Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.
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2011-12 RECORD: 2-0 in MAAC play, 7-4 overall.
2010-11 RECORD: 3-15 in the MAAC, 6-25 overall.
COACHES' PRESEASON PREDICTION: 8th in the league.
KEY RETURNEES (including this season's stats): 6-4 junior swingman George Beamon (15.8 points, 5.3 rebounds), 6-2 sophomore guard Mike Alvarad0 (8.9, 2.4, 2.5 assists), 6-4 senior guard Liam McCabe-Moran (7.0, 1.8), 6-6 sophomore forward Rhamel Brown (6.6, 5.4), 6-1 senior guard Kidani Brutus (6.5, 3.0, 2.5 assists).
KEY LOSSES: 6-8 forward Demetrius Jemison (10.4, 8.6).
NOTES: First-year head coach Steve Masiello promised to change the program's culture, and if 11 games is any indication then consider the culture changed. This year's team already has more overall victories than last season's six-victory total. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the trio who comprised the nucleus of last season's team (then freshmen Alvarado and Brown, and sophomore Beamon) all all a year older. Nor does it hurt that freshman forward Roberto Colonette is healthy after missing all of last season with injuries ... Beamon leads the team in scoring, and Colonette averages 6.4 rebounds in just 19.2 minutes of playing time per game. Alvarado continues to provide a steady hand in the backcourt, and while Brown's minutes are down (18.0 per game), he still averages 5.4 rebounds and is incredibly 18th nationally in blocks (2.91 per game) ... Plus, there's considerable depth. Brutus came back 30 pounds lighter and is a factor, freshman forward Andujar is making a case for conference all-Rookie Team selection and Liam McCabe-Moran, a 6-4 senior guard who got into just eight games last season, is the team's fifth-leading scorer. The team has nine players averaging at least 12.5 minutes per contest ... Also, the team has an active four-game winning streak, the second-longest among all MAAC teams. The win streak is the program's longest since it won six straight midway through the 2006-07 season, and the 7-4 start is the best since a 7-4 start to the 2008-09 season. All of it has happened no seniors among the top four scorers and only two among the top nine.
HOW MANHATTAN WILL SUCCEED: By doing exactly what it has done so far, which is play at a faster tempo and keeping bodies fresh by employing at least a nine-man playing group ... It will also have to continue to rebound by committee. Four players average between 5.3 and 6.4 rebounds per game. Amazingly without a single player than 6-7 in the regular playing rotation, the Jaspers outrebound opponents by an average of 5.5 per game, after being outrebounded by an average of 2.5 per outing a year ago. The team also scores 7.5 more points (67.6 compared to 60.1) than last year's squad. The positive vibes, or as Masiello calls it "a culture change," has to continue. But, there's no reason to believe that it won't.
PREDICTION: Unless things go south in a hurry, there's no reason to think Manhattan won't do considerably better than the preseason prognostication for eighth. Provided everyone stays healthy and the young cast continues to mature, very good things are ahead for the program. Finishing in the top six, thus avoiding the post-season tournament's play-in round, certainly is a realistic possibility. An upper-division finish, maybe even contention for a league title, isn't that far off, although that probably won't happen this year.