Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ubiles' NBA Run With Wizards Ends After 10 Days

Despite having a strong game on Saturday (10 points in 18 minutes on 4-of-8 shooting with two rebounds and a blocked shot), former Siena standout Edwin Ubiles was not rewarded with a second 10-day contract by the NBA's Washington Wizards.

Ubiles is returning to the NBA's Developmental League, rejoining the Dakota Wizards. His first taste of the NBA saw him appear in four games and average 3.5 points per outing. He is the first Siena product to ever appear in an NBA regular-season contest.

"They liked Edwin," his agent Cevando Tejeda, told reporters. "They liked him a lot. They wanted to go in a different direction. They could possibly call him back up before the season ends."

The Wizards, according to reports, will replace Ubiles with Cartier Martin, who has spent parts of the past two seasons with Washington.

Martin is a 6-foot-7 swingman who grauated from Kansas State. He averaged 26.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game playing in China earlier this season and recently returned to the states several weeks ago.

"He's very humble," Tejeda added, about Ubiles. "He was very excited with the opportunity to be in the NBA for 10 days. He knows he's close and he's almost there. He told me he's going back to Dakota and keep working."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fairfield Men Lose In CIT Semis; MAAC Teams Done

Now, MAAC basketball if officially over. The last team standing in national post-season play was the Fairfield men. The Stags went all the way to the College Invitaional Tournament's semifinal round, where they dropped a 64-59 decision to Mercer Saturday night before a crowd of 1,557 at Fairfield's on-campus Alumni Hall.

Fairfield finishes with a 22-15 record, one of four MAAC teams to surpass the 20-victory plateau in 2011-12.

And, Fairfield had its share of late-season success (getting to the MAAC tournament's championship game and, then, this advancement in the CIT) without its top guard, junior Derek Needham (foot injury) and played Saturday's game without Desmond Wade (hand), who stepped in so capably in Needham's absence.

Mercer took over early on Saturday with a 13-2 run midway through the first half that broke a 7-7 tie, but Fairfield was back to within five at the intermission and twice got to within a point in the second half before Mercer answered both times.

All things considered, a nice season for the Stags.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Report: Canisius Offers Job To Jim Baron

It didn't take very long for deposed Rhode Island coach Jim Baron to attract serious interest in his services.

A report in the Buffalo News, written by good friend Rodney McKissic, indicates that Canisius has offered its position to coach its men's team to Baron.

Baron, according to the report, is negotiating additional funding to better pay assistant coaches in order to build a stronger infrastructure in the program.

So, it's not a done deal yet. And, while waiting on Baron, Canisius athletic director Bill Maher, according to the report, is still talking to other candidates in case Baron doesn't accept. One of those still under consideration, according to McKissic's story, is Jayson Gee, the associate head coach at Cleveland State and a former assistant at St. Bonaventure.

It does appear that Canisius is seeking someone with western New York ties. Baron served as the head coach at St. Bonaventure from 1992 to 2001. He moved from there to Rhode Island where he had four consecutive 20-victory seasons before a 7-24 finish this past season.

While at Bona's, his teams  earned an NCAA at-large berth in 2000 and three NIT appearances. His Rhode Island teams went to the NIT five different years but never made it to the NCAA's.

No matter who ultimately takes over at Canisius, he walks into a terrific situation. The Golden Griffins return all five starters along with three quality transfers who become eligible next season ... and all three are expected to have a significant impact in the program.

Manhattan Women Fall in WBI; Season Is Over

Basketball season came to an end for conference women's teams with the 67-54 loss by the Manhattan women's team in its Women's Basketball Invitational's semifinal-round game against Minnesota late Friday night.

The inclination is to say the season is "finally" over, but that would indicate relief over the conclusion of a lengthy season and the opposite is the case.

Your Hoopscribe always proclaims the beginning of college basketball, each season, as the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. So, it stands to reason that the end ... and the Manhattan women were the last conference team still active in national post-season play ... is the worst time of the year.

Thank goodness, though, for the "Hot Stove Season" (if you'll excuse a baseball reference) of reviews, previews, recruiting news and a myriad of other off-season happenings throughout the league.

And, we almost forgot ... thank goodness, too, for one more men's team still active.

That would be the Fairfield men, who host Mercer in the semifinals of the (CIT) event at its on-campus Alumni Hall tonight.

Some details from the WBI contest ...

Manhattan finishes 18-16 overall, after getting to the semifinals of the WBI for the second straight year.

For a good portion of the game, it looked like the Jaspers would even advance. They were within two, 48-46, with 11:09 remaining. But, then, the Golden Gophers went on a 15-3 scoring run to run out to a 63-49 edge with just over five minutes left and Manhattan never got close again.

"It was a great postseason run," said coach John Olenowski, via a game report from the Manhattan's sports information office. "We played well in defeat tonight. We were only down two at halftime and played hard the entire way. I'm very proud of our effort."

Manhattan got strong play from its outgoing seniors. Forward Lindsey Loutsenhizer had 18 points and six rebounds, guard Alyssa Herrington had 14 points, five rebounds and seven assists and Schyenne Halfkenny had seven points and six rebounds.

Those three combined for 39 of the team's 54 points.

Loutsenhizer finishes her career as Manhattan's all-time leader in games played (127), fifth in program history in scoring (1,421 points), sixth in rebounding (795) and fifth in made three-pointers (144).

Herrington, who battled knee injuries throughout her career and was reduced to a little-used bench player earlier this season, got pushed into the starting point-guard role in late January due to injuries and ineffectiveness of other players at the position. There, she thrived and finishes third on the school's all-time list for three-pointers made (189).

And, Halfkenny, a 5-11 swingperson who was little more than a role player in the past (just 14.9 minutes per game as a junior), was arguably the conference's most-improved player from her junior to senior seasons.

As a senior, she became the team's most-used player (32.5 minutes per game) and finished second on the team in scoring with 11.1 points per game and in rebounds, 4.7.

It most certainly will be one of the conference's most-difficult senior groups to replace.

EDITOR'S NOTE: We will be taking a team-by-team look at each men's and women's program beginning next week.

So, keep reading ... early and often.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Former Saint Ubiles Makes On-Court NBA Debut

Scroll  down a little and you'll find the list of all former MAAC players who have gotten into the NBA.

And, now, we can officially add Edwin Ubiles, formerly of Siena, to the list.

Ubiles became Siena's second player to appear on an NBA's regular-season active roster. Former Saint Kenny Hasbrouck was signed to two 10-day contracts by the Miami Heat during the 2009-10 season but never got into a game.

Ubiles, on Thursday, became the first Siena player to appear in an NBA regular-season contest, playing 16 minutes for the Washington Wizards in their 108-89 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night.

Ubiles scored four points (1-for-4 shooting, 2-for-2 from the foul line). He also pulled down four rebounds, recorded a steal and had one turnover.

Ubiles is currently playing on a 10-day contract. NBA rules allow Washington to sign him for a second 10-day deal. After that, they would have to decide either to sign him for the rest of the season or release him.

The 6-foot-6 guard had been playing for the Developmental League's Dakota Wizards. There, he was averaging 20.4 points per game, including a 41-point outburst in a game in late February.

Ubiles is Siena's third all-time leading career scorer with 1,939 points and was a key member of the program's three MAAC championship teams.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Keep Reading; Much More MAAC News Coming Up

As we approach the end of post-season play for the 2011-12 season, please allow for this "commercial" reminder.

The MAAC blog is a year-round destination site for news, features, tid-bits, history, etc.

In coming days and weeks we'll have plenty to write about during the off-season months.

We'll start with team reports on every program, both men's and women's, in which we'll take a look back and a look ahead for conference teams.

After that, we'll take on recruiting ... who's coming in to help conference programs in the future.

And, while all that is going on we'll also provide news of coaches' comings and goings, news of incoming transfers and just about anything else that is happening within the league.

So, if you're a fan of MAAC basketball ... I would hope you'll check out the MAAC blog early and often.

St. Bona's Success Out Of The Marist Blueprint

After struggling for many years, this mid-major women's program hired a coach from a lower level and, after putting him in charge, made quick and drastic improvement.

The program has had six straight winning years, including a perfect league record this season. And, now, the team in question has moved to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 round.

It sounds a little like the path that the Marist women's program has taken, one that included a Sweet 16-round appearance in 2007.

Instead, though, it's the mid-major level program that, in recent years, Marist just hasn't been able to beat.

It's the St. Bonaventure women's team that defeated Marist, 66-63, Tuesday night in the NCAA Tournament's second round.

This year's trip to the NCAA's was the seventh straight for Marist and this year's regular-season MAAC championship was the ninth in a row for the Red Foxes.

There's no diminishing what Marist has done over the past nine seasons. A very select few programs at any level can match the Red Foxes' record over that time, and, maybe, no mid-major level team anywhere can claim to match the program's success beyond it's own level (five NCAA tournament victories in the past seven years).

But, St. Bonaventure is the one program Marist hasn't been able to successfully contend with in recent years.

The Bonnies don't yet quite have that consistent long-term success that Marist enjoys, but it's getting close.

Start with a 16-15 record in the 2006-07 season that was preceded by eight consecutive sub-.500 years.

Since then, under head coach Jim Crowley (who started his career at Keuka College, a Division III-level program located in New York's Finger Lakes region), the Bonnies followed with overall records of 18-12, 23-11, 23-10, 21-12 and, now, are currently 31-3 after a perfect ledger (14-0) in Atlantic 10 Conference play this season.

This year, St. Bona's has out-Maristed Marist.

But, that's nothing new of late. In head-to-head meetings over the last three years St. Bonaventure is the one team Marist hasn't been able to beat.

In addition to Tuesday's outcome, the Bonnies also beat Marist, 67-56, in a December meeting this season. St. Bona's also beat Marist, 45-40, in the 2010-11 season and 61-43 in the 2009-10 season.

Tuesday marked the fourth straight time St. Bona's has beaten Marist, and no other program can claim that record of success against the Red Foxes in the Brian Giorgis era at the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., school.

The Bonnies did it, at least in this view, with a style and personnel very similar to Marist's. Bona's doesn't have a singular standout, someone who can drop 20+ points on an opponent on a given night. It wins with execution and hustle. On Tuesday it just executed a little better than Marist, and seemed to get to more loose balls, especially to secure offensive rebounds, than the Red Foxes.

"That game was won by St. Bonaventure," Marist coach Brian Giorgis told the Buffalo News, after Tuesday's contest. "They hit tough shot after tough shot. The more we had a hand in their face the more they hit the tough shot. You have to tip your hat to them. They made tough shots. They made free throws when they needed to.

"They went to the offensive boards with reckless abandon. This game was lost because we gave up too many second-chance opportunities and they hit a ton of tough shots and we didn't execute."

Sounds like what most opposing coaches have to say after playing Marist.

But, right now, there's more than one terrific mid-major level program in New York State.

And, in recent years, the one from Western New York, St. Bonaventure, has consistently gotten the better of Marist in head-to-head meetings.

Game Details of Bona's Victory Over Marist Women

It only seemed fitting that two of this season's best mid-major women's programs, arguably the best two mid-majors in the Northeast and certainly in New York State, would meet with a trip to the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16 round.

And, it only seemed fitting that St. Bonaventure and Marist would battle to the proverbial bitter end, with a Marist opportunity to send Tuesday night's contest in Tallahassee, Fla., into overtime come up just a little short when a difficult three-pointer in the closing seconds failed to fall.

It was enough for St. Bonaventure to escape with a 66-63 victory and advance to meet the region's top-seeded team Notre Dame Sunday in Raleigh, N.C.

Marist's woes on Tuesday night, though, went beyond a late-game missed three-pointer. From a view in front of the ESPN3 telecast on my 17-inch laptop, the Red Foxes struggled mightily on the boards, getting outrebounded 37-21.

The Bonnies were particularly potent on the offensive boards, and did their damage when it meant the most.

After Marist's Kelsey Beynnon brought the Red Foxes to within a point, 64-63, with 1:23 remaining, the Marist defense came up big on Bona's next possession, forcing the Western N.Y.-based team to miss two shots.

But, the Bonnies got offensive rebounds after both misses as precious seconds ticked off. Marist eventually had to foul Cece Dixon, who made both free throws with 23 seconds remaining.

Marist turned it over on its next possession, but got a last-gasp shot after Jessica Jenkins missed the front end of a one-and-one (she had made 45 consecutive free throws until the miss) with 10 seconds remaining.

It gave Marist time to push it down court and find Leanne Ockenden semi-open from about 24 feet out, but her shot bounced off the side of the rim to end the Red Foxes' season.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Manhattan Women Advance IN WBI Tournament

Marist isn't the only women's team still active in national post-season play.

There's also the Manhattan women, who advanced to the Women's Basketball Invitation (WBI) semifinal round for the second straight year with a 78-63 quarterfinal round victory over Holy Cross on Sunday.

The Jaspers, who got a career-high 25 points from senior forward Schyanne Halfkenny, are now 18-15 overall.

And, as a very involved follower of MAAC women's basketball ... kudos to Halfkenny, who quite easily could be recognized as the most-improved player in the conference this season. Against Holy Cross she added five rebounds, four assists and did not commit a turnover.

Senior forward Lindsey Loutsenhizer added 17 points, seven rebounds and a career-high seven steals in the game. And senior guard Alyssa Herrington, who took over as the team's point guard late in the season, had eight assists for the second straight game.

The victory was the fourth for Manhattan in WBI play over the past two years and sends it to a semifinal-round contest against Minnesota (17-17) in Minneapolis, Minn. at 8 p.m. Friday night.

The Manhattan-Minnesota winner moves on to the event's championship game against either Northern Iowa or Seattle on Sunday.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Fairfield Men Top Manhattan, Advance In CIT Event

Fairfield won the battle of MAAC men's teams that had finished tied for third place in the conference's final regular-season standings with a 69-57 victory over Manhattan in a second-round game of the postseason tournament on the Stags' on-campus Alumni Hall Sunday afternoon.

The victory sends Fairfield to a quarterfinal match with Robert Morris on Wednesday at 7 p.m. That game, too, will be on the Stags' on-campus facility. A crowd of 1,492 turned out for Sunday's contest.

Starting forward Maurice Barrow had a game-high 18 points for the Stags, while reserve forward Keith Matthews came off the bench to add 15 points for the 21-14 Stags.

Manhattan finishes 21-13 this season, but its 15-victory turnaround from a 6-win 2010-11 season was the largest positive reversal of any men's program on the Division I level.

George Beamon, a junior swingman who finishes as the MAAC's leading scorer for the 2011-12 season, had a team-high 16 points for the Jaspers.

It's Familiar Foe St. Bona's Next For Marist Women

For the Marist women's basketball team, it's a rematch with St. Bonaventure in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Tuesday night.

The Bonnies needed a 16-5 run at the end of regulation to force overtime and, then, they pulled away in the extra session for a 72-65 victory over Florida Gulf Coast in its first-round game Sunday.

This is the first-ever appearance for the Bonnies in the NCAA event in the best season in the program's history. St. Bona's, its bracket's No. 5 seeed, is now 30-3 overall.

The two teams certainly should be familiar with each other.

St. Bona's knocked off Marist, 67-56, at the Reilly Center in Olean, N.Y., on Dec. 18, pulling away from a 48-48 tie with eight minutes left with a 7-0 run that put the Red Foxes away.

And, the Bonnies nipped Marist two years ago, 45-40, at the McCann Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. That accounted for just one of Marist's losses in a 31-3 finish for the 2010-11 season.

St. Bonaventure is a veteran team with three senior starters. Two of them, 6-1 forward Megan VanTatenhove; and 5-10 guard Amanda Horton, led the team in scoring against FGCU Sunday with 18 and 17 points, respectively.

The Bonnies' leading scorer, 5-8 senior guard Jessica Jenkins averages 14.3 points per game, but only scored five in the opening-round game of the NCAA event.

Marist has won five NCAA tournament games in the past six season, including two in 2007.

"I think it's tremendous," said Marist coach Brian Giorgis, on the Marist website after Sunday's victory about his team's consistent success in the national championship event. "Like anything ... doing it once was nice, and doing it a few times, but this is five wins and having people say that this isn't a surprise, that's just tremendous. It's a feather in our cap and it's a feather in our community who comes out and supports us all the time."

Marist Women, Yet Again, Earn NCAA Victory

Here we go again ... the Marist women have used a lower, although relatively advantageous, seeding position to upset a first-round NCAA Tournament opponent and to set itself up as well as possible for a potential second-round victory and a move to the Sweet 16 round.

The little school from the mid-major league on the banks of the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., earned a 76-70 victory over Georgia in their game at the Donald L. Tucker Center in Tallahassee, Fla.

Little school, yes, but by now big accomplishments are nothing new to the Red Foxes.

Some perspective?

In the entire 31-year history of the MAAC only five men's teams have ever won an NCAA tournament game after reaching the 64-team field: Siena (2008, 2009), Manhattan (2004, 1995) and La Salle (1990).

The Marist women have matched that, now with five NCAA tournament victories in the past six seasons.

So, there it is: Men's MAAC teams five NCAA wins in 31 years; the Marist women ... five in the past six seasons.

NCAA tournament victory No. 5 came today. Previous wins came last year, in 2008 and two in 2007, which was the only time any conference team, men's or women's, advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the national post-season event.

Can Marist do it again this season?

Is anyone willing to bet against that happening?

Not this Hoopscribe.

The Red Foxes find out who they play next later today. They get the winner of the Saint Bonaventure-Florida Gulf Coast contest, about to start shortly.

The Bonnies, the bracket's No. 5 seed, have a 29-3 overall record. FGCU, the No. 12 seed, has a 29-2 record.

But neither one is one of the sport's unassailable powerhouses.

That's why the No. 13 seed is a bit of a lucky position for Marist.

Not only did it ensure, with a first-round victory, that it would get a winnable second-round game but the Marist's previous run to the round of 16 in 2007 also came when it was seeded 13th.

Of course, Marist has proven over the years that it deserves far better than being a No. 13 seed in a 16-team bracket.

But, that's OK.

If the NCAA Tournament's selection committee continues to underrate Marist, the Red Foxes will continue to surprise fans of the women's game with so-called upsets like today's victory over Georgia.

But those of us who follow the MAAC, and women's basketball in particularly, might admit today's Marist victory can be considered an upset ... we also understand that it's truly no surprise at all.

MAAC Connections: Ott and Lehigh Still In NCAA's

Before we settle in to watch the Marist women's first round NCAA tournament game, we'll take a minute to update the list of MAAC connections in this year's NCAA tournament that involves two individuals involved with some of the better upsets on the men's side.

Possibly the most-surprising upset of the men's event thus far was Patriot League member Lehigh's 75-70 victory over No. 2 seed Duke on Friday.

It pushed the Mountain Hawks into tonight's 7:45 p.m. meeting with Xavier with the winner advancing to the Sweet 16 round of the tournament.

One of Lehigh's assistant coaches is Steve Ott, who served as the director of basketball operations at Siena from 2006-08 under Fran McCaffery and, then, as a full-fledged assistant coach last season under Mitch Buonaguro.

It's a little ironic that Ott connected with McCaffery since McCaffery got his start as a head coach at Lehigh.

The Mountain Hawks' victory over Duke was the program's first in the NCAA event and only the third time a representative of the Patriot League won an NCAA tournament game.

The other upset, followed by a near-upset, was turned in by VCU where former Siena director of basketball operations Dave Matturro serves as a graduate assistant coach. Matturro succeeded Ott at Siena and was with the Saints for three seasons before moving on to VCU.

The Rams, a No. 12 seed, knocked off No. 5 Wichita State in the first round and led late in its next game, Saturday against No. 4-seeded Indiana before suffering a 63-61 defeat and elimination from the NCAA event.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ubiles Joins List of MAAC Players To Make NBA

With news that former Siena standout Edwin Ubiles has signed with the NBA's Washington Wizards, your Scribe thought it timely to revisit the list of players who appeared in MAAC games and, then, made regular-season NBA rosters.

Remember, though, the list does not include players from current MAAC schools who played without those programs before there were conference members.

That means players like Calvin Murphy (Niagara), Mike Smrek (Canisius), Jeff Ruland (Iona) and many others who played for their respective pre-MAAC programs are not on the list.

Here goes, and please feel free to use the comments section if any omissions are noticed:


- Deng Gai, a 6-foot-9 forward, played two games with the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2005-06 season;

- A.J. Wynder, a guard who played six games with the Boston Celtics in the 1990-91 season.


- Kenny Hasbrouck, a 6-3 guard who signed two 10-day contracts with the Miami Heat during the 2009-10 season, but never appeared in a regular-season game.


- Steve Burtt Sr., a 6-2 guard who played 101 games over four seasons, appearing in NBA games in the 1994-85, 1987-88, 1991-92 and 1992-93 seasons.

- Sean Green, a 6-5 forward who played 84 games over three seasons (1991-92 through 1993-94) for three different teams.


- Mike Morrison, a 6-4 guard who played 36 games for the Phoenix Suns in the 1989-90 season.


- Luis Flores, a 6-2 guard who played 16 games for two teams during the 2004-05 season.


- Jason Thompson, a 6-11 forward who is now playing his third season for the Sacramento Kings.

And, there are several others from former MAAC programs who have also appeared in NBA games. Those include:


- Danny O'Sullivan, a 6-10 center who appeared in 45 games for five teams over four seasons in the early 1990s.


- Tim Legler, a 6-4 guard who played in 310 games over 10 seasons for seven teams from 1989-2000.

- Ralph Lewis, a 6-6 guard who played in 99 games for two teams over four seasons in the 1980s.

- Doug Overton, a 6-3 guard who played in 499 games over 11 seasons for nine teams from 1992 through 2004.

- Randy Woods, a 5-11 guard who played in 151 games over parts of four seasons for two teams in the early-to-mid 1990s.

- Lionel Simmons, a 6-7 forward who played in 454 NBA games over seven seasons (1990-'97), all for the Sacramento Kings.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Siena's Ubiles Inked by NBA Wizards; Downey to IBL

March isn't only time for college post-season madness, but there are some professional transactions with MAAC connections to report.

A variety of sources indicate that the NBA Washington Wizards have called up former Siena standout Edwin Ubiles from the Dakota Wizards of the Developmental League. The Wizards had an open roster spot after trading JaVale McGee and Nick Young to the Denver Nuggets for Nene.

Ubiles has been one of the best prospects in the D-League all-season. The 25-year old swingman is averaging 20.1 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.3 assists and shooting 50 percent from the field.

Ubiles also was a starter and fourth-leading scorer on the Puerto Rican National Team that won a gold medal at this past summer's Pan-Am Games.

Ubiles was in the preseason camp of the Golden State Warriors this year, and was still around when the team had 16 players, but was one of the last players cut prior to the start of regular-season play.

Ubiles was a four-year starter at Siena and was part of the program's three consecutive MAAC titles and NCAA tournament appearances and completed his eligibility in the 2009-10 season.

A versatile player, Ubiles finished his college career as the Siena program's third all-time leading scorer with 1,939 points.

If Ubiles gets into a game for the Wizards he would become the first Siena player to ever be on the court for an NBA regular-season contest.

Former Saint Kenny Hasbrouck signed two 10-day contracts with the Miami Heat during the 2009-10 season and was officially on that team's active 13-player roster but never saw action.

One other professional transaction took place Friday, on a lesser level, concerning a former Siena player.

Senior guard Kyle Downey, Siena's third-leading scorer (13.3 points per game) this past season, has agreed to a 2012 contract with the Albany Legends of the professional Independent Basketball League.

After three injury plagued seasons, Downey was finally healthy as a senior and played a league-high 37.8 minutes per game.

Legends' general manager Nick Deane, in a press release issued by the team, called Downey "A balanced player who is going to give you every impressive dimension of his game every night he puts on a uniform."

Down is expected to make his professional debut when the Legends play an exhibition contest tomorrow (Saturday) at Mohonasen High School in Rotterdam, N.Y.

CIT Has Rare Post-Season Meeting of MAAC Teams

Call the upcoming meeting between Manhattan and Fairfield in the CIT post-season event the battle to be recognized as the MAAC's third-best team.

The teams tied for third place in the conference's regular-season standings with 12-6 league marks. They split regular-season games, Manhattan winning at home, 53-51; and Fairfield winning on its home court (Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Conn.), 60-54.

The rubber match, oddly enough, comes not in the MAAC tournament but in second round of the tournament Sunday at 4 p.m. at Fairfield's on-campus Alunmi Hall that has a capacity of just 2,479.

Manhattan beat Albany in its first-round game of the event, while Fairfield held off Yale in its CIT opener.

The event decides follow-up match-ups after the first round and, as a money saver, seeks to pair proximitous opponents. Thus, the all-MAAC second-round CIT meeting.

Even with a host team, the game assuredly won't approach a sell-out crowd. The CIT is pretty much recognized as either the third- or fourth-most important of the four men's events, following the NCAA's Big Dance, the NIT, and sharing the leftovers with the College Basketball Invitation (CBI) event.

Fairfield's first-round game against Yale (located 20 miles away from Bridgeport) drew just 1,744 fans.

Manhattan's game at UAlbany saw a minuscule turnout of 458 at Albany's on-campus SEFCU Arena.

Still, it's a good game matching the two MAAC 20-victory teams that did not advance to the NCAA's. The other two 20-victory MAAC teams (Iona, 25-8) and Loyola (24-9) both got to the NCAA's and lost first-round games.

And, now, Manhattan (21-12) and Fairfield (20-14) are both still active and one of the two will still be playing beyond Sunday.

That's not a bad thing. Coaches love extending a season not only to get extra practices but extra game experience that, theoretically propels returning players into the next season.

Iona played in last season's CIT and advanced to the championship game, basically extending its opportunity to play together 23 days beyond its elimination from the MAAC's post-season event.

And, it's definitely great experience for both Manhattan and Fairfield.

The Jaspers will return eight of their 10 players who averaged at least 9.7 minutes of court time per game this season. Only the team's fourth and seventh-leading scorers will be out of eligibility.

The Stags lose two starters, including leading scorer and rebounder Rakim Sanders (16.9 points, 8.4 rebounds), but still should be one of the better teams in the MAAC next season.

But that comes later. For now ... a meeting of two very solid teams, particularly on the defensive end.

Manhattan's defense was the best in the conference in terms of opponents' field-goal percentage (40.5 percent), while Fairfield's points-against average of 61.1 was No. 1 among conference teams.

Most definitely an attractive contest for followers of the MAAC, and one that will prove whether Manhattan or Loyola can claim being the conference's third-best team this season.

USF's Osterman Another MAAC Tourney Connection

Add one more former MAAC connection who is still involved in national post-season tournament play.

That would be Jeff Osterman, a 1992 graduate of Siena with a degree in marketing/management. Osterman, though, was never an athlete at the school, but actually served at an assistant coach at Russell Sage's program during his senior season at Siena.

Osterman is now the associate head coach at the University of South Florida, and has been with that program for seven seasons.

South Florida is participating in the WNIT, and won its first-round game over Florida Atlantic. It advances to the event's second round where it will meet Florida International on Saturday.

Considering Osterman's connection to Siena, and the success of his current program ... your Hoopscribe will take a very uneducated guess that Osterman will be on the short list of Siena administrators in their search to replace Gina Castelli as coach of the Saints' women's program.

Johnson Falls, So Does Fairfield Women in WNIT

A little less than two weeks ago, when Fairfield lost its standout senior forward Taryn Johnson to foul woes for much of the second half in a MAAC tournament semifinal round game against Siena, the Stags actually overcame a one-point deficit and ran off to a 63-48 victory.

But Fairfield couldn't survive the 5-foot-11 Johnson's absence in its first-round game of the WNIT, played before a crowd of 577 at the Stags' on-campus Alumni Hall Thursday night.

Fairfield had a 16-13 lead over Drexel when Johnson fell hard while battling for a rebound and suffered a sprained left ankle.

With Johnson out, Drexel went on a 10-5 run to close the half and take a two-point lead at the intermission.

Johnson tried to return in the second half, game observers report she was limping badly and she took herself out of the contest with more than 16 minutes left and never returned.

Again, Drexel took advantage with a 15-2 run to open the second half that enabled it to extend its lead to 38-23 and the Stags never threatened again in what turned out to be a 57-41 Drexel victory.

"Obviously, when Taryn steps off the floor we have to make some adjustments as a team," senior guard Desiree Pina, who had a team-high 11 points, told the Connecticut Post afterwards.

"(Losing Johnson) takes away a big dimension on the offensive end,"  Fairfield coach Joe Frager told the Connecticut Post. "And, she gives us some length on defense. She's been one of our go-to people all season on offense and when she's out of the flow it changes the way we have to play. We didn't go inside as effectively when Taryn wasn't in the game."

The outcome finishes Fairfield's season with a stellar 24-9 record. Only the 1990-91, 1999-00 and 2000-01 Fairfield women's teams, each with 25 wins, finished with more victories in a single season.

Loyola Comes Up Short Vs. Ohio State in NCAA's

As promised, Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos did indeed take his team to the Andy Warhol museum during its time in Pittsburgh prior to its NCAA Tournament opener against Ohio State.

Most will remember Warhol's belief that everyone will have their 15 minutes of fame, and that's about what the Greyhounds had late Thursday night before falling to bigger, taller, stronger No. 2 seed Ohio State, 78-59.

Actually, it was a little bit less than 15 minutes. Loyola hung tough for a little under the first 12 minutes, trailing 26-20 at that point. Ohio State then went on an 11-2 run to take a 37-22 lead and the Greyhounds never got closer again.

From the prime seat in front of the 42-inch screen, it did appear that Loyola faced a few significant problems.

Freshman point guard R.J. Williams picked up two fouls in the game's first 1:48 and was limited to 22 minutes total in the game. Loyola noticeably missed Williams at both ends of the court during his subsequent absences.

Loyola, defensively, did an outstanding job on Ohio State's standout 6-foot-9, 280-pound post presence Jared Sullinger, holding him to 12 points and 11 rebounds. But it appeared the extra attention on Sullinger left openings for his teammate, 6-7 forward Deshaun Thomas, who put up monster 31-point, 12-rebound numbers.

Ohio State's big, bulky inside tandem was just too much for Loyola. Sullinger had all 12 of his points in the first half to ensure Loyola wouldn't get closer than a double-figure halftime deficit, and Thomas followed with, at one point, 13 consecutive second-half points that enabled the winners to pull away.

Their combined 23 rebounds was just one fewer than the entire Loyola team, certainly highlighting the deficiency faced by most mid-major level teams.

Teams in the MAAC rarely get quality big men, and that disadvantage usually shows up when conference teams play higher-level opponents (see Iona's loss to BYU on Tuesday).

Ion all, the Buckeyes more than doubled Loyola's rebounding total, holding a 49-24 edge on the glass.

"I thought we played really hard, which is what we do at Loyola University," Patsos told the Baltimore Sun afterwards. "We set a school record for wins (24). We're not just growing as a program ... the league is growing.

"To play Ohio State, one of the best teams in the country, you're not going to win that game without having everything go right. We didn't have everything go right. We played hard and competed and the guys had a great experience."

The outcome ends Loyola's season with a 24-9 overall record setting a program record for victories since moving to the Division I level 31 years ago.

And it's not hard to envision another strong Loyola season coming up as the Greyhounds, right now, look to be the early favorite to win the 2012-13 league championship.

The team loses just one significant player, senior center Shane Walker. Between the returnees and this year's experience ...

It looks like the program's 15 minutes of fame will extend into next season.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Manhattan Women Advance In WBI Tournament

The Manhatten women's team got a successful start to their post-season play, winning their first-round game in the Women's Basketball Invitational event with a 77-54 victory over Robert Morris Wednesday night at their home-court Draddy Gymnasium.

Robert Morris is coached by Sal Buscaglia, who was Manhattan's head coach for several seasons before taking his current position.

Sophomore guard Monica Roeder led the Jaspers with 18 points, while senior guard Alyssa Herrington added 17 points and a career-high eight assists. Senior post player Lindsey Loutsenhizer added 15 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals.

"We love this tournament," said Manhattan coach John Olenowski, on the school's website. "This is the second year in a row we won a home game. We were ready to play. The girls did a great job. They were intense the whole game, and I couldn't be happier about their performance.:

The Jaspers move on to the quarterfinal round of the tournament, where they'll face the winner of tonight's contest between Holy Cross and New Hampshire. The date, time and location for that game will be determined after tonight's result.

Two Men's Teams Advance, Now 4 At 20-Win Mark

We can't bring a lot of detail because neither of its games were televised, but two MAAC men's teams advanced in the post-season tournament last night.

Manhattan, behind George Beamon's career-high 34 points, upended the University at Albany, on UA's home court, 89-79; and, Fairfield used an inspired second half after a reportedly lackluster first half to get past Yale, 68-56 as junior guard Colin Nickerson scored a career-high 22 points.

The victories set up a likely meeting between the two MAAC schools in the event's next round (tournament officials will release match-ups for the next round later today). Fairfield has already been announced as hosting the next round, Sunday at 4 p.m. at its on-campus Alumni Hall facility.

What we do know is that this is part of the golden era for MAAC basketball, at least among the upper-echelon levels of the conference.

Fairfield's victory Wednesday night was its 20th of the season (20-14), making it the fourth team from the conference to reach the 20-victory plateau.

Iona, which lost to BYU in the NCAA tournament, finishes at 25-8. Loyola, which plays Ohio State tonight, is 24-8. Manhattan's victory last night pushed its record to 21-12.

Only one other season has produced four 20-victory teams. That was last season when Fairfield concluded 25-8, Rider was 23-11, Iona was 25-12 and Saint Peter's was 20-14.

Of course the jaded will note that teams play more games these days than they once did, mostly due to the advent of so-called "exempt" early season tournaments that allow teams to play three or four games that count as a single outing against the maximum-allowed number of games that can be scheduled during the regular season.

Right now, teams in the MAAC average 32.1 games played (and that will go up some since three teams all have at least one more game to play).

Still, in recent years, conference teams have averaged similar game totals, at least a 31-6 per-team average starting with the 2006-07 season. For several years prior to that teams averaged at least 29 games each.

One has to go back to the 1995-96 season when teams averaged less than 29 contests apiece (27.5 that year), but the per-team average had consistently been about 29 for much of the league's history until the recent six-year run when per-game averages of teams went over 31.

Of course, more games means more opportunities for wins, and part of that ... now, that I think of it ... is the advent of two additional tournaments (the CIT and the CBI) that joined the long-standing national post-season events (NCAA's, NIT) a few years back.

Still, four 20-victory MAAC teams in the same season has only happened twice ... last season and the current year.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Iona Coach Doesn't Deserve Fans' Post-Game Ire

Talk about knee-jerk reactions ...a couple of comments to the recent post about Iona's loss to BYU in the First Four round of the NCAA tournament refer to Iona's head coach Tim Cluess as "Clueless," and follows up by bemoaning the coach's lack of strategy/adjustments during that game.

It's worse elsewhere. One Iona message board has a poll on its site asking visitors whether Cluess should be fired. Another message board devoted to the conference in general has, as its background, an "Emergency Care for Choking" advisory, clearly referring to the Gaels' failure to hold a 25-point lead against BYU Tuesday night.

OK, let's get serious.

First, Tim Cluess isn't going to get fired and Iona is extremely fortunate to have him as a coach ... and will be next season, too, provided he doesn't move on to take one of the burgeoning number of openings at larger and better-paying programs.

In this day and age, when wins really do matter even at the mid-major level, Cluess has directed Iona to 50 wins (50-20) over the past two seasons.

Take a guess how often MAAC teams have recorded 50 victories over two consecutive seasons?

Siena in 2007-08 (23), 2008-09 (27) and 2009-10 (27), La Salle in 1987-88 (24), 1988-89 (26) and 1989-90 (30). Pick any two in the three-year runs of the two programs.

That's it. Iona is now just the third program in the MAAC's 31-year history with at least 50 victories over a two-year span.

Bad losses this year? Two to teams with sub-.500 records: Hofstra (OK, every team has a bad night) and Siena (on Siena's home court where the Saints were 8-1 vs. MAAC teams this season).

Others, prior to the BYU game? Fairfield, Loyola, Manhattan (all with at least 19 victories thus far, and all still active in post-season play), Marshall and Purdue (Marshall is in the NIT, Purdue in the NCAA event).

It was all good enough for Iona to get an at-large berth to the NCAA's, so the selection committee didn't have any problems with the Gaels' won-loss results.

Against BYU? Yes,. it might be hard to grasp losing a 25-point lead after the game's first 15 minutes.

But, anyone who had even seen a little of BYU this season knew the Cougars' size was going to be a handful for smallish Iona.

BYU, with two stellar front-court players (6-9, 235-pounder Brandon Davis and 6-8, 230-pounder Noah Harstsock), was bound to cause the Gaels problems in the paint, particularly since Iona was the smallest team in the NCAA's field of 68.

How small? Both teams used nine players in Tuesday's contest. Average height for BYU: 6-foot-6 1/4. Average height for Iona: 6-2 3/4. That's BYU with an average height advantage of 3 1/2 inches per player at every position.

Loyola's tallest player is 6-7 forward Mike Glover, who had to try to contend with the 6-9 Davis (35 minutes) and the 6-8 Hartsock (38 minutes).

Iona got its 25-point lead by using its superior quickness.. But, after 15 minutes it became evident, at least from my seat in front of the 42-inch screen, that Iona started to slow down.

There aren't many teams, if any, that could keep up the pace Iona played at for the first 15 minutes.

But, height never gets shorter.

And, when BYU finally countered Iona's quickness with a zone defense and more-controlled half-court play on the offensive end, the height took over and left Iona looking for answers that John Wooden wouldn't have had.

Your scribe finds it absolutely amazing that, barely a day after the Iona community was praising the team and its coach for reaching the NCAA's, a significant achievement on its own (just ask Loyola's Jimmy Patsos, whose Greyhounds went 17 years between their last appearance and this year's), that same community is ridiculing the team and its coach for losing one game against a superior opponent.

Those who know better know that Cluess is a superlative coach.

And, his record ... 50-20 over his two seasons directing the program that makes Iona just the third program in MAAC history to put up 50 victories in a two-season span ... speaks for itself.

After Great Start, Gaels Hit Wall vs. BYU in NCAA's

Midway through the first half, the game's telecast analyst Clark Kellogg was calling what Iona was doing to BYU in its First Four round game of the NCAA tournament "like a Gael wind," and a "Blitzkrieg .... like (Iona) was playing on roller skates."

Indeed, it was the best of Iona for more than 15 minutes as it built a 25-point lead with just under six minutes left in the first half that was still a 24-point advantage, 55-31, slightly more than four minutes prior to the intermission.

That was the good Iona, which was immediately followed by an Iona performance over the final 24 minutes that was less good and more bad and ugly.

A 24-of-35 start from the field in which Iona looked very much like a Gael force and the team that led the nation in scoring was powered by energy, an effective pressure defense and an ability to create scores off a fast break fueled by turnovers.

And, then, BYU solved Iona's force.

The Cougars stopped turning the ball over with a more-under-control style that enabled it to get into its halfcourt offense and to get the ball inside to its big men where it had an advantage over Iona.

The reversal derailed Iona's up-tempo attack and forced the Gaels to try to create offense in a half-court situation against an effective BYU zone defense.

And, we've seen this one before. Iona squandered big early leads twice this season, jumping up on both Manhattan and Siena by 18-point advantages in games it ultimately lost.

But late Tuesday night in Dayton the stakes were raised and so was the size of the advantage.

After its 55-31 lead the Gaels went the last four 4:30 of the first half without a point and the final 24:30 of the game with just 17 points while shooting 7-of-35 (20 percent) from the field over the final 24:30.

BYU forward Noah Hartsock had 16 of his game-high 23 points in the second half, just one less than the entire Iona team.

The loss not only ends Iona's season, but also goes down as the greatest collapse in the history of the NCAA tournament.

BYU's rally from 25 points down surpassed the previously largest deficit overcome in an NCAA tournament game of 22, by Duke, in a 2001 semifinal-round victory over Maryland.

"When we're not making shots, it's kind of hard to be able to press like we were in the first half," Iona's senior point guard Scott Machado (15 points, 10 assists) told New York Daily News reporter Sean Brennan after the game. "It's hard for us to get stops at the (defensive) end because we're so small. (Hartstock) was just shooting right over us. I mean, it was hard to guard. And when we're not making shots, we can't press. We couldn't do what we did in the first half so it messed up our whole game plan."

To one watching the game from afar it appeared that Iona wasn't able to sustain its energy and quickness advantage beyond the game's first 15-plus minutes. And, it also appeared that Iona's general lack of height (Iona coach Tim Cluess claims his team is the third-smallest in the country and smaller than any team in the NCAA field) ultimately gave way to BYU's superior inside game.

"At the end of the game, they weren't as quick to the ball," confirmed BYU coach Dave Rose, to reporters on site.

And, so ends a second superlative season (25-8 overall this year and 50 total victories over the past two seasons) and one of the best two-year runs in the program's history.

But, it also ends with just one regular-season MAAC title over that time and a failure to capture the conference's post-season tournament in both years.

And, now, the Gaels move on without their best two players, senior guard Machado and 6-foot-7 senior forward Mike Glover.

"Me going out as a senior like this is pretty disappointing," Glover told reporters afterwards.

New York Post columnist Steve Serby did well in summing up  Iona's collapse and disappointment, closing his report this way:

"The heart of our guys got this one done," BYU coach Dave Rose told Serby.

The hearts of the other guys were breaking.

"It's going to be one that we have to live with the rest of our lives," added Iona coach Cluess.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

U of D.C. Completes Turn Around Under Ruland

There's already been one MAAC connection eliminated from national post-season play.

That would be former Iona coach Jeff Ruland, whose University of the District of Columbia men's team was eliminated from the Division II NCAA East Regional portion of that level's national championship event, by Stonehill, 65-61 this past Saturday.

But, just getting to the NCAA event was an accomplishment of great note for the program, even if it didn't win a tournament game.

The contest marked the first NCAA tournament for the District of Columbia in 25 years, and the program finishes its season with a 22-6 overall record.

Still, it's a feel-good story for a program that had been downtrodden for a number of years and for Ruland, who left his alma mater with an acrimonious split and, surely, has put more than a little shine back on his coaching resume.

Ruland just finished his third season at the school, turning the program around from a 1-20 record in 2009-10 to an 11-15 record last season to this year's successes.

Women's Tournaments Have Many MAAC Tie-Ins

Many MAAC connections, beyond the league's own teams, are still alive and participating in national post-season women's tournament.

Here's a brief rundown and, again, if anyone has been overlooked please let me know via the comment function.


- Dayton. Its head coach Jim Jabir was Siena's head coach until moving on after the 1989-90 season.

- Princeton. One of its assistant coaches is Melanie Moore whose maiden name is Melanie Halker. She is one of Siena's all-time great players when she played there in the late 1990s. She was twice selected as the MAAC's Player of the Year (1998 and 1999) and also served as a Siena assistant coach for one season (2002-03).
And, if you'll permit a little editorializing here ... she would be a terrific candidate to fill the current vacancy for a women's head coach at Siena.

- LSU. Angel Elderkin is the program's director of video operations. She was a Siena assistant coach for three seasons (2002-03 through 2004-05).

- UAlbany. Mary Grimes is an assistant coach. Under her maiden name of Mary McKissack she was a standout player at Siena from 1999-2000 through 2002-03. She was a starter on the team's only trip to the NCAA tournament in 2001.


- Syracuse: Head coach Quintin Hillsman and assistant coach Matt Luneau were were both assistant coaches at Siena in the early 2000's. Both came to Syracuse as assistants prior to the 2005-06 season and Hillsman was promoted to the program's head coaching position in 2007.


- Robert Morris: Head coach Sal Buscaglia was previously head coach at Manhattan, where he directed that school's run to the NCAA tournament in 2003. Coincidentally, Buscaglia meets up with the Jaspers, his old program, in the first round of this event.

= New Hampshire: Second-year head coach Maureen Magarity had served in the MAAC in a variety of capacities. She was a three-year standout at Marist (2000-01 through 2002-03). Magarity also served as an assistant coach at Marist for one season (2003-04) and at Fairfield for one season (2004-05).

Manhattan Women Face Familiar Coach in WBI

And, one more MAAC team headed to the post season, although this one was reported on a little bit earlier.

The Manhattan women have officially accepted a bid to play in the Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) for the second straight season, and will host a first-round game with 18-13 Robert Morris Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Jaspers' on-campus Draddy Gymnasium.

Manhattan head coach John Olenowski revealed, in the post-game discussions with media after the Jaspers lost their quarterfinal-round MAAC tournament game to Siena, that his team would be playing in the event.

Late Monday night, though, that became official for Manhattan and its 16-15 overall record.

The Manhattan women are the seventh team from the conference -- four men's teams, three women's -- participating in some level of national post-season play.

The Jaspers finished third in the MAAC during regular-season play with a 10-8 record. Their top players are 6-foot-0 post player Lindsey Loutsenhizer (11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds per game) and 5-10 Schyanne Halfkenny (10.9 points, 4.8 rebounds.

Robert Morris finished fourth in the Northeast Conference this season, losing to eventual conference champion Sacred Heart in the semifinal round of the NEC tournament. The Colonials are led by forward Artemis Spanou, who averages a double-double (17.0 points, 10.8 rebounds).

In a nice subplot, Robert Morris head coach Sal Buscaglia coached Manhattan for five seasons, and guilded that program to its most-recent NCAA tournament appearance (at the end of the 2002-03 season). After that season he moved over to Robert Morris.

The game's winner will advance to meet the winner of a matchup between New Hampshire and Holi Cross in the quarterfinal round of the event either on March 17 or 18.

Fairfield Women Draw Drexel in WNIT Tournament

The Fairfield women's basketball team learned late Monday night when and how its season would continue in the Women's National Invitation Tournament with a game Thursday in its on-campus Alumni Hall against Drexel. Game time will be announced later today.

The Stags, now 24-8, will be making their second appearance in the event, which now involves 64 teams, and their first trip to the WNIT in more than a decade. Fairfield already knew it would be part of the event's field by virtue of securing the league's automatic berth after finishing as the MAAC's regular-season runner-up.

Fairfield's last WNIT appearance came in 2000 when it was the MAAC's regular-season title winner, but fell in the post-season tournament's championship game.

Drexel, 18-13 overall, advanced to the Colonial Athletic Association's post-season tournament's championship game before falling to Delaware. Thursday's contest will be the first-ever meeting of Fairfield and Drexel.

The event operates in similar fashion to the NCAA's tournament with 64 teams and automatic berths to 31 teams (one per conference) and, then, a selection of 33 at-large teams.

All games, including the championship contest on Saturday, March 31, are hosted by participating schools.

Giorgis: A Little Confidence About Marist Draw

Marist coach Brian Giorgis has never been prone to predictions or braggadocio.

At the start of the 2010-11 season, for instance, the opinion he voiced about his team was: "I don't know exactly what we have, but we've got a lot of it.""

Final record in MAAC play: 18-0.

This season's preseason worry? A lack of height and experience, as expressed by the Marist coach.

Final record in MAAC play: 17-1.

As his team approaches the NCAA tournament and a first-round match-up with Georgia of the Southeastern Conference, a power league, Giorgis isn't exactly predicting a victory and another run to the Sweet 16 round like his 2007 team made.

But, he's presenting the possibility, which is a little out of the norm for the close-to-the-vest Giorgis.

"Georgia we've played before (a 75-60 first-round NCAA tournament loss in 2006)," said the Marist coach, at a team gathering for Monday night's selection show. "Andy Landers is one of the legendary coaches of women's basketball. They are an upper echelon SEC team.

"If you look at the other side of the bracket, we know we can play with St. Bonaventure, and Florida Gulf Coast ... it's in their back yard (actually the site for the first two rounds of the bracket that contains Marist and FGCU is in Tallahassee, Fla, about 400 miles north of FGCU's Fort Meyers' location).

"Still, I like our bracket. I like our little pod there. I think we can get someplace there."

So, there it is ... a little dose of confident talk from Giorgis.

But, nothing wrong with that at all. Nothing inflammatory, nothing derogatory about opponents. Merely a little bit of confidence, which Marist should have.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Loyola's Patsos Great Ambassador For His School

When MAAC teams advance to the NCAA tournament, it's a proverbial golden opportunity for coaches to pitch the message of their respective schools, mostly at the formal press conferences.

If coaches are witty enough and loquacious enough, the national media notices and the desired attention is attracted.

Your scribe can't profess to being a regular attendee of NCAA tournaments (five total), but cannot recall a better performance than one turned in by former Siena coach Mike Deane when he took that program to its first NCAA appearance in 1989.

That was the year, veteran Siena fans will remember, that the school went through a measles' epidemic on campus and the team, once cleared health-wise, played much of the second half of the season and through its league (the old North Atlantic Conference) post-season tournament in empty gyms fully devoid of fans.

But the fan ban was lifted for the MAAC tournament, and Deane took full advantage. During one particular press conference prior to his team's game first-round game against Stanford in Greensboro, N.C., that year, there were 20 questions asked of the Siena coach. One involved the school's new nickname (it changed from Indians to Saints late that season) and the other 19 were about the measles.

Deane good naturedly answered them all and, when the inquisition was complete departed from the podium with one final remark: "I'm so darned sick of measles," said Deane. "All I care about is winning the game ... even if it's only by one `measly' point."

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to one of the best question-and-answer participants the MAAC's coaching ranks has ever had.

That would be Loyola's Jimmy Patsos, who lifted that program from a 1-27 finish the year before his arrival to its highest victory total on the Division I level and its first NCAA tournament berth since 1994.

Patsos should be an absolute joy for the assembled media to speak with at the Pittsburgh site of his team's first-round game against No. 2 seed Ohio State.

Those of us who attend Loyola games on occasion know him to be part stand-up comic, but also brutally honest and revealing when addressing the media. In other words, the perfect ambassador for his school, one whose ability to think fast and talk intelligently and with great wit will result in more positive publicity for Loyola than most mid-major level schools can hope to attract.

Patsos held a conference phone call late Monday afternoon, and the following are a few highlights:

- "I had a lot of doubt when I first came to Loyola (after serving as an assistant under Gary Williams at Maryland)," said Patsos. "After three months, I wondered what I was doing here. When I called recruits when I was Maryland the entire family would gather by the phone. But, when I said I was Jimmy Patsos from Loyola ... it was like `hello ... hello? Is there anyone there?"

- When I was at Maryland, I was not very involved in those Tuesday luncheons with Red Auerbach (legendary luncheon meetings of some of the sport's royalty every Tuesday in the Washington, D.C., area). But I went a couple of weeks in a row when I was thinking about moving on. I was nervous about leaving Maryland. So, at one luncheon, Red sat me down, spun the lazy Susan on the table and told me to stop being so nervous. He knew Loyola had gone 1-27 the previous year, and he told me: "Heck, even you can do better than 1-27.

"The following year, after we finished 6-22 in my first year at Loyola, Red sent me cuff links engraved with 6-22. He became very involved. He came to some of our games. He had a profound affect. He told me it didn't matter if we played a tough non-conference schedule. That didn't matter as long as we won games."

- "I remember, my second year, getting booed pretty good at Iona and turned around and yelled to the crowd, `We'll get some players in here and one day we'll be good ... you'll see.' I really like the fans. Siena has some of the best fans. There's a Siena fan whose sign I ripped up during one game there and we later became friend and, now, I've been invited to his wedding."

- We're a 15 seed. The best we could have gotten was a No. 14, but we prepared for finding out that we'd be a 15. I told our players to take off their rose-colored glasses, that we're a 15 (before the seeds were revealed). What I like about it is that we play Ohio State and that will gives us a lot of national attention. You know when you play a program like Ohio State you're going to be on TV big time. That's what you dream of when you're a player at this level.

"They're stronger and bigger than us, but they're not as quick and we can win. It will take a solid, solid effort, but we'll do what we can do. We pressed when we played at Kentucky (an 87-63 Kentucky victory after Loyola was within five with under 18 minutes remaining). We threw lobs against Kentucky. We'll do those things against Ohio State. We'll have to do a great job Thursday (against Ohio State), but it's a chance for our kids to play a game they've dreamed about being in all their lives."

- "(Jared) Sullinger (Ohio State's All-America 6-foot-9, 280-pound post presence) ... like some people say, you don't contain him you just try to neutralize him. I'm a Celtics' fan, and I hope they get him (in the future). That's what I think of him as a player ... I hope the Celts get Jared Sullinger. If we can hold Sullinger to 18 points and nine rebounds ... something like that. We need to keep him from getting second shots, and we need to fast break and make him run up and down the court. But, no doubt, he's an NBA lottery pick."

- "I can't wait until Iona (an at-large invitee from the MAAC) kicks someone's butt (BYU's) tomorrow night. They're a great team with a professional (Scott Machado) at point guard. They've got one of the other best players in the league in Michael Glover. And, they've got Momo Jones, and Arizona didn't make the tournament this year because they missed Momo. They've got a good coach, an exciting team and went on the road and played everyone anyone asked them to play. They played 20 minutes of bad basketball in our league's tournament (losing in the MAAC event's semifinal round to Fairfield), but should they be punished for that by not making the NCAA's? I don't believe that."

- "I've matured. I've quit yelling so much at players. I've grown up. Very rarely do I yell at players any more, especially at practice. We have a great time on the team bus when we travel. We take field trips (Patsos said he'll take his team to the Andy Warhol museum while it's in Pittsburgh: `They know who he is.'). I still have occasional outbursts,  because we play 30 games ... 30 times a year we go to war. I think I've learned to communicate well. I listen to when, say, Shane Walker makes a suggestion, but I still have to make the final decisions. Now, if a player yells at me I don't mind and I'll yell back. I tell them they get one shot, but I get two. They get to yell at me once but I get to yell twice."

- "The perception of players about Loyola started to change (Patsos' predecessor once offered the opinion that Baltimore's high school stars viewed themselves as a failure if they couldn't do better than a scholarship from Loyola) when Andre Collins transferred here from Maryland and finished third nationally in scoring. It changed when Gerald Brown came home to attend Loyola from Providence. Guys like that said that this is a great place to go to school, and we got some other transfers. For a while, players didn't want to come to Loyola, but the MAAC is a great basketball league, and players started to realize that. We've had Jason Thompson in this league; Luis Flores was at Manhattan when I first got here ... Jared Jordan at Marist. This is a basketball league. I also know that you have to have good recruiters on the staff. We kept trying (in Baltimore), but the first wave of players said no. I starting getting the second wave. Now, both our guards (sophomore Dylon Cormier and freshman R.J. Williams) are from Maryland. This is the third wave. All the talk, when I first got here, was that they weren't going to like it here, but I kept selling that we'll show you that you'll love it here."

- "I'm good friends with Brian Cashman (the New York Yankees' general manager), and when we played at Kentucky, I offered to let him sit on our bench. But, Brian's a smart guy. He went to Lexington (Ky.) Catholic High School. I introduced him to (John) Calipari when Brian came to that game, but he told me as much as he'd love to sit with us ... `No offense, bro, but that (Kentucky) is my squad. That's my home town, and I'm not about to come home and sit on your bench.' "

- "Erik Etherly (his first-team All-MAAC selection this season) is an undersized power forward, but ever since he transferred here from Northeastern we've won a log more games."

Patsos and Loyola would like to win one more this season. If it does, it would surely be one of the tournament's most-memorable upsets.

Win or lose, though, the likelihood is Patsos will ensure this will be a memorable NCAA appearance for his team, he'll provide immeasurable fodder for publicity for his school.

For Marist Women, Lucky No. 13 Seeding Position

It's lucky No. 13 for the Marist women's basketball team in the NCAA tournament.

The Red Foxes found out from Monday night's selection show that they'll be a No. 13 seed, pretty much as expected, and face off with fourth-seeded Georgia Sunday at 12:08 p.m. in Tallahassee, Fla.

The Lady Bulldogs are young and balanced with just one senior in its eight-person playing group and no player averaging more than the 13.2 points per game they get from 6-foot-2 forward Jasmine Hassell.

Lucky position for Marist?

The Red Foxes, in 2007, became the first women's or men's team to advance to the NCAA tournament's round of 16. That year Marist defeated Ohio State in the opening round and Middle Tennessee in the second round.

And, that year, Marist was a No. 13 seed.

The seeding position is relatively advantageous for a program like Marist that traditionally gets slightly overlooked due to its membership in a mid-major level conference.

But, as a 13th seed, Marist avoids the handful of truly powerhouse women's programs that occupy the top seeding positions.

Georgia, with a 22-8 overall record, is a 22-8 seed and, at least on paper, will not overwhelm Marist with height, experience or an unstoppable individual performer.

The game's winner advances to meet the winner of a game between No. 5 seed St. Bonaventure and No. 12 seeded Florida Gulf Coast.

Marist has a 25-7 overall record and is tournament tested with a roster full of players who have been through post-season games together. The Red Foxes are making their seventh consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament and have won a first-round game in three of the previous six seasons.

Post-Season Play Has Some MAAC Representation

MAAC teams Loyola and Iona are headed to the NCAA tournament, but there's a considerable MAAC presence beyond those two programs throughout national post-season play.

Here's a look at some recognizable current and former conference teams and/or individuals whose men's teams are still active ... and, if we've forgotten or overlooked anyone, please let us know via the "comment" function:


- Michigan. Its head coach is John Beilein, who coached at Canisius from 1992-93 through 1996-97.

- Texas. Its associate head coach is Rob Lanier, who coached at Siena from 2001-02 through 2004-05.

- Lehigh. An assistant coach, Steve Ott, twice served on the Siena staff, most recently as an assistant in the 2010-11 season.

- St. Bonaventure. An assistant coach, Steve Curran, served on the Siena staff for one season (2004-05) under Rob Lanier. (Editors note: Thanks to MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor for remembering Curran was once in the conference).


- Iowa. Its head coach is Fran McCaffery, who coached at Siena from 2005-06 through 2009-10. And, assistant coach Andrew Francis, who coached as a Siena assistant for a portion of McCaffery's tenure.

Seton Hall. Its head coach is Kevin Willard, who coached at Iona from 2007-08 through 2009-10. His staff includes associate head coach Shaheen Holloway, who was Willard's assistant at Iona for three seasons. And, the program's director of basketball operations is Stephen Sauers, who was an assistant with Willard for two seasons at Iona and had also been an assistant at Marist for 14 seasons under former Red Foxes' coach Dave Magarity.


Two MAAC teams, Fairfield and Manhattan are part of the CIT field.

This Is Why MAAC Wanted Neutral Tourney Site

Oh, so this is why MAAC administrators want their post-season tournament at a neutral site, a perceived "fair" setting for its teams to compete for an earn a berth to the NCAA tournament.

According to Kristi Dosh, who writes about sports business for ESPN, the "awareness" factor for schools previously not quite in the national consciousness (read Loyola and Iona from the MAAC this season) is worth millions of dollars, significant increases in student applications and even smarter students, according to various studies.

Dosh writes that no school can afford the kind of positive publicity a deep run into the tournament offers. Studies done for Butler University after it reached the NCAA's championship game the past two seasons show a combined publicity value for the university of about $1.2 billion.

According to Dosh, a 2007 study she cites showed that just making it to the men's NCAA tournament produces a 1 percent increase in admission applications the following year and that each round a team advantages increases the percentage.

And, the numbers tend to be larger for private schools than for public schools (MAAC schools are all private institutions).

Butler University experienced a huge 41 percent increase in applications after its 2010 run to that year's championship game. But, the benefits are felt even by teams eliminated early.

Reports cited by Dosh show that Central Connecticut State University saw application rates increase by more than 12 percent within a month after it was defeated in the first round of the 2000 tournament.

Rising application rates can also allow a school either to increase enrollment or be more selective in admitting students. Studies indicate that schools which do well in basketball are able to recruit an incoming class with 1 to 4 percent more students scoring above 500 on the math and verbal SAT and cam expect 1 to 4 percent more of their incoming students to score above a 600 on the math and verbal SAT.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Iona Didn't Deserve Its NCAA Berth? Think Again

There are times that this scribe shakes his head at some of the things that get written these days, and the debate over teams that should or shouldn't get into the NCAA tournament usually brings out plenty of that.

This year is no exception, and one particular opinion piece by national college basketball writer Jeff Goodman that appears on the cbssportsline website is most definitely a head-shaker.

The headline is this: "Honestly, Iona in this year's tournament is a joke."

The joke is that someone with a national forum would take that strong opinion for any reason other than to stir up controversy. But, the national opinion makers need to find something to editorialize about, and the subject of displaced ire often gets directed at mid-major programs like Iona that somehow make the tournament field over sacred-cow programs that finish in the lower half of power-conference standings.

Here's the piece, in its entirety, for those of you MAAC followers who want to get a good chuckle:

In summation, Goodman opines that Iona, despite a 25-7 overall record and the No. 40 position in the most recent Ratings Percentage Index (and, remember, 68 teams comprise the NCAA tournament field), didn't do enough to justify its at-large berth.

Goodman points out "bad" losses, ones within the league season, in particular.

But, what's wrong with losing games to Loyola (headed to the NCAA's), to Manhattan (headed to the tournament) and at Siena (8-1 on its home court vs. MAAC teams this season)?

No shame there.

Goodman does point out that there was one particularly bad loss, a setback at 10-22 Hofstra. No argument with that. But, isn't any team entitled to one off night? Heck, even Kentucky lost a game this season.

He points out that Iona lost at Marshall ... no shame in that, either. The Thundering Herd finished 21-13 and are headed to the NIT.

What Goodman doesn't mention is a 9-3 Iona record against a non-conference schedule rated 44th best in the country, or five victories over teams rated in the top 100, or an 11-4 record on opponents' home courts and a 15-6 mark overall away from home (neutral sites included).

Iona doesn't deserve to be in the NCAA's? Goodman is wrong about that.

And, then, he points out that Iona only beat one non-conference team, LIU, that did advance to the NCAA field and, in his estimation, that's just not good enough.

Mr. Goodman, somehow, conveniently overlooked that Iona did indeed beat a second team in non-conference play that is part of the NCAA tournament field. On Dec. 7, the Gaels defeated Vermont.

And, let's not forget that the Gaels also beat the MAAC's automatic NCAA tournament qualifier, Loyola, during the regular-season in conference play. So, that's three teams in the national championship event that the Gaels beat during the regular season ... in case Mr. Goodman would care to notice.

Mr. Goodman's case against Iona? Not good enough.

His opinion isn't only a topic of strong debate, but he's factually wrong.

In the eyes of the NCAA selection committee -- and committee chair Jeff Hathaway said that Iona was no where near the last team selected for the tournament -- Iona had done plenty.

The only joke is that this particular columnist doesn't believe it. He's wrong about that, too.

MAAC Sends Two, Loyola and Iona, To NCAA's

For just the second time in the 31-year history of the MAAC, two men's teams have advanced to the NCAA tournament.

We already knew about Loyola, which captured the conference's automatic berth by virtue of winning the league's post-season tournament.

And, during Sunday night's NCAA Tournament Selection Show we discovered that Iona's hopes for an at-large berth came to fruition.

The only other time the MAAC had an at-large entry to the NCAA field was in 1995 when Manhattan, with its 25-3 overall record, got picked after Saint Peter's upset the conference field to win its post-season tournament and get the automatic berth to the Big Dance.

Iona, though, didn't get the best of breaks. The Gaels have to survive a play-in game, one of the so-called "First Four" games, when it plays Tuesday against BYU at 9 p.m. in Dayton. The winner of that game then gets seeded as a No. 14 in a 16-team bracket and advances to the field of 64 for a first-round game against No. 3 seed Marquette on Thursday in Louisville.

Loyola is a No. 15 seed and will face No. 2 seed Ohio State Thursday in Pittsburgh at the CONSOL Energy Center. Game time is expected to be announced on Monday.

"This is a great event for Loyola as a school, and we are happy to share it tonight with our fans who have been a great support to us this season," Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos said at a Selection Show gathering on the campus of the Baltimore school (Patsos' comments come via the Loyola sports information office).

"We are very excited to represent Loyola, the MAAC, Baltimore and the state of Maryland in the NCAA tournament."

The Greyhounds are making just their second all-time appearance in the NCAA's. Their other trip was also as a No. 15 seed in 1994 when the late Skip Prosser coached the team. It played Arizona that year and the Wildcats defeated Loyola, 81-55, in Sacramento, Calif., on their way to a Final Four appearance.

Loyola takes a 24-8 record into the tournament, and its win total is the second-highest in school history (the 1947-48 team had 25 wins), and highest victory total in the school's Division I history since it moved to that level in 1981.

Oddly enough if Iona survives its First Four-round contest on Tuesday, it joins the field of 64 one seeding position higher than Loyola.

"They were not the last team in," NCAA tournament selection committee chairman Jeff Hathaway is quoted as saying, about the Gaels, in a number of reports. "They had a very good non-conference strength of schedule ... I think we got that one right."

No matter. Iona is in, and certainly a welcome surprise for its head coach Tim Cluess, who told reporters earlier this week that his team wasn't gathering (to watch the selection show) because he would rather be surprised than disappointed. Cluess also admitted to reporters during the week that he was checking out the potential NIT field.

Had Iona not received the at-large berth in the NCAA's, it would have played in the NIT. Now, no MAAC team will be part of the NIT field, although to other conference teams (Manhattan and Fairfield) will also be involved in post-season play. Both the Jaspers and the Stags were previously announced as participants in the tournament's field.

In that event Manhattan plays at the University at Albany in a first-round game, while Fairfield's first-round contest will be against Yale.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Fairfield Also Gets Bid To Event

And, yet another MAAC men's team is headed for post-season play.

Fairfield, like Manhattan, is also headed for the Tournament, according to the Stags' website.

Fairfield advanced to the MAAC tournament's championship game where it lost to Loyola, 48-44 to fall to a 19-14 overall record.

The Stats will host a first-round game against near-by Ivy League member Yale Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.

Yale, is currently 19-9, the program's  best record since a 21-victory season in 2001-02.

The Stags and Elis last met in the 2007-08 season with Yale winning, 70-66, in overtime.

The inclusion of both Manhattan and Fairfield marks the first time in the four-year history of the event that two MAAC teams will participate. One team from the conference took part in each of the previous three years.

The best finish by a MAAC team came last year when Iona advanced to the event's championship game before it lost to Santa Clara.

With Fairfield and Manhattan both participating in the event, it means four men's teams from the MAAC will be involved in national post-season events.

Loyola earned the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA's by virtue of winning the MAAC's post-season tournament.

And, Iona, with a 25-7 overall record, is still hoping to get an at-large invitation to the NCAA's. If that doesn't happen, the Gaels will play in the NIT, accepting the automatic berth it has for that event by virtue of being the MAAC's regular-season champion.

Manhattan Accepts Bid To Event

While several MAAC teams await news of their national post-season tournament fates, at least one conference program already knows where it will play.

That would be Manhattan which, late Friday night, received an accepted an invitation to participate in the fourth-annual post-season tournament and its 24-team field.

The Jaspers, whose 20-12 overall record marked a national-best 14-victory improvement from the previous year, will be paired with the University at Albany in the event's first round and will travel to play at UAlbany's on-campus SEFCU Arena in a 7 p.m. game on Wednesday.

The full 24-team bracket, which includes mid-major level teams not invited either to the NCAA or NIT events, will be revealed Sunday night.

The tournament has included a MAAC team in each of its previous three seasons with Rider participating (losing a first-round game) in 2009, Fairfield playing and winning a first-round game in 2010 before being eliminated, and Iona advancing to the event's championship contest last season before it was eliminated by Santa Clara.

Fairfield's 2010 appearance included its comeback from a 27-point deficit with 16:08 remaining in a game against George Mason, which remains the largest overcome deficit in a Division I post-season tournament game in college basketball history.

Manhattan will be making its first appearance in a national post-season event since 2006.

Albany is currently 19-14 overall and advanced to the America East Conference's semifinal round before it was eliminated by Stony Brook. Manhattan had its MAAC post-season tournament ended with an overtime loss against Siena.

The CIT consists of  five rounds, including a unique second round in which, after all 24 participants play a first-round game, the top four remaining seeds receive byes to advance directly to the quarterfinals

The event will have 23 total games with all contests played at on-campus sites with host schools determined by seeding.

First-round games are scheduled for March 13, 14 and 15; second-round games will be played on March 16, 17 and 18; quarterfinals will be on March 20 and 21 with the semifinals on March 23 and 24. The event's championship contest will be on March 28 and televised by Fox College Sports.

Friday, March 9, 2012

MAAC Makes Case for Iona's NCAA At-Large Bid

Want to make a case for the Iona men's team's inclusion as an at-large inclusion to the upcoming NCAA tournament?

MAAC officials have done that, with the NCAA-allowed one-page information sheet that will get distributed to selection committee members.

Here are highlights, all very supportive of the Gaels' chances:

- Iona leads the NCAA in scoring offense (88.3 points per game), assits per game (19.3) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.563), and ranks second in field-goal percentage at 50.4 percent.
- It won the conference's regular-season title.
- Senior guard Scott Machado leads the nation in assists with 9.9 per game.
- Iona leads the MAAC in scoring margin (+10.7), field goal percentage (50.4), 3-point field goal percentage (39.3), 3-point field goals made (7.8), turnover margin (+3.56 per game) and assist-to-turnover ratio (1.6).
- Iona has strong non-conference victories over Nevada (No. 47 in the Ratings Percentage Index as of Thursday) and Saint Joseph's (No. 55). Iona is 5-3 against teams in the RPI's top 100.
- Iona is tied for second in the NCAA with Harvard for victories (15) away from their home building. Murray State leads with a 17-0 away-from-home record.
- Tied for fifth in the NCAA with 11 victories in oppoonents' buildings.
- Played 65.7 percent of its games away from home and holds the second-highest overall winning percentage of the 45 teams that have played more than 60 percent of its games on the road.
- Currently ranked No. 41 in the RPI with an out-of-conference strength of schedule rated 45th toughest nationally.

Does it get Iona into the NCAA tournament?

Objectively, it has the Gaels positioned on the proverbial bubble. Whether that bubble bursts remains to be seen with the only definitive answer coming Sunday night when the field of 68 teams becomes official.

The strong hope here is that it's enough. It's tough to watch teams with mediocre records from the-called power conferences get in and, then, see teams with 25 regular-season victories, including five against top-100 programs, get left out.

For much more, and a terrific look at Iona's case, read MAAC assistant commissioner's insightful and detailed view of the Gaels' situation from a rare perspective.

Ken participated in the NCAA's mock selection procedure in February and, below, is his well-presented opinion on how the 2012 NCAA field stacks up for the selection committee based on his insight and experience. Again, terrific reading:

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Siena Parts Ways With Women's Coach Castelli

Another coaching dismissal within the conference, but this one is a little tough to figure.

Siena, on Thursday, announced that its longtime women's coach Gina Castelli would be leaving the program by mutual decision.

Your Hoopscribe will attempt to avoid too much editorial judgment since, in the interest of full disclosure, there isn't a lot of objectivity here.

Not only have I served as color commentator for radio broadcasts of Siena women's basketball games for the past two seasons, but Castelli has graciously granted me access to any practice, allowed me to ride team buses, attend team meals and be part of just about any other team activity. That unrivaled access has resulted in the type information that, I hope, strengthens broadcasts.

But the personal relationship goes far beyond that. Castelli played a major role in helping your scribe get through a very difficult personal tragedy a few years back. And what was, until then, a cordial working relationship became a close friendship.

Over the years we've also discovered she has reached out to numerous others in similar manner (without ever seeking recognition for her kindnesses), as well as getting deeply involved in just about every community activity and deserving fund-raiser that has come her way.

The school has never had a better community ambassador, its players succeed academically and in life beyond basketball. And the program has had more than a little success on the court during her tenure.

In her 22 seasons as head coach she accumulated a 336-296 overall record and a 225-146 ledger against MAAC opponents. She has been named the conference's Coach of the Year on five occasions, has directed seven teams to regular-season titles and took her 2000-01 team to the NCAA tournament.

But, the school's decision to part ways with Castelli is just another reminder that even at the mid-major level, and even in what is not a revenue-generating sport, it is all about wins and losses. It's all about what have you done for me lately.

Siena's last regular-season women's championship came in the 2003-04 season.

Since then the program hasn't been over .500 overall in any season, although has always won at least 10 games. Castelli has been a believer in playing a strong non-league schedule, and that surely helps explain, to some extent, the less-than-stellar non-conference records.

Still, the bottom never dropped out. Siena never suffered through, say, a 5-25 season. And the Saints remained at least competitive in MAAC play with a 68-76 record against conference opponents since the end of the 2003-04 season. Call that record relative mediocrity, but never abysmal.

Siena finished 11-7 in the MAAC last season and 9-9 this season, good for a share of fourth place both years. And, it won first-round conference tournament games in each of the last two years. Hard to find many other cases when a team had back-to-back years in the upper half of a league's standings, won a conference post-season tournament game in both years and, then, its coach not be asked to return.

And, the team looks to be particularly strong next year with the loss of just two senior guards with quality replacements in place.

Castelli issued a statement, through the school's sports information office Wednesday and her words just epitomize the class in which she conducted herself and her program over the years. Here it is:

"I would like to thank everyone in the Siena community for their unwavering support to me and our program. I have loved working at Siena and forming wonderful relationships with so many quality people. I also want to specifically thank Fr. Kevin Mullen, Dr. Maryellen Gillroy, Joyce Eggleston and John D'Argenio for their belief in me through the years. The Siena administration has been very good to me. I am grateful to work at a college like Siena whose mission mirrored my own in giving back to the community.

"I would like to express gratitude and love to my staff both present and past; In particular I want to express my deep gratitude to Andrea Woodbury, associate head coach. Andrea has been with me my entire head coaching career. Her loyalty and work ethic is priceless!

"Most of all, I want to thank every player that I have coached. I will miss working and being with our players. the Siena player is very unique and resiliency is the one common trait I have found in each player.

"Coaching is, and always will be, my passion. Although I am very sad to leave Siena, I am looking forward to new opportunities in the coaching profession, where I can continue to grow and become the best I can be.

"I leave Siena knowing the future is very bright for the women's program. With Lily Grenci leading the way, and most of the players returning, along with a very talented incoming freshman Symone Kelly,the team is positioned to win many games and conference championships.

"After 22 years I feel that I have given the program my full all. I am extremely proud of all the effort and hard work put into the women's basketball program to raise it to higher levels in every area. Aside from our teams' success, our players' success both on and off the court; introducing the Lil' Saints Club; expanding our camps to include special needs children and our Team Camp became one of the biggest in the Northeast. I am very proud of our overall dedication to community service, particularly our unique relationship with CRAAB (Capital Region Action Against Breast Cancer). The money raised and the lives that we touched means so much to me, and I am grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this wonderful experience, and to have the women's program become a meaningful part of the community.

"I will always have a great affection for the Siena College community, and will look back on the time I spent here with great fondness."

As Castelli left the athletic office area at Siena Thursday afternoon, she stopped to shake hands with dozens of friends and co-workers, to say thanks for everything they've done for her.

In truth, they probably should have been thanking her.

Irving's Dad Has History With Current MAAC Teams

Kyrie Irving is featured in the latest issue of "Sports Illustrated," as a rookie with the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers whose quick start is making fans of that team quickly forget about LeBron James.

Long-time fans of college basketball might recall Irving's father, Drederick Irving, who played at Boston University when that program was a member of the North Atlantic Conference, the predecessor of the America East.

Before that, Irving played his freshman season at Duke (an injury limited him to 11 games) and, then, was the first pick overall in this past year's NBA draft.

What does that have to do with the MAAC? Only a little.

But the NAC, back then, included three teams that, after the 1988-89 season, would move on to join the MAAC ... Siena, Niagara and Canisius.

And all three of those programs saw plenty of the elder Irving over the years as did most teams in that league as the 6-foot-3 guard ran up a career scoring total of 1,931 points, still third-best in the history of Boston University. 

In fact, Boston University captured the NAC's championship at the end of the 1987-88 season, beating Niagara in that year's post-season tournament championship game and knocking off Canisius in the quarterfinals.

By winning the NAC tournament the Terriers moved on to the NCAA event where it suffered an 85-69 setback. Drederick Irving led BU in scoring in that game with 14 points.

The NCAA opponent? Ironically enough, it was Duke where Drederick Irving's son would play at the college level.

MAAC Neutral Site Right Move For MAAC, Loyola

Wonder why the MAAC's tournament was a success in its first year of a three-season commitment to Springfield, Mass.?

Here's a column, a follow-up on the Loyola men's tournament title and upcoming trip to the NCAA tournament, done by my longtime friend Kevin Cowherd for the Baltimore Sun:,0,7705566.column

The piece merely describes the joy and benefits related to the program's recent success.

There's nothing about crowd counts, which happened to be the lowest since the league began playing its post-season event in "host" arenas in 1990.

The previous low total attendance for the tournament came in Trenton, N.J., when only 16,721 turned out in 2003 and a subsequently scheduled event appearance there was cancelled when arena officials feared another financial setback if the event returned.

This year's total attendance? Just 16,127.

And, while it's nice to have large crowds as the event's backdrop (53,569 turned out when Siena won the tournament crown in 2010), in truth the game is the thing.

When it comes to the game, the decision made at the level of school presidents is to play on a neutral court.

The belief is that a neutral court results in a relatively equal competitive situation, that playing in home court venues is too much a benefit to the home team.

On the other hand, the Fairfield men never won the tournament the two years it was played in Bridgeport, Conn., even as the top-seeded men's team last season.

Of the two Western New York teams, only Niagara won the event (once) in the four years it was hosted by Buffalo. And, Siena only won once in the tournament's first 12 appearances at its home-court Albany arena before a three-year run (2008, '09, '10) when it was arguably the league's best team all three years.

But the home court didn't hurt Siena in several of those championship runs.

In 2002, the Saints trailed Marist by double figures late in the first half of a quarterfinal-round game before rallying behind heavy crowd support.

In 2008 Loyola blew a 17-point lead to Siena in the semifinal round and in 2010 Fairfield led by 13 with just over 17 minutes to play before a crowd of more than 11,000 rabid Siena supporters created a real home-court advantage.

Afterwards, then Fairfield coach Ed Cooley admitted his young players (two freshmen played most of the guard minutes) were definitely adversely affected by the partisan and loud Siena crowd.

Try to convince former Marist coach Dave Magarity (2002), Jimmy Patsos (2008) and Cooley (2010) that playing on Siena's home court didn't play a big role in ending their respective teams' MAAC tournament chances.

Why is a neutral-court/equal-opportunity venue so important?

The above column, for one. Loyola has gotten more positive publicity since Monday than it has, surely, in more than a decade combined prior to this year's event.

Important? Patsos noted that two personal friends flew private jets to Monday's championship game. ... "And both will make contributions to the school," said Patsos, afterwards.

Those are the residual benefits of the positive publicity ... every MAAC school that has advance to the NCAA's has parlayed the national noteriety into substantial increases in alum donations, and into larger and better student-population admissions pools.

Bottom line is that the individual schools each want their equal opportunity at all of that, and aren't overly concerned about attendance. Particularly since Springfield's business community stepped up and guaranteed the MAAC, according to a variety of sources, more profit from the tournament than it reaped even two years ago when the all-time record of 53,569 turned out the last time the event was in Albany.

"While we always enjoyed the crowds in Albany from a sales perspective, the (other nine schools) didn't always appreciate it as much," said conference commissioner Rich Ensor, prior to Monday's championship contest.

Yet, of course, it would be nice if larger crowds turned out (although, even with barely more than 1,800 in the MassMutual Center for the men's championship game, crowd noise was loud). Ensor believes the Springfield administrators will do a better job of attracting the local basketball fans, ones with no direct affiliation to the conference schools, in future years.

There are other benefits, too. By playing in a non-MAAC city, the local publicity gets the name of conference schools out to Western and Central Massachusetts students, perspective MAAC students, in ways it never did before.

And, then, there's the sport's Hall of Fame, just a couple blocks down the road. The MAAC held its preseason awards show there, its post-season awards presentation there and also used it for a formal dinner honoring the first class of conference "Honor Roll" designees, past performers who had a role in their respective programs' development.

Now, there's a permanent (at least while the tournament is based in the city) 600-square foot display devoted exclusively to the MAAC. Centerpieces are video presentations of "A Day in the Life," in which current conference athletes discuss balancing academics and athletics, and a separate presentation in which the Honor Roll inductees discuss how playing college sports helped prepare them for life after college.

The Hall draws more than 200,000 annual visitors, many of them pre-college aged students.

In truth, athletic programs are often the primary selling point for a college at any level. In theory, any positive publicity helps attract more applications. Over the just-concluded MAAC tournament, the conference schools got considerable positive publicity in a relatively untapped market proximitous to a number of its member institutions.

On the court, now, the MAAC tournament is all about a fair setting, an equal opportunity for any of its members to win the event and reap the type positive and national publicity the Loyola men are currently receiving.

Return the event to Albany and draw more than 50,000 fans? Or, stay on a neutral court even if attendance is less than a third of that figure?

The strong guess is that Loyola would chose the latter.