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The Morning Dish – Saturday, January 20, 2018

January 20, 2018 The Morning Dish No Comments

We get constant reminders that winning is hard. Sure, some programs in college basketball – and even some pro franchises – make it look easy since they seemingly win game after game. You look at programs that rack up 25-30 wins a year and think it must come easily to them. Deep down, you know that’s not the case, but it’s easy to miss it.

With programs in the MAAC, that reality is easy to see. While Friday night was a very light night of college basketball action, the MAAC stood out for what it showed us about winning.

The two games on the evening went to the conference co-leaders, both of whom are playing on the road. Iona, basically the signature program in the conference, edged Monmouth 76-73, beating a team that appeared on the verge of becoming a new arch-rival. Canisius then went to Draddy Gymnasium and knocked off Manhattan 68-59. Iona and Canisius are 6-1 in MAAC play, while Monmouth is 1-5 and Manhattan is 4-3, having had a chance to even up the Golden Griffins in second place.

The two teams that came out on the short end of those games were MAAC powerhouses not long ago. Manhattan won two straight conference tournaments in 2014 and 2015, beating Iona both times, and the year before that they lost a tough one to the Gaels in the championship game. Monmouth is just two years removed from a season where they were controversial NCAA Tournament snub, going 17-3 in the MAAC and winning 28 games, a season that followed a 13-7 run through the MAAC and which they followed up with an 18-2 showing and 27 wins, though they lost in the semifinals the MAAC Tournament.

It was easy to think that both programs would be powerhouses for a while. Manhattan has a lot of recruiting advantages given its proximity to New York City, and although there was a major issue that arose, they retained a hot coach as Steve Masiello remains at the helm rather than at a high-major program. Monmouth still has King Rice running the show, though he became a hot name as well. Iona was going to have two solid thorns in their side, it would appear (and it is worth noting that Masiello once said that as he was rebuilding Manhattan, he tried to model a good deal based on Iona).

Instead, the two have fallen on harder times. After winning two straight titles, Manhattan won just 14 MAAC games the next two seasons, and as noted, Monmouth is struggling this year.

Both programs still have talent, and both have good coaches. Neither coach suddenly lost the ability to coach. But players come and go in college, with no more than four years, and because we’re dealing with human beings, nothing is a given. Coaches do the best they can to find kids they think they can win with, both from a basketball and non-basketball standpoint, but that is only part of the story.

All across the mid-major landscape are stories like Manhattan and Monmouth. Plenty of programs have had a nice run for a couple of years before coming back to earth. Few programs at this level are built to contend every year; the ones that do that are the exceptions that prove the rule. The others remind us of a basic fact of sports: winning is hard. Harder than those who are not competing think it is.

 

Side Dishes

We now know that TCU will be without point guard Jalen Fisher for the remainder of the season, as he had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on Thursday. This means Alex Robinson has to do what he did on Wednesday night – not with exactly those numbers, but with the same quality of play. Fisher has suffered injuries to both knees over the last five months.

Another team hit by a knee injury to a player is Creighton, as forward Martin Krampelj suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and will miss the remainder of the season. The sophomore, who was one of the most improved player in the Big East, started all 19 games up to this point and averages 11.9 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, so this is not a small loss. He was injured on Wednesday night in their blowout of Seton Hall.

Saint Louis suspended three players and expelled another after a Title IX investigation into alleged sexual assault finished up. The names of the suspended players have not been made public, but there is reason to believe they are redshirt sophomore guard Jermaine Bishop, sophomore guard Ty Graves and redshirt junior guard Adonys Henriquez, as they have been held out of every game this season. An attorney representing them said they have been suspended 18-24 months, but may also appeal the decision within three business days or go with another legal option. The attorney representing them released a scathing statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which suggests the three may be more likely to transfer than appeal.

In other game action on the night, the Big Ten had two non-competitive games as Michigan State blew out Indiana 85-57 and Wisconsin took care of Illinois 75-50. Davidson kept pace with Atlantic 10 leader Rhode Island by beating St. Bonaventure 83-73, improving to 5-1, while Buffalo moved to 6-0 in MAC play with an 84-74 win at Western Michigan and Brown edged Yale 81-80, putting both programs at 1-1 in early Ivy League play with next weekend marking the start of the Friday-Saturday slate.

 

Tonight’s Menu

We’ve got quite a day of action in store from start to finish.

  • ACC action starts with two teams needing a win as Florida State visits Virginia Tech (noon), then North Carolina hosts Georgia Tech (2 p.m.), Clemson hosts Notre Dame (4 p.m.)
  • The Atlantic 10 has conference leader Rhode Island making a trip that’s been tough for them in recent years as they go to Dayton (1 p.m.)
  • The Big 12 slate starts with Texas visiting West Virginia, Texas Tech going to Iowa State and a big rivalry game with Oklahoma traveling to Oklahoma State (2 p.m.), then Kansas State hosts TCU (4 p.m.) and Kansas hosts Baylor (6 p.m.)
  • Big East games on the day begin with Xavier visiting Seton Hall (2:30 p.m.), then Creighton visits Providence (3 p.m.)
  • In Big Ten action, Purdue and Ohio State try to stay on a roll, with the Boilermakers visiting Iowa and the Buckeyes taking on Minnesota at Madison Square Garden (noon). The latter is part of a basketball-hockey doubleheader the Big Ten is putting on at MSG.
  • Conference USA has a clash of contenders on tap as Middle Tennessee travels to Western Kentucky (7 p.m.)
  • The Missouri Valley has an important game on tap between a pair of 5-2 teams as Missouri State visits Drake (4 p.m.)
  • There’s an early showdown in the Mountain West as Boise State heads to Reno to take on Nevada (10 p.m.)
  • The Northeast Conference also has an early showdown as 6-1 Robert Morris visits 5-2 Wagner (4 p.m.)
  • In the Ohio Valley Conference, Belmont has their second straight game against a fellow contender as they host Austin Peay (6 p.m.)
  • The Pac-12 has an unexpected first place showdown game on tap as Arizona visits Stanford (4 p.m.), while USC tries to sweep the Oregon road trip as they visit Oregon State (8 p.m.) and UCLA tries to salvage the trip as they go to Oregon (10:15 p.m.) and Arizona State tries to stop the bleeding at Cal (10:30 p.m.)
  • In SEC play, Arkansas tries to get back on track as they host Ole Miss (3 p.m.), then Texas A&M tries to build off their first conference win as they host Missouri (4 p.m.), Georgia visits Auburn and South Carolina tries to build off their win over Kentucky as they host Tennessee (6 p.m.) Later, Kentucky hosts Florida (8:15 p.m.) and Alabama hosts Mississippi State (8:30 p.m.)
  • The Sun Belt has an underrated rivalry matchup between contenders on tap as Georgia Southern heads north to Georgia State (2:15 p.m.), then a showdown as 6-0 Louisiana visits 6-1 Texas State (5:30 p.m.)
  • Gonzaga tries to bounce back from their loss to Saint Mary’s as they visit Santa Clara (8 p.m.), while Saint Mary’s tries to stay on a roll at Pacific (10 p.m.)
  • There is also a notable non-conference game with old Big East rivals meeting early on as Villanova visits UConn (noon)

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