Siena at Niagara (Metro Atlantic)
Gallagher Center - Niagara University, NY
9:00 PM EST
Playing most of its weekend games on Fridays instead of Saturdays has been a shrewd move for the MAAC -- there are more TV windows (ESPNUUUuuuuu!), and they get the good Big East refs who want to make a few extra bucks. And since there aren't any real blockbuster mid-matchups tomorrow anyway, this game is a sure bet for our weekend-edition G!O!T!N!. You might remember these two from their thrill-a-minute conference championship game
just 10 months ago.
The coaches say it, the objective observers say it, and The State Of The Other 22 index says it -- here we have the best two teams in the conference, the Saints (8-6, 3-1 MAAC, SoMM No. 11) and the homestanding Purple Eagles (10-3, 4-0, SoMM No. 2). Siena is in a bit of a downswing though -- after impressing early with the best blend of athleticism and smarts we've seen at this level so far this season, the injury bug hit. Or bit, or however you want to use that ridiculous phrase. Alex Franklin
, a 6-5 sophomore who leads the team in rebounding (7.7 rpg) and is second in scoring at 15.4 ppg, hasn't played since a Dec. 22 win over Holy Cross (also a G!O!T!N!) because of a bulging disc in his back. He nearly singlehandedly lifted the Saints to the Dance last March (27 pts, 11 reb in that aforementioned title game), and as the owner of a full one-quarter of the team's boards this year, they need him badly. The team is 2-3 without him, although he should be back in the lineup tonight.
But this is a nice opportunity for Niagara to make another big statement on who the best team in the conference is, and on semi-national television, no less (ESPNUUUuuuuu!). And although we don't like talking polls, we find it cute that the Purps had as many votes as both 2007 national finalists Florida and Ohio State this week (one). Though Joe Mihalich only uses eight guys, everybody knows exactly what they have to do to keep winning. The job of Charron Fisher
, for example, is to score a poop-load of points. He's the leading scorer in all the land (27.4 ppg), and he hasn't dipped below 22. On the whole, this is the fastest and best-rebounding (37 rpg) team in the MAAC... if Franklin isn't 100 percent tonight, Niagara might outglass Siena by at least 15.Basketball State Preview/Box