Denver and Its Background Dancers Open ECAC Tournament

His last name is my first name, but pluralized. So, Mark Matthews is basically just a bunch of me. via farm6.static.flickr.com

As a young Suxa growing up in Connecticut, I remember my family's summer vacations along the east coast.  We used to pile in the car and in a blink of an eye we'd be in Denver, Colorado.

Ah, Denver.  The jewel of the East.  We'd sip lemonade just off the Long Island Sound, right in the middle of the Rocky Mountains.  It was a simpler time back then, kicking back in Adirondack chairs wondering if we should take a short jaunt to either Aspen or Hyannis Port.  That's the beauty of eastern living: Everything is at your fingertips -- Cape Cod's scenery, Vermont hiking, the vastness of the Great Plains, and if you're into it, the astonishing beauty of the Mormon Tabernacle over in Utah.

Such is the existence of the Eastern College Athletic Conference, a league comprised of three teams -- Loyola, Hobart, and Fairfield -- that any moderately intelligent geography proferssor would consider "eastern."  The rest of the conference is an assemblage of the willing: Denver, Ohio State, Air Force, and Bellarmine.  It's a paradox wrapped in a riddle, although the outcome of the league's tournament is less of a puzzle.

Denver, the one-seed in the playoff and host of the three-game showdown, is the decided favorite entering tonight's semifinal matches.  They'll square off against Fairfield in the evening's nightcap at 9:00.  The undercard isn't all that bad either, especially if you're into defensive struggles.  Loyola, hoping to keep its slim NCAA Tournament aspirations alive, faces Ohio State at 6:00.

While all four teams are capable of taking the title this week, the Pioneers are the star of the show.  Lots of schools on the NCAA bubble are crossing their fingers that Denver holds serve in the league as the Pioneers have the resume for an at-large berth should something go awry.

Here's the rundown:

ECAC: PIONEERS AND RAPSCALLIONS
TEAM PACE RANK AOE RANK ADE RANK AEM RANK
Denver 67.99 25 36.91 2 26.39 23 10.52 4
Loyola 62.04 48 26.35 42 24.85 14 1.51 26
Ohio State 66.29 34 28.88 22 23.61 8 5.27 17
Fairfield 60.16 56 28.19 33 24.04 10 4.15 21

PACE = Number of possessions per 60 minutes.
AOE = Adjusted offensive efficiency (goals for per 100 offensive possessions).
ADE = Adjusted defensive efficiency (goals against per 100 defensive possessions).
AEM = Adjusted efficiency margin (AOE less ADE).

On the individual side of things, the tournament should showcase a lot of productive players.  Denver's Matthews and Demopoulos have already starred in the national spotlight, but guys like Loyola's Matt Langan, Ohio State's Logan Schuss, and Fairfield's Max Trunz (LOLZ) have the opportunity to perform on the big stage.

THEY'RE NOT ALL EASTERN, SON
NAME TEAM T.O.V. RANK
Mark Matthews Denver 12.21 4
Alex Demopoulos Denver 9.68 15
Todd Baxter Denver 8.63 35
Cameron Flint Denver 6.32 121
Sam Snow Fairfield 6.58 103
Max Trunz Fairfield 6.58 103
John Snellman Fairfield 5.06 178
Mike Sawyer Loyola 8.14 56
Matt Langan Loyola 7.89 65
Logan Schuss Ohio State 9.88 13
Jeff Tundo Ohio State 6.92 93
Tyler Frederick Ohio State 5.93 134
Dominique Alexander Ohio State 4.55 195

T.O.V. = Total Offensive Value (individual points per 100 offensive possessions).
Rank = National T.O.V. rank.

So, who are you taking in this bad boy?  Is it Denver's to lose?  Can Loyola make a run at the crown?  Can Fairfield and Ohio State ride their defenses to Valhalla?  Register your vote in the poll and voice your nonsense in the comments.

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