2009-10 Conference Primers: #15 – MAAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 22nd, 2009


Ray Floriani of College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC conferences.   Click here for all of our 2009-10 Season Preview materials.

Predicted Order of Finish:

  1. Siena                15-3
  2. Niagara            14-4
  3. Rider                13-5
  4. Fairfield           12-6
  5. St.Peter’s          10-8
  6. Manhattan        9-9
  7. Iona                  8-10
  8. Loyola              7-11
  9. Canisius           6-12
  10. Marist             4-14


  • Ryan Thompson (G/F), 6’6 Sr., Rider
  • Ronald Moore (G), 6’0 Sr., Siena
  • Tyrone Lewis (G), 5’11 Sr., Niagara
  • Edwin Ubiles (G/F), 6’6 Sr. , Siena
  • Ryan Rossiter (C), 6’9 Jr., Siena

6th Man: Owen Wignot (F), 6’6 So., Siena

Impact Newcomer: Rico Pickett (G), 6’4 Jr., Manhattan

maac logo

What you need to know.

  • The MAAC is a ten member conference that hosts games from cozy campus locales to public arenas as Madison Square Garden, Arena at Harbor Yards and Times-Union Center to name a few.
  • Once again the conference will host the Old Spice Classic. The eight team event is November 26 through 29 at the Milk House Arena located in the Walt Disney World Resort Complex. Iona represents the MAAC with Alabama, Baylor, Creighton, Florida State, Marquette, Michigan and Xavier rounding out an impressive field.
  • Rivalries are huge. The charter membership gave us two games in the classic ‘Battle of the Bronx’ with Manhattan and Fordham. Iona and Fordham also got the pulse beating quicker. Membership has altered over the years but rivalries, largely due to geography and tradition,  still are a big part of the MAAC. There’s Iona-Manhattan. Upstate is Niagara-Canisius, a ‘holy war’ from the old Little Three Days. Then there’s Marist-Siena. The latter has the upper hand of late but that’s another meeting where you throw the records out the window. Bragging rights are at stake.
  • Iona captured the first title in 1982 with an overtime victory over St.Peter’s. The semis and finals were at Meadowlands arena (now Izod Center) in East Rutherford, NJ.
  • Jeff Ruland did not play in the MAAC. The 1979-80 was his last in a Gael uniform but he is a part of MAAC history having returned to coach his alma mater and leading them to three MAAC championships.

Predicted Champion. Siena (NCAA #9). The Saints return four starters from a club that went to the second round and gave Louisville fits before exiting in a close contest. It was the second straight year the Saints earned a first round win in the NCAA Tournament.  The lone loss was 6’3 guard Kenny Hasbrouck. Beside being MAAC Player of the Year and a double digit scorer, Hasbrouck provided outstanding leadership and inspiration to Fran McCaffery’s club. Filling in his spot will be Clarence Jackson, a dangerous three point shooter who can create his own shot. Ronald Moore, an outstanding lead guard, triggers the attack. The Ryan Rossiter, Edwin Ubiles, Alex Franklin backcourt is hands down the conference’s best. McCaffery has a habit of scheduling higher level opponents, usually on the road. It’s paid off as the Saints are a confident, battle tested group. Come tournament time they enter a game planning to win not just hoping.  The mix of returning talent, recent success and proactive attitude make Siena the MAAC favorite.  Given their recent NCAA success and strength of schedule Siena could be a #6 or #7 seed if things go right.

Top Contenders. Among the mid-majors the modus operandi has been to make a run for a couple of years then fall back a bit as the program rebuilds for another run. At Siena and Niagara that has not been the case. For several years the two schools have been at the top of the conference battling it out. Given the existing personnel and recruiting, that doesn’t look to change anytime soon.

  • At Niagara Joe Mihalich has an outstanding lead guard in Tyrone Lewis and a solid swingman in Bilal Benn. A year ago the Purple Eagles had the best defensive efficiency (93) in MAAC play. The thing keeping them from unseating Siena is perimeter shooting. Niagara was 31% from beyond the arc last year and needs to improve that number.
  • Rider has a player of the year candidate in Ryan Thompson. The 6’6 senior guard is an 18 point per game scorer. Beside being the team’s leading scorer and number one option, Thompson is a player who can carry a team. He will get you that big basket, grab the crucial board or come up with that big loose ball. To make a run at the top Rider needs to improve defensively. Their defensive efficiency mark of 103 was in the lower half of the conference last winter.
  • Coach Ed Cooley needs improved health. Fairfield was decimated by injuries last year. He returns a solid cast of veterans led 6’7 Greg Nero who scored a dozen per game. A new backcourt will be in place and how quickly they respond will tell how seriously the Stags contend for the top spot.

RPI Boosters:

  • Nov. 13, 2009 – Niagara at Auburn
  • Nov. 13, 2009 – Rider at Mississippi State
  • Nov. 15, 2009 – Loyola at West Virginia
  • Nov. 17, 2009 – Fairfield at Maryland
  • Nov. 26-29, 2009 – Iona opens with Florida State and will face two other high profile programs at the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
  • Dec. 2, 2009 – Siena at Georgia Tech

Key Conference Games:

  • Jan. 9 , 2010 – Niagara at Siena
  • Jan. 16, 2010 – Siena at Fairfield
  • Jan. 24, 2010 – Rider at Niagara
  • Feb. 12, 2010 – Siena at Niagara
  • Fen. 26, 2010 – Siena at Rider
  • Feb. 28, 2010 – Niagara at Fairfield

Digging Deeper.

  • The MAAC, to little surprise, is another guard and small forward oriented circuit. A true, effective  post up center in the 6’10 or taller range is indeed a rare commodity.
  • While schools are not blessed with McDonald’s All-Americans, the conference coaches take pride in finding the diamond in the rough and developing players. Again, this is a four year conference. No one is one and done, on their own volition, in the MAAC.
  • The conference also hosts both the men’s and women’s tournaments at one site. This gives fans and media opportunities to see both programs from a respective school without having to travel to and from different cities.
  • Friday night lights… the conference has had a Friday evening slate of games for years. One reason, coverage. Outside of the Ivy, college action is relatively quiet. Another big reason, officials. Many officials from top area conferences as the Big East and A10 are off on Friday. The open date gives the MAAC a very talented pool of officials to hire for their Friday dates.

Fun With KenPom. Three teams, Siena (73), Niagara (71) and Rider (70) had 70 or more possessions per MAAC contest. Interestingly the three finished in that order at the top of the conference standings and in offensive efficiency. Siena led at 108 followed by Niagara 107 and Rider 104.

NCAA Tournament History.  The MAAC is 7-27 (.206) over its quarter-century of existence.  Only once has the league put two teams into the NCAAs (1995), when Fran Fraschilla’s Manhattan team joined St. Peter’s in the Big Dance.  If there were ever a year for a MAAC team to make it as an at-large, Siena would be that team this season should they lose in their conference tournament.  The Saints will need to win a couple of their high profile nonconference games against Temple, St. John’s and Georgia Tech to ensure that possibility, however.

Final Thoughts.

  • The MAAC began in 1981-82 as a six member conference. Manhattan, Iona and  St.Peter’s are the lone remaining original members.
  • The conference has always been a competitive and entertaining conference. Each of their members have similar mission statements and academics are stressed at each school. Credit a good amount of that to Commissioner Rich Ensor who has done a number of things to upgrade the conference competitively while not forgetting the student in student-athlete.
  • As noted before the conference holds the men and women’s tournaments at the same location. It is not uncommon, in fact it is the norm, to see the men’s team from a particular school watch the women’s team play at 11am while they have a game a few hours later. The ladies return the favor as well, getting to watch the men’s games. It’ gives you a feel good emotion to see this and is another reason the MAAC is a competitive but close knit conference.
  • The proximity of most of the schools allows for ample travel. Marist and Siena fans travel particularly well and support their programs. The Marist band, in fact, is one for the ages.
  • Siena also provides a numerous, vociferous and rapid fan base for the postseason tournament. Especially when it is in New York’s capital city.
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