MAAC Tournament: Previews
Here are some previews from today's paper.
The Siena women kick the tournament off today at noon against Rider.
Lady Saints hope to gain momentum
The men's team is clearly the team to beat, having won two consecutive tournament titles and winning games in the NCAA Tournament each of the past two years.
Siena senior Edwin Ubiles will be playing for a little more this weekend.
Saints the team to beat
This is at the bottom of the article, but I've posted it here because it's a men's tournament primer.
Player to Watch (not wearing a Siena jersey) — Derek Needham, Fairfield
Needham has burst onto the scene in a big way, earning second team All-MAAC honors. The freshman from Illinois, who is a shoe-in for the Rookie of the Year award, is not only handling the ball for the league’s No. 2 seed, he leads the team in scoring, assists and steals.
Coach to Watch (other than Jimmy Patsos) — Ed Cooley, Fairfield
While watching Loyola (Md.)’s coach itself is worth the price of admission, Cooley is just as demonstrative and amusing working the sidelines.
Best player you probably won’t see — Rico Pickett, Manhattan
Pickett averaged 17.1 points per game in the regular season, tops in the MAAC. The Jaspers play in the first game on Friday and if they lose, Pickett’s stay in Albany may be over before it begins.
Most exciting team — Siena
It goes almost without saying. The Saints are the No. 1 seed, the clear-cut favorite and have won 35 consecutive games on their home floor, including the past two MAAC Tournament titles. Siena is also the only team in the country with four players averaging 14 or more points per game.
Quarterfinal matchup to watch — Niagara vs. Iona
If you had told me this game, between a team that has won 12 of their past 15 games like the Gaels and a team with as much veteran experience as the Purple Eagles would be a quarterfinal matchup, I’d have told you, you were crazy. Iona coach Kevin Willard said he wasn’t happy to see Niagara, despite the fact that his team beat them twice during the regular season. On what should be an incredible Saturday in downtown Albany, this matchup might just be the one to watch. With an approximated tip-off of 10 p.m. — known as the West Coast game in MAAC circles, you wonder how many people will be awake to see it.
Sleeper — Saint Peter’s
Under fourth-year coach John Dunne, the Peacocks won as many conference games this year (11) as they did total games in 2008-09. Saint Peter’s finally has a veteran team and they certainly could be dangerous. They’re biggest problem is that Siena is lurking on the same side of the bracket.
Upset Special — Niagara to finals
The Purple Eagles have had a tough season. Last year, they went to the MAAC Championship game, losing to Siena. They have explosive offensive players in Bilal Benn and Tyrone Lewis and a veteran coach in Joe Mihalich — all the ingredients necessary to make a deep run in the tournament.
If not Siena then who? — Niagara
The Purple Eagles are the only MAAC team to beat Siena this season. They were in the championship game last year and four of their main players are seniors. After winning the tournament three years ago, this is their final run.