Dishin’ on the Mid-Majors’ tournaments: the MAAC and the Patriot League
There are too many mid-major and smaller conferences to preview all of them, but we will try to Dish on some of the more interesting ones, highlighting players, teams and matchups you could see and might want to focus on. The first two, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and the Patriot League tip-off action today, March 7.
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
Site: MassMutual Center, Springfield, MA
Top Seeds: (1) Marist, (2) Iona
Ho hum, another year, another undefeated conference record for the Red Foxes. Brian Giorgis’ Marist teams have dominated the conference and become a strong enough mid-major that they are getting NCAA tournament respect in their seeding.
Unlike recent years where Marist had a dominant individual talent, this year’s squad did not have one player make first team all-conference. However they did have two second team (Casey Dulin and Elizabeth Beynnon) and two third-team (Emma O’Connor and Leanne Ockenden) selections. They are the only school with four players honored and with consideration to advance to the Big Dance.
Iona has been one of the big surprises of the year, going from a 13-18 record last season (8-10 in conference) to 18-11 this year (13-5 in conference) to earn the number two seed. Iona is led by conference player of the year finalist Damika Martinez, who led the conference in scoring. Only a sophomore, she averaged 17.6 points per game. It may not be their year, but there is no denying the Gaels are on the rise.
Another player to watch is Siena’s Lily Grenci. A dominating presence in the MAAC, The Siena senior finished the season second in scoring and third in rebounding and is a two-time All-Conference first team selection and player of the year candidate.
Site: Home court of the highest seed
Top Seeds: (1) Army, (2) Navy
Now this is cool! The Patriot League may be a small conference on the women’s basketball landscape, but anytime the top two seeds are the military academies, and there is a potential Army-Navy game with a tournament berth on the line, at West Point, awesome!
Both Army and Navy finished the conference schedule 11-3, both went 6-1 at home, both went 5-2 away. However Army swept the season series, and earned the top seed in the conference tournament.
Army dominated the conference awards this season, with freshman Kelsey Minato winning the rare double of player of the pear and rookie of the year for the first time in the history of the Patriot League. Teammate Anna Simmers was chosen defensive player of the year, and coach Dave Magarity, who was an assistant when Maggie Dixon led the Knights to their last conference title in 2005-06, was chosen coach of the year.
Navy is gunning for their third straight conference title, and has to first overcome the mental hurdle of knowing they had the top seed and home court locked up until they were upset by Bucknell to end the season. The Midshipmen are led by junior forward Jade Geif, who also was chosen first team all-conference, and guard Alix Membrano, a second team choice.