Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Early Picks for Men's Individual Post-Season Honors

The women had their turn, now it's time for your Hoopscribe to make his picks for individual post-season honors for men ... just in time for league coaches to take a look (if, indeed, they do).


Two truly legitimate choices, both from the league's western region.

Veteran coach Joe Mihalich of Niagara has done a terrific job not only with one of the youngest lineups nationally (three sophs and a freshman were in the starting most of the year), but has also had to survive a four-game ankle-injury loss of leading scorer Antoine Mason. Through all of that, the Purple Eagles are 12-4 in league play with two games remaining and maintain a slight edge on the top spot in the league standings.

First-year MAAC coach Jim Baron has transformed a team that was 1-17 in conference play last season into a true year-long competitor. The Golden Griffins are 10-6 in MAAC play, currently in third place in the regular-season standings.

THE CHOICE: Mihalich, in a runaway. No one expected this out of the Purple Eagles. Not even league coaches who predicted, in their preseason poll, that Niagara would finish fifth this year. Baron's team has had a nice turnaround season, but he's also been the beneficiary of a terrific infusion of transfer talent since a year ago, including his own son, Billy, who came over with his father from Rhode Island.


Two legitimate candidates.

Iona senior guard Lamont "Momo" Jones averages 23.0 points per game, second-best nationally. It's the highest position of any player on the national scoring list since Keydren Clark's 25.8 ppg. average led hte country in 2004-05 season.

Niagara sophomore guard Juan'ya Green averages 16.8 ppg. overall, is second in the league in assists (first in conference-only games) and third in steals.

THE CHOICE: We went with Green of Niagara at midseason and see no reason to change now. And, it's more than the "best player on the best team" argument, although that's a factor (Jones' Iona team is tied for fifth and hasn't yet matched expectations). But, Green has come up big seemingly whenever Niagara needed him, scoring the game-winning points inside of the final six seconds of three MAAC games this year. His coach, Joe Mihalich, on Green's consistent late-game heroics: "Maybe we should call him `Win'ya' instead of Juan'ya."


(Note: Conference-only statistics are considered due to the disparity in the strength of conference teams' non-league schedules).

- Juan'ya Green, Niagara sophomore guard (17.1 points, 5.3 assists, 2.1 steals).
- Lamont "Momo" Jones, Iona junior guard (21.9 points, 44.8 field goal percentage).
- Dylan Cormier, Loyola junior guard (16.5 points, 2.1 steals).
- Billy Baron, Canisius junior guard (15.9 points, 5.0 assists).
- O.D. Anosike (12.4 points, 10.6 rebounds).

Toughest to omit: Niagara's sophomore guard Antoine Mason, who is second in the conference in scoring (19.3). But, Mason missed four recent games due to an ankle injury, 25 percent of the league schedule to date.


There might not be an overwhelming standout as there often is, but there are plenty of solid freshmen scattered around the league.

The best are Shane Richards and RaShawn Stores, both of Manhattan; T.J. Cline of Niagara; and Amadou Sidibe and Marcus Gilbert, both of Fairfield. All average around 20 minutes per game. Sidibe is the best rebounder of the bunch (6.2 in MAAC games), and Richards is the best scorer (9.7). There might not be a more-difficult choice for any of the individual awards.

THE CHOICE: Shane Richards, the 6-foot-5 forward from Manhattan. The Jaspers, after losing leading scorer George Beamon early in the season, had a desperate need for quality play from youngsters, and have gotten much of it from Richards, whose 9.7 ppg. average in league play is the best among conference freshmen. Richards also ranks fourth in league games in 3-pointers made per game (2.6) and fourth in field-goal percentage (42.0).


Absolutely no debate here.

THE CHOICE: Although a little undersized (6-foot-6) in the post, Manhattan's junior forward Rhamel Brown continues to come up big inside. His 3.8 block-per-game average in MAAC games only is almost double the total of the next best shot-blocker. His 3.04 blocks per game overall ranks eighth nationally. And, he does more than block shots. His physical play inside makes post play difficult for opposing front-court performers.

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