Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mid-Majors to Collide at the ARCC

Who plays?: Mt. St. Mary's (2-1) hosts longtime rival Niagara (3-2).

What's at stake?: As far as mid-major matchups go, you'll be hard pressed to find a better one anywhere in the country on Tuesday. These two teams are both title contenders in their respective conferences. The Purple Eagles are probably the best non-conference team to come to Knott Arena since Winthrop was here several years ago and might even actually be a little better than that particular Winthrop team.

When is tipoff?: Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, at 7:00.

Where is the game?: at the Mount's Knott Arena. Radio coverage available on the Mount Radio Network, 1450AM WTHU.

The Analysis: The Mount is coming off the win over Loyola and now plays a team it has never faced. Niagara won 26 games a year ago and just completed a three-game stopover at the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona, where they won two out of three. They lost to Austin Peay on Sunday, while their other loss came at the hands of Auburn. Four players average in double figures for the Eagles, who like to get out an run. This should provide for an entertaining evening at the ARCC.

Advantages for Mt. St. Mary's: The Mount enters with an 11-game home winning streak so playing at home should be a benefit for the Mount. Hopefully, the crowd can provide as much of a boost as it did over the weekend. The pace should be uptempo and that may play into the Mount's style offensively. Jeremy Goode and Jean Cajou are coming off of tremendous efforts against the Greyhounds. The Mount will need solid performances from its entire lineup. Recent strong performances from Tayvon Jackson, Danny Thompson and Pierre Brown provides confidence off the bench with Will Holland likely to be unavailable with a knee injury.

Advantages for Niagara: Not sure how three games in three days over the weekend will affect the Eagles. Certainly it could be a big boost as they played well in Florida earning victories over Howard and Central Florida. Niagara is a very experienced team returning four starters from a year ago. They nearly won at Auburn in the opener and beat Drexel at home. They are used to playing at a high level and will bring a stiff challenge for the Mounties. Bilal Benn leads the Purple Eagles in both scoring and rebounding and the Mount must try to do everything it can to keep him off of the boards.

What to expect?: Saturday's game at the Knott was one for those who enjoy defense. It was a good win for the Mount, but it was not the easiest on the eyes for a period of time. I expect Wednesday's night game to have about 20 more possessions - and a pace that will be easier for offensive purists to enjoy. Both teams are playing good basketball early in the season. I'm expecting a up and down affair that will likely see runs from both sides. Ultimately, I like the Mount to find a way to win it down the stretch and take an 80-76 victory.

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