With the beginning of March comes the start of the college basketball postseason, the conference tournaments.
The conference tournament is where a team's season can survive; The conference tournament is where a team's season can die. Each game from here on out could be a senior's last. With that being said, the fervor in the Pepsi Center in March is always intense.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference has had some pretty wild games this season—see Rider's last second wins against Siena and Niagara, a pair of buzzer-beater finishes between St. Peter's and Manhattan, a 12-point Marist lead go down the drain in the final two minutes to keep Siena undefeated, and many more.
You can definitely expect some more thrilling finishes during the MAAC tournament.
7 Iona vs. 10 Marist
The loss to Siena began Marist's downward spiral. Heading into the conference tournament, the Red Foxes have lost 10 of their last 11 MAAC games. However, Marist kept Iona close in both meetings this season—the Red Foxes won once in the final seconds and lost by one in overtime.
Iona is tough when they unite—they nearly beat Siena on the road and took down Niagara up north—but united is not the way that this team played down the stretch.
Expect senior Ryan Schneider to lead the charge as Marist walks away with an upset win in the opening round.
8 Loyola vs. 9 Canisius
The Golden Griffins played their best basketball down the stretch. They beat Bowling Green, who has a chance of winning the Mid-American Conference, routed Marist, and almost defeated Siena yesterday.
Loyola has only won one of it's previous eight games.
The two teams split the season series—Loyola won by 24 and Canisius won by two—but this game will go to the hotter team.
Canisius moves on to play Siena.
4 Manhattan vs. 5 Fairfield
Manhattan was on a roll, winning five of six, before it ran into this hungry Fairfield team. The Stags, who were playing without four starters, upset the Jaspers by one point in Connecticut.
Anthony Johnson and Warren Edney are injured for the season and Jon Han was dismissed from the team, but rumor has it that Greg Nero might be available for the tournament.
Whether or not Nero plays, you can expect the Jaspers to come out of the gates fired up after losing two heartbreakers to finish their regular season.
The Jaspers will move on to the semis, a feat they have not accomplished under Barry Rohrssen.
3 Rider vs. 6 St. Peter's
If you thought Rider didn't have qualms about playing the Peacocks in the first round, you were incorrect. St. Peter's caught fire at the appropriate time and won its final five MAAC games to finish in sixth place—keep in mind that one of those wins was at Rider.
Rider is better—they knocked off Siena and Niagara—and is more experienced—Jason Thompson is the only Bronc missing from last year's squad—so the Broncs should be able to cool off the Peacocks.
2 Niagara vs. 10 Marist
Marist knows how to play Niagara. The Red Foxes won by 18 points at home and stayed within striking distance at Niagara. Nonetheless, the Red Foxes will not be able to stop the sizzling hot Purple Eagles.
Niagara should win easily and should advance to the semifinals.
1 Siena vs. 9 Canisius
Don't worry, Siena. You almost lost to Canisius on their home floor, but, fortunately, you get the rematch on your own hardwood.
The Saints will not have a problem with the Golden Griffins in front of the home crowd.
2 Niagara vs. 3 Rider
Both teams are deep, but Niagara has a better bench. Niagara's four seniors—Rob Garrison, Bilal Benn, Benson Egemonye, and Demetrius Williamson—will not let this be their last game under Joe Mihalich.
Niagara advances to the finals.
1 Siena vs. 4 Manhattan
Despite being demolished at Siena in the regular season every year, Manhattan always finds themselves in close games against the Saints in the tournament.
This year should be a different story. This Siena team is better than any Siena team that the Jaspers have faced in the MAAC tournament, and the Saints get to play in front of a home crowd.
1 Siena vs. 2 Niagara
The Saints have not lost at home and this game will not put that "1" in the home loss column. You can expect this one to be closer than the previous two matchups—they split the season series, but each game had a margin of victory in double-digits.
Siena will win the MAAC tournament for the second straight year and will be a tough team in the Big Dance.