By Jimmy Fraus
After a season full of suspended games and to safety protocols, tournament season is here again with the MAAC conference set to entertain March fanatics everywhere.
It has been a tournament dominated by the Iona as of late, but with the Gaels struggling in the regular season, the nets are truly anyone’s to cut down when the tournament begins Monday in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The one seed in this year’s tournament is Siena for the second year in a row despite the tournament being cancelled last season. The Saints finished the year 12-4 in the conference without playing any games outside of the MAAC. They started their season hot, winning their first six games of the campaign. The Saints averaged 76 points per game in those six games while only surrendering 67 on the other end. Since then, the Saints’ scoring levels have dropped a bit, only breaking 70 in three of their final ten games of the season. They have settled down extremely well on the defensive end though, giving up just over 60 to finish their final ten contests. Siena is led by senior guard Manny Camper who is both their scoring and rebounding leader averaging 14 points and 10 rebounds in 2021.
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Everyone around the college basketball landscape has faced adversity this season, and the Iona Gaels are no exception. Head Coach Rick Pitino and his team have only played nine games this season in the MAAC due to three separate shutdowns of team activities due to Covid-19 outbreaks. The Gaels did not play a single game in the month of January during a 51 day pause during which nine players tested positive for the virus.
In his few opportunities, senior Isaiah Ross has been nothing short of outrageous on the offensive end. The 6’3” guard has averaged 20 points on the year and is shooting 42% from the three point line, leading the MAAC in both categories. Ross can go for 30 any night and has done so on three separate occasions including a 31 point performance in their season finale against Monmouth.
The Gaels unfortunately could not finish the regular season due to their third pause, but plan to be back on the floor Tuesday as the nine seed against Quinnipiac. Do not be surprised if the hot shooting from Ross can get Iona deep into this tournament.
Everyone loves a potential cinderella. This year’s team in the MAAC could very well end up being Quinnipiac. The Bobcats love the three ball. Although they do not shoot it very well they shoot it often, averaging 7.5 three point attempts per game, first in the conference. The Bobcats can get hot at any time and three pointers often win games in College. If the shots fall, Quinnipiac may be able to clinch their first NCAA bid with a great run this week.
I see this year’s favorites, Siena, winning the title this year. They have gotten locked in on the defensive end at the right time and only need to win two games to be crowned champions under the current format of the tournament.
Edited by Emma Moloney