The MAAC picked up wins over the Atlantic 10 and Atlantic Coast Conference during the week, but the Niagara Purple Eagles will sit in first place in the conference standings until Dec. 3 thanks to their victory at Saint Peter’s. Here’s an assessment of who’s up, who’s down and what we are looking forward to this week.
Stock Up: Iona – The Gaels continued their strong run against the ACC under Tim Cluess, as they have racked up two wins over Wake Forest and one over then-member Maryland during his tenure. While this win was the least dominant of the three, the other two were by over 20-point margins of victory, this was the first of the three that came in a true road environment.
Plus now it is easy to take stock on A.J. English’s candidacy for MAAC Player of the Year as he carried the Gaels to two straight victories. English’s key plays down the stretch were the difference in notching a win over an ACC opponent and his career-high 37 points against North Texas helped move them to 3-1 on the young season with a 78-58 blowout. It also appears that Isaiah Williams turned a corner, scoring a career-high 21 points in the victory over the Mean Green. As long as they can hold on at home Wednesday night against Delaware State, Sunday’s game at Arkansas should be a good measure of how the Gaels will stack up against a possible NCAA tournament at-large caliber team.
Stock Up: Rider – The Broncs have a rough week ahead, playing at Kansas and following that up with an opener in the Orlando Classic against Michigan State, but they bounced back from an opening night tough loss with two victories. Junior Zedric Sadler is finally healthy and to form, scoring a career-high 23 points in their win over Penn. VCU transfer Teddy Okereafor went off for 29 points in their win over Lehigh. Add that to contributions from the front court and the Broncs are looking good through the season’s first two weeks. There’s a chance Rider wins one game or fewer this week, but they will gain invaluable experience over that time with games against high level teams.
Stock Down: MAAC Back-to-Backs – Three MAAC teams played on back-to-back nights in their non-conference schedule, with Monmouth and Fairfield hosting three straight home games, and only the Hawks were able to win multiple games on consecutive nights. Manhattan played at the neutral site Mohegan Sun tournament; winning their first game but being held to 51 points against Northeastern Sunday. It was the Jaspers’ lowest offensive output since their 34-31 victory over Fairfield two seasons ago. Meanwhile, the Hawks had a chance to win three straight but watched an eight-point lead evaporate in the second half’s final 2:26 against Towson. The Stags, who struggled to score Friday night (which might be an understatement), salvaged their weekend by beating South Dakota in overtime thanks to 24 points from freshman Tyler Nelson – who started his first career game on Sunday.
Winless Watch: Saint Peter’s – Considering they have been without Desi Washington, they have been in every single game they’ve played, but haven’t come out on top. Two of their losses are by a combined three points to Hartford and Niagara. When they get a healthy Washington back, they should be ready to contend for the conference title. Also they will get Rodney Hawkins at the end of this semester and he is expected to help out in the interior. Freshman Elisha Boone also appears to have turned a corner Saturday at La Salle, scoring a eight points and grabbing nine rebounds in the contest. Losing that early game could have implications should they need to get over the hump for the 5th seed tiebreaker, but the Peacocks should get it back on track soon.
Winless Watch: Marist – After falling to Army on Saturday in their home opener, the Red Foxes will look to avoid their second straight 0-3 start as they head to the Gulf Coast Showcase where they will face Florida Gulf Coast to start. After that they will face either San Francisco or Hawaii, two teams that have combined for a 7-1 record so far in the young season. The Red Foxes are also hurting, as they lost senior T.J. Curry for the next 6-8 weeks with a right hand injury and freshman Obi Mobah is in a walking boot. Now there are reports that star sophomore guard Khallid Hart is out until January. Marist will need to do some digging to find pieces to put around Chavaughn Lewis, and fast.
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.