The final week of the regular season is suddenly upon us. With the MAAC tournament in Albany quickly approaching, the final order of finish is beginning to take shape. Rider pulled out a thrilling victory over Canisius this weekend to retain its hold on the top spot in this week’s rankings, while an injury to Niagara’s Matt Scott could shift the landscape of the league.
Jaden Daly over at A Daly Dose of Hoops broke down all the potential tiebreaker scenarios earlier this week. There are certainly plenty of questions still to answer in this final week, so let’s take a look at where things stand and how we got here:
1) Rider (21-7, 14-2 MAAC) – 97-71 W vs. Siena (2/15); 83-82 W vs. Canisius (2/18)
The Broncs remain in first place in both the regular season standings and our weekly power rankings after coming out on top in the week’s marquee matchup against Canisius Sunday afternoon. Dimencio Vaughn led the way with 22 points along with nine rebounds and matched a career best with four steals. Jordan Allen added 19 points on 5-9 shooting.
Rider made 50% of its shots against the Golden Griffins, marking the eighth time in 16 league contests the team has made at least half of its attempts. The Broncs’ 10-game winning streak is their best in a decade, and the team’s 21 wins rank second most in program history behind the 2007-08 squad’s 23.
The Broncs close with a trip to Monmouth this Thursday before playing host to Iona on Sunday. Look for Vaughn to gain steam as a potential league Player of the Year candidate down the stretch. The redshirt freshman has been Rider’s best player, and currently leads the team with 15.8 ppg while pulling down 6.6 rpg.
2) Canisius (19-10, 13-3 MAAC) – 78-60 W @ Monmouth (2/16); 83-82 L @ Rider (2/18)
The Golden Griffins pushed their winning streak to six thanks to a 26-point outing from Isaiah Reese and a season-high 14 team steals as they took down Monmouth Friday night for Canisius’ first season-sweep of the Hawks since Monmouth joined the MAAC in 2013.
However, the success could not be carried through the weekend as the Griffs fell to Rider in its battle for first place Sunday. Canisius came up with just three steals against the Broncs and shot a disappointing 11-17 from the charity stripe as the teams were once again separated by just a single point (Canisius won the first meeting 77-76 to open league play).
Reese went over the 20-point mark for the ninth time this season with 23 and nabbed a career-high 12 rebounds while Jermaine Crumpton led all scorers with 24 points, in the process becoming just the eighth player in program history to reach the 1,500 career point milestone.
Both Reese and Crumpton will earn consideration for league Player of the Year honors as Canisius ends its regular season with a trip to rival Niagara Wednesday night before hosting Marist on Sunday.
3) Niagara (18-11, 11-5 MAAC) – 85-84 W @ Iona (2/16); 82-72 L @ Manhattan (2/18)
The Purple Eagles earned a split of their downstate trip despite suffering the loss of star guard Matt Scott midway through the first half against Iona. Scott (19.5 ppg, 7.4 rpg) has been among the best players in the MAAC this season, and his loss would likely be too much for Niagara to overcome should he miss the conference tournament.
After falling behind by double digits against the Gaels, Niagara mounted a furious second half comeback to come away with the victory. However, fortunes faltered a few days later as the Purple Eagles could not keep up with Manhattan’s timely 3-point shooting and lockdown perimeter defense in the second half.
We should get a better indication of Scott’s immediate future this week as the Purple Eagles will host Canisius on Wednesday night before closing their regular season on Friday against Marist.
4) Iona (16-12, 10-6 MAAC) – 85-84 L vs. Niagara (2/16)
The Gaels have officially clinched a first-round tournament bye, but have little room to move up or down in the standings following a disappointing loss to Niagara this week.
Iona led Niagara by 12 early in the second half, but couldn’t execute late and split the season series with the Purple Eagles. For Iona, it was the team’s third home loss of the season and third defeat in its last four games. The frontcourt pairing of T.K. Edogi and Roland Griffin has been great for the Gaels, but the backcourt anchored by junior Rickey McGill must be more consistent.
A large part of Iona’s success in the weeks ahead will hinge on the reintegration of senior guard Deyshonee Much, who left the team for a week following a postgame altercation after the team’s loss to Monmouth Feb. 8. Much returned to practice the day prior to the loss to Niagara, but will have a week of prep time before the Gaels host rival Manhattan Friday night on ESPNU.
5) Manhattan (13-15, 8-8 MAAC) – 71-70 L @ Quinnipiac (2/15); 82-72 W vs. Niagara (2/18)
Despite the Jaspers’ .500 record in league play, Steve Masiello appears to have his team peaking at the right time heading into the stretch run of the regular season.
Rich Williams poured in a career-high 29 points in team’s narrow loss at Quinnipiac, and followed that up with another 21 against Niagara. Zane Waterman added 19 points and 11 rebounds against the Bobcats for his third double-double of the season while Pauly Paulicap came up with one of the best blocks in college basketball this season against the Purple Eagles.
Manhattan’s last three losses have come by a combined eight points, including a four point decision at league leader Rider. Friday night’s rivalry game against Iona should give a solid indication of the Jaspers’ trajectory heading into the MAAC tournament, while the season-ender against Quinnipiac comes along with a slew of seeding implications.
6) Quinnipiac (10-18, 7-9 MAAC) – 71-70 W vs. Manhattan (2/15); 102-98 L (2OT) @ Fairfield (2/17)
The Bobcats were involved in a pair of thrillers this week, just hanging on to defeat Manhattan behind 27 points from Cameron Young before falling to in-state rival Fairfield in double-overtime behind a career-high 40 points from freshman Rich Kelly.
Kelly’s performance was the first 40-point game for a Quinnipiac player since Rob Monroe scored 40 against Sacred Heard on Feb. 3, 2005. For context, the Bobcats’ all-time leading scorer at the Division I level, James Johnson, only ever had a career high of 38.
Young added 31 points against the Stags, his second 30-plus point performance of the season after posting 31 against Iona earlier this month.
Quinnipiac will close the season with a home contest against Saint Peter’s before heading to the Bronx to take on Manhattan in a matchup sure to be meaningful for tournament standing.
7) Fairfield (12-15, 7-9 MAAC) – 83-79 W vs. Marist (2/15); 102-98 W (2OT) vs. Quinnipiac (2/17)
The Stags picked up a pair of wins this week to remain in contention for fifth place in the league standings and the final conference tournament bye that comes along with it. Fairfield survived a late scare from Marist behind 20 points from Tyler Nelson while Ferron Flavors Jr. picked up the first double-double of his career with 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Nelson then became the all-time leading scorer in Fairfield history with 32 points against Quinnipiac on Saturday afternoon. It was the fifth 30-point effort of Nelson’s season, while the senior also added five assists. Jonathan Kasibabu set a new career high in points (22) and matched his personal best in rebounds (15) while Flavors added another 19 points.
Since Quinnipiac joined the MAAC in 2013, the Connecticut rivalry has been among the most exciting in the league. The teams have met 10 times since then, with four contests needing overtime, two hitting double-overtime, and just one game decided by more than five points.
The Stags will need some help to nab the final tournament bye, but have a favorable schedule to close the season. Fairfield will travel to Siena on Wednesday night before finishing off its season against Monmouth on Saturday.
8) Monmouth (10-18, 6-10 MAAC) – 78-60 L vs. Canisius (2/16); 93-89 W (3OT) @ Siena (2/18)
The Hawks were no match for Canisius earlier in the week, but enjoyed the return of leading scorer Micah Seaborn against the Saints on Sunday. Seaborn had missed the last seven games with a lingering hamstring injury and has been absent from 13 total contests this season for various reasons.
The Texas native poured in 15 points along with six rebounds and five assists in his return, but it was Austin Tilghman who did the heavy lifting. Tilghman matched a career high with 24 points while connecting on a personal-best 12 free throws. Deion Hammond and Zac Tillman rounded out the team’s double-digit scorers with 16 and 15 respectively.
Curiously, the triple-overtime contest wasn’t even the longest of Monmouth’s season. The Hawks went four overtimes with Penn earlier this season in a game Monmouth would eventually drop 101-96.
With Seaborn’s return, Monmouth could show an entirely new dimension come tournament time. King Rice will have games against Rider and Fairfield this week to sort out his team’s remaining issues and prepare them for a run in Albany.
9) Marist (6-22, 4-12 MAAC) – 83-79 L @ Fairfield (2/15); 69-51 W vs. Saint Peter’s (2/17)
The Red Foxes staged a late comeback against Fairfield that came up just short, then got back in the win column against Saint Peter’s this week. Marist trailed the Stags by 12 with just 6:32 to play, but closed within two in the waning seconds. Five Red Foxes finished in double figures, led by Brian Parker’s 18 points.
On Saturday, Marist trailed Saint Peter’s by six at halftime, but Mike Maker’s squad held the Peacocks to just 21 second half points as the Red Foxes picked up their first win since Jan. 30. Ryan Funk played the hero this time around with a career-high 24 points on six made three-pointers.
The Red Foxes close the regular season with the trip to western New York to face first Niagara on Friday before taking on Canisius on Sunday.
10) Siena (8-21, 4-12 MAAC) – 97-71 L @ Rider (2/15); 93-89 L (3OT) vs. Monmouth (2/18)
A nightmare scenario unfolded for Saints’ sophomore Ahsante Shivers Sunday afternoon as the Maryland native lost track of the score and committed a foul with just 2.6 seconds remaining in the third overtime after Jordan Horn knotted the game at 89 with a short jumper.
Austin Tilghman went on to make four free throws down the stretch to provide the final margin as the Saints dropped their fifth game in six tries.
Here’s the Jordan Horn tying jumper, followed by Ahsante Shivers foul with 3.1 seconds left in the 3rd OT: pic.twitter.com/8itq2GWxTq
— Mark Singelais (@MarkSingelais) February 18, 2018
Horn came through with a pair of free throws in the final seconds of the second overtime to tie things up at 85 and finished the afternoon with 14 points. Khalil Richard led the team with 23 points, less than a week after setting a career high with 22 against Iona. Evan Fisher provided 19 points to finish with double figures for the fourth consecutive game.
The Saints will have some opportunity to improve their positioning with games against Fairfield and Saint Peter’s leading up to the conference tournament in their home building at the Times Union Center.
11) Saint Peter’s (10-16, 4-11 MAAC) – 69-51 L @ Marist (2/17)
The Peacocks are currently riding a three game losing streak and have looked listless since taking down Marist on Feb. 8. Saint Peter’s has lost its last three games by an average of 14.3 ppg and has not been able to keep up with opponents on the offensive end.
Saint Peter’s led Marist by six at halftime, but could only muster up 21 points after the break. Sam Idowu led the way with 15 points and has now reached double figures in each of his last three games while Nick Griffin added 10 points with six rebounds.
The Peacocks will look to get back on track against Quinnipiac this Friday before playing host to Siena on Sunday. Saint Peter’s posted its largest margin of victory this season in its first meeting with the Bobcats, posting an 84-58 win on Jan. 7, and fell to Siena 59-57 in triple-overtime on Jan. 29.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.