Iona basketball

CBB Review highlights the ins and outs of every conference tournament leading up to Selection Sunday. Up next: The MAAC Tournament.

The MAAC has received more attention than usual this season as Iona took down ranked Alabama earlier in the year. The Gaels are the team to beat, but anything can happen in Atlantic City!

Players to Watch

I like to look at the MAAC as the Big East’s developmental league. It’s a northeast conference with tons of underrated talent and everyone plays as tough as nails.

Tyson Jolly has been just that for Iona. The senior is thriving in New Rochelle after spending a year at Baylor and two with SMU. He has the Gaels in position for a nice seed in the NCAA Tournament if they can win the MAAC.

Jolly’s teammate, Nelly Junior Joseph, is another name to watch. There’s a reason Iona is so big of a favorite – they’ve got multiple must-watch players. Joseph might only be a sophomore, but he’s the inside presence on this team, averaging a touch under 13 points per game and nearly a pair of blocks per contest.

Monmouth also has two players to watch and it starts with George Papas. Papas is a microwave – the fifth-year senior has had some games under ten points and two 30-point outings. In tournament play, that can be the most exciting type of game to watch.

Shavar Reynolds took his talents from North Jersey at Seton Hall down to the shore with Monmouth. Reynolds is known for some pretty big shots in his career, including a memorable buzzer-beater to beat St. John’s. Although he started last year for the Pirates, the year at Monmouth has really allowed Reynolds to showcase his skillset.

Jose Perez can score the ball. The Putnam Science Academy product is at his third school in three years, also coming from the Big East and Marquette last season. But watch out – he also sets up his teammates and crashes the boards as a guard.

Ituka is a bit of a wild pick, but he really has nothing to lose. A Marist championship run would be out of this world and as a freshman, he has virtually zero expectations. Ituka has also been connecting on his shots from downtown at a fascinating rate, something to take into mind on the Boardwalk.

Team to watch: Monmouth

The four seed in the MAAC Tournament, Monmouth is too good to not like in this spot. Sure, a tourney run would require a win over Iona, but they did lose in overtime the first matchup and by single digits the second time around. I’m not picking Monmouth to win this thing or beat Iona, but I do like them to give the Gaels a major challenge.

MAAC Tournament Simulation

Opening Round – Tuesday, March 8

8. Manhattan vs 9. Rider – 5 p.m., ESPN+

Not sure if Rider will shut down Perez, who wants this moment.

7. Fairfield vs 10. Canisius – 7 p.m., ESPN+

The Stags started the season 8-3 and have since gone 6-14. But they did sweep Canisius and for that reason, Connecticut’s college team survives.

6. Marist vs 11. Quinnipiac – 9 p.m., ESPN+

Another CT team, Quinnipiac won’t have it as easy. However, Kevin Marfo can change things down low, and I’m actually going to pick the upset here.

Quarterfinals – Wednesday and Thursday, March 9 and 10

1. Iona vs 8. Manhattan – 7 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN+

Rick Pitino is built for March.

2. Saint Peter’s vs 7. Fairfield – 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, ESPN+

Do you know who else is built for March? Shaheen Holloway. The Peacocks have won four straight and you can turn that into five in a row.

3. Siena vs 11. Quinnipiac – 7 p.m. Thursday, ESPN+

Siena has done great things under Carmen Macciarello. They also swept Quinnipiac during the season, both games coming fairly recently.

4. Monmouth vs 5. Niagara – 9:30 p.m. Thursday, ESPN+

Greg Paulus is changing the culture at Niagara but Monmouth is the better basketball team. It won’t be a blowout, but it will be Monmouth’s for the taking.

Semifinals – Friday, March 11

1. Iona vs 4. Monmouth – 6 p.m., ESPNNews

Again, the Hawks will give the Gaels an insurmountable challenge. But Iona’s had those types of games all season long and will overcome it. Rick Pitino gets back to the MAAC Tournament championship game.

2. Saint Peter’s vs 3. Siena – 8:30 p.m., ESPNNews

Forgive me for picking mostly chalk, but again, I’m not sure if Siena has enough this year to compete with an inspired St. Peter’s team.

Championship – Saturday, March 12

1. Iona vs 2. Saint Peter’s – 4 p.m., ESPNU

Next season, this conference looks like it could go to Saint Peter’s if the bulk of their team comes back. But we don’t live in the future and the present says Iona. Give me the Gaels into the Big Dance!