As I showed last week, RPM projections aren’t perfect for the MAAC. Historically the model I’ve constructed has only been able to explain about 47% of a team’s rating. Still, 47% is better than nothing. Also, this will give us a chance to dive into some of the places where the system is weak.
First the projected MAAC standings according to RPM and previous pythagorean ratings (approximate KenPom rank in parentheses):
- Siena 0.6682 (~90th)
- Iona 0.5595 (~135th)
- Saint Peter’s 0.5366 (~145th)
- Manhattan 0.5318 (~145th)
- Monmouth 0.5118 (~150th)
- Fairfield 0.4585 (~180th)
- Quinnipiac 0.4537 (~180th)
- Marist 0.4451 (~180th)
- Rider 0.3970 (~200th)
- Canisius 0.3612 (~225th)
- Niagara 0.2697 (~275th)
Why is Siena on top? Because the Saints return almost their entire team from a season ago. There is a (probably correct) assumption out there that Jimmy Patsos and the Saints are going to build on their run to the CBI championship by moving into the top tier of the MAAC. It’s hard to dispute. Siena brings back a lot of talent and year two in Patsos’ offense should be even better. If that’s the case then yes, Siena should challenge for a league title, but the gap isn’t nearly as big as these standings make it seem.
For one, Iona has consistently outperformed its RPM projections. I have a few theories as to why this might be: 1) Tim Cluess keeps an extremely short rotation (last season only six players had a minutes percentage greater than 50%). 2) Cluess also brings in high-quality talent to New Rochelle and since there aren’t any recruiting rankings in my somewhat naive projection method, that’s not accounted for here. Add it up and Cluess has outperformed his projection by about 0.1528 points per season over the past four seasons. If you were to add those “Iona points” to the Gaels’ ranking they’d be at 0.7123, first in the MAAC and comfortably inside the Top 100 on KenPom. So there’s obviously reason to suspect that Iona might be much better than these rankings suggest.
Personally, I would make the same guess for Manhattan. The Jaspers are a less open and shut case. George Beamon’s injury caused them to underperform their RPM projection during the 2012-13 season — and also shows the fragility of RPM. Still, considering the talent Steve Masiello has amassed in Riverdale and the system he plays, RPM might underrate the Jaspers as well. (Then again, the Jaspers also lost a lot, including Beamon, Rhamel Brown, and Mike Alvarado, from last season’s MAAC tournament champions.)
Which teams might RPM be overrating? Saint Peter’s sticks out a bit, but the Peacocks do have some things going for them. John Dunne has been there before and it turns out SPU actually wasn’t that bad last season. They had the third best defense in the MAAC during conference play. With Trevis Wyche and Quadir Welton another year older and Marvin Dominique and Desi Washington going into their final campaigns, now — if any — is the time for the Peacocks to challenge for a MAAC title.
I am skeptical though of the ratings of two other teams. One is Monmouth. This is only the Hawks’ second season in the MAAC and that makes me wonder if their improvement will be as strong as a team whose entire program has been devoted to recruiting and playing basketball at this level for the past four seasons. The Hawks will have a nice mix of veterans (Deon Jones, Andrew Nicholas) and a boatload of key guys in their second season, but assuming they all develop and push King Rice’s team to fifth in the MAAC seems optimistic. Also, Marist is getting a lot of credit for all the players the Red Foxes have coming back, but they’re replacing their head coach (again) and have consistently underperformed their RPM expectations in previous seasons. That’s not surprising given the coaching turnover, but that problem reared its ugly head again this offseason and I’d expect Rider to pass Marist in the MAAC standings.
Otherwise, these MAAC standings seem to provide a somewhat reasonable guess as to what will actually happen in the MAAC this season. We’ll have our official preseason projections in November, but the order 1-11 seems about right. What do you think the computers got wrong?