Championship Week approaches in the college basketball world and both the Marist men and women will be heading to Atlantic City next week, the new site for this year’s MAAC Tournament. Both teams look to start fresh and defy the trends that have challenged them in recent years.
The women have been unsuccessful in taking home the MAAC title of late, last winning in 2014 and having lost in the finals in three of the last five years, all to Quinnipiac. The men have just one conference tournament victory since 2013, failing to make it out of the opening round every season since. As we near closer to next Tuesday’s opening round, there is still some shifting in the standings that can affect Marist’s seeding; one game remains for the men, two for the women.
Let’s start by taking a look at the men. One game left means the Red Foxes can either achieve a ninth seed through a single (and complicated) path, a 10th seed, their current placement in the standings, or fall behind last-place Canisius into 11th place. As for who the men may face in the first round, things become a bit more challenging to map out. For the sake of your sanity — and mine — we will leave that to the imagination. Here are the team’s scenarios:
IF Rider finishes ahead of Monmouth for third place at the end of the season AND Marist beats Canisius AND Fairfield loses out*, Marist will top Fairfield in the season standings through a common record tiebreaker.
*Fairfield will take on Monmouth and Manhattan, both on the road to close out their season.
IF Marist beats Canisius AND Fairfield wins one game, the Red Foxes will beat out Canisius for the 10th seed.
IF Marist loses to Canisius, they will fall to last and receive the 11th seed.
Nothing too complicated or daunting, but it does give the game against Canisius on Wednesday night some solid weight. The reason why Rider’s placement near the top of the standings matters is due to a common record tiebreaker that would have Marist edge Fairfield. When looking at opening-round matchups, a ninth seed would put the Red Foxes against the eighth, tenth would put them against the seventh, and 11th against the sixth.
On the surface, the women have a much simpler path to their seeding — their top seeding, or at least near the top — since they can only come in first or second in the MAAC this season. As of right now, the women sit in second place behind league leaders Rider due to a common record tiebreaker with the three teams tied for third in the MAAC. Looking into this is how things get a bit more complicated.
To break down the process, Marist and Rider are deadlocked at 16-2 in the conference for first place. The MAAC’s first tiebreaker is simply your head-to-head record against each other. The two teams split their season meetings. The second tiebreaker works as follows, according to MAACSports.com:
“If two teams split their in-season games, then the committee shall use the best record against the highest-seeded remaining teams in descending order as the tiebreaker. When arriving at another group of tied teams while comparing records, use each team’s record against the collective tied teams as a group (prior to their own tie-breaking procedure).”
With the way the MAAC sits today, Fairfield, Quinnipiac, and Manhattan all sit tied for third. Marist’s collective record against these three teams sits at 5-1 while Rider’s is a perfect 6-0. Due to this, the Stags have a narrow edge through the second tiebreaker.
As stated above, the MAAC handles the common record tiebreaker in descending order. Marist’s lone conference loss outside of Rider came to Fairfield, which is what gives them the 5-1 tiebreaker record. Rider’s came against the lowly 5-13 Saint Peter’s, sitting at ninth place in the conference. Since Saint Peter’s can’t mathematically pass Fairfield, the Red Foxes can’t possibly beat out Rider for the top seed. The only way a regular-season MAAC title is possible for the women is winning both of their games to close out the season and a loss from the Stags in either of their remaining games against Saint Peter’s or Monmouth.
Whether or not you find the MAAC’s tiebreaking system flawed for rewarding first place to a team with a worse conference loss is a different story for a different day. There is plenty of movement to take place within the coming days and things will be much clearer by the weekend once seeding is determined and brackets are released. Personally? Give me chaos. There’s beauty in it.
Edited by Will Bjarnar
Header photo by Mike Cahill