Niagara

Steve Masiello

Coaches pick Manhattan to win MAAC regular season title

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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.

Former Monmouth forward Marcus Ware joins Niagara program

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Just over two months ago it was reported that former Monmouth forward Marcus Ware, who completed his undergraduate studies at the school, would be transferring to Iona.

Turns out that Ware will remain in the MAAC, but he’ll be doing so at another school. Ware has transferred to Niagara to play for first-year head coach Chris Casey, with the school announcing its full list of newcomers on Tuesday. Also joining the Purple Eagles, who won the MAAC regular season title last season, are former Iowa State guard Cameron Fowler and freshmen Wesley Myers (Brooklyn, N.Y.) and Ramone Snowden (Virginia Beach, Va.).

Like Ware, Fowler has been cleared to play immediately due to the fact that he redshirted at Iowa State last season.

As a redshirt junior at Monmouth Ware averaged 6.4 points and 4.0 rebounds per game, finishing the season ranked third on the team in rebounding. With the loss of leading rebounder Ameen Tanksley (6.0 rpg in 2012-13), the Purple Eagles will need Ware to contribute on the glass. But Tanksley wasn’t the only key loss for Niagara, with star guard Juan’ya Green also leaving the program after head coach Joe Mihalich accepted the head coaching position at Hofstra.

Both Green and Tanksley transferred to Hofstra, where they’ll sit out the upcoming season per NCAA transfer rules. That leaves wing Antoine Mason, who posted averages of 18.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last year, to lead the way offensively as Niagara looks to become the first repeat MAAC regular season champion since Siena won three straight from 2008-2010 (the Saints shared the 2008 regular season title with Rider).

But that mission will be a tough one for Casey and company, as both Iona and Manhattan have put together strong squads entering the 2013-14 campaign.

Report: Iowa State transfer Cameron Fowler eligible to play at Niagara

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Six-foot guard Cameron Fowler redshirted as a freshman at Iowa State last season, and he eventually decided to transfer to Niagara in the spring. Luckily for Fowler he won’t have to sit out another season, as it was reported by Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports that the guard is eligible to play immediately.

As a senior at U-D Jesuit High in Detroit, Fowler averaged 17.2 points and 8.0 assists per game, and he earned All-Catholic League honors in three of his four seasons at the school. Given the roster turnover at Niagara, there’s a chance that Fowler could see playing time under new head coach Chris Casey.

Both Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley made the decision to transfer to Hofstra, following coach Joe Mihalich after he accepted the head coaching position there. Also, MAAC All-Freshman Team honoree T.J. Cline transferred to Richmond.

The Purple Eagles won’t be devoid of talent however, as leading scorer Antoine Mason (18.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg) and key contributors Marvin Jordan (8.2 ppg) and Tahjere McCall (4.0, 3.3, 23 starts) have all returned. But with the personnel losses it’s going to be tough for Niagara to hold off Iona and Manhattan as they look to repeat at MAAC regular season champions.

Report: Niagara to hire LIU Post head coach Chris Casey

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To follow along with the 2013 Coaching Carousel, click here.

LIU Post: the cradle of MAAC coaches?

According to a report from Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com Niagara is expected to hire LIU Post head coach Chris Casey to fill the opening left by Joe Mihalich, who left the MAAC school to take over at Hofstra.

In three seasons at LIU Post Casey pasted a record of 62-25, and he would be the second consecutive head coach to leave the school for a MAAC head coaching position. The first was Tim Cluess, who has led Iona to two NCAA tournament appearances in his three seasons at the school.

Before taking over for Cluess at LIU Post, Casey spent six seasons as an assistant on Norm Roberts’ staff at St. John’s. LIU Post won at least 20 games in each of Casey’s first two seasons at the helm, qualifying for the NCAA Division II tournament in both campaigns.

Niagara finished the 2012-13 season with a 19-14 record (13-5 MAAC) and won the MAAC regular season title with guards Juan’ya Green and Antoine Mason leading the way. Green and Mason combined to average more than 35 points per game, and as a team Niagara posted an average of 73.8 points per game.

The Purple Eagles lose just two seniors from the roster, forward Scooter Gillette and center Devon White, and if no players decide to transfer this is a group Casey can hit the ground running with.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

MAAC preview: Manhattan, Loyola take the reigns

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Last season may have been the best year in the history of MAAC hoops, with the normally one-bid conference getting Loyola (Md.) in by way of the conference title and Iona snagging an at-large bid. That was then and this, well, isn’t the 2011-12 season.

Gone for the Gaels are Scott Machado, who led the nation in assists, and the 18.3 points per game of Michael Glover. It’ll be all Lamont “Momo” Jones and a cast of newcomers. Loyola should be at the top despite the transfer of Justin Drummond simply because of Jimmy Patsos and the two-man punch of Dylan Cromier and Erik Etherly (13.7 points, 7.5 rebounds last season). The Greyhounds make the leap to the Patriot League in 2013-14. Manhattan is a solid bet to contend and win the conference title with forward George Beamon and coach Steve Masiello. Niagara has an unheralded star in Juan’ya Green, last year’s MAAC Rookie of the Year, and the leadership of 14-year coach Joe Mihalich. Fairfield will see a significant drop with the loss of Ryan Olander and Rakim Sanders.

Canisius has a new head coach in Jim Baron and gets Freddy Asprilla eligible, but has a lot of catching up to do to contend. Siena has been down since Fran McCaffery left but has the nation’s leading rebounder in O.D. Anosike. Rider isn’t a title team yet, but will get a lot stronger with the addition of St. John’s transfer Nurideen Lindsey who received a waiver to be eligible immediately. St. Peter’s longs for the days of Keydren Clark and NCAA Tournament berths, but has a solid player to base the offense around in forward Darius Conley, who averaged 11.6 points and 7.4  rebounds in 2011-12.

All-Conference Team

G: Nurideen Lindsey, Rider

G: Juan’ya Green, Niagara

G: Momo Jones, Iona

F: O.D. Anosike, Siena

F: Erik Etherly, Loyola (Md.)

Player of the Year

O.D. Anosike, Sr. Siena

Predicted Finish

1.) Manhattan

2.) Loyola

3.) Siena

4.) Niagara

5.) Iona

6.) Canisius

7.) Rider

8.) Fairfield

9.) Marist

10.) St. Peter’s

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.