And so it begins ...
Yes, the holiday season. But, also, the season of previews as we approach the early January resumption of league play for men and its beginning for women.
We'll review MAAC teams from the bottom of from last year's men's standings. After each men's team previewed we'll also preview the corresponding school's women's team.
So, let's get started. Up now ...
2010-11 RECORD: 3-15 in MAAC play, 6-27 overall.
COACHES' PRESEASON PREDICTION: 10th in the MAAC.
KEY RETURNEES: 6-1 senior guard Devin Price (13.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists ... all statistics from this season), 6-10 sophomore forward Adam Kemp (8.2, 6.4, 2.4 blocks), 6-5 sophomore forward Jay Bowie (6.6, 3.7), 6-6 sophomore forward Anell Alexis (4.7, 2.9), 6-6 junior forward Dorvell Carter (11.7, 2.0).
KEY LOSSES: Sam Prescott (11.4 points), Candin Rusin (7.8 points), Menelik Watson (4.7, 3.3).
TOP NEWCOMERS: 6-5 freshman swingman Chavaugn Lewis (13.0, 3.3), 5-8 freshman guard Isaiah Morton (8.7).
NOTES: The 4-5 start is encouraging, and is already within two victories of the program's entire total from a year ago and a noticeable improvement over 2009-10 when the Red Foxes only won a single game ... Carter, a much-needed veteran presence, averaged 11.7 points in two-and-a-half games before suffering a knee injury and hasn't returned ... In Carter's absence, Alexis has moved into the starting lineup and presents the possibility of an offensive explosion (he had 22 points in a game against Siena last season) ... The team lost three key players from a year ago, including 2010-11's leading scorer, Prescott, but doesn't seem to have felt the effects ... Kemp, who had a promising 16 games as a freshman before missing the rest of the year with an injury is becoming an inside force, as evidenced by his 21 blocks through nine games. ... Lewis is off to a strong freshman-year start and in some years would be an early candidate for the MAAC's Rookie of the Year were it not for the presence of Harold Washington at Canisius ... Another frosh, Isaiah Morton, is making a reasonable transition from high school to college point guard and only has two more turnovers than assists thus far ... The team's conference victory came over Rider (picked for fourth in the conference) by an impressive 95-75 score ... The season looks promising, and the future extremely bright. There's only one senior on the roster and that's a light-playing walk-on.
HOW MARIST CAN SUCCEED: By avoiding a key injury. Kemp is pretty much the lone post presence, and the Red Foxes can't afford to lose him this year ... The program has to view this season as part of the growing process, particularly with two freshmen and three sophomores among the top six players. But, there's no reason why the growth can't mean the Red Foxes can cause some problems as the season progresses. If there's another key player the team can't afford to lose it is its most-experienced performer, junior guard Devin Price, who leads it in scoring and shares ball-handling duties with Morton. Much rests on his shoulders this season, but he has consistently delivered so far.
PREDICTION: This isn't a team that will contend for the league title this year, but with continued maturity it's not a stretch to think positively about better things a year from now. Its fans should be content with watching a young, exciting team mature as the year goes on. And, maybe, unexpectedly upset a higher-regarded team, or two, along the way. It would be a significant achievement for Marist to finish in the final standings' top six to avoid a post-season tournament play-in game. But, it's not out of the realm of possibility. Marist certainly isn't the almost automatic victory for opponents that it was two years ago and for much of last season.