Monday, November 25, 2013

Preview: Quinnipiac Men Competitive Right Away

Due to some technical difficulties (a laptop breakdown), the MAAC blog has been absent for several days.

But, we're back. And, we'll be catching up on things in rapid-fire order in coming days. So, check in early and often.

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 11-7 in the Northeast Conference, 15-16 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Point guard Dave Johnson (8.1 points, 4.1 assists per game), guard Garvey Young (5.4 points, 2.4 rebounds), forward Jamer Jackson (7.9, 5.7).

KEY NEWCOMERS: 5-10 freshman guard Kasim Chandler, 5-11 senior guard Umar Shannon, 6-8 freshman forward A.J. Sumbry

STARTERS SO FAR: 6-4 junior guard Zaid Hearst (10.8, 3.8 last season), 6-7 forward Ike Azotam (13.6, 7.9), 6-1 senior guard Shaq Shannon (6.7, 2.2 assists), 6-9 junior forward Ousame Drame (9.6, 7.3), 5-11 senior guard Umar Shannon.

NOTABLE: Anytime a team loses a veteran point guard there's a void, and Johnson was a good one. But, the Bobcats are more than capable of replacing him with newcomer Chandler, who averages 12.0 points and 3.2 assists per game off the bench and already has earned a MAAC Rookie of the Week honor. For now, he's starting behind the two Chandlers and Hearst in the backcourt ... Umar Shannon is a graduate-student transfer from St. Francis and has already paid dividends. He is averaging 13.2 points per game through the team's 3-1 start, and hit game-winner, a three-pointer at the buzzer, in Quinnipiac's 71-68 victory over Hampton recently. He also adds long-range accuracy, with 12 treys through four games ... Where's the beef? It's on the team's front line. Azotam, a preseason third-team all-MAAC selection, checks in at 6-7, 230 pounds, and they might call him "tiny" when it comes to the squad's three-person post rotation. Teammates Ousame Drame is 6-9, 240 and freshman A.J. Sumbry is 6-8, 243 ... Hearst, the team's second-leading score last year, is the point leader so far, averaging 15.2 ppg. ... Junior guard Evan Conti has also been effective off the bench, averaging 7.0 rebounds per contest in just 18.2 minutes per contest thus far ... The team's fast start has also included a victory over a good UAlbany team, 79-68; and, a loss to La Salle (73-67), a Sweet 16 team a year ago with four starters back ... Right now, the trio of Azotam, Drame and Conti (a combined 22.5 rebounds per contest) is as effective on the boards as just about any MAAC team ... It's Quinnipiac's first year in the MAAC, a slight step upward from its former league, but the Bobcats look more than capable of competing.

STRENGTHS: Balance, for one. Five players currently average double-figure scoring with one of them (Chandler) coming off the bench. There's also some depth, particularly in the backcourt, where five guards have been effective contributors so far. Azotam and Drame make up one of the better front-court tandems in the MAAC, and Sumbry looks like a capable back-up.

WEAKNESSES: Unless Sumbry, who is currently playing about 14 minutes per contest, continues to develop the Bobcats won't have much depth up front. And, the player likely to get the most time at the point, Chandler, is also a freshman.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: Coaches, in their preseason poll, picked Quinnipiac for seventh in the 11-team league. Considering early results, that prediction seems much too low. Most league observers (myself included) foresee Manhattan, Iona and Canisius, in that order, to be the MAAC's top three teams. But, considering the veterans the Bobcats have, and the early contributions of the newcomers, it's not out of the realm of possibility to think this team could crack the top three. At worst they shouldn't finish lower than fifth or sixth.

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