N.Y. Men Can Jump: The Top 10 College Basketball Teams in New York
Ah, New York State—pretty much no top-tier football teams, but it can be counted on year after year to have at least one or two NCAA tournament teams.
So even though it's college football season and still a couple of months away from the basketball season, it's time for us New Yorkers to start thinking about hoops.
That led me to pondering this question: "Which is the best team in the state of New York?"
Syracuse is the obvious choice and probably the first name that would pop into anyone's head.
Last year at this time the easy choice would undoubtedly have been the Orange. They could have even been considered one of the best in the Big East and maybe the country.
They had height inside (from Arinze Onuaku), athleticism (Paul Harris), clutch shooting (Eric Devendorf), and most importantly, they certainly had heart and a never say die attitude (Jonny Flynn).
Well, now Flynn is gone from 'Cuse and on to the NBA, so where does that leave the Orange? Forget about the Big East; are they even the best team in the state of New York?
The answer may surprise you.
10. Albany Great Danes
The Great Danes, originally list off this list due to a personal error are now on the list. They return both their top scorer (Tim Ambrose) and rebounder (Will Harris) from an average team last year. This will be an upper-tier team in a sub-par conference.
9. Manhattan Jaspers (MAAC)
Manhattan returns four of their top six scorers, including leading scorer Darryl Crawford.
The Jaspers' main issue is size, but in a conference where few teams have much height, that shouldn't be as much of a factor.
8. Hofstra Pride (CAA)
The Pride are trying to return to the glory days of coach Jay Wright and guard Speedy Claxton. After a few down years, they had a turnaround year last year, finishing fifth in the tough Colonial.
They return 20-point man Charles Jenkins; his scoring, along with much talent leaving the conference (most importantly Eric Maynor), makes them a legit contender.
They have a young squad that continues to progress, and this year will be no different.
7. Binghamton Bearcats (America East)
The Bearcats had high expectations after making the field of 65 last year and would be even higher on this list if not for the recent arrest and dismissal of Emanuel Mayben.
The fact is he was their floor leader last year, although D.J. Rivera got all the print for scoring. They'll also be without Rivera for some time with a broken wrist.
At full strength this is a dangerous team, but if Rivera doesn't get healthy, they're simply mediocre.
6. Buffalo Bulls (MAC)
The Bulls had an unexpected league regular season and conference tournament run. They surprised everyone, and this year they'll continue their solid play in the MAC.
They're another undersized team in a mid-major conference. That seems to be the norm here. They win games by slowing the game down and playing solid fundamental basketball.
The return of local Rodney Pierce will be the key to their success.
5. Cornell Big Red (Ivy)
The Big Red will be the class of the Ivy League once again this year. They don't play your typical, slow Ivy League-style basketball. This team knows how to score a little bit.
They return pretty much everyone, including their entire starting five and over 80 percent of their scoring from a year ago.
They will certainly be a team to watch after making the tournament and hanging tough with a fast and physical Missouri team in the first round last year.
4. Niagara Purple Eagles (MAAC)
The Purple Eagles are the third team from the MAAC to make this list. They return leading scorers Tyrone Lewis and the versatile Bilal Benn.
Although Lewis was the team's leading scorer a year ago, there's no doubt that Benn is the key to this team's success. He's extremely versatile and can score, pass, and rebound great for an undersized forward.
The loss of defensive stalwart Benson Egemonye will surely hurt, but this team looks to outscore you, not out-defend you.
3. St. John's Red Storm (Big East)
Coach Norm Roberts is certainly on the hot seat this year. They have given him ample time to turn this program around, and this is the year he finally should do it.
The return of a young squad, along with the NCAA ruling to allow Anthony Mason Jr. another year of eligibility, will make this the team to watch in the Big East.
They're still not on the level of the premier talent in the Big East, but they're certainly on the radar and could possibly make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2002. If not an NCAA bid, they'll almost certainly get a nod in the NIT.
2. Syracuse Orange (Big East)
Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf, I have a question for you: What were you thinking? They both entered the NBA draft early when they're clearly not ready and basically ruined their basketball futures.
If they had returned, Syracuse would still be a top 20 team, certainly the best team in the state, and one of the best in the Big East.
Instead, they will need Andy Rautins to step up the scoring big time and intimidator Arinze Onuaku to dominate the low post on both ends of the floor.
I'm not doubting Jim Boeheim's ability to get this team to play well, but those losses, along with the huge loss of floor leader Jonny Flynn, move them out of my No. 1 spot and out of Big East supremacy.
1. Siena Saints (MAAC)
That's right—the small school from Loudonville beats out Syracuse as my top college basketball team in NY.
Siena has proven the last two years that they are not only one of the best teams in the MAAC, but also one of the best in the country.
They lose leading scorer and conference player of the year Kenny Hasbrouck, but they still return four of five starters and their floor leader Ronald Moore.
Now that Ty Lawson is gone from UNC, Moore is the fastest baseline-to-baseline player in college basketball.
Add that to the length and athleticism of Alex Franklin and NBA prospect Edwin Ubiles, and you have a dynamite team.
Coach Fran McCaffery just got a huge contract extension, and he certainly deserved it. Don't be surprised if you see the Saints in all of the preseason top 25 polls, because they'll definitely garner plenty of votes.