Previewing the MAAC Awards Race

Last season the coaches and administrators around the league anonymously participated with me in a poll to judge on the top three candidates each for Player of the Year before the season’s final weekend.

In the final results, five of the six first-team All-MAAC selections were in the voting for Player of the Year. This season, we expanded voting even further from all the coaches and administrators to select Player of the Year as well as Rookie of the Year and Coach of the Year. Each voter picks up to three candidates for each award and then the votes are converted into points; 10 for first, 5 for second, 3 for third.

The voting took place prior to the final two games of the regular season for each team, so there may be a chance these results change when coaches select their picks for All-MAAC team on Monday and the postseason awards are given out next week. However, judging from the results for certain awards, some of the league’s honors may be locked up already.

MAAC Player of the Year
Player Team 1st 2nd 3rd TOTAL
Billy Baron Canisius 16 2 166
George Beamon Manhattan 6 6 48
Sean Armand Iona 1 4 3 39
A.J. English Iona 1 2 3 29
Ike Azotam Quinnipiac 4 1 23
David Laury Iona 1 2 11
Rhamel Brown Manhattan 1 3

The only reason there is a disparity in first, second, and third place votes for this award is because one coach flat out refused to put any other candidates beside Billy Baron.

“There’s no player in our league that impacts their team the way he does, it’s not even close,” an opposing head coach said about Billy Baron.

It appears that the Canisius senior has the award locked up, he leads all players in scoring during conference play with 26.4 points per game and trails Siena’s Marquis Wright by one assist for the lead in conference play. He’s played the second most minutes as any player in the country and has not disappointed, turning in a career-high 40 points against Siena in a 92-88 triple-overtime victory.

“I would definitely say Billy Baron is the Player of the Year,” another opposing head coach said.

The Golden Griffins currently hold fourth place in the league standings and could finish as high as second this weekend prior to the conference tournament in Springfield.

baron

Coaches in the MAAC feel that Canisius senior guard Billy Baron is a lock for Player of the Year. (photo courtesy: Canisius athletics)

Multiple coaches said that it was difficult to distinguish a standout in voting for a player on Iona, who leads the league with a 16-2 record, for Player of the Year.

“They’re so good and it’s probably unfair for them because I think any one of them, if they were more selfish, could easily be in that category,” one opposing head coach said about voting for a player on Iona as one of his three picks for Player of the Year. Sean Armand, A.J. English and David Laury all received votes in the poll and combined for 79 points on the ballot.

One name absent from the voting is Niagara junior Antoine Mason, who currently ranks second in the nation in scoring with 25.7 points per game. However, the Purple Eagles record is currently 6-23 and 3-15 in conference play. First year head coach Chris Casey said that he believes Mason should definitely be in the running for a spot on the first team All-MAAC.

“I think we had to win more for him to be considered for Player of the Year,” Casey said. “He certainly put up numbers for it, but I think we have to win more to be able to get an award like that. He deserves consideration for first team all-league and he deserves recognition based on his numbers. He’s done a lot of good things.”

Last season, the first team All-MAAC featured six players and Siena’s O.D. Anosike, who led the nation in rebounds per game, was placed on the league’s second team.

MAAC Rookie of the Year  
Player Team 1st 2nd 3rd TOTAL
Khallid Hart Marist 13 4 150
Marquis Wright Siena 1 7 2 51
Jimmie Taylor Rider 2 3 5 50
Zach Lewis Canisius 1 1 5 30
Kasim Chandler Quinnipiac 2 10
K.J. Rose Fairfield 2 6
Rich Williams Manhattan 2 6
Trevis Wyche St Peter’s 1 3
Lavon Long Siena 1 3

For the league’s top rookie award, it appears that the guards will continue to be the bright spots in the MAAC for years to come. Redshirt freshman Khallid Hart dominated the vote, garnering all but four first place votes for Rookie of the Year with Marquis Wright, Jimmie Taylor and Zach Lewis following behind the Marist freshman.

Redshirt freshman Khallid Hart drives against Penn. He tied his career-high with 21 points Sunday.

Redshirt freshman Khallid Hart appears poised to earn the MAAC Rookie of the Year award.

“I think they should be co-rookies of the year because they’ve both done so much being point guards for their teams,” one opposing head coach said of Hart and Wright. The Siena freshman leads the conference in assists with 107, one more than Canisius senior Billy Baron.

“I’d say Marquis Wright had a very good year at Siena, just not as good as Hart,” another opposing coach said on why he picked Hart over Wright. The Red Fox freshman leads all first year players with 16.6 points per game in MAAC play.

The league has a history of sharing the Rookie of the Year award. Last season Fairfield’s Amadou Sidibe and Manhattan’s Shane Richards shared the honor.

First year Marist head coach Jeff Bower said he believes the individual awards will take care of themselves, but knows that Hart’s play has made him a solid candidate for the league’s top rookie award.

“He’s had a terrific season and has played with poise and with some level of consistency that’s beyond a freshman, I think,” Bower said. “There’s some really good young players in the league, some very good young point guards in the league, and I have the luxury of seeing him every night and playing for us, of course my outlook would be biased.”

The last time a Marist player won the Rookie of the Year was a shared award: Jay Gavin shared the honor with Loyola’s Brian Rudolph in 2008.

MAAC Coach of the Year
Coach Team 1st 2nd 3rd TOTAL
Tim Cluess Iona 15 2 160
Tom Moore Quinnipiac 2 9 5 80
Jimmy Patsos Siena 3 5 30
Steve Masiello Manhattan 1 4 17
Jim Baron Canisius 2 1 13
Jeff Bower Marist 1 3

The first name to come off of most coaches heads for coach of the year was quickly Iona’s Tim Cluess, however Quinnipiac’s Tom Moore was also stuck on the minds of the polled coaches and administrators for the league’s top coach award.

“This is a year, to me, that they were supposed to be down a little bit and I think he’s done just a really good job,” one opposing head coach said of Cluess.

“Tim Cluess has done another terrific job at Iona,” another opposing head coach said. “A.J. English’s emergence had something to do with coaching there, he felt there might be a drop off with Momo moving on, A.J.’s come along and the team’s continued to roll.”

cluess

Coaches around the MAAC credit Iona head coach Tim Cluess (right) for developing sophomore A.J. English (left) on the way to clinching a regular season championship. (photo courtesy: ICGaels.com)

The sophomore English, returning for a full season after a broken wrist cost him the second half of his freshman year, has exploded onto the scene. He ranks third during conference play in scoring with 18.9 points per game, behind Baron and Mason. In his second season, he tallied 29 votes for Player of the Year in that poll and is one of Iona’s leading candidates to make the first team All-MAAC.

“He’s been consistent almost every single game,” Cluess said of what he’s seen improve from this year to last year for English. “For the overall body of work, he’s done a great job.”

The Gaels win over Marist on Sunday assured them of at least a tie for the regular season championship. Iona won the regular season championship in 2012 when they received an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament and won the league’s tournament championship last season.

Coaches praised the job Tom Moore has done in his first year in the MAAC, his team sits in second place after being picked seventh in the preseason poll, as well as Siena’s Jimmy Patsos who has his team hunting for the fifth seed bye after being ranked 10th in the preseason.

Ryan Restivo covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com

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