Heading into the meat of the conference season, we are beginning to see some separation in the MAAC standings. Iona and Canisius both swept the week and currently sit in a tie atop the league standing at 5-1. Meanwhile, Siena got its first taste of life without Nico Clareth and Niagara continues to win close games.
Once again, these are my own personal rankings and completely unofficial, so please direct all criticism to me alone (Twitter handle below!).
1) Iona (11-7, 5-1 MAAC) – 71-69 W vs. Siena (1/11); 91-64 W vs. Rider (1/14)
The Gaels are back atop this week’s power rankings following a pair of wins obtained in contrasting fashion.
Iona trailed lowly Siena deep into the second half before a 15-0 run capped with a Deyshonee Much three-pointer propelled the Gaels into a five point lead with 3:20 remaining. Then on Sunday, the Gaels gave up just 24 second half points to Rider while shooting 57% from behind the arc themselves in a convincing victory.
The Gaels played just two non-conference home games, but have now swept their four-game home stand to jump atop the MAAC standings. Schadrac Casimir looks better than ever and has reached double figures in four straight for the first time since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2013-14. Meanwhile, Jan Svandrlik has provided a much-needed lift off the bench and has knocked down his last six three-point attempts.
2) Canisius (11-8, 5-1 MAAC) – 70-58 W vs. Saint Peter’s (1/12); 94-79 W vs. Monmouth (1/14)
Like Iona, Canisius has benefited from having four of its first six league games at home, but the Golden Griffins took care of business yet again with a pair of solid wins over New Jersey squads.
The Griffs shot 68% inside the arc and 52.1% overall while holding Saint Peter’s to just 38.3% from the field. Freshman Takal Molson bolstered his bid for MAAC Rookie of the Year with a 23-point effort on 9-12 shooting with a 4-6 mark from beyond the arc while Jermaine Crumpton added 14 points to surpass 1,300 for his career.
Canisius then got the better of struggling Monmouth during a foul-filled event in which the teams combined for 72 free throws. Molson (18 points) did most of his damage from the charity stripe with a 11-16 performance, while Crumpton and Isaiah Reese scored 23 and 22 respectively. The win marked the Griffs’ seventh home victory of the season, matching their total from last season.
3) Rider (11-7, 4-2 MAAC) – 78-60 W vs. Quinnipiac (1/12); 91-64 L @ Iona (1/14)
The Broncs stretched their winning streak to four with a dominant victory over Quinnipiac, but then fell flat in the second half against Iona to drop into a second-place tie in the league standings.
Rider placed four players in double-figures against the Bobcats, led by Frederick Scott’s 15. Stevie Jordan scored 13 points along with seven assists while Tyere Marshall notched 12 points on 6-7 shooting with nine rebounds. Against Iona however, the Broncs scored just 24 points on 38% shooting after the break and may have lost Jordan to an ankle injury. While converting a layup late in the first half, Jordan rolled his left ankle and had to be helped to the bench. He later left the locker room on crutches.
For as well as Rider’s offense has performed this season, free throw shooting remains a critical concern. The Broncs’ 59.8% free throw percentage is the third worst in the nation according to KenPom.com, and that average further dips to just 47.6% during conference play. Against Quinnipiac and Iona, the Broncs shot just 9-33 from the charity stripe.
4) Niagara (11-8, 4-2 MAAC) – 78-77 W vs. Monmouth (1/12); 73-70 W vs. Saint Peter’s (1/14)
The Purple Eagles were another to earn a sweep of the week, but did so with little room for error. Niagara held an 11-point lead on Monmouth with just 2:45 remaining, but the Hawks stormed back to get within one point with 40 seconds remaining. Niagara came up empty on its following possession, but Monmouth failed to get a shot off before the final horn.
Matt Scott then played the hero scoring six of his team’s final seven points against Saint Peter’s to ensure the victory. It was Scott’s jumper with 1:36 remaining which proved the deciding basket as the Purple Eagles held Saint Peter’s scoreless for the remainder of the game.
Kahlil Dukes put in a strong week to average 23.0 ppg while shooting 6-10 from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, last season’s league leader in blocked shots Dominic Robb (2.2 bpg in 2016-17) has swatted away seven over his last two games. With its win over Saint Peter’s, Niagara also put together its first four-game winning streak since the close of the 2014-15 regular season.
5) Manhattan (9-9, 4-2 MAAC) – 59-53 W @ Fairfield (1/11); 72-61 W vs. Siena (1/13)
Steve Masiello had never won in Webster Bank Arena, but that all changed with Pauly Paulicap’s 14-point performance to lead Manhattan past the Stags. Rich Williams shot just 3-11 from the field, but accounted for his team’s final four points as the Jaspers survived a late rally to sweep Fairfield for the first time since 2013.
Williams then led all scorers with 21 points in the win over Siena, and in the process joined the 1,000 point club. The redshirt senior’s 19 field goal attempts matched a career high previously set in 2015 at Fordham. Zavier Turner added 13 points while Paulicap posted 12.
The Jaspers have still yet to hit their best stride, but Masiello has plenty of time to mold his squad for a March run. Manhattan’s 24.4% defensive turnover percentage during conference play leads the MAAC, but two-point defense (54.7%) over the same span is the worst mark in the league.
6) Saint Peter’s (8-9, 2-4 MAAC) – 70-58 L @ Canisius (1/12); 73-70 L @ Niagara (1/14)
The Peacocks came up winless on the Western New York trip for the first time since the 2013-14 season. Shooting struggles held the team up against the Golden Griffins, as Saint Peter’s shot just 38.3% from the field. Against Niagara, junior Davauhnte turned in a season-high 22 points on 8-14 shooting. The Peacocks were level with the Purple Eagles at 70 with less than two minutes remaining, but went scoreless down the stretch.
Free throw shooting has bolstered Saint Peter’s this season, but the team was unable to do much damage from the line this week. The Peacocks are shooting 81.8% from the charity stripe in MAAC play, but got to the line just a combined 17 times this week.
Saint Peter’s remains undefeated at home this season, and will seek to remain so against Rider and Manhattan this week. Overall, the Peacocks are 1-8 in true road games and 5-0 at home this season.
7) Quinnipiac (6-12, 3-3 MAAC) – 80-79 W (OT) vs. Marist (1/10); 78-60 L @ Rider (1/12)
Half of Quinnipiac’s games this season, including all six of its wins, have been decided by two or fewer points. That trend held during an overtime win over Marist in which missed free throws at the end of regulation nearly cost the Bobcats.
Cam Young led the way with 26 points and nine rebounds against the Red Foxes, then paced the team again with 19 points at Rider. Freshmen Jacob Rigoni and Rich Kelly added 18 apiece against Marist, with Rigoni hitting 5-9 from three-point range.
The Bobcats have lived and died by their ability to accrue points at the free throw line as their effective field goal percentage offense (46.2%) and defense (58.4%) both rank last in the MAAC during conference play. Quinnipiac’s 40.9 free throw rate ranks among the top 40 nationally, and the team is the best in the MAAC at limiting opponents’ free throw opportunities during league play.
8) Monmouth (5-12, 1-4 MAAC) – 78-77 L @ Niagara (1/12); 94-79 L @ Canisius (1/14)
The Hawks came up empty on the Western New York trip for the first time since joining the league in 2013. Monmouth was again without leading scorer Micah Seaborn, who injured an ankle on New Year’s Eve at Saint Peter’s, but did receive encouraging contributions from its secondary options.
Austin Tilghman shot 72.2% from the field and averaged 18.0 ppg with five assists in each contest this week. Meanwhile, Louie Pillari knocked down four three-pointers in each game, finishing with 19 at Niagara and 18 against Canisius. Diago Quinn held down the paint with his first career double-double on 10 points and 14 rebounds at Niagara before adding 15 points against the Golden Griffins.
Monmouth’s 45.0 free throw rate ranks seventh in the nation, but the Hawks have been held back with a 69.1% average from the line while also allowing opponents to get to the charity stripe far too often.
Four of the Hawks’ first five league games have come on the road and resulted in losses. King Rice’s squad will have an opportunity to get back on track in the coming weeks as they play their next two at home and will play just one true road game between now and February 8th.
9) Marist (4-13, 2-3 MAAC) – 80-79 L (OT) @ Quinnipiac (1/10); 95-89 W (OT) vs. Fairfield (1/13)
The Red Foxes played an extra 10 minutes this week and have hit overtime four times already this season, their most since playing four overtime games in the 2008-09 season.
Marist was short-handed in both games this week, but gave a strong account for itself with signs Mike Maker may be starting to turn things around in Poughkeepsie. Ryan Funk sat out the game at Quinnipiac with an illness while leading scorer Brian Parker (18.3 ppg) rolled an ankle in the second minute against Fairfield and was held out the rest of the game.
The biggest question for Marist coming into the season was whether anyone would take a step forward behind Funk and Parker as those two became the face of the team in their junior season. Classmate David Knudsen answered the bell more than doubling last season’s average to 11.9 ppg this year while ranking among the top 20 nationally with a 91.4% free throw percentage.
Knudsen poured in 24 points in the win over Fairfield, but the story of the week was freshman Austin Williams, who poured in consecutive career highs with 14 points at Quinnipiac and 23 against Fairfield while shooting 14-19 from the field.
Of note: Defensive woes have plagued Marist during Mike Maker’s tenure, but the Red Foxes currently lead the MAAC in effective field goal percentage defense (47.1%) while limiting opponents to a league-best 29.0% from beyond the arc during conference play.
10) Siena (5-14, 1-5 MAAC) – 71-69 L @ Iona (1/11); 72-61 L @ Manhattan (1/13)
Siena bid farewell to leading scorer Nico Clareth (15.1 ppg) this week, but the departure seemed not to phase the squad as it led Iona deep into the second half in New Rochelle. The Saints held a 10 point lead with 7:26 remaining, but a 15-0 run propelled the Gaels into the lead just minutes later.
The Saints were then forced into 25 turnovers at Manhattan, leading to a season-low 41 field goal attempts of which they converted 18 (43.9%). A strong 22-25 performance from the free throw line kept Siena within shouting distance, but after Jordan Horn’s free throws brought the Saints within two with 3:57 remaining, the Jaspers closed the game on a 13-4 run.
It is anyone’s guess what life ahead without Clareth means for Jimmy Patsos’ group, but one certainty is the Saints’ young guards will be put through the fire. Sophomore Ahsante Shivers (9.6 ppg) along with freshmen Roman Penn (9.5 ppg) and Jordan Horn (6.8 ppg) are the future of the program, and will undoubtedly gain valuable experience over the remainder of the season.
11) Fairfield (6-11, 1-5 MAAC) – 59-63 L vs. Manhattan (1/11); 95-89 L (OT) @ Marist (1/13)
The season has certainly not gone to expectations for the Stags, who currently find themselves in the midst of a five-game losing streak.
Tyler Nelson continues to do it all, pouring in a season-high 35 points while playing all 45 minutes of Fairfield’s overtime loss at Marist. The point total ranks second in Nelson’s career after a 38-point effort at Rider in 2016. The senior ranks third in the MAAC with 20.6 ppg.
The supporting cast, however, has not performed at a consistent level. Sophomore Ferron Flavors Jr. is the lone other Stag to average double figures (11.2 ppg) while the high man in rebounds is Jonathan Kasibabu at just 4.9 rpg.
The three-ball in particular has been an area of concern for the Stags throughout the season. Fairfield currently ranks dead last in the league giving up 46.2% from behind the arc during conference play while converting just 34.8% of its own attempts during that period.
With no true road games remaining in the month of January, Fairfield will try to get back on track against Niagara and Rider at home this week.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.