A first team all-MAAC selection last season, Justin Robinson has picked up where he left off, spearheading Monmouth's impressive November. (Photo courtesy of Monmouth University Athletics)
In what we hope will become a regular feature on this site, "MAAC Monday" debuts for the 2015-16 season, highlighting statistical trends, performances of teams and players, and also previewing what lies ahead. We begin with a look at some tempo-free numbers, focusing on possessions and points per possession for each team. Any and all stats were gleaned from the individual statistics pages of each school's website.
Possessions (from highest to lowest)
1) Fairfield (76.33 possessions per game)
2) Iona (75.33)
3) Canisius (74.4)
4) Monmouth (74.33)
5) Siena (73.17)
6) Saint Peter's (72.4)
7) Manhattan (71.5)
8) Quinnipiac (69.5)
9) Niagara (69.43)
10) Marist (67.75)
11) Rider (62)
Analysis: Fairfield's last-to-first improvement pops out faster than a bag of microwave popcorn. Granted, these statistics are through nonconference games, but the Stags are nearly a full 14 possessions ahead of their 62.65 pace through MAAC play last season. After defeating Columbia Friday evening, both head coach Sydney Johnson and senior swingman Marcus Gilbert professed their newfound system to our friend Ray Curren of Big Apple Buckets, with Gilbert saying teams "don't know what hit them" when Fairfield pushes the ball up the floor. Tuesday's MAAC opener at Iona now adds a completely new dynamic to what has been a clash in styles over recent years, as the plodding Stags teams of the past have been replaced by a more aggressive outfit that will now look to run with the Gaels, who have been the league's standard bearers for both pace and offense.
On the other end of the spectrum, Rider lags almost six full possessions behind their next closest competitor, tenth-place Marist. This is nothing unusual for Kevin Baggett and the Broncs, who make their hay on the defensive end, where they held conference foes to a scant 0.94 points per possession a year ago. In the middle of the pack, Manhattan checks in at 71.5 possessions, which is impressive considering the depth issues the Jaspers have had to begin the season. Limited to six or seven players in almost every game thus far, the two-time reigning conference champions may be health-challenged, but it has not yet compromised Steve Masiello's system. One spot ahead of Manhattan is Saint Peter's, who, like Fairfield, ranked toward the bottom of the league from a pace standpoint last season. The infusion of youth and improved physique of the Peacocks has given head coach John Dunne a new arsenal with which to work in Jersey City, although the tempo has slowed down a bit from their first two contests against Brown and Lafayette.
Points Per Possession (from highest to lowest)
1) Canisius (1.18 PPP)
2) Monmouth (1.07)
3) Siena (1.06)
4) Fairfield (1.03)
5) Saint Peter's (1.00)
6) Marist (0.99)
7) Iona (0.98)
8) Niagara (0.97)
9) Quinnipiac (0.95)
10) Rider (0.94)
11) Manhattan (0.92)
Analysis: Canisius' four games with 85 or more points put the Golden Griffins on the throne as king of MAAC offense through November, and by a wide margin, as the remainder of the league has not been as prolific offensively. Monmouth has stayed afloat by eclipsing the 80-point barrier in four of their six games as well, including going for 90 in a hard-fought loss at USC two weeks ago, only to come back with 83 in a victorious rematch against the Trojans in the Advocare Invitational. Siena's total is a product of not only the up-and-down style of Jimmy Patsos' offense, but also the full complement of players the Saints have after an injury-ravaged 11-20 season a year ago. Fairfield's 1.03 mark is still slightly inflated by the 113 points the Stags posted against Maryland-Eastern Shore, but Sydney Johnson's aforementioned change in tactics has also made a noticeable impact. Further down the list, don't be too alarmed by the 0.98 figure for Iona. The Gaels have only played three games to date, one of which being their decisive season-opening loss at Valparaiso, where the Crusaders held the defending regular season conference champions to just 58 points. If Tim Cluess' personnel goes about their business over the next couple of weeks, expect to see this number back where it has proven to belong, on the north side of the 1.00 plateau.
In our next edition of MAAC Monday, we will take an in-depth look at defensive efficiency, and which teams are making a concerted effort to be tough customers when the ball is not in their hands. In the interim, though, here's a look at the league leaders in points, rebounds, and assists per game to date:
1) Justin Robinson, Monmouth (24.8 PPG)
2) Malcolm McMillan, Canisius (23.6)
2) Malcolm McMillan, Canisius (23.6)
3) Khallid Hart, Marist (22.5)
4) Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield (21.3)
5) A.J. English, Iona (19.0)
6) Rich Williams, Manhattan (18.8)
7) Shane Richards, Manhattan (18.3)
T-8) Marquis Wright, Siena (18.0)
T-8) Brian Parker, Marist (18.0)
10) Matt Scott, Niagara (17.3)
1) Quadir Welton, Saint Peter's (9.6 RPG)
2) Jamal Reynolds, Canisius (9.2)
3) Brett Bisping, Siena (8.0)
4) Chaise Daniels, Quinnipiac (7.8)
5) Deon Jones, Monmouth (7.7)
T-6) Rich Williams, Manhattan (7.0)
T-6) Phil Valenti, Canisius (7.0)
T-6) Donovan Smith, Quinnipiac (7.0)
9) Matt Scott, Niagara (6.9)
10) Javion Ogunyemi, Siena (6.8)
1) Tyler Wilson, Manhattan (7.0 APG)
2) A.J. English, Iona (6.0)
3) Jerome Segura, Fairfield (5.8)
4) Trevis Wyche, Saint Peter's (5.0)
5) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (4.8)
T-6) Teddy Okereafor, Rider (4.3)
T-6) Marquis Wright, Siena (4.3)
8) Matt Scott, Niagara (4.0)
9) Malcolm McMillan, Canisius (3.8)
10) Giovanni McLean, Quinnipiac (3.7)
Finally, we conclude our first edition of "MAAC Monday" with a set of power rankings for each school:
1) Monmouth (4-2)
Last Game: W 83-73 vs. USC (Advocare Invitational, Orlando, Fla.)
Next Game: Friday 12/4 at Canisius, 7 p.m.
2) Siena (4-2)
Last Game: W 90-82 vs. Loyola (Md.)
Next Game: Tuesday 12/1 at Cornell, 7 p.m.
3) Fairfield (3-3)
Last Game: W 82-81 vs. Columbia
Next Game: Tuesday 12/1 at Iona, 7 p.m.
4) Canisius (2-3)
Last Game: L 98-96 at Buffalo
Next Game: Friday 12/4 vs. Monmouth, 7 p.m.
5) Iona (1-2)
Last Game: W 92-77 vs. Delaware
Next Game: Tuesday 12/1 vs. Fairfield, 7 p.m.
6) Quinnipiac (2-2)
Last Game: W 69-59 vs. North Carolina Central
Next Game: Tuesday 12/1 vs. Albany, 7 p.m.
7) Manhattan (1-3)
Last Game: L 87-64 at Fordham
Next Game: Friday 12/4 at Siena, 7 p.m.
8) Rider (1-5)
Last Game: L 82-57 at Rhode Island
Next Game: Wednesday 12/2 vs. Saint Peter's, 7 p.m.
9) Niagara (2-5)
Last Game: L 88-70 vs. Youngstown State
Next Game: Friday 12/4 vs. Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.
10) Saint Peter's (1-4)
Last Game: L 77-62 at Fairleigh Dickinson
Next Game: Wednesday 12/2 at Rider, 7 p.m.
11) Marist (1-3)
Last Game: L 86-60 at Vermont
Next Game: Friday 12/4 vs. Iona, 7 p.m.