Saturday, June 28, 2014

Picking the All-Time Top Stories in MAAC History

Prior to this past season your blogger began a series meant to identify the Top 32 stories in MAAC basketball history.

The initial thought was a Top 10 list. And, then, when trying to identify a top 10 it became evident very quickly that it would be all but impossible to limit great events in the conference's history to a mere 10.

So, where to cap it? Thirty two, one to coincide with the number of years of the league's existence (prior to this past season), seemed to be a good number.

We opted to do the list in reverse order, to build suspense leading up to the better happenings. We got through a few prior to the season's start.

And, then, we suspended the list. Once the season started there always seemed to be plenty to write about. We just never seemed to find time to research and write about league history. We fully intended to resume the countdown this summer.

Now, your scribe is sorry to say, that list won't be completed here. Situations beyond my control, which will be explained here within a day or two, have dictated that.

But, so as not to leave readership wondering, we will reveal the all-time best achievement in conference history. At least to these eyes.

And, I do feel like a a capable judge. When the MAAC was formed in 1981 your scribe was working for a paper in Middletown, N.Y., and covered Army basketball (the early days of Mike Krzyzewski) when that program was a MAAC member.

In 1985 I moved back to my home Albany area base for newspaper work and immediately began covering Siena basketball, which joined the conference in 1989.

There were four seasons, those years just before Siena moved to the MAAC, that I didn't directly cover the conference. But, I was still an interested observer and several MAAC teams played non-conference games against Siena which I did attend.

My MAAC coverage was full time again when Siena moved to the league in 1989, and my work about the MAAC continued in local newspapers until 2007. Shortly after that the conference brought me aboard to do Keepin' Track of the MAAC, and this blog has enabled me to continue covering the league since then.

In all, I've either covered or, at least, seen several games involving MAAC teams and have been an interested observer, for the entire 33-year run of the conference so far.

I'm not sure if anyone else can claim that kind of history with the conference. Maybe a select few, but no more than can be counted on one hand.

I'm not sure, either, if that's anything anyone ever aspired to do. As they say these days, it is what it is.

Anyway, the top stories ...

We've seen plenty of single-game highlights from star players, plenty single-game upsets and accomplishments an plenty of one-season success both from individuals and teams over the league's now 33 years of existence.

But your blogger has always been partial to sustained success. The old axiom is that the hardest thing to do in sports isn't just to win a championship, that it's to win a second championship after winning the first one.

On the men's side there have only been two programs from the conference to win regular-season titles and, then, also win the MAAC's post-season tournament to go on to the NCAA's.

Those teams were Siena (2007-08, 2008-09 and 2009-10) and La Salle (1987-88, 1988-89 and 1989-90).

We''ll place Siena's achievement as the No. 3 all-time story in MAAC history, and La Salle's stretch as No 2.

During Siena's three-year NCAA run it ran up a 46-8 regular-season record and did become the first conference representative to win an NCAA Tournament game in successive seasons with wins over Vanderbilt in 2008 and Ohio State in 2009.

But, La Salle remains the most-dominant team the conference has ever seen with a roster, in its three most dominant years, that included three future NBA players, including arguably the best player ever to wear a conference uniform in Lionel Simmons.

Over its three successive NCAA Tournament seasons the Explorers lost just a single game in league play, an incredible 33-1 stretch while finishing 80-18 overall in those three years.

But if we believe it's difficult to go to the NCAA Tournament for three consecutive seasons, how about getting there an incredible nine straight (and still counting) seasons and 10 of the last 11.

That's what the Marist women's program has done under its head coach Brian Giorgis.

Players have come and gone; there have been years when Marist had arguably the most overall talent in the league and other years when it seemed other teams were at least equally talented.

But, like death and taxes, the Marist women's program has been the league's greatest constant. Its run of success far exceeds any league measurement. Its past 11 years can be measured against any nationally.

Not only have the Red Foxes have been dominant on their level, but they've also proven capable at the next level, too.

They've won NCAA Tournament games in four separate years, and only one other conference program (La Salle in 1988) can claim a single NCAA victory.

Not only that, Marist is the only conference team, men's or women's, to win two NCAA Tournament games in the same season (2007).

The program has accomplished the most-difficult thing to do, sustain excellence over a lengthy period of years, in any sport at any level.

And, for that, your blogger doesn't believe there's any doubt that the top story of all time in the MAAC's now-33 year history is what the Marist women's basketball team has achieved under the leadership of head coach Brian Giorgis over the past 11 seasons.

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