After a long week of MAAC play, here is the latest on who is up and down as the conference’s final weekend begins. Let’s quickly assess some of the tournament chances of some teams, if the season ended today.
Pairings: Thursday 6 Quinnipiac vs 11 Marist, 7 Saint Peter’s vs 10 Fairfield, 8 Siena vs 9 Niagara Saturday 1 Iona vs 8/9, 2 Rider vs 7/10, 3 Manhattan vs 6/11, 4 Monmouth vs 5 Canisius
Stock Up: Monmouth – As the only team that had a chance to sweep Iona this season, the Hawks hung in with the Gaels on the road before Max DiLeo’s final shot rimmed out to give Iona the regular season title. Monmouth has gone toe to toe with the Gaels in both their meetings and a third matchup could be coming as soon as next Sunday afternoon, if the standings hold. It is worth noting that the last time the top seed reached the finals in back-to-back seasons was Siena in 2009 and 2010, so if the Hawks face the Gaels for a third time, there could be a good chance at an upset.
Stock Further Up: Mike Maker, Marist – In coming out last week saying that the school should give him confidence to make sure he has whatever it takes to make sure he turns the program around, it would be hard not to double down after the last week of action for the Red Foxes. If not for an untimely technical for hanging on the rim for a dunk, Marist could have been even closer late against Iona and his team competed again until falling to Manhattan on Monday. Considering he has had a full squad for maybe nine conference games, it is easy to see that the Red Foxes are improving even if it has not shown up in the standings and that is a testament to how the first year head coach has adapted his offense to fit the healthy pieces. Even though there is a chance this team will win the fewest games since going 6-27 in 2011, the future is bright for Maker and Marist as long as they commit to each other to build the program the way Maker wants it. Considering the tournament match ups, Marist last played Quinnipiac when T.J. Curry and Khallid Hart were easing into the lineup and played what was probably their best game to date. If the two match up again, the Red Foxes could pull a Thursday night upset.
Stock Down: Siena – The Saints, a team that still has home court advantage in the upcoming tournament, just squandered three straight home games to try to jump back into the race for a bye. While Jimmy Patsos’ team took a step or two forward last season, they have taken a step back this season. But a lot of that has to do with injuries. They lost Imoh Silas and Brett Bisping, their two starting forwards, for the majority if not all of the season, which has taken a dent in their defense. Add to it that Patsos recently said senior Rob Poole will have surgery after the season is over to fix his right ankle, and Siena has just not been able to escape injuries. Their most likely match ups are no guarantee in the tournament, they did sweep Niagara, but were swept by Saint Peter’s and split with Fairfield.
Quote on Toughest to Guard: “The toughest game that I had defensively, I think was when we played Quinnipaic. I was coming off my ankle injury, and my ankle never got better, and I had to play [Zaid] Hearst and with Quinnipiac they run a lot of pin down action. I’m chasing him on screens, he’s a physical player and he’s a good one-on-one individual player, so that was a challenge. I had to really lock in mentally, try to ignore the pain and fight through it for my teammates. I mean, I didn’t do much of a good job because he did finish with like 26 or something like that, so I mean that was the toughest defensive challenge all season I’ve had I think.” – Marist senior Chavaughn Lewis on guarding Zaid Hearst, who scored 27 in the Bobcats’ 72-71 win at Marist.
Fun Tournament Fact to Keep in Mind: The last time the MAAC’s top seed advanced to the championship game in back-to-back seasons was Siena in 2009 and 2010. Iona will attempt to break the trend this season.
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.