MAAC Weekly Update: Conference Play Beckons

November 30th, 2010
While conference play in the MAAC traditionally begins with a pair of games the first weekend of December, Siena and Rider had to play their league opener on Friday due to a conflict with final exams. But thanks in large part to preseason MAAC Player of the Year Ryan Rossiter the Saints struck first blood in the conference standings, winning at Rider 73-60. Rossiter has more than lived up to the preseason hype for Mitch Buonaguro's team, boasting averages of 20.2 points and 14.5 rebounds per game. Both numbers lead the conference and his rebounding average is actually the best in the nation presently. The senior from Staten Island accounted for 18 points and 17 rebounds in Friday's win while classmate Clarence Jackson added 15. Brandon Penn led the way for the Broncs with 14 points and nine rebounds while Justin Robinson added 12.

So with November coming to a close and the other eight teams beginning league play this week where does the MAAC stand? While the conference as a whole got off to a slow start to the season (Rider is the lone team with a winning record while Canisius and Loyola are both 2-2; as a whole the MAAC was 19-32 in non-conference games going into Monday), there have been some good victories as well. Iona, who dropped one at the buzzer to Bryant at the World Vision Classic opening weekend (played at Cleveland State), beat Richmond at home in double overtime on the 18th and followed that up with an impressive showing at Albany. Fairfield, the preseason favorite to win the MAAC, was able to snap a three-game losing streak (all to BCS conference members) by soundly whipping Norfolk State in the Philly Hoop Group Classic at the Palestra.

Rider already owns wins over USC, TCU and Loyola Marymount with all three coming on either road or neutral courts. Manhattan's dropped four straight but three came in the Old Spice Classic against tough competition (Wisconsin, Texas A&M and Georgia) and the fourth came at the hands of an LIU team expected to contend in the NEC. And while both Saint Peter's and Siena sit below .500 look at who they've played. Saint Peter's went 1-2 in the Paradise Jam while the Saints have already faced Minnesota (who won the Puerto Rico Tip-Off), Butler and Princeton. Loyola's two losses have been by a combined six points while Niagara has a pair of wins to their credit.

The major points of concern at this point would be the Purple Eagles (none of their four losses has been by fewer than 10 points) and Marist (0-6, all losses by 20+ points) but that was to be expected when the season began. It would be fair to trust history in regards to Joe Mihalich's team as Niagara tends to not slip too far down the totem pole most seasons, but it may be tougher this season due to their youth. Overall while the MAAC won't be a multiple bid conference (no surprise there as it hasn't happened since 1995) more than a few of the losses will serve as decent RPI boosts come March when the conference champion gets its NCAA Tournament seed. Don't panic about the conference champ possibly ending up in Dayton; there's still a long way to go this season.

MAAC Co-Players of the Week
G Kyle Smyth (Iona) Smyth scored 29 points in the Gaels' 86-65 win at Albany last week, scoring 26 of those points in the first half. The sophomore hit 10 of 15 shots from the field (8-13 from three) while also accounting for three assists, two rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot.
F Ryan Rossiter (Siena) Rossiter grabbed at least 15 rebounds in each of the Saints' three games last week. His averages in a 1-2 week for Siena: 19.3 points and 17.7 rebounds per game. He grabbed 21 rebounds in Siena's double overtime loss at Princeton on Sunday.

MAAC Rookie of the Week
G Marvin Jordan (Niagara) Jordan established career-highs in points in each of the Purple Eagles' two games. He scored 14 in the win over Mount St. Mary's and topped that with 17 in a win over Bowling Green. Jordan currently averages 12.5 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.

Honorees thus far
Player of the Week  
11/15 F Ryan Rossiter (Siena)
11/22 G Justin Robinson (Rider)/G Clarence Jackson (Siena)
11/29 Rossiter/G Kyle Smyth (Iona)

Rookie of the Week
11/15 G Michael Alvarado (Manhattan)
11/22 F Dylon Cormier (Loyola)
11/29 G Marvin Jordan (Niagara)

Upcoming Schedule (Tuesday thru Sunday)

11/30 Canisius at Binghamton 7:00
Iona at Norfolk St. 7:00

12/2 Fairfield at Savannah St. 7:00
Saint Peter's at Loyola* 7:00
Rider at Manhattan* 7:00

12/3 Canisius at Iona* 7:30
Niagara at Marist* 7:30

12/4 Manhattan at Saint Peter's* 2:00
Rider at Pittsburgh 2:00
Albany at Siena 7:00

12/5 Niagara at Iona* 2:00
Loyola at Fairfield* 3:30
Canisius at Marist* 4:00

Games of the Week
- Saint Peter's at Loyola (Thursday)
This will be an intriguing matchup, especially considering the fact that Wesley Jenkins is back and playing for the Peacocks (he scored 13 in their win over LIU on Saturday). Jenkins and Loyola's Jamal Barney are two of the best scoring guards in the MAAC but don't sleep on SPC's Nick Leon either. Whether or not Jimmy Patsos' crew can defend their home floor likely depends on how the frontcourt performs against Ryan Bacon.

- Canisius at Iona (Friday)
Some are sold on the Golden Griffins as a team that can make the move out of First Round Friday while others (yours truly) were touting the Gaels as a possible MAAC champ in the preseason. Elton Frazier and Julius Coles are the offensive leaders with Frank Turner having graduated, and they're plenty athletic up front with the likes of Greg Logins and Tomas Vasquez-Simmons. But Iona's got superior depth and has been playing some good basketball of late. It will be interesting to see if Canisius has any sort of answer for Michael Glover on the block.

- Rider at Pittsburgh (Saturday)
While Tommy Dempsey's team has some solid non-conference wins to date a win at Pitt would take the cake and rank among the nation's best. But while the Broncs have the ability to knock down shots good looks are tough to come by against Jamie Dixon's group, a deep and talented outfit that's the pick to win the Big East. Rider will need to be at their best on both sides of the floor if they're to entertain any thoughts of pulling off the upset.

- Loyola at Fairfield (Sunday)
Tough week for the Greyhounds, who go from hosting a team some think can win the MAAC to the preseason favorites to get the job done. While Ed Cooley does have know commodities such as guard Derek Needham and forwards Warren Edney and Ryan Olander it was the play of two freshmen in the win over Norfolk State that turned some heads. Jamel Fields and Keith Matthews scored 15 points apiece in that whipping of the Spartans, and their further development will provide Fairfield with depth they needed going into the season.

Monday's Scores
Loyola 73, Morgan State 67
Hofstra 58, Rider 48
Seton Hall 69, Saint Peter's 49