Around the MAAC: Midseason Report—Siena Undefeated

Ari KramerSenior Analyst IIJanuary 25, 2009

Siena may have struggled against top competition, but the Saints stand atop the MAAC standings with a perfect conference record of 9-0. 

Not every conference win has come easily for the Saints—they played close games against Fairfield and Manhattan, and they needed a late 21-9 run at Marist to come back from a 12-point deficit and force overtime. 

Don't let these tight games undermine your belief in Fran McCaffery's squad. 

Until yesterday's double-digit defeat of Niagara, I was convinced that the Purple Eagles had a chance of outlasting Siena for the MAAC title.

Now, midway through conference play, Siena holds a three-and-a-half game lead on Niagara, who is tied with Rider for second place. Fairfield and Iona are each 5-4 and occupy the fourth and fifth spots in the standings. Manhattan and Loyola follow at 4-5, Marist is 3-6, and St. Peter's and Canisius are 2-7. 

If we have learned anything from the first month of conference play, we have come to understand that anyone can beat anyone on any given night. Siena hasn't been defeated yet, but their two closest games were against Manhattan and Marist. Niagara, who is easily the second best MAAC team, has lost to Marist and Iona. 

Marist is beginning to stir up memories of last year's Fairfield team—a team that was expected to finish in the lower tier, but played tough, got hot, and finished 11-7.

If Marist wants to emulate the Stags, they will need to finish 8-1. That does not seem possible, considering that they have been the toughest at home and only have four remaining games in Poughkeepsie, but the Red Foxes have proven that they have the ability to knock off the best of the MAAC. 

Canisius and St. Peter's will need something more than luck in order to have a chance of upending any of the MAAC's top teams. 

Rider needs to hope that Ryan Thompson's four-point performance against Fairfield is nothing more than a mere aberration. If Thompson returns to his normal self, and Novar Gadson and Mike Ringgold keep playing well, Rider will stay in the top three. 

Fairfield has an upcoming stretch of four must-win games against Manhattan, Marist, Loyola, and Canisius. The games against Manhattan and Canisius are on the road, and Fairfield needs to win those games to prove that they belong in the upper third. The Stags host the Red Foxes and the Greyhounds, two teams they must beat to stay in competition for the title. 

The good news for Fairfield is that they have already played Siena twice. The bad news is that they have lost both times and still need to oppose Niagara two times. 

Loyola is a team that is hot—they have won their last four games—and needs to stay hot unless they want to fall back to their predicted finish in the bottom third. The Greyhounds have three straight road games against Marist, Rider, and Fairfield. 

Manhattan has lost three of their last four games and really needs to get back on the right track at home this week—they host Fairfield and Niagara. 

Iona has won five of their last six games and has a chance to hand Siena its first loss tomorrow night.

After Siena, the Gaels have a chance to put a solid winning streak together. They host St. Peter's, Niagara, and Marist, and then visit Manhattan and Loyola. Iona beat Niagara on the road. 

That's all for now. Check back later in the week.