“I’m not running from Fairfield. I’m sprinting home.” – Ed Cooley on taking the job at PC.
Fairfield point guard Derek Needham apparently didn’t care for the semantics of the move, and had mentioned circling the game against Providence on the calendar as soon as the Stags non-conference schedule was announced. Or added it to his iCal on his iPhone? Or whatever the kids do these days. Nevertheless, Ed Cooley will make his return to Fairfield to face the team he constructed that will have a great chance at a tourney run this season. Knowing Coach Cooley’s personality and what he means to his players, it’s hard to think they hold any real ill will for his decision to leave and take his dream job at Providence. However, it’s human nature to have a little extra step in your game while playing against the coach who left your team. The Friars are going to have their own issues with playing a tough team on the road with a packed crowd, so they will definitely have their hands full given the whole situation.
WHAT TO: KNOW
Game Time: 7:30PM EST
Opponent: Fairfield (1-0)
Location: Webster Bank Arena at Harvard Yard
Spread: Fairfield -7.5
ESPN Accuscore: Fairfield 72.7, Providence 62.4 (Fairfield wins 78.1% in 10,000 simulations)
CBSSports Daily Picks: Fairfield 72, Providence 66
Ken Pomeroy Projection: Fairfield 76, Providence 69 (Fairfield wins with 71% confidence)
Check out the rest of the preview after the jump.
WHAT TO: LOOK FOR
Rakim Sanders motivation: While playing for Boston College, the Pawtucket, Rhode Island native had only faced the Friars twice. As a freshman and sophomore, Sanders scored only 7 points each game with limited shooting opportunities. In his final season in Chestnut Hill, Sanders did not make the trip to the Dunk after suffering an ankle injury against St. Joe’s a week before. Now he will get to face the school from his home state and where he considered transferring to one last time, in addition to facing the coach he originally intended to play for his senior season.
Pace and efficiency: Cooley’s first game produced a 60 possession game, but doesn’t sound like thats the direction he wants to go. After the Fairleigh Dickinson game, Cooley said – “I’ve got all kinds of issues going on upstairs,I don’t like to play at a slow pace.” He obviously might not have a choice given the roster depth, so I imagine other teams will try to push the speed whenever they can. In their opening victory against Quinnipiac, the Stags played a pretty quick 70 possessions that led to 1.03 points per possession.
Defending the three: Believe it or not, Fairfield actually had a worse three-point percentage than the Friars last year, with a 30.02% clip that was ranked #322 in the country. This season they came out firing, drilling 10 out of 19 against Quinnipiac (their 7 footer Ryan Olander went 3-5?!?!). With the Friars most likely switching to the 2-3 often out of self preservation, The Stags should have their fair share of three-point looks. Can that plus the addition of Rakim Sanders keep them from putting up numbers like last year?
2nd chances: If the Friars and Stags play anything like they did in their first games, there will be a boat load of offensive rebounds on both ends of the court. Fairfield at least had a pretty good excuse for getting killed on the glass, as Quinnipiac generally is a great rebounding team. Last season, they finished #3 in the nation with a 40% offensive rebounding percetage. Despite losing some key players, they were still able to dominate the Stags on the offensive glass. Release the Giplaye!
WHAT TO: READ
Friars.com: Gamenotes [PDF]
The Stags will have a new look this year as former Princeton Head Coach Sydney Johnson takes the helm. Two time All-MAAC guard Derek Needham is returning as the Stags leading scorer (14.1 points per game). Senior Ryan Olander returns as the top rebounder, (6.8 rebounds per a game). A big addition to the Stags will be Rakim Sanders, a transfer from Boston College. He had 16 points in the team’s season opening 72-60 win over Quinnipiac on November 11. He will look to make an impact this season after sitting out last year. In the MAAC Preseason Poll, Fairfield was picked to finish second.
FairfieldStags.com: Men’s Basketball Hosts Providence College Monday Night In Home Opener
The Stags come off a 72-60 win over Quinnipiac University in the season opener, a game that was part of the Connecticut 6 Classic at the Mohegan Sun. Four of Fairfield’s starting five hit double digits, namely Maurice Barros (19 points), Rakim Sanders (16 points), Derek Needham (14 points), and Ryan Olander (12 points). Sanders andDesmond Wade made their Fairfield debuts in the game. Wade showed his play-making skills by dishing off a team-high five assists in addition to scoring three points.
Greenwich Time: Stags to welcome Cooley back to Bridgeport
“It’s another game,” Johnson said. “Certainly we are excited to host a Big East team in our arena. It’s a beautiful building. The Webster Bank Arena is a fantastic building, so to bring a Big East team in, it will be a special environment. Ed Cooley, we’ve stayed in touch and he’s like a big brother to me. He’s helped in terms of advice with the team and the school and helping me settle in
Woonsocket Call: Rakim Sanders just wants to be happy
Said Ed Cooley, the new Providence head coach whose presence at Fairfield was instrumental in landing Sanders, “I think Rakim wanted a different environment. I don’t think he felt appreciated (at Boston College) and I think Fairfield has allowed him to do is find out who he is as a person. “A lot of people don’t know the real Rakim,” Cooley went on. “Rakim is a passionate, lovely individual. Obviously he’s gone through some difficult times in his life, but Rakim is not one to complain about his past. From my understanding, he’s more concerned about his present and his future.”
Stamford Advocate: Fairfield men’s preview: Stags have plenty of offensive options
“After the way things ended last year, everyone was sad, but it’s motivation,” Needham said. “Coach (Tyson) Wheeler told us in practice, `Last year is over, no one should dwell on that. This is a new team, new system, new coaches — let’s come out and give 100 percent.’”
The Trentonian: COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Team-by-team guide to the MAAC
2. Fairfield (25-8) — The regular-season champs were unceremoniously dumped on their own floor in the conference semifinal by Saint Peter’s. Then they lost coach Ed Cooley, who left to take over his hometown Providence Friars.
But the Stags made a great hire in snapping up Sydney Johnson, who led Princeton to an Ivy League title and near upset of Kentucky in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The former Tigers coach runs a hybrid Princeton-style offense that allows his team to get up and down the floor when the situation presents itself.
The good news for Johnson is that he has plenty of talent to work with. First-Team selection Derek Needham is back, as is 7-footer Ryan Olander. Johnson also has a pair of transfers — Rakim Sanders and Desmond Wade — at his disposal.
Fairfield gets to see its old boss Nov. 14 when it hosts Providence and faces defending national champion Connecticut Dec. 22 in Hartford.
Vin Parise of CBS Sports talked to new Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson about Ed Cooley and the upcoming game
@VinParise: “PC has a star in Cooley. He gets so much credit for enthusiasm, charisma & presence, but not enough for X’s & O’s. A great coach.” -Johnson
@VinParise: “Johnson said he’ll always believe in the ‘Princeton way’ on offense; but he has his own twist on it & allows the guys to express themselves.”
@VinParise: “Remember, I played at Princeton for 4 years, but I played overseas for 7.” – Johnson
The Stags thought last season was their year but came up a little short. No matter, because this year’s squad, on paper, looks even better. Sanders and Wade are huge additions and figure to provide immediate help for Needham. Olander has blossomed into a solid big man and the backcourt is deep with Nickerson, Fields and Crawford. Fairfield also have some young players on the rise and depth, which will help because Johnson wants the team to be fast paced at both ends. In other words, the Stags are built to win now.
WHAT TO: WATCH
Fairfield basketball attends the MAAC Preseason Awards Show at the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
Fairfield Stags Basketball Travels to Italy
WHERE TO: FOLLOW
Twitter.com: I’ll probably be live tweeting the game @friarblog. Also be sure to follow the #pcbb hashtag as always.
WHERE TO: WATCH
The game will be on COX for those local people. It will be re-aired on SNY on Tuesday afternoon at 2:30PM.
WHERE TO: LISTEN
WEEI 103.7 FM