MAAC Tournament Preview: Move over, Quinnipiac. Rider vs. Marist for the hardware?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: MAR 10 MAAC Conference Women’s Tournament - Marist v Rider

Can Rider guard and Nancy Lieberman Award finalist Stella Johnson (#4) rise to the occasion and earn a meeting with Marist in the title round? | Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The No. 1 Rider Broncs and No. 2 Marist Red Foxes will begin their respective Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament runs on opposite sides of the bracket, with identical 25-4 (18-2 MAAC) records. Can the Quinnipiac Bobcats rise from the fifth seed to win their fourth consecutive tournament title and the automatic bid to the Big Dance?

The Rider Broncs and Marist Red Foxes enter the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament with identical 25-4 (18-2 MAAC) records.

No. 1 and No. 2 in the standings, respectively, the Broncs and Red Foxes are positioned on opposite sides of the bracket, seemingly poised for a championship clash.

The Broncs ride into the quarterfinals with the momentum of being crowned regular-season champions, and star player Stella Johnson having extra juice after being named one of five finalists for the 2020 Nancy Lieberman Award, along with Te’a Cooper (Baylor), Crystal Dangerfield (Connecticut), Sabrina Ionescu (Oregon) and Tyasha Harris (South Carolina).

The Red Foxes have momentum of their own in the form of an 11-game winning streak to close MAAC play (to the Broncs’ streak of eight). Marist also should feel confident about its 63-58 win over Rider on Feb. 11 — revenge for its 72-76 overtime loss to the Broncs on Jan. 16.

A third meeting between these teams would make for an exciting championship game, with either able to emerge victorious. Yet, there are three teams looking to pull off an upset: Fairfield, Manhattan and Quinnipiac.

Third in the conference standings, Fairfield (15-14, 12-8 MAAC) handed Marist its only other loss in MAAC play, a 48-52 defeat on Jan. 30. To get to the semifinals, Fairfield faces Siena, sixth in the standings with an upside-down 10-19 (8-12) record.

Rider’s other conference loss was a 56-67 upset to ninth-seeded Saint Peters on Feb. 6.

Manhattan and Quinnipiac — with 15-14 (12-8 MAAC) records like Fairfield — are fourth and fifth, respectively, and must go through each other to get to the semifinals. Though in the middle of the pack, Quinnipiac, based on recent history, has the edge of this trio, having won the last three MAAC Tournament titles.

The Quinnipiac Bobcats defeated the Broncs to win the 2017 tournament title; they went through the Red Foxes in 2018. Last year, Quinnipiac propelled a 30-point blowout of Marist to get the goods.

Will the Bobcats be in the championship mix this year and vie for a fourth consecutive title? Or will Rider or Marist reign supreme, perhaps going through each other to taste MAAC Tournament glory?

The only thing at stake is the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

MAAC Tournament Schedule

All games at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, N.J.

Quarterfinals — Wednesday, March 11

Game 4: No. 1 Rider vs. No. 8 Niagara, 1:00 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

Game 5: No. 2 Marist vs. No. 10 Monmouth, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

Quarterfinals — Thursday, March 12

Game 6: No. 3 Fairfield vs. No. 5 Siena, 12:00 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

Game 7: No. 4 Manhattan vs. No. 4 Quinnipiac, 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

Semifinals— Friday, March 13

Game 8: Rider-Niagara winner vs. Manhattan-Quinnipiac winner, 11:00 a.m. ET (ESPN3)

Game 9: Fairfield-Siena winner vs. Marist-Monmouth winner, 1:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3)

Final — Saturday, March 14

Game 10: TBD vs. TBD, 11:00 a.m. ET (ESPNU)