The MAAC is back — only this year the tournament is in a faraway place. Springfield, Mass., to be exact. Why the league has chosen to hold its postseason tournament in a state where none of its teams reside is an answer so convoluted perhaps the NCAA has the best and only shot to interpret the meaning behind it.
No matter, the league this year boasts a team that has a lot of talent and potential to win a couple of games in the Big Bracket. That’s right, a couple. Iona, who is the No. 1 seed, is one of the most potent offensive teams in the nation. It averages 1.16 points per possession and 83.4 per game, No. 1 in the nation. With 19.5 assists per game, the Gaels are also the best passing team in basketball. That’s because Scott Machado is one of the five best point guards in the game.
Machado was one of our 30 best point guards prior to the season, but nobody knew he had this sort of impact left in him. Now he’s an NBA prospect. Machado, forward Mike Glover and Arizona transfer MoMo Jones provide a three-headed monster that’s rarely assembled in these ranks. The Gaels are really good, and they’ll only lose this tournament if their weak interior defense completely craters.
If not the Gaels, who? Loyola (MD) finished 13-5 in the league, two games behind Iona. It did split the season series with the Gaels, and the Greyhounds are having some kind of special year. For the first time in their Division I history, the team got to 20 wins. It’s been D-I for 30 years. Incredible, and if Loyola made the Big Dance, it’d be just as great of a story as any other team out there. Loyola’s a great team on the O boards (39.3 percentage rate) and can swipe the ball (12.4 steal rate), but everything else they’re pretty average at, overall.
Fairfield (12-6) was the team meant to challenge Iona. It’s had a disappointing year. Point/combo guard Derek Needham is now done for the season with a bad wheel, so that’s one less weapon. The Stags are coached by first-year honcho Sydney Johnson, who led Princeton to the NCAAs last year in a dramatic playoff victory against Harvard. Getting to The Dance with this team would shock him just as much, I’d assume. Last year it was fourth-seeded St. Peter's that wound up getting the auto-bid, so Fairfield's got that going for it, which is nice.
|Michael Glover and the Gaels should absolute win. (US PRESSWIRE)|
And then there’s Manhattan, technically the three seed who also finished 12-6, who also has a first-year coach in Rick Pitino protégé Steve Masiello. The Jaspers were 6-25 last season; they went 20-11 this year. Incredible turnaround, but it feels like Masiello will need one more year to push through.
John Templon, who runs Big Apple Buckets, simulated the MAAC tournament 10,000 times with his bulky, not-available-in-stores Simulation System 6,000. Almost half the time, Iona won. Ironically, second-place Loyola came up the fourth-most likely team to win it all, with Manhattan, then Fairfield falling far behind the Gaels.
Return of the MAAC. (It is!)
Return of the MAAC (Come on!)
Return of the MAAC (Oh my God!)
Return of the MAAC (Here I am)
Schedule: March 2-5
Title game: Monday, March 5, ESPN2.
- Scott Machado, Iona
- Michael Glover, Iona
- Rakim Sanders, Fairfield
- George Beamon, Manhattan
- OD Ansoike, Siena
Conference RPI: 22
KenPom.com rating: 20
Sagarin rating: 20
NCAA Tournament Locks: None
NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Iona (and barely at that)
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:
- Canisius Golden Griffins: 1996, 13 seed, lost first-round game to Utah, 72-43.
- Fairfield Stags: 1997, 16 seed, lost first-round game to North Carolina, 82-74.
- Iona Gaels: 2006, 13 seed, lost first-round game to LSU, 80-64.
- Loyola (MD) Greyhounds: 1994, 15 seed, lost first-round game to Arizona, 81-55.
- Manhattan Jaspers: 2004, 12 seed, won first-round game over Florida, 75-60. Lost second-round game to Wake Forest, 84-80.
- Marist Red Foxes: 1987, 14 seed, lost first-round game to Pittsburgh, 93-68.
- Niagara Purple Eagles: 2007, 16 seed, won opening-round game over Florida A&M, 77-69. Lost first-round game to Kansas, 107-67.
- Rider Broncs: 1994, 15 seed, lost first-round game to Connecticut, 64-46.
- Siena Saints: 2010, 13 seed, lost first-round game to Purdue, 72-64.
- St. Peter's Peacocks: 2011, 14 seed, lost first-round game to Purdue, 65-43.
-- Matt Norlander