But, for a second, look deeper than this game. Consider that Cooley and company, despite what in many respects was an admirable loss against Memphis last Saturday evening, are clear-cut favorites in this game, a position Fairfield does not normally find itself in too frequently. A win is just a job well done; a loss could be catastrophic.
Fairfield flies to Puerto Rico four hours after tonight's game ends, and there waiting for them will be three opponents from powerhouse conferences. Even the most optimistic fan will tell you that 1-2 is probably a best-case scenario.
The Stags then come back to campus for two of their more challenging out-of-conference games: a Thanksgiving weekend game at Alumni Hall against American, last season's Patriot League champions, and then Holy Cross, a talented team that downed Sacred Heart in its season-opener and has beaten Cooley in each of his first two seasons.
Translation: If the Stags lose tonight, they could be staring at 0-6 going into MAAC play. Another slow start. The same script all over again.
Granted, in the Metro Atlantic conference, the only chance that Fairfield has to clinch a berth in the NCAA tournament is to run the table in Albany come March. Still, a second preseason ranking means higher expectations. The best way for Fairfield to match those expectations is to win the games the are supposed to win. No more St. Francis or Yale games, like a year ago.
Tonight is one of those games.
- Siena looked every bit the team they are projected to be last night in their home-opener against Boise State. Still, we won't see what this team is really made of until those out-of-conference stunners: Pittsburgh, Kansas, and (in just nine days) Tennessee.
- Albany and Siena: the perfect couple. The Times-Union center has become the place to be in the Capital Region, writes Mark McGuire.
- Niagara's Tyrone Lewis stepped right in to the go-to scoring role in the team's 79-62 win over Towson. It will be interesting to see the Purple Eagles offense evolve sans Charron Fisher. Up next: No. 23 Villanova.
- BC spanked Jimmy Patsos and the Greyhounds on Monday night, 90-57. Anyone get the hint that Cooley leaked a word or two to get back at their rivals? Just saying.
- The good news for the 'Hounds: Providence transfer guard Jamal Barney scored 18 points and looked dangerous. Very dangerous.
- St. Joseph's (Pa.) defeated Rider, 69-57, in the Broncs' season-opener. Not sure what to make of this one, but I can't say that it is a bad outing for a team that: 1) just lost its best player to the NBA, 2) was playing a great mid-major and a regional rival, and 3) had its best freshman (Jermaine Jackson) and point guard (Justin Robinson) hurt. All things considered, not bad at all.