Things were looking so bright for the MAAC conference just a little over two weeks ago. Unfortunately, the MAAC season came to an official end on Monday night. Four teams from the MAAC played postseason basketball. Three of those teams exited out in the first round of their tournament. So now, It’s time for me to reflect on what was a strange season for the MAAC conference, to say the least. Here are five things that I learned.
5. Justin Robinson played great at times, but did not deserve player of the year. I think some of his impressive performances against power conference teams made us jump the gun on MAAC player of the year Justin Robinson. Don’t get me wrong, he did an outstanding job leading his team to 28 wins on the season. He is the reason why Monmouth was even in the conversation for an at-large bid. But late in the season, when Monmouth needed their star guard to produce points, he could never do it. Don’t get me wrong, Monmouth was a basket away from sending the MAAC Championship game into overtime. But the final possession of that game stands out to me. Robinson turned the ball over at the most inconvenient time, sending Iona to the tournament. Robinson shot 2-9 in that game, so my point here? Robinson didn’t play well in the biggest game of the season. And in a mid major conference like the MAAC, that just can’t happen.
4. A.J. English has the potential to be a dominant pro player. A.J. English was the runner up for the MAAC player of the year. And based off of not only his stats, but his influence on the team, I think English deserved the award. It’s rare that you see a player as good as English play for a mid major school like Iona. He averaged just under 23 points per game this season, so he’s obviously a scorer. But he’s also a team player. He led the MAAC in points and assists, averaging over 6 assists per game. English is a senior, however, it’s too early to tell if he will get drafted or not. Even if he misses out on draft day, there will be teams willing to give him a chance. And if he’s able to increase his strength, which coordinates with his inside game, he will make a team roster. And then it just goes up from there.
3. Siena is the favorite for next season. This past season for Siena was a going through the motions process. It actually worked out pretty well; they finished in third place after the regular season concluded. Unfortunately for them, their season had the same ending result as last year. The Saints have now lost to Iona in the MAAC Tournament semifinals in back-to-back seasons. The Saints haven’t had a real contending team in about a half decade, but they are expected to have one next season. Nearly all of the Saints key players will return next fall. Including star guards Marquis Wright and Nico Clareth. Clareth was a pleasant surprise this season as a freshman, so who knows how much he will improve between now and November.
2. Getting multiple teams into the tournament from the MAAC is nearly impossible. I already shared my disgust at the NCAA Tournament committee for not letting the 27-7 Monmouth Hawks into “the big dance.” I’m not going to go over that disaster again. But what I will say is that if this Monmouth team cannot make the tournament, i’m fairly certain that we will not see an at-large team from the MAAC for a very, very long time.
1. All MAAC teams that participated in postseason play underachieved. Iona had the potential to beat Iowa State. Monmouth had the potential to win the NIT. Siena had the potential to win the CBI. Fairfield had the potential to at least get within ten of New Hampshire. All of these teams had the potential to do great things in their respected postseason tournaments. But they all failed in the process. To be honest, this really hurt the reputation of the MAAC, based off of some of the teams that blew past their teams. Morehead State, George Washington, New Hampshire. Those are teams that we should beat. And relating this to the at-large situation, the committee would never accept a team who losses to those small conference teams. I personally think all other tournaments besides the NCAA Tournament are pointless. But if your school is paying money to play in them, you would expect them to make it pretty far.
So that’s how I close the book on what was, again, a very interesting season. And if you’re wondering about my bracket? If only I could burn it. The problem is that it’s online. So it’s just sitting there, tormenting me for the next two weeks.