Runnin’ the Point: Finding consistency in an inconsistent conference

By on February 5, 2019

Morgan Tencza | The Quinnipiac Chronicle
Consistency is one of the toughest things to accomplish in college sports.

The statement is more true than ever in basketball, as no team has repeated as national champion since Florida in 2007. Before that, it was Duke all the way back in 1992. With player turnover on a yearly basis, it’s tough to develop a team into a consistent winner.

The consistency problem in college basketball has never been more evident than in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) this season. In fact, there’s a wheel of parity and we’ve still got around half of the schedule to play.

Your next question, inevitably, is…what is a wheel of parity? Let me explain.

The concept is simple. Start with one team and pick a team it has beaten. Then use the team that was beaten and pick a team it has beaten, and so on, until you circle back around to the first team while using all 11 teams in the conference.

Here’s the MAAC wheel of parity:

Quinnipiac beat Monmouth. Monmouth beat Siena. Siena beat Fairfield. Fairfield beat Iona. Iona beat Rider. Rider beat Saint Peter’s. Saint Peter’s beat Marist. Marist beat Manhattan. Manhattan beat Niagara. Niagara beat Canisius. Canisius beat Quinnipiac.

So what does this all mean? It means the MAAC is wide open.

Rider (7-2) is currently at the top of the standings, with Canisius (6-4), Monmouth (7-4), Quinnipiac (6-4) and Siena (6-4) close behind. The final six spots belong to Iona (5-5), Niagara (4-6), Manhattan (4-6), Marist (4-7), Fairfield (4-8) and Saint Peter’s (3-6). All 11 teams separated by four games, and the gap from second to 10th is just three.

Now let’s look at the state of Quinnipiac men’s basketball. It’s been an up-and-down season for the Bobcats, especially in MAAC play. Quinnipiac hasn’t won or lost more than two games in a row so far.

“This was a good step for us in terms of consistency for 40 minutes,” Dunleavy said after the 77-58 win over Saint Peter’s on Jan. 27. “We’ve really had spots and pockets throughout the year of games where we’ve played really well.”

After that big home win over Saint Peter’s, the Bobcats traveled out to western New York to battle two teams they lost to at home earlier in January – Canisius and Niagara. The Bobcats split the trip – falling to Canisius on Feb. 1 before defeating Niagara on Feb. 3 – but it was ultimately a missed opportunity.

Canisius was without starter and second-leading scorer Isaiah Reese, who was suspended indefinitely due to “conduct detrimental to the team,” according to a press release. Still, the Bobcats couldn’t capitalize, shooting just 42 percent from the field and falling behind by as many as 19 in the second half and ultimately losing 75-70.

Against Niagara just two days later, the Bobcats (5-4 entering the game) were in need of a win to stay above .500 in MAAC play. Quinnipiac was down three at the break, but a huge run in the second half led to a 84-73 win. 

“I thought it was a great performance out of our group today, especially in the second half,” Dunleavy said. “It was our second game in three days, and I was just happy with the way we were able to grind out a win. It wasn’t perfect, but we were able to get some stops and make some plays down the stretch – and I think that’s what I’m most proud of. We showed a lot of heart on the road, and we did a good job finishing possessions defensively.”

Showing heart on the road is something the Bobcats have done well all season – and it could be the key down the stretch. Quinnipiac is 5-5 on the road this season (including non-conference). Only one other MAAC team (Canisius, 6-4) is at or above .500 on the road.

Quinnipiac’s final eight games of the regular season are split evenly – four at home and four on the road. If the Bobcats can gain some consistency on the road and take care of business at home, they’ll be in great shape come March.

But again, that’s the problem – consistency. The only consistent scorer on the team is graduate student guard Cam Young, who has scored 20 or more points in nine straight games and won the past two MAAC Player of the Week awards. Sophomore point guard Rich Kelly is generally reliable too, as he’s scored 17 or more points in five of the last eight games. The problem is he scored in single digits in the other three games.

We talked two weeks ago about how this team needed to find a reliable third option, and it appears sophomore forward Jacob Rigoni is throwing his name in the ring. He’s averaging 18 points per game in his last three games (16, 18 and 20 points, respectively).

So, moving forward, it’s all about finding consistency. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing a bunch of mediocre MAAC opponents and playing like one of them. The key for the Bobcats will be overcoming that stigma and beating the teams they’re supposed to beat. Upcoming games against Iona and Rider will be tough, but Quinnipiac can’t afford to slip up against teams like Manhattan, Marist and Saint Peter’s.

The MAAC is there for the taking – let the most consistent team win.

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