Saturday, May 31, 2014

Manhattan's Steve Masiello Finishes Degree Work

Manhattan coach Steve Masiello, it seems, will soon be returning to that position after completing his coursework for an undergraduate degree from Kentucky. He will be awarded a degree in August.

Masiello, who took Manhattan to the NCAA Tournament with a 25-8 record this past season, has been on unpaid leave from Manhattan since April, shortly after it was revealed that he had not earned an undergraduate degree.

That information came out after Masiello accepted a 5-year, $5.4 million contract to coach at South Florida. A subsequent background check turned up that he was reportedly 10 credits short of graduating from Kentucky.

Manhattan also requires its coaches to have at least an undergraduate degree, but, it seems, school officials there had not done as complete a background check that would have turned up Masiello's undergraduate situation. Masiello has been Manhattan's coach for the past three years.

Manhattan administrators have said that they will reinstate Masiello once his degree requirement was completed during the current offseason. But, it does not appear that has been done yet.

Manhattan school officials have opted not to comment.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Team Report: Iona Women To Contend For Top Again

Here's another in the "Team Report" series, looking back at the 2013-14 season with a crystal-ball look ahead for conference programs.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 18-2 in MAAC play, tied for first; 26-6 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Plenty in the program's first-ever regular-season MAAC title. It was shared with perennial conference power Marist, but Iona had the tie-breaker and was the league's first No. 1 seed that didn't wear a Marist uniform entering the MAAC's post-season tournament in 10 years. Things started well, although didn't finish that way (more on that later). There were only two early non-league losses, one to mid-major power Bowling Green, the other to high-major St. John's. Then came an 18-game winning streak that was among the longest nationally before an upset loss to Rider. In the midst of that winning streak was a last-second victory over Marist (on a jumper by Damika Martinez with three seconds remaining) to break a string of 29 consecutive losses in meetings with the Red Foxes. After the Rider loss came seven more wins in a row before Marist got a measure of revenge for the earlier loss with a decisive 79-67 win on the Gaels' Senior Night game. Iona recovered to win a MAAC tournament quarterfinal round game but then lost in the semis to Quinnipiac, sending it to the WNIT. First-year head coach Billi Godsey took a veteran cast, mostly assembled by previous coach Tony Bozzella, and made a few tweaks without making drastic changes. Her guiding hand worked to the tune of a 26-victory season and Godsey was named the national Rookie Coach of the Year by the Women's Basketball Coaches' Association., Individually, the Gaels had arguably the league's two best players in Martinez and forward Joy Adams. Martinez, a rising senior, led the league in scoring for the third straight season (24.9 points per game) and was the league's Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Adams led the conference in rebounding (13.8 per game) and was third nationally in that statistic. Martinez was the nation's No. 8 scorer. Graduating point guard Haley D'Angelo's 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio was 14th best nationally. As a team, Iona ranked sixth nationally in FT percentage (78.5), and third nationally in 3-point shooting percentage (38.0). And, Martinez and Adams will eventually surpass more than team milestones. Martinez already has 1,866 career points, which is already the 11th best total in the league. If she matches the 771 points she scored this past season she'll finish with 2,643 career points, shattering the previous MAAC record of 2,467 held by former Loyola standout Patty Stoffey. Adams, heading into her junior year, already has 795 career rebounds. If she matches this past season's total of 442 rebounds, she'll finish her junior season with 1,237 over her career, surpassing the league record of 1,217 (former Manhattan standout Rosalee Mason) with another full year to play.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The end of the season. Iona got overwhelmed by Marist in its final home game, trailing by 21 midway through the second half and never seemed to recover. It did get a first-round MAAC tournament victory over Monmouth, but then lost in the semifinal round to fourth-seeded Quinnipiac. In that game the Gaels were tied at halftime, but were down by double digits midway through the second half and weren't close again after that. Then came the WNIT against Harvard. Iona's Aleesha Powell made an old-fashioned three-point play with six seconds left that gave Iona a one-point lead. And, then, Harvard scored on a layup at the buzzer to secure the one-point victory. In all, Iona lost three of its last four games putting a bit of a sour ending on an otherwise superb season. The team's 6-4 senior center Sabrina Jeridore led the conference in blocked shots, but the team otherwise struggled to stop opponents. Most league teams tried to run with Iona, knowing they could score points on the Gaels (who allowed 67.7 points per game, 185th of 343 Division I teams nationally).

WHAT'S AHEAD: Gone will be the starting center (Jeridore), the starting point guard (D'Angelo) and the team's third-leading scorer (Powell, who is transferring to Seton Hall). But, the Gaels don't exactly have an empty cupboard for the 2014-15 season, not with Martinez and Adams returning along with fourth-leading scorer Aaliyah Robinson (8.4 ppg.), who made four key second-half three-pointers in the mid-season victory over Marist. Rising junior Cassidee Ranger (2.5) adds another returning shooting threat, but no other returnee averaged more than 8.1 minutes of playing time this past season. And, there's a more-than-capable replacement for Jeridore. Karynda DuPree, a 6-4 post player, is eligible after sitting out this past season as a transfer from La Salle. Dupree, a sophomore, started 15 games at La Salle in the 2012-13 season, averaging 2.7 points and blocking four shots in three different games. The program also has four recruits coming in, two forwards and two guards. With Martine, Adams, Robinson and Dupree, the Gaels have as good a top four as any MAAC team. All it needs is to develop three or four more players within the playing group.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Had Powell returned, your scribe would have installed Iona as the slight favorite to earn a second straight league. Still, we'll call the Gaels a co-favorite along with Marist right now. If Dupree's higher-level talent emerges and one of two of the freshmen become at least solid contributors the Gaels have a legitimate chance to capture another MAAC championship.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

GymRat Standouts Draw Interest From MAAC Teams

The annual boys' GymRat CHALLANGE AAU basketball tournament was held in the upstate New York area over the Memorial Day weekend.

The event drew 328 total teams, its largest field in the 17-year history of the tournament.

And, as always, there was a good representation of players who are being recruited by MAAC schools.

Traditionally, a good number of them wind up playing in the league. Of recent vintage, former Iona standouts Momo Jones and Sean Armand were GymRat participants, as was Manhattan's George Beamon and Siena's Rob Poole.

And, that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The number of GymRat grads that have played at MAAC schools since the AAU tournament's beginning is well over 100.

Your scribe is involved in the event, as the director of a crew of talent evaluators who watch games and help select all-star teams.

This year's all-star teams, at each of six age-level divisions, will soon be available on the event's website ( in relatively short order.

But, here's a more concise look at some players who listed interest coming from conference programs, with a synopsis of their abilities, in no particular order.

There are dozens and dozens more players from this year's event either being recruited by D-1 programs above and/or below the MAAC level. Only players who specifically mentioned conference interest are listed.

- Dave Krmpotich, a 6-foot-8 forward on the Jersey Shore Warriors: His team won the upper division (17-under) championship in a 104-team field. Krmpotich was the MVG - Most Valuable GymRat. He is a slender (180-pound), multi-talented forward who moves like a small forward and attacks the paint like a power forward. He has heard mostly from lower-level D-1's so far, but the staff at the GymRat believe mid-majors and larger will soon be getting involved. His program, the Jersey Shore Warriors, has won the GymRat in four of the last five years and always produces several eventual D-1 players (including Siena's Poole).

- LaTerrance Reed, a 6-3 guard, from the Northeast Shooters (Canisius H.S.): An athletic guard who can play either position. Outstanding three-point shooter with good speed and athleticism. Already a solid build and gets to the basket. Western N.Y. schools Canisius, Niagara, Buffalo and St. Bona's are involved.

- Joel Winkowski, a 6-2 guard from Northeast Shooters (Lake George H.S.): Upstate New York basketball fans know him as the leading scorer in the region (about 28 points per game) this past high school season. Winkowski didn't need to score so much here with a good group of teammates, but was able to still excel against better, quicker opponents while exhibiting a rare and instinctive passing ability. Your scribe saw him during high school play this past season, and he looked better in the AAU event than he did during the year. Siena and Boston U. are showing the most interest right now.

- Jordan Roland, a 6-1 guard from the Syracuse Select-Lobello AAU Team: Quick and athletic, capable of creating a shot at will. Finishes in the lane over taller defenders and causes opponents problems with his defense. Marist is involved, as is George Washington and Bucknell.

- Tyler Reynolds, a 6-7 forward from the Syracuse Select-Lobello team: A little slender (200 pounds), but a tough matchup here as he posted smaller defenders and could go around bigger opponents. Effective shooter with good court vision and a physical rebounder. Interest being shown by Siena, UAlbany and St. Bona's.

- Kevin Huerter, a 6-4 guard playing for the Shenendehowa Pride team: The son of former Siena player Tom Huerter (Class of 1991) played up an age level, yet still stood out. Handled the ball well and is an exceptional long-range shooter. Some early interest from Siena and a number of other mid-major schools.

- Kieran Hamilton, 5-10 point guard playing for the NYC Jaguars: Another son of a standout from a MAAC school, Kevin Hamilton who played alongside Jeff Ruland at Iona. The younger Hamilton is a little on the smallish side, but is extremely quick and a true playmaker. Outstanding in transition and just made his team better here. He is just starting to get D-1 interest, and will likely be hearing from MAAC schools.

- Cameron Jones, a 6-2 off guard from the Jersey Shore Warriors: A strong guard and an exceptional 3-point shooter. Also showed the ability to finish off drives here because of his strength. He already has an offer fro Rider.

- Jake Silpe, a 6-2 point guard from the Jersey Shore Warriors: Hard-nosed player with a high court IQ. Outstanding defender and a good 3-point shooter, as well. Getting looks from several MAAC schools

Jason Dunne, a 6-4 wing from the Shoreshots AAU program (Matawan H.S.): A very effective scorer even out to the 3-point line. Lengthy and height makes it tough to block his shot. Also showed an ability here to attack and finish above the rim. Monmouth, along with Bucknell and Army have shown early interest.

- Jordan Little, a 6-8 power forward from the N.J. Trailblazers AAU program: A high-energy player who is long and athletic., Active on the glass and scores effectively on put-backs. Evaluators here believe he needs to add strength, but has a positive upside. Saint Peter's and Monmouth have shown interest.

- Ricky McGill, a 6-2 point guard from House of Sports Elite AAU program: A very quick point guard who excels in the open court and has an ability to drive, dish and find open shooters. Good mid-range game and quick hands on defense. Originally committed to Manhattan, but has reopened his recruiting.

- Jonathan Nwanko, a 6-9 center from House of Sports Elite AAU program: One of the top bigs here; long and athletic and runs the floor well. Good rebounder, shot-blocker, finisher around the basket. Perimeter skills need work but he is said to have a huge upside and might soon be drawing high-major interest.

- Yasim Smith, a 6-3 point guard from the N.J. Trailblazers program: A tall point guard with athleticism and a good feel for the game. Right now prefers to drive and can either finish in traffic or dish to open teammates. Fairfield has shown interest.

Friday, May 23, 2014

GymRat AAU Event on Tap, Draws Top Hoop Talent

If you attended the GymRat Challenge AAU basketball tournament in 1999, it's inaugural appearance, you saw the formative days of Emeka Okafor, who would wind up winning a national championship at UConn and, then, become the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NBA draft.

Okafor credits his strong play in that year's GymRat as self-proof that he could play against anyone. The event has a well-earned reputation as the place where the sport's stars first shine, and Okafor is proof of that.

If you came out in 2004 or 2005 you got to see the player who led the country in scoring in the 2010-11 college basketball season, current NBA guard Jimmer Fredette.

If you came out to watch in in 2006 or 2008, you first saw the drive that propelled two players to become national rebound leaders. Kenneth Faried played in the GymRat in 2006, led the country in rebounding in the 2010-11 season and, now, just completed his third NBA season. Former Siena standout O.D. Anosike, who played in the GymRat in 2008, led the country in rebounding twice.

The latest success story out of the event is UConn guard Shabazz Napier, this year's MVP of the NCAA Tournament after leading the Huskies to a national title. Napier played in the GymRat in 2009.

That year he played at two different age levels. At one point he became so dehydrated that he was treated intravenously to get his fluid levels increased. He then literally jumped off a trainers' table to get back to the court for another game.

Napier knew the AAU circuit is a place, more so than high school competition, to build and polish reputations.

The GymRat is a tournament that attracts the best of the best and if basketball players can be successful there ... well, they can be successful just about anywhere.

The event has produced over two dozen current or former NBA players, close to 500 eventual Division I players and thousands who have played some level of college basketball.

And, the MAAC has been well represented. The past two MAAC scoring champions, Momo Jones and George Beamon, are GymRat alums, as is Anthony Nelson who, three years ago, was the national steals leader.

Billy Baron of Canisius, this past season's MAAC Player of the Year played in the GymRat. So did Sean Armand of Iona, one of the MAAC's all-time great long-range shooters.

Current Siena player Rob Poole was part of a team that won the GymRat's top-division championship four years ago, and Poole was named the event's MVG (Most Valuable GymRat) for his performance that year.

And, so it goes ... truly an impressive list of players have come through the GymRat tournament, players like current NBA standouts Stephen Curry, Joakim Noah and Michael Beasley.

The 15th annual GymRat Challenge tournament takes place this weekend, Saturday and Sunday at various venues throughout the Capital region of upstate New York. Close to 3,600 players from 328 teams in age levels from 12-under through 17-unde will participate.

The event is the third-largest of its kind in North America, and the largest on the east coast.

Surely, there is no better place to be this coming weekend if you're a basketball fan ... a real "gym rat," so to speak.

There are usually several dozen high-major college prospects here annually, and this year looks no different. More than 60 percent of the event's participants over the years have gone on to play some level of college basketball.

The tournament will be played from 8 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Saturday and, then, on Sunday from 8 a.m. until Sunday evening. Championships will be determined at age brackets of 12-under, 13-under, 14-under, 15-under, 16-under and 17-under.

Admission is $10 per day, and $15 for both days and entitles fans to view any game at any venue. Very reasonably priced concessions are also available, as is a tournament program with full rosters.

Your blogger is part of a team of talent evaluators who watch the games and, then, select post-tournament all-star teams. The selections, as well as details about the event, will be posted on the tournament's website ( That site attracts more than 1.2 million hits annually.

The site also includes the full list of game schedules on line right now. For local fans, there are more than 20 Capital Region teams participating with more than 200 players from various local school districts. In all, 13 states and two Canada provinces will also send teams to the GymRat.

Yes, indeed, it is a basketball junkie's paradise.

Upon the event's conclusion, this blog will feature a post-tournament rundown, primarily about players who are being scouted and recruited by MAAC teams.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Team Report: Iona Men Poised For Another Title Run

Here's another in the "Team Report" series looking back at the 2013-14 season and a crystal-ball look ahead for conference teams.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 17-3 in MAAC play, first place; 22-11 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Plenty, as has been the case under head coach Tim Cluess. This past season brought the second regular-season title in the past three years and the fifth-straight 20-plus win season. There was enough talent in place for Cluess to really challenge the team with a grueling non-conference schedule (losses to Kansas, Northern Iowa, Nevada, Dayton, St. Bonaventure, Cleveland State), but that helped toughen the Gaels up for conference play and the results were evident. Sophomore A.J. English, hurt for the second half of 2012-13, not only came back successfully but made a difficult move from off-guard to the point, and he flourished (17.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 142 total assists) and figures to be one of the best perimeter players (if not THE best) in the conference for the next two seasons. Sean Armand, one of the top long-range shooters in league history had the second-most three's made this year with 96, trailing only Billy Baron of Canisius. Isaiah Williams, a 6-7 forward, joined the program and added ability usually seen at a higher level. His value could be seen in the games he missed due to a minor injury. Iona was 1-4 without him and 21-7 with him in the lineup. Mike Poole, with just a single season of eligibility, also contributed (6.0, 4.2), and 6-9 junior David Laury (14.0, 8,.3) showed signs that indicated he is among the most-talented bigs in the league. And, senior Tre Bowman (13.9) provided more offensive fire power. There were also some non-league wins over sold programs, including George Mason and Florida Gulf Coast. There was an 11-game late-season winning streak that was extended into a 14-of-15 stretch through the end of the regular season. The only loss in that stretch came against Manhattan, but that was a harbinger. Iona did get to another national post-season tournament, but it was the NIT after an NCAA berth the previous year.

WHAT WENT WRONG: The 1-4 record when Williams was out. Laury also struggled early and was sent to the bench just before the midway point of the season,  and Cluess was outspoken about the reason why: his big man wasn't playing hard enough. But Laury became more effective as the team's top front-court reserve and continued to play "starters' minutes." In one way, Laury's demotion worked in Iona's favor. The smaller lineup was quicker and overcame opponents with that trait. The downside, though, was that the team didn't have a second legitimate post player, and got outrebounded by an average of five per game. The offense was as high-powered as ever (83.6 ppg, fourth-best nationally). The downside, though, was a defense that allowed 77.6 points per contest, and only 18 Division I teams nationally gave up more. There also wasn't much depth as only six players averaged more than 9.7 minutes per game. The smaller lineup also made Iona susceptible to physical teams, and league losses came to two of the more physical MAAC squads, Quinnipiac and Manhattan; and, the third came against Canisius, whose best player, Billy Baron, was as good an individual perimeter player in the conference in a decade.  And, then, came the late-season disappointments, first a 71-68 loss to Manhattan in the MAAC Tournament's semifinal round against a Jasper team that just seemed more physical and seemed to have the "effort" edge. And, then, came the season-ending heart-breaker, a last second loss on a tip-in that gave Louisiana Tech an 89-88 victory in the NIT.

WHAT'S AHEAD: More of the same. English, Williams and Laury are the key returnees, and all three are among the league's best players in terms of pure talent. And, the team also gets the services of Kelvin Amayo, a 6-4 sophomore guard who had a spectacular high school/prep school career. He played three games at Marshall before leaving there for Iona where he had to sit out as a redshirt transfer last season. Also back is 5-9 junior Tavon Sledge, a key playing-group member two years ago whose role diminished this past season. And, there's a solid addition in Jeylani Dublin, a 6-6 forward who averaged 10.4 points and 4.2 rebounds at Longwood College last season who is immediately eligible as a graduate-level transfer. Ryden Hines, a 6-10, 240-pounder who showed some flashes as a freshmen, might power his way into the post rotation, too. And, there's intriguing 7-foot string-bean frosh Daniel Robinson, who redshired this past season, and is reputed to be a strong face-up big man. One true freshman, lightning-quick 5-9 point guard Schadrac Casmir might also get inutes. He averaged 19 points at South Kent prep school last year and 26.7 points two years ago in high school.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Most prognosticators are going to select Iona as the 2014-15 preseason favorite, and there's no argument here. Siena is a relatively close second choice, for now, but Iona's top four players are all experienced. There should also be more depth this year. And, as always, the Gaels will overwhelm a lot of opponents with quickness and offensive firepower. We'll pick Iona to win the regular-season title and, at worst, finish second.

Another Loss for Niagara Men: Mason To Transfer

Schools expect to lose players via graduation. And, so it is with Niagara that will lose its stellar guard Antoine Mason, who graduated earlier this month with a bachelor's degree in finance.

But, the Purple Eagles, until a few days ago, expected to have the 6-foot-3 Mason back for the 2014-15 season. Mason, who was a medical redshirt for a year, had one more season of eligibility. He could have remained at Niagara, taken graduate-level courses and continued to play there.

Instead, he has recently requested, and been granted, permission to transfer out of the program.

How big a loss? This big: In just three seasons, he scored 1,934 points, third-most in Niagara's history. He also leaves as the 14th all-time career scorer in MAAC history. For a good portion of the 2013-14 season he led the country in scoring before finishing second nationally at 25.2 points per contest.

Had he remained in the MAAC, he'd have been the clear front-runner to be the preseason Player of the Year choice.

Instead, he opts to move on.

According to published reports, Niagara's release agreement stipulates that Mason can not transfer to any other MAAC school (Iona had been rumored as a potential location) or at any school on the Purple Eagles' non-league schedule.

“I know Antoine enjoyed playing here, and I’m sure this was a difficult decision for him and his family,” said Niagara coach Chris Casey, in a statement released by the school. “Antoine played a big role in our basketball program for the past four years and we are proud that he earned his bachelor’s degree from Niagara University. Now it is time for us to move forward with the players who are committed to continuing the tremendous legacy of the Niagara University Purple Eagles.”

Even with Mason Niagara finished 3-17 in conference play and 7-26 overall. It was the program's worst record since it was 2-16/5-25 in the 1994-95 season.

And, now, without Mason, Niagara doesn't have a single returning player who averaged double figures last season.

Mason's departure means the program lost its top three scorers from a year ago (forward Marcus Ware and guard Marvin Jordan also graduated) and its No. 5 scorer, Tahjere McCall, a guard, who opted to transfer several weeks ago.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Team Report: Qunnipiac Women Will Survive Losses

Here's another in the "Team Report" series, looking back at the 2013-14 season with a crystal-ball look ahead for every conference program.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 14-6, fourth in the MAAC; 21-13 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A difficult transition to a new and better league after a 16-0 conference finish the previous season, and an NCAA Tournament berth, in the Northeast Conference. But, the Bobcats handled it well enough to almost get back to the NCAA's again (more on that below). One of the toughest non-league schedules nationally toughened the team up for MAAC play where there were no surprises. Quinnipiac finished fourth in conference play and had a perfect 14-0 record against team that finished below it in the final standings and an 0-6 record against the top three team. Along the way were victories over non-league opponent UAlbany, an NCAA Tournament team, and close contests with MAAC co-champ Marist (a six-point loss) and third-place Fairfield (a one-pointer) ... Senior forward Brittany McQuain proved to be one of the best low-post players in the MAAC (13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds), her rebound average 67th-best nationally. She was also Quinnipiac's first player to ever record 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 100 career blocks. And, point guard Gillian Abshire, a junior, was one of the best pure distributors the MAAC has seen in many years. Her 6.6 assist average was 10th nationally, and her 3.5 assist-to-turnover ratio was third bet on the Division I level. Junior 6-1 forward Samantha Guastella (11.7, 4.5) was another solid inside player, while leading scorer 5-6 junior guard Jasmine Martin (15.1, 2.0) was a very effective offensive weapon. There was alsoe depth as considerable the Bobcats had 10 players average at least 2.4 points per contest, with junior forward Nikoline Ostergaard (6.8, 2.3) and senior forward Camryn Warner (6.7, 4.8) the top reserves. And, Quinnipiac got a little revenge in the post-season vs. co-champion Iona, knocking off the Gaels, 78-68, in the MAAC Tournament's semifinal round. And, then, in the MAAC event's championship game, Quinnipiac couldn't have played much better for about 18 minutes, holding a 17-point lead over Marist.

WHAT WENT WRONG: And, now (as Paul Harvey used to say), the rest of the story ... After running out to that 17-point championship game lead over the Red Foxes, Marist turned things around and earned a 70-66 victory over Quinnipiac that clearly left the Bobcats devastated. The "consolation" prize was a trip to the WNIT (a good thing), but there the team lost, 74-66, against a tough Villanova opponent. Quinnipiac was more than competitive in the MAAC, yet did have that 0-6 record against the league's top three teams. The team didn't have a good ballhandler when Abshire wasn't in the game (McQuain was No. 2 on the team in assists), and didn't have a real effective rebounder besides McQuain. Overall, the Bobcats got outrebounded by an average of 1.9 per game. It also relied heavily on three-pointers, and its 7.9 per game was 27th nationally, but it's long-range shooting percentage of 32.0 was only 132nd nationally.

WHAT'S AHEAD: The loss of McQuain is a big one, literally as she was by far the program's best inside player in many years. Also graduating is 6-2 Camryn Warner, the team's second-leading rebounder (4.8 per game) and effective reserve guard Elloen Cannon. It will probably mean the team will be even more perimeter oriented next season, with things centered around Abshire, Martin and Guastella, whose 72 three-pointers made this season was a program record. Having the league's best point guard (Abshire), the MAAC's third-leading returning scorer (Martin) and the versatile 6-1 Guastella, all seniors in 2014-15, is a strong nucleus. Rebounding, though, will be an issue but 6-1 freshman Morgan Manz (2.4, 0.9) seems poised to help out a year from now. And another 6-footer, junior Nikoline Ostergaard (6.8, 2.3) is also likely to be more effective next season. Otherwise, the team has plenty more, particularly at the guard spot with effective reserves 5-8 sophomore Adily Martucci (3.8, 1.0) and 5-9 Maria Napolitano (4.6, 1.5) also coming back. Plus, veteran mentor Tricia Fabri is among the best, not only in the league but at any mid-major level program. Recent reports indicate that 6-foot-4 post player Val Driscoll is transferring from Michigan as a grad student, and would be immediately eligible. She started 29 of the Wolverines' 34 games this past season and averaged 5.8 points and 5.8 rebounds and blocked 70 shots. If the reports are true, she will literally add a big dimension to the squad. More height is coming in with 6-1 Sara Shewan, a native of Canada who played at St. Thomas Aquinas prep school this past season. Don't expect Quinnipiac to drop off much, if at all.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: All the upper-level programs of 2013-14 face significant graduation losses, some moreso than Quinnipiac's. But, the expected addition of Driscoll, who had some success at the high-major level at Michigan, makes up for the loss of McQuain. Expect another top-four finish next season with the Bobcats making a serious run at the regular-season title.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Team Report: Quinnipiac Men Set For More Success

Here's another in the "Team Report" series taking a look back at the recently concluded season for conference teams and a crystal-ball look ahead at what might happen in the future.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 14-6, tied for third in MAAC play; 20-12 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A lot, and much of it unexpected from a team moving up from the Northeast Conference that was picked to finish seventh by MAAC coaches in their preseason prediction poll. But, the Bobcats showed the benefits of bringing trench warfare to the paint area. No conference team was more physical, and that had noticeable benefits, including an amazing per-game 11.8 edge in total rebounds. How good was that? Only good enough to lead the country by more than two per game. The second-best rebounding team nationally was Kentucky. Quinnipiac, not surprisingly, had the MAAC's top two rebounders in 6-foot-9 junior Ousmane Drame (13.7 points, 10.5 rebounds per game) and 6-7 senior Ike Aotam (16.2, 10.2). Azotam leaves as the program's all-time leading Division I rebounder with 1,043. And, Drame is already the program's leading shot-blocker (128) entering his senior season. But, they weren't alone in securing missed shots. Junior guard Zaid Hearst, at just 6-4, fit the play-hard mold as well as anyone in the league, and grabbed 6.6 rebounds per contest (while scoring 15.5). Even Evan Conti, mostly a reserve guard, chipped in at 3.9 rebounds per game. He also averaged 5.1 points, but improved as the year progressed and averaged 8.3 over the team's final 14 games. The Bobcats showed they belonged in the MAAC right away, even before league play with an impressive early non-conference victory over eventual NCAA Tournament team UAlbany. And, then, it got off to a 6-2 league start that included victories over Iona and Manhattan, the eventual top two finishers. It was more of the same after that with an 8-2 run (including a second victory over Manhattan) that pushed Q's record to 14-4 and in contention for a second-place finish before back-to-back regular-season losses came against Siena and Marist. Then came a nice quarterfinal-round win over Niagara in the MAAC Tournament before the magic against eventual MAAC tourney champ Manhattan finally ended. The Bobcats legitimately went nine deep with one of the league's deepest roster. Umar Shannon, a graduate-school transfer from St. Francis (14.3 ppg.) made significant contributions, as did senior Shaq Shannon (6.1, 3.6). And, 5-10 frosh point guard Kasim Chandler, looked to be one of the best young backcourt additions to the conference, and came up big at the end with a 14-point, 7 assist/1 turnover performance in the loss to Manhattan. The season was good enough for a national post-season tournament berth in the College Tournament (CIT)

WHAT WENT WRONG: Despite the depth, some injuries were a factor. Third-leading scorer Umar Shannon (14.3) suffered a late-season knee injury and did not play in the team's final four contests. Drame also had a slight knee issue, missed two late-season games and wasn't 100 percent for a few games after that. And, Chandler missed nine late-season games with an injury. Clearly that affected the Bobcats, who lost their final two regular-season contests to miss out on a chance to finish second in the final standings. Shannon's loss was a big one. And, while big and strong definitely worked there was a noticeable lack of quickness as evidenced by the team getting just 3.6 steals per game, the lowest average on the Division I level. Quinnipiac also lacked a veteran floor general. Chandler, the freshman who was best suited for the position, was an on-the-job trainee just finding his way before he missed nine games with injury. He led the team in assists with just 2.7 per contest. And, then, came the cruelest blow of all: a 69-68 heartbreaking loss to Yale in the first round of the CIT. Quinnipiac was holding a one-point lead with eight seconds left when Chandler was fouled and made one of two shots to push the advantage to 68-66. And, then, Yale sank a game-winning three-pointer with a second remaining to steal the victory.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Probably more good things, and more effective physical play despite the loss of the bruising Azotam. Both Shannons will also be gone, and all of that leaves a good sized hole up front and significant losses in the backcourt. Quinnipiac, though, should capably survive thanks to its depth from this past season. Drame, who combines strength and athleticism, is arguably the league's best returning big man, an all-but certain first-team all-preseason pick and could contend for Player of the Year honors. Chandler flashed his capabilities often enough to indicate he'll become one of the MAAC's better guards over the next three seasons and certainly ready to shoulder a bigger load right from the start of the upcoming season. And, Hearst is another first-team preseason candidate who is universally respected for his hard and effective playing style. That trio ranks with nearly any top three at any other league program. Conti's late-season success indicates he'll step into a bigger role. Freshman 6-8 forward A.J. Sumbry only played 9.1 minutes per game, but showed signs he can fit into the team's physical style of play. And, James Ford, a 6-4 sophomore sharpshooter, averaged 4.3 points and 2.1 rebounds in just 12 minutes per game and looks ready to step up, too. The team's top newcomer appears to be point guard Giovanni McLean, who originally committed to Oklahoma before there was some confusion over the interpretation of a Big 12 league rule regarding the number of consecutive semesters a player had to spend at a junior college before enrollment that would have made McLean ineligible there. But the rule in question is specific only to the Big 12 and doesn’t apply to the MAAC. McLean averaged 16.8 points and 7.4 assists per game last season at Westchester Community College, playing at the top JC level, and should be an immediate contributor.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Considerable personnel losses, but more than enough coming back to expect another season not much different from the past one. Expect another 20 victories overall and a top-five finish in MAAC play. There doesn't appear to be a clear-cut front-runner yet for the 2014-15 season, and the Bobcats certainly appear to be in the upper group of four or five teams. Quinnipiac could easily contend for the regular-season title, particularly if McLean is as good as expected. The team will probably be predicted, in the preseason poll, for either third or fourth. Expect that, and maybe better.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Former Niagara Player Strobl's Book A Good Read

The book "Backspin," written by former Niagara basketball player Pete Strobl, is nearly as hard to locate as details about Strobl's own playing career.

But that doesn't mean either the 6-foot-8 player's career or his literary contribution isn't worth the search.

Strobl was a three-year reserve for the Purple Eagles in the late 1990's and, then, played nine professional seasons in a variety of overseas locales.

Strobl might not have been a star at Niagara, playing within the MAAC, but he embodies the goals of the league and its membership.

The MAAC is a league that still emphasizes the "student" portion of the student-athlete equation, and Strobl earned two degrees, including a masters degree in business, from Niagara.

There must have been some concentration on writing along the way, as well, as Strobl's first-person account of his love affair with basketball and his recollections of his days discovering a love for the sport through his playing days is well-done and enjoyable reading.

He was a roommate of former Niagara star Alvin Young, played for Purple Eagles' coaches Jack Armstrong and Joe Mihalich and played against some stiff competition within the MAAC.

All of that is well recounted and stirs the memories of anyone who followed the conference back then.

But, Strobl's descriptions of post-college life as a virtual professional basketball vagabond is what sets his book apart.

Strobl details the trials and tribulations of playing in foreign countries, of having to learn new languages and adjusting to new cultures, new teammates, different playing styles.

He makes it clear that playing professionally overseas isn't just about basketball. It's about an entire lifestyle adjustment.

It's one more than a few players from the MAAC attempt after their college days end, and not all of them do so successfully, usually for reasons beyond the court.

Strobl's book should be required reading for athletes at any level who desire to continue a playing career as a professional in a foreign country.

His book is available for Kindle and in a paperback version that can be ordered via Amazon.

These days Strobl is giving back as a Pittsburgh-area based instructor who not only helps develop on-the-court skills to younger players but lifestyle skills, as well.

In 2009 he founded "The Scoring Factory," a training facilities where young players with a strong work ethic learn to achieve their goals in a blue-collar atmosphere. He also offers private instruction and training.

Additionally, Strobl is the head basketball instructor for the Pittsburgh Athletic Association.

Writes Strobl, for his Scoring Factory website ( "A long time ago, back when I was just another kid trying to touch a ten foot rim for the first time, someone told me that the key to happiness was to find a way to do something you really love. I mist have bought that story hook, line and sinker because I can't imagine anything better than seeing players improve their game, expand their educational opportunities and grow as responsible young adults."

It's  mission Strobl appears to be striving for in his career as an instructor.

And, one for which his book indicates he is well-prepared for.

Strobl's own playing career in which he had to make considerable athletic and lifestyle changes to succeed is the perfect how-to primer for any young basketball player.

And, it's all there, to be read about in enjoyable fashion, in his well-done book "Backspin."

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Team Report: Fairfield Women Get Good Newcomers

Here's another in the "Team Report" series looking back at the just-concluded season with a crystal-ball look ahead for conference programs.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 15-5 in MAAC play, 3rd place; 22-11 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: A good deal to secure the fourth 20-victory season in the seven-year tenure of head coach Joe Frager. Included was the program's fourth trip to a national post-season tournament in the past five years when it played in the WBI (third time for that, once to the WNIT). Once there, it won two games to advance to the semifinal round before losing to Illinois-Chicago. But, it's first-round game in the event tested its resiliency. The Stags trailed by four against Bryant in that contest with 11 seconds remaining. Senior guard Alexys Vazquez then connected on a three-pointer with five seconds remaining before Bryant made two free throws to push its lead back to three. Vazquez then drained another trey at the buzzer to send the game into OT. Bryant led, again, by three late in the first OT before Brittany Obi-Tabot made a traditional three-pointer to set up the second OT where Fairfield grabbed control. There were some highs and lows along the way during the season, a relatively slow 7-4 start (two losses to Iona, one to Marist), followed by an impressive seven-game winning streak including a 72-68 victory over Marist. Then came a loss at Marist. Rider finished with a victory over Niagara, but lost in the opening round of the MAAC tournament. Katie Cizynski, a 6-2 senior, was a first-team all-MAAC pick (16.9 points, 8.7 rebounds per game), and she was at her best late, averaging 19.3 points in her last 12 contests. She also had 14 double-doubles on the season. Vazquez remained one of the best long-range shooters to ever play in the MAAC, making a school-record 94 three-pointers this season, a program record and 25th-most nationally. Obi-Tabot was solid (9.9, 6.3), 6-1 soph Kristin Shatzlein stepped up in a big way (9.7, 4.5) and Felicia DaCruz continued to develop into one of the better point guards in the conference (7.3, 2.7 and 5.4 assists). Her 3.31 assist-to-turnover ratio was fourth-best nationally, and it was a bit of an oversight that she didn't earn post-season all-star recognition. As a team, Fairfield continued to limit mistakes. Its 12.5 turnovers per contest was 16th-fewest nationally, and its 14.5 fouls committed per game was fourth fewest of all Division I teams.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Despite all the positives, the Stags couldn't have been happy with a 63-56 quarterfinal-round ouster in the MAAC tournament. But, that came against a decent Rider opponent when the Broncs' standout MyNeshia McKenzie had a huge 28-point, 16-rebound effort. Still, Fairfield led by 11 points with under nine minutes left when another Rider player, freshman guard Stephanie Mason, came off the bench to drain four-of-five three-pointers in the final nine minutes to help her team rally. As good as Fairfield was, it might have been better had promising 6-2 freshman center Samantha Cooper not suffered an early season injury. She only played in three games (2.3, 1.7). Her loss limited the team's depth. The starters were virtually an iron five, particularly DaCruz, who played 40 minutes or more in seven games.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Any team that loses its top three scorers (Cizynski, Vazquez and Obi-Tabot) is usually facing a fall-off, particularly when the only two reliable post players (Cizynski/Obi-Tabot) are among the departures. But, maybe not. Cooper should be 100 percent for 2014-15, and three other players who measure 6-0 or taller are coming in. One is 6-2 sophomore Casey Smith, a transfer from St. Joseph's who didn't play there (injury) as a freshman. She averaged 20 points/10 rebounds per game as a senior at nearby Danbury H.S. Another newcomer is 6-1 frosh Helena Orts from Spain, who looks capable (from video highlights) of providing some inside play as well as a perimeter game. Vazquez's role might be filled by another transfer, 5-6 junior Margeaux Dupuy from Marquette who didn't play much there but made 44 percent of her three-pointers as a high school senior. Schatzlein should step up even more and become one of the league's better snipers, while DaCruz is a tireless off-season worker and is likely to have a big senior season.. And, there's more height. 6-1 Krisine Miller (2.6, 2.1) and 6-0 Kelsey Carey (1.6, 1.2) should have stronger roles as sophomores in the coming season.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Talent is coming in with the two transfers and, possibly, Orts, ready to immediately step in. And, Cooper's presence will help out, too. The Stags will certainly go deeper into the bench next season with quality. The team will have more than enough height, a superb point guard in DaCruz and long-range shooting from Schatzlein and Dupuy. It's all part of the formula that makes Frager's half-court, precision offense works so well. It should be another above-average season for Fairfield, which will probably be in the hunt for third place. And, if everything falls into place, might be able to challenge the likely preseason top two, Marist and Iona, in 2014-15.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Billy Harrell Dies, Was Best To Ever Play at Siena

Billy Harrell never played in a MAAC game, but he was an athletic legend in New York's Capital Region, in no small part because of his playing days at Siena College.

In fact, he was an exceptional two-sport athlete starting in the 1940's and beyond. He has been universally acknowledged as the greatest basketball player to wear a Siena uniform and, then, went on to a 15-year baseball career.

Most of his baseball days were in the minor leagues, but he spent parts of four seasons in the majors, including some time with the Boston Red Sox in 1961 as a teammate of a rookie named Carl Yastrzemski.

Harrell, 85, died Tuesday morning.

A long-time resident of Troy, N.Y., he was inducted this past March to the MAAC's Basketball Hall of Fame's Honor Roll, an honor recognizing not only outstanding athletic achievement but success in life beyond college.

While at Siena his teams had a 70-19 record. He led the 1949-50 team to the very prestigious National Catholic Invitational Tournament championship, the program's only national post-season tournament title before this year's CBI event, for which Harrell was in attendance.

In that year he averaged 12.1 rebounds per game, a single-season school record that stood for 60 years. Not bad for a player who stood all of 6-foot-1.

Those who don't live in upstate New York might not recognize his name. After all, his college playing days were more than 60 years ago and his time at baseball's major-league level was relatively limited.

But those familiar with Harrell know he is the best athlete ever produced in New York's Capital Region.

Your scribe wrote a column about Harrell that appeared in today's Troy Record Newspaper.

Here it is:

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Former Marist Ass't Romano In Line For RIC Top Spot

MAAC basketball followers might know Mike Romano from his two seasons as a "graduate manager" (2010-11, 2011-12) on the Marist men's basketball staff.

If you know Romano at all, you know he wasn't born with basketball's version of a silver spoon.

He graduated from Division III Western Connecticut State University where he came to realize he wanted a career as a basketball coach.

He wanted it so bad that he began paying his proverbial dues as an assistant boys' basketball coach at Webetuck H.S. for three seasons. He moved from there to be a volunteer assistant at Dutchess County Community College, followed by another season as an assistant at Western Connecticut.

From there, he moved to his Marist position, basically that program's director of basketball operations.

That was, basically, seven years of virtual poverty-level salaries learning the profession, honing his skills and waiting for an opportunity for something better.

Something better happened two years ago when he was hired as a full-time assistant at Rhode Island College, a Division III program in Providence, under well-regarded head coach Bob Walsh.

And, now, something even better might happen for the personable Romano.

RIC's Walsh has reportedly accepted another job. A variety of sources are reporting that he will be introduced on Monday as the new head coach at Division I UMaine.

RIC finished with records of 26-4 and 20-9 in the past two seasons with Romano on the staff. This past season's team won the Little East's post-season tournament and a trip to the Division III NCAA event. Its top scorer was a freshman guard who Romano helped recruit.

Romano, now, is interested in replacing Walsh as RIC's coach, and should not only be a leading candidate, but THE leading candidate.

He has earned that status through hard work, dedication, determination and perseverance.

In a sense, he is like the back-up catcher in baseball. Not a star, but someone who had to work hard to learn the intricacies of their chosen sport.

Those types traditionally make the best managers/coaches. And, Romano fits that mold.

We can attest to Romano's positive characteristics from first-hand experience.

Your Hoopscribe, for the past six years, has been the coordinator of the staff that watches the annual AAU GymRat tournament in the Albany, N.Y., area. That staff evaluates players and selects the event's all-star teams.

Romano has been on that staff for the past five years, and is considered one of, if not THE, strongest evaluator at the event each year. He has shown himself to be not only a tireless worker, but an extremely personable sideline observer who interacts so well with coaches and players that they look forward to seeing him each year.

We have no doubt that those traits are inherent in everything he does as a basketball coach, one who has more than paid his dues to be ready for this potential opportunity.

Romano, surely, could move to Maine with Walsh if he desired. And, by the way, Walsh also has MAAC connections. He was on the Iona staff for two seasons as an administrative assistant (1994-96) under then-head coach Tim Welsh.

But, Romano professes to be a "Division III" guy, who would rather have the opportunity to run his own program.

The very strong guess is that if Romano does get promoted at RIC, he would be there for many years.

It's not unusual for former MAAC connections to take over sub-Division I programs and remain in place for a considerable length of time.

Two that come immediately to mind involve former Siena coaches. Steve Evans, at Siena for two seasons with Paul Hewitt, has been a successful head coach at D-II Le Moyne for the past 14 seasons.

And, Brad McAlister, who was on Mike Deane's staff at Siena for several years, has been the head coach at Division III Lebanon Valley College for 20 years and is that program's all-time winningest coach.

It's not hard to envision Romano having similar success and longevity if afforded the opportunity.

For sure, it's one he deserves and has worked hard at to be in position for consideration.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Team Report: Fairfield Men Could Rebuild Quickly

Here's another in the "Team Report" series, taking a look back at the recently concluded season and a crystal-ball look at what might be ahead.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 4-16 in MAAC play, 10th place; 7-25 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: One has to look to some individual improvement for any real positive in such a year of struggle. That and, it seems, a necessary "attitude adjustment" that saw two players suspended for what was called a lack of basketball focus and commitment, according to head coach Sydney Johnson. Whether that turns into a positive for the future won't be fully known until the coming season. But, clearly Johnson didn't like what he was seeing from some players and acted to separate them from his program. Individually, departing senior forward Maurice Barrow (14.0 points, 5.0 rebounds) continued his career-long solid play and was named the conference's Sixth Man of the Year winner. Sophomore forward Marcus Gilbert also continued to improve (13.9, 5.1), and was among the better young players in the league. And, freshman point guard K.J. Rose provided more than a glimmer of hope for the future (8.0, 3.4, 3.7 assists). Malcolm Gilbert, a 6-11 sophomore transfer center (from Pitt) had a huge 8-block/11-rebound game vs. Sacred Heart early in the season and, then, looked to have considerable rust in his game thereafter. The eye test, though, indicated that the Stags who were on the court continued to play hard in a snake-bitten season, one that saw the team win its first game and, then, lose eight straight. It had three losing streaks of at least five games, all of which could demoralize some squads. Amid all of that, though, was a mid-season victory over NCAA Tournament-bound Manhattan. And, the Stags finished out regular season relatively strong, winning two of their last four games before a heart-breaking 65-62 loss to Saint Peter's in the play-in round of the MAAC Tournament.

WHAT WENT WRONG:  Start with the "commitment" issues that saw Johnson dismiss Seton Hall transfer Sean Grennan and freshman Lincoln Davis from the team at midseason. Subsequently Davis has transferred out as has sophomore guard Justin Jenkins, who started 14 games this past season. And, Fairfield had severe backcourt issues even before all of that with just one scholarship guard (Jenkins) who had played for the Stags prior to the season. Grennan, a big-time high school scorer who had health issues at Seton Hall, was supposed to provide a big boost but provided very little. Overall, Fairfield had the 31st youngest team nationally, but two other MAAC teams had more success (Siena and Monmouth) with even less overall experience. Only 27 of 343 Division I teams nationally committed more turnovers, indicative of the team's backcourt woes. Only nine teams nationally had a worse shooting percentage than Fairfield's 39.8 percent from the floor. Sophomore forward Amadou Sidibe, expected to be a rock in the middle after a strong frosh season, battled knee tendinitis all season and wasn't anywhere near his best. Malcolm Gilbert's play never matched his potential. As bad as things were, Fairfield wasn't that far away from being better. Six of its MAAC losses came by four points or less. And, snake-bit? Saint Peter's seemingly had some voodoo hex over the Stags. Fairfield lost both regular-season games to the Peacocks by a single point, and also lost to Saint Peter's by three in overtime in the MAAC tournament. And, in all three games Peacocks' guard Desi Washington drained a game-winning three-point shot in the closing seconds, all three from virtually the same spot on the court. It all added up to the worst winning percentage since program moved to the Division I level in the 1964-65 season.

WHAT'S AHEAD: Things couldn't get any worse, and there is reason to believe there's a turnaround coming in the not-so-distant future. Johnson is a no-nonsense coach, one who was willing to weed out the attitude problems of this past season. So, expect that situation to be solved. He'll have a core group of Marcus Gilbert, Rose, Sidibe and Malcolm Gilbert to work with. If Malcolm Gilbert can shake off the rust, he's an athletic 6-11 shot-blocker that could really help.Both  Doug Chappell, a 6-2 rising junior (4.2, 1.6) and Coleman Johnson, a 6-6 rising junior (5.6, 4.5) look like they can help out next season. It's rare that freshmen make significant impacts, but there does appear to be a pretty strong group coming in, led by 6-foot-8 forward Kevin Degnan and 5-10 off-guard Damarcus Threatt, who averaged 20.6 ppg. at the junior college level last season. Two other guards, 6-0 Tyler Nelson and 5-10 Jerome Segura, will also come in as freshmen while 6-9 forward Ami Lakoja is yet another incoming first-year player. The Stags will still be young, likely without a senior in the starting lineup, but they should be better this coming season and a lot better beyond that.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: The Stags won't be the worst team in the MAAC in 2014-15, but that's not saying much for a proud program that had three-straight 20-victory seasons not long ago (2009-10 through 2011-12). Fairfield certainly won't approach 20 victories this season, but it will likely get into the double-digits for overall wins and could contend to finish in the seventh/eighth-place range.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Team Report: Marist Women To Chase Another Title

Here's another in the "Team Report" series taking a look back at the just-concluded season and a crystal-ball look at what might be ahead for conference programs.

Up now ...


2013-14 RECORD: 18-2 in MAAC play, tied for first place; 27-7 overall.

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Plenty in a season that did contain some minor disappointments. But, just how disappointing can things have been (see below) when the team shared first place (11 straight seasons and counting of outright or shared regular-season titles), and won the MAAC's post-season tournament for its ninth straight trip to the NCAA event? Overall, the team's victory total marked the eighth straight season of at least 26 wins and 11th in a row of at least 20. Just about every other MAAC program would be happy to string, maybe, two or three 20-victory seasons in a row. Some would be overjoyed to get just one of those. The very obvious common denominator is Brian Giorgis, who long ago proved himself to be not only the best coach the MAAC has ever had (and, we're considering men's coaches, too), but one of the best anywhere at any level. His career .779 winning percentage in his 12 years in Poughkeepsie (306-87) is fourth-best among active Division I coaches. Only Geno Auriemma of UConn, Tara VanDerveer of Stanford and Kim Mulkey of Baylor have better ones ... Individually, there wasn't a real Player of the Year-caliber standout, although senior forward Emma O'Connor was a first-team all-MAAC selection. Instead, there were very solid parts, and this past season might have been one of Giorgis' best coaching jobs as he had an unusually balanced team ... All five starters averaged double figures ... Marist's success came through its usual methods, by minimizing mistakes. The team had the 10th-best field goal percentage (46.7) nationally, ranked 12th nationally (37.2 percent) in 3-point accuracy, committed the third-fewest amount of fouls (13.6 per game), had the 13th-best assist-to-turnover ratio (1.29) nationally and, almost as always, led the MAAC for fewest points allowed (60.1). Sophomore perimeter players Madeline Blaise (12.9 points, 4.0 rebounds) and Sydney Coffey (11.5, 3.4) both made significant strides off of their respective frosh seasons. Leanne Ockenden contributed more offensively (11.6, 4.6) this past season while capturing her second straight Defensive Player of the Year award; and, point guard Casey Dulin (10.8, 4.3, 4.8 assists) completed the balanced starting five. Tori Jarocz, the 6-3 transfer from Vanderbilt, came back quicker than expected from an off-season Achilles tendon injury to contribute (7.5, 3.7) as she played herself back into shape and improved as the season progressed. For a good portion of the year, freshmen forward Kat Fogarty and guard Brittini Lai were the team's top reserves and each showed promise for the future. Natalie Martinez-Gomez (66 assists vs. 39 turnovers) was also a valued reserve. Team-wise, Marist earned its first-ever homecourt victory over a ranked opponent, upsetting then-No. 20 ranked Oklahoma, 76-69. There was also a nice victory over perennial mid-major level power Bowling Green. There was also a nice "revenge" victory over Iona, which gave Marist its first conference loss of the season on a buzzer-beater by guard Damika Martinez. When the teams met again late in the season, Marist dominated with a 79-67 victory that wasn't even as close as the final score. And, finally, there was an impressive come-from-behind victory vs. Quinnipiac in the MAAC tournament's championship game in which Marist rallied from a 17-point deficit late in the first half to get the victory and yet another trip to the NCAA's.

WHAT WENT WRONG: It almost takes a magnifying glass to annually find anything to pick on about a Marist season, but there were some disappointments. There was a 1-4 non-league start, but the team's non-league schedule was the third most-difficult nationally. After that came 10 straight losses before another loss, this one to Iona in Poughkeepsie. It was the first conference loss for Marist after 36 straight victories, and it also ended a 42-game homecourt winning streak. And, there was another regular-season loss, a four-pointer to Fairfield. It's all relative, of course. Marist's two MAAC setbacks came by a combined total of six points. And, what program anywhere wouldn't be happy going through an entire season of league play with just two losses? But, after a 53-1 record in MAAC regular-season competition over the previous three seasons, a two-loss season became noteworthy to some extent ... Some of the team's early woes were related to injury. Dulin missed several games early with a foot injury, and Jarocz missed 14 early games recovering from her injury. Those personnel issues left the team relying more on freshmen Fogarty and Lai, something unusual for a coach who prefers to limit the playing time of first-year team members to help ease their transition to his system ... Jarocz was never truly at 100 percent, and Dulin had another setback at midseason when she suffered a broken nose that limited her effectiveness for several games. And, then, there was a tough draw in the NCAA tournament when Marist had to play Iowa on the Hawkeyes' home court. The Red Foxes suffered an 87-65 defeat.

WHAT'S AHEAD: More of the same type success, and more competition from Iona, which has the return of arguably the conference's two best players. Marist loses three key seniors (O'Conner, Ockenden and Dulin), probably its top three players from this past season, and teams rarely survive that type of personnel loss without some slippage. But, Marist might be the exception. Blais and Coffey, both rising juniors, will surely be a dynamic one-two offensive punch for the next two seasons. The point guard spot looks to be in good-enough hands between Lai, Marinez-Gomez and, maybe, incoming freshman Allie Clement, Maine's high school Player of the Year this past season. Rising sophomore Sydnie Rosalies, who only played 10 games after recovering from preseason shoulder surgery, could be another valuable perimeter player. If Jarocz can get close to 100 percent by next season, she would be the dominating post player Marist hasn't had in some time. And, Fogarty is likely to make the progression most in the program make entering their sophomore year.

REASONABLE EXPECTATION: For the first time in many years, Marist might not be the preseason favorite. But, at worst, it's the co-favorite with Iona. If Jarocz and/or Fogarty step up the inside play from a year ago, then Marist will indeed be the prime contender for another regular-season title. The Red Foxes certainly are one of next season's top two teams in the MAAC. And, considering how defense usually wins championships, Marist will probably be the favorite, come post-season tournament time, to earn another trip to the NCAA's.