Plenty going on in the second MAAC weekend (first in a little bit though!) as teams dive fully into conference play. Just one team is undefeated and it isn’t the undisputed conference favorite, so here’s the latest on whose stock is up and down in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Stock Up: Monmouth – After a clunker against St Francis Brooklyn prior to the holiday break and a last-second loss to Rutgers, the Hawks made up for it by beating Canisius and Niagara on the road.
“This is a tough road trip and our kids really responded,” Monmouth head coach King Rice said. “I am happy for them. Now we are ready to get back to work, so we can continue to be a surprise to everybody.”
Sophomore Justin Robinson led the way, scoring 14 points in both games, but different players stepped up at different times to carry the Hawks. Collin Stewart scored a season-high 12 points at Niagara and Andrew Nicholas had 14 of his own to help them beat Canisius, while freshman Austin Tilghman converted a season-high 11 points — or the amount of points he scored in his last eight games.
Monmouth will look to pad their lead as the Hawks host Quinnipiac and travel to Rider this week. After collecting their best win at home over Iona in December, Rice’s team could become one of the surprise MAAC contenders.
Stock Up: Iona – The Gaels, despite losing their final road non-conference game, still appear to be the odds on favorite to carry the conference. They demonstrated Sunday at Siena that they are capable of beating the Saints on their home floor, where the MAAC tournament will be this March. The Gaels have a four-headed monster in A.J. English, David Laury, Isaiah Williams and freshman Schadrac Casimir and have received enough contributions from other players to play up-tempo with ease. The schedule turns to their favor now too, as they get Quinnipiac, Canisius and Fairfield all at home — with the Bobcats seeking to avoid an 0-4 start at the Hynes Athletic Center.
Stock Down: Marist – While there is parity between the second best team and the 10th best, there might be a spot for the Red Foxes at the bottom. Even senior Chavaughn Lewis, since returning from a sprained left ankle has averaged 21.7 ppg, but has turned the ball over 24 times. Kenpom gives the Red Foxes a 1% chance of going winless through conference play. They’ve got a chance to make sure that doesn’t happen this week against Canisius and reeling Quinnipiac.
Quote of the Week: “As far as the refereeing goes, I thought the refereeing was fine. Earl Walton doesn’t like me. Earl Walton is the name of the official that had it out with me. He’s had an issue with me for 10 years and maybe I’ve had an issue with him for 10 years. … Maybe we just shouldn’t have each other’s games anymore. Let’s have a peaceful, happy 2015. I won’t coach his games and he won’t ref mine.” – Siena head coach Jimmy Patsos after an 86-72 loss to Iona on Sunday.
Current KenPom Projections: Since the KenPom projections are currently rooting for chaos, here is how they shake out, with projected wins as the stat in parentheses: Iona (16), Monmouth (13), Rider, Saint Peter’s, Canisius (11), Manhattan (10), Siena, Quinnipiac (9), Fairfield, Niagara (8), Marist (4). Last season every team that played on Thursday was below .500 in conference play, there’s a chance a .500 team or better could be playing in the first round with this level of parity.
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.