This Week in the MAAC: Three-team Race?

January 13th, 2011
After the second week of conference play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this is a fair question to ask given the results. Three teams have either one or no league losses with preseason favorite Fairfield (5-0) leading the way. Ed Cooley's team had an impressive week, pasting Niagara (70-48), Marist (59-44) and Saint Peter's (70-43) to move their win streak to 11 games. PG Derek Needham may still lead the Stags in scoring but they've received solid contributions from a number of players, most notably F Ryan Olander and freshman forward Maurice Barrow. Needham's averaging just 12.9 points per game but that's of little concern when your team leads the conference in scoring, field goal percentage and three-point percentage defense. And their "lack" of scoring (64 ppg) likely has more to do with tempo than anything as the Stags rank third in the MAAC in field goal percentage. The other two teams in good position as we close in on finishing one-third of the league schedule are Iona and Rider (both 4-1).

Both teams boast a number of strong offensive options, and in forward Mike Glover the Gaels have one of the prime candidates for Player of the Year. These are the top two scoring teams in the MAAC and they also sit just behind Fairfield in scoring margin. But Rider has been the better defensive team, ranking third in both scoring and field goal percentage defense and fourth in three-point percentage defense. Novar Gadson, Mike Ringgold and Justin Robinson are just three of the offensive weapons at Tommy Dempsey's fingertips, and the fact that this group is also defending should bode well for them the remainder of the season. As for Iona, in addition to Glover you've got Kyle Smyth, point guard Scott Machado and a player in Rashon Dwight who's been playing very good basketball of late. The key for them will be to defend. Head coach Tim Cluess likes to switch things up on that end of the floor and they don't always look fluid defensively. That could be what stands between the Gaels and a return to the NCAA Tournament, something that was commonplace during the late-90s.

As for the remainder of the MAAC there's quite the barrier between the top three and the remaining seven despite Saint Peter's and Marist having 3-2 records. The Red Foxes, who once again have a number of young bodies on which to count, have an overall record of 4-13 and have lost just one game by single digits (at Vermont). Meanwhile the Peacocks have been hit hard by the injury bug, most notably Wesley Jenkins re-injuring his knee. It's unlikely that he's 100% the remainder of his senior campaign, which is a shame given how good he's been for three-plus years and the overall talent on this squad. If you were to pick a team right now that could make a run in the MAAC Championships Saint Peter's, who also have Ryan Bacon, Jeron Belin and Nick Leon at their disposal, could be that selection. And what's happened to Siena? The Saints are just 2-3 in conference play following their 0-for-western New York trip, including a 14-point loss Sunday to a Niagara team that could do nothing right offensively in a blowout loss to Rider on Friday.

It hasn't helped Mitch Buonaguro at all that guard Clarence Jackson has been out with a high ankle sprain. When he's in the lineup and producing the Saints have a very good inside-out tandem consisting of he and Ryan Rossiter. But others are going to have to step up (and stay healthy) in order for the three-time defending champs to claw their way back into the race. Manhattan and Niagara are both woefully young teams who may be able to pull a surprise or two along the way, but they have the look of "First Round Friday" participants right now. Loyola's got a solid mix of youth and experience but you have to be concerned when it looks as if a team doesn't recognize their opponent's best player, which happened to the Greyhounds against Iona as Glover got off to a fast start with little resistance. Canisius is also talented but they're getting into dangerous territory with a 1-4 record after a split of games against Siena and Rider. If not for the late-game heroics of Gaby Belardo on Friday Tom Parrotta's team would be 0-5, and given the disappointing seasons put forth by the Golden Griffins under his tenure you'd have to wonder if there would be some concern in Buffalo.

Weekly Honors

Player of the Week: Iona F Mike Glover (22 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in a 2-0 weekend for the Gaels)

Honorees to date
11/15 F Ryan Rossiter (Siena)
11/22 G Justin Robinson (Rider)/G Clarence Jackson (Siena)
11/29 G Kyle Smyth (Iona)/Rossiter
12/6 F Mike Glover (Iona)
12/13 Glover/F Shane Walker (Loyola)
12/20 Glover/Rossiter
12/27 G/F Novar Gadson (Rider)
1/3 G Scott Machado (Iona)
1/10 Glover

Rookie of the Week: Fairfield F Maurice Barrow (8.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in a 3-0 week for the Stags, which included 11 points and 14 rebounds in their win over Niagara)

Honorees to date
11/15 G Michael Alvarado (Manhattan)
11/22 G Dylon Cormier (Loyola)
11/29 G Marvin Jordan (Niagara)
12/6 G/F Jay Bowie (Marist)
12/13 F Menelik Watson (Marist)
12/20 G Justin Drummond (Loyola)
12/27 Drummond
1/3 G Danny Stewart (Rider)
1/10 F Maurice Barrow (Fairfield)

Tuesday, January 11th
Florida Atlantic 58, Manhattan 50

Friday, January 14th
7:00 PM Fairfield at Loyola (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Iona at Rider
7:30 PM Siena at Marist

Saturday, January 15th
2:00 PM Canisius at Manhattan
2:00 PM Niagara at Saint Peter's

Sunday, January 16th
2:00 PM Marist at Iona

Monday, January 17th
2:00 PM Loyola at Saint Peter's
2:00 PM Niagara at Manhattan
7:00 PM Canisius at Siena
7:00 PM Fairfield at Rider

Hoops Talk Live Today 6-7 PM EST