Tempo-Free MAAC: Jan. 14 Edition

We’re now six games into MAAC play. Monmouth is surprisingly tied with Iona atop the regular season standings at 5-1, but the tempo-free standings actually have a different team challenging the Gaels (though no one is really even close).

Tempo-free standings (efficiency margin: points score per possession – points allowed per possession):

  1. Iona: +0.12
  2. Rider: +0.09
  3. Monmouth: +0.07
  4. Canisius: +0.05
  5. Manhattan: +0.04
  6. Fairfield: -0.01
  7. Saint Peter’s: -0.01
  8. Siena: -0.02
  9. Quinnipiac: -0.06
  10. Niagara: -0.09
  11. Marist: -0.20

The Gaels have led the MAAC in efficiency margin for each of the past four regular seasons and this campaign is no exception. Tim Cluess’ team once again appears to be the class of the MAAC. What might be surprising early in the season are the three teams right after them. Rider, Monmouth and Canisius are all surprisingly in front of the Manhattan Jaspers. It’s doubtful that 1) Marist will be winless all season – though KenPom does give it a 2.6% chance of happening – and 2) the Red Foxes will be outscored by two-tenths of a point for the entire season. The worst team in the past three seasons was Saint Peter’s, who was outscored by 0.19 points per possession in MAAC play.

Points Scored Per Possession Leaders:

  1. Iona: 1.16
  2. Siena: 1.08
  3. Canisius: 1.08
  4. Monmouth: 1.02
  5. Saint Peter’s: 0.99

The offenses in the MAAC aren’t pretty! Only four teams in the 12-team league are even score above a point per possession in league play. Interestingly, one of them is Siena. This obviously hasn’t been the problem for the Saints. Jimmy Patsos has always been a good coach on the offensive end, but his Loyola (MD) teams struggled to defend at times. Oh boy is that the case for the currently undermanned Saints.

Points Allowed Per Possession Leaders:

  1. Rider: 0.89
  2. Manhattan: 0.94
  3. Monmouth: 0.95
  4. Fairfield: 0.98
  5. Quinnipiac: 1.00

The Broncs have been absolutely incredible on defense. Steve Masiello’s Jaspers are typically considered the class of the MAAC when it comes to stopping opponents, but Kevin Baggett’s team is doing everything right. Right now Rider is basically Manhattan’s defense without the foul problems. The Broncs have done it while watching opponents shoot 80.8% from the free throw line! That number is likely to come way down (the Division I average is 69%), so there’s a chance the defense gets even better.

Points Scored Per Possession Laggards:

  1. Marist: 0.83
  2. Quinnipiac: 0.94
  3. Manhattan: 0.97
  4. Fairfield: 0.97

Quinnipiac is down here because of two awful games. The Red Foxes scored 0.76 points per possession against Fairfield and 0.86 points per possession against Saint Peter’s. Also, Manhattan’s offense is probably being undersold here. The Jaspers struggled during the December weekend, but have scored more efficiently as the season has gone on, hitting 1.14 points per possession in their last game against Niagara.

Points Allowed Per Possession Laggards:

  1. Siena: 1.10
  2. Niagara: 1.07
  3. Iona: 1.04
  4. Marist: 1.03
  5. Canisius: 1.02

Yikes! Siena’s defense has completely fallen apart. Part of it is that the Saints have been unlucky. Opponents have shot 40.2% from three during their first six MAAC games. Part of though is just bad defense. The Saints rank 10th in defensive rebounding percentage and 10th in free throw rate. Siena’s younger big men appear unprepared for the roles they’ve been thrust in — six Saints players are committing more than five fouls per 40 minutes this season.

Luck Outliers:

  • Monmouth: +0.83 wins
  • Canisius: -0.84 wins
  • Saint Peter’s: -0.77 wins

“Luck” in this context is mostly about results in close games — which I promise isn’t a skill your team possesses. The Hawks are 2-0 in single-possession games this MAAC season (though they did have a four-point loss to Quinnipiac). On the other hand, Canisius is 1-2 in those such games (and two of their other wins were big blowouts against Niagara and Marist). This should even out as the season goes along, though last season Quinnipiac finished 2.6 wins above its projected total.

Chances of Winning MAAC Title With Ties (10,000 Sims):

  1. Iona: 94% (86% solo)
  2. Monmouth: 7% (3% solo)
  3. Rider: 5% (2% solo)
  4. Canisius: 3% (1% solo)
  5. Manhattan: 1% (0.3% solo)
  6. Saint Peter’s: 0.6% (0.1% solo)
  7. Quinnipiac: 0.3%

KenPom has Iona as the overwhelming favorite in the MAAC and nothing recently has really changed the computer’s perception of the conference race. These numbers though seem a bit over the top. What the computers don’t see is the fragility of Iona’s rotation and the potential of injuries to bring everything to a crashing halt. But barring that (disaster) scenario it’s hard to see the Gaels not at least being right around the top of the standings come March.

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