Assessing The MAAC After The December Weekend Plus

The first weekend of MAAC play is in the books, and a few teams have even shaken off the rust and played one more game. There have definitely been some surprises. Let’s take a look at where things stand.

Our Coverage

Video: Monmouth 94, Canisius 88
Three Thoughts: Quinnipiac 77, Marist 63
Three Thoughts: Siena 80, Fairfield 73
Canisius Stuns Manhattan In MAAC Opener
Monmouth Defeats Quinnipiac In MAAC Season Opener

Bonus: Former Bobcat Ike Azotam Pursues Coaching At Texas

Non-NYC Buckets Bonus: Last Year’s Media Darling Monmouth Is At It Again, Rush The Court – Ray Curren

My Power Rankings

1. Monmouth (7-2, 2-0) – The Hawks appear to be holding right around 80th in KenPom and the class of the MAAC. Justin Robinson is once again leading the way offensively. The 5-foot-8 point guard shot just 1-6 from 3 at Quinnipiac, but he scored 28 points on 8-17 shooting at home against Canisius. Je’lon Hornbeak had an excellent shooting weekend, going 9-15 from 3 in the two victories. Monmouth went to Wagner on Tuesday night and clinched a not particularly easy victory at the NEC favorite, 81-71. The Hawks are building up for three huge games to finish December: at Memphis, Princeton, at North Carolina.

2. Siena (3-6, 1-1) – The Saints lost at a desperate Rider on Monday night and have generally struggled away from the Times Union Center. The Saints are 3-0 at home and 0-6 on the road. I have no idea if that has to do with players showing up late for activities, but Jimmy Patsos seems to think it might.

3. Iona (4-3, 1-1) – The Gaels had a great run to win the Great Alaska Shootout, but when they finally returned to New Rochelle things didn’t go so well. Iona lost an absolute head-scratcher to Niagara in its home opener. Tim Cluess’s team is still heavily reliant on its guard-oriented offense to win games. When the shots don’t fall weird things can happen.

4. Saint Peter’s (4-3, 1-1) – If Quadir Welton was on a team that played a slightly faster tempo it would be obvious that he’s one of the best players in the MAAC. The senior forward is absorbing 30% of SPU’s possessions when he’s on the court and averaging 17.5 ppg and 8.5 rpg. The Peacocks are also the best defensive rebounding team in the nation.

5. Canisius (3-5, 1-1) – Opening with two games on the road is not an easy task, but the Golden Griffins got a split and gave Monmouth quite the scare in the process. Reggie Withspoon has brough a team-first attitude to Buffalo. Canisius has six players with at least 13 assists and is 10th nationally in assist rate.

6. Fairfield (5-3, 1-1) – You better guard Tyler Nelson. Nelson is the MAAC’s leading scorer at 20.5 ppg. He went off for 38 points in the Stags’ victory at Rider. He has four games this season with 20+ points. The Stags went to Bucknell on Tuesday night and got handed their third loss of the season, 75-64. Amadou Sidibe had 16 points and 15 rebounds, but Nelson was held to just 12 on 4-11 shooting in the loss.

7. Rider (4-3, 1-1) – The Broncs have just enough talent and a smart enough scheme to be dangerous in the MAAC, especially at home. They proved that by taking advantage of Siena’s extremely cold shooting night from 3 to take home a 2-point victory on Monday. The three seniors who play a significant chunk of minutes (Jimmie Taylor, Xavier Lundy and Kahlil Thomas) seem to be deferring more this season. They should stop it.

8. Quinnipiac (2-5, 1-1) – The Bobcats really needed to beat Marist and they did. The schedule is easier for the rest of December, so hopefully Tom Moore’s team can get some more wins. QU is playing fast (none of their games has had fewer than 75 possessions), but that’s hiding both a poor offense and poor defense.

9. Marist (4-5, 1-1) – Mike Maker has built an offense that can score around Khallid Hart and Ryan Funk, but the defense is another matter. Hart is definitely having a First Team All-MAAC type season, but he’ll need some help.

10. Niagara (2-6, 1-1)- The Purple Eagles have lost at Hartford and North Texas, two of the worst teams in Division I, but they went to New Rochelle and comfortably defeated Iona in the Gaels’ home opener. Matt Scott and Kahlil Dukes scored 20 and 17 points respectively against Iona and are becoming an extremely dangerous one-two punch.

11. Manhattan (2-7, 0-2) – Rich Williams still hasn’t played this season, though he was spotted shooting in sweats prior to the game against the Golden Griffs. Without him the Jaspers offense has been a mess. Manhattan is turning the ball over on more than 28% of their offensive possessions, second worst in the NCAA. Zavier Turner has been a bright spot for the Jaspers. The 5-foot-9 transfer from Ball State scored 30 points against SPU and has tallied double-digit points in all but one game this season. Manhattan went to Morgan State (ranked 333 in KenPom) and fell in double-overtime on Tuesday night, 85-82.

Too Early Superlatives

Best Conference Offense: Monmouth 117.8 points / 100 possessions
Best Conference Defense: Siena 92.8 points / 100 possessions

More surprising is probably which teams are No. 2 in both of those categories through two games. That’d be Saint Peter’s on offense at 104.7 points / 100 possessions and Rider on defense at 94.2 points / 100 possessions. (Canisius is close on offense. Fairfield and Niagara are right behind on defense.)

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