RTC Summer Updates: MAAC

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 15th, 2011

With the completion of the NBA Draft and the annual coaching and transfer carousels nearing their ends, RTC is rolling out a new series, RTC Summer Updates, to give you a crash course on each Division I conference during the summer months. Our latest update comes courtesy of our MAAC correspondent, Ray Floriani.

Reader’s Take

Summer Storylines

The MAAC should provide another interesting race for the top. Two of last year’s best programs, Iona and Fairfield, will slug it out. The Gaels were tournament runners-up to St. Peter’s while Fairfield was the conference regular season champion. Off the floor, the wheels are already in motion as the conference plans the move to Springfield, Massachusetts, where the men’s and women’s championships will be contested at the MassMutual Center.

  • A Busy MAAC HQ: The headline for a good part of August concerns the conference postseason tournament. ‘The Road to MAAC-achusetts‘ began on August 3, with marketing representatives from each MAAC institution meeting at Siena College. Reps from the MassMutual Center, the host site, were also in attendance. Among the presentations and objectives were league-wide advertising of the championships on ad pages and in media guides, in game promotions allowing fans the chance to win tickets to the tournament and grassroots marketing efforts in the communities of each school. Ticketmaster also outlined social media opportunities which will allow fans to follow the MAAC schools and see who may be attending a particular session of the tournament. “There are great synergies developing between the championship marketing team and the MAAC,” said Marissa Skibbe, Global Spectrum’s Director of Marketing at the MassMutual Center. “Together, we have created an extensive and fun plan that is moving like a well-oiled machine. We can’t wait to see the creative elements come to fruition.” The tournament isn’t the only place where the conference’s administration is making waves, however. MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor was recently named to the WCBA board of directors. One of the most highly-respected administrators in college basketball, Ensor recently completed a five-year term on the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee.
  • Dunne rewarded at St. Peter’s – Fresh off the school’s first 20-win season in two decades and first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1995, St. Peter’s awarded coach John Dunne with a new contract extending through 2015-16. Dunne’s first two teams at St. Peter’s recorded just eleven wins total, but the win total over the past three seasons is 47, including 30 victories in MAAC play. The Peacocks finished this season 20-14 and captured the MAAC Tournament crown at Harbor Yards. They appeared in the NCAA Tournament, but were defeated by Purdue in the opening round. Dunne’s name was starting to surface as a few openings arose in the spring. The financial details of his new contract were not reported, but the extension marks a notable increase in pay over his former contract. “Throughout his [Dunne’s] tenure, he has guided our student-athletes to success both on the court and in the classroom, St. Peter’s AD Pat Elliott said. “We are excited about the future of St. Peter’s basketball with Coach Dunne leading the way.”
  • New Faces: Steve Masiello took over at Manhattan, replacing Barry Rohrssen. Masiello mostly recently was on Rick Pitino’s staff at Louisville. He knows the conference, however, having served as an assistant on Bobby Gonzalez’s Jaspers staff before heading south. After turning around the program at Fairfield, Ed Cooley was summoned to do the same at Providence in the Big East. Replacing Cooley is highly-regarded Sydney Johnson, formerly of Princeton. Last season, Johnson led Princeton to the Ivy title and NCAA Tournament, where they lost to eventual Final Four participant Kentucky by just two points. Johnson will inherit a strong group of returnees at defending regular season champion Fairfield. On the court, Lamont Momo” Jones decided he was ready for a different role after playing a supporting part with Derrick Williams in the Arizona Wildcats’ head-turning NCAA Tournament run and transferred to Iona (more after the jump).

Momo Jones' Transfer To Iona Will Spell Trouble For Gaels Opponents. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Iona– The Gaels finished as MAAC Tournament runners-up, losing to St. Peter’s in the championship. A very strong nucleus and the addition of a few heralded recruits set to contribute immediately makes the Gaels the choice to capture the MAAC. Tim Cluess returns seniors Mike Glover, an outstanding forward, and guard Scott Machado, another senior and one of the MAAC’s best players last season. If his hardship waiver goes through with the NCAA and he becomes eligible to play this season, Momo Jones, formerly of Arizona, will bring some noise as well. An Iona team featuring Jones in addition to Glover and Machado could be lethal, but considering that Glover and Machado are seniors this season, that dream lineup may be deterred if the NCAA doesn’t cooperate (Jones cited a need to help care for his sick grandmother). Also coming on board is 6’7” Nyandigisi ‘Dig’ Moikubo, a transfer from Cochise (AZ) Junior College, who should help up front. Another transfer, 6’1” guard Rashon James from St. Thomas Aquinas College (NY), is expected to contribute scoring in the backcourt. Last season, Iona finished with 25 wins. Following the MAAC championship game loss, they accepted a bid to the CIT. The Gaels finished as runners up in the CIT, losing to Santa Clara in the championship. With Cluess’ system in place, an outstanding staff and talent, the Gaels will be favorites to take it a level higher and emerge champions in a heated race with Fairfield a primary challenger.
  2. Fairfield – Ed Cooley’s team had an outstanding season last year. The Stags captured the regular season title before being upset by St. Peter’s in the conference tournament semifinals. They then played in the NIT. Gone is the architect of the rebuilding that reversed the Fairfield fortunes in recent seasons. Ed Cooley is now up I-95 trying to revamp the situation at Providence. Taking over at Fairfield is Sydney Johnson, who was most recently at Princeton. Johnson greets a core headed by junior guard Derek Needham. Needham dropped off in scoring from 16.4 PPG as a freshman to 14.1 PPG last season, so helping the junior’s development will be crucial early in Johson’s tenure. Johnson may have another option though, inserting Desmond Wade at the point and allowing Needham to move to the two-guard spot. Wade is a transfer from Houston who starred at New Jersey prep power Linden High School. Ryan Olander, a seven-foot center, also returns as a viable inside threat. Johnson will also work another transfer (from Boston College) into the rotation as Rakim Sanders, a 6’5” senior forward, will provide scoring and size up front.
  3. Loyola – A 15-win season ended with a quarterfinal loss to St. Peter’s in the MAAC Tournament. The Greyhounds struggled at times, but at other occasions were able to defeat some of the MAAC’s top teams in Iona, Fairfield and St. Peter’s. There is a strong group of returnees for coach Jimmy Patsos. The experience and his ability as a mentor ensures Loyola will be heard from and be a player in the MAAC race. Shane Walker is the leading scorer (11.1 PPG) back in the fold. The 6’10” senior likes to move out to three-point range but is also a factor (7.1 RPG) inside. The point guard spot is up for grabs, but there is depth. Patsos will give highly-touted recruit R.J. Williams, a Baltimore product, a good look and opportunity. Again, a run at the top spot is not likely, but should Iona and/or Fairfield slip, look for the Greyhounds to make a move.
  4. Rider – The Broncs set a school record with 23 wins last season. A postseason CIT appearance also highlighted the campaign. Unfortunately, there was a feeling of emptiness as Rider was soundly defeated by Iona in the MAAC semifinals before going one and done in the CIT. Coach Tommy Dempsey loses two solid double digit scorers in Justin Robinson and Mike Ringgold. Dempsey will look to a Virginia transfer, senior guard Mike Jones, to step in and provide points. The Broncs’ leading rebounder is back in 6’7” sophomore Danny Stewart, who grabbed 7.1 boards per game in 2010-11. Novar Gadson, a 6’7” senior swingman, returns. Gadson averaged 13.7 points per game last season while finishing second on the club with 5.8 rebounds. And there is yet another Thompson. Jonathan Thompson, a 6’4” junior guard of no relation to past Broncs Jason and Ryan, who averaged 6.1 points per game off the bench.
  5. St. Peter’s – The Peacocks caught fire in the MAAC Tournament at Harbor Yards and eventually cut down the nets as champions. Coach John Dunne will weather significant losses from that veteran team but still should remain a competitive club this winter. Steve Samuels and Darius Conley, two juniors, return at the respective guard and forward spots. Dunne added 6’8” transfer Karee Ferguson to shore up the frontcourt. Another newcomer, Chris Prescott, as well as returnees Yvon Raymond and Blaise Ffrench, will be given significant time and looked to for added contributions. There is a personnel overhaul at the Jersey City school. Regardless, the winning attitude from last March is intact. That should help as Dunne works new players into the rotation.
  6. Niagara – A very uncharacteristic 9-23 was the final record for Joe Mihalich’s group. Chalk it up partially to the cyclical nature of mid-major basketball. Simply, you recruit talent, build and coach. The result sees the victories mount up for several years. If you hit a season like last year where the talent moved on, the victories typically follow. Anthony Nelson, an outstanding guard, was on board last year, but he had little help. Now Nelson is gone, but the good news is that many of those players going through growing pains are poised to improve the Purple Eagles. Sophomore guard Marvin Jordan and junior forward 6’8” Eric Williams gradually improved last season and are primed to step up this season. Recruiting help should come from 6’6” transfer Ali Langford. Mihalich and company could make a serious run at the conference’s first division this season.
  7. Manhattan – Things should be interesting at Riverdale this season. New coach Steve Masiello has promised not to take a back seat to the big boys in recruiting and he guarantees the Jaspers will be the best conditioned team around. Masiello knows the culture of the MAAC. He assisted Bobby Gonzalez at Manhattan before heading south to join Rick Pitino at Lousville. In plain terms, he is aware of the situation he’s entering. Masiello will not have a bare cupboard when he starts practice at Draddy Gymnasium. Returning is a solid point guard in sophomore Michael Alvarado and a good scorer in junior swingman George Beamon (16.1 points per game last season). A few recruits decommitted after former coach Barry Rohrssen was not retained, but Masiello did manage a few signees in the spring who may contribute.
  8. Siena – If the Springsteen tune “Glory Days” blared at the Times Union Center, Siena fans would be thinking of Fran McCaffery’s recent tenure. Mitch Buonoguro moved up to take the coaching reins when McCaffery headed to Iowa, but was basically handed a rebuilding situation. There was talent with the likes of Ryan Rossiter on board, but unfortunately, many key spots had to be filled by newcomers and returnees without significant experience. Siena will still be in a rebuilding mode, but promises to be better. Rakeem Brookins should be settled and more comfortable at the point. Owen Wignot and O.D. Anosiki will contribute inside while 6’2” senior Kyle Downey and 6’9” junior Davis Martens represent a veteran presence. Add a solid group of recruits and Siena should improve the 13-18 mark of last season. Conference contention though, is still on hold.
  9. Canisius – The Griffs finished a respectable 15-15 but a number of close calls left something of an empty feeling. Canisius ended their season with a loss to Rider in the MAAC quarterfinals. There is a virtual overhaul of personnel at the Buffalo school. The leading returning scorer is Gaby Belardo, who posted 10.3 points per game last winter. A 6’2” junior, Belardo became well-known for late-game clutch theatrics, winning a few contests with last-second shots. Beside Belardo is Alshwan Hymes, a 38% three-point shooter. There is not a great deal of veteran leadership here as the lone available senior, Marial Dhal, logged just 56 minutes last season. Coach Tom Parrotta added some transfers and recruits of note. Regardless, the backcourt is tested, but up front, there are too many questions begging an answer.
  10. Marist – As dominant as the women are, the men’s edition of the Marist program continues to struggle. A six-win season did see a first-round win over Niagara in the MAAC Tournament before Fairfield ended the campaign in the quarterfinals. The Red Foxes are without a returnee who averaged double figures as leading scorer Sam Prescott (11.4 PPG) led another multi-player exodus out of Poughkeepsie. Among the veterans back are Adam Kemp, a 6’10” sophomore and leading rebounder (6.3 rebounds per game last season), Dorvell Carter, a 6’6” junior who averaged over seven points per game last season, returns as well as Devin Price. A 6’1” junior, Price had 75 assists against 52 turnovers and averaged 7.2 points per game last season. Coach Chucky Martin added some talent from the recruiting trail. Still, this is very much a situation that is on a treadmill. Marist has been in a perpetual rebuilding mode for several years with the Matt Brady days seeming like they were decades ago.

The MassMutual Center Will Play Host To The MAAC Tournament. (Mark Murray)

Mark Your Calendar

Schedules remain incomplete as of this writing, but there are a few enticing matchups and tournaments that have been publicized:

  • Nov. 24-27: Fairfield at Old Spice Classic (Orlando): The MAAC hosts the Old Spice Classic this Thanksgiving weekend in Orlando. This season, the conference representative is Fairfield, a team with a legitimate shot of contending for the Old Spice crown. On Thanksgiving, the tournament opens with Texas Tech facing Indiana State, followed by Minnesota meeting DePaul. The evening session has Dayton against Wake Forest prior to the nightcap of Fairfield-Arizona State.
  • Dec. 9: Siena vs. Massachusetts – Siena will play Massachusetts in the Basketball Hall of Fame Holiday Showcase in Springfield on December 9. Siena also visits Georgia Tech on December 23 and hosts rival St. Bonaventure and the mighty Andrew Nicholson on December 21.
  • Nov. 26: St. Peter’s at Seton Hall – This early barometer will pit the Peacocks against the Pirates. St. Peter’s will also travel to the Athletes In Action Classic in Logan, Utah. The dates are December 20-22 and St. Peter’s is set to face Kent State, Utah State and UT-Arlington.
  • Nov. 17: Iona vs. Purdue (Puerto Rico Tip-Off) – Purdue ended the seasons of the last two MAAC champions, Siena in ‘10 and St. Peter’s last March. The other teams in this attractive field are Temple, Western Michigan, Maryland, Alabama, Colorado and Wichita State. The latter three teams advanced to last March’s NIT Final Four with Wichita State emerging as the winner.
  • Nov. 14-16: Manhattan in Dick’s Sporting Goods NIT Season Tip-Off (Syracuse) – Manhattan will be in the North regional of the NIT Season Tip-Off. The regional is November 14-16 at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome. The Jaspers will face Syracuse November 14, and will play either Albany or Brown in the second round.
Brian Goodman (985 Posts)

Brian Goodman a Big 12 microsite writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BSGoodman.

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