Belatedly, the PMI, Week 9
That’s what I did yesterday, only to get buried under desk work for the next 12 hours. I contemplated having a Red Bull after work and doing this before bed, but figured I need to make at least some effort to be a reasonably healthy person and get some sleep.
Soooooooooooo, here we go with the Index, which today comes with this introductory note:
Remember a month or so ago when teams two through eight were almost indistinguishable? That, it seems, is no longer the case. As we head toward the stretch run, here’s the way I see the MAAC pecking order:
Siena, as has always been the case, is in a class of its own. You don’t have to be undefeated to earn that distinction, and the Saints, barring an unforeseen collapse, will enter the MAAC tournament as the prohibitive favorites to win it.
I’d now classify Niagara and Rider as the two teams that pose legitimate threats to Siena’s crown. The Broncs have already beaten the Saints, and at 10-3 in the league and riding a five-game winning streak, it’s clear Niagara belongs in that category as well. So that’s the second group.
The third group is the middle of the pack. For now, that’s Manhattan, Fairfield, Loyola and Iona.
The fourth group is the bottom of the pack – teams that have little more than a longshot to make noise in the tournament – and for now, that group is Saint Peter’s, Marist and Canisius.
Here’s the list:
1. Siena (19-6, 13-1, 29)
Saints lost some luster with Rider loss, but fact remains that they’re on a different level than everyone else. Ryan Rossiter (14 points, 18 boards against Loyola) is a skinnier, goofier mid-major version of Shane Battier.
2. Niagara (19-6, 10-3, 73)
Bilal Benn (9 boards per game) is a defensive monster, Eagles have won five straight, and in spite of shaky performance at Siena, there’s no doubt they’re contenders.
3. Rider (14-9, 9-4, 136)
Tommy Dempsey downplayed it, but win Saturday was one of the biggest for Broncs in recent memory. And here’s a newsflash: Suddenly, a lot of teams would love to have Justin Robinson.
4. Manhattan (14-10, 8-6, 168)
Hard to imagine a more emphatic statement than the one Jaspers gave to Iona Monday. In site of earlier loss at the Garden, it’s their town, they’ve won three straight in convincing fashion, and an upset Thursday in Albany isn’t unfathomable.
5. Fairfield (15-10, 8-6, 86)
Jon Han fiasco makes player AND former team look bad, and despite three-game winning streak that ended Sunday, Stags just don’t have the firepower to match up with league’s best.
6. Loyola (11-15, 6-8, 154)
Hounds are still hard to figure out. Last two losses have been respectable, so in spite of three-game skid, they’re not in an outright freefall. But if they want middle-of-the-pack status, they better beat Iona Friday.
7. Iona (11-14, 6-8, 185)
Three weeks ago – when only losses in five-game stretch were by a point each at Siena and Rider – Gaels looked like contenders. But contenders don’t get held under 40 points in a rivalry game, which maroon and gold somehow did Monday.
8. Saint Peter’s (7-17, 4-10, 269)
Wesley Jenkins is having a really nice year, Peacocks finished off a sweep of Canisius, and they probably won’t finish last. But they’re a virtual shoo-in for the play-in round and won’t be playing past Saturday at the tournament.
9. Marist (7-19, 3-11, 261)
Things have gone so badly in Poughkeepsie of late that even the once-unbeatable Marist women have two MAAC losses and aren’t a lock to win the regular season title. Thank God for the band.
10. Canisius (7-17, 2-12, 228)
The more I think of it, the more I think the Golden Griffin is a really cool mascot. Other than that, I have nothing good to say here. … Marist at home on the 27th is Griffs’ best shot at winning a game in February.