In a game that can be seen on ESPN2 at 11 am EST, Siena will visit Marist in hopes of winning a share of the MAAC regular season title. A Siena win today would also give surprising Niagara a shot at the title, so long as the Purple Eagles, winners of their last seven, take care of Rider on Sunday. Siena's Kenny Hasbrouck and Marist's Jared Jordan make up one of the better guard matchups in a game this season, but whichever team can get something from their bench today will win this one. Of the two teams, Marist (12-0 when their bench outscores the opponent's reserves) gets a little more on the average from their reserves, such as Wilfred "Spongy" Benjamin and Shae McNamara. Foul trouble, especially to the big men on both teams, could force both coaches to go past their comfort levels when it comes to how to use their bench. Due to the home court advantage, I like the Red Foxes to claim their first outright MAAC title ever. And if you're a Red Fox fan going to the game, be sure to wear white.
Am I the only person watching the Drexel/Creighton game tonight that was confused about the emphasis on "bench decorum"? Each head coach, Bruiser Flint of Drexel and Dana Altman of Creighton, was T'd up in this BracketBusters game that the visiting Dragons eventually won 64-58. Altman's technical, in which he was called for being about six inches outside of the coaches box, brought back memories of Dean Smith getting a T for the same offense in the 1991 Final Four. Coach Altman said nothing to the official to warrant this call, just happened to do something that coaches throughout the nation have been doing for years. Drexel went on a run after this, and things seemed to be going well for the Dragons until Coach Flint found himself on the wrong side of the whistle when yelling at his player for a foolish reach-in foul. Jumping into the air and yelling at his guy wouldn't have been a problem (nor should it be) had an official not been right next ot Flint. Luckily for Drexel, they were able to hold on despite some horrific foul shooting (at one point they had missed five straight from the charity stripe).
I begin this blog with a quote from my last post:
"Although you normally want to wait until a team plays more than two games to state that they are the clear favorite to win their conference, can anybody truly challenge Penn at the top of the Ivy League? Preseason prognosticators tabbed Princeton to finish second, but they're sitting in last place right now. Maybe Cornell or Yale? Who knows, but I'll take the Quakers over the field." (January 29th)
Whoops. After this weekend's games (a sweep of Princeton and Penn), James Jones' Yale Bulldogs are atop the Ivy League with a 5-1 conference record. Yale is led by the tandem of guard Eric Flato and guard/forward Casey Hughes. This is an experienced ballclub that should hang around for the duration of the season and challenge for the league's automatic bid. They've played two more games than Penn, which explains the two-game lead in the win column (they're tied in the loss category), and they've got the Columbia/Cornell road swing this coming weekend. If they can get through that with at least a split, if not a sweep, the Bulldogs have their next four games at home. The season ends with games at Penn and Princeton, and those games could indeed decide who represents the Ivy in the NCAA Tournament.
The first college basketball weekend of 2007 has delivered some interesting results. First off, how many people expected Hartford and Maryland-Baltimore County to be on top of America East after the first weekend of play? The Hawks, led by first-year head coach Dan Leibovitz, won a 62-60 thriller at Maine on opening night, then followed that win with an 80-75 double-OT home win over Boston University. The Hawks only have two seniors on the roster, so it would be understandable if people looked to their future instead of the present. Of course the two seniors, forwards Bo Taylor and Alex Zimnickas, are important contributors, but the Hawks also have some solid youngsters playing a part in their success. Freshman guard Joe Zeglinski is the team's second leading scorer, and sophomores Jaret Von Rosenberg, Michael Turner and Fabrice Tafo combined for 26 points off the bench in their win at Maine. A young team has its bumps in the road, but the future could be now for the Hawks.
Monmouth edges RMU in NEC Preseason Coaches Poll.
Well, the 2006-07 season officially began Friday night, when schools across the nation put held their first practice of the season. This probably shouldn't even be called a practice, since it primarily consists of player intros, contests, and a scrimmage run at the pace of a glorified jog. The primary goals of the players and coaches are to avoid injuries and put last year behind them. This is what I saw in watching Florida's event the other night. Dropping the replica Sears Trophy after raising their national title banner was the perfect way to say that last year is over, and there are new things to accomplish. The must see TV takes place the following morning, when the coaches get to do their thing...and run their players into the ground. But this will never be on TV, so the Friday night style will have to suffice.