The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament is being played at a new site. For the first time since 2014, the MAAC will not be in Albany, New York to determine the league’s lone berth in the NCAA Tournament. Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City is now the site of MAAC Madness.
That would seem to be a real bummer for top seed Siena, who used to be the host of this tournament at the Times Union Center. The Saints will have to settle for being the #1 seed when things get underway on Tuesday March 10. All 11 teams are in the field and the top five get a bye to the quarterfinals, so the bottom six will start on Tuesday. Then the top two seeds play on Wednesday before getting Thursday off if they are able to advance to Friday. So, Siena doesn’t host the tournament, but still gets a big edge with a Wednesday win.
This hasn’t been a great year for the MAAC, but it does look like somebody other than Iona will win the conference tournament for the first time since 2015. On the other hand, maybe we shouldn’t count the Gaels out so fast.
Here are the teams, seeds, standings, and odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook for the 2020 MAAC Tournament:
- Siena 19-10 (15-5) +200
- St. Peter’s 17-12 (14-6) +470
- Rider 18-12 (12-8) (record vs. Siena) +260
- Monmouth 18-13 (12-8) +500
- Quinnipiac 15-15 (10-10) +1200
- Niagara 11-20 (9-11) (H2H tiebreaker) +3250
- Iona 11-16 (9-11) +1800
- Fairfield 12-19 (8-12) (H2H tiebreaker) +2500
- Manhattan 12-17 (8-12) +3250
- Canisius 12-19 (7-13) +2250
- Marist 7-22 (6-14) +6000
Siena was the best offensive team in the conference throughout the season and learned how to win on the road later in the year, so they managed to grab the top spot. St. Peter’s is the conference’s best defensive team, which is how they ended up with the #2 seed. After that, things are sort of all over the place. Niagara led the conference by a large margin in 3P%, but was the worst defensive team of the 11 teams in the conference by adjusted defensive efficiency.
Iona was the second-best offensive team, but also struggled defensively. Iona actually started 3-7 in league play before winning six of seven. Then the Gaels lost their last three games.
This conference is just sort of all over the place.
The venue is also an interesting sticking point. This venue hasn’t consistently held basketball games since 2012 when the A-10 moved its conference tournament to Barclays Center in Brooklyn. There will be a feeling out process for the teams here. It’s fair to wonder if better defensive teams could have the upper hand, as offensive numbers could be hurt by the venue change.
Here is the schedule for the 2020 MAAC Tournament:
Tuesday March 10
5 p.m. ET: 9 Manhattan vs. 8 Fairfield
7 p.m. ET: 10 Canisius vs. 7 Iona
9 p.m. ET: 11 Marist vs. 6 Niagara
Wednesday March 11
7 p.m. ET: 9/8 winner vs. 1 Siena
9:30 p.m. ET: 10/7 winner vs. 2 St. Peter’s
Thursday March 12
7 p.m. ET: 11/6 winner vs. 3 Rider
9:30 p.m. ET: 5 Quinnipiac vs. 4 Monmouth
Friday March 13
6 p.m. ET: 9/8/1 winner vs. 5/4 winner
8:30 p.m. ET: 10/7/2 winner vs. 11/6/3 winner
Saturday March 14
9 p.m. ET: Championship Game
The scheduling certainly helps the top seeds, in particular Siena. Assuming Siena avoids disaster against the 9/8 winner, the Saints have an off day and play a team with about a 21-hour turnaround in the semifinals. That should provide a big boost for them. On the other hand, the draw is a little bit tougher. Monmouth is probably a better team than Rider, but the #1 seed could get Monmouth in the semifinals.
In conferences like this, it is difficult because the teams just aren’t spaced out that much. They’re all on par with each other for the most part. There is no well-defined split among the middle teams, so anybody can really beat anybody. That being said, Siena did separate themselves from the pack as the season went along, including nine straight wins to finish conference play. Of course, Siena’s only loss from January 24 on was against Saint Peter’s and the Saints only won by three at home.
In the bottom of the bracket, Niagara is very intriguing. The Purple Eagles are bad defensively, but Rider is a mediocre #3 seed and Niagara plays the weakest team in Marist to get the nerves out of the way prior to a day off. Saint Peter’s defended extremely well inside the arc, but wasn’t quite as good defending outside the perimeter for the season. Niagara was 7-of-16 in the final regular season meeting and beat the Peacocks in that one.
Niagara to make a run in the bottom of the bracket isn’t a bad bet. Ultimately, Siena is the best team in this league and first-year head coach Carmen Marciariello’s team just got better and better as the year went along.
Nobody will be surprised if Iona knocks off Saint Peter’s in that first quarterfinal game, but their price is depressed already based on reputation, so I don’t see a whole lot of value there. Iona was the second-worst team in the conference at defending the 3, so I’d be fine with seeing that upset so that Niagara could potentially get a crack at them down the line.
Niagara is my value pick here to make a push on the opposite side of the bracket, but Siena has no excuse for not winning this tournament. Of course, Iona will somehow find its way in at +1800, which has become an annual tradition in the MAAC. I’m still taking Siena against my better judgment.
Pick: Siena +200