MAAC Tournament: Preview & Odds

March 6th, 2009


This is one in a series of conference tournament previews, in which I run down all the teams involved, give a brief statistical review and present the log5 projections, using in-conference offensive and defensive efficiency. The basic log5 methodology comes from Bill James, and this is an area Ken Pomeroy has looked at in the past as well. I claim nothing new in the application, but obviously with slightly different methodologies, these numbers may differ from others you find.  I don’t claim to be an expert on any particular conference, and I’m sure there are some mis-characterizations on some players I’ve seen sparingly at best, so please add your thoughts in the comments. Anyway, with no further ado, the preview follows below:




The MAAC tournament gives first round byes to the top two teams, with all games hosted in Siena’s home building, the Times Union Center in Albany.







































St. Peter's












Loyola MD


















A pretty clear two-horse race sees the hometown team being the favorites, and a good Siena-Niagara final looks awfully likely.


#1 – Siena Saints (23-7, 16-2) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.127

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2008 (2nd Round)


After beating Vanderbilt to make the 2nd round of the tournament last year, there were high hopes for a Siena team that returned the majority of that team. The Saints took some losses in non-conference play, but largely cruised thorough their conference schedule, with only a couple of tough road defeats blemishing their record. The Saints have had the MAAC’s best offense, playing a fast style that depends on getting a lot of high-percentage two-point chances on the break, while managing to control their turnovers. Siena’s defense, though, hasn’t been as good, just 4th in the league. It forces a lot of turnovers, and rarely fouls, but gives up a lot of chances in transition, and has the worst defensive FG% in the conference. 


Players to watch:

6-9 SO Ryan Rossiter, 9.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG, 2.0 BPG, 62.7 eFG% - Rossiter probably won’t be the guy who gets the most plaudits on a strong Siena team, but he’s a player I’d like to see in a slightly larger role, as his current play has been exemplary. He doesn’t necessarily score a lot of points, but his 63% shooting from the field and 82% from the free throw line means he takes his chances very effectively. He’s also an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker who does a lot of important things for the Saints.


6-5 JR Alex Franklin, 13.8 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 56.6 eFG% - Franklin and Rossiter aren’t the names you’ll hear first when Siena is mentioned (those will probably be Ubiles and Hasbrouck), but they are the two most efficient players on the team. Franklin shares the team lead in rebounding with Rossiter, and is a 57% shooter who gets to the line very often, though his percentage from the stripe is not too good.



#2 – Niagara Purple Eagles (24-7, 14-4) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.142

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2007 (1st Round)


Don’t look now, but while Siena has the league’s best record, Niagara has been the best in efficiency margin, just slightly better than the Saints, and if the conference tourney were held on a neutral court, it’d be the favorite. The Eagles have had the conference’s best defense, despite struggling to stop the three-point shot. They’ve managed to get opponents to take most of their shots inside, where they’ve hit just 42%, and lead the league in forcing turnovers. Offensively, they don’t make a really high percentage of shots, but get a lot of chances, with an excellent record on the offensive glass and in holding onto the ball.


Players to watch:

6-5 SR F Bilal Benn, 14.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.5 SPG, 49.4 eFG% - Benn isn’t a huge offensive threat, but is a fairly solid scorer who leads the conference in rebounding. His shooting is right at the level it needs to be to keep him an efficient player, with his chances coming primarily inside, but also having the ability to hit the long-range shot.


5-11 JR Tyrone Lewis, 16.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 SPG, 44.4 eFG% - Lewis hasn’t been a very good shooter, struggling from inside the arc, but has made up for it with his defensive play, as he leads the conference in steals. Still, he’s the team’s leading scorer, as he takes a lot of shots and does a decent job.



#3 – Rider Broncs (18-11,12-6) ; Efficiency Margin: +0.022

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1994 (1st Round)


Besides the top two, Rider is the only other team in the MAAC that has a positive efficiency margin on the season, and the only other team to score more than a point per possession. Unfortunately for the Broncs, one of the conference’s worst defenses has really held them back. They are the MAAC’s best three point shooters, hitting just more than 40%, and while their poor performance on the boards keeps them from being equal to the leading pair, they can still put up a lot of points. Their defense has allowed opponents to shoot well from behind the arc, and has been below average in most other areas as well.


Players to watch:

6-6 JR Ryan Thompson, 17.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 57.9 eFG% - The league’s top two teams may have separated themselves from the pack, but the conference’s top player plays on the #3 team in Thompson. He leads the Broncs in points, assists and steals, and is also an excellent rebounder. He’s one of the conference’s best shooters, able to put up a lot of points inside and also shows a good touch from behind the arc.


6-3 SR Harris Mansell, 11.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 52.0 eFG% - Mansell is the closest thing his team has to a three-point specialist, and he does a good job of it, hitting 36% of long-distance shots, and has averaged 16 points over the last four games



#4 –Manhattan Jaspers (16-13, 9-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.023

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2004 (2nd Round)


Now, things begin to get difficult in the MAAC, as teams 4-8 all finished within .014 of each other in EM, and there isn’t much to separate them. Manhattan, which finished the season with a couple of disappointing road losses, has had a very solid defense, led by the conference’s best rebounding. It’s not great at forcing missed shots, but does grab most of those that do miss. Rebounding is also one of the offense’s few strengths, and the Jaspers get a lot of practice, hitting under 40% of their attempts. They also get to the free throw line quite often, but a 66% showing there sets them back.


Players to watch:

6-4 JR Darryl Crawford, 14.2 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 47.2 eFG% - An excellent three point shooter, Crawford is peaking at the right time,  scoring a career-high 33 in the Jaspers’ final regular season game.


6-3 SO Chris Smith, 13.4 PPG,5.6 RPG, 41.9 eFG% - Smith can put up a lot of points, and is a good rebounder, but his sub-30% on three-pointers, and barely-40% on two-pointers mean that he’s a pretty inefficient player.



#5 – Fairfield Stags (16-14, 9-9) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.021

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1997 (1st Round)


The Stags have had the best offense of any team outside the top three, but have also struggled defensively to manage a .500 finish. They are one of the conference’s better teams at defending the three-pointer, but have allowed opponents to score pretty easily inside, and have given opponents a lot of chances with many rebounds and few turnovers. Offensively, Fairfield doesn’t make a lot of its shots, but it manages to do the opposite of its defensive failings, getting a lot of opportunities at the basket by holding onto the ball and getting a lot of rebounds.


Players to watch:

6-7 JR Greg Nero, 12.9 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 57.1 eFG% - Nero is questionable for the Stags’ games in the tournament, and it will be a huge boost to their hopes if he returns and is healthy. He’s an incredibly efficient shooter who leads the team in scoring and is an excellent rebounder.


6-6 SO Yorel Hawkins, 8.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 48.2 eFG% - With several Fairfield players facing a variety of injury and disciplinary concerns, Hawkins has been forced to increase his role, and done a decent job in this role. He averaged nearly 15 points in February, though his shooting percentage hasn’t been great and he’s faced a lot of foul trouble.



#6 – St. Peter’s Peacocks (11-18, 8-10) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.033

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1995 (1st Round)


St. Peter’s is the worst ranked of the mid-table teams, and is somewhat fortunate to earn the final first-round bye. However, the Peacocks do enter the tournament on good form, winning their last five conference games. They’ve defended the inside pretty effectively, but teams that can shoot threes well can cause them a lot of problems, and they are terrible defensive rebounders, despite playing at quite a slow pace. They make up for it on the offensive glass, and make a lot of threes themselves, but cough the ball up too often for comfort.


Players to watch:

6-7 SO Ryan Bacon, 11.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 52.7 eFG% - Bacon is one of the conference’s best big men, third in the MAAC in rebounding and tops in the league in shot-blocking. He doesn’t play a huge role on the offensive end, but he’s a pretty good shooter who really impacts the game defensively.


6-2 SO Wesley Jenkins, 15.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.1 SPG, 43.5 eFG% - The Peacocks’ leading scorer has shot better from three than two, but his three-point percentage is just 36%, so that’s more an indictment of his inside shooting than anything else.



#7 – Iona Gaels (12-18, 7-11) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.019

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 2006 (1st Round)


Iona basically has the opposite story to the previous team, St. Peter’s, as the Gaels are the best team in this middle group by EM, but come in on a low, having lost eight of their last ten. This comes despite the conference’s second best defense, a unit that thrives in denying opponents possessions, forcing a lot of turnovers and dominating the glass. The problem for Iona has been holding on to the ball itself, as it is the conference’s worst at committing turnovers. It gets to the free throw line as often as any team in the country, but shoots just 66% at the line, which limits how much benefit it gets from these chances.


Players to watch:

6-9 SR Gary Springer, 12.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 58.3 eFG% - Springer was out for much of December, and really gave Iona a big help when he returned to start the new year. He leads the Gaels in scoring and rebounding, and is a 58% shooter, though he has had trouble with fouls.


6-1, FR Scott Machado, 9.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 43.2 eFG% - Machado may not be a big scorer or a very good shooter, but he has one of the best assist rates in the country, even with a fairly tepid cast of characters to get it to.



#8 – Loyola MD Greyhounds (12-19, 7-11) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.029

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1994 (1st Round)


Greyhounds’ coach Jimmy Patsos may have made his team the only one in the country to hold Stephen Curry scoreless, but it hasn’t been causing that much trouble for many opponents in an up-and down 2009 that has seen the team put up both a six-game winning streak and a seven-game losing streak. Loyola is as quixotic a defending team as you’ll see, leading the MAAC in defending three-pointers, but dead last in defending two-point shots. With most of its opponents’ shots coming from inside, that’s not a good thing for the Greyhounds. They have some good shooters at the free-throw line, sitting near the top of the national rankings at 76%, but haven’t translated that into hitting shots on the floor, where they are one of the league’s worst teams.


Players to watch:

6-3 SO Jamal Barney, 18.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 44.7 eFG% -  For a team that made national headlines for shutting down a dominant scorer, it’s a bit of an interesting coincidence that the Greyhounds have their own dominant player, as MAAC leading scorer Jamal Barney takes nearly 40% of his team’s shots when he’s on the floor. This hasn’t been all good, as he’s hit three-pointers at a woeful 28%.


6-1 JR Brett Harvey, 12.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 43.0 eFG% - Harvey has been a terrible shooter from the field, especially from inside the arc, but is an efficient player because he not only gets to the free throw line, but has hit 91% of attempts once he gets there.



#9 – Canisius Golden Griffins (10-19, 4-14) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.079

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1996 (1st Round)


The Griffins’ opponents shouldn’t lulled into too much of a sense of security  by their record, as they haven’t been too far behind the rest of the league in EM, and finished strongly, winning three of four and pushing Siena in a four-point loss. Canisius has an excellent team at defending shots, especially inside, as it allows opponents under 45% from two-point range. It gets into problems when it comes to the other facets of defense, especially committing fouls, where it is the worst in the league. The Griffins are poor shooters, struggling from three and from the line, and often have trouble putting up points.


Players to watch:

5-10 JR Frank Turner, 15.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 4.0 APG, 43.5 eFG% - Turner leads the MAAC in minutes played, and while he also leads the team in scoring, he’s a very inefficient player, shooting just 41% from the field and offsetting his good assist numbers with a lot of turnovers.


6-4 FR Julius Coles, 11.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 46.7 eFG% - Coles is the best three-point shooter for Canisius, but since he’s barely at 33%, that’s hardly a ringing endorsement. He comes into the tournament hot, averaging more than 16 points in his last four games.



#10 – Marist Red Foxes (9-22, 4-14) ; Efficiency Margin: -0.100

Last NCAA Tournament bid: 1987 (1st Round)


Marist sits at the bottom of the conference in both offense and defense, and while it has been somewhat unlucky to have such a poor overall record, it should still expect to be drummed in the first round. Marist has been able to defend shots well, but its inability to force turnovers and its trouble on the boards have meant that it hasn’t mattered much. The Foxes have also been decent at making shots on the offensive end, but have again seen their inability to get possessions go against them.


Players to watch:

6-7 SR Ryan Schneider, 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 49.0 eFG% - While his team has struggled, there can be little doubt that the Foxes’ leader in scoring, rebounding, steals and shot-blocking has been one of the league’s better players. He hasn’t been all that efficient, but he’s clearly the best option on a team that has struggled.


6-6 JR David Devezin,10.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 4.1 APG, 48.3 eFG% -  Devezien has had a couple of stretches during the season in which he’s has been a pretty good scorer, but hasn’t shown a whole lot during the last month. He’s a good percentage shooter, who has one of the best assist rates in the country while attempting very few three-pointers.



My statistical all-MAAC team:

Niagara JR G Tyrone Lewis, 16.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 SPG, 44.4 eFG%

Siena SR G Kenny Hasbrouck, 14.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 48.0 eFG%

Rider JR F Ryan Thompson, 17.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.7 SPG, 57.9 eFG%

Marist SR F Ryan Schneider, 16.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 1.4 SPG, 49.0 eFG%

Niagara SR G/F Bilal Benn, 14.1 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 2.5 SPG, 49.4 eFG%