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NCAA Tournament Bracket Research: Looking at the MAAC

Rider? Canisius? Iona? It’s anyone’s guess at this point.

NCAA Basketball: Rider at Penn State Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

Barring a remarkable run in the final month of the season, the Gophers will not be participating in the NCAA Tournament this March. But the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is the best weekend of the calendar year (this is fact, not an opinion). Dozens of college basketball games with teams and players trying to make themselves a household name, even if for just the weekend. Small schools from smaller conferences get their shot at knocking off schools with more established basketball pedigrees. This is going to be a series where we take a look at 24 conferences and the schools most likely to represent them in the NCAA Tournament. Consider this early bracket research to find that Cinderella team that busts everyone’s bracket...except yours.

Conference

Last Year’s NCAA Participant: Iona
Prior Years Upset Team: It’s been Iona’s conference for the better part of the last five years, but Monmouth made some noise in the past couple years thanks to their entertaining Bench Mob. Still, the conference hasn’t produced an upset team in quite a while.

Iona has been a mid-major metrics powerhouse over the past few seasons but hasn’t been able to get over the hump with a statement win.

Rider Broncs

KenPom Rank: 131
Off Efficiency: 110.7 (85)
Def Efficiency: 107.3 (198)
eFG%: 53.2% (86)

Why are they dangerous: The Broncs are the surprise team of the year. Picked to finish near the bottom of the conference they instead rattled off 11 of their last 12 to finish the season in first place. They’ve traded haymakers with Canisius and Iona throughout the season, so now it’s a question of whether they can hold off the pursuers. Rider is deep on offense and scores in droves. But two of their three conferences losses this year? Canisius and Iona.

Canisius Golden Griffins

KenPom Rank: 121
Off Efficiency: 108.7 (115)
Def Efficiency: 104.5 (145)
eFG%: 54.7% (40)

Why are they dangerous: Canisius is another upstart in the MAAC and tied with Rider in the regular season, nabbing the #2 seed in the MAAC Tournament. Food for thought, the Griffins just dropped a huge home game against the Broncs just six days ago, so things are interesting at the top of the conference. The Griffins have the conference’s best player in Isaiah Reese, who is adding 16 points, six rebounds and five assists per game.

Iona Gaels

KenPom Rank: 142
Off Efficiency: 111.0 (82)
Def Efficiency: 108.4 (226)
eFG%: 54.5% (50)

Why are they dangerous: Iona is a veteran-laden team who has owned the conference the past five years. The Gaels are led by junior guard Rickey McGill, who is putting up 14 points, four rebounds and 5.5 assists per game. A deep team with experience, the Gaels have had a couple questionable slip-ups in the conference play, and lost four of their last six to end the season, including a loss to Rider. However, they’re still in the hunt for a title if they can right the ship.

NCAA Tournament Outlook

The conference is wide open at this point for a few teams. Due to their experience and pedigree for success, Iona probably has the best chance to be the Cinderella out of the MAAC, though they’re down compared to previous years, where better teams still couldn’t get over the hump. It’s looking like 15-seed Land for the MAAC this year.