Outlook: A new coaching staff, a slew of fresh faces, and a handful of returners begin a new era of basketball in Hamden.
Last year: 10-21 (7-13 MAAC)
Who’s in: Travis Atson (G); Nathan Davis (F); Sam Donahue (G); Matt Donahue (G); Rich Kelly (G); Kevin Marfo (F); Jacob Rigoni (G); Isaiah Washington (G)
Who’s out: Mikey Dixon (G); Peter Kiss (G); Donovan Smith (F); Daniel Harris (G); Reggie Oliver (G); Phil Winston (G); Ja’Kwan Jones (F)
Key Non-Conference Games: Colorado (11/17/2017; UMass (11/29/2017); @Vermont (12/21/2017)
Quinnipiac joined the MAAC prior to the 2013-14 season and enjoyed immediate success. The Bobcats earned 20 wins and finished third in the MAAC with a 14-6 conference record. Since then however, there has been little cause for celebration.
Over the following three seasons, Quinnipiac went just 34-57 with a 22-38 record in conference play. This lack of success led second-year athletic director Greg Amodio to make a change at head coach, dismissing Tom Moore and hiring Baker Dunleavy.
Dunleavy steps to the helm at Quinnipiac after a seven-year stay on the Villanova sidelines. Since his promotion to associate head coach prior to the 2013-14 season, the Wildcats have compiled a remarkable 129-17 record, including a 63-9 mark in Big East conference play. In 2016, that success culminated in a national championship after Villanova’s thrilling 77-74 victory over North Carolina.
Former Hofstra and Fordham head coach Tom Pecora joins Dunleavy as the Bobcats’ new associate head coach. Shaun Morris and Anthony Goins join the staff from Boston University and Yale respectively, and will serve as assistant coaches under Dunleavy.
With a turnover in staff often comes a turnover in personnel, and Quinnipiac’s coaching change was no different. MAAC Rookie of the Year Mikey Dixon and fellow All-MAAC Rookie Team member Peter Kiss became the first players in program history to transfer up to a higher level when they made moves to St. John’s and Rutgers respectively.
Dixon led the Bobcats with 16.5 ppg last season, while Kiss ranked second with 13.3. Each surpassed the team’s Division I freshman scoring record (13.0) set by Rob Monroe in 2001-02.
Junior guards Reggie Oliver (7.6 ppg) and Phil Winston (4.3 ppg) along with sophomore forward Ja’Kwan Jones joined graduating seniors Donovan Smith and Daniel Harris in departing the program, but Dunleavy managed to retain some experienced players, chief among them rising senior Chaise Daniels.
Daniels averaged 13.0 ppg and 6.2 rpg a season ago, and projects to be one of the MAAC’s premier frontcourt players in his senior season. The Connecticut native enters the season 276 points shy of 1,000 for his career.
Twins Andrew and Aaron Robinson, Los Angeles native Cameron Young, and senior Greg Tarca comprise the program’s returning guards. Fifth-year forward Alain Chigha and junior Abdulai Bundu will also return alongside Daniels in the frontcourt.
The cascade of newcomers brought into the program by Dunleavy & staff include freshman Rich Kelly, who will be heavily relied upon at the point guard position. Penn State graduate transfer Isaiah Washington will join Kelly in the backcourt, but makes the move to Hamden with two years of eligibility remaining.
Brothers Sam and Matt Donohue also join the Bobcats backcourt, the former a graduate transfer from Boston College and the latter a freshman out of Northfield Mt. Hermon prep school. Freshman forwards Jacob Rigoni and Nathan Davis will also seek to make an impact on their new squad.
Two of Dunleavy’s earliest additions were guard Travis Atson and forward Kevin Marfo. Atson joins the Bobcats after a freshman season at Tulsa, while Marfo spent his rookie year at George Washington. Both with sit out the 2017-18 season per NCAA transfer rules, but will have three years of eligibility remaining.
The Bobcats will have an opportunity to find their footing early in the season with home games against Ivy League members Dartmouth and Brown before taking on Colorado as part of the Paradise Jam in their third game of the season. Due to hurricane damage in the Caribbean, the Paradise Jam has been relocated to Liberty University.
Following their opening contest against the Buffaloes, Quinnipiac will take on one of Drake or Wake Forest in the tournament’s second round before facing one of Liberty, Mercer, Drexel or Houston to conclude the event.
Other key non-conference events include a home bout against UMass, who the Bobcats last faced in 2011. Quinnipiac will travel to New York to take on Columbia in early December, then travel north to play Vermont in their final non-conference game Dec. 21.
This will mark the 12th consecutive year the Bobcats and Catamounts have squared off, their longest streak against any opponent.
Quinnipiac opens MAAC play with a home contest against back-to-back regular season champion Monmouth on Dec. 28, but as a result of the league’s move to an 18-game schedule this will be the teams’ only meeting of the season. The Bobcats will also face Iona just once, on Feb. 2 at the Hynes Center in New Rochelle.
The team’s in-state rivalry against Fairfield will resume Jan. 27, but for the first time this game will not take place in Connecticut. Instead, it will come as part of the MAAC’s triple-header at the renovated Nassau Coliseum. This meeting will serve as the Bobcats’ home game, as the teams will square off for the second time in Fairfield on Feb. 17.
2017-18 will be a year of transition for the Bobcats in their first season under Dunleavy. Only time will tell how much success their new coach will bring to the program, but the first step in their journey begins this fall.
Vincent Simone covers the MAAC, Hofstra, and more for NYC Buckets. You can follow him on Twitter @VTSimone.