One team that didn’t reach the NCAA tournament but enjoyed a highly productive postseason was Siena, which won the CBI title in three games over Fresno State. With walk-on Steven Cruz being the lone senior on the roster, there’s a great amount of optimism surrounding Jimmy Patsos’ program heading into the offseason.
However two players won’t be with the team as they look to return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010, as it was reported by Mark Singelais of the Albany Times-Union that both guard Rich Audu and forward Marcus Hooper will be transferring to Division II programs. The move will give both players immediate eligibility in 2014-15, and while Audu’s destination is unknown Hooper will be playing at Queens College in New York.
The 6-foot-3 Audu played in just 13 games this past season, averaging four minutes per contest, and Hooper was redshirted in order to preserve his final two seasons of eligibility. Both players will have two years left to play at the college level.
Siena’s top five scorers, led by guard Rob Poole and forward Brett Bisping, will all return to campus next season. And given the fact that the Saints managed to post a winning MAAC record (11-9) in Patsos’ first season at the helm certainly bodes well for the future. Tournament champion Manhattan, regular season champ Iona and contenders Canisius and Quinnipiac all suffered key personnel losses at the end of the 2013-14 season, which could open the door for Siena next season.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.