Team of the Week: Rider
Results: W 88-76 vs. St. Peter’s, W 87-59 vs. Fairfield
Two home wins to close out the regular season for the Broncs, and as a result they earned a share of the MAAC’s regular season title. Due to a tiebreaker, Siena will be the top seed in the conference tournament this coming weekend, but that doesn’t take away from Rider’s first conference title since 2005. With twenty-one wins on the season, the 2007-08 edition has tied the school record for wins in a single season, which was originally set in 1993-94. In Friday’s win over St. Peter’s senior center Jason Thompson went for thirty-three points (a career-high) and twelve rebounds, and received help from three other teammates in double figures: Harris Mansell (18 points), Mike Ringgold (13 points) and Ryan Thompson (12 points). Rider shot 53% from the field and outscored the Peacocks in the paint 54-30.
Sunday’s win on “Senior Day” was amplified by the fact that a conference title was on the line, and Harris Mansell certainly didn’t disappoint. Coming off the bench so Coach Tommy Dempsey could start all of his seniors, Mansell went for 17 points (5-7 from behind the arc) and Jason Thompson added sixteen and twelve in the blowout. Fairfield, thanks to point guard Jonathan Han, jumped out to a quick 9-2 lead, but was done in by some questionable shot selection (the Stags went 4-25 from behind the arc) and Rider’s efficiency on the other end. Once again the Broncs shot over fifty percent from the field, finishing at a 51.8% clip (55.6% from three-point range).
Winners of 13 of their last 16 games, the Broncs are headed to Albany in good form. However, the MAAC Tournament will be a hotly-contested affair with any of the top six teams having a shot at winning the whole thing. And with Iona possibly on the horizon Saturday (provided the Gaels get past Canisius Friday night), an off night could mean the end of their season. But with their ability to find (and make) good shots, the Broncs are in prime position to earn their first NCAA Tournament bid since 1994.
Honorable Mention: Army (wins over Lafayette and Bucknell move the Black Knights from 8th to 5th (tournament tiebreakers) in the Patriot League); Marist (two wins; home win over Loyola (MD) cost the Greyhounds a share of the MAAC title); Wagner (2-0 week caps the most successful season (22 wins) in Seahawk history).
Player of the Week: Manny Ubilla (Fairleigh Dickinson)
Numbers: 29 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists @ Wagner; 21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists vs. St. Francis (PA).
The numbers for Ubilla this past week were good, as they have been all season long. But the key to his selection was the prayer he hit at the buzzer to knock St. Francis (PA) out of contention for the NEC Tournament. Dribbling to his right in the game’s final 2.5 seconds, Ubilla slipped and fell to the ground. Red Flash wins, right? Wrong. Ubilla let fly off of one knee, and the shot fell at the horn for the 72-70 Knights win. Of course, Ubilla would like to be playing in the conference tournament this week, but I don’t think you can draw up a better way to cap your “Senior Day”. The shot gave head coach Tom Green his 400th win, and I don’t think he’ll forget how he got it anytime soon.
Honorable Mention: Jason Thompson (Rider): two double-doubles (33 and 12 vs. St Peter’s, 16 and 12 vs. Fairfield); Durell Vinson (Wagner): two double doubles (11 and 14 vs. FDU, 21 and 13 vs. Quinnipiac); Jaytornah Wisseh (LIU): 31, 8 and 5 assists vs. SFNY, followed by 21, 6 and 4 vs. Robert Morris.
Other notes from this past week
- St. John’s keeps their Big East Tournament hopes alive with a win over Seton Hall.
Anthony Mason Jr. got hot in the second half, hitting all five shots he attempted from behind the arc in the Red Storm’s scintillating 65-62 win. Mason Jr., who wore a headband in the first half as a tribute to senior Eugene Lawrence, finished with 24 points and hit the game-winning trifecta with 1.7 seconds remaining. Jeremy Hazell answered with a shot from beyond half-court…but head coach Bobby Gonzalez had called a timeout before the ball was inbounded. Seton Hall didn’t get off a shot, and the win put the Johnnies in a three-way tie for twelfth in the Big East with Providence and DePaul.
But the road to MSG won’t be easy for the Red Storm, with their final two coming at Notre Dame and the finale in the Garden against a West Virginia team that will need all the wins it can get to make the NCAA Tournament. As for the Pirates, any hopes of making a run (a long-shot before this game anyway) at an NCAA bid are gone unless they can create some Gerry McNamara-like magic in the Big East Tournament. A good win for SJU given the announcement on Friday that Norm Roberts would be back as head coach next season.
- Monmouth squeaks into the NEC Tournament due to FDU’s win over St. Francis (PA).
The fans at the game in Teaneck weren’t the only ones celebrating Manny Ubilla’s game-winner. Even though they dropped their regular season finale 81-67 at Mount St. Mary’s, Dave Calloway’s Hawks won a four-way tiebreaker for the right to take on Robert Morris Thursday night. Monmouth was swept by the Colonials this season, losing 59-44 at RMC back in January. But the second meeting was a much closer affair, with the Hawks dropping a 61-60 nail biter. I don’t think the Hawks will win, due to the significant difference between the two teams in regards to offensive efficiency, but at least they got into the tournament after last season’s absence.
- Fordham still has work to do if they want to qualify for the Atlantic 10 Tournament.
If the season were to end today, Fordham would edge out George Washington for the 12th and final slot in the Atlantic 10 Tournament. With games at Richmond and home to St. Bonaventure, the Rams need the wins to not only ensure their invitation to Atlantic City but also to possibly improve their seeding. With only three games separating third from twelfth, the race to Atlantic City (and where everyone will fall in regards to seeding) is still up for grabs. And missing the conference tournament would be a bitter pill to swallow for the senior-laden Rams. Fordham has struggled for much of the season in regards to field goal percentage (11th in the conference), field goal percentage defense (13th) and rebound margin (13th), a good place to start when trying to figure out what’s gone wrong this year.
- With Louie McCroskey back from an injured ankle, look out for Marist in the MAAC Tournament.
The senior guard (when healthy) gives the Red Foxes a slasher in the midst of some guards who can really shoot the ball from the perimeter, adding a dimension to their attack. In their 67-60 win over Iona, his first game back after missing the last ten, McCroskey went for eighteen points on 6-10 shooting from the field. His return, along with the play of Ryan Stilphen and Spongy Benjamin inside, could pose a problem for opponents this coming weekend. Thus far McCroskey hasn’t been able to do what many predicted before the season began due to injuries, but the MAAC Tournament would be the perfect place for him to leave his mark.
Games to keep an eye on
- Fordham @ Richmond (Wednesday 7 PM) & St. John’s @ Notre Dame (Wednesday 7:30 PM, ESPN Full Court)
Big games for two area teams in that still aren’t guaranteed a conference tournament spot. While the Spiders will look to limit the number of possessions against Fordham, St. John’s won’t encounter anything like that in South Bend when they take on the Irish (led by Big East Player of the Year candidate Luke Harangody).
- Syracuse @ Seton Hall (Wednesday 7 PM, ESPN2)
The second-to-last home game of the season will give the Pirates an opportunity to punch their ticket to the Big East Tournament. With the Orange going into “The Rock” with their NCAA Tournament hopes on life support, they should show up ready to play. Led by Jonny Flynn, Paul Harris and Donte Green, Syracuse won’t have a problem running up and down the court with the Pirates. Should be an entertaining affair.
- Columbia @ Princeton (Friday 7:30 PM)
A win for the Lions would guarantee a conference record above .500, while the Tigers will be looking to end their current nine-game skid. Princeton, the Ivy’s worst offensive team (averaging 57.2 points per game), will have its collective hands full with Columbia forward John Baumann (15.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg).
- West Virginia @ St. John’s (Saturday Noon, ESPN Full Court)
Depending on what happens in South Bend, the Red Storm could either still be in the mix for a Big East Tournament spot. If not, then the regular season finale presents a chance to play spoiler to West Virginia’s NCAA Tournament hopes (WVU’s win over Pittsburgh on Monday should help them out). While he’s not being talked about in regards to conference player of the year, forward Joe Alexander is one of the Big East’s best athletes. And he’ll be coming off of back-to-back 32-point efforts.
- Rutgers @ Seton Hall (Sunday 2 PM ESPN Full Court)
The Scarlet Knights will be looking for some revenge in their season finale. Seton Hall won the first meeting in overtime back on January 30th, with Eugene Harvey scoring 26 for the winners. Rutgers, due to its collective youth and the recruits slated to come in next year, clearly has better days ahead of it. But to head into the off-season with a win over your in-state rival could do wonders for the momentum of Fred Hill Jr.’s program.
Conference Tournaments (more in-depth previews to come later in the week)
- Army @ Lehigh (Wednesday 7:30 PM) Patriot League quarterfinal
The Black Knights take their two-game win streak into Stabler Arena in hopes of moving one step closer to an NCAA Tournament bid. The Mountain Hawks won both meetings this season: 57-52 at West Point (January 20th) and 58-83 in Bethlehem (February 16th). The two teams met in last season’s quarterfinal round, with Army getting their one win in the last seven visits to Stabler. In order to get the road win, Army will have to slow down guards Marquis Hall and Patriot League Rookie of the Year Rob Keefer.
- Monmouth @ Robert Morris (Thursday 7 PM), Central Connecticut State @ Sacred Heart (Thursday 7 PM) and Long Island @ Wagner (Thursday 7:30 PM) Northeast Conference quarterfinals
Not going to go into too much detail on these games right now, but with the reseeding of teams that takes place after the quarters Monmouth is a serious long-shot to win this league (as the 8 seed, they’d have to win three road games). The other two matchups were regular season splits, with Sacred Heart hosting CCSU just four days after giving up 100 in their loss to the Blue Devils. Wagner won a three-point game over LIU back on January 31st, a game that was the complete opposite of their first meeting (85-65 LIU win on January 17th).
- St. Peter’s vs. Manhattan (Friday 7:30 PM, ESPN Full Court/MAAC TV) and Iona vs. Canisius (Friday approx. 10 PM, ESPN Full Court/MAAC TV) MAAC Tournament first round
Point blank, the Jaspers and Gaels should move on to Saturday’s quarterfinals. But if Manhattan displays some of the same defensive indifference that came out of the locker room in the second half of their loss at Iona on Sunday, the Peacocks could spring an upset. The two teams split their two meetings, with the home team holding serve in both games. As for Canisius, even with a point guard like Frank Turner they’ll face an uphill battle against an Iona team that has more options on offense. Iona swept the season series, 66-59 in New Rochelle (February 8th) and 57-52 in Buffalo (February 18th).
- Maine vs. Stony Brook (Friday 7 PM) America East first round
The two teams tied at the bottom of the America East standings get together to decide who will take on regular season champ UMBC on Saturday. Of Stony Brook’s three league wins, two came against the Black Bears: a 75-59 blowout at home (January 6th) and a 56-51 in Orono (February 23rd). While neither team will set the nets on fire with their shooting (Maine is 6th in field goal percentage, Stony Brook 9th), each holds an advantage in a statistical category that they’ll hope to exploit (Maine in rebounding margin, Stony Brook in turnover margin).
- Fairfield vs. Loyola-MD (Saturday 2:15 PM, ESPN Full Court/MSG), Siena vs. Manhattan/St. Peter’s winner (Saturday 4:30 PM, ESPN Full Court/MSG), Rider vs. Iona/Canisius winner (Saturday 7:30 PM, ESPN Full Court/MAAC TV), Niagara vs. Marist (Saturday 10 PM, ESPN Full Court/MSG) MAAC quarterfinals
A full day of basketball for area teams up in Albany in what promises to be an exciting tournament. Fairfield and Loyola played twice within a week back in early January (they split the meetings with the road team winning both), and both have been playing better basketball of late. Siena, playing on their home court in this tournament, split with Manhattan while making short work of St. Peter’s in sweeping their season series. The Saints will have two First-Team All-MAAC players on display in guard Kenny Hasbrouck and forward Edwin Ubiles.
The evening doubleheader will begin with the Broncs taking on either the Gaels or Golden Griffins. While Rider did sweep both teams, at least Iona put up a fight in their two losses (72-64 and 68-63 in overtime). Canisius simply doesn’t match up well with Rider, a good reason why the Broncs pasted them twice (82-58 and 102-51). The final game of the day will match up Marist and the defending tournament champion Purple Eagles. Niagara has the nation’s leading scorer in senior Charron Fisher, and he’s got the green light from just about anywhere on the floor. The two teams split in the regular season, with the home team holding serve in both games.
Remaining Conference Tournament schedules
-America East runs through the semifinals on Sunday, with the title game to be played next Saturday (March 15th) in the higher remaining seed’s arena.
-The MAAC Tournament will run through Monday (March 10th). All games will be played in the Times Union Center in Albany, NY.
-The NEC semifinals will be played on Sunday afternoon, with the winners advancing to Wednesday’s final. The higher remaining seed will have home court.
-The Patriot League quarters will take place on Sunday, with the winners moving on to Friday’s championship game. The higher remaining seed will have home court in each game.
2. Seton Hall
5. St. John’s
8. Sacred Heart
18. St. Peter’s
20. St. Francis-NY
21. Stony Brook