MAAC Preseason Preview Rapid Reaction

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference coaches preseason poll has been revealed and we rapidly react to all the picks that have transpired. Here is a rapid reaction to all of the conference’s picks, revealed on their ESPN3 preview show.

(photo courtesy: Stockton Photo)

Senior David Laury was picked to be the MAAC Preseason Player of the Year on Wednesday. (photo courtesy: Stockton Photo)

2014-15 Men’s Basketball Preseason Poll

Position School Points
1 Iona 112
2 Siena 107
3 Manhattan 97
4 Saint Peter’s 89
5 Quinnipiac 84
6 Monmouth 57
7 Rider 56
8 Marist 50
9 Fairfield 33
10 Canisius 28
11 Niagara 13

Iona Picked to Defend MAAC Regular Season Title, with a Surprise: When I talked to Tim Cluess recently he said that he felt that last season’s group of Gaels were probably the weakest talent level he’s had during his tenure. Entering his fifth season, Cluess sees this year’s team very similarly to the first team he inherited when he took over after being the head coach at LIU Post.

“I think this team can maybe be more like the first year’s type of team, where we have a little bit more depth and we have more guard play than we had last year,” Cluess said. “I mean last year we had shooters and didn’t have guys that could break anyone down. This year we have numerous guys that can break people down off the dribble right now.”

It is going to be difficult for the Gaels to repeat as strong of a regular season as they did last year, when they won the regular season by two games over Manhattan, but they have the talent to pull it off.

That respect came also in the MAAC’s first team and preseason Player of the Year pick where senior Dave Laury barely edged out junior A.J. English and Quinnipiac senior Ousmane Drame for the conference’s top player pick.

“It motivates me to take it to the next step a heck of a lot,” Laury said of being named MAAC Preseason Player of the Year. “I feel like I have a lot to prove, more so to myself.”

The senior has admitted to shedding about 20 to 25 pounds in preparation for his final season and feels that he is in the best shape he has ever been in. It will be up to Laury, English and junior Isaiah Williams, who was picked to the MAAC third team, to improve off of last season’s run.

“I think those three are honestly, they’re at a whole different level than they were last season,” Cluess said of Laury, English and Williams. “If they can prove that they can do that in games as well, people are going to see a big difference in the way our team is able to play because of that.”

Two players, Drame and Laury, were picked as unanimous first team All-MAAC members. English, should’ve been the third unanimous pick to this team. The junior is the league’s second ranked returning leading scorer with 17.2 points per game, just short of Marist senior Chavaughn Lewis.

2014-15 First Team All-MAAC

Player School Year
A.J. English Iona Jr
David Laury Iona Sr *
Ousmane Drame Quinnipiac Sr
Marvin Dominique Saint Peter’s Sr
Rob Poole Siena Sr

* David Laury named MAAC Preseason Player of the Year

Season of Expectations Begins for Siena: The Saints climbed all the way to a postseason championship last season, winning the College Basketball Invitational, but expectations will be even higher this season for a team that returns all but 11 points from that team.

“Right after winning the CBI. I mean of course people are going to think we’re going to have a good year, that we bring everyone back,” senior Rob Poole said. “We’re going to see how we play together, we brought a lot of new kids in and we have to see how they’re going to come play with us.”

Siena adds redshirt sophomore and Coppin State transfer Patrick Cole and three freshmen who are prepared to help a solid athletic rotation that fits Jimmy Patsos’ style.

“The good news is we’re probably not a one-man band,” Patsos said of his group. “We don’t have a star. We are going to be the sum of our parts.”

However, the most improved player year-to-year might be the same pick as last year. Players on the Saints raved that junior Brett Bisping, who made a massive jump last season, has developed into an even tougher threat this season.

“He’s been probably the most improved player I’ve ever seen play from one season to next,” Poole said of Bisping who won CBI MVP honors and was named third team All-MAAC. “He had a great year, but he’s still trying to improve on his game and we’ll see how it goes this year.”

2014-15 Second Team All-MAAC

Player School Year
Emmy Andujar Manhattan Sr
Khallid Hart Marist Soph
Chavaughn Lewis Marist Sr
Zaid Hearst Quinnipiac Sr
Desi Washington Saint Peter’s Sr

Saint Peter’s Expected to Jump in Conference Play: Senior Marvin Dominique should be one of the stronger players in the MAAC this season.

Dominique led the team with 16.6 ppg and 8.9 rpg last season and expectations are even higher for a player who head coach John Dunne expected to fit in right away and came through often. Senior Desi Washington has a season under his belt with sophomore Trevis Wyche, who he got to know well prior to his first season, and the two should mesh even better together this season. Add to them freshman Elisha Boone, as well as a few key additions, and the Peacocks are expected to be a conference contender.

“Ever since I’ve been here, we’ve been picked last or second to last so every season,” said Washington, who was picked to the conference’s second team. “That’s the mindset we have, that we’re picked last every year, so that we can prove everybody wrong.”

 2014-15 Third Team All-MAAC

Player School Year
Marcus Gilbert Fairfield Jr
Isaiah Williams Iona Jr
Ashton Pankey Manhattan Jr
Deon Jones Monmouth Jr
Jimmie Taylor Rider Soph
Brett Bisping Siena Jr

Large Divide Between the Conference Newcomers: The second seasons for Quinnipiac and Monmouth are supposed to be full of promise. The Bobcats placed third in their first season in the conference and are expected to contend again, but issues with Westchester Community College point guard Giovanni McLean may derail their hopes. They were picked fifth prior to the news that the school would be looking into McLean’s eligibility.

Losing McLean will be huge hit to the Bobcats, while their counterparts entering their second season have been dealing with an eligibility issue of their own. Prime Prep guard Micah Seaborn was expected to be an impact player, but his eligibility has yet to be resolved as the NCAA deals with his transcript coming from a school that ceased operations. Even without Seaborn, the Hawks will pin their hopes on senior Andrew “Red” Nicholas and junior Deon Jones, who was picked to the All-MAAC third team.

The difference in poll points between Quinnipiac and Monmouth is 27, the largest margin between teams in the MAAC preseason poll. Teams six through 11 are all the likely teams that will be fighting for their season on Thursday in Albany at the MAAC tournament, it may only come down to what order they come in, but most are expected to need a season or more to become conference contenders again.

Plenty of Future Star Potential in MAAC’s Third Team: It is interesting that Siena’s Bisping was picked on the third team, but there are plenty of potential breakout stars on the third team All-MAAC. Whichever of these players makes a jump this season will probably prove the difference between which teams can contend for the regular season championship. Williams proved that he could be an impact player over the final two months of last season. Bisping proved to be a player with the ability to rebound with some of the best in the conference, as Patsos quickly labeled him Siena’s version of Bill Laimbeer.

Ashton Pankey played hurt and out of position for most of last season, but with a year behind him for the Jaspers, Steve Masiello expects him to find his groove with the exit of Rhamel Brown.

“He’s in the best place he’s been in a while mentally, physically, he finally feels good,” said the Manhattan head coach adding that Pankey hit his stride in the latter half of last season. “I’ve tried to empower him more with this team and really give him a more larger role with the loss of Rhamel and he’s welcomed it.”

Marcus Gilbert has shown the ability to hurt teams with a versatile game and could bust out to be one of the league’s best players. The Fairfield juinior will need solid threats next to him to ease the pressure put on him by opponents.

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.