The MAAC tournament kicks off in Springfield, MA this week and boy is going to be fun. There are a bunch of teams that could win the title and no single team is better than about a 1-in-3 shot to cut down the nets on Monday.
The parity in the conference this season is quite impressive. The top four teams have managed to beat each other up, but still separate from the rest of the pack – particularly Iona and Manhattan. While the Gaels were walloping Rider at home on the final day the Jaspers shut down Billy Baron and captured the number two seed in the MAAC. This is good news for both of their MAAC tournament hopes. I ran a Monte Carlo simulation to figure out each team’s percentage chance of winning the MAAC tournament with the official seeding. Then I swapped Canisius and Manhattan to figure out just how important that five-point win was on Sunday. The results for each of the 10,000 simulations:
If Manhattan and Canisius were to switch:
Both Iona and Manhattan’s chances of winning the MAAC would’ve dropped considerably if the Jaspers were the second seed, mostly to the benefit of Canisius. Why? The potential chance for an absolutely epic semifinal clash that will be instead contested in the finals. Manhattan would’ve had about a six percentage points worse chance of winning the automatic NCAA tournament bid. That win on Sunday was huge. The other team slightly hurt by it? The Jaspers’ potential semifinal opponent, Quinnipiac. Even if the Bobcats survive Marist, which just crushed QU, they’ll most likely have to play Manhattan. That’s not an ideal scenario.
With that out of the way let’s take a look at the final MAAC efficiency standings:
- Iona: +0.13 points per possession
- Manhattan: +0.11
- Canisius: +0.09
- Quinnipiac: +0.03
- Siena: +0.01
- Marist: -0.00
- Rider: -0.03
- Saint Peter’s: -0.05
- Monmouth: -0.09
- Fairfield: -0.10
- Niagara: -0.11
None of that is particularly surprising. What should be noted is that there were no awful MAAC teams this season. Coming into the 2013-14 season I think a lot of people expected Monmouth or a depleted Niagara to play that role, but the Purple Eagles’ efficiency margin isn’t atrocious. The past two seasons the last place had an efficiency margin of -0.19 points per possession (2012 Saint Peter’s) and -0.16 (2013 Siena). This is the third straight season I’ve tracked these numbers that Iona has led the MAAC in efficiency margin. This team though is somewhere in between the 2012 at-large team and the 2013 team that managed to be the best of a host of mediocre teams in conference. A 17-3 record though is nothing to be ashamed of during a 20-game conference slate. Iona took the best punches and rolled with them. If anything they’re only about a game above their expectation.
Some other superlatives:
- Best Offense: Iona at 1.19 points scored per possession
- Worst Offense: Monmouth at 0.97 points scored per possession
- Best Defense: Manhattan at 0.95 points allowed per possession
- Worst Defense: Niagara at 1.13 points allowed per possession
- Fastest: Manhattan and Iona both played 1,444 possessions in conference play (72 per game)
- Slowest: Saint Peter’s at 63 per game (the only MAAC team under 68 possessions per game during league play)
- Luckiest: Quinnipiac at 2.6 wins above expected
- Unluckiest: Niagara at 1.7 wins below expected
- Most Consistent Offense: Siena and Manhattan
- Least Consistent Offense: Rider
- Most Consistent Defense: Marist
- Least Consistent Defense: Siena
- Most Consistent Team: Manhattan and Fairfield
- Least Consistent Team: Rider
The one thing I would note from all those superlatives is that the Broncs seem like a “sexy” upset pick if you want to choose someone outside of the top four teams to win the MAAC title. If Rider gets past Monmouth in the first round they’ll take on Iona in the quarterfinals and could do some damage in the bracket, even if they are 100-1 underdogs. Being inconsistent is a plus for lower seeded teams. The Broncs’ offense could explode at any moment. The consistency is also important for Manhattan. No matter what hit the Jaspers this season they stuck with their system and delivered strong results. That’ll be the key for three games in Springfield, MA and is why I think Manhattan could snatch the automatic bid from Iona.