MAAC Tournament Preview: Can Anyone Take Down Siena or Iona?

MAAC Tournament Preview: Can Anyone Take Down Siena or Iona? article feature image
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The Metro Atlantic Athletic Association conference tournament kicks off Monday morning.

The MAAC is a one-bid league for the NCAA Tournament, which means there is one ticket that all 11 teams are looking for come Saturday night. T

The tournament will be played at the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., which will have limited occupancy of friends and family.

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Siena and Monmouth shared the regular-season championship, with Siena claiming the crown last season. Last year’s conference tournament was midway through quarterfinals action when the abrupt COVID-19 occurred.

The Saints take the No. 1 seed thanks to sweeping Monmouth earlier in the season. Both teams will get a first-round bye along with Saint Peter’s, which finished the season at 10-8.

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The Contenders

Iona
No. 1 Seed

The Siena Saints were in prime position to head to the 2020 NCAA Tournament before their opportunity was snatched away through no fault of their own. Head Coach Carmen Maciariello is in his second year with two regular-season conference championships.

The Saints are led by a pair of upperclassmen in Jalen Pickett and Manny Camper. Pickett was the unanimous 2020-21 MAAC Preseason Player of the Year and is averaging 12.8 points, 6.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, which are the lowest numbers of his three-year career.

Camper is averaging a double-double with 14.6 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.9 assists.

Sienna also has two other players who average double-digit points, including Jordan King, who is the 3-point sniper for the Saints.

Siena looks to be the team to beat coming into the MAAC tournament but will have a tough path to be crowned champion.

Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Iona
No. 9 Seed

There has been no team in the country affected more by COVID-19 protocols than the Iona. The Gaels were forced to shut down play for 51 days at one point before returning to play on Feb. 12.

After going 3-2, including a two-game sweep over Monmouth, Iona was forced to shut down for the remainder of the regular season but will play in the MAAC tournament.

Iona is historically the team to beat in the conference with eight MAAC championships this century and now has first-year head coach Rick Pitino leading the charge.

Pitino’s squad owns the top-ranked Offensive Efficiency and second-ranked Defensive Efficiency in the MAAC this season, according to KenPom. The Gaels lead the conference in multiple offensive statistics, including 3-point shooting (37.2%) offensive rebounding percentage (31.2%) and effective field goal percentage (53.1%).

The biggest knock on this team is how prepared it will be coming off the lengthy hiatus. I think Pitino has this squad fired up to play, and it’s no mystery he’s a dangerous coach around tournament time. Siena couldn’t have been happy to see the Gaels draw the No. 9 seed, meaning they should match up in the second round of the tournament if Iona advances past No. 8 Quinnipiac.

Photo Credit: Porter Binks/Getty Images
Monmouth
No. 2 Seed

The Monmouth Hawks enter the MAAC tournament as the No. 2 seed and have the easiest path to the finals of any team. They play with the fifth-fastest tempo in the country and lead the conference in points per game at 76.9.

The Hawks are led by three seniors who all average more than a dozen points per game. Deion Hammond is averaging 17.2 per game and has scored double-digit points in all but two of Monmouth’s 19 games this season.

Monmouth shouldn’t have much trouble getting to the finals and TeamRankings.com gives the Hawks a 41.6% chance to get there, higher than any other MAAC team. There, they’d most likely face either Siena or Iona, both of which swept the Hawks during the regular season.

Photo Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Rest of the Pack

The No. 3 St. Peter’s Peacocks play great defense but don’t have the offensive firepower to keep up with Monmouth.

Saint Peter’s, Marist, Quinnipiac, Fairfield and Manhattan all rank outside of the top 300 in Offensive Efficiency this season, according to KenPom. Fairfield and Rider both rank outside of the top 300 in Adjusted Defense, as well.

That leaves only Canisius, which played just 12 games this season, finishing 7-5. Canisius is going to have too tough of a path for me to back them to make a deep run.

With such little depth to this conference, I struggle to see another path outside of Monmouth facing off against the winner of Siena vs. Iona to determine the MAAC.

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