Tag Archives: 2011 MAAC Tournament

Iona Gaels Basketball 2011 Season Review

After Iona started the season at a tournament in Cleveland and lost all three games, the Gaels returned home to face Richmond, an NCAA Tournament team the previous year that had started 2-0 and was expected to compete for an Atlantic 10 title (it finished third but won the conference tournament).

“My concern was that if we came in here and laid an egg, I could lose them this early in the year,” Iona head coach Tim Cluess would say after the game, referring to his players. “They’d say, ‘We worked really hard, coach, and we still didn’t win.’”

Instead of losing the game and potentially their confidence, the Gaels picked up a quality nonconference win, overcoming a six-point deficit with less than a minute remaining and eventually winning in double-overtime. They used the momentum to rattle off seven straight victories and embark on a run that took them all the way to the MAAC championship game.

In the title game, Iona ran into St. Peter’s, a team committed to a defensive philosophy that was able to hold the Gaels to their lowest output of the season in a 62-57 victory.

But the ride to the finals in Bridgeport was an impressive one. Iona played a competitive game with Syracuse, losing by just six. When the Gaels beat Niagara on Jan. 21, they improved to 7-1 in the MAAC.

Iona then hit its only rough patch of the conference season, dropping four in a row—by margins of two, two, three (in OT), and four. The Gaels picked it up from there, posting another seven-game win streak to end the regular season, with most of the games decided by hefty margins. The final game of the regular season was a victory over No. 1 seed Fairfield, which cemented Iona as the hottest team in the MAAC heading into the conference tournament.

And just in case there were any doubts, Iona eliminated three-time defending champ Siena in the quarterfinals, 94-64. In the semis, the Gaels looked like a well-oiled offensive machine once again, beating Rider 83-59, before stalling against St. Peter’s.

The 22 wins are the most for the program since 2006, when it won 23 games, and Iona has a chance to add to that total in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT). The Gaels play tomorrow night at Valparaiso. Future matchups are based on seeding, so Iona’s potential next opponent is unknown.

Scott Machado, left, and Mike Glover, return next season. (Credit: Warren Rosenberg/ICGaels.com)

Looking ahead to next year, Iona loses just two seniors, Rashon Dwight and Alejo Rodriguez, though both were starters. Dwight, who averaged 8.5 points per game and led the team in steals, came on strong in the second half of the season. Rodriguez’s production was limited as he recovered from two offseason hip surgeries, but he was the second leading rebounder. The effort was there, but as Cluess pointed out after the title game, Rodriguez just didn’t seem to have the legs necessary to play three games in as many days.

Iona returns its two best players in First Team All-MAAC performers Scott Machado and Mike Glover. Machado is tied for the second in the country in assists as we head into the various postseason tournaments, while Glover posted 18 double-doubles and will likely be the frontrunner next season for MAAC Player of the Year.

They’ll both be seniors, as will guards Jermel Jenkins and Trinity Fields and versatile swingman Randy Dezouvre, giving the Gaels a nice senior core, which is often a component of conference championship teams, especially at the mid-major level. Kyle Smyth (third leading scorer at 10.1 per game) and Chris Pelcher (a 6’10 center who developed nicely this season and will take on an even greater role with the departure of Rodriguez) will be juniors. Sharpshooter Sean Armand returns, as does Jayon James, who missed most of the season due to injury.

Despite the hurt of falling just short of an NCAA Tournament bid, it was an extremely success first season for Cluess. Consider the average margin in Iona’s 11 losses was just 4.1 points, and only once did Iona lose by double digits this season, a 10-point loss during that rocky opening weekend. In other words, the Gaels were competitive in virtually every game.

There’s no reason to think Iona won’t be near the top of the MAAC standings again next season. With more seniors, the Gaels might have the added sense of urgency that is required to navigate all the way through a conference tournament.

MAAC Basketball Tournament 2011: Semifinals

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—The semifinal games were played at the Arena at Harbor Yard on Sunday. Iona and St. Peter’s will play for the MAAC title on Monday night on 7:00 on ESPN2.

No. 4 Saint Peter’s 62, No. 1 Fairfield 48

It was a tale of two halves, if ever there was one. The numbers tell the story: St. Peter’s led 40-15 at the end of the first half. Fairfield got off to a rocky start, but was down just eight, 22-14, with six minutes left in the half. That’s when the craziness began. The Peacocks went on an 18-1 run to close out the half.

Fairfield finished the half converting just four field goals in 18 attempts (22 percent) while committing an astounding 13 turnovers. Colin Nickerson alone had six turnovers. For the Stags, the passes that weren’t sailing out of bounds were slipping through their hands. St. Peter’s, on the other hand, shot 57 percent (15-of-26) and only turned it over four times. Wesley Jenkins had 10 for the Peacocks at the break. There were a number of defensive lapses very uncharacteristic of Fairfield, the league’s best defensive team.

“The first 20 minutes, we just weren’t ready to play,” Fairfield head coach Ed Cooley said. “We were listless; we didn’t play with a lot of emotion. We were really out of character as a group.”

The Stags looked more like themselves in the second half. They fed off the home crowd and ratcheted up the defensive pressure to start the half on a 13-0 run. St. Pete’s did not get its first basket until the 13:39 mark. Fairfield scored eight consecutive points after that to extend the run to 21-2 and cut the deficit to just six with 8:05 left.

“Even as coaches, how do you handle going in and talking to your guys [when you have such a big lead]?” St. Peter’s head coach John Dunne said. “Do you stay fired up? Do you yell and scream and then maybe they go out and shoot it too quick? But at the same time you don’t want to be passive and hold the ball too long.”

At the start of the second half, whatever the Peacocks were doing wasn’t working. “We just weren’t being aggressive looking up the court against their pressure,” Dunne said. “And then we pulled it out too much when we should have attacked. I think emotionally we had a little bit of a letdown and we just weren’t focused enough. [Assistant coach] Bruce Hamburger kept saying to me, ‘Once we get our first basket or two we’ll be OK.’ It took a little too long to get there.”

I’d say so. St. Pete’s second basket did not come until the 7:56 mark. However, Hamburger was right, because although Fairfield was able to trim the margin to six for a second time on the ensuing possession, the Peacocks responded with consecutive baskets and never let their lead get to single digits again.

St. Peter’s players celebrate as senior Warren Edney leaves the court.

The numbers for the second half were pretty similar to the first, except the teams were reversed: St. Pete’s made just 7-of-26 shots (26 percent) and committed 10 turnovers, while Fairfield shot 40 percent. The Stags finished with 22 turnovers.

“I thought what has hurt us the entire year [hurt us again today],” Cooley said. “Our team habits really caught us in the end. Our team’s habit is we continuously turn the ball over. We just didn’t make smart decisions with the ball and that was really the turning point in today’s game, even when we cut it back to six…But then the devil got us again. And our devil is turning the ball over.”

All-MAAC First-Team point guard Derek Needham had perhaps his worst game in a Fairfield uniform. The sophomore shot just 1-of-12 from the field, including 1-for-8 from three, and committed seven turnovers. “He played really well yesterday and he played with a lot of emotion,” Dunne said of Needham’s 22-point performance against Marist. “He was single-handedly carrying them, I thought. We weren’t going to let him beat us. We put a little more length on him than we normally do with Steve Samuels and Yvon Raymond. If we went down today, it wasn’t going to be because he was going to kill us. That being said, he did get some open looks, he just missed a couple of them that he normally does make.”

They say basketball is a game of runs and in this game there were two really big ones. St. Peter’s was simply too big to overcome. “We didn’t have a good night shooting, so we tried to speed the game up,” Cooley said. “We think our team speed is fantastic, but we needed all the things to fall when you’re down 25.”

In the end, St. Peter’s was able to beat Fairfield for the first time in 13 tries. And Fairfield, the regular season champ, will have to settle for the NIT. Fairfield students wore t-shirts that read, “Our House, Our Time,” and indeed they thought it was, after finally wrestling away the regular season league crown and hosting rights for the tourney from Siena. But such is life in a one-bid league: one loss and dreams of the Dance go up in smoke.

“It hurts,” Cooley said. “I hurt for my seniors, I hurt for our university, I hurt for our community, because we feel we built a championship team with our recruiting, and it just didn’t happen.”

No. 2 Iona 83, No. 3 Rider 59

On Sunday morning, before the MAAC Tournament semifinals, Saint Peter’s leading scorer, Wesley Jenkins, sent a text message to his cousin, Iona starter Rashon Dwight. “See you in the championship,” it read. Dwight texted back: “Take care of Fairfield first and then we’ll take care of Rider.”

Jenkins (who scored 14 points) and St. Pete’s did just that, eliminating the top seed by a score of 62-48. Dwight held up his end of the bargain, draining five threes and scoring 19 to help Iona crush the Broncs, 83-59.

The seniors have gone head to head in this family rivalry for four years at the college level, but never have the stakes been this high. The winner of Monday night’s game will win the MAAC title and earn a trip to the Big Dance.

“[The St. Peter’s players are] on the same floor as us in the hotel,” Iona’s Scott Machado said after the semifinal victory. “When we came back from the win [on Saturday night], they were all cheering for us. So now it’s a coincidence that we’re both in the championship against each other.”

Head coach Tim Cluess continued: “Can I finish that story? Because Scott left a part out. Last night, one end of the hall was Saint Peter’s, one end was us. They were having a dance off in the hall. We had two loose teams there last night.”

So who won the dance competition? “We did,” the four Iona players said in unison.

If the Gaels can beat St. Pete’s on the basketball court for the third time this season, they’ll be doing much more meaningful dancing next week.

MAAC Basketball Tournament 2011: Quarterfinals

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—The quarterfinals were held today at the Arena at Harbor Yard. In addition to the games listed below, St. Peter’s beat Loyola, 70-60, in the first game of the day, and No. 3 Rider beat Canisius 79-64, in the final game of the night.

No. 1 Fairfield 55, No. 9 Marist 31

With 7:28 left in the first half, Fairfield head coach Ed Cooley raised his palms to the ceiling and looked up, shaking his head. Warren Edney had just slipped and fell on an uncontested fast break and lost the ball out of bounds. The Stags only had 14 points. That was twice as many as Marist had, though.

And so it went for Cooley’s squad in its quarterfinal matchup, as Fairfield defeated the Red Foxes 55-31.

“As bad as we were offensively, we were that much more dominant on defense,” Cooley said. Marist’s 31 points were the lowest in MAAC Tournament history. The Red Foxes, who beat Niagara yesterday, converted just 12-of-41 shots (29 percent) and turned it over a whopping 26 times. Fairfield shot under 40 percent and committed 17 turnovers.

But the Stags have First-Team All-MAAC point guard Derek Needham, who led all scorers with 22 points. In fact, Needham outscored Marist in the first half, 15-14 (Fairfield led 27-14). Not until the 15:34 mark in the second half did Marist overtake him.

To the Marist defenders, Derek Needham was a blur.

It was an ugly win, but as the cliché goes: a win is a win, especially in an elimination tournament. Cooley was thrilled to advance, where No. 4 seed St. Peter’s awaits. “Can you guys feel my energy?” he asked members of the media after the game. “I can’t wait to play tomorrow.”

No. 2 Iona 94, No. 7 Siena 64

It is official: For the first time since 2007, the Siena Saints won’t be the MAAC Tournament champions. The No. 2 seed Iona Gaels crushed Siena 94-64 to advance to the semifinals. The Saints had won the previous three tournaments, all played on their home court in Albany. The last time they didn’t win was the last time the tourney was held here at the Arena at Harbor Yard.

As for Iona, it was its first postseason victory since 2006, when it won the whole thing. That meant no player on the Iona roster had won a single tournament game. That changed tonight thanks to Mike Glover’s 31 points and the team’s 9-of-17 shooting from beyond the arc.

“I thought we were a little slow to loose balls. It may have been last night’s game,” Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said, referencing Siena’s first round overtime victory over Manhattan that ended just a few minutes before midnight. “We just didn’t have our legs like we should. To play a team like this you’ve got to be on full tilt the way they play.”

The way Iona plays is fast. They push the ball up the court, even after the opponent scores, and like a game with a high number of possessions. Did Siena get caught up trying to play at that tempo? “Yeah, probably,” Buonaguro said. “We took some shots that probably were quick. We probably should have had a little more patience.”

The loss means the end of the college careers for Ryan Rossiter, who was named the conference’s player of the year earlier this week, and Clarence Jackson. Both reached the NCAA Tournament three times. “We were very fortunate. A lot of guys don’t even get to play in one [NCAA Tournament],” Jackson said.

MAAC Basketball Tournament 2011: First Round

BRIDGEPORT, Conn.—The 2011 MAAC men’s basketball tournament got underway last night. Play continues today, starting at 2:30 (see bracket at bottom). Here is a recap of last night’s action:

No. 9 Marist 73, No. 8 Niagara 61

In a mild upset, Marist beat Niagara to advance to the quarterfinals, where they will play No. 1 seed Fairfield today at 4:30.

Niagara only had five conference wins, but notched four of them in February. The Purple Eagles entered having won five of their last seven. “Obviously we laid an egg tonight,” Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich said.

It was the final game for Anthony Nelson, Niagara’s lone senior. Nelson is the first player in Niagara history to have over 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 600 assists and 200 steals in his career. He is the school’s all-time career assists leader and is leading the country in steals this season.

“I’m in awe of Anthony Nelson,” Mihalich said he told his players in the locker room after the loss. “His playing days are not over. Whoever gets to coach him will be a lucky guy and whoever gets to play with him will be a lucky player.”

When the coach was asked how he would replace Nelson, Milahich said: “You’re trying to make a bad night worse, huh? We’ll find a way, but we’re going to miss this guy. There may never be another Anthony Nelson.”

Like Niagara, Marist is a very young team. Of the eight Marist players who saw the most action last night, three are freshman and four are sophomores. The college basketball statistical website KenPom.com has a formula that uses eligibility class weighted by minutes played to determine a team’s experience. By this measure, Marist is 10th least experienced team in the country (out of 345 schools).

“This is a good step in the right direction for kids who had never won in March,” Marist head coach Chuck Martin said of the victory.

The Red Foxes lost both their games to Fairfield this season, but the match-up at the Arena at Harbor Yard was close until the final minutes. “We competed in that game, so hopefully that makes these guys feel like they can play with them if we limit our mistakes,” Martin said. “There’s going to be a team somewhere in the country that’s going to do something crazy. Let it be us.”

No. 7 Siena 68, No. 10 Manhattan 66 (OT)

This was likely Barry Rohrssen’s last post-game press conference as Manhattan’s coach.

Siena’s last two MAAC Tournament games have gone to overtime. Last year they beat Fairfield in overtime in the finals, and in an opening-round game this year they needed an extra session to beat Manhattan.

Mr. Big Shot, freshman Michael Alvarado, hit a contested jumper with five seconds remaining to tie the game and send it to overtime. Here’s the video proof:

As the last-place team in the conference, it wouldn’t have been too surprising for the Jaspers to mail it in, especially after a seven-point halftime deficit. But in what was, in all likelihood, Barry Rohrssen’s last game as Manhattan’s coach, the Jaspers battled to the end.

Alvarado’s game-tying basket came after Siena’s Owen Wignot dove across the baseline to tip the ball to teammate Clarence Jackson for a layup. It was one of two huge plays that Wignot made in a critical moment. Although the junior had not made a three-pointer since Feb. 7 (he had missed 11 in a row), he drilled a deep ball from the corner to put Siena ahead with 1:28 left in overtime, the final points of the game.

In its final possession of the game, Manhattan tried to set a ball screen to free Alvarado for another game-tying (or game-winning) shot. The Saints would not let the star freshman beat them, trapping him and forcing him to give it up. Alvardo passed to George Beamon, whose three-pointer at the buzzer rolled off the rim.

“We had practiced that all week,” Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro said of the final defensive stand. “I thought it really helped. It came in big.”

Siena tied a MAAC Tournament record with its 10th straight victory. To get No. 11, it will have to beat Iona, no easy task, especially given the overtime victory that came just minutes before midnight. Then again, Siena is the only team that features players who have won a MAAC championship.

(Click to enlarge)

MAAC Basketball 2011 Tournament: 3 Weeks to Go

Update III: See my post on the semifinal round of the MAAC basketball tournament.

Update II: See my post on the quarterfinal round of the MAAC basketball tournament.

Update: See my new post on the opening round of MAAC basketball tournament, as the tourney has now begun.

The MAAC men’s basketball regular season is hitting the home stretch and the conference tournament, held this year at the Arena at Harbor Yard, Fairfield’s home court in Bridgeport, Conn., is just three weeks away.

Each of the 10 MAAC teams has five remaining regular season conference games, starting with tonight’s action. In order to get a feel for where each contending team stands as the Tournament approaches, I got in touch with beat writers for six schools.* I asked them where they projected their team to finish in the standings, what their team needs to do in order to win the Tournament, and what factors could prevent them from making a deep run.

*I covered Iona, and I chose to omit Marist (3-10), Manhattan (2-11), and Niagara (2-11), as they will most likely be in the play-in round (as the 7-10 seeds) and won’t be making a serious Tournament run.

1. Fairfield Stags (11-2 in MAAC, 18-5 overall)
Remaining games: at Manhattan, at St. Peter’s, Marist, Siena, at Iona

On remaining games: I do not think the Stags will be caught in the regular season. Despite the recent loss to Rider, a two-game lead with five to play is a nice luxury and I can’t see the coaching staff letting the players lose any focus at this point in the season.

Why Fairfield can win: Fairfield needs to stick to its identity and it has a great shot at winning the tournament. Strong team defense and a well-balanced scoring attack are the traits that have put the Stags in first place. Having the tournament played on our home court is obviously a major advantage as well.

Why Fairfield could falter: Every team is capable of mental lapses and bad shooting nights. It’s kind of scary to think that a great, consistent season atop the conference can end in one bad night, but that’s the way it is in the MAAC.

–Tom Fitzpatrick, staff writer, The Fairfield Mirror

2. St. Peter’s Peacocks (9-4, 14-10)
Remaining games: at Marist, Fairfield, at Siena, Iona, at Rider

On remaining games: It will be tough for St. Peter’s to remain in second place. With five games remaining, only the Marist game is somewhat comfortable and that is on the road. The remaining four games are toss-ups. Both Fairfield and Iona will be very tough—I’ll go with a split. Siena and Rider on the road will also be tough; probably another split. So I would think 3-2 in the five remaining games.

Why St. Peter’s can win: St. Peter’s has played its best when players like Ryan Bacon, Jeron Belin, or Steven Samuels have stepped up. I don’t think Wesley Jenkins alone is enough for St. Peter’s to be in top form. Jenkins can win a game for them but St. Pete’s has played its best when they get contributions from multiple players and Bacon is the most important once you get past Jenkins.

Wesley Jenkins and Ryan Bacon, two keys for the Peacocks, go to work against the Gaels.

Why St. Peter’s could falter: St. Peter’s can win the MAAC but I believe its chances are less than 50/50. How they play their remaining five games will be a tell-tale sign. If they go 4-1 or better, that would be a serious indicator that they can contend. Anything less than 3-2 would be a sign that they could make a quick exit from the tournament.

–JC Hoops, contributor, The Jersey Journal

3. Rider Broncs (9-4, 17-8)
Remaining games: Canisius, Niagara, at Loyola, at Marist, St. Peter’s

On remaining games: I think Rider will finish second in the standings. This team is playing really well right now and if it takes care of business against Canisius and Niagara this weekend I like it to push on and finish in that second spot.

Why Rider can win: To win the MAAC tourney Rider will have to continue to shoot the ball well from three-point territory. The Broncs lead the conference in three-point shooting percentage and rank 11th in the country in that same category. If they get hot, look out. They just dropped 97 on a stingy Fairfield team. The key player is always going to be senior point guard Justin Robinson. The offens runs through him and he has a knack for taking over games in the second half. Another player to watch is Novar Gadson. At 6’7, 230, he has a Big East body and when decides to drive to the basket there aren’t many players in the MAAC who can stop him.

Why Rider could falter: Free. Throw. Shooting. Rider only shoots it at 63.4 percent from the line and outside of Robinson only two players—Brandon Penn and Jon Thompson—shoot at least 70 percent. Mike Ringgold shoots just 43.9 percent and opponents use the “hack-a-Shaq” technique against him because he struggles so much. If something comes back to haunt them it will be a 9-for-20 performance from the free throw line.

More: Rider team is very good on the road. Like I said above, 11-4 in road/neutral games, and I know Tommy Dempsey likes taking this team on the road because he thinks it focuses better.

–Kyle Franko, contributor, The Trentonian

4. Loyola (MD) Greyhounds (8-5, 12-11)
Remaining games: Niagara, Canisius, Rider, at Niagara, at Canisius

On remaining games: Since early January, the Hounds have gone on a 7-3 run in the MAAC. Their play has been boosted by great bench scoring led by the pair of J’hared Hall and Justin Drummond. The trio of Drummond, Hall and Robert Olson gives Loyola three of the best and highest-percentage outside shooters in the MAAC. When the three of them are able to hit their shots, Loyola is tough to beat. Second place seems realistic for the Hounds as they stand a game back of second and hold the valuable season split with first place Fairfield.

Why Loyola can win: The Hounds are more than capable of winning the MAAC Tournament and they have proven that with wins over Saint Peter’s, Fairfield, Iona and Siena. When things are going well, this is one of the most dangerous and balanced rosters in the MAAC. If Loyola’s shooters can continue to take on a good bulk of the Hounds’ scoring, they have the ability to play with anyone.

Why Loyola could falter: Loyola sometimes struggles against a strong 2-3 zone defense and that was evident when Siena visited. The Siena defense gave Loyola fits as the Hounds were unable to hit the shots that Siena was giving them. They seemed to get frustrated and pass the ball around the perimeter as they struggled with scoring. Their offense sometimes seems to get into funks like this when playing against a tough zone.

–Rich Conforti, sports editor, The Greyhound

5. Iona Gaels (8-5, 14-10)
Remaining games: Siena, at Marist, at Manhattan, at St. Peter’s, Fairfield

On remaining games: Iona will likely be favored in four of its remaining five games. I think 4-1 is an optimistic estimate, with 3-2 perhaps being more likely. Either way, I think the Gaels will wind up in the 4/5 game in the Tournament, a rubber match against Loyola, with the winner likely to face Fairfield in the semifinals.

Mike Glover will be the Player of the Year in the MAAC, but he’d much rather be the MAAC Tourney MVP. (Credit: Warren Rosenberg/ICGaels.com)

Why Iona can win: Iona has the best player in the conference in forward Mike Glover. After taking the league by storm, Glover converted just 11-of-33 attempts and averaged a pedestrian 8.3 points over a four-game stretch in January. Teams used multiple defenders to frustrate Glover and prevent his easy conversions off feeds from point guard Scott Machado. But in Iona’s last game, Glover was back to his old ways, scoring 20 on 8-of-12 shooting, including several dunks. The Machado-to-Glover combination was clicking, and that is a key for the Gaels. Also, deep threats Kyle Smyth, Jermel Jenkins, and Sean Armand can stretch defenses and take some pressure off Glover.

Why Iona could falter: Iona’s 10 losses have been by an average of 4.1 points. That margin is even smaller for MAAC games. Often times a defensive lapse or a turnover in the final moments has been the difference in a one-possession game. Late-game execution will be critical if Iona plans to win the Tournament.

6. Siena Saints (7-6, 10-13)
Remaining games: at Iona, at Manhattan, St. Peter’s, at Fairfield, Marist

On remaining games: Siena has to maintain its spot in the top six of the standings if they want any chance of winning the tournament. Two weeks ago, I would have said no doubt. But Canisius has turned things on, so it will definitely be a race to stay out of the play-in round. If the Saints can go 3-2 over their last five games, they should be able to stay out of that round.

Why Siena can win: I think Siena is more than capable of winning the tournament. Remember, no other MAAC player has won a league championship game and every player on the Siena roster is undefeated in MAAC tournament games. The easiest way for the Saints to win a fourth straight MAAC title is to have Clarence Jackson back and healthy. That’s probably the biggest key. Other than that, everyone will have to step up.

Why Siena could falter: It will be a lack of consistency. Siena has been inconsistent all season. Their longest winning streak and losing streak is each three games. They haven’t been able to get the momentum going all year. You have to win three games to win the MAAC Tournament and the Saints haven’t shown the ability to be at their best for three straight games.

–Andrew Santillo, staff writer, The Troy Record

7. Canisius Golden Griffins (6-7, 12-11)
Remaining games: at Rider, Loyola, at Niagara, Manhattan, Loyola

On remaining games: Right now, they could finish in maybe fifth or sixth place and avoid that 7-10 game in the MAAC Tournament.

Canisius is the only team in the MAAC that has five players averaging at least 10 points per game.

Why Canisius can win: Considering they have five seniors [four of which are starters], they are capable of making a run in the MAAC simply because there isn’t a dominant team in the league. Fairfield is pulling away, but they aren’t as good as they were last season. It’s going to be challenging, but Fairfield can be beaten on its home floor in the Tournament.

Why Canisius could falter: Canisius has to rebound better and make shots—it’s really that simple. They are one of the more athletic teams in the league but sometimes they don’t block out in key situations, which leads to putbacks by the opposition. They are a better overall team than last year when they had Frank Turner but a go-to scorer hasn’t been established.

–Rodney McKissic, staff writer, The Buffalo News