canisius has been in the post-season tournament's play-in round in every season since 1998-99, when it finished 11-7 in conference play. That is an unprecedented 11-year run of play-in round appearances.

And, the Griffs haven't been over .500 in regular-season play since a 20-11 record (but a 9-9 conference mark, which had them in 7th place) in the 2000-01 season.

Friday's victory at Rider was the first for Canisius at the Lawrenceville, N.J., campus since the series began in 1932. Of course the teams didn't begin playing regularly until Rider joined the MAAC in 1997, but the Broncs were 14-0 against Canisius over the years in their home games in the series.

It all reinforces the well-used, but perfect-fitting cliche that "On any given night..." which bodes well for an exciting stretch run to the regular-season and an interesting post-season tournament.

"There's nobody in the league as good as we were the last three or four years and there's no one as good as Siena was the last three or four years," Niagara coach Joe Mihalich told the Buffalo News earlier in the week. "If that's going to upset [Fairfield coach] Ed Cooley or [Iona coach Tim Cluess], that's OK."

"There's some really good teams in this league, I think there's four teams in this league who everyone thinks is going to win it," Mihalich added.

And, Mihalich's counterpart in Western New York, Canisius coach Tom Parrotta, agrees.

"I think Joe makes a valid point," Parrotta said. "There's a lot of teams out there capable of winning."

In truth, there are probably seven or eight teams harboring semi-legitimate dreams of winning the post-season tournament.

And after Friday's upset road victories, two of those teams call Western New York their home base.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Marist Women Add More Strong Pieces

Here's another look at players signed during fall's early period who will be joining MAAC programs next season.

Up now ... Marist women.

- Natalie Gomez-Martinezm a 5-foot-6 guard from Andover (Mass.) H.S.

Gomez-Martinez has scored 1,035 points and accumulated 358 points in three seasons entering her senior year.

"Natalie is one of the top combo guards in the northeast," said Marist coach Brian Giorgis, in a press release issued by the school. "She was heavily recruited by major and mid-major schools cross the country. She is a player with great breakdown ability and (is) a tremendous scorer who sees the floor well and has tremendous confidence."

- Briana Holmes, a 5-7 guard from Brookhaven H.S., Columbus, Ohio.

Holmes averaged 8.9 points and 3.4 assists as a junior last season.– Guard – 5-7 – Columbus, Ohio/Brookhaven

“Briana is a pass-first point guard with tremendous defensive skills, as well as the ability to break down opposing defenses," said Giorgis. "She comes from Brookhaven High School, one of the best high school programs in the Columbus area, and that won the city championship last year. She is and will be a great leader both on and off the floor and I see her as a steal in the class of 2011."

Marist has another player who will be eligible next season:

- Kristina Danella, a 6-1 swing player who transferred to Marist after two seasons at UMass.

Danella, who is at Marist now and can practice with the Red Foxes, becomes eligible to play next season and has two remaining seasons of eligibility. At UMass, she was an Atlantic 10 Conference all-Rookie Team selection as a player and, then, averaged 11.6 points and 5.6 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

Danella's presence will help ensure Marist will remain strong in for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Siena's Rossiter Keeps Coming Up Big

The memory is one of meeting a tall, skinny high school player early in the 2006-07 season who was identified as a signed Siena recruit, and wondering how this bone-thin individual would ever withstand the physical pounding related to playing close to the basket at the college level.

The individual was Ryan Rossiter, who was about 6-9 and weighed all of about 180 pounds at that meeting when Siena played a non-conference game at NJIT and Rossiter made the short trip from his Staten Island home to watch his future team.

And the worries were verified during Rossiter's freshman season when, at a few pounds heavier than his high school weight, he would regularly set up on the low block and, then, be subsequently pushed several feet further from the basket when he did not have enough lower-body strength to hold position.

Fast forward ahead to this season. Rossiter now weighs close to 260 pounds, has alleviated any early concerns about his ability to operate around the block, where he does his best work, and is effective enough to be the nation's No. 2 rebounder.

He averages 13.1 rebounds per contest, after pulling down 20 missed shots in the Saints 76-69 loss to Loyola Monday night. The only player rebounding more than Rossiter is Morehead State's Kenneth Faried, who averages 14.2 per contest.

In between Rossiter became the blue-collar inside presence, over the previous two years, that served as the perfect complement to high fliers Edwin Ubiles and Alex Franklin.

It has all been testament to Rossiter's work ethic, not only on the court but in the school's weight room ... work that has enabled him to add more than 70 pounds to his once too-slender fame since that first viewing five years ago.

It has enabled him to advance from being a player limited, due to his physical limitations, to just 11 minutes of playing time per game as a freshman to arguably the best "big" to ever play at Siena.

And, certainly, one of the better inside players the MAAC has ever seen.

Rossiter's work on the boards Monday night pushed his career rebound total to 1,045, notable because it pushed him past Lee Matthews (Class of 1993) as Siena's all-time leading rebounder.

And, already, Rossiter is now the conference's fifth all-time leading career rebounder. He trails only Lionel Simmons (La Salle, Class of 1990), with 1429; Jason Thompson (Rider, 2008), 1,171; Drew Henderson (Fairfield, 1993), 1080; and Juan Mendez (Niagara, 2005), 1053.

Siena has six remaining regular season games and a minimum of one in the MAAC tournament. Figure Rossiter to continue to average 13 rebounds per game for seven more contests (91 more) and that lifts his career total to 1,136, which would be the MAAC's third-best career total in its 30-year history.

If Siena can make a run to the post-season tournament's championship game, playing an additional two games to get there, Rossiter could approach the No. 2 mark on the conference's rebounding list.

Not bad for a formerly too-skinny kid who only saw enough court time to get 97 total rebounds as a freshman.

"He was phenomenal tonight (against Loyola)," said Saints' coach Mitch Buonaguro, about Rossiter. "There's not much more you can say about him. He's getting double-teammed the whole night and to have 23 points and 20 rebounds ... that's a phenomenal game."

For sure, Rossiter's work is being recognized by Buonaguro's peers around the league who are all but certain to make the Siena center this season's Player of the Year in the MAAC.

"I'll be surprised if Ryan Rossiter is not in the NBA next season," said Maryland coach Jimmy Patsos. "He's (likely to be) a second-round draft pick. I've seen guys like Brian Scalabrini (a former Boston Celtic now with the Chicago Bulls) have a lengthy career, and so could Rossiter. I'm not saying he's going to be a star in the NBA, but that guy (Rossiter) is just a terminator close to the ball. There's always a place on an NBA team for a guy like that."

"I try to go into every game with the mentality of getting every rebound that comes off,” said Rossiter, who was given a standing ovation by the 6,549 in attendance when it was announced, during a stoppage in play, that he had become Siena's all-time leading rebounder.

Rossiter, though, has become more than just an overly proficient rebounder this season. He currently averages 18.9 points per contest, which is the second-best average (to the 19.1 of Iona's Mike Glover) in the MAAC, and 40th-highest scoring average nationally.

And, on Monday night, Patsos recognized that, too.

"When we were in a time out and down eight or nine (Loyola was behind, 58-50 at the media time out with 11:19 remaining), everyone was looking at me like I would have some magic play," said Patsos.

"I just told them on't let Ryan Rossiter score. You don't let Kobe Bryant score. Don't let Dwight Howard score. Don't let Kyle Singler score. Don't let Jimmer Fredette score. That's my play."

Rossiter got five more points after Patsos delivered that message, but the rest of the Saints didn't help out enough on this night as Siena let its late-game lead slip away.

But what didn't slip away was the final statistical evidence that the once too-skinny Rossiter had become Siena's all-time best big man and one of the best ever to patrol the paint in MAAC history.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Niagara Women Down, But Future Bright

Midway through the second half of the Niagara women's team's game at Siena on Sunday the Purple Eagles' on-court lineup consisted of four freshmen and a junior who had only played in 11 of the squad's first 22 games.

Is it any wonder that Niagara remains the conference's only winless team (0-12 in league games) and has a 1-22 overall record that includes an active 17-game losing streak?

The team's plight wasn't helped by the early season loss of point guard Kayla Stroman, last season's conference Rookie of the Year, and this year's leading scorer before a knee injury shut her down after eight games.

And one of Stroman's replacements, junior Ali Morris, is also out for the season after recent shoulder surgery.

The result of losing two veteran ball-handlers and having to rely extensively on not-yet-ready freshmen isn't exactly a recipe for success.

But MAAC opponents better give Niagara its lumps this season becaus a closer look indicates the Purple Eagles won't be anyone's doormat in the very near future.

Freshmen 6-2 center Kate Gattuso, 5-11 forward Shy Britton and 5-10 guard Chanel Johnson are all getting valuable playing experience this season and have all had some strong games that indicate what should come on a more consistent bases in the future.

Stroman and Morris should both be back at full health next season and the team will also return solid role players current sophomore Jessica Flammn and junior Meghan Waterman, one of the league's better defensive players.

And, there's more help coming from a transfer who is currently in the program and practicing with the team but unable to play until next season. That would be 6-foot-2 center Lauren Gatto, who played a season at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she averaged 3.8 points and 2.8 rebounds before transferring to Niagara.

Gatto, and the continued emergence of Gattuso, should solve one problem for Niagara, its rebound struggles (opponents outrebound the Purple Eagles by more than six per game).

The return to health of Stroman and Morris should help the current ball-handling deficiencies (Niagara averages more than 22 turnovers per contest).

And, the natural maturation process of Britton and Johnson, exciting young players who look capable of developing into productive scorers ... it all means better days are ahead for the Niagara women's program. And those days aren't far off.

Marist Women Crack Top 25 Poll

You win as many games in a row as the Marist women's team has won and someone is bound to notice.

National notice came this week when the Red Foxes cracked the Associated Press Top 25 poll for the first time this season. The poll, released today (Monday), has Marist ranked No,. 25 nationally.

It marks the eighth time the team has been ranked in the poll in program history.

Marist is riding an active 17-game winning streak, the second longest nationally (trailing only No. 1-ranked Baylor's 18-game streak), but barely got no. 17. The Red Foxes needed to rally from a second-half deficit to get past Fairfield, 54-52, on Sunday. That victory leaves Marist with a 12-0 MAAC record and a 21-2 overall mark.

On Sunday junior guard Corielle Yarde (Reading, Pa.) hit the game-winning layup with 27.7 seconds remaining as Marist erased an eight-point halftime deficit to defeat the Fairfield Stags 54-52 on Sunday at the Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard. Yarde led the way for Marist with 18 points and senior guard Erica Allenspach (Miamisburg, Ohio) added 13 on 6-for-12 shooting.

The Red Foxes have climbed as high as No. 20 in the AP Poll in past year. Marist was ranked 20th on Jan. 19, 2009 after it broke into the poll two weeks prior on Jan. 5.

The #25 Marist women’s basketball team will next be in action on Friday, Feb. 11 for a MAAC contest at Iona. Tip-off at the Hynes Athletic Center is slated for 4:30 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

Here's a list, provided by Marist's assistant sports information director Andy Alongi, of previous times Marist has broken into the AP Top 25 poll:

- Jan. 19, 2009 - #20
- Jan. 12, 2009 - #21
- Jan. 5, 2009 - #25
- Final 2007-08 - #22
- March 11, 2008 - #22
- March 4, 2008 - #24
- Feb. 26, 2008 - #25

Manhattan Men Get Four in Early Period

Here's another in the series looking at next year's incoming freshmen, players who committed during the fall's early signing period.

Up now, Manhattan men.

- Edson Avila, a 6-10 forward from from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.

Avila averaged 5.0 points and 5.0 rebounds as a junior last season.

- Davontay Grace, a 6-2 guard from Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn.

Grace averaged 11.5 points, 7.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds as a junior last season. Avila and Grace are high school teammates. Grace originally gave a verbal commitment to attend St. John's, but changed his mind after the Johnnies fired Norm Roberts after the 2009-10 season.

- Zach Lamb, a 6-4 guard from Miami Dade Junior College.

Lamb averaged 13.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a freshman at Miami Dade last season. He is the brother of Jeremy Lamb who attends UConn. He is averaging 13.4 points per game through 24 games this season.

- Ryan McCoy, a 6-7 forward from Montgomery H.S. (Skillman, N.J.).

McCoy averaged 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a junior last season.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Jackson "Delivers" In Return For Siena

UPS has the advertising tagline "What Can Brown Do For You?"

The Siena men's team, though, could paraphrase the motto, asking itself "What Can Jackson Do For You?"

The Jackson in question is senior guard Clarence Jackson, a first-team all-MAAC preseason selection who has missed nine games this season, parts of two others and has been limited to a sub-double figure number of practices this season due to badly sprained ankles.

But, after his most-recent three-game absence, Jackson returned to the Siena lineup for Friday's game against Manhattan.

What can Jackson do for you? Only this: With Manhattan having pulled ahead, 39-37, midway through the second half against the Saints Jackson drained a long-range three-pointer to restore his team's lead.

And, later in the half, when Manhattan was still within four points with under two minutes remaining. Saints' center Ryan Rossiter was triple-teammed in the post but was able to find Jackson lurking on the deep perimeter, and Jackson delivered again with a trey that pushed the Saints' lead to 56-49 and the Jaspers never seriously threatened again.

In all, Jackson only made 3-of-9 shots in the contest, all 3-pointers, as a little rust from all the inactivity remains still visible. But, he was 3-of-7 from beyond the bonus stripe, and all three were figurative daggers (the first came in the first half, extending a six-point Siena lead to nine) to the Jaspers.

"That's what he does for you," said Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro. "Those three shots he makes are all backbreakers. That's why it's important to have him out there."

It's important because without Jackson Siena lacks a consistent perimeter threat that can draw attention away from its 6-foot-9 post standout Ryan Rossiter. Without that threat Rossiter faces double- and triple-team attention every game. But, if opponents use perimeter players to drop down and help out on Rossiter when Jackson is on the court, then Jackson can foil the strategy by making open long-range shots, much like he did Friday.

Without Jackson Siena looks like a second-tier team in the MAAC hierarchy this season. With him? On any given night the Saints are capable of beating any MAAC opponent.

In other words, Jackson delivers.

"We need him," admitted Buonaguro, about Jackson. "We're a different team when he's out there and when he's healthy."

None of that was lost on Manhattan coach Barry Rohrssen, who delivered the best post-game line of the night about the Siena long-range bomber.

"I like coming up here and seeing you," Rohrssen said when speaking to this blogger. "But, I don't like seeing Clarence Jackson."

Jaspers' Youth Ensures Bright Future

On Jan. 30th Manhattan got a highlight reel moment, a much-needed late-season boost of good feelings, when freshman guard Mike Alvarado banked in a 65-foot desparation heave at the final buzzer to win a game, 60-59, at Marist.

Five days later, with the glow of national media subsided after Alvarado's "Manhattan Miracle," the Jaspars dropped a 64-57 decision against Siena at the Times Union Center in Albany and the initial response to that could easily be this: Back to the dismal days for Manhattan.

After all the Jaspers fell to 2-10 in MAAC play and 4-19 overall.

But if one looks close enough at what Manhattan has in place right now the view uncovers justifiable optimism for future highlights far beyond a single "fortunate" long-distance heave.

Better days are ahead for the Manhattan team, maybe good enough ones to eventually get it back to some pretty good times of the not-so-distant past for the basketball team from Riverdale, N.Y.

It wasn't that long ago when Manhattan was as dominant in MAAC play as Siena was over the past three seasons, or Fairfield appears to be right now.

From 2000-01 through 2005-06, a six-year span, Manhattan won (three times) or finished second (twice) in the conference standings five times. The Jaspers had a 76-32 conference record over that span including four 20-plus victory seasons overall.

A look at what Manhattan has in place right now, or at least a little imagination about what its current cast might eventually become, results in the conclusion that similar days aren't far off.

You can blame the team's current record as much on youth and inexperience as anything. The talent is there. It just needs to ripen, to develop, to mature.

Starters on Friday night against Siena included two freshmen (point guard Alvarado, and 6-foot-6 forward Rhamel Brown) and a sophomore (6-4 swingman George Beamon).

The other two starters were junior college transfer Kidani Brutus at guard and 6-8 grad student forward Demetrius Jemison, who joined the program for the second semester after three seasons at Alabama.

In short ... four new players to the Manhattan program, and one (Beamon) who saw limited action a year ago.

The growing pains are evident, but starting to pay off. Three games ago the Jaspers took first-place Fairfield to the wire before losing, 61-59 in Bridgeport, Conn. Then came the victory at Marist, courtesy of Alvarado's 65-footer. And, Friday, the Jaspers threw a scare into Siena, holding a mid-second half lead and, then, hanging around (within four with 1:06 remaining) before the Saints closed out a 64-57 victory.

"It definitely is a challenge to coach such a young team," admitted Manhattan's fifth-year coach Barry Rohrssen. "Any coach would find it a challenge to work with such a `new' team. It would be for any coach to rely on so many young players.

"And, we've got freshmen in the two key positions, point guard and center. I'm not a chess master, but in that game the two key pieces are the king and the queen. That's where you have to be strong. In college basketball the two key pieces are point guard and center, and we've got a lack of experience there right now."

But, not a lack of talent. Alvarado, based on Friday's look, is one of the more-talented point guards the league has seen recently. He averages 10.5 points and 3.3 assists per game.

Brown, an athletic post player, averages 7.4 points and 8.2 rebounds and will only improve on the block as he adds muscle to his still-slender 215-pound frame. He already has 51 blocks this season, the fifth-best single-season total by a Jasper in the program's history, and could approach the best single-season mark of 74 (set by Arturo Dubois, 2005-06).

And, then, there's Beamon, a major point-producer who averages 15.2 points per game and who had 17 against Siena, who looks like a future conference scoring leader.

Those three -- Alvarado, Brown and Beamon -- will be together for two more seasons after this one giving Manhattan an exciting, talented nucleus that should deliver it considerably north, in future years, of where it currently resides in the conference standings.

Rohrssen, formerly an assistant at Pitt, has a reputation for being an outstanding recruiter. In past years, he has taken a few quick fixes that haven't delivered much in terms of victories (including one-and-done divisive piece Rico Pickett, a transfer from Alabama, who left with a year's eligibility remaining to pursue professional opportunities). But, Rohrssen has delivered the program's foundation for the future with the likes of Alvarado, Brown and Beamon.

There is another freshman in place, 6-7 long-range shooter Torgrim Sommerfeldt of Norway, who originally committed to attend Wake Forest. Sommerfeldt, though, has not played this year due to injury but looks like he could be another nice piece to Manhattan's future.

And, Rohrssen has already received four commitments from players who will join the program next season and the guess here is that there will be more strong contributions coming from that group.

But the need for them to contribute as much as the current freshmen are contributing, out of necessity, won't be as crucial next season.

"It's probably not fair that our young guys have had to play so much," added Rohrssen. "But, that's the situation that we're in. So, they're getting a baptism under fire. What you hope is that down the road the experience our young guys get now starts paying dividends."

Some of those dividends could even start paying off by the end of the year. But, if not, then those dividends aren't far off as the future for Manhattan basketball looks very bright.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Marist Women Dominant Once Again

Your blogger took the relatively short drive down the New York State Thruway to Poughkeepsie on Monday night to witness the women's game between Siena and Marist.

And, let me say right up front: I am a believer ... again.

A believer in Marist, and that the Red Foxes' total domination of other MAAC teams is secure for another year, and probably for the year after this one, too.

While most observers contend the conference, on the women's side, is going through a slight dip in overall team capabilities ... that's not the case for Marist at all.

The observation I made while watching Monday's game is that the MAAC, this season, is like the Fairy Tale "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs."

Well, this year is Marist and the Nine Dwarfs.

More than one conference coach has opined that Marist is more difficult to prepare for this year than, even, last season when it had three-time conference Player of the Year Rachele Fitz as its go-to player.

This year, Marist has multiple go-to players, as evidenced by its performance against Siena, a 60-30 victory by the Red Foxes.

Marist only had one player in double figures, sophomore forward Kate Oliver, who scored 10 points. In all, 12 different players scored. On the season, five different players have led the team in scoring for at least one game.

On Monday Marist got 31 of its 60 points from reserves including 17 from freshmen.

Against Siena, the only player who had somewhat of an "off night" from the field was preseason Player of the Year selection senior guard Erica Allenspach, who scored just five points on 2-of-7 shooting from the floor.

But, that was no factor whatsoever as the winners pulled away from a 30-21 advantage early in the second half with a 30-9 domination of play over the final 17 minutes.

Marist won Monday's game as much with its defense as with its offense. It held Siena to 3-of-27 shooting (11.1 percent) over the final 17 minutes of the contest.

Marist has already played eight of the nine other teams, including two meetings with Loyola which, right now, looks like the second-best team in the conference.

In those two games Marist won by 16 and 10 points, after holding a 20-point halftime lead in the game that ultimately was decided by 10 points.

The only remaining "challenge" for Marist might be coming this Sunday, a "Super" game on Super Bowl Sunday, if you will, when Marist is at Fairfield.

Fairfield is one of the conference's better teams thus far with a 7-3 conference record, good for third place. The Stags have a four-game winning streak, are 14-6 overall and 9-2 on their home court.

And, Fairfield seems to have an idea of how to beat Marist as the only team to do so in each of the past two seasons.

But, it will certainly be a tall task.

Marist domination? Let us count the ways ...

- Its current 15-game active winning streak is second-longest nationally, behind only the 16-game streak by Baylor, the No. 1 team nationally.

- Its turnover average of 11 per game is the best of the 340 women's teams nationally, nearly 2.3 turnovers fewer than the next best average.

- Marist has eight players with more assists than turnovers so far this season. Siena, by comparison, has one.

- Marist entered Monday's game at seventh-best nationally in points allowed per game, and moved up two spots to fifth after holding the Saints to 30 points. The Red Foxes now give up 50.7 points per game.
(NOTE: The best defensive team nationally is Fairfield, which allows 48.1 points per game.. Manhattan is No. 4 nationally at 49.8, while Marist is No. 5).

- Marist has won all 10 of its conference games by double figures and has outscored MAAC opponents, through its first 10 games, by an average of 26.2 points per game.

Is that dominating enough?

All of this is nothing new for Marist, which has had a double-figure winning streak every year since the 2004-04 season, with a high-water mark of 22 straight during the 2007-08 season.

And, its 18-0 MAAC record in 2007-08 is the only perfect conference season since the MAAC expanded to 10 teams and an 18-game schedule for the 1997-98 season.

Marist has either won outright or shared first place in the MAAC for the past seven seasons and is well on its way to No. 8 in a row. No other conference team, men's or women's, has had a string half that good.

The closest was by the Siena women's teams of 1997-98 through 2002-3 as the Saints won the regular-season title in the last three years of that run, and five of those six overall.

Since the start of the 2003-04 season Marist's MAAC record is 120-16, a winning percentage of .882.

Since the start of the 2004-05 season its conference record is 107-11, a winning percentage of .907. Including MAAC tournament play, its record since the start of the 2004-05 season is 124-12, a winning percentage of .912.

Marist has a 20-1 record in MAAC tournament games, when games are traditionally more difficult, beginning in the 2003-04 season.

And, the beat goes on.

The only players of significance Marist loses after this season are starters Allenspach, point guard Elise Caron, who was a career-long reserve prior to this season; and reserve center Maria Laterza.

The team should be strong again next season. So, like death and taxes, Marist's domination should remain a constant of life for the foreseeable future.

A Look at BracketBusters Opponents

The BracketBusters pairings for MAAC teams were released Monday night, with games to be played either Friday, Feb. 18; Friday, Feb. 19; or Saturday, Feb. 20.

TV parings were also announced. Fairfield will host Austin Peay in a game televised on ESPNU. And, Iona will play at Liberty in another game to be televised by ESPNU.

Here's a look at the matchups involving MAAC teams:

- Canisius (10-10 overall) will be at Boston University (10-13) of the America East Conference.
BU's best player is 6-5 senior forward John Holland, who averages 18.7 points and 5.5 rebounds per game. Last year he became the first Terrier to lead the America East in scoring, averaging 19.2 points per game.

- Fairfield (17-4) will host Austin Peay (14-9) of the Ohio Valley Conference
The Governors' best player is 6-4 junior guard TyShawn Edmondson, who averages 18.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

- Iona (13-9) will play at Liberty (16-7) of the Big South Conference.
The Flames' top players are 6-2 sophomore guard Evan Gordon (14.4 points per game, 4.4 rebounds) and 6-4 sophomore guard John Brown (11.5 points, 10.6 rebounds).

- Loyola (11-10) gets a proximitous contest at Towson (4-17) of the Colonial Athletic Association.
Towson's best players are 6-7 sophomore forward Isaiah Pilmore (14.0 points, 6.6 rebounds) and 6-9 junior forward Broxton Dupree (13.5, 7.9).

- Manhattan (4-18) will play at Stony Brook (8-12) of the America East Conference.
The Sea Wolves' best player is 6-1 junior guard Bryan Dougher (13.4 points, 2.8 rebounds)

- Marist (4-19) hosts New Hampshire (9-12) of the America East Conference.
The Wildcats' top player is 6-2 senior guard Tyrone Conley (14.7 points, 3.6 rebounds).

- Niagara (4-19) hosts Central Michigan (5-15) of the Mid-American Conference.
The Chippewas' top players are 6-5 freshman guard Trey Ziegler (17.0 points, 5.4 rebounds) and 6-4 senior guard Jalin Thomas (15.2, 5.8).

- Rider (15-8) will host Delaware (11-10) of the CAA.
The Blue Hens' best player is 5-11 senior guard Jawan Carter (15.3 points, 4.0 rebounds).

- Saint Peter's (13-9) will play at Loyola-Chicago (13-9) of the Horizon conference.
The Ramblers' top player is 6-4 senior guard Geoff McCammon (14.0 points, 3.0 rebounds).

- Siena (9-12) will host Maine (14-7) of the America East Conference.
The Black Bears' best player is 6-7 senior forward Troy Barnies (14.0 points, 7.6 rebounds).

As part of the agreement to participate in BracketBusters, home teams will play a "return" game at the home facility of their opponent in November or December of the 2012-13 season.

The BracketBusters concept, named because of the success of participating teams from these conferences in NCAA Tournament play through the years, provides programs with an opportunity to play top non-conference opponents roughly three weeks before Selection Sunday.