Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Preview: What's Up Front That Counts for Stag Men

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 9-9 in MAAC play, 19-16 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Guards Derek Needham (14.6 points, 3.4 rebounds), Desmond Wade (6.4, 2.3, 3.2 assists), Colin Nickerson (5.6, 4.5), forward Keith Matthews (5.1, 3.0). forward Jusip Mikulic (4.3, 1.9).

KEY ADDITIONS: 6-11 sophomore center Malcolm Gilbert, transfer from Pittsburgh; 6-3 sophomore guard Sean Grennan, transfer from Seton Hall, freshmen guards 6-1 K.J. Rose, 6-2 Doug Chappell.

EARLY SEASON STARTERS: 6-6 sopohomore forward Marcus Gilbert (5.9, 3.2 last season), 6-8 sophomore center Amadou Sidibe (5.7, 6.2), 6-5 senior forward Maurice Barrow (8.9, 3.9), 6-3 sophomore guard Sean Brennan, 6-1 freshman guard K.J. Rose.

NOTABLE: Last year's three-guard rotation of Needham, Wade and Nickerson graduated, leaving a huge backcourt void. But, transfer Grennan (3.2, 2.2 so far), and freshman Rose (5.8, 1.8) and 6-2 Doug Chappell (5.5, 2.7) have helped fill the void ... The team's emphasis has clearly shifted from strong back-court play to the front court, which is one of the best groups in the conference ... Sophomores Marcus Gilbert and Amadou Sidibe are the team's leading scorer (Gilbert, 11.3) and rebounder (Sidibe (6.0) thus far. Add to that twosome senior Barrow (8.0, 4.1 and a team-high 2.1 assists so far) and 6-11 Pitt transfer Malcolm Gilbert (4.7, 5.5 and a team-best 2.9 blocks) and that's four quality bodies up front ... the program also lost promising shooting big man, 7-footer Jusip Mikulic, who opted to play professionall overseas rather than return for his sophomore year. It also lost forward Keith Matthews (5.1, 3.0 last season), who transferred to Division II Flagler College in Florida for his final season of eligibility ... Sidibe is one of the conference's hardest workers, and has been named a team captain as a sophomore, a very unusually early honor ... The Stags are off to a tough 1-5 start, but two of the setbacks have come against higher level foes Louisville and Richmond and the other three to strong mid-majors Hartford, Loyola and Holy Cross ... Coleman Johnson, a 6-6 sophoore forward, has also started two games thus far (4.0, 4.7), giving even more quality depth to the front court ... The team has had five different players as a game's leading scorer through the first six contests.

STRENGTHS: Clearly, the front court which is one of the best in the league. There's veteran leadership in Barrow, quality and experience younger players in sophomores Marcus Gilbert and Sidibe, a big-body presence off the bench in Malcolm Gilbert and a do-everything type in sophomore Johnson.

WEAKNESS: The total inexperience of the backcourt, after the loss of last season's top three guards. The Stags also lack a singular go-to player like they had in recent year in Needham. The good news is that just about anyone on the floor at a given time can produce a few points. The bad news is that when the team really needs a basket, there's no player that has stepped up yet to produce a high-quality shot attempt with great regularity.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: League coaches predicted, in their preseason poll, a sixth-place finish for Fairfield, and that doesn't sound too far off, It would be hard to expect the Stags to finish in the top three, but somewhere from fourth to sixth is reasonable.

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