High hopes for men’s hoops in upcoming MAAC Tournament

Crumpton-2

Jermaine Crumpton, named to the MAAC’s All-First Team on Monday, and Canisius have the best chance to win the MAAC Tournament this weekend, per Ken Pomeroy. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

By Marshall Haim

Sports Editor

An esteemed basketball analytics guru has tabbed Canisius as the team to beat in the upcoming MAAC Tournament.

If you have to re-read that sentence, go ahead.

Reading that sentence should make Canisius fans excited for this weekend’s tournament held at the Times Union Center in Albany from March 1-5.

Per Ken Pomeroy, the Griffs have a 78.5 percent chance to make it to the semifinals, 56.1 percent to reach the MAAC title game and 31.1 percent chance to win the championship game. The title game will be Monday, March 5 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on ESPN, the MAAC announced Tuesday.

If Canisius wins the tournament it would be the first time in 22 years that the Griffs would earn an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Canisius has not made it to the MAAC Championship since 2001, where they lost to Iona at KeyBank Center (then named HSBC Arena). The Griffs were a No. 2 seed in that tournament, coincidentally the same seed that they are this year. This is the fourth time that Canisius is a No. 2 seed in the tournament (1995, 1997 and 2001).

In all three previous instances, Canisius advanced to at least the semifinals. They lost both times they made it to the MAAC Championship as a No. 2 seed. Their lone victory in the MAAC title game came as a No. 5 seed.

However, there’s no need to fret. Canisius will end the streak of losing in the MAAC title game as a No. 2 seed because they’re winning it all.

Canisius has the easiest path to the title game, needing just two wins to get there. The team’s first game is Friday at 9:30 p.m., facing the winner of Thursday’s first round game between No. 7 Quinnipiac and No. 10 Siena. Canisius swept their season series with Quinnipiac but split with Siena, losing at the Times Union Center in early January.

If Canisius beats either Quinnipiac or Siena in the quarterfinals they would be going up against No. 3 Niagara, No. 6 Fairfield or No. 11 Marist in Sunday’s semifinal at 9:30 p.m. The Griffs were a combined 4-1 against those opponents, losing to Niagara at home by 16.

In retrospect, it is good that Canisius did not win the tiebreaker of Rider, who also finished the season with a 15-3 conference record because of who is the No. 8 seed.

Monmouth enters this year’s MAAC Tournament at the No. 8 seed, their lowest since being a No. 9 seed when they joined the conference in 2013-14.

The Hawks have Micah Seaborn back from injury, which is crucial for the Hawks. The crafty redshirt junior guard played in just 16 games this season, averaging 14.6 points per contest. He averaged 15.7 points in the last three games he played in after missing nearly a month. He scored a season- and career-high 30 points in the Hawks’ 91-77 wallopping of Rider last week.

Those that are looking for an upset to happen at the tournament, Monmouth beating Rider in the quarterfinals is exactly what I’m predicting. If that is the case, Monmouth would be the first No. 8 seed or lower to reach the semifinals since Canisius made it to the MAAC Semifinals in 2002.

But the Hawks are going to have to defeat No. 9 Saint Peter’s in Thursday’s first round game at 5 p.m. Both New Jersey-based schools won on their home floors in their two regular season meetings.

Game-by-game predictions

Thursday, March 1

First Round

5 p.m. — No. 8 Monmouth over No. 9 Saint Peter’s — Having Seaborn back from injury will be key for King Rice’s squad.

7 p.m. — No. 10 Siena over No. 7 Quinnipiac — No. 10 seeded Saints have “homecourt advantage” and the youth of the Bobcats under first-year head coach Baker Dunleavy will show.

9 p.m. — No. 6 Fairfield over No. 11 Marist — Tyler Nelson will dominate a not so good Marist team.

Friday, March 2

MAAC Quarterfinals

7 p.m. — No. 8 Monmouth over No. 1 Rider — After the Hawks’ 14-point win over the Broncs on Feb. 22 and having Seaborn back, the Hawks will make it to the semifinals for the fourth consecutive year.

9:30 p.m. — No. 2 Canisius over No. 10 Siena — Canisius will silence to the pro-Siena crowd in Albany. Griffs are playing way too well right now.

Saturday, March 3

MAAC Quarterfinals

7 p.m. — No. 3 Niagara over No. 6 Fairfield — This game will be extremely close, regardless if Niagara’s Matt Scott plays. Niagara has a high-potent offense but their defense can lapse rapidly.

9:30 p.m. — No. 4 Iona over No. 5 Manhattan — The Gaels, under Tim Cleuss, love playing in the MAAC Tournament and playing their first game on Saturday will most definitely benefit them.

Sunday, March 4

MAAC Semifinals

7 p.m. — No. 4 Iona over No. 8 Monmouth — One of two rivalries to meet in the MAAC Semifinals. Iona is a strong team but Monmouth, playing their third game in four days, will be exhausted and it will show. Iona reaches the MAAC title game for the sixth straight year.

9:30 p.m. — No. 2 Canisius over No. 6 Niagara — The Battle of the Bridge, Part III. For the first time since 2002, the Western New York rivals meet in the MAAC Semifinals. Canisius asserted their dominance at Niagara in their last meeting on Monteagle Ridge and that will be the case here. If Scott plays for NU, that could change the game.

Monday, March 5

MAAC Championship

7 p.m. — No. 2 Canisius over No. 4 Iona — The Griffs will get revenge in a rematch of the 2001 MAAC Championship from when these two teams met in Buffalo. Expect a close game between these two teams, since the Griffs swept the season series over Iona by a combined nine points. Three games in three nights for Cluess’ team is not ideal but it wouldn’t be the first time they had won the MAAC title doing it (hint: last year).

Griffs earn honors

The MAAC announced their All-First, All-Second, All-Third and All-Rookie teams with three Griffs honored on the men’s side. Two were named on the women’s side.

Isaiah Reese and Jermaine Crumpton were both named to the All-MAAC First Team. It is the first time that multiple Griffs were named to the All-MAAC First Team since 1995-96, the last time Canisius made the NCAA Tournament. Takal Molson earned a spot on the All-MAAC Rookie Team.

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Isaiah Reese could become the first sophomore to earn MAAC Player of the Year honors in 30 years.
(Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

Reese, who also tabbed the MAAC Player of the Week on Monday, should strongly be considered the frontrunner for the MAAC Player of the Year. He would become the first Canisius player to be named to the MAAC’s Player of the Year in four years (Billy Baron in 2013-14).

As a sophomore, Reese could become the first sophomore to earn the MAAC Player of the Year in 30 years when Lionel Simmons, an eventual three-time MAAC Player of the Year from La Salle, did it as a sophomore in 1987-88.

The others up for MAAC Player of the Year are Kahlil Dukes (Niagara), Tyler Nelson (Fairfield), Crumpton and Dimencio Vaughn (Rider).

Reese finished the regular season seventh in the conference in points per game (16.8), 12th in rebounding (5.7), fourth in assists (4.8), second in free throw percentage (87.5 percent), first in steals (2.3) and sixth in assist-to-turnover ratio (1.8).

Crumpton, the team’s leading scorer this season (16.9 ppg), currently sits in eighth place on the all-time scoring list at Canisius with 1,343 points. He is 34 points shy of Kevin Downey for seventh place and 39 points from Darrell Barley for sixth place. The Niagara Falls native shot 48.6 percent from the floor, including 32.4 from three-point range in his senior campaign. He scored at least 10 points in the last 27 games.

Molson also earned an additional honor to the All-Rookie Team on Monday, being named the MAAC Rookie of the Week. It is the fourth time Molson was named to the honor. It is the most nominations for a Canisius player since Frank Turner was named Rookie of the Week six times during the 2006-07 season.

Molson is also considered for the conference’s Rookie of the Year. The 6-foot-5 guard could be the first Griff named Rookie of the Year in 25 years (Michael Meeks in 1992-93). Deion Hammond (Monmouth), Rich Kelly (Quinnipiac), Jordan Allen (Rider) and Prince Oduro (Siena) are the other players nominated.

The Buffalo native scored 24 points, one shy of tying his career-high set in his first collegiate game at Buffalo on Nov. 11, in the Griffs’ 98-74 win over Marist on Sunday. He also had a career-high four steals in the win at Niagara last Wednesday.


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Sara Hinriksdóttir was named to the All-Third Team on Monday. (Marshall Haim/The Griffin)

On the women’s side, Sara Hinriksdóttir was named to the All-Third Team while Danielle Sanderlin was named to the All-Rookie Team.

Hinriksdóttir, a junior, scored her 1,000th point in the last regular season game at Siena on Feb. 23.

She is the 23rd Griff to reach the century mark and the first since Kayla Hoohuli in 2013-14. For the Icelandic forward, it is her second consecutive year earning an honor from the MAAC. She was All-Second Team member last season. In 29 games this year, Hinriksdóttir averaged a team-best 14.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game.

Sanderlin shined in her last 10 games, averaging 9.5 points and 5.0 rebounds. For the season, she averaged 5.2 points per game and hauled in 3.5 rebounds. She is the first Canisius player to earn All-Rookie Team honors since Maria Welch in 2015-16.

Women’s outlook

For the fourth consecutive season, the Canisius women will be playing in the Thursday 9:30 a.m. first round game at the MAAC Tournament as a No. 8 seed.

The Griffs will go up against the No. 9 seed Monmouth Thursday at the Times Union Center. Canisius and Monmouth faced each other in the 8/9 game in the 2015 Tournament with Monmouth coming away victorious, 68-56. In the 2016 and 2017 Tournaments, Canisius played Niagara in the 9:30 a.m. time slot.

Canisius swept the season series from the Hawks beating the Hawks on their home floor, 60-48, on Jan. 20. The Griffs won at home, almost a month later on Feb. 16, 62-50.

A win for Canisius would set up a rematch of last year’s MAAC quarterfinal with No. 1 seed Quinnipiac. The Bobcats, arguably one of the best mid-major programs in the nation, went a perfect 18-0 in MAAC play and are 24-5 overall.

Charlie Creme, ESPN’s women’s basketball bracketologist, has Quinnipiac as a No. 12 seed, again, facing No. 5 Maryland. They were a No. 12 seed in their Sweet 16 run last year after defeating No. 5 Marquette and No. 4 Miami (Florida). They lost to the eventual champion, South Carolina, in the Sweet 16 in Stockton, Calif.

Game-by-game predictions

Thursday, March 1

First Round

9:30 a.m. — No. 8 Canisius over No. 9 Monmouth — Canisius has had Monmouth’s number this year and it will happen, again.

11:30 a.m. — No. 7 Manhattan over No. 10 Iona — Iona won just two games all year and they both came against Saint Peter’s. Manhattan has a pretty solid team and will win handily.

1:30 p.m. — No. 6 Niagara over No. 11 Saint Peter’s — Saint Peter’s can’t let Victoria Rampado get open or she will haunt you. The Peacocks won’t be able to do that.

Friday, March 2

MAAC Quarterfinals

1 p.m. — No. 1 Quinnipiac over No. 8 Canisius — The Bobcats, under head coach Tricia Fabbri, are lethal.

3:30 p.m. — No. 2 Marist over No. 7 Manhattan — Marist wins after losing to Niagara at home in their regular season finale.

Saturday, March 3

MAAC Quarterfinals

Noon — No. 3 Siena over No. 6 Niagara — Kollyns Scarbrough is a very solid player, who killed Canisius earlier in the year. Seeing these two teams go up against each other — as they split their regular season series — could be a fun one. Saints take a tight game.

2:30 p.m. — No. 5 Rider over No. 4 Fairfield — The Broncs, the No. 5 seed, have very strong guard play between Kamila Hoskova and Stella Johnson.

Sunday, March 4

MAAC Semifinals

11 a.m. — No. 1 Quinnipiac over No. 5 Rider — The rematch from last year’s MAAC Championship game, the Bobcats will defeat the Broncs to advance to their fifth consecutive MAAC title game.

9:30 p.m. — No. 2 Marist over No. 3 Siena — The Red Foxes usually only play seven players but they can all play. Siena’s Scarbrough could be a tough person to guard, but the Red Foxes make their first MAAC Championship appearance since 2015.

Monday, March 5

MAAC Championship

7 p.m. — No. 1 Quinnipiac over No. 2 Marist — The No. 1 and No. 2 seed meet in the title game. Quinnipiac clinches their third NCAA Tournament birth since joining the conference in 2013-14.

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