MAAC Conference Play Starts Tonight

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

The MAAC gets their conference slate started a little early with some pivotal match ups that could jump start some team's season. What can we expect from the first slate of MAACtion?

Many mid-major coaches, in one bid leagues, will tell you that the out of conference schedule is merely preparation for the conference season that generally heats up in January. For coaches in the MAAC, they won't get the luxury of waiting until after the holidays to begin the more important stretch of the schedule as conference play tips off tonight.

One game, no matter how early, can certainly change who, when, and maybe where your team is playing in March; so what can we expect from the first week of conference play in the MAAC?

Wednesday

Marist Red Foxes (0-7) at Iona Gaels (3-2), 7 PM

Iona was my preseason pick to win the MAAC and the Gaels have impressive back to back wins after winning at Kansas. First Tim Cluess' squad dominated George Mason at home and the Gaels throttled Florida Gulf Coast on the road. Sean Armand and David Laury are becoming one of the more formidable tandems in the nation. Armand is averaging over 20 points per game and Laury is grabbing 8.4 rebounds and 14.4 points per game.

This summer I thought Marist made one of the worst coaching hires there were this offseason, which didn't make many Red Fox fans happy. Obviously it's still early, but Marist is looking for something to be proud of and searching for their first win. Chavaughn Lewis is averaging 15.3 points per game, but he's not getting much help.

Thursday

Rider Broncs (2-4) at Monmouth Hawks (3-4), 7 PM, ESPN3

It's a new era in the MAC for Monmouth as they host their first MAAC contest since coming over from the NEC. The Hawks are on a little bit of a roll after protecting home court and winning their division of the Barclays Center Classic. Deon Jones and Andrew Nicholas have formed a powerful scoring tandem and are combining for nearly 33 points of offense a night.

Rider has had a back and forth season thus far, but has played solid competition throughout. Seniors Anthony Myles (18.7 ppg) and Daniel Stewart (14.8 ppg) have been leading the way for the Broncs. Freshman Jimmie Taylor has also been a pleasant surprise early, averaging 11.7 points per outing.

Friday

Fairfield Stags (1-6) at Quinnipiac Bobcats (4-2), 8:30 PM, ESPN3

What would Friday night be without the MAAC? Quinnipiac is the other school making their MAAC debut this week and will do so against an in-state rival on ESPN3. The Bobcats have been impressive thus far this season and have five players averaging in double-figures, including Zaid Hearst's 15 points and 10.7 rebounds per game.

The low scoring Fairfield Stags haven't won since opening night and have lost by double digits in three of their last four outings. Will conference play provide the spark this team desperately needs?

Siena Saints (2-7) at Niagara Purple Eagles (1-7), 7 PM

Both schools are struggling, but one first year head coach will get their first MAAC win (or at least first at their new home). Niagara's Antoine Mason is leading the country in scoring with 30 points per game. For Siena, keep an eye on Rob Poole who is scoring 14.2 points per game and grabbing 6.2 boards.

St. Peter's Peacocks (2-4) at Canisius Golden Griffins (3-3), 7 PM

I guess you can say it's been a semi-disappointing start for Jim Baron's Canisius team, with the low point coming at the hands of Division II Metro State and a loss in the Preseason NIT. Baron's son, Billy, continues to bomb it though and is averaging 21.5 points per game.

The Peacocks are coming off a heartbreaking loss against Boston University. Marvin Dominique is having quite the season averaging 18.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game thus far.

Manhattan Jaspers (4-2) at Marist Red Foxes (0-7), 7PM

The schedule makers weren't kind to Marist as they start the season against two of the conference's preseason favorites. George Beamon has been an animal early on in the year averaging 23.3 points and 7.3 rebounds. It might be another rough week for Marist fans....

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