2007 MAAC Tournament Preview

2007 MAAC Tournament Preview

2007 MAAC Tournament Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/03/2007

Blah blah blah, blah blah blah blah.

That's basically what you'd get if you asked 90 percent of the players and fans of teams in the Power Conferences what they thought about the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. That is, until some lowly, thirteenth-seeded MAAC school is all of a sudden up six with the ball and three minutes left in a first-round match-up in the NCAA Tournament. Then they wish they knew who the hell Marist was.

Metro schools have more than held their own in the NCAA Tournament over the past decade. Teams from the MAAC are 7-5 against the spread in their last 10 games in the Big Dance, including two straight up victories and three losses by four points or less. Also, there was the serious scare that sixteenth-seeded Fairfield gave Vince Carter, Antawn Jamison and the rest of the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels in 1997 and the battle that Manhattan gave to eventual national champion Syracuse in 2003.

Well, this year I expect the Metro to once again represent in the first weekend of the tourney. I truly believe that if either Marist or Niagara ends up claiming the automatic bid that either one could be a thorn in the side of some high seed and a stake through the heart of chalk bettors and alumni across the nation.

THE FAVORITE:

Marist - The regular season champions have the most experience and the MAAC's best player in Jared Jordan. Jordan leads the country in assists with nearly nine per game and is in the top eight in the conference in both scoring and rebounding. The Foxes had the league's No. 1 scoring differential (+6.9) and went 6-2 SU against the top four in the conference. Beware: they aren't a blowout team and their two wins over Siena this year were both in overtime. Also, Marist has a poor track record in the conference tourney.

THE CONTENDERS:

Loyola-Maryland - After Jordan, the best player in the league was unquestionably Providence transfer Gerald Brown. He led the conference in scoring with 22.1 points per game and gave a moribund program a much-needed boost. The Greyhounds were actually the top team in the league before a 4-4 SU stretch run. They have a tough match-up with a Fairfield team that swept them this season. But Loyola is 10-0 ATS as an underdog this season so watch out.

Niagara - Because of injuries, suspensions and various Acts of God Niagara didn't have its full arsenal healthy and in shape until mid-January. They split with Marist and enter the tournament winning eight consecutive games. The trouble with the Purple Eagles is that they're easy to get sucked into: they have the league's No. 2 offense and five guys that average over 10 points per game. But they also have the No. 10 defense in the league, and that's what wins championships.

Siena - They probably should be listed as a sleeper, but they did finish No. 3 in the conference this year. The Saints had the league's No. 1 offense (75.8 ppg) and were No. 2 in scoring margin (+5.1). Their trouble is that they consistently get outrebounded by opponents.

THE SLEEPER:

Fairfield - The Stags lost 15 of their first 18 games this year; including five of their first six in conference play. But since then Fairfield has gone 10-3 and, with the league's best defense, positioned themselves as tourney dark horse. The key is Michael Van Schaick, who has scored in double figures in 19 of his past 20 games.

WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
Besides Loyola, each of the other top teams comes into this tournament on fire. I do think that Marist is going to have a handful with Siena, and if Siena blows out Manhattan I would say they have a good chance at beating the Red Foxes in the semis. Also, I don't think that Marist will beat Niagara if they have to play them in the finals. Other than that, they're money.

I'm not going to lie - this is as wide open a conference tournament as there is in the country. I truly wouldn't be surprised if Marist, Siena or Niagara cut down the nets. But I will be surprised if whoever comes out of this mess doesn't give their first round opponent an awful scare.

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Re: 2007 MAAC Tournament Preview

Breaking down the Mid-American Conference
Wed, Mar 7, 2007
By Associated Press

CLEVELAND -- His dress shirt dampened with sweat long after his team's exhausting victory in overtime at Kent State, Akron coach Keith Dambrot had one hope for this week's Mid-American Conference tournament.

''I wish,'' a worn out Dambrot said Sunday night, ''we would play anybody but them.''

Too bad, Coach.

Because barring an upset, the second-seeded Zips and third-seeded Golden Flashes are on a collision course to meet again in Friday's semifinals of the MAC tournament, which for the first time is playing all four rounds at Quicken Loans Arena.

Akron and Kent State, bitter rivals separated by 12 miles of Interstate 76 pavement, along with top-seeded Toledo and fourth-seeded Miami of Ohio, have it easier than the rest of the 12-team field in Cleveland.

The MAC's new format, which opens with four first-round games on Wednesday, means that any team advancing will have to win four games in four days to win the tourney title and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

That's a lot to ask of any team - at any level.

''I've never done that before, so I imagine it's gruesome,'' Miami coach Charlie Coles said. ''The NBA doesn't even do that.''

Playing on a neutral floor from the outset might not mean as much to the league's upper-tier teams, but it's vital to the lower-seeded clubs such as 10th-seeded Buffalo and 12th-seeded Bowling Green, both 0-8 on the road.

''The biggest change will be those first-round games,'' Buffalo coach Reggie Witherspoon said. ''In the past, most teams at home advanced to Cleveland. Now everybody's playing at the same place, and there's not a whole lot of separation in the league in the first place.''

For Toledo, which went 14-2 and won its first regular-season crown in 27 years, this year's trip to northeast Ohio is a chance to right some wrongs. The Rockets won the first MAC tourney crown in 1980 but haven't since, a drought that has included some heartbreaking defeats.

In last season's title game, Toledo trailed by 18 points in the second half before mounting a furious comeback that fell short in a 71-66 loss to Kent State. The Rockets, led by seniors Justin Ingram, Keonta Howell and Florentino Valencia, are hoping that experience will help this time around.

''Until you play that third game that third day of the tournament, that's uncharted waters,'' said Toledo's Stan Joplin, the MAC's coach of the year. ''But now we can sell the fact that we've been here before.''

Akron has never advanced to the MAC title game, and falling short this season would be devastating to a rising program.

For senior forward Romeo Travis, the MAC's player of the year, and guard Dru Joyce, this is a final chance to make the NCAAs - an accomplishment good friend and former high school teammate LeBron James will never match.

The Zips bring a 24-6 record into the tourney, with their six losses (including a 73-71 setback at home to No. 10 Nevada) coming by a combined 20 points. But other than its gripping 66-64 win at Kent State in the regular-season finale, Akron doesn't have any quality wins to flaunt for the NCAA tournament selection committee.

If they don't win the MAC, the Zips, who get the Central Michigan-Buffalo winner in Thursday's quarterfinals, are going to have a hard time convincing anyone that they should receive one of the coveted at-large bids to the 65-team field.

Although it's among the nation's most competitive mid-major conferences, the MAC hasn't had two teams make the NCAAs since 1999 when Miami and Kent State got in.

Coles was asked about the prospect of the Zips getting zip from the NCAA.

''It's criminal,'' he said. ''Akron should be in the tournament. The one bid should end. People talk about RPIs and other teams and I don't even hear Akron get mentioned. I don't see the difference between Akron and some of the others.

''I don't see how they can't get in. They're going to have 25 or 26 victories, I mean, gee whiz.''

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