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MAAC preseason power rankings: Rider is back with unfinished business

The Broncs had a tournament-caliber team last year. This year, they hope to dance.

2017 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational - Hampton v Rider Photo by David Becker/Getty Images

The 2017-18 MAAC season was an unpredictable roller coaster that somehow ended up exactly where the thought. While Canisius and Rider finished the regular season tied for first, Iona ultimately cut down the nets with its third straight conference tournament championship. This year, the Gaels will be good again, but the Broncs come in as the unquestioned favorite to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1994.

1. Rider Broncs (22-10, 15-3 MAAC, Lost to Oregon in NIT First Round)

The Broncs return the core from last year’s regular-season co-championship team, including all-MAAC first-team choice Dimencio Vaughn and double-digit scoring junior Stevie Jordan. Rider brings back each of its six leading scorers from last year and has now-eligible Minnesota transfer Ahmad Gilbert and FIU transfer Kimar Williams.

2. Iona Gaels (20-14, 11-7 MAAC, Lost to Duke in NCAA Tournament First Round)

Following the 2017-18 season, the Gaels are feeling confident as ever with their third consecutive MAAC tournament championship under their belt. Though they finished just 11-7 in conference, the Gaels return a majority of their championship group. This team will be led by returning star Rickey McGill, who finished last year averaging 13.4 points per game including a 40-point piece against Rider.

3. Canisius Golden Griffins (21-12, 15-3, Lost to Jacksonville State in CBI First Round)

The 2018 MAAC co-champions bring back Isaiah Reese, who averaged just under 17 points per game last year, as well as Rookie of the Year Takal Molson. With leading scorer Jermaine Crumpton gone, the Griffs will have to step up this year to repeat their performance from last season, but the hopes are high for Reggie Witherspoon’s club.

4. Manhattan Jaspers (14-17, 9-9 MAAC)

The Jaspers are coming off a so-so year in the MAAC as they look to return to their past greatness. MAAC Defensive Player of the year Pauly Paulicap and his 2.6 blocks per game returns to the Bronx, but Manhattan will have to find someone to replace the offensive drive delivered by Rich Williams and Zane Waterman. While Paulicap did produce 10 points per game, he will not be able to carry the team to another conference tournament bye.

5. Fairfield Stags (17-16, 9-9 MAAC)

The Stags are looking to grow from their 9-9 conference record but will have to do it without Tyler Nelson and his 22 points per game. Jesus Cruz, who is now a sophomore, was third on the team in scoring last year and he will be the returning leader. The Stags are a strong young team that will surely be able to play well among the top group of teams in the MAAC, but their ceiling may be limited.

6. Monmouth Hawks (11-20, 7-11 MAAC)

The Hawks finished with a lousy record in 2018, but there were some bright moments throughout the season. Monmouth played well at Seton Hall early on and even pulled out a late-season win over Rider. Returning for the Hawks is All-Freshman Team member Deion Hammond, as well as Ray Salnave. But you don’t just replace Micah Seaborn overnight. The Hawks will have to fight hard in the middle of the pack to pull out ahead come tournament time.

7. Quinnipiac Bobcats (12-21, 7-11 MAAC)

After finishing even with Monmouth last year, the Bobcats are also looking to build upon the positives. They return their two leading scorers in Cameron Young and Rich Kelly. Young was named second-team All-MAAC last year while Kelly was named to the all-rookie team. The two of them combine to give the Bobcats a strong backcourt and the potential to sneak up on some teams.

8. Niagara Purple Eagles (19-14, 12-6 MAAC, Lost to Eastern Michigan in CIT First Round)

After losing both leading scorers Khalil Dukes (21.0 PPG) and Matt Scott (19.1 PPG), Marvin Prochet is going to have to take lead and produce for the Purple Eagles. Niagara finished last season with an impressive record of 12-6, but it will be tough to repeat that with young faces and only one true returning producer on offense.

9. Saint Peter’s Peacocks (14-18, 6-12 MAAC)

Seton Hall legend Shaheen Holloway takes the reins at Saint Peter’s following a sub-.500 MAAC season for the Peacocks. A 66-55 upset win over Rider in the MAAC Tournament was the highlight of their 2017-18 season, but all that did was upset the balance of the conference. With a strong returning core to go with some new faces, Saint Peter’s might be a sleeper team to make some noise.

10. Siena Saints (8-24, 4-14 MAAC)

The Saints finished the 2017-2018 season tied for last with Marist at a record of 4-14 in conference play. While that is a tough hole to dig out of, especially after losing three of their top four scorers from last year, the Saints can rely on the return of Khalil Richard (9.2 PPG, 44% 3PT). Siena is also adding Jamion Christian in place of Jimmy Patsos. The hopes are not entirely high for the Saints, but there is hope for growth nonetheless.

11. Marist Red Foxes (6-25, 4-14 MAAC)

Lastly, it’s the Red Foxes, who also finished last season at a lowly 4-14. Marist’s top scorer Brian Parker returns after producing 17 points per game and his supporting cast of Ryan Funk and David Knudsen are also back. That gives new head coach John Dunne a solid foundation to build on in his first season.