MAAC Weekly Recap – November 29

Welcome to another weekly MAAC recap, and the debut of our league power rankings! Previous recaps were done in geographical and alphabetical order, but from now on teams will be listed in order of their standing in the (un)official NYC Buckets power rankings.

The order will no doubt shift dramatically as the year wears on, but now that we’re a few weeks into the season, we can somewhat judge each team. Without further ado, let’s dive right in:

*(n) denotes a game played on a neutral court

Rider (5-1) – 90-82 W vs UC Irvine (n) (11/23); 94-80 W vs Hampton (n) (11/24)

The Broncs earn the top spot in this season’s inaugural ranking largely due to the fact they’re the lone squad with a winning record. The MAAC has undoubtedly struggled out of the gate in 2017-18, but Rider has been the league’s bright spot early on. Their 5-1 start is the program’s best since 1997-98, when they began the season 8-1.

This week, Rider took home some hardware, winning the Las Vegas Invitational Upper Division Championship with wins over UC Irvine and Hampton. The Broncs’ turnover percentage (13.9 percent) ranks eighth-best in the nation according to KenPom.com, while their 3-point defense (31.4 percent) falls within the top 100 nationally.

Jordan Allen is the leader in the clubhouse for MAAC Rookie of the Year honors. The Dover, DE native currently ranks fifth in the league with 17.8 ppg. Fellow freshman Frederick Scott’s 8.3 rpg rank second in the league, while sophomore point guard Stevie Jordan’s 7.5 apg ranks eighth in the nation.

Niagara (3-4) – 96-74 W vs Alabama A&M (11/24); 95-90 L vs UT Arlington (11/25); 77-71 W vs Army (11/27)

Chris Casey’s Purple Eagles boast one of the most potent scoring duos in the nation

The Purple Eagles were expected to turn things around this year, and so far have lived up to those expectations. Despite a losing record, Niagara has played a demanding schedule and mostly taken care of business.

Chris Casey’s squad earned a signature win over St. Bonaventure in the season opener, and most recently put up 44 second-half points to get past Army. Like Rider, Niagara has been excellent at holding on to the ball. Their 13.5 turnover percentage ranks seventh in the nation, just ahead of the Broncs.

Matt Scott (25.1 ppg) and Kahlil Dukes (20.0 ppg) rank first and second in the league in scoring. Scott’s output has him ranked sixth in the nation and in the early conversation for league player of the year, but Niagara has leaned heavily on its two senior guards. No other Purple Eagle currently posts more than 8.0 ppg, leaving the job of tertiary scorer wide open.

Monmouth (3-4) – 62-51 L @ UNC Asheville (11/22); 101-96 L vs Penn (4OT) (11/25); 81-73 W vs Albany (11/27)

Micah Seaborn’s absence didn’t last very long, as the junior returned from an indefinite injury stint to post 13 points in the Hawks’ win over Albany. Monmouth trailed by nine at halftime of that game, but scored 52 second-half points to come away with the victory.

That triumph was much-needed just two days after the Hawks dropped a remarkable quadruple-overtime contest to Penn. Freshmen Melik Martin, George Papas, and Ray Salnave played 50, 40, and 39 minutes respectively in that contest as King Rice turned to the youths to make up for Seaborn’s absence.

The Hawks have an excellent free throw rate (49.7 – 14th in the nation), but have largely been unable to take advantage, collectively shooting just 66.7 percent from the line. This has yet to burn Monmouth as opponents have shot just 59.1 percent from the line against them, but that good fortune will likely turn soon.

Iona (2-4) – 93-88 W @ Ohio (11/28)

The preseason league favorites played just one game this week, but made it count with a solid road win at Ohio. Iona shot a perfect 13-for-13 from the free throw line in the victory, and have been excellent from the charity stripe all year long (77.1 percent).

However, the Gaels simply do not get to the line often enough to make the most of their ability at the line. Tim Cluess’ squad is one of the worst in the nation at getting to the line, with a free throw rate of just 18.5.

As usual, Iona has been extremely effective on the offensive side of the ball, ranking in the top 100 nationally in most offensive categories. However, defense has thus far failed the team, as the Gaels’ 55.8 percent effective field goal percentage defense lags behind the Division I average.

Newcomer TK Edogi has held his own as the team’s primary post player, and leads the league with 9.3 rpg. Edogi also achieved his second double-double of the season with 20 points and 12 rebounds at Ohio. All 20 of his points came in Iona’s 51-point second half.

Fairfield (3-3) – 92-84 L vs Jacksonville (n) (11/24); 75-64 W vs Gardner-Webb (n) (11/25); 57-56 L @ Wright State (11/26)

Sydney Johnson’s Stags are developing a supporting cast around star Tyler Nelson

Fairfield spent Thanksgiving weekend in Dayton, Ohio to take part in the Wright State Tournament, but left with a disappointing 1-2 record in the event.

Three-point shooting continues to plague the Stags, as they shot just 31.4 percent from downtown during the tournament, and have connected on just 30.1 percent of 3-pointers this season. Star senior Tyler Nelson – whose 19.7 ppg rank third in the MAAC – had an uncharacteristic performance in the team’s narrow loss to host Wright State, posting just six points with seven turnovers.

One positive from the trip was the emergence of Ferron Flavors Jr. as a reliable secondary scorer. The sophomore averaged 13.3 ppg during the event, and currently ranks second on the squad with 12.0 ppg.

Siena (1-4) – 85-76 W vs Hofstra (11/25)

Siena finally picked up its first win of the season with a solid win over Hofstra Saturday afternoon. Freshman point guard Roman Penn appears to have finally found a groove, posting 14 points for the second consecutive game.

Meanwhile, fellow freshman Prince Oduro and Christian Bentley broke out with career performances. Oduro finished with 17 points on 8-14 shooting and eight rebounds against a stout Pride front line, while Bentley made four of five shots for 11 points.

The Saints force very few turnovers and shoot a lousy 62.7 percent from the charity stripe, but have performed well along the perimeter. Siena out-performed Hofstra 10-to-9 from behind the arc despite taking half as many 3-point attempts (17) as the Pride (34).

A challenging non-conference schedule which still includes four KenPom top-100 teams will continue to push this young Siena squad, but Jimmy Patsos’ team has already come up short in overtime twice and despite some inconsistency, has shown a unique ability to battle.

Canisius (3-4) – 68-62 W vs Texas State (n) (11/24); 81-58 W vs Arkansas-Pine Bluff (n) (11/25); 80-58 L @ Pacific (11/26)

The Golden Griffins were one of a few MAAC squads to take part in tournaments this week as they traveled out to Stockton, CA for the Men Against Breast Cancer Showcase. The Griffs won the first two games of the event before falling to host Pacific in the finale.

Canisius has shown a potent offense with capable defense thus far, but have been doomed by turnovers. Reggie Witherspoon’s club compiled 52 turnovers over the event’s three games, and their 24.4 percent turnover percentage is one of the worst in the nation.

The Griffs have been stellar inside the arc, connecting on 59.1 percent of their 2-point attempts (18th in the nation), and have shot 74.5 percent from the charity stripe. However, Canisius has struggled to take advantage of the latter stat, as the team’s 26.4 free throw rate is one of the bottom 50 in Division I.

Saint Peter’s (2-3) – 86-82 W @ Lafayette (11/26)

John Dunne’s Peacocks continue to show stalwart defensive presence

The Peacocks continue to do their thing, playing solid defense at a snail’s pace in comparison with the rest of the league. John Dunne’s squad got back in the win column with a road victory over Lafayette in which senior guard Nick Griffin knocked down a career-high 37 points, including the team’s final 12 points.

Griffin leads Saint Peter’s and ranks fourth in the MAAC with 19.0 ppg

Already, the Peacocks are playing at the seventh-slowest tempo in Division I, averaging 65.0 possessions per game. Dunne’s squad is also doing a stellar job forcing turnovers, as they currently post a defensive turnover percentage of 25.6 percent (11th-best in the nation) and a steal percentage of 11.4 percent (34th in the nation).

Saint Peter’s has also run into some back luck at the charity stripe. Opponents thus far have connected on 83.2 percent of their free throws, vital points for a team that plays at as slow a pace as the Peacocks.

Manhattan (2-4) – 70-68 L vs Northern Illinois (n) (11/22); 70-57 L @ Fordham (11/26)

Manhattan closed out the Gulf Coast Showcase 0-3 with its narrow loss to Northern Illinois, then committed 25 turnovers in the Battle of the Bronx loss at Fordham. The Rams’ upbeat style known for causing turnovers (Fordham is the best team in the nation at creating steals) wreaked havoc on a Manhattan squad prone to giving up the ball.

The Jaspers’ 24.5 turnover percentage places them in the bottom 20 nationally, and they give up the sixth most steals of any Division I program.

Rich Williams has been effective in his return from injury and leads the team in scoring with 17.0 ppg. Senior forward Calvin Crawford has had a strong year thus far averaging 10.8 ppg and 7.3 rpg, but classmate Zane Waterman has unexpectedly struggled to the tune of just 7.0 ppg along with 5.0 rpg.

Quinnipiac (1-5) – 78-72 L vs Maine (11/26)

Baker Dunleavy’s Bobcats let one get away against Maine, but face UMass Wednesday night

Baker Dunleavy picked up his first win in his initial try as head coach, but has yet to return to the win column since opening night. The Bobcats dropped an expected win against Maine this weekend as they allowed the Black Bears to shoot 14-23 from behind the arc.

Senior forward Chaise Daniels poured in 24 on his march to 1,000 career points, while junior Andrew Robinson knocked down 4-8 from downtown to finish with a season-high 17 points. However, the backcourt trio of Isaiah Washington, Cam Young, and Rich Kelly combined to shoot just 5-33 for the game.

The rebuilding Bobcats have struggled on both ends of the court thus far, but have done well in getting to the charity stripe. Their 42.9 free throw rate ranks 51st in the nation, but as a team they shoot just 69.0 percent from the line.

Marist (0-6) – 84-78 L vs. West Virginia (n) (11/23); 84-59 L vs Nebraska (n) (11/24); 65-46 L vs Oregon State (n) (11/26)

The Red Foxes remain winless after an 0-3 performance in the AdvoCare Invitational, but did put together an impressive performance against nationally-ranked West Virginia in the tournament’s opening round.

Marist knotted the game at 67 with just 5:36 remaining on a bucket from junior Brian Parker, but could never get over the hump against the Mountaineers. Fellow junior David Knudsen knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers in the second half and finished with 19 points for the game. The Copenhagen native has emerged to average 12.2 ppg this season.

The Red Foxes have struggled on both ends of the floor this season and lack size in the paint, but will face an easier stretch of non-conference rivals through December before their opening game of league play against local rival Siena on the 29th.

Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.