Beginning in September and running up through November 11th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2016-2017 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.
Today, we are previewing the MAAC.
Monmouth was much of the story last year for the conference, not only for winning early-season games against UCLA, Notre Dame, USC and Georgetown, but for their world-class Bench Mob. That, a regular-season conference championship and 27 wins weren’t enough, however, to get the Hawks into the NCAA tournament after A.J. English and Iona bested them in the MAAC tournament title game.
The Hawks return four starters from that team and look like the favorite again this season with MAAC player of the year Justin Robinson leading the way after scoring 19.3 points per game as a junior and a bench capable of more than just celebrating big moments.
But Monmouth won’t be without serious competition in the league, namely from Siena. Jimmy Patsos returns all five starters of last year’s 21-win team, four of whom are seniors and all of which averaged double figures. Brett Bisping averaged a double-double and will contend for league player of the year honors, while Javion Ogunyemi has a chance to be a first-team all-league player.
St. Peter’s returns four starters who helped the Peacocks go 12-8 in MAAC play a year ago. The Peacocks bring back a core of three key seniors as well as Antwon Portley, who was one of the best freshman in the conference. Tim Cluess and Iona can’t be counted out as contenders despite losing three starters, including English, with Jordan Washington and Deyshonee Much both back. The Gaels also add UConn transfer Sam Cassell Jr. and get Jon Severe, who averaged 17.6 points at Fordham as a freshman, back for another season.
Fairfield has a shot to make some noise this season as well. They lost Marcus Gilbert to graduation, but with Tyler Nelson back for his senior season and the best sophomore class in the league ready to fill Gilbert’s void, the Stags should be able to better their 12-8 MAAC mark from last year.
Marist returns Khallid Hart, whom Red Fox fans hope will make the program relevant, while Manhattan finally has some depth this season after injuries and defections left them with seven scholarship players in league play last year.
PRESEASON MAAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Justin Robinson, Monmouth
The 5-foot-8 point guard averaged 19.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.7 assists last year for the league’s regular-season champs. Another big year seems in order for the senior.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON MAAC TEAM:
- Brett Bisping, Siena: Senior will be looking to repeat on a junior year in which he averaged a double-double.
- Javion Ogunyemi, Siena: Put up 14.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season for the Saints.
- Khalid Hart, Marist: A 20-point scorer a year ago, Hart shot 44.4 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from deep.
- Jordan Washington, Iona: Will be expected to take on a bigger role for the Gaels after averaging 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game
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3. St. Peter’s