College Basketball Preseason: MAAC Preview for 2012-13

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IOctober 23, 2012

College Basketball Preseason: MAAC Preview for 2012-13

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    The MAAC had a very successful 2011-12 season, sending four teams to the postseason: Loyola and Iona to the NCAA tournament, and Manhattan and Fairfield to the CIT.

    Iona spent the entire season as the lone favorite to win the conference, and it did in the regular season, by two games over Loyola.

    In the 2012-13 season, the conference will be a little more balanced.

    Loyola, which won the conference tournament last year, has the best chance to walk away with the title, but Manhattan will surely give the Greyhounds a good fight, and Iona is not far behind those two. Siena seems to be just a slight step behind the Gaels, and even Marist, Niagara and Canisius could pull off a few surprises.

    This is the deepest the MAAC has been in a number of years.

    Here is a 2012-13 season preview for the MAAC with team-by-team breakdowns, preseason all-conference awards and predictions for how the final standings will shape up.

Canisius Golden Griffins

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    Losses: Marial Dahl, Gaby Belardo, Franklin Milian, David Santiago, Sean Ezeamama, Tyler Funk

    Gains: Billy Baron, Isaac Sosa, Freddy Asprilla, Phil Valenti, Jermaine Johnson

    After a long stretch of losing, Canisius is starting a new era under Jim Baron. Baron has been successful at all three of his previous stops.

    At St. Francis (PA), he won an NEC championship and went to the NCAA tournament. Baron never won a conference championship with Saint Bonaventure, but he did go to three NITs and one Big Dance. And at Rhode Island, he went to five NITs and one CBI.

    With the Rams, Baron had five consecutive winning seasons (four with 20 or more wins) before a 7-24 campaign this past season got him fired. 

    Three players transferred following the coaching change, but fortunately, only one, point guard Gaby Belardo (12 ppg, 2.6 apg), was a key player.

    The Golden Griffins return Harold Washington and Alshwan Hymes, their two leading scorers, plus Chris Manhertz and Josiah Heath, their two leading rebounders.

    Washington has the potential to lead the MAAC in scoring after averaging 17 points per game last season. Hymes led the MAAC in three-pointers made in 2011-12.

    Canisius' biggest addition is Rhode Island transfer Billy Baron, the new coach's son.

    Baron averaged 13 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.6 steals for the Rams last season and is eligible immediately.

    To help replace Belardo, Baron will have Central Florida transfer Isaac Sosa, who averaged 8.8 points per game over three seasons with the Knights.

    The Golden Griffins will also have Kansas State transfer Freddy Asprilla, who averaged 4.9 points and 4.9 rebounds during his time with the Wildcats. Asprilla also played his freshman season at Florida International, where he averaged 13.7 points and 9.2 rebounds. He is bound to have an immediate impact in the MAAC and has the potential to average a double-double.

Fairfield Stags

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    Losses: Sean Crawford, Ryan Olander, Rakim Sanders, Gary Martin, Jamel Fields, Adam Jones 

    Gains: Josip Mikulic, Coleman Johnson, Lincoln Davis, Marcus Gilbert, Amadou Sidibe, Justin Jenkins

    Fairfield was nothing too spectacular last year, finishing 12-6 in the MAAC and tying Manhattan for third place. But the Stags got hot at the end and finished on a high note, advancing to the MAAC championship game and eventually to the CIT semifinals.

    After losing a bunch of key players, the Stags can expect a poor finish in this year's competitive conference.

    The losses of Rakim Sanders and Ryan Olander in the front court will hurt most. Sanders led the team in scoring and rebounding with 16.6 points per game and 8.2 rebounds per game. Olander's seven-foot body caused trouble in the post for every team in the MAAC, and his 1.8 blocks per game will definitely be missed.

    The Stags return only five players who received any playing time last season: three guards and two undersized small forwards.

    Derek Needham, Desmond Wade and Colin Nickerson return in the backcourt.

    Needham dominated as a freshman in the 2009-10 season, but although last year was better than his sophomore year, his past two seasons have both been mediocre.

    Maurice Barrow and Keith Matthews are both 6'5" small forwards. Barrow had a great sophomore season, averaging 9.3 points, six rebounds and two assists, but Matthews was a step behind with only 3.7 points per game and 1.9 rebonuds per game.

    Head coach Sydney Johnson will most likely have to start one of his freshman big men unless the Stags choose to go with a tiny lineup. The best candidates for that final spot are redshirt freshman Vince Van Nes and true freshman Josip Mikulic.

Iona Gaels

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    Losses: Ra'shad James, Kyle Smyth, Mike Glover, Scott Machado, Jermel Jenkins, Trinity Fields, Randy Dezouvre

    Gains: A.J. English, Grant Ellis, DaJuan Williams, David Laury, Da'Shawn Gomez, DaSean Anderson, Curtis Dennis, Shawn Jackson, Tre Bowman

    Iona may have lost its two best players in Scott Machado and Mike Glover, but the Gaels have reloaded and will most likely finish in the top three of the MAAC.

    The Gaels will have an explosive back court with Momo Jones and Sean Armand. Jones averaged 15.7 points per game last year, and Armand was one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the conference at 46.7 percent.

    With the big losses of Machado and Kyle Smyth in the backcourt, both Jones and Armand will create much more production. Expect Jones to average close to 20 points per game and be a potential MAAC Player of the Year.

    Iona also adds 6'5" Toledo transfer Curtis Dennis, who is eligible immediately because of Toledo's postseason ban. Dennis averaged 11.8 points per game for the Rockets last season and had 11 games with 15 or more points.

    In the front court, the Gaels return Taaj Ridley, who averaged 6.7 points and 4.1 rebounds. He will get help from 6'8" sophomore David Laury, who becomes eligible midway into the season. Laury chose the Gaels over Baylor, Massachusetts and Southern Miss. He should replace a lot of Glover's lost production.

    The Gaels could also add Norvel Pelle, who was ranked the No. 1 center in the Class of 2011 by Rivals, in January. Iona is still waiting on a ruling from the NCAA for whether Pelle will be eligible for the second semester. If he plays, he will be a major force in the MAAC.

    Until Laury and potentially Pelle become eligible, look for junior college transfer Shawn Jackson to hold down the interior.

Loyola (MD) Greyhounds

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    Losses: Justin Drummond, Shane Walker, Pierson Williams, J'Hared Hall

    Gains: Josh Fortney, Will Rassman, S.J. Tuohy

    Loyola had its best season since joining Division I last year. The Greyhounds went 24-9, finished No. 2 in the MAAC, won the MAAC tournament and then lost to Ohio State in the NCAA tournament.

    The Greyhounds now return their top three scorers, but they lost a pair of important players in starting center Shane Walker and MAAC Sixth Man of the Year Justin Drummond. Walker provided nine points per game and 6.3 boards in addition to invaluable leadership as a senior. Drummond gave Loyola a huge boost off the bench with his 10.7 points per game.

    Head coach Jimmy Patsos returns four starters, including leading scorer and rebounder Erik Etherly, an early MAAC Player of the Year candidate. Etherly averaged 13.7 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks as a junior.

    In the backcourt, the Hounds return Dylon Cormier, Robert Olson and R.J. Williams.

    Cormier was No. 4 in the MAAC with 1.6 steals per game, and Olson was No. 3 in three-point shooting at 44.2 percent.

    Williams, a sophomore, averaged four points and 2.6 assists last season. Although he was by no means inadequate, his point guard skills were in question. It will be interesting to see if he made improvements to his game during the offseason or if Loyola will end up shorthanded at the point guard position.

    Patsos will need a replacement for Walker in the front court. The two options he has are senior Anthony Winbush or junior Jordan Latham, who started his career at Xavier.

    Winbush had a promising sophomore season with 7.3 points per game and 3.9 rebounds, but injuries derailed his career. Last season, he averaged only 3.2 points and three rebounds.

    Latham, who has the much bigger body at 6'8" and 249 pounds, averaged 1.8 points and 1.2 rebounds a year ago.

Manhattan Jaspers

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    Losses: Decarlos Anderson, Liam McCabe-Moran, Djibril Coulibaly, Kidani Brutus

    Gains: C.J. Jones, Paul Bayt, Shane Richards, Adam Lacey, RaShawn Stores

    In all likelihood, Manhattan is set for its second consecutive 20-win season. The difference from last year is that this time it will be expected of the Jaspers.

    Manhattan lost two key players from last year in Kidani Brutus and Liam McCabe-Moran, but Steve Masiello's additions will not only replace that production, but also make the team even better. The Jaspers add redshirt freshman RaShawn Stores and true freshman C.J. Jones, Paul Bayt, Shane Richards and Adam Lacey.

    The Jaspers could also add Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey to their front court if the NCAA grants him a waiver for immediate eligibility. Pankey, who grew up in the Bronx, chose to transfer to a school closer to home because of a personal situation with his family.

    Either way, the Jaspers will definitely have Rhamel Brown, Emmy Andujar, Ryan McCoy and Roberto Colonette returning to the front court. Brown averaged 2.5 blocks per game and is the reigning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year.

    Andujar, a 6'5" point forward, made the MAAC Freshman team last year, averaging 8.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists.

    In the back court, Manhattan will have George Beamon, who led the MAAC in scoring last year with 19 points per game, Michael Alvarado, who will be possibly the best point guard in the MAAC with the graduation of Iona's Scott Machado, and Donovan Kates, who has the potential to be one of the better three-point shooters in the conference.

    The Jaspers should also be able to count on some production off the bench from Jones and Stores.

Marist Red Foxes

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    Losses: R.J. Hall, George Dallas 

    Gains: Eric Truog, Phillip Lawrence, Patrick Ramsey

    Chuck Martin finally broke through with Marist last year after a miserable first three seasons. The disconcerting part about that statement is that the Red Foxes went only 14-18, 7-11 in the MAAC and finished No. 8 in the conference.

    That being said, Marist should have its best season of the Martin era in 2012-13. The Red Foxes went 7-3 in its final 10 games last season after starting 7-15, and now they return all their starters.

    Last year's team was relatively inexperienced, but now the Red Foxes have three seniors and six juniors on the roster. And sophomores Chavaughn Lewis, Isaiah Morton and Manny Thomas, who all averaged more than 20 minutes as freshmen, also gain the extra year of experience.

    Lewis, who led Marist in scoring last year, will once again be the team's star. He averaged 14.4 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals while shooting 43.1 percent from the field. The one spotty statistic was his three turnovers per game, but part of that can be attributed to being a rookie.

    The Red Foxes also return Devin Price and Isaiah Morton in the backcourt and Jay Bowie, Manny Thomas and Anell Alexis on the wings, as well as Dorvell Carter, who missed almost all of last season with a knee injury.

    Price averaged 13.6 points and 2.2 assists while leading the team with 60 made three-pointers, and Carter averaged 11.7 points in his three games and made seven of 14 three-point attempts.

    In the front court, Marist returns Adam Kemp. Kemp was No. 2 in the MAAC last year with 2.2 blocks per game, and he also averaged 8.5 points and 7.2 rebounds. He is coming off an injury, but he is expected to be back for the start of the season.

Niagara Purple Eagles

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    Losses: Ali Langford, Paul Kowalski, Josh Turner

    Gains: Devon White, T.J. Cline, Tahjere McCall

    Niagara was one piece away from being very competitive in 2011-12, and now that hole has been filled.

    The Purple Eagles added 6'8" center Devon White, a graduate student who transferred from La Salle. White averaged 5.8 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Explorers last season.

    Head coach Joe Mihalich has always had success with backcourt players, dating back to Charron Fisher finishing No. 2 in the nation in scoring in 2007-08, Tyrone Lewis dominating the MAAC for four seasons and now an excellent group of guards in Antoine Mason, Juan'ya Green, Malcolm Lemmons, Marvin Jordan and Ameen Tanskley.

    But even with such a great group of guards, the Purple Eagles lacked a force inside and finished No. 7 in the conference last year.

    The one caveat with White is that he is fresh off ACL surgery. Reports say that he could be back for the start of the season, but he will definitely be back by the time MAAC play rolls around.

    The aforementioned quintuplet of guards were Niagara's top five scorers last season.

    Green led the team with 17.7 points per game, the second-best mark among Division I freshmen. He also averaged 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals, earning the MAAC Rookie of the Year award.

    Mason, the son of former NBA all-star Anthony Mason, and Jordan were also double-digit scorers, averaging 15.1 points and 10.4 points, respectively. Jordan was the team's best three-point shooter at 35 percent.

Rider Broncs

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    Losses: Mark Medley, Charles Oliver, Kevin Noon, Jeff Jones, Novar Gadson, Brandon Penn

    Gains: Nurideen Lindsey, Khalil Alford, Derrick Stewart, Shawn Valentine, Jamal Nwaniemeka, Zedric Sadler, Myles Melville

    After going to the CIT in 2010-11, Rider finished six games below .500 last season. The Broncs were awful in non-conference play, but they pulled themselves together for a fifth-place finish in the MAAC at 10-8.

    Rider lost three of its top four scorers and will struggle to replace the production of those players.

    Jeff Jones and Brandon Penn, who led the team in scoring with 13.4 points and 12 points, respectively, both graduated. Penn was also No. 2 on the team with 6.5 rebounds per game. Both were also strong three-point shooters with Jones at 39.6 percent and Penn at 38 percent.

    The Broncs also lost Novar Gadson, who averaged 10.7 points and 3.5 rebounds.

    Rider does have an impact transfer in Nurideen Lindsey from St. John's, who is eligible immediately. Lindsey averaged 12.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists in nine games with the Red Storm and could be an all-MAAC player this year.

    The Broncs return a trio of starters in Daniel Stewart, Anthony Myles and Jonathon Thompson. Stewart is the team's top returning scorer and rebounder with 11.1 points and 6.6 rebounds. Myles averaged 10.1 points per game while shooting 39.4 percent last year, and Thompson emerged as a strong point guard, averaging 8.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 4.7 assists.

    Rider will also have to adjust to a new coaching staff.

    After Tommy Dempsey bolted for the head coaching position at Binghamton, the Broncs quickly promoted former assistant Kevin Baggett to fill the vacancy rather than search elsewhere.

Siena Saints

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    Losses: Brandon Walters, Kyle Downey, Owen Wignot, Conner Fenlon

    Gains: Ryan Oliver, Richard Audu, Brett Bisping, Lionel Gomis, Imoh Silas

    Siena fought through a tough 2011-12 season and finished 14-17 despite having only a six-man rotation once Davonte Beard left after 10 games. Although the Saints lost three key pieces in Brandon Walters, Kyle Downey and Owen Wignot, they also keep three key pieces in O.D. Anosike, Evan Hymes, and Rob Poole.

    Anosike led the nation in rebounding last year with 12.5 per game, and Hymes was one of the best freshman in the MAAC with 13.4 points per game and 3.7 assists per game. He also shot 36.1 percent from beyond the arc.

    Poole proved to be a key part of last year's success as a freshman. When he scored 10 or more points, Siena went 8-3.

    After missing last season with injuries, Rakeem Brookins, Davis Martens and Trenity Burdine are now healthy and ready to play.

    Martens and Burdine both have the potential to be solid forwards in this conference, but getting Brookins back is a huge deal. As a freshman, Brookins averaged nine points, 4.3 assists and 1.6 steals while shooting 34.1 percent on three-pointers.

    The Saints also have a lot of talent coming in this season.

    Lionel Gomis and Imoh Silas, a pair of sophomore forwards who missed last season after the NCAA ruled them ineligible, both have the potential to be forces in the post, especially on defense.

    Siena's freshman class is headed by Richard Audu. Audu was ranked No. 6 among Canadian shooting guards by flagrantfouls.com and averaged over 20 points per game last season.

    The Saints bring in another talented shooting guard in Ryan Oliver and power forward Brett Bisping.

St. Peter's Peacocks

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    Losses: Lamin Fulton, Jack Hill, Brandon Hall, Gaetano Spera

    Gains: Patrick Jackson, Chazz Patterson, Desi Washington, Elias Desport

    Immediately after winning the MAAC tournament in 2011 and going to the NCAA tournament, St. Peter's fell back to the bottom of the MAAC. Last year, the Peacocks finished in ninth place, and this year, they are the favorite to finish in last.

    The Peacocks lost a pair of key players in Lamin Fulton and Brandon Hall. Fulton averaged 8.9 points and was the team's best three-point shooter at 34.5 percent, and Hall was a top defender in the MAAC with 1.8 steals per game.

    But head coach John Dunne does return his two leading scorers, forward Darius Conley and guard Chris Prescott. Conley averaged 11.6 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks, and Prescott posted 10.1 points and shot 33 percent from beyond the arc.

    The Peacocks add a trio of players that could have an immediate impact.

    Most notable is Desi Washington, who transferred from Delaware State. Washington averaged 13.1 points for the Hornets as a freshman, and his 37.6 percent three-point shooting will be crucial for St. Peter's, which struggled last season in that regard.

    Also in are Kent State transfer Pat Jackson, who averaged 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds last year, and Chazz Patterson, a freshman shooting guard from New Jersey who was ranked No. 8 in the state by ESPN.

    Dunne has built a reputation as a solid in-game coach, but he will need a good bit of luck to make St. Peter's competitive this year.

Preseason All-MAAC Awards

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    All-Conference First Team

    Juan'ya Green, Niagara

    Lamont Jones, Iona

    George Beamon, Manhattan

    Erik Etherly, Loyola

    O.D. Anosike, Siena

     

    Preseason MAAC Player of the Year—George Beamon, Manhattan

    Defensive Player of the Year—Rhamel Brown, Manhattan

    Newcomer of the Year—Nurideen Lindsey, Rider

Final Standings Predictions

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    1. Manhattan

    2. Loyola

    3. Iona 

    4. Siena

    5. Niagara

    6. Marist

    7. Canisius

    8. Fairfield

    9. Rider

    10. St. Peter's