1. Fairfield Stags
Key Returning Players: Greg Nero, Derek Needham, Yorel Hawkins
Key Recruits: Majok Majok, Maurice Barrow
The Fairfield Stags are the frontrunners in the MAAC for the upcoming season. In the MAAC championship game last season, the Stags took first-place Siena into overtime before falling just short of a win. Since then, Fairfield has only gotten better.
The only major loss that the Stags are faced with is the loss of forward Anthony Johnson. Johnson averaged 16.1 points per game and 9.8 rebounds. The most likely replacement for Johnson will be fifth-year senior Greg Nero.
The Stags will also have 6'8" freshman Majok Majok in the post. The other key freshman for the Stags is Maurice Barrow, a 6'4" forward from New York.
Fairfield will also return Derek Needham and Yorel Hawkins. Needham was easily the best freshman in the MAAC last season, averaging 16.2 points per game and 5.2 assists. As a senior, Hawkins will be one of the leaders on this team. Hawkins averaged 14.6 points per game in the 2009-10 season.
The 2010-11 Stags have the raw talent and the experience to be the best team in the MAAC. Siena will give them a tough fight, but the Stags will be in first place when March comes around.
2. Siena Saints
Key Returning Players: Ryan Rossiter, Clarence Jackson, Kyle Downe
Key Recruits: Rakeem Brookins, Trenity Burdine
Siena could definitely end up as the best team in the MAAC for the fourth straight year, but it will be more difficult than in the past. The Saints' graduating class contributed 30.4 points per game last season. In addition, the Saints are losing one of their leading rebounders from last season and Ronald Moore's 7.8 assists per game.
However, Siena will return Clarence Jackson, Kyle Downey, and Ryan Rossiter. These three will have to step up as veteran leaders on this team. Jackson and Rossiter are seniors, along with 6'5" forward Steven Priestley, while Downey is a junior. Rossiter and Jackson each scored more than 13 points per game last season, while Downey averaged five points per game and shot 40.4 percent from the field.
The Saints will also need contributions from junior Owen Wignot and sophomore O.D. Anosike, who each averaged 2.7 points per game last season.
Siena will also have the addition of freshmen Rakeem Brookins and Trenity Burdine, and Seton Hall transfer Brandon Walters.
Brookins is a 5'11" point guard with an all-around balanced game. He can score and pass, drive for layups, and hit jump shots. Burdine is a 6'5" wing forward with a nice stroke from downtown. Walters, a 6'9" center, averaged 1.9 points per game in 2008-09 with Seton Hall. Walters is not too talented, but his size alone could have some impact against the not as good MAAC teams.
Siena might not have Fran McCaffery around anymore, but it does still have a coach who possesses experience with Siena. Mitch Buonaguro has been with Siena since 2005 and was with the school for its three-peat.
3. Iona Gaels
Key Returning Players: Scott Machado, Jermel Jenkins, Alejo Rodriguez, Kyle Smyth
Key Recruits: Jayon James, Sean Armand, Michael Glover
Iona is supposed to be good this year, but could still surprise some and move even higher than third place by the end of the season. The Gaels have a lot of experience and talent in their upperclassmen and will also have some new, incoming players that can add to the team's game.
Scott Machado and Alejo Rodriguez will be the main upperclassmen on the team, and Jermel Jenkins and Kyle Smyth will back them up.
Machado led the team with 12.5 points per game last season. He is an all-around talented player and a natural leader on the team.
Rodriguez has the ability to be a monster in the post, but sometimes size and foul trouble limit him. Against some of the big men in the MAAC, he still should be able to dominate.
In addition, the Gaels are bringing in some new and good recruits. Jayon James leads the recruiting class as a 6'5" forward. He was ranked the 34th best small forward in the 2010 recruiting class. James is talented in multiple ways on the court and has a thick build. One source compared him to former Niagara star Charron Fisher.
The Gaels will also have Michael Glover and Sean Armand to help out the starring crew. Glover originally committed to Seton Hall, but decommitted and went to the College of Eastern Utah for two years. Now, Glover is back and ready for Division I ball and should get playing time with Iona. Armand is a 6'4" shooting guard from CJEOTO Academy in New Jersey with a great stroke from the perimeter.
Another newcomer to New Rochelle is Head Coach Tim Cluess. Cluess was previously the head coach at Division II powerhouse C.W. Post. During his last three years with C.W. Post, Cluess was 79-12. Cluess has already put together a good recruiting class for Iona, and now we will have to see how he does during games.
4. St. Peter's Peacocks
Key Returning Players: Ryan Bacon, Wesley Jenkins, Nick Leon
Key Recruits: None
St. Peter's had a surprisingly good year last season and finished fourth in the MAAC. The Peacocks do not have anybody new who will make a big impact from the start, but they are returning all of their main players.
Ryan Bacon, Wesley Jenkins, and Nick Leon all averaged in double digits last season. These three have the talent to lead St. Peter's to another solid season, but they will need to do a lot of the work.
5. Niagara Purple Eagles
Key Returning Players: Anthony Nelson, Kashief Edwards
Key Recruits: Skylar Jones, Malcolm Lemmons, Marvin Jordan
The Purple Eagles are in some trouble for the upcoming season. 54.7 points of Niagara's 72.2 points per game from last season graduated in June and the Purple Eagles will need to find some new sources for scoring. Niagara is bringing in a solid, but not stellar recruiting class. The young freshman will not be good enough to fill in the voids that last year's seniors left, so the Purple Eagles will need some of the older veterans to step up and have big years.
Niagara is bringing in three solid guards in Skylar Jones, Marvin Jordan, and Antoine Mason.
Jones is a 6'3" shooting guard who is reported by ESPN to have a "solid jump shot" and a "strong ability to slash to the basket." Jordan, who has no relationship to the family of Michael Jordan, is a 5'11" point guard from Illinois. He is supposedly very quick with and without the ball and can be great in transition. Mason is a solid shooter, but appears to be known more for his leadership skills.
The Purple Eagles will also have the additions of Malcolm Lemmons and Joseph Thomas. Thomas is supposed to be nothing special, but Lemmons is a good wing player.
With the bottom half of the MAAC being fairly weak this season, Niagara might still be able to finish in the top half if it can start gelling early on.
6. Rider Broncs
Key Returning Players: Novar Gadson, Mike Ringgold, Justin Robinson
Key Recruits: Daniel Stewart
Rider is taking a big hit with the graduation of Ryan Thompson. Thompson was the team leader and easily the most talented player on last year's team. In addition, Thompson was a player who was a threat on any spot of the court. Without a versatile player like Thompson, the Broncs will be forced to change part of their style of playing.
The main players on Rider's squad this year will be Novar Gadson and Mike Ringgold in the post, and Justin Robinson as a guard. Last year, Robinson averaged 13.2 points per game while Ringgold and Gadson each scored 11.2 points per game. These three upperclassmen will need to help the team out with their skills and experience.
Rider's biggest addition is Daniel Stewart. Stewart is a 6'6" power forward who was graded an 86 on ESPN. Stewart is supposedly a great athlete and a solid scorer in the paint.
7. Manhattan Jaspers
Key Returning Players: Andrew Gabriel, George Beamon, Mohamed Koita
Key Recruits: Mike Alvarado, Torgrim Sommerfeldt, Roberto Colonette, Robert Martina
Manhattan is looking to shake off a very disappointing 2009-10 season. Head Coach Barry Rohrssen is bringing in what is easily his best recruiting class since joining the Jaspers.
Manhattan's biggest disadvantage will be its lack of experience. The Jaspers only have five returning players on scholarship, and only two are seniors (Nick Walsh and Andrew Gabriel). The fact that a chunk of Manhattan's experience will have to come from sophomores George Beamon and Mohamed Koita, who both did not get much playing time last season, is disturbing.
However, the Jaspers could find some experience from other sources. Manhattan will have three junior college players entering its program for the upcoming season. All of them will be entering their junior years.
Robert Martina is the first of the three. Martina is a 6'8" power forward from Miami Dade Junior College. He is said to have a strong post game and the ability to play on the wings.
Second is Roberto Colonette. Colonette is also a power forward. He is on the skinny side, but Coach Rohrssen sees a lot of potential in him.
Third is Kidani Brutus from Carl Albert State College in Oklahoma. Brutus is a 6'1" shooting guard.
The Jaspers might also find some experience in Alabama transfer Demetrius Jemison. Jemison played three years at Alabama, but sat out last year due to injury.
Unfortunately, the experience that Manhattan will be able to get out of these players will be very limited. The Jaspers will be forced to sometimes count on their incoming freshman.
The main freshman in the Jaspers' class is Torgrim Sommerfeldt from Norway. Sommerfeldt is a 6'6" shooting guard and can cause a lot of mismatch problems in the MAAC. ESPN reports Sommerfeldt as an "excellent shooter off the catch with great size and a quick trigger."
Second is point guard Mike Alvarado. Alvarado is described on ESPN as "a jack of all trades." He was elected to the New York City team in the Jordan Classic in April where he scored eight points and had a handful of assists.
Manhattan has the talent to do even better than seventh in the MAAC, but the question is if they have the coaching. If Rohrssen proves that he has the brain to be a good game coach, the Jaspers could surprise everyone and move up towards the top half of the MAAC.
8. Loyola (MD) Greyhounds
Key Returning Players: Jamal Barney, Anthony Winbush, Shane Walker
Key Recruits: Dylon Cormier
The Greyhounds are returning a good chunk of their main players for this season, but that is not going to be enough for them to progress in the MAAC this year. The fact that Loyola lost one of its best players in Brett Harvey and is not getting any big recruits makes me think that there is no way this team can progress this season.
Jamal Barney was the team's leading scorer in 2009-10 with 12.6 points per game. Loyola will need more from him in order to win games.
The Greyhounds also return Anthony Winbush and Shane Walker. Walker averaged 8.7 points per game, and Winbush scored 7.3 points per game before an injury ended his season in mid-late January. These two juniors will also need to step up their games this season.
Dylon Cormier is the only recruit who appears to have the talent to make an immediate impact at Loyola. Cormier is a 6'1" point guard who knows how to score.
The other main freshman on the roster will be Pierson Williams and Justin Drummond. Williams is supposedly a very good shooter, while Drummond is a solid shooter, but still has a lot to work on with his jump shot.
9. Canisius Golden Griffins
Key Returning Players: Julius Coles, Greg Logins
Key Recruits: Ashton Khan
Canisius only had two seniors last year, but one of them, Frank Turner, was far and away the best player on the team. Turner led the team with 16.2 points per game and 5.7 assists per game. In addition, he averaged over five rebounds per game. Turner was the glue of the team and the only part of his game that won't be missed is his 3.3 turnovers per game.
The Golden Griffins will have Julius Coles and Greg Logins, each who averaged in double digits last year, return to lead the team this year. A lot will be asked of them as the senior leaders on the team.
Canisius will also have to look for contributions from freshmen Chris Manhertz, Eric Kindler, and Ashton Kahn. Manhertz is a 6'5" small forward who is supposed to be an all-around balanced player. Kahn is a combo guard with an okay jump shot and a good drive. Kindler is a 6'5" forward who averaged 20.4 points per game and 8.3 rebounds per game in his senior year of high school.
10. Marist Red Foxes
Key Returning Players: Candon Rusin, Devin Price
Key Recruits: Jay Bowie
Unfortunately, it looks Marist will have to prepare for another miserable season. Although the Red Foxes should be able to have a better season than last year (where they only won one game out of 30), there should be no hopes to finish higher than ninth place. Marist will have its best players from the 2009-10 season returning, but that is not saying much.
The only decent freshman that the Red Foxes are adding is Jay Bowie. Bowie is a versatile small forward who can shoot from the perimeter. He will be expected to be a big player on this team from the start.
The best that the Red Foxes can hope for in the 2010-11 season is besting last year's team by winning multiple games.
Follow Jesse Kramer on Twitter for college basketball news or reach by him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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