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Full Court Press: Gettin’ Down to Business

Marquis Wright - Siena

Marquis Wright – Siena


A number of schools tripped and stumbled in the non-conference portion of their seasons while others have soared – some early and some that appear to be riding into conference play on the uptick (like Temple and UConn).

It’s time to get down to serious business as conference play begins in earnest this week.

If you haven’t noticed, the Temple Owls (6-5) and UConn Huskies (9-3) showed that they are poised to make some noise in the AAC with well-deserved road wins last evening.

Fran Dunphy’s Owls hit the road for their AAC opener against Cincinnati and came home with a very satisfying 77-70 win. The Owls showed some clutch shooting from long range as they shot 50% from the field to surprise the No. 23 Bearcats (10-4).

Kevin Ollie’s Huskies traveled to Austin to face Shaka Smart’s Texas Longhorns and parlayed Rodney Purvis’s 18 points into a 71-66 non-conference win.

After stumbling earlier to close out signature wins against ranked opponents, the Huskies have now picked up a pair of quality wins against Ohio State and Texas. Those two wins could come in handy if UConn is looking for an NCAA at-large bid.

Ollie will need to be creative with his rotation until 7-footer Amida Brimah recovers from a broken finger which could keep him on the sidelines for six to eight weeks.


Who will survive the MAAC?


The surprise of the non-conference season has been the play of King Rice’s Monmouth Hawks. The Hawks (9-4, 1-1 MAAC) have shown that they can play against the majors, but recent losses to Canisius and Army raise questions.

Siena (8-5, 1-1 MAAC) just wrapped up its best non-conference record in recent memory, but Jimmy Patsos’ squad has been dealt  a huge blow as star point guard Marquis Wright will be lost for at least six weeks with a stress fracture.

Two teams that had mediocre non-conference records are off to fast starts in the MAAC.

Iona (5-6, 2-0 MAAC) is once again at the top of the standings, as well as Saint Peter’s (4-7, 2-0 MAAC).

The Gaels tuned up for conference play with 77-70 win over Drexel on December 28 behind senior Isaiah Williams 19 points.

The MAAC has a full slate of games on tap this weekend with Iona versus Quinnipiac a good one to watch on Saturday, January 2 at 2 p.m.


Around the region


  • The Ivy League, after a holiday respite, has a full slate of non-league games this week. The Ivy title chase could be the most competitive in recent memory with Yale, Princeton, Columbia and Harvard leading the pack. Cornell at 6-6 is a pleasant surprise. And remember, the Ivies are the only conference that plays back-to-back games! Gotta love the Ivies – rigorous academics and athletics!!!!
  • The Big East is having another fabulous early season start with No. 6 Xavier sporting a 12-0 record. Not far behind are No. 13 Providence (12-1), No.10 Butler (11-1), Marquette (10-2), Seton Hall (10-2) and No. 16 Villanova (10-2). This evening, Seton Hall and Marquette will do battle at 7 p.m. on FS1. Tomorrow, December 31, Providence opens play against Butler and Villanova will take on Xavier. Villanova is faced with having to play without 6-foot 11-inch Daniel Ochefu.
  • After a fast start, the Hofstra Pride (8-4) will kick off conference play at home against Delaware (5-6). Coach Joe Mihalich’s Pride our riding a two game win streak with recent wins over Florida Atlantic and Sacred Heart. James Madison (10-3) is the prohibitive favorite to win the regular season crown.


Did you know?


Niagara and St. Bonaventure go at it this evening for the 156th time in a Little Three matchup (the other school is Canisius). This is one of Western New York’s most treasured basketball rivalries. Bob Lanier, Calvin Murphy, Tom O’Connor, Tom Stith, Sam Stith, Larry Wiese and Bob MacKinnon are a few of the names that have played and coached in these games.


Happy New Year…Keep shooting….


Follow Bob on Twitter for all the latest in college hoop happenings, game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob

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Bob Whitney

Bob is a college basketball columnist here at He also covers Yale football and the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA.
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