Here's another in the series looking back and ahead at conference programs.
Up now ...
2011-12 RECORD: 12-6 in MAAC play, 21-13 overall.
2011-12 RECAP: Tough to see classy, nice guy head coach Barry Rohrssen forced out after a 6-25 injury plagued 2010-11 season. But, his replacement, Steve Masiello, was a welcome and energetic force who promised to change the culture of his program, promised to bring winning back to the once-proud program ... and delivered in a big way. The Jaspers' 21 victories marked a 15-victory improvement off the previous year, the best jump in wins of any team on the Division I level. Masiello did it with a combination of Rohrssen's recruits, with a nice dose of his own. He did it, too, with an up-tempo, pressure defense style of play that employed at least nine or 10 players just about every game. Along the way came a defining 75-72 victory over Iona which was the Gaels' first MAAC loss of the year and just one of three they suffered all season. But Manhattan faltered late, going 2-2 down the stretch of regular-season play and, then, losing to Siena in the quarterfinal round of the MAAC tournament, 84-82 in overtime, when senior guard Kidani Brutus' potential game-winning shot with two seconds remaining in regulation inexplicably twirled twice around the rim before popping out. Still, 20 wins at that point was enough to get Manhattan an invitation to the CollegeInsider.com tournament where it knocked off UAlbany in a first-round game before having its season end in the next round against Fairfield. All in all, a very satisfying season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: Junior swingman George Beamon continued his development as a player and wound up the league's leading scorer (19.0 ppg., 24th-best nationally). Beamon is an acknowledged hard worker, and his off-season efforts truly paid dividends. By working on his long-range shooting motion and taking hundreds of shots a day over the summer Beamon made 61 of 143 three-pointers (42.7 percent) this past season after making just six treys as a sophomore. Although Beamon was the team's only double-figure scorer, 6-5 freshman Emmy Andujar developed into a nice sidekick (8.5 points, 5.7 rebounds). Mike Alvarado, a sophomore point guard, was among the conference's best at his position and Manhattan was a different and not as good team in his absence (he missed three late-season games with an eye injury). And, Beamon wasn't the only hard-worker in the offseason. Senior guard Brutus shed 30 pounds since the end of the 2010-11 season and was noticeably more mobile and more effective. Rhamel Brown, a 6-6 sophomore forward, led the conference in blocked shots (2.5 per game, 20th-best nationally). Redshirt senior Roberto Colonette, a 6-7 forward, added a bruising inside presence. The team's new style enabled it to go deep into its bench, and the reserves responded. The post-season appearance was the program's first since the 2005-06 season, as was its 20-victory season.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Any team that makes a 15-victory jump over the previous season obviously didn't do much wrong. But, there was a bit of a bitter taste when, as the MAAC tournament's No. 3 seed, it lost to sixth-seeded Siena in the event's quarterfinal round. But, Alvarado didn't play in that game, which didn't help the Jaspers. And, the fates seemed to work in Siena's favor when Brutus' potential game winner couldn't have been further down the cylinder while spinning around the basket twice before popping out. That game went into overtime and Siena pulled it out by an 84-82 score. Manhattan also struggled with turnovers, committing 16.1 per game. Only 15 teams nationally made more turnovers per contest. That was indicative of several things ... an uptempo but high-risk offense, a youthful team and the lack of a quality back-up point guard. The team also dealt with a lack of height. The 6-7 Colonette, a reserve, was the only player taller than 6-6 who saw significant minutes. Still, Manhattan had a favorable rebound margin over opponents.
WHAT'S AHEAD: Almost assuredly more of the same. There won't be another 15-victory improvement, but there should be another 20-victory season and, probably, an even more-serious run at the league's regular-season title. Brutus is the only regular starter who graduates. Beamon will be a senior, is already established as the league's top offensive weapon and is a viable candidate to be the MAAC's Player of the Year in the upcoming season.. Alvarado gives the team the requisite standout at point guard, and Brown was named the MAAC's top defender for this past season. If Andujar, already very good, improves off a solid freshman season ... that's a four-man group that ranks with just about any in the MAAC. Colonette (6.3, 5.1) is the potential fifth starter as he comes back for his final season. Another freshman 6-6 Donovan Kates (5.0 ppg.) will contribute. And, a wild card for the team is 6-8 freshman Ryan McCoy, who only needs to add some bulk and strength after playing this past season at about 185 pounds. But McCoy is the nephew of one of Siena's all-time greats, Steve McCoy from the late 1980s, and looks to have the potential to be a real contributor for Manhattan. Masiello also has a well-earned reputation as a standout recruiter, and has four freshmen joining the program, including 6-9 Adam Lacey of San Diego and 6-2 guard C.J. Jones, who could immediately solve the team's point-guard issues when Alvarado isn't on the court.
PREDICTION FOR 2012-13: Right now we're making Loyola the early preseason pick to win next season's regular-season title, with Manhattan a close second and more than capable of contending for the top spot all year long. It would be a surprise if the Jaspers don't win 22 or 23 games overall, at least, and advance to national post-season play again.