MAAC non-conference play is complete, at least the main chunk of it, as we bring you OBW’s latest MAAC Power Rankings. Our buddy Ray Curren of Big Apple Buckets was at Iona’s 87-82 loss at UMass Tuesday night — the last non-conference game to end — and we had the following interaction on Twitter after the game.
Really, though, the MAAC had its chances in the non-conference slate and repeatedly came up short. Siena, Manhattan and Iona at UMass. Monmouth against West Virginia, Maryland and Rutgers. Iona at Arkansas. Niagara at St. John’s — yes, Niagara at St. John’s. Fairfield at Duke — kidding.
MAAC teams combined for a 1-23 record in non-league play against KenPom top 100 squads, the win delivered by Quinnipiac over No. 96 Yale in the season opener. They went 17-28 against KenPom 101-200 teams and 25-11 against the rest.
Iona (82), Canisius (106) and Rider (177) are the only MAAC teams in the RPI top 200.
So what does all this mean? Well, unless something miraculous happens, like Iona or Canisius losing just a couple of conference games, the MAAC likely won’t seed a team better than 14th or so in the NCAA tournament. But, hey, this does seem like the year that a team like Fairfield could take an 11-19 record into the conference tournament and sweep the thing anyway.
Happy New Year! At least everyone’s undefeated in 2015.
Iona (8-5, 1-1)
Previous ranking: 1
Results: W 86-67 vs. Florida Gulf Coast; W 81-62 at Drexel; L 87-82 at UMass
This week: Sunday at Siena
Iona whiffed on its third and final shot at a RPI top 100 opponent, getting outscored by 10 points in the final five minutes at UMass. A.J. English and David Laury, two of the best mid-major players in the country, combined to shoot 1-for-3 from the field for two points in that stretch. UMass is a decent defensive team, but Iona needed more out of its two best scorers.
That loss aside, Iona looked great in its wins over Florida Gulf Coast and Drexel. The offense dominated, and the defense — yes, the defense — held the Eagles to 1.00 points per trip and the Dragons to 0.91.
2. Canisius (7-4, 2-0)
Previous ranking: 4
Results: W 67-55 vs. UMKC
This week: Friday vs. Monmouth; Sunday vs. Manhattan
KenPom had Canisius as 67-57 winners over UMKC, and the Golden Griffins won 67-55. So close, Ken! If only the Kangaroos had converted one more field goal than the two they made in the last 10 minutes.
The Golden Griffins won’t out-shoot many teams — efficiently, at least — but their gritty, tenacious defense will fluster opponents night in and night out. This weekend’s games against Monmouth and Manhattan could be the basketball versions of Peter Griffin’s fights with that chicken.
I’m jumping Canisius over Monmouth from a what-have-you-done-for-me lately standpoint — the Griffs have won five of six — and over Rider because I think Canisius’ style is more sustainable.
3. Rider (7-6, 1-1)
Previous ranking: 3
Results: W 76-71 at Wagner
This week: Friday at Marist
Rider has won five of six, but who, exactly, have the Broncs beaten? Hartford’s the nicest win, and even the Hawks — losers of four of six, including a setback against Central Connecticut State — have struggled. Two of Rider’s wins — CCSU and Morgan State — were against KenPom sub-300 teams. Wagner is right there at No. 299, and we’re all familiar with Siena’s woes.
The good news for Rider: Jimmie Taylor has had two straight solid games — 13 points against Morgan State and 25 at Wagner.
4. Monmouth (5-7, 2-0)
Previous ranking: 2
Results: L 71-46 vs. St. Francis (NY); L 58-57 vs. Rutgers
This week: Friday at Canisius; Sunday at Niagara
Defense is Monmouth’s identity. That’s fine and dandy, but, man, the offense was terrible against St. Francis. And the defense was pretty bad, too. The Terriers got 1.11 points per possession while holding the Hawks to 0.72 and 40.5 percent shooting on two-pointers.
Monmouth responded well, and would have picked up the program’s biggest win if Myles Mack had done what most players would do when shooting a deep, double-teamed stepback at the buzzer. But Mack splashed home the winner, leaving the Hawks stunned and losers of three of four entering conference play.
Rutgers isn’t even THAT good, despite hailing from a power conference. Sweep the Western New York trip, Monmouth, and you’ll probably end up at No. 2 again.
5. Quinnipiac (6-5, 0-2)
Previous ranking: 5
Results: W 81-64 vs. Maine
This week: Friday vs. Saint Peter’s
The Bobcats, who did exactly what they were supposed to do against Maine, enter MAAC play on a three-game winning streak. They had fallen all the way to No. 9 in these power rankings after losing three straight to Siena, Fairfield and Boston University, but this recent stretch has them back in the top five.
Ousmane Drame dominated against Maine, which had no answer for the 6-foot-9 center who had 20 points, 11 boards and two blocks.
6. Manhattan (4-7, 1-1)
Previous ranking: 7
Results: W 71-57 vs. Fordham (neutral)
This week: Friday at Niagara; Sunday at Canisius
It’s never wise to put too much stock in one game, especially when the opponent is Fordham, but Manhattan finally played like Manhattan in its romp of the Rams, a sign that bodes well heading into conference play.
After falling down 16-4 early, Manhattan found its rhythm, increased its pressure and ran away with the win. The Jaspers forced turnovers on 27.3 percent of Fordham’s possessions, a ridiculous figure that doubles as Manhattan’s No. 4 ranked average for the season. In too many games, Manhattan has been careless with the ball, which has often negated any potential advantage from their forced turnovers. That changed against Fordham, which turned Manhattan over 19.7 percent of the time.
The Jaspers are also finally converting from long range. They have hit 18-of-38 three-point attempts in their last two games, raising their season percentage from 27.6 percent to 31.1.
7. Saint Peter’s (6-7, 0-2)
Previous ranking: 8
Results: W 69-60 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson; W 59-52 OT at Cornell
This week: Friday at Quinnipiac; Sunday vs. Marist
Saint Peter’s has won three of four since Desi Washington returned from a wrist injury that sidelined him for eight of the first nine games. The only loss in that stretch: Seton Hall. The Peacocks are hot right now, even if they’ve picked up their recent wins against an underachieving Princeton squad, KenPom No. 291 Fairleigh Dickinson and Cornell, which took Saint Peter’s to overtime.
Washington hasn’t even been that great. Marvin Dominique has still been Saint Peter’s MVP, and Tyler Gaskins had the best game of his career — 16 points, six rebounds, three assists, three steals — against Cornell. But make no mistake, the Peacocks are a different team with Washington, their Mr. Clutch.
8. Siena (4-7, 1-1)
Previous ranking: 9
Results: L 75-57 vs. Cornell; W 73-71 vs. Bucknell
This week: Friday at Fairfield; Sunday vs. Iona
Siena has definitely seen better days. Jimmy Patsos played just eight players in Siena’s two most recent games — not by choice but because he couldn’t call on anyone else. The Saints are banged up, and they’re struggling. How much? Cornell, which ranks 284th with an adjusted 95 points per 100 possessions, scored 1.09 points per trip in its beatdown of Siena at the Times Union Center.
At least the Saints held on against Bucknell, riding another stellar performance from Marquis Wright, who had 24 points and six assists to two turnovers. Rob Poole had his best game in a long time. The senior, who posted a 127 offensive rating, scored 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting and added six rebounds and two dimes.
9. Fairfield (4-8, 2-0)
Previous ranking: 6
Results: L 77-66 at Albany; L 61-59 vs. Loyola Md. (neutral)
This week: Friday vs. Siena
Fairfield has endured a rough three-game patch, falling to Belmont, Albany and Loyola Md. after beating Manhattan and Quinnipiac. The Stags haven’t been nearly as good defensively, and when they struggle to limit an opponent’s scoring, chances are they won’t win.
Albany torched Fairfield for 1.38 points per trip a game after Belmont got 1.11.
10. Niagara (2-8, 1-1)
Previous ranking: 10
Results: L 74-69 vs. Arkansas State; W 65-47 vs. Albany
This week: Friday vs. Manhattan; Sunday vs. Monmouth
Yep, the same Albany team that picked apart Fairfield’s solid defense registered 0.82 points per possession against a Niagara team that ranked 302nd Tuesday morning with 105.9 points allowed per 100 possessions. Go figure.
That was a surprising win to say the least, but Niagara has been tough at times this season — think Saint Peter’s, Hartford, St. John’s and Canisius. The Purple Eagles have played a challenging schedule, with four games against KenPom top 100 teams and none against sub-200 squads.
The win over Albany could be just what the doctor ordered for the team’s confidence entering conference play.
11. Marist (1-11, 0-2)
Results: L 69-64 at Elon
This week: Friday vs. Rider; Sunday at Saint Peter’s
Poor Marist. Still no Khallid Hart, and Chavaughn Lewis — and, okay, Phillip Lawrence — needed some help against Elon. Lewis had 30, including 17 in the second half, but the Red Foxes couldn’t overcome a 16-point halftime deficit.
Player of the Week
David Laury, Sr., F, Iona
Laury had another solid week for Iona, which won two of its three games. The senior averaged 21.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, three assists and a block and shot 51.1 percent from the floor.
Sure, Iona could have used more from him down the stretch against UMass, but that doesn’t take away from what was a very nice week.
Rookie of the Week
Schadrac Casimir, G, Iona
Casimir shot just 37.1 percent from the field in Iona’s three games, but he averaged 14.7 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal.
A.J. English, Jr., G, Iona
David Laury, Sr., F, Iona
Ousmane Drame, Sr., C, Quinnipiac
Zaid Hearst, Sr., G, Quinnipiac
Emmy Andujar, Sr., F, Manhattan
Schadrac Casimir, G, Iona
Tyler Nelson, G, Fairfield
Karonn Davis, G, Niagara
K.J. Lee, G, Marist
Jermaine Crumpton, F, Canisius
Ari Kramer is a New York-based writer who covers the MAAC for One-Bid Wonders. Follow him on Twitter at @Ari_Kramer.