2014 MAAC Tournament Preview

USA TODAY Sports

The only favorite in this thing is anarchy.

Everything that's worth knowing about the MAAC Tournament.

Participants

2014 MAAC TOURNAMENT
SEED TEAM LEAGUE RECORD LEAGUE WINS LEAGUE LOSSES
1. Siena 6-0 Marist, Monmouth, Canisius, Detroit, Quinnipiac, Manhattan None
2. Marist 3-3 Quinnipiac, Monmouth, Canisius Siena, Manhattan, Detroit
3. Detroit 3-3 Canisius, Marist, Monmouth Quinnipiac, Siena, Manhattan
4. Canisius 3-3 Monmouth, Manhattan, Quinnipiac Detroit, Siena, Marist

Times, Dates of Matchups

Thursday, May 1, 2014 (Semifinals -- at Marist (Tenney Stadium)):

  • (4) Canisius v. (1) Siena: 4:00 PM (ET)
  • (3) Detroit v. (2) Marist: 7:00 PM (ET)

Saturday, May 3, 2014 (Championship -- at Marist (Tenney Stadium)):

  • Semifinal I Winner v. Semifinal II Winner: 11:00 AM (ET)

Television/Internet

MAAC.tv will broadcast the semifinal doubleheader (the link to the first semifinal is here; the link to the second semifinal is here) while ESPN3 -- simulcast from a Time Warner Cable broadcast -- will carry the league's championship game.

League Tournament Spirit Animal

Zombie ants infected with crazy brain fungus.

Truncated Tempo-Free Profiles

2014 MAAC TOURNAMENT TRUNCATED TEMPO-FREE PROFILES (AS OF APRIL 28, 2014)
METRIC SIENA MARIST DETROIT CANISIUS
Adjusted Offensive Efficiency 28.36 (51) 35.65 (14) 26.54 (55) 29.03 (47)
Adjusted Defensive Efficiency 31.48 (35) 37.78 (61) 29.19 (23) 32.66 (43)
Possession Margin per 60 Minutes of Play +2.25 (16) 0.00 (36) -3.22 (52) +1.35 (21)
Pythagorean Win Expectation 41.98% (47) 45.51% (37) 42.67% (45) 40.96% (49)

There's a reason that the MAAC ranks as the ninth strongest league in the country: The strength of the conference's membership tops out at "pretty okay." There's nothing wrong with that -- aligning with peer programs from a competitive standpoint creates opportunity -- but it does diminish the league's perception -- rightly or wrongly -- as a concern with volition. The important thing about the MAAC's four-team tournament, though, is that it provides access to the NCAA Tournament and a chance to do something seemingly impossible. The fact that the MAAC Tournament is filled with warts is less of an issue than the fact that the MAAC Tournament provides a launch pad for a program to accomplish something great. There's incredible value in that pursuit.

Predictions

log5 PROBABILITIES: PROBABILITY OF WINNING THE MAAC TOURNAMENT (AS OF APRIL 28, 2014)
RANK TEAM PROBABILITY
1. Marist 28.61%
2. Siena 24.39%
3. Detroit 24.13%
4. Canisius 22.87%

Hell yeah! This is why the MAAC is the kind of fantastic that requires a pizza party that features a guy making balloon animals: The league is competitively balanced. There isn't a favorite in the conference, even though Siena ran the table in regular season league competition (it's important to note that the Saints' six MAAC victories were by an average of three goals (three games were one-goal bonanzas) while Siena's victories against Marist, Detroit, and Canisius were by an average of 1.7 goals). This tournament has pop, even if the teams competing for the conference's automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament aren't among the nation's elite. This is an eyeball-required postseason if only because anything can -- and probably will -- happen.

Three Things

  • Detroit is building the wrong kind of reputation, one that labels the Titans as a horrifically undisciplined team when it comes to ball valuation. This basic fundamental skill -- not turning the ball over -- has been Detroit's suicide in 2014, and it has drastically impacted the team's ability to generate goals:

    DETROIT'S BALL VALUATION ISSUES (AS OF APRIL 28, 2014)
    METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 56.03 63
    Unforced Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 25.06 48
    Opponent Caused Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 30.97 63
    Turnover Margin -12.37 62
    Clearing Percentage 79.03% 63
    Estimated Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities per 60 Minutes of Play 13.87 58
    Estimated Lost Functional Offensive Opportunities Ratio 49.32% 60
    This is bad -- impressively bad -- and the consequence is clear in the team's efficiency: The Titans currently rank 55th in adjusted offensive efficiency, scoring only around 27 goals per 100 offensive opportunities (only Manhattan (60th) and Monmouth (64th) -- among MAAC teams --  finished worse in the metric this year than Detroit). When a team (1) blows clears (thereby eliminating functional offensive opportunities), and (2) commits giveaways, it becomes difficult to win (the Titans beat just two teams -- Canisius and Marist -- expected to win at least 40 percent of their games in 2014).
  • It may not become a huge factor for Marist in the MAAC Tournament, but the Red Foxes are feisty to a degree that no other team in the nation can match:

    MARIST'S LOOSE INTERPRETATION OF THE RULES (AS OF APRIL 28, 2014)
    METRIC VALUE NATIONAL RANK
    Penalties per 100 Opportunities 8.73 67
    Penalties per 100 Opportunities Margin -3.87 67
    Man-Down Postures per 100 Defensive Opportunities 16.96 67
    Personnel Imbalance Posture Margin -7.48 67
    Man-Down Posture Reliance 16.13% 60
    Man-Down Posture Conversion Rate 36.76% 42
    Nobody commits more penalties than Marist, nobody plays with a wider gap between penalties-for and penalties-against than the Red Foxes on a per-possession basis, nobody plays with a wider margin between man-up opportunities and man-down opportunities than Marist, and nobody plays in more man-down postures on a per-possession basis than the Red Foxes. Why is this important? There are two reasons: (1) The Red Foxes' opponents rely -- at a fairly high rate -- on the personnel imbalance to score goals against Marist; and (2) Marist's defense -- in the overall -- isn't all that tight, yielding goals on a per-possession basis at a very high rate. This could be an issue for Marist in the semifinal round of the tournament: While Detroit doesn't play in man-up postures a ton (the team ranks 33rd in man-up postures per 100 offensive opportunities), the Titans are first nationally in extra-man conversion rate.
  • Don't count out Canisius from making a run at the MAAC Tournament championship. The Griffs have pulled off two of the biggest upsets of the season despite having the profile of a team that should have only won six games this season:

    CANISIUS' GOSPEL OF "THE HELL?!"
    OPPONENT OPPONENT PYTHAGOREAN WIN EXPECTATION (NT'L RANK) CANISIUS' CHANCE OF VICTORY (AS OF APRIL 28, 2014) FINAL SCORE
    Air Force 63.54% (17) 28.47% 7-6
    Albany 77.59% (4) 16.69% 14-10
    In the last three MAAC Tournaments, the higher seed has won just three of those tournament's nine games (33.33 percent); in the last three MAAC Tournament semifinal rounds, the higher seed has won just two of six games (33.33 percent). This is a tournament that has embraced upsets in its recent history, and given Canisius' proclivity for dropping favored teams this year, there is enough evidence kicking around that the Griffs should not be removed from the discussion around which teams could possibly earn the MAAC's automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
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