Here's another in the series previewing conference teams.
Up now ...
2011-12 RECORD: 6-12 in MAAC play, 12-18 overall. Lost to Saint Peter's, 62-57, in play-in round of MAAC Tournament.
KEY RETURNEES: 6-3 junior center Jamie Ruttle (11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds last season), 5-11 senior forward Ashley Wilkes (7.0, 4.5), 5-9 junior guard Jen Morabito (9.0, 2.4), 6-3 junior center Jen Lennox (3.5, 2.1), 5-7 sophomore guard Kayla Hoohuli (8.6, 3.8), 5-10 senior swingperson Allison Braun (4.6, 3.6), 5-5 senior guard Ashley Durham (9.6, 3.7).
KEY LOSSES: None.
KEY NEWCOMERS: 5-10 freshman forward Crystal Porter, 5-5 freshman guard Tiahana Mills.
NOTES: Canisius has ever player back who averaged more than 1.3 points per game last season, but it's still a young team with only one senior in the top seven scorers so far ... Head coach Terry Zeh brought in a recruiting class for the 2010-11 season that saw four freshmen win conference Player of the Week awards, but that group is still maturing. Of the four, Ruttle has become one of the league's better inside players, and Morabito a solid guard. Lennox is a reserve and Courtney VandeBovenkamp, a 6-1 forward, has a knee injury and is out for the season ... The Griffs are off to a 1-3 start, but one of the losses (to Oakland) was by a point, and the other two came against solid opponents Detroit and Bucknell ... Wilkes, a 5-11 senior, is a talented player but is also the team's second-tallest starter. The only true front-cour depth comes from Porter, a freshman (6.3, 3.5 thus far) and Lennox. It might mean that senior Allison Braun, who missed the second half of last season with an injury, might also get some minutes up front, maybe even at the power forward spot ... The Griffs were young last year, and will be again this season. Freshman Tiahana Mills (4.5, 3.5, 4.3 assists) has displaced Ashley Durham, a senior, at the point ... As usual, the team will put up its share of 3-pointers, and already has seven players through four games make a bonus shot, including the 6-3 Ruttle, who has two. The Griffs are averaging six made three-pointers per contest thus far ... It wasn't that long ago when Canisius looked like the program that could challenge Marist for conference supremecy. The Griffs were 14-4 in MAAC play and 24-9 overall in the 2008-09 season. Since then, there have been three straight 6-12 conference finishes and at least 18 overall losses each year. But, with a roster that goes legitimately nine deep this year, things should start turning around.
CANISIUS STRENGTHS: Ruttle is a multi-talented "big," who can put up big numbers in any game. The guard position is strong with Morabito, Hoohuli, Mills and Braun. While the Griffs remain relatively young, players already have considerable experience other than the current freshmen. And, there's depth. As always, there's also far above-average outside shooting ability throughout the roster.
CANISIUS WEANKESSES: Beyond Ruttle, there's not much in the post unless Lennox can produce off the bench. Also, while Mills has enough talent, it's always difficult for a freshman point guard to make the transition from high school to college.
REASONABLE EXPECTATION: Something better than the three-year streak of 6-12 league records, but the best is probably to come next year. Still, there's a chance for a .500 conference record or, possibly, even a little better. Expect a finish somewhere between fourth and seventh.