College basketball is set to begin at the end of this week ... can it be here that quickly?
It's sooner than ever before, and that means it's preview time.
If you're a MAAC fan you've probably already read the previews packages that appeared in The Sporting News, and whatever other national magazine preview issues that abound on area newsstands.
But, be advised that those all not only are far too brief but all done in mid-summer in order to meet magazine publishing deadlines.
The best information is available right now, which makes the world of blogging your best place to get the absolutely most up-to-date information available. And, what better place for that than right here?
This blog will do an extensive preview on every conference team, both men's and women's.
We'll do them in order of predicted finish for the men's teams (the predictions of league coaches), which means we'll start with the Monmouth men and work our way up. When a men's team is previewed, we'll immediately follow with that program's women's team.
So, without further adieu .... here's the first in the series of men's basketball team previews.
Up now ...
2012-13 RECORD: 5-13 in the Northeast Conference (NEC) last season, 10-21 overall.
KEY LOSSES: Guard Jesse Steele (12.2 points, 3.6 assists per game), guard Dion Nesmith (8.1, 2.3 rebounds), guard Steve Spinella (7.8 points, 4.1 rebounds), forward Ed Waite (8.4 points, 6.8 rebounds), forward Marcus Ware (6.4 points, 4.0 rebounds).
LIKELY STARTERS: Junior 6-foot-6 forward Andrew Nicholas (13.9 points, 3.6 rebounds), 6-9 junior forward Khalil Brown (3.9, 1.8), 6-6 sophomore guard Deon Jones (7.0, 4.5 as a freshman at Townson in the 2011-12 season), 5-8 freshman guard Justin Robinson, 6-10 freshman center Zac Tillman.
KEY NEWCOMERS: Zac Tillman, a 6-10 freshman center, Greg Noack, a 6-8 freshman forward, Justin Robinson, a 5-8 freshman guard, Deon Jones, a 6-6 sophomore guard and a transfer from Towson.
NOTEABLE: The Hawks lost their preseason exhibition game, 75-66, to Division II Le Moyne. But, that's no embarrassment. Le Moyne is a very good D-II program and, a few years back, similarly shocked Syracuse in an exhibition contest ... Nicholas, a smooth left-yande and the team's top returning player, is certainly an all-MAAC quality player and appears to be 100 percent right now after foot injuries limited him to 18 games last season ... Few programs suffered the personnel losses as Monmouth has since last season, with the graduation of five players who averaged between 6.4 and 12.2 points per game. Two of them are still playing, 6-8 forward Marcus Ware graduated with a year's eligibility remaining and is now at Niagara. Dion Nesmith also graduated with a year left and is at Hofstra ... Tyrone O'Garro, a 6-5 sophomore forward, had a solid freshman year and could easily get into the starting lineup. He had 10 points, 10 rebounds vs. Le Moyne. Other reserves freshman Greg Noack (8 points on 4-of-5 shooting vs. Le Moyne) and junior guard Max DiLeo (9 points in 19 minutes in the exhibition contest) also played well in the preseason tune-up ... It appears Justin Robinson (9 points, 7 assists vs. Le Moyne) will start at point guard ... Tillman, the biggest newcomer (6-10, 275 pounds) started in the post in the exhibition contest ... Without a doubt, it will be a season of watching young players grow up. There are eight freshmen on the roster, most of them very big. Five of the first-year players are 6-8 or taller. Monmouth might have the most size of any MAAC team. The development of those front-court players will determine how quickly Monmouth can improve, not only this season but in the future.
STRENGTHS: A few solid veterans, led by Nicholas, O'Garro and junior forward Khalil Brown, who battled through injuries last year and should have a good season (although he only played six minutes vs. Le Moyne). Jones, with a year of college play at Towson, should also be a strong contributor. Right now, Noack and Robinson look like the best of the freshmen. Robinson should be a very good point guard at this level and Noack has a high motor and is skilled for a player his size.
WEAKNESSES: Far too many youngsters to expect championship contention. Freshmen at this level are rarely finished product and almost always take a couple of years to develop into the type players that make a difference. Monmouth could have two freshmen starters and several more in the playing group. There just don't seem to be enough experienced players in place for the Hawks to do much better than last season's record in the NEC.
REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: Picked for last by league coaches, and no disagreement here. Anything higher than that in the standings would be positive. But, there is a strong group of young players in place, and watching this year's team grow should still make for enjoyable viewing.