MAAC Matchups Offer Value with Iona-Siena and Fairfield-Canisius

Jay Pryce

Monday, February 12, 2018 1:50 PM UTC

Monday, Feb. 12, 2018 1:50 PM UTC

The college basketball schedule is light Monday, which means the always-exciting Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is on display. Check out our top picks as Iona plays at Siena, and Fairfield visits Canisius.

Monday College Basketball: Iona vs. SienaFree NCAAB Pick: Siena +8Best Line Offered: Pinnacle

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Shot stopping is the focus at Siena (7-19 SU, 6-12 ATS) this season. It allows 69.7 points per game against MAAC competition, owning the third-best scoring defense in the conference. Head coach Jimmy Patsos, famous for keeping two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry scoreless in a college game, has adopted some of the elements of UVA’s “pack line” defensive scheme to aid his short-handed squad. Flooding the paint, winning the turnover battle, and slowing down the pace, have helped keep the Saints competitive. Nearly half (11) of their games have finished within five points, and seven have come down to the final possession.

Offensively, Siena struggles, particularly under the basket. Its 52.5 percent field-goal percentage at the rim is the 10th-lowest in the country. It’s better from deep, however, hitting 36.9 percent from the 3-point area. This rate is 37.8 percent since Jan. 1.

Iona (16-10 SU, 12-10 ATS), preseason favorites to win the MAAC, is 4-3 SU in its last seven conference games, two back of Rider for the top spot. Tonight is the team’s third contest in the last five days.

The Gaels’ Tim Cluess is one of the best unknown coaches in the nation. Since taking over the program in 2010, he has led the team to seven straight 20-win seasons, seven MAAC championship games, and three NCAA Tournament bids, including the last two years. Some feared the run would end this season with Cluess losing three senior starters. Nevertheless, the offensive mastermind has this team scoring in bunches. It posts 82.3 points per game on 47.4 percent shooting in conference play, ranking 85th nationally in KenPom’s adjusted efficiency ratings.

These two last met up in the MAAC championship game last season, with Iona rallying from 12 points down to win the crown 71-69 and head to the Dance. The Gaels have won 15 of the last 18 matchups outright and are big road favorites tonight on the college basketball odds board. Cluess has yet to lead his team against Patsos’ new-look defense. Look for the Saints to serve up trouble, but ultimately come up short in the scoring department.

Siena has tipped off home underdogs against MAAC competition 12 prior times under Patsos, only losing three by 9 points or more. Look for another single-digit outcome here. With your NCAAB picks, take the 8 points with the Saints.

Monday College Basketball: Fairfield vs. CanisiusFree NCAAB Pick: Under 151Best Line Offered: BetOnline

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Many believed Fairfield (10-14 SU, 9-11 ATS) would challenge for its first top-three MAAC finish since 2012, but the Stags are 5-8 SU and ATS, mired seventh in the standings. The transfer losses of Curtis Cobb (UMass) and Jerry Johnson (Chattanooga) are proving too much to overcome, even with pro-caliber player Tyler Nelson leading the conference with 21.6 points per game.

Slowing the senior guard is the key to stopping Fairfield. It is 4-1 SU and ATS against MAAC competition when he hits 25 points in a game. Under the mark, and the Stags drop to 1-7 SU and ATS, failing to cover a 0.3 average line by 6.8 points per game.

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Tyler Nelson is now @StagsMensBball's all-time leader in three pointers!#GoStags

— Fairfield Athletics (@FairfieldStags) February 10, 2018

Canisius (17-9 SU, 15-8 ATS) is the biggest surprise in the MAAC this season, a half-game behind Rider for first place. Coaches and media members voted the Golden Griffins to finish ninth in the preseason poll.

The leadership of all-conference senior forward Jermaine Crumpton and the blossoming of sophomore guard Isaiah Reese are making the difference. The duo combines for 33.1 points ad 11.0 rebounds per game. The Griffs’ win over Quinnipiac on Saturday earned them a first-round bye in the conference tournament for the first time since the 2014-15 season.

Fairfield likes to run, ranking 56th in the nation in tempo. The MAAC is full of teams looking to play fast. When the Stags square off against a conference opponents allowing more than 59 field-goal attempts per game, the "over" is 7-1 overall. A 176.4 average score is blowing past a 155.9 average total by 20.5 points per game.

Canisius, however, is one of the league’s more deliberate squads, ranking a pedestrian 147 out of 351 D-I teams in pace. It yields 55.1 field-goal attempts per contest. The "under" is 4-1 when Fairfield plays a MAAC foe surrendering fewer than 59 per game. A final tally of 130.0 points is staying well below a 140.4 game total. First team to 70 wins, but don’t look for either to push 80 points as the market numbers on the college basketball odds board imply. For your best bet, take the "under" with your NCAAB picks.

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