The Upside Down MAAC

15 Jan

It’s the middle of January and conference play is underway.  There has been a lot of talk about the unpredictability of this season, how there is a lack of elite players and teams and whether that is good or bad for the sport.  As evidence of this unpredictability has been the first few weeks of conference play in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).

The preseason poll in the conference had a top two of Loyola (Md.) and Manhattan, and a bottom two of Canisius and St. Peter’s in the 10-team league.   Even though Loyola (4-2) is in 3rd one of their losses has come on the road at a Rider team that is also 4-2 but happened to be picked 7th before the season started.

Manhattan is an interesting case because they were picked to finish 2nd behind Loyola but were dealt a significant blow when their go-to-guy George Beamon suffered an ankle injury, an injury so severe that this week he was ruled out for the remainder of the season and will seek a medical redshirt from the NCAA.  As a result of the loss the Jaspers have struggled.  Having limped to 2-8 record in the non-conference, the struggles have continued in MAAC play with a 3-3 record with three wins coming against the bottom three teams in the conference; Siena, Marist and St. Peter’s.

On the opposite end of the spectrum the Canisius Golden Griffins, the team picked to finish next-to-last in the conference had a successful 7-4 first two months including a 10-point win on the road at Temple.  Entering conference play the Griffins had confidence and jumped out to a 3-1 record but have stumbled of late being swept on a two-game swing, first falling at Siena and then Iona.

Another surprise in the tough to figure out MAAC has been the Niagara Purple Eagles.  After being tabbed as middle of the pack team (5th) in the preseason, the Eagles have begun their MAAC slate with a road win over Loyola and a 5-1 record, the only downside for the team led by a pair of sophomore guards in Antoine Mason and Juan’ya Green who are averaging 34.8 points per game, is the fact that the one loss is to Iona (5-1) giving the Gaels a leg up in any tiebreaker scenario.

The MAAC is one of the prime examples of the flip a coin nature of some of the conferences so far this season, and why every night somewhere across the country there is an intriguing match-up or a result that makes you say “huh?”  Will the topsy turvy MAAC be flipped right side up by the time the calendar flips to March? Grab the popcorn, sit back and watch it all unfold.

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