Team-by-Team guide to the MAAC
|Erik Etherly and Loyola are favorites in the MAAC/ AP Photo|
Predicting the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is kind of like picking names out of a hat.
The league is so tightly contested that a number of teams can win it each and every year. This season is shaping up the same way.
Loyola, which returns its core group of Erik Etherly, Dylon Cormier and Robert Olson, is the favorite after winning the conference tournament, but several squads are close behind.
Here is one beat writer’s prediction of how the conference will shake out: (Listed in order of finish with last season’s record in parentheses).
1. Loyola (24-9, 13-5) — Won’t be discouraged by the Greyhounds’ loss to Seton Hill in an exhibition. They return the excellent Etherly (13.7 ppg), Cormier (13.4 ppg), Olson (11.1 ppg) trio. Coach Jimmy Patsos is worth the price of admission with his sideline antics — although they become tiresome — but he can coach, too. Loyola won 20 games for the first time in program history a year ago. The question is how it will deal with the bull’s-eye following its tournament triumph and the announcement that the school is bailing on the MAAC for the Patriot League next season.
2. Manhattan (21-13, 12-6) — Senior guard George Beamon is arguably the best player in the league. He led the conference in scoring (19 ppg) last year and is a preseason First-Team selection. Junior point guard Michael Alvarado, who missed the MAAC tournament after a freak eye injury, and 6-foot-6 sophomore forward Emmy Andujar are nice complements to Beamon. Steve Masiello’s Jaspers are thinking upset in the opener when they travel to Louisville.
3. Siena (14-17, 8-10) — The double-double machine keeps on chugging. Senior O.D. Anoskie (15 ppg, 12.5 rpg) led the nation in rebounding and was second in double-doubles (23) last season. If Rakeem Brookins (missed last year with back injury) can stay healthy and Evan Hymes — the kid with middle-school looks but big-time talent — can avoid a sophomore slump, the Saints are going to be pretty good.
4. Niagara (14-19, 8-10) — Super sophomores Juan’ya Green (17.7 ppg) and Antoine Mason (15.1 ppg) might make up the best backcourt in the league. If Joe Mihalich found a forward to protect the rim, the Purple Eagles could be a dark-horse candidate to win the league.
5. Iona (25-8, 15-3) — When you lose Scott Machado and Mike Glover, you’re going to take a step back. Lamont Jones (15.7 ppg) is still around, and Sean Armond is long-range sniper (9.5 ppg, 46.2 percent from 3) for the defending regular-season champs, who earned an NCAA at-large bid. A repeat of that success is unlikely.
6. Fairfield (22-15, 11-6) — Sydney Johnson’s Stags were hit or miss in his first season, but pulled it together in time to reach the MAAC final. Fairfield loses leading scorer Rakim Sanders (graduation), but Derek Needham (11.8 ppg) returns. Needham, a senior, is a preseason First-Team selection although he is coming off a broken foot that cut short his year. Junior Maurice Barrow averaged 11.7 points in seven postseason games.
7. Rider (14-19, 10-8) — A new coach and seven new faces leave the Broncs draped in mystery. Kevin Baggett insists he will fix the defensive woes (74.6 ppg allowed) and get back to running up and down the floor. Senior Jon Thompson (8.1 ppg) is better than people think and transfer Nurideen Lindsey (11.1 ppg at St. John’s) can score the ball. Rider has to avoid another poor start — it began 1-10 a season ago — and has its first three games at home.
8. Marist (14-18, 7-11) — Chuck Martin’s Red Foxes have slowly gotten better in each of his past four seasons and has he has an outstanding guard in sophomore Chavaughn Lewis (14.4 ppg). Marist can certainly finish better than eighth, but won’t be a serious title contender.
9. Canisius (5-25, 1-17) — Whoever took this job was going to have his work cut out. But the Griffs made a great hire, snapping up Jim Baron after he parted ways with Rhode Island. Baron won 20 games six times and was a four-time Atlantic-10 Coach of the Year with the Rams. Senior Harold Washington (17 ppg) is the top returning player.
10. St. Peter’s (5-26, 4-14) — The Peacocks spent last season taking their lumps after losing five starters from the team that surprisingly won the MAAC tournament in 2010. They might do so again this year. Guard Lamin Fulton, one of the bright spots, transferred, leaving John Dunne with little offensive punch. SPC does have some familiar names to keep an eye on, including former Trenton Catholic standouts Markese Tucker and Chazz Patterson. It also added the well-traveled Patrick Jackson, a graduate student who began his career at Rutgers.
— For all your Rider and MAAC needs this season follow Kyle Franko on twitter @kj_franko