Griffs at Purple Eagles, Gallagher Center, 3 p.m.
By Nick Veronica
Canisius Golden Griffins: 3-3 overall, 1-0 MAAC, 2-2 road. RPI: 135. KenPom: 172. Streak: W1.
Niagara Purple Eagles: 1-4 overall, 1-0 MAAC, 0-2 home. RPI: 226. KenPom: 268. Streak: L3.
Vegas Line: Open: Canisius -2. Current: Canisius -1.5.
What’s at stake: Never thought we’d be saying this, but MAAC supremacy is on the line today … however short-lived it may be. Both Canisius and Niagara are 1-0 in the conference after opening wins against Saint Peter’s.
Series history: This is the 175th meeting between the teams if you believe Canisius, or the 177th meeting if you believe Niagara (more on that here). What we know for sure is that Canisius has taken three straight from Niagara, meaning second-year NU coach Chris Casey has yet to beat his rival. In the most recent game between the schools on Feb. 25, Billy Baron took control in the second half and finished with 34 points to lead Canisius to a 71-65 victory.
What’s been working for the Griffs: Not a ton has been going right for Canisius on offense. The team averages under 60 points per game and makes just 35.4 percent of its shots, which ranks 342nd nationally. All-MAAC Rookie Team selection Zach Lewis hasn’t been able to find his groove yet and is shooting just .299 from the floor and .273 from three-point range. He leads the Griffs at 13.3 points per game by the volume of shots he has put up.
Forward Phil Valenti has been more productive, averaging 10.3 points a night on .490 shooting, including 7 of 14 from behind the arc. He also leads the team at 6.2 rebounds per game.
What’s been working for the Purple Eagles: See: Canisius. Niagara’s offense shoots a nearly identical 35.3 percent from the field and averages only 56.8 points per game. Offense has been hard to come by, though two of Niagara’s five games were against Pitt and St. John’s.
What Niagara can say is that it’s at least getting scoring from several sources, with four players averaging better than nine points per game — Emile Blackman (12.6), Ramone Snowden (10.8), Rayvon Harris (9.8) and Karonn Davis (9.2). Where they’ll get scoring from on a given night is anyone’s guess, but today I’d look for Snowden, who’s played in rivalry games before, and Blackman, who’s coming off a 21-point performance at St. John’s.
Bold prediction: Both teams will do something they haven’t done all season: score 65 points.
Court dedication: Niagara will rename its court for Frank and Barbara Layden prior to the game. Frank played for ‘Taps’ Gallahger (whom the Gallagher Center is named after) and later coached during the Calvin Murphy years before going on to the NBA. Murphy and Hubie Brown will be on hand for a panel discussion at the Castellani Art Museum across the street from the Gallagher Center at 11 a.m. and will more than likely attend the game.
Odd stats: Canisius is 3-1 this season when trailing at halftime. … Snowden has two double-doubles this season. Canisius’ entire roster has two double-doubles in all of their careers. … Niagara has made the fewest baskets in the country for any team that has played five or more games. … A loss would be the 400th of Jim Baron’s career.Follow @NickVeronica