Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC. Get set for the MAAC tournament, which starts on Friday, by taking a look at RTC’s preview and regular season recap.
Last year, it was Albany. The next three years, Springfield, Massachusetts. The MAAC is on the move. This season’s postseason tournament will be at Harbor Yards in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The MAAC format is a unique one in that both the men’s and women’s tournaments are contested at the same site. This makes it easier for the fans and gives an opportunity to showcase each member’s program on both the men’s and women’s side.
The men’s tournament tips the evening of March 4, with both men’s and women’s finals the following Monday. The MAAC will be a one-bid league. Iona, Fairfield and Rider have impressive records, but not enough to get an at-large bid. The conference tournament will be winner-take-all and on to the Big Dance.
Fairfield coach Ed Cooley would be the first to admit home court advantage is nice, but it’s no guarantee. Any of the top four could emerge as champion. At any rate, a prediction must be made and the choice is Fairfield. The Stags have a nice inside/outside combination. A 66 possession paced team, the offensive efficiency is moderate at 100 but the defense, an outstanding 89. Defensively, they force opponents to give up the ball on 25% of their possessions. With Derek Needham at the point, the Stags TO rate is an impressive 18%. The Stags also boast a plus-four edge in offensive and defensive rebounding percentage. Credit that to the presence of seven foot junior Ryan Orlander, 6’5 senior Yorel Hawkins and 6’5 freshman Maurice Barrow.
The MAAC, with Siena in recent seasons, has been represented well in the Big Dance. Fairfield, with good guard and interior play, could prove a tough first round matchup. A lot depends on the draw and how Fairfield and the opposition line up. The early season schedule had a few tough tests and they were away from home. Cooley wanted a team ready not just for the MAAC, but the challenges of post season as well.