Canisius’ season ends in 78-73 loss to NJIT

By Nick Veronica

Canisius’ CIT run was stomped out by NJIT Saturday night as the Griffs fell in the quarterfinals, 78-73.

Kevin Bleeker led Canisius with a season-high 16 points, including three three-pointers, but the rest of the team struggled from behind the arc, shooting just over 17 percent on the night.

The Griffs ended the year at 18-15 overall, which was a successful season for Jim Baron’s young team any way you cut it.

How NJIT won: Canisius pushed its lead to seven points at 55-48 with 11:18 to play but went scoreless over the next four minutes as NJIT climbed back into the game. Two free throws from Bleeker put Canisius up 62-59 with 4:57 left, but that would be the Griffs’ final lead of the year. They couldn’t find a shot when they needed it and were outscored 19-9 the rest of the way.

Damon Lynn and Tim Coleman each scored 22 points for NJIT, which improved to 21-12 overall and 15-2 at home. Lynn, the Highlanders’ leading scorer, was not what you would call efficient, going just 4 of 18 from the field (and 3 of 15 on threes), though he made up for it with 11 free throws. Coleman was the opposite, knocking down 8 of 11 shots and pulling in 11 rebounds. [Full box]

Fans get into it with Griffs: NJIT was assessed a technical foul at halftime for the conduct of its fans. Heading into the locker room at the break, NJIT’s student section apparently shoved Phil Valenti, who cut his head open as a result. Zach Lewis hit both free throws before the second half started. Police officers backed up the student section and remained under the basket for the remained of the game.

Baron’s radio comments: Jim Baron did not hold back on the fans or the refs on the Canisius radio post-game interview:

“They got the home-court advantage,” Baron said. “This is their third [home game] in a row. The people are fired up. They got a band. I don’t know where the hell they got this band from. But it’s about a 50-piece band banging the drum the whole game. We didn’t get calls down the stretch. Some cheap calls. And I told the officials, they didn’t need you guys. They could have beat us by themselves. But we turned it over … they made some shots, got the crowd into it and it became a fiasco.

“That first half was as dangerous of a situation as I’ve ever been in,” Baron continued. “That crowd came on the court, Valenti got his head split, they were very unorganized. I was very, very disappointed with the crowd. Wildness. And I’ll tell you, it was extremely dangerous. They let everybody in here, kids were drunk, they were behind the basket.

“But anyway, they’re a good team. They deserved the game. It’s a home game for them. They won two in a row, this is their third one, they’ll probably get another home game. But that’s what happens.”

(For the record, NJIT will go to Northern Arizona next round.)

Baron on the officiating: “The called cheap fouls. That charge he took was unbelievable (I think he’s referencing Heath’s fifth foul, which was a questionable blocking call underneath Canisius’ hoop). It’s just, I don’t know. I thought these guys were gonna be neutral and I was very disappointed. Very disappointed. Because they got to the foul line and they were just taking free throws. (Free throw stats: NJIT 23-33, Canisius 19-24.)

” … We ran into a buzzsaw the second half and we couldn’t do anything about it. They got what they wanted, they got another home game, they got the crowd into it, they got a 50-, 60-piece band from, I don’t know where they came from, St. Patrick’s Parade or something — they’re not part of the school’s — but I’m very proud of our kids. They deserved this tournament. I think we showed people how good this team is. I told our kids we’re very proud of them.”

Struggling from behind the arc: While Bleeker had the hot hand from three-point range, the rest of the team was ice cold. Consider the following:

Hard to win when your guards are that cold. Broken down, their three-point numbers were: Jeremiah Williams 0-8, Zach Lewis 0-5, Kassius Robertson 0-3, Adam Weir 0-1; Bleeker 3-4, Jermaine Crumpton 1-1, Phil Valenti 0-1.

Lewis was 4 for 13 from the field, finishing right near his final season field goal percentage of 33.4. That number will need to improve next season.

Crumpton’s return: Jermaine Crumpton scored five points in 12 minutes Saturday in his first game back from a broken foot.

Final games for Heath, Williams: Josiah Heath fouled out late in the second half after a handful of calls he was rightfully upset with and had to watch his career wrap up from the sidelines. He finished as Canisius all-time leader in games played (131) and showed vast improvement during his senior season (Heath’s season-by-season stats).

Jeremiah Williams worked hard to become a valuable contributor this season after being ruled academically ineligible for the second semester last year. He scored 8.1 points per game and became the starting point guard late in the season.

Baron’s three-year totals: Jim Baron compiled a record of 59-41 in his first three years at Canisius. Fifty-nine wins in a three-year span is tied for the third-most in program history.

1. John Beilein, 1994-96, 62-33
2. Nick Macarchuk, 1985-87, 60-29
T3. Joseph Curran, 1955-57, 59-20
T3. Jim Baron, 2012-15, 59-41

Obviously, no other coach had the opportunity to play in the CIT before Baron arrived, but that’s not his problem.

Looking ahead at next season: I’ll take a more in-depth look at 2015-16 at a later date, but there is plenty to build on for next year. When Heath sat with foul trouble Saturday you got a look at next year’s frontcourt, which will feature a Valenti-Bleeker-Crumpton rotation with Jamal Reynolds playing as a swingman.

I was impressed with Kassius Robertson’s development this season, and with Williams graduating, I think you’d have to pencil Robertson in as next year’s starting point guard. Jan Grzelinski’s role has been so diminished that he didn’t even play Saturday. I’m told it was strictly a coach’s decision.

Way-too-early 2016 Griffs prediction: 18-11 overall in the regular season, 13-7 in the MAAC, third seed in the conference tournament.


Canisius draws NJIT in CIT quarterfinals

By Nick Veronica

Canisius’s CIT quarterfinal game will be Saturday at New Jersey Institute of Technology, the tournament revealed late Monday night. Tip is set for 7:30 p.m.

NJIT, the NCAA’s only Independent team, is 20-11 overall and 14-2 at home. The Highlanders rank 66th nationally in field goal percentage (.459) and 31st in assists per game (15.2). Sophomore guard Damon Lynn leads the team with 17.5 points per game.

Canisius has the upper hand in common games with wins against Holy Cross and Dartmouth. NJIT lost to both teams.

The Griffs advanced to the CIT quarterfinals by rolling Bowling Green, 82-59, in Tuesday’s second-round game and beating Dartmouth in the tournament opener, 87-72. NJIT has tournament wins over Cleveland State (80-77) and New Hampshire (84-77).

Other CIT quarterfinals are as follows:

UT-Martin (20-12) at Eastern Kentucky (21-11), 7 p.m.

Evansville (21-12) at UL-Lafayette (22-13), 7:30 p.m.

Kent State (23-11) at Northern Arizona (21-14), 9 p.m.

Griffs looking forward to 30-second shot clock in CIT

By Nick Veronica

Where Zach Lewis grew up in Connecticut, there was no shot clock in high school basketball. A rival school was known for going into a four-corners offense in close games to help time tick away. College ball provided Lewis with a 35-second shot clock, but even that can feel too slow.

In Wednesday’s CIT game against Dartmouth, Lewis and his Canisius teammates will be one of the first teams to experiment with a 30-second shot clock, which will be tested this month in the NIT, CIT and CBI tournaments. Data from these games will be presented to the men’s basketball rules committee in May for a possible change across the entire NCAA.

CCLogobigLewis says a shorter shot clock can’t come soon enough.

“More shots, more shots for everybody,” the sophomore said. “I think [five seconds] will definitely make a difference. Hopefully the NCAA will make that change and put it to 30 seconds.

“It’s more exciting,” Lewis added. “Definitely more up-and-down. That’s something we definitely want to do.”

Canisius coach Jim Baron has the words “Runnin’ Griffs” written on his office window. This year’s team may not have the players to run as much as Baron would like — Canisius ranks 265th in KenPom’s adjusted tempo — but that’s the style Baron strives to play.

“I think it’s great,” Baron said of the 30-second clock. “It doesn’t bother us much at all. I think it’s exciting. You gotta get the ball down and you gotta be ready to score the ball.”

Baron would be in favor of reducing the 35-second shot clock next season.

“I think 30 is good,” he said. “I think 30 makes sense. Most teams have really gravitated to playing fast. I like it just because I think kids enjoy it and it helps scoring. I’m a scoring coach. I like to score points.

“It’s evolving more into a spectators’ game,” Baron added. “I think spectators want to see more scoring, and they want to see high-scoring players. So I think it’s going to happen more and more as we move forward.”

As for Wednesday’s game, Lewis said picking up the pace has been “a big emphasis” this week.

Zach Lewis

Zach Lewis

“We’re out here in practice just running around, trying to play fast but also play smart as well,” Lewis said. “It’s definitely going to be exciting.”

Both Baron and Lewis pointed to rebounding as the key to a good transition game.

“Defensive rebounds,” Lewis said. “That’s been our motto really all year. We gotta continue to be gritty, we gotta play together on defense and we gotta rebound. We’re not the biggest team but if all five guys try to crash the glass I think we’ll be all right.”

Canisius and Dartmouth tip off at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Should Canisius win, the Griffs will go on the road for the CIT’s second round.

Canisius headed back to CIT, hosts Dartmouth

By Nick Veronica

citlogoFor the third consecutive year, Canisius will play in the postseason tournament.

The Griffs announced they will host a first-round game on Wednesday, March 18 against an opponent yet to be determined. UPDATE: The game will be against Dartmouth.

Canisius accepted the bid after finishing the year 16-14 overall and fifth in the MAAC. Two sources told IAGS on Saturday that the CIT was interested in having Canisius play in the tournament.

The CIT is a third-tier postseason tournament, below the NCAA and NIT and roughly on par with the CBI. Schools pay to host games in the CIT and are then free to keep whatever they make, but unlike the CBI, teams must have a winning record to be eligible. (The CBI is generally geared toward larger schools that can still draw audiences in down years and is more pricey than the CIT.)

The MAAC has a fund that helps schools pay for hosting postseason tournament games. A road game in the CIT is free, minus the cost of travel.

Tickets for the game go on sale Wednesday. Adults are $10, children under 12 are $5.

Canisius lost to VMI last year in the first round of the CIT. In 2013, Canisius beat Elon and Youngstown State before being eliminated by Evansville.


Canisius vs. VMI gameday 3/18/14 (CIT first round)

By Nick Veronica

Canisius hosts Virginia Military Institute at 7 p.m. tonight in the first round of the Postseason Tournament.

The teams: Canisius Golden Griffins: 21-12 overall, 14-6 MAAC (4th), 9-3 home. RPI: 98, BPI: 140, Kenpom: 110.

VMI Keydets: 19-12, 11-5 Big South (2nd in North division), 5-9 road. RPI: 220, BPI: 218, Kenpom: 219.

Demystifying VMI: The Keydets are the highest-scoring team in the country, averaging 87.7 points per game. But don’t worry about that. The Keydets are much less scary when you look deeper into their stats.

For starters, VMI scores a lot because it plays at a fast pace, not because its offense is super efficient or abnormally adept at making baskets. VMI’s adjusted tempo is the third-highest in the country, according to Kenpom, but its shooting percentage is 186th and its adjusted offensive efficiency is 142nd. Canisius shoots field goals at a better rate and averages more points per possession than VMI.

Secondly, you have look at who VMI was playing. Its four highest-scoring games of the year came against Washington College (Division III), Bluefield State (Division II), Bridgewater (D-III) and Virginia University of Lynchburg (non-NCAA). VMI did score more than 100 points against four Division I teams, but if you take out these four non D-I opponents, VMI’s scoring average falls to 83.2, which would drop it to fifth nationally, behind Iona.

Plus, it’s not like VMI’s defense is very efficient, either. Kenpom ranks the Keydets’ defense 291st-most efficient in the country, and only three teams give up more points per game. (And if you exclude the non-Division I opponents, VMI’s scoring defense falls another place, below Niagara.)

What’s a Keydet? Apparently the same thing as a cadet, if you believe

Players to watch: Despite VMI’s lack of efficiency on a per-possession basis, its players still put the ball through the hoop frequently, which should make for an entertaining game. Freshman guard QJ Peterson leads the team at 19.4 points per game. Senior forward D.J. Covington scores 18.7 ppg and, at 6-foot-9, leads the team in rebounding at 9.4 per game. Guard Rodney Glasgow averages 18.4 ppg and adds 5.6 assists. (I don’t know why D.J. has dots but QJ doesn’t. That’s how their roster has it.)

Milestones: A win would give Canisius 22 wins on the season, matching the school record set in 1994 and 1957. … With 19 points and seven assists in the postseason, Billy Baron can become just the second player in school history with 1,400 points, 350 assists and 300 rebounds. … Chris Manhertz is 14 rebounds shy of 800 for his career, which only three players in school history have accomplished. … Canisius has already set the school record for most points in a season.

With a win: Canisius or VMI will advance to the second round of the CIT and will have to await a pairing with a (relatively) nearby school. Bracket play doesn’t start until the third round. Canisius would be on the road for Round Two, and personally I’d be interested to see the Griffs play a MAC team (full CIT schedule).

Wild card: VMI is, obviously, a military school. Check out the headshots on their athletics site. Pretty badass. Plus, their coach is a little scary.

No live blog today but check Twitter for updates during the game. I’ll have reactions and postgame interviews up shortly after the buzzer.