Monday, February 29, 2016

MAAC Monday: Award predictions, tournament predictions, final power rankings

Our final edition of "MAAC Monday" sets the stage for this coming weekend at the Times Union Center in Albany, taking a look at the matchups on both the men's and women's sides of the bracket in its middle segment. To precede that, we'll offer our predictions for awards in both men's and women's basketball, and our weekly men's basketball power rankings will bring down the curtain before we reconvene in the Capital region Thursday morning.

Women's Basketball Award Predictions (Note: Sixth Player and Defensive Player of the Year predictions will not be made, as we admittedly have not seen enough to know who makes the best candidate, and do not want to make an uninformed decision)

Player of the Year
Who Should Win: Tori Jarosz, Marist (18.8 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.0 BPG)
Who Will Win: Joy Adams, Iona (14.7 PPG, 12.1 RPG)

MAAC coaches have always shown a great deal of respect to Brian Giorgis and his players over the years of Marist's dominance, and Jarosz has been the latest example of a senior leader saving her best for last in Poughkeepsie, leading the conference in scoring and rebounding, the latter by mere decimal points. However, by the same token, coaches also believe in rewarding winning; and with all due respect to the Red Foxes, who rebounded from a 1-9 non-conference record, Iona did finish two games ahead in the standings. Adams was a large reason why, as the senior double-double machine led the Gaels to 16 league wins, one more than their overall total a year ago, becoming the conference's all-time leading rebounder in the process.

Rookie of the Year
Who Should Win: Aryn McClure, Quinnipiac (8.4 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG)
Who Will Win: McClure

Siena's Jackie Benitez and Iona's Alexis Lewis will undoubtedly receive All-Rookie recognition, as will McClure's frontcourt partner, Paula Strautmane. McClure's numbers may not yet be at the level of her predecessor, Val Driscoll, but there is no question of the impact she has made in Hamden, helping a team that lost all five starters from a 31-win outfit last season repeat as regular season champions following an 0-3 beginning to league play.

Coach of the Year
Who Should Win: John Olenowski, Manhattan (14-15, 11-9 MAAC)
Who Will Win: Tricia Fabbri, Quinnipiac (22-7, 17-3 MAAC)

What Olenowski has done in Riverdale this season has been nothing short of exceptional, guiding the Jaspers to an eleven-win turnaround on the heels of a 3-27 campaign with a young team last season. Normally, that would be reason enough to bestow this award upon him, but the reigning titleholder from one year ago exceeded expectations for an encore. Winning 17 straight games to close the regular season, and doing so behind a starting lineup featuring two freshmen and two sophomores, Fabbri has reaffirmed her standing as one of, if not the, best basketball mind in the MAAC, no easy feat considering the cadre of bench tacticians in the conference. Consider this for those of you still not sure how strong a case she has: Since joining the MAAC in 2013-14, Fabbri has taken a roster of players recruited to compete in a lower-level conference, and coached them to a record of 56-10 in league play, including MAAC tournament contests. By comparison, Brian Giorgis, considered the dean of MAAC coaches, posted a 43-19 league mark in his first three seasons.

First Team All-MAAC
Joy Adams, Iona

Tori Jarosz, Marist
Marina Lizarazu, Iona
Maria Napolitano, Quinnipiac
Kristin Schatzlein, Fairfield

Second Team All-MAAC
Jamiyah Bethune, Monmouth
Kelsey Carey, Fairfield
Sydney Coffey, Marist
Casey Smith, Fairfield
Amani Tatum, Manhattan

Third Team All-MAAC
Sajanna Bethea, Saint Peter's
Samantha Cooper, Fairfield
Sam Lapszynski, Niagara
Crystal Porter, Canisius
Kaylee Stroemple, Niagara

MAAC All-Rookie Team
McKinzee Barker, Monmouth
Jackie Benitez, Siena
Alexis Lewis, Iona
Aryn McClure, Quinnipiac
Paula Strautmane, Quinnipiac

Men's Basketball Award Predictions

Player of the Year
Who Should Win: Justin Robinson, Monmouth (20.2 PPG, 3.7 APG)
Who Will Win: Robinson

Robinson and A.J. English could conceivably share the honor, as each has been equally valuable to their respective teams. However, with Monmouth having broken through in a big way this season, Robinson gets the slight edge over preseason choice English for two reasons. First, coaches traditionally like to reward winning, and Robinson would be an endorsement of Monmouth's regular season crown. Second, Iona's multifaceted offensive attack works against English in a way. Opposing defenses can key on English, but the Gaels still have the likes of Isaiah Williams, Deyshonee Much, and Jordan Washington to win games. Not to undermine Monmouth's supporting cast, but when you stop Robinson, it makes it harder for the Hawks to emerge victorious.

Rookie of the Year
Who Should Win: Brian Parker, Marist (16.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.9 APG, .518 FG%)
Who Will Win: Antwon Portley, Saint Peter's (14.1 PPG, .832 FT%)

Parker has the best stats of the MAAC's deepest and strongest freshman class in recent years, but will sadly be hurt by Marist's 4-16 league record. Siena's Nico Clareth is an intriguing case as well, as the Baltimore native is squarely in the mix for both Rookie and Sixth Man of the Year honors. Micah Seaborn has also become a solid second option for Monmouth in his first season, but if you're looking for a rookie who has meant the most to his team, Portley is the clear standout. The Texan has displayed an ability to run the point with veteran poise and make clutch shots from professional range, all while becoming not just the Peacocks' leading scorer, but a quality replacement to Desi Washington as well.

Defensive Player of the Year
Who Should Win: Chazz Patterson, Saint Peter's
Who Will Win: Javion Ogunyemi, Siena

Patterson's ability to be a defensive stopper has been a silent but integral part of Saint Peter's resurgence this season, as the junior has given John Dunne the luxury of a lockdown guard on the perimeter against the likes of Shane Richards, Marcus Gilbert, and even A.J. English, just to name a few. However, the trend in this league is to recognize big men for their ability to block shots, which gets lost in the shuffle in the backcourt. Ogunyemi leads the league in rejections, and with a stat line on offense that underscores his value on the other side of the ball, the Saints' junior forward will join contemporaries Rhamel Brown and Ousmane Drame as honorees in this field.

Sixth Man of the Year
Who Should Win: Rich Williams, Manhattan (14.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG)
Who Will Win: Williams

Again, Nico Clareth will be a formidable option in this spot, but arguably no one in the league possesses the ability to feel a game out in the opening minutes better than Williams, who is able to gauge just how much of an impact he needs to make upon his entrance. The junior swingman has found his niche in being one of the first options off the bench for Steve Masiello, and did so this season to the tune of serving as the Jaspers' second-leading scorer while playing out of position due to lack of depth.

Coach of the Year
Who Should Win: John Dunne, Saint Peter's
Who Will Win: King Rice, Monmouth

In any other year, Dunne or Sydney Johnson; who were picked ninth and tenth in the preseason, respectively, would be the favorites here. The problem for them, though, is that Monmouth's dream season prevented this from being any other year. A 17-3 regular season record in West Long Branch, with only one home loss, will give Rice all the ammunition he needs in this category, joining Joe Mihalich and Tim Cluess as the third regular season winner in four years to take home this award.

First Team All-MAAC
Brett Bisping, Siena
A.J. English, Iona
Marcus Gilbert, Fairfield
Shane Richards, Manhattan
Justin Robinson, Monmouth
Quadir Welton, Saint Peter's

Second Team All-MAAC
Khallid Hart, Marist
Tyler Nelson, Fairfield
Javion Ogunyemi, Siena
Isaiah Williams, Iona
Trevis Wyche, Saint Peter's

Third Team All-MAAC
Deon Jones, Monmouth
Malcolm McMillan, Canisius
Matt Scott, Niagara
Kahlil Thomas, Rider
Jordan Washington, Iona

MAAC All-Rookie Team
Nico Clareth, Siena
Curtis Cobb, Fairfield
Brian Parker, Marist
Antwon Portley, Saint Peter's
Micah Seaborn, Monmouth

MAAC Tournament Predictions

Women's Opening Round
Canisius over Niagara
Siena over Rider
Manhattan over Saint Peter's

Women's Quarterfinals
Quinnipiac over Canisius
Iona over Siena
Marist over Manhattan
Fairfield over Monmouth

Women's Semifinals
Quinnipiac over Fairfield
Marist over Iona

Women's Championship
Quinnipiac over Marist

Most Valuable Player: Maria Napolitano, Quinnipiac

Men's Opening Round
Quinnipiac over Rider
Canisius over Niagara
Manhattan over Marist

Men's Quarterfinals
Monmouth over Quinnipiac
Iona over Canisius
Siena over Manhattan
Saint Peter's over Fairfield

Men's Semifinals
Monmouth over Saint Peter's
Iona over Siena

Men's Championship
Iona over Monmouth

Most Valuable Player: A.J. English, Iona

Power Rankings
1) Monmouth (25-6, 17-3 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/28 vs. Niagara (W 77-68)
Next Game: Friday 3/4 vs. Rider or Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

2) Iona (19-10, 16-4 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/28 vs. Canisius (W 86-78)
Next Game: Friday 3/4 vs. Canisius or Niagara, 9:30 p.m.

3) Saint Peter's (14-15, 12-8 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Saturday 2/27 vs. Fairfield (W 72-68)
Next Game: Saturday 3/5 vs. Fairfield, 9:30 p.m.

4) Siena (20-11, 13-7 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/28 vs. Quinnipiac (W 80-65)
Next Game: Saturday 3/5 vs. Manhattan or Marist, 7 p.m.

5) Fairfield (18-12, 12-8 MAAC)
Last Week: 4
Last Game: Saturday 2/27 at Saint Peter's (L 72-68)
Next Game: Saturday 3/5 vs. Saint Peter's, 9:30 p.m.

6) Manhattan (12-17, 9-11 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/28 at Rider (L 60-57)
Next Game: Thursday 3/3 vs. Marist, 9 p.m.

7) Canisius (13-18, 8-12 MAAC)
Last Week: 7
Last Game: Sunday 2/28 at Iona (L 86-78)
Next Game: Thursday 3/3 vs. Niagara, 7 p.m.

8) Rider (12-19, 8-12 MAAC)
Last Week: 8
Last Game: Sunday 2/28 vs. Manhattan (W 60-57)
Next Game: Thursday 3/3 vs. Quinnipiac, 5 p.m.

9) Quinnipiac (9-20, 6-14 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/28 at Siena (L 80-65)
Next Game: Thursday 3/3 vs. Rider, 5 p.m.

10) Niagara (7-24, 5-15 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/28 at Monmouth (L 77-68)
Next Game: Thursday 3/3 vs. Canisius, 7 p.m.

11) Marist (7-22, 4-16 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Friday 2/26 vs. Quinnipiac (W 91-77)
Next Game: Thursday 3/3 vs. Manhattan, 9 p.m.

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