Monday, February 26, 2018

MAAC Monday, Part II: MBB award and tournament predictions, final stat leaders and power rankings

The second part of our final MAAC Monday of 2017-18 will offer a longer opening segment than usual. In fact, it will actually be two opening segments since we will be sharing our award and tournament predictions with you in advance of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Men's Basketball Championship, which begins Thursday inside Albany's Times Union Center. And just as we did on the women's side, we will give you our votes for who should win, who will win, and who will cut down the nets one week from tonight before we refresh stat leaders and power rankings for the last time this season. Let us begin.

Player of the Year
Who Should Win: Isaiah Reese, Canisius (16.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.8 APG, 2.2 SPG, 46% FG, 88% FT, 36% 3-pt FG)
Who Will Win: Reese

This season has yielded one of the most interesting Player of the Year races in recent memory, a far cry from last year's Justin Robinson repeat coronation and the duel between the Monmouth legend and A.J. English the year before. There are as many as seven players with realistic and legitimate cases to bring home the MAAC's top individual honor, with Preseason Player of the Year Tyler Nelson perhaps being thought of as the leader in the clubhouse after having led the conference in scoring and lifted a resurgent Fairfield into the tournament on a four-game win streak. However, very few players in the league possess the all-around talent Reese has demonstrated at full strength this season, and the sophomore has been arguably the biggest part of the Golden Griffins' resurgence from a team picked ninth in the MAAC's preseason poll to one who shared the regular season crown with Rider, a team picked sixth. There will be a slew of challengers for this distinction, but at the end of the day, Reese will stand atop them all.

Rookie of the Year
Who Should Win: Takal Molson, Canisius (12.6 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.1 SPG, 45% FG, 39% 3-pt FG)
Who Will Win: Molson

Along with Reese and Jermaine Crumpton, Molson has been the third key cog in the Griffs' triumvirate, and a homegrown talent whose bloom has been right on schedule. Initially outshined by Rider's Jordan Allen at the start of league play, Molson's more consistent tone and weekly efficiency took root shortly after Canisius proved its stay near the top of the MAAC leaderboard was a permanent one. Allen still holds the edge on the scoreboard between the two, but a closer look at how much more Molson impacts and facilitates makes the Buffalo native the wise choice here.

Sixth Man of the Year
Who Should Win: Roland Griffin, Iona (10.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 52% FG)
Who Will Win: Frederick Scott, Rider (13.0 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 52% FG, 38% 30-pt FG)

The second two-horse race among MAAC honors is a closer one than that in the Rookie of the Year field. While Griffin has gotten stronger as of late for Iona and become a more integral piece of the Gaels' puzzle, the prevailing feeling here is that MAAC coaches will reward Rider's winning; especially after being snubbed for top player and freshman recognition, which gives Scott the nod here. That does not necessarily indicate that Scott is not deserving, because he certainly is, and his ability to run the floor like a point guard while defending and playing as many as four different positions over the course of a game is largely unmatched.

Defensive Player of the Year
Who Should Win: Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (6.7 RPG, 2.6 BPG)
Who Will Win: Paulicap

Many coaches and MAAC analysts have called Paulicap Manhattan's best interior presence and rim protector since Rhamel Brown, and it is visible almost instantaneously when watching the sophomore on the defensive end. Paulicap puts up a solid offensive stat line as well, but it is his impact in the paint and on the blocks that make him seem as though he were tailor-made for Steve Masiello's system. A team captain in his first year in the program, something unheard of in Riverdale, Paulicap has made short work in making a name for himself, and his evolution is one that adds a new layer with each game.

Coach of the Year
Who Should Win: Reggie Witherspoon, Canisius
Who Will Win: Kevin Baggett, Rider

When two teams finish tied among the conference standings and split a head-to-head season series with one another, there is very little ground to separate them on. With that said, Witherspoon deserves his share of accolades for taking a Canisius team picked third-to-last at the beginning of the year and turning them into a championship-caliber outfit, but so too does Baggett for taking a Rider team picked seventh and establishing them; perhaps a year ahead of schedule, as one of the MAAC's most complete outfits. And with Canisius winning out in the Player and Rookie of the Year races, Baggett makes up the deficit with his second Coach of the Year honor, bookending his 2015 selection.

First Team All-MAAC
Isaiah Reese, Canisius (Player of the Year)

Jermaine Crumpton, Canisius
Kahlil Dukes, Niagara
Tyler Nelson, Fairfield
Dimencio Vaughn, Rider

Second Team All-MAAC
Stevie Jordan, Rider

Rickey McGill, Iona
Matt Scott, Niagara
Rich Williams, Manhattan
Cameron Young, Quinnipiac

Third Team All-MAAC
Takal Molson, Canisius
Brian Parker, Marist
Marvin Prochet, Niagara
Frederick Scott, Rider
Austin Tilghman, Monmouth

MAAC All-Rookie Team
Takal Molson, Canisius (Rookie of the Year)
Jordan Allen, Rider
Deion Hammond, Monmouth
Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac
Jacob Rigoni, Quinnipiac

MAAC Tournament Predictions (bracket graphic via Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference)
First Round
Monmouth over Saint Peter's
Quinnipiac over Siena
Fairfield over Marist

Monmouth over Rider
Canisius over Quinnipiac
Fairfield over Niagara
Manhattan over Iona

Manhattan over Monmouth
Fairfield over Canisius

Manhattan over Fairfield

Most Valuable Player: Rich Williams, Manhattan

I don't normally do this, but allow me to impart some brief analysis here to defend my prediction of absolute anarchy in Albany. First, Monmouth finally has its full complement of players once again, and does so at the most opportune time. A healthy Micah Seaborn is one of the most explosive players in the MAAC, and his outburst against Rider this past Thursday in West Long Branch is something to consider should the Hawks and Broncs meet again this week, which I believe will be the case in Friday's quarterfinals. Winners of four straight, Fairfield is perhaps the hottest team in the conference, and the Stags have a very favorable draw awaiting them in a Marist team that has struggled to find itself before facing a Niagara team that may still be without Matt Scott after the senior sprained his ankle in the Purple Eagles' win over Iona. Since adding Aidas Kavaliauskas to their lineup midway through the year, Fairfield has slowly become a much more disciplined team, to the delight of Sydney Johnson. That efficiency should carry the Stags past Niagara, and even past a Canisius team that will be in largely uncharted territory. Finally, there is the oddity of an Iona-Manhattan quarterfinal, something that is hard to believe when you look back at the championship trilogy between the bitter rivals, producing three classics that are the MAAC basketball equivalent of the Barrera vs. Morales boxing wars. As great as the Gaels have looked against the Jaspers this season, and since the 2015 title game in which Manhattan defended its league crown, this matchup just has that feel of Steve Masiello reaching into his bag of tricks and catching the two-time defending champions off guard just enough to turn the tables. Rich Williams and Zavier Turner have both taken their game to another level over the past two weeks, which is what teams expect from their seniors this time of year. Look for the experience and familiarity with the tournament terrain to finally reveal itself in spades as Manhattan holds off Monmouth to get back to Monday night. In keeping with the theme of expecting the unexpected, a Manhattan-Fairfield final fits right into that wheelhouse, and in a MAAC season where all hell has broken loose, a former champion circling the wagons to an improbable third title will be the outcome here. This could blow up in my face, but the one sure thing going into Albany is that there really is not a sure thing.

Scoring Leaders
1) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (21.8 PPG)
2) Kahlil Dukes, Niagara (21.1)
3) Matt Scott, Niagara (19.5)
4) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (18.9)
5) Brian Parker, Marist (17.0)
6) Jermaine Crumpton, Canisius (16.9)
7) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (16.8)
8) Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (16.1)
9) Rich Williams, Manhattan (14.7)
10) Rickey McGill, Iona (14.5)

Rebounding Leaders
1) Marvin Prochet, Niagara (7.8 RPG)
2) Matt Scott, Niagara (7.4)
3) TK Edogi, Iona (7.1)
4) Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (6.7)
5) Frederick Scott, Rider (6.6)
6) Zane Waterman, Manhattan (6.6)
7) Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (6.6)
T-8) Tyere Marshall, Rider (6.6)
T-8) Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (6.6)
10) Tobias Sjoberg, Marist (5.9)

Assist Leaders
1) Stevie Jordan, Rider (6.0 APG)
2) Rickey McGill, Iona (5.6)
3) Austin Tilghman, Monmouth (5.5)
4) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (4.8)
5) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (4.8)
6) Malik Johnson, Canisius (4.6)
7) Zavier Turner, Manhattan (4.2)
8) Brian Parker, Marist (3.4)
9) Kahlil Dukes, Niagara (3.3)
10) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (3.2)

Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Jonathan Kasibabu, Fairfield (.669)
2) Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (.560)
3) TK Edogi, Iona (.558)
4) Chaise Daniels, Quinnipiac (.537)
5) Frederick Scott, Rider (.524)
6) Roland Griffin, Iona (.523)
7) Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (.514)
8) Tyere Marshall, Rider (.508)
9) Jermaine Crumpton, Canisius (.486)
10) Prince Oduro, Siena (.483)

Free Throw Percentage Leaders
1) Kahlil Dukes, Niagara (.904)
2) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (.875)
3) Tyler Nelson, Fairfield (.874)
4) Zavier Turner, Manhattan (.821)
5) Schadrac Casimir, Iona (.813)
6) Jermaine Crumpton, Canisius (.813)
7) Samuel Idowu, Saint Peter's (.808)
8) E.J. Crawford, Iona (.789)
9) James Towns, Niagara (.787)
10) Rich Kelly, Quinnipiac (.776)

Three-Point Field Goal Percentage Leaders
1) Schadrac Casimir, Iona (.467)
2) Louie Pillari, Monmouth (.454)
3) Jacob Rigoni, Quinnipiac (.448)
4) Khalil Richard, Siena (.441)
5) Rich Williams, Manhattan (.439)
6) Spencer Foley, Canisius (.436)
7) Zavier Turner, Manhattan (.435)
8) Kahlil Dukes, Niagara (.428)
9) Jonathan Sanks, Canisius (.420)
10) Ryan Funk, Marist (.406)

Steal Leaders
1) Isaiah Reese, Canisius (2.3 SPG)
2) Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (1.8)
3) Stevie Jordan, Rider (1.6)
4) Jesus Cruz, Fairfield (1.6)
5) Rickey McGill, Iona (1.5)

Blocked Shot Leaders
1) Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (2.6 BPG)
2) Dominic Robb, Niagara (1.4)
3) Samuel Idowu, Saint Peter's (1.2)
4) TK Edogi, Iona (1.2)
5) Chaise Daniels, Quinnipiac (1.0)

Power Rankings
1) Canisius (21-10, 15-3 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/25 vs. Marist (W 98-74)
Next Game: Friday 3/2 vs. Quinnipiac or Siena, 9:30 p.m.

2) Rider (22-8, 15-3 MAAC)
Last Week: 1
Last Game: Sunday 2/25 vs. Iona (W 110-101)
Next Game: Friday 3/2 vs. Monmouth or Saint Peter's, 7 p.m.

3) Niagara (19-12, 12-6 MAAC)
Last Week: 3
Last Game: Friday 2/23 vs. Marist (W 100-76)
Next Game: Saturday 3/3 vs. Fairfield or Marist, 7 p.m.

4) Iona (17-13, 11-7 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/25 at Rider (L 110-101)
Next Game: Saturday 3/3 vs. Manhattan, 9:30 p.m.

5) Fairfield (14-15, 9-9 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Saturday 2/24 vs. Monmouth (W 69-66)
Next Game: Thursday 3/1 vs. Marist, 9 p.m.

6) Manhattan (14-16, 9-9 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/25 vs. Quinnipiac (W 92-86)
Next Game: Saturday 3/3 vs. Iona, 9:30 p.m.

7) Monmouth (11-19, 7-11 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Saturday 2/24 at Fairfield (L 69-66)
Next Game: Thursday 3/1 vs. Saint Peter's, 5 p.m.

8) Quinnipiac (10-20, 7-11 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/25 at Manhattan (L 92-86)
Next Game: Thursday 3/1 vs. Siena, 7 p.m.

9) Saint Peter's (12-17, 6-12 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/25 vs. Siena (W 65-48)
Next Game: Thursday 3/1 vs. Monmouth, 5 p.m.

10) Siena (8-23, 4-14 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/25 at Saint Peter's (L 65-48)
Next Game: Thursday 3/1 vs. Quinnipiac, 7 p.m.

11) Marist (6-24, 4-14 MAAC)
Last Week:

Last Game: Sunday 2/25 at Canisius (L 98-74)
Next Game: Thursday 3/1 vs. Fairfield, 9 p.m.

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