By Rob Rose
Last season, two teams tied for first place in the MAAC, but neither one reached the NCAA Tournament. Instead, Iona won the conference tournament for the third season in a row. After an offseason filled with transfers, coaching changes and alleged fights between assisant coaches and star players, its time to preview the upcoming MAAC season.
1. Rider (22-10, 15-3 MAAC) Key Player: Sophomore forward Dimencio Vaughn
The Broncs return their entire starting lineup from a regular season-winning championship team last year. In addition to its core team members, Rider added two transfers — junior guard Kimar Williams and junior guard Ahmad Gilbert from Florida International and Minnesota, respectively. With four players on preseason All-MAAC teams including sophomore forward Dimencio Vaughn, junior guard Stevie Jordan, sophomore forward Frederick Scott and sophomore guard Jordan Allen, and the reigning MAAC Coach of the Year, Kevin Baggett, the Broncs are the clear favorite to represent the conference in the NCAA Tournament in March.
2. Canisius (21-12, 15-3 MAAC) Key Player: Junior guard Isaiah Reese
Despite the loss of 2018 MAAC Co-Player of the Year forward Jermaine Crumpton, the Golden Griffins have a pair of the top players in the MAAC. Junior guard Isaiah Reese was named MAAC Preseason Player of the Year after making the 2018-19 All-MAAC First Team. Along with Reese, sophomore guard Takal Molson earned Preseason All-MAAC Second Team honors after being selected as the 2018 MAAC Rookie of the Year. In addition to its two stars, the Golden Griffins have an experienced team with four seniors and five juniors, who are ready to make a run in the conference tournament.
3. Quinnipiac (12-21, 7-11 MAAC) Key Player: Senior guard Cameron Young
After a loss in the MAAC Tournament semi-finals, the Bobcats feature a veteran starting lineup that includes graduate student guard Cameron Young who was named to the Preseason All-MAAC First Team after he earned All-MAAC Second Team honors last season. Young broke the school record for points in a season with 622 and will be a Player of the Year candidate this season. Along with Young, senior guards and twin brothers, Aaron Robinson and Andrew Robinson, sophomore guard Rich Kelly, senior forward Abdulai Bundu and junior forward Kevin Marfo headline a roster poised to make noise in the MAAC.
4. Monmouth (11-20, 7-11 MAAC) Key Player: Sophomore guard Deion Hammond
The Hawks lost their leading scorer, Micah Seaborn, who is now playing in the G League, the NBA’s developmental league. The decision to enter his name into the 2018 NBA Draft made him ineligible to return to Monmouth this season. However, this year’s team has potential. Monmouth’s starting lineup features four returning players, including Preseason All-MAAC Third Team sophomore guard, Deion Hammond. The addition of two transfers in junior guard Nick Rutherford from Florida Atlantic and graduate student guard Trevon Gross Jr., who transferred from Virginia, gave the Hawks some depth in their rotation. Head coach King Rice will have to rely on younger players this year, but the Hawks can challenge the top teams.
5. Iona (20-14, 11-7 MAAC) Key Player: Senior guard Rickey McGill
Coming off their third-consecutive MAAC Championship, the Gaels appeared to be ready for another strong season. Iona had three players named to preseason All-MAAC teams on Oct. 23, with Rickey McGill, Roland Griffin and EJ Crawford selected to first, second and third teams, respectively. On Oct. 26, Stadium College Basketball Insider Jeff Goodman reported that Griffin had been dismissed from the team after an altercation with an assistant coach resulted in the coach being hospitalized. Iona would not comment on the report by Goodman, so with the uncertainty surrounding one of their top players, the Gaels chances of a repeat are slim.
6. Manhattan (14-17, 9-9 MAAC) Key Player: Junior forward Pauly Paulicap
Led by 2017-18 MAAC Defensive Player of the Year and Preseason All-MAAC Second Team member — junior forward Pauly Paulicap, the Jaspers’ squad is a young team, featuring seven freshmen. The addition of graduate student forward Ibrahima Diallo, who transferred from Rutgers, gives Manhattan a rim protector and rebounder at 6-foot-10. Despite having one of the MAAC’s premier defenders, the young Jaspers will struggle with the veteran teams in the conference.
7. Marist (6-25, 4-14 MAAC) Key Player: Senior guard Brian Parker
Following an All-MAAC Third Team selection last season, senior guard Brian Parker was named to the Preseason All-MAAC Second Team. Parker averaged 17.1 points per game last year on a Red Foxes team that struggled to win games. Senior forwards Ryan Funk and David Knudsen also averaged double-figure scoring last season and will need to improve for Marist to climb in the standings. Head Coach John Dunne took over at Marist after 12 years at St. Peter’s and brought a strong resume of victories over Rutgers, Alabama and Seton Hall.
8. Fairfield (17-16, 9-9 MAAC) Key Player: Sophomore guard Jesus Cruz
The loss of the MAAC’s leading scorer last season, Tyler Nelson, won’t be easy to replace for the Stags. In addition to Nelson, who is now playing in the NBA’s G League, Fairfield’s second-highest scorer Ferron Flavors Jr. transferred after last season. Senior forward Jonathan Kasibabu and sophomore guard Jesus Cruz will be asked to take on larger roles this season after averaging nine ppg last year. Without the scoring required to compete with the top teams in the MAAC, the Stags will struggle this season but gain experience along the way.
9. St. Peter’s (14-18, 6-12 MAAC) Key Player: Junior guard Nazeer Bostick
The Peacocks pulled off an upset in the MAAC Tournament last season, beating top seed Rider, despite just six wins during conference play. First-year head coach Shaheen Holloway’s roster includes six freshmen, including 7-foot-1 center Majur Majak. Junior guard Nazeer Bostick joined the team after he transferred from Penn State and will play a key role on the team. The young St. Peter’s group will look different this year and won’t be as competitive as recent seasons.
10. Niagara (19-14, 12-6 MAAC) Key Player: Senior forward Marvin Prochet
Senior forward Marvin Prochet, who was named to the Preseason All-MAAC Third Team, will have an extraordinary final season for the Purple Eagles to get anywhere near the top-3 finish they had last season. With 2017-18 MAAC Co-Player of the Year Kahlil Dukes now playing professionally overseas, and the graduation of Matt Scott, Niagara needs to replace 40 ppg in from their starting lineup. The loss of scoring will be too much for the Purple Eagles to overcome and they will slide toward the bottom of the MAAC.
11. Siena (8-24, 4-14 MAAC) Key Player: Senior forward Evan Fisher
The Saints tied for last in the MAAC last season, and their losses didn’t end even after the final game on their schedule. Leading scorer Nico Clareth and his 15 ppg transferred to Nicholls State, Prince Oduro transferred to Mississippi State, second-leading scorer Roman Penn transferred to Drake and Ahsante Shivers left the program. Siena will need to rebuild its program after losing four of its top five scorers and they will lose a lot of games during the process.
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