Metro Ranking & Northeast BracketBusters Preview
Unfortunately for Seton Hall, Fairfield and Army, their games went on as scheduled, with the Pirates falling 67-55 at Connecticut and Fairfield losing at home in a close one to Siena 69-64. Army, now on a six-game losing skid, fell to American 64-49. And with their next game being at rival Navy, the Black Knights are in danger of falling into the seven or eight seed, meaning a trip to either Holy Cross or Bucknell for the Patriot League quarterfinals.
Other than the mid-week games in the MAAC and NEC, the event that gets the attention of fans throughout the nation is the O’Reilly ESPNU BracketBusters weekend, with 102 schools representing 16 non-BCS conferences. Whether or not you think this is overkill (I, for one, think that too many teams are taking part), the games are here and a few New York area teams will be taking part. Below is a preview of each game involving metropolitan area schools this weekend.
- Holy Cross @ Hofstra (Saturday, 3:00 PM EST ESPNU)
This one here may not be the marquee pairing that fans of Hofstra and the Colonial were hoping for, but guess what? Holy Cross will arrive in Hempstead with a very good chance to leave with a win. The Crusaders, currently tied atop the Patriot League with perennial favorite Bucknell, had a twelve-game win streak going before losing at Bucknell last week.
At 19-7, Holy Cross has played a solid non-conference schedule, facing the likes of Syracuse, Duke, Providence and Dayton on the road. Against the CAA this season, the Crusaders are 2-1, with wins over William & Mary and Delaware while losing to George Mason. Hofstra’s backcourt can match up with guards Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas, but how well Mike Davis-Sabb and Chris Gadley perform against 6’10” Tim Clifford may be the difference in this one. At 3-2 in their last five games, the Pride can use this non-conference game as a springboard into the last week of the regular season and the CAA Tournament.
- William & Mary @ Fairfield (Saturday, 4:00 PM EST)
After winning seven in a row, Fairfield hit the tough part of their conference schedule and went 1-2 against Marist, Loyola and Siena. Now they welcome the Tribe to The Arena at Harbor Yard in a game that will be played in the half court, and truth be told both teams would prefer that to be the case. William & Mary, currently tied for fifth in the CAA with George Mason and Towson, are led by the tandem of guard Adam Payton and forward Laimis Kisielius and currently have a three-game win streak. In their last game, a 60-47 win over Drexel, the Tribe held the Dragons to 33% form the field, including 1-for-11 from downtown.
Fairfield will look to Michael Van Schaick and freshman forwards Greg Nero and Anthony Johnson to lead the Stag attack. But if Nero gets in foul trouble like he did last night against Siena, the Stags will be in trouble. Both teams could use a win heading into the stretch run, especially a Fairfield team that will have the MAAC Tournament on their home court in a couple of weeks.
- Manhattan @ Eastern Michigan (Saturday, 4:00 PM EST)
Heading into their game at Marist on Thursday night, the Jaspers have lost two in a row, meaning that this game could be between two teams limping into the month of March. The Eagles have lost seven of their last nine, so at least Barry Rohrssen’s team had some momentum going for themselves before the two-game skid. The Eagles have some large bodies inside, but they tend to lean on their perimeter players, such as Carlos Medlock and Jesse Bunkley, for scoring. The statistic to watch in this one will be turnovers. While Manhattan averages nearly fifteen per game, EMU averages 17.6 per contest. Those numbers alone may explain why both teams are currently below .500.
- Iona @ Delaware (Saturday, 7:00 PM EST)
When lamenting the glut of games in this event, a spotlight hit this one. The last two teams in Division I college basketball to record a win this season get together in a game that doesn’t set up to be an affair for the instructional videos. The Blue Hens, currently 5-22, found a way to knock off Hofstra at home, so look for them to take care of the young and banged-up Gaels at home.
- Colgate @ Marist (Saturday, 7:30 PM EST)
No offense to the Raiders, but you have to think that Marist supporters were hoping for a higher-profile opponent to make the trip to Poughkeepsie. But the game will take place and the Red Foxes need to make sure that they don’t come out sluggish for this one. Marist has to win the MAAC Tournament to get into the NCAAs regardless, but a loss in a game like this could have a serious effect on what their seed could be. Colgate uses a lot of players, with eleven averaging at least thirteen minutes per game. The one constant? Senior point guard Jon Simon, who leads the team in points and is second in assists. He will have his hands full with Jared Jordan and Will Whittington, however. Two New York schools get together, and with the weather being as bad as it is that may be good for travel reasons. But expect the Red Foxes to take care of business.
- St. Peter’s @ Tennessee-Martin (Saturday, 8:00 PM EST)
Just like Iona/Delaware, a game that really has no business being played when you take into consideration the goal of this event. These two teams, both in last place in their respective conferences (if you didn’t know, UT-Martin is from the Ohio Valley Conference), have a combined record of 10-44. The Skyhawks, thanks primarily to the inside tandem of Gerald Robinson and Cleve Woodfork, have seven of those ten wins. It’s been a tough year for John Dunne’s Peacocks as well, having lost seventeen straight games. This one could get sloppy, so it may be a good thing that there’s no television for the game.
Other Games of Note:
- Rutgers @ St. John’s (Thursday, 7:30 PM EST)
- Massachusetts @ Fordham (Thursday, 9:00 PM EST)
- Columbia @ Pennsylvania (Friday, 7:00 PM EST)
- Central Connecticut St. @ Fairleigh Dickinson (Saturday, 7:00 PM EST)
- Marist @ Fairfield (Monday, 7:30 PM EST)
- Pittsburgh @ Seton Hall (Monday, 8:00 PM EST)
- Sacred Heart @ Fairleigh Dickinson (Tuesday, 7:00 PM EST)
Here are the updated rankings.
- Marist (2): Marist is back on top of the MAAC, but the games with Manhattan and Fairfield will go a long way in determining whether or not they stay there.
- Hofstra (1): The Pride’s defense didn’t make the trip down to Old Dominion. That cannot happen if they expect to compete for the CAA Tournament crown.
- St. John’s (6): The Red Storm lost a tough one at Syracuse, but they look to be headed in the right direction. They can help themselves out immensely as far as the Big East Tournament is concerned with a win at Providence on Saturday.
- Fairfield (5): The Stags jump over Fordham and Manhattan because of their win over Loyola (MD).
- Fordham (3): Three straight losses put the Rams into “must-win” territory against UMass tonight if they want to have an impact on the Atlantic 10 race.
- Manhattan (4): Two straight losses for the Jaspers, but their game at Easterm Michigan is more than winnable. And they still can have an impact in the MAAC Tournament.
- Fairleigh Dickinson (7): The Knights have won four of their last five, and a solid win at Monmouth has them in a good position to get home court for their NEC quarterfinal.
- Sacred Heart (8): The good news in the Pioneers’ game against CCSU last week was that they outscored the Blue Devils 47-39 in the second half. If only they weren’t down 41-19 at the half.
- Seton Hall (9): They hung around for a while against UConn, but two things happened: The Huskies started to block shots, and Seton Hall forgot to guard Jerome Dyson on three triples that changed the momentum of the game.
- Columbia (11): The Lions recovered from their 85-71 loss to Yale by taking care of Brown the following night. Who’s next? First-place Penn on the road.
- Wagner (10): The Seahawks still have some breathing room when it comes to the eighth and final spot in the NEC Tournament, but they need a split of the Pennsylvania schools (Robert Morris and St. Francis-PA) in order to keep that advantage.
- St. Francis-NY (13): Tough loss to LIU, but the Terriers have shown improvement throughout the season. Games at the Pennsylvania schools this weekend could be the end of their NEC Tournament hopes, however. Or the beginning.
- LIU (15): The Blackbirds got a key win at St. Francis-NY this past week, but they’re still two games behind Wagner for that final spot with five games to go. And Wagner swept the Blackbirds.
- Army (12): At a time in the season when teams are supposed to be rounding into form, the Black Knights are headed in the wrong direction. They’ve lost six straight heading into the game at Navy.
- Stony Brook (14): The Seawolves, one game after holding UMBC to 39 points, found out what it’s like to have nothing go in the basket against Hartford on Sunday in their 56-44 loss.
- NJIT (16): The Highlanders beat South Dakota State, but North Dakota State made sure they didn’t sweep the Dakotas by the final of 80-57.
- Iona (17): The Gaels and Peacocks get together on Thursday to find out who will most likely occupy last place in this poll next week.