Are MAAC Preseason Basketball Polls Accurate? Looking Back Twenty Years

Prior to every MAAC Basketball season, each head coach casts their votes for the preseason coaches poll. 

All head coaches are tasked with predicting the standings, as well as voting for which players make the preseason, first, second, and third teams. Lastly, they vote on who will be the Preseason Player of the Year. 

In smaller conferences like the MAAC, there is not much coverage from news outlets heading into the season. For the most part, the coaches’ polls are the most commonly read season previews by fans of the conference and its respective teams. With a large emphasis placed on how these coaches vote, it poses a pressing question: 

How accurate are these preseason polls compared to how the teams and players perform by the end of the season?

For my research, I examined the results of the last 20 preseason polls, for both men’s and women’s hoops, and tested to see how they held up at the end of each season.

When it came to selecting a preseason favorite, the men’s and women’s coaches have produced similar results. Both men’s and women’s preseason favorites have gone on to win 13 of the past 20 regular season titles. 

However, there are some years to make note of. In the 2007-08 campaign, Siena and Rider finished the regular season tied, each taking home a share of the men’s regular season title. In that year’s preseason coaches poll, Siena was selected as the favorite by the coaches. This put me in a tough spot, as they technically did win the regular season title, albeit they were not alone. I decided to count it as being correct. 

This was much more common on the women’s basketball side, with this exact scenario happening three separate times. A similar issue arose in the 2014-15 season, where in the preseason poll Marist and Quinnipiac each received 112 votes, tying them for first place heading into the season. Quinnipiac went on to win both the regular season and tournament titles, and once again I decided to count it. 

So, out of the 13 years that the men’s coaches predicted the regular season champion correctly, only one came with a stipulation. On the other hand, four of the women’s coaches’ 13 correctly picked winners come with an asterisk of sorts.

The coaches were a little less accurate when it came to their preseason favorite winning the conference tournament. In the past 20 years, the men’s coaches have correctly picked 10, while the women’s coaches have picked 11. This timeframe excludes the 2019-20 season, as no MAAC tournament champion was crowned since the men’s and women’s tournaments were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I mentioned previously, the 2014-15 women’s preseason poll skews this data a tiny bit. Obviously, two teams can’t split a tournament championship, only one team can win. But, with the 2014-15 preseason poll producing a tie, it doubled the coach’s chances of nailing the winner. That they did, as Quinnipiac took home their first of four MAAC tournament championships in the span of five years. 

While both men’s and women’s coaches did pick the tournament champion at a 50% or greater clip, it is noteworthy that their predictions were aided by a few dynasties along the way. 

From the 2003-04 to 2013-14 seasons, Marist won 10 tournament titles in an 11-year span, with nine of them coming in a row. Immediately following this run, Quinnipiac embarked on their four-titles-in-five-year run. 

So out of the 19 tournament champions, 14 of them came from two schools. And how many of these did the coaches correctly pick? 11 of them. Meaning, that all 11 of the correctly picked women’s tournament champions came from these two dynasties.

The last three women’s conference tournaments have produced three different winners (Iona, Fairfield, and Marist), and the coaches were unable to correctly pick any of them.

Year:Preseason Favorite:Regular Season Champion:Tournament Champion:

While the men’s coaches have been helped out by some dynasties, the situation is not as drastic. Iona has won six of the last seven tournaments, but the coaches only selected them to win three of those MAAC tournaments. 

Year:Preseason Favorite:Regular Season Champion:Tournament Champion:
2021-22IonaIonaSaint Peters
*No tournament champion crowned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the only other true dynasty of the past 20 years, the coaches were on top of it. 

From the 2007-08 to 2009-10 seasons, Siena won three straight titles and was the preseason favorite picked by the coaches in all three of those years. Out of the 10 correctly picked champions, six came from dynasty-esque runs, meaning the other four were tougher to predict.

When it came to selecting the Preseason Player of the Year (POTY), the men’s and women’s sides were nearly in lockstep again. The women’s preseason POTY has been selected correctly 12 times in the past 20 years, while the men’s preseason POTY has hit 11 times in the same time frame. 

The men’s coaches have been in a bit of a slump as of late, only predicting one POTY in the past six years: Siena’s Jalen Pickett in the 2019-20 season. The women’s coaches have seemingly had it easier over the past 20 years, courtesy of two players: Iona’s Damika Martinez and Marist’s Rachele Fitz. Both Martinez and Fitz took home three POTY selections each, and the coaches correctly picked five of the six. 

Something that also stood out to me was the beginning of this 20-year time frame. After incorrectly picking the POTY in 2002-03, the women’s coaches embarked on a nine-year streak of nailing their POTY pick. While it may have been highlighted by three straight from the aforementioned Fitz, the other six all came from six different athletes. In doing my research, this was shocking to me. There was no real trend of who would be POTY, yet the coaches were on top of it for nine straight years.

Year:Preseason POTY:Postseason POTY:
2011-12Corielle YardeCorielle Yarde
2010-11Erica AllenspachErica Allenspach
2009-10Rachele FitzRachele Fitz
2008-09Rachele FitzRachele Fitz
2007-08Rachele FitzRachele Fitz
2006-07Martina WeberMartina Weber
2005-06Fifi CamaraFifi Camara
2004-05Eva CunninghamEva Cunningham
2003-04Jenel StevensJenel Stevens

The only predictions where the men’s and women’s coaches of the MAAC differed in success rate came when picking the members of the preseason all-MAAC first team. At the end of the season, the women’s coaches averaged 3.09 of the five players making up the first-team squad. On the other hand, the men’s coaches averaged 2.65. 

I also examined at where the preseason first-teamers who did not make the end-of-season first-team finished. Expectedly, they were most likely to finish on the second team, with 24.51% of the men’s preseason first-teamers landing there. On the women’s side, 17.64% finished on the second team, a lower percentage due to how often the coaches correctly predicted the first team. 

Something that caught my attention was, for both men’s and women’s basketball, players selected to the preseason first team were less likely to end the year on the third team (5.88% men’s, 8.82% women’s) than there to not end up on any team (16.67% men, 11.77% women). Maybe this could be credited to injury, or overall bad team play around them that brought their numbers down, or they just couldn’t live up to the hype. 

Men’s Basketball 2003-2004 to 2022-2023

First Team Finish (%)2nd Team Finish (%)3rd Team Finish (%)Non 1st-3rd Team Finish

Women’s Basketball 2003-2004 to 2022-2023

First Team Finish (%)2nd Team Finish (%)3rd Team Finish (%)Non 1st-3rd Team Finish

Also standing out to me was in the 20-year sample size, each year, the five players selected to the preseason first-team never ended up with all five also being selected to the end-of-season MAAC first-team… with one exception. There is one year where it does happen, and it comes with an asterisk of its own.

In the 2007-08 men’s preseason poll, a tie put six players on the first team, rather than the usual five (this happened one other time in the men’s poll, as well as twice in the women’s poll). At the season’s end, five of these players were selected to be first-team all-MAAC, while one was left off, Niagara’s Tyrone Lewis, who made the second team. 

2007-08 Men’s Preseason First-Team All-MAAC

Gerald BrownCharron FisherTyrone LewisJason ThompsonKenny HasbrouckEdwin Ubiles

2007-08 Men’s Postseason First-Team All-MAAC

Gerald BrownCharron FisherJason ThompsonKenny HasbrouckEdwin Ubiles

The coaches technically predicted the five players to make the first team, but they did it with the luxury of having a sixth guess. Who’s to say that if the coaches did have to limit it to five guesses, they would have still picked Lewis to make the first team? Unfortunately, we’ll never know who would have actually been left off.

Regardless of who it would have been, this was the only time in the past 20 years that the end-of-season all-MAAC first team was made up entirely of preseason first-teamers.

Now that we know what to expect from the preseason coaches’ polls, let’s take another look at the latest versions. For men’s hoops, Rider was selected to be cutting down the nets in Atlantic City this March, led by Preseason Player of the Year Mervin James. With the men’s coaches’ recent track record, there is a probable chance that the Broncos to at least finish the regular season atop the MAAC, as the coaches have picked the last three regular season champions correctly. 

It gets a little dicey with the tournament champion, as last year was the first time the men’s coaches got it right since the 2017-18 season. For Player of the Year, it’s a similar longshot as mentioned earlier, since only one player has started and ended the year as POTY in the past six seasons. It will be interesting to see if James can break the cold streak this season. 

2023-24 Men’s Preseason Poll

Coaches’ Favorite: Rider

Player of the Year: Mervin James

First Team:

Osborn Schema (Iona)Dakota Leffew (Mount St. Mary’s)Matt Balanc (Quinnipiac)Mervin James (Rider)Allen Powell (Rider)

For women’s hoops, Niagara took home the women’s basketball team of the year honors, also led by their Preseason Player of the Year in Aaliyah Parker. The women’s coaches have been in a slump of their own, with theirs coming when picking the team to beat in the MAAC, failing to correctly pick the regular season champion since 2019-20, and the tournament winner since 2018-19. They have been more consistent as of late when picking the POTY, and Parker could continue this trend.

2023-24 Women’s Preseason Poll

Coaches’ Favorite: Niagara

Player of the Year: Aaliyah Parker

First Team:

Janelle Brown (Fairfield)Kiara Fisher (Marist)Zaria Shazer (Marist)Aaliyah Parker (Niagara)Angel Parker (Niagara)

With the men’s and women’s college basketball seasons kicking off this week, we’re beginning to see these teams and players in action, and when conference play begins by the end of the month, we’ll start to see where they stack up within the MAAC. When the season wraps up, I look forward to seeing how the latest editions of the preseason coaches polls hold up.

Edited by Luke Sassa

Graphic by Cara Lacey

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