2008-09 Team Capsules
The Golden Griffins (also headed to Italy in August) were equally poor on both ends of the court last season. One area that could improve a host of other problems is turnover margin, where Canisius was last in the league, while also committing a league-high 16.3 turnovers per game. The good news is that the team should be much more experienced this season. Nine of the top 10 scorers return after a year in which the top five players in percentage of minutes played were freshmen and sophomores.
The Stags return a ton from last season's 11-7 MAAC campaign, but hopefully they brought back a better idea on how to stop people if they want to live up to contender status. The Stags shot the 3 very well but gave it up at an even higher rate (38.2 percent, last in the league). Mix in some turnover problems and an inability to keep teams off the offensive glass and it's clear there's some room for improvement if they want to pick up the wins needed to challenge in the league. Leading scorer and assist man Jonathan Han
(11.7 ppg, 6.2 apg) makes the balanced attack work. No one else averaged in double figures last season, but six others were between 6.3 and 9.6 points a game.
Kevin Willard's Gaels certainly don't play like his father's Holy Cross Crusaders. They play fast, turn the ball over a lot and, unlike a lot of their MAAC peers, have most of their issues on the offensive end, where they finished second to last in the league with 65.6 ppg. This year, Iona has a good amount of talent back, but they will have to make do without leading scorer Dexter Gray
, who takes his 11.3 ppg and 5.2 rpg to Chile, where he's starting a professional career. The good news is that Gary Springer
is back after averaging 10.9 ppg and 7.7 rpg in just under 22 minutes a game. The defense, especially around the 3-point arc, needs to improve as well, but if the maturing Gaels can make a few more jumpers instead of kicking the ball away, they could be poised to take a next step.
MAAC coaches would be wise to take a long look at how the Greyhounds handled Siena last season. Loyola swept the home-and-home in the regular season (winning by 29 at home) before losing in the final seconds of the MAAC tournament semis on Siena's home floor. Rather than trying to out-quick the Saints, the Greyhounds bludgeoned them inside with a powerful frontcourt approach. Without a number of key members from last season's squad, it's probably too much to expect Marquis Sullivan
, Brett Harvey
and Co. to do the deed themselves this year, but if someone does displace Siena as the league heavyweight, Loyola likely will deserve some of the credit for providing the blueprint.
What's the advantage of having a really young team last season? You get to return them for a more experienced run this season. Manhattan had 10 players average at least 12 minutes a game last season, and solid starters like Antoine Pearson
, Devon Austin
and Darryl Crawford
are nice foundation blocks around which the rest of the Jaspers' balanced attack can revolve. In order to make the leap up the standings, though, Manhattan will have to be better defensively than it was a year ago. Youth can breed inexperience on that end, but it's not the sole excuse for allowing teams to shoot 38.2 percent from 3-point range and 47.5 percent from the field, both last in the league.
Given the new coach and almost all new personnel on the roster, looking at last year's stats doesn't hold much value. What will be interesting, though, is to see how much of a philosophical change Chuck Martin will bring to the program, especially on the defensive end. Last season, Marist defended very well despite forcing very few turnovers. Memphis, where Martin was an assistant for the past two seasons, really liked to get after it on the defensive end and force miscues, which was a decent part of their stellar overall defensive numbers. Not that you ever concede a season (or two), but given how solid Siena (and others) look to be for the next two years, it might give Martin a nice window in which to build a team that can truly challenge in 2010-11.
How do you make up for the loss of a 27.6 ppg scorer like Charron Fisher (as well as the 13.3 ppg from Stanley Hodge
)? Niagara head coach Joe Mihalich hopes that returning guard Tyrone Lewis
and transfers Bilal Benn and Rob Garrison can lead a balanced attack where four or five Purple Eagles will be in double figures. Given that Fisher didn't even shoot 40 percent from the field last season, it's possible higher efficiency can help offset the loss of his explosiveness. A bigger concern for Niagara might be replacing Fisher's contributions on the glass. The 6-foot-4 dynamo was far and away the team leader at 9.5 rpg. And while the Purple Eagles led the league in offensive rebounding, they were last in the MAAC in defensive rebounding.
This was far from a one-man show last season, as MAAC fans may find out this year. In addition to Ryan Thompson, a strong candidate for league player of the year, the Broncs also return effective scoring wing Harris Mansell
(13.7 ppg) and sophomore guards Mike Ringgold
and Justin Robinson
. Also notable for a mid-major team with an NBA lottery pick in its frontcourt (or maybe because of it), Rider was the best 3-point shooting team in the league last season, making 39.8 percent from the arc. If Rider's youthful backcourt rotation can reduce the turnover numbers from last season, this still should be a potent offensive club. They weren't a great defensive team even with Jason Thompson inside, so it will be interesting to see how the Broncs' defensive concepts fare this year with less of an inside presence.
You know it was a long season when the Peacocks' biggest moments came in November, when they beat solid NEC team Wagner and Big East in-state foe Rutgers in back-to-back games. SPC only won three MAAC games last season, all of which were over fellow lower-division clubs Canisius (twice) and Manhattan. The Peacocks were very young, with five freshmen averaging double-figure minutes, and will need to make do this season without double-double man Todd Sowell
, who departs with his 12.7 ppg and 10.4 rpg. Coming back to lead the attack, though, is sophomore Wesley Jenkins
, who averaged 13.0 ppg last season while shooting 41.7 percent from 3.
When Siena was beaten last year, it was often because of defensive foibles, and this season's upside rests heavily on how much the Saints improve on that end. The Saints were exposed from the arc (37 percent allowed) in addition to the defensive glass. They're able to make up for some of it with a very positive turnover differential. Siena finished 33rd in D-I in forcing them (24.0 percent of opponents' possessions) and, thanks in large part to lead guard Ronald Moore, only turned it over 15.7 percent of the time itself (5th in D-I). Must-watch holiday hoops alert: The Siena-Tennessee quarterfinal in the Old Spice Classic should be juicy Thanksgiving Week viewing.