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Metro Atlantic First Round Preview

March 5, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Metro Atlantic First Round Preview

Preview by Jesse Ullmann

Pepsi Center, Albany, NY- The 2004 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will feature key match-ups including a potential showdown between Manhattan’s Luis Flores and St. Peter’s Keydren Clark, the nations leading scorer, in the semifinals. The Jaspers, as expected, are the top seed followed by a very physical Niagara. Fairfield finished with a record of 10-2 in their last 12 games and grabbed the Three seed, while St. Peter’s fell to Four.

Only the second conference team to beat Manhattan, Rider heads into the Pepsi Center as the Five seed.

No. Six Siena, in their last game of the season, had a big win over Fairfield and leveled their record at 9-9 (12-15), passing Seven seed Iona. The Canisius Griffs, at the Eight spot, lost their last game of the year to Niagara by a very narrow margin and they may have a chance for redemption in the second round. Marist and Loyola, both finishing with lengthy losing streaks, are seeds Nine and Ten.

(5) Rider Broncs v. (10) Loyola Greyhounds
Rider (10-8, 16-13) is led by First Team All-MAAC member, junior Jerry Johnson (Lancaster, PA). The guard is averaging 18.1 ppg and 3.5 rebound per game. Broncs Junior Steve Castleberry (Mullica Hill, NJ) has 34 blocked shots on the season and is a threat in the paint, dropping in 11.1 ppg. Rider defeated Loyola in both meetings this season by an average of 9.5 points.

Loyola finished the season 1-17 (1-26 overall), including home-and-home losses to the Broncs. The Greyhounds currently have an eight-game losing streak and are led by sophomore guard Charlie Bell (Washington, D.C.), the lone player averaging double figures with 14.9 points per game. Loyola Guard Shane James (Toronto), named to the MAAC All-Rookie Team, scored 16 points versus Rider back on February 8 in a loss.

(7) Iona Gaels v. (8) Canisius Griffs
Currently on a three-game win streak, the Iona Gaels (8-10, 10-17) are looking for their third victory this season over the Griffs, defeating Canisius by an average of seven points per both contests. While adversity struck Iona this season with two players leaving because of academic problems, head coach Jeff Ruland received some gratification when freshman Anthony Bruin (Albany, NY) finished last week as MAAC Rookie of the Week. In addition, senior center Greg Jenkins (Mt. Vernon, NY) averaged 12.1 ppg and 7.4 rpg, earning a spot on the All-MAAC Second Team. Sophomore guard Steve Burtt (NY, NY), whose father currently holds the Iona all-time leading scoring record, is a Third Team All-MAAC selection.

Canisius has dropped the last seven meetings versus Iona, including a 74-67 defeat in the 2001 MAAC Tournament. The Griffs have a well-balanced arsenal with Second Team All-MAAC selection, sophomore guard Kevin Downey (Livonia, NY) leading the way with 12.9 ppg. Canisius senior forward Toby Foster (Candor, NY) is third in team scoring with 10.5ppg and leads the Griffs in rebounding with 6.2 rpg. Freshman forward Darnell Wilson (Wayne, Mich.) recently earned a spot in the starting lineup as well as on the MAAC All-Rookie Team.

(6) Siena Saints v. (9) Marist Red Foxes
The Siena Saints (9-9, 12-5) were the MAAC tournament champions in 2002 and will look to get back to true form. Siena will be playing at home in Albany in front of a hometown crowd. Averaging the largest attendance numbers in the conference, the Saints will clearly have an advantage with fan support.

The two teams split games this year with Marist (4-14, 6-21) taking the first game 67-65, largely in part due to five Red Foxes scoring nine or more points. Siena Second-Team All-MAAC selection, sophomore forward Michael Haddix (Vineland, NJ) was held to four points along with four fouls.

When Marist traveled to Albany for the second meeting over 7,000 fans packed Pepsi Arena to cheer on their Saints, prompting a 71-65 victory. Marist All-Rookie Team selection Jared Jordan (Hartford, CT) scored 14 points. However, Jordan was showed up by the Saints quiet assassin coming off the bench, freshman guard Mike Beers (Broadalbin, NY) who made of five of 10 from the floor and finished with 15 points.

Every sign points in the direction of a Saints win here but Marist is versatile and the Red Foxes head coach Dave Magarity has a tendency of pulling the surprise upset.

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