Thursday, March 28, 2013

Season Ends, But MAAC News Continues Year-Round

With the end of post-season play for MAAC teams, please permit your Hoopscribe to make a "commercial" reminder.

The MAAC Blog, "Keepin' Track of the MAAC," is a year-round destination site for news, features, history, insight, opinion and just about anything with a tie to basketball within our favorite conference.

In coming days, weeks and months we'll have plenty to write about.

Right now the coaching carousel continues to spin with openings for men's coaches at Marist and Siena and women's coaches at Iona and Saint Peter's. We'll keep you as up to date as possible on those searches and, eventually, how things turn out at those schools.

And, there might even be more to come. A couple of MAAC coaches are being rumored as potential replacements for openings elsewhere. So, stay tuned. It's going to be a busy off-season for coaching movement.

Coming up shortly we'll do year-end "team reports" on every program, men's and women's, in which we'll take a look back and try to see what's ahead for conference teams.

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

And, through all of that there always seems to be additional news filtering out from within the MAAC and this is your one-stop shopping center for all of that.

Finally, another piece of welcome news.

The Sporting News, a terrific publication, recently announced it will resume publishing its preseason College Basketball Preview Magazine after a one-year hiatus.

Your blogger will once again be doing the MAAC preview for that publication. It should be good reading.

But you can find much, much more about the MAAC almost every day right here.

So keep reading ... early and often.

Loyola, Canisius Losses End MAAC Teams' Season

A very good season of MAAC basketball came to its conclusion earlier this week as the men's teams from Loyola and Canisius suffered quarterfinal-round losses in the (CIT) event.

Both squads had won two games in the event before their respective season-ending losses.

Loyola lost, 70-58, to East Carolina in a game that was tied with 10:49 remaining.

Canisius dropped an 84-83 decision to Evansville as the winners' Colt Evans scored 39 points, including 30 in the second half. Evansville held the lead for much of the second half, and Canisius never had a possession on which it had a chance to win the game in the closing seconds.

The Loyola game was the last for the Greyhounds' program as a member of the MAAC. Loyola will compete in the Patriot League beginning with the upcoming academic year. But, its men's coach Jimmy Patsos continues to be prominently mentioned as a finalist for the Siena position.

His Loyola team's senior class finished their careers as the senior class with the most wins (75) in the program's Division I history. Loyola has won 47 games over the past two seasons (24 last year, 23 this year), and has been to national post-season tournaments (it went to the NCAA's last year) the past two seasons.

The last two years marked the first back-to-back 20-victory seasons for the program since the early 1940's.

Canisius finishes with a 20-14 record, an improvement of 15 victories from a year ago, one of the best turnarounds at the Division I level.

"I told the guys that I was really proud of their effort, not only tonight but all season long," coach Jim Baron said in a release issued by Canisius. "To go from five wins last year to 20 this year, and from one league win to 11 ... that's something special. I've never been part of something like this before ... it was a heck of a run."

Junior guard Billy Baron finished the season with 584 points, the highest single-season total since Ray Hall scored 628 points in the 1984-85 season.

In all, six MAAC men's teams played in national post-season tournaments. Iona went to the NCAA's, Niagara participated in the NIT and the CIT field included Canisius, Loyola, Fairfield and Rider.

On the women's side Marist was part of the NCAA field, while Iona played in the WNIT and Fairfield was in the CBI event's field.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

DeWolfe Leaves Saint Peter's Women's Program

Iona isn't the only program with an opening for a women's basketball coach. Add Saint Peter's to that list, after the school issued a release indicating that Stephanie DeWolfe has resigned after nine years as the Peacocks' head coach.

"I would like to take this opportunity to thank the administration and university community for all of their support throughout the last nine years as head coach," DeWolfe said, in a release issued by the school. "Though this was an extremely difficult decision, I realize that the growing demands of my family (she missed time during this past season while on maternity leave) will not allow me to devote the time the program deserves to achieve maximum success."

DeWolfe finished with an overall record of 92-175 over her nine seasons. This past season's team was 2-28 overall.

A 1997 grad of the school, DeWolfe was one of the program's best players. She graduated as the program's all-time leader in assists (399) and 3-pointers made (112). She also scored 1,028 career points.

While a player her teams finished 80-33 overall. Her senior season's team posted a 25-4 overall record and its 14-0 record in MAAC play (1996-97) marked the first unbeaten season by a conference women's team.

Good Guy Bozzella Takes Over Seton Hall Program

A little over two weeks ago, after his Iona women's team lost in the MAAC tournament's championship game to Marist, your Hoopscribe pulled Gaels' coach Tony Bozzella aside very briefly to whisper "I hope we (the conference) keep you."

That was because Bozzella is such a terrific person, and has become a good friend in recent years.

In truth, one always roots for good guys to advance, although that happens a lot less, for whatever reason, for mid-major level women's coaches than their counterparts on the men's side.

But, Bozzella's opportunity to move on was already a strong rumor back then that made perfect sense. Seton Hall had a need, after its former coach Anne Donovan, announced she was leaving to take a position in the WNBA. Bozzella is a Seton Hall grad. And, the school's athletic director, Pat Lyons, used to be Bozzella's boss at Iona.

All of that fell into place, and Bozzella was introduced as the new Seton Hall coach earlier today.

"It is an honor to have the opportunity to come home and coach at this great university," Bozzella said, in remarks released by the school. "Seton Hall has always been a special place to me. This is where I grew up, met my wife and now I have a beautiful family that I look forward to sharing this wonderful experience with. ... this is a school where we havce a great opportunity to be very successful."

Seton Hall is one of seven Catholic schools that will be part of the "new" Big East beginning next season. Its team, this past season, finished 11-20 this season, but four of its top seven players return.

And, Bozzella is no stranger to revitalizing a program.

There was no MAAC program more downtrodden than the Iona women before Bozzella's arrival. The Gaels had just one winning season (14-13 in 1981-82) in its first 21 MAAC seasons. Over that time its overall record was 152-404.

Bozzella turned things around quickly, and he had a 138-116 record there over the past eight seasons, including a 20-13 mark this season, his third 20-victory season with the Gaels.

"We are excited to welcome Tony back to the Seton Hall family to lead our women's basketball program," Lyons said, in a release issued by the school. "He brings a wealth of experience to his alma mater after enjoying a plethora of success at his previous stops. Tony emerged as the unanimous selection by the committee in a thorough search process. We believe his track record mentoring student-athlete success both on and off the court will continue at Seton Hall."

We have no doubt about that. Bozzella is a proven winner, a terrific basketball coach. And, an even better person.

Siena's Search For Men's Coach Nearing Final Stages

Things have been relatively quiet on the search for a coach at Siena, we have learned a few things in recent days.

The Albany Times-Union newspaper, in today's edition, reports that Siena's athletic director John D'Argenio recently went to off campus/out-of-area sites to meet recently with Robert Morris head coach Andy Toole and Virginia Commonwealth associate head coach Mike Rhoades. The newspaper quoted a single source familiar with the process.

We'll go one better on that report. This scribe has two sources that confirmed that D'Argenio had earlier conducted off-campus interviews with Loyola head coach Jimmy Patsos and Florida International head coach Richard Pitino.

Those sources indicated that both Patsos and Pitino will be brought to the Siena campus for the next round of interviews later this week.

In every process D'Argenio has conducted, the off-campus interview has been the preliminary meeting, and individuals brought on campus for a second talk, as well as the opportunity to tour the campus and meet with other school administrators, have been finalists for the job.

To read the proverbial tea leaves, then, it would appear that Patsos and Pitino are the early front-runners for the Siena position.

That's not to say that Toole and/or Rhoades won't also be afforded on-campus interviews and get into the mix as "finalists."

But, the past indicates that Siena won't bring four finalists on to its campus. In most other processes, the maximum number of finalists brought to campus had been three.

The current candidates mentioned (Patsos, Pitino, Rhoades and Toole) appear to be the entire "pool." Expect the next Siena coach to come from that group, a variety of sources believe.

In case the Siena administration wants some advice, it says here that the top choice should be Patsos.

The Loyola coach is no stranger to revitalizing a program, and no program needed it more than his own when he took over in 2004-05. The year before his arrival Loyola was 1-27 overall, ranked dead-last in the RPI's, and high school players from the fertile recruiting areas of Baltimore and the D.C. area perceived themselves as failures if they had to accept a scholarship offer from the program.

Patsos quickly changed that perception to where, now, he regularly bring in the best mid-major level talents from his area. And, in his second year the Greyhounds were back over .500.

In his last two seasons, his teams have won 24 and 23 games (first back-to-back 20-victory seasons since the early 1940's at Loyola), and have won 18 or more four of the last seven.

Clearly, Patsos can coach. But, he's more than an on-court mentor. He's also concerned with his players' education, and uses road trips for both team bonding and to enhance his players' cultural boundaries by scheduling trips to historical sites, museums and landmarks.

Pitino has told confidants that he is very interested in the Siena job. His father, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, owns a Saratoga Springs home (the elder Pitino enjoys thoroughbred racing).

Pitino, at 30, is also the youngest candidate by far. He just finished his first season at FIU with an 18-14 record, 10 victories more than the program's 8-21 record the previous year.

Makes one wonder, though, if Pitino's relative youth will work against him, as might his inclination to leave FIU (and a reported $250,000 annual base salary) after just one season.

Rhoades has also been a head coach, albeit at the Division III level. After three seasons as an assistant at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Va., he took over that program and had a 197-76 record in 10 years.

Rhoades then moved to VCU, where he has been an assistant for the past 10 years.

Toole just finished up his third season as head coach at Robert Morris with a 24-11 record and a trip to the NIT where his team got a first-round victory over Kentucky, before a second-loss to Providence.

Prior to his promotion, he had been an assistant in the program for three seasons.

Toole, like former Siena coach Fran McCaffery, is a graduate of Penn.

Monday, March 25, 2013

ESPN's "Survive And Advance" Show Is Must-Viewing

Not having been bludgeoned to viewing submission by NCAA tournament games late Sunday night, your Hoopscribe sought out one last dose of the sport via the magic of the "On Demand" feature of my cable network.

It was there, around the midnight hour of late Sunday/early Monday that I got my first look at ESPN's 30-for-30's production of "Survive And Advance," the documentary of North Carolina State's improbable run to the national championship of the 1982-83 season.

There is even an almost-connection to the MAAC. Wolfpack coach Jim Valvano coached five seasons at Iona, the last in 1979-80. But, he had moved on  to Raleigh, N.C., two years before the MAAC's formation (1981).

At Iona, his best player was Jeff Ruland and, together, they took Iona to a 28-4 finish in 1979-80 and to the NCAA tournament's second round. Ruland, who was also gone from Iona before the MAAC was formed, did come back to serve as an assistant with the Gaels under Tim Welch and, then, as the program's head coach for six seasons.

"Survive And Advance," a well-worn phrase about tournament play that might well have originated with the loquacious Valvano, brings together the entire North Carolina team for a 30th-year reunion at an otherwise unoccupied pub.

Their reminisces, along with game highlights, interviews with others from both around the program and competitors (particularly Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski), provide the material to weave together a wonderful story about a storied team.

There was also considerable archival material from Valvano, including snippets from a motivational speech he once gave, from his return to N.C. State for a 10th-year reunion in 1993 when he was already well into his life-ending battle with cancer, and, of course, from his famous speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards, not long before his passing.

The only absentees from the 30-year reunion were Valvano, and Lorenzo Charles, whose mid-air grab of teammate Dereck Whittenburg's 35-foot last-second shot and subsequent dunk provided the game-winning points in the championship game against highly touted Houston and its "Phi Slamma Jamma" persona. Charles died in a 2011 bus accident.

A good portion of the show is seen through the eyes of Whittenburg, a confident 6-foot-0 senior guard for North Carolina State that magical season. Whittenburg, who went on to a lengthy coaching career (including work as a head coach at Wagner and Fordham) is now on ESPN's staff and produced the documentary.

The result is funny, witty, touching and tear-inducing, and I will admit to more than a few tears shed while watching.

It was certainly a well-spent 90, or so, minutes of viewing ... a glimpse at basketball history.

Sports Illustrated ranked the Wolfpack's improbable 1983 national championship run as the top story of the 20th century in college basketball.

There's no disagreement here. And, the documentary's quality matches the achievement.

It is must-see viewing for any fan of college basketball.

Loyola Joins Canisius In CIT Eevent's Quarterfinals

Eight teams remain active in the Tournament (CIT), and two are from the MAAC.

Canisius earned its way to the quarterfinals with a Saturday night victory over Youngstown State and, now, Loyola also got there with a 73-59 decision over Kent State on Sunday afternoon.

The Greyhounds will play next on Tuesday at East Carolina at 7 p.m. in Greenville, N.C. ECU already has a tournament victory over a MAAC opponent, having ended Fairfield's season in the event's second round.

Loyola surely hopes ECU will play a defensive strategy similar to Kent State's.

On Sunday, Loyola's 6-foot-7 senior forward Erik Etherly saw single coverage and exploded for 27 points and 11 rebounds.

Etherly got 17 of his points from the foul line (17-of-19), the most by a Loyola player since Jamal Barney had a school record 18 against NJIT in 2009.

"Getting to the line has always been his game," Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos told reporters afterwards. "I think not being scouted so much helped Erik. They weren't ready to double-team him every time. It was like, `OK, it's Etherly,' whereas Fairfield and Iona were just running people at him. So, he had got some room and he did some damage."

"It's a lot easier when you don't have to try to score over four people at times," Etherly told reporters after the game.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

One Out, Two MAAC Men's Teams Still In CIT Event

Two men's teams from the MAAC remain alive in the Tournament (CIT), while a third saw its season end in that event Saturday.

Out is Rider, which saw its season end by a 75-54 score to East Carolina in a second-round CIT contest in Greenville, N.C.

Rider finishes 19-15 after playing in its fourth post-season event in the past six years.

"The way we played today is not the way we won this year," said Rider head coach Kevin Baggett, afterwards. "We were pressing a little bit, and we just gave up too many 50-50 balls."

Still alive are Loyola and Canisius.

The Greyhounds play their second-round game later today, while the Griffs have already advanced beyond the second round of the event.

Loyola will host Kent State today at 3 p.m. in the Greyhounds' on-campus Reitz Arena.

Loyola's appearance in the event marks the first time in its Division I history it has played in postseason tournaments in back-to-back seasons.

Canisius continued to advance in the CIT by rallying from a 22-point deficit with 18:17 remaining to eventually knock off Youngstown State, 84-82, in overtime Saturday night in the second round of the event played in Youngstown, Ohio.

The victory enables the Golden Griffins to advance to the CIT quarterfinal round where they'll host Evansville in the Koessler Athletic Center on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Junior guard Billy Baron had a game-high 30 points in the victory, including 26 after halftime. Senior guard Alshwan Hymes added a season-high 19 points off the bench as the winners outscored Youngstown State 56-37 in the final 25 minutes of game action.

The victory pushes the Griffs' record to 20-13 overall this season, the program's first 20-victory season since 2000-01.

Women's Teams Don't View `Lesser' Events As Minor

The MAAC's participation in the NCAA tournament is over, after this weekend's first-round losses (and, no, we don't consider the "First Four" games, essentially play-ins, as first-round contests) by the Iona men and Marist women.

But, there are other tournaments with other MAAC teams participating.

And, despite some contention that the "lesser" national tournaments aren't very important. Well, don't tell that to the teams participating.

Any athlete with any sense of pride and an iota of competitiveness wants to continue to play meaningful games as long as possible. And, any coach wants to keep coaching, particularly when it means some "extra" games that not only serve as a reward, of sorts, for current team members but also helps the on-going development of players who will return in future years.

Does anyone think the Fairfield women didn't perceive their Women's Basketball Invitational (WBI) participation was meaningless?

Certainly not the stags, who dropped a 49-48 decision to Penn on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by all-Ivy League forward Alyssa Baron.

Trailing 46-43 with under 30 seconds left, Fairfield senior Katelyn Linney made a driving layup to pull her team to within a point. After a missed Penn free throw, senior Brittany MacFarlane grabbed the rebound and, then, sank a three-pointer to put the Stags ahead 48-46 with seven seconds left.

And, then, Baron made the heart-breaking shot as the buzzer sounded that ended Fairfield's season.

Just being in the game had to be a thrill for Fairfield, considering the playing site of the venerable Palestra in Philadelphia. The venue dates back to 1927 and is often referred to as the Cathedral of College Basketball. Without the WBI, Fairfield's players would have never played on that hallowed hardwood.

Or, does anyone think the Iona women's team wasn't playing as hard in its 59-50 loss to Drexel in a first round WNIT contest as it did in the MAAC tournament's championship game?

The Gaels had an early lead before Drexel, playing on its home court, got out to a 12-point lead with 17:29 remaining. Iona pulled back to within eight when sophomore guard Damika Martinez connected on her fifth three-pointer of the game with 7:53 left, but couldn't get closer down the stretch.

Martinez finished with a team-high 22 points and freshman teammate Joy Adams hauled down a career-high 21 rebounds. Those type numbers don't get recorded by players going through the proverbial motions.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Marist Rallies In Second Half, Falls Short to Spartans

The advantage of television is that it takes a viewer places even those with the highest-priced game tickets can't access.

Prior to the Marist women's NCAA tournament contest with Michigan State Saturday afternoon, a 55-47 Spartans' victory, the cameras were inside the Red Foxes' locker room for coach Brian Giorgis' last-minute pregame words for his team.

Giorgis stressed a few things his team always does as a program, described his team as a flock of geese that always flies in a "V" formation, and that V stands for victory. With that, he raised his hand, his players put their hands together around Giorgis' and, then, went out to the court.

There was no yelling, no histrionics, no win-one-for-the-Gipper emotions.

Just a calm, business-like approach.

It was like Giorgis and most of his players had been here before, and they have. The program has been in similar locker rooms prior to first-round NCAA games, now, nine times in the past 10 seasons.

In fact, they've been farther than just the NCAA first round before, too.  The program got an NCAA tournament victory in each of the last two years, another one in 2008 and went all the way to the round of 16 in 2007.

Marist knows how this stuff is done, it knows how to win tournament games.

Except it seemed to have forgottten after taking a 14-12 lead with 8:03 remaining in the first half. For the remainder of the time before the intermission the Red Foxes went 1-for-9 from the field and committed three turnovers over a total of 12 possessions.

Afterwards, Giorgis admitted he yelled to his team: "Nobody wants to shoot!"

"That was the thing that was so frustrating at the time," the Marist coach told reporters afterwards. "It was like, `Guys, you're playing scared,' ... I didn't know what team was there playing in the first half."

The Spartans' used that stretch of un-Marist like play to go on a 13-2 run to finish out the half with a 25-16 lead that got extended to 31-19 early in the second half.

And, then, Marist started playing like Marist again, running its motion offense to near-perfection that produced a 14-0 run and a 33-31 lead on Casey Dulin's three-pointer with 13:45 left.

When Dulin connected on another trey with 10:45 remaining the score was tied at 38.

Michigan State, though, scored on its next five possessions to grab a 49-42 advantage with 7:10 remaining and Marist never got closer again.

The winners' got much of their late first-half production from an unexpected source, reserve forward Annalise Pickrel, who scored 11 straight points late in the half. She entered the contest averaging nine points per game.

"All of a sudden," Giorgis said afterwards, "Pickrel comes up."

Pckrel finished with 14 points, including her fouth three-pointer of the contest to break the 38-38 tie midway through the second half.

The teams were similar in that both stressed defense and both limited their own turnovers.

Said Giorgis: "We played a better version of ourselves."

Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant said she wasn't surprised by how well Marist played.

"Probably everybody in the field, when you see your name come up there and you see Marist come up  there, you know you maybe drew the unlucky number because they are a very, very good team," Marchant told reporters, afterwards. "We also know their history.

Marist nearly made even more history Saturday. And, it might have had it not lost its two post players, 6-foot-3 Vanderbilt transfer Tori Jarosz and 6-5 freshman Delaney Hollenbeck, two games into the season with season-ending injuries.

It left the playing group with one player taller than 6-0, and it appeared that, finally, Marist would be vulnerable after a lengthy domination of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Instead, the Red Foxes came into the NCAA's riding a 21-game winning streak (Saturday's setback was its first in the 2013 calendar year) and won its 10th consecutive regular-season conference title.

Marist graduates 6-2 forward Elizabeth Beynnon, and reserves 6-1 Kristina Danella and 5-4 guard Kristine Best. But everyone else returns, there is a strong freshman class ready to join the program and both Jarosz and Hollenbeck are expected to be at full strength next season.

It almost assuredly means Marist's domination of the MAAC will not only continue but that the Red Foxes will have the type height better suited to competing in, and winning, NCAA tournament games next season.

Iona Gets Close, Can't Sustain Against Potent Ohio St.

It was billed as the classic matchup between Iona's high-flying offense and Ohio State's punishing defense.

Both of those aspects of play were on display in Friday night's NCAA tournament game. The problem for the Gaels, though, was Ohio supplied not only the defense but the offense, as well in earning a 95-70 victory over Iona.

Iona entered the contest as the nation's second-highest scoring team (80.7 points per game), but the Buckeyes out-Gaeled the Gaels by scoring a season's high 95 in a game that got out of reach early enough for the winners to play the last 10 minutes with mostly its reserves.

High flying? That was Ohio State on this night, reaching rarefied air space that Iona's players couldn't physically match, if the view from in front of your correspondent's 42-inch TV could be believed.

Defense? The Buckeyes held Iona to just 35.4 percent from the field, and to just 21.4 percent (6-of-28) from beyond the three-point line. The Gaels probably needed to have made twice as many treys as they did to have a chance to keep things close, but they struggled for most of the contest even finding good looks from beyond the bonus arc.

Iona's primary individual standout Lamont "Momo" Jones was held to just nine points (3-of-14 shooting) in his heralded head-to-head match-up with the Buckeyes' defensive-minded guard Aaron Craft.

Jones twice got away for baskets (an early fast-break layup that gave Iona a 6-5 lead; and a transition 3-pointer that cut the winners' lead to 30-18 late in the first half), but managed just one basket against his Ohio State counterpart, getting past Craft for a late first-half drive. He had just two second-half points, both on free throws.

For Iona, it was a second-straight disappointing trip to Dayton. A year ago, in a First Four game also at the University of Dayton Arena, Iona had a 25-point lead against BYU after 15 minutes before losing.

Iona coach Tim Cluess, in a recent interview, offered that it was the best 15 minutes of basketball anyone played in last season's NCAA event. And, there are few who could argue that assessment. But, after those first 15 minutes BYU dominated inside with its height and bulk to come all the way back and beat the Gaels.

And, back at Dayton again this year, the Gaels also had an impressive stretch ... although not one that last for 15 minutes against an opponent that was just clearly significantly better.

Yet, after a 22-2 Ohio State run that had the contest on the verge of blow-out territory, 28-7, with 9:27 remaining, the Gaels played nearly eight minutes of the style MAAC opponents had seen from them in larger doses for most of the year.

Junior guard Sean Armand got that stretch started with a three-pointer. Sophomore big man David Laury followed with an inside bucket and, then, Jones got back-to-back buckets, his driving layup and transition trey.

Laury then made a pair of free throws and a mid-range jumper. Taaj Ridley got two free throws, followed by another jumper by Laury.

Armand made another trey, added two free throws on the Gaels' next possession and reserve guard Tre Bowman converted a fast-break layup.

When that stretch was over, on 11 of 12 possessions to cut the winnes' lead to 37-33 with 1:31 remaining in the half.

And, then, Ohio State scored the last six points of the half to push its lead back to 10 and tacked on the first nine of the second half to hold a 52-33 lead barely two minutes after the intermission. The Gaels never got it closer than 12 again, and their deficit went as high as 30 (88-58) with 4:30 remaining.

Outside of Iona's eight minutes of superlative late first-half play, the Gaels shot 15-of-54 (27.7 percent) from the floor and 3-of-25 (12.0 percent) from three-point range.

Ohio State's Craft was superlative on the defensive end, as expected, with six steals including two direct pocket-picks of Jones in open-court situations.

The first of those was a for-the-ages highly sequence in which he poked the ball away from Jones and, then, launched himself at the loose ball which he, while flying towards the scorers' table managed to tip to a teammate. The play resulted in a fast-break dunk for the winners that stretched the Buckeyes' 37-33 lead to six and seemingly reversed the game's momentum.

"We ran into a buzzsaw," Iona coach Tim Cluess told reporters afterwards. "We knew, in order to even be in the game, we'd have to play our best game of the year and we didn't.

"They were jumping above anyone on our team ... and finishing a lot of dunks and a lot of things we can't even get up in the air to get near."

The Gaels finish 20-14 on the season and played in the NCAA's for the second straight year. Jones, who entered the contest as the nation's third-leading scorer; and role-player Ridley are the only two seniors the program loses.

There is enough returning to expect Iona to be contending for another NCAA berth a year from now and, along with Manhattan and Niagara, will be among the preseason favorites to win the MAAC's regular-season title in 2013-14.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Iona's "Chasing Cinderella" Is Must-Watch Video

They're brash and they're cocky, traits that might not endear them to every college basketball fan.

But, you have to love the Iona Gaels for how they remembered incoming recruit Mike Haynes, who was tragically shot and killed in his Chicago area hometown this summer barely a week before he was scheduled to arrive on the New Rochelle campus.

The Gaels spoke, immediately following their MAAC tournament championship, about how they dedicated their season to Haynes, and how Haynes was mentioned often every day as a source of inspiration and motivation.

And, now, there's a terrific Youtube piece on Iona, in which the first several minutes involve several of the team's players speaking about and remembering Haynes, who was expected to have a bright future in the MAAC.

Your technically challenged Hoopscribe can't figure out how to post a link, but the piece, done by SB Nation, can be found on youtube if one does a search for "Chasing Cinderella 2013 Iona's Inspirational run.

It's good stuff, and gives us another reason to root for the "underdog" Gaels in their quest to knock off No. 2 seed Ohio State in their game later tonight.

College sports, for sure, teach those involved lessons about dealing with life's adversities. And, the loss of a teammate at so young an age is certainly as hard a situation as any college athlete could ever face.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Canisius Advances, Fairfield's Season Ends in CIT

One MAAC team moved on in the Tournament (CIT) in Wednesday night's action, while another had its season come to an end.

The Canisius men, playing their first postseason game in 17 years, knocked off Elon University, 69-53, in their first-round game at the Koessler Athletic Center.

Senior Harold Washington led the Golden Griffins with 19 points and was one of five Canisius players in double-figures. Junior center Jordan Heath had 13 points and five blocks, senior guard Isaac Sosa had 11 points, junior guard Billy Baron had 10 points and seven assists and sophomore Josiah Heath had 10 points and six rebounds.

Canisius will learn of its second-round opponent later today (Thursday), but will be on the road for that contest which is expected to be either Saturday or Sunday.

The Fairfield men didn't fare quite so well, dropping a 73-71 decision at Kent State.

The Stags' senior guard Derek Needham scored a team-high 22 points, including a game-tying three pointer with 15 seconds remaining that brought his team all the way back from a 13ppoint deficit with 18:44 left in the contest.

But the winners' Randal Holt drove to the basket on Kent State's final possession and scored off a driving layup to provide the winning margin with three seconds remaining.

Fairfield's season ends with a 19-16 record. Its tournament appearance was the fourth straight year the program has played in a national post-season event, the longest streak in school history.

Needham finishes a stellar career at the school with 1,875 career points, third-best all time on the school's scoring list. Only Tony George (2,066 points) and Joe De Santis (1,916) scored more as Fairfield players.

Match of Iona's Jones Vs. Ohio St.'s Craft Big Key

Sportswriters treasure one trait among all others when talking to an athlete: honesty.

And, maybe, with a little bit of "cockiness" thrown in.

Which is why all in the profession who have ever had to spend any time around the Iona men's basketball team absolutely love Mr. Lamont "Momo" Jones.

While your scribe hasn't had direct contact with the high-scoring 6-foot-0 Gaels' guard in that team's preparations this week for its NCAA tournament meeting with Ohio State (Friday, 7:30 p.m.), we have been reading with great interest about him in New York's tabloids.

Jones, the No. 3 scorer nationally at 23.0 points per game, will be part of one of the most-interesting individual challenges -- a game within a game, if you will -- of any one could hope to watch.

He will almost assuredly be guarded by the Buckeyes' Aaron Craft, who is almost universally regarded as the nation's top perimeter defender. Craft's work on the defensive end is good enough for Sports Illustrated to produce a lengthy piece last month just on the Ohio State player's defensive proficiency and how he goes about his work stopping opponents' top perimeter scorers.

What does Jones think about that matchup?

"I don't feel like there's anybody that can stop me," Jones told the New York Post earlier this week. "That's just how I go into every game. That's no knock on what he (Craft) does. I haven't seen him. I don't know the guy, just like he doesn't know me."

Odds are, though, Craft will know Jones very well by the start of tomorrow's game.

While Jones claims he won't watch any film that might provide some insights to how the Ohio State guard plays defense, Craft will certainly be watching every snippet of video he can access on his Iona counterpart.

The recent Sports Illustrated article had this to say about Craft's preparation for guarding a high-scoring opponent: "His dedication to studying opponents on film makes him as valuable in his own way to Ohio State as shot blockers like Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton were to UCLA in another era."

"I'm going to gou out and play to the best of my ability," Jones told the New York Post. "If he happens to be one of the best defensive players in the country, we'll see. If not, we'll see that, too."

We'll all have the opportunity to see. And this Hoopscribe looks forward to watching this particular match-up of high-frequency scorer going up against the country's top lockdown defender.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Iona Players Confident They Can Beat Ohio State

It's usually unwise to grab a sleeping tiger by the tail. Nor, is it advised to tug on Superman's cape.

But, the Iona men's basketball team clearly didn't get those memos.

The Gaels, who finished in fourth place in the MAAC's regular-season standing before capturing the league's automatic NCAA tournament berth by winning the conference's post-season event, are a huge underdog in their opening-round game against Ohio State, the No. 2 seed in their bracket.

That doesn't matter, though, to a couple Iona players.

"To me, it's not an upset, it's a game we should win, it's a game we're capable of winning," Iona's junior guard Sean Armand told the New York Post earlier this week. "To the rest of the world, it's going to be an upset, a 15 (seed) beating a 2. But, if we win this game we're doing what we're supposed to do."

Asked to predict the outcome, Armand said, "I'm planning to play on Sunday (the tournament's second round). That's all I'm going to say.

Armand isn't alone in speaking confidently about the prospects of toppling the Buckeyes.

"I don't buy the mid-major thing," senior guard Momo Jones told the Post. "We played against great teams, we played against big conferences (including an early season victory over Wake Forest of the ACC) and we've won, so it's no different from going to the NCAA tournament and winning.

"Whether or not people see it as an upset or not, when I get back in that hotel, when we happen to win a game, it's going to be a regular game. It's not going to be any more celebrating than any other game."

Still, that could be a significant celebration if it matches the players' post-game reaction after winning the MAAC tournament's championship contest, when players danced on the court for well over 10 minutes and several went into the stands to hug family members and friends.

"I feel like we're supposed to win, and if we win, it's not going to be like, 'Oh, we beat Ohio State,' It's OK, on to the next round. I honestly believe like we belong. I honestly feel like we can win."

Your correspondent has interviewed both Armand and Jones on multiple occasions, and has always enjoyed their candor and brutal honesty. Neither is afraid to speak his mind.

And, is that such a bad thing? Do any players go into any game believing they don't have a chance to win?

Hopefully not.

Still, if Ohio State needed any incentive to avoid overlooking a less-heralded opening-game opponent, Iona certainly came through with the proverbial bulletin board material.

Sources: Siena Reaches out to Penn St. Ass't Urgo

A number of sources have confirmed that the search for the next men's basketball coach at Siena is moving along relatively slowly, and the initial impression (without any confirmation) is that quite possibly school administrators are waiting for Loyola's season to end in order to check in with that program's coach, Jimmy Patsos.

But, the search hasn't stopped and two very reliable sources have confirmed that Saints' athletic director John D'Argenio has already conducted at least one off-campus interview. That took place recently when D'Argenio met with Penn State assistant coach Keith Urgo.

The 33-year old Urgo appears relatively young compared to Siena's last two hires (Fran McCaffrey and Mitch Buonaguro), but is perceived as a strong assistant coach who favors the uptempo style employed by the Nittany Lions during the two years that program's head coach Pat Chambers has been in charge.

This year, Penn State averaged only 61.6 points per game after some early season injuries left it with only seven players that Chambers used almost exclusively.

During Urgo's two seasons at Penn State the team has had records of 10-21 overall this season and 12-20 last year.

Urgo, though, is no stranger to the MAAC, having played for and graduated from Fairfield (2002). After that he developed a non-profit organization, "Playing for Peace, Inc.," designed to aide in conflict resolution. The organization is now based in five locales: Dublin, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Cypress, Greece, and the West Bank in the Middle East. He remained with the organization, now known as "Peace Players International," for close to two years.

After that he coached the JV team at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C., for two seasons and, then, joined the staff at Villanova in 2007 as video coordinator. A year later he was promoted to the role of director of basketball operations and, then, upgraded again to a coaching assistant's position for the 2010-11 season.

He them moved to Penn State in 2011 as part of Chambers' new staff there.

Rider, Loyola Both Earn CIT First-Round Victories

The Tournament (CIT) got off to a successful start for two MAAC teams participating in the event.

Both Loyola (a 70-63 winner over Boston University), and Rider (a 63-54 winner over Hartford) advanced in the event.

Loyola will get a second home game, hosting a round of 16 game Sunday at 3 p.m. Because the CIT is an unbracketed event, the Greyhounds' next opponent won't be determined until after Wednesday's games.

Rider, which won its first-round contest at Hartford, is expected to be on the road again for its second-round contest and won't learn its next opponent or game site until after Wednesday's games.

Junior guard Anthony Miles led the Broncs with a career-high 23 points.

"Anthony drove the ball, got to the free throw line and was just a good all-around player," said Rider coach Kevin Baggett, afterwards.

The postseason victory was the first for Rider since the program won twice in the 1957 NCAA tournament.

"It's not the NCAA tournament (this time), which is where we want to be at this time of year and in the years to come," Baggett added. "But, we're certainly glad to be playing in the postseason. And, if we're going to be playing this time of year I want us to win."

Rider had rally from a 48-47 deficit midway through the second half and did with a 10-2 run that put the Broncs on top, 57-50, with 2:38 remaining. The winners (19-14 overall) made all eight of their free throws down the stretch to preserve the victory.

It was Hartford's first postseason appearance since making the jump to Division I for the 1984-85 season.

Rider is playing in its fourth postseason tournament in the last six years, having appeared in the CIT in 2011 and 2009 and the CBI in 2008.

Loyola got a boost in its game against Boston University when junior guard Dylon Cormier broke loose after being held scoreless for the game's first 29 minutes, possibly helped by some halftime prodding.

"I said `Dylon, they're wearing your jersey (in the stands) and you have no points,' " Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos told reporters afterwards. "He said 'I got it.' "

Cormier still didn't score until the game's final 11 minutes, but he scored all 16 of his points down the stretch to help Loyola (22-11 overall) erase a 15-point second-half deficit.

Cormier's first basket of the game was a 3-pointer with 10:58 remaining and ignited a 29-7 run in which Cormier made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:16 left in the contest.

Teammate Robert Olson also scored 16 points for the winners.

Maryland's Second Half Too Much For Niagara In NIT

For much of the first half of its first-round NIT contest at Maryland on Tuesday night Niagara looked like it might slay the ACC "giant."

The Purple Eagles had a 29-23 lead with 5:39 left in the first half. And, then, reality set in.

The Terrapins went on a 12-3 run to gain the lead a minute before the intermission and only a Ameen Tanksley's three-pointer enabled the MAAC representative to tie it at halftime. But ...

"I thought we had these guys (Maryland) back on their heels a little bit," said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich, speaking to on-site reporters afterwards. "I thought we had a chance in the first half. Then it was dunk, layup, dunk, tie game (at the half). And that was just what they needed to remind them how good they are, that they beat Duke twice. They got a little of that mojo going."

Maryland kept it going in the second half, pulling away after the break for an 86-70 victory to move to a second-round NIT contest.

Niagara did take a quick second-half lead when senior post player Devon White made a free throw, but Maryland went on a 21-2 run over the next five minutes to take control.

"Credit to them ... I like that team," said Mihalich, about a Maryland squad that many perceived to have been just on the other side of the proverbial NCAA tournament bubble. "I said to Mark (Maryland coach Turgeon) afterward that I hope they win it, and I think they can. In these tournaments you win one and you start feeling it. If they can get another one who knows ... we'll be rooting for them."

Niagara's Antoine Mason had a game-high 24 points, including 12-of-13 from the foul line. Tanksley added 18 points and seven rebounds, while freshman forward had 11 points and sophomore guard Juan'ya Green added 10.

Niagara was making its 14th NIT appearance and first since 2009. It was the second meeting between the programs. The only other time Niagara played Maryland was in the 1972 NIT championship game.

Niagara will return 10 of the 11 players on this season's team, losing only the 6-8 White, who averaged less than 20 minutes per contest. The Purple Eagles captured the MAAC's regular-season title and finished with a 19-14 overall record.

Very early expectations are that Niagara will enter the 2013-14 season as one the preseason favorites to repeat for next season's league title, probably along with Manhattan.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Men's NCAA Teams Have Some MAAC Connections

Here's a rundown on men's teams in this year's NCAA tournament that have MAAC connections in the program:

- John Beilein: Now in his sixth season at head coach at Michigan, he began his Division I coaching career at Canisius (1992-93 season through 1996-97). His Wolverines have a 26-7 record, but started 16-0 and have been 10-7 since. He has 689 career coaching victories, but 258 of them came at the Division II or junior college level before he got the Canisius position.

- Tim O'Toole: The former Fairfield head coach had been away from the sidelines for parts of four seasons, mostly doing some regional television work before he caught on in January of the 2011-12 season as the director of basketball operations, a non-coaching position, at Syracuse. O'Toole is also a Fairfield grad (1987) and was a solid player there.

- Dane Fischer: He was on the staff at Rider as an assistant for three seasons (2005-06 through 2007-08) before moving to his current position at Bucknell. He is currently that program's associate head coach under Dave Paulsen.

- Matt Brady, Mike Deane, Rob O'Driscoll, Lucious Jordan: They are together at James Madison University. Brady is the program's fifth-year head coach. JMU is currently 20-14 this season and earned its berth by capturing the Colonial Athletic Association's post-season tournament last week. Brady played at Siena (1983-84 through 1986-87), and played for Deane during his senior season. Brady also coached four seasons at Marist before he moved to JMU.

Deane was Siena's head coach for eight seasons (1986-87 through 1993-94), and took that program to one NCAA tournament and three NITs. He also was the head coach at Marquette, Lamar and most-recently, at Wagner, which fired him after the 2009-10 season. He had been out of coaching for two years before Brady hired him as an assistant.

O'Driscoll is a true MAAC veteran. Prior to joining Brady at JMU in 2008, he was also with Brady for four seasons at Marist. Before that he was on the Iona staff for six years and on the Manhattan staff for two seasons. He is currently the JMU program's associate head coach.

Jordan joined JMU's this season as its director of basketball operations. He played two seasons at Loyola (2001-02, 02-03) and was the MAAC's Rookie of the Year there as a freshmen. After his sophomore season he transferred to play at UAlbany.

NCAA Women's Teams Have MAAC Connections

One men's team and one women's team from the MAAC is advancing to the NCAA tournament. But, those aren't the only conference connections headed for the so-called "Big Dance."

Here's a look at others with MAAC roots who are with women's teams participating in this year's NCAA tournament:

- Quintin Hillsman: "Q" is the head coach at Syracuse, after serving on the staff there for two seasons before his promotion to the head spot for the 2006-07 season. He was the Big East's women's Coach of the Year for the 2007-08 season and revitalized a program that had been struggling. This year's team is 23-6, the best record through 29 games in the program's history. Hillsman was an assistant at Siena for two seasons, including for that school's lone trip to the women's NCAA tournament in 2001.

- Melanie Moore: Her maiden name is Melanie Halker, and she is arguably the best player in Siena's history, and still ranks fourth all time in the MAAC for career scoring (2,012 pints) and rebounds (1,122). She is currently an assistant coach at Michigan, having sered in the same capacity for six seasons at Princeton. The 1999 Siena grad, a two-time MAAC Player of the Year, also was an assistant for two seasons (2002-03, 2003-04) with the Saints.

- Mary Grimes: Her maiden name is Mary McKissack, and she was a solid guard and standout defender at Siena. A 2003 graduate of that school, she was a sophomore on the Saints' 2001 trip to the NCAA tournament. She is now an assistant coach at the University of Albany, and had previously been on the staff at Syracuse.

- Jim Jabir: He served three seasons at Siena's head coach (1987-88 through 1989-90) before moving on. He has been the head coach at Dayton since 2003 and his team this year is currently 27-2, the best won-loss record in the history of that program. The Flyers had never advanced to the NCAA tournament prior to his arrival there, but is now making their fourth straight trip to that event.

- Shauna Green: Her maiden name is Shauna Geronzin, and she is still the all-time leading scorer at Canisius with 2,012 career points, which is also sixth-best all time in the MAAC. She graduated from Canisius in 2002. She is currently on Jabir's staff as an assistant at Dayton. Prior to that she was an assistant coach for six seasons at Providence.

WNIT Matchup: Iona Set For Defensive-Minded Drexel

Here's another in the series previewing opponents of MAAC teams in national post-season tournaments.

The Iona women will be playing in the WNIT, and their first-round opponent is ...


GAME INFORMATION: Iona will play at Drexel, at the Dragons' on-campus Daskalakis Athletic Center in Philadelphia Thursday at 7 p.m.

TEAM RECORDS: Iona is 22-10 and earned its WNIT berth as the highest team in the MAAC's regular-season standings (it finished second) that did not advance to the NCAA's. Drexel is 22-10.

KEY DREXEL PLAYERS: 5-10 senior guard Hollie Mershon (19.2, 6.1, 4.6 assists), 6-1 senior forward Taylor Wootton (11.5, 4.60, 5-7 freshman guard Meghan Creighton (6.3, 2.3), 5-10 junior forward Fiona Flnagan (5.0, 3.6), 5-6 senior guard Renee Johnson-Allen (4.2 4.9).

DREXEL NOTES: A strong program of late, making its fourth straight trip to the WNIT event and fifth straight national post-season tournament (NCAA's in 2009) ... The Dragons, a member of the Colonial Athletic Association, lost out on the NCAA's when it fell to 18th-ranked Delaware in the league tournament's championship game, 59-56 ... Mershon's 19.2 points-per-game average is 27th best nationally, and she is a do-everything player who leads her team in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and made 3-pointers. She recently went over 1,400 career points and is 10th on Drexel's all-time scoring list ... The Dragons, though, won't overwhelm Iona with size. After 6-2 forward Nicki Jones went down for the season with a January ACL injury (she was averaging 8.6, 4.6), Drexel only uses one player taller than 5-10, the 6-1 Wootton ... Still, even without Jones, Drexel was 9-4 in its last 13 games ... It played two nationally ranked teams during the season, losing to then-No. 24 South Carolina (58-55 in overtime) and three times to Delaware (62-57, 65-56 and 59-56) ... Drexel ranks 9th nationally in fewest points allowed (51.30, 7th in free-throw percentage (78.5%) and 5th in fewest turnovers per game (11.9).

Monday, March 18, 2013

No. 12 Seeded Marist Hopes To Topple Michigan State

The Marist women found out Monday night that they would be the No. 12 seed in the 16-team "Bridgeport Bracket," not that different from their position as a No. 13 seed a year ago.

The Red Foxes, for sure, will hope for similar results as a year ago ... if not even a little better.

Last year Marist upset its bracket's No. 4 seed Georgia in a first-round game and nearly knocked off No. 5 seed St. Bonaventure, losing 66-63.

This year the Red Foxes play against a No. 5 seed, Michigan State, in a first-round contest and, then, would likely meet up with a No. 4 seed (Maryland) in the second round.

Here's a look at Marist's first-round NCAA game against Michigan State.

GAME INFORMATION: No. 12 seed Marist vs. No. 5 seed Michigan State, Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the Comcast Center on the campus of Maryland University in College Park, Md. The game will  be nationally televised on ESPN2.

TEAM RECORDS: Michigan State 24-8 overall. Marist is 26-6.

KEY MICHIGAN STATE PLAYERS: 5-foot-11 junior guard Klarissa Bell (11.1 points, 5.9 rebounds per game), 5-7 senior guard Jasmine Thomas (10.4, 5.3, 3.1 assists), 6-4 sophomore forward Becca Mills (9.2, 4.3), 5-7 sophomore guard Kiana Johnson (9.2, 3.6), 6-3 junior forward Analise Pickrel (9.1, 4.7), 6-3 sophomore guard Jasmine Hines (7.7, 5.5), 6-1 senior forward Courtney Schiffauer (6.2, 6.1).

KEY MARIST PLAYERS: 6-2 senior forward Elizabeth Beynnon (12.2, 4.3), 5-10 junior guard Casey Dulin (10.2, 4.3, 3.3 assists), 6-1 senior forward Kristina Danella (9.3, 4.5), 5-10 junior guard Leanne Ockenden (8.8, 3.9), 6-0 junior forward Emma O'connor (9.1, 4.7), 6-0 freshan guard Sydney Coffey (7.1, 3.1), 5-4 senior guard Kristine Best (2.2, 1.6, 2.1 assists).

MICHIGAN STATE NOTES: The Spartans advanced to the Big Ten tournament's championship game, losing there but beating No. 8 Penn State in the semifinals ... It held Penn State to 19 first-half points in that contest ... Michigan State has won 20 or more games for 10 straight seasons, the longest streak in the Big Ten. Like Marist, it stresses defense. It held 27 of its 31 opponents to below their per-game average... The Spartans lead the Big Ten in fewest points allowed, 3-point defense, rebound margin and turnover margin. They're in the top 40 nationally in points allowed (11th), rebound margin (18th), 3-point FG defense (27th) and fewest turnovers (14.1) ... Like Marist, it does not have a singular star, instead it has seven players averaging between 6.2 and 11.1 points per contest ... Many similarities with Marist, but one huge difference, literally, is Michigan State's inside game. It goes 6-4 and 6-3 up front with another 6-3 player who gets big minutes off the bench. And, there's one more inside presence, Schiffauer, at 6-1, who leads the team in rebounding (6.1 per game), also coming off the bench ... The Spartans are pretty much a 7-player team, and only used those seven in its last two games in the Big Ten tournament ... They beat two to-25 teams this year: Penn State and No. 25 Purdue.

MARIST NOTES: Marist recorded at least 25 wins for seventh straight season and at least 20 for the last 10 ... This is the program's eighth-straight trip to the NCAA's, where it's no stranger to success. It one a tournament game in each of the last two years, won another one in 2008 and won two tournament contests in 2007 ...Like Michigan State, Marist is without a true star, but is well balanced with six players averaging between 7.1 and 12.2 points per outing ... Unlike Michigan State, though, Marist has to overcome height and rebounding deficiencies. It has one player over 6-1, and that's Beynnon, who is more comfortable on the perimeter. It's best rebounder is the 6-foot-0 O'Connor. As a team, Marist gets outrebounded by an average of 2.8 per contest ... Otherwise, the Red Foxes are 17th nationally in fewest points allowed, 48th in turnovers and 11th in 3-point defense ... Ockenden is the MAAC's Defensive Player of the Year and will likely guard the Spartan's top scorer, Klarissa Bell ... Marist played four nationally ranked teams this year: UConn (ranked No. 2 when the teams met), Kentucky (6th), Oklahoma (12th) and Purdue (12th), and lost all four by an average of 24.5 points per contest ... On its level, once the MAAC season began, Marist has an active 21-game winning streak that includes the three wins in its post-season tournament. That's the 6th-longest streak nationally ... Marist's 18-0 regular-season record in its conference was its third unbeaten league record in the last six seasons.

MAAC Commissioner Ensor Tackles Some Issues

Your scribe recently got to chat extensively with MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor on a variety of topics.

So, let's touch on some of the league's "hot topics."


Everything worked well in Springfield, Mass., in the event's second season there. Minor on-sight issues (primarily the scoreboard) from the first year were corrected. New programs (primarily a connection with the Jimmy Fund) were in place. Local sponsorship sales were almost double over a year ago. The conference enjoys the exposure of the event's connection with the James Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

Everything went well except for actual attendance. Figures released by the MAAC showed that total attendance for this season's tournament was 14,394. That's not only down from the 16,560 that was considered a mediocre turnout last season, but is the all-time low since the league began keeping attendance figures in 1990.

"We reached our target numbers in terms of ticket sales from our member schools," said Ensor. "But, we did not get the local support we wanted. Part of that was that the local high school sectional tournaments were on going at the same time as our event, and that drew the casual fan away from our tournament."

Financially, though, the league has guarantees from the community and its bottom line remained at least as strong, if not moreso, than for any other previous tournament.

The event's third year of three-year contract will be next season, and Ensor said definitively that the event will be back in Springfield a year from now.

"The league administrators liked the neutral setting," added Ensor. "Personally, I'd like to find a setting that resulted in bigger crowds. And, that might even be Sprinfield. But, we've had some changes in school administors and athletic directors. We'll have to see what happens (at future meetings)."


Bid specification notices (what the league requires from sites that will bid for future events) go out in April, said Ensor. The next meeting of league presidents takes place in late May, at which time league administrators could both begin discussing future sites or, even, make a decision. The greater likelihood, though, is that a decision on the tournament's future setting will be made at the subsequent meeting of league presidents in December.

Ensor said he expects the possibility of interest from Springfield in extending the current contract, and from other neutral sites, including casino sites with arenas in Atlantic City and Mohegan Sun (Uncasville, Ct.), the Meadowlands, and the Mohegan Sun Arena (not a casino-connected facility) in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.

The Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., a non-neutral court site (it's Siena's home for games), has already expressed an interet in renewing its ties with the event. Ensor also said he believes the Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Ct., which has hosted the event in the past, to also get involved in the process.


An all-time most six men's teams are participating in national post-season tournaments. Iona is in the NCAA's, Niagara in the NIT and the CIT field includes Fairfield, Rider, Canisius and Loyola.

In addition, the Marist women's team will also participate in the NCAA's and the Iona women will be in the NIT. And, the women's team from Quinnipiac, which joins the MAAC next season, also earned a trip to the NCAA's by virtue of winning the Northeast Conference (NEC) tournament.

"That's a big thing ... it's great exposure for our league," said Ensor. "We're very pleased by having six men's teams in post-season play. That just confirms what everyone was saying about our league this year, that we had a lot of real good teams without having one real standout."


The departure of Loyola and addition of Quinnipiac and Monmouth for next season will have the MAAC at 11 members for 2013-14. The league had also considered Wagner and Bryant, according to sources (not Ensor), but opted not to add a 12th team for the upcoming season.

"Quinnipiac and Monmouth have both made commitments to athletics, and each's new facility is better than anything any league member not playing in an arena (Siena and Fairfield) has for a home court," said Ensor.

"And, we're still in an expansion mode. I think we'll get up to 12 teams in the next couple of years. For now, though, we'll see how things roll down by all the Big East transition and go from there."

Ensor said he didn't expect additional departures from current league members, although next year's move to 11 league members gives the MAAC a bit of a just-in-case cushion.

Rumors floated by at least two national-level college basketball writers contend that the Atlantic 10 might reach out to Siena as an option to replace some of its departing current members.

"I wouldn't rule anything out, but nothing is pending," said Ensor. "People (who float the rumors) don't understand the financial impact on a school moving to that level. It's not only mind-boggling, but it takes your breath away in some ways. That said, any movement by schools is a business decision. Each institution has to evaluate it. All there is now, though, is just a lot of speculation."

It's not only a considerable expense to move from the MAAC to the spending levels required to compete in the A-10 (Siena's athletic budget, according to estimates, would have to be more than doubled to even get into the lower range of current league members), but any movement by MAAC members would also incur a departure fee.

Ensor said that any current member that departs with less than a year's notice would owe the MAAC $1 million, a departure with a year's notice would require a $500,000 departure fee, while programs providing two years' notice are required to pay a $250,000 exit fee.

NIT Matchup: Niagara On The Road To Meet Maryland

The Niagara men's reward for a regular-season MAAC title and the automatic berth in the NIT after it failed to win its league's post-season tournament?

A first-round tournament game against an opponent that beat Duke TWICE during the current season.

That would be Maryland of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Here's a look at the Terrepins...

GAME INFORATION: The first-round NIT contest will be Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Maryland's on-campus Comcast Center and will be nationally televised on ESPN2.

TEAM RECORDS: Maryland is the No. 2 seed in an eight-team bracket and has a 22-12 overall record. Niagara is 19-13 overall.

MARYLAND'S KEY PLAYERS: 6-5 sophomore swingman Dez Wells (13.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game), 7-1 sophomore center Alex Len (12.0, 7.9), 6-6 sophomore guard Nick Faust (9.2, 3.6), 6-1 freshman guard Seth Allen (7.4, 2.1), 6-3 senior guard Logan Arenhalt (5.8, 1.6), 6-8 freshman forward Jake Layman (5-4, 3.2), 6-8 freshman forward Charles Mitchell (5.4, 5.4), 6-8 senior forward James Padgett (5.5, 3.9).

GAME NOTES: Maryland won two ACC tournament games (over Wake Forest and Duke), before getting eliminated by North Carolina, 79-76, in the semifinal round ... Most observers had Maryland as one of the top teams not advancing to the NCAA event ... The Terrapins are extremely tall, with four of its top eight players at least 6-8, a group that includes the 7-1 Len ... Niagara has just one 6-8 player in senior Devon White, and he plays less than 20 minutes per game ... Aronhalt is a transfer from UAlbany, who was eligible to play for Maryland immediately since he is a graduate student. He's the team's top perimeter threat, making 54-of-125 three-pointers on the season ... Maryland finished 8-10 in regular-season MAAC play ... Although it did not play a MAAC team this season, it did defeat future conference member Monmouth, 71-38, early this season ... Maryland is also extremely deep with 10 players getting an average of 12.7 minutes per game or more ... This is Niagara's first post-season contest since an appearance in the 2009 NIT ... This game's winner advances to meet the winner of the Denver-Ohio game. That second-round contest will be at the home court of the higher seeded team.

CIT Matchup: Canisius First-Round Foe is Tall Elon

Here's another in the series previewing opponents of MAAC teams in upcoming post-season tournaments.

Up now, the Canisius foe for a first-round Tournament (CIT) ...


GAME INFORMATION: Wednesday, 7 p.m. at the Koessler Athletic Center on the Canisius campus. It's the program's first home game for a postseason tournament since March 23, 1995 when Canisius defeated Washington State in Buffalo's old Menorial Auditorium in the NIT quarterfinals.

TEAM RECORDS: Elon is 21-11 overall, Canisius is 18-13.

ELON'S KEY PLAYERS: 6-10 junior forward Lucas Troutman (15.4 points, 5.3 rebounds per game), 6-7 junior forward Riley Beaumont (11.5, 7.0), 6-2 junior guard Jac Isenbarger (13.2, 3.3, 2.7 assists), 6-8 junior guard Sebastian Koch (9.6, 4.6), 6-4 sophomore guard Tanner Sason (7.1, 3.3), 6-7 sophomore forward Ryan Winters (3.0, 2.3), 5-10 senior guard Josh Bonner (3.6, 0.7).

ELON NOTES: The Phoenix are making their first-ever national post-season appearance since moving to the the Division I level 14 years ago ... The team's 21-victory total thus far is its most since the 1973-74 season ... Elon won the Southern Conference's North Division title, but lost in its league's post-season tournament to College of Charleston in the semifinal round ... Elon played the second half of the season without starting point guard Austin Hamilton, who went down with an ACL injury  ... The Phoenix don't go more than seven deep, and only six active players average more than nine minutes of playing time per game on the season ... Elon is extremely tall, and might have more height in its starting lineup than any MAAC team Canisius saw this year. It averages more than 6-foot-6 per starter and lists the 6-8 Koch as a guard, and he has made 67 three-pointers so far this season...

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Iona Latest from MAAC To Draw Ohio State in NCAA's

Here we go again ... another MAAC team gets its opening-round NCAA tournament appearance against national powerhouse Ohio State.

The Iona Gaels can only hope that it's not deja vu all over again.

It was MAAC representative Loyola that got an unwanted taste of the Buckeyes last March. In that one, Ohio State had a 15-point lead after the game's 15 minutes and never led by less than 10 points again on its way to a 78-59 victory.

Two starters are gone from that Ohio State team, forward and current Boston Celtic 6-8 Jarred Sullinger and guard William Buford. But, Sullinger was battling back issues late last season and those two only combined for 29 of the team's 78 points and 14 of its 49 rebounds.

Deshaun Thomas, an athletic and strong 6-foot-7 forward, torched Loyola last season for 31 points (13-of-22 shooting) and 12 rebounds. Loyola didn't have a player with the physical traits to match up with Thomas a year ago, and Iona might not either.

One MAAC team, though, did have success against the Buckeyes in the NCAA event. That was in 2009 when Siena pulled off a 74-72 upset in double overtime, with guard Ronald Moore making last-second three pointers (the famous "Double Onions" call by color commentator Bill Raftery) to force both overtime sessions.

But, Ohio State's team wasn't as strong that season as last season's or this season's editions.

Here's a preview of Iona's matchup with IOhio State.

GAME INFORMATION: Friday at the University of Dayton Arena. Game time to be announced on Monday.

TEAM RECORDS: Ohio State is the No. 2 seed in the 16-team West Bracket. The Buckeyes are 26-7 overall. Iona is the No. 15 seed in the bracket and has a 20-13 record.

KEY PLAYERS FOR OHIO STATE: 6-foot-7 junior forward Deshaun Thomas (19.5 points, 6.2 rebounds per game), 6-2 junior guard Aaron Craft (9.9, 3.6, 4.6 assists, 2.0 steals), 6-4 junior guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. (9.5, 2.8), 6-8 sophomore forward LaQuinton Ross 97.5, 2.8), 6-7 sophomore forward Sam Thompson (7.4, 3.2), 6-8, 250-pound senior forward Evan Ravenel (5.1, 4.4), 6-1 sophomore guard Shannon Scott (4.8, 2.7), 6-11 sophomore center Amir Williams (3.8, 4.0).

KEY PLAYERS FOR IONA: 6-0 senior guard Momo Jones (23.0, 3.1, 3.5 assists), 6-4 junior guard Sean Armand (16.6, 5.1), 6-8 sophomore forward David Laury (13.1, 10.4), 6-5 junior guard Tre Bowman (8.5, 3.8) 6-7 senior forward Taaj Ridley (8.2, 5.5), 5-9 sophomore guard Tavon Sledge (5.6, 2.9, 3.3 assists).

OHIO STATE NOTES: The Buckeyes come in off a Big Ten Tournament championship, have won their last eight games overall and are 13-3 in their last 16 games. The only recent losses have been to Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, and Ohio State has also beaten those three teams in regular-season league play ... Thomas is a certain first-round NBA draft pick, if he comes out as expected after this season ... Craft is considered the top defensive guard in the country ... Craft, Thomas and Smith are returning starters from last year's team that beat Loyola, while Thompson and Ravenel also got significant minutes off the bench in that contest ... Ohio State is rated ninth nationally in the USA Today's Coaches Poll, and 10th nationally in the AP poll ... Ohio State Thad Matta has taken the Buckeyes to 25 victories in six of his nine seasons leading the program, and to at least 20 in the other three ... After beating Loyola in last season's NCAA tournament, Ohio State went on to win games against Gonzaga, Cincinnati and Syracuse to advance to the Final Four, where it lost in the semifinal round to Kansas by two points, 64-62 ... The Buckeyes are eighth nationally in fewest turnovers per game (10.6).

IONA NOTES: This is the Gaels' second consecutive trip to the NCAA's, having gone a year ago as an at-large team and playing in the "First Four" round, where it squandered a 25-point lead late in the first half to lose to BYU, 78-72. ... Two starters, Jones and Armand, are back from those who played in the NCAA event a year ago, along with Ridley, who got seven minutes off the bench ... Iona added nine new players since last season ... Jones is No. 3 nationally in scoring, and he and Armand are the top-scoring teammate tandem in the country ...  The Gaels finished fourth in the MAAC's regular-season standings, but earned the league's automatic NCAA berth this season by virtue of winnning g the conference's post-season tournament ...  Iona led the nation in scoring last year, and is second this year (80.7 ppg.) ... Armand has 108 made three-pointers thus far and his 3.27 per-game average is eighth-best nationally ... Laury has the physical ability to contend with Ohio State's overall height, but isn't always aggressive ... Bowman came off the bench for 20 points (7-of-9 shooting) in the MAAC championship game against Manhattan ... Iona has two players who transferred in from higher levels, Jones from Arizona and Sledge from Iowa State. Laury was also courted by major programs, and originally committed to UMass but that program withdrew its offer when Sledge didn't then meet academic requirements.

CIT Matchup: Fairfield On The Road To Meet Kent St.

Here's another in the series looking at MAAC teams' post-season opponents.

Fairfield is one of four conference teams participating in the Tournament. Its first-round opponent will be ...


GAME INFORMATION: Tuesday, 7 p.m. at the M.A.C. Center on Kent State's campus in Kent, Ohio.

KENT ST.'S RECORD: 9-7 in the Mid-American Conference, 20-13 overall.

KENT ST.'S KEY PLAYERS: 6-foot-8 senior forward Chris Evans (16.6 points, 8.0 rebounds per game), 6-1 senior guard Randall Holt (14.6, 3.2), 6-4 sophomore guard Kris Brewer (9.3, 2.8 assists), 6-5 senior F/G Darren Goodson (8.3, 3.5), 6-9 junior forward Mark Henniger (4.7, 3.4), 6-4 sophomore guard Devareaux Manley (4.8, 4.1).

NOTES: Fairfield is making its third trip to the CIT in four years and its fourth straight appearance in a national post-season event (it played in the 2011 NIT) ... The Golden Flashes knocked off Fairfield, 72-68, in the 2011 NIT's second round, the only other time the two programs have met in post-season play ... Kent State has won at least 20 games 14 times in the past 15 seasons, while the Stags (19-15) need one more victory to run its string of consecutive 20-victory seasons to four ... Kent St. had been 8-1 in a late-season run before losing to Akron, 62-59, in the semifinal round of the Mid-American Conference tournament ... The Golden Flashes had 13 players with at least one start during the season ... Senior guard Randall Holt has mmade 85 three-pointers this year and his 38.6 percent accuracy rate from bonus territory is 46th-best nationally ... Holt had a big game when the teams met two years ago in the NIT, putting up 22 points against the Stags.

CIT Matchup: Rider To Play At Hartford In Opener

Here's another in the series previewing MAAC opponents in post-season play.

The Rider men's team is participating in the (CIT) event and will play ...


GAME INFORMATION: Tuesday, 7 p.m., at Hartford's Chase Family Arena.

HARTFORD'S RECORD: 10-6 in the America East Conference, 17-12 overall.

HARTFORD'S KEY PLAYERS: 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Mark Nwakamma (14.6 points, 5.5 rebounds per game), 6-2 sophomore guard Yolonzo Moore II (9.4, 2.7, 2.6 assists), 6-6 sophomore forward Nate Sikma (7.6, 4.8, 2.5 assists), 6-0 freshman guard Evan Cooper (7.9, 2.1), 6-1 sophomore guard Corban Wroe (2.7, 2.1).

NOTES: Hartford's 17 victories is just one shy of matching the program's single-season best since it moved to the Division I level in 1984 ... The Hawks are one of the youngest teams nationally, and surely have one of... if not THE ... youngest starting lineup in the country. They start four sophomores and one freshmen ... Only one starter, sophomore Mark Nwakamma, returned from last season's team that finished 9-22 ... This year's roster includes four freshmen and six sophomores ... Sophomore forward Nate Sikma is the son of 7-time NBA all star center Jack Sikma ... Hartford's appearance in the CIT marks the program's first-ever trip to a national post-season tournament ... The program has a wide-range of players geographically with five from Texas, two from Australia, two from California and one each from Florida, Washington, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and New York, and none from Connecticut ... Hartford was 6-2 in its last eight regular-season games and, then, lost in the first round of its conference tournament... It met two MAAC teams during the season, losing to Niagara, 75-59; and, defeating Marist, 56-46.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

CIT Matchup: Loyola Set To Host Boston University

We don't have to wait until after Sunday night's selection show to see which teams fall to the Tournament. The field, featuring 32 teams from the 23 mid-major level conferences, is already pretty much set.

It is, at least, for two of the three MAAC programs participating. Loyola and Rider already have first-round opponents, while Canisius is still awaiting word on who it will play in its opener.

We'll eventually preview all the MAAC post-season teams' opponents, and we'll start with Loyola's first-round CIT foe ...


GAME INFORMATION: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. at Loyola's Reitz Arena. The contest is Loyola's first-ever postseason game on its campus. The Terriers are currently a member of the America East Conference, but will be making an annual trip to Baltimore to play Loyola in future years as both programs will be in the Patriot League next year.

BOSTON UNIVERSITY'S RECORD: 17-12 overall, 11-5 in the America East.

BOSTON UNIVERSITY'S KEY PLAYERS: Junior 6-foot-0 junior guard D.J. Irving (14.3 points per game), junior 6-7, 240-pound forward Dom Morris (11.4, 6.4 rebounds), 5-10 junior guard Maurice Watson (11.5, 5.3 assists), 6-3 freshman guard John Papale (9.5), 6-7 sophomore forward Malik Thomas (9.0, 5.3).

NOTES: BU had a six-game winning streak before losing its last regular-season contest. The Terriers, though, were not permitted to play in their league's post-season tournament due to their impending departure from the conference. They haven't played a game since Feb. 28 ... The lineup Loyola fans will see will be pretty much the same team that the Greyhounds will play in the regular season next year. BU doesn't start a single senior, and it's top reserve, 6-5 forward Travis Robinson, is also only a junior ... BU might be small (it starts one 5-10 player and another at 6-0, but it's quick. It also handles the ball well, having more turnovers than assists (394-358), while recording 214 steals on the season, while opponents have only gotten 170 steals in games against the Terriors... Loyola already has 20 victories this season, the first time it has back-to-back 20-victory seasons in its Division I history (beginning in 1981).

Friday, March 15, 2013

Siena, Marist Look For New Coaches in Different Pools

Today's edition of the Baltimore Sun newspaper reports that while Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos is being mentioned prominently (yes, in this blog, too) as a candidate to fill the opening for a men's coach at Siena, he has not spoken to anyone at the Loudonville, N.Y., school as of Thursday afternoon.

"I'm the coach at Loyola," Patsos told the newspaper. "I haven't been contacted by anyone."

Neither has anyone else, except possibly current Jacksonville coach Cliff Warren, on a trip to that city made by Siena athletic director John D'Argenio.

Otherwise, Siena is very much in the beginning stage of setting up off-campus interviews with prospective candidates. It would appear to be too early in the process for the school to have reached out to Patsos yet, although it might be checking in with the coach's agent.

The guess here is that the school will seek out someone with experience as a head coach. Its salary structure gives Siena the ability to bring in a candidate who is already a head coach elsewhere, or has been one recently. Siena's past two hires have been individuals with past head-coaching experience.

That would appear to make Patsos, Warren, Richard Pitino (currently at FIU) and others ... maybe even another former Siena assistant, Steve Evans of Division II LeMoyne College in Syracuse ... potential candidates. Remember, LeMoyne is the program that produced John Beilein, who went from there to Canisius and is now at Michigan.

The Baltimore paper speculated that the MAAC wouldn't be the only feature at Siena that would be attractive to Patsos, who hasn't hidden his displeasure with Loyola's upcoming move to the Patriot League. There's also the Times Union Center, which seats more than four times the number of fans as Loyola's on-campus Reitz Arena, basically a glorified high school gym.

Publicly, Patsos gives the impression he's happy at Loyola, and wouldn't have signed a five-year extention after last season (that came before the move to the Patriot League) if he wasn't. But, he also admits that he didn't want to lie by pretending he'd never entertain other options.

"It's a business," Patsos told the Baltimore newspaper. "Who knows what happens at the end of the season. But I plan to be the coach at Loyola, and I'm on the road recruiting and doing things for Loyola.

Loyola also is hosting an opening-round game in the tournament on Tuesday, and it's unlikely any school would contact him directly before his team's post-season run concludes.

Patsos, according to the last available salary disclosure made by Loyola, was making about $290,000 annually.

Mitch Buonaguro, recently fired by the school, was receiving an estimated $275,000 annual package. But, his predecessor, Fran McCaffery, was making in the mid-$500,000 range in his last year at the school.

It says here that Patsos would be a "home run" choice to take over at Siena. He has resurrected a Loyola program that ranked last nationally in the Ratings Percentage Index the year before his arrival and now has back-to-back 20-victory seasons for the first time since it went to the Division I level in 1981.

He is also a so-called "finished product," having already been a head coach for nine years, more than enough time to work out whatever kinks are involved in the move from assistant (where he was at Maryland prior to coming to Loyola) to a head coach's position.

Siena's financial commitment to recent coaches indicates it no longer need to go the "rising assistant" route for a hire at a lesser salary. There's no longer a need at Siena to worry about whether an assistant can handle the change related to making that 18-inch move from assistant's to head coach's chair.

And, while Patsos remains a "larger than life" presence as a program's public persona, he is no longer the wild-and-crazy guy he once was on the sidelines. Patsos has purposely toned down his in-game antics. He has learned that the best time to be tough on players is during practices, and not in the public spotlight of games.

The days that Patsos' sports coat was rudely thrown to the bench by halftime, or when he was a bug-eyed, finger-pointing presence berating players not only in the game but on the bench are a couple of years behind him.

By all accounts, players enjoy being in his program and he's as concerned about educating his players off the court as on it. He uses team road trips for bonding, taking his players to historical landmarks, tourist attractions or museums while traveling while most other teams rarely venture outside their on-the-road hotels other than for practices and meals.

Siena certainly appears capable financially of attracting Patsos, or someone else who is currently a mid-major level coach.

That, though, might not be the case at Marist, which is also looking for a new coach to replace Chuck Martin, who was fired yesterday.

Although Marist is a private school and does not need to release coaching salaries, the school is required to make public a tax form that lists the school's highest-paid individuals.

In the most-recent on-line form, that from 2010, Martin was not included among the highest-compensated Marist employees, all making at least $195,000 annually.

The best guess here is that Martin was making about $175,000, and that's more than former coach Matt Brady was estimated to have received (about $130,000) in the last year of his time there (2007-08).

Unless Marist makes a significant upgrade in the salary for its men's coach, it won't be looking in the same pool of candidates as Siena.

Marist's last two hires have brought in individuals who had only previously been assistants. Heck, the last hire made by Marist for a women's coach (Brian Giorgis) came directly from the high school ranks.

It leaves the speculation for the next men's coach at Marist wide open, considerably more so than the field will be at Siena.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Marist Opts to Part Ways With Men's Coach Martin

The MAAC lost its second men's basketball coach in two days.

A day after Siena fired Mitch Buonaguro, Marist made the same decision to part ways with Chuck Martin, according to an announcement made by that school that said he was "relieved of his duties."

Martin was at Marist for five seasons, and had considerable restructuring to do in the program when he arrived. Several players, as is often the case, opted to leave Marist upon the departure of Martin's predecessor, Matt Brady. And, several other players who reportedly clashed with Martin during his first two years at Marist, also moved on. Moves Martin perceived as for the betterment of the program.

Overall, he had a 41-118 record over five seasons (21-69 in conference play), and very few coaches anywhere are going to survive that kind of record.

Still, things seemed to be turning around a year ago went the Red Foxes went 7-2 in its nine games preceding a season-ending loss to Iona in the MAAC's postseason tournament. The 14-18 record overall, despite the team's relative youth, was the best under Martin's tenure.

More was expected this year. Instead, the team lost "glue" player junior forward Jay Bowie for nearly half the season and second-leading scorer, senior guard Devin Price, played through injuries. The team's other three starters were a junior and two sophomores. There was also a preseason knee injury to freshman guard Khalid Hart, the program's top incoming recruit who was expected to get big minutes this past year.

It all left the team banged up and lacking in quality depth.

When Marist got healthy late in the year, it won five of seven games before losing in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC tournament, ironically enough to Siena.

"I want to thank all the people who supported me, my family, my staff and my kids," Martin told the Poughkeepsie Journal newspaper. "I understand the business side of it."

Every key player other than Price returns and, based on returning talent, better days are ahead for Marist and whoever takes over the program.

Your Hoopscribe knows Martin as one of the league's "good guys," a positive representative of the program. The one Marist practice your scribe attended last season was marked by enthusiasm and noticeable hard work.

But, college basketball has become a business, even at this level. Athletics has become the face of a school, if not a source for revenue. Losing doesn't look good, either in the public perception or in the school's financial ledger.. Even mid-major level programs aren't willing to hold on to coaches with losing records. Better to jettison one, bring in someone new and create the optimism of the unknown. And, that's more than understandable.

Those who look beyond the wins and losses, though, will recognize that both recently fired coaches, Martin and Buonaguro, were in some part victims of fate beyond each's control.

It's not easy to understand the whims of 18- and 19-year old players who opt to leave programs, or to continue winning games when key players miss significant amounts of games with injuries.

And, now, the two long-time rival programs are both searching for a coach at the same time. It's a little reminiscent of the same situation in 1986 when both schools made coaching changes and were interviewing some of the same candidates.

Back then, in fact, Dave Magarity had offers from both Siena and Marist and opted to take the Marist position (who could blame him? Rik Smits was on the team back then), leaving the Saints' job to Mike Deane.

These days, though, Siena appears is better-funded in terms of coaching salary (thanks to larger crowds at its homecourt Times Union Center) and the pools of candidates might not be so similar.

Siena's last two hires have both have past head-coaching experience. Marist's last two hires have come from the ranks of assistants from higher-level programs (Brady from St. Joseph's, Martin from Memphis.

Tim Murray, Marist's athletic director, said he'd like to see his men's basketball program compete for MAAC titles.

"Our goal is to compete at the top of the conference and contend for a MAAC championship every year," Murray told the Poughkeepsie newspaper.

It's a sentiment shared by every school in the conference, one impossible for every team to accomplish.

So, coaches get fired, and new ones get hired as that quest, and the proverbial coaching carousel. goes on.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Canisius, Rider, Loyola Get Invitations to CIT Event

At long last the Canisius men's basketball team will be playing in a national post-season tournament, receiving an invitation to the 2013's Postseason Tournament.(CIT).  And, they're not alone among MAAC teams in the event. Rider and Loyola have also accepted invitations to the event.

The Golden Griffins, though, are ending their 17-year postseason drought. The last time Canisius saw national post-season play was in 1996 when it played Utah in the first round of the NCAA event.

Even better news for Canisius this time. It will host a first-round CIT game on Wednesday, March 20 with a 7 p.m. start in the Koessler Athletic Center against an opponent to be announced. It's also the program's first home postseason contest since it played, and defeated, Washington State in the quarterfinal round of the 1996 NIT. That game was played in Buffalo's old Memorial Auditorium.

Loyola, which is 20-11 overall, will also host a first-round contest that will be played on March 19 at its on-campus Reitz Arena.

Rider, 18-14, will be on the road for its CIT opener, either this coming Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Event pairings will be announced Sunday night. It's Rider's fourth postseason tournament in the last six years, having also played in the CIT in 2011, 2009 and in the CBI event in 2008.

"We're very excited," said Rider coach Kevin Baggett, in a release issued by his school. "Although it's not the NCAA which is what we were and are striving towards it's always great to have an opportunity to be rewarded for having a good season by playing in the postseason.

 The Griffs' Jim Baron, echoed that sentiment.

"Any time you get to play in the postseason, it's a great thing," said Baron in a release issued by the school. "There are close to 350 teams at the Division I level and more than half of them are going to be sitting at home. This gives our guys a chance to continue to compete, and it serves as a real testament to the hard work and accomplishments that this group have put together. We are very excited to be able to bring postseason basketball back to Canisius."

The Griffs finished 18-13 overall this season under Baron, who will be taking a team to a national postseason event for the 12th time in his 26-year head coaching career.

Loyola is headed to its second straight postseason event, having played in the NCAA's last year. Its first-round home game will begin at 7:30 p.m.

"This is a great opportunity for our players, fans and school to participate in the CIT," said Greyhounds' coach Jimmy Patsos, in a press release. "(It's) ... an event that is fantastic for mid-major college programs."

The Greyhounds are in the midst of their second straight 20-victory season, the first time in the program's Division I history it has won 20 games in back-to-back seasons.

This is the fifth year of the CIT event, with first-round games to be played March 18, 19 and 20. The CIT consists of teams not participating in the NCAA or NIT fields, and participants must have at least a .500 record through the regular season. The event's championship game will be played on April 2 and be nationally televised by CBS.

The CIT bids mean that five of the MAAC's 10 teams are playing in national postseason events this year. Iona, of course, is headed for the NCAA's, while Niagara is set for the NIT.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Brady, Many MAAC Ties on Staff of JMU's NCAA Team

One of the early qualifiers for the NCAA tournament, James Madison University, has a definite MAAC presence on its sideline.

JMU earned its trip to the NCAA's with a 70-57 victory over Northeastern in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament's championship game Monday afternoon.

The program's head coach is Matt Brady, finishing off his fifth year there.

Brady's playing days came at Siena (1983-84 through 1986-87), before Siena joined the MAAC. But, after a long run as an assistant at St. Joseph's, Brady joined the MAAC as Marist's head coach for four years (2004-05 through 2007-08) where his teams finished with a 73-50 overall record. Brady then moved on to JMU.

But, after a 67-67 record through his first four years with the Colonials, Brady entered the current season on the last year of his contract. The perception was that his team's performance this season would determine if he would be retained.

Looks like that will happen, with JMU currently 20-14 and headed to the NCAA event.

Brady isn't the only MAAC connection on the JMU bench.

He's joined there by his first-year assistant Mike Deane who, ironically, was Brady's head coach for a season (1986-87) at Siena, which was Brady's senior season.

Deane coached eight seasons at Siena, before also coaching at Marquette, Lamar and Wagner. He had been out of basketball for the previous two seasons before Brady brought him back at JMU.

Also on the staff is Rob O'Driscoll, Brady's assistant for four seasons at Marist. O'Driscoll was also in the MAAC for eight other seasons, six at Iona (under head coach Jeff Ruland) and two before that on the Manhattan staff.

And, JMU's first-year director of basketball operations is Lucious Jordan, who began his playing career at Loyola and was the MAAC's Rookie of the Year in the 2001-02 season. Jordan also played at Loyola in 2002-03 before transferring to his hometown UAlbany program.

Coincidentally, the CAA tournament also featured another former MAAC coach. Paul Hewitt, Siena's head coach for three seasons (1997-98 through 1999-2000), is in his second season as the helm of the George Mason program.

Hewitt's team nearly advanced to the CAA's championship game, where he would have matched up with Brady's JMU squad. But, George Mason squandered a 31-7 early lead in the semifinal round of that event and lost to Northeastern, which became JMU's championship game foe.

MAAC Notes: Manhattan's Men's Future Looks Bright

A season that began with considerable adversity certainly ended in good fashion for the Manhattan men's basketball team, even if it didn't win the MAAC tournament's championship game Monday night.

But, just getting there was a considerable achievement.

Things started going the wrong direction for the program even before the season began when the NCAA failed to grant a transfer waiver to 6-foot-10 Andy Pankey, whom came to the Jaspers after a solid freshman season at Maryland while numerous other transfers, both within the league and nationally, received waivers (which enabled them to play immediately) for apparently similar reasons as Pankey's.

And, then, senior swingman George Beamon, the league's leading scorer in 2011-12, suffered an ankle injury in the preseason, came back to play four games and suffered another ankle injury that kept him out the rest of the year.

Through all that, the Jaspers opened with a 5-14 record through Jan. 17. After that, beginning with a victory over second-place MAAC finisher Rider, Manhattan won nine of its next 12 games to get to the conference tournament's championship game before it had that run ended by Iona, 60-57.

"I could not be more proud of a group of young me," said second-year head coach Steve Masiello. "To have gotten here, after what this team has been through, is unbelievable. We'll look back on this day and cherish it. This will be the fuel for our future.

"The turnaround for us this year was all about our players. They understand that (after losing Beamon) we weren't an offensive team. Our success came on the defensive end, and that was led by our seniors. When the young guys saw that kind of dedication to defense fro our seniors they didn't have a choice but to follow. These are the guys who are getting this program's tradition back."

There looks to be more tradition to put in place a year from now. Beamon played few enough games to redshirt and come back for 2013-14. Pankey will be eligible, and he was more than just a bit reserve at Maryland, having made 17 starts there as a freshman in 2011-12 and averaging 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game. He is the type "big man" that rarely falls to the mid-major level.

"Next season Manhattan will be the team everyone will be scared of," said departing senior Roberto Colonette. "This program is going to the NCAA tournament next season, without a doubt."

Colonette is one of  just two departing seniors, along with guard Mohamed Koaita. Together, they averaged just 6.9 points and 4.2 rebounds.

The returning group will be joined by former five-star recruit and junior college standout Chris Thomas from Chipola Junior College in Denver), a 6-foot-5 shooting guard originally committed to Xavier before opting, instead, to come to Manhattan for next season.

It all does indeed put Manhattan squarely in the picture as a legitimate contender for the top spot in the MAAC next season.


Before the 2012-13 academic season even began, the Iona program suffered tragedy when incoming recruit Michael Haynes, projected to be a key contributor for the Gaels at forward, was shot and killed in his Chicago hometown just days away from reporting to the New Rochelle school for summer classes.

But, the Gaels didn't forget him.

"We dedicated this season to Mike Haynes," said Iona's senior guard Momo Jones, after Monday night's championship game victory. "We think about him every day. We've got a (memorial) patch on the shoulder of our uniforms. Every day, every time we had a time out here (in the tournament), we'd remind each other that this season was for him.

"Wining here ... this was the best way we could have represented him."


Iona had to be the hard-luck team of regular-season play when, during a late-season 1-6 stretch of games, the six losses came by a combined 11 points.

But, maybe that didn't hurt.

"I think going through that helped our guys understand the importance of each play, especially on the defensive end," said Gaels' coach Kevin Cluess. "But, I'm tired of hearing that we didn't play defense. Our scores are so high because we take so many shots in games. We played strong defense all year."


Iona will be making its second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. A year ago the Gaels had a 25-point lead over BYU in the first 15 minutes of an opening-round game, still led by 24 at halftime and, then, lost.

Someone, shortly after Iona's MAAC championship game victory Monday night, asked if the team would be looking for redemption for last season's result.

"I'm proud of what our team did last year ... I don't look at it that way," said coach Tim Cluess. "Our guys at no time did not give their heart and soul. We played as good a 15 minutes of basketball of anyone in the tournament. But, BYU was a very good team.

"I'm thrilled to go back, and we'll use a year ago as motivation. But, we don't look at this in any way as an opportunity for redemption."