It is that time of year again. Coaches received their ballots for the top awards in the MAAC and the announcement of the winners will come on Monday. Now it’s time to preview what those results might be.
The MAAC Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year races appear to have cleared themselves up. Two seasons ago the answers were unclear, but last season we had two runaway winners in Billy Baron and Khallid Hart for the two awards, but with Iona’s dominance of the league, it might be a battle between teammates for the top player award this season. Here is the third annual poll, consisting of head coaches, assistants as well as league officials, voting for who they think will win the major awards.
|Player of the Year|
This season’s race appears to be a two-horse race between Iona teammates. Plenty of coaches, when deciding between the two, deferred to the senior David Laury ahead of junior A.J. English based on seniority, but both appear to be a lock for the First Team All-MAAC. Laury leads the conference with 20.6 ppg, which ranks eighth in the country, and is second in the league in rebounding (9.5 rpg). Meanwhile English has put together another great season, ranking third in scoring (19.4 ppg) and leading the conference in assists (5.3 apg) for the Gaels, who have clinched first place in the MAAC.
Meanwhile, the players behind those two appear to be interesting as well, with votes coming in that would create a First Team All-MAAC of English, Laury along with Emmy Andujar, Ousmane Drame and Matt Lopez. Lopez, who is now out for the season, is probably a lock based on his body of work. That might seem to be a solid first team All-MAAC, but it would be missing players such as Marist senior Chavaughn Lewis, Quinnipiac senior Zaid Hearst and Saint Peter’s senior Marvin Dominique. One of those players could crack the top five or six in the conference. It is interesting to see the league is recognizing Monmouth sophomore Justin Robinson, who leads his team with 15.8 ppg in conference play.
“I told them at the beginning of the year, guys we’re picked 11th, we proved people wrong by being ninth, now we’re picked sixth, but if I was a player and no one on our team made first, second, third [team], or freshman, or defensive team that would make me have a chip on my shoulder,” Monmouth head coach King Rice said earlier in February. “I said that to my team at the beginning of the season, I’m not a guy that’s going to keep harping on that. If you’re supposed to be on one of those teams you play your way on them and obviously last year we did not play well enough for the whole season to get that done. Now, I think, if Justin never got hurt maybe he would’ve made one of those teams.”
Robinson missed the league’s All-Rookie team last season, instead Khallid Hart, Lavon Long, Zach Lewis, Jimmie Taylor and Marquis Wright made it. Here are the frontrunners for that team this season.
|Rookie of the Year|
As one head coach said, Casimir is hands down the freshman of the year. He is poised to be the first Gael to win Rookie of the Year since Scott Machado took the award in 2009. There is also a great chance that the Iona freshman is a unanimous pick for the award, as he is in this poll.Schadrac Casimir appears to be an even stronger runaway candidate for Rookie of the Year than Hart was last season. The 5’10” freshman ranks seventh in the conference in scoring (15.6 ppg) and tops in the conference in free throw percentage (89.6%). Plenty of opposing head coaches could not even think of other freshmen as second and third place votes, which is why there is a dearth of votes for the bottom tier candidates.
Overall, Nelson and Reid appear to be locks for an All-Rookie team, but it will be interesting to see who join the top three candidates.
This season, instead of a poll for Coach of the Year, we asked around the conference who is the surprise team this season. Monmouth, Rider and Canisius, teams that are picked sixth, seventh and 10th in the conference preseason poll have clinched three of the top five seeds in the MAAC tournament. The Hawks and Golden Griffins are the only two teams to beat Iona this season. Barring an untimely collapse, King Rice’s team will finish with their best record since making the NCAA tournament in 2006 with a 16-15 record. They have managed to stuff teams on the defensive end, holding teams to just 0.97 ppp this season, which is the same way that Jim Baron’s Canisius team has made up for everything they lost. Add to that the Broncs, who also turned around their defense — ranking best in the conference allowing 0.94 ppp. One of these three could keep Iona head coach Tim Cluess from getting his second straight Coach of the Year award depending on the results this weekend.
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.
3 thoughts on “Previewing The MAAC Awards Race”
One would think you could make a strong argument for Lopez being the “Player of the Year”, less support than the Iona twins, though neither of them is a poor selection.
No guards on “hypothetical” first team and Casimir and Robinson could, but if so, there should be a 6-player team, none of the others deserves to be bumped !
Sadly, the Lopez injury changes the entire construct of the MAAC tournament.
One really cannot argue with the selection of the first team. May be a good idea to expand it to 6, sixth man philosophy.
Ashame Lopez went down. The conference with the exception of Iona is down this year. Injuries have plagued the league immensely. Not sure if one team even now isn’t down at least one player and may teams still have players in the games hobbled by nagging injuries.
This weekend is huge.
If Manhattan can beat Iona, a recent 3-point loss @ home and Quinnipiac, a Q blow-out early in season, with Drame controlling the boards and Hearst shutting out Richards, they might be the favs, as Iona will have to play 3 games in as many nights, with Williams coming off his injury. Lawrence might be emerging for Manhattan and Stores could fill in for Richards missing 3’s.
If Iona and Q win, they could be in the MAAC finals !