Steve Masiello

Coaches pick Manhattan to win MAAC regular season title

1 Comment

The latest sign that college basketball season is right around the corner (finally!): the unveiling of preseason coaches’ polls.

Wednesday the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference unveiled its’ preseason poll as voted on by the conference’s 11 head coaches, and the Manhattan Jaspers are the pick to win the title. Steve Masiello’s talented squad sitting atop the poll shouldn’t be a major surprise. But the fact that the Jaspers, led by reigning MAAC Defensive Player of the Year Rhamel Brown, received ten of a possible 11 first-place votes is a surprise when considering the fact that Iona has reached the NCAA tournament in each of the last two seasons.

A key for Manhattan this season is the fact that they’re healthy, something that could not be said during their 14-18 campaign of a season ago. Point guard Mike Alvarado is 100%, as is 6-4 senior wing George Beamon. Beamon played in just four games last season due to an ankle injury, and the hope is that he’ll return to the form that made him one of the best scorers in the MAAC in 2011-12 (19.0 ppg).

Manhattan won’t lack for options, which should allow coach Masiello to play at the pace that made the Jaspers so successful in his first season at the helm (21-13 in 2011-12). But Iona has options as well, even with the graduation of guard Momo Jones and forward Taaj Ridley. Head coach Tim Cluess welcomes back one of the country’s best perimeter shooters in senior Sean Armand, and forward David Laury III was a handful once declared eligible midseason.

Between the two rivals, a Canisius program that’s been rejuvenated by the arrival of head coach Jim Baron and his son Billy (17.2 ppg, 5.0 apg) and a talented Rider squad led by guards Anthony Myles (12.4, 4.6 rpg) and Jonathon Thompson (13.1, 3.9, 3.1 apg) , the MAAC race should be competitive throughout.

The coaches’ poll broke down as follows, with total points in parentheses:

1. Manhattan (189; 10 first-place votes)
2. Iona (108; one first-place vote)
3. Canisius (100)
4. Rider (85)
5. Marist (69)
6. Fairfield (61)
7. Quinnipiac (58)
8. Niagara (39)
9. Saint Peter’s (38)
10. Siena (35)
11. Monmouth (14)

Interestingly enough the coaches seem a bit bullish on Marist, which welcomes a new head coach with NBA experience (Jeff Bower) and returns one of the league’s best big men in senior Adam Kemp. The Red Foxes haven’t finished above .500 since the 2007-08 season, so it will be interesting to see if they can turn things around in quick order.

Losing two quality players in Juan’ya Green and Amen Tanksley dropped reigning regular season champion Niagara to eighth in the preseason poll, but new head coach Chris Casey did retain the services of high-scoring wing Antoine Mason (18.7 ppg). And even though they’re picked to finish tenth in this poll, don’t be surprised if Jimmy Patsos’ Siena Saints finish higher when the season reaches its conclusion in March.

Syracuse receives mixed news on sanctions appeals

Jim Boeheim
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two¬†appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.

On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.

One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.

As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).

And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.

While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.

And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe cleared by NCAA

Chris Mullin
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Leave a comment

St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.

Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.

St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.

The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?