MAAC rearranges tournament schedule to help top seeds

By Nick Veronica

maaclogoThe men’s and women’s MAAC basketball tournaments will feature a slightly different format in 2016, giving the top two seeds an added day of rest between the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds.

The quarterfinals will now open Friday for teams seeded first and second, which gives them Saturday off before the semifinals on Sunday, assuming they win. Teams seeded third and fourth have Friday off but will have to win Saturday and Sunday to advance to Monday’s final.

The previous format had play-in games on Thursday, with the quarterfinal round opening for everyone Saturday. Here’s a look at the games that will be affected, using last year’s bracket. (The times of the games will change; full schedule below.)

new_maac_tournament_bracket

“The efforts of the administrators and coaches to adjust the format to provide an advantage to the top two seeds was prompted by a general recognition by the MAAC membership that not enough reward was being assessed to regular season success by the previous format,” MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor said in the press release.

The vote for the schedule change was 9-1-1, with Manhattan opposed and Quinnipiac abstaining, Ensor said.

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello said on Twitter that he’d prefer the 11th-place team not even make the tournament.

The top two seeds — ideally, the teams the conference would like to represent it in the NCAA tournament — have met in four of the last 10 MAAC Championship games, but only once in the last five seasons.

2015: 3-Manhattan beats 1-Iona
2014: 2-Manhattan beats 1-Iona
2013: 4-Iona beats 6-Manhattan
2012: 2-Loyola (Md.) beats 4-Fairfield
2011: 4-Saint Peter’s beats 2-Iona
2010: 1-Siena beats 2-Fairfield
2009: 1-Siena beats 2-Niagara
2008: 1-Siena beats 2-Rider
2007: 2-Niagara beats 3-Siena
2006: 2-Iona beats 5-Saint Peter’s

Arranging the conference tournament to help the top seeds is not a new idea. The Mid-American Conference, for instance, gives its top two teams a bye straight into the semifinals.

Full MAAC Tournament schedule:

Thursday

Session I: Women’s Opening Round
9:30 a.m. #8 Seed vs. #9 Seed
11:30 a.m. #7 Seed vs. # 10 Seed
1:30 p.m. #6 Seed vs. #11 Seed

Session II: Men’s Opening Round
5:00 p.m. #8 Seed vs. #9 Seed
7:00 p.m. #7 Seed vs. #10 Seed
9:00 p.m. #6 Seed vs. #11 Seed

Friday

Session III: Women’s Quarterfinals
12:00 p.m. #1 Seed vs. 8/9 Winner
2:30 p.m. #2 Seed vs. 7/10 Seed

Session IV: Men’s Quarterfinals
7:00 p.m. #1 Seed vs. 8/9 Winner
9:30 p.m. #2 Seed vs. 7/10 Seed

Saturday

Session V: Women’s Quarterfinals
12:00 p.m. #3 Seed vs. 6/11 Winner
2:30 p.m. #4 Seed vs. #5 Winner

Session VI: Men’s Quarterfinals
7:00 p.m. #3 Seed vs. 6/11 Winner
9:30 p.m. #4 Seed vs. #5 Winner

Sunday

Session VI: Women’s Semifinals
11:00 a.m. 1/8/9 vs. 4/5 winner
1:30 p.m. 2/7/10 vs. 3/6/11 winner

Session VII: Men’s Semifinals
4:30 p.m. 1/8/9 vs. 4/5 winner
7:00 p.m. 2/7/10 vs. 3/6/11 winner

Monday

Session VIII: Women’s Championship TBD Semifinal Winners

Session IX: Men’s Championship TBD Semifinal Winners

Niagara names Jada Pierce women’s basketball coach

By Nick Veronica

Pierce

Pierce

Niagara announced the hiring women’s basketball coach Jada Pierce on Tuesday, replacing eight-year veteran Kendra Faustin, who left in early June for the same position at Division II Ferris State.

Pierce comes to NU from Atlantic 10 member St. Joseph’s, where she was an assistant coach. Pierce has 18 years of coaching experience, including head coaching experience at the Division II level, but this will be her first D-I head coaching job.

“She is incredibly well-connected in the basketball industry and has won everywhere she has been including making several NCAA Tournament appearances,” Niagara athletic director Simon Gray said in the press release. “She has handled all duties as a top Division I assistant, brings experience as a head coach and her positive energy is contagious. She will fit the Niagara University mission because of who she is as a person.”

Pierce played at D-II West Chester University until 1997. Niagara will introduce Pierce at a press conference in early July.

Griffs add point guard Atkinson to compete roster

By Nick Veronica

Canisius got a verbal commitment from point guard Chris Atkinson Tuesday night, filling the Griffs’ final scholarship opening that was created by Jan Grzelinski’s departure.

Atkinson

Atkinson

Atkinson played point guard for Long Island Lutheran, which was the New York State Sportswriters Associations’ top-ranked team on Long Island and 14th-ranked team statewide in Class AA.

Atkinson (5-foot-9, 160 pounds) was not rated by Rivals but is listed as having offers from Iona and Northeasten.

Atkinson gave a verbal commit to MAAC foe Monmouth in October, but apparently became decommitted at some point between then and now. A verbal commitment is non-binding and is not “official” until the athlete signs a Letter of Intent.

(Atkinson’s Twitter name is Michael Scofield, a character from the show Prison Break)

I expected Jim Baron to target a forward with his final opening, but Atkinson’s commit gives Canisius the same numbers it had last season: five forwards, eight guards.

Canisius roster (*new for 2015-16):

Guards (8)

Malcolm McMillan*, redshirt senior
Jamal Reynolds, senior
Kiefer Douse*, junior
Kassius Robertson, sophomore
Adam Weir, sophomore
Raven Owen, redshirt freshman
Isaiah Gurley, redshirt freshman
Chris Atkinson*, freshman

Forwards (5)

Kevin Bleeker, senior
Phil Valenti, junior
Jermaine Crumpton, sophomore
Cassidy Ryan, sophomore
Ronald Gombe*, freshman

Canisius to play in Las Vegas Classic

lasvegasclassic

By Nick Veronica

Canisius will play in the 2015 Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic, an eight-team event that promises four games, with the final two at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on December 22 and 23.

Other teams in the event include SMU, Colorado, Penn State, Kent State, Louisiana-Monroe, Nicholls State and Hampton. Opponents will be announced at a later date.

Each school’s first two games will be held on campus sites, with SMU and Penn State already announcing both of their games will be at home.

Tickets for the Las Vegas portion of the event, sold only in two-day packages, begin at $47. (This event should not be confused with the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational, a similar event held in November.)

Third-place and championship games of the tournament — on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 9 and 11:30 p.m. EST — will be shown live on Fox Sports 1. Past winners of the event include Kansas State (2008), Alabama (2009), New Mexico (2010), Baylor (2011), Colorado State (2012), UNLV (2013) and Loyola (Ill.) (2014).

UB basketball heads to Duke on Dec. 5

By Nick Veronica

UB has landed a Dec. 5 matchup against defending national champion Duke, continuing its streak of scheduling nonconference games against Goliaths of college basketball.

ublogoThe game was announced Friday in Duke’s schedule release. It will be played at Cameron Indoor Stadium in Durham, N.C. at a time yet to be determined.

UB had meetings with No. 1 Kentucky and No. 6 Wisconsin last season in athletic director Danny White’s second year on the job. UB played Texas A&M in White’s first season.

The UB-Duke matchup obviously loses some sizzle with former Blue Devil Bobby Hurley now coaching at Arizona State, but still has the connection of athletic directors: Duke AD Kevin White is Danny White’s father.

UB and Duke have never met in men’s basketball. The Bulls are 1-17 all-time against the ACC, with the win coming against Miami (Fla.) in 2006.