MAAC men’s basketball power rankings


Dylan Fearon

By: Dylan Fearon

The MAAC schedule is in full swing, and what a better time to release Q30 Sports’ first men’s basketball power rankings of the season than right now. Some teams look extremely dangerous and show potential to challenge MAAC favorite Monmouth, while others have multiple question marks surrounding them. I rank the 11 teams fighting for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament come March.

1. Monmouth Hawks (12-5, 4-2 MAAC)

Previous three games: W 71-64 vs Marist, W 92-64, L 71-61 @ Saint Peter’s.

No shocker here, although the Hawks do need to clean some things up. No, the bench mob isn’t back and Monmouth hasn’t defeated multiple Power-5 programs like it did last year, but the Hawks remain the favorite to win the MAAC. King Rice, for the second straight year, scheduled tough teams for Monmouth’s out of conference slate. The Hawks traveled to South Carolina (lost at the buzzer), Syracuse (lost by 21), Memphis (won by 3) and North Carolina (lost by 28). With pretty much everyone back from last season’s 28-8 regular season championship team, Monmouth is the best team in the MAAC. But there have been times Monmouth has looked like the mid-major that it is. Losses to Saint Peter’s and Rider, and close home wins to Canisius and Marist have shown that there is plenty of work for the Hawks to do, and that other teams are on a mission to knock off this high-powered offense led by Justin Robinson.

Next three games: Sat, Jan. 14 @ Niagara, Mon, Jan. 16 @ Canisius, Fri, Jan. 20 vs Manhattan.

2. Rider Broncs (11-5, 4-1 MAAC)

Previous three games:W 89-78 vs Niagara, @ 73-62 @ Marist, W 93-90 @ Monmouth.

I don’t think anyone thought Rider would be this good, not even head coach Kevin Baggett. Last year the Broncs were 13-20 with an 8-12 conference record, and lost their best player, Teddy Okereafor to graduation. But this year’s team combines youth and experience. Seniors Jimmie Taylor, Kahlil Thomas, Xavier Lundy and Norville Carey are four of Rider’s top five scorers, and freshman Stevie Jordan has looked very strong. The Pennsylvania product is averaging 11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists per game, and has averaged over 15 points per game in his last five contests. The Broncs have surprised just about everyone early, especially after winning at Monmouth by three in overtime. The question now becomes, how long can they keep it going?

Next three games: Fri, Jan. 13 @ Manhattan, Sun, Jan. 15 vs Saint Peter’s, Tue, Jan. 17 @ Siena.

3. Canisius Golden Griffins (11-6, 4-2 MAAC)

Previous three games: W 86-72 @ Fairfield, L 98-75 @ Iona, W 83-77 vs Quinnipiac.

There isn’t a hotter team in the MAAC than Reggie Witherspoon’s Golden Griffins. Canisius has strung together eight wins in its last nine games, with its only hiccup being a road loss to Iona. Just like Rider, Canisius is surprising some people. The Griffs were 14-19 last year and 8-12 in MAAC play, and then lost Malcolm McMillan, Kevin Bleeker and Jamal Reynolds to graduation. But Jermaine Crumpton is having a breakout junior campaign. Crumpton’s numbers last year: 10.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, shooting 43 percent from the field. THIS YEAR: 17.5 points (3rd in the MAAC) an 5.3 rebounds per game, shooting 54 percent from the field (3rd in the MAAC). But he’s sharing the workload, as Kassius Robertson is putting up over 17 points per game as well, and Phil Valenti is always dangerous. This Griffs offense is tough to stop, and with their confidence sky high, it’s going to be tough to beat this west New York team.

Next three games: Sat, Jan. 14 vs Marist, Mon, Jan. 16 vs Monmouth, Fri, Jan. 20 @ Quinnipiac.

4. Fairfield Stags (8-6, 3-2 MAAC)

Previous three games: L 86-72 vs Canisius, W 97-79 @ Manhattan, W 93-87 vs Iona.

Fairfield head coach Sydney Johnson often tweets after games, “Our future is BRIGHT!”. He’s not wrong about that, but the present seems to be bright as well for his Stags. Fairfield has already won at Rider (number two in the power rankings), vs Boston College at a neutral site, and at home against Iona. Yes, they will lose their top big man Amadou Sidibe after this season, but the Stags will bring back their top five scorers. The future is certainly bright, but watch out for these men in March. Tyler Nelson is a junior stud leading the MAAC at 20 points per game, and Curtis Cobb is no slouch as well (16.9 points per game, 41 percent from three).

Next three games: Sun, Jan. 15 vs Siena, Tue, Jan. 17 vs Saint Peter’s, Fri Jan. 20 @ Iona.

5. Iona Gaels (10-7, 3-3 MAAC)

Previous three games: W 98-75 vs Canisius, L 92-74 @ Monmouth, L 93-87 @ Fairfield.

Life after AJ English and Isaiah Williams has not been very smooth for the Gaels. Tim Cluess brought in transfers Sam Cassell, Jr. (UConn) and Jon Severe (Fordham) to go with Jordan Washington, Ricky McGill and Shadrac Casimir. Washington has been a beast all season, averaging 18.4 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Casimir didn’t look the same after he was plagued with injury, but the redshirt sophomore exploded against Canisius last Friday, dropping 27 points and draining seven threes. Will Iona be the five seed going into the MAAC Tournament? Probably not, but with some question marks, like ‘will Casimir get back to 100% and can the Gaels get it together defensively?’, Iona is just a touch behind the likes of Rider, Canisius and Fairfield. Patience, Gael fans.

Next three games: Sat, Jan. 14 @ Quinnipiac, Tue, Jan. 17 @ Manhattan, Fri, Jan. 20 vs Fairfield.

6. Saint Peter’s Peacocks (7-8, 3-2 MAAC)

Previous three games: W 58-54 vs Quinnipiac, L 56-54 @ Siena, W 71-61 vs Monmouth.

The first word that comes to mind when talking about Saint Peter’s has to be defense. The Peacocks pride themselves on shutting down teams’ offense strategies, and have done that all season. The small school from Jersey City boasts the best defense in the MAAC, allowing just 64.2 points per game. But Saint Peter’s also has the worst offense in the conference, scoring just 64.0 points per game. The Peacocks have been competitive at Maryland and at Notre Dame, and beat Monmouth because of their defense, but have lost games to Lafayette, Fordham, Houston Baptist and Siena because of their offense. If John Dunne can get his guys to put it in the basket a little more, the Peacocks can be dangerous. If not, it will be tough to beat the five teams currently in front of them in the power rankings in March.

Next three games: Sun, Jan. 15 @ Rider, Tue, Jan. 17 @ Fairfield, Thu, Jan. 19 vs Siena.

7. Quinnipiac Bobcats (6-10, 3-3 MAAC)

Previous three games: L 58-54 @ Saint Peter’s, W 81-72 vs Manhattan, L 83-77 @ Canisius.

When the season started, it’s probably fair to say that no one thought the Bobcats would have to rely on their only two freshmen, Mikey Dixon and Peter Kiss, to win basketball games. Danny Harris was back for a senior year, and Tom Moore had a trio of big men in Chaise Daniel, Donovan Smith and Abdulai Bundu that had at least one year in the system. But after an 0-4 start to the season, Dixon and Kiss went off in Orlando at the AdvoCare Invitational, and continued that type of offensive outburst once they flew home. Dixon is averaging 15.3 points per game, while Kiss is just under 12 a contest.The Bobcats have alternated wins and losses since Dec. 29, which means they are due for a win at Siena Thursday night on ESPN3. This is a Quinnipiac team that went 9-21 (6-14 MAAC) last year and lost its best player in Giovanni McLean. Moore has six new faces on this squad. If it can hold a .500 record in conference play, that has to be seen as somewhat of a success heading into the conference tournament, given what has happened to this team over the past couple of years.

Next three games: Thu, Jan. 12 @ Siena, Sat, Jan. 14 vs Iona, Fri, Jan. 20 vs Canisius.

8. Siena Saints (5-11, 2-3 MAAC)

Previous three games: W 56-54 vs Saint Peter’s, L 71-66 @ Niagara, L 82-79 @ Canisius.

This season has been extremely frustrating for Saints fans so far, and for two big reasons. The first is Siena’s poor record in close games, posting a 3-6 record in games decided by seven points or less. That has to be frustrating when most of your games are tight and you only come out on top a third of the time. The next is Siena’s inability to win on the road. The Saints are 0-10 away from home this season. o-10. That is ridiculous, especially with a great coach like Patsos and experienced players like seniors Marquis Wright, Brett Bisping, Javion Ogunyemi and Lavon Long. Good thing the MAAC Tournament is on Siena’s home floor, they’ll need it.

Next three games: Thu, Jan. 12 vs Quinnipiac, Sun, Jan. 15 @ Fairfield, Tue, Jan. 17 vs Rider.

9. Manhattan Jaspers (6-11, 1-5 MAAC)

Previous three games: W 78-69 vs Niagara, L 81-72 @ Quinnipiac, L 97-79 vs Fairfield.

After beating Niagara Tuesday night, Manhattan became the last team in the MAAC to get a conference win. It has not been the prime to start to conference play that I’m sure Steve Masiello wished for. Rich Williams has been plagued by injury and might redshirt this season, so the rest of the year could be a struggle for this young Jaspers team. If Williams did redshirt, Manhattan would only lose Tyler Wilson to next year’s team, making the future bright for the Jaspers. Manhattan has beaten teams like Hofstra and Fordham, something teams like Siena and Saint Peter’s failed to do. Zane Waterman, Calvin Crawford and Samson Usilo are playing well, it’s just a matter of picking up some conference wins and climbing the standings.

Next three games: Fri, Jan. 13 vs Rider, Tue, Jan. 17 vs Iona, Fri, Jan. 20 @ Monmouth.

10. Niagara Purple Eagles (5-12, 2-4 MAAC)

Previous three games: L 78-69 @ Manhattan, l 89-78 @ Rider, W 71-66 vs Siena.

The Purple Eagles started MAAC play pretty well after losing a tight one on the road to Marist and then beating Iona in New Rochelle, but Niagara has dropped three of its last four to fall in the standings. The good news for Matt Scott, Kahlil Dukes and Dominic Robb? Five of the next six games for Niagara are at home. The Purple Eagles have to take advantage and win games during this upcoming stretch.

Next three games: Sat, Jan. 14 vs Monmouth, Mon, Jan. 16 vs Marist, Sat, Jan. 21 @ Saint Peter’s.

11. Marist Red Foxes (5-12, 2-4 MAAC)

Previous three games: L 71-64 @ Monmouth, L 73-62 vs Rider, W 90-88 vs Manhattan.

Khalid Hart is really, really good. It’s too bad the senior is surrounded by so much youth. Brian Parker and Ryan Funk can play, but collectively the Red Foxes aren’t there yet in terms of competing with the best in the MAAC. One day Marist, one day.

Next three games: Sat, Jan. 14 @ Canisius, Mon, Jan. 16 @ Niagara, Sat Jan. 21 @ Rider.