Friday, October 4, 2013

Is Marist Women's Team Worthy Of Top 25 Pick?

You'll rarely, maybe never, read a discouraging word here about the Marist women's basketball program.

How could you? The Red Foxes have dominated the MAAC so thoroughly for a decade that the need to recite their accomplishments is almost unnecessary.

But, in case you haven't been paying attention: The Marist women have been the conference's regular-season champion for the last 10 seasons, have gone to the NCAA tournament in nine of those years including the last eight, and have three perfect (18-0) league seasons, including 2012-13.

Its head coach Brian Giorgis is no longer a sideline "secret," now starting to get hi proper due as one of the best at his craft at any level. Plus, he is one of our league's all-time nice guys.

And, actually, our Marist-related "gripe" isn't about the team. It's about those who rank teams on a national level.

The first women's basketball preseason Top 25 list came to our notice recently. It was produced by USA Today's Sports Magazine.

Marist got picked as the 25th best team in the country.

The pollsters should have taken a closer look.

The Red Foxes graduated their leading scorer/second-leading rebounder and only true inside player in Elizabeth Beynnon. Her "replacement" appears to be a freshmen, and Giorgis only gives major roles to first-year players out of the most-dire of necessities.

In this case, it's because of the continued injury situation to the program's two quality post players, 6-foot-3 Tori Jarosz, who snapped an Achilles tendon this past spring, and 6-5 Delaney Hollenbeck, who continues to have issues with hard-to-diagnose leg injuries.

The last time we checked in with Giorgis he expected Hollenbeck to miss the entire year and was holding out hope that Jarocz could return by February, although there was no certainty about that.

Otherwise, Marist is well-stocked with every significant contributor other than Beynnon returning from a year ago. But Marist was small a year ago. This year, the best returning forward is 6-footer Emma O'Connor. Everyone else, other than freshmen, plays on the perimeter.

Marist won't just be small compared to other teams on the Top 25 list, but they'll be small compared to other MAAC teams.

It doesn't mean Marist won't have another terrific season. It got by a year ago without a single player averaging more than 4.7 rebounds per game. Giorgis is a good enough coach (and, has good enough players) to find other ways to continue to be dominant in the MAAC.

And, his program appeared capable of competing against opponents from higher-ranked leagues with the quality inside play that would be provided by Jarosz and Hollenbeck.

Without them? It's tough to expect the Red Foxes to have much success against the next level of opponents.

We won't go through the entire top 25 list, or even look at teams omitted that would appear better candidates than Marist for that list.

But, the team ranked one spot ahead of the Red Foxes is Purdue, and the two teams met a year ago in the early season Paradise Jam Tournament.

In that game, Purdue had a 39-19 lead at halftime and Marist never got closer than 18 in the second half. The Boilermakers return two of last season's top three scorers and four of their top seven.

Purdue's roster includes seven players at least 6-feet tall, with four of them 6-2 or taller. Marist has one healthy player taller than 6-1, and that's potential starter freshman Kat Fogarty, at 6-2.

The strong suspicion is that the top 25 preseason designation carries a great deal of respect for what Marist has accomplished over the past decade.

No argument there. Marist deserves all the respect that comes its way. No mid-major level program anywhere in the country can match that decade-long run, to date, under Giorgis.

We're just not sure right now, considering Marist's lack of tested post players, that the program should rank in the preseason top 25 nationally.

There's a big difference between power-conference teams that traditionally inhabit the Top 25 polls, and even the best teams from the MAAC. And, the emphasis is most definitely on "big."


Andy Scarano said...

Well if you goto the Marist Athletics Facebook page showing the women's first practice you can see Hollenbeck mixing it up in a few - does that mean she is all better? Not sure but it is encouraging. If we can get some good min out of a 6'5" defensive player (she holds the record for most blocked shots in the state of Georgia) then who knows. I do feel that this will be a top 25 by end of January especially if Tori can come back healthy and Fogarty can be the kind of Freshman Coffey was last year. Fogarty comes to Marist with the extra year of HS/Prep how big a difference does that make .... not sure. But if Hollenbeck can give them 15-20 min a game that changes a lot.

Steve Amedio said...

Andy ... as always, a good assessment. If your scenario of Hollenbeck playing 20 minutes per game and Jarosz coming back healthy in February comes true that does indeed change a lot.

MidMajorFan said...

Steve. How do you feel about Lindy's selecting Quinnipiac as their preseason #25?

While I find both these picks to be a stretch from a preseason point of view, I do think it speaks well for the women's side of the MAAC this season. I don't ever remember it being this strong 1-3. Fairfield and Rider should win their share of games out of conference too.

Steve Amedio said...

MidMajorFan ... I didn't even read Lindy's. That magazine traditionally lacks the credibility of having writers who actually see teams play. But that, too, is a very questionable ranking. Quinnipiac isn'g even favored to win the MAAC this year.
I do agree, though. The MAAC should be much improved on the women's side this year. Marist, Quinnipiac, Fairfield, Rider ... and, don't forget about Iona, which has every starter returning.