2013 MAAC Tournament Preview

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The MAAC is wild, been that way all season. Ten teams from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will finish the final act to an unpredictable conference schedule at the birthplace of basketball in Springfield, Mass.

Five teams are separated by only two games. Niagara enters Thursday with a No. 1 followed by Rider, Loyola (Md.), Iona, and Canisius — each team has a realistic chance to go dancing on Monday night. Each team has at least five conference losses, which shows how balanced the conference is.

Last season, the top-seeded Iona was dropped in the semifinals by Fairfield, before Loyola (Md.) snatched the automatic bid.

(CLICK HERE to browse through all of our conference tournament previews)

The Bracket

Where: MassMutual Center (Springfield, Mass.)

When: March 8-11

Final: March 11, 9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Favorite: Niagara 

The Purple Eagles begin the conference tournament as the top team, but in the MAAC the top team and the fifth place team are much different. Niagara limped through the last part of the season, going 4-4 over the last five games (2-2 with leading scorer Antoine Mason out).

And if they lose?: Rider. The Broncs has won five straight and seven of eight after dropping three consecutive. Rider ended the season on the road, beating both Niagara and Canisius in a span of three days. The Broncs are playing its best basketball at the right time of the season. Rider has also beaten Niagara twice, even when the Purple Eagles were with and without leading scorer Antoine Mason.

Sleepers: Iona could also go as far as Lamont Jones takes the Gaels. Jones has only gone under 20 once in the last dozen games. He’s also played well against some of the MAAC’s. Canisius is also in the mix aftering spliting with Loyola (Md.) and Rider, while only falling to Niagara by one. Canisius is a solid team, more than able to make a three-day run in Springfield. Loyola (Md.) is back strong after earning the MAAC’s automatic bid last season.

Studs:

Lamont Jones, Iona: The senior guard is the leading scorer in the MAAC with 23.2 per game.   Jones has gone for over 30 points three times in his last seven games, most recently a 35 point (22 second half) outburst in a win against Loyola (Md.).

– Antoine Mason, Niagara: Mason is the leader scorer. The 6-foot-3 scorer is getting back into game mode after

– O.D. Anosike, Siena: The senior forward is a double-double machine this season with 16 on the season. The 6-foot-8 Anosike is averaging 12.9 points and 11.4 boards per contest.

– Billy Baron, Canisius: The classic ACC to A10 to MAAC transfer has been very productive in his first season for the Golden Griffins averaging 16.6 points and a conference-high 5.1 assists per game. Baron and his father, first-year head coach Jim Baron are a big reason why Canisius has improved by 13 wins this season

Others: Rhamel Brow, Manhattan; Erik Etherly, Loyola (Md.); Juan’ya Green, Niagara

CBT Prediction: Iona over third-seeded Loyola (Md.). Last season the Gaels won the regular season title, only to see the Greyhounds dance to the tourney.

Terrence is also the lead writer at NEHoopNews.com and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

N.C. State adds grad transfer Sam Hunt

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N.C. State added its fourth transfer this offseason. Like ex-Baylor guard Al Freeman, the latest one is eligible to play next season.

Sam Hunt, a double-digit scorer the past two seasons at North Carolina A&T, officially enrolled at North Carolina State on Monday morning.

“Sam is a great young man and will bring much needed depth to our backcourt,” N.C. State head coach Kevin Keatts said in a statement. “I want guys who are excited about being a part of our program and Sam really wants to be here.

“Sam is a combo guard that can space the floor with his ability to shoot the basketball. He is a good fit for the system and will bring a wealth of experience to our roster.”

Hunt, the 6-foot-2 guard, averaged 12.7 points per game last season, a dip from the 15.4 points per game he posted for the Aggies as a redshirt sophomore.

Hunt joins a roster that lost its three leading scorers from a season ago, one that ended 15-17 (4-14 ACC). Dennis Smith Jr. is a member of the Dallas Mavericks. Maverick Rowan also pursued a professional career and Terry Henderson was denied an additional year from the NCAA.

The Wolf Pack bring back forwards Abdul-Malik Abu and Omer Yurtseven as well as Torin Dorn.

Keatts, who took over the program after leading UNC Wilmington to back-to-back NCAA Tournaments, has already built for the future. UNC Wilmington transfer C.J. Bryce, 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game for the Seahawks, has followed him to Raleigh. Utah transfer Devon Daniels committed to the Wolf Pack the same day as Bryce. Both will have to sit out next season due to NCAA transfer rules. Bryce will have two years of eligibility while Daniels will have three.

LaVar Ball stars in an uncomfortably entertaining segment on WWE’s Raw

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LaVar Ball’s statements and antics over this past year always seemed better suited a professional wrestling ring.

It was only natural that the patriarch of the Ball family — and the head of the Big Baller Brand — made an appearance on WWE’s Monday Night Raw at the Staples Center for an awkwardly entertaining segment with WWE Intercontinental Champion The Miz.

With sons, Lonzo — in his first appearance in the Staples Center as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers — and LaMelo looking on, LaVar was the center of attention. When The Miz mentioned something about a partnership between the two, the scripted interview went south. It resulted in LaVar saying nonsensical things like, “There’s only two dudes better than me, and I’m both of ’em!” before later taking off his shirt. When Dean Ambrose, a WWE superstar feuding with The Miz came out on to the ramp, LaVar didn’t quite grasp the concept that that was his cue to stop talking.

This segment was somehow entertaining and cringeworthy at the same time.

Now that Lonzo is beginning his NBA career, maybe it’s time LaVar try something different. A manager in the WWE may just be his true calling. He’s certainly had plenty of practice.

Maryland lands commitment from five-star 2018 forward

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Maryland added to its 2018 recruiting class with its second commit, the newest addition being a five-star in-state product.

Jalen Smith, a 6-foot-9 forward from Baltimore powerhouse Mount St. Joseph, committed to the Terrapins, making the announcement on Twitter.

“I believe that I can academically and athletically achieve my goals at home through my commitment to the University of Maryland … Go Terps,” he tweeted as part of a long passage.

Smith is listed as the No. 13 overall recruit in the Class of 2013 by Rivals. He joins four-star swingman Aaron Wiggins in Mark Turgeon’s current recruiting class.

Playing for Team Takeover on the Nike EYBL circuit, Smith is averaging 10.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

Recent grad’s joyride reportedly did $100,000 of damages to Mizzou Arena

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A recent graduate and temporary employee of the University of Missouri took an early morning joy ride that reportedly could rack up around $100,000 to Mizzou Arena.

According to Dave Mater of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nathaniel J. Contant, 23, who graduated from the school in December 2016, drove his Volkswagen Passat through a gate and eventually on to the floor of the 15,000-seat on-campus arena.

At 7:15 a.m. Sunday, MU police were dispatched to Mizzou Arena for a report of property damage. Officers determined that around 4 a.m., the suspect drove his vehicle through a closed gate on the south side of the arena. He ran through a garage door and drove into a dock area where he damaged several golf carts that were stored in the area. He also drove his car onto the basketball court. The man couldn’t leave through the area he used to enter the building, so he drove through the arena’s press gate.

Contant, unsurprisingly, is no longer an employee of the university. He’s being charged with second-degree burglary and first-degree property damage, both of which are felonies. He was released on a $4,500 bond.

The motive for this early-morning joyride remains unclear.

Despite the hype surrounding the upcoming Mizzou season — one that includes the debut of new head coach Cuonzo Martin and the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft Michael Porter, Jr. — Twitter users couldn’t help but poke fun at the dismal recent history the Tigers have had.

(h/t Kansas City Star)

Vance Jackson transfers to New Mexico

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With more than a handful of departures this offseason, New Mexico is set to have a new-look roster for the 2017-18 season. On Monday, Paul Weir, now at the helm of the program, landed a player who should make an impact in the three remaining seasons of eligibility he has left.

Vance Jackson, who spent this past season at UConn, decided to make the move from Storrs to Albuquerque, picking the Lobos over Rutgers, San Diego State, TCU, and Washington.

The 6-foot-8 rising sophomore will have to sit out next year due to NCAA transfer rules before resuming his collegiate career in the fall of 2018.

“The coaches — they trust in me,” Jackson told Geoff Grammer of the Albuquerque Journal last month during his official campus visit. “We’re on the same page. They see a vision.”

Weir, who led New Mexico State this past season to a NCAA Tournament appearance in his one and only season as head coach, succeeded Craig Neal in April.

This offseason has been headlined by transfers, though, those mostly were about players leaving the program. Jackson is the second transfer to land at UNM with Akron’s Antino Jackson electing to use his final season of eligibility with the Lobos. Antino Jackson is a graduate transfer, allowing him to play immediately next season.

Vance Jackson, who was rated as the No. 80 overall player in the Class of 2016 by Rivals, averaged 8.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while shooting just under 40 percent from three for the Huskies as a freshman.