MAAC Tournament fast break

This weekend at the TU Center, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference -- that's Siena's conference -- is holding its tournament to decide who's headed to the NCAA basketball tournament. This is a huge event for mid-major teams like Siena because a spot in "The Dance" would be a career highlight for pretty much everyone involved with the team -- not to mention the publicity it earns for the school.

But, what? You haven't been following the MAAC regular season? Worry not. We'll get you in the game. So when you're co-worker says something like "How about Edwin Ubiles last night!" (that's Edwin to the right), you'll be able to grab the ball and take the conversation the other way. We got the scoop from our good friend Robert Lee, voice of the Siena Saints...

On who's the team to beat

Siena. The Saints won the regular season title, got the number one seed in the tournament and they're playing on their home court.

On what Siena needs to do to win it all

Consistency at both ends of the floor. The Saints are clearly the most talented team in the conference. And they've often been brilliant on offense. But they're at their best when they can at least slow the other team down on defense.

The team that could surprise people this weekend and win (instead of Siena)...

Six teams finished within two games of first place in the final regular-season standings, so it's hard to call any of those teams a true "darkhorse." Nonetheless, #4-seed Loyola and #6-seed Marist could be teams that can make it to the final and possibly win it.

Loyola features a first-team all-MAAC player in Gerald Brown and exuberant coach Jimmy Patsos, whose sideline antics are worth the price of admission. Also, Loyola is the only team in the league that has consistently given Siena problems over the last couple years, as the Greyhounds have won four in a row against the Saints.

Marist is a balanced team that is bolstered by the return of former Syracuse player Louie McCroskey, who missed much of the MAAC season with a foot injury. And the Red Foxes are coached by Siena alum Matt Brady.

The MAAC's best player is...

Most would agree that it's Rider senior Jason Thompson. He's 6-10 and can shoot from the three-point line. People are saying he could go as a late first-round draft pick in this June's NBA draft. In his last 4 games against Siena, Thompson has averaged over 25 points, 18 rebounds and 3 blocks per game. Those are video game numbers.

Speaking of which, the MAAC does feature the nation's leading scorer, Niagara's Charron Fisher (27.8 ppg), but then again when you average 22 shots per game and just over 1 assist per game, you're bound to put some points on the board.

Siena's best player is...

Edwin Ubiles, a 6-6 sophomore guard/forward who made first team all-conference. He's been consistently spectacular this season, scoring in double figures in every game but one. The pull-up jumper is Edwin's signature move.

How good could Edwin Ubiles be?

Coach Fran McCaffery, who coached 3 NBA first-round first-round draft picks at Notre Dame, thinks Ubiles can play in the NBA. Ubiles really improved his jump shot this year, raising his 3-point shooting percentage from 27 percent last year to 46 percent this year. If he keeps getting better, he has a real shot to be Siena's first-ever NBA player.

On what it means for these teams, players, schools to make it to the NCAA tournament

It means everything. There are no "at-large" bids and there is no such thing as being "on the bubble." It's win your conference tournament or bust. Getting to the NCAA Tournament and losing by 40 points to a #1 seed in the first round means as much to these players as a "big" school getting to the Sweet 16 or further. Siena has not reached the tournament since 2002. If you need evidence of what it means to the players and schools, stop by the locker room of any of the nine teams that don't win the conference tournament. There will be some crying after Monday night's championship game.

Don't miss...
The mascot game. Yep, the mascots of all the teams play basketball at halftime of the 7:30 p.m. game on Saturday. It's wildly entertaining. The Marist Red Fox always takes up a lot of space in the paint, the Siena St. Bernard tends to be a bit inconsistent from year to year and the MVP without fail every season is the Fairfield Stag, who, in a word, dominates.

(Thanks, Robert!)

photo of Edwin Ubiles: Siena / CSTV

The Scoop

For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

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