Mar 7, 2013, 9:00 AM EDT
The MAAC is wild, been that way all season. Ten teams from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference will finish the final act to an unpredictable conference schedule at the birthplace of basketball in Springfield, Mass.
Five teams are separated by only two games. Niagara enters Thursday with a No. 1 followed by Rider, Loyola (Md.), Iona, and Canisius — each team has a realistic chance to go dancing on Monday night. Each team has at least five conference losses, which shows how balanced the conference is.
Last season, the top-seeded Iona was dropped in the semifinals by Fairfield, before Loyola (Md.) snatched the automatic bid.
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Where: MassMutual Center (Springfield, Mass.)
When: March 8-11
Final: March 11, 9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
The Purple Eagles begin the conference tournament as the top team, but in the MAAC the top team and the fifth place team are much different. Niagara limped through the last part of the season, going 4-4 over the last five games (2-2 with leading scorer Antoine Mason out).
And if they lose?: Rider. The Broncs has won five straight and seven of eight after dropping three consecutive. Rider ended the season on the road, beating both Niagara and Canisius in a span of three days. The Broncs are playing its best basketball at the right time of the season. Rider has also beaten Niagara twice, even when the Purple Eagles were with and without leading scorer Antoine Mason.
Sleepers: Iona could also go as far as Lamont Jones takes the Gaels. Jones has only gone under 20 once in the last dozen games. He’s also played well against some of the MAAC’s. Canisius is also in the mix aftering spliting with Loyola (Md.) and Rider, while only falling to Niagara by one. Canisius is a solid team, more than able to make a three-day run in Springfield. Loyola (Md.) is back strong after earning the MAAC’s automatic bid last season.
– Lamont Jones, Iona: The senior guard is the leading scorer in the MAAC with 23.2 per game. Jones has gone for over 30 points three times in his last seven games, most recently a 35 point (22 second half) outburst in a win against Loyola (Md.).
– Antoine Mason, Niagara: Mason is the leader scorer. The 6-foot-3 scorer is getting back into game mode after
– O.D. Anosike, Siena: The senior forward is a double-double machine this season with 16 on the season. The 6-foot-8 Anosike is averaging 12.9 points and 11.4 boards per contest.
– Billy Baron, Canisius: The classic ACC to A10 to MAAC transfer has been very productive in his first season for the Golden Griffins averaging 16.6 points and a conference-high 5.1 assists per game. Baron and his father, first-year head coach Jim Baron are a big reason why Canisius has improved by 13 wins this season
Others: Rhamel Brow, Manhattan; Erik Etherly, Loyola (Md.); Juan’ya Green, Niagara
CBT Prediction: Iona over third-seeded Loyola (Md.). Last season the Gaels won the regular season title, only to see the Greyhounds dance to the tourney.
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