MAAC Monday (Jan. 16)
Rider (6-12, 3-3) at Fairfield (8-9, 3-3): Who had these two teams as a combined 14-21 coming into this game. Both teams (Rider picked fourth, Fairfield second) were expected to challenge for a regular season title but that hardly looks the case.
The Broncs, despite winning five out their last seven, are coming off a disappointing loss at Siena. They fell behind by 22 midway through the second half before a furious rally nearly stole the game.
Tommy Dempsey will be upset with his team's non-existent defense in the first 30 minutes of that game. The Saints were ninth in the league in scoring at 62 points per game and came away with 83 against Rider.
Fairfield ranks eighth in the conference in scoring with 64.4 points per game and Rider won't be able to allow the Stags to score 20 points over their average if it expects to win. The Broncs are second in the league in scoring (72.2 ppg) and lead the conference in 3-point percentage (38.8). Fairfield is tops in defense (62.9 ppg) and Rider is last (78.1 ppg).
While the Broncs' struggles have been well chronicled, ultimately, the Stags may go down as the biggest disappointment unless they find a way to turn things around.
Sydney Johnson's club has lost three in a row, all in the MAAC, and five out of its last six. There was talk before the season that Fairfield -- with All-MAAC first teamers Derek Needham and Ryan Olander and transfers Rakim Sanders and Desmond Wade -- could be good enough to grab an NCAA at-large bid if it didn't win the conference tournament.
That won't happen. The Stags missed on six of seven chances for quality wins in the non-conference (Ls vs. Providence, Minnesota, Dayton, Indiana State, Connecticut, Drexel; W vs. Old Dominion) and already have three MAAC losses.
Both teams come into tonight's contest 2.5 games behind league-leader Iona and can't afford a loss if they still expect to have a chance to challenge for the regular-season title.
-- Now on to the rest of the MAAC:
1. Iona (14-4, 6-1): Last week -- lost to Manhattan, 75-72; def. Loyola, 74-63. This week -- Jan. 20 vs. Rider.
2. Loyola (12-5, 5-2): Last week -- def. Fairfield, 66-63; lost to Iona, 74-63. This week -- Jan. 19 vs. Siena; Jan. 22 vs. St. Peter's.
3. Manhattan (12-7, 5-2): Last week -- def. Iona, 75-72; def. Siena, 72-53. This week -- Jan. 20 at Marist; Jan. 22 vs. Niagara.
4. Fairfield (8-9, 3-3): Last week -- lost to Loyola, 66-63. This week -- Jan. 19 at St. Peter's; Jan. 22 at Marist.
5. Rider (6-12, 3-3): Last week -- lost to Siena, 83-79. This week -- Jan. 20 at Iona; Jan. 22 vs. Canisius.
6. Siena (8-9, 3-4): Last week -- def. Rider, 83-79; lost to Manhattan, 72-53. This week -- Jan. 19 at Loyola.
7. Niagara (8-11, 3-4): Last week -- def. St. Peter's, 85-73; def. Marist, 86-67. This week -- Jan. 19 at Canisius; Jan. 22 at Manhattan.
8. St. Peter's (4-14, 3-4): Last week -- lost to Niagara, 85-73; def. Canisius, 74-60. This week -- Jan. 19 vs. Fairfield; Jan. 22 at Loyola.
9. Marist (7-11, 2-5): Last week -- lost to Canisius, 67-57; lost to Niagara, 86-67. This week -- Jan. 20 vs. Manhattan; Jan. 22 vs. Fairfield.
10. Canisius (4-13, 1-6): Last week -- def. Marist, 67-57; lost to St. Peter's, 74-60. This week -- Jan. 19 vs. Niagara; Jan 22. at Rider.
-- News and Notes
- Steve Masiello's Manhattan continues to be the surprise package. Emmy Andujar hit a 3-ponter at the buzzer to cap a 17-point comeback at Iona. The Jaspers have won three in a row and are a legitimate challenger for the league title.
- Credit Iona for a real nice bounce-back win following that loss to Manhattan. MoMo Jones had 25 points and Mike Glover finished with 20 and 15 rebounds as the Gaels knocked off a very good Loyola team. Gover's 19 points per game leads the MAAC in scoring.
- Siena's OD Anosike is a beast. He leads the nation in rebounding (12.7 per game) and is an automatic double-double every single night. The Saints have also got a nice contribution from freshman Evan Hymes (14.7 ppg), who only looks like he belongs in the eighth grade. The question for the Siena, which had a three-game win streak snapped by Manhattan, is if its depth -- Mitch Buonaguro only uses a six-man rotation -- can hold up.
- Juan'ya Green and Antoine Mason have created a nice backcourt partnership for Niagara, which has won two straight.
- Brandon Penn continues to have an under-the-radar season for Rider. He had 15 points and 13 rebounds in the loss to Siena. More impressively, he's scored in double figures in seven straight games and has a double-double in five of those.
- Canisius finally got a league win, beating Marist by 10, but are still bottom of the table. Harold Washington (17.6 ppg) is a scoring machine in an otherwise disappointing season.
- Paging Derek Needham. The numbers for the Stags guard are down all across the board with his points per game output taking nearly a four-point drop (14.1 to 10.8) this season.
- The league is very much up for grabs. Iona is still the favorite and Canisius and Marist look like the bottom two teams but everything in between is jumbled. Teams will want to avoid a spot in the bottom four so they can grab a first-round bye in MAAC Tournament.