2009-2010 MAAC Basketball Preview
The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is made up of 10 teams from schools that either have a Catholic affiliation or formerly had one. The teams are Siena, Niagara, Rider, Fairfield, St. Peter’s, Manhattan, Iona, Loyola, Canisius and Marist. The only school that does not have a history with the Catholic Church is Rider. The conference attracts some fine players and each year usually two teams are bound for post-season play with one going to the NCAA Tournament and the other to the NIT.
The Siena Saints (27- 8 overall, 16- 2 MAAC) set a school record last season for wins and took the conference title. They also made it to round two of the Big Dance for the second year running. Four starters returns, including first- team All-MAAC Edwin Ubiles (15.0 PPG). Guard Kenny Hasbrouck, another All-MAAC pick, is the engine that drives this deep, talented club. This club could be a Sweet 16 team.
Despite the fact that the Purple Eagles of Niagara (26- 9 overall, 14- 4 MAAC) lost the nation’s second-leading scorer, Charron Fisher, they still managed to finish second in the league, won the second most games they club has won in 87 years, and earned a NIT berth. Four starters are back, including guard Tyrone Lewis (16.2 PPG) and swingman Bilal Benn (13.8 PPG) Lewis set the school mark for most threes made (99) and most steals (91). Benn had 84 steals and averaged 9.3 RPG. This could be another NIT season for this team.
In three seasons, the Rider Broncs (19- 13 overall, 12- 6 MAAC) coach Tommy Dempsey has guided the team to a total of 58 wins. That total ties a Rider record for most wins over that period of time. Two new point guards join the team. That means that Ryan Thompson, who has been playing point, gets to go back to his natural spot on the wing. Thomspon, who could be the MAAC Player of the Year, hit 42.2% of this threes last season while averaging 18.0 PPG and 6.5 RPG. There’s ample talent on board.
It’s all about defense with the Fairfield Stags (17- 15 overall, 9- 9 MAAC) and the good news is that this team has more than five guys back who each started at least 11 games last year. This team needs dependable inside players Anthony Johnson and Yorel Hawkins to stay healthy and perform well throughout this season. Senior Mike Evanovich is a topflight three-point shooter. Senior Greg Nero averaged 12.4 PPG and 6.4 RPG last season. If these players can all perform, the Stags will contend for a top four finish.
Head coach John Dunne starts his fourth season with the St. Peter’s Peacocks (11- 19 overall, 8- 10 MAAC) and he’s smiling because he now has a club that’s he’s recruited that offers plenty of experience. Guard Wesley Jenkins (15.7 PPG) returns as the team leader and top scorer. Both Nick Leon (15.1 PPG), a guard, and Ryan Bacon (11.5 PPG, 7.9 RPG), a forward, put in sound seasons last year. Junior college transfer Jeron Belin, a small forward, could have an immediate impact. This a a fifth or fourth-place club that could have a break through season either this or next year.
The Manhattan Jaspers (16- 14 overall, 9- 9 MAAC) should be reeling from the transfer of top guard Chris Smith. But coach Barry Rohrssen has brought in junior college transfer Rico Pickett to fill that void. Although Pickett started his college career at Alabama, he went to Miami-Dade Community College where he had 17.3 PPG and 4.9 APG. Pickett, along with senior guard Darryl Crawford (14.4 PPG), will put points on the board. Two guys need to step up this season: junior center Laurence Jolicoeur and senior front man Antoine Pearson.
The Iona Gaels (12- 19 overall, 7- 11 MAAC) are being rebuilt by coach Kevin Willard. The keystone of this effort is 2008- 2009 MAAC Rookie of the Year Scott Machado. Machado, a point guard, averaged 9.3 PPG and 4.8 APG in his initial season. There is some fine incoming talent in Willard’s five recruits, including three-point sharpshooter Ben Mockford. This is a team that could move up a few notches next season.
Last year, the Loyola Greyhounds (12- 20 overall, 7- 11 MAAC) had an uneven season. They started out slow but then gained momentum in the middle of the year. In the end, they lost eight of their final nine games. Despite the ups and downs, there were two Greyhound players who proved to be steadfast: guard Jamal Barney, a transfer from Providence, averaged 18.1 PPG and had two 40-point games and guard Brett Harvey, who was tops in the country at the charity stripe hitting 91.0 percent. Look for frosh Julius Brooks and Maryland transfer Shane Walker to give this team more punch and points.
You might think that the Golden Griffins of Canisius (11- 20 overall, 4- 14 MAAC) would be set to move up in the league with a roster that is filled with juniors and seniors. But the Griffins lack topnotch talent to really make a move this year.
The Marist Red Foxes (10- 23 overall, 4- 14 MAAC) welcome transfer Casiem Drummond from Villanova. Drummond, who is a six-foot-ten, 275-pound front man is built to bang. But it’s tough to imagine this one player will drag the Foxes out of the cellar. Second-year head coach Chuck Martin has more rebuilding to do.
There has not been much readjustment in the MAAC from last season to this. Most teams should finish about where they did in 2008- 2009 with Manhattan seeing the most movement, dropping down from fourth to sixth.
2009-2010 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball Predictions
1. Siena Saints
2. Niagara Purple Eagles
3. Rider Broncs
4. Fairfield Stags
5. St. Peter’s Peacocks
6. Manhattan Jaspers
7. Iona Gaels
8. Loyola Greyhounds
9. Canisius Golden Griffins
10. Marist Red Foxes