One of the most geographically condensed college basketball conferences in the nation has also been one of the tightest on the floor this season.
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference contains six teams from the state of New York (Iona, Canisius, Siena, Niagara, Manhattan, Marist), three from New Jersey (Rider, Monmouth, St. Peter’s) and two from Connecticut (Quinnipiac, Fairfield). The league begins its postseason tournament Thursday in Albany.
Only the winner will advance to the NCAA tournament later this month. No MAAC member even ranks in the top 190 nationally according to the NCAA’s “NET” ratings system, or respected stat site kenpom.com.
Longtime bettors know that the Metro Atlantic has scored some high-profile shockers in the Big Dance. Siena ( 6.5) stunned #4 seed Vanderbilt 83-62 in 2008, then outed #8 seed Ohio State 74-72 in 2009 at 2.5 before giving #1 seed Louisville a 79-72 scare as a 12-point underdog. Unfortunately it’s been 11 straight losses for the MAAC since Siena beat the Buckeyes.
Though there aren’t any great teams this season, the conference tournament could be a wild free-for-all because there’s so little distance from top to bottom. Here’s a quick look at conference margin averages from the regular season, a tool we introduced to you two days ago…
- Metro Atlantic Conference Margins: Iona 5.2, Quinnipiac 4.3, Rider 3.4, Siena 2.3, Monmouth -0.2, Canisius -0.4, Marist -1.2, Fairfield -1.7, Manhattan -3.1, St. Peter’s -3.8, Niagara -4.9
Only 10.1 points from best average to worst, compared to the 16.8 points we saw Tuesday in the Horizon League (Northern Kentucky at the top with 9.0, Cleveland State in the cellar at -7.8). (The ACC could see a spread of as much as 28 points next week. Virginia’s average result moved to 14.3 with a Monday night blowout of Syracuse as six-point favorites, while awful Wake Forest may finish that far below the zero line.)
Those MAAC margins suggest many competitors would be within a bucket of each other in terms of team quality on a neutral court. If you’re going to bet, be ready to sweat!
Here’s a quick look at the brackets, with the margin averages in parenthesis…
Thursday’s First Round
#8 seed Marist (-1.2) vs. #9 St. Peter’s (-3.8), #7 Manhattan (-3.1) vs. #10 Fairfield (-1.7), #6 Monmouth (-0.2) vs. #11 Niagara (-4.9)
Friday’s Quarterfinal matchups
#1 Iona ( 5.2) vs. Marist/St. Peter’s winner, #2 Canisius (-0.4) vs. Manhattan/Fairfield winner.
Saturday’s Quarterfinal matchups
#3 Quinnipiac ( 4.3) vs. Monmouth/Niagara winner, #4 Rider ( 3.4) vs. #5 Siena ( 2.3).
The winner of Iona’s quarter faces the winner of Rider/Siena, while Quinnipiac’s math looks favorable in the lower half of the bracket.
Monday night’s championship game will be nationally televised (ESPN2, 9 p.m.)
During the regular season, betting markets underrated Quinnipiac (17-11-1 ATS), while overrating Rider (9-20-1, Iona 11-18, Fairfield 11-17-2, and St. Peter’s 12-17-1).
Best of luck to those of you betting the MAAC tourney, or rooting for your alma mater. VSiN will provide conference margin averages for the major tournaments next week.