Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.
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2011-12 RECORD SO FAR: 2-6 overall.
2010-11 RECORD: 13-5 in MAAC play, 24-10 overall.
COACHES' PRESEASON PREDICTION: 4th in the MAAC.
KEY RETURNEES (including this season's statistics): 6-0 senior forward Lindsey Loutsenhiser (13.0 points, 6.8 assists), 6-0 sophomore guard Monica Roder (11.5, 3.5) 5-11 senior forwrd Schyanne Halfkenny (8.1, 5.0), 6-1 senior forward Nadia Peters (6.3, 6.3), 5-11 junior forward Toni-Ann Lawrence (5.5, 3.3), 5-10 junior guard Mggie Blair (3.4, 1.6), 5-8 senior guard Alyssa Herrington (1.9).
KEY LOSS: Point guard Abby Wentworth (13.9, 4.2, 4.2 assists, 2.9 steals).
NOTES: Need proof about the benefits of a superb point guard? Manhattan had one in Wentworth last season and put up 24 victories overall. Wentworth is the only loss from last year's team ... the next best seven players are back ... and the Jaspars are off to a 2-6 start, against exclusively mid-major level competition. And, five of the six losses have come by double-figure totals ... Junior Maggie Blair has stepped into Wentworth's role, and she's providing a similar number of assists (4.3 per game), but isn't anywhere near the scorer/rebounder/defender Wentworth was. And, for that matter, who is? Wentworth was one of the conference's top three or four players a year ago ... The Jaspars appear handicapped by having a roster full of swing players or front-court performers. Of the top seven players, only Blair and Herrington are true guards, and Herrington, primarily a shooter, is struggling this season (5-of-24 on three-point shots after making 41-of-128 last season). Wentworth also spearheaded last season's defense that permitted just 50.9 points per game. Through the first eight games this season Manhattan gives up 59.2 per outing.
WHAT MANHATTAN NEEDS TO SUCCEED: It's easy to say better ballhandling, but the assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty much the same as a year ago. The returnees are all playing at about the same level as a year ago, but losing that signature star has left a huge void for this program. It certainly wouldn't hurt if Herrington became the offensive weapon she had been in the past, but even that won't cure all the early season woes to date. Manhattan also needs to tighten things up on the defensive end, but the feeling here is the team won't match last year's success until it can develop more quality perimeter players.
PREDICTION: This team, as it looks so far, will be hardpressed to meet the coaches' preseason prediction for fourth place. Then again, it's still early and Manhattan does have a deep and solid inside game, and some standout shooters, particularly Roeder who has 16 3-pointers trough eight games. Still, the feeling here is that Manhattan's quest won't be to contend for one of the top two or three spots like it did a year ago, but avoid finishing below sixth place and the post-season tournament's play-in round.