Despite only three teams in action over the weekend, there was plenty of action from teams in the Metro area. We're on the verge of an excellent inter-poll matchup, as Manhattan's Steve Masiello and Iona's Rick Pitino both enter the race to the top of the MAAC. We're set for an Obi-Wan/Vader style matchup in three months, in which Masiello will look to show up the man he both played for at Kentucky and assisted in coaching at Louisville.
Until then, let's see how things panned out this weekend, beginning with the results of this week's House Enterprise Metropolitan Poll:
Analysis and Reactions:
Unsurprisingly, St. John's maintains on top, with the rest of the top four remaining unchanged as well. While right now I believe that St. John's is the best program, I couldn't give them the top spot after opening conference play with two losses. Iona is on the verge of figuring out how they play together, and looked pretty good in their first two conference games against Fairfield. They were on top in the MAAC preseason poll for a reason, and I'm confident that they'll overtake the Red Storm a few times in the poll this season.
St. John's Drops First Two Big East Games:
You may notice a few familiar names and teams popping up in these articles that are not involved in the actual poll itself. Most schools are trying to play as many hyperlocal games as possible during the pandemic, so it makes sense that there'd be some overlap. One of those names that seems to be the bane of a couple of our Metro Poll teams is Sandro Mamukelashvili. After leading the charge against Wagner, Mamu dismantled the Johnnies on Friday, scoring a season high 32 points. St. John's excels when they're able to force turnovers, there's no argument about it. So what happens when instead of turning the ball over, Mamu shoots 12-18 from the field? You lose, which is what the Johnnies did by a score of 77-68.
They weren't too outsized against Georgetown, but sloppy play led to late game leads being squandered, mostly due to sloppy fouling in the last couple of minutes, resulting in a 97-94 overtime loss. If there's one positive to take from these two losses, it's that St. John's is a lot deeper of a team than I initially saw in the beginning of the season. They don't always need Champagnie and Alexander on fire in order to play effectively. Gregg Williams has emerged as a solid third guard, dropping 13 on the Hoyas, including the tying basket to send the game into overtime. Williams' move in the post to get that bucket would probably be the play of the game had the Johnnies come out on top. Just a textbook diversion play to get an open look under the hoop.
The Red Storm had a solid non-conference performance, and it'd be unfortunate to see their 5-1 record start squandered in Big East play like we've seen so many times recently. There is no room for error in an abbreviated season like this, so Mike Anderson is going to have to act fast to keep this season on track.
Our Two MAAC Teams Open Conference Play/First Look at Manhattan
Want to know how you can tell Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach? In the Friday presser following a 70-42 win against Fairfield, which saw Isaiah Ross score 30 points, Rick Pitino opened up with his failure to read the scouting report. Throughout this season, Coach Pitino has mentioned that this team has a long way to go before reaching their full potential, both in this season and as a program, so Gaels fans should be excited to see this team grow. Pitino did have some positives, talking about how impressed he was with the performance of senior Dylan Van Eyck, who put up 14 points with 12 rebounds.
In a 67-52 loss to Fairfield the next day, Pitino expressed that it's tough to win a back to back, citing his time coaching the Celtics and Knicks. Going forward, Pitino said that this team is not yet great, and that the senior leadership needs to step up and be a mentor to some of his younger players.
Steve Masiello, Pitino's former player at Kentucky and assistant coach at Louisville, also split their conference opening back-to-back against Rider University, falling to the Broncos 82-64 on Friday and coming away with the win on Saturday, 87-77. Following the Friday loss, Masiello echoed his former coach regarding his own team's unpreparedness, stating that conditioning was a major focal point for the team's overall improvement this season. Masiello was optimistic following their Saturday win, but emphasized that there was a lot of work left to be done. Over the past few years, we've seen Masiello's pace of play slow dramatically, so going forward, it looks like carving out a solid defensive identity is going to be his main goal for the team.