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.

Immediate reactions: Monmouth eliminates Canisius, 60-54, in MAAC quarterfinals

Canisius 27 27 — 54
Monmouth 27 33 — 60

By Nick Veronica

What it means: Canisius’ overachieving season came to a frustrating end Saturday at the Times Union Center. The Griffs offense struggled to find its rhythm all afternoon before bowing out of the MAAC Tournament.

How it happened: Both Canisius and Monmouth are known more for defense than offense, and that certainly played out Saturday. The Hawks’ defense badgered Canisius from start to finish as the Griffs shot 38 percent from field and 30 percent from three-point range. The better team won.

Jeremiah Williams was Canisius’ lone offensive threat, scoring 18 points in his final collegiate game. Kassius Robertson scored 10 off the bench while Josiah Heath scored seven on 3 of 12 shooting. Monmouth’s First Team All-MAAC guard Justin Robinson scored 16 points but didn’t have an assist. Williams was the story in the first half, as he scored Canisius’ first nine points and 14 of the team’s 27 in the first 20 minutes.

Canisius was in the game until the final seconds and finished the year 16-14 overall. Monmouth advanced to face No. 1 Iona on Sunday.

2015_maac_tournament_bracket_can

Turning point: With 13 minutes to go, Monmouth went on a 13-0 run that spanned about five minutes and put the Hawks up 47-39. Canisius never regained the lead.

Valenti returns: Canisius forward Phil Valenti returned to action Saturday after dislocating his right ankle on Jan. 30. Valenti, sporting braces on both ankles, checked in with 15:55 left in the first half and finished with three points in limited action. He was cleared to play on Thursday and was obviously not 100 percent.

End of the line for seniors: 

… or is it?

Stat that was good: Josiah Heath had a career-high five assists.

Stat that was bad: Jamal Reynolds was credited with six turnovers.

Vegas line: The line was a pick last night and moved to Monmouth -1 today. The Hawks covered.

Next game: We’ll see what happens with the CIT. If not, Canisius’ next game will be an exhibition in October.

Check back later for an end-of-the-year column on Canisius’ encouraging season.

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.

Jim Baron: 2014-15 is a ‘rebuilding’ year

By Nick Veronica

CCLogobigIf there were any questions about Canisius’ outlook for the 2014-15 basketball season, Jim Baron cleared those up Thursday night during the MAAC’s preseason Coaches Show.

“It’s going to be a rebuilding type of year for us,” the third-year coach said.

(turn the volume on)

The Griffs lost five of their top six scorers from last season and four of their top five rebounders. They also graduated four starters, including the MAAC Player of the Year, Billy Baron.

The show was a two-hour roundtable discussion with all 11 MAAC head coaches, commissioner Rich Ensor, and ESPN commentators Doug Sherman and Rob Kennedy. (A full replay can be found here.)

Here are some highlights:

(After this, Jimmy Patsos and King Rice poked fun at Baron’s social media game. So Baron looks at Rice and says something like, “Yeah, I’ll take you to Brooklyn…” where he grew up to see how tough Rice is there. Everyone laughed.)

Immediate reactions: Canisius 87, Monmouth 67

By Nick Veronica

How it happened: Canisius was the better of the two teams in the first half but Monmouth kept it tight early on. Two three-pointers from Billy Baron in the final two minutes of the first half and a three at the buzzer from Zach Lewis gave Canisius (11-6, 5-1) its first real separation and a 10-point halftime lead. The Griffs offense stayed strong in the second half and extended the lead to as many as 26. Baron had 26 points, which improved his scoring average to 22.9 ppg, keeping him sixth nationally.

What it means: This was a winnable game and Canisius won it. The played with the lead most of the game and poured it on stronger in the second half to kept pace atop the MAAC. Zach Lewis, the first true freshman Jim Baron has played at Canisius, contributed in a big way…

Zach Attack: Zach Lewis is making the most of being in the starting lineup ahead of Dominique Raney. He played 46 minutes Friday in Canisius’ double-overtime win in his first career start and followed it up with a career-high 25 points Saturday (his previous high was 18). Lewis was 5 for 6 on three-pointers in the second half and added two assists and two steals. About the only negative of his game was talking smack to King Rice and the Monmouth bench after draining a three before halftime, which enraged the Hawks coach, though Rice said Lewis apologized later.

Rebounding? Boards were 36-32 Monmouth, which was right about average for both teams. Baron was the team’s leading rebounder with eight, which isn’t what you want. Jordan Heath had seven in 27 minutes and Chris Manhertz had four in 23 minutes, sitting for more than 7 1/2 minutes at one point with foul trouble.

Stats that were good: Canisius had 20 assists on 26 field goals … Canisius held Monmouth to 4 of 17 on three-pointers … After going 5 for 5 from the free-throw line, Baron has now made 95 of 103 free throws this year … Monmouth’s leading scorers Deon Jones and Nicholas Andrew were held to 15 points combined … Canisius stayed undefeated at home (6-0).

Stats that were bad: As a team, the Griffs were 21 of 30 from the free-throw line, including several misses early … Baron led the team in rebounding again … Manhattan and Iona all won to stay 5-1 in the MAAC.

Noteworthy: Jim Baron today passed Digger Phelps in career wins today with 420. Baron was an assistant under Digger at Notre Dame.

Next game: Canisius travels to Iona on Friday. The game is a 9 p.m. start and will be broadcast on ESPNU.