MAAC Weekly Recap – Opening Week Ups and Downs

Less than a week into the season is the perfect time for overreactions, right?

Now that Manhattan finally got in on the action, it’s a perfect time to look back at the week that was for the 11 MAAC squads. Some performances have been more encouraging than others, while certain teams have played a bit of Jekyll & Hyde early in the year.

Let’s start with back-to-back regular season champions Monmouth, who have put together one of the better early resumes in the league. From there, we’ll roll through the rest of New Jersey and work our way north team by team.

Micah Seaborn

Monmouth (2-1) – 79-78 W vs Bucknell (11/10); 75-65 L @ Seton Hall (11/12); 80-72 W @Lehigh (11/14)

The Hawks had some questions to answer this season after the graduation of a stellar senior class, but got out to a hot start with a strong win over Patriot League favorite Bucknell. That win calmed the nerves of anyone who thought the team might struggle out of the gate with a revamped rotation, and although the Bison have since dropped to 0-3 on the year, they played No. 9 North Carolina tough on Wednesday night, trailing by just one midway through the first half.

Micah Seaborn has been as advertised, leading the team with 17.3 ppg and 7.0 rpg while racking up 2.3 apg and shooting 46.2 percent from behind the arc. Alongside the junior, freshman Deion Hammond has made a great first impression, totaling 12.0 ppg and connecting on 43.8 percent of his triple attempts through the first three games. In the frontcourt, Diago Quinn has emerged as the go-to replacement for Chris Brady and averaged 11.7 ppg with 5.3 rpg and a 63.6 percent shooting percentage thus far.

Seaborn must remain healthy if the Hawks are going to challenge for the MAAC title, but the early returns look good. King Rice and company continue a challenging non-conference season Sunday with a trip to Virginia and have contests against UConn and Kentucky on the horizon next month.

Rider (2-1) – 90-75 W vs Hampton (11/10); 101-75 L @Xavier (11/13); 89-53 W vs Hartford (11/15)

The Broncs have also gotten off to a good start in 2017-18, with their only loss on a road trip to No. 15 Xavier.

Sophomore point guard Stevie Jordan nearly tallied a triple-double with 19 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists against the Hawks Wednesday night as Rider rallied from a dull first half to outscore Hartford 53-17 in the second stanza.

Freshman Jordan Allen has had a stellar start, and leads the team with 17.0 ppg. Jordan checks in second with 16.7 ppg and adds 6.0 rbs with 7.7 apg. DePaul transfer Frederick Scott leads the team in rebounding with 9.3 boards per game along with 10.0 ppg.

The pieces seem to be coming together early for the Broncs, who will have the weekend off but travel to take on George Washington Monday night. With one of the best point guards in the conference running the show, Rider should pose a challenge for any MAAC squad this year.

Saint Peter’s (0-2) – 61-40 L @La Salle (11/11); 75-66 L @Northwestern (11/13)

After losing all five starters from last season’s CIT championship squad, growing pains were expected in Jersey City. Offense can often be a struggle for John Dunne’s squads, and early on it just hasn’t been there for the Peacocks. However, this young group has shown some early signs on the defensive end, which has been Dunne’s calling card. In no surprise, the Peacocks already find themselves near the bottom of the nation in tempo, with 67.3 possessions per game according to KenPom.com.

As expected, senior Nick Griffin has taken a leading role early on, heading the team with 13.5 ppg. Redshirt sophomore guard Cameron Jones has returned with an increased presence, and dropped 14 at No. 20 Northwestern on Monday. Sam Idowu matched Jones’ output against the Wildcats, and is averaging 10.0 ppg thus far. Freshman Davauhnte Turner leads the team in assists with 4.5 per game, and should continue to see his role expand throughout the year.

The Peacocks have played two tough games to open the year, but should have an easier time of things in the weeks to come. Those first contests came as part of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, which will continue at Mohegan Sun Arena this weekend with a contest against Sacred Heart followed by a game against one of South Alabama or Maine. From there, Dunne’s squad should be able to build off of easier contests against Lafayette and Fairleigh Dickinson.

Iona – (0-2) 69-67 L @ Albany (11/10); 71-62 L @ Syracuse (11/14)

Rickey McGill

Despite their winless record, the Gaels have nothing to hang their heads over. Three-point shooting is Iona’s calling card, but the Gaels couldn’t buy a 3 in their opening-night loss at Albany (4-22 from behind the arc). Despite struggling from distance and getting hammered 47-27 on the boards including 19-7 on the offensive glass, the Gaels fell by just two to what is perennially one of the top squads in the America East.

From there, Iona gave Syracuse all it could handle Tuesday night before foul trouble decimated the Gaels’ frontcourt and let the Orange pull away late. Iona got a great game from junior Rickey McGill, who connected on a career-high five 3-pointers and currently leads the squad with 14.5 ppg, but Syracuse’s Tyus Battle put together a record night with a career-high 28 points.

Schadrac Casimir did not appear in the game at Syracuse, which opens questions about his health in recovery from multiple surgeries after the 2015-16 season, but the remainder of the backcourt has looked solid so far. Deyshonee Much (14.0) and Zach Lewis (10.0) average double-figures, while T.K. Edogi has held down the frontcourt with 13.5 ppg and 9.0 rpg.

The Gaels will be in action all weekend while taking part in the Island of the Bahamas Showcase. They tip off against Weber State Friday at 8 p.m. with two more games to follow Saturday and Sunday.

Manhattan (1-0) – 80-79 OT W vs St. Francis Brooklyn (11/15)

The Jaspers were actually the second-to-last team in the nation to tip off the 2017-18 season when they finally got in the mix with a thrilling come-from-behind overtime victory over St. Francis Brooklyn Wednesday night. The Temple Owls are the only squad not to see official action yet this season, but tip off this afternoon against Old Dominion in the Gildan Charleston Classic.

Rich Williams returned from a 619-day absence to lead all scorers with 21 points while Zavier Turner, freed from the burden of being both the team’s main point guard and perimeter scoring option, notched 16 points with just two turnovers. Zane Waterman saw the floor for 41 minutes and gutted out 10 rebounds along with nine points.

Manhattan still has a lot of questions to answer, but hopefully Wednesday night’s game was just one to shake off the cobwebs for what has been projected as one of the league’s top teams. The Jaspers get back in action this weekend against Harvard.

Fairfield (2-0) – 80-72 W vs Penn (11/11); 64-52 W vs Loyola MD (11/14)

Tyler Nelson

The Stags have put together a pair of solid wins to open the season and like Seaborn for Monmouth, Tyler Nelson has produced as expected early in the year.

The senior guard and preseason Player of the Year notched a 30-point game against Penn out of the gate with 13 trips to the charity stripe. Although Nelson leads the team in scoring at 21.0 ppg, he has done so with almost no production from behind the arc.

One might read his stat line as a type with the decimal point in the wrong place, but Nelson is indeed shooting just 10.0 percent from 3-point range through two games. One of the best shooters in the league, Nelson is sure to turn that stat around quickly and when he does, opposing defenses will be at a loss for ways to slow him down.

The supporting cast has also been strong for the Stags. Matija Milin is enjoying a great start to his junior campaign with 13.5 ppg and 8.0 rpg while freshman forward Wassef Methnani averages 10.0 ppg and 7.5 rpg. Perhaps most encouraging for the Stags thus far is their success on the glass. Through their first two games, Fairfield has nabbed 47 and 50 rebounds, an encouraging sign that shows their frontcourt could be a strength rather than hindrance this year.

The Stags will face a stiff challenge this weekend when they face No. 19 Purdue in their first road contest of the season.

Quinnipiac (1-1) – 78-77 W vs Dartmouth (11/11); 79-72 L vs Brown (11/13)

The Baker Dunleavy era has gotten off to a so-so start with a split decision against two of the Ivy League’s lower-ranked teams, but there are certainly some things to like in Hamden this year.

Freshman point guard Rich Kelly has gotten off to a quality start averaging 12.5 ppg and 8.5 apg through the first two contests. Meanwhile, Penn State transfer Isaiah Washington has emerged as the team’s go-to perimeter scorer, averaging 13.0 ppg and connecting on 45.5 percent of his attempts from behind the arc so far.

Senior forward Chaise Daniels leads the squad with 19.5 ppg and already has six blocks to his credit. Meanwhile, Cameron Young has assumed a much larger role under Dunleavy. After logging just eight total minutes last season, Young has played 32.0 minutes per game this year, averaging 11.5 ppg.

The Bobcats will take part in the Paradise Jam this weekend, starting with a Friday showdown against Colorado. The event, typically held in the U.S. Virgin Island, has this year been relocated to Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia due to damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Siena (0-2) – 68-60 OT L @ College of Charleston (11/10); 86-53 L vs Florida Gulf Coast (11/13)

Things looked sunny in the capital region when Siena took Colonial Athletic Association favorite College of Charleston to overtime on opening night, but a disastrous showing against Florida Gulf Coast quickly changed the tune around the Saints.

Newly-named team captain Nico Clareth reportedly did not meet with the media after being held to just six points in the loss to the Eagles, but did lead the squad with 15 against Charleston in the opener.

Freshman forward Prince Oduro has been a bright spot, averaging 9.0 ppg and 6.5 rpg after posting a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds in his first career collegiate game. However, fellow freshman Roman Penn – billed as the heir apparent at point guard – has been absent through two games. Penn so far been held scoreless with just one assist to his name heading into a Pennsylvania road trip at Lehigh and Bucknell.

Sophomore Khalil Richard has seemingly responded well to offseason challenges from the freshman and currently leads the squad in scoring with 13.0 ppg. He is also the lone Saint to notch double figures in both games this season.

Brian Parker

Marist (0-2) – 84-76 OT L vs Lehigh (11/11); 76-73 L @ UMass Lowell (11/15)

The Red Foxes were projected to struggle once again this season, but let a win slip through their fingers on opening night against Lehigh. Marist held a two-point lead late in regulation, but Brian Parker fouled the Mountain Hawks’ Lance Tejada on a 3-point attempt with 4.8 seconds remaining. Tejada sunk two of three at the line to send the game to overtime, where Lehigh outscored Marist 15-7.

Brian Parker has logged nearly-matching stat lines with 22 points, two assists, and five turnovers in each of his first two games this year. The junior guard has also averaged 8.5 rebounds thus far, but will have to improve his handling for the Red Foxes to succeed.

Marist will next take on Army before representing the MAAC in this year’s Advocare Invitational next week where they will kick off the event against West Virginia.

Canisius (0-2) – 80-75 L @Buffalo (11/11); 93-79 L @Air Force (11/14)

Defense has held the Golden Griffins back early this year, and must improve if the team is going to challenge for one of the MAAC’s top spots.

Freshman guard Takal Molson has gotten off to a hot start for the Griffs, averaging 16.0 ppg and 3.5 apg through two games including a 25-point outburst at Buffalo. Sophomore Isaiah Reese leads the team with 17.0 ppg while senior Jermaine Crumpton checks in at 14.5 ppg after a 20-point tally against Air Force.

Last season, the Griffs were one of the best teams in the nation at sharing the ball, with 17.7 apg. Thus far, they have tallied 13 assists in each of the season’s first two games, and lost that battle 14-13 to Air Force.

Expect the Canisius movement to improve as the season moves on, but the question of their defense was one present entering the season and will remain a top issue for the time being. The Griffs will have an opportunity to right the ship this weekend when they open their home schedule Saturday against Youngstown State. That contest kicks off a string of six in a row against teams outside the KenPom top-200, so brighter days are surely right around the corner.

Niagara (1-1) – 77-75 W @ St. Bonaventure (11/10); 107-81 L @Minnesota (11/15)

Kahlil Dukes

The Purple Eagles entered the 2017-18 season with high expectations, and thus far have not disappointed. Chris Casey’s squad earned a signature win at St. Bonaventure on opening night, then hung tough against No. 14 Minnesota Wednesday night.

Niagara opened a 10-point lead in the early going against the Golden Gophers, then fell behind by 17 before cutting the deficit to just two with 9:53 remaining. However, Minnesota outscored the Purple Eagles 39-15 down the stretch to pull away late.

The first four games make up the toughest stretch of Niagara’s schedule this season, and they’re already halfway through with a 1-1 record. Both St. Bonaventure and Minnesota rank inside the KenPom top-100, and a showdown at BYU follows this weekend’s meeting with UMass.

Kahlil Dukes has perhaps been the MAAC’s best player thus far, averaging 24.5 ppg and 3.5 apg while connecting on 61 percent of his shots from behind the arc. Meanwhile, fellow senior guard Matt Scott is tallying 17.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg through two games.

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