RTC Conference Primers: #15 – MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 21st, 2010

Ray Floriani of NBE Basketball Report and College Chalktalk is the RTC correspondent for the NEC and MAAC.

Predicted Order of Finish

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

All Conference Team

  • Derek Needham (G) – Fairfield
  • Ryan Rossiter (F) – Siena
  • Wesley Jenkins (G) – St.Peter’s
  • Scott Machado (G) –  Iona
  • Julius Coles (G) – Canisius

Top Newcomer

Mike Glover (F) Iona. Glover,  a 6’7 transfer from Seton Hall is eligible at Iona this season and is the newcomer pick here. He’ll certainly get the opportunity to excel as the Gaels need steady contributions up front.

Averaging 16.4 points per game as a freshman last season, Fairfield's Derek Needham may be the MAAC's best player. (Brian A. Pounds/Connecticut Post)

Predicted Champion: Fairfield (NCAA Seed: #14) – They nearly won the conference in 2010 and are the favorite entering this campaign. The Stags were twenty minutes away from an upset and ticket to the Big Dance, but Siena rallied to capture the MAAC Tournament crown in overtime. If the Stags won the game, it would have been labeled an upset by traditional fans, but not in the eyes of those who follow the MAAC closely. Fairfield was that good. They return a big reason for their success last year in point guard Derek Needham. The freshman prodigy was one of the best players in the MAAC and will play a vital role in the Fairfield attack. Anthony Johnson, a solid inside player, is gone. Coach Ed Cooley hopes some of the injury problems of last year have exited as well. Newcomers Maurice Barrow and Keith Matthews will inject some fresh talent.

Top Contenders

  • Siena is experiencing a role change from recent years from favorite to contender. Despite some significant losses in personnel, new coach Mitch Buonoguro has junior guard Clarence Jackson, a dangerous outside shooter, and senior forward Ryan Rossiter. As if that inside-out combo weren’t enough, junior forward Owen Wignot is another proven player who has experienced success.
  • Iona enjoyed a great comeback season with a nine-win improvement from 2008-09, including a 12-6 conference mark, enough for third place in the MAAC. Building on that momentum, the Gaels are primed to make a run at the top spot.  Scott Machado is an outstanding performer at guard and he has a capable running mate in Jermel Jenkins. Inside play must develop but there are options for new coach Tim Cluess in Mike McFadden and Alejo Rodriguez.
  • St. Peter’s proved to be a mild surprise with a strong season in 2009-10. Similar to Iona, the Peacocks are hoping to build and improve on last year’s success. There’s no sneaking up on anyone this season, but John Dunne has a strong veteran cast to meet the challenge. Ryan Bacon returns in the low post; Nick Leon is a tough three-point shooting and penetrating threat; Wesley Jenkins is a proven offensive power as well. St. Peter’s finished 11-7 in MAAC play last season with only one senior, so expectations will naturally be higher in 2010-11.

KenPom Corner

  • The pace of the MAAC (conference games only) was fairly consistent among all teams. Niagara was the fastest and the only one to break out of the 60s in possessions, as they averaged 70 per outing. The ‘slowest’ MAAC team was Marist, with 63 possessions per game. For a ten-team circuit, everybody played at a roughly similar pace.
  • Three teams broke 100 for offensive efficiency: Siena, to little surprise, set the pace with a gaudy 111. Fairfield was second at 106, while Niagara checked in at 102.
  • Five clubs held the opposition under 100 for a distinctively notable defensive efficiency. The defensive leader was St. Peter’s at 90. The Peacocks finished 11-7, but holding the opposition to an average 90 offensive efficiency suggests that they should have finished better. A closer look shows the weakness was on the offensive end, where John Dunne‘s club turned in a 94 offensive efficiency.

Top 10 RPI Opportunities

  • Nov. 15:  Fairfield at Rutgers – A very winnable game for the Stags. Rutgers is not in the upper echelon of the Big East, but a road win against that conference would be big for publicity.
  • Nov. 16: Marist at Villanova – The basement finishers from last season probably aren’t ready to hang with one of the Big East favorites, but maybe Chuck Martin‘s team can capture lightning in a bottle.
  • Nov. 18: Richmond at Iona – A good opportunity for the Gaels hosting a solid A-10 squad early in the campaign.
  • Nov. 19: St.Peter’s vs. Old Dominion – Two mid-majors battle in the exotic Virgin Islands at the Paradise Jam. ODU stunned Georgetown in 2009, so the Peacocks best be on alert.
  • Nov. 19: Niagara at Georgia Tech – The Purple Eagles lost some key personnel, but Joe Mihalich’s club is never an easy out on the road. This early matchup is a great opportunity against the Yellow Jackets, who will be trying to figure out life after Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal.
  • Nov. 23:  Butler at Siena – The national runners-up face the Saints in an attractive mid-major meeting. Notching a win over Brad Stevens’ club would be huge.
  • Nov. 25: Manhattan vs. Wisconsin (either Texas A&M or Boston College in the second round) – The MAAC hosts the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, where the Jaspers will get shots at BCS teams, beginning with Wisconsin.
  • Nov. 29:  St.Peter’s at Seton Hall – The Hall won this one last year at the buzzer, so the Peacocks will be hungry.
  • Dec. 18: Iona at Syracuse, Loyola at Georgetown – A pair of Big East tilts provide opportunities for eye-opening victories in the early going.
  • Dec. 28: Fairfield at Florida – One coach feels Fairfield has “top 25 potential.” Here is as good a test as any.

Digging Deeper

  • Two new mentors will be on MAAC sidelines. Tim Cluess takes over at Iona while Mitch Buonoguro succeeds Fran McCaffery at Siena. Cluess is totally new to Iona and Division I. He had a successful sting at the D-II level before accepting the Iona position. Cluess made several great hires upon his arrival. He brought in John Morton, formerly of St. Peter’s, and Jared Grasso, most recently the interim at Fordham. Morton can familiarize Cluess with the MAAC while Grasso has D-I head coaching experience from last season and a wealth of recruiting contacts in the New York area.
  • Buonoguro is back as a MAAC head coach. He won two titles at Fairfield in the eighties before moving on. Most recently, he served as McCaffery’s top aide and was a well deserved choice.
  • Majok Majok was touted by some preseason publications to be Newcomer of the Year. The talented forward was set to go to Fairfield when paperwork problems arose. Currently, he is not on the Stag roster and it appears the Sudanese native will never be.
  • The MAAC is in its 30th year of operation this season. The first game? Back in early January of 1982 at Iona when the Gaels defeated Army. Yours truly covered it.

NCAA Tournament History

The MAAC is one of the youngest conferences in the NCAA, but it’s not without a small handful of upsets. Most notably, Manhattan handled #4-seed Oklahoma in 1995’s opening round, and more recently, #13-seed Siena rolled Vanderbilt by 21 in 2008. The next step for the MAAC is to get a team into the Sweet 16 for the first time.

Final Thoughts

  • The conference tournament moves from Albany to Bridgeport, Connecticut this season. For years, the complaint was that Albany gave a strong  Siena program another edge with the home-court setting. In a twist of fate, this season’s favorite is Fairfield and the tournament happens to be at their Arena at Harbor Yards. These sites are contracted several years in advance, but the coincidence is an interesting development.
  • Down the road, the conference tournament will move again. After this season, the venue then shifts to Springfield, Massachusetts, for three seasons. The closest school to Springfield is Siena. Based near Albany, Siena’s fan base traditionally travels well, even in regular season. It will very interesting to see how the tournament draws, fan and media wise, as Springfield represents the first site in the conference’s three decade history without a nearby league school (within a twenty mile radius) that can be relied on to bring in some local fans.
Brian Goodman (983 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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