Team of the Week: Rhode Island
Results: Providence (W: 77-60), @ Syracuse (W: 91-89)
These two key wins put the Rams at 10-1 on the season, and truth be told they should have been ranked in both polls this week. But for the critics who pointed to their schedule as a reason to overlook their start, here are two impressive "resume" wins. Jim Baron, who has to rank up there with some of the more underrated coaches in the country (in terms of the mainstream), took a chance last season by letting these Rams run. The end result there was a trip to the Atlantic 10 final, and more success has come this season. Guard Jimmy Baron and forward Will Daniels lead a solid group of offensive options, one that would make Frank Keaney and his "two points a minute" teams quite proud. Overlooked in the polls, but people had better keep tabs on the Runnin' Rams.
Player of the Week: G/F Charron Fisher (Niagara)
Stats: 36 pts, 8 rebounds against Rider (W: 89-77); 31 pts, 12 rebounds at Towson (L: 75-72)
To be frank, Fisher, a senior from Pennsauken, NJ was a man among boys this past week. In their MAAC opener, Rider had no answer for his versatility. The same goes for Towson, but they were able to get the hard-fought win. Think being 230 pounds relegates Fisher to being an undersized banger inside? Well, he went 8-12 from behind the arc against Rider. Teams within the MAAC have known for a couple of seasons that they've got their hands full with Fisher. Let's see if St. John's is up to the challenge on Saturday.
Surprising Score of the Week: Iona 92, Loyola (MD) 68
Iona, in their first season under Kevin Willard, was expected to be an improved team. Well, when you only win two games the previous season, there really isn't anywhere to go but up. But to drop this kind of beating on a team picked by many to contend for the MAAC title is an eye-opener. Four Gaels reached double figures, led by Dexter Gray's 18 off the bench, and Iona shot 59% from the field while limiting the Greyhounds to 32.7%. Besides Gerald Brown, who put up 31, not much went right for Loyola in a game that got out of hand in the first half (halftime score: 49-24). Loyola went the first 4:49 without a field goal, and then topped that with a 5:46 drought to start the second half. One question to think about: what if Loyola doesn't go 27-33 from the charity stripe? Ouch. This win along with their close loss at Siena two days later (81-76) shows that Coach Willard has this program headed in the right direction, despite their 2-7 record.
Some other notes on teams in the Northeast:
- St. Francis (NY) has been relying too much on the three point shot.
Heading into their game at Columbia tonight, the Terriers were 64-for-202 from distance, good for 31.7%. All of last season, SFC attempted 440. With a player the caliber of forward Robert Hines, there should not be this many attempts from beyond the arc. But Hines isn't absolved of any guilt in this either. In 06-07, Hines attempted 106 three-pointers. Through ten games, he's already attempted 52...and made 15. Until the Terriers as a whole commit to attacking the basket, they will have a hard time ending their four-game losing skid.
- LIU has replaced the scoring of James Williams by committee.
Quite a few people, yours truly included, didn't expect much from the Blackbirds with the graduation of James Williams. But after a win tonight at New Hampshire, LIU is 6-3. Four Blackbirds are averaging at least 10.6 points per game, led by senior forward Kellen Allen at 12.1. Last season, Allen averaged a meager 4.4 points per game. While it's too early to expect LIU to contend for the NEC crown, the wide-open nature of the league combined with their early start means that we shouldn't rule this team out just yet.
- Also, keep an eye on Maryland- Baltimore County.
The Retrievers have gotten off to a good start this season, possessing a record of 7-2 heading into their game at Central Connecticut State tomorrow night. UMBC holds wins over the likes of Richmond, George Washington and Morgan State, and while that may not be an impressive list, keep in mind that they won twelve games all of last season. Four Retrievers average at least fourteen points per game, led by guard Brian Hodges (18.8 ppg). Also, it doesn’t hurt to shoot 44.4% as a team from behind the arc. It’ll be interesting to see if they average of 79.7 points per game holds up in America East play as well.