clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Sam attempts to power rank the MAAC

The MAACman himself brings his first power rankings of the season.

NCAA Basketball: Niagara at Syracuse Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly halfway through the MAAC season, the race is still a complete jumble, but it does feel like some tiers have finally evolved. For the first time this season, here are my MAAC Power Rankings

1. Fairfield

One Quick Thought: The run-and-gun style adopted by the Stags stands in a stark contrast to what Jay Young was running last year. Fairfield’s offensive possessions are, on average, three seconds shorter this season, and the ball is moving crisply. The elite backcourt has allowed the Stags to assist on 56.3% of their field goals in conference play, ranking second just one year after ranking 10th. The change in identity instituted by Chris Casey and his staff was being implemented before Young’s dismissal, as they played fast in Costa Rica, but it has flourished in the MAAC season.

2. Quinnipiac

One Quick Thought: Sitting pretty at 14-4 and 6-1 in the MAAC, Quinnipiac ranks in the top four in both offense and defense during the MAAC season. They’ve accomplished this despite opponents shooting 7% higher from behind the arc than them. How is this the case?

Quinnipiac is the best rebounding team in the MAAC, ranking second on both ends in rebounding percentage. Consistently playing lineups with three athletic players above 6-foot-7, Amarri Tice, Paul Otieno, and Alexis Reyes, with Richie Springs also getting plenty of run, the Bobcats are committed to the glass. However, the malleability of the Bobcats rotation doesn’t stop with playing big. Doug Young’s emergence, scoring 24 points in QU’s win against Iona, also allows Tom Pecora to play small. Savion Lewis and Matt Balanc hardly ever come off the floor, and their growing chemistry with Young only makes Quinnipiac better.

3. Saint Peter’s

One Quick Thought: Saint Peter’s has a lot of swing pieces, but an under appreciated one this year has been Stephon Roberts. The Division II transfer wasn’t added to the program until later in the offseason, but he’s provided much needed stability in the front court behind Mouhamed Sow. While it hasn’t exactly been all smooth sailing, being able to use Roberts at the five allows for the Peacocks to continue running their system the way they intend to. He’s played 18 minutes per game over the last four, and in that stretch, Saint Peter’s is 21 points per 100 possessions better on the defensive end with Roberts on the floor.

4. Niagara

One Quick Thought: The Purple Eagles are road warriors. Niagara is 4-0 in road games in the MAAC, and also defeated Buffalo on the road in their final game before conference play. Even with Braxton Bayless missing last weekend’s trip, NU went to Rider and beat Rider, and went to the Mount and beat the Mount. In three of the last four games, freshman Ahmad Henderson has scored 20 or more points. His role has shifted to play off the ball a little more, with Luke Bumbalough taking on more playmaking responsibility. The Ball State transfer is averaging 6.3 assists to just 1.5 turnovers per game over the same four game stretch.

5. Iona

One Quick Thought: Yes, losing at Quinnipiac after leading by double digits will leave a sour taste in the mouths of Iona fans, but the team has looked significantly better since the losses to Saint Peter’s and Niagara. A solid 87 points in two of the last three games, even if one of them is a loss, is a sign of the offense coming together. After the win against the Mount, Greg Gordon told the media that the Gaels were “knocking on the door” of finding their offensive identity, and as the team drained double digit threes against both Canisius and Quinnipiac, it seems like it’s been found. Despite Iona’s early struggles, Tobin Anderson’s team ranks third in the MAAC in offensive efficiency during league play, and it dominates the turnover battle on both sides of the ball.

6. Mount St. Mary’s

One Quick Thought: De’Shayne Montgomery has run into the freshman wall. As teams begin to scout the Mount better, the breakout star has begun to wilt a tad in league play. While still providing excellent length and effort defensively, his offensive output has mostly slowed down. Dan Engelstad was impressed with his six-assist performance against Iona when the Gaels took away his drives, but that hasn’t exactly continued over the last weekend. He didn’t have a single assist in the two games following the Iona loss. His talent is obvious, he doesn’t look like a freshman out there physically, but he’s still relatively new to basketball, and he’s learning the hard way that a college season is a major grind. If the Mount is going to play at its ceiling, he needs to break through the freshman wall and return to his December form.

7. Marist

One Quick Thought: If we know one thing about John Dunne, it’s that he can turn any game into a rock fight. After scoring just four points in the first nine minutes against Siena on Sunday, digging a 20-4 hole, the Foxes held the Saints to 28 points over the final 31. Marist was able to keep Siena scoreless for over seven minutes on two different occasions. The identity of the Red Fox team is still to slow the pace down and play tough on the defensive end. It’s tough to come from behind to win games when your pace is inherently slow, but Marist was able to do just that on Sunday.

8. Rider

One Quick Thought: This is the TJ Weeks that we expected. After a disastrous first two months of the season, ever since the calendar flipped to January, Weeks has been the shooter that Rider needs. He’s averaging 16.6 points and 6.8 rebounds, shooting 49% from three on over six attempts per game. Throughout the non-conference slate, Rider was begging for anything out of its three point offense, but now that it’s here, the Broncs have still lost three of five. Because Rider gets so little from its bench, the starting group tires, and its second half defense has been extremely poor. The scoring outputs for Rider opponents in the second halves since league play resumed are: 56 to Quinnipiac, 40 to Canisius, an anomalous 25 to Manhattan, 44 to Marist, and 40 to Niagara. Needless to say, that will not cut it.

9. Canisius

One Quick Thought: Entering the resumption of MAAC play, Canisius was shooting over 38% from beyond the arc, and holding opponents below 29%. Both of those marks led the conference, and the Griffs had the highest ranking on Torvik (when removing preseason priors) of any MAAC team. Since then? No MAAC team has shot the ball worse from beyond the arc than Canisius, just 26.6%, leading to a 1-5 stretch. Siem Uijtendaal’s breakout season has slowed to a pause, as he struggled before suffering a lower body injury that has kept him out of the last two games. Uijtendaal is trending towards playing this weekend, according to a Canisius spokesperson, but his effectiveness is still a question mark.

10. Siena

One Quick Thought: The Saints use one of the deeper benches in the league, but it’s not necessarily because they have excellent depth — it is because they’ve been forced to try a bunch of different looks. Siena has played nine different starting lineups this year, and still has yet to find the exact right mix. The constant tinkering with the group on the floor has been both a symptom and a cause for the Saints’ struggles this year. Michael Eley has dealt with injuries throughout the year, Michael Ojo is concussed, Zek Tekin has missed a few games, and obviously Sean Durugordon wasn’t eligible until mid-December. The only three Saints who have played in every game this year are Mason Courtney, Killian Gribben, and Giovanni Emejuru.

11. Manhattan

One Quick Thought: The Jaspers coach wants to believe. He shows up to work every day and is excited about the group that he has, but John Gallagher’s near boundless optimism hasn’t translated to success in an injury-riddled first season, at least for now. The future of the program is in good hands, this is one of the youngest teams in America, and they show a ton of fight, even if they’re not quite ready for this stage. Sitting at 1-6 in the MAAC and facing an upcoming Buffalo trip and matchups with the Connecticut teams, it’s a bleak outlook for the moment. With that being said, it doesn’t take a ton to make a statement for those standards. Simply winning one of the next four games, stopping the losing streak, would be a nice outcome for the team, and would restore even more good feeling.