Iona, Monmouth and Rider are atop the MAAC standings with a 6-2 record, but the conference race might be closer than you think.
The Enduring Question Mark: Isaiah Williams’ injury – The 6’5″ Iona junior, who has been indispensable for the Gaels, is sidelined with a left foot injury and might miss the next four to six weeks before returning. The injury is a large dent into the Gaels’ chances of running away with the league, as they fell to Canisius on the road and barely escaped Niagara with a win. The Gaels should still be considered the league’s favorite without Williams, but they might win the league by one game instead of three.
Stock Up: Canisius – Things are looking up for the Golden Griffins after sweeping the weekend with wins over Siena and Iona. Canisius easily dispatched the short-handed Saints, and then followed it up against the Gaels by matching its best offensive performance. Sophomore Phil Valenti easily walked away with Player of the Week honors after scoring 41 points, grabbing eight rebounds and dishing out seven assists. However, it has been the weapons around stars like Valenti and Zach Lewis who have showed up game after game to carry the Golden Griffins, senior Jeremiah Williams scored 22 points over the weekend and has become a reliable point guard option off the bench.
Stock Down: MAAC Offenses – There are only four MAAC teams who are scoring better than a point per possession this season. Those four are: Iona, Siena, Canisius and (yes) Quinnipiac. Last season the conference ranked 13th in the country, averaging 1.05 points per possession, but this season they rank 23rd and average just over a point per possession. In a year when offense and high-possession games are in a rarity, the MAAC appears to be feeling the effects as well. That could be a comfort for teams like Rider, Fairfield, Monmouth and Manhattan, all of which rely on giving up fewer than a point per possession in conference play.
Another Number to Know: 14 – Those are the amount of games that have been decided by fewer than four points or went overtime. All but one game on Sunday was determined by four points or fewer. Quinnipiac managed a road victory at Marist, even after an Evan Conti foul with 0.1 seconds left. Iona escaped with a win at Niagara thanks to a controversial foul call in the game’s final seconds. Monmouth, Iona and Rider are each 2-1 in such games.
Quote of the Week: Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos was pretty adamant on when he thinks Isaiah Williams might be back, it might coincide with their next meeting on Feb. 6.
Bonus Quote: Canisius Jermaine Crumpton, who when I first saw him play thought looked like a linebacker – Canisius already had recent grad Chris Manhertz sign a futures contract with the Buffalo Bills – so I asked sophomore Phil Valenti on what he thought of Crumpton’s possible NFL ability.
“I would say Crump is more of a tight end, but I’d say Manhertz is more of a linebacker,” Valenti said. “But I guess Manhertz is going to be playing some tight end.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He 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.