Latest MAAC men’s basketball power rankings


Photo Courtesy: Liz Flynn

Kevin Higgins

As we head down the home stretch of the regular season, we’ve had a vintage MAAC year, where the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. Some of the top teams from years past have struggled, and some teams with a history of underperforming find themselves near the top of the conference. Here’s where I believe things stand about 75% into the year:

1. Saint Peter’s

This was pretty much a toss up between the Peacocks and the Siena Saints, but St. Peter’s has a slightly better record against the top six in the conference. I’m also picking St. Peter’s because they have the deepest scoring attack I’ve seen from a MAAC team in years. Their leading scorer is Daryl Banks III, but he only averages 8.4 PPG. However, the Peacocks have nine – that’s right, nine – players that average over 5 PPG. I think the biggest thing this team has going for them, though, is their comfort being in close games – they have played seven conference games this year decided by two possessions or less, and are 4-3 in those games.

2. Siena

Where St. Peter’s has a rotation that can run about 10 players deep, Siena has a very front-heavy scoring attack. Led by mega-star Jalen Pickett (15.6/4.5/5.65) and Elijah Burns (14.8 PPG), along with two other players averaging over 11 PPG. Perhaps the biggest obstacle to a Siena MAAC Tournament run is the location of the tourney itself: the MAAC title will be decided in Atlantic City this year, unlike at their home court at the Times Union Center in Albany, as it had been the past few years. The Saints are a perfect 13-0 at home this year, but they sport an abysmal 1-10 record on the road.

3. Rider

This could be the last chance at a tournament run for the Rider Broncs as we know them. The dynamic duo of Stevie Jordan and Tyree Marshall are reaching the end of their college careers, and star Dimencio Vaughn has one year of college eligibility left after this season, which he might use to transfer to a bigger program. The three of them top the team in scoring, and their leadership can be felt on the court. The Rider program has seen its best success in many years with this trio in charge, and for them to not be rewarded by one singular NCAA berth would be a shame. They have about one month to right the wrongs of the last few years and reach the Big Dance for the first time in 26 years.

4. Monmouth

Another team that has seen great seasons go to waste over the past couple of MAAC Tournaments, the Hawks are once again right in the thick of the conference race as the calendar flips to March. Deion Hammond and Ray Salnave continue to pace the team in scoring, and a fair amount of depth on both ends of the ball could see them get hot at the right time, as they did during last year’s run to the MAAC Tournament final. One other thing of note: Monmouth is not scared of you. They’ve played the likes of Kansas, Kansas State, and Pittsburgh already this year, and they were especially competitive against the Wildcats and Panthers. If you think Atlantic City is the most pressure they’ll face this season, you’re sadly mistaken.

5. Iona

So you thought they were done, huh? You thought this would be the year it finally came to an end, when the Gaels’ death grip on the MAAC would at last be loosened after four consecutive years of cutting down the nets. Well for a little while, it seemed that would be the case. After an abysmal 3-7 start in-conference, capped off by a 23 point humiliation at the hands of Manhattan, Iona seemed dead in the water. However, they’ve rebounded in a big way, winning 5 of their last 6, with the only loss coming at Siena by a mere point. The 1-2 punch of EJ Crawford and Tajuan Agee is deadly, and Isaiah Washington has served as a very underappreciated catalyst for the offense. For all those who still doubt Iona’s path to a fifth straight title, I have four words for you: Tim. Cluess. In. March. You’ve been warned.

6. Manhattan

I would argue that there is not a more frustrating team to play against in the conference than the Manhattan Jaspers. Steve Masiello’s defense has been in vintage form this year, allowing only 64 PPG and forcing over 15 turnovers per contest. However, they’re almost as frustrating to watch as they are to play. Inconsistency on the offensive end has been an issue all year, as the Jaspers have simply had too many games where everyone has been cold, which is the cause for their current two game skid. Pauly Paulicap, Tykei Greene and Samir Stewart will have to shoulder the load on the offensive end for the next few weeks if Masiello wants to get his team the NCAA tourney for a third time.

7. Niagara

If I were to pick one sleeper for the MAAC Tournament, it would be these Purple Eagles from way up north. Marcus Hammond has been a revelation in his sophomore year, making the jump from 5 PPG to over 13 per contest, which leads the team. His support system is also above average, with James Towns and Raheem Solomon both averaging double digits. The real reason I like this team, though, is because they’ve proven they can play with the big boys. Niagara has beaten every team ahead of them on this list besides Manhattan and St. Peter’s, who only squeaked out a five point victory when they last played. It’s hard to find a dark horse in a conference that’s as wide open as the MAAC, but the Purple Eagles may very well make some noise this March.

8. Quinnipiac

This one is a bit of a stunner, especially when you consider just how good this Bobcats team had been playing as recently as two or three weeks ago. After jumping out to a 4-0 start in conference play, Baker Dunleavy’s squad has lost 8 of their last 10 games. The road doesn’t get any easier from here, with more matchups against Siena, Iona, and Monmouth to come. Rich Kelly has finally shown that he’s (somewhat) human, and the team currently lacks any “big man” presence other than the outstanding Kevin Marfo, who might put up the most rebounds in the nation this year. Turnovers have doomed the Bobcats as of late (14 TOs/game), highlighted by their last matchup against Manhattan, when they turned the ball over 18 times – in the first half. Quinnipiac has already shown their ability to beat anyone in the MAAC, but they’ll have to be consistently precise on offense to capture their first ever NCAA bid.

9. Fairfield

The Stags are currently in a bit of a transition period, two years removed from their MAAC title game appearance. Right now, they don’t seem to have a distinctive identity; the defense has been great (63.5 PPG allowed), but their offense has been a disaster, averaging a tick under 60 per contest. Two of their three leading scorers (Jesus Cruz, Taj Benning) are only juniors, so they will have the chance to lead a more experienced team next year – the Stags currently sport 6 underclassmen on their roster. The 2021 MAAC Tournament seems like a more likely opportunity for Fairfield to contend, but hey, they’ve beaten both St. Peter’s and Monmouth this season, so a shocker or two might be in order for Jay Young’s crew.

10. Marist

The Red Foxes have ridden the struggle bus throughout most of the year, and a MAAC Tournament championship is almost certainly not in the cards for John Dunne and his team this season. But similarly to Fairfield, Marist has a very young roster: there is but a single senior on the team this season. Michael Cubbage, Tyler Sagl, and Matt Turner can all take steps forward offensively next year, and a young team that gets to build together and grow together normally develops sooner than people expect. So while I don’t see this team having any postseason success, this very same roster is capable of putting up a very different season next year.

11. Canisius

The 2019-20 Canisius Golden Griffs are the reason why everyone loves the MAAC. They sit dead last in the conference with a 4-10 record, yet three of those 4 wins have inexplicably come against St. Peter’s, Siena, and Rider – the top three teams in the conference and these power rankings. Reggie Witherspoon has some hard work ahead of him, as he will lose three seniors after this season ends, including leading scorer Malik Johnson. However, given the aforementioned wins against top teams, the Griffs have at least an outside shot to win a game or two in Atlantic City before their long season comes to a close.