With just a handful of MAAC regular season games remaining in 2014, it appeared the conference’s top three teams were Iona, Manhattan, and Quinnipiac. However, Siena upset what seemed to be the league’s natural order by defeating the Jaspers, 67-63, dropping Manhattan (13-4 MAAC) to third place and giving Jimmy Patsos his first premier win at the Loudonville-based school.
Steve Masiello’s team should have won this contest; any team that goes to the free throw line for 42 attempts likely should win, but the squad shot a woeful 45.2 percent from the stripe. Combined with a failure to defend the three-point line — the Saints made nearly 40 percent from deep, and Ryan Oliver, a 6-foot-3 guard whose only made 33 percent of his threes this year, converted two crucial bombs in the final minutes — and the Jaspers dropped a game it needed to win if only to keep pace with the Gaels. Manhattan’s final two tilts are against Iona and Canisius, and while both are at home, it isn’t as if the Jaspers can easily close out the rest of MAAC play.
As for the other top two, Iona was leading Rider by double-digits but a veil of disinterest covered the team, and turnovers and lackadaisical defense helped Rider cut the lead to just three before the Gaels pulled out the win. Now 14-2 in MAAC play, Iona hasn’t lost in more than a month, and are the clear favorite for the league tournament’s top seed. The league’s dark horse, though, is Quinnipiac (13-4 MAAC). Arguably the biggest surprise in their first MAAC season, the Bobcats aren’t a great defensive team, but what Tom Moore’s club does well, they really do it well — specifically, grab a ton of their own misses and limit opponents’ additional possessions. St. Francis PA transfer Umar Shannon recently rejoined the lineup, and he could be the difference when the conference converges in Springfield for the city’s final MAAC tourney. Shannon isn’t a threat within the arc but he has the automatic green light from the perimeter: in his first game back, a win against Canisius, Shannon made four of six threes.