MAAC Weekly Update

January 20th, 2010

League favorite Siena established further separation between itself and the rest of the Metro Atlantic with their win at Fairfield on Saturday, opening a gap of two games between themselves and the Stags. But for the solid play of teams such as Fairfield, Iona and Saint Peter's, the bigger story may be the struggles endured by preseason contenders Niagara and Rider. What's up with these two? Both have their issues defensively, but with both ranking in the bottom half of the conference in field goal percentage (Rider's 6th, Niagara 7th) they have to rely on the number of possessions in a game in order to boost their efficiency. That's where the defensive issues come into play. 

According to Ken Pomeroy the Purple Eagles' offensive efficiency is down four points from last season and their defensive efficiency number is five points worse than 2008-09. In addition to efficiency the Purple Eagles are struggling on the glass, ranking eighth in the MAAC in rebounding margin (-4.4). This is where the graduation of Benson Egemonye has hurt the most. Even with Bilal Benn ranking second in the conference in rebounds per game (10.0) Niagara hasn't done enough to rebound as a unit, something that must be done since they have just one standout performer in that area.

As for the Broncs, their offensive efficiency has dropped more than five points this season and a team that has seldom been praised for its defense hasn't shot well either. Rider's effective field goal percentage is down seven full percentage points; that's as much an indictment of shot selection as it is the simple act of making shots. One example of the shooting woes is preseason MAAC Player of the Year Ryan Thompson. A 50.9% shooter a season ago, the senior has made 40.7% of his shots this year and has seen a similar drop in his three-point percentage as well. Traditionally one of the MAAC's best offensive teams, Rider has struggled to make shots and when you aren't the best defensive team that can have a snowball-like effect.  

With Rider sitting at 3-5 in conference play and Niagara just a game better "Opening Round Friday" is a distinct possibility for both, a development that no one expected back in October. As for teams who are hot of course the Saints would be on that list with their undefeated league record, but Iona and Saint Peter's should also receive praise for their play of late. The Peacocks won three games last week thanks in large part to Player of the Week Wesley Jenkins. But with their next two on the road (against the Buffalo-area schools) followed by Siena at home John Dunne's team will be tested. Iona has won four straight and with three of their next four at home Kevin Willard's team could continue their current run. With the Saints in firm control of the race for the title, spots 2-9 should be entertaining to watch.

Standings

               Conference Record Overall Record
Siena                 8-0                   15-4
Fairfield              6-2                   13-5
Iona                  5-3                    13-6
Saint Peter's       5-3                   10-8
Niagara              4-4                    11-9
Canisius             4-4                   9-10
Rider                 3-5                   10-10
Loyola                2-6                    9-9
Manhattan          2-6                    7-11
Marist                1-7                    1-17  

Weekly Honors

Player of the Week: G Wesley Jenkins (Saint Peter's)
Jenkins led the Peacocks to a 3-0 week with averages of 19.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per game. His 27 points led Saint Peter's to their first win over Niagara since 2006. 

Rookies of the Week: G Robert Olson (Loyola) and G Kyle Smyth (Iona) 
Olson averaged 11.3 points per game last week, scoring almost seven points per game more than his season average of 4.4 points per contest. Olson scored 20 points in the Greyhounds' win over Marist. Smyth helped the Gaels go 3-0 last week with an average of 9.0 points per game, including 12 in a win over Niagara. 

The Week Ahead

Thursday's Games
7p Loyola at Siena
7:30p Fairfield at Marist

Friday's Games
7p Saint Peter's at Niagara
7p Rider at Canisius
9p Iona at Manhattan (ESPNU)

Saturday's Game
7:30p Loyola at Marist

Sunday's Games
2p Saint Peter's at Canisius
2p Siena at Manhattan
3:30p Fairfield at Iona
4p Rider at Niagara (ESPN 360)