Postgame video: Monmouth 60, Canisius 54 — MAAC quarterfinals

By Nick Veronica

Jim Baron had plenty to say after Canisius’ exit from the MAAC Tournament. Listen below as Phil Valenti, Jeremiah Williams, Josiah Heath and Baron meet with the media following the loss.

Winning coach King Rice was loose as could be. He was joined by players Deon Jones, Andrew Nicholas and Justin Robinson.

Canisius press conference

Monmouth press conference


Check back later for an end-of-the-year column.

MAAC Tournament Gameday: 5-Canisius vs. 4-Monmouth

MAAC Tournament quarterfinals: 4-Monmouth vs. 5-Canisius,
2:30 p.m., Times Union Center, Albany


By Nick Veronica

After earning a surprising fifth-seed in the MAAC, Canisius meets No. 4 Monmouth today in the quarterfinals.

Canisius Golden Griffins: 16-13 overall, 11-9 MAAC, picked 10th in preseason poll. RPI: 171. BPI: 161. KenPom: 176. Streak: W1.

Monmouth Hawks: 17-14 overall, 13-7 MAAC, picked sixth in preseason poll. RPI: 194. BPI: 182. KenPom: 185. Streak: W1.

2015_maac_tournament_bracket_day1

Sooo… who’s gonna win? At first glance, Monmouth appears to have an edge in this matchup, given that it’s seeded higher and that it swept the season series from Canisius. But it’s certainly worth noting that Canisius fared better than Monmouth in all three national rankings listed at above. Additional, KenPom’s MAAC Tournament preview favored Canisius over Monmouth, projecting the Griffs to advance to the semifinals 51.2 percent of the time. (KenPom also gave Canisius a 19.9 percent shot of advancing to the championship game and a 9.6 percent chance of winning the whole thing. Iona, of course, is the favorite.)

[Niagara eliminated from MAAC Tournament, 71-54]

Monmouth’s King Rice is seen a slick, up-and-coming coach while Jim Baron is the savvy old vet who brings his lunch pail to work and just the job done. Both teams are known more for their defense than their offense, though Canisius has the edge in rebounding. This one could go either way, but after how the last two seasons ended for Canisius, doesn’t a third meeting with Iona feel imminent?

(What’s that? No? Hmm. Well, like I said. Toss-up.)

If it makes you feel any better, Canisius’ game notes are feeling confident:

Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 11.56.08 PMVegas says: At the time of this writing, Vegas Insider has the game as a pick. Like I said, toss-up.

Players to watch: Monmouth guard Justin Robinson was named First Team All-MAAC by the league’s coaches after averaging 13.4 points and 3.8 assists per game, which was fourth in the conference. Deon Jones adds 12.7 ppg for the Hawks while Brice Kofane leads the team with 5.8 rebounds a night.

[Marist upsets Quinnipiac at MAAC Tournament]

Canisius is led by MAAC Third Team selection Zach Lewis, who averages 12.9 points a night but hits only 33.3 percent of his field goals (120 for 360). Forward Josiah Heath has stepped up his game since Phil Valenti’s injury, averaging 13.6 points and 10.7 rebounds since becoming the go-to forward. Heath’s improved play can also be attributed the senior’s experience, becoming the Griffs’ all-time leader in games played (127) during the final week of the regular season (breaking a record held by Frank Turner). Additionally, Jeremiah Williams has been hot, averaging 15.6 points per game over the last five games.

Series history: Season: Monmouth 2-0. All-time: Monmouth 3-1. Tournament: 0-0. Jim Baron vs. Monmouth: 7-9.

Bleeker honored: Canisius redshirt junior Kevin Bleeker was named to the MAAC’s all-academic team Friday afternoon. Rider’s Kevin Baggett was named Coach of the Year. As I said here, I would’ve voted for Baron, but expected Baggett to win.

Random player tweets: 

Bold prediction: Jim Baron gets hit with a technical foul Saturday. BONUS BOLD PREDICTION: The Tim Horton’s coffee I get before the ride to Albany will be Roll up the Rim winner. (I don’t know which is more likely.)

Score guess: Canisius has outperformed every projection this season, so I won’t pick against it now. Canisius 71, Monmouth 65.

How to follow the game: I’ll have courtside updates on Twitter and will have reactions, video and more posted here shortly after the final buzzer. The game will be available online via ESPN3. You should also send a Twitter follow to Jon Snyder and Pat Malicaro, whom I’ll be bothering with random sports trivia the entire ride down.

MAAC midpoint awards

There are 10 teams in the MAAC, and each team plays the other nine twice in league play. Nine times two is 18, and with every team having played nine games, that means everyone’s league season is at least half over.

I’m fantastic at math, I know.

What being halfway through the season really means is that it’s time for halftime awards. I’ll give you my favorite to win the MAAC, and my First Team All-MAAC at the halfway point.

Thus far through league play, Ryan Rossiter and Mike Glover are shoe-ins for the First Team. That doesn’t mean they will be shoe-ins for the real thing come March, but for the halfway point, I don’t think anyone would argue against this.

I have three spaces left to fill. The only players in my mind who have legitimate claims to the title are Derek Needham, Justin Robinson and Scott Machado.

Others can make a case, but they don’t have the connotation of “First Team All-League” just yet, not to me at least.

Anthony Nelson and George Beamon probably won’t enjoy reading this. Mike Ringgold and Nick Leon can ball, and Novar Gadson is no slouch either.

There are a handful of good players in the league who are putting up good numbers, people like Kyle Smith, Kashief Edwards, Elton Frazier and Rhamel Brown, but there’s no way they crack the league’s top-5.

I’m more of a “that guy can play, I’d want him on my team” type of observer of college basketball.  Justin Robinson might fit this description better than anyone.  He handles the ball well and always seems to come up with a clutch shot.

Scott Machado can flat-out play, and Derek Needham is one of the best scorers in the conference, not to mention he’s only a sophomore.

I’d like to say I don’t count playing on a bad team against a player, but looking at my list I guess I did. We’ll call this an isolated incident. Beamon and Nelson have the scoring numbers, but they have to be doing something wrong too if their teams are only 1-8. When you are getting blown out of games, the opponent’s defense tends to soften up a little bit.

For MAAC Champ, my pick at this point is Fairfield. I know it’s easy to pick a team with a 2.5 game lead with 9 to play, but the Stags have the intangibles I haven’t seen out of any other team yet.

It starts and ends with head coach Ed Cooley. I’d put Cooley up against any other MAAC coach with the game on the line, and what he said in the press conference last week really stood out for me.

It started with a silly question, really, asking Derek Needham if he was glad he didn’t have to face 7-foot-3 Marial Dhal in the game against Canisius. Derek took the joke, but Cooley was on another level.

Without missing a beat, he made sure to let every reporter in the room know that Fairfield “isn’t afraid of anybody,” and that no matter who the opponent is they are facing, the Stags will prevail with defense and team play.

Not even LeBron James was spared in Cooley’s rant.

How many coaches would put their team against LeBron James? Coach K, Tom Izzo… maybe.  But Ed Cooley? Bring ‘em on!

Late lead disappears as buzzer-beater crushes Griffs

Everyone else was long-gone from the Koessler Athletic Center after a heartbreaking 77-76 loss to Rider Sunday afternoon, but Gaby Belardo remained.

The redshirt sophomore stood on the free-throw line at the southeast end of the empty gymnasium, where he knocked down shot after shot from the exact spot he missed from with 11.3 seconds left in the game.

For the second year in a row, Coles dropped 20 points on Rider at the KAC. Coles and Rider's Justin Robinson attended Blair Academy together.

The Broncs’ Mike Ringgold brought the ball into the frontcourt as the seconds dwindled down. He tripped, and then regained his balance before putting up a wild layup. Justin Robinson got the rebound, and put up a jumper that didn’t come close to hitting the net.

The air ball landed right in the hands of Novar Gadson with .7 seconds remaining. The Rider junior banked the ball off the backboard and into the hoop with no time left.

The Broncs dog-piled on Gadson while the rest of the gym went silent. The referees went to the monitor to make sure Gadson got the shot off in time—he did—before running to the locker room amid a chorus of boos from the 919 in attendance. They weren’t so much mad about the last call, but how the game ended up and the series of calls that led to the finale.

With the shot clock turned off and Canisius up by one, a loose ball went out of play and was awarded to Rider, much to the dismay of the crowd. Robinson got the ball on the inbound and missed a 3-point shot. The rebound came to Belardo, who raced down the court with a clear path to the hoop.

The Broncs’ Danny Stewart was able to catch Belardo and did whatever he could to foul him. The referees put Belardo on the line for a one-and-one, instead of calling an intentional foul that would have given Canisius two shots.

Belardo’s first shot rimmed out, and the rest is history.

Head coach Tom Parrotta and Belardo both acknowledged that an intentional foul should have been called, and that they thought going for the basket with 12 seconds left instead of going into the corner to try to kill more time was the right play given the situation.

“I was wide open,” Belardo said.

“I think clearly, it was a layup,” Parrotta reiterated. “He was wide open, and I don’t think you could get a better shot than that.”

Canisius started off the game on a 9-0 run and led by as many as 12 in the first half before taking a six-point lead into the locker room at 42-36. Led by senior Greg Logins’ 14 points, 42 marked the highest first-half production for the Griffs all season.

Senior Rob Goldsberry got hit in the face by Gadson early in the second half after a scramble for a loose ball that was not called during the play. After a monitor review, officials assessed Gadson an intentional foul and awarded Goldsberry two foul shots, which he hit.

Under previous rules, the only call that could come from a monitor review was a flagrant foul (and subsequent ejection; much like what happen to Canisius in last year’s Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament), or no foul at all. However, the NCAA changed that rule this season.

Since the foul was not called when it happened, play was allowed to continue and Gadson’s basket from that possession counted. According to NCAA Rule 2, Section 13, Article 6, “Any previous activity before the monitor review shall not be canceled or nullified.”

The Griffs led by 11 points with 15:27 to play, but five missed shots and six fouls later, Canisius found itself on the wrong end of a 14-0 run that put Rider in front, 59-56, with 12 minutes to play.

The rest of the game was hard-fought as neither team could pull away by more than four points.

Five straight points from senior Julius Coles gave Canisius the lead at 76-75 with 1:40 left, but those would be the last points the Griffs would score on the night.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” a lifeless Coles said after the game. “We worked so hard out there, we gave it our all, and we don’t have anything to show for it.”

Rider, which came into the contest top-10 in the country in 3-point percentage, hit 11 of 22 from behind the arc. Canisius shot 49.2 percent from the field and committed a season-low seven turnovers, but gave up 15 offensive rebounds.

Coles finished with 20 points and Logins finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Senior Elton Frazier had 12 while Goldsberry had nine assists and no turnovers. For the Broncs, Robinson finished with 19 and Mike Ringgold had 17.

The loss drops Canisius to 7-8 on the year and just 1-4 in the MAAC, while Rider improves to 4-1 in conference play (12-5 overall). Dating back to 2006, Canisius has dropped 24 straight Sunday games.

“We haven’t performed up to our own expectations, and here we are, we’re 1-4 in the league,” Parrotta said. “It’s our intention to keep getting better. We’re clearly not there yet, but I have faith in these guys.”