What has the early portion of conference play show us? Mostly that there's a clear deliniation this season between the better MAAC teams and the lesser ones.
Through three games of league play the biggest "upsets" to date have been a pair of Marist victories, both on the Red Foxes' home court and coming against Canisius and Niagara,, teams that have both started 0-3 in league games.
Everything else so far has pretty much gone, as they say, according to Hoyle.
Some early impressions:
- Fairfield has an impressive victory at Siena in its 3-0 start and clearly appears ready to live up to the preseason prediction by conference coaches that it will win the regular-season title.
The Stags are 10-3 overall with a 9-game winning streak since losing early season games in succession to Rutgers, Penn State and St. Joseph's. Fairfield legitimately goes eight deep (although that does not include senior forward Greg Nero, who has missed the last five games), has height, athleticism and one of the league's top players in sophomore guard Derek Needham.
In short, everything is in place for the Stags to roll on.
- Saint Peter's continues to win without standout senior guard Wesley Jenkins, who reinjured his knee. No return date on him, or if he will return at all this season. Still, the Peacocks are the other team besides Fairfield off to a 3-0 start, albeit against teams with a 1-8 conference record thus far.
- Siena served notice that it could contend for a fourth straight conference title when it knocked off Iona on Monday, rallying from a 14-point deficit in the process.. The game was a meeting of teams each with 999 total victories over the existence of the programs, so the race to No. 1,000 was won by the Saints.
Siena's senior center Ryan Rossiter also made a significant statement about his candidacy for the conference's Player of the Year honors with a 26-point, 15-rebound effort against the Gaels in what has already become all but a two-man race for the top individual award.
The other strong contender is Iona's junior forward Mike Glover, who had 18 points and 8 rebounds against the Saints.
- If I had to guess the order of finish in league play, or at least which teams will finish in the top six to avoid the post-season tournament's play-in games, your blogger would say the final standings would look pretty much like they do now.
Fairfield, Saint Peter's, Rider, Iona and Siena all look likely to finish in the top six. My hunch is that Loyola, currently 1-2, will break into the top six, vaulting over Marist, which has a 2-1 MAAC record thus far.
That would leave Marist, Canisius, Niagara and Manhattan as the bottom four, although it wouldn't be much of a surprise if Canisius gets going and gets into the top six.