Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.
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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 5-5 overall.
2010-11 RECORD: 6-12 in the MAAC, 11-20 overall.
COACHES' PRESEASON PREDICTION: 6th.
KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 6-4 sophomore center Jamie Ruttle (10.8, 5.2), 5-9 sophomore guard Jen Morabito (9.5, 2.4), 5-5 junior guard Ashley Duram (7.6, 3.8, 4.3 assists), 6-4 sophomore Jen Lennox (5.6, 2.5), 5-10 junior forward Allison Braun (5.0, 4.4), 6-1 sophomore forward Courtney VandenBovenkamp (3.8, 2.7).
KEY LOSSES: Guard Micayla Drysdale (9.0, 4.0), swingperson Steph McDonald (6.6, 5.2).
NOTES: The 2008-09 season was one of the best in the program's history, resulting in a 24-9 record. The Golden Griffs subsequently failed to match that single-season win total in the past two years combined (12-19, 11-20), but this looks like the year the cycle reverses itself. Three of the five losses have come to quality opponents, St. Bonaventure, Ohio State and Buffalo. And, Canisius as currently won its last two ... The biggest team in the MAAC with 6-4 reigning Rookie of the Year Jamie Ruttle and 6-4 reserve Jen Lennox ... Also, one of the youngest MAAC teams. It has no senior on the roster, the only conference team without at least two seniors ... The team is also getting healthy. Starting 6-1 forward VandeBovenkamp missed several games early in the season with an injury, and highly touted freshman guard Kayla Hoohuli was still recovering from a knee injury early in the season, but both are close to 100 percent now, particularly VandenBovenkamp, who had a team-high 14 points in her last game ... The team has great depth, legitimately eight or nine deep. Guard Ashley Durham has been coming off the bench lately, and her assist average of 4.3 is third-best in the MAAC ... There's also much balance. Seven players average between 5.0 points and 10.8 points per game. Eight players average between 2.4 and 5.2 rebounds and seven players average more than an assist per game ... Morabito, an all-Rookie team pick a year ago, is one of the league's best long-range shooters and has hit at least three 3-pointers in five different games this year. The team also shares well, and its 14.4 assists per game average leads the conference.
HOW CANISIUS CAN SUCCEED: Continue to gain experience. With its height, Canisius will cause smaller teams problems, even though it currently operates by getting 4.1 fewer rebounds per game than opponents, but VandeBovenkamp's return should help. There were signs last year that the young team improved as the season progressed and, now, last year's strong freshman class is a year older. It probably wouldn't hurt to have a true go-to player in key situations, although both Ruttle and Morabito are both more than capable. And, the team's overall balance makes it difficult for opponents to concentrate on stopping specific Canisius players.
PREDICTION: Very, very good days ahead. Midway through last season your Hoopscribe predicted that once Canisius got experience it would be the most-likely team to eventually dethrone long-time league power Marist, and that opinion hasn't changed. It probably won't happen this season, although Canisius is more than capable of upsetting some of the perceived stronger teams. A very good chance the Griffs will finish higher than the prediction for sixth place this season and, then, much higher in subsequent years.