Monday, December 28, 2015

MAAC Monday: OOC review, stat leaders, power rankings

Monmouth and their entertaining cast of reserves highlighted non-league portion of MAAC schedule, which Hawks are hoping is merely tip of their iceberg. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)

With league play set to resume this weekend, our latest edition of "MAAC Monday" takes on somewhat of a different tone. We will return to statistical analysis soon enough, but with out-of-conference play concluding in the coming days, our first segment focuses on a review of each team's activity going into the new year. Then, of course, we will refresh the conference's stat leaders before ending with our newest set of league-wide power rankings. Any and all statistics reflected were, as always, gleaned from the individual stat pages on each school's website.

In our league review segment, teams are listed in order of their predicted finish in the MAAC's preseason coaches' poll, from highest to lowest:

Iona: The Gaels are 4-6, with one more non-league collision tonight against Drexel standing in their way before MAAC play resumes at Quinnipiac on Saturday. Iona has played a very formidable schedule in the opening months of the year, and have managed to tread water without the services of A.J. English in their last four contests while Schadrac Casimir and Kelvin Amayo have been sidelined for longer periods of time. Tim Cluess could be getting some much-needed reinforcements to his lineup sooner rather than later, and in the absence of English, Jordan Washington and Jahaad Proctor have acquitted themselves quite well as Isaiah Williams continues to be a dynamic threat on both sides of the basketball.

Monmouth: The Hawks are the well-documented standard bearer for the MAAC by virtue of their 9-3 start, featuring marquee wins against the likes of UCLA, Notre Dame, USC, Georgetown, and Rutgers. Now, King Rice's squad faces their biggest challenge, that being the task of sustaining their red-hot start to non-league play. Monmouth faces a pivotal matinee against Army West Point this afternoon before returning to the MAAC slate a week from tonight in a rematch with Canisius, and as their bench has garnered national attention, the object now will be solidifying the play of point guard Justin Robinson with equally strong outings from his supporting cast.

Manhattan: At 3-7, the Jaspers still have one more non-league tilt awaiting them, on Tuesday against Eastern Kentucky, before the two-time reigning conference champions return to Draddy Gymnasium for pivotal meetings with Fairfield and Siena over the first weekend in January. While most pundits have been quick to write Manhattan off for their slow start and numerous injuries, Steve Masiello has not wavered a slight fraction, standing by his oft-mentioned process as his team regains its health and bearings. Shane Richards and Rich Williams have effectively replaced the scoring of Emmy Andujar and Ashton Pankey, but the Jaspers are still looking for a consistent third scorer, whether it is Zane Waterman, RaShawn Stores, or even freshman guard Tom Capuano. While their record may not be what some people envisioned at this stage of the year, there is no doubt that once the Jaspers are healthy, they will once again be squarely in the middle of the scrum for the championship.

Rider: Kevin Baggett's Broncs may be 3-9, but the record is a little deceiving. Rider has been in their fair share of games, only to fall short due to late comebacks by their opponents, poor free throw shooting, and just about anything else that has not gone their way. As last year's regular season runner-up braces for a challenge from Hartford on Wednesday, interior play will continue to be a key concern for a group that has yet to fully adjust to life without seven-foot center Matt Lopez through their non-league start.

Siena: Jimmy Patsos and the Saints stand an impressive 8-4 going into their road trip to Vermont on Tuesday, but two of those four losses were by a grand total of just five points, which cost Siena a shot at what would have been a 10-game winning streak. Point guard Marquis Wright is playing some of the best basketball of any player in the league despite being overshadowed by A.J. English and Justin Robinson, and his rediscovered outside shot has played a significant factor in the junior's evolution. The Saints' experienced front line already got them a decisive MAAC win against Manhattan earlier this month, and matchups against Niagara and the same Jaspers team Siena defeated handily three weeks ago position them to possibly make a huge statement on the first weekend in January.

Canisius: The Golden Griffins are back at .500 on the year after a successful showing in Las Vegas, first coming back from down 13 in the final minute of regulation against Louisiana-Monroe before defeating Nicholls State. At 6-6, Jim Baron is doing what he has made a career out of, flying under the radar with a deceptively strong team. The Griffs have crashed the glass better than any of their conference brethren so far this season, namely the duo of Jamal Reynolds and Phil Valenti, and point guard Malcolm McMillan has lived up to his billing as a potential first team all-league floor general. Of prime importance to Canisius is not overlooking Saturday's showdown at McCann Arena against Marist, as it is a winnable game that could provide some added momentum for the Griffs as they face Monmouth for the second time on January 4.

Quinnipiac: Tom Moore and the Bobcats have alternated two losses with two wins during their 4-6 start, which positions them for a third pair of victories in their next two contests. Quinnipiac has a road game with Maine on deck Tuesday evening before experiencing opposite ends of the spectrum in their first two league games of 2016, first taking on Iona before entertaining Rider in the back end of a two-game homestand in Hamden. Moore was optimistic about his group entering the season, and has further reason to smile considering the efforts the Bobcats have made in the absence of Chaise Daniels, who was expected to be a big piece of the puzzle before he was sidelined due to injury.

Fairfield: Much has been made of the Stags and their start to the season, and rightfully so. For starters, Sydney Johnson's team is pushing the ball up the floor more often, and it has had an adverse effect (for the better) on the product being put out on a nightly basis. Fairfield is now 6-5 after raining down 17 three-pointers and 101 points against Bucknell on Sunday afternoon, and the backcourt pair of Tyler Nelson (25 points against Bucknell) and Jerome Segura have shared the ball enough to where Marcus Gilbert is not the only man who makes the motor run for the Stags. Saturday evening's clash with Manhattan now takes on a different tone, as we should see a faster-paced flow to what has come to be a defensive-oriented rivalry known for its 34-31 final back in March of 2013.

Saint Peter's: John Dunne and the Peacocks are 4-6, but in the grand scheme of things, they are just a handful of bounces away from being 7-3. Saint Peter's is also one of only two teams entering 2016 undefeated in league play, having swept Rider and Siena earlier this month as a Monday night battle with Cornell precedes three road games against Marist, Niagara and Canisius, respectively. Quadir Welton has been the perfect interior complement to freshman Antwon Portley's floor game, and the Peacocks have a very good chance of returning home with at least two wins on their road trip if everything breaks right.

Marist: The Red Foxes have played better than their 4-6 record may indicate, and freshman Brian Parker has been a big reason why. Parker's first two collegiate months have served him and Mike Maker well, as he has blossomed into a reliable second scoring option behind Khallid Hart, who heads into Tuesday's game against Jacksonville as the MAAC's leading scorer, with A.J. English now on the short side of the minimum amount of games needed to qualify for the scoring title. Marist's biggest concern entering league play, though, is the performance of their big men. If Eric Truog can stay out of foul trouble enough, and if Phillip Lawrence-Ricks can secure enough rebounds to keep Marist in the fight on the boards, the conference season will be much better than the preseason prognostications said it would be.

Niagara: At 3-9, the Purple Eagles have lost six of their last seven heading into their final non-league game, which comes Wednesday against St. Bonaventure. Well rested after playing only two games since December 12, Wednesday's test against the Bonnies starts a stretch of five games in eleven days for Chris Casey's team. Matt Scott has impressed through the first two months as a well-rounded hub of the wheel, but Niagara is going to need to get his teammates involved more often as MAAC play wears on if they have aspirations of escaping the lower rungs of the standings.

Scoring Leaders
*A.J. English, Iona (25.0 PPG)
1) Khallid Hart, Marist (22.9 PPG)
2) Justin Robinson, Monmouth (20.3)
3) Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield (19.0)
4) Shane Richards, Manhattan (18.7)
5) Malcolm McMillan, Canisius (18.1)
6) Rich Williams, Manhattan (17.4)
7) Marquis Wright, Siena (17.3)
8) Matt Scott, Niagara (16.5)
9) Giovanni McLean, Quinnipiac (15.8)
10) Phil Valenti, Canisius (15.7)

Rebounding Leaders
1) Brett Bisping, Siena (9.1 RPG)
2) Quadir Welton, Saint Peter's (7.7)
3) Deon Jones, Monmouth (7.7)
4) Jamal Reynolds, Canisius (7.3)
5) Donovan Smith, Quinnipiac (7.1)
6) Matt Scott, Niagara (7.0)
7) Isaiah Williams, Iona (6.8)
8) Rich Williams, Manhattan (6.5)
T-9) Chris Brady, Monmouth (5.8)
T-9) Javion Ogunyemi, Siena (5.8)

Assist Leaders
*A.J. English, Iona (6.8 APG)
1) Tyler Wilson, Manhattan (6.4 APG)
2) Jerome Segura, Fairfield (5.6)
3) Marquis Wright, Siena (4.6)
4) Malcolm McMillan, Canisius (4.3)
5) Teddy Okereafor, Rider (4.3)
6) Trevis Wyche, Saint Peter's (4.1)
7) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (3.9)
8) Giovanni McLean, Quinnipiac (3.2)
9) Aaron Rountree, Iona (3.2)
T-10) Lavon Long, Siena (3.0)
T-10) Matt Scott, Niagara (3.0)

Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Chris Brady, Monmouth (.569)
2) Javion Ogunyemi, Siena (.565)
3) Jordan Washington, Iona (.544)
4) Kahlil Thomas, Rider (.535)
5) Matija Milin, Fairfield (.528)
6) Khallid Hart, Marist (.522)
T-7) Brian Parker, Marist (.500)
T-7) Trevis Wyche, Saint Peter's (.500)
9) Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield (.496)
10) Lavon Long, Siena (.494)

Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Je'lon Hornbeak, Monmouth (.946)
2) Deyshonee Much, Iona (.917)
3) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (.884)
4) Justin Robinson, Monmouth (.882)
5) Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield (.838)
6) Shane Richards, Manhattan (.821)
7) Antwon Portley, Saint Peter's (.806)
8) Malcolm McMillan, Canisius (.804)
9) Khallid Hart, Marist (.800)
10) Lavon Long, Siena (.797)

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Marquis Wright, Siena (.548)
2) Deyshonee Much, Iona (.491)
3) Curtis Cobb, Fairfield (.488)
*A.J. English, Iona (.456)
4) Isaiah Lamb, Marist (.455)
5) Justin Robinson, Monmouth (.429)
6) Khallid Hart, Marist (.422)
7) Giovanni McLean, Quinnipiac (.421)
8) Ibn Muhammad, Iona (.417)
T-9) Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield (.400)
T-9) Ryan Oliver, Siena (.400)
T-9) Kassius Robertson, Canisius (.400)

Power Rankings
1) Monmouth (9-3, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week:
1
Last Game: Wednesday 12/23 at Cornell (W 78-69)
Next Game: Monday 12/28 at Army West Point, 4 p.m.

2) Siena (8-4, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week:
3
Last Game: Tuesday 12/22 vs. St. Bonaventure (W 73-70)
Next Game: Tuesday 12/29 at Vermont, 2 p.m.

3) Fairfield (6-5, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week: 5
Last Game: Sunday 12/27 at Bucknell (W 101-91)
Next Game: Saturday 1/2 at Manhattan, 7 p.m.

4) Canisius (6-6, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week:
 4
Last Game: Wednesday 12/23 vs. Nicholls State (W 83-74)
Next Game: Saturday 1/2 at Marist, 7 p.m.

5) Iona (4-6, 2-0 MAAC)
Last Week:
2
Last Game: Wednesday 12/23 vs. Akron (L 78-64)
Next Game: Monday 12/28 vs. Drexel, 7 p.m.

6) Saint Peter's (4-6, 2-0 MAAC)
Last Week:
 7
Last Game: Wednesday 12/23 vs. St. Francis Brooklyn (W 56-45)
Next Game: Monday 12/28 vs. Cornell, 7 p.m.

7) Marist (4-6, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week: 9
Last Game: Tuesday 12/22 vs. Brown (W 84-83)
Next Game: Tuesday 12/29 at Jacksonville, 7 p.m.

8) Manhattan (3-7, 0-2 MAAC)
Last Week:
8
Last Game: Sunday 12/20 at Morgan State (W 78-66)
Next Game: Tuesday 12/29 at Eastern Kentucky, 2 p.m.

9) Quinnipiac (4-6, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week:
6
Last Game: Monday 12/21 at Oregon State (L 82-61)
Next Game: Tuesday 12/29 at Maine, 7 p.m.

10) Rider (3-9, 0-2 MAAC)
Last Week:
11
Last Game: Wednesday 12/23 at Morgan State (W 71-49)
Next Game: Wednesday 12/30 vs. Hartford, 7 p.m.

11) Niagara (3-9, 1-1 MAAC)
Last Week: 10
Last Game: Wednesday 12/23 at Albany (L 65-56)
Next Game: Wednesday 12/30 at St. Bonaventure, 7 p.m.

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