Like elbows, everyone has them ... opinions, that is.
Recently, this blogger promised to offer his ... opinions, not elbows ... on the MAAC's preseason all-star teams. So, here they are.
Are they good choices? Yours truly thinks so. But, you might not. Just because everyone has opinions doesn't mean we share the same ones.
By way of giving some credibility to mine ... your blogger does see every team in the league in person at least twice during the season as well any other time conference teams appear on TV. By nature of keeping this board somewhat informed I also talk to coaches, assistant coaches and sports information directors on a fairly regular basis. Very often those discussions involve individual players and how they fit on all-star teams of this type.
That said, coaches' imput doesn't ultimately decide who I'll pick for these teams. Most of it, if not all, is my own judgment. Hopefully, after being around college basketball for going on 37 years, your blogger knows a good player when he sees one.
However, that doesn't mean everyone will agree. So, remember, these picks are, as they say, for entertainment purposes only. And, they are in no particular order.
- Ryan Thompson, 6-6 guard, Rider. He might be the most-versatile player in the league, finishing in the top 11 in the conference last year in scoring (2nd), rebounding (11th), field goal percentage (8th), assists (7th), steals (5th), 3-point percentage (2nd) and minutes played (1st). He became Rider's point guard last season and thrived in that role. His combination of height, skill and position makes him a player to watch by NBA scouts.
- Bilal Benn, 6-5 forward, Niagara. If Thompson is the league's most-versatile player, then Benn isn't far behind ... 11th in scoring, 1st in rebounding, 10th in assists, 2nd in steals, 5th in minutes played. He is a perfect fit for uptempo Niagara, an athletic player who uses that trait well at both ends of the court. Plus, one of the top three rebounders at his height this blogger has seen in the conference.
- Edwin Ubiles, 6-6 forward, Siena. Like Thompson, Ubiles' combination of size and skills (he's capable of playing the guard spot) makes him a to-watch player by pro scouts. If he merely matches his junior season's stats, he'll become just the third Siena player to record 2,000 career points and the only player in school history to rank in the top 15 in points, rebounds and assists.
- Alex Franklin, 6-5 forward, Siena. Finished 12th in the conference in scoring, fifth in rebounding, third in field goal percentage and, even, 15th in steals. One of the league's best high-fliers. A real inside force in a league that doesn't have many of those.
- Ronald Moore, 5-11 guard, Siena. This spot could easily have gone to any of two or three other players, but I'll almost always favor a point guard ... particularly the best one in the league. Moore not only led the conference in assists and assist-to-turnover ratio by far, but ranked 12th and 8th in those two statistics nationally. He's the only MAAC player to be in the top 12 nationally in two statistical categories.
- Jamal Barney, 6-3 guard, Loyola. Hard to omit the conference's leading scorer from the first team, but his 18.1 point-per-game average wasn't dominant (six other players averaged within three points per game of Barney's total). He was also hampered by a late-season injury last year, so the best is yet to come from the MAAC player who best fits the definitiion of "pure scorer."
- Tyrone Lewis, 5-11 guard, Niagara. Another player who could easily be a first-team pick. He was third in the league in scoring last year, and its leader in both steals (12th best nationally) and 3-pointers made (99). Arguably the best long-range shooter in the conference in several years.
- Ryan Rossiter, Siena, 6-9 center, Siena. The slender post player got limited minutes as a freshman and, then, was arguably the most-improved performer in the conference last season. He finished fourth in rebounding, first in field goal percentage and second in blocks, and frustrates opponents with his gangly build and overall effort.
- Frank Turner, 5-10 guard, Canisius. The consistent bright spot in a program that has struggled in recent years. Probably the quickest player in the league, and one of its most creative, whether handling the ball or finding his own shot. Was 6th in scoring, 5th in assists and 2nd in minutes played in the MAAC last season.
- Ryan Bacon, 6-7 center, Saint Peter's. Another player who had a breakthrough last season, becoming an inside force as a sophomore. He was 3rd in rebounding, 6th in field goal percentage, and 1st in blocked shots (24th nationally). He's leading the turnaround of a program that had been struggling of late.
- Wesley Jenkins, 6-2 guard, Saint Peter's. He's Mr. Outside to Ryan Bacon's Mr. Inside play with the Peacocks. Finished 5th in scoring and 2nd in 3-pointers made (71) in the conference last year. Has superlative long-range shooting skills and is one of the most-difficult players to defend in the league.
- Scott Machado, 6-1 guard, Iona. Last year's Rookie of the Year in the MAAC. Showed flashes of the ability to become the conference's best point guard at some juncture, finishing 3rd in assists and 5th in assist-to-turnover ratio.
- Mike Ringold, 6-7 forward, Rider. James Brown was the hardest-working man in show business, and Ringold might be the hardest-working man on a MAAC court. He never takes a play off, and made major strides last year, finishing 9th in rebounds, 7th in field-goal percentage and, surely, was among the leaders in tough inside defense.
- Novar Gadson, 6-7 forward, Rider. Like his teammate, Ringold, another noticeable hard worker. This blogger would have picked him as the conference's top rookie last season. Tough inside, but also possesses shooting range. Expect a big season from him this year.
- Greg Nero, 6-7 forward, Fairfield. Got through last season on guts, battling back woes most of the way. And, he still finished 15th in scoring, 12th in rebounding and 5th in field goal percentage. Another hard-working big man who, if healthy, ranks with the league's best.
COMING ATTRACTION: Within the next few days, your blogger will opine about the conference newcomers expected to have the biggest impact on their respective teams this season.