Marist finished the regular season 6-24 overall with a 4-14 league record and will enter the MAAC tournament as the #11 seed. The Red Foxes will open play Thursday night against #6 Fairfield at 9:00 PM.
Mike Maker’s squad won just one of its final eight games, but played Fairfield tight both times the teams met in the regular season. The Red Foxes took the first meeting Jan. 13 in Poughkeepsie 95-89 in overtime despite star guard Brian Parker playing just one minute before turning an ankle. Fairfield evened the season series with an 83-79 win Feb. 15 in Bridgeport despite five Marist players scoring in double figures.
Player To Watch: #2 Brian Parker, Jr. G
The bottom seed is unfortunately a familiar position for the Red Foxes. Marist has finished either tied or alone in last place in the MAAC each of the last three seasons. However, in his first season Mike Maker’s squad was able to spring the upset on #6 seed Quinnipiac in 2015 behind a 13-19 (.684) shooting performance behind the arc.
For Marist to surprise the league’s other Connecticut squad this time around, its perimeter play must be at the same level. That all begins with All-MAAC Third Team selection Brian Parker.
Parker led the Red Foxes and ranked fifth in the MAAC this season with a 17.0 ppg average while pulling down 5.3 rebounds per game and dishing out a team-high 3.4 assists per contest. He is undoubtedly Marist’s star player, and will be the arbiter of the team’s success this weekend.
“We ask him to do an awful lot, and I think he keeps getting better as a player,” Maker said of Parker. “Clearly he’s really important to us moving forward and in any tournament format we think he’s a tough matchup for anybody.”
Marist’s other impact junior is Ryan Funk, who averages 11.8 ppg and leads the team with a 40.6% conversion rate beyond the arc. Funk connected on 6-of-13 three-point attempts in the regular season series with the Stags, and will be counted on to maintain that consistency.
“We’re going to have to have a healthy balance about us,” Maker added. “But we’re only going as far as our big horses bring us, and that’s Parker and Funk.”
The dark horse in this matchup is freshman Austin Williams, who averaged just 5.9 ppg this season but took off in both games against Fairfield. Williams scored a career-high 23 points on 7-10 shooting with six rebounds and five assists while getting to the free throw line a remarkable 16 times in the first meeting. He then added another 12 points on 5-8 shooting with six boards during the rematch.
Marist’s biggest question entering Thursday is the health of sophomore center Tobias Sjoberg. The 6-foot-9 native of Sweden missed the season-ending trip to Buffalo with an ankle injury and is questionable to suit up this Thursday. Sjoberg is the team’s leading rebounder at 5.9 rpg, and will play a major role in guarding the Stags’ Jonathan Kasibabu if healthy.
Should Sjoberg not make it onto the court, much of his duty will fall upon the shoulders of sophomore Aleksandar Dozic. The 6-foot-9 Dozic had a great end to the regular season scoring double figures against both Niagara and Canisius, and has averaged 7.6 ppg with 4.3 rpg during the 2017-18 campaign.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.