Saturday, March 29, 2014

On the doorstep of championships.......

Three weeks ago, Siena College's men's basketball team thought their season was over. One-and-done in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) tournament. Spring break followed, and during that time, Siena officials accepted a bid to compete in the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), a 3rd tier tournament that admits teams with losing records. The school paid a nominal fee to host three games at the Times-Union Center, and advanced to the final round, which begins Monday at Fresno State.

Siena then hosts the final two games in the championship series, but it won't be in Albany. For the first time in what seems like forever, Siena will have meaningful men's basketball games played in their on-campus arena, the Alumni Recreation Center, due largely to a scheduling conflict at the TU Center next weekend. Siena chose to play games 2 & 3 of the finals at the ARC, sacrificing added revenues from ticket sales in the process. That itself is rare, but necessary in this case. And how ironic would it be, then, since the University at Albany couldn't get out of the first week of the NCAA tournaments, that Siena would end up with a championship they never expected?

Meanwhile, Union College of Schenectady has punched its ticket to the NCAA Frozen Four, hockey's version of the Final Four, for the 2nd time. To get there, coach Rick Bennett's Dutchmen had to go through two teams coached by Bennett's two immediate predecessors---Vermont (Kevin Sneddon) & Providence (Nate Leaman). On Friday, Union had a ridiculously easy time with Vermont, winning 5-2. Earlier today, the Dutchmen dispatched Providence, 3-1.

It has been 29 years since Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) won an NCAA title, the school's 2nd. Some of the stars of that team, including Adam Oates & Joe Juneau, went on to productive careers in the NHL. Can the same be said of Union if they win their 1st National title? We'll just have to wait & see. To be sure, the Dutchmen have been the toast of New York's Capital Region in hockey the last few years. ESPN assigned former NHL & AHL coach Barry Melrose, who piloted the Adirondack Red Wings to a Calder Cup title or two back in the day, as color analyst for the two games. Good luck charm? Nah, just a happy coincidence, but you know that perhaps, deep down, he's rooting for the Dutchmen to bring a title home. So are we all.

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