The first week of December also marks the beginning of conference play in leagues like the Metro Atlantic who play their conference tournaments the first weekend in March as opposed to the second. The conference picked up some good results in the first month of the season, with Rider opening the season by beating Mississippi State in Starkville and beating St. Joseph's earlier this week. Siena and Niagara haven't offered much reason to believe that they won't be major players in the title race, and there have been some good outings from teams picked to finish in the bottom half of the league.
Iona gave both Florida State and Baylor all they wanted at the Old Spice Classic before beating Creighton on Sunday, a win that could do the MAAC some good if the Blue Jays perform as expected in the Missouri Valley. And if the Gaels are truly the ninth-best team in the MAAC it's going to be a very good season for the league based on early returns. Canisius, Fairfield, Manhattan and Loyola are all above .500 going into league play and Saint Peter's took Seton Hall to the wire in their season opener. Even Marist, who remains winless in four games, has battled against the likes of Rutgers and Holy Cross.
Following this weekend the ten schools will tackle the remainder of their non-conference slates so a good start to league play will be vital. No one wants to return to league play at the end of the month staring at an 0-2 start.
12/2 Siena at Georgia Tech 7p
12/3 Marist at Fairfield 8p
12/4 Manhattan at Niagara 7p
Saint Peter's at Iona 7:30p
Loyola at Canisius 9p
12/5 Albany at Siena 8p
12/6 Manhattan at Canisius 2p
Fairfield at Saint Peter's 2p
Loyola at Niagara 2p
Marist at Rider 2p
12/7 Siena at Iona 7:30p
This Week's League Honors
Player of the Week: Canisius G Julius Coles 26.5 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 apg in two wins for the Golden Griffins.
Rookie of the Week: Fairfield G Derek Needham 13.5 ppg, 4.0 apg, 2.5 rpg in two wins for the Stags.
Most Important Game This Week: Siena at Georgia Tech. The Saints, whose best win to this point in the season came over Northeastern on the 17th, need a good showing here if they're to entertain thoughts of an at-large berth should they need it. Siena also visits Northern Iowa on the 12th but a win in Cedar Falls is unlikely to register nationally like a victory tonight. The Yellow Jackets, who are coached by former Siena head coach Paul Hewitt, have some serious size up front with Gani Lawal, Zachary Peacock and freshman Derrick Favors.
Alex Franklin and Ryan Rossiter must stay out of foul trouble if the Saints are to entertain thoughts of heading back to Albany with the win. Ronald Moore and Clarence Jackson (per the Times-Union's Pete Iorizzo Edwin Ubiles is unlikely to play tonight) should be able to hold their own with a backcourt that has talent (especially Iman Shumpert) but they can be prone to making bad decisions. At the least the Saints need to keep this game close; an appearance on the "bottom line" as the recipient of a whipping wouldn't make the best impression.
Most Important Conference Slate This Week: Saint Peter's. You can make arguments for both Loyola and Iona but my pick is John Dunne's club. The Peacocks play Iona and Fairfeld, two teams that have the lookof squads who will be in the thck of things in the midsection of the MAAC. SPC is winless on the road, where they begin conference play on Friday nightin New Rochelle. Wesley Jenkins, Nick Leon and Ryan Bacon are the seasoned vets but the newcomers will be needed to step up as the Peacocks approach the remainder of the MAAC schedule.
According to Ken Pomeroy's statistics the Peacocks are ninth out of the ten teams in the MAAC in adjusted offensive efficiecy (302nd nationally), but their defense has kept them in games. SPC leads the league in adjusted defensive efficiency (18th nationally), scoring defense (57.6 ppg allowed) and three point percentage defense (28.1%). Defense can get you through some games but there also comes a time when you need to be able to get good looks within the offense. If Saint Peter's can improve offensively they've got a shot at finishing in the top half of the MAAC.