2020 MAAC Tournament Predictions and Expert Picks
This year's edition of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament gets underway on March 10 with three games being played in the first round of the tournament. This is a very unique set up as the top five teams get a bye right into the quarterfinals, with seeds one through three taking on the winners of the first-round games, while seeds four and five play each other. The winner of the tournament is designated the MAAC Conference Tournament Champion and receives the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, which begins March 17 with the First-Four play-in games. All games will be played at the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City for the first time in MAAC history.
The MAAC Conference had a mediocre year when you look at the entire conference from top to bottom. Not a single team reached the 20-win plateau, but every team except for Marist finished with 10 or more wins. Siena was able to capture the regular-season title for the first time in 10 years, and the program couldn't be more ecstatic about it. The Saints are rolling right now, winners of nine straight games, including the regular-season finale at a good Monmouth team. They are the team to beat in this mediocre conference.
The Favorite: Siena
Siena comes into this tournament as one of the hottest teams in the nation, having won nine straight games to push their conference record to 15-5 and 19-10 on the season. They just edged out Saint Peter's by a game for the top spot, and it was Saint Peter's who handed Siena their last loss back on February 2. The Saints own the best scoring average in the MAAC by scoring 72.6 points per game, while giving up just 68.3 points per game, which has them ranked fifth in the conference. Siena also ranks third in three-point field goal percentage connecting at a clip of 35.6 percent, while holding opponents to just 32 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Siena is led by guard Jalen Pickett, who averages 15.3 points and six assists per game. His teammate, 6-foot-8 forward Elijah Burns, chips in 14.6 points per contest and six rebounds per game. Siena has to feel comfortable navigating their way through this tournament as they get either Fairfield or Manhattan in their opening game, which they have a 3-1 combined record against. From there they get the winner of Monmouth or Quinnipiac, and they've yet to lose to either of those teams this season.
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The Contenders: Rider
Rider comes into this tournament on a three-game winning streak, which pushed them from fifth spot all the way up to the No. 3 seed and a much more favorable draw. Rider beat a good Monmouth team, won at Fairfield, and then handled business against Manhattan in their regular-season finale. They are led by Dimenico Vaughn, who averages 14.8 points and 6.6 rebounds per contest. He gets help from Tyere Marshal and Frederick Scott, who chip in with 12.9 and 12.6 points, respectively. As a team, the Broncos sit just behind Siena in points per game with 71.7 and points allowed at 69.3. They hit their shots at a 43.8 percent clip while limiting their opponents to just 32 percent from beyond the arc. They are also one of the best rebounding teams in the conference as they average 38 boards per game, including almost 11 offensive rebounds. Those second chance points could be crucial in terms of winning or losing a tight ballgame. Based on their path to the finals, they went 3-1 against their second-round opponent (Niagara or Marist).
Tournament Matchups Schedule
Game 1: No.8 Fairfield vs. No. 9 Manhattan (5:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 10)
Game 2: No.7 Iona vs. No.10 Canisius (7:00 p.m., Tuesday, March 10)
Game 3: No. 6 Niagara vs No.11 Marist (9:00 pm. Tuesday, March 10)
Game 4: Winner of Game 1 vs No.1 Siena (7:00 pm. Wednesday, March 11)
Game 5: Winner of Game 2 vs No.2 Saint Peter's (9:30 pm. Wednesday, March 11)
Game 6: Winner of Game 3 vs No.3 Rider (7:00 pm. Thursday, March 12)
Game 7: No.4 Monmouth vs No.5 Quinnipiac (9:30 pm. Thursday, March 12)
Game 8: Winner of Game 4 vs Winner of Game 7 (6:00 pm. Friday, March 13)
Game 9: Winner of Game 5 vs Winner of Game 6 (8:30 pm. Friday, March 13).
Game 10: Winner of Game 8 vs Winner of Game 9 (4:00 pm. Saturday, March 14)
Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament Predictions:
While it may not be the sharpest basketball we will watch this month, the MAAC Tournament has the ability to produce some shocking results based on how tight the conference is from top to bottom. Siena is definitely the class of the conference, and the tournament will be theirs to lose based on their path to the finals, but Sant Peter's Rider and Monmouth will all have something to say about it. The game of the tournament will likely Saint Peters vs. Rider in the semi-finals if everything goes according to plan. At the end of the day, Siena is just too well-rounded of a team to falter. They have the offensive and defensive capabilities, and they could win an NCAA Tournament game given the play-in game or by avoiding a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the main draw.
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