The Week in the MAAC

December 8th, 2009
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The first rotation through conference play in the Metro Atlantic is complete and there were few surprises over the weekend. Undefeated are the three favorites (Niagara, Rider and Siena) and Fairfield, who picked up wins over Marist and Saint Peter's. Canisius, Manhattan and Saint Peter's all split their two games while Iona, Loyola and Marist will head back into non-conference play with 0-2 records. In regards to what binds the four teams atop the standings together the three preseason favorites are also the best offensive teams in the conference while Ed Cooley's squad ranks second in the MAAC in scoring defense (61.6 ppg).

The job that Coach Cooley has done at Fairfield can't be overstated; through injuries and defections the Stags have remained competitive throughout his tenure thanks to an offense that limits possessions and places a premium on sound play and a defense that can be downright stingy. Niagara, who plays at a high tempo and ranks second in the MAAC in both scoring (73.3 ppg) and scoring margin (+7.2), is also among the better teams in the conference in percentage defense. Joe Mihalich's Purple Eagles lead the MAAC in three-point percentage defense (28.9%) and rank third in overall field goal percentage defense (39.2%)

Siena bounced back from their loss at Georgia Tech with a road win at Iona, using a 24-8 run in the second half to pull away from the Gaels. PG Ronald Moore, who leads the conference in assists with 8.3 per game, is thought by many to be the early favorite for MAAC Player of the Year. Niagara's Bilal Benn, who's the reigning Player of the Week, can also make that claim with averages of 15.6 points and 11.0 rebounds per game.

Preseason Player of the Year Ryan Thompson hit a rough patch thanks to games against the likes of Kentucky and Virginia but expect him to be a factor in the race come season's end. The Rookie of the Year race also has an early favorite in Fairfield point guard Derek Needham, who was once again named Rookie of the Week and currently ranks in the top three in both scoring (16.8 ppg) and assists (4.8 apg).

                  Conference     Overall
Fairfield            2-0              6-2
Niagara            2-0              6-3
Rider                2-0              6-3
Siena               1-0              6-3
Manhattan        1-1              5-3
Canisius           1-1              4-3
Saint Peter's     1-1              3-4
Iona                0-2              4-4
Loyola             0-2               4-4
Marist              0-2               0-6

Weekly Honors

Player of the Week: G/F Bilal Benn (Niagara; senior) Benn averaged 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in a 2-0 week for the Purple Eagles.

Rookie of the Week: G Derek Needham (Fairfield; freshman) Needham averaged 20.0 points, 5.7 assists and 3.3 rebounds in a 2-0 week for the Stags.

Upcoming Schedule

12/9 Holy Cross at Fairfield 7:00
Manhattan at Hofstra 7:00
Buffalo at Niagara 7:00
La Salle at Rider 7:00
LIU at Iona 7:30
Loyola at Coppin St. 7:30
NJIT at Saint Peter's 8:00
12/12 Boston Univ. at Marist 2:00
Wagner at Saint Peter's 2:00
Manhattan at Morgan St. 4:00
Bowling Green at Canisius 7:00
Iona at Providence 7:00
Rider at UMBC 7:00
Siena at Northern Iowa 8:05
12/13 Niagara at Illinois St. 2:00
Sacred Heart at Fairfield 3:30

Games of the Week: Siena at Northern Iowa and Niagara at Illinois State

Both are return games from last year's ESPNU BracketBusters event, games won but the both MAAC schools. The Saints will have to deal with a true seven-footer in Jordan Egleseder as well as a pair of very good guards in Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Ali Farokhmanesh. As for the Purple Eagles they'll need to come up with answers for familiar faces G Osiris Eldridge and F Dinma Odiakosa. Both should be well-played games with the hosts being anything but hospitable on the court. A pair of wins here would be a nice boost for the MAAC's non-conference profile and this benefit the league when it comes to NCAA Tournament seeding.