Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The 2-3 Zone - Jan. 30

A look at our top dogs in the MAAC:
1. Siena (13-7, 8-2 MAAC) - Despite Marist's current position as the top spot in the MAAC RPI rankings, it's clear that Siena is stil the team to beat in this conference. My logic? Talent. Of all of the teams I've seen this season, the Saints may the most versatile, and are certainly the most athletic. Whether or not that talent translates into overwhelming MAAC success depends on how the Saints' respond to a daunting second-half schedule. Even though they have been billed the so-called "team to beat", they have yet to play and thus Rider or Marist, and still await a second outing against Niagara and Loyola (Md.). And we all remember what the Greyhound did to them a week ago (85-56 win for Loyola). Aberration or mark of inconsistency?

2. Marist (14-7, 8-2 MAAC) - It's party like it's 2007 all over again in Poughkeepsie. Marist's Women have accentuated their Sweet 16 appearance in last season's NCAA tournament with a fantastic start to conference play - which includes two victories over Joe Frager and a senior-laden Fairfield team. As for the boys, it's hard not to argue with the resume. Jay Gavin has won MAAC Rooking of the Week for five consecutive seasons. More importantly, he has been the go-to-guy for the Red Foxed, and has eased the pain of losing Jared Jordan. A big game tomorrow night against Rider - if Marist pulls it off, I'd say their a definite contender.

Three movers-and-shakers in the MAAC
3. Rider (15-6, 8-2 MAAC) - The Broncs lost two of its first three MAAC games - one to defending-champ Niagara and the other to Marist by one point. Since then, the Thompson brothers have yet to drop a conference game. Rider will look to avenge that early-season loss when they travel north on the Thruway to take on Marist on Wednesday night - our selection in "Scoutin' the Stags" for game of the week. My opinion on the Broncs first-half of the MAAC season: the old adage "good teams win the games they are supposed to win" comes to mind. And they have certainly done that Rider still has a pair of games against Siena and Fairfield, and another against Loyola (Md.) on the schedule.

4. Niagara (13-6, 7-3 MAAC) - I know, I know - that early-season loss to Canisius is especially troubling. I mean, Canisius? Really? It is possible that this season's Golden Griffs may have lost to Iona last season, even amidst Iona's woeful MAAC start. Still, anytime the third overall scorer in the nation (Charron Fisher) is in your lineup, you have a chance to win. The thing that impressed me most in the victory was the Purple Eagles' ability to create points without Fisher. Tyrone Lewis killed the Stags with perimeter shooting (6-of-13 from behind the arc). Benson Egemoyne is a force in the paint. This is a good team, folks. Big games on the way for Joe Mihalich - Loyola (Md.), Fairfield, and Rider. I'd say they take two out of three.

5. Loyola (Md.) (11-10, 7-3 MAAC) - Jimmy Patsos and the Greyhounds caught all of our attention with their 85-56 smackdown of Siena. Chalk it up to a perfect night for Loyola, and a let-down/foul-plagued game for the Saints. Still, I'm beginning to get the feeling that this Loyola team is finally beginning to match the promise many early-season prognosticators (myself included) expected out of Gerald Brown and Co. Five straight MAAC wins don't lie. Following the team's final out-of-conference game against NJIT, a pair against Niagara are on the way.

- K.C.

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