In part two of our interview with MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor (follow him on twitter @MAACCommish), we get Ensor’s thoughts on the MAAC hosting events as well as his thoughts on conference expansion. (If you missed it, here’s part one).
SienaSaintsBlog: The MAAC hosts events such as the Hall of Fame showcase in Springfield and the Old Spice Classic, how important is it for the conference to be a part of these November events?
Rich Ensor/ MAAC Commissioner: We do the multi-team exempt events under NCAA [rules]. We do those events with the Hall of Fame and with ESPN at the Old Spice Classic to both allow our teams the opportunity to play in the events, and in some cases host games, I believe Fairfield is in one this year, where they’re going to host teams at their home court. Beyond that, as Iona demonstrated when they went to Puerto Rico this year, and that’s not one we host but it’s a similar event, you get to play teams on a neutral court that you’d rarely have an opportunity to play in November and December.
So Iona was able to establish their bonafides early on by taking Purdue down to the last basket, that game they lost, but then they hammered Maryland, a strong ACC program one that’s played much better as the year’s gone on, and they also beat a good [Mid-American Conference] team from Western Michigan so they were able to establish themselves early on. And at the Old Spice Classic over the years, we’ve offered that opportunity to MAAC schools as well and the Hall of Fame so it gives us an opportunity to give our teams a chance at neutral site games and good non-conference opponents that hopefully give them some credibility when it comes to March, whether you’re looking for seeding in the NCAA Championship or even an at-large which the case could be made for Iona this year. Or if you’re talking about the NIT or the CIT or the CBI, those events all are looking for teams that have shown themselves to be able to play good non-conference opponents.
SienaSaintsBlog: With conference expansion in the news, most recently Temple moving from the Atlantic 10 to the Big East in our area, what is the state of the MAAC as it relates to expansion?
Rich Ensor/ MAAC Commissioner: We always look at membership issues relative to the MAAC and possible expansion. It’s a standard agenda item when we have our strategic planning meetings as well as our board meetings with the MAAC Council of Presidents. In this environment we’ve been dealing with the past couple of years, which has been largely driven by football, and even in the case of Temple that is the main issue there. They’re looking, these major BCS programs, to strengthen themselves with teams that give them added market share for TV purposes and as a result drive up their revenue from TV contracts.
We’ve kept our membership up to date on all those changes. We’ve gamed out certain scenarios of what opportunities might present themselves to the MAAC depending on how league formation would filter down to the mid-majors. We’ve seen some of that in the west coast; we’ve seen the West Coast Conference pick up BYU as part of all this shifting around. The Big Sky and the Southland [Conferences] have also been affected.
We want our members to know that this can filter its way down to the mid-major level as well and here are possible scenarios. How it plays out in the long term I don’t know, but we’re certainly well aware of it and have some strategies in place to talk about if certain opportunities present themselves.
SienaSaintsBlog: What are your thoughts on how Siena’s played when you’ve had the chance to see them this season?
Rich Ensor/ MAAC Commissioner: I think that Mitch [Buonaguro] has done a great job with a really small roster. They had injury issues and eligibility issues. I think he has responded by getting that team in a pretty good position for postseason. I think they’ve played with great enthusiasm and sometimes their legs give out, I was at [Siena's] game at Manhattan where it was a really good game for 30 minutes but just Manhattan kept the pace so high that he just at the end of the day were just short players. Steve Masiello was able to run players in and out against you and just wear you down.
So I think in response to that you’ve seen Mitch slow down the pace a lot, try and control that pace. When I was up there two weeks ago for the rematch of that Manhattan game, it was a different outcome by controlling that pace they were able to get the win so I think they’ve done a great job and I think the team’s really worked hard to get the position where they can have some impact in the championship and kudos to all of them.
We at SienaSaintsBlog thank Commissioner Rich Ensor for taking the time out to talk with us, follow him on twitter @MAACCommish.