At the midpoint of the MAAC season, it’s worth examining where each team in the league stands and where they might end up over the next six weeks. Here is a team-by-team analysis based on the current standings, along with mid-season all-MAAC teams:
Monmouth – 8-2
Wins: @QU, CAN, IONA, MAR, @NIA, @CAN, MAN, FFD
Losses: RID, @SPU
Upcoming: QU, @MAR, SPU, @RID, @MAN, @SIE, NIA, @FFD, SIE, @IONA
After a middling start to the new year, the Hawks are starting to look like the MAAC favorite we all expected. Losses to Rider and Saint Peter’s left Monmouth with a 2-2 record in early January, but since then the Hawks have rattled off six in a row and will look to stretch their streak to seven with a home contest against Quinnipiac Friday night.
Monmouth dismantled the Bobcats 91-72 in their MAAC opener back in December behind stellar shooting nights from Je’lon Hornbeak and Collin Stewart, who combined to shoot 10-14 from behind the arc in the rout.
Point guard Justin Robinson has once again established himself as the league’s premier player, and remains a top contender for the Haggerty Award, presented to the best player in the New York metropolitan area. The reigning MAAC Player of the Year has posted nine 20-point games this season, including four in a row entering Friday while failing to reach double-figures just once this year.
Saint Peter’s – 7-3
Wins: MAN, MON, QU, @RID, @FFD, SIE, RID
Losses: IONA, @SIE, NIA
Upcoming: @MAR, @IONA, @MON, CAN, @QU, @MAN, MAR, FFD, @NIA, @CAN
The Peacocks have flown their own path into second place in the MAAC thus far. While the league as a whole ranks second in tempo according to Kenpom.com, Saint Peter’s is one of the slowest teams in the country, averaging just under 64 possessions per game. That pace ranks 344th of 351 Division I squads.
That calculated, deliberate style which has become a hallmark of head coach John Dunne’s tenure has paid dividends thus far, as the Peacocks allow just 62.8 ppg and sit atop the league in most defensive metrics, including defensive efficiency and turnover percentage. Ball control and limiting the opposition’s offensive opportunities are what the Peacocks are all about.
Iona – 6-4
Wins: @SPU, MAR, CAN, @MAN, FFD, QU
Losses: NIA, @FFD, @MON, @QU
Upcoming: @SIE, SPU, @RID, SIE, @NIA, @CAN, @MAR, RID, MAN, MON
The Gaels faced question marks entering this season after the graduation of A.J. English and Isaiah Williams along with the health of Schadrac Casimir, but the patented Tim Cluess offense has hit its stride in recent games as the perimeter pieces fit together.
Graduate guards Jon Severe (11.7 ppg) and Sam Cassell Jr. (11.1 ppg) have paced the Iona backcourt while Rickey McGill (5.5 assists per game) has emerged as a nightmare matchup at the point. Sophomore Deyshonee Much dealt with a short leave of absence, but is back with the team and seeing considerable minutes once more, while freshman E.J. Crawford (10.0 ppg) has developed into a threatening wing early in his career.
All that is to say nothing of forward Jordan Washington, who is arguably the top frontcourt player in the league when able to avoid foul trouble. The senior leads the team with 18.1 ppg and 7.6 rpg, but has accrued four or more fouls in 12 of the Gaels’ 21 games so far.
Siena – 6-4
Wins: FFD, SPU, QU, @FFD, RID, @MAN
Losses: @RID, @CAN, @NIA, @SPU
Upcoming: IONA, @QU, CAN, @IONA, @MAR, MON, MAN, NIA, @MON, MAR
The Saints entered the season with high expectations, a consensus runner-up to Monmouth in most preseason projections, but started off a dismal 4-11 and 1-3 in conference play. Since then, however, Siena has won five of their last six and appear to be on their way toward claiming a top spot in the league.
Whether the Saints can hold on to one of those top spots is another question, as the most demanding part of their schedule awaits them. Siena has yet to play a game against Monmouth, Iona, or local rival Marist.
Siena began the season 0-10 on the road, but has since earned victories at Fairfield and Manhattan while falling at Saint Peter’s. In fact, all four of their conference losses so far have come on the road, an issue the Saints fortunately won’t have to deal with come March as the MAAC tournament is held on their home floor at the Times Union Center.
Canisius – 5-5
Wins: @MAN, SIE, QU, @FFD, MAR
Losses: @MON, @IONA, MON, @QU, @NIA
Upcoming: MAN, RID, @SIE, @SPU, NIA, IONA, @RID, @MAR, FFD, SPU
The Golden Griffins own one of the most efficient offenses in the league, averaging 81.5 ppg and 18.1 apg, and they need to produce at that clip in order to pick up wins because their defense has not been able to keep up. Although they began the conference season 5-2, the Griffs are currently riding a three-game losing streak.
Over that recent slide, the Griffs are allowing an average of 51.4% to their opponents. Although their offense ranks among the top 100 in nearly every category on Kenpom, most defensive metrics show the Griffs in the bottom 50, including 2-point percentage defense where they rank 316th in the nation, allowing opponents to score on 54% of their shots inside the arc.
Overall, Reggie Witherspoon has done an excellent job thus far in his first year at Canisius including a seven-game winning streak earlier in the season. Kassius Robertson (17.9 ppg) and Jermaine Crumpton (17.3 ppg) are having all-MAAC years, while one of Witherspoon’s key recruits, Isaiah Reese (8.0 ppg), has played a strong role in his first year.
Rider – 5-5
Wins: SIE, @MON, @MAR, NIA, MAR
Losses: FFD, @MAN, SPU, @SIE, @SPU
Upcoming: @NIA, @CAN, IONA, MON, QU, @FFD, CAN, @IONA, MAN, @QU
Depth has reared its head as an issue for the Broncs, who find themselves in a slump losing four of their last five games after a 4-1 start to conference play including an impressive overtime win at Monmouth. Nearly all five starters average double figures (Norville Carey sits at 9.6 ppg), but beyond that Kevin Baggett doesn’t have much to rely on. Rider’s next-best option off the bench is junior Anthony Durham, who checks in at 3.8 ppg.
Shooting all-around remains a struggle for Rider, as they rank among the bottom 50 in the nation in 3-point(31.0%) and free throw (64.0%) shooting and just outside the bottom 100 in 2-point shooting (47.4%)
Fortunately, one thing the Broncs can rely on is experience. Their starting lineup is comprised of four seniors, along with talented freshman Stevie Jordan (11.9 ppg, 5.4 apg). Kahlil Thomas nearly averages a double-double with 13.7 ppg and 9.1 rpg and leads the team in both categories.
Quinnipiac – 5-5
Wins: MAR, @NIA, MAN, IONA, CAN
Losses: MON, @CAN, @SPU, @SIE, @IONA
Upcoming: @MON, SIE, NIA, @FFD, SPU, @RID, FFD, @MAN, @MAR, RID
The Bobcats have held court well while exceeding preseason expectations so far. Of their five wins, four have come at home, while four of their losses have come on the road. Freshmen Mikey Dixon (16.8 ppg, 2.6 apg) and Peter Kiss (12.5 ppg) lead the way while junior forward Chaise Daniels has brought his average up to 11.4 per game.
After January, Quinnipiac will be done with the likes of Monmouth, Iona, and Siena, and as Tom Moore’s teams are known to improve over the month of February, look for the Bobcats to make a push toward a tournament bye.
Moore would ideally see some of the supporting cast take on a deeper role and ease the burden on the freshmen. Reggie Oliver (9.0 ppg) and Daniel Harris (7.1 ppg) will be among those asked to balance out the backcourt while Phil Winston and Andrew Robinson can contribute additional depth.
Niagara – 4-6
Wins: @IONA, SIE, @SPU, CAN
Losses: @MAR, QU, @RID, @MAN, MON, MAR
Upcoming: MAN, RID, @FFD, @QU, @CAN, IONA, @MON, @SIE, SPU, FFD
The Purple Eagles own some of the most surprising victories of the year, with wins at Iona and Saint Peter’s. Although it has been a struggle for Chris Casey and company in recent years, Niagara’s young pieces are beginning to develop, led by last year’s all-MAAC third team selection Matt Scott.
Scott leads the team with 17.1 ppg and 6.9 rpg while USC transfer Kahlil Dukes owns lines of 16.0 ppg and 4.0 apg running the point. Like others in the league, depth is a major concern, as Niagara’s top three scorers average over 30 minutes per game. Contributions from the supporting cast, such as redshirt sophomore Kevin Larkin’s 16-point outburst in the win over Canisius Monday night, would go a long way toward solidifying this young group.
Fairfield – 3-6
Wins: @RID, IONA, @MAN
Losses: @SIE, CAN, SIE, SPU, @IONA, @MON
Upcoming: MAR, MAN, NIA, QU, @MAR, RID, @QU, @SPU, MON, @CAN, @NIA
A promising 3-1 start with wins over Iona and Rider has come to a tumble as the Stags are in the midst of a five-game losing streak which began with a trio of missed opportunities at Webster Bank Arena. The good news for Sydney Johnson’s group is they don’t face a team in the top four of the current standings until February 19, when they visit Saint Peter’s.
Fairfield has done well inside the arc, knocking down 52.1% of their 2-point opportunities, but have struggled with a 34% mark from downtown. These struggles are in spite of possessing two of the league’s premier shooters in Tyler Nelson and Curtis Cobb, the latter of whom matched a league record and set a career high with a 46-point outburst at Manhattan January 5.
Marist – 3-6
Wins: NIA, MAN, @NIA
Losses: @QU, @IONA, RID, @MON, @CAN, @RID
Upcoming: SPU, @FFD, MON, @MAN, FFD, SIE, @SPU, IONA, CAN, QU, @SIE
Struggles abound for the Red Foxes, as they rank 10th in the league in offensive efficiency and dead last in defensive efficiency according to Kenpom. The good news for Marist is seven of their last 11 contests come at home, so they have an opportunity to build on down the stretch. However, a pair of contests against each of Saint Peter’s, Fairfield and Siena await, along with return meetings with Monmouth and Iona.
Khallid Hart (17.5 ppg, 2.7 apg), Brian Parker (12.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 3.3 apg), and Ryan Funk (12.1 ppg) have become a solid trio, but the supporting cast is not yet giving Mike Maker enough to build on. Maker wants to get his squad to the point where they’re an up-tempo, efficient shooting team in the mold of Iona, but the project appears at least another year away.
Manhattan – 2-8
Wins: NIA, RID
Losses: CAN, @SPU, @MAR, FFD, @QU, IONA, @MON, SIE
Upcoming: @NIA, @CAN, @FFD, MAR, MON, SPU, @SIE, QU, @RID, @IONA
The season has largely been a struggle for the Jaspers, who never got a minute from projected star Rich Williams. The Brooklyn native has chosen to redshirt the remainder of the season while dealing with a knee injury and projects to lead a strong Manhattan squad next year.
For the current group, a pair of Z’s top the list. Zavier Turner (16.3 ppg) and Zane Waterman (14.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg) lead the team in scoring, but haven’t had quite enough help from the supporting cast. Freshman Aaron Walker Jr. has developed into a fearless attacker and averages 8.6 ppg so far this season while Calvin Crawford averages 8.4 while coping with a number of ailments.
However, no matter their record, no one will be wishing to see the Jaspers in Albany as Steve Masiello focuses on nothing but preparing his group to hit their best stride in March.
All-MAAC First Team
Justin Robinson (MON)
Jordan Washington (IONA)
Quadir Welton (SPU)
Marquis Wright (SIE)
Jermaine Crumpton (CAN)
All-MAAC Second Team
Tyler Nelson (FFD)
Micah Seaborn (MON)
Brett Bisping (SIE)
Kassius Robertson (CAN)
Kahlil Thomas (RID)
All-MAAC Third Team
Khallid Hart (MAR)
Matt Scott (NIA)
Kahlil Dukes (NIA)
Mikey Dixon (QU)
Zane Waterman (MAN)
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.