College Basketball Betting Preview for MAAC: Can Any Team Challenge Iona?
Photo by Porter Binks/Getty Images
- With Elijah Joiner and Tyson Jolly, Rick Pitino and Iona will have the strongest backcourt in the conference
- Two-time MAC Defensive Player of the Year KC Ndefo will lead Saint Peter's.
- Mike Randle breaks down the conference from top-to-bottom.
Since the start of the century, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) has been known for dangerous NCAA Tournament teams. Starting with Bobby Gonzalez and the Manhattan Jaspers and continuing to Rick Pitino and the Iona Gaels, the MAAC produces exciting teams that can win in March.
There are 11 teams in the conference, with a wide variety of styles. Unlike many other conferences, there is a high amount of talent returning for the majority of teams. That should lead to one of the most competitive MAAC seasons in recent memory.
Entering its 42nd year of existence, let’s take a deep college hoops betting dive into the 2021-22 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
MAAC’s Recent History
The MAAC’s recent history is a tale of two things: regular season and conference tournament. The MAAC has experienced six different regular-season champions over the last nine years, with repeat titles posted by Iona, Siena and Monmouth.
The end-of-year tournament, however, belongs to one team only: Iona.
The Gaels have won the last five MAAC Tournament championships, earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament each season (except in 2020-COVID).
In fact, Iona has made the tournament championship game in nine of the last 10 seasons. That run is even more impressive when you consider it spans across two different coaches: Tim Cluess and Pitino.
Despite all of the Gaels’ success, it should be noted that Siena has actually won the last two regular season MAAC titles, going 27-9 in conference play over the past two years.
|Overall Record 2020-21||12-6|
|League Record 2020-21||6-3|
Iona is the clear top choice to win the MAAC this season. Pitino also benefitted from the transfer portal, nabbing Elijah Joiner (Tulsa), Tyson Jolly (SMU) and Quinn Slazinski (Louisville).
This team will be lead by 6-foot-9 Nelly Junior Joseph (11.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG, 1.6 BPG), who played extremely well on the Gaels’ summer trip to Greece.
Not only was Iona the MAAC’s best team, they were also atop the league with a 12-5-1 record against the spread.
After getting decimated by COVID stoppages last season, Iona still found a way to garner another MAAC Tournament title. With a regular preseason and a full year of Pitino, the sky is the limit for this year’s Gaels.
|Overall Record 2020-21||14-11|
|League Record 2020-21||10-8|
Former Seton Hall standout Shaheen Holloway enters his fourth season hoping to put last year’s COVID-affected year in the rearview mirror. The Peacocks played their home games at Jersey City University while their home site (Yanitelli Center) was renovated.
Saint Peter’s is now back on campus and returns all five starters, including 6-foot-7 KC Ndefo, the two-time MAAC Defensive Player of the Year.
The Peacocks are an elite defensive team, ranking first in MAAC play in almost every major defensive category last season. Saint Peter’s was a dominant under team, falling below the total in 17 of 25 games (68%).
If Holloway can find some consistency on offense, this is one of the few teams that has a style that can counter Iona.
|Overall Record 2020-21||12-8|
|League Record 2020-21||12-6|
Head coach King Rice returns for his 11th season after considering a return to his North Carolina roots as an assistant coach. Rice stole Seton Hall-product Shavar Reynolds, who averaged 4.2 assists and 1.8 steals in the Big East last season.
George Papas (12.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 39.2% 3P) is the top returning scorer for the fast-paced Hawks. He shot a blistering 36.3% from beyond the arc.
Monmouth certainly can score and Reynolds will join sophomore Miles Ruth (1.8 SPG) as one of the best on-ball tandems in the country.
|Overall Record 2020-21||12-5|
|League Record 2020-21||12-4|
Siena was successful on the court, but not ATS. The Saints’ 6-10-1 betting record was the worst in the conference, a possible result of high expectations mixed with four separate COVID interruptions.
The Saints need to replace four of their five starters, but head coach Carmen Maciariello is more than up to the task. Maciariello has gone 27-9 in conference play over his first two seasons.
Siena brings in six transfers, led by redshirt junior Anthony Gaines of Northwestern.
The Saints hope a return to their regular arena (Times Union Center) and a raucous home crowd will bring back the success of their 2019-2020 season. Siena was 14-0 at home that year, including 9-5 (64%) ATS.
|Overall Record 2020-21||7-13|
|League Record 2020-21||6-12|
The Jaspers are another MAAC team with a strong returning nucleus, as they return four starters, including former Seton Hall transfer Anthony Nelson.
Nelson enjoyed a great inaugural season for Manhattan, leading the team in scoring (13.4 PPG) and assists (3.1 APG).
Head coach Steve Masiello brought in two high-major transfers in Jose Perez (Marquette) and Josh Roberts (St. John’s). The Jaspers need those newcomers to improve a dismal offense that ranked 346th in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom.
|Overall Record 2020-21||9-11|
|League Record 2020-21||7-9|
Head coach Greg Paulus can certainly cover the spread. In his two seasons leading Niagara, the Purple Eagles are 30-21-1 (58%) against the number. All of this is despite never having a full offseason to work with his team.
Paulus took reigns just days before the 2019-2020 season started and battled through COVID pauses last year.
Junior Marcus Hammond (12.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG) leads four returning starters for a slow-paced, deliberate Niagara attack that ranked top-10 nationally in offensive turnover percentage.
|Overall Record 2020-21||6-17|
|League Record 2020-21||5-13|
Rider was the MAAC’s best over team, a direct result of decent offense and woeful defense. Head coach Kevin Baggett dropped to 5-13 in conference play, the worst in his nine-year tenure with the Broncs.
Senior Dimencio Vaughn returns from Ole Miss and hopes to return to his 13.1-point and 5.9-rebound averages from his Rider career.
Rider also brings in transfers Sedrick Altman (Pepperdine) and Mervin James (North Alabama), who should both join Vaughn in the starting lineup.
Rider lost some potential when 6-foot-10 Tyrel Bladen was ruled out for the season with a torn ACL.
|Overall Record 2020-21||10-17|
|League Record 2020-21||7-11|
After a February 19th loss to Canisius, the Stags were 5-15 overall and 5-10 in the conference. What followed? Five wins in their next six games, culminating in a MAAC Tournament Championship loss to Iona.
Head coach Jay Young must be excited to return all five starters from a team that almost earned an improbable NCAA Tournament bid.
Young’s defensive philosophy was evident in Fairfield leading the MAAC in defensive rebounding percentage.
Jake Wojcik (13.5 PPG, 38.2% 3P) and Taj Benning (12 PPG, 36.6% 3P) will try to translate a great end to a fast start in 2021-2022.
|Overall Record 2020-21||7-6|
|League Record 2020-21||7-5|
Canisius managed just 13 games played, spending over 140 days in COVID protocols. The Golden Griffins beat Saint Peter’s on January 2nd and didn’t play another game until February 12th.
Four starters return, including leading scorer Malek Green (13.2 PPG, 7.2 RPG) and a trio of solid guards.
Head coach Reggie Witherspoon’s team values the basketball on both ends of the floor, ranking near the top of the MAAC in offensive and defensive turnover efficiency.
|Overall Record 2020-2021||9-13|
|League Record 2020-21||7-10|
Welcome back, Kevin Marfo!
The 6-foot-8 senior returns from a one-year stint at Texas A&M to bolster the Quinnipiac frontcourt. In 2019-2020, Marfo was a dominant force in the MAAC, leading the nation with 13.3 rebounds per game.
He should pair with senior forward Jacob Rigoni (11.8 PPG, 6.3 RPG) to greatly improve the Bobcats’ conference-worst offensive rebounding ranking.
Tymu Chenery and Luis Kortright both made the All-MAAC freshmen team and serve as essential pieces to an elite defensive squad. Quinnipiac ranked fourth nationally in effective field goal percentage allowed.
|Overall Record 2020-2021||12-9|
|League Record 2020-21||10-8|
Almost the entire team returns for Marist, including four starters. Head coach John Dunne’s unit finished above .500 in the MAAC last season for the first time since 2016-2017.
The Red Foxes ranked first in the conference in 2P%, but must improve an annual struggle from the free throw line.
Sophomore Ricardo Wright (11 PPG, 3.9 RPG) could take a huge step forward, which would greatly improve Marist’s chances of moving out of the MAAC’s bottom tier.
Pitino’s Iona Gaels proved they can play with anyone, trailing by just one-point with 10 minutes left against No. 2 seeded Alabama in the NCAA Tournament. Iona went 3-2 ATS in the non-conference and will likely see some favorable numbers until the betting community outside of the Tri-State area wises up.
I am looking to back Niagara early in the season, as there is expected improvement from Paulus’ team with a full offseason. Paulus is an excellent young coach and Niagara is 23-15-1 (59%) ATS in MAAC play under his reign.
Saint Peter’s went from 19-11 ATS in MAAC play to 6-13-1 last year. I expect a much better season from the Peacocks, as they still managed a 3-2 record ATS in the non-conference.
Stay away from betting over/under totals with Rider. The Broncs’ over record in conference games the last three years was 11-7-1, 4-16 and 12-8.
Defense is a staple of MAAC teams, as they have ranked fourth and eighth the past two years in block percentage. But when they play outside of the MAAC, the over is a likely outcome.
Iona, Monmouth, Saint Peter’s and Rider combined to go 10-4 (71%) to the over last season in the non-conference.