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Full Court Press: NJ duo leading Notre Dame, MAAC ready for ESPN, and Ivy League in full force

Matt Farrell and Steve Asturia are both NJ natives playing for Notre Dame. (Photo by Catalina Fragoso - Double G Media)

Matt Farrell and Steve Vasturia are both NJ natives playing for Notre Dame. (Photo by Catalina Fragoso – Double G Media)

I have always liked Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia, but this year I have become a true fan of the 6-foot-6 guard. The Medford, NJ native (St. Joe’s Prep) reminds me of the original ‘Mr. Clutch’ – Hall of Famer Jerry West.

Vasturia has had a knack for making big shots in his four-year Irish career and last night was no exception as he took it to the rack in the final seconds as No. 20 Notre Dame (15-2, 4-0 ACC) defeated Miami (11-4, 1-2) 67-62 for their sixth consecutive win.

In addition Vasturia, who has played in the shadow of point guard Demetrius Jackson over the past few seasons, has added an important leadership role to his immense on court skills.

Because he doesn’t fill up the stat sheet every game (10.0 ppg career) the senior is the most under rated player in the ACC, if not all of college basketball. Vasturia, along with fellow Garden State teammate Matt Farrell (Bridgewater, NJ/ Point Pleasant Beach HS), form what I consider to be the best backcourt in the country.

Coach Mike Brey has the Irish primed for a deep run in March – they can shoot (46.8% from the outside), distribute the ball (2 to 1 assist-to- turnover ratio) and they are deadly from the foul stripe (84.1%). They could be this year’s Villanova….

Back-to-Back

The Ivy League is full speed ahead this weekend. Currently, a couple of preseason favorites, Harvard and Princeton sit at the top of the league standings with 1-0 records. You gotta love the Ancient Eight … they are the only conference in the country that has back-to-back conference games. And this year they have added a conference tournament which will be played March 11-12 at The Palestra in Philadelphia.

Harvard freshman Bryce Aiken (Randolph, NJ) is making quite a splash for the Crimson. Aiken is scoring at a 13.6 ppg clip and one of the reasons Coach Tommy Amaker’s squad is my pick to capture the first Ivy League Tournament title.

Yale, Princeton and Penn are my other picks to qualify for the tournament.

This weekend starts off with a bang as Yale squares off with Penn and Princeton!

MAAC Musings

ESPN has announced the two MAAC men’s basketball net-flex matchups for February 3. Rider University will face Iona College at Alumni Gymnasium in Lawrenceville, NJ at 7:00 p.m. on ESPNU. Saint Peter’s takes on Monmouth University on ESPN3 at 7:00 p.m. at the Ocean First Bank Center in West Long Branch, NJ.

Rider is the early leader in the MAAC at 4-1 followed closely by a resurgent Monmouth (4-2) and surprising Canisius (4-2).

Keep your eye on Rider freshman Stevie Jordan. Jordan is a three-time MAAC Rookie of the Week recipient.

The Broncs have a road contest with Manhattan this evening (Jan. 13) and square off at home with Saint Peter’s on Jan.16. Saint Peter’s will provide an offensive challenge to Rider as they have the league’s top defensive unit holding opponents to 64.2 ppg.

Save the dates

March Madness Tournament dates:

AAC – XL Center – Hartford – (March 9-12)

ACC – Barclay Center – New York City – (March 7-11)

A-10 – PPG Arena – Pittsburgh – (March 8-12)

Big East – Madison Square Garden – (March 7-11,)

Ivy League – The Palestra – Philadelphia – (March 11-12)

Colonial Athletic Association – North Charleston Coliseum – Charleston (March 3-6)

MAAC – Times Union Center – Albany – March (2-6)

A Final Salute

Flying totally under the radar has been Connecticut women’s basketball assault on the longest winning streak in Div. 1 college basketball history. Geno Auriemma’s Huskies tied their own mark when they thumped South Florida 102-37 on Jan. 10 for their 90th consecutive win.

If all goes according to plan UConn will enter the history books when they defeat Southern Methodist on Jan. 14.

An amazing era of success, particularly when you consider that Auriemma’s program has accomplished the feat on two separate occasions – in the last decade no less. They deserve to be mentioned with the other major dynasties – the Yankees, Celtics, UCLA, Canadiens, Steelers …

Congrats to Geno, staff, players and fans……

 

Keep shooting…. see you next week…

Follow Bob on Twitter for all the latest in college hoop happenings, game highlights, features and more: @WhitneyBob

Bob Whitney

Bob Whitney

Bob is a college basketball columnist here at DoubleGSports.com. He also covers Yale football and the Connecticut Sun of the WNBA.
Bob Whitney
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