First a very Merry Christmas to all ...
Your Hoopscribe is hard at work, early Christmas morning, while awaiting a college-aged son to awake. And, please accept the reminder that the Holiday season is about more than receiving gifts. It's about family and friends, too, so give thanks for those you have ... and give a special hug to those you love.
And, now, back to the series previewing MAAC teams.
Up now ...
2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 0-2 in MAAC play, 2-9 overall.
2010-11 RECORD: 9-9 in MAAC play, 15-15 overall.
COACHES' PRESEASON PREDICTION: 9th in the MAAC.
KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 6-2 junior guard Gaby Balardo (9.2, 2.4), 6-2 junior guard Alshway Hymes (15.2, 2.2), 6-6 sophomore forward Chris Manhertz (7.3, 7.6), 6-2 sophomore guard Reggie Groves (7.1, 2.6).
KEY LOSSES: forwards Greg Loggins, Elton Frazier, Tomas Vazquez-Simmons, and guards Julius Coles and Robert Goldsberry.
NOTES: Canisius lost four starters and its best bench player from last season. That group finished with a .500 overall record, the first non-losing season for the program since 2000-01 and avoiding the play-in round of the MAAC tournament for the first time in 11 seasons ... Despite the losses, the Golden Griffins still have talent, just young talent. There is no senior in the playing group. Belardo is the only returning starter, and he missed three games with a back issue and is not yet 100 percent. Everyone else in the playing group either came off the bench last season, or is a program newcomer ... The Griffs have staked much of their success, not only now but for future years, on transfers. Junior Harold Washington, a 6-1 guard, came to the program after two seasons at Cecil (Md.) Junior College, and he averages 18.2 points per game, third-best in the MAAC ... Then there's the program's "scout" team that includes three strong future pieces in transfers 6-10 Freddie Aspirilla (Kansas State), guard Isaac Sosa (Central Florida) and 6-10 Jordan Heath (Robert Weslyan), all sitting out this season due to transfer rules but eligible for 2012-13 and all are expected to be impact players for Canisius ... Hymes is possibly the MAAC's top long-range threat and currently leads the conference with 32 three-pointers through 11 games ... Manhertz, who barely played last season, is sixth in the league in rebounding (7.6 per contest) ... Josiah Heath, a 6-9 freshman, was the MAAC's most-recent Rookie of the Week for averaging 16.5 rebounds over two games last week.
HOW CANISIUS CAN SUCCEED: Take care of the ball. The Griffs have a league-low 110 assists, and a league-worst assist-to-turnover ratio (110 assists against 181 turnovers). And, that's surprising since four of the team's top five players are guards. But Belardo, the only true point guard on the roster, has been less than his best physically so far, and Groves, primarily a shooting guard to date, is the back-up at the point and leads the team in assists ... There's also the issue of inside play. Manhertz, the best inside player, is onlly 6-foot-6. There are two other "bigs" contributing, the 6-9 Josiah Heath and the 6-10 Kevin Bleeker, but both are slender freshmen ... A season of experience will help. If the young big players can continue to improve, and the ball-handling improves, Canisius can cause some problems as the season progresses.
PREDICTION: This probably won't be the year the Griffs finish with a better-than-.500 record. A good season would be one of noticeable progression. And, then, much better days are ahead with the return of every key player, along with the addition of the three transfers to next season's team.