Fairfield’s Sydney Johnson on “The Derek Needham Effect”

While the Fairfield Stags have one of the youngest rosters in the MAAC, head coach Sydney Johnson can’t help but realize the regression from last season’s senior-laden group to this season’s group of young players.

The third-year head coach said that on some level they haven’t been able to replace their face of the program from last season, Derek Needham, who led the program and scored a total of 1,875 points in his career. Continue reading “Fairfield’s Sydney Johnson on “The Derek Needham Effect””

Three Thoughts: Siena 64, Fairfield 56

This is the first time I’ve seen the Siena Saints live and in person under head coach Jimmy Patsos. While getting a look at the Saints, I also got another look at the Fairfield Stags during Siena’s 64-56 victory at Webster Bank Arena on Sunday. Instead of John’s five thoughts, I’m going with three lasting thoughts from Sunday’s game. Continue reading “Three Thoughts: Siena 64, Fairfield 56”

Top NYC Players: 15-11

This post is a continuation of the Top 25 NYC Players series. Read up on 21-25 and 16-20 first.

15. Rakim Sanders, Fairfield — Sanders played the first three seasons of his career at Boston College, so when he got the chance to play with the Stags in the MAAC this season it was a sight. The 6’5″ swingman averaged 16.6 points and 8.2 rebounds per game. He could’ve done even better, but he shot just 64% from the free throw line. Sanders played especially well against Iona, dropping 24, 22 and 26 points in three matches against the Gaels, two of which Fairfield won. The Stags lost in the semifinals of the CIT, but Sydney Johnson’s first season there was a success partially because of the consistent offensive support that Sanders was able to provide. It’s worth noting that Sanders had just one terrible game all season, a two-point effort on January 6, 2012 in a 73-60 loss to Siena.

14. Chris Gaston, Fordham — A double-double machine, you could make an argument that Gaston should be higher on this list. What holds him back in my mind is his lack of efficiency on offense. Yes, he scored 17.1 points per game, but he needed 15.2 shots per game to do it. Gaston though was trying to carry a pretty bad Rams offense through much of the season. Being the main focal point of every Atlantic 10 team’s defensive game plan certainly took its toll. Still, he had 16 double-doubles during the season, including 35 points and 16 rebounds in a 67-62 win late in the season over La Salle. The junior forward also had 18 points and 10 boards in Fordham’s win over then #21 Harvard and 23 and 17 in the Rams’ win over Georgia Tech.

13. D’Angelo Harrison, St. John’s — Mike Dunlap seemed to be playing against loaded dice at times this season. The Red Storm’s cast of freshmen were certainly talented, but playing in the Big East with all those new players is never easy. One of the things that made it easier was the play of Harrison. A member of the All-Big East Rookie Team Harrison scored 16.8 points per game for St. John’s while shooting 36% from three and 80% from the free throw line. That’s impressive because the 6’3″ freshman shooting guard from Missouri City, Texas averaged 35.4 minutes per game. Harrison scored 20 plus points 12 times this season, including 25 points on 12 shots in a late December game against Providence. He also scored 21 at Duke, 23 versus Syracuse and 22 in a win over UCLA. Another player later on this list isn’t returning next season, but Harrison gives the Red Storm an excellent building block for the future.

12. Herb Pope, Seton Hall — Banging in the Big East isn’t easy, but Pope still managed to average a double-double this season for the Pirates with 15.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Like Gaston, Pope struggled a bit in his offensive efficiency, but he was even stronger on the boards. Pope did manage to shoot 47% from the field overall and he improved his free throw shooting to 62% during his senior season. For his efforts Pope was named the All-Big East Third Team. SHU will certainly miss his strength around the basket.

11. Shane Gibson, Sacred Heart — Every night the scouting report had in bold at the top “Stop Shane Gibson” as the No. 1 priority in the NEC. No one really managed to do it as the redshirt junior scored 22 points per game with the sick shooting line of 51%/43%/86% (FG%/3PT%/FT%). Those are the numbers of an elite scorer and that’s exactly what Gibson was in 2011-12. The Pioneers’ go-to guy he used 29% of his team’s possessions while on the court and still managed a 112.7 offensive rating. Gibson was named to the NEC First Team thanks to his efforts. Even the presence of Gibson though wasn’t enough to pull out a number of close games for the Pioneers this season. Sacred Heart was 4-8 in games decided by three points or less or in overtime. Then again, if not for Gibson the Pioneers probably wouldn’t have even been in such a spot. He scored 30 or more points four times this season, including a 41-point outburst in a one-point double-overtime loss to Mount St. Mary’s. Gibson was a special player that made every opponent nervous when he had the ball. He’ll be back with a vengeance in 2012-13.

Tomorrow kicks off the Top 10, which includes a number of Ivy Leaguers and a potential NBA Draft pick.

Manhattan’s season ends at MAAC rival Fairfield

Manhattan got the opportunity to play postseason basketball this season in the CIT. The Jaspers though had to go on the road for at least the first two rounds. After winning in Albany they were given a third shot at conference foe Fairfield. The Stags must have known what was coming, because they defeated the Jaspers 69-57 on Sunday afternoon at Alumni Hall.

Continue reading “Manhattan’s season ends at MAAC rival Fairfield”

Final Regular Season NYC Power Poll

The regular season is almost over and its time for another power poll! It seems that people are still deciding between Iona and Seton Hall. The Pirates got a convincing victory over Georgetown this week, but the Gaels are also super popular due to their domination of the MAAC. Now if either team could just play with a little bit of consistency. Also, there’s a three-way tie for seventh. Figure that out.

Continue reading “Final Regular Season NYC Power Poll”

Tempo-free MAAC: The more things change…

At the beginning of the season there was a four-horse race at the top of the MAAC standings according to most pundits. Well here we are with just a few weeks left in the regular season and we’re right back where we started. The MAAC is a four-horse race. All you have to do resolve things is change the name Rider with Manhattan and you’ve got pretty much what everyone expected. There’s a talented Iona team leading the pack and four teams in the Top 125 on KenPom that can beat each other on any given night.

That’s right, we’re officially welcoming Fairfield back into the fold after the Stags went to Baltimore and did what Iona couldn’t in a convincing 68-51 win in 62 possessions. That’s a dominating performance and it all comes down to match ups. That’s why even though the Gaels look like a heavy favorite right now and are still the top team in the conference according to efficiency margin, they’re certainly beatable.

Tempo-free Standings:

1. Iona (12-3) — +0.204
2. Manhattan (11-4) — +0.132
3. Fairfield (10-4) — +0.100
4. Loyola (MD) (12-3) — +0.095
5. Rider (8-7) — +0.024
6. Niagara (6-9) — -0.047
7. Siena (6-9) — -0.056
8. Marist (4-10) — -0.116
9. St. Peter’s (4-11) — -0.163
10. Canisius (1-14) — -0.180

I’d like to note here that Iona’s efficiency margin in conference is pretty darn impressive. The Gaels though have been inconsistent and its cost them a couple wins and made things interesting at the top of the standings. Scott Machado triple-doubles are going to help this team make it through, but I think it’s telling that he grabbed 11 rebounds. Iona needs him to do it. Still, Fairfield won the league last season at a +0.13, that’s like Manhattan this season. The Gaels are on another level.


Best Offense: Iona at 1.18 points per possession
Best Defense: Manhattan (just barely) at 0.921 points allowed per possession (Fairfield is #2 at 0.922)
Worst Offense: St. Peter’s at 0.89 points per possession
Worst Defense: Canisius at 1.11 points allowed per possession
Luckiest: St. Peter’s at 2.1 wins above expected
Unluckiest:  Iona at 1.5 wins below expected

Your highest variance contender (out of the top four) is Manhattan. The highest variance teams overall are Rider and Marist. The lowest variance team overall is still Loyola (MD) and then Fairfield and Canisius.

Iona’s bad habits resurface in loss to Loyola (MD)

The Loyola (MD) Greyhounds now control their own destiny in the MAAC. All of Iona’s bad habits came back on Friday night on ESPNU and the Gaels find themselves looking for answers once again after last night’s 87-81 defeat.

The problem was the defense. There’s an established baseline of how bad Iona’s defense can be and still win games against good competition, this game exceeded that threshold. The Gaels have lost four of five games this season when they’ve allowed their opponent to score more than 1.13 points per possession. The one win was against Canisius. The four losses were to Purdue, Loyola (MD), Manhattan and Marshall – four of the best teams on Iona’s schedule.

It’s a pity that the defense hasn’t shown up in these big spots, because the Gaels have played alright offensively in each of those games. But even with all the talent Iona has on the offensive side of the ball, it’s not really prepared for a shootout. At the end of a shootout you have to get one or two key stops that help you get back into the game and win it. Iona can’t make those plays.

Like many of Iona’s losses this season the Gaels were forced to play from behind. Loyola (MD) led by 17 at halftime and by 25 with 13:42 remaining in the second half before the comeback started. It’s nearly impossible to come back from that type of deficit. While Iona did manage to make it a four-point game with 26 seconds remaining, that’s just too late.

According to the Win Probability graph on Ken Pomeroy’s site ($) Loyola had around a 60% chance of winning this game from about 12:39 remaining in the first half on and a greater than 75% chance of winning at every moment after the under four minute media timeout. By the time Iona started its comeback the Greyhounds had something like a 98% chance of winning the game. Nobody likes playing with 2% odds (especially when you started with around 50/50).

The more I think about it and the more I look at the stats Iona reminds me of fast-paced Northwestern. Both teams have elite offenses and suspect defenses. When they go up against good competition the cracks in the defense begin to show and the team struggles a bit. The fortunate thing for Iona is that the Gaels play in the MAAC. All that winning the regular season title will do for Jimmy Patsos is give his team a No. 1 seed in Springfield. From there it’s a race to the tournament title.

So that’s not worth too much. There’s four good teams in the MAAC, so unless someone gets upset you’re not avoiding them anyways in the semifinals. Fairfield, the current fourth place team, is a much harder matchup for Loyola than either Manhattan or Iona. Sydney Johnson’s team has the big men that can bang and run with Shane Walker (22 points, 10 boards) and the guards to track down Dylon Cormier (22 points) on defense. Fairfield and Manhattan are the two MAAC teams committed the most to playing defense. In a short tournament over a few days in Massachusetts that might be enough.

If that’s the case, Iona will just be left to wonder, “What if?”

Off the cuff MAAC schedule analysis

I’d prefer to do a little more in depth investigation of each of these schedules, but the four MAAC contenders definitely have different levels of difficulty to climb over the final few weeks of the season. It obviously starts tonight with Iona at Loyola (MD). The Gaels are a slight favorite, somewhere between two points (KenPom, Sagarin) and just over a half point (Accuscore), and I can’t believe Vegas has it all the way up around 2.5 points.

After this game in Baltimore the schedule really breaks nicely for Iona. Here’s what the Gaels have remaining:

  • Marist (H)
  • Rider (A)
  • Fairfield (H)
  • St. Peter’s (H)

That’s a pretty easy schedule. There’s three home games and a tricky road game against a good Rider team. The Stags have been rolling lately, but it might come to and end here down the stretch. That’s because they probably have the hardest remaining schedule of any MAAC contender and it starts on Sunday against Loyola (MD). Here it is:

  • Loyola (MD) (A)
  • St. Peter’s (H)
  • Iona (A)
  • Rider (A)

There’s three tough games in there and they’re all on the road. Sydney Johnson’s club has a great chance to prove that the recent four-game winning streak is no fluke by going into some tough environments and getting the wins that would put them right back at or near the top of the conference standings.

For completeness here are the two middle schedules. First Manhattan:

  • St. Peter’s (A)
  • Siena (A)
  • Canisius (H)
  • Loyola (MD) (H)

The Jaspers have just one game against a MAAC contender remaining, but the rest of these aren’t givens either considering two are on the road. Manhattan will have to bring its offense to Jersey City and Albany in order to remain in the top four in the standings.

And here’s Loyola (MD)’s post tonight’s big game against Iona:

  • Fairfield (H)
  • Marist (A)
  • Rider (A)
  • Manhattan (A)

The toughest part about this schedule is that the Greyhounds have to go on the road for their three final games. That’s going to make things a bit more difficult, but only one is against a top contender – though another is against the very variable Broncs squad. In fact, with games against three of the four contenders remaining – and all of them at home – Rider is one of the most interesting teams to watch down the stretch. Tommy Dempsey’s team is just 8-6 in conference play right now, but after Saturday’s game at Niagara they will be the team outside of these four that has the biggest impact on the final MAAC results.

Then it’s off to Springfield and MAACachusetts.