You can’t have a basketball season without considering the entire conference, so why have Basketball Week without a MAAC preview? Staff writers Dave Connelly and Christian DeBlock took a deep dive into recent MAAC history to preview the season for every team on the men’s and women’s sides. Here’s Christian’s conference preview, in which he also discusses just how Marist will fare in their matchups with the 10 MAAC foes.
After finishing last season with a record of 23-10 and a conference record of 13-5, Marist will be looking to improve their consistent success and win the MAAC this year. The team will be led by captains Rebekah Hand and Alana Gilmer to continue their success from last season, as the pair averaged 31.1 points per game last season together. Marist will also have senior guard Grace Vander Weide as the third offensive weapon to help Marist look for the MAAC title alongside Rider and Quinnipiac. With Marist bringing back most of their key players, this is the year in which they have the best chance to win the conference. I believe that if Hand, Gilmer, and Vander Weide improve upon their excellent season last year, Marist will be right there at the end of the season with a chance to win the conference.
Record Prediction: 21-8 (17-3)
Led by preseason player of the year Stella Johnson, who averaged 18.8 points per game last season, we’re likely in the midst of Rider’s best chance to contend in the MAAC. Rider will also have seniors Lea Farve (10.6 points per game last year), Lexi Posset (11.4), and Amari Johnson (10), all of whom anchored a balanced offensive attack. I believe that if Stella Johnson and company can improve on their success from the 2018-19 season, Rider acts as the best challenger to Marist and Quinnipiac for the conference championship this year.
The Marist Angle: Marist and Rider played three games against each other last season, in which Marist lost the first two, but then beat Rider in the conference tournament semifinal. In their first matchup in late-January, Alana Gilmer had 27 points for Marist, but couldn’t stop the big three from Rider, as Stella Johnson, Lea Farve, and Amari Johnson had 51 combined. Marist gave up 43 points in the second half and lost 68-58. In the second matchup of the season, Stella Johnson was excellent again, scoring 23 points against Marist to give Rider their second conference win against Marist. Then, Marist and Rider faced off again in the MAAC tournament, and Marist was able to get out to an early lead. Marist ended up winning 62-52, advancing to the conference championship game. The two games this year between Marist and Rider will be very close, but Marist will sneak by with two close wins of Rider this year.
Record Prediction: Rider 19-10 (15-5)
If there’s been a Duke, a Kentucky, or a Michigan State in the low-profile MAAC, it’d be the Quinnipiac women in recent memory. After finishing last season with a 26-7 record and an absurd 18-0 conference record, Quinnipiac will look to repeat as conference champions for the fourth straight year, fending off competing teams like Marist and Rider. Quinnipiac will look for new players to play significant roles, as five of their key players graduated – including star guard Jen Fay – so the team will look for other players to make significant impacts this season. Senior guard Taylor Herd is the most experienced returning player, so she will need to become a massive leader for the team to retain the same amount of success this season. I believe it will be nearly impossible for Quinnipiac to go undefeated in the MAAC again, as losing five key players will drastically affect the team. Quinnipiac should regress a little bit, but the team led by Herd should be very competitive this year regardless.
The Marist Angle: Marist and Quinnipiac played each other three times in the 2018-19 campaign, and Marist struggled in each of the three games. The Red Foxes lost 76-69, 78-66, and 81-51 in the MAAC Championship. Marist just wasn’t able to score enough to keep up with Quinnipiac in any of the three matchups, an unfortunate that trend that should be upended this coming year. Let’s face the facts: Quinnipiac lost a lot of their best players, and Marist is bringing everyone back. This shouldn’t be complex: these are the conferences two best teams, at least on paper. Watching them play will be, well, as close as we get to a Duke-UNC in the MAAC.
Record Prediction: 20-9 (14-6)
After last season with a record of 12-19 and a conference record of 9-9, Manhattan has promise this year, perhaps enough to inch that poor record up toward .500. Led by D’Yona Davis, Courtney Warley, and Lynette Taitt, the team will look to improve from their previous experiences over their careers to improve Manhattan’s record this season. Manhattan had a very balanced attack last season, as the team didn’t have a single double-digit scorer despite having a .500 conference record. If Manhattan continues to play well and rely on this balanced, somewhat successful approach, they’ll be able to finish in a top-four spot.
The Marist Angle: These two teams played each other three times last season, including in the quarterfinals of the MAAC tournament. In their first matchup in late January, Marist struggled to keep up with Manhattan, as they went into halftime down 10 and never could get into striking distance. They ended up losing the fourth quarter 19-8, as Manhattan got a huge road win in the MAAC. In their second matchup, Marist went down early, losing the first quarter 20-10, but rebounded quickly, winning the second quarter 21-2. Marist never looked back after that, winning the second half by two points and getting a quality road win in the conference, led by Rebekah Hand’s 21 points. In the final matchup of the year in the MAAC tournament, Marist got out to an early lead once again, and never gave it back to Manhattan, winning the first three quarters by 14. Marist won the rubber match by 14, led by Alana Gilmer’s 25 points. These two teams will match up twice again this season; who knows about a third?
Record Prediction: 14-15 (11-9)
Remember when the Monmouth basketball program employed the most exciting bench college basketball had ever seen? Sure, that was on the men’s side, but the enthusiasm transfers, no doubt. We haven’t seen that of late; the women finished 14-17 last season, to go with a fine 9-9 in the MAAC, but these numbers aren’t something you write home about. What perhaps is? The team will be returning most of their key players, including leading scorer senior guard Sierra Green, who averaged 13.4 points per game last season (fifth in the MAAC). Monmouth also brings back sophomore Lucy Thomas, senior Alexa Middleton, and senior Rosa Graham, all of whom saw significant minutes last season and were amongst the Hawks’ top six scorers. I believe their amount of older players with experience will allow Monmouth to improve in the MAAC this season. If the seniors can shoulder more responsibility this season and do more for the team offensively, I believe Monmouth will have a chance to finish in the top-four in the conference this season.
The Marist Angle: Last season, both of their matchups ended 69-45, each in favor of the Red Foxes. In their first matchup in mid-January, Marist was able to dominate from the beginning of the game, outscoring Monmouth 36-22 in the first half. They went onto win the second half by ten points as well, and win their first matchup by 24. The Red Foxes were led by Alana Gilmer’s 20 points then and were once again when they next met Monmouth later in the season (she had 21 that night). Marist took an early lead and never looked back. They won the second half by 20, including a 16-5 fourth quarter to close out the game. Even though Monmouth is very senior-heavy and has brought a lot of their key players back from last year, I believe Marist will be able to take two victories from Monmouth due to the talent of the Red Foxes this season.
Record Prediction: Monmouth 13-16 (10-10)
Though the team finished with a less-than-impressive 11-20 last season (7-11 in MAAC play), the numbers that stand out are their home and away records. Yes, I know that those are what adds up to a season record, so why would it be interesting? I’m glad you asked: The Stags went 5-7 at home and 4-9 on the road, with a 2-4 neutral record. Nowhere felt like home, and if Joe Frager and co. wish to improve, they’ll need to achieve a bit more consistency, at least at home. The team will look for sophomore Lou Lopez-Senechal to lead the team this season, as Fairfield lost two of their key starters from the 2018-19 season. As a freshman, the French forward only played in 22 games (676 minutes), averaging 11.8 points on just 92 shots. That was still good for 11th in the conference. How is that possible? Well, those that rank above her were the conference elite last season in a multitude of areas. Should Lopez-Senechal join that fold, the Stags can improve. However, it takes a village, and the village is inexperienced. Forward Khadidiatou Diouf, guards Sam Kramer and Casey Foley, and guard/forward Katie Armstrong provide a bit of veteran-leadership as well as added scoring. If that group can dominate, the Stags could at least see the .500 mark. I say otherwise; Fairfield is bound to struggle this season, particularly in conference play.
The Marist Angle: Marist was able to defeat Fairfield in both of their matchups last season, including one huge blowout at home late in the season. In their first matchup in early January, Marist took an early lead, though they had just a two-point lead going into halftime. Some distance was put between the two teams in the third quarter as Marist outscored Fairfield 17-9 in the quarter, and took home the victory, 56-46. The second matchup of the two was a very different story. Marist only gave up two points in the first quarter, and never looked back. Marist put up 31 in the second quarter, and another 37 points in the second half to beat Fairfield 85-44. Say Fairfield averages 45 points per contest against Marist again. You don’t think the Marist scoring gauntlet can outdo that?
Record Prediction: 13-16 (8-12)
After finishing last season 11-19 and 9-9 in MAAC-play, this is a team that, while unlikely to finish anywhere relatively close to .500, should be interesting to watch as they live at a constant pedestrian pace. The Golden Griffins will be bringing back most of their key players but will be without recently graduated Sara Hinriksdottir, who led the team in scoring with 12.9 points per game last year. With Hinriksdottir graduating, the team will look for senior D’Jhai Patterson-Ricks and junior Danielle Sanderlin to lead Canisius an area when they’ve been somewhat consistent, even if the consistency means remaining a middle-of-the-road squad. I believe that if the returning players like Patterson-Ricks and Sanderlin can fill the gap of Hinriksdottir, Canisius will be a quietly dangerous team that can at least be very competitive against the top teams in the conference this year.
The Marist Angle: Last season, Marist was able to beat Canisius in both matchups, including a very close game on the road in early January. In their first matchup, Canisius held a one-point lead after the first quarter, but the Red Foxes won the next two quarters by seven to take a six-point lead going into the fourth quarter. Canisius nearly mounted a fourth-quarter comeback, but came up short, as Marist won by five. Alana Gilmer’s 22 points on seven-of-16 shooting gave the Red Foxes a huge win in the beginning of conference play. In their second matchup, it was a much more dominant win for the Red Foxes, as they won by 16. Canisius was dominated in the first half from a defensive standpoint, as Marist allowed them to only score eleven points in the first two quarters. Rebekah Hand led Marist with 18 points on seven-of-14 shooting, as the Red Foxes got another massive conference win. In the 2019-20 season, I expect both games to be very close, but Marist should take both games against Canisius. If something leads to the all-to possible collapse, it’ll be Hinriksdottir’s graduation.
Record Prediction: 10-19 (6-14)
Is it just me, or does it feel like, after a certain point (read: the top three) there’s a significant drop-off in the MAAC? Some of that isn’t the fault of the teams in question, though Niagara’s excuses are a bit more limited. This team is returning but a few of their key players, including senior guard Jai Moore, who averaged 17.5 points per game last season, good for second in the conference. Moore will be expected – once again — to carry a huge load of the offense for Niagara this year, as they lost two key starters from the team last season. Senior guard Maggie McIntyre will also look to lead Niagara to a better record than last season in the MAAC. What’s noteworthy is the Purple Eagles’ failures on the road. Coach Jada Pierce’s squad went an abysmal 3-11 last year – which is typically offset by stellar numbers at home, of which this variety was not (just 8-6) – and they finished the season on a six-game losing streak. I don’t know who would find that too encouraging, but having a seasoned tandem can provide some sort of hope. If Jai Moore can have another excellent season and get support from teammates –McIntyre in particular – Niagara should be a mildly competitive team in the conference.
The Marist Angle: In the 2018-2019 season, Marist was able to win two huge games against Niagara, including a 31-point drubbing and 13-point convincing win at home. In their first matchup, Marist dominated Niagara, outscoring Niagara in every quarter, including winning the second quarter by a whopping 32-10 margin. Marist ended up winning by a score of 87-58, a game in which Rebekah Hand scored 21 points on eight-of-11 shooting, including three triples. In their second matchup, that coming in March, it was more of the same; Marist dominated once again. Marist had an 18-point lead going into the fourth quarter before Niagara cut the deficit to 13. Lovisa Henningsdottir and Rebekah Hand led the Red Foxes to a second win of the season against Niagara, combining for 44 points on 17-of-32 shooting and 8-of-17 from three. Marist and Niagara matchup twice again this season, and I believe it will be much of the same. Even though Niagara will still have the Moore and McIntyre duo, the loss of two starters and Marist ridiculous returning talent will allow Marist two nab two victories over Niagara.
Record Prediction: 11-18 (4-16)
Last season’s Siena campaign looks all-but identical to that of the Marist men, though it wasn’t an improvement by their standards A 12-18 record, and an 8-10 conference record was a clear regression from the 2017-18 season, which finds the team looking to push toward the top of the MACC by the end of the season; you know, like they once were. Siena will be forced to rely on a lot of younger players, as only one of their starters from last season will be returning to the team. That would be senior guard Sabrina Piper, who will need to lead a very inexperienced Siena team throughout her final collegiate season. Expect growing pains; this is a transitional period, and not necessarily the kind that you desire or even appreciate. The Saints will need to rely heavily on younger players to support Piper and to be a competitive team. They should be a lock to finish in the conference cellar. Need a silver lining? Rebuilding isn’t always larded with negative connotations. Starting over can be a good thing, you know.
The Marist Angle: Last season, Marist dominated Siena is both conference matchups, winning by 29 and 15 in the two MAAC games. In their first matchup, Rebekah Hand was her all too typical top-notch self for the Red Foxes, leading the team with 24 points on eight of 12 shooting, as well as four of six from three. Marist held a nine-point lead going into the second quarter, and never looked back, dominating the third quarter by a score of 29-9. In their second conference matchup, Marist utilized a very balanced offensive attack, seeing four players scoring double figures (Hand led the way with 18 points). Marist took a slight one-point lead going into the second quarter this time, but never looked back, winning each of the four quarters to earn a fifteen-point win over Siena in their second conference matchup. In the 2019-2020 season, I expect more of the same. As Marist is returning all of their key players while Siena will be in a rebuilding stage. These are two teams sitting at two completely opposite ends of the pendulum. Marist finds themselves experienced and poised, an obvious favorite for the title. Siena finds themselves in a peculiar situation; college teams “rebuild” every year, so what’s different about this one? Well, it’s because it’s not so much a rebuild as it is an uncomfortable adjustment.
Record Prediction: Siena 8-21 (3-17)
Lucky for Iona, their out-of-conference play will ever so slightly save them from full-on purgatory this season. Led by senior guard Morgan Rachu, Iona has kept all of their key players from last season and will look to improve on last season’s tenth-place finish in the conference this year. With Rachu starting all of Iona’s 31 games last season, the team will look to their veteran floor general to lead the team with her scoring ability; she averaged 11.7 points per game last season. Sophomore guard Juana Camilion had an impressive freshman year and will certainly be asked to shoulder more responsibility for Iona this year. Even though Iona is a very young team at the moment, I expect Morgan Rachu, having been around the block a couple of times, to help the Gaels grow as the chemistry builds, allowing them to be much more competitive this season in the MAAC.
The Marist Angle: In their lone matchup last year, Marist dominated Iona – sensing a trend yet? — winning 76-36 in a complete landslide. Marist came out scoring in bunches, putting up 42 points in the first half and leading by 22 at the half. The Red Foxes ended up winning by 40, finishing with four players in double figures, and led by Alana Gilmer’s 15 points on six of ten shooting. The biggest storyline of the game, though, was the free throws: Marist took 14 shots from the line compared to four shots from Iona. Four! I expect Marist to win both of their matchups against Iona, even though Billi Chambers and co. return all of their key players. The Gaels will be much-improved against quality teams like Marist, but the talent of the Red Foxes will be too much for Iona this season in the MAAC.
Record Prediction: 9-20 (2-18)
11. Saint Peter’s
After finishing last season with a 6-24 record and a 1-17 conference record, Saint Peter’s will be returning all of their key players from the 2018-2019 season. Led by sophomore guard Briyanah Richardson and senior forward Zoe Pero, the team will look to improve from last season as they ranked near the bottom of the conference in most of the major offensive and defensive areas. Saint Peter’s had a negative 12.5-point differential, which ranked tenth out of the eleven teams in the MAAC. Richardson and Pero will need to shoulder more of the team’s offensive load, too, as Saint Peter’s was only able to score 56.3 points per game last season, ranking eighth in the conference. Though the goal is for Saint Peter’s to tighten up the various gaping areas of play – I mean the offense was abysmal last season – contention would be a surprise.
The Marist Angle: In their only matchup last season, Marist took the victory in Jersey City, winning 62-42, led by 19 points from Rebekah Hand and an additional 18 from Alana Gilmer. The Red Foxes led by 15 after the first quarter, and never looked back, including outsourcing Saint Peter’s in three of the four quarters. The Peahens were able to cut the lead to eight going into halftime, but Marist went on to outscore their opponents by 12 in the second half. The biggest story of last season’s matchup was the two teams’ three-point shooting; Marist was able to hit 11 threes compared to four from Saint Peter’s. This season, these two teams will match up twice in MAAC play. Marist will be favored to win both games, as both teams are returning most of the players who played big roles for both teams in last year’s matchup.
Record Prediction: 6-23 (1-19)
MAAC Player of the Year: F, Alana Gilmer, SR, Marist
Coach of the Year: Brian Giorgis, Marist
Defensive Player of the Year: Courtney Warley, Manhattan
Newcomer of the Year: Aiste Vaitekunaite, Iona
Edited by Will Bjarnar & Lily Caffrey-Levine