Tuesday, October 17, 2006

MAAC Preview


The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference came down to the final day of the season, when Manhattan completed a sweep of Iona to win the league by one game over the Gaels. The Jaspers won their last three conference games to overtake Iona in the final game. Marist finished one game behind the Gaels, while two other teams finished at least .500 in the conference. In the conference tournament, Iona left no question as to who the best team in the conference was. They coasted through the tourney, winning their three games by an average of over 21 points per game. The Gaels were hyped as potential sleeper pick in the NCAA Tournament, but they could not match LSU's height and fell in the first round to the Tigers. This season might not see as a close of a race as last year, but another MAAC team could be a trendy upset pick in March.

Favorite: Marist could be a big-time mid-major sleeper this season. The Red Foxes were one victory shy of 20 wins last season and finished third in the conference; both of those achievements will be improved this season. They are led by Jared Jordan, one of the top point guards in the country. He is the nation's leading assist man and is the favorite for MAAC Player of the Year. Jordan is a good scorer who can shoot it from long-range and is also a solid rebounder and defender. He is joined in the backcourt by fellow all-league guard Will Whittington. One of the top shooters in the nation, Whittington is capable of getting hot from deep and having a huge games. The frontcourt is equally as stacked. James Smith and Ryan Stilphen comprise arguably the best post duo in the conference. Smith, a seven-footer center, is a versatile scorer who is a difficult match-up on the offensive end. Stilphen is a beast on the low block who is a very good scorer and rebounder. 6-5 Ben Farmer is often overlooked, but he will start again at small forward. A nice mixture of returnees and newcomers will come off the bench to provide depth.

Contenders: Niagara may have the most talent in the league, but they also have some flaws that could hinder their development. First of all, the Purple Eagles were only 11-18 last season, finishing seventh in the conference. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they had six players suspended for an altercation with a Niagara baseball player over the summer. Among those suspended were starting guards Lorenzo Miles and Stanley Hodge, who were suspended one and two games, respectively, and all-conference forward Charron Fisher, who received an eight-game ban. However, Niagara should be back together by the conference season, making them a legit contender. Their frontcourt might be the best in the league. Fisher is an inside-outside scorer who is also an outstanding rebounder for his 6-3 size. He is one of the best all-around players in the conference. Sixth Man of the Year Clif Brown will likely move into the starting lineup this season. He is capable of averaging a double-double per game. J.R. Duffey is another double-figure scorer and solid rebounder up front. In the backcourt, Miles leads the way. He is a big-time scorer who can do a little bit of everything. Hodge will run the point this season, but he can play any perimeter position and is versatile. Siena had a surprisingly successful season a year ago, finishing fourth in the conference after a 6-24 campaign two years and being projected to finish last in the MAAC. They will likely finish in the top-tier of the conference again this season. The Saints return one of the best inside-outside combos in the league in guard Kenny Hasbrouck and forward Michael Haddix. Hasbrouck was the MAAC Rookie of the Year last season and is an excellent all-around player. Haddix has the potential to be a dominant post player after being injured last season due to a torn ACL in the summer of 2005. Now healthy, Haddix immediately gives Siena a go-to option down low. Tay Fisher and David Ryan form a very good guard combo on the perimeter. Both are excellent three-point shooters who take some of the pressure off of Haddix and Hasbrouck. Ronald Moore and Mike Beers will see minutes in the backcourt as well. If Siena finds a frontcourt partner for Haddix, the Saints could be a real contender.

Sleepers: Loyola has the unenviable task of replacing all-MAAC guard Andre Collins, who averaged over 26 points per game last season and led the team in scoring every game. The Greyhounds have the talent to overcome the loss of Collins, though. Like he did with Collins, a former Maryland transfer, coach Jimmy Patsos will rely heavily on two Division-I transfers. Providence transfer Gerald Brown could make an immediate impact. He is very athletic and versatile and can become a big-time scorer. Notre Dame transfer Omari Israel will see playing time right away in the frontcourt. The returnees are not too shabby, either. Michael Tuck and Hassan Fofana form a solid duo up front. Tuck is the team's leading returning scorer and should improve his production, while Fofana has the potential to become a very good low-post player. Josko Aluevic also returns in the frontcourt. Shane James and Marquise Sullivan will join Brown on the perimeter. Iona loses four starters from their NCAA Tournament team of a season ago, including the highest-scoring backcourt in the country in Steve Burtt and Ricky Soliver. Don't count out the Gaels, though. They return a very solid frontcourt in returnees Anthony Bruin and Gary Springer. Bruin is very athletic and strong who could have a breakout season, while Springer will be a solid presence down low. Justin Marshall and John Kelly will also see minutes. St. John's transfer Dexter Gray and freshman Alejo Rodriguez will make immediate impacts in the frontcourt. The perimeter will rely heavily on newcomers. JC transfer Kyle Camper will start at the point. He is an excellent passer who has already been named captain, demonstrating the leadership qualities he possesses. Freshmen DeShaune Griffin and Mike Harris will see playing time in the backcourt. Canisius finished next-to-last a season ago and loses two starters, but there is optimism in Buffalo. The Golden Griffins return a very good forward combo in all-conference candidate Corey Herring and Darnell Wilson, an all-around solid player. Herring could be poised for a breakout season, while Wilson is a good inside-outside option. The backcour tis also solid with Chuck Harris and freshman Frank Turner. Harris is a versatile combo guard who can do a little bit of everything, while Turner is a playmaker and is very quick at both ends. Manhattan will take several steps back after winning the regular-season crown last season. The Jaspers lose coach Bobby Gonzalez as well as three seniors and three transfers, leaving the cupboard fairly bare. However, new coach Barry Rohrssen has a solid duo to build around. Big man Arturo Dubois is an all-conference forward who is dominant down low. He is an excellent rebounder and is efficient with the ball. Guard Devin Austin is an explosive wing who could become a go-to-guy on offense. Newcomers Antione Pearson and Patrick Bouli will form a solid point guard duo, while freshman Darryl Crawford is a good scorer.

Rounding Out the Pack: Rider had won of their worst seasons in recent history, finishing last in the MAAC and going a paltry 8-20 overall. However, with a nice blend of newcomers and returnees, the Broncs could see an improvement. Jason Thompson leads the way. The 6-10 forward is one of the best players in the conference and is very difficult to stop on the offensive end. He can score in a variety of ways and is also a solid rebounder. Joining him in the frontcourt will be transfer Joel Green. He is a versatile forward who can score and rebound well. The backcourt is led by Terrance Mouton. He is a big-time scorer who needs to develop more of an all-around game. Sophomores Lamar Johnson and Harris Mansell also anchor the perimeter. St. Peter's will miss two-time NCAA scoring champ Keydren Clark greatly. The MAAC Player of the Year leaves an outstanding legacy, finishing sixth on the all-time NCAA scoring list. The Peacocks return some very capable players, though. Forward Todd Sowell averaged a double-double last season and is an all-conference player up front. Believe it or not, he could have an even better season this year. Quentin Martin will also start at forward. Wing Raul Orta could become the go-to-guy on the perimeter for St. Peter's. He was an All-Rookie performer, and is a versatile scorer. Kevin Spann is a solid point guard. Fairfield had a disappointing campaign last season, going 9-19 overall and finishing seventh in the MAAC. Moreover, their do-it-all star Terrence Todd used up his eligibility, leaving the Stags with a lot of work to do. The perimeter will be the team's strong point. Michael Van Schaick is the leading returning scorer. He needs to improve his scoring output this year. Danny Oglesby is a good long-range shooter, while sophomores Jonathan Han and Herbie Allen will again form a solid two-headed point guard. Up front, Marty O'Sullivan and Geoff Middleton lead the way. Mamadou Diakhate will also contribute in the frontcourt.

Prediction: The MAAC might not have as close of a race as it did a season ago, but the conference has a chance to win an NCAA Tournament game this year with Marist. The Red Foxes are one of the best mid-major teams in the country, led by point guard Jared Jordan, a potential All-American candidate. They have excellent inside-outside balance and several players that can breakout and have a big game on any given night. Marist has far too much talent for anyone in the conference to handle, although Niagara could be a solid team if the off-court distractions go away by the time conference play rolls around.

Player of the Year: Jared Jordan, PG, Marist

All-Conference Team:
G- Jared Jordan, Marist
G- Will Whittington, Marist
F- Charron Fisher, Niagara
F- Arturo Dubois, Manhattan
F- Jason Thompson, Rider

Second Team:
G- Kenny Hasbrouck, Siena
G- Lorenzo Miles, Niagara
F- Clif Brown, Niagara
F- Todd Sowell, St. Peter's
F- Michael Haddix, Siena


  1. A few corrections regarding Siena's team. David Ryan is a Forward standing 6'7" and weighing 220 lbs. He played the power forward and center positions last year but is better suited to the small forward/power forward positions. This posting has no mention of new comer Edwin Ubiles who is the top rated MAAC recruit in many publications. Edwin is 6'7" and is extremely athletic with the ability to get to the rim with ease. He was recruited by higher rated conferences but chose Siena. The starting rotation for Siena will in all likelyhood be Kenny Hasbrouck at the point, Tay Fisher at shooting guard, Edwin Ubiles at small forward, David Ryan at power forward and at center Michael Haddix. If Haddix returns to form he will more than likely be the best big man in the conference. He is nearly unguardable in the MAAC in the post. Kenny Hasbrouck and Michael Haddix on paper are an interesting inside outside duo. They have yet to play a game together.

  2. Thank you for the scoop on the lineup and Ubiles.

    I'll update the preview shortly.

  3. Haddix did not have an ACL injury. It was his achilles.

  4. Niagara shows a lack of team unity. They have the athleticism but I don't think the talent is there either. Coach Joe Mihalich will hae a lot to do with Niagara in order for them to contend. Niagara didn't do well with these same players (for the most part) last season. So, in my mind the only true team to contend Marist is the Siena Saints.

  5. Manhattan will surprise. Gonzo left Manhattan a gift in Christian Jackson, who redshirted last year.An impact player who will start at the 2, expect "Boo" to have a solid year and be Rookie of the year.

    The point guard combo of Piersan and Bouli are solid.

    Barry got some good players late and you can expect that the experiance they get this year will make them contenders next year.

  6. Thanks for the effort on previewing the conference. Marist will be very good. If Edwin Ubiles (offers not interest from the big east, Big 12 and A10) and rated the top incoming MAAC recruit by Scout, Hoopscoop, Hoopmasters and several others plays to form Siena will challenge and possibly overtake the Foxes

  7. Siena is going to be ok but they are not going to overtake Marist.They have the size to contend with Haddix and the backcourt is light years better than Siena's. Marist has beaten them 6 times in a row and they should be peaking by the time league play rolls around. Siena is counting on kids. The two guys that caused Marist the most problems last yr are gone. Jared Jordan is the difference. He's light years better than anybody Siena has at the point. That's what wins in the MAAC.

  8. Fairfield will be better than people think, with new coach Ed Cooley from Boston College. He has brought in five new recruits, 4 of them over 6'7" to address the problem of lack of size in the low post. Greg Nero and Anthony "Showtime" Johnson bring athleticism to the post, something Fairfield has been lacking as well. Nero also shows the ability to hit the outside shot. These incoming freshman will grow quickly in Cooley's system and provide Fairfield with a promising future.

    6'9" sophomore Michael Evanovich from iowa state should only add to the depth in the post come January when he is eligible to play, as well as 6'7" Israel native Roi Buchbinder.

    The sophomore guard tandem of Jon Han and Herbie Allen will need to step it up for this team to succeed. They need to put their one on one games aside and develop a rhythm for the entire offense.

    Junior Michael Van Shaick is a sharp shooter who is the heart of this team. The captain will have to hit his open looks to loosen the defense for the youth down low.

    Don't expect geoff middleton to log many minutes now that the freshmen have size and more talent than he does. Diakhate has the heart but his lack of size will continue to be a problem in the post. 5th year Senior Marty O'Sullivan provides some decent play in the post and good senior leadership for the young forwards.

    Ogelsby is batting a nagging back injury. He will play a 6th man role at the most. Cooley has elected to give 6'4" guard Rich Flemming the playing time when resting his 3 main guards.

    Ed Cooley has already recruited next year and looks to be turning this team around. They could surprise some people come February if the kids can mature quickly under Cooley. The future looks bright for the Fairfield Stags.

  9. But the present doesn't look good whatsoever, and as a result of this being a 2006-2007 preview, that's what matters at this point in time.

    That "bright future", by the way, has the Stags at 1-7 thus far, with the lone win coming over D-1 newcomer Central Arkansas.