By Andrew Kahn
Iona and Manhattan, two schools separated by fewer than 10 miles, will play for the MAAC championship in Springfield, MA. Can we get this thing moved to Madison Square Garden? Iona won the regular season and Manhattan finished second; they split their regular season meetings. These two also faced off in last year’s tournament final, with Iona winning by three. The title tilt will conclude what has been an exciting MAAC tournament.
Gaels’ hot shooting
Iona, the third-highest scoring team in the country, has lit it up in Springfield so far. The Gaels shot 51 percent and hit 10 threes in a 75-72 win over Canisius in Sunday’s semifinal, one day after torching Rider for 94 points. This isn’t out of character for the Gaels, which are third in the country in effective field goal percentage. They will have four or five capable outside shooters on the floor at all times and really test the Manhattan defense.
Jaspers ready for revenge
It’s a defense that is the best in the conference. The Jaspers will press and trap and try to filter ball handlers towards three-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year Rhamel Brown, one of the nation’s best shot blockers. Manhattan got to this point by forcing St. Peter’s into 19 turnovers on Friday and beating Quinnipiac 87-68 yesterday. Their roster is loaded with New York City players that get amped to face Iona.
Bye bye, Billy Baron
The MAAC Player of the Year may have played his final collegiate game, barring an appearance in one of the lesser postseason tournaments. Baron started his college career at Virginia before transferring to play for his dad at Rhode Island. When Jim Baron was fired and took the job at Canisius, his son followed and played the last two seasons there. He got hot late in the second half against Iona and finished with a game-high 23 points, but he’ll be thinking about his final heave that came up short. He could become the rare player to make the jump from the MAAC to the NBA.
First crack in the MAAC for Quinnipiac
The Quinnipiac Bobcats wrapped up an impressive first season in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference after coming over from the Northeast Conference. They finished in third place and won a game in the tournament before falling to Manhattan. Statistically, they were the best rebounding team in the country. Three of their key contributors will graduate, but they look like a good fit for the conference.
An at-large bid for tonight’s loser?
In a postgame press conference a couple of weeks ago, Manhattan coach Steve Masiello argued that the MAAC should not be a one-bid league. He said fans and the media are hard-wired to think of certain conferences as one-bid leagues and the MAAC is, unfairly, one of them. Only twice in the league’s history, including Iona two years ago, has the MAAC received an at-large bid, a stat that’s unlikely to change this season. While the top teams in the MAAC could be competitive with middle-tier teams from power conferences, as Masiello suggested, no MAAC squad has done enough to warrant a bid given the selection committee’s history. That being said, I’m always in favor of a second team from a league like the MAAC than, say, a seventh from a power conference. The NCAA Tournament would be better off for it.
Andrew Kahn is a contributor to CBS Local Sports who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn
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