Analyzing the Stags MAAC Competitors
Level of their Own: Iona College Gaels 6-1 (2-0 MAAC)
It is nearly impossible to make an argument that anyone has been playing better basketball than the pre-ranked number one Gaels. In seven games, senior point guard Scott Machado has dished out a nation leading 11.4 assists per game to go with 15.4 points. Michael Glover and Lamont “Momo” Jones have been phenomenal. Glover, the pre-season MAAC player of the year, leads the MAAC in scoring with 19.9 points per game, and has corralled a team leading 9.1 boards per contest. Arizona transfer “Momo” Jones is third on the team in scoring, putting up 14.3 points per game, and is starting to really get a feel for coach Tim Cluess’s high-octane offense. The Gaels lead the nation in scoring (92 points per game) and assists (22.6 per game). Their lone setback was a tough loss, 91-90, against Purdue. This weekend, the Gaels hung on at Canisius for a 69-57 win, and trounced Niagara on the road 98-62. The Gaels are clicking on all cylinders and, right now, look like the class of the MAAC. Iona embarks on the 3rd game of a nine-game roadtrip that will prove how good this Iona team really is.
Upper Tier: Fairfield Stags 5-4 (2-0), Loyola MD Greyhounds 6-1(2-0)
I talked about the Stags in last week’s issue, but since then they enjoyed a very successful Buffalo trip, defeating Niagara 79-75 and Canisius 68-59. The guards have stepped up their offensive production, as Sean Crawford put up 19 against Niagara, while captain Derek Needham dropped 12 on Niagara and 19 against the Golden Griffins. Fairfield gets tested in the next three weeks as they take on Old Dominion, UConn, and Drexel. Loyola is a team that is off to their best start since 1981-1982 at 6-1, but they have not played the toughest of schedules. The combined records of the teams they defeated is 12-29, and not once have they beaten a team with a winning record. This is a very well-coached and organized Greyhound team that returns four starters from last seasons fifth place team. Sophomore Dylan Cormier is quickly emerging as one of the MAAC’s top guards, averaging 17.1 points per game. Shane Walker and Erik Etherly form a formidable frontcourt that lead the MAAC in rebounding with a +7.3 rebound margin. They are loaded with veterans and they can easily make a run at the MAAC Championship.
On The Cusp: Manhattan 5-4 (2-0)
Here is a crazy fact: Manhattan is just one win shy from matching their win total from all of the 2010-2011 season. This is a Jasper team that was picked 8th in the MAAC pre-season poll. Junior stud George Beamon is averaging 16.1 points per game while shooting 46 percent from the field. Other than Beamon, the Jaspers are led by a balanced attack that consist of four players scoring at least 7 points per game. This past weekend, Manhattan rolled through Rider on the road 71-55, and demolished defending MAAC tournament champion St Peters at home, 68-42. Masiello’s Jaspers are now starting to get some real attention and will be tested as their next four MAAC games are against Rider, Loyola, Iona, and Fairfield. Depending on the outcome of these games, we will likely know if Manhattan is a legitimate contender or a flash in the pan.
Middle of the Pack: Marist 3-5 (1-1), St Peters 2-5 (1-1), Niagara 3-5 (0-2), Canisius, 1-5 (0-2)
Marist is off to a surprising start. If you had told me they would be 3-5 and 1-1 in the conference with a win over Rider at the beginning of the season, I would have laughed. This Marist team can shoot the lights out. They lead all MAAC teams in three point shooting hitting 45 percent, which is good for 4th in the nation. They also have two phenomenal freshman, Chavaughn Lewis, who leads the team in scoring, and lighting quick point guard Isiah Morton. St. Peters is a tough team to read. After last years magical run through the MAAC tournament into the NCAA tournament, coach John Dunne’s Peacocks are experiencing a hangover. After all, they lost their top five leading scorers, including super star Wesley Jenkins. The Peacocks beat Siena at home by seven doing what they do best: playing defense. Another bright spot has been the play of juniors Chris Prescott and Darius Conley. Niagara has been a super hard team to read as well. They took Fairfield down to the wire at home, losing 79-75 behind 34 points from freshman phenom Juan’ya Green. Green is third in the MAAC averaging a mind-blowing 19.5 points per game. Another freshmen, Antoine Mason, the son of NBA great Anthony Mason, is averaging 14.3 points per game. Niagara is going to be interesting to watch as the year goes on. They are super young, but extremely talented. Although Canisius is 0-2 in the MAAC, they have to be at least somewhat happy with their performance. They held Iona, the highest scoring team in the nation, to the their lowest point total of the season. They also played Fairfield extremely well in a 68-59 defeat. Harold Washington has been a superstar. The transfer from Cecil College is 2nd in the MAAC in scoring at 19.8 points per game. Junior Alshwan Hymes is a valid second scoring option averaging 14.3 points per game. This is a Canisius team that will surprise people later in the season if they can find a third scoring option.
Lower Tier: Siena 3-5 (0-2), Rider 1-8 (0-2)
Just two years ago, Siena was the class of the MAAC. Now they are in a rebuilding phase. After starting the season 2-0, the Saints have struggled and lost 5 straight games, including a pair of seven point loses at St. Peters and at home against Loyola. However, O.D Anosike has been a monster leading the MAAC in rebounding at 11 caroms per contest. Also, freshman Eric Hymes is another first year player making a huge impact in the MAAC. He leads the team averaging 14 points per game. This is a team that could easily jump into the middle of the pack by the end of the season. However, the loss to St. Peters leaves them in the bottom tier. The biggest disappointment of the year has been the play of Rider. The Broncs expected to compete for the conference championship, but they might just be the worst team in the MAAC. Their lone win was a two point victory over Howard, and on Sunday they lost to Marist by 20 points! The talent is there with Novar Gadson and Jeff Jones. Therefore, I would not be surprised if the Broncs got hot, and maybe even got themselves back to the upper echelon of the MAAC. But right now, things are looking ugly in Lawrenceville, NJ.