MAAC Quarterfinals preview: No. 3 Quinnipiac vs. No. 11 Marist


Connor Lawless

The Quinnipiac Bobcats and Marist Red Foxes will face off in the MAAC Tournament for the second-straight season Thursday night.

Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

After a two-day bye, the No. 3 Quinnipiac Bobcats now have their playoff opponent. 

Following a 61-50 upset of No. 6 Manhattan, the No. 11 Marist Red Foxes will now take on the Bobcats Thursday at 7 p.m. The second-to-last quarterfinals game of the bracket will be the third time these two programs match up this season.

Quinnipiac swept the regular season series, beating the Red Foxes 72-66 on Jan. 31 and 88-76 on March 4 to close the regular season. Despite 15 points from junior guard Kam Farris, Marist dropped to 5-14 in-conference and locked up the final seed. 

When looking at the Bobcats, it is hard to look past the three-headed monster in the backcourt. Guards Dezi Jones (junior), Matt Balanc (redshirt senior) and Luis Kortright (junior) have been the team’s best players since November and will likely be the biggest offensive catalysts in Atlantic City. 

“I’m always excited for playoffs,” Balanc said during Tuesday’s media availability. “It’s kind of a fresh slate in this conference … You come for three, four games and (if) you play as hard as you want, you can go as long as you want.”

When looking at Marist, it is a completely different team dynamic than the Bobcats. While Quinnipiac has depth at every position, the Red Foxes’ entire team runs through one player: redshirt senior forward Patrick Gardner. The 2023 All-MAAC Second Teamer scored 23 points in the first-round game against the Jaspers, the 13th time he eclipsed the 20-point mark this season.

To stop Gardner, Quinnipiac will also need to rely on its front court. Junior Paul Otieno and graduate student Ike Nweke have been a consistent 1-2 punch for the Bobcats. Though Nweke’s point totals have dipped as of late, the interior defense from the two transfers helped shore up a Quinnipiac defense that is ranked 171st nationally by KenPom in adjusted defensive efficiency.

Despite the Jaspers being the favorites, the Red Foxes dominated throughout Tuesday night and moved on as the MAAC’s lowest seed. The upset also squashes the potential “revenge game” that the Bobcats had in mind if Manhattan was to win. In the final matchup between the two teams, the Jaspers hit a game-winning buzzer beater to beat the Bobcats on Feb. 26.

“It’s all or nothing,” Jones said. “You can call it revenge if you want, but we’ll just call it another game.”

This is the third time that Quinnipiac and Marist will face off in the MAAC Tournament. The Red Foxes won the first matchup by seven in the first round in 2015. More recently, the Bobcats destroyed Marist by 25 points last season in the opening round, en route to their semifinals run as the conference’s 11th seed.

The winner will face off against the No. 10 Saint Peter’s Peacocks, who became the first tenth-seeded team to advance to the MAAC Semifinals following their 70-62 upset of the Rider Broncs Wednesday night.