Those games gave the young team useful experience, now it is time to see what they can do against teams more on their level.
Will they play like they did against Central Arkansas or St. Francis?
Cooley's first game against a MAAC team is a big one, against Manhattan, who has historically been Fairfield's conference rival. With just one day in between the BC game and Manhattan, and then one more day before a game against Canisius, the Stags will have to find a way to stay fresh.
With the number of players Cooley is able to rotate, I doubt that fatigue will be a problem. At the Hispanic College Fund Classic earlier this year, they played on three consecutive days and were able to win on the third day. If Herbie Allen's injured wrist is worse than it appears, the pressure will be on Jon Han to step up and play for more minutes than he has this year.
Here are my predictions for this first MAAC weekend of the year:
- Friday Night: Stags 56, Manhattan 52 - Fairfield will pull out a win in another tight game. Manhattan had a tough loss earlier in the year, but like the Stags their 2-5 record is not an indication of how good or bad they are. Manhattan did not have nearly as tough a schedule as Fairfield, but other than NJIT, they won the games they were expected to. It will be a tough fight for Fairfield, but I see them pulling this one out. The Stags need to be ready for a tough physical team, which plays a style similar to Pittsburgh. If they get out-toughed, as Cooley felt they were against St. Francis, it will be a rough night. Look for Michael Van Schaick to step up in this game, if he can hit his shots, the Stags will win.
- Sunday Night: Canisius 62, Stags 57 - After a physical game against Manhattan it is possible that the Stags will struggle against Canisius just two days later. This will be another tight game and it will depend on whether or not Fairfield can stick with Canisius through all 40 minutes or allow them to go on a run, like the Stags have allowed many times this year. Canisius is 2-4, but plays an up-tempo style and if Fairfield allows them to run, it could be a long night for the Stags.