Ray Floriani is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and the NEC.
Around The MAAC:
- Changes at the Helm: Fran McCaffery, off his outstanding run at Siena, is in Big Ten country at Iowa. The Siena administration did the right thing in promoting assistant Mitch Buonaguro to take his spot. Buonaguro recently added Craig Carter, who was on Fred Hill’s Rutgers staff, as an assistant.
- Iona replaced Seton Hall-bound Kevin Willard with Tim Cluess. At Division-II CW Post, Cluess made himself quite a name in just four seasons. He is revered as an outstanding tactician. Realizing other facets of the game have to be covered to succeed at the Division-I level, Cluess made outstanding hires in John Morton and Jared Grasso. Morton, formerly of John Dunne’s St. Peter’s staff, knows the MAAC extremely well. Grasso did a commendable job in a tough situation as a Fordham interim head coach last winter. He knows the area and has outstanding contacts with AAU and high school coaches which will serve well in recruiting.
- Picking Up the Pieces: The MAAC also was in the news regarding a coaching move of three years ago. The Matt Brady exit from Marist to James Madison is still a point of contention and debate in Poughkeepsie. Marist is still trying to recover on the men’s side, and their leadership filed suit against Brady alleging that he breached his contract by asking prospective and then-current Marist players to accompany him to JMU. A hearing is set for December.
- On The Tube: On the women’s side, it was announced the conference championship will be televised nationally on ESPNU. The change of the women’s championship from a Sunday to Monday afternoon time slot was crucial in securing the national audience. The possibility of another finals appearance by Marist, one of the most celebrated and successful mid-majors in the women’s game, didn’t hurt, either. If a viewer tunes in has an opportunity to learn a little more about the MAAC, that exposure should benefit the men’s side as well. Getting your name and product out there is the thing. And this can only help the conference.
- Siena: Recent glory years appear to be at an end with the departure of Edwin Ubiles, Ronald Moore and Alex Franklin. Despite losing that trio and weathering a coaching change, it would be wise not to write the Saints off as of yet. Junior guard Kyle Downey, senior Clarence Jackson, a dangerous outside shooter, senior forward Ryan Rossiter and junior forward Owen Wignot are all proven players who have experienced success. Siena is not the program they were the past two seasons, but they are very good and won’t give up the title without a fight.
- Iona: Twenty-one wins, 12-6 and third place in the MAAC — it was a fine showing by the Gaels last season and things should keep headed in a similar direction this year. Scott Machado, an outstanding performer at guard, and Jermel Jenkins are two of the headliners back for Iona. The Gaels did lose some inside presence with the graduation of Jonathan Huffman. At 7’0, Huffman was more apt to shoot a three but still afforded a respectable presence in the paint. In his absence, there’s a stocked cupboard for new coach Tim Cluess to work with, a rarity for new coaches at this level.
- St.Peter’s: AD John Dunne brought in veteran coach Bruce Hamburger to replace John Morton, who exited for Iona. Marlon Guild was also promoted to full-time assistant, along with Dalip Bhatia, who makes the leap from video coordinator. On the floor, everyone is back from a surprising 11-7 MAAC finish last season. There’s no sneaking up on anyone this season and there’s a strong veteran cast to meet the challenge. Ryan Bacon returns in the low post, Nick Leon is a tough three-point shooting and penetrating guard and Wesley Jenkins is a proven offensive threat. This is a team that should contend. Read the rest of this entry »