Friday, July 28, 2017

Baker Dunleavy opens up on transition to head coach and what to expect from Quinnipiac

Four months into head coaching career, Baker Dunleavy is excited by room for Quinnipiac program to grow even before his first official game. (Photo by Quinnipiac University Athletics)

When Quinnipiac hired Baker Dunleavy as its new head coach in March, one thing was certain, even if his NBA lineage had not yet translated to the collegiate game: The Bobcats were getting a proven winner.

Dunleavy attained success both as a player and assistant coach at Villanova, his work with the Wildcats punctuated by an unforgettable run to a national championship in 2016 before receiving the call to replace Tom Moore in Hamden.

Four months into his maiden voyage at the helm, the 34-year-old is serving as equal parts teacher and student as he begins the process of rebuilding Quinnipiac into the rising mid-major it had been in the early part of the decade, charged with the task of restoring the winning ways he became reputed for as a lieutenant to Jay Wright at a program that posted just 19 victories over the past two seasons.

"I think, all things considered, it's been really, really positive," Dunleavy said of his transition from the second chair on the bench into the proverbial catbird seat as he instills a new philosophy into the Quinnipiac brand, one he is optimistic about again carrying the tag of a winner sooner rather than later. "There's just so many aspects to running a program that you have to evaluate that it's almost to where your first time going through it can be really overwhelming. That's where I've been lucky to have a great staff, and we have a nice group of kids here, we really do. They've been fun to work with."

Dunleavy's first recruit came in the form of a fellow branch on the Wright coaching tree, albeit one more weathered than that of his own, when he hired Tom Pecora; formerly the head coach at Hofstra and Fordham and a longtime deputy to Wright on Long Island before assuming the reins of the Pride in 2001, to be his associate head coach. And as far as the group of players he can now call his own, senior forward Chaise Daniels leads a pack that is hungry to not only reclaim their standing among the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's elite, but also to prove they belong in the conversation.

"I would say the two main things I've seen from Chaise are, number one, there's a lot of talent there; and number two, he's been really responsive and receptive to coaching," said Dunleavy of his main post presence. "When you put those two things together, I've been very happy. He's a guy that's got a lot of gifts, and he's got one year left. We've talked a lot on and off the court about just making this the best senior year he could possibly have. That's going to be important between him and I."

Initially, Daniels had been rumored to transfer following Moore's departure, just as freshman guards Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss did before signing with St. John's and Rutgers, respectively. However, Daniels had a change of heart shortly after meeting with Dunleavy and his staff, and the decision to soldier on in his native Connecticut was ultimately not as agonizing as it had appeared on the surface.

"My initial action when I got here was to try and build a relationship with each of our players," Dunleavy reflected. "I'll be honest with you: With him, I think it was something where he wanted to stay from the very beginning. If we had had a disastrous meeting, maybe he would have changed his mind, but he's proud to be a part of Quinnipiac. This is where he wants to be, and it didn't take a ton of convincing. He felt, and I felt the best thing for him, was to finish his career strong here. We're excited about being partners on that journey for his last year."

Junior forward Abdulai Bundu and twins Aaron and Andrew Robinson join Daniels as incumbents from the Moore era, but the bulk of the Bobcats will be playing together for the first time. Graduate transfer Isaiah Washington is a guard that can play both spots in the backcourt, and 6-foot-7 Australian wing Jacob Rigoni gives Quinnipiac a Swiss Army knife of sorts, as does 6-foot-7 forward Nathan Davis, who continues to recover from a torn ACL. At the point guard spot, freshman Rich Kelly will be thrown into the fire early and often; but having experience in working with freshman floor generals the likes of Ryan Arcidiacono and Jalen Brunson during his time of Villanova, Dunleavy possesses the patient hand and steady mentorship needed to develop him into more than just a serviceable offensive facilitator.

"I think it helps in that it's something I've been through before, and my experience with those guys probably helps me help him," Dunleavy said of Kelly and being entrusted with a huge share of the responsibilities early in his career. "I'm going to have to really be patient, because no matter how well he plays, there's just going to be so much stuff that's new to him in terms of the type of guys we're going against, the type of coaching we're going against. Patience will be the key with him, and I'll certainly understand that given the experience I've had with Ryan and Jalen."

"A guy like Ryan Arch, who started every game of his career at Villanova -- his freshman year, we played at La Salle and he had ten turnovers in that game," Dunleavy recounted, citing Arcidiacono's trials and tribulations as a rookie. "He'd never had a game like that in his life, and having the patience and the belief in a guy that when he knows you believe in him, he'll be able to respond. Rich will have that this year."

It is easy to assume that, given his rich Villanova ties, that Dunleavy will turn Quinnipiac into a mid-major version of the Wildcats. But while the similarities outweigh the differences, the first-year coach is cognizant of the fact that there are certain things that will not fully translate from the Main Line to York Hill.

"It's important that I do a good job in terms of understanding what we can translate here and what we can't, and what we need to work in over time," he admitted. "In terms of style of play, I'm most comfortable with a spread style the same way we did at Villanova. Can we run the exact same plays? Can we do the exact same thing? No. We don't have the same personnel, but how we recruit and how we see the game in general will very much line up. I think that will be one of my biggest jobs, not just to blindly say 'this is what Villanova did, this is what we have to do.' That's a meshing that I have to work at there."

"I know what we'll emphasize," a confident Dunleavy proclaimed. "How quickly it will take form to where it's visible, I can't say that. But I hope it's a team that people view as one that plays hard and is very connected. That's not easy to do offensively right away in terms of the execution and playing together, but on both ends; regardless of the result, a connected group. That's what we're hoping to have here by the end of the year."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

NEC women's basketball tempo-free review

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

The three days in March cliche holds up well for the Northeast Conference. The 10-member conference sends its top eight to the league’s postseason tournament. A team’s first priority is to get in the playoffs, then hope to get hot. The NEC is your traditional one-bid conference, so that first week in March looms crucial.

This past season, regular season champion Robert Morris held serve. The Colonials stayed at home through the postseason get-together, winding up with the conference regular season and tournament titles.

Records and Efficiency Margins (all figures courtesy of Basketball State)
1) Robert Morris (+8, 14-4)
2) Saint Francis U (+3, 13-5)
3) Sacred Heart (-1, 12-6)
4) Bryant (-1, 12-8)
5) Mount St. Mary’s (-8, 10-8)
6) Central Connecticut (-8, 9-9)
7) FDU (-10, 6-12)
8) St. Francis Brooklyn (-11, 6-12)
9) LIU Brooklyn (-19, 5-13)
10) Wagner (-21, 3-15)

Offensive Efficiency Leaders
1) Saint Francis U (92)
2) Robert Morris (90)
3) Sacred Heart (88)
T-4) Central Connecticut (85)
T-4) Bryant (85)

Defensive Efficiency Leaders
1) Robert Morris (82)
2) Bryant (86)
T-3) Saint Francis U (89)
T-3) Sacred Heart (89)
5) FDU (91)

Northeast Conference Championship: Robert Morris 65, Bryant 52
In a 70-possession paced final, the Colonials imposed their defensive will, limiting Bryant to a 71 offensive efficiency. The visiting Bulldogs showed a 17 percent TO rate and did have a 28-19 percent advantage in offensive rebounding rate, but coach Charlie Buscaglia’s group locked down defensively, limiting Bryant to a 33 percent effective field goal mark. On the offensive end, the Colonials recorded a high turnover rate at 22 percent. Shooting can atone for sins, and that was the case as Robert Morris was hot, shooting a 52 percent effective field goal percentage. A 7-of-15 mark from three-point range highlighted the effort. Leading the way for the Colonials was Anna Niki Stamolamprou. The senior guard scored a game-high 23 points while adding nine rebounds and five assists to an outstanding all-around effort.

Offensive Efficiency Comparison: Overall vs. Conference
1) Saint Francis U (92 overall, 93 in NEC)
2) Robert Morris (90, 93)
3) Sacred Heart (88, 93)
4) Central Connecticut (85, 89)
5) Bryant (85, 85)
6) Mount St. Mary’s (83, 89)
7) St. Francis Brooklyn (82, 86)
8) FDU (82, 84)
9) LIU Brooklyn (77, 80)
10) Wagner (76, 83)
With NEC schools often playing teams from higher-profile conferences before league play starts, it might be advantageous to measure the overall offensive efficiency against the efficiency in conference games. There was some disparity, but interestingly, not as great as anticipated.

Leading Scorers and Usage/Player Efficiency
1) Jessica Kovatch, Saint Francis U (21.2 PPG, 31.7 percent of team possessions, 15.4 player efficiency)
2) Anna Niki Stamolamprou, Robert Morris (16.6, 27.4, 14.2)
3) Shanovia Dove, LIU Brooklyn (16.5, 33.3, 12.0)
4) Alex Klein, Bryant (15.5, 27.3, 14.8)
5) Hannah Kimmel, Sacred Heart (15.3, 28.9, 14.2)
6) Kate Reese, Saint Francis U (13.5, 24.0, 9.6)
7) Kerstie Phills, Wagner (13.1, 27.0, 12.1)
8) Katherine Haines, Sacred Heart (12.9, 23.7, 16.4)
9) A’lexus Harrison, Saint Francis U (12.8, 23.6, 20.5)
10) Olivia Levey, St. Francis Brooklyn (11.9, 30.6, 9.9)
A’lexus Harrison of St. Francis proved to be a stat stuffer with the best efficiency despite finishing ninth in scoring. The senior forward grabbed 245 rebounds while coming up with 99 steals. She did commit 73 turnovers, with that number being offset by 68 assists and 28 blocked shots.

Tempo Leaders
1) Saint Francis U (82 possessions per game)
2) Central Connecticut (72)
T-3) Bryant (71)
T-3) FDU (71)
T-3) Mount St. Mary’s (71)
T-6) Sacred Heart (70)
T-6) St. Francis Brooklyn (70)
T-8) LIU Brooklyn (69)
T-8) Wagner (69)
10) Robert Morris (68)
The conference was decidedly uptempo. Saint Francis U thrived in their fast pace, posting the NEC’s best offensive efficiency. Even at the opposite end of the spectrum, the 68-possession pace of Robert Morris is far from a walk up the floor.

Turnover Rate Leaders
1) Sacred Heart (18 percent)
T-2) Saint Francis U (19)
T-2) Central Connecticut (19)
4) Robert Morris (20)
5) Mount St. Mary’s (21)
Here lies a big reason behind the offensive efficiencies in the NEC. Only three teams turned it over less than once per five possessions. Even champion Robert Morris could not get under 20 percent.

FDU finished 6-12 in conference before being eliminated in the tournament opener by Robert Morris. The Knights lost nine of their conference games by 10 points or less, two of those setbacks coming in overtime. FDU’s struggles were largely on the offensive end, as their 81 efficiency ranked third-lowest in the NEC. A 22 percent turnover rate was compounded by not much help from the field, as the Knights shot a 40 percent effective field goal percentage. Coach Peter Cinella’s group did lead the conference with a 36 percent offensive rebounding rate, though. Cynics could quickly point out the Knights had enough opportunities given their shooting from the field. Overall, credit must be given as rebounding on the offensive end takes a share of physicality and tenacity.

NEC Trends
A fast pace: Seven of the ten teams at 70 possessions or better.
Turnover-prone: The top three in the standings had turnover rates over 20 percent.

Double-digit efficiency: As noted, turnovers contributed significantly. Another factor was the plain and simple art of field goal shooting. Not one team hit 50 percent in effective field goal percentage. The defenses in the conference deserve credit. In a conference as the NEC with members facing each other twice, adjustments are made and have an effect the second time around.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Stevie Jordan embracing challenge of being team leader for Rider

After sensational rookie season, Stevie Jordan now becomes face of Rider program as sophomore, and is ready to take on increased role in Broncs offense that goes along with it. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

Going into last season, Rider had senior leadership in the form of guard Jimmie Taylor leading the backcourt, while the trio of Kahlil Thomas, Xavier Lundy and graduate transfer Norville Carey led the charge down low. Yet for head coach Kevin Baggett, the question remained at the point guard position, where the departure of Teddy Okereafor left a gaping hole in the Broncs' offense.

Enter Stevie Jordan.

The native of the Philadelphia suburbs had a freshman season to remember, ranking among the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference leaders in assists per game and impacting Rider's performance enough to where the Broncs earned a first-round bye into the conference tournament for the third time in five seasons. In fact, Jordan likely would have been the MAAC Rookie of the Year if not for a four-game midseason suspension spurred on by a violation of team rules. Regardless, the positive vibes surrounding his first season in Lawrenceville have carried on, and he enters his sophomore campaign eager to do more for a Rider team that is much younger than last year's and in somewhat of a transition.

"I think that Stevie understands, after now having played a year in the MAAC, the maturity has to come more for him," head coach Kevin Baggett said with regard to the evolution of his burgeoning floor general into an unquestioned team leader and alpha dog. "I thought there were some times where he let his emotions get the better of him some games. All of that is a matter of growing up and understanding that you can't let those things bother you. He's got to stay true to what we're trying to get done and focus. He's part of the extension of the head coach, and I need him to be the calm guy out there getting our guys in positions, in the right places, and trying to execute what we need to do."

Jordan's contributions right out of the gate have certainly positioned him for long-term success, as his 11.7 points per game ranked third in team scoring while his 5.6 assists per game led the MAAC. By comparison, Monmouth's Justin Robinson; who also started at point guard as a freshman before blossoming into the Hawks' on-court leader and two-time MAAC Player of the Year, averaged just over seven points per game in his rookie season before nearly doubling that as a sophomore, his 13.4 points and 3.6 assists per game being good enough for first team all-conference honors as Monmouth jumped from ninth to fifth in the regular season standings. Jordan's coach believes his young charge is on the precipice of replicating such a jump, admitting that even though he is still; in essence, learning on the job, his experience from going through the wars of the conference season in a starting role as a freshman will be more of a boon to his progression than a bane.

"We've had a lot of conversations," said Baggett. "He's watched a lot of film and I think he's excited about the opportunity. But he still has to continue to get better, and that comes with experience. I think he'll be a year better, a year more experienced. I think he'll understand what we're trying to get done, and obviously I think we have more pieces around him again to be able to help him."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Marist releases non-conference schedule

Entering his fourth year at Marist, Mike Maker begins life without Khallid Hart as Red Foxes take on non-conference schedule headlined by Advocare Invitational. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

Mike Maker has spent his first three seasons at Marist trying to rebuild the Red Foxes into a competitive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference program, and now begins his fourth campaign at the helm still in search of making significant headway into the benchmark set by teams the likes of Iona and Monmouth.

Monday afternoon, the first vestiges of life after point guard Khallid Hart's departure came to light in the form of Marist's non-conference schedule, which sees four games contested on the Red Foxes' home floor at McCann Arena.

The season commences in Poughkeepsie on November 11, when Patriot League program Lehigh, best known for its upset of Duke in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, visits the Hudson Valley for the first meeting between the two schools since 2010. A trip to Massachusetts to face UMass Lowell is next on the ledger, on November 15, before Army West Point makes the short trek to McCann on the 18th of November.

Marist's three-game stint in the Advocare Invitational begins on November 23, includes a game the day after, and concludes on Sunday, November 26. The bracket for the Orlando tournament will be unveiled at a later date, but it is possible the Red Foxes could face high-major opponents such as West Virginia and/or St. John's while in the Sunshine State. From there, a trip to The Citadel awaits on December 1 as part of a two-day tournament. Following the battle with The Citadel, the Red Foxes will face either UMBC or a rematch with Army West Point.

Two home games greet Marist on shortly before final exams, first against Colgate on December 6 before Stetson comes to New York three days later. The Red Foxes' final two non-league contests come away from home, with a journey to Murray State on tap December 16 and a short ride to Providence to face Brown on December 22.

Marist's MAAC schedule will be released at a later date.

2017-18 Marist Non-Conference Schedule (all times TBD)
Saturday, November 11: vs. Lehigh

Wednesday, November 15: at UMass Lowell

Saturday, November 18: vs. Army West Point

Thursday, November 23: Advocare Invitational (Orlando)

Friday, November 24: Advocare Invitational (Orlando)

Sunday, November 26: Advocare Invitational (Orlando)

Friday, December 1: at The Citadel

Saturday, December 2: vs. UMBC or Army West Point (at The Citadel)

Wednesday, December 6: vs. Colgate

Saturday, December 9: vs. Stetson

Saturday, December 16: at Murray State

Friday, December 22: at Brown

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Justin Burrell reflects on TBT run, life after St. John's

Still a beloved four-year player during his St. John's tenure, Justin Burrell is back in New York this weekend with Overseas Elite for their title defense in The Basketball Tournament. (Photo by Rumble in the Garden)

BROOKLYN -- Two-time reigning champions of The Basketball Tournament, Overseas Elite has gained popularity in the New York metropolitan area due to the presence of D.J. Kennedy and Paris Horne; both of whom were part of a seven-man freshman class that gradually rescued St. John's University from the abyss and led the Red Storm to the NCAA Tournament as seniors, on its roster.

Back in the Big Apple this weekend on the road to what the team hopes will be a third consecutive crown and a $2 million payday, Kennedy and Horne are still two of the integral pieces to the Overseas Elite puzzle, but there is another familiar face alongside them this time around, that of their former college teammate, Justin Burrell. And although he has come off the bench through the first three games of the tournament, the Bronx native has contributed to the ever-present team chemistry on and off the court, making his transition to an already established squad a seamless one.

"It's pretty important, a lot of people don't know," Burrell said of the team dynamic surrounding Overseas Elite, who faces VCU alumni team Ram Nation at 6 p.m. Sunday night for a berth in the semifinals. "I've known (former Pitt and San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan) Blair since high school. We actually went and represented the U.S. in France while we were in high school, and we played with a couple of other guys in the tournament as well."

Then, of course, there is his familiarity with longtime running mates Kennedy and Horne, the latter of whom played alongside Burrell at Bridgton Academy before signing with Norm Roberts and the Red Storm in 2007 and is the godfather of Burrell's 4-year-old daughter, Aria.

"We have a really tight-knit group here that's known each other for years now," Burrell remarked, adding that Kyle Fogg, who was instrumental in Overseas Elite repeating as TBT champions last year, had worked out at St. John's for a time after graduating from Arizona.

The combination of camaraderie and fan support has been a potent mix once again for Overseas Elite, who attracted scores of St. John's fans to LIU Brooklyn's Wellness Center Friday for their round of 16 matchup, and should once again on Sunday against a fellow crowd favorite in Ram Nation, whose VCU fan base is notorious for traveling well and making itself vocal. For Burrell, and his Red Storm brethren, the adulation adds a personal touch that is often taken for granted once players enter the professional ranks.

"It's really important," he humbly stated. "When we're playing professionally, a lot of guys don't have the ability to have their family and friends make every game overseas. To have this caliber tournament right here in our home state and home city, there's no better feeling."

A former Big East All-Rookie selection and Sixth Man of the Year at St. John's before graduating in 2011, Burrell has spent the past six seasons plying his wares in Japan, where he has already racked up Most Valuable Player honors and recently signed a new three-year contract. But while his legacy continues to be enhanced on both coasts, the 6-foot-8 forward and his professional teammates have remained grounded enough to not get caught up in the moment, a mindset he credits to former St. John's head coach Steve Lavin.

"Lav had a saying, 'inch by inch, life's a cinch, hammer to rock every day,'" Burrell recalled, citing the rally cry that the Red Storm used to fuel a season filled with victories over the likes of Duke, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Villanova. "We take that and we use that in our professional careers as far as staying close to each other, working hard and having the opportunities that we have, whether they're in basketball or just in life."

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ram Nation returns to TBT quarterfinals with commanding win

Jamie Skeen's dominance led to a 42-18 demolition in paint as Ram Nation advanced to South Region championship of The Basketball Tournament. (Photo by The Basketball Tournament)

BROOKLYN -- VCU has built a devoted following in the years following their Cinderella run to the Final Four in 2011, particularly in New York, where the Rams have made regular visits on an annual basis since joining the Atlantic 10 Conference.

With a quasi-home crowd accompanying Ram Nation, the VCU alumni entry into The Basketball Tournament, the prevailing opinion was that not only would there be a largely black and gold-clad crowd, but also that the team fighting for a $2 million winner-take-all purse would feed off the fan advantage.

As it turned out, logic; coupled with athleticism and VCU's trademark fast-paced transition style, prevailed as Ram Nation, the No. 2 seed in the South Region, scored a 79-64 victory over NC Prodigal Sons to advance to the regional final Sunday afternoon.

"It was just the energy, the communication," said head coach Joey Rodriguez; the point guard who led VCU on their storybook national semifinal run six years ago and made then-head coach Shaka Smart a household name, on the biggest key to victory in a matchup where Ram Nation commanded the interior to the tune of a 42-18 margin on points in the paint. "We talked about it at halftime. We gave up too many threes, and these guys are vets, they're pros. I knew they were competitive, and once I told them to hit their threes, they really picked it up and started communicating."

Ram Nation's ball sharing helped offset a first half where the 14th-seeded Prodigal Sons put a scare into the crowd favorites through an 8-of-16 display from three-point range in the opening stanza, as the VCU alumni connected for 23 assists on 31 made field goals. Eric Maynor, whose famous dagger propelled the Rams to victory over Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, led the way with eight helpers to complement three double-figure scorers, paced in that category by Reggie Williams' 14 points.

Jamie Skeen, a central figure on the 2011 team, established a dominant tone down low early and often, scoring seven of Ram Nation's first nine points and finishing with 13 overall while playing alongside NBA journeyman Larry Sanders. Jamal Shuler added 10 points off the bench as Ram Nation seized control of a tight game with a 15-2 run late in the second half that whipped the fans into a frenzy of "V-C-U" chants throughout the game's final minutes.

Now three wins away from the ultimate prize, Ram Nation is back in action Sunday, where they will face either two-time reigning TBT champions Overseas Elite; who eliminated them in last year's quarterfinals, or the Tampa Bulls, a team of alumni from the University of South Florida. Regardless of whom they face, one thing is certain, that being the advantage of fan support in their favor.

"Our VCU fans travel everywhere, especially here," said Rodriguez, who competed in the NIT Preseason Tip-Off against Tennessee and UCLA as a senior in November of 2010. "When we came to play in the NIT, it was a big deal. We had a huge following, and even after that with the new guys that are here, every A-10 tournament in Brooklyn, we always have a good crowd. It's fun to play in front of them."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Baggett and Rider hopeful to take next step in MAAC this season

Kevin Baggett has guided Rider to tangible success in his first five years with Broncs, and is hopeful that his program can emerge from wide-open MAAC race to forge a run deep into March. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

For all the success Kevin Baggett has had in five years as head coach at Rider, he recognizes the biggest criticism he has received in his tenure at the reins of the Broncs.

Despite 85 wins and a pair of postseason appearances, definitely nothing to sneeze at for a program whose last NCAA Tournament berth came in 1994, he has yet to take Rider past the quarterfinals of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. With that said, though, the prevailing feeling in Lawrenceville is one of hope and tempered confidence as the Broncs replace four seniors from last season's 18-win unit.

"They know it's not really about winning games anymore," Baggett stated with regard to the higher expectations for Rider, who has traditionally remained in the top half of the conference more often than not since he replaced Tommy Dempsey in 2012. "It's about winning the league, it's about trying to win that MAAC tournament."

"Really, the biggest knock on me at this point is being able to get past the quarterfinal game," he admitted. "They know how adamant I am about taking the next step in this program, taking the next step in the tournament, and I think our guys are really focused this summer on getting better, and especially buying in and being a team. We've got a lot of new moving parts who I'm excited about. The league is interesting."

The Rider team that takes the floor this season, beginning November 10 against Hampton, will have a much different look than the group that fans had come to know over recent years. Gone are all-MAAC talents Jimmie Taylor and Kahlil Thomas, as well as swingman Xavier Lundy and big man Norville Carey, all of whom graduated. With sophomore point guard Stevie Jordan now entrenched as the leader in the backcourt, his fellow classmate Tyere Marshall will take on a bigger role in the lineup as he looks to build on the encouraging end to his rookie season that has his head coach optimistic about what lies ahead.

"He's one of those young men I'm really excited about," Baggett said of Marshall, gushing over the potential of the Philadelphia native. "He's growing, he's working hard in the weight room, having confidence in the way he finished down the stretch. Obviously, he's got some time to fill Kahlil's shoes, but he's excited about it and we're excited about him taking the next step and being a guy that's going to have to play more minutes down in the paint and working on his perimeter game too, not just being a one-dimensional player."

"The one thing I'm really excited about is he's growing up, he's embracing the fact that he knows that Kahlil is gone and Norville's gone," he elaborated. "Those are a lot of points, a lot of rebounds that he's going to have to make up. He's willing to take up the challenge and I'm excited for him. He's got a huge upside, and I just think the sky's the limit for him. He's got a great way about him, on and off the court."

Jordan and Marshall headline a Rider team that gets frontcourt reinforcement from Devine Eke and Frederick Scott, who sat out last season after transferring from Maine and DePaul, respectively. In the backcourt, Kealen Washington-Ives and Anthony Durham return for their junior seasons while Jordan Allen, a partial qualifier last season, makes his long-awaited arrival to a guard stable that will need to replace one of the program's best shooters in Taylor.

"Jordan Allen is a young man that can really shoot it," said Baggett of the 6-foot-3 native of Delaware. "Frederick Scott can play the two, three, or four; and maybe at times when we go small, might even end up at the five a little bit. Devine Eke averaged ten points and five rebounds at Maine, and he's done a good job this past year getting himself better, developing his perimeter game."

The pieces are certainly in place for Rider to make an impact, and with the offensive firepower displayed at the end of last season, the Broncs finally have a complement to a defense that has consistently been among the MAAC's strongest when looked at from a points-per-possession perspective. The key, however, is consistency, and such a concern has been imperative for Baggett to address this offseason.

"I'm just looking for our guys to just get better every day, come together as a team, play as one," he said. "This roster is set for some years here. We don't have a senior on our roster. I need some guys to step up and be leaders, being that we lost a lot of leadership. I'm just looking for a complete team to where night in and night out, different guys are going to be guys who contribute and not be one or two individuals. I want to go back to playing a number of guys, at least nine or ten guys a game, getting up and down, pressing. At the end of the day, I'm still trying to figure out the league, but we've just got to worry about ourselves. Good things happen when you do those things and you play as a team."

Fairfield releases non-conference schedule

Sydney Johnson and Fairfield seek third straight postseason appearance this season, which begins with home game against Penn. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

In search of a third consecutive trip to the postseason, which would be the fifth under head coach Sydney Johnson as he begins his seventh season at the helm of Fairfield University, the Stags took the first step toward their long-term goal Wednesday afternoon with the release of their non-conference schedule.

"This could be one of the most difficult non-conference schedules that Fairfield has faced in some time," Johnson said in a statement Wednesday. "With five 20-win teams on the schedule, our team will be challenged every time they take the court."

Beginning first with a trip to Italy this August and continuing with an exhibition tilt against the University of Bridgeport on November 3, the Stags will officially tip off the 2017-18 season with a pair of home games, welcoming the University of Pennsylvania to Webster Bank Arena on November 11 before hosting former Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival Loyola (Md.); now a member of the Patriot League, on November 14.

Fairfield's marquee non-league matchup awaits four days later, when Purdue will entertain the Stags on November 18 at Mackey Arena. The Boilermakers must replace All-American forward Caleb Swanigan, but are nonetheless one of the more formidable foes on the ledger for a Stags team that boasts the likely MAAC Preseason Player of the Year in senior guard Tyler Nelson. Following the Thanksgiving holiday, Fairfield concludes the month of November by taking part in a multi-team tournament at Wright State University. The Stags will face three teams at the Nutter Center in Dayton, beginning with Jacksonville on November 24 before meeting Gardner-Webb the next day and concluding the event against the host Raiders on November 26.

The month of December begins with a trek to Staten Island for Fairfield, who will face Wagner on the road for a second straight season on December 1. The Seahawks are one of two Northeast Conference opponents for the Stags this season. The third of four straight road games takes place on December 6, when Fairfield squares off with Houston, and the journey away from home concludes on December 10 against LIU Brooklyn.

After a brief hiatus for final exams, the Stags contest both of their final tuneups before MAAC play at home, welcoming Old Dominion to their on-campus court at Alumni Hall on December 17, with New Hampshire making their way to Webster Bank Arena on December 22. Fairfield's MAAC schedule will be released at a later date.

2017-18 Fairfield Non-Conference Schedule (all times TBD)
Friday, November 3: vs. Bridgeport (exhibition)

Saturday, November 11: vs. Penn

Tuesday, November 14: vs. Loyola (Md.)

Saturday, November 18: at Purdue

Friday, November 24: vs. Jacksonville (Wright State University)

Saturday, November 25: vs. Gardner-Webb (Wright State University)

Sunday, November 26: at Wright State

Friday, December 1: at Wagner

Wednesday, December 6: at Houston

Sunday, December 10: at LIU Brooklyn

Sunday, December 17: vs. Old Dominion (George Bisacca Court at Alumni Hall)

Friday, December 22: vs. New Hampshire

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Trip to Paradise Jam highlights Dunleavy's first non-conference schedule at Quinnipiac

Baker Dunleavy's first season at Quinnipiac features mounds of opportunities for Bobcats' new head coach to build competitive team heading into MAAC play. (Photo by Quinnipiac University Athletics)

With a new coach comes new challenges, and Quinnipiac's non-conference schedule provided a glimpse of the first hurdles the Bobcats will attempt to overcome this season under Baker Dunleavy, who replaced Tom Moore this past March.

Quinnipiac released the first half of its 2017-18 slate Wednesday morning, and it begins on Saturday, November 11, when Dunleavy and the Bobcats play host to Dartmouth College in a 2 p.m. tipoff. The meeting with the Big Green is the first between the two schools since the 2010-11 season, when the Bobcats went into New Hampshire and left with a 69-52 victory. Two days later, another Ivy League school makes its way to the TD Bank Sports Center, as Brown visits Hamden for a 7 p.m. soiree on November 13.

Quinnipiac's return to the Paradise Jam, an event in which they last participated during the 2012-13 season, commences on November 17 as the Bobcats will face Colorado in the opening round of the Virgin Islands tournament. From there, a meeting with either Drake or Wake Forest, contingent on the result of the Colorado game, awaits the following day, with a final game in the tournament taking place November 20 against either Drexel, Houston, Liberty, or Mercer. The Bobcats conclude the month of November with their final two home games before Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play begins, hosting Maine on November 26 before Massachusetts comes to the Nutmeg State for a 7 p.m. tip on November 29.

The Bobcats open December with a trip to Pennsylvania, where Lafayette will welcome them to the Kirby Sports Center on December 2. Two days later, the road trip ensues with a journey to Levien Gymnasium for a December 4 battle against Columbia, with a third game in six days emanating from the University of Hartford on December 7. Following a break for final exams, Quinnipiac visits Drexel for a potential second meeting with the Dragons on December 18, with the final non-league contest of the season tipping off on December 21 in Burlington against reigning America East Conference champion Vermont.

Quinnipiac's Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference schedule will be released at a later date.

2017-18 Quinnipiac Non-Conference Schedule
Saturday, November 11: vs. Dartmouth, 2 p.m.

Monday, November 13: vs. Brown, 7 p.m.

Friday, November 17: vs. Colorado, 6:30 p.m. (Paradise Jam)

Saturday, November 18: vs. Drake or Wake Forest, TBD (Paradise Jam)

Monday, November 20: vs. Drexel, Houston, Liberty, or Mercer, TBD (Paradise Jam)

Sunday, November 26: vs. Maine, 2 p.m.

Wednesday, November 29: vs. Massachusetts, 7 p.m.

Saturday, December 2: at Lafayette, 2 p.m.

Monday, December 4: at Columbia, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, December 7: at Hartford, 7 p.m.

Monday, December 18: at Drexel, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, December 21: at Vermont, 7 p.m.

Liberty's newfound offensive synergy carries them to victory over Connecticut

Bria Hartley sets up offensive attack during Liberty's win over Connecticut Wednesday morning. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

NEW YORK -- Shooting cures a multiple of ailments.

When the stroke is clean and the ball finds the bottom of the net, good things happen. Screens are set with more precision. The offense flows, and as a bonus, there is a bounce in the step on the defensive end.
The New York Liberty saw that happen as they dismantled Washington on Sunday. Wednesday morning, there was a carryover. The Liberty ran and hid from the first-place Connecticut Sun, a team that defeated them on the same Madison Square Garden floor a few weeks earlier. The 96-80 triumph put the Liberty at 10-9, while the Sun fell to 12-9. Of greater significance, it was a second straight victory and scintillating offensive performance for New York.

“This is a structure that is good for us,” head coach Bill Laimbeer said following the game. “We are pushing the pace, getting easy baskets; and as a team, we are enjoying this. We just want to keep it going.”
The Liberty shot an effective field goal percentage of 55, including 9-of-21 on three-pointers. Tina Charles led the way with 28 points and 17 rebounds, both game highs. Shavonte Zellous added 16 points and Bria Hartley 10 markers. Epiphanny Prince tallied nine points while Sugar Rodgers and Kiah Stokes added eight apiece in relief, just the offensive recipe Laimbeer had been searching for. Charles is New York's marquee player, and from day one, the Liberty mentor impressed on getting her consistent help. Today, it was present.

All the offensive talk these past few days has not come in the way of job one, which is defense. At halftime, the Liberty held a four-point lead.

“We challenged them to come out and respond,” Laimbeer said. “They did in a big way.”

New York outscored the Sun by 16 in the third quarter, virtually sealing the verdict. Jonquel Jones led the Sun with 14 points. Alyssa Thomas, effective in Connecticut’s win here in late June, was held to a quiet 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting.

“We missed 44 shots,” Sun coach Kurt Miller  said. “In the WNBA, you will have games like this. I think the big difference was offensive rebounding. They did a job on us in that area.”

Connecticut is a good rebounding club. On this day, the Liberty owned a 44-16 percent edge in offensive rebounding rate, translating into a 24-13 edge in second chance points.

“We know Connecticut rebounds, so it was a priority for us to limit them, especially on the offensive boards,” Charles said. “Each game, we have goals, that was our main one today. Everyone did a great job hitting the boards and getting to those loose balls.”

Charles feels these last two games have altered the Liberty mindset.

“Everyone is playing their game,” she said. “As a team, we are playing to our strengths.”

The all-star break is now upon the Liberty, with the first game off the break being a Tuesday night date at Minnesota.

“The break is a good time step away to get mentally refreshed for a few days and remember our good habits for when we come back," Charles said. “And we come back facing a big challenge. I know we all look forward to it.”

Good shooting, and rebounding, can do that.