MAAC Tournament Preview

6 Mar

Where: Springfield, MA

When: 3/6-10

Bracket

Who should win…I’ll go with #1 Iona, although I believe Manhattan is the best team in the conference, but it’s close enough that Alvarado’s ankle tips the balance for me. The Gaels went 17-3 in the MAAC, losing to only Canisius, Quinnipiac, and Manhattan, all teams that earned byes in this tournament. The Gaels are one of the most efficient offenses in the country, and have been for years. With Armand, English, Williams, and Bowman, they have four guys who light it up at any time, and Laury inside is skilled enough that you have to legitimately pay attention to him, plus Poole provides some punch off the bench. Weakness…defense, defense, and defense. And rebounding. The Gaels can’t stop you inside if you have a physical presence underneath, and the zone looks do nothing but hurt them on the glass, as it doesn’t limit penetration at all. If the Gaels aren’t playing on Monday, it would be a pretty big upset, especially given their half of the bracket.

If not them then…#2 Manhattan should in all likelihood be playing Iona on Monday, but the Alvarado injury is definitely something to keep an eye on. Masiello said he should be fine, and he supposedly practiced yesterday, but just based on watching it live, it looked like a high ankle sprain. I think he’ll certainly be limited, just not sure to what extent. The Jaspers are the perfect foil and rival to Iona. As good as the Gaels are offensively, the Jaspers are their equal defensively. Masiello uses an aggressive, up the line man that forced MAAC opponents into a 23% TO rate. Offensively, they get to the FT line as frequently as any team in the country, but they can be prone to a poor shooting night and getting beat on the glass.

Sleepers:  You have to feel awful for #3 Quinnipiac. The injury to Umar Shannon was devastating, and the Bobcats appear to be reeling from it. Chandler hopefully can come back to help replace Shannon’s production, but that’s not a given yet, and even if he does, it’s been so long since he played he would surely be rusty. Onus is on Conti and Ford in all likelihood. Nevertheless, the Bobcats still have the glass eating duo of Azotam and Drame, and the do everything capability of Hearst. The Bobcats also beat Manhattan twice, and they’re on the same side of the bracket. Beamon did get hurt 5 minutes into the first meeting, but the Bobcats didn’t have Drame for the second meeting. Quinnipiac matches up perfectly vs the Jaspers because of their rebounding strength and sagging defense, which forces you to beat them with jump shots. 52% of Manhattan’s shots come at the rim, the most in the country.

#4 Canisius will always have a chance of making a run with the incomparable Billy Baron. It also helps to have Manhertz back, as he and Jordan Heath have to provide some help for Baron inside. It hurts that Baron has to play on the ball nearly 40 minutes every game, but he’s their best passer, and of course their best scorer. He just has to have the ball in his hands the majority of the time. Canisius has a tough draw with Siena and then Iona. The last time they played the Saints it went to 3OT with Baron scoring 40 points and playing all 55 minutes to sweep the Saints. The zone defense has certainly had issues all season, and makes an already not so physical team dreadful on the glass. It also puts more pressure on Billy Baron to outscore teams. I don’t see a long run in store for the Griffs.

The Rest: 

#5 Siena The Saints are the toughest team in the MAAC, but I wonder if there isn’t a sense of “we’ve already way outperformed expectations” with this team. They had the slimmest of chances to get the 5 seed and final bye, and they did it by winning out and beating Manhattan and Quinnipiac in the process. The Saints don’t play pretty basketball. They turn it over a lot and foul a ton, plus they can’t shoot from outside. But Patsos runs the flex offense as well as anyone, and it really plays to a guy like Rob Poole’s strengths. The Saints have Canisius first, and Billy Baron averaged 30.1 vs them this year. Patsos has been known to draw up some wild plans to stop one guys (Steph Curry), but I don’t see that happening. More of a let Billy get his situation and take away everyone else. Siena will certainly struggle vs a zone, and they were actually more efficient offensively vs the Griffs’ zone in the first meeting, a 15 point loss, than they were in the 3OT loss.

#8 Rider vs #9 Monmouth

I’ve gone on at length about how Rider was the most overrated MAAC team a few months ago, and as the schedule got tougher, that turned out to be true. That being said, Monmouth is the worst offensive team in the league and is banged up. Rider swept the series, but both games were close. Stewart and Myles provide the scoring punch for the Broncs, but FR PG Jimmie Taylor is the most talented player on the court tonight. He’s been playing well of late, even if Rider isn’t.

#7 St. Peter’s vs #10 Fairfield 

Probably the most intriguing MAAC game of the evening, as Fairfield has some revenge in my mind after blowing late double digit leads in both meetings to lose by one on Desi Washington buzzer beaters. Fairfield had a nightmare of a season, and couldn’t close games all year long. Both are defensive minded teams with very limited offenses, so this one could be a real slugfest. The Peacocks come in having won four in a row, but over the bottom half of the MAAC. Should the Stags win tonight, the did upset Manhattan, but the Jaspers were without George Beamon.

#6 Marist vs #11 Niagara 

Marist is the Jekyll and Hyde of the MAAC. They beat Siena, Canisius, and Quinnipiac by 31 (although the Bobcats were/are reeling from injuries), but they’ve also lost to Fairfield, St. Peter’s, and Niagara. Marist has a clear advantage inside and used it in both games, but the difference between the first meeting and the second meeting was limiting penetration from Mason and company. In Niagara’s win, they went to the line 33 times. In the loss, 13.

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