Zaid Hearst

MAAC Tournament Preview and Postseason Awards

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AP

With the Gaels and the Jaspers lined up on opposite sides of the bracket, are we in for a Iona-Manhattan MAAC Tournament championship game for the third straight March?

The rivals have split the last two tournament titles with Iona reaching a second-consecutive NCAA tournament in 2013 and Manhattan punching its ticket for the Big Dance for the first in a decade last year. Rider, the No. 2 seed, is without star big man Matt Lopez for the rest of the season while Monmouth and Canisius look to replicate success against the MAAC’s elite again this season.

If we do see Manhattan and Iona for the third time this season, you won’t hear any complaints from me. The teams have met twice with Iona winning both games by a combined seven points.

READ MORE: NBC Sports’ latest Bracketology | The updated top 25

Bracket

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When: March 5, 7-9

Where: Times Union Center (Albany, New York)

Final: March 9, 9 p.m. (ESPN2)

READ MORE: NBCSports.com’s 2015 Conference Tournament Previews

Favorite: Iona

The Gaels have two guys in line for the MAAC Player of Year in A.J. English and David Laury, Schadrac Casimir, who should be the unanimous choice for MAAC Rookie of the Year and last week got back Isaiah Williams, who is also averaging double figures.

And if they lose?: Manhattan

Like mentioned above, the Jaspers play their rival tight, including a three-point win in last year’s MAAC Tournament championship game. The Jaspers can’t look ahead to March 14 because they’ll likely get Quinnipiac, which has been a torn in their side, in the quarterfinals.

Sleepers:

  • Rider: Odd that the Broncs are being referred to as a sleeper as the No. 2 seed, but they might be written off heading into postseason play after Matt Lopez tore his ACL last week. He was leading the team in scoring and rebounding.
  • Monmouth: The Mountain Hawks have already defeated Iona once this season — losing by one-point in the rematch. It’s worth noting, the No. 4 seed has reached the MAAC Tournament title game in three of the last four years.

Player of the Year: A.J. English, Iona

He’s not even his team’s leading scorer, but he’s the conference’s best player who is luring NBA scouts to New Rochelle. The 6-foot-4 junior scoring guard is top-3 in the MAAC in scoring at 19.5 points per game, grabbed 5.2 rebounds and dished out a conference-best 5.2 assists per game.

Coach of the Year: Kevin Baggett, Rider

The Broncs were picked to finish seventh in the MAAC preseason poll and enter’s the MAAC Tournament in March as the No. 2 seed. Rider led the conference in defensive efficiency, per kenpom.com, and head to Albany winners of seven of its last eight.

All-MAAC team:

  • English
  • David Laury, Iona: The leading scorer for the Gaels averaged 20.1 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
  • Emmy Andujar, Manhattan: One the more versatile mid-major wings led the Jaspers in points (16.5), rebounds (7.5), assists (3.5) and steals (2.1).
  • Zaid Hearst, Quinnipiac: Top-4 in the conference in scoring at 18.4 points per game. The 6-foot-4 guard also corralled 6.2 boards per game.
  • Ousmane Drame, Quinnipiac: Averaged a double-double this season — 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds — to go along a conference-leading 3.0 blocks per game. Registered double-doubles in 12 MAAC games.

CBT Prediction: Iona over Manhattan