|Niagara Looks For Another Win Against Florida A&M|
|Written by TheSpread|
|Tuesday, 13 March 2007 02:00|
College Basketball: Florida A&M at Niagara - Niagara Favored
The Purple Eagles will look to prove they deserved a better draw when they face a Florida A&M team happy to still be around for Tuesday's play-in game at Dayton, Ohio.
Niagara (22-11) started 1-6 while dealing with the suspension of six players, but rolls into Tuesday with an 11-game winning streak. The run was highlighted by an 83-79 upset of Siena on March 5 in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament final.
The Purple Eagles, however, think their late-season performance should have earned them a better fate than a berth in the play-in game, the winner of which plays West Region top seed Kansas on Friday in Chicago.
"We feel disrespected,'' junior forward Charron Fisher said. "I'm sure you'll be able to see when we play on Tuesday how disrespected we feel.''
Niagara players and coaches noted that four other teams in the field of 65 - Jackson State, Central Connecticut, Weber State and North Texas - finished with a lower Ratings Percentage Index than the Purple Eagles' 136.
"It was shocking,'' coach Joe Mihalich said. "I think everybody was shocked, and maybe some people were insulted by it. But that's good. That's fine with us."
The Purple Eagles have enjoyed a remarkable turnaround since the beginning of the season when six players - including Fisher, their leading scorer at 21.0 points per game - were suspended for their roles in the assault of a Niagara baseball player in August.
Once back to full strength, the Purple Eagles went 21-5 to reach the tournament for the third time and second in three years.
Tournament selection chairman Gary Walters said the committee factored in the player bans in deciding on seeding.
"The suspensions were taken into account, but it didn't alter our decision to have them play in the play-in game,'' Walters said.
Mihalich sees the perceived slight as a source of motivation.
"We're ready to go," Mihalich said. "The committee did us a favor. They found a team that responds to adversity and thrives on adversity. And they gave us some more adversity to deal with.''
The Purple Eagles average 76.1 points and have five players that score in double figures, including freshman guard Tyrone Lewis, the most valuable player of the MAAC tournament.
Lewis, who averages 12.3 points, scored 59 on 22-for-41 shooting during three games in the conference tourney.
Niagara is 1-3 in the NCAA tournament, its only win coming by a 79-69 score over Pennsylvania on March 7, 1970. Most recently, it lost 84-67 to Oklahoma in 2005.
Florida A&M (21-13) earned its fourth NCAA tournament berth in dramatic fashion with a 58-56 win over Delaware State in the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference tournament final Saturday.
Brian Greene's layup off an alley-oop as time expired secured the title and a fifth straight win for the Rattlers, who are also 1-3 in NCAA tournament play.
"We stuck together throughout this whole tournament, and when you've got (your teammates) behind you, you don't want to let them down," said Greene, who had 22 points and 13 rebounds in the championship game for his second straight double-double.
The Rattlers, who like Niagara finished second in their conference during the regular season, will take part in the play-in game for the second time. Florida A&M beat Lehigh 72-57 in 2004, then lost 96-76 to Kentucky in the first round.
Proving it won't dodge competition, Florida A&M played NCAA tournament teams Maryland, Miami of Ohio, Illinois, Florida, and Pittsburgh this season.
"They believe that whoever we play, we're going to win the game,'' coach Mike Gillespie said. "Our guys had absolutely no fear of (Kentucky in '04). So we're not going to fear anybody. We're not smart enough to fear anybody."
Florida A&M and Niagara met once before, with the Purple Eagles winning 76-65 on Dec. 30, 1998.
by: Marc Young - theSpread.com - Email Us
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