Saturday, November 30, 2013

Preview: Rider Men Look To Be Solid Contender

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

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2012-13 RECORD: 12-6 in the MAAC, 19-15 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Guard Jonathon Thompson (13.1, points, 3.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists), guard Nurideen Lindsey (8.0, 2.5).

KEY NEWCOMER: 6-3 freshman guard Jimmy Taylor.

EARLY STARTERS: 6-5 senior guard Anthony Myles (12.4 points, 4.6 rebounds last season), 6-7 senior forward Daniel Stewart (10.6, 7.2), 6-2 sophomore guard Zedric Sadler (5.1, 2.8), 6-3 freshman guard Jimmy Taylor, 6-4 sophomore guard Khalil Alfred (1.7, 0.8).

NOTABLE: Off to a 2-3 start, but the losses all to tough opponents, two quality mid-majors Lehigh and UAlbany and high-major Purdue. One of the wins came earlier this week, a nice overtime victory over Rice in which Myles continued to establish himself as one of the better players in the MAAC with 27 points and 7 rebounds in 41 minutes of court time ... The loss of do-everything guard Thompson to graduation is a big one, although Myles is capably stepping into the go-to role on the perimeter ... The loss of highly-touted Lindsey, who never came close to matching expectations, wasn't nearly so great. He opted to leave Rider to pursue opportunities overseas ... Myles is currently sixth in the MAAC in scoring (17.8). He and senior forward Daniel Stewart, one of the hardest workers in the conference, provide a very good outside-inside combo. Both are second-team preseason all-MAAC selections ... While it's still early, amazingly 6-2 sophomore guard Zedric Sadler is the team's leading rebounder to date with 5.5 per contest. He's also averaging 12.0 points and 2.2 assists per contest and has developed into a nice third offensive option ... Rider, thus far, also getting the same long-range accuracy from 6-2 senior Tommy Pereira off the bench as it did a year ago when he made 40 of his 45 field goals from beyond the stripe. This year, he's 7-of-17 from long range ... Khalil Alfred has also getting into the starting lineup. The 6-4 sophomore guard is averaging 6.4, 2.2 thus far ... Rider has been going small early in games, but brings some beef off the bench in the form of 6-9, 235-pound junior Junior Fortunat (5.6, 3.0) and 6-7 sophomore Shawn Valentine (2.6, 2.4) ... The best addition is freshman point guard Jimmy Taylor, who coach Kevin Baggett immediately threw into the starting lineup with strong results. Taylor, a do-everything high school guard (24 points, 10 rebounds, 6.4 assists per game in Florida) is averaging 11.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists so far. He's also No. 2 in the MAAC in field-goal percentage (55.6), so he's taking good shots ... The Broncs also have one of the league's biggest players in 7-foot-0, 245-pound center Matt Lopez on the bench after he transferred in from Utah State and has to sit out this season. This is Lopez's third school (he started at La Salle), and this scribe's view of him from AAU ball several years ago left the impression that he aimed too high at his first two locations.

STRENGTHS: Outstanding veteran leadership and production from Myles and Stewart, the type almost required for any team at this level to be more than competitive. Sadler has really stepped up so far, and Pereira adds the long-range dimension. The key, though, will be whether Taylor can keep up his early season pace, but so far so good.

WEAKNESSES: A little small when Fortunat isn't on the court. Also, not many freshmen step in and have year-long success at the point. We'll see about Taylor.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: League coaches picked Rider to finish fourth in their preseason poll, and there won't be much debate about that here. It looks like Manhattan and Iona are the clear-cut top two. After that, Canisius, Rider, Fairfield and Quinnipiac should compete for third-through sixth.

USA Today Debate: Beilein Best Without NCAA Title

Every week "USA Today's" sorts section asks its network of college basketball writers to debate a topic related to the sport.

This week's debate: the best college men's coach without a championship ring.

And, a former MAAC sideline walker came up prominently.

That would be former Canisius coach John Beilein, now at Michigan.

Beilein coached at Canisius from 1992-93 through the 1996-97 season. He did good enough there to move on to coach at Richmond (1997-2002), West Virginia (2002-07) and has been at Michigan since the 2007-08 season.

He almost was disqualified from the debate this past April when he directed the Wolverines to the NCAA tournament's championship contest where his team lost to Louisville.

He is one of just two former MAAC men's head coaches to bring a team to the brink of an NCAA title. Paul Hewitt, formerly of Siena, also got to the title contest with Georgia Tech in 2004 before losing there.

In the "USA Today" debate, two of the five writers involved identified Beilein as the best college coach without a national title.

Here's a synopsis:

Nicole Auerbach of "USA Today," opts for Beilein. "He has quietly coached well at all levels -- and he's done it without much fanfare ... he's never been flashy about it, he's never tried to draw attention to himself ... considering the way he's ot the program on the upswing (fan ecitement, new facilities, highly touted recruits), it's hard to imagine that he won't get back to the Final Four sometime soon."

Paul Gotham of the "Pickin" website, also names Beilein. "...He has never backed away from a coaching challenge having had success at every step along the way ... He led Canisius to the 1996 MAAC title and a spot in the NCAA tournament ... the Griffs have not returned since ... Now in his 36th year as a head coach, he has had just four losing seasons.

Other choices ...

Randy McClure of "" checks in with Ohio State coach Thad Matta.

David Aldridge, via the "Duke Report," names West Virginia's Bob Huggins.

And, Scott Gleeson of "USA Today" picks Wisconsin's Bo Ryan.

We certainly have no argument with Beilein, arguably the best product from the MAAC. At least among those who moved on to other college jobs.

Beilein is the answer to another trivia situation. He is one of a very select group of college head coaches to never serve as an assistant at any level.

After his 1975 graduation from Wheeling College he became a head coach at Newfane High School in Western, N.Y. After three seasons there he became head coach at Erie Community College for four seasons, then moved on to be head coach at Nazareth College in Rochester for a season.

He moved from there to be the head coach at Division II Le Moyne in Syracuse for nine seasons before Canisius gave him his first Division I assignment in 1992.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Preview: Depleted (For Now) Marist Still The Favorite

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

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2012-13 RECORD: 18-0 in the MAAC, 26-7 overall.

KEY LOSSES: 6-2 forward Elizabeth Beynnon (12.0, 4.2), 6-1 forward Kristina Danella (9.1, 4.4).

KEY NEWCOMERS: 6-2 freshman forward Kat Fogarty, 5-6 freshman guard Brittani Lai.

EARLY STARTERS: 5-7 junior guard Natalie Gomez (1.8 points, 1.2 rebounds last season), 6-0 sophomore guard Sydney Coffey (7.3, 3.1), 6-0 senior forward Emma O'Connor (9.1, 4.7), 5-10 senior guard Leanne Ockenden (8.7, 3.9), 6-1 sophomore guard Madeline Blais (2.8).

NOTABLE: Can we discount the 2-4 start? Heck, Marist was 5-6 in non-league games last year and, then, ran the table in conference play. This year's losses have been to top-10 ranked Kentucky, to high-major Ohio State, to No. 9 mid-major UAlbany and No. 11 mid-major Princeton ... One of the two victories came against No. 8 mid-major Bowling Green. The other came earlier this week, an impressive 87-82 OT victory over Old Dominion. In that one, Lai made a jumper with a second remaining in regulation to force the extra session. For the game, O'Connor had a career night with 28 points (8-of-9 shooting) and 11 rebounds, while Ockenden had 24 points ... The team has played so far without returning 5-10 senior point guard Casey Dulin (foot injury), a preseason first-team all-MAAC selection. She's expected back before January ... the team is also playing without touted freshman 5-9 guard Sydney Rosales (shoulder issues), who might also be back in January; and, "bigs" 6-2 Tori Jarosz and 6-5 Delaney Hollenbeck. Jarosz played one game last year before an injury knocked her out for the remainder. And, then, she tore an Achilles tendon this spring. She might be back in February. Hollenbeck also missed almost all of 2012-13 with a hard-to-diagnose leg issue that still forcing her to the sideline. There's no timetable on her availability ... It all leaves the Red Foxes as inexperienced as they've been in recent memory, with two sophomores and two freshmen in the group of seven that's holding the proverbial fort until the injuries heal. Outside of the top seven, no other player averages more than 6.3 minutes per game ... and, somehow, Marist remains not only competitive enough but respected enough to be ranked 19th in the latest mid-major Top 25 poll that considers teams from 23 conferences ... It's a new year, and that means new players are stepping up ... Ockenden, mostly a defensive stopper in the past, has more than doubled her scoring average from a year ago to 17.8 this season. And, so far, she's on pace for the very-elusive triple in shooting percentages, over 50% from the floor (54.4 so far), 40% from the three-point line (40.4) and 90% on foul shots (93.3) ... O'Connor, at 6-0, is basically the only individual resembling an inside player. She's averaging 14.7/6.3 so far ... Blais, who only played 7.8 minutes per game last season, is the third-leading scorer this year, getting 13.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per outing ... Right now, Gomez is the fifth starter, getting most of the minutes at the point, but she has only made one of 18 shot attempts thus far ... the two top reserves are freshmen, 6-2 Kat Fogarty (5.8, 1.5) and 5-6 point guard Brittani Lai (5.0, 2.3 assists), who appears to be getting more playing time of late... Very few, if any, teams could survive the injury loss of its only two true post players, its first-team all-league point guard and a promising freshmen and even expect to contend. But, even with just the seven healthy bodies Marist is using right now, it's still a force at this level, thanks to the philosophies of veteran coach Brian Giorgis. And, just wait until some of the injured players return.

STRENGTHS: Start with Giorgis, one of the best mid-major level coaches in the country and in the conversation, at least, at any level nationally. Ockenden and O'Connor have both stepped up as seniors, and Blais and Coffey have made significant strides off their freshman years. There's talent here, but there's also an expectation to succeed built from 10 consecutive league championships and trips to the NCAA tournament in nine of those seasons.

WEAKNESSES: Without Dulin, the point guard spot is an issue. Gomez is almost a non-scorer, and Lai is a freshman, albeit one with considerable potential. There's a lack of height and depth right now. And, what depth is available is comprised of two freshmen. For now, there's only a seven-player rotation.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: OK, you pick against Marist. I won't. They've been so good for so long, your blogger isn't going to predict anything other than another league title until it actually happens. This year, though, isn't likely to be a perfect season in conference play. The league is vastly improved since a year ago, particularly at the top. Not only does Iona have all five starters back, and Fairfield four of its top five returning, but a very good Quinnipiac program has joined the MAAC. This might be Marist's sternest test in adding another title to its resume. But Dulin's eventual return will solve some problems. And, if either Jarosz and/or Hollenbeck return ... it makes the Red Foxes that much better.

Preview: Marist Men Blending Old With New Coach

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

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2012-13 RECORD: 6-12 in the MAAC, 10-21 overall.

KEY LOSS: Guard Devin Price (13.7 points, 2.4 rebounds per game).

KEY NEWCOMER: 6-2 freshman guard Khalid Hart.

EARLY STARTERS: 6-5 senior forward Jay Bowie (9.4, 4.9 last season), 6-10 senior center Adam Kemp (10.4, 8.6), 6-5 junior swingman Chavaughn Lewis (16.7, 5.7), 5-8 junior guard Isaiah Morton (7.4, 3.9), 6-2 freshman guard Khalil Hart.

NOTABLE: Off to an 0-7 start, the losses by an average of 19.3 points per game, although the last two losses (to Loyola Marymount by 6 and to Morgan State by 7 in OT) have been close. And, there have been some tough opponents, including St. Joe's, Providence and Maryland ... First year for new coach Jeff Bower, who spent the last 15 years in various NBA capacities. Bower is a former Marist assistant (under Dave Magarity), but the roster, right now, is almost entirely composed of players recruited by previous coach Chuck Martin. None of Bower's recruits are averaging more than eight minutes per game so far ... It's a veteran team (two seniors, four juniors in the playing group) that should be competitive when the competitive level gets a little easier ... Still, there are always adjustments to a new coach/playing style ... Lewis is one of the league's best players and a second-team preseason all-MAAC selection. Kemp, one of the best real "bigs" in the league, is also a preseason second-team selection ... Kemp and Bowie are the two seniors, and Bowie is a real "glue" player who does everything. He shot 52.7 percent from the field, 45.8 percent from three-point land and 83.3 percent from the foul line last season. But, he only played 18 games a year ago due to some mid-season injuries, and Marist wasn't as good without him. He's averaging 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds so far ... Bowie and Lewis (15.3 ppg.) are the only double-figure scorers to date ... There's a battle for playingn time at the guard spot between returning junior Morton, and highly touted Hart, a redshirt freshman who blew out a knee during preseason last year. For now, Hart seems to be getting more minutes, and is averaging 9.3 ppg., third best ... 6-10 senior forward Peter Prinsloo, lightly used in the past, is now firmly in the playing rotation and is averaging 3.8/4.7 ... sophomore swingman Manny Thomas (1.7/0.7) and sophomore forward Phillip Lawrence (1.6, 1.0) are the other key reserves ... Things don't get easier soon, though, for Marist ... their first upcoming MAAC games (Dec. 4, 6) are against Iona and Manhattan, the perceived top two teams in the conference.

STRENGTHS: Two of the better individual players in the league in Kemp and Lewis, another key veteran in Bowie. Bower's resume should help attract strong players, but that won't help much this season. With only one player returning, team chemistry should be solid even with a first-year coach.

WEAKNESSES: The point guard spot ... it's either Morton, who has had a tenuous grasp on the role in the past, mostly because of his disinclination to shoot, or freshman Hart. The team also lacks height, other than Kemp. There's no true power forward on the roster, which is why Prinsloo's minutes have increased this year.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: League coaches picked Marist for fifth in their preseason poll. That might be a little high, and that thought was there even before the 0-7 start. While fifth isn't out the realm of possibility, sixth or seventh is probably more like it.

Preview: Fairfield Women Poised For Top 4 Finish

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

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2012-13 RECORD: 11-7 in the MAAC, 18-14 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Guard Katlyn Linney (8.1 points, 2.6 rebounds), forward Brittany MacFarlane (3.6, 4.4).

KEY NEWCOMERS: 6-1 freshman forward Kristine Miller, 6-2 freshman forward Samantha Cooper.

EARLY STARTERS: 6-2 senior forward Katie Cizynski (11.9 points, 8.4 rebounds last season), 6-1 senior forward Brittany Obi-Tabot (10.5, 5.8), 5-9 junior guard Felicia DaCruz (3.2, 2.2, 3.1 assists), 6-0 sophomore guard Kristin Schatzlein (4.4, 2.2), 5-10 senior guard Alexys Vazquez (8.3, 2.9, 39.8 percent on three-pointers).

NOTABLE: Off to a 3-2 non-conference start with the losses both to strong mid-major opponents St. Bonaventure and Lehigh ... Four starters return from an above-average team last season, and the lone loss was Linney, the team's fourth-leading scorer a year ago ... The team also lost forward Brittany MacFarlane, the MAAC's 6th Person of the Year in 2011-12 who was severely limited by injuries last season ...Back are all the pieces required to be even better than a year ago ... Cizynski is a strong inside player, yet can also step out and has made three treys thus far. She's averaging 14.0 points and 6.8 rebounds thus far, and was a first team preseason all-MAAC pick ... Obi-Tabot, a second-team preseason pick, is a very athletic inside player, and had a break-out season last year. She's at 10.0, 5.4 so far this year ... Vazquez is arguably the league's top long-range sniper. She's 15-of-44 from long range through five games and averages 8.3/2.9 ... the fifth starter is sophomore Schatzlein, who flashed signs a year ago and will likely improve on her early 4.4, 2.2 numbers ... One other experienced returnee is guard Christelle Akon-Akech, who shared the point guard spot with DaCruz last season. She's averaging 2.2/2.6 thus far this year ... Two very good freshmen "bigs" have come aboard. Kristine Miller, a 6-1 forward, is averaging 5.6 points and 5.0 rebounds, third-best so far among the stags ... 6-2 freshman Samantha Cooper is the other front-court first-year player in the playing group and she averages 2.3 points and 1.7 rebounds ... There's also a high-level transfer in the program, 5-9 junior guard Margeaux Dupuy who saw limited action at Marquette over two seasons. The native of Texas has to sit out this season per transfer rules ...

STRENGTHS: Cizynski and Obi-Tabot have developed into two of the better front-court players in the league. The team has plenty of perimeter shooting ability. Schatzlein (10 treys thus far) joins Vazquez to form one of the better one-two long-range shooters in the MAAC. DaCruz has become a superb distributor and averages 7.0 assists per contest thus far. Plus, there's the requisite experience. Cizynski, Obi-Tabot and Vazquez are seniors.

WEAKNESSES: Have to be a little picky to find some. But, the front-court reserves are first-year/inexperienced players. And, DaCruz, while a good distributor, has not improved as a shooter (5-of-19 thus far), allowing defenses to play off her and often use five defenders to guard Fairfield's other four players. Her back-up, Akon-Akech also has limited range.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: League coaches predicted the Stags to finish fourth in the conference this season, and they'll get no argument here. Marist, Iona, Quinnipiac, on paper, appear to be the top three teams in the conference. But, Fairfield is strong enough to crack the top three if things go right. And, it would be hard to envision a finish below fourth.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

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

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

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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.

A Few Of The Things We Can Be Thankful For

Another Thanksgiving is upon us, but the holiday is more than about a glutinous feast which is often extended in the form of luscious sandwiches.

But, the day is meant to be more than just eating turkey. Its roots trace back to the Pilgrims, more than 400 years ago, and is meant, like then, to give thanks and a blessing for their feast and harvest.

As fans of the MAAC, we have plenty to give thanks for. Over the past 31 years the conference has provided uncounted basketball occurrences that have excited and thrilled.

I'm certainly thankful to have been around the league, in some form or other, for its entirety. I'm thankful to be able to cover a league that doesn't have all the issues that often exist at the high-major level, a league that does things the right way; a league that truly emphasis the first part of the student-athlete equation.

I'm thankful for having this forum to share my thoughts, and for having a relatively large following. As always, thanks for reading.

I'm also thankful for ...

- Seeing a couple dozen games of the MAAC's first scoring champion, a pint-sized Army guard named Kevin Houston, who averaged 32.9 points per game in the 1985-86 season.

- Seeing, from afar, former MAAC coaches Paul Hewitt (Siena) and John Beilein (Canisius) take teams to the NCAA tournament's championship game (Hewitt with Georgia Tech, Beilein with Michigan).

- Seeing the league lose members and gain other quality programs, the latest being Quinnipiac and Monmouth. And, early results indicate both the men's and women's teams at those schools will immediately be competitive once league play begins.

- An annual western New York swing. Nothing like those chicken wings ... and, I favor the Anchor Bar over Duff's, but look forward to many more samplings of both.

- Being around to witness a plethora of mid-major greatness, watching among others Lionel Simmons, Keydren Clark, Luis Flores, Marc Brown and Doremus Bennerman, Jason Thompson, and Steve Burtt Sr. on the men's side and Rachel Fitz, Patty Stoffey and Melanie Halker on the women's side.

- A seeing that a very good friend, Gina Castelli, is back in the profession as the head coach at Division II Le Moyne and is off to a 4-1 start there, revitalizing a program that had six wins total last season.

- Witnessing at least five or six games annually during the Brian Giorgis era with the Marist women's program, having access to a couple of his practices and getting a bit of a glimpse of what goes into that team's unparalleled success in our conference.

- That the league is able to attract former major-league connections ... Jeff Bower at Marist, who was in the NBA in a variety of capacities for 15 years, and Pat Coyle at Saint Peter's, who was a WNBA head coach for five seasons ... back to our sidelines.

- For the lengthy NBA career of former Siena assistant Steve Clifford who became the first former MAAC men's coach to become an NBA head coach. Clifford is in his first season as the coach with the Charlotte Bobcats.

- For having a first-class facility in Albany in the form of the Times Union Center which has proven to be the best place to hold the conference's post-season tournament.

- For being able to have a professional relationship with so many quality individuals who serve as league coaches, among those (but, not all-inclusive) Mike Deane, Paul Hewitt, Jimmy Patsos, Beilein, Joe Mihalich, Tommy Dempsey, John Dunne, Dave Magarity, Jeff Ruland, Mitch Buonaguro, Sydney Johnson and Barry Rohrssen ... and not because of any particular level of success, but because they all understood the role of the media and were/are easy to deal with.

- The same for women's coaches ... Gina Castelli, Pat Coyle, Terry Zeh, Tony Bozzella, Joe Frager, Brian Giorgis, Joe Logan, Bill Agronin and Mike Granelli.

- For witnessing the rebounding success of O.D. Anosike, the league's first two-time national rebounding leader.

- For watching the excitement of up-tempo offensive attacks, particularly those of Paul Hewitt at Siena and Tim Cluess of Iona, whose teams' point-per-game averages have been among the national leaders.

The list could go on and on, but you get the idea. The MAAC is a darned good place for mid-major level basketball and has created 31 years and counting of terrific memories.

In truth, though, what we see from sports is an entertain and a diversion.

More important are the things we have in real life, the same things the Pilgrims gave thanks for nearly 400 years ago.

As we approach this particular holiday, let's all be thankful for family members and good friends, those in our lives that we truly love, both those with us and those no longer.

Oh ... and, let's also be thankful for a good ol' turkey dinner with all the fixings.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Green Bay's Run Even Longer Than Marist Women's

When the Siena women's basketball team participated in this past weekend's T.D. Bank Classic Tournament in Vermont, we got a close-up look at Marist of the mid-west.

That would be Green Bay, which is currently ranked the No. 2 mid-major level women's program (23 conferences are considered) nationally.

And, considering what Green Bay has accomplished over the years it's probably more proper to call Marist the "Green Bay of the east."

We thought Marist's string of 10 consecutive league championships was impressive. And, it certainly is.

The Phoenix (one of just two Division I programs with that nickname, the other is Elon) have won the Horizon League championship for the past 15 years ... heck, that streak is 50 percent longer than Marist's.

Over the past 15 years the program has been to the NCAA tournament 12 times and to the WNIT three times. It has won four NCAA tournament games in the past four seasons, including a run to the Sweet 16 round in the 2010-11 season when, at one point, it was ranked as high as No. 9 nationally.

The primary architect is head coach Kevin Borseth, but he hasn't been there for the duration and therein lies a very nice story.

After nine seasons and a 216-62 record (including an amazing 125-13 in league lay), Borseth moved on to coach at Michigan.

His successor, Matt Bollant, had a 148-19 overall record and an 85-5 mark in league play.

When Bollant moved on to take over at Illinois, Green Bay's athletic director called Borseth, at Michigan, to inquire about hiring one of his assistants.

The athletic director, Ken Bothof, had also been hearing that Borseth wasn't entirely happy at the college game's top level and asked if Borseth might have any interest in returning.

Borseth's response was that any continuation of that conversation might be more proper if Bothof first called Borseth's boss at Michigan.

Bothof did, got permission to talk to his former coach and Borseth was more than happy to return, citing the demands on his time at the high-major level was affecting the quality of his family life (he has five children).

It wasn't unexpected though. Borseth, in stories about his decision, said he noticed Michigan's golf course when being courted by that program. When he asked about playing there, he was told that his new job would ensure he wouldn't have the time to ever get on the course.

Borseth came back last year to direct Green Bay to yet another perfect league season (16-0), a 29-3 overall record and another NCAA berth.

This year Green Bay, with just a single starter returning from a year ago, is off to a 4-1 start (the only loss at St. Bonaventure, very good Atlantic 10 Conference team). The Phoenix captured Vermont's tournament with relative ease, beating Siena by 11 in the opening round and, then, earning a 17-point margin of victory over the host team in the championship contest.

It was enlightening to discover that there was a mid-major level program out there that has had a string of successes even longer than Marist's.

And, rewarding to meet a head coach in Kevin Borseth who recognized that the grass isn't necessarily greener at the high major level of college basketball, that there's nothing wrong with life at the mid-major level.

Preview: Quinnipiac Women Among League's Best

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams this season.

Up now ...


2012-13: 18-0 in the Northeast Conference, 30-3 overall.

KEY LOSS: Felicia Barron (13.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists).

NEW NEWCOMER: 6-1 freshman forward Morgan Manz.

EARLY STARTERS: 6-0 senior forward Brittany McQuain (11.2 points, 8.3 rebounds per game last season) 5-5 senior guard Ellen Cannon (4.1, 1.4), 5-6 junior guard Jasmine Martin (12.9, 3.4), 6-1 junior forward Samantha Guastella (8.1, 5.5), 5-9 junior guard Gillian Abshire (5.3, 1.7, .0 assists).

NOTABLE: Look out MAAC, here comes Quinnipiac. The Bobcats move up to join the MAAC after dominating the NEC a year ago in Marist-like fashion, finishing 18-0 in league play and 30-3 overall. Included was a trip to the NCAA's where they lost a first-round game against Maryland. A 2-3 record so far? Like her Marist counterpart (Brian Giorgis), Quinnipiac coach Tricia Fabbri embraces difficult non-conference schedules. The three losses have come against No. 3-ranked Louisville, high-major St. John's and three-time defending Ohio Valley Conference champion Tennessee-Martin. The wins came against a decent North Carolina A&T squad and against a very good American University team ... Barron, a do-everything guard, was the team's best player last season, but Quinnipiac has plenty returning to absorb the only loss of significance. The other four starters are back and, for the most part, have stepped up their respective production .... Abshire is not only averaging 12.0 points per game this season (just 5.3 last year), but is dishing out 6.8 assists per contest, including a school-record 14 vs. American ... Martin, is up to 16.0 ppg. after 12.9 last season. Guastella is up to 11.8 ppg. after 7.1 last season ... And, if all that scoring isn't enough, McQuain, slightly down from 11.2 last year to 10.8 this season, is already over 1,000 career points and ranks eighth on the school's career list. She's averaging 9.0 rebounds per contest this season ... Everything seems to be in place for another supertlative season, although an unbeaten record in the MAAC isn't likely. Still, not only are four starters back but the team probably has more depth than any MAAC team. That includes 6-2 senior forward Camryn Warner (7.4, 6.0), 6-0 junior Nikoine Ostergaard (7.0, 2.8), and sophomore guards Adily Martucci (3.2, 1.8) and Maria Napolitano (3.4, 1.6) ... Don't expect the Bobcats to enter league play with a glowing record, though. They still have toughies Missouri State, St. Joseph's, Hartford and UAlbany among upcoming non-conference opponents.

STRENGTHS: Where to begin? The team has sufficient height with two 6-footers in the starting lineup, and two more coming off the bench. The guard spot has two very good ones in Martin and Abshire, and three other effective backcourt players coming off the bench. There's certainly depth with nine players averaging at least 10 minutes per contest. At least four of the starters, right now, look to be among the top 15 or 20 players in the MAAC with a couple more not far behind.

WEAKNESSES: Try to find some. The team's top seven players are seniors and juniors, so there's more than enough experience. There's plenty of rebounding and a plethora of scorers. There's a terrific point guard. The team will be battle-toughened come MAAC play. The only weakness that's even remotely evident is an unfamiliarity with other league teams.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: League coaches predicted Quinnipiac to finish third in the conference this season, behind Marist and an Iona team with every starter returning. But Quinnipiac is right there with the top two. It would not surprise this observer in the least were the Bobcats to strongly compete for the regular-season title all year and, maybe, become the first non-Marist team in 11 years to win the league championship. And, there's no end in sight. Three starters and a top reserve are juniors, so the team will be strong again a year from now.

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.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Preview: Niagara Women Face Experience Issues

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams for this season.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 9-9 in the MAAC, 15-16 overall.

KEY RETURNEES: Val McQuade (5.5 points, 3.6 rebounds last season), Meghan McGuinness (9.6, 4.3, 57 three-pointers), Sylvia Maxwell (2.3, 2.4), Chanel Johnson (5.2, 3.2).

EARLY SEASON STARTERS: 6-2 freshman center Victoria Rampado, 5-10 junior guard Meghan McGuinness, 5-9 junior guard Kelly VanLeeuwen, 6-0 junior forward Val McQuade, 5-10 sophomore guard Taylor McKay.

KEY NEWCOMERS: Rampado, 6-4 junior center Danisha Watson.

NOTABLE: Two years ago Niagara finished 9-9 in MAAC play and extended Marist to overtime in the league's post-season tournament. Better things were expected last season, but the Purple Eagles were once again 9-9 in conference play ... Better things are not expected this year, not after the unexpected early losses of 6-2 center Lauren Gatto, 5-10 forward Shy Britton and point guard Kayla Stroman, all of whom left for a variety of personal reasons with remaining eligibility. All three would have been likely starters this season ... It leaves the Purple Eagles to rely on younger players and returning role players ... Niagara is off to an 0-3 start with the losses by 20, 32 and 17 points ... Rampado, a very good 6-2 front-courter, looks like the best freshman and she's averaging 10.7 points and 2.3 rebounds through three games ... newcomer Danisha Watson, a 6-4 junior center and a transfer from Monroe Community College, started the first two games (5.5, 5.0), but did not play in the third game ... Chanel Johnson, an athletic 5-10 senior forward, missed the first two games, but came back for game No. 3 and had three points and six rebounds ... Niagara needs her for more than statistics; she's the only senior on the roster ... McGuinness, primarily a long-range sniper in the past, has expanded her scoring. She's averaging 12.7 ppg. this season, but is still a specialist. Ten of her 12 field goals are from beyond the stripe ... Van Leeuwen is the assist leader so far with 10 through three games ... Sylvia Maxwell, a sophomore guard who played limited minutes a year ago, has stepped up and is averaging 8.0 points thus far ... McQuaide, a 6-0 junior guard, is 5-for-11 from three-point range this year and averages 10.7 ppg. ... Taylor McKay, another sophomore guard, is averaging 8.0 pp as well ... There's plenty of depth in the backcourt and at the small forward spot. Unfortunately, much of it is either specialized or young and inexperienced.

STRENGTHS: Long-range shooting, particularly with McGuinness, who is one of the best in the MAAC. Van Leeuwen and McQuaide are also good from long range. The backcourt legitimately goes five deep. The frontcourt, though, is another story. Rampado is a good one, albeit young. Watson looked effective in the team's first two games.

WEAKNESSES: Losing the trio of expected-to-return starters set the program back at least a season. Stroman would have been the starting point guard and Gatto might have been the best "big" in the league ... Now, Niagara's post players have little or no past experience at this level. Van Leeuwen looks to be the point guard but isn't the distributor Stroman had been.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Niagara was picked to finish eighth in the 11-team league by coaches in their preseason poll, and that is likely to be the ceiling this year, and it wouldn't be a surprise if the Purple Eagles even finished a spot, or two, lower. But, there are better days coming. With only one senior this year's team will get plenty of experience and be significantly better a year from now.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Preview: Niagara Men Could Exceed Expectations

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams for the current season.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 13-5 in the MAAC, 19-14 overall.

KEY LOSSES: 6-2 guard Juan'ya Green (16.5, 4.0 rebounds, 4.9 assists last season), 6-6 swingman Ameen Tanksley (11.3, 6.0), 6-8 forward T.J. Cline (7.9, 4.6), 6-8 center Devon White (5.8, 5.1).

STARTERS SO FAR: 6-3 junior guard Antoine Mason (18.7, 4.1 last season), 5-11 senior guard Marvin Jordan (8.2, 1.8), 6-5 sophomore guard Tahjere McCall (4.0, 3.3).

KEY NEWCOMERS: 6-5 freshman forward Ramone Snowden, 6-8 senior forward Marcus Ware, 6-2 sophomore guard Cameron Fowler, 6-5 sophomore swingman Rayvon Harris, 6-2 freshman guard Wesley Myers.

NOTABLE: Not many programs have experienced the losses over the course of a year that Niagara has endured. Start with 15-year head coach Joe Mihalich, moving on to Hofstra, followed by first-team all-MAAC selection Green and leading rebounder Tanksley following him there. Green might have been the best player in the conference as a sophomore last season ... Also defecting was sixth-man and top front-court reserve T.J. Cline, who transferred to Richmond ... New coach Chris Casey has done a nice job of rebuilding the roster, bringing in key players Snowden (11.0, 11.5 through two games), Ware, a grad-school transfer from Monmouth who is immediately eligible (10.5, 5.5), guard Cameron Fowler, a walk-on at Iowa State last season, freshman Myers (4.0, 2.0) and incumbent Purple Eagle Ravon Harris, who was on the roster as a redshirt transfer from Rhode Island last season. Harris is averaging 5.0/4.5 thus far ... Casey has not abandoned the up-tempo style preferred by Mihalich, and is averaging 82.0 points through two games, a loss to Seton Hall and a victory over western New York rival Buffalo ... Mason, a big scorer in what was a more-balanced lineup last season, is the clear go-to point producer this year. He's averaging 29.5 points through two games and will almost assuredly challenge for the national scoring title this year ... McCall started at the point as a freshman last season, and is coming off the bench now but getting equal minutes with Fowler ... Jordan, mostly a spark-plug reserve in the backcourt under Mihalich, has started the first two games ... Snowden has been an aggressive basket-attacker and has gone to the foul line 18 times in his first two contests ... Ware is a big-bodied addition up front, much nbeeded considering the loss of last season's top three rebounders ... Harris, an athletic swingman, has also been helping out on the boards and Myers has been getting key minutes off the bench in the backcourt ... Things might be a little rough in the foreseeable future as the Purple Eagles are about to embark on a six-game stretch of games away from home.

STRENGTHS: Mason already showed he was capable of big scoring nights last year, and has just taken that to another level with 34- and 25-point games thus far this season. Snowden and Ware have helped fill some major gaps in post play. Despite all the defections, there's good experience around with Mason, Jordan and McCall.

WEAKNESSES: The team needs to find a consistent second option on nights that Mason doesn't explode. A year ago, it had Green. So far, Snowden is the second scoring option, averaging 11.0 ppg., and he's only a freshman. And, the 6-8 Ware has been the only significant contributor taller than 6-5 thus far. The team needs to find another "big" to help out.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: The Purple Eagles were picked, by league coaches, to finish eighth in the 11-team league, but this blogger thinks they can be better than that. The backcourt is more than adequately staffed with veterans and newcomers. Snowden has been a revelation and Ware provides at least one strong post presence. We'd expect Niagara to finish a little higher than eighth, maybe as high as fifth.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Preview: Saint Peter's Women Begin Turn-Around

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams for the 2013-14 season.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 2-16 in the MAAC, 2-28 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Forward Kristal Edwards (13.2 points, 5.0 rebounds), forward Jesika Holmes (6.9, 7.1).

LIKELY STARTERS: 6-1 senior forward Kaydine Bent (8.1, 7.1), 6-2 sophomore center Neechelle Ingram (0.1, 0.8), 5-3 senior guard Aziza May (11.5, 3.3, 3.7 assists), 5-4 freshman guard Marcia Senatus, 5-5 junior guard Antonia Smith (5.4, 2.1).

KEY NEWCOMERS: Senatus, 6-2 freshman forward Kaycee DeVoogd.

NOTABLE: It's a new beginning for the Peacocks, starting with coach Pat Coyle, a MAAC veteran who coached previously at former league member Loyola and twice took that program to the NCAA tournament. After that she coached several seasons in the WNBA (head coach of the New York Liberty) and, most recently, had been the associate head coach at the University of Pittsburgh ... Coyle has much work to do to restore the once-strong program, but is off to a good start. Her first recruiting class includes Senatus, a highly touted guard, and 6-2 forward Kaycee DeVoogd ... Coyle has also brought in transfers Imani Martinez, a 6-2 forward who was a lightly used player as a freshman at East Tennessee State (four games) last season, and dynamic guard Rebecca Sparks from St. Francis. Last season Sparks had a 27-point game and averaged 13.2 points in the last five games she played as a freshman ... Sparks and Martinez both are sitting out as transfers this season, but the real turnaround for the program is likely to start next season when both become eligible and a host of other young players return with a year's experience ... This season's only senior contributors are 6-1 Kaydine Bent, the team's top rebounder a year ago, and Aziza May, the top returning scorer. Sparks will be a more-than-adequate replacement for May a year from now, while Martinez will help soften the loss of Bent ... The Peacocks opened with a 64-37 loss to Hampton, a tough opener against an opponent that went 28-6 last season and advanced to the NCAA tournament. The team was led, in that game by nine points from Senatus ... 6-1 sophomore center Hala Mostafa came off the bench to score eight points. Sh sat out last season with an injury after averaging 2.0 points and 2.1 rebounds as a freshman ... the team's roster also includes sophomore guard Bridget Whitfield, who was a perfect 8-for-8 on three-pointers in a late-season game against Siena last season, but did little else (53 other points the entire season) before or after.

STRENGTHS: Bent is a strong inside player, May is an exciting point guard who can also shoot from long range. Whitfield is an effective long-range sniper. Senatus was highly regarded by Coyle, and has already started living up to her early billing. The team should legitimately be able to go eight or nine deep most nights.

WEAKNESSES: Coyle's team will struggle on the boards again this year (outrebounded, 44-28, by Hampton) and will until a year from now when new players come in and current ones get a little stronger. There's also considerable inexperience. Only Bent and May have played extensive minutes in the past.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: League coaches, in their preseason poll, predict the Peacocks to finish last in the 11-team league, and that's probably the final result ... But, better days are ahead. Coyle's resume alone will attract better recruits, and she couples that with being an outstanding coach Her team will show improvement as the year goes on. And, things will really start getting better next year when the two transfers become eligible, when the young players improve and with other quality players are recruited.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Top Mid-Majors Meet As Albany Beats Depleted Marist

Earlier this week, previewing Marist's visit to New York's state capitol to play at UAlbany, I penned a very complimentary column for The Troy Record about Red Foxes' coach Brian Giorgis.

In case you missed it, here it is:

Giorgis didn't miss it. And, after his team's 69-59 loss to a very good Albany team, he joked about it.

"I knew, as soon as I saw that column, that you put a jinx on us," said the Marist coach, a smile on his face.

It's one of the few things Giorgis has to smile about these days.

And, note to Giorgis: it wasn't my fault!

His team is off to an 0-2 start, but that's no real surprise. They lost to nationally No. 6 ranked Kentucky in the season opener and, then, to the Great Danes on Wednesday. Albany entered that contest rated the No. 17 team in's poll of mid-major programs (from 24 conferences), probably several spots lower than deserved.

Marist had come in at No. 3 in the poll, surely higher than deserved considering the team's current state.

When Marist came to Albany this week it had better players on the bench than on the court in many instances.

Its two true "bigs," players who, if healthy, are capable of elevating the program even beyond its normal success, were both out.

Tori Jarosz, the 6-foot-3 transfer from Vanderbilt, is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon, suffered this past spring, and Giorgis said she won't be back until much later this season, maybe late January or early February.

Delaney Hollenbeck, a 6-5 center, looks like she'll also miss most of the season with continued leg issues that have been difficult to diagnose and more difficult to cure.

They sat alongside starting point guard Casey Dulin (a broken foot), a preseason first-team all-MAAC selection; and highly touted freshman guard Sydnie Rosales (recent shoulder surgery).

Dulin is out for at least several more weeks, while Rosales won't be back, according to Giorgis, until some time in January.

It left Marist to start senior forward Emma O'Connor in the post, alongside four perimeter players. And O'Connor plays more like a guard than a foward.

That lineup's only frontcourt help came from 6-2 freshman Kat Fogarty, who did get four points in 13 minutes, but only grabbed one rebound and looked like a still-developing first-year player.

Albany has a proficient front-line that includes 6-foot-9 junior center Megan Craig and 6-1 sophomore forward Shereesha Richards.

Both were key reserves a year ago when the Great Danes went unbeaten through regular-season America East play and, then, advanced to the NCAA tournament. Both were first-team preseason picks in their conference this year.

Richards, so far, is looking like she'll become one of the best players ever to perform for Albany. She had 28 points and 15 rebounds against Marist on Wednesday.

The contest was one of the best matchups of strong mid-major programs the Albany area has seen in many years, one that doesn't always happen.

But when Albany had a scheduled game fall through late this summer, and Giorgis still had one more game to fill on his team's schedule, the teams agreed to a two-year home-and-home series. Albany will play the Red Foxes in Poughkeepsie next season

Much was made, by the Albany area media, of the somewhat upstart Albany squad knocking off perennial mid-major power Marist.

It would have been far more interesting, though, to see what might have happened had Marist been even a little closer to full strength.

"Right now we're very small and not very physical," admitted Giorgis, afterwards. "And, that's not a good combination."

It was though, a big victory for Albany, one that will boost the program's standings not only in the mid-major rankings but come tournament time, should the Danes get there, when seeding positions for the NCAA event are determined.

By then, few will remember that Albany beat a depleted team. The only thing tournament committee members will see is a big "W" in the game against Marist.

Much to Marist's credit, that carries great significance.

Giorgis, his sense of humor still intact afterwards, said he's already looking forward to next year's meeting.

"It will be nice because that's a home game for us next season," he said, pointing out that he hasn't had much luck bringing strong opponents, except ones like highly ranked Kentucky, to Poughkeepsie for games.

Indeed, his team's next home game is more than a month away, a Nov. 18 contest against Northeastern.

Before then there are on-the-road games against four other teams ranked 21st or better in the mid-major poll, as well as three other contests including one against high-major foe Ohio State.

For those counting, Marist is on an eight-game road trip before seeing the friendly confines of its on-campus McCann Arena again.

For sure, there's no place like home. So, it's no wonder that when Giorgis is asked about playing Albany again next season the first thought he has is that it's a home game for his team.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Preview: Saint Peter's Men Need to Mesh Talent

Here's another in the series previewing teams for the 2013-14 season.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 3-15 in the MAAC, 9-21 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Forward Darius Conley (8.4 points, 4.6 rebounds per game), guard Blaise Ffrench (7.2 points, 4.5 assists), swingman Yvon Raymond (10.4, 5.1, 2.5 assists).

LIKELY STARTERS: 6-2 junior guard Desi Washington (14.6 ppg. last season), 6-7 junior forward Marvin Dominiue, a transfer from Fordham, 6-7 freshman forward Quadir Walton, 6-0 freshman guard Trevis Wyche, 6-4 senior guard Chris Burke (5.5, 4.2).

KEY NEWCOMERS: Dominique, Wyche, Walton.6-6 junior forward Kris Rolle, junior college transfer.

NOTEABLE: The Peacocks lost three key pieces since last season, but have more than adequately reloaded, even though they have lost their first two games. One of those was to three-time defending NEC champion LIU-Brooklyn, the other to Hampton, picked to finish fourth in the MEAC ... Dominiue had a monster 31-14 game in the opener and, then, 12-7 vs. Hampton. He is a solid power forward, a transfer from Fordham, and coach John Dunne claims he'll be one of the top four or five forwards in the MAAC this season ... Walton, another solid 6-7 post player, had 16-11 vs. Hampton ... Burke is the only senior in the playing group, and he had a 13-11 game vs. Hampton ... Washington is the leading scorer from a year ago, and had games of 14 and 9 so far this season ... Wyche steps into the difficult role of starting at point guard as a freshman, but he had a seven-assist game so far ... Jamal Fields, a transfer guard from Fairfield, is the first player off the bench and is averaging 7.5 ppg. thus far ... Washington was pretty much the offense last season and ranked 41st nationally in made 3's per game with 2.7 ... As a team Saint Peter's only averaged 59.6 points per outing, and only 16 teams nationally scored fewer points ... Dunne's teams have always been highly effective on the defensive end and are likely to be the same this year. But, if the offense can pick it up, the Peacocks could be significantly better than expected ... It looks like there's more scoring in place this year, particularly if Dominique can keep up his scoring to join Washington as a solid one-two offensive punch ... Burke is also capable of averaging double figures and Fields is an unrelenting attack-the-basket player on the offensive end ... Much of the team's offensive success might revolve around how quickly Wyche can develop as the floor general. But, Fields is also capable of stepping in there for periods of time ... Veterans forward Maruis Tucker and guard Chazz Patterson haven't done much yet, but both should be solid off the bench ... The should also be more depth, particularly from 6-5 forward Kris Rolle, a junior college transfer, Vic Adams, another JC transfer, and returning 6-7 sophomore forward Elias Desport.

STRENGTHS: Although the Peacocks gave up 87 points in their opener, they're still likely to be defensive oriented and effective, and held Hampton to 64 points. The Dominique-Walton tandem up front is a little small (both are 6-7), but both are strong inside players. Washington is a proven scorer, and Burke lends veteran leadership. The depth should be better as newcomers develop.

WEAKNESSES: The overall height doesn't quite measure up to most MAAC teams. And, there's a chemistry issue. Three good starters graduated and the replacements are a transfer and two freshmen, one of them the team's point guard so far.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: League coaches predict Saint Peter's to finish ninth in the league this season, and that's probably not too far off. But, your Hoopscribe knows Dunne is very good at getting the most out of his players and sees the Peacocks as potentially one of the surprise teams in the league this season. It wouldn't be a total surprise here if Saint Peter's finished as high as fifth, but it certainly could also finish where the coaches picked the team. If nothing else, there's plenty of room to develop as the season progresses and the team should be even stronger next year.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Best MAAC Stories: No. 29, Houston Top D-I Scorer

Here's another in the series identifying the MAAC's "Terrific 32," the best happenings in the conference's basketball history.

NO. 29


Who says the service academies, despite lengthy and mandatory military commitments upon graduation, can't find athletes?

They can, but very often have to find ones that were mostly overlooked.

For instance, the Naval Academy, in the mid-1980's, brought in a player who was a 6-foot-6, 175-pound forward as a high school senior.

That was David Robinson, who had sprouted to 6-9 by his freshman season at Navy and eventually grew to be a 7-footer who, because he was too tall for duty on a submarine, was able to begin an NBA career after college and became one of the sport's all-time greats.

Around the same time Army found a woefully thin, undersized guard in Pearl River, N.Y., not far from its West Point campus.

That was 5-foot-9 Kevin Houston.

What else did Robinson and Houston have in common?

In the 1985-86 season Robinson led all Division I players nationally in rebounding with 13.0 per game.

And, Houston led all scorers, averaging an incredible 32.9 points per contest.

It is the only time in college basketball history that players from the service academies topped those two major statistical categories.

Robinson's rebound title -- he was a 7-footer when he led the country in that statistical category -- wasn't much of a surprise.

But, a 5-9 guard leading the country in scoring? That didn't happen very often.

It happened in the 1985-86 season when Army coach Les Wothke let Houston, the team's point guard, fire away at will.

He had a career best 53 points in one game in a MAAC post-season tournament game against Fordham and 953 points in 29 games that season. Both totals remain conference records.

Army was one of the original MAAC members when the league formed in 1981, eventually leaving for the Patriot League after the 1989-90 season.

But, Houston made his mark, and his marksmanship, upon the MAAC, becoming the conference's first of several scoring leaders over the years.

His 32.9 ppg. average in that 1985-86 season remains the single-best for any MAAC player, and only three other college players anywhere since then have bettered that average.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Opening Thoughts On Women's Opening Games

A look, and some initial thoughts on the opening weekend of the season by the MAAC's women's teams...

- Fairfield looks much the same in earning tournament title

The Stags got off to a 2-0 start, winning games Friday and Saturday to earn the championship of the Emerald Beach Hotel Classic tournament in Corpus Christi, Tex.

In the opener, the Stags rallied from a 46-44 deficit late in the game with a 15-8 closing run to knock off UAB in an opening-round game of the Islander Tournament in Corpus Christi, Tex. 59--54.

As usual, it was tough defense that helped Fairfield. UAB only got scoring from four players, and only three scored more than two points.

Fairfield was much more balanced, with five players scoring points in the late-game 15-8 run.

Senior Katie Cizynski showed why she was a first-team all-MAAC preseason pick, getting 14 points and four rebounds in the first game and, then, adding 18 and 8 in Saturday's championship game, a 58-55 victory over host A &M Corpus Christi.

Cizynski was named the event's MVP.

She got plenty of help as sophomore teammate Kristin Schatzlein showed she's on the verge of a breakout season with 10 points in Friday's game. In Saturday's championship game, junior guard Alexys Vazquez had a game-high 20 points and displayed her usual long-range accuracy by making 6-of-9 from beyond the three-point stripe. Kristin Miller, a 6-1 freshman forward, chipped in with 11 points and 9 rebounds off the bench in the title contest.

Fairfield was clinging to a three-point lead late in the championship game, and forced the host to miss their final four shots over the last 26 seconds.

- Quinnipiac wins first as MAAC program

Quinnipiac won 30 games last season and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Friday, it got its first victory since joining the MAAC in the off-season, a decisive 77-63 over a good, veteran North Carolina A&T team.

Quinnipiac has four starters back from a year ago, and was picked to finish third this season by the coaches in their preseason poll.

Jasmin Martin, a 5-8 junior guard, led all scorers for the winners with a near-perfect game. She scored 22 points, making all seven shots she took from the field (5-for-5 on three's). Her only miss in the game was on a free throw (3-for-4).

- Siena meets tough foe in opening game

Siena trailed by as many as 30 points late in the first half before it started to play a little better after the intermission while suffering a lopsided, 69-42, loss to UAlbany.

The Great Danes went unbeaten in America East play last season and went to the NCAA tournament. They lost four starters from that team, but two of last year's reserves were picked to be first-team all-league players this season.

Siena coach Ali Jaques gave extensive minutes to the team's three healthy freshmen, and got a game-high 13 points from 6-2 first-year player Meghan Donohue. Junior guard Tehresa Coles added 12 points for Siena.

- Iona beats Arizona, loses to Bowling Green

The Gaels got plenty of late-game heroics in earning an 82-75 overtime victory against high-major opponent Arizona in the opener of their own Tip-Off Classic in New Rochelle, N.Y. And, then, they couldn't get a closing seconds' roll on a shot while falling to tough Bowling Green in the championship game.

Bowling Green earned a 51-50 decision over Iona in Saturday's championship contest. The Gaels had a chance to win, but a jumper by Damika Martinez with eight seconds remaining did not fall.

Martinez did little else wrong over the weekend. The league's leading scorer the past two seasons and defending MAAC Player of the Year, had 35 points in the opener against Arizona and 22 against Bowling Green, a team that went to the WNIT a year ago.

Joy Adams, last year's conference Rookie of the Year, had 22 points and 12 rebounds in the victory over Arizona.

In that one, Martinez hit a trey with eight seconds remaining to tie things up at the end of regulation. And, then, she had eight points in overtime as Iona outscored the visitors, 14-7, in the extra session.

Good News at Rider, despite loss to Lafayette

The Broncs went on the road, dropping a 67-62 contest at Lafayette, but were within a point with 1:22 remaining (and, only scored one more point the rest of the way). Still, there was some good news.

the best was that former standout swingplayer Shereen Lightbourne was back on the court for the first time after missing two full seasons with knee injuries. She only played four minutes, but she did play.

Otherwise, Player of the Year candidate MyNeshia McKenzie had a big game with 24 points and 12 rebounds. And, 6-foot-3 junior center Marritta Gillcrease appears ready to step to help replace an otherwise decimated front line from a year ago. She had a nice game with five points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots.

Marist can't quite hang with big-time foe

Marist might well be the best team in the MAAC once again, but without much height it struggled against No. 7 ranked Kentucky on Friday, losing 75-61.

Still, a nice treat for Marist fans to bring one of the best teams nationally to Poughkeepsie where a sell-out crowd of 3,200 was on hand.

Marist, basically, started four perimeter players alongside forward Emma O'Connor (10 points, 7 rebounds). Kentucky held a decisive 47-32 edge on the boards with a lineup that included a 6-3 senior center and a standout 6-1 forward. The Wildcats had three other players 6-2 or taller who saw action in the game.

Guard Leanne Ockenden led Marist with 16 points and four steals, while freshman forward Kat Fogarty came off the bench to play 27 minutes and get 11 points and three rebounds in her college debut.

Niagara struggles in loss to Lehigh

Niagara, decimated by early player defections since last season, was behind by 12 at halftime before suffering a 93-73 loss at home against Lehigh.

Still, some bright moments. Junior guard Meghan McGuinness, one of the league's top snipers, poured in a career-high 25 points including a 7-for-12 effort from beyond the three-point stripe.

Highly touted freshman forward Victoria Rampada also had a strong college debut with 15 points and five rebounds, despite foul trouble. And, sophomore guard Taylor McKay, who only averaged 1.2 points playing in just 13 games last season, broke loose for 10 points in the contest.

Could this be the year for Canisius?

The Golden Grifins, with an experienced squad that is looking to improve over a 6-12 MAAC finish last season, opened up non-league play with a solid 77-67 victory over Detroit, powered by some old hands.

Senior forward Jamie Ruttle led the way with 19 points, while another senior, guard Jen Morabito, chipped in with 13. And, returning sophomore starter point guard Tiahana Mills had nine points, six assists and just three turnovers.

Freshman Lauren D'Hont, a 5-11 guard, also broke in with a nice game, scoring 12 points in 25 minutes.

Monmouth arrives in MAAC with a loss

The Hawks, making their debut in the conference, sufferd a 64-54 setback at the hands of a solid Yale team.

The Yalies played tough defense, particularly against third-team preseason all-MAAC pick Chavannah Paalvast, a senior guard, who was held to five points on 2-of-14 shooting.

Junior 6-4 center Sara English also found the going tough on the offensive end, scoring just two points while contributing 12 rebounds. Shira Shecht led all scorers for Monmouth with 13 points, the team's only double-digit total.

Some Opening Opinions on Men's Opening Games

The college basketball season is here. MAAC teams begin play on Friday, and we can start making some early judgments.

So, here are some "opening volleys," from your Hoopscribe, men's version.

- The Siena men should be entertaining this year, despite a 74-62 loss to UAlbany.

Your blogger was there to see the Saints get out to a 16-point lead late in the first half against a very good UAlbany team before the Danes' experience and power game took over to outscore Siena, 58-30 over the last 25 minutes, or so.

Siena ran well for the first 15 minutes, but couldn't compete with Albany once the Danes were able to enforce a half-court style on the contest.

Four of Siena's freshmen played 107 of the available 200 minutes, and they all looked like quality young players. They also looked like they will go through some growing pains this year, but future years, finally, look bright for the program.

Still, while fans thought Siena's play was more exciting than it had been under previous coach Mitch Buonaguro, there's this cautionary fact: Siena's 62 points against a team picked to finish third in the America East Conference, was just two more than the per-game average of a year ago.

- Newcomer Monmouth gets off on right foot.

The Hawks' first game as a MAAC member came against one of the conference's legendary former coaches, Joe Mihalich who is now at Hofstra.

Monmouth earned an 88-84 victory, indicating that Mihalich has brought his up-tempo style of play from Niagara to Hempstead, Long Island.

Monmouth, picked to finish last in the MAAC, had six players score eight or more points, led by 22 from Deon Jones, a transfer from Towson.

The victory came with two freshmen in Monmouth's starting lineup, 6-10, 260-pounder Zac Tillman and 5-8 point guard Justin Robinson. It looks like, as predicted many times in past blog items, that Robinson is going to be a very good MAAC-level point guard. He had 11 points and five assists, against a single turnover, in his college debut.

- Marist drop opener to Stony Brook

The first game of coach Jeff Bower's era at Marist resulted in a 16-point, 71-55, loss at Stony Brook.

But, that's far from an embarrassment. Stony Brook is a strong America East team, picked to finish second in that league's preseason poll ... a spot higher than the UAlbany team that handled Siena.

Good and bad on one front for Marist. Isaiah Morton, who rarely looked for his own shot as the Red Foxes' point guard last season, led Marist in scoring vs. Stony Brook with 15 points, while taking 12 shots (the most by any Marist player).

The bad news? He had just one assist against five turnovers.

- Saint Peter's falls to LIU-Brooklyn.

Another tough opener for a MAAC team against a team better than MAAC followers might think.

LIU, which won this game, 88-81, has won the Northeast Conference's championship for the past three seasons, although is picked fourth this year, in the preseason coaches' poll.

Good news for Saint Peter's ... the usually defensive-minded, offensively challenged Peackocks put up 80 points, matching the program's single-best point production of the past two seasons. The last time the team scored more than 80 was an 85-point outburst in a game against Marist midway through the 2010-11 season.

Marvin Dominique, a 6-7 transfer from Fordham, had a huge game with 32 points and 14 rebounds.

- Iona drops opener at Cleveland State

Not that surprising since Iona is again adjusting to some newcomers, a situation it went through a year ago as it didn't seem to put things together until late in the season while making its eventual run to the NCAA tournament.

Iona now needs to adjust to playing without last season's Player of the Year, Momo Jones. It looked good in the first half while building a 15-point lead at the intermission and, then, got outscored, 44-25 over the final 20 minutes (shooting just 24.3 percent from the field) in losing, 73-69.

Returnees did much of the work for the Gaels. Forward David Laury had 19 points and 10 rebounds, senior guard Sean Armand had 17 points and Tre Bowman, coming off the bench, chipped in with 14 points.

- Big victory for Manhattan

The Jaspers, who used a slow-down offense and smothering defense to advance to last season's MAAC championship game after it lost top scorer George Beamon after four games a year ago, are offensively challenged no more.

The Jaspers put up 99 points in a 99-90 victory over La Salle (an NCAA tournament team a year ago), albeit in a two-overtime contest played in Philadelphia.

La Salle needed a three-pointer late in regulation to force overtime.

Manhattan then got a basket by Rhamel Brown with five seconds left in the first extra session to tie the score and, then, survived as Brown blocked a shot by La Salle at the buzzer.

La Salle then grabbed an 86-85 lead in the second overtime before Manhattan went on a 14-4 run to close it out.

Beamon, who led the way with 24 points, and Alvarado (16 points, eight rebounds, six assists) combined for 11 of those final 14 Jasper points.

- Quinnipiac also gets first MAAC victory

Quinnipiac joined Monmouth as MAAC newcomers getting a season-opening victory, nipping intra-state rival Hartford, 82-77.

Senior forward Ike Azotam, a third-team all-MAAC preseason selection, certainly lived up to the hype with a big game, a 20-point, 13-rebound double-double.

- Tough opener for Niagara

First-year Purple Eagles' coach Chris Casey faced one of the tougher openers for a MAAC team, having to play at Seton Hall, which knocked off Niagara, 83-72.

Those who thought Niagara would have rebounding woes, though, were proven wrong as it held a 41-36 edge on the boards in the game.

Scoring? Who else? Junior guard Antoine Mason had a 34-point explosion and those who thought he very well might lead the nation in scoring this year (your Hoopscribe believes that) saw him take a step in that direction.

Another unexpectedly strong game came from freshman 6-foot-5 forward Ramone Snowden who had a game-high 15 rebounds.

Monmouth transfer Marcus Ware, a 6-8 senior forward, also had a nice game with 10 points and seven rebounds.

- Newcomer Gilbert helps Fairfield

Malcolm Gilbert, at 6-11, is one of the conference's biggest players. And, in Fairfield's season opener, a 67-54 victory over intra-state rival Sacred Heart, he had the biggest hand in the result.

With Fairfield trailing by 10 early in the first half, Gilbert came off the bench to restore order for Fairfield with four blocked shots over the next nine minutes to end Sacred Heart's early run.

Gilbert, a transfer from Pitt, came off the bench to score five points, grab 11 rebounds and block eight shots in 24 minutes of court time.

It was mostly all good for the winners, except for an up-and-down debut for freshman point guard K.J. Rose. He did have nine points (3-of-5 shooting), but also committed nine turnovers.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Preview: Siena Women A Blend of Vets, Freshmen

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams for this season.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 8-10 in the MAAC, 13-18 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Forward Lily Grenci (15.9 points, 9.5 rebounds), forward Kate Zarotney (4.8, 4.6).

LIKELY STARTERS: 6-2 freshman center Meghan Donohue, 6-1 senior forward Clara Sole-Anglada (8.8, 4.6), 5-9 senior guard Kanika Cummings (4.8, 1.6), 5-9 junior guard Tehresa Coles (9.1, 4.3, 2.9 steals), 5-7 senior guard Ciara Stewart (3.7, 1.9).

KEY NEWCOMERS: Donohue, 5-6 freshman guard Brianna Logan, 5-6 freshman guard Emia Willingham.

NOTABLE: Saints lost their first regular-season game, 69-42, to cross-rival University at Albany on Saturday, trailing by as much as 30 points before the first half was over ... Loss of Grenci, considered by this blogger the MAAC's best player last season, is a huge loss. Then, couple that with premature end (shoulder issues) to the career of Zarotney, a rugged inside player, and it left Siena woefully thin up front ... Donahue lookd good in the preseason and carried that into her first game with a 13-point, 6-rebound effort. At 6-2, she is a legitimate presence in the post and looks like she'll be an effective player at this level ... Two other freshmen, point guard Logan and off-guard Willingham each got extended minutes in the opener (29 and 21, respectively) and had some good moments, and some bad ones as can be expected from freshmen ... Logan is a second cousin of Marc Brown, the Siena men's all-time leading scorer, any expectations for her to play like him aren't fair ones ... It seems pretty clear that the freshmen will play a lot this season ... A fourth frosh, Halee Adams, has knee issues and is out until January. She's a 5-10 guard who was a big scorer at the high school level ... Coles is the best returnee. She ranked 28th nationally in steals last year and is, by far, the best player left off a pre-season all-star squad ...Sole-Anglada has some unorthodox, yet effective, front-court moves and can also step out and hit three-pointers ... Stewart, a senior, got the start at the point in the opener, but only played 11 minutes ... The team is comprised entirely of former role players as Grenci was the go-to individual almost every trip down court a year ago ...The team struggled from the field last season. Its 33.3 field-goal percentage was only better than 10 other Division I teams nationally. And, then, the Saints shot 26.2 percent from the floor against UAlbany, albeit an NCAA team a year ago that still looks strong ... Junior guard Ida Krogh, (5.2 points and a team-best 2.7 assists last season), and senior guard Allie Mullings, who started the last seven games a year ago, did not play vs. the Great Danes ... This is the second season for coach Ali Jaques, who took over after the school fired 23-year coach Gina Castelli.

STRENGTHS: Based on one game, Donanhe looks like she'll be effective in the MAAC, particularly on the offensive end. There's a solid group of upperclassmen that includes four seniors who got playing-group minutes last season, plus four juniors on the roster. Coles is the league's top defensive disruptor, and is effective enough on the offensive end, particularly in transition. She could easily be a post-season all-star pick. Logan and Willingham look to have the skills to eventually be contributors.

WEAKNESSES: The team struggled to score points last season when it had Grenci. This year looks like more of the same. The veterans have all been role players in the past. It looks like the three healthy freshmen will get major minutes, and that's usually not a recipe for success at this level.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: League coaches predicted Siena to finish seventh, and that was before it was known Zarotney wouldn't play. Hard to judge after one game, particularly against a strong opponent. But, this looks like a building year for the Saints and a finish in the seventh/eighth/ninth-place range seems about right.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Preview: Inexperience Likely To Plague Siena Men

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams for the upcoming season.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 4-14 in the MAAC, 8-24 overall.

KEY LOSSES: Forward O.D. Anosike (13.3 points, 11.4 rebounds), guard Rakeem Brookins (11.3), forward Trenity Burdine (8.2, 4.0).

LIKELY STARTERS: 6-5 junior forward Rob Poole (11.8, 4.7), 5-8 junior guard Evan Hymes (10.6, 3.7 assists), 6-0 freshman guard Marquis Wright, 6-6 freshman forward Lavon Long, 6-8 freshman forward Javion Ogunyemi.

KEY NEWCOMERS: Wright, Long, Ogeunyemi, 6-9 freshman forward Michael Wolfe, 6-2 freshman guard Maurice White.

NOTABLE: Poole and Hymes are the only returning starters from a year ago. Poole was a preseason third-team pick by league coaches, and will be counted on to do much of the scoring this year. He's likely to add a minimum of five or six points to last year's scoring average, if not more ... Hymes played at the point last season and tended to be turnover prone. He's moving over to the off-guard spot this season where his quickness and outside shooting skills should serve him well ... There's much new at Siena, including coach Jimmy Patsos, who spent the last nine seasons as Loyola's coach. When that school left the MAAC (for the Patriot League), Patsos got involved with Siena's opening and, eventually, was hired. He has promised a faster pace than what the Saints played (often by necessity) in recent years under former coach Mitch Buonaguro. So far through preseason and an exhibition game, Siena seems to be doing just that ... The team doesn't have a single senior on the roster and is extremely young, particularly after unexpected losses of two of last year's starters Brookins (breaking school policy) and Burdine (opted to leave school) ... It means that, at least for opening night (Friday against UAlbany), Siena will have three freshmen in its starting lineup ... In all, there are five freshmen on the roster, four of them initially ticketed to attend Loyola, or at least involved in the recruiting process, who opted to follow Patsos to his current location. Wright, an under-control and clever ball-handler, has earned the starting spot at point guard. Ogunyemi, a Buonaguro recruit from nearby Troy High, has looked strong in the post so far. And, Long is a multi-talented big-body forward. A fourth freshman, 6-2 guard Maurice White, was also in contention for a starting spot at off-guard until a groin injury forced him to miss several weeks of practice. Even the raw but athletic Wolfe appears part of the playing group... Siena's biggest loss is Anosike, who led the nation in rebounding in each of the last two years, the only MAAC player ever to accomplish that ... There's certainly height in place, particularly off the bench in the form of 6-8 junior Imoh Silas, 6-8 sophomore Brett Bisping, and the 6-9 Wolfe, a freshman... Siena had been hoping that 6-5 Patrick Cole, an explosive, attacking wing player who transferred in from Coppin State after a strong freshman year, would get an NCAA waiver to play right away. But that was recently denied.

STRENGTHS: Poole is looking like an all-league caliber player during the preseason, and Hymes looks considerably more comfortable not having to handle the ball as much. There's much to like about the team, particularly in terms of talent. Patsos intends to go eight, or nine deep most nights, a necessity with an up-tempo style, and hopes the depth will wear down opponents.

WEAKNESSES: Experience. There's just not much. Of the returnees, only Poole, Hymes and forward Imoh Silas (16.4 minutes per game last year) saw any extended court time. Inexperienced teams rarely have success at this level, and Siena, with three freshmen in the starting lineup and, potentially, two more getting some key minutes, is as young a team as there is in the league.

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: League coaches pick Siena to finish 10th, which is believed to be the lowest pre-season prediction since the days when Bob Beyer coached the Saints nearly two decades ago. And, no one is arguing about the prediction, not even Patsos. But, the talent that's in place creates some optimism, and the new playing style should excite the program's fan base. Your blogger has seen Siena practice a four times and saw its exhibition game, and I'd be hardpressed to make an accurate prediction. Siena won't compete for the top three spots, but it wouldn't be a surprise if the team finished as high as fifth, or as low as 10th. Still, unless the freshmen learn on the job more rapidly than freshmen are prone to do, a ninth- or 10th-place finish is the likelihood this season.

Preview: Monmouth Women To Rely on Vets, Youth

Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.

Up now ...


2012-13 RECORD: 15-15 overall, 12-6 in the Northeast Conference.

KEY LOSSES: Guard Alysha Womack (14.2 points, 2.7 rebounds per game), guard Carly Thibeault (8.7, 3.5), forward Abby Martin (7.2, 3.5), guard Gabby Singer (5.1, 4.0), forward Betsy Gadziala (4.1, 5.0).

LIKELY STARTERS: 6-0 senior forward/guard Chevannah Paalvast (11.0, 4.9), 6-4 junior center Sara English (4.8, 4.4), 6-0 senior forward Shira Shecht (3.0, 1.8), 5-7 sophomore guard Kasey Chambers (1.7, 1.2), 6-0 redshirt freshman guard India Dotson.

KEY NEWCOMERS: Dotson, 6-4 freshman Sophie Beaudry, 6-4 freshman Christina Mitchell, 5-5 freshman guard Helena Kurt, 5-10 freshman Mia Hopkins.

NOTABLE: First year in the MAAC and the Hawks come in after losing four of their top five scorers from a year ago ... the key returnee is Paalvast, a multi-talented wing, originally from New Zealand, who was picked as a third-team preseason all-MAAC player ... Monmouth played small last year, but that could change as it will have the tallest roster in the league with three 6-4 players ... The best "big" is junior Sara English, who averaged 4.8 points and 4.4 rebounds last season in a limited role. She also averaged 1.4 blocked shots per game, while playing an average of just 14 minutes per contest. She came to Monmouth after a year at UMass, and flashed her potential with a 13-point/12-rebound/4-block effort in the Hawks' final game last season, a 59-57 loss to Mount St. Mary's in the quarterfinal round of the NEC's post-season tournament ... Shecht also appears set to take on a bigger role. She averaged 3.4 points as a sophomore, but injuries set her back last season ... Chambers was the team's back up at the point last season, so she appears the likely starter at the position this year, but will have to hold off incoming freshman Helena Kurt, a native of Sweden who has played on that country's 20U national team ... The team's fifth starting position could come down to redshirt freshman India Dotson or true frosh Mia Hopkins. Dotson averaged 9.0 points, 6.5 rebounds as a junior at Frederick (Md.) H.S. and, then, came to Monmouth a year early. She redshirted last year, which allowed her to participate in practices, and is an athletic wing player. Hopkins, a tall (5-10) guard had a huge high school career, averaging 20.3 points, 14.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. She had a career best 39 points in a game ... The team plays in the 4,100-seat Multipurpose Activities Center, which will be one of the conference's better on-campus facilities ... The Hawks' roster includes 5-8 junior Sarah Olson, a transfer from NJIT who has to sit out this season. When she can play next year she'll be one of the league's top long-distance shooters. She had six three-pointers three different times at NJIT last season.

STRENGTHS: Some veteran presence, mostly with Paalvast and Shecht, both seniors. Paalvast is a multi-talented performer who will be a handful for MAAC teams to contend with this season. English seems ready to have a big season on the front court for the Hawks. The team's size should cause some match-up problems, and the incoming players all seem to have plenty of talent.

WEAKNESSES: Way too many graduation losses (four starters and a key reserve) from a year ago to seriously contend. The guard spot will be handled by last year's reserves and/or freshmen. All that youth never translates well, initially, at the mid-major level

REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS: Picked to finish last in the preseason coaches poll, anything higher would be positive movement. But, it's not out of the realm of possibility. If English has a big year and some of the newcomers can make positive contributions, Monmouth could move up a couple of spots above the preseason prediction.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Preview: Young Monmouth Men Face Building Season

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.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Siena Exhibition Game Includes Look at Past, Present

It was an interesting confluence of a program's past, it's present and even possibly it's future.

And, how often does that happen?

It happened Saturday night at Siena when the Saints played a preseason exhibition contest against New Jersey City University of the Division III ranks, and close to 1,100 paying customers came out to the school's Alumni Recreation Center to watch.

The biggest ovation of the night came during public address introductions for the visiting team's coach.

That would be Marc Brown, now in his seventh season as head coach of NJCU, and still universally acknowledged as the best player in the Division I history of the Siena program.

Brown is still the program's all-time leading scorer and ranks No. 1 on its assists-per-game average list, even though it has been more than two decades since his graduation from Siena.

Brown's team gave a good accounting of itself, rallying from a 16-3 early deficit to pull within five late in the first half.

But, bigger, stronger, faster Siena, traits almost every D-I team would have over a D-III counterpart, took over in the second half and the Saints won by a score of 88-56.

The score, though, was inconsequential to those in attendance who had come out for two reasons: To cheer for Brown and to get the first semi-competitive glance at the new-look Saints.

That would be the "present" aspect of the evening.

New coach Jimmy Patsos, at Loyola the past nine seasons, has been promising a pressing, up-tempo style of play and he delivered Saturday night. A 48-point second half, the last seven minutes of it coming with reserves, including two walk-ons, playing, was close to what teams of the last three seasons scored for a full game.

"I'll tell you what, Marc Brown can coach," said Patsos, who indicated he'd like to bring Brown's team in for an exhibition every couple of years, if not annually. "He's got a good team. I know that. I'm a Division III guy (from his playing days at Catholic University). That's a good Division III team."

Brown appears to be a very good Division III coach. His team, as per D-III rules, could not begin practicing until Oct. 21. It had 11 days of practice prior to Saturday's exhibition while Siena had more than twice that many.

Which brings us to the "future" aspect of the exhibition contest.

Division I coaches, particularly those at Siena, don't stay in place forever. In the program's Division I history, no coach has stayed at Siena longer than eight seasons.

At some point, Patsos will move on. Clearly, we're a little ahead of things since Patsos has yet to coach a regular-season game for the Saints and will almost surely be in place for several years.

But, when he does eventually move on ... could there be a better candidate to return to Siena as the school's head coach than Marc Brown?