It was a long, stressful night for the six teams playing in the MAAC Tournament first round; or “play-in” games on Thursday. Let’s just say scheduling three games on Thursday afternoon wasn’t the brightest idea. Of course, there had to be a triple overtime cluster between Niagara and Canisius. The Griffins would escape with a 102-97 victory in the second game of the triple-header. The third game, Manhattan vs. Marist, started about an hour past originally scheduled time at 10:00 PM Eastern Time. But that didn’t stop the Jaspers from taking the easy victory to clinch their quarterfinal berth. They will play home favorite Siena on Saturday afternoon. Before both of those games, Rider defeated Quinnipiac 60-57, despite being down by two at halftime. So now the quarterfinals are set. And the fun is “set” to begin.
Just to let you all know, yours truly went 3-0 on Thursday prediction wise. Let the undefeated speculation begin.
Game 1: #1 Monmouth vs. #9 Rider
If their late season contest told us anything, it’s that Monmouth should not take the Rider Broncs lightly. If it wasn’t for the heroics of Monmouth star Justin Robinson, Rider would have easily won the game. The Broncs led by 14 points in their own house with just over four to play. One of the worst college basketball collapses of the season was the ultimate result. And Monmouth was able to steal a game from a Rider team that needed it at the time. The problem is defending potential MAAC player of the year Justin Robinson. That’s obvious. But don’t forget, even if Rider has a late lead, they nearly choked themselves to death almost throwing away a big lead against Quinnipiac Thursday. So in all honesty, it’s not looking good. But if they can find a way to piece it all together late in the game, they will be in it. But unfortunately for Rider, their scoring and rebounding is not where it needs to be. The Hawks advance, and in my mind? They clinch an at-large with this victory. Monmouth 84, Rider 73.
Game 2: #2 Iona vs. #7 Canisius So I mentioned that player of the year talk. Iona senior A.J. English is currently in the mix. And if there was ever a game to prove that he deserves the title, well, this is the one. Just think about it! English is an NBA prospect playing against a team with little to no star power. Did I mention Canisius had a three overtime game last night? I did? Well, the point here is they are exhausted and have to go up against one of the most accurate shooters in the country. My prediction is that the Gaels will set a MAAC Tournament record with twenty three pointers tonight. Ten of them coming from English, who will pour in his typical 45 point game. Bottom line? Canisius is tired, Iona is on a hot streak, and A.J. English is very, very good at basketball. Iona 97, Canisius 65.
I am anticipating better games tomorrow. But you never know. I look at these two games as a win-win situation for me. If they turn out to be good games, I get to see good basketball. If they turn out to be blowouts, I might nail my Iona prediction. If you want to watch these games, find out the television schedule by clicking here.