These are the final MAAC Power Rankings before the start of non-conference play this week. This season, the MAAC shifted from a 20-game schedule to an 18 game slate in which each team will forego one home and one road contest. The league has played 20 games each of the last four seasons beginning with 2013-14 when Monmouth and Quinnipiac joined the league.
There was obviously limited action this week with teams taking a break for Christmas, but each of the 11 MAAC squads got some valuable playing time in before the start of the conference season. There was some movement in this week’s rankings, so let’s see how it all shook out:
1) Iona (6-6) – 80-74 L @ Rhode Island (12/21)
The Gaels check in at the top spot for the third week in a row following a hard-fought loss at the Atlantic 10 favorites. Rhode Island should find itself in the NCAA Tournament come March, and the Gaels took it to them. Iona actually led 31-30 at halftime and led by as many as nine in the second half before the Rams took control late.
Rickey McGill led the way with 16 points on 6-8 shooting while Schadrac Casimir added 10 to score double figures in back to back games for the first time this season. Sophomore E.J. Crawford accounted for 11 points and has now reached double figures in eight of his last 10 games while Illinois State transfer Roland Griffin (12 points off the bench) continues to develop a solid 1-2 punch in the frontcourt with T.K. Edogi.
2) Monmouth (4-8) – 85-64 W @ Yale (12/22)
The Hawks put a halt to their four-game skid with an impressive win at Yale in which neither leading scorer Micah Seaborn nor dynamic freshman Ray Salnave saw action. Each was held out of the first half due to disciplinary reasons, but thanks to a runaway first half, coach King Rice never saw fit to call on either.
Austin Tilghman turned in the performance of his career with the second triple-double in program history on 11 points, 14 rebounds, and 15 assists. Louie Pillari also enjoyed a career high 23 points on 9-13 shooting including a 5-7 mark from 3-point range. Forward Mustapha Traore put together his first career double-double on 10 points and 10 rebounds while freshman Deion Hammond (15 points) landed in double figures for the third straight game.
The back-to-back regular season champions will look to get out to a hot start with road games at Quinnipiac and Saint Peter’s to open the conference season and close the book on 2017.
3) Niagara (7-6) – 89-86 W @ Cornell (12/23)
The Purple Eagles capped non-conference play with a slim win at Cornell in which Matt Scott and Kahlil Dukes – the nation’s top scoring duo – tallied 20+ points in the same game for the seventh time this season.
Marvin Prochet added a season-high 17 points and has now finished in double figures each of the last three games. It seems Prochet has become the answer to Niagara’s prayers as the team had been crying out for a reliable third option behind Scott and Dukes all season.
For as good as Niagara’s offense has been, its defense remains an issue. According to KenPom.com, the Purple Eagles own the worst adjusted defensive efficiency in the league. In addition, their effective field goal percentage defense (56.3%) and 3-point defense (40.8%) both rank at the bottom of the MAAC.
This issue nearly reared its head in the win at Cornell, as Niagara led by 11 with 6:40 remaining, but less than four minutes later the Big Red had cut the deficit to just one. The Purple Eagles will face an immediate test to their defense to open league play when Iona visits Friday.
4) Rider (7-5) – 71-70 W @ Penn State (12/22)
The Broncs closed non-conference play with a flourish as Frederick Scott’s buzzer-beating three lifted Rider over Penn State in a game KenPom gave Rider just a 6% chance to win. It was the Broncs’ first win over a Big 10 opponent since defeating the Nittany Lions 82-73 on November 23, 2007 behind 23 points and 10 rebounds from eventual NBA first round pick Jason Thompson.
— Rider Basketball (@RiderMBB) December 23, 2017
Dimencio Vaughn led the way with 16 points on 6-9 shooting while Tyere Marshall, Scott, and Stevie Jordan joined him in double figures with 15, 14, and 12 respectively. Rookie of the Year favorite Jordan Allen had a slow night with just eight points on 3-15 shooting and has now been held to single figures in his last two games after beginning the year with ten straight double-digit outings.
Five of Rider’s first seven league games will come on the road. The Broncs open with the trip to western New York to face Canisius and Niagara before playing host to Fairfield after the new year.
5) Saint Peter’s (6-5) – 71-68 OT W vs. St. Francis Brooklyn (12/23)
The Peacocks completed the Brooklyn sweep by taking down St. Francis after defeating LIU Brooklyn the year prior, but John Dunne’s squad needed overtime to take care of the Terriers, who own just one win over a Division I opponent (Brown) this season.
Junior forward Sam Idowu, a Brooklyn native, led the way with a career-high 20 points alongside eight rebounds. Leading scorer Nick Griffin (15.8 ppg) poured in 16 while Davauhnte Turner added 11 and has now finished with double figures in each of his last six games.
Saint Peter’s finishes the non-conference with a winning record, an impressive feat after turning over nearly its entire starting rotation from a year ago. However, they will be tested out of the gate in league play with a trip to Fairfield followed by contests against Monmouth and Iona.
6) Canisius (6-7) – 76-62 W @ Robert Morris (12/22)
Canisius picked up its first road win of the season, and did so while turning the ball over 18 times. The Golden Griffins connected on 31 of 56 shots (55.4%) to pull away from the Colonials behind Isaiah Reese’s 18 points.
Reese connected on eight of 14 shots to lead the way for the Griffs while Malik Johnson connected on five of six including a 3-4 mark from behind the arc to tally 13. Senior center Selvedin Planincic matched a career high with 11 points while swatting five blocks.
The Griffs’ offense has come alive as they head into conference play with a top-40 effective field goal percentage (55.8%) and the fourth best conversion percentage inside the arc (60.8%) among all of Division I.
7) Manhattan (5-7) – 63-61 W @ Hofstra (Adelphi) (12/20); 74-62 L @ #23 Seton Hall (12/23)
The Jaspers were one of two MAAC squads to fit multiple games into this holiday week, and earned a split of the contests. Manhattan outlasted Hofstra behind 17 points off the bench from sophomore Aaron Walker Jr. in a game played at Adelphi University.
Walker added four steals to his line while Zavier Turner was the lone starter to finish in double figures with 13.
Steve Masiello’s squad then faced off against #23 ranked Seton Hall in a game marred by the ejections of Rich Williams and the Pirates’ Myles Powell near the end of the first half. Seton Hall opened up a 49-27 lead at halftime, but the Jaspers battled back to outscore the Pirates 35-25 in the second frame.
Zane Waterman led Manhattan with 18 points and eight rebounds while taking – and making – all seven of the team’s free throws. Calvin Crawford knocked down four of seven shots to add 10 points.
8) Fairfield (5-6) – 78-68 W vs. New Hampshire (12/22)
Tyler Nelson finally found his shooting touch as the senior led the way with a season-high 31 points against New Hampshire. Nelson – the preseason league Player of the Year – had been shooting an uncharacteristic 38.4% from the floor this season, but connected on 10 of 16 shots including a 5-10 mark from 3-point range Friday.
It was the second time Nelson has reached the 30 point plateau this season and the most points he’s scored since posting a career high 38 at Rider December 1, 2016.
Ferron Flavors Jr. continues to play a strong supporting role with 14 points against the Wildcats. Flavors has now reached double figures in eight of 11 games this season. Junior forward Jonathan Kasibabu shot a perfect 4-4 from the field to finish with 10 points.
9) Quinnipiac (3-9) – 80-73 L @Vermont (12/21)
The Bobcats trailed Vermont by 12 with three minutes remaining, but were able to fight within five with just over a minute remaining. However, the comeback was not to be as the Catamounts made nine of 10 free throws down the stretch to beat the Bobcats for the third consecutive year.
Cam Young led the way for Quinnipiac with 18 points while freshman Jacob Rigoni tallied 17 on the strength of 4-6 three-point shooting off the bench. Isaiah Washington and Rich Kelly each added 12 points while Kelly dished out nine assists against just one turnover.
The Bobcats kick off MAAC play against Monmouth on Thursday before traveling to face Siena on New Year’s Day.
10) Siena (4-9) – 70-66 L @ Memphis (12/20); 71-65 W vs Holy Cross (12/22)
The Saints finish their daunting non-conference schedule with a 4-9 record after splitting the week on the road at Memphis and home against Holy Cross.
Siena actually led the Tigers by eight at halftime before a run early in the second frame allowed Memphis to regain control. Freshman Jordan Horn connected on eight of twelve 3-point attempts to finish with a game-high 24 points. Roman Penn was the lone starter to finish in double figures with 10, while Nico Clareth and Khalil Richard added 11 apiece off the bench.
Clareth then shot 8-14 from the field to lead all scorers with 29 points in the Saints’ win over Holy Cross. This time the Saints were able to maintain their halftime advantage as they led the Crusaders 40-33 at the break. Although Holy Cross opened the second half with a 6-0 run to trim the deficit to one, it was never able to wrestle away the lead. Penn added 13, and has now scored double figures in each of his last three heading into conference play.
11) Marist (2-10) – 90-69 L @ Brown (12/22)
The Red Foxes led Brown 25-24, but were outscored 22-6 over the final 8:03 of the first half to fall into a deficit from which they could not recover. Isaiah Lamb tallied a career-high 28 points on 11-17 shooting to lead the way for Marist while Brian Parker added 19.
Defensive issues continue to plague Mike Maker’s team, as Marist allowed Brown to shoot 33-67 (49.3%) from the field and 13-28 (46.4%) from behind the arc. It is the seventh time this season opponents have connected on 10 or more threes.
Marist will play its first three league games at home, beginning with local rival Siena on Friday and continuing with Manhattan and Niagara after the new year.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.