Wednesday, February 26, 2014

One Scribe's Choices for Top MAAC Men's Honors

Listen up again, coaches. Here's who you should be picking for post-season league honors for men.

Again, first team all-stars only, along with the top individual awards. And, again, it's just about as cut and dried as this blogger has ever seen things.


Billy Baron, 6-2 senior guard, Canisius: He averages 24.8 points, 3rd best nationally, while shooting 46.7 percent from the field. And, he dishes out 5.1 assists and gets 5.1 rebounds per game. No league player in many years has put up those type of numbers.

George Beamon, 6-4 senior swingman, Manhattan: He averages 19.9 points despite being the defensive target of every opponent. He was asked, a couple of years ago, to become a better rebounder and, this season, averages 6.7 per outing. His perimeter shooting, a liability a few years back, has improved to the point where he's made 43 treys this season.

Antoine Mason, 6-3 junior guard, Niagara: He's the one who stayed as four teammates with eligibility transferred out of the program, and the Purple Eagles are glad he did. He averages 25.7 points per game, second-best nationally, despite drawing more defensive attention than anyone in the league.

Ike Azotam, 6-7 senior forward, Quinnipiac: The epitome of a "bruiser" in the most complimentary sense. Slightly undersized at 6-7, he uses his 240 pounds to great effect as an interior defender and as the conference's leading rebounder (10.7 per game). He also averages 17.0 points per game, sixth best in the league.

A.J. English, 6-4 sophomore guard, Iona: He showed last season, before a mid-season injury, that he was going to be good ... but, this good? He leads the high-scoring Gaels in scoring average (17.9) while also leading his team in assists (4.1, third-best in the MAAC) after being designated the team's point guard early in the season.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Billy Baron, Canisius. Statistically he is far and away the conference's best player. And, he passes the proverbial "eye test," too. It says here he's the MAAC's best perimeter player since the days La Salle was sending Doug Overton and Randy Woods to the NBA in the early 1990's. There isn't anything he can't do on the court, and he takes over games and does it all whenever the Golden Griffins need it.

ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Khallil Hart, 6-2 guard, Marist: A huge factor in Marist's turnaround from an 0-9 overall start this season. Freshmen traditionally struggle in the transition to Division I, but Hart is scoring a MAAC frosh-best 14.6 points per game, shooting 45.1 percent from the floor. He was with the Red Foxes last season, but an injury kept him off the court the entire season. Still, a close call over Siena's Marquis Wright, who leads the league in assists.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Rhamel Brown, 6-6 forward, Manhattan: We saw him block nine shots in a recent game against Siena. He's second nationally in blocks (3.93). And, by now, teams pass up shots in the post when he's lurking. Easy choice as repeat award-winner in this category.

SIXTH PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Maurice Barrow, 6-5 forward, Fairfield: Subjected his ego to come off the bench in 26 of his team's 30 games thus far. He provides an instant spark to the second unit, averaging 13.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. He also leads the Stags in steals.

COACH OF THE YEAR: Tom Moore, Quinnipiac: It's not easy to join a new, and slightly better league. The Bobcats came over from the Northeast Conference, meaning Moore and his staff had never scouted any of the MAAC teams previously. Plus, it had a roster of players recruited for the NEC. Somehow, though, Moore has gotten his team into second place in the MAAC standings (14-5). How? Bruising play, defense and rebounding. Quinnipiac is the top rebounding team in the country, with a positive margin of 12.7 per contest. Still, not an easy call over Iona's Tim Cluess and Siena's Jimmy Patsos.

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