The winners get the glory in March, but some of the month’s most memorable moments belong to those who don’t come out on top. Think Adam Morrison’s tears, Da’Sean Butler and Bob Huggins’ embrace or Gordon Hayward’s miss.
It wasn’t the NCAA tournament but add this hug between Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson and Fairfield all-time leading scorer Tyler Nelson to the list.
This is what it's all about.
As he checks out, Fairfield's all-time leading scorer Tyler Nelson shared an emotional moment with his head coach Sydney Johnson. pic.twitter.com/O6nCOuUv4P
For conferences in which at-large bids to the NCAA tournament are tough to come by, the conference tournament is an incredibly important event. With that being the case, some leagues have looked give their top teams in the regular season an advantage when it comes to the conference tournament setup.
For some that advantage comes in the form of home court advantage, while others may do things such as advance their top seeds to the semifinals of the event. Thursday afternoon the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, which in the past rewarded its top two seeds with a bye into the semifinals, announced that it has changed the format for its men’s and women’s conference tournaments.
Both tournaments, which are held at the same site (the Times Union Center, Siena’s home court in Albany, New York), will begin on Thursday, March 2 with three first round games in the women’s tournament followed by three games in the men’s bracket. The biggest change comes on Friday, with the top two seeds in both brackets taking the court against the winners of the 8/9 and 7/10 games respectively.
“The vote for the revised format was 9-1-1, with Manhattan opposed and Quinnipiac abstaining,” MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said in the release. “The format change has been accepted by the Times Union Center (Albany, NY) which is hosting the 2016 & 2017 championships under a current three-year contract.”
And the winners of those games get a day off ahead of Sunday’s semifinals, which could especially pay dividends for teams that aren’t especially deep. News of a format change was first reported by the Asbury Park Press on Tuesday, and the paper got some comments from Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello.
“I can’t recall a time when some changes happen within eight, nine months. Why not wait until the next contract?,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello told the Asbury Park Press via phone on Thursday afternoon.
“Basically, to have this changed, I have yet to get an answer why, which is what I find very puzzling. I think maybe people are tired of Manhattan and they don’t want to talk about that elephant in the room, our style and our depth. We’ve been to three title games in three years, back-to-back winners in two. I have a feeling that people didn’t like that because maybe we weren’t supposed to be there.”
The MAAC’s contract with the Times Union Center runs through the 2017 MAAC tournaments. Next year’s MAAC tournament schedule breaks down as follows:
Thursday, March Women’s First Round
9:30 a.m. 8 seed vs. 9 seed
11:30 a.m. 7 seed vs. 10 seed
1:30 p.m. 6 seed vs. 11 seed
Men’s First Round
5:00 p.m. 8 seed vs. 9 seed
7:00 p.m. 7 seed vs. 10 seed
9:00 p.m. 6 seed vs. 11 seed
Friday, March 4 Women’s Quarterfinals
12:00 p.m. 1 seed vs. 8/9 winner
2:30 p.m. 2 seed vs. 7/10 winner
7:00 p.m. 1 seed vs. 8/9 winner
9:30 p.m. 2 seed vs. 7/10 winner
Saturday, March 5 Women’s Quarterfinals
12:00 p.m. 3 seed vs. 6/11 winner
2:30 p.m. 4 seed vs. 5 seed
7:00 p.m. 3 seed vs. 6/11 winner
9:30 p.m. 4 seed vs. 5 seed
Sunday, March 6 Women’s Semifinals
11:00 a.m. 1/8/9 winner vs. 4/5 winner
1:30 p.m. 2/7/10 winner vs. 3/6/11 winner
4:30 p.m. 1/8/9 winner vs. 4/5 winner
7:00 p.m. 2/7/10 winner vs. 3/6/11 winner
Monday, March 7 Women’s Championship
Semifinal winners, Time TBD
With the Gaels and the Jaspers lined up on opposite sides of the bracket, are we in for a Iona-Manhattan MAAC Tournament championship game for the third straight March?
The rivals have split the last two tournament titles with Iona reaching a second-consecutive NCAA tournament in 2013 and Manhattan punching its ticket for the Big Dance for the first in a decade last year. Rider, the No. 2 seed, is without star big man Matt Lopez for the rest of the season while Monmouth and Canisius look to replicate success against the MAAC’s elite again this season.
If we do see Manhattan and Iona for the third time this season, you won’t hear any complaints from me. The teams have met twice with Iona winning both games by a combined seven points.
The Gaels have two guys in line for the MAAC Player of Year in A.J. English and David Laury, Schadrac Casimir, who should be the unanimous choice for MAAC Rookie of the Year and last week got back Isaiah Williams, who is also averaging double figures.
And if they lose?: Manhattan
Like mentioned above, the Jaspers play their rival tight, including a three-point win in last year’s MAAC Tournament championship game. The Jaspers can’t look ahead to March 14 because they’ll likely get Quinnipiac, which has been a torn in their side, in the quarterfinals.
Rider: Odd that the Broncs are being referred to as a sleeper as the No. 2 seed, but they might be written off heading into postseason play after Matt Lopez tore his ACL last week. He was leading the team in scoring and rebounding.
Monmouth: The Mountain Hawks have already defeated Iona once this season — losing by one-point in the rematch. It’s worth noting, the No. 4 seed has reached the MAAC Tournament title game in three of the last four years.
Player of the Year: A.J. English, Iona
He’s not even his team’s leading scorer, but he’s the conference’s best player who is luring NBA scouts to New Rochelle. The 6-foot-4 junior scoring guard is top-3 in the MAAC in scoring at 19.5 points per game, grabbed 5.2 rebounds and dished out a conference-best 5.2 assists per game.
Coach of the Year: Kevin Baggett, Rider
The Broncs were picked to finish seventh in the MAAC preseason poll and enter’s the MAAC Tournament in March as the No. 2 seed. Rider led the conference in defensive efficiency, per kenpom.com, and head to Albany winners of seven of its last eight.
David Laury, Iona: The leading scorer for the Gaels averaged 20.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
Emmy Andujar, Manhattan: One the more versatile mid-major wings led the Jaspers in points (16.5), rebounds (7.5), assists (3.5) and steals (2.1).
Zaid Hearst, Quinnipiac: Top-4 in the conference in scoring at 18.4 points per game. The 6-foot-4 guard also corralled 6.2 boards per game.
Ousmane Drame, Quinnipiac: Averaged a double-double this season — 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds — to go along a conference-leading 3.0 blocks per game. Registered double-doubles in 12 MAAC games.
Fairfield junior forward Marcus Gilbert put down a nasty dunk on a Manhattan defender during a Friday-night win for the Stags. Although the dunk isn’t particularly strong in terms of rim action, you’ve gotta respect Gilbert going over his defender with force and then giving him the staredown as he runs to the defensive end.
The 6-foot-6 Gilbert finished with 24 points in a 67-54 win for Fairfield. Here’s the dunk, courtesy of Fairfield athletics:
The 2013-14 season marked the first as an 11-team league for the MAAC, and the race for the title did not disappoint. Four teams won at least 14 conference games, with Iona putting together a 17-3 record and winning the program’s second MAAC regular season title in the last three seasons. But conference tournaments can be painful experiences for teams in conferences that face an uphill battle when it comes to at-large bids to the NCAA tournament and that was the case for Tim Cluess’ Gaels, who fell to bitter rival Manhattan in the MAAC tournament final.
Both teams incurred some key personnel losses, but with players such as David Laury IV and A.J. English (Iona) and Emmy Andujar and Shane Richards (Manhattan) back on campus both programs will factor into the MAAC race in 2014-15.
Iona returns three of its top five scorers from last season, with Isaiah Williams (11.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg) joining Laury (14.0, 8.3, 2.3 apg) and English (17.2, 3.9, 4.3) as the headliners for a team that will still be formidable offensively. The Gaels will have to account for the loss of leading scorer Sean Armand and fellow starter Tre Bowman, but roster turnover is an issue Cluess and his staff have managed to navigate throughout his tenure at the school. Manhattan on the other hand has to make up for the loss of guards Michael Alvarado (11.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 4.0 apg) and George Beamon (18.8, 6.5), and the MAAC’s best defender in Rhamel Brown (10.1, 5.9, 3.6 bpg).
Obviously the likes of Andujar (8.6, 5.3, 2.2 apg), Richards (8.3) and point guard RaShawn Stores will be key for the Jaspers, but the players to watch are forwards Ashton Pankey and Jermaine Lawrence. Pankey (7.1, 4.3) was solid in his first season at Manhattan after transferring in from Maryland, and Lawrence is eligible immediately after receiving a waiver following his move from Cincinnati. There’s no “replacing” a player of Brown’s caliber given his influence on the defensive end, but if those two step forward Manhattan can approach their win total of a season ago.
But just like last season this isn’t a two-team race, with there multiple teams beyond the Gaels and Jaspers capable of winning the crown themselves. Tops on that list is Siena, a program that a few years ago was the king of the MAAC before falling on hard times. Year one under Jimmy Patsos was an incredibly productive one for the Saints: 20 wins (11-9 MAAC) and a CBI title. The total number of points not returning from that team: 11. Rob Poole (14.6, 5.0), who was one of the most improved player in the MAAC, and Brett Bisping (11.5, 6.5) are the offensive leaders for a Siena rotation that has multiple scoring options.
Quinnipiac, which won 14 conference games in its inaugural MAAC campaign, welcomes back forward Ousmane Drame (13.7, 10.5) and guard Zaid Hearst (15.5, 6.6) but they’ll have to account for the loss of forward Ike Azotam. The combo of Azotam and Drame was a big reason why the Bobcats were so dominant on the boards, and they finished the year tops in the MAAC in both offensive (42.7%, which led the nation) and defensive (72.7%) rebounding percentage. Two other teams to keep in mind in the MAAC race: Saint Peter’s and Monmouth. Neither finished above .500 in MAAC play a season ago, but the John Dunne’s Peacocks return their top three scorers led by seniors Marvin Dominique (16.6, 8.9) and Desi Washington (13.5, 3.1) and Monmouth returns four starters led by guards Deon Jones (15.1, 6.9) and Andrew Nicholas (14.3, 3.3).
As usual there’s a considerable amount of talent in the MAAC, and that should once again make for a highly competitive race for the regular season title.
PRESEASON MAAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: A.J. English, Iona
English was the lone non-senior to earn first team All-MAAC honors last season, and with Armand and Bowman moving on the ball will be in his hands even more on the perimeter in 2014-15. The Delaware native played well at the adidas Nations camp in August, and after shooting 40.6% from the field and 35.4% from beyond the arc in 2013-14 look for English to be even better in those areas.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-MAAC TEAM:
Ousmane Drame, Quinnipiac: Drame was the MAAC’s best rebounder last season, grabbing an average of 10.5 caroms per game. With Ike Azotam gone, there’s room for even more production.
David Laury IV, Iona: Laury’s one of the MAAC’s most versatile players, as he capable of initiating things offensively due to his ability to handle and pass the basketball.
Chavaughn Lewis, Marist: Lewis averaged 17.5 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game last season, and the arrival of new head coach Mike Maker could result in an even better 2014-15.
Rob Poole, Siena: Poole’s made improvements in each of his three seasons at Siena, going from 7.8 ppg and 3.3 rpg as a freshman to 14.6 and 5.0 in 2013-14.
ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @nybuckets (John Templon, Ryan Restivo and the rest of the staff do a very good job covering the MAAC and other NY metropolitan area teams)
Well, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament has delivered the second buzzer-beater of March Madness. Saint Peter’s guard Desi Washington’s three-pointer with eight tenths of a second remaining in overtime gave the Peacocks a 65-62 win over Fairfield.
The Stags have likely had enough of Washington, as he’s beaten Fairfield with buzzer-beating shots three times this season. Washington, who also beat Seton Hall with a three-pointer in triple overtime back in December, finished the game with 14 points and Marvin Dominique added 11 to go along with 13 rebounds.