Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Women's Picks: Coaches, Scribe Differ on Middle

Commentary on the news, women's version ...

MAAC coaches, in the annual preseason women's poll picked ... surprise, surprise ... Marist as the unanimous choice to defend its league title.

That prediction, for the last decade, has been an exercise in simplicity and repetition. Put Marist at the top of the poll and, then, watch the Red Foxes easily fulfill that expectation. The only challenge is trying to figure the order of finish after that.

Like on the men's side, coaches pretty much duplicated my picks, made on this blog earlier, at the top and bottom.

We're in full agreement that Marist, Iona and Quinnipiac enter the season as the league's top three teams, in that order.

And, we agree that this won't be an easy year at Saint Peter's, even with the hiring of highly regarded coach Pat Coyle, and that the program is the preseason pick to finish last.

Beyond that, though, we've got some disagreements.

Coaches picked Siena for seventh and Niagara for eighth. I've got those two programs finishing ninth and 10th, respectively.

Siena not only lost its top player (Lily Grenci), but will also be without its next best front-court player, Kate Zarotney, whose career came to a premature end due to continued shoulder issues. It leaves the Saints as a very young team. That's not to say that they can't finish higher than ninth. It's just that it looks that way before we actually see how things fit into place on the court.

Niagara suffered severe and unexpected losses when all-league caliber players center Laren Gatto and point guard Kayla Stroman left the program with remaining eligibility. Solid swingperson Shy Britton also left the team during the offseason. Niagara could have been expected to contend for the top half of the standings had those three players remained in the program. Without them, it's hard to envision the Purple Eagles finishing higher than ninth or 10th.

One last disagreement. Coaches picked Manhattan to finish 10th. In a recent blog I picked the Jaspers as the team most likely to provide a positive surprise this season.

The Jaspers took their proverbial lumps last season, often relying on young players for significant minutes. That experience will start paying off this year for players like forwards sophomore Shayna Erickson and junior Ashley Stec. The team also has one of the league's top players in swingperson Monica Roder, and one of the conference's better point guards in Allison Skrec. And, there's a strong incoming group of freshmen.

It's all fertile ground for debate, which is what the preseason polls are meant to do.

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