MAAC Men’s Basketball Conference Preview

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Ross Meglin



The long-awaited college basketball season starts on Wednesday. The Quinnipiac men’s basketball team opens at home against non-conference opponent Fairleigh Dickinson.

MAAC play begins with back-to-back games on Dec. 11 and 12, though the Bobcats will have to wait an additional week.

The coaches voted and unanimously ranked Siena as the best team in the MAAC. How does the rest of the conference stack up ahead of the 2020-2021 season?

Siena

The preseason coaches’ poll ranks Siena as the top team in the MAAC ahead of the season. The Saints finished first last season with a 15-5 conference record. Siena is home to the preseason player of the year Jalen Pickett who was MAAC Rookie of the Year in 2018-19 and MAAC Player of the Year in 2019-2020.

Pickett will look to defend his title after posting 15.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.0 assists last season. Siena begins MAAC play against Fairfield.

Iona

Ranked second in the preseason poll, Iona welcomes Hall of Fame head coach Rick Pitino to the program. The Gaels are still technically the defending MAAC champions since the 2020 tournament never declared a winner.

After winning four league titles in a row from 2016-2019, the Gaels were seeded seventh before the tournament last season under interim head coach Tra Arnold. Iona starts MAAC play against Monmouth.

Monmouth/Saint Peter’s

In a tie for third in the preseason poll, the MAAC coaches see the battle for second place to be a hot contest. Last year, Monmouth finished in a tie for third with the Rider Broncs at 12-8 conference record behind the Peacocks at a 14-6 MAAC record. December 11 is opening night of MAAC play, Monmouth will face Iona and Saint Peter’s will play Niagara.

Manhattan

One of the most physical teams in the conference, the Jaspers find themselves fifth in preseason rankings. Anthony Nelson highlights the additions for Steve Masiello. A transfer from Seton Hall, he will have two years of eligibility remaining and Masiello says he will be able to impact the game and gives Manhattan a natural guard. Manhattan opens MAAC play against Rider on December 11.

Niagara

Ranked sixth this year, the Purple Eagles finished sixth in conference play a year ago with a 9-11 record, tied with Iona. Marcus Hammond was selected to the All-MAAC Fist Team.

Hammond scored 36 points at Quinnipiac last season which tied for the most points scored in a game by a MAAC player. Niagara kicks off MAAC play against Saint Peter’s.

Quinnipiac

Quinnipiac finished 10-10 in conference play a year ago, earning the fifth seed in the MAAC tournament that was canceled due to the coronavirus. Quinnipiac was ranked seventh in this year’s preseason coaches’ poll.

Key losses for the Bobcats were big man Kevin Marfo who transferred to Texas A&M, team leader Rich Kelly, transferred to Boston College and the departure of graduate student Aaron Falzon. Joining Baker Dunleavy’s squad are first years Bol Akot, Tymu Chenery, and Luis Kortright, and sophomore transfer Elias King.

Quinnipiac is a young team heading into 2020-2021 with the potential to have the talent to shock the MAAC. Quinnipiac starts on a bye week, forcing 10 weeks in a row of weekend games. Their first MAAC game is on Dec. 18 against Manhattan, in Hamden.

Fairfield/Marist

Fairfield’s preseason rank is eighth. The Stags finished 8-12 in MAAC play last year which was good for eighth place. Marist is picked ninth in the preseason poll, they finished last last year with a 6-14 record. Marist will return six of its seven top scorers from last year and 75 percent of total scorers from last years squad. Fairfield starts MAAC play on December 11 against Siena. Marist starts against Canisius,

Canisius

Canisius finished 7-13 last season, which was one game better than last place. In 2020-2021, the Golden Griffins are ranked 10th out of 11 teams in the MAAC followed only by the Rider Broncs.

Like Rider, Canisius is a young team with six of their 13 players suiting up for their first or second year. The Griffs start the season off against Marist.

Rider

The Rider Broncs see the biggest shift in rankings. Tied for third a year ago, they find themselves ranked last by the coaches as a very young team. Ten of the sixteen men on the current roster are first- or second-year players, which will give the young players significant time on the court this season. Rider will square off against Manhattan to start the year.