I know this is probably old news to all real college basketball fans, since it happened several hours ago and you were all likely tuned in throughout, but for those of you trapped in a blizzard, or receiving life-saving surgery, the Fairfield Stags knocked off Rider tonight, 88-76.
Yep, a convincing win that does two things. First, by knocking off the number one team in the MAAC, the Stags send a message to Rider and the rest of the top teams in the conference that they can play with the big boys (relatively speaking, of course!) come (conference) tournament time. Second, the Stags move to 9-6 in the conference, all but clinching that all-important first round bye.
Fairfield recently got Mamadou Diakhate back from an injury, and according to one news article, his return gave the Stags a swagger that was missing while he was injured. Apparently that was the case tonight, as Fairfield stormed back from a three point halftime deficit to outscore Rider by 15 in the 2nd half. In fact, Mamadou Diakhate hit two late threes that gave Fairfield a lead they never relinquished. With games against Marist and Rider (at their joint) still on tap, the top-loaded MAAC still has plenty of time to see some shifting in the standings. Overall, Fairfield has now won four in a row.
It has been a long, long, long, long time since Fairfield has made it to the dance, and what has been more frustrating has been so few teams with a legit chance to win the MAAC (since I graduated in 1991). I certainly don't expect regular conference titles, but I'd like to be in the hunt more times than not. Right now, it seems like things are coming together for the team to make a run. Gosh, I hope so.