Niagara Gazette — With his team alone atop the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference standings and off to its best league play start in 14 years, Niagara coach Joe Mihalich has very little to complain about these days.
"I probably shouldn't say anything negative," Mihalich said last week.
But after two recent victories, Mihalich has questioned a MAAC schedule that is forcing several teams to play each other twice in the span of three games.
Niagara (11-8, 7-1) will play at Siena (4-15, 2-6) tonight (7 p.m., TWCS, WWKB 1520) eight days after beating the Saints in the Gallagher Center.
"It's frustrating to have to play the same team twice in a week," Mihalich said. "It's just not the spirit of round robin."
At the midway point of conference play, Niagara will have already concluded its season series with Siena and Fairfield while having yet to play Canisius and Rider.
Siena will have already played Niagara, Canisius and Rider twice before its first meetings with Marist, Fairfield and Loyola.
Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro, the head coach of Fairifeld from 1985-91 and a Siena assistant for five seasons before becoming the head coach in 2010, said he does not recall seeing such an unbalanced schedule before.
"It's a little bit strange the way the schedule has broke down," Bunoaguro said.
Strange as it may seem, the schedule hasn't prevented Niagara from rising to the top of the standings and most power rankings list. And after this weekend's games at Siena and Canisius, the Purple Eagles will play five of their final seven MAAC games at home, including games against second-place Iona and third-place Loyola.
Niagara had perhaps is best performance of the season in its Jan. 17 win over Siena, shooting 54 percent from the field and breaking the game open with a 23-6 run spanning the first five minutes of the second half.
"They're a force to be reckoned with," Buonaguro said after the game.
Junior guard Malcolm Lemmons is expected to play tonight for Niagara after missing the last two games with concussive symptoms.