Saturday, October 27, 2012

Conference Calling's 31 in 31 Series: 2012-13 MAAC Preview

The Conference Calling 31 in 31 preview series will examine each of the NCAA Division I auto-bid conferences (so no Great West or independents), one per day, leading up to college basketball's opening day on November 9. 


It takes a sensational season for a team from the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to rate an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. That's what happened last season, when Iona's Runnin' Gaels led the nation in scoring behind the nation's assist king Scott Machado.

MAAC brass were doing cartwheels when Iona took a huge halftime lead against BYU, but the wheels fell off as soon as the Gaels left the locker room. BYU's 25-point comeback was the biggest in tournament history, and Iona was left to slink back to New Rochelle as critics clucked that they didn't deserve a spot.

The muttered response from those same MAAC brass was likely something along the lines of "Thanks for nothin', Iona."

Now that Iona's poisoned the well against future MAAC juggernauts, it's back to one-bid business as usual. The thing is, there are a bunch of teams in the league that could acquit themselves well against No. 2 and No. 3 seeds.

Even the teams that aren't projected near the top feature players who bear watching. It's for that reason that the MAAC is No. 15 on TBI's conference rankings for the 2012-13 season.

Which of the many contenders will prevail? Read on.

1. Manhattan
--Eight of the 10 players who averaged substantial minutes for the Jaspers are back, but there are three names to know above all: Beamon, Brown and Andujar.

Senior guard George Beamon was tough to stop from anywhere last season. If a team held him below 40% shooting, chances are it was hammering him and taking its chances with him at the line (45-55 FT in nine such games). Usually, when a league's leading scorer has an off night, his team is dragged to an ugly defeat, but Manhattan was 6-3 in Beamon's sub-40% games. The 6'4" Beamon finished top-10 in all three shooting levels as well as steals en route to an All-MAAC first-team selection. Coach Steve Masiello just wants his leading scorer to also be his leader, pushing his teammates to improve on the court.

Sophomore Emmy Andujar isn't a point guard, but he can certainly play like one. He led the Jaspers in assists, finishing sixth in the conference, one spot ahead of erstwhile playmaker Michael Alvarado. Andujar didn't rack any triple-doubles, but it's likely coming soon. His biggest game was 11/15/6 against Siena in March. A .491 shooter from the floor, Andujar's capable of scoring more than 8.5 PPG if asked.

Junior Rhamel Brown stands 6'7" and 215, but he's one of the MAAC's most feared inside presences. Brown ranked in the top 20 nationally with 2.5 blocks per game, and his .149 B% was second in America behind Jeff Withey of Kansas. The only issue with Brown was that his rebounding was down by nearly two per game, particularly on the offensive end. As a freshman, he was fifth in the league on the glass, but he slumped to fourth on his own team. Like Andujar, Brown can be an effective scorer if called upon, shooting near 60% last season.

Part of Brown's deflated rebounding numbers can be attributed to the return of forward Roberto Colonette, who's been granted an extra year by the NCAA. Colonette crushed the offensive glass, with a .181 OR% that ranked fourth in the nation.

With the rejection of Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey's immediate-eligibility waiver, frontcourt depth is inexperienced. Two freshmen and 6'9" sophomore Ryan McCoy are the only other frontcourt players on the roster. McCoy and 6'10" rookie Adam Lacey (14 P/9 R/2 BPG) are the only Jaspers taller than 6'7".

The aforementioned Alvarado and 6'5" sophomore Donovan Kates can both handle the ball when called on, but Kates needs to rediscover his shot after hitting less than 32% from the floor. Alvarado sat seventh in the league in both assists and steals. Freshman C.J. Jones is a strong on-ball defender and distributor who should earn occasional minutes.

The Jaspers were one of the strongest all-around teams in the MAAC last season, finishing no lower than fourth in any category that didn't involve turnovers. Therein lay the problem, though. Manhattan committed more than 16 miscues per game, the highest average in the league. The team's handling of the expectations this season and its handling of the ball will be the most important hurdles for the Jaspers to clear if they want to reach March Madness.

2. Loyola (Md.)
--Greyhounds coach Jimmy Patsos was once the guy who stationed two players on Stephen Curry and let the rest of his team lose a 4-on-3 game against Davidson. Now, he's the toast of Baltimore after leading Loyola to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 18 years. And don't think he ain't equipped to do it again before the Greyhounds race off to the Patriot League.

Three All-MAAC selections are still on the roster: seniors Erik Etherly and Robert Olson and junior Dylon Cormier. The 6'7" Etherly ranked 11th in the league in scoring while coming fourth in blocks, rebounds and FG%. He was one of the only Greyhounds to show out in a December loss to Kentucky, carding 14 and 11 while making 7 of 8 shots.

The backcourt trio of Olson, Cormier and sophomore R.J. Williams is one of the MAAC's most cohesive, even if it lacks the star power of a George Beamon or Juan'ya Green. Olson was one of the league's most efficient scorers (.579 eFG% and .604 TS%). Cormier ranked fifth in steals and knocked down 33% from the arc, while Williams led the team in assists and finished sixth in the MAAC with a 1.7 A/T ratio. Patsos now wants Williams to work on being a more assertive scorer.

The problem for Williams is that he'll miss the pre-conference schedule thanks to a pesky "violation of team rules" suspension. Swingman Anthony Winbush (6'7", 195) is expected to take ball-handling duties. Winbush was a versatile presence last season, averaging three points, three boards and a steal in 17.5 MPG.

Forward Jordan Latham (6'8", 250) should provide some inside presence next to Etherly. Latham struggled to assert himself in any way except blocking the occasional shot, but committed 7.5 fouls per 40 to get those swats.

Redshirt freshman Tyler Hubbard is expected to provide shooting off the bench, but the rest of the depth will come from true frosh. 6'7" forward Will Rassman is a grit guy who should become a crowd favorite, while 6'5" Jarred Jones may ease into a swingman role after being a rebounding and shot-blocking force in high school. 6'4" guard Damion Rashford was an 18.8/6.5 man at Westwind Prep in Arizona.

Patsos has long been an entertaining presence for those who cover college ball, but coaches are only celebrated for being quotable when they marry that personality with consistent success. This pack of Greyhounds will give him every opportunity to get back to the big dance, but would be well-served to dig up another shooter and post player.

3. Iona
--Mike Glover and Scott Machado became mid-major hoop icons during the Gaels' wild ride. In true next-man-up fashion, it may be time for Momo Jones and Sean Armand to do the same this year.

Jones will get a lot of time with the ball in his hands, which isn't a new thing for him. He ran the point during Arizona's run to the 2011 Elite Eight. Jones improved his shooting efficiency working alongside Machado, but the biggest question will come when he's forced to choose between going for his own shot or running the offense. His A/T ratio was a career-high 1.3 last season, but it will need to go even higher.

Armand became the first player in the history of Madison Square Garden (!) to drain 10 three-point shots in a single game when he torched Siena for 32 back in January. A 46% shooter from deep, he also knocked in just over half of his 54 two-point attempts. So, he is capable at mid-range, just chooses to hang outside and collect that extra point. When he's that good at it, who can blame him?

Up front, the lone veteran presence is 6'7" Taaj Ridley. While not quite Glover's equal, Ridley's rebounding efficiencies were quite strong in his junior season. He made a hot start in games against Purdue and Western Michigan last year, carding totals of 29 points and 21 rebounds. Senior Digs Moikubo (6'7", 205) is literally the only other returning player on the roster.

And that literally isn't literally as in, "Dude, that party was so hot, the club was literally on fire!" That's literally as in, "Dude, I just fell out a third-story window and both my legs are literally broken!" There is not a minute of Iona College experience coming back outside of those four players.

Eligibility is an issue for hyped 6'11" freshman Norvel Pelle, a St. John's commit who has to prove to the NCAA that he's academically qualified to play for Iona this season. Juco transfer David Laury (6'8", 240) is another big who has to wait his turn, but he at least knows he's eligible at the semester break. If both get to play, the rest of the MAAC will have a struggle trying to contain this front line.

Senior wing Curtis Dennis came from Toledo, which got hit with NCAA sanctions, allowing Dennis to play right away. He was one of the MAC's (just one A) most efficient scorers last season, and has demonstrated he can pass and play some defense, as well. 6'5" guard Tre Bowman appeared in 15 games for Penn State in the 2010-11 season.

Sophomore point guard Tavon Sledge has been declared eligible after transferring from Iowa State, where he played only 18 minutes. Sledge could get to play alongside Jones and give Momo some time off the ball. Juco point guard DaShawn Gomez also joins the Gaels after eight games with New Mexico State back in 2009. At 6'2", he adds a bit more size than the 5'9" Sledge.

Finally, look for junior college wing DeSean Anderson to see some time up front. At 6'8", he'll add the length that will be missing until Laury joins the team/if Pelle doesn't join the team. He can shoot with some range and penetrate, plus he should be able to swat the occasional shot. At 200 pounds, though, he's not going to be mistaken for a post defender.

The Gaels are still equipped to run their opponents out of the building, but a team with only four returning players will take time to get accustomed to each other, especially when important pieces aren't available immediately. At least two of the newcomers will need to play strong roles early on, with Dennis, Anderson and Gomez the most likely candidates. By the time MAAC play rolls around, the Gaels will have Laury and hope to have Pelle, and at that point, the talent level will compare well with anyone in the league.

4. Niagara
--It's fair to tout Niagara's Juan'ya Green, Antoine Mason and Marvin Jordan as the MAAC's best backcourt trio. The three combined for more than 43 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists per game last season. Green placed himself in some exclusive company by leading the Purple Eagles in scoring, assists and steals, a feat that was only accomplished by 18 other players nationwide.

Mason finally got a full season to show his versatility after an injury ended his freshman year after three games and 49 points in 2010-11. He outscored mid-major darling Nate Wolters of South Dakota State 26-23 in a head-to-head meeting last December, but the lack of support behind Mason and Green did the Eagles in. Jordan has nailed 160 career three-pointers so far. None of the three are seniors, so the MAAC has another year of trying to contain this three-headed monster.

Actually, we can even make it four-headed if we include junior Malcolm Lemmons. Lemmons was good for 8.3/4.3 last year, shooting a strong 45% from the floor and 81% from the line.

The problem for NU last season was the total lack of strong post play. Sophomore Ameen Tanksley is a sturdy rebounder, but on offense, he'd rather drift out to the three-point line. At least he's a solid shooter, knocking 35% from deep as a freshman.

LaSalle transfer Devon White is definitely a stay-at-home post player, but his offensive production took a dip last season. Foul trouble (7.3 per 40) restricted his minutes. If White can avoid mugging people, he can be a seven- or eight-RPG player and block the occasional shot. He's recovering from a ruptured Achilles, and he's expected to miss the first handful of games.

6'7" sophomore forward Joe Thomas was Niagara's most effective rebounder last season, and he should be expected to greatly exceed last year's 15 MPG. 6'8" senior Scooter Gillette provided solid 63% shooting from the floor and a strong 5.3 B%, but also committed eight fouls per 40 going for those blocks. If he cleans up those blocks, Gillette could combine with Thomas and White to form a productive front line.

Freshman T.J. Cline, the son of women's hoop legend Nancy Liberman, could find himself with decent playing time. The 6'8" 220-pounder was nearly a 17-8 man in his senior year of high school.

Niagara returns nearly the entire group from last year's sixth-place team, and there's a lot of talent on hand. Still, that frontcourt has a lot of questions to answer. Guard play is always touted as a key to success in college basketball, but even this great group of guards can't carry the entire load themselves. Even a little front-line production could position Niagara as a dark-horse title contender.

5. Siena
--If your name's in the NCAA record books ahead of Larry Bird and sharing a line with Jerry West, Artis Gilmore and Tim Duncan, you have mad game, no matter what level your league. Siena senior O.D. Anosike ripped off a string of 17 straight double-doubles last year before St. Peter's managed to hold him to nine points on February 3. His 12.5 RPG led the nation, and he also sat top-nine in the MAAC in scoring, blocks and FG%.

A 56% foul shooter, Anosike's the kind of player that makes college coaches wish their players could give six fouls instead of five. Opponents would love to hack him and put him on the line all night. If he fixes that weakness in his game, the 6'8", 240-pound bruiser could easily win MAAC POY honors.

Four potential front-line helpers for Anosike are available after missing last season. 6'9" junior Davis Martens and 6'6" sophomore Trenity Burdine missed the year with injuries. Sophomores Lionel Gomis and Imoh Silas, both 6'8", had to sit out a year due to eligibility issues. Gomis and Silas are both defensive-oriented bigs who can work on the glass, if there are any rebounds left after Anosike gets through. Martens is demonstrating the ability to get to the basket, while Burdine can knock down the occasional deep jumper.

Freshman Brett Bisping (6'8", 225) is a lanky combo forward with a good shooting touch. He may force himself into the rotation early.

In the backcourt, 5'8" Evan Hymes was forced into point-guard duty as a freshman when Rakeem Brookins went down with a back injury. With the 5'10" Brookins now back, he'll assume the shooting guard spot. Both Hymes and Brookins are quick-handed defenders and strong ballhandlers with decent outside strokes. They're easily the MAAC's quickest guard duo, but playing them together will leave Siena vulnerable to bigger backcourts.

One man who won't be vulnerable to big guards is 6'5" sophomore Rob Poole. Recruited as a strong jump shooter, Poole struggled at times last season en route to a .419 eFG%. Poole is a versatile player who can help in other ways when his shot isn't falling. He had eight nights last season of three or more rebounds and three or more assists in the same game. Look for him to work primarily at the three this season.

The Saints were the MAAC's worst three-point shooting team last year, and improved results from Hymes, Brookins and Poole will be essential. Coach Mitch Buonaguro could also get some shooting from a pair of freshman guards, Rich Audu and Ryan Oliver.

With so many returnees, Buonaguro is banking on his team playing a little better away from home. Siena won only three of 13 road games, losing seven of eight in the MAAC. With more size available inside, defenses may not have as much freedom to collapse on Anosike. There is, however, a lot that must improve this season for Siena to make a run at the top of the MAAC table.

6. Canisius
--The Golden Griffins won all of five games last year, only one in the MAAC. A lot of productivity returns, but the story will be the new bodies in uniform.

Bigs Freddy Asprilla (Kansas State) and Jordan Heath (NAIA school Roberts Wesleyan) will immediately see major minutes in the paint. The two 6'10" hosses provide rebounding and shot-blocking, but Asprilla shouldn't be counted on for a ton of scoring. Heath has the ability to step out for a mid-range jumper.

Guard Billy Baron (Rhode Island) followed his dad, new Griffs coach Jim, to Buffalo and will likely take over as the team's point guard. Billy will certainly serve as a de facto assistant coach, helping teammates grasp his father's system. Billy Baron isn't shabby on the court, either, racking averages of 13.0/4.4/2.6 last season. Another guard, 6'3" Isaac Sosa (Central Florida) led Conference USA in 3P% three years ago, and that's where he'll make his living for the Griffs.

With all the new faces, what about what's coming back? Guards Harold Washington and Alshwan Hymes combined for more than 32 PPG last season. Washington is already an offensive sparkplug, finishing fourth in scoring. The addition of Baron may free him up to play off the ball, which should help the team's shaky turnover margin (3.1 TPG last year).

Hymes is a conscience-free gunner from long range, ranking 12th nationally with 257 threes attempted last year. Him improving on last year's 32% may be one of the biggest keys to the Griffs moving up the standings. Don't look for him to get the same volume, though, with Sosa and Baron arriving to buzzard some minutes and shots.

Forwards Chris Manhertz (6'6", 235) and Josiah Heath (6'9", 230) are the primary front-line returnees, and both can be solid 7-and-7 guys if they get enough minutes. Manhertz was second on the team with 74% from the line, and Heath (Jordan's younger brother) led the team with 26 blocks.

6'2" junior guard Reggie Groves averaged nearly six PPG last year, and may be able to fill in at either spot as needed.

Freshman Phil Valenti, a 6'7" forward, can be given time to bulk up while playing behind Manhertz and the Heath brothers. He was a 25/12 man as a high school senior. 5'10" guard Jermaine Johnson is likewise set to contribute off the bench. Will minutes be available for sophomores Tyrel Edwards and Dominique Raney?

Baron isn't the kind of guy to let much slide, and his lengthy resume should get the attention of his new players. Any chemistry problems will be summarily dealt with. If his returnees can accept some changes in their roles, Canisius's talent level is actually quite strong. The depth should be able to support Baron's desire for a 10-or-11-man rotation.

7. Rider
--The major news for the Broncs came early this month when St. John's transfer Nurideen Lindsey was granted an NCAA waiver to play immediately. A 36-PPG man in high school at Philly's Overbrook High, Lindsey struck for double-figure points in six of his first seven games at St. John's, including falling one assist short of a triple-double against UMBC. The 6'3" slasher could easily walk in and lead the MAAC in scoring, but new Rider coach Kevin Baggett would love to see him cut back the 4.1 turnovers per game he recorded at SJU.

Lindsey should step in well next to senior point Jonathon Thompson. Thompson finished second in the league in assists and carded a strong 2.0 A/T ratio. He also continues to make strides as a shooter, improving his 3P% from 24 to 39 to last season's 47. Super sub Anthony Myles, a 6'5" junior, carded an impressive .584 TS% last season, including nearly 40% from the arc. He led off last season with a pair of 20-point efforts against Robert Morris and Pitt.

Defense was the bugaboo for Rider last season, allowing more points than any other team in the MAAC except Canisius. Some help on that end may come from freshman guard Zedric Sadler and forward Shawn Valentine. Valentine was a 2.4-SPG man his senior year, while the 6'2" Sadler carded stellar averages of 3.2 steals and 2.1 blocks.

The front line will be anchored by 6'7" junior Daniel Stewart, an 11.1/6.6 man last year and a 57% career field-goal shooter. Early last season, Stewart racked 22 points or more against Penn, LaSalle and Marist, but he tailed off badly starting in late January. Over the Broncs' final 11 games, Stewart averaged only 7.7/5.9 on 40% shooting. He'll need some frontcourt help to avoid a similar collapse this season. Baggett would like to see him make improvements to his perimeter game this year.

6'9" sophomore Junior Fortunat and 6'10" senior Dera Nd-Ezuma will man the middle, both coming off sporadic seasons. Fortunat missed the first 10 games with eligibility issues, then got himself into regular rotation in January. His top game may have been an 8/9 effort against Iona. Baggett has said that he'd like Fortunat to average a double-double this season. No pressure.

Nd-Ezuma can block shots and could be a decent rebounder. He'll have to be, because he and Fortunat are it as far as big men go on the Rider roster.

Freshman forward—and brother of Daniel—Derrick Stewart is another addition expected to help the Broncs' defense. Derrick was Defensive POY in the Philly Catholic League last season. Guards Khalil Alford and Jamal Nwaniemeka may provide some quick scoring as well.

If everyone shows up for games ready to play some defense, this year's Broncs will already be ahead of the game compared to last year's group. The mercurial Lindsey could lift Rider into title contention, but he could also go off the reservation and try to play for the NBA scouts, which won't do anyone any good.

8. Marist
--Winning 14 games might not seem like a hot season, but at a school that only saw seven wins over the past two years, it's almost cause for a parade. Marist returns nearly all of its production from last year, and the potential is there to contend with a few tweaks.

Senior guard Devin Price and sophomore forward Chavaughn Lewis are both All-MAAC candidates. Both were near 52% true shooters and Lewis attempted more free throws than anyone in the league. If he can improve on his 64% shooting at the line, he could be an 18-PPG scorer. Price helps keep defenses honest with his 35% three-point stroke.

Fifth-year senior Dorvell Carter saw a knee injury end his season after three games. Carter was off to the best scoring pace of his career, and the Red Foxes hope that he can get back on that 11-PPG pace.

6'10" junior center Adam Kemp will handle the pivot after an 8.5/7.2 season last year. He also blocked more than two shots a night. Coach Chuck Martin is fully convinced that Kemp is capable of double-digit rebounds, especially since he reached that plateau six times last year, peaking with a 25/15 game against Iona. Offseason foot surgery may slow Kemp early on, and if it gives him persistent discomfort, the foot may drag Marist down all season.

Kemp's classmate, 6'10" Pieter Prinsloo, is solid in the post but occasionally likes to step out and shoot the three.

Next to Price, sophomore Isaiah Morton will return to run the point. Morton led the team with 83 assists, but his A/T ratio was too balanced, weighed down by 84 miscues. He started his career well, though, recording 24 points, five dimes and only three turnovers against Kentucky and South Florida.

6'5" swingman Manny Thomas racked seven double-figure scoring games last season and will afford Martin some lineup flexibility.

Top recruit Khallid Hart is gone for the season after a knee injury. 6'10" freshman Eric Truog may not see many minutes unless Kemp's foot is troublesome.

Marist ended with a strong finishing kick and went undefeated at home in December, but the cream in that Oreo was an eight-game conference losing streak that doomed the Foxes. Any team that takes Marist lightly does so at its own peril, but the injury bug is already hanging around Poughkeepsie. Any further losses will lead to a lot more losses on the court this winter.

9. Fairfield
--The Stags are used to losing key pieces after guard Derek Needham missed the last month of last season with a broken foot. Unsung pieces like Desmond Wade, Maurice Barrow and Colin Nickerson helped spur a run to the CIT semifinals. Needham's back, but post presences Rakim Sanders and Ryan Olander aren't. Replacing those two and finding strong shooters will be huge for second-year coach Sydney Johnson.

Needham's scoring took a hit with the addition of Sanders last year, and he may need to return to the 16-PPG form of his freshman year. He made great improvement from three-point range last year, climbing to nearly 39%, fourth in the MAAC.

Backcourt mates Wade and Nickerson should prove reasonably productive after showing glimpses of leadership ability last year. Wade carded a 2.2 A/T ratio last season, and his 27 points against Siena showed that he could score when he had to. Nickerson scored in double figures in three of his last six games, starting with 14 in the MAAC semifinal upset of Iona and peaking with 22 points, six boards and five steals in the CIT first round against Yale.

Up front, the veteran presence of 6'5" juniors Maurice Barrow and Keith Matthews will be the main strength. Barrow started and ended the year strong, carding 54 points and 30 rebounds in his first four games, then going for 49 and 20 in his final three. Matthews was a forgotten man in November, but he racked nearly nine points and four boards per game in the MAAC and CIT tournaments.

Looking for veteran depth? Good luck. Those five are it, unless you count 7'0" soph Vincent Van Nes, who missed the season with a foot injury. Height was big on the recruiting wish list, and the Stags brought in 6'8" forward Amadou Sidibe and 7'0" center Josip Mikulic, who both could get pressed into action quickly. Both can rebound and block some shots, and Mikulic can occasionally step outside. Mikulic's passing ability (4.0 APG) will also fit well in Johnson's Princeton-style offense.

6'6" forwards Coleman Johnson and Marcus Gilbert can also form an interesting inside-out platoon. Gilbert made 67% of his shots inside the arc last season, and Johnson ripped nine boards and 3.5 blocks as a senior.

The Stags' freshmen will have to grow up fast and the senior guards will have to stay healthy and carry the load early on. If both happen, Fairfield could join a highly crowded field contending for the MAAC title. There just may be too much experienced talent at other schools around the league to expect Johnson's crew to make a big climb.

10. St. Peter's
--The talent level at so many MAAC schools has risen, and those who haven't added players of skill are returning men of experience. St. Peter's has experience, but the talent wasn't all that hot to begin with. The big remaining question may be bigs.

There still isn't a player on the roster any taller than 6'7", and the primary post operator will be senior forward Darius Conley. Conley led the team in scoring and ranked sixth in the league on the glass. He ahd five 20-point games and four double-doubles. Also standing 6'7", senior Karee Ferguson and Swedish freshman Elias Desport will see significant minutes. Ferguson started strong, but faded badly later in the year and missed the second half with an Achilles.

Grad student Patrick Jackson is immediately eligible after coming over from Kent State, where he was a 2.8/2.5 man last year. He's never averaged more than 13 MPG in stops at KSU and Rutgers, but he'll be a starter and a primary option this season.

Four guards lead the backcourt, and the biggest scoring option may be Delaware State transfer Desi Washington. Washington knocked in 13.1 PPG as a freshman, making .375 from long range. 6'2" point guard Blaise Ffrench led the team in assists, but took a while to stay on the court consistently.

Senior Chris Prescott was a 33% shooter from deep, but struggled over the last 10 games. He hit double figures 14 times, but none after January 26. 6'3" Yvon Raymond made his name with tough defense, but he can also run the offense fairly well and is a surprising offensive rebounder for his size.

The Peacocks have six significant seniors, so any progress that is made this year may be reset after graduation. Still, this year's team may see some strong work in the backcourt, even if it isn't enough to offset the complete lack of size.

In this section: each team's most compelling non-conference game, weighted by visibility and chance of a win.
Canisius: Dec. 19 at Temple
--The home games are all yawners, so how about going to Philly for a paycheck? Don't even talk to me about Syracuse; that game might be over by halftime.
Fairfield: Nov. 23 at Providence
--Ex-coach Ed Cooley thought he'd be coming in with a pair of highly-rated guards, but now not so much. Winnable? Maybe.
Iona: Nov. 9 vs. Denver
--The Pioneers' Princeton-style offense against the go-go Gaels. Whoever dictates the tempo may take the game.
Loyola: Nov. 11 vs. Washington (Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off, Seattle)
--Washington dropped one on its home court to South Dakota State last year. This one's up the road a piece and the Greyhounds have a longer trip, but they're just as equipped to spring a trap.
Manhattan: Dec. 16 at LIU-Brooklyn
--A welterweight bout between the defending Patriot champs and the MAAC favorite. Should be a lot of fun.
Marist: Nov. 23 vs. Vanderbilt OR Davidson (Old Spice Classic, Orlando, Fla.)
--First-round game's a likely loss to West Virginia, but a second-round game against Vandy could be an upset opportunity. A Vandy team with three NBA draft picks lost to Cleveland State and Indiana State at home. Maybe I'm missing it, but I don't see any pros on this year's Commodores.
Niagara: Nov. 16 vs. Bucknell
--A home game against my Patriot League favorite, who features one of the nation's most slept-on big men. Sure, the Eagles get to go to Notre Dame right before Christmas, but that one might get ugly.
Rider: Nov. 9 vs. Robert Morris
--A home game against my NEC favorite, and it's Nuri Lindsey's debut. Sure, why not?
St. Peter's: Nov. 25 at Seton Hall
--A couple of Jersey-based Big East opponents this season, and neither one is likely to be beatable. There may be a slightly better chance of taking down the Hall, unless Pirate big man Gene Teague gets to go off.
Siena: Nov. 28 vs. UMass
--The Saints' frontcourt will have to give Anosike a lot of support, because UMass has quite a few big bodies to throw at him.

His name is George, George Beamon, he keeps the ladies creamin'...
F Emmy Andujar, Manhattan (6'5", 205, Soph.)
--Not a dominant scorer, but if you look at the rest of the stat sheet, there are a lot of crooked digits.
F O.D. Anosike, Siena (6'8", 241, Sr.)
--20-10 averages? Not out of the question.
G George Beamon, Manhattan (6'4", 170, Sr.)
--Could lead the MAAC in a lot of categories, not just scoring. MAAC POY.
G Juan'ya Green, Niagara (6'3", 195, Soph.)
--Surrounded by plenty of talent to lead the league in assists, and a good enough nose for the iron to lead in scoring.
G Lamont Jones, Iona (6'0", 196, Jr.)
--Don't expect a Machado-level performance, but perfectly capable of running a great offense.

F Rhamel Brown, Manhattan (6'7", 215, Jr.)
--If he can stay on the court for 30-plus, that's a lot of time in which no one can drive on the Green and White.
F Erik Etherly, Loyola (6'7", 225, Sr.)
--The 'hounds will need him to crash the glass a bit harder. Capable of playing any role they need him to.
G Chavaughn Lewis, Marist (6'5", 185, Soph.)
--The MAAC had an absolutely sick freshman class last year, and Lewis is a bit forgotten behind Andujar and Green.
G Antoine Mason, Niagara (6'3", 210, Soph.)
--One of the league's more versatile guards, just needs to get the long-distance stroke up around 33%.
G Harold Washington, Canisius (6'1", 175, Sr.)
--Could be first-team if Jim Baron lets him handle an off-guard role. If he becomes the backup PG, this prediction looks pretty stupid.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: George Beamon, Manhattan
COACH OF THE YEAR: Jim Baron, Canisius
--Steve Masiello added 15 wins at Manhattan. Dunno if Baron can do the same, but he should break last year's total by Christmas.
NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR: Billy Baron, Canisius
--As stated before, a coach on the floor. AND, he's not even using a scholarship.

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