Stretch run of games will be important for Griffs

With nine games to go, every game is critical for men’s basketball in a tight league.

The Griffs huddle during a first half stoppage in their 73-63 win over Siena Jan. 17. Photo courtesy of Marshal Filipowicz via GoGriffs.com.

If there’s one thing that the MAAC has proven this year, it’s that the 11 teams in the league and anybody can beat anybody on any given night.

Through 11 games in the 20-game league schedule, Canisius currently sits ninth in the league, at 4-7. That puts them in a tie with Marist, who they have the tiebreaker over due to a win at the Koessler Athletic Center last Sunday, and four-time defending champion Iona, who is 3-7, just a half game back. Iona has not been their usual selves this season, with that record and have done it without longtime head coach Tim Cluess, who has not been with the team all year due to an ongoing health issue and it’s unclear when – or even if – he’ll return this season.

The Griffs have nine games to go before the MAAC Tournament gets started on March 10, and every game will be more crucial than the last when it comes to seeding and who they will play in the first round.

“They’re all important. We got to learn from these games, we got to learn from every day of preparation,” Canisius head coach Reggie Witherspoon said last week.

For seeding, right now, Canisius would be slated ninth, and the team in eighth is Niagara, which if that ends up coming true, the teams would face off on March 10 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., which would be the second meeting between the two squads in a span of five days, as the final regular season game for both is against each other at the Koessler Athletic Center on March 6. However, first to last in the league is separated by just 3.5 games, so the seedings will fluctuate a lot between now and then.

Before that though, Canisius will be seeing Rider on the road on Friday night, before facing Niagara on the road in a rare midweek game on February 12. Between that and the end of the season, they will see Monmouth, Iona and league leading St. Peter’s at home, as well as road games against Quinnipiac, Manhattan and Marist before the Niagara game to end the regular season.

The Bobcats of Quinnipiac are a team at the opposite end of the spectrum, sitting third with a record of 6-4. The only two ahead of them are St. Peter’s and Monmouth, who both are at 7-4, with St. Peter’s having the tiebreaker due to a win over Monmouth on January 29. Quinnipiac recently went 1-1 on the Western New York road trip, beating the Griffs 90-73 last Friday before losing to Niagara on Sunday 75-59.

In the league this season, the home team has won 70.7% of games, fourth among the 32 conferences around the country, so road wins have been hard to come by.

Quinnipiac head coach Baker Dunleavy said of that, “It’s crucial. As important as it is to protect your home court, it’s like ‘hey, every once in a while, can you steal a win on the road?’ It’s really hard to do in our league, teams are really well coached, some veteran guys, they don’t lose at home.”

Witherspoon summed up the last month of the season, “The one thing you can see in a league like this is, you got to learn and try to get better every day and hope to be at your best when the tournament starts.”

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