It is that time of the year again. The Manhattan Jaspers have reached the point in their season where each game comes with an added importance: seeding implications.
With only four games left on the schedule, the Jaspers find themselves in a situation where a single win can move them up in the standings, but a loss can cause them to slip.
The parity in the MAAC is at the highest it has been in a long time. Six teams possess a conference record of .500 or better and two teams sit just two games under .500. Jasper head coach Steve Masiello realizes that in this year’s MAAC, it is all about the matchups, not the seeding.
“I don’t care about the seeding as much as I care about the matchup,” Masiello said. “There are certain teams you want to stay away from and there are certain teams you want to play.”
|Team||Conference Record||Overall Record||Games Back|
Standings accurate as of Feb. 15. Table compiled by Daniel Ynfante.
The odds the Jaspers finish with the best record are slim to none. Although it is still a possibility, the idea is farfetched.
For it to happen, Manhattan would have to win all of its remaining games. Iona would have to lose all of its remaining games. Rider would have to go 1-3. Monmouth would have to go 3-2.
A more realistic scenario still in play for Manhattan is moving up to the third seed or potentially the second seed.
The Jaspers sit two games behind Rider for second place, but because it lost the season series twice in heartbreaking fashion and in overtime to the Broncs, it lost the tiebreaker and are really three games back.
Two possibilities exist for Manhattan to finish second. If it goes 3-1 in its final four games, Rider would have to go 0-4. If it goes 4-0, Rider would have to go either 1-3 or 0-4. At 2-2, the best the Jaspers could do is tie Rider in the standings in the event that they were to go 0-4.
Of course, the dream scenarios where the Jaspers finish second involve them overtaking the team currently in front of them in third place: the Monmouth Hawks.
The Hawks have played one less game than the Jaspers so have five games remaining instead of the Jaspers’ four. Manhattan swept the season series against Monmouth so it holds the tiebreaker in the standings. That tiebreaker figures to loom large, as Monmouth possesses a tough schedule to end the season.
On Feb. 19, the Hawks play at St. Peter’s. On the 22nd, they face the Gaels on the road and on the 26th, they host Rider.
Winning two of those games would be tough for Monmouth, so going 1-2 in that stretch is a safe bet. That would leave it with seven losses on the season, meaning Manhattan would have to go 3-1 to end the season.
However, that is not taking into account home games the Hawks have against Marist and Siena, but since on paper those figure to be wins, it is plausible to think that the Hawks go 3-2 in their final five games.
Of course, games are not won on paper and who knows, maybe the Hawks drop a game they should win, or unfortunately, for the Jaspers, they win a game in which they are the underdogs.
The Jaspers are depending on many results to go their way in order to climb back up the standings, but before they can scoreboard watch, they have to take care of their own business, which figures to give them much to worry about.
Three of Manhattan’s final four games are on the road, including a rematch with the first-place Iona Gaels on Feb. 27. Before that, the Jaspers get a preview of the arena they will play in during the MAAC Tournament, when they face Siena in Albany on Feb. 21.
Manhattan’s final game of the season also figures to be a tough test as Quinnipiac will be coming into Draddy Gym looking to sweep the season series from the Jaspers.
That matchup might also carry huge seeding implications as Quinnipiac trails Manhattan by two games in the standings, but by the team the teams meet, the gap might be closer, especially given the tough schedule the Jaspers will have to deal with leading up to that game.
Finishing as the second or third seed is of utter importance for the Jaspers. Not only because it gives the Jaspers a better chance of facing a lower seed in the quarterfinals, but because it gives the Jaspers a better matchup in the semifinals.
As Masiello put it, there are certain teams the Jaspers would just want to avoid. For example, a quarterfinal matchup against Siena in their home-court would be dangerous for the Jaspers.
“If it means getting a four or five, you getting that four spot,” Masiello said, “and that four seed versus playing a 3-6 and that six is Siena, I rather have the four.”
In the event that Manhattan finishes as the third seed, which is the most likely scenario of them all, and it wins its quarterfinal. It would face the second seed in the semifinals, which is currently Rider.
If the Jaspers finish fourth and win their quarterfinal matchup, they would face Iona in the semifinals, a matchup that would garner much attention, but that all Jasper fans would love to avoid.
The Jaspers and Gaels have made it a habit of meeting in the MAAC Championship game, doing so in the last two seasons, and the possibility of meeting in the semifinals instead would be scary for both teams.
But regardless of what happens, the Jaspers will have a tough matchup in the semifinals. There is no running away from good teams at that point in the tournament.
However, the prospect of facing a Rider team with very little postseason experience compared to an Iona team with much postseason experience is interesting for Manhattan.
Similar to last season’s semifinals, where the Jaspers faced a Quinnipiac team that had swept the season series from them. The Jaspers might find themselves in the same situation this time with Rider.
But until then, nothing is certain. There are still games to be played and as has been the case in the MAAC this entire season: many upsets and unforeseen events can be expected in these last two weeks.