By Thomas Albano
The head coaches from the 11 MAAC teams participated in ESPN3’s MAAC Men’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Show on Sept. 4 at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. Only one can win it all, so here is my take on where the teams will finish and who to watch out for this season.
1. Manhattan (last season: 25-7, 15-5 MAAC)
Key Player: Senior forward Emmy Andujar
Last season, Andujar was a preseason All-MAAC third team and named to the MAAC Championship All-Tournament team. He averaged 8.6 ppg and 5.3 rebounds per game, with a 36.4 3-point field goal percentage. While the Jaspers lost three 1000-point players who were key to their offense, the team has many returning from last season’s MAAC Championship team, increasing its chances to top the conference again.
2. Iona (22-10, 17-3 MAAC)
Key Player: Junior guard A.J. English
The son of a former All-American and Washington Bullets player, English averaged 36.6 minutes per game last season, scoring 17.2 ppg, grabbing 3.9 rebounds per game and dishing out 4.3 assists per game. Iona topped the MAAC in the regular season last year, but fell to Manhattan in the championship game. They have 6 new players, so it may be a little harder, but there’s a chance for another Gaels-Jaspers showdown in the 2015 MAAC Tournament.
3. Quinnipiac (20-11, 14-6 MAAC)
Key Player: Senior forward
Drame averaged 13.7 ppg and 10.5 rebounds per game last year, finishing the 2013-14 season with 410 points, 314 rebounds and 64 blocked shots. In only its first season in the MAAC, the Bobcats won 20 total games, made it to the semifinals of the MAAC Tournament and earned a spot in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, losing in the first round to finalist Yale by only one point. Expect them to have another strong showing this season.
4. Siena (15-7, 11-9 MAAC)
Key Player: Senior guard Rob Poole
Poole enters his senior year 32nd on Siena’s all-time scoring charts. Last season, he led the Saints and was 14th in the MAAC with 14.6 ppg. He was also seventh in the MAAC in 3-pointers made with 71, and 14th in free-throw percentage with .766. While Siena fell in the quarterfinals of last year’s MAAC Tournament, the team earned a spot in the College Basketball Invitational tournament. The Saints had victories over Stony Brook, Penn State and Illinois State before defeating Fresno State in a two out of three showdown to win the tournament.
5. Rider (14-17, 9-11 MAAC)
Key Player: Junior guard Zedric Sadler
After missing last season’s opening game with an injury, Sadler went on to have a solid season, accumulating 8.3 ppg, 3.9 rebounds per game and shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. With the departures of Anthony Myles, Danny Stewart and Tommy Pereira, the Broncs and Head Coach Kevin Baggett will have to look towards players such as Sadler to lead them to a strong showing in the MAAC.
6. Canisius (21-12, 14-6 MAAC)
Key Player: Junior guard Jamal Reynolds
This will be Reynolds’ first season with the Golden Griffins after spending the past two seasons at Mott Community College in Flint Township, Mich. In his 2013-14 season in Michigan, he averaged 11 ppg and a team-high 7.2 rebounds per game. While they just fell short of going to the MAAC Championship game last year, Canisius will go into this season with seven freshmen (three red-shirts), two sophomores, two juniors and two seniors. The rebuilding stage will keep them from a MAAC Tournament first-round bye.
7. St. Peter’s (14-17, 9-11 MAAC)
Key Player: Senior forward
Dominique played in his first season for the Peacocks last year after sitting out 2012-13 under NCAA regulations after transferring from Fordham. He was named to the All-MAAC third team last year following a season where he earned 16.6 ppg and 8.9 rebounds per game. With a roster that consists of six seniors, the Peacocks hope experience leads them to an improved season.
8. Fairfield (7-25, 4-16 MAAC)
Key Player: Junior forward
Sidibe was the captain of the Stags last year, following a rookie season in 2012-13 that earned him MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year. He led his team with 6.6 rebounds per game last year, good for eighth in the conference. He also averaged 5.6 ppg and had a .452 field goal percentage last season. The Stags will look for their nine underclassmen to step up this season.
9. Marist (12-19, 9-11 MAAC)
Key Player: Senior guard Chavaughn Lewis
Lewis earned Second Team All-MAAC honors last season as captain of the Red Foxes. He led the MAAC in steals with 60, and led Marist in scoring, assists and minutes. With all the honors Lewis accomplished last year, new Marist Head Coach Mike Maker may look to the 6’ 5” guard as the team’s leader, in addition to last year’s MAAC Rookie of the Year, guard Khallid Hart, to help benefit the Red Foxes’ performance.
10. Monmouth (11-21, 5-15 MAAC)
Key Player: Junior guard Deon Jones
Jones led the team in scoring last season with 15.1 ppg and 483 total points. He also finished 2013-14 with 6.9 rebounds per game, a total of 221 rebounds and a team-high 973 minutes played. Half of last season’s Hawks roster was freshmen, with three of them starting, and no seniors. There’s no doubt this means more experience now, but how much will it benefit, and how much playing time will the Hawk freshmen get?
11. Niagara (7-26, 3-13 MAAC)
Key Player: Junior forward
Harris is the most experienced member on the Purple Eagles’ roster and he only played one season with the team after sitting out the 2012-13 season following transfer from Rhode Island. He had career-highs in every statistical category, while also leading the team with a 54.9 percent field-goal percentage. At the roundtable, Head Coach Chris Casey said eight of the 12 Niagara roster members haven’t played a Division I basketball game yet. This will be a tough year for Niagara.