Ladies and Gentlemen, your OBW MAAC Power Rankings v12.
1. Iona (18-6, 11-2)
Previous ranking: 1
Results: W 87-83 vs. Siena; W 89-67 vs. Marist
This week: Tuesday at Fairfield; Friday at Manhattan
This time last week, we were all conjecturing the proper discipline for A.J. English and wondering if Iona could get by Fairfield without two of its top three players.
English was suspended for a game, but because a snowstorm wiped out Iona’s trip to Fairfield, he missed Friday night’s bout with an improving Siena team fresh off an upset of Rider. No English? No Isaiah Williams? No problem for Iona.
David Laury dominated offensively, Schadrac Casimir manufactured 22 points despite a poor night from the field and Kelvin Amayo, who threw down this nasty slam against Marist, stepped up as he has several times this year. Most important, however, were the contributions from Ibn Muhmmad, Ryden Hines and Vangelis Bebis, who combined for 21 points. Muhammad, in particular, gave 37 solid minutes and is cementing himself as a key player in Tim Cluess’ rotation.
Why was all this so important? Well, it’s fairly obvious. If the Gaels can beat a solid team without two of its three best players, what can they do at full strength with reserves and role players emboldened by their experiences as cogs for the stars?
With seven games left, the MAAC regular season crown is Iona’s to lose. The Gaels lead second-place Rider, which they swept, by two games. The schedule isn’t a cakewalk, thanks to five road games and two clashes with rival Manhattan, but Williams’ return is nearing.
On a team of shooters, Williams is the best. More importantly, he’s Iona’s most tenacious defender. It goes without saying that Iona is a much better team with him available.
Given how the Gaels have played without him, that’s just scary.
2. Rider (16-9, 10-4)
Previous ranking: 2
Results: L 79-72 at Siena; W 54-52 OT vs. Fairfield; W 85-77 OT vs. Manhattan
This week: Friday at Canisius; Sunday at Niagara
The Broncs emerge 2-1 from a three-game stretch that easily could have been composed of three losses. Resiliency seems to be a defining quality of this year’s team, and that trait was on full display this week, particularly against Manhattan.
Rider opened a 15-point lead early in Sunday’s game for sole possession of second place, but the Jaspers stormed back and took a 10-point lead with 11:27 left. The Broncs won in overtime.
Matt Lopez might be the best player that doesn’t get serious consideration for MAAC Player of the Year. Kevin Baggett told reporters after Sunday’s win that Lopez is Rider’s MVP. If the Broncs finish second, Lopez will likely get some votes by virtue of being the best player on the second best team.
But what has made Rider so great this year — in addition to the defense — is that the Broncs are so balanced offensively that Lopez leads the team with 12.2 points per game. Baggett runs a lot of his offense through his 7-footer, who is also averaging 7.8 rebounds per game, but Lopez just doesn’t have eye-popping stats like every player on OBW’s Fab Five.
It’s a shame, in a way, but Lopez told OBW in January he loves it.
“We’re a really close-knit group,” he said. “We all are close to one another, which is awesome because if I’m not having a good night or if I make mistakes and Junior [Fortunat] is coming in to back me up, I know that’s not going to be a letdown. Everybody wants to see each other succeed. If it’s not my night and it’s Teddy [Okereafor’s], I’m screaming on the bench and vice versa. If you look at the stats and check the numbers, we don’t have one guy on our team. If a team focuses on me, so be it. Pick your poison. If they’re going to focus on me, then all the guards are free. And vice versa. We’ve been doing a great job of balancing that out.”
That seems to be a pervasive attitude at Rider.
3. Manhattan (12-11, 9-5)
Previous ranking: 3
Results: W 78-69 vs. Canisius; L 85-77 OT at Rider
This week: Friday vs. Iona; Sunday vs. Fairfield
The MAAC is a bounce or two away from Manhattan entering Friday night’s ESPN2 game against Iona one game, at worst, behind the Gaels. But after Sunday’s result, the Jaspers have lost to Rider in overtime twice this season.
Sunday’s loss, in particular, must have been tough to swallow. The Jaspers overcame a 15-point deficit and took a 60-50 lead with 11:27 left, but Rider won the next 16:27 35-17.
Though the end result was different, Canisius outscored Manhattan 38-22 in a 10-minute, 30-second span to pull within four in the final minute. The Jaspers prevailed in that one, however.
The Jaspers’ big three of Emmy Andujar, Ashton Pankey and Shane Richards had a solid week, and Manhattan is 10-4 in its last 14. The Jaspers would be the No. 3 seed if the season ended today, so there’s plenty to be happy about in Riverdale.
But Manhattan has a brutal stretch schedule: vs. Iona, vs. Fairfield, at Siena, at Marist, at Iona, vs. Quinnipiac. You know Steve Masiello will have the Jaspers prepared for the national television spotlight on Friday, as Manhattan looks to beat Iona at Draddy for the third straight year, and the Jaspers are a better team than the group that lost to Fairfield in early December. But even games at Siena and Marist could be stiff challenges, to say nothing of the two versus Iona and one against Quinnipiac.
Manhattan has not won at Siena since Jan. 30, 2006, and Marist — Sunday’s loss at Iona notwithstanding — seems to be hitting its stride.
4. Monmouth (13-12, 9-5)
Previous ranking: 4
Results: L 72-52; W 44-40 vs. Canisius
This week: Saturday at Siena
Monmouth got an important win Sunday.
The Hawks were terrible in Thursday’s loss, their third in four games. They scored 0.75 points per possession and grabbed 32 rebounds to the Bobcats’ 50 a month after finishing even against them on the glass.
Andrew Nicholas is not Monmouth’s most talented player nor is he the most important player. He’s good, though, and he sat both games this week with a concussion.
That Monmouth bounced back without him and beat a Canisius team coming off a tough loss at Manhattan served as another reminder that the Hawks are a solid team.
The win over Canisius also created two games of separation between the Hawks and the Golden Griffins and Bobcats, who are tied for fifth.
5. Quinnipiac (13-10, 7-7)
Previous ranking: 6
Results: W 72-52 vs. Monmouth; W 91-69 vs. Niagara
This week: Friday at Fairfield; Sunday vs. Iona
Just when it looked like Quinnipiac might have cooled off from its hot streak of five wins in six games — the Bobcats subsequently got swept on the Buffalo road trip — Tom Moore’s bunch dominated twice. And Player of the Year candidate and OBW Fab Five mainstay Zaid Hearst scored 19 points all week.
Quinnipiac torched the nets from long range in both games, converting 23 of 48 3-pointers. If the Bobcats, who are shooting 31.5 percent from deep this year, can snipe like that more consistently, they’ll be an extremely tough team to beat. Couple even good 3-point shooting with their rebounding ability, and they could be overwhelming.
Quinnipiac has a pair of “revenge” games on slate this week. First up is Fairfield, which stole an overtime win at the TD Bank Sports Center in early December. The Bobcats will follow their trip down to Bridgeport by hosting Iona, which won the Jan. 6 match 81-73.
6. Canisius (12-11, 7-7)
Previous ranking: 5
Results: L 78-69 at Manhattan; L 44-40 at Monmouth
This week: Friday vs. Rider; Sunday vs. Saint Peter’s
The Golden Griffins have lost four of five. They’re 0-3 since Phil Valenti went down with a sprained ankle, and his return timetable is undetermined.
Yet they had opportunities late in both games this week to swing the outcomes. First, they missed a layup that would have cut Manhattan’s lead to 73-71 with 48 seconds remaining. Then, Jermaine Crumpton couldn’t finish a tying attempt near the rim in the waning seconds against Monmouth.
The result: two losses and a fifth-place tie with Quinnipiac.
Canisius closes out the regular season with four of six games at home, starting this weekend with Rider and Saint Peter’s.
7. Siena (9-13, 6-7)
Previous ranking: 8
Results: W 79-72 vs. Rider; L 87-83 at Iona
This week: Monday at Saint Peter’s; Thursday at Marist; Saturday vs. Monmouth
Rider, the MAAC’s second-place team, went to Siena and lost on Monday. Opponents of the MAAC tournament’s move to Times Union Center can’t even point to the Saints’ upset of the Broncs as a reason why the event should have stayed on a totally neutral floor, like MassMutual Center in Springfield, because only a small fraction of the typical crowd braved the snowstorm to attend the game.
Jimmy Patsos called the environment “surreal.”
“It was almost like an exhibition scrimmage-type game, but it was obviously a real game,” Patsos said on last week’s conference call with media. “I was really pleased with the people that did come, but it was definitely a different type of atmosphere.”
Nonetheless, the Saints battled back from a 20-4 deficit to beat the Broncs. Then they came close to upsetting Iona — yes, the Gaels were still a double-digit favorite, even without A.J. English — on Friday night. That’s three solid showings from Siena, dating back to the Jan. 30 loss at Manhattan.
A win tonight at Saint Peter’s would deadlock the Saints with Quinnipiac and Canisius in fifth place. Siena would lose the tiebreaker against both teams, however, as each holds a 1-0 lead in the season series.
8. Saint Peter’s (11-13, 5-8)
Previous ranking: 7
Results: W 69-58 vs. Fairfield
This week: Monday vs. Siena; Friday at Niagara; Sunday at Canisius
Saint Peter’s took care of Fairfield despite playing without Desi Washington, who was suspended for his participation in the postgame scuffle at Iona on Jan. 31.
Four Peacocks scored in double figures to mitigate his loss, but it was the usual suspects: Marvin Dominique (15 points), Trevis Wyche (12), Tyler Gaskins (10) and Quadir Welton (10).
In other words, there’s not much more to take from this one other than Saint Peter’s beat one of the league’s worst teams while overcoming the absence of its top offensive threat.
9. Marist (5-19, 4-10)
Previous ranking: 9
Results: W 63-61 vs. Niagara; L 89-67 at Iona
This week: Thursday vs. Siena
You can’t win them all, Marist. The Red Foxes finally lost after reeling off four straight wins to make up serious ground in the MAAC standings. With just six games left, however, they likely won’t be able to catch 7-7 Quinnipiac and Canisius for the fifth seed. No matter. They still have time to get hot again and consider this season a success, given the grim prospects they faced just a few weeks ago.
Chavaughn Lewis passed Rik Smits and became the second all-time leading scorer in Marist history with his sixth of 24 points Sunday at Iona. He’s just 113 points behind program leader Steve Smith, who scored 2,077 points. If Lewis sustains his average of 21 points per game, he will enter the MAAC tournament with 2,090 points to his name.
Lewis has never been one to shy away from a challenge.
10. Fairfield (6-17, 4-9)
Previous ranking: 10
Results: L 54-52 OT at Rider; L 69-58 at Saint Peter’s
This week: Tuesday vs. Iona; Friday vs. Quinnipiac; Sunday at Fairfield
Marcus Gilbert had a ridiculous week against a pair of really solid defensive teams. The junior went for 30 points and 13 boards at Rider and 28 points and seven rebounds at Saint Peter’s.
But do the math. The Stags didn’t get many points from anyone else.
At least Fairfield took Rider to overtime, but when you’ve lost six straight, there’s really no moral victory in a tough loss.
11. Niagara (4-19, 3-11)
Previous ranking: 11
Results: L 63-61 at Marist; L 91-69 at Quinnipiac
This week: Friday vs. Saint Peter’s; Sunday vs. Rider
Think Niagara ran into a Quinnipiac team determined to avenge a double-overtime loss at the Gallagher Center? The result indicated so, as the Bobcats showed no mercy to a team that has lost 11 of 12.
Niagara had yet another close loss two nights before the Quinnipiac loss. The Purple Eagles are young, and they have struggled in games decided by five or fewer points during this 12-game stretch — they’re 1-4.
Player of the Week
Marcus Gilbert, Jr., F, Fairfield
Though Matt Lopez had a great week, Gilbert single-handedly kept Fairfield with Lopez’s second-place Rider squad in a tough road environment. Gilbert had 30 of his team’s 52 points and shot 10-of-17 from the floor. He also grabbed 13 rebounds. Then he followed up with a 28-point, seven-rebound showing at Saint Peter’s.
I just can’t split the award, but I’ll give Lopez a hearty honorable mention for his 19 points and 13 rebounds per game.
Rookie of the Week
Schadrac Casimir, G, Iona
Casimir averaged 27.5 points, three rebounds and two assists in Iona’s two wins. Though he shot just 4-for-17 from the field against Siena, he manufactured 22 points by drawing fouls and burying all 12 of his free throws. Then he erupted for 33 points on 11-of-17 shooting, including 9-of-14 from deep, against Marist.
David Laury, Sr., F, Iona
A.J. English, Jr., G, Iona
Emmy Andujar, Sr., F, Manhattan
Zaid Hearst, Sr., G, Quinnipiac
Ousmane Drame, Sr., C, Quinnipiac
Schadrac Casimir, G, Iona
Tyler Nelson, G, Fairfield
Karonn Davis, G, Niagara
Jermaine Crumpton, F, Canisius
Dominique Reid, F, Niagara