Saturday, December 31, 2011

Fairfield Men's Preview: Fightning For 2nd

Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 2-0 in MAAC play, 7-6 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 15-3 in MAAC play, 25-8 overall.


KEY RETURNEES: 5-11 junior guard Derek Needham (11.8 points, 2.6 assists), 7-0 senior center Ryan Olander (11.8 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 blocks), 6-5 sophomore forward Maurice Barrow (8.6 6.4, 2.6 assists).

KEY LOSSES: Forwards Yorel Hawkins (10.0, 5.3), Warren Edney (6.7, 3.3).

NOTES: Much talent, but also much transition. Former coach Ed Cooley, who oversaw the program's turnaround, left for Providence and was replaced by former Princeton coach Sydney Johnson. The 7-6 start isn't terrific, but somewhat understandable considering the opposition, including losses against Providence, Minnesota, Dayton, Indiana State, UConn and Drexel ... Things haven't fully clicked yet for the Stags. More ball movement is being emphasized, but the leading assist players are Needham and Barrow at 2.6 per game, surprisingly low figures ... Rakim Sanders, a 6-5 senior transfer from Boston College, has become the go-to-guy on offense and has taken 42 more shots than the nearest teammate, while averaging team highs of 16.6 points and 7.6 rebounds. The other newcomer to the starting lineup is point guard Desmond Wade (3.7, 2.4, 2.4 assists). Wade, a transfer from Houston, has moved Needham off the point and to shooting guard, where his numbers are down considerably. Needham looked like a future MAAC Player of the Year as a freshman (16.4 points, 5.2 assists), but now looks like merely a solid player (11.8, 2.6) ... Others have seen their roles change, too. Junior Colin Nickerson, who had a strong freshman year, is only averaging 2.3, 1.2 as a junior ... The team has almost no front-court depth as 6-8 freshman Adam Jones is the top reserve, yet hasn't played more than nine minutes in a game in the last six contests ... Clearly, there's an adjustment period going on here as only two role-playing seniors were lost from last year's team that set a program record for victories with a 25-8 finish, while winning the conference's regular-season title.

WHAT FAIRFIELD NEEDS TO DO TO SUCCEED: Get more experience playing together. Find some front-court depth. There's plenty of talent here, but the transition from an entirely new coaching staff to two key transfers becoming eligible and moving into the starting lineup to a new playing style has all taken some time to adjust to.

PREDICTION: There's still plenty of time to go, and the barely over .500 record to date is attributable to a very difficult non-league schedule. Clearly, though, Iona has emerged as the MAAC's best team, and it looks like it will be Fairfield and Loyola battling for second place.

Rider Women's Pre: Contend? Why Not?

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 8-3 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 5-13 in MAAC play, 5-25 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 5-11 sophomore forward MyNeshia McKenzie (11.6 points, 10.1 rebounds), 5-8 senior guard Ali Heller (10.9), 6-2 junior forward Caitlin Bopp (7.7, 5.7), 6-0 junior forward Carleigh Brown (5.6, 4.4), 6-3 senior center Sarah Homan (5.8, 4.9), 5-4 senior guard Alyssa Parsons (4.5, 2.7 assists).

KEY LOSSES: 5-10 junior guard Sheree Lightbourne (9.6 points) to injury.

NOTES: The program has not had a better-than-.500 overall finish since joining the MAAC in 1997, so the early start (including an active five-game winning streak) is extremely encouraging ... But, head coach Lynn Milligan is preaching that the team's record is 0-0 in MAAC play (which begins with a game vs. Manhattan on Monday) ... It wasn't hard to predict this kind of turnaround (and, this Hoopscribe did just that, identifying the Broncs to be the positive surprise team in a preseason posting), but that was before Lightbourne, last season's leading scorer, was lost for the year with a preseason injury ... Still, a lot of talent is in place and the pieces fit well together ... McKenzie has emerged as an elite player at this level, and leads the conference in rebounding... Heller is arguably the MAAC's best long-range shooter (26 three's so far) ... Bopp, Homan and Carleigh Brown give the team more than enough height to contend with any conference team inside ... Junior college transfer Sironda Chambers (9.5, 4.7) provides a dose of athleticism and is the team's third offensive option ... Alyssa Parsons, a senior point guard is very easy to overlook, but she has become a steadying veteran influence as the floor general ... And, Emily Fazzini, a 5-10 freshman guard, has made a nice transition and is in the playing group. ... The start is the best for Rider since the 1982-83 season ... But, there were signs from a year ago. Even after an 0-14 start, the team continued to play hard and had a semblance of success (5-11) in the second half of the season. It seemed to have been enough to vault the program into this season. The year opened with back-to-back victories, the confidence level rose and, well, the results are evident so far.

HOW RIDER CAN SUCCEED: Keep playing like it has so far. Easy to say, and we'll see how that goes. Egos need to be kept in check, but that's likely not a problem. Heller and Homan, two players who could start for most conference programs, are content to come off the bench where both have been major contributors so far and give the Broncs the type of firepower/strong play from reserves that no other conference team has. The team also needs to stay healthy. Bopp missed several games recently, but has returned and is likely to get better as the season progresses. The confidence level needs to remain high, and the team needs to remember what it has done so far to get to its current level of play.

PREDICTION: A lot better than the 8th-place prediction. After being a relative league doormat for so many years, can Rider actually contend for a league championship? .... Why not? The prediction is that Rider will most certainly finish in the top half of the league standings and may well be a year-long contender for the top couple of spots. Everything appears to be in place, right now, for a very nice season.

Rider Men's Preview: Start will Reverse

Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 0-2 in MAAC play, 3-11 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 13-5 in MAAC play, 23-11 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 6-7 sophomore forward Daniel Stewart (13.4 points, 7.1 rebounds), 6-8 senior forward Brandon Penn (10.9, 5.3), 6-5 sophomore guard Anthony Myles (9.5, 2.9), 6-7 senior forward Novar Gadson (7.6, 2.6), 6-7 junior guard Jonathan Thompson (7.6, 3.2).

KEY LOSSES: 6-4 guard Justin Robinson (15.2, 3.9 assists), 6-7 forward Mike Ringold (12.1, 5.4).

NOTES: Way to much transition to have expected a fast start, and one didn't happen as the Broncs started 1-10 before winning two straight prior to a loss at Stony Brook on Friday ... Still, a lot of talent in place and no reason to believe that coach Tommy Dempsey, one of the conference's better at his job, won't find a way to turn things around ... The primary scorer was expected to be Jeff Jones, a 6-4 guard and a transfer from Virginia, but he has been good some nights and not so good on others, averaging 13.4 points thus far ... Stewart, last year's Rookie of the Year in the conference, has made the next step and is among the league's better forwards... But the team lost its best player (point guard Robinson) and its hardest-working big man (Ringold), any team's two-most important positions and Rider is finding it tough to fill those two roles ... More transition? Thompson missed two games early due to a suspension left over from late last year, and Gadson, an offensive force, isn't yet fully recovered from a knee injury suffered late last season... And, the team has moved 6-0 freshman guard Eddie Mitchell into the starting lineup and he is improving, getting six assists in a recent game... Then, another expected contributor, 6-9 freshman Junior Fortunat wasn't immediately eligible, but has played the last five games and gives the team a nice big man off the bench... The team legitimately goes nine deep, has height inside and talent in the backcourt.

HOW RIDER CAN SUCCEED: By getting experience. The freshmen, Mitchell and Fortunate, will both get better. Gadson, theoretically, will get stronger and better as the year progresses. And, just by playing together, the team should benefit.Just about everyone is playing a new role this year, so it takes some time to adjust. Rider certainly didn't expect to start this slow, but it's somewhat understandable. What won't be so easy to digest, though, will be if the slow start continues.

PREDICTION:Too much talent here for the season to continue the way it has so far. The guess is that once the guards (Mitchell, Thompson particularly) get more experience in their roles, Gadson gets healthier and Jones gets more comfortable, things will get right for Rider. Right now, it would be had to envision the Broncs challenging for the top three spots, but finishing fourth or fifth, considering the slow start, would be a nice result.

Iona Women's Preview: Health A Factor

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 4-7.

2010-11 RECORD: 7-11 in MAAC play, 11-20 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (This year's statistics): 6-1 senior forward Kristina Ford (17.6 points, 7.9 rebounds), 6-0 senior forward Tomica Bacic (6.2, 5.6), 5-6 senior guard Suzi Fregosi (5.1, 4.4 assists), 5-7 junior guard Diana Hubbard (4.7, 2.4), 6-3 sophomore center Sabrina Jeridore (4.5, 4.5, 1.7 blocks).

KEY LOSS: Forward Anda Ivkovic (11.5, 5.6).

NOTES: After a five-year stretch averaging 18.8 wins per season came last season's 11-20 record caused, in no small part, by the early season loss of standout point guard Fregosi. She's back, but the wins haven't yet come as the Gaels have played a difficult non-conference schedule with losses coming to, among others, Rutgers, Marquette, Miami, Toledo and Villanova. And, then, came a surprising 75-50 setback on Thursday against Colgate, which now has a 3-11 record. But, Iona played that game without Ford, who leads the conference in scoring and is second in rebounds. She was on crutches for that game with an undisclosed leg injury and her return date, for now, is uncertain ... With Ford, who coach Tony Bozzella opined would be the conference's Player of the Year, Iona is an above-average team. Without her, the Gaels are obviously something less ... Fregosi has returned nicely from last season's hip injury and is second in the MAAC in assists ... Jeridore, a tall inside presence, is second in the conference in blocks ... But, the team will struggle to score without Ford. A freshman guard, Damica Martinez (12.2) is the only other team member who averages more than 6.2 points per game ... Without Ford, rebounding becomes even more of an issue for a team that is already at a 9.1 per-game disadvantage, worst in the MAAC.

HOW IONA CAN SUCCEED: The team's ability to succeed will depend almost entirely on Ford's injury situation. If she comes back, then Iona can be a very good team. Without her, it will be a struggle. At its best, Iona can succeed because it has a stellar floor general in Fregosi, a strong scoring option with Ford and a No. 2 option in Martinez. It has an inside presence with Jeridore.

PREDICTION: Iona, if healthy, is more than capable of finishing in the top three or four spots, maybe even contending for league honors if all goes well. But, if Ford is out for an extended period ten the Gaels will be playing to avoid the bottom four spots and the post-season tournament's play-in round.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Some Eye-Catching Non-League Results

Some games that caught this Hoopscribe's eye of late, in no particular order of importance ...

- Siena men win at Florida Atlantic.

The interest goes beyond a team that uses just six players (Siena) beating an expected contender from the Sun Belt Conference, on FAU's home court for two reasons.

First, FAU coach Mike Jarvis did a Rex Ryan imitation before the game, getting quoted saying this: “I think we should get a win,” Jarvis said Tuesday to Owl Access, a website which covers Florida Atlantic. “I think we should beat Siena at home. So it’s very important that we get a win. You should beat the teams you are supposed to beat. We are suppose to beat Siena at home. We’re a better team than they are.”

Jarvis has never been afraid to speak his mind, a inclination this scribe has been familiar with back into the mid-1980's when he coached at Boston University and the Terriers and Siena both were members of the old North Atlantic Conference.

To his credit, Jarvis had this to say after Siena's victory: "We were the team that played like it only had six players."

Secondly, Siena had two national-championship ring wearers in its locker room before the contest..

Coaching great Rollie Massimino spoke to the team before Wednesday's game in Boca Raton, Fla. Massimino, the head coach of Villanova's 1985 national championship, is now the head coach at Northwood Institute in West Palm Beach, Fla.

“(We) were very lucky to have Rollie Massimino stop by,” Tyler Simms, Siena’s director of basketball operations, said on Twitter. “The legendary coach gave a great speech."

Massimino, 77, is in his fifth season at Northwood, an NAIA school. He has 633 career victories at five schools.

The other ring-wearer is current Siena coach Mitch Buonaguro, who served as Massimino’s assistant at Villanova for eight seasons, including that memorable 1985 title run, and for seven more at Cleveland State. Buonaguro prepared the scouting report for the 1985 championship game in which Villanova upset Georgetown.

- Iona Men Lose To Hofstra

It's no shame to lose. The 10-3 Gaels had already lost twice previously, to Purdue of the Big 10 and to 9-3 Marshall (whose losses include ones to Ohio State and Syracuse).

But, Iona's 83-75 setback at Hofstra on Thursday night was a little bit of a stunner. Iona entered the game with a 9-2 record while Hofstra came in with a 5-7 mark.

The Gaels, though, committed an uncharacteristic 23 turnovers in the game, after averaging just 14.4 miscues per outing entering the contest.

Said Iona's senior forward Mike Glover (20 points, 13 rebounds, 3 blocks): "I think we ad zero perent effort. we played worse than what the score said.

"We have to do a better job of not listening to what's being said about us by (the media)," said Iona's junior guard Momo Jones. "We have to understand that with glitz and glamour comes big stages and publiity that people may not have had before. We have to do a better job of handling that."

Said Iona coach Tim Cluess: "It looked like it meant more to them (Hofstra)."

- Rider Women Defeat Mount St. Mary's, 53-44

The Broncs are on a five-game winning streak as they end non-conference play.

The significance? The team only won five games, total, for all of the 2010-11 season. Its current 8-3 record accounts for the program's best start since the 1982-83 season.

Rider, which has never finished with an above-.500 overall record since joining the MAAC in 1997, is certainly the rags-to-riches, feel-good story of women's basketball in the conference so far this season.

- Marist Women Lose to Kansas State, 57-56

No shame here, either, in losing to a now 9-3 opponent from the Big 12 conference.

But, Thursday's results included losses by the two teams (Iona men and Marist women) picked as runaway preseason choices to dominate conference play this season.

The loss dropped Marist to a 5-6 overall record, its first sub-.500 mark this late since the 2002-03 season.

The loss was the second straight for the Red Foxes, who dropped a two-point decision to Hofstra in its previous contest.

“We’re kind of tired of being close,” Giorgis said, whose team arguably played the most-difficult non-conference schedule (as usual) of any conference women's team. “We’re not last year’s team, but we’re a good team and we can play with a lot of people. But playing with a lot of people and beating people are two different things. The kids were frustrated, because moral victories don’t do much for you. Everybody has something they need to work on.

“This one, more than the others, bothered them. It’s at home and you have a chance to beat a very good basketball team.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

St. Peter's Women's Preview: Tough Times

Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.

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2011-12 SEASON TO DATE: 0-9.

2010-11 SEASON: 5-13 in MAAC play, 6-25 overall.

KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 5-9 senior forward Jynae Judson (17.8 points, 7.6 rebounds), 5-3 sophomore guard Aziza May (8.3, 3.0), 6-2 senior center Quiana Porter (6.2, 5.0), 5-5 senior guard Aminah Davis (5.7, 2.3).

KEY LOSS: Forward Jessica Coles (5.7, 3.3).


NOTES: Judson missed the first four games, but has come back strong. Still, she can't do it by herself and isn't getting a lot of help. May, an undersized sophomore, is emerging as a solid point guard and has more assists than turnovers (37-31). But, everyone else is basically a role player ... Porter, always solid inside, remains so. Jessika Holmes, a 6-0 junior forward, adds a little height and leads the team in rebounding at 5.8 per game ... Other than Judson, one of the league better players, the Peahens are offensively challenged and only score an average of 51 points per game. Opponents, mostly mid-major programs, are scoring 66.1 per game against Saint Peter's ... Manigrasso, who was one of the MAAC's better freshmen last season (7.5 points per game), is only getting 8.5 minutes per contest this year ... There's depth as the team goes 10 deep on most nights, but other than Judson most of the pieces to date are interchangeable parts.

HOW SAINT PETER'S CAN SUCCEED: What it usually does best is create havoc with defense, pressure and athleticism, but it hasn't been real successful at doing that yet. It needs a second and, probably, a third offensive option to step up.

PREDICTION: If the non-league results to date are any indication, then the Peahens are destined for the post-season tournament's play-in round once again. But, last year's team, despite an 0-11 start, was resilient enough to go 6-14 the rest of the way while winning its last three regular-season games. Judson's presence alone, could account for a few wins, but don't expect the program to do any better than to steal a few wins along the way to a finish in the bottom four spots this season.

St. Peter's Men Preview: Tough Transition

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 2-10.

2010-11 RECORD: 11-7 in MAAC play, 20-14 overall.


KEY RETURNEES: 6-7 junior forward Darius Conley (13.2 points, 8.7 rebounds), 6-3 junior guard Yvon Raymond (8.9, 5.1).

KEY LOSSES: Guard Wesley Jenkins (12.6, 4.8), forward Jeron Belin (11.6, 5.2), guard Nick Leon (10.4, 2.2, 3.2 assists), forward Ryan Bacon (10.0, 7.4).

NOTES: Conley is the team's only returning starter, and has played well to date leading the team in scoring and rebounding. His rebound average is the conference's second-best thus far. And, he is getting better with three 20-point games in his last five, including a 22-point, 12-rebound effort in the Peacocks' last outing ... Two teams lost four starters from a year ago, Saint Peter's and Canisius. And, not coincidentally, those are the two programs with the worst records to date. Saint Peter's is 2-10 and Canisius is 2-9 ... Head coach John Dunne, who molded a defense-first, well-working team in every sense of the word last season, knew this season's squad would be a work in progress and hoped things would come together by tournament time. To date, though, there has been much inconsistency ... Karee Ferguson, a 6-7 junior college transfer who was expected to provide some much-needed offense, is only averaging 5.6 points ... Chris Prescott, a touted transfer from St. Joseph's, is averaging 11.7 points, but probably was expected to do more scoring ... Markese Tucker, a 6-5, 240-pounder, has been a pleasant surprise, averaging 9.0 points ... Jack Hill, a 6-9 senior forward who hardly played in past year, has been effective but missed the team's last game with a shoulder issue and is day-to-day ... Lamin Fulton, the likely point guard of the future, is playing like a freshman and junior Yvon Ramond (8.9 points, 5.1 rebounds), is the current starter at the point ... Right now there isn't a lot of date and things haven't yet come together as Dunne had hoped ... The non-league schedule, too, has been difficult and losses have come against Minnesota, Seton Hall, Utah State and Buffalo.

HOW SAINT PETER'S CAN SUCCEED: By getting healthy, by getting experience playing together and by getting better. There's some talent here. Conley is emerging as one of the MAAC's better inside forces. Prescott can be an offensive force, as can Ferguson. Fulton will eventually emerge as a strong point guard. But, it hasn't happened yet. But, no one expected a program that graduated four senior starters to make a seamless transition. There's enough talent in place to at least be respectable eventually this season. And, for the program to hope for better days. None of the top six scorers are seniors.

PREDICTION: Hard to see Saint Peter's repeating as the post-season tournament champion, and maybe even fulfilling the preseason prediction for fifth. But, your Hoopscribe perceives Dunne to be one of the MAAC's best coaches, and he'll eventually get things going in the right direction. A .500 finish in the MAAC would be a reasonable goal, with much better ahead next season.

Loyola Women's Preview: Could Contend

Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 4-6 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 15-3 in MAAC play, 21-13 overall.

KEY RETURNEES (This season's stats): 5-10 senior forward Miriam McKenzie (14.4 points, 7.0 rebounds), 5-10 junior guard Katie Sheahin (14.2, 6.0, 3.4 assists, 3.6 steals), 6-0 sophomore guard Nicole Krusen (6.9, 1.9), 6-1 sophomore forward Nneka Offodile (6.5, 4.8), 6-1 junior forward Alyssa Sutherland (5.0, 5.3).

KEY LOSSES: Guard Erica DiClemente (11.7, 4.0), forward Meredith Tolley (7.6, 5.6).


NOTES: The Greyhounds didn't have much depth last year, and are woefully thin again this year, going mostly with a seven-member playing group, and that was before McKenzie was injured. She has missed the last three games and her return date is uncertain. The team also lost another key reserve in senior point guard Candice Walker (knee) after the first two games ... Sheahin, in this Hoopscribe's opinion, is the league's best player but she can't do it by herself. McKenzie's return to health will be a key ... Three youngsters have stepped up this year, Marshall, Krusen and Offodile. Krusen leads the conference in 3-point shooting percentage at .512 (21-of-41) and has hit five treys twice already, only the third Loyola player to ever hit five threes in a game twice .... Offfodile is a rugged inside player while Marshall, having some success as a freshman, is a tall guard who often handles the ball ... Coach Joe Logan currently has 100 career wins at Loyola, the most ever by a women's coach at the school ... Sheahin leads the conference in steals and ranks 20th nationally in that statistic. She led the country in steals a year ago. She has averaged 23 points per game in McKenzie's absence ... Tough non-league slate has included losses to Maryland and Pitt ...

HOW LOYOLA CAN SUCCEED: By getting McKenzie back quickly. She has the combination of athleticism and skill most teams at this level don't have in a player. The team definitely needs to stay healthy. It also needs a little more inside play (McKenzie and Sheahin, both 5-10, are the team's top two rebounders). Sheahin is the other key. Keeping her healthy and fresh is an absolute must.

PREDICTION: Looked like a potential contender to Marist's supremacy until McKenzie's injury. Without McKenzie, who is clearly one of the conference's top five players, Loyola drops off considerably both in terms of talent and depth, which was already lacking. If McKenzie returns to full strength soon Loyola will battle Marist and, likely finish no worst than third in the conference.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Loyola Men's Preview: Top Title Contender

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 2-0 in MAAC play, 8-3 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 10-8 in the MAAC, 15-15 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 6-2 sophomore guard Dylon Cormier (16.5 points, 4.7 rebounds), 6-7 junior forward Erik Etherly (12.5, 7.5), 6-4 sophomore guard Justin Drummond (11.5, 6.5), 6-10 senior forward Shane Walker (11.1, 6.5), 6-4 junior guard Robert Olson (9.0, 2.8).

KEY LOSSES: Brian Rudolph (6.5, 4.4).

NOTES: Clearly one of the conferences top three teams, particularly after an 8-1 start and an eight-game winning streak after a season-opening loss at Wake Forest that were both the program's best since moving to the Division I level in 1981 ... The other two losses were also to quality opponents, St. Bonaventure and Kentucky. And, against Kentucky, Loyola was within four points early in the second half before a very respectable 87-63 final score ... More depth than any other MAAC team, the Greyhounds legitimately go eight deep, and that's without senior guard J'hared Hall, the conference's Sixth Man of the Year award winner last season. Hall has been battling early season injuries, but has returned to action recently ... Head coach Jimmy Patsos, who recently went over the 100-win plateau at the school, has brought the program from just an abysmal state (1-29 the year before he came aboard) to respectability. Late last season, he talked about making the next step, going beyond respectability to legitimately contending for league honors, and it looks like that could happen this season ... Just about everything appears to be in place. Sophomore guard Dylon Cormier is the requisite standout, becoming one of the league's elite guards. And Cormier is getting plenty of backcourt help from another sophomore, Justin Drummond, who had 26 points in the loss to St. Bonaventure...There is more than enough height in the 6-10 Walker and tough 6-7 Etherly inside, backed up by 6-8 workhorse Jordan Latham, a sophomore transfer who previously played at Xavier and has been getting more time of late. Balance? Four players average at least 11.1 points per game, and a fifth averages 9.0. Coaching? Your Hoopscribe has long been a Patsos admirer, recognizing that the coach consistently gets the most out of his players and teams ...The only minor question is replacing graduated point guard Brian Rudolph and that job, for the most part, has fallen to freshman R.J. Williams (3.9 points, 2.3 rebounds), who started for much of the year to date but has seen his playing time diminish of late. But, if Williams can be a significant contributor the Greyhounds have just about everything covered.

HOW LOYOLA CAN SUCCEED: Getting a little better play from Williams would be a boost, but even with a freshman running things and with just one senior in the top eight players (Walker), Loyola is still a team that values the ball committing a very reasonable 14.5 turnovers per contest. The Greyhounds will succeed just by continuing to do the things they've done so far: Remain balanced, remain under control and remain healthy. With its depth, it would appear as capable as any conference team of holding up while playing on consecutive nights, which bodes well for the post-season tournament.

PREDICTION: Early returns indicate that Iona is the best team in the league, but Loyola ranks right up there with Fairfield as the most-legitimate contenders. The guess here is that Loyola will battle for second or third place this season.

Canisius Women's Preview: Bright Future

Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 5-5 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 6-12 in the MAAC, 11-20 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 6-4 sophomore center Jamie Ruttle (10.8, 5.2), 5-9 sophomore guard Jen Morabito (9.5, 2.4), 5-5 junior guard Ashley Duram (7.6, 3.8, 4.3 assists), 6-4 sophomore Jen Lennox (5.6, 2.5), 5-10 junior forward Allison Braun (5.0, 4.4), 6-1 sophomore forward Courtney VandenBovenkamp (3.8, 2.7).

KEY LOSSES: Guard Micayla Drysdale (9.0, 4.0), swingperson Steph McDonald (6.6, 5.2).

NOTES: The 2008-09 season was one of the best in the program's history, resulting in a 24-9 record. The Golden Griffs subsequently failed to match that single-season win total in the past two years combined (12-19, 11-20), but this looks like the year the cycle reverses itself. Three of the five losses have come to quality opponents, St. Bonaventure, Ohio State and Buffalo. And, Canisius as currently won its last two ... The biggest team in the MAAC with 6-4 reigning Rookie of the Year Jamie Ruttle and 6-4 reserve Jen Lennox ... Also, one of the youngest MAAC teams. It has no senior on the roster, the only conference team without at least two seniors ... The team is also getting healthy. Starting 6-1 forward VandeBovenkamp missed several games early in the season with an injury, and highly touted freshman guard Kayla Hoohuli was still recovering from a knee injury early in the season, but both are close to 100 percent now, particularly VandenBovenkamp, who had a team-high 14 points in her last game ... The team has great depth, legitimately eight or nine deep. Guard Ashley Durham has been coming off the bench lately, and her assist average of 4.3 is third-best in the MAAC ... There's also much balance. Seven players average between 5.0 points and 10.8 points per game. Eight players average between 2.4 and 5.2 rebounds and seven players average more than an assist per game ... Morabito, an all-Rookie team pick a year ago, is one of the league's best long-range shooters and has hit at least three 3-pointers in five different games this year. The team also shares well, and its 14.4 assists per game average leads the conference.

HOW CANISIUS CAN SUCCEED: Continue to gain experience. With its height, Canisius will cause smaller teams problems, even though it currently operates by getting 4.1 fewer rebounds per game than opponents, but VandeBovenkamp's return should help. There were signs last year that the young team improved as the season progressed and, now, last year's strong freshman class is a year older. It probably wouldn't hurt to have a true go-to player in key situations, although both Ruttle and Morabito are both more than capable. And, the team's overall balance makes it difficult for opponents to concentrate on stopping specific Canisius players.

PREDICTION: Very, very good days ahead. Midway through last season your Hoopscribe predicted that once Canisius got experience it would be the most-likely team to eventually dethrone long-time league power Marist, and that opinion hasn't changed. It probably won't happen this season, although Canisius is more than capable of upsetting some of the perceived stronger teams. A very good chance the Griffs will finish higher than the prediction for sixth place this season and, then, much higher in subsequent years.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Canisius Men's Preview: Better Days Ahead

First a very Merry Christmas to all ...

Your Hoopscribe is hard at work, early Christmas morning, while awaiting a college-aged son to awake. And, please accept the reminder that the Holiday season is about more than receiving gifts. It's about family and friends, too, so give thanks for those you have ... and give a special hug to those you love.

And, now, back to the series previewing MAAC teams.

Up now ...


2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 0-2 in MAAC play, 2-9 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 9-9 in MAAC play, 15-15 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 6-2 junior guard Gaby Balardo (9.2, 2.4), 6-2 junior guard Alshway Hymes (15.2, 2.2), 6-6 sophomore forward Chris Manhertz (7.3, 7.6), 6-2 sophomore guard Reggie Groves (7.1, 2.6).

KEY LOSSES: forwards Greg Loggins, Elton Frazier, Tomas Vazquez-Simmons, and guards Julius Coles and Robert Goldsberry.

NOTES: Canisius lost four starters and its best bench player from last season. That group finished with a .500 overall record, the first non-losing season for the program since 2000-01 and avoiding the play-in round of the MAAC tournament for the first time in 11 seasons ... Despite the losses, the Golden Griffins still have talent, just young talent. There is no senior in the playing group. Belardo is the only returning starter, and he missed three games with a back issue and is not yet 100 percent. Everyone else in the playing group either came off the bench last season, or is a program newcomer ... The Griffs have staked much of their success, not only now but for future years, on transfers. Junior Harold Washington, a 6-1 guard, came to the program after two seasons at Cecil (Md.) Junior College, and he averages 18.2 points per game, third-best in the MAAC ... Then there's the program's "scout" team that includes three strong future pieces in transfers 6-10 Freddie Aspirilla (Kansas State), guard Isaac Sosa (Central Florida) and 6-10 Jordan Heath (Robert Weslyan), all sitting out this season due to transfer rules but eligible for 2012-13 and all are expected to be impact players for Canisius ... Hymes is possibly the MAAC's top long-range threat and currently leads the conference with 32 three-pointers through 11 games ... Manhertz, who barely played last season, is sixth in the league in rebounding (7.6 per contest) ... Josiah Heath, a 6-9 freshman, was the MAAC's most-recent Rookie of the Week for averaging 16.5 rebounds over two games last week.

HOW CANISIUS CAN SUCCEED: Take care of the ball. The Griffs have a league-low 110 assists, and a league-worst assist-to-turnover ratio (110 assists against 181 turnovers). And, that's surprising since four of the team's top five players are guards. But Belardo, the only true point guard on the roster, has been less than his best physically so far, and Groves, primarily a shooting guard to date, is the back-up at the point and leads the team in assists ... There's also the issue of inside play. Manhertz, the best inside player, is onlly 6-foot-6. There are two other "bigs" contributing, the 6-9 Josiah Heath and the 6-10 Kevin Bleeker, but both are slender freshmen ... A season of experience will help. If the young big players can continue to improve, and the ball-handling improves, Canisius can cause some problems as the season progresses.

PREDICTION: This probably won't be the year the Griffs finish with a better-than-.500 record. A good season would be one of noticeable progression. And, then, much better days are ahead with the return of every key player, along with the addition of the three transfers to next season's team.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Siena Women's Preview: Seeking Reversal

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 1-7.

2010-11 RECORD: 11-7 in MAAC play, 14-16 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (This season's statistics): 6-0 junior forward Lily Grenci (13.3 points, 7.0 rebounds), 5-8 senior guard Christina Centeno (11.3, 5.6, 4.1 assists), 5-11 senior guard Maja Gerlyng (11.3, 2.0).

KEY NEWCOMER: 5-9 freshman guard Tehersa Coles (3.1, 1.9).

KEY LOSSES: 6-2 center Serena Moore (14.8, 8.7), 5-9 forward Cathy Cockrum (5.0, 5.0), 5-6 point guard Missy Ramsey (2.5, 2.6).

NOTES: Once again, another slow start against a difficult non-conference slate. Last year's team started 1-8 before league play began and, then, went 13-8 the rest of the way ... And, like last year's team, there is much transition here. Three starters are gone from a year ago, including Moore, who led the MAAC in scoring and rebounding a year ago ... This year's team had three new starters and, eight minutes into the season, lost one when point guard Allie Mulligs was lost for the year with a torn ACL ... With Mullins gone, Siena has tried three other players at the point thus far with little success ... The team, though, has shown signs of improvement, losing its last two games by four (to Central Connecticut) and five (to UMass) ... Grenci has shown signs of being one of the league's better inside players, and Centeno and Gerlyng are both capable perimeter players ... Kate Zarotney, a 6-0 post player, has moved into the starting lineup recently and has played well, as has freshman Coles, whose older sister played at Saint Peter's ... The graduation loss of Moore and the lack of a true point guard has really inhibited the offense, which has scored more than 53 points just twice through the first eight games ... Like this time a year ago, the capability for better appears to be there, it's just a matter of adjusting to a full starting five of players in new roles ... The team has also been hindered by injuries with Denmark native freshman Ida Krogh (one game, due to plantar fasciitis), Mullings and another freshman, Kim Lisius-Cote (ankle problems) unavailable.

HOW SIENA CAN SUCCEED: Find a competent point guard. Right now Centeno, who has played the position at times in the past, is the latest to try. The team also just needs to make shots. Against UMass, there were at least four missed wide-open inside shots, those missing costing the Saints an opportunity to beat a decent Atlantic 10 opponent. The team also needs consistent production. Every member of the playing group has had some strong games, but just not on a night-to-night basis. Gaining experience as the year goes on will, theoretically, pay dividends later as the Saints only have two seniors and one junior on the roster.

PREDICTION: The similarity to last season are evident ... a slow start in terms of wins and losses, but signs things are coming together. At some point, a couple wins have to come to create more confidence. But, it came a year ago and could come again this season. There is much young talent on the roster, although some of it is injured, and there is a standout future point guard in place in George Washington transfer Janine Davis, who becomes eligible next season. For this year, though, avoiding the post-season tournament's play-in round would be a nice achievement.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Rider Womens' Fast Start Is No Fluke

The best record to date among women's teams in the MAAC?

Two teams currently have 6-3 non-league starts to the 2011-12 season, and one of them is Rider.

The Broncs share that status with Fairfield, an occurrence seemingly unlikely as Marist (currently 4-4) not having a winning record to date.

Actually, Rider's rise is one of the more-surprising, feel-good stories not only of this season but of many seasons.

To say times have been tough for the school's women's program is an understatement. The Broncs have never finished a season with an overall record above .500 since joining the MAAC in 1997. Over that time, they've had one winning season in league play, a 10-8 mark in 1999-00. Since that season Rider has been 41-157 in MAAC play and 67-253 overall for a stretch of the past 11 seasons.

No MAAC women's team has been any worse over that time.

And, now, at least for the start of the 2011-12 season, no women's team is any better than Rider.

The 6-3 start has understandably been a source of considerable pride and enjoyment for fifth-year coach Lynn Milligan and her players. But, there's also a strong understanding that this is just the beginning, that the Broncs aren't willing to be satisfied by a strong early start.

"We told the kids for years winning is fun, no doubt about it," said Milligan. "And, now we're winning. But the good thing is that our players understand where we are and what have to do to get where we want to be.

"Early success success is terrific, a tangible result for hard work. But we've got a very balanced team off the court. They're consistent day to day. They know enough not to look behind us, and not to look any further ahead than our next practice. They know this is a day-to-day process, that there are things we have to do every day. It's still only December, and no one has even played a MAAC game yet. We're doing everything we can to prepare ourselves for conference play."

The preparation for MAAC play this year, though, has involved tangible results ... real success and an ever-growing sense of confidence within the team that comes from success.

That began with two season-opening victories over Lafayette and Bucknell. The only losses to date have come against two strong Ivy League teams (5-2 Penn and 8-4 Princeton) and Georgetown (9-2) of the Big East.

The best win to date might have been 66-56 victory at Binghamton, one of the better teams in the America East Conference, on Saturday.

It has all helped build a confidence level that could propel Rider into the early January start of conference play.

"Getting those first two victories right away really helped give us the confidence we needed," added Milligan. "It showed our team that this process will work. It showed that if we do what have to do every day, good things will happen for us,:

Turning Rider around has been a process ongoing at Rider since long before Milligan was hired, but had its roots in early recruiting classes when she brought in current seniors 6-foot-3 forward Sarah Homan, and guards Ali Heller and Alyssa Parsons. Homan, the team's third-leading rebounder, and Heller, the reigning MAAC's Sixth Player of the Year honoree, come off the bench. Parsons has been a steadying influence as the starting point guard.

"One big difference this year is our senior class," said Milligan. "We didn't have a senior on last year's team ... no one last year understood the sense of urgency we talk about, that their time here is going to be over soon and that you don't want to leave with regrets. This year's seniors understand that. They want to leave their mark on our program. We've got an excellent senior class who has been here with us every step of the way and they understand how important is is to work hard. They're a good bunch of leaders."

Good enough that neither Homan nor Heller mind coming off the bench.

"On most teams in the MAAC they would start," said Milligan. "But they come off the bench and give us a spark. They both seem better sitting for a couple of minutes, watching how things are progressing and coming off the bench ready to play. It's a great advantage for us to make substitutions wit those two who arguably can better than players they come in for."

The team also had other talented starters returning, particularly 6-3 junior forward Caitlin Bopp and sophomore 5-11 forward MyNesia McKenzie. Bopp averages 9.0 points and 6.5 rebounds and McKenzie, last year's Rookie of the Year in the Conference, is even better this season averaging close to a double-double (13.1 points, 9.6 rebounds).

The playing rotation was also fortified by newcomers 5-7 guard Sironda Chambers (8.6, 4.9), a junior college transfer, and freshman guard Emily Fazzini (5.1, 2.7), this past week's conference Rookie of the Week. Returnee 6-0 junior forward Carleigh Brown has also been effective, averaging 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 17.4 minutes of playing time per contest.

Milligan is far from alone in enjoying the team's early run of success. Her team's seniors, who had a 19-71 overall record over the past three seasons, are finally able to think about leaving a winning season as their mark.

"This feels good, just knowing all the hard work we've gone through ... all the summers we put in at school and the effort we put in during preseason is finally paying off," said Heller.

"We have a lot of good leadership. The team is a lot more cohesive this year than in the past. And, starting off the season with those two wins right away was a confidence builder. It was important, coming off last season (5-25 overall) that we see things turn around right from the start.

"Still, we've got to keep the big picture in mind. This start doesn't mean anything when MAAC play begins, and we know when that first game is ... we've got it circled on the calendar.."

But, the big picture goes beyond what success Rider might have this season. Not only is there a solid group of senior leaders in place, but the program also has enough young talent to indicate that this year's team won't be a one-year anomaly.

And, if things continue to go well for the Broncs this year and in the future?

"I think we're going to surprise a lot of people this year," said Heller. "And, it will be nice to be able to look back and say that we were the ones who started the turnaround."

Monday, December 19, 2011

Siena Men's Preview: Much Bad Luck

Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.

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2011-12 RECORD: 0-2 in MAAC play, 3-7 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 8-10 in the MAAC, 13-18 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (Stats from this season): 6-8 junior forward O.D. Anosike (13.1 points, 12.1 rebounds), 6-3 senior guard Kyle Downey (12.7, 4.5, 2.4 assists), 6-8 senior forward Brandon Walters (6.6, 6.2), 6-6 senior forward Owen Wignot (2.8, 1.8).

KEY LOSSES: Forward Ryan Rossiter (18.7, 13.2), guard Clarence Jackson (14.7).

NOTES: After losing three of the program's all-time better players after the 2009-10 season, the expected drop-off occurred last season. And, then, more graduation losses (particularly Player of the Year Rossiter) have been joined by some bad luck. Before the season started, the program had two freshmen forwards declared ineligible for the season due to a new NCAA rule mandating players finish high school within a specific time frame. And, then, returning starting point guard Rakeem Brookins was lost to the season with a back issue and potential starting forward Davis Martens was also lost for the season after hip surgery. It has left the team in the hands of 5-7 freshman point guard Evan Hymes, who has performed admirably (14.3 points, 3.2 assists). Anosike has also made the expected step forward, and is the No. 3 rebounder nationally. Downey, fully healthy for the first time in three years, is having a strong season thus far ... The team has played short-handed through the early portion and, then, had freshman guard Davonte Beard (22.7 minutes per game) opt to leave the program, citing homesickness ... And, returning senior Owen Wignot, expected to be a major contributor, has been dealing with a head injury, missed several games and has yet to be effective since his return. The team basically plays seven each night. Beard's defection will be off-set by the return of 6-6 sophomore Trenity Burdine later this week.

HOW SIENA CAN SUCCEED: By avoiding more personnel losses, and even that won't be enough for the program to remotely think it will return to the recent glory days of three straight NCAA appearances (2008, '09, '10). But recruiting with an all-but-set starting five in place during that run was difficult and the program is paying the price right now. The team needs to be more consistent, not only game-by-game, but within games. A big win over cross-town rival Albany was indicative of what the Saints can do on their best night. But, shortly thereafter came a lopsided loss to Fordham, picked to finish last in the Atlantic 10. Siena's best nights will come when most of its players are having strong games, but that doesn't happen every night.

PREDICTION: Saint fans, never patient during down seasons, seem to be enthused by the team's relatively strong play even in most of its losses thus far. But, the predicted (by coaches) sixth-place finish was made before all the preseason personnel losses and, now, looks optimistic. But, with expected return of the two ineligible front-court players, the return from injuries of Brookins and Martens and the experience gained by younger players bodes well for the future.

Niagara Women's Preview: Getting Better

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

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2011-12 RECORD: 3-8.

2010-11 RECORD: 0-18 in MAAC play, 1-29 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (statistics are from this season): 5-5 sophomore guard Kayla Stroman (8.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 2.1 steals), 5-11 sophomore forward Shy Britton (7.0, 2.4), 5-8 senior guard Ali Morris (6.9, 3.4), 5-10 senior forward Meghan Waterman (4.5, 2.3).

KEY LOSS: Forward Liz Flooks (10.7, 5.1).

NOTES: A 3-8 start, coming against some decent non-league opponents thus far, isn't reason to rejoice yet, but it's much better than a year ago when the Purple Eagles became the first team since the 2002-03 Iona team to go 0-18 in conference play and won just a single game overall. Need a reason for the improvement? How about finding good players at the two key positions, point guard and center. Niagara had a point guard for a short time last year in Stroman, but she was lost for the season in the eighth game. She is back at 100 percent of her do-everything offensively, ball-hawking pest defensively best. And, then, the team has one of the league's better centers in 6-2 sophomore Lauren Gatto, a transfer from the University of Illinois at Chicago, who had to sit out last season ... Gatto leads the team in points, rebounds and minutes played ... The team, though, does not have a signature star. No player averages double figures in points, or more than 5.9 rebounds per game ... Then, there's also the left-over turnover issue. Niagara averaged an astronomical 21.5 turnovers per game a year ago (against 9.2 assists). Those numbers are only a little better this season (19.6 turnovers, 10.3 assists) ... The team also lacks eight, besides Gatto, although 6-0 freshman Val McQuade has been playing well early ... There's also an experience issue as just two players, guard Ali Morris and forward Meghan Waterman are seniors. Both are role players, although Waterman's best work, on the defensive end, doesn't show up on the stat sheet.

HOW NIAGARA CAN SUCCEED: Cut down on the turnovers and find more consistent scoring. Sophomore forward Shy Britton looks like she can develop into a better scorer than her 7.0 ppg. average thus far. Stroman is also capable of more scoring as is Gatto. Someone, though, needs to step up to become the team's go-to player in key situations. As with most young teams, the experience of just playing will help Niagara develop as the season progresses. And things are likely to be better once league play begins, as many of the Purple Eagles' opponents thus far are as good as many of the MAAC teams. A win over Binghamton, one of the better teams in the America East Conference, earlier this month might be a harbinger of good things ahead.

PREDICTION: Clearly better than last year. Probably won't climb into the top six positions (avoiding a post-season tournament play-in game), but if the youngsters mature quickly it's not out of the realm of possibility. Anything will be better than last season, but there's enough young talent in place to think this year will be considerably better, and the future is bright beyond that.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Niagara Men's Preview: Growing Pains

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

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2011-12 RECORD TO DATE: 0-2 in MAAC play, 4-7 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 5-13 in the MAAC, 9-23 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (this year's statistics): 6-3 freshman forward Antoine Mason (14.0 points, 5.2 rebounds), 5-11 sophomore guard Marvin Jordan (11.6, 3.4, 2.9 assists), 6-8 junior forward Scooter Gillette (5.6, 3.0), 6-8 junior forward Eric Williams (1.7, 1.8).

KEY LOSSES: Guard Anthony Nelson (15.4, 5.0 assists, 3.4 steals), forward Kashief Edwards (12.4, 6.2).

NOTES: Niagara will be trying to avoid just the third losing season in head coach Joe Mihalich's 14 seasons in the program ... Although Mason is technically a "returnee," he only played three games last season before foot issues kept him out after that. The team's top four scorers include three freshmen and a sophomore. Of the team's top seven scorers, only one (Jordan) played more than three games in the program a year ago ... The key newcomer and the team's top scorer is 6-3 freshman guard Juan'ya Green, whose 19.9 points-per-game average is 2nd best nationally among freshman players, best of all conference players and 27th-best nationally ... He should be getting help soon as 6-5 swingman Josh Turner is expected to join the program for the second semester, and Mihalich says Turner could quickly become the team's best player ... The program suffered a huge graduation loss in do-everything guard Anthony Nelson, who averaged 5.0 assists and a nation-leading 3.4 steals per game. The Purple Eagles haven't' replaced his ball-handling skills. Green leads the team with 3.3 assists per game, but the entire team only averages 10.5 assists per contest ... With youth comes inconsistency. In its first weekend of MAAC play, it only lost to Fairfield by four points and, then, dropped a 96-62 decision against Iona ... The team also lacks consistent inside production, a point recently made by Mihalich. It hurt that Kashief Edwards left the program a year early, and that 6-8 junior Eric Williams hasn't been able to even match his 4.1 points, 3.2 rebounds production of last season.

HOW NIAGARA CAN SUCCEED: Find the reverse of the Fountain of Youth. There's plenty of talent on board, but it's extremely young and prone to the mistakes of youth. On some nights, particularly when Green, Mason and Jordan are making outside shots, the team will look very good. On other nights, when shots don't fall, the team won't look so good. Turner will also have to come in, get acclimated quickly and provide help not only with scoring but on the boards. The team also needs its inside players to improve as the year goes on. All that might be a lot to ask.

PREDICTION: Mihalich isn't trying to fool anyone. He's on record as saying this isn't a year his team will compete for a league title. He'll be happy going through a building year as long as year-long improvement is evident. When Turner comes aboard, it will likely mean the team's top five players include four freshmen and a sophomore, not exactly a recipe for success at the mid-major level. The team, right now, appears destined for one of the bottom four spots in the league standings, unless there's a drastic maturation of the youthful roster. But the talent level is high enough to think that Niagara might be capable of flirting with a .500 overall record and, then, be looking at much better days ahead in future seasons.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Masiello's Words Draw Scribe's Approval

Your Hoopscribe admits that he has only met Steve Masiello once and that hardly qualifies as getting to know the first-year Manhattan men's coach.

But, a couple of phone conversations had me liking what I heard. He said all the right things about creating a new culture within the basketball program, and speaking about how high he wanted his program to climb.

To some, all the preseason talk might have been just bragging ... unfounded bravado, if you will. But, your scribe took it as coming from a confident coach who had a real idea about what he wanted to do and how he wanted to do it.

We've heard it before in the MAAC. Both Paul Hewitt and Fran McCaffery, coaches who took over at Siena at times that program was at its depths, both had similar things to say. There might not have been many believers that things would turn around right away when Hewitt and McCaffery took over that program after struggling times, but they did. And the proof, they say, is in the pudding.

And, so it is with Masiello, whose Manhattan team is off to a 7-4 start and already has more wins through 11 games than the program had in all of the 2010-11 season.

There's a reason the Jaspars struggled a year ago under former head coach Barry Rohrssen. Two key players were freshmen,, adjusting to the college level. Two highly touted recruits wound up missing the entire season. Another key player (Demetrius Jemison), a graduate student who played three seasons previously at Alabama, didn't get cleared by the NCAA until the second semester, causing chemistry issues. There was a lot of new faces struggling to get acclimated a year ago, and one could sense that the program would turn around pretty quickly.

And, it has under Masiello as last year's freshmen (Mike Alvarado and Rhamel Brown) have made the expected step forward; and, as one of the injury issues from a year ago (Roberto Colonette) has come back healthy and has become a rebounding force. Masiello's team also has the requisite standout in junior George Beamon, one of the MAAC's top players and another Rohrssen recruit. And, of course, Masiello is living up to his reputation as a strong recruiter with a solid first-year group that includes recent conference Rookie of the Ween Emmy Andujar.

Which leads us to one other reason why we've grown to admire Masiello from afar. There's this particular quote found on the cbssports website, in a short piece about his team's success so far, and about what Rohrssen, one of the nicest individuals ever to grade a MAAC sideline, left behind ...

"(Barry) did a terrific job evaluating talent," Masiello said. "We have some very good pieces. I'm fortunate to step into a situation like this, and that's a credit to Barry."

We could tell that Masiello would be a good coach, and there was considerable evidence about his ability to recruit. But, now we know something else about Manhattan's first-year coach.

His expressed sentiments about his predecessor exude nothing but class.

Manhattan Women's Preview: Slow Start

Here's another in the series previewing MAAC teams.

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2011-12 RECORD SO FAR: 2-6 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 13-5 in MAAC play, 24-10 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (including this season's statistics): 6-0 senior forward Lindsey Loutsenhiser (13.0 points, 6.8 assists), 6-0 sophomore guard Monica Roder (11.5, 3.5) 5-11 senior forwrd Schyanne Halfkenny (8.1, 5.0), 6-1 senior forward Nadia Peters (6.3, 6.3), 5-11 junior forward Toni-Ann Lawrence (5.5, 3.3), 5-10 junior guard Mggie Blair (3.4, 1.6), 5-8 senior guard Alyssa Herrington (1.9).

KEY LOSS: Point guard Abby Wentworth (13.9, 4.2, 4.2 assists, 2.9 steals).

NOTES: Need proof about the benefits of a superb point guard? Manhattan had one in Wentworth last season and put up 24 victories overall. Wentworth is the only loss from last year's team ... the next best seven players are back ... and the Jaspars are off to a 2-6 start, against exclusively mid-major level competition. And, five of the six losses have come by double-figure totals ... Junior Maggie Blair has stepped into Wentworth's role, and she's providing a similar number of assists (4.3 per game), but isn't anywhere near the scorer/rebounder/defender Wentworth was. And, for that matter, who is? Wentworth was one of the conference's top three or four players a year ago ... The Jaspars appear handicapped by having a roster full of swing players or front-court performers. Of the top seven players, only Blair and Herrington are true guards, and Herrington, primarily a shooter, is struggling this season (5-of-24 on three-point shots after making 41-of-128 last season). Wentworth also spearheaded last season's defense that permitted just 50.9 points per game. Through the first eight games this season Manhattan gives up 59.2 per outing.

WHAT MANHATTAN NEEDS TO SUCCEED: It's easy to say better ballhandling, but the assist-to-turnover ratio is pretty much the same as a year ago. The returnees are all playing at about the same level as a year ago, but losing that signature star has left a huge void for this program. It certainly wouldn't hurt if Herrington became the offensive weapon she had been in the past, but even that won't cure all the early season woes to date. Manhattan also needs to tighten things up on the defensive end, but the feeling here is the team won't match last year's success until it can develop more quality perimeter players.

PREDICTION: This team, as it looks so far, will be hardpressed to meet the coaches' preseason prediction for fourth place. Then again, it's still early and Manhattan does have a deep and solid inside game, and some standout shooters, particularly Roeder who has 16 3-pointers trough eight games. Still, the feeling here is that Manhattan's quest won't be to contend for one of the top two or three spots like it did a year ago, but avoid finishing below sixth place and the post-season tournament's play-in round.

NBA Warriors Have Two Saints in Camp

It's a rare happening when a former MAAC player lands on an NBA roster, but there have been a few. If memory serves, former La Salle standouts Doug Overton (11 NBA seasons) and Lionel Simmons (seven NBA seasons), and former Rider standout Jason Thompson (entering his fourth NBA season with the Sacramento Kings) are the most prominent.

But, has there ever been a time when two former MAAC players are on the same NBA roster?

Not yet, but there's a chance. Two former Siena players, swingman Edwin Ubiles and guard Tommy Mitchell, are both on the Golden State Warriors' preseason roster.

The team currently has 21 players in preseason camp, preparing for the Christmas Day beginning to the NBA season. It's anyone's guess as to whether both former Saints will make the final cut, but there they are for now.

It's not much of a surprise to see Ubiles surface in an NBA camp. The 6-foot-6 swingman has a versatile game that could make him an effective performer.

At Siena he became the program's third all-time leading scorer (1,939 points). After finishing his four-year Siena career after the 2009-10 season, he had a variety of injuries that kept him off the court for much of the next season.

Late in the 2010-11 season, though, he played several games professionally in Puerto Rico and, this summer, was a key player on that country's team that won the gold medal in the Pan American Games.

Since then Ubiles played five games for the Dakota Warriors, Golden State's entry in the NBA Developmental League. There he averaged 18.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game before getting the invitation to the NBA preseason camp.

Mitchell, while possessing the necessary athleticism to play beyond the college level, never truly was an elite player even at the mid-major level while at Siena. While he did score 1,115 points (29th best in school history), his best year was as a sophomore in 2002-03 when he averaged 13.6 points per game. As a senior in 2004-05, albeit playing through some minor injuries, he only averaged 8.2 points per game.

Mitchell subsequently bounced around in a number of low-level professional leagues since graduating from Siena in 2005. Before joining the Warriors' training camp he was playing for the Quebec entry in the National Basketball League of Canada where he was averaging 11.7 points per game.

Mitchell is currently 29 years old, hardly the typical age for a player getting his first real look by an NBA team.

But, there they are. Preseason exhibition games begin today (Saturday) for the Warriors, and it bears watching by MAAC fans to see if either Ubiles or Mitchell ... or, potentially, both ... can make it to the regular-season's roster.

Siena has had just one player make a regular-season roster. Former standout Kenny Hasbrouck signed several 10-day contracts with the Miami Heat two years ago, but never appeared in a regular-season contest.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Manhattan Men's Preview: Quick Start

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

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2011-12 RECORD: 2-0 in MAAC play, 7-4 overall.

2010-11 RECORD: 3-15 in the MAAC, 6-25 overall.


KEY RETURNEES (including this season's stats): 6-4 junior swingman George Beamon (15.8 points, 5.3 rebounds), 6-2 sophomore guard Mike Alvarad0 (8.9, 2.4, 2.5 assists), 6-4 senior guard Liam McCabe-Moran (7.0, 1.8), 6-6 sophomore forward Rhamel Brown (6.6, 5.4), 6-1 senior guard Kidani Brutus (6.5, 3.0, 2.5 assists).

KEY LOSSES: 6-8 forward Demetrius Jemison (10.4, 8.6).

NOTES: First-year head coach Steve Masiello promised to change the program's culture, and if 11 games is any indication then consider the culture changed. This year's team already has more overall victories than last season's six-victory total. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the trio who comprised the nucleus of last season's team (then freshmen Alvarado and Brown, and sophomore Beamon) all all a year older. Nor does it hurt that freshman forward Roberto Colonette is healthy after missing all of last season with injuries ... Beamon leads the team in scoring, and Colonette averages 6.4 rebounds in just 19.2 minutes of playing time per game. Alvarado continues to provide a steady hand in the backcourt, and while Brown's minutes are down (18.0 per game), he still averages 5.4 rebounds and is incredibly 18th nationally in blocks (2.91 per game) ... Plus, there's considerable depth. Brutus came back 30 pounds lighter and is a factor, freshman forward Andujar is making a case for conference all-Rookie Team selection and Liam McCabe-Moran, a 6-4 senior guard who got into just eight games last season, is the team's fifth-leading scorer. The team has nine players averaging at least 12.5 minutes per contest ... Also, the team has an active four-game winning streak, the second-longest among all MAAC teams. The win streak is the program's longest since it won six straight midway through the 2006-07 season, and the 7-4 start is the best since a 7-4 start to the 2008-09 season. All of it has happened no seniors among the top four scorers and only two among the top nine.

HOW MANHATTAN WILL SUCCEED: By doing exactly what it has done so far, which is play at a faster tempo and keeping bodies fresh by employing at least a nine-man playing group ... It will also have to continue to rebound by committee. Four players average between 5.3 and 6.4 rebounds per game. Amazingly without a single player than 6-7 in the regular playing rotation, the Jaspers outrebound opponents by an average of 5.5 per game, after being outrebounded by an average of 2.5 per outing a year ago. The team also scores 7.5 more points (67.6 compared to 60.1) than last year's squad. The positive vibes, or as Masiello calls it "a culture change," has to continue. But, there's no reason to believe that it won't.

PREDICTION: Unless things go south in a hurry, there's no reason to think Manhattan won't do considerably better than the preseason prognostication for eighth. Provided everyone stays healthy and the young cast continues to mature, very good things are ahead for the program. Finishing in the top six, thus avoiding the post-season tournament's play-in round, certainly is a realistic possibility. An upper-division finish, maybe even contention for a league title, isn't that far off, although that probably won't happen this year.

Siena's Beard Leaves, Cites Homesickness

Touted as one of Siena's top men's recruits when he committed to Siena this past spring, freshman guard Davonte Beard is already leaving the program.

Beard, on Thursday, informed Siena head coach Mitch Buonaguro and director of athletics John D’Argenio of his desire to transfer to a school closer to his Akron, Ohio home. Beard has filed paperwork with the athletic department’s compliance office, and the college is processing his request.

Through Siena's first 10 games, Beard showed a considerable amount of promise, averaging 5.2 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists playing an average of 22.7 minutes per contest.

“This was a very difficult decision for me,” Beard said Thursday. “I would rather be close to home, close to my mother and my two brothers. It is hard not having them come to see my play. I would rather transfer to a school close to home so my friends and family can come to the games.”

Beard “I’m disappointed Davonte felt this was the direction he needed to move in,” Buonaguro said. “He told us he wasn’t comfortable being this far away from his family. I respect his decision, and really hope everything works out for him. He is a good person, who we had high hopes for as a Saint. The reality is he was home sick.”

Monday, December 12, 2011

Marist Women's Preview: Not The Same

Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.

Up now ...


2011-12 THUS FAR: 4-3 overall.

2010-11: 18-0 in MAAC play, 31-3 overall.

COACHES' PRESEASON PREDICTION: Unanimous pick to finish first in league play.

KEY RETURNEES: 5-8 senior guard Corielle Yarde (14.6 points, 6.9 rebounds, 4.0 assits, 2.0 steals ... all stats are this season's), 6-2 senior forward Brandy Gang (9.1, 4.1), 5-10 sophomore guard Leanne Ockenden (7.9, 3.6), 5-4 senior guard Kristine Best (3.2, 3.0 assists).

KEY LOSSES: 5-8 guard Erica Allenspach (13., 4.7, 3.0 assists), 6-4 forward Kate Oliver (8.0, 4.1), 5-6 guard Elise Caron (6.1, 4.0, 3.1 assists).

KEY NEWCOMER: 5-7 freshman Natalie Gomez (1.4, 1.4).

NOTES: Last year's team started 4-2 and, then, won 27 in a row before losing in the second round of the NCAA tournament. This year's team started 4-2 and, then, lost a 49-36 decision to Boston University, a solid America East team, at best ... A relatively slow start could have been expected after losing its top two ballhandlers, Allenspach (the MAAC's Player of the Year last season) and Caron, a steadying force on the offensive end and one of the top perimeter defenders in the league a year ago ... Not expected, though, was the defection/transfer of the 6-4 Oliver, who looked ready to step into a starring role ... And, then, the program lost this year's point guard, Kristine Best, to an ACL injury that will force her to redshirt and to come back a year from now as a fifth-year senior. The loss is a tough one as Best was leading the league in assist-to-turnover ratio when she was hurt ... Yarde is certainly playing up to the coaches' prediction that she will be this season's Player of the Year, but a legitimate and consistent second option has yet to emerge, let alone a third offensive option ... The difference from a year ago is particularly noticeable on the offensive end where Marist has scored more than 57 points just once all season ... Senior forward Brandy Gang might yet increase her production (9.1 so far), as might UMass transfer Kristina Danella (6.3, after averaging 11.7 points as a sophomore for the Minutemen two years ago), but neither one is there yet ... Marist might still be the best team in the conference, but right now that's not the usual foregone conclusion.

HOW MARIST WILL SUCCEED: By finding offense from players other than Yarde on a consistent basis, for without that Marist will be hardpressed to add to its string of seven straight league titles. There appear to be a number of candidates ranging from Gang and Danella to sopomore guard Leanne Ockenden (7.0) and Casey Dulin (7.0) ... The Red Foxes will also have to overcome a relative height deficiency that had head coach Brian Giorgis worried as far back as the start of preseason workouts ... Freshman point guard Natalie Gomez (1.4) has been moved into the starting lineup as Best's replacement, and will need to grow into the role quickly. But, she is talented and Giorgis is outstanding at developing young players.

PREDICTION: First place again ... probably. In the recent past, though, that predicition would have been followed by "definitely." With the graduation/transfer/injury losses of late, Marist isn't quite as dominant as it has been. A 30-victory overall season certainly isn't likely, nor is another unbeaten MAAC season. Loyola, Fairfield and Iona all look capable of challenging Marist this year. For once, Marist will have a legitimate challenge to its league superiority.

Marist Men's Preview: Promising Start

And so it begins ...

Yes, the holiday season. But, also, the season of previews as we approach the early January resumption of league play for men and its beginning for women.

We'll review MAAC teams from the bottom of from last year's men's standings. After each men's team previewed we'll also preview the corresponding school's women's team.

So, let's get started. Up now ...


2010-11 RECORD: 3-15 in MAAC play, 6-27 overall.


KEY RETURNEES: 6-1 senior guard Devin Price (13.3 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists ... all statistics from this season), 6-10 sophomore forward Adam Kemp (8.2, 6.4, 2.4 blocks), 6-5 sophomore forward Jay Bowie (6.6, 3.7), 6-6 sophomore forward Anell Alexis (4.7, 2.9), 6-6 junior forward Dorvell Carter (11.7, 2.0).

KEY LOSSES: Sam Prescott (11.4 points), Candin Rusin (7.8 points), Menelik Watson (4.7, 3.3).

TOP NEWCOMERS: 6-5 freshman swingman Chavaugn Lewis (13.0, 3.3), 5-8 freshman guard Isaiah Morton (8.7).

NOTES: The 4-5 start is encouraging, and is already within two victories of the program's entire total from a year ago and a noticeable improvement over 2009-10 when the Red Foxes only won a single game ... Carter, a much-needed veteran presence, averaged 11.7 points in two-and-a-half games before suffering a knee injury and hasn't returned ... In Carter's absence, Alexis has moved into the starting lineup and presents the possibility of an offensive explosion (he had 22 points in a game against Siena last season) ... The team lost three key players from a year ago, including 2010-11's leading scorer, Prescott, but doesn't seem to have felt the effects ... Kemp, who had a promising 16 games as a freshman before missing the rest of the year with an injury is becoming an inside force, as evidenced by his 21 blocks through nine games. ... Lewis is off to a strong freshman-year start and in some years would be an early candidate for the MAAC's Rookie of the Year were it not for the presence of Harold Washington at Canisius ... Another frosh, Isaiah Morton, is making a reasonable transition from high school to college point guard and only has two more turnovers than assists thus far ... The team's conference victory came over Rider (picked for fourth in the conference) by an impressive 95-75 score ... The season looks promising, and the future extremely bright. There's only one senior on the roster and that's a light-playing walk-on.

HOW MARIST CAN SUCCEED: By avoiding a key injury. Kemp is pretty much the lone post presence, and the Red Foxes can't afford to lose him this year ... The program has to view this season as part of the growing process, particularly with two freshmen and three sophomores among the top six players. But, there's no reason why the growth can't mean the Red Foxes can cause some problems as the season progresses. If there's another key player the team can't afford to lose it is its most-experienced performer, junior guard Devin Price, who leads it in scoring and shares ball-handling duties with Morton. Much rests on his shoulders this season, but he has consistently delivered so far.

PREDICTION: This isn't a team that will contend for the league title this year, but with continued maturity it's not a stretch to think positively about better things a year from now. Its fans should be content with watching a young, exciting team mature as the year goes on. And, maybe, unexpectedly upset a higher-regarded team, or two, along the way. It would be a significant achievement for Marist to finish in the final standings' top six to avoid a post-season tournament play-in game. But, it's not out of the realm of possibility. Marist certainly isn't the almost automatic victory for opponents that it was two years ago and for much of last season.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Honor Roll of Program Builders Created

The MAAC has just announced a nice feature, the creation of a conference "Honor Roll," in which honorees will be enshrined in the MAAC Experience exhibit at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.

The exhibit will remain on display for the duration of the league's affiliation with the city, which will host the MAAC's post-season men's and women's tournament for the next three years.

For the inaugural honorees the league selected one men's player and one women's player from each of the 10 current league members. Those selected aren't necessarily the best players from their respective programs, although in many cases they are that, but are being recognized as individual who helped build programs at each of the current league schools.

"By clebrating the past, the MAAC ensures that our current student-athletes have the proper role models as they navigate their way toward success in the classroom and on the court," saiid Rev. Jeffrey P. von Arx, president of Fairfield University and president of the MAAC Council of Presidents.

A private dinner event will be held on Friday, March 2 at the Hall of Fame, and the honorees will also be recognized and introduced at halftime of a men's preliminary-round game that begins at 7:30 p.m. that night.

Here's a link to the story about the Honor Roll that appears on the MAAC website. There is also video available to be viewed:

And, if you'll permit one suggestion. With the MAAC now in its 31st year, your hoopscribe believes there is enough history and enough superb players that have come through the conference for the creation of a league Hall of Fame, honoring the best individual players.

Large plaques could be created and displayed in Springfield and, later, at other sites of future MAAC tournaments.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Another Marist Hit: Best Out For Season

The Marist women's team's chances to continue its streak of seven consecutive conference titles became a little more challenging this week with news that starting senior point guard Kristine Best will be lost for the season with a knee injury suffered in a recent practice.

Best reportedly tore her left anterior cruciate ligament at a practice on Monday and the program received that official diagnosis on Tuesday.

He coach Brian Giorgis indicate that Best, the team's point guard, would receive a medical red-shirt waiver for this season and return for 2012-13.

She had played in the team's first six games, averaging 29.3 minutes, 3.2 points, 3.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Best, when healthy, is a prototypical protect-the-ball, pass-first point guard who had 18 assists against just six turnovers before her injury.

Best's loss is likely to be filled by freshman guard Natalie Gomez, a highly touted recruit, who had been on the fringe of this season's Marist playing group. She has seen action in all of the team's first six games, averaging 10.8 minutes along with 1.5 points and 1.3 rebounds per contest.

“Our freshmen are going to have to grow up faster than we had wanted them to,’’ said Giorgis, when talking about the situation to reporters recently. "But, they’re up for the task. If we’re going to be the team that we hope to be, then we have to handle adversity like this.’’

Marist is off to a 4-2 start with an active three-game winning streak including a 57-51 victory over a strong Hartford squad in its last game. Against Hartford Best did not score but dished out four assists without committing a turnover. Gomez played eight minutes in that game, scored two points and did not record an assist.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Siena Wins "Super Bowl" Match vs. UAlbany

Former Siena men's basketball coach Paul Hewitt really never wanted to play geographic rival University at Albany, and didn't have to.

The series that began in 1939 and was played continuously until Siena moved to the Division I level in the mid-1970s (when Albany was still Division II), was finally resumed in 2001 after a 25-year absence.

Once one of the most-heated rivalries New York's Capital Region has ever had (think a small-town version of Army-Navy or Red Sox-Yankees), nary an iota of intensity was was lost in its absence.

It became such that former Siena coach Rob Lanier, under whose watch the series resumed, recognized the overabundance of anticipation and interest throughout the region and sarcastically referred to the meetings with UAlbany as "Super Bowls."

The upstate New York's version of basketball's Super Bowl was held Monday night at Albany's Times Union Center, and current Saints' coach Mitch Buonaguro might be justified in referring to this year's renewal as, simply, "Super."

Super for the undermanned Saints (only six players saw more than seven minutes of action), who overcame a 31-12 deficit with 5:41 remaining in the first half to make a total reversal for a 64-60 victory over the Great Danes.

It wasn't even a MAAC contest, but Buonaguro justifiably called the outcome the best win for his program since he took over as its head coach prior to last season.

Siena, a team with only eight healthy scholarship players, including four freshmen, won its first two games before a five-game losing streak with each of those following a similar script: a big early deficit, followed by an inspired comeback that just fell short.

Against UAlbany, though, the comeback got over the proverbial hump as Buonaguro shrewdly changed defenses that prohibited the Danes' perimeter players from continuing the penetration that worked so well early while using his team's edge in inside athleticism to great effect.

It resulted in Saints' 6-foot-8 forward O.D. Anosike having the best game of his career with a monster 21-point, 18-rebound effort.

No wonder Buonaguro was pumping his first towards the court, towards the crowd and towards the crowd as the game ended.

"I acted like that for the kids (players)," said Buonaguro, who is no stranger to big victories ... as a Villanova assistant in 1985, he was responsible for the game-plan that knocked off Georgetown in that season's NCAA tournament championship game.

"We've been hearing a lot of things like that we've had a lot of adversity and injuries, and that we're not a good team. We proved a lot of people wrong."``

And Siena proved that it can win games with a depleted roster.

Mostly, though, the game was a confidence boost for a team that needed one.

"Did we need this win? In my own mind we needed this pretty badly," added Buonaguro. "We've been right there in just about every game (in four of the five recent losses), but without much success. You need to win one of those to boost your confidence."

And, Siena did before a crowd of 8,252, almost assuredly the largest turnout that will see a MAAC team's home game this season.

"After our last five games ... if we continued to dig our way back and give up up again, it becomes a long, long season," said Saints' senior guard Kyle Downey. "We can build on this, and hope it snowballs."

Sunday, December 4, 2011

More ATM, News & Notes From The MAAC

Time for more "ATM," better known as "Around The MAAC."

- YOUR HOOPSCRIBE GOT A FIRST-HAND look at the Loyola men in their 66-59 victory over Siena at Albany, N.Y.'s Times Union Center, and was very impressed.

For much of the early season, almost all speculation about this year's regular-season title contenders have centered on Iona or Fairfield. But, what about Loyola? The Greyhounds are now 6-1 overall this season, their only loss coming against Wake Forest. And, they're off to their first 2-0 beginning in MAAC competition in 23 years.

Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos was asked about the focus on Iona and Fairfield, so far, and whether his team is being overlooked ...

"I hope everyone continues to overlook us," said the always quote-worthy Patsos. "I definitely think we have a team that can contend for the league title. But, I thought we had one last year, too, until some things happened. If nothing else, our guys can deal with adversity after having to deal with having me on the sidelines every day."

Of course that last personal dig comes with tongue firmly in cheek. It's hard to find a coach that drives his players harder than Patsos, but the results are clearly positive. And, now, he has arguably the most talent at Loyola since the 1993-94 team coached by the late Skip Prosser went to that season's NCAA tournament.

Having seen both teams, the 1993-94 squad and this one, the current group (it says here) has more overall talent and much more depth. Against Siena, Loyola used nine players. Three of the reserves have been starters at one time in their careers and the fourth is a transfer from Xavier.

The only question coming in to the season was whether a young backcourt, one that needed to replace graduated point guard Brian Rudolph, would be good enough. And, it is. Sophomore Dylon Cormier had a career-high 22 points (5-of-6 on three-pointers) against Siena, and if he plays like that consistently he'll eventually emerge as one of the MAAC's best guards. And, Rudolph's replacement is freshman point guard R.J. Williams, who operates like a true floor general at both ends. He only had six points against Siena, but with his cast he doesn't need to score. He also had four assists (against just two turnovers) and five steals.

The bottom line is this: The conversation for this season's potential regular-season champion goes beyond Iona and Fairfield. It most definitely includes Loyola.

- THE SIENA MEN continued to be inspirational, now playing with just eight scholarship players that include four freshmen. The Saints continue to play well (there was scattered applause for their effort after Saturday's loss to Loyola), but it appears that wins might be slow in coming.

The setback against the Greyhounds was Siena's fifth straight, making the program's first five-game losing streak since it also dropped five in a row late in the 2004-05 season. The program's longest stretch of negative results before that was an eight-game losing streak midway through the 2004-05 season.

- JUST EIGHT GAMES INTO the season the Manhattan men have already won four games, just two fewer than last season's victory total when the program finished with a 6-25 overall ledger.

Much of the improvement can be credited to the maturation process of current sophomore Mike Alvarado and the return from injury of power forward Roberto Colonette, who missed all of last season. Alvarado currently has more assists than turnovers and Colonette is one of the most-effective rebounders in the conference, averaging 6.8 per game in an average of 19.8 minutes of playing time.

Credit some of the improvement, too, to first-year head coach Steve Masiello, who has changed playing styles, team philosophy and just about everything within the program.

"We're learning to improve as a team, but everything is new to everyone here," said Masiello, whose team earned a 71-55 upset victory over Rider on Friday. "I feel like we've got an entire roster of freshmen. I'm trying to install a new system that's very complicated. We understand there's going to be some growing pains as we try to change the culture. Everything is different for them now."

- GO WEST, YOUNG MAN ... At least to Western New York, if you want to find the conference's leading men's scorers. The two players atop the league's scoring chart share another trait, as well. Both are in the MAAC for the first season.

Harold Washington, a 6-foot-1 junior guard at Canisius, leads the MAAC in scoring at 19.0 points per game. He joined the Golden Griffins after playing two seasons at Cecil (Md.) Junior College.

"He has been very good at times (including a 30-point outburst against Longwood College in his second game at Canisius), and at other times he has looked like a guy who has only played five Division I games," said Canisius coach Tom Parrotta. "But, according to our sports information director, he's the first guy here in 25 years who has been in double figures for scoring in his first five games in our program."

Juan'ya Green, a 6-3 freshman guard at Niagara, is the MAAC's second-leading scorer (after Saturday's games), averaging 18.7 points per outing.

His average got a significant boost when he scored 35 points, a school record by a Niagara freshman, in Friday's 79-75 loss to Fairfield.

"It's going to be a real challenge for him, playing against Derrick Needam (Fairfield's standout junior guard)," said Niagara coach Joe Mihalich, prior to Friday's contest. "Juan'ya is still adjusting to the college game. It's hard to be a freshman, and it's hard to be a point guard so that means it's doubly tough for him."

Green, who leads the conference in minutes per game (37.6) was up for the challenge. In addition to his 35 points, he had six rebounds, three assists and three turnovers. Needham had 12 points, 2 1 rebound, two assists and four turnovers.

- WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON AT RIDER? The Broncs, one of the conference's most-consistent teams of recent vintage, currently possess the worst overall record this season of any MAAC team.

The Broncs' 1-7 start through Saturday's games is far below expectations for the team picked to finish fourth by the coaches in their preseason poll.

But, the beginning is somewhat understandable. The team's first loss came to a tough Robert Morris squad. Another came against a decent Penn team. Four others have been in "up" games, losses to Pitt, James Madison, La Salle and Drexel.

And, then, came Friday's clunker, a 71-55 loss against Manhattan, picked to finish eighth this season according to the coaches' preseason poll.

Even though the competition to date has been challenging, much more is expected from Rider, which had winning records for the past five seasons, including two 23-victory years (it was 23-11 just last season).

"Yes, I'm discouraged a little," admitted coach Tommy Dempsey. "We took some chances in scheduling. The league encourages you to take some chances, to schedule some `up' games, and we took some chances. With that type of schedule you get exposed a little. I think we have a very good offensive team, but we're not a very good defensive team right now."

Neither is Rider a good rebounding team yet, averaging a league-worst 28.6 rebounds per game.

It hasn't helped that the Broncs lost two of their best players from a year ago, inside force Mike Ringold and point guard Justin Robinson, from any team's prime two positions. Nor has it helped that 6-9, 220-pound freshman forward Junior Fortunate (Roman Catholic H.S. in Philadelphia), who was expected to contribute significantly, has yet to get NCAA clearance to begin playing.

And, then, senior forward Novar Gadson, a first-team all-MAAC preseason pick, is not yet fully recovered from off-season knee surgery and is only averaging 9.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game after averages of 13.7 and 5.8 a year ago.

"It has been a little bit of a perfect story working against us so far," said Dempsey. "But, we're going to be OK."

- IT TOOK A LITTLE TIME, but it appears that defending post-season tournament champion Saint Peter's has begun playing Saint Peter's-type basketball again this season.

That means bruising, in-your-face defense, as Fairfield and Iona, the two teams the Peacocks upset in the semifinal and championship post-season tournament games last season, can attest to.

How much did defense carry last year's team? It finished second nationally among all Division I teams in opponents' field-goal percentage (.376) and 12th nationally in points allowed (60.1).

But, the Peacocks allowed point totals of 72, 69 and 73 in their first three games this season.

"Defense has been our calling card, and it looked like we took the first three games off," said head coach John Dunne.

But, the defense has been back on the job lately, allowing point totals of 43, 63 (against Seton Hall) and 44 in its last three games.

"We've got a lot of new guys learning that playing intense defense in college involves a whole other level of toughness," added Dunne. "We've definitely started seeing that in the last week, or so."

That the Peacocks are going through an early season adjustment period can be expected. They lost four senior starters off last year's squad and the team's roster is dominated either by players eligible to play in the program for the first year (transfers and freshmen), or adjusting to new roles.

Dunne, though, is urging his team to forge its own identity.

Last year?

"We don't go there at all," said Dunne. "Last year was magical for Saint Peter's and the community, but that's a thing of the past. We're moving forward. We unveiled the tournament championship banner before our first home game, and I honestly didn't want to do that. We had a two-minute ceremony and moved on."

But, moving on also involves returning to its roots ... a defensive style that has become the program's trademark in recent years.