Iona maintained their lead over Rider in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play and the Gaels will have three games this week to add some distance. Even without A.J. English and Desi Washington for a game, both Iona and Saint Peter’s pulled off victories.
Commissioner Rich Ensor said he was satisfied with how the situation was handled by the schools enforcing the league’s policy rather than the MAAC stepping in, when each school suspended their players on Friday.
“I thought it followed our MAAC sportsmanship policies and procedures correctly and its much better whenever the schools step in and address these issues,” Ensor said. “I thought everybody handled it on a fairly high level.”
Iona went 2-0 on the weekend, with English dishing out 11 assists on Marist, and as Ray Curren says it is time to move on. So let’s move on to who is up and down in the conference.
Stock Up: Quinnipiac – The Bobcats quickly recovered from a Buffalo trip sweep with convincing victories over Monmouth and Niagara. The Bobcats drained 14 three-pointers in their win over the Purple Eagles and seem to have found their groove offensively with seniors Evan Conti and Ousmane Drame coming off the bench. Interestingly, these last two wins come with senior Zaid Hearst having arguably his two worst games in conference play, which bodes well for the Bobcats if they can find options next to the 6’4″ senior.
Stock Way Up: Matt Lopez carried the Broncs with victories over Fairfield and his 27-point, 10-rebound effort to carry Rider over Manhattan for sole possession of second place. “In my mind, he is not only a First Team All-MAAC selection this year, he is a legitimate candidate for MAAC Player of the Year honors,” head coach Kevin Baggett said after the win. “I mean, look what he has done for us and look what we are doing with him.”
Stock Down: Canisius – It might be easy to label the Golden Griffins — they’ve lost three straight — but each have been without sophomore Phil Valenti, who is out indefinitely. Since his injury, Canisius has lost three straight, but it did close a 20 point deficit at Manhattan to single digits in the game’s final minutes and were an untimely basket interference call from a tie at Monmouth on Sunday. The Griffs finish with four of their final six at home and in order to hold a top five seed, they will need to go at least 4-2. Partly because of Valenti’s injury and partly because of regular old bad luck (1.9 wins below projected), the Griffs are still fighting for a seed they’ve certainly earned thus far in MAAC play.
Team Entropy Update: This will be our section the rest of the season dedicated to rooting for chaos in tournament seeding, borrowed from the baseball version from Jay Jaffe. The fight for the fifth seed could have plenty of chaos if Siena beats Saint Peter’s, there will be a three-way tie for the all important seed. The only seed that might seem locked up might be Iona at the top of the conference.
Unbalanced Schedule: Thanks to the conference’s schedule that favors television, nothing to blame there, we will see teams meeting each other for the first time this week. Those match ups are: Iona vs. Manhattan, Rider vs. Niagara, Monmouth vs. Siena, Fairfield vs. Niagara. Each of these match ups will be played twice over the season’s next three weekends and could have a lot to say about the conference race.
Close Game Stat: 26.7% of conference games have been determined by fewer than four points or went to overtime, ranking 7th of 31 conferences and NJIT, the nation’s lone independent. Rider went 2-0 in overtime games this week, to run up their record in conference OT games to 3-0. Manhattan is 1-2 in MAAC games that have gone to extra time this season, both of their losses to the Broncs coming in the extra five minutes. Saint Peter’s (1-2) and Fairfield (1-1) are the only other teams to play multiple conference games that have gone to overtime. The close games are also showing up in league “luck.” As mentioned above, Canisius has been on the wrong side of things, but so have Quinnipiac and Saint Peter’s. Siena on the other hand (1.3 wins above expected) has had the better of the odds during conference play — though that’s slightly skewed by the Saints’ blowout loss at a full-strength Canisius.
Quote of the Week: “He just had so much patience with me. They kept working with me, I was hard-headed, I wouldn’t listen, I kept doing dumb things and they just kept working with me because they knew they made a commitment to my family, my father that if I went there, they would make sure I was a better man when I got done… They should’ve sent me home probably 20 times and they never did because of Dean Smith. I’m just thankful, I’m blessed, I’m humbled and I’m the luckiest kid to become a man to play for him.” – Monmouth head coach King Rice on Dean Smith, his head coach at North Carolina, who passed away Sunday.
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.