Earlier this week the MAAC Commissioner, Rich Ensor, released the complete MAAC men's basketball schedule via the conference website. The schedule includes 220 games commencing on Tuesday December 1 2015 and concluding with three games on Sunday, February 28th 2016. With the MAAC's current 11-team structure, each team will play every other team in the conference twice (20 games total), once at home and once on the road.
Looking down the schedule there are several big rivalry games that should be put on the calendar of every MAAC Hoops fan, including several very late in conference play this year. Here is a look at some of the games that we've highlighted on the schedule:
-  Saint Peter's @ Rider
-  Quinnipiac @ Monmouth
-  Canisius @ Niagara
-  Monmouth @ Quinnipiac
-  Rider @ Saint Peter's
-  Manhattan @ Iona
-  Saint Peter's @ Monmouth
-  Marist @ Siena
-  Quinnipiac @ Fairfield
-  Siena @ Marist
-  Monmouth @ Rider
-  Fairfield @ Quinnipiac
-  Monmouth @ Saint Peter's
-  Niagara @ Canisius
-  Rider @ Monmouth
-  Iona @ Manhattan
While the MAAC has not yet released their TV schedule yet for the upcoming season you can bet that several of these Friday evening showdowns between local rivals will be nationally televised events. Lets take a closer look at each of the rivalries that we are looking forward to in the MAAC this season:
The newest of the MAAC rivalries, the hOURglass rivalry was formed for the 2013-2014 season. This competition is held between all three MAAC schools that reside in New Jersey (Rider, Monmouth & Saint Peter's). The winner is determined via a point system that awards one point in a head to head victory amongst these three schools in all sports except men's and women's basketball, which receive 2 points per head to head victory. Monmouth took home the first crown with 35 Points. This basketball season, where both Monmouth and Rider are anticipated to finish as top seeds in the MAAC standings, the hOURglass rivalry may gain some momentum towards becoming one of the great traditional MAAC rivalries.
Battle of I-87:
This long time rivalry game between Siena and Marist dates back to when both schools were still competing against each other on the Division II level - this was before either of them joined D-1 competition or the MAAC Conference. The rivalry gets its name as it is between two schools who's campuses are just off Interstate, I-87, (and approximately 87 Miles apart). This rivalry got so heated after a brawl on Marist's home court in during a game in the 1983-84 season that it was forced to take a 4-year hiatus while things cooled off. While Siena has had the better run as of late, games between these two seem to always come down to the wire.
While Quinnipiac is new to the MAAC, making Fairfield no longer the only Connecticut school represented, these two schools go back a ways. These two schools have been competing in a 6-team event, known as the "Connecticut 6" in which they compete for the bragging rights as one of Connecticut's best Division 1 Basketball program. Similar to the Big 5 in Philadelphia, this event has different pairings of the 6 schools, (CCSU, Fairfield, Hartford, Quinnipiac, Sacred Heart, & Yale.) each year. Since Quinnipiac joined the MAAC the two schools have not been paired in the event, however they both now have the unique opportunity to take down two of the ‘Connecticut 6' Schools in one season.
Battle for the Bridge - Canal Cup:
While the rivalry between Canisius College and Niagara University dates bask as far as any in Western New York, they decided to enhance it in 2006 when they created the "Battle for the Bridge". This rivalry game is named for the Grand Island Bridge, Which spans the Eerie Canal separating the two schools. This rivalry is similar to the hOURglass rivalry as it now has a point system assigned to it which is tracked throughout all head to head competitions. The two schools also take part in the larger "Buffalo Big 4" basketball rivalry which also features Buffalo from the MAC conference and Saint Bonaventure from the A-10 conference. There is never an open seat at either arena when these two teams meet.
Manhattan vs. Iona:
There is no fancy nickname required for this one. One of the most exciting, anticipated, and competitive rivalries in not just mid major college basketball, but all of college basketball, this game is a must see for all hoops fans - if you can get a ticket. The heated rivalry between these two teams separated by only a few miles dates back to the 1946-47 season. They have met 88 times since then including meeting in the MAAC finals for 3 consecutive years.
Matt Norlander from CBS Sports described a meeting between these two teams back in 2013 by saying, "This was among the most passionate and invigorating college hoops environments anyone could place themselves in all season. The beauty, and irony, is that the atmosphere -- the heat -- inside Draddy was beyond anything the NCAA tournament's first weekend can provide in its exciting-but-sterile environments." The only two schools from the MAAC to ever receive at-large NCAA births are set to meet again for the 89th and 90th time this season - both on Friday nights at their respective gyms, but the way things have been going you can almost count on a 91st meeting at the Times Union Center in March at the MAAC Tournament.
This year should prove to be one of the most competitive MAAC seasons in recent years. We anticipate a very small discrepancy between teams 1 through 11 this season. It looks to be another wild ride en route to what is sure to be a very interesting MAAC Championship in Albany come March.