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March Madness Preview: Niagara Purple Eagles

March 12, 2007 | By Andy Goldstein | comment on this post
Niagara swingman Charron Fisher, right, heads the Purple Eagles.
Niagara swingman Charron Fisher, right, one of the top scorers in the country, is stoked about leading the Purple Eagles into Tuesday’s play-in game for a chance to officially be in the Tourney.

NIAGARA PURPLE EAGLES

SKINNY: I really don’t know what a Purple Eagle is. I’m relatively sure that they don’t actually exist, you know, in the real world. In fact, other than Niagara University, the only mention of Purple Eagle I could find was this bizarre “Multidimensional Healing” site. And I don’t really know what’s going on there. (It should be noted that around these parts, Niagara is best known as being the former employer of coach Jack Armstrong, a current Raptors analyst.) Anyway, Niagara is in the tourney thanks to an 83-79 victory over Sienna in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. (Sienna goes by the Saints, for those wondering.) Tyrone Lewis scored 24 points in the finals and was selected the MAAC tournament’s most valuable player.

HISTORY: Niagara has taken part in two previous March Madnesses, the most recent of which was just two years ago. In 2005, the, ahem, Purple Eagles fell to Cincinnati in the first round. Sadly, they haven’t won an NCAA tournament game since 1970. But, as everyone says, every 37 years or so, you’re due at least one March Madness victory. Right?

STRENGTHS: Well, there’s the…uhhh…offense? It’s ranked about 119th in the nation according to kenpom.com. That may not seem impressive, but compared to their 240th ranking in defense, it’s pretty darn good. Other than that, the Purple Eagles rebound well and are especially aggressive on the offensive boards.

WEAKNESSES: Niagara doesn’t really like playing defense all that much. It will get to the rebounds, assuming there are any, but if this team falls behind (and, it looks like that’s a good possibility), there’s really no way it has any chance to make a comeback. Still, at least they will go down firing, as the Purple Eagles ranked ninth in the nation in field goals attempted.

KEY PERSONNEL: Junior G/F Charron Fisher had to overcome assault charges from last August, but he led Niagara in scoring and finished 13th overall in the nation for putting up points. He wasn’t just a gunner though, as he also picked up over eight boards per game. Any success the Purple Eagles have will probably come as a result of Fisher playing at an elite level. Senior G/F Cliff Brown was 13th in the league in rebounding, and will obviously play a key role in clearing the boards. (Which again, may not come quite as frequently against, say, a No. 1 seed.

OUTLOOK/INTANGIBLES: Niagara was given, for some reason, a No. 16 seed. (The school deserved a No. 15 seed, of course.) Not only that, the Purple Eagles were deemed either the 64th or 65th best team in the tournament, because they have to play Florida A&M on Tuesday just to officially make the final 64. I still don’t get that. Anyway, I expect Niagara to win on Tuesday, but to be destroyed against Kansas. And that’s what it gets for being named after a creepy, mythical creature.

– Andy Goldstein

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