By Jon Rothstein
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– Florida State may have lost six seniors from last year’s team that won the ACC Tournament, but don’t discount the Seminoles from being a contender for the conference title for the second consecutive season. Leonard Hamilton returns four solid veterans in Ian Miller, Michael Snaer, Terrance Shannon, and Okaro White while adding slew of talented newcomers. Hamilton is especially high on 6-foot-7 freshman Montay Brandon, who can play three positions including point guard.
– St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli said there shouldn’t be a debate as to who the early favorite is to win the Atlantic-10. “Saint Louis is clearly the best team,” Martelli said this week. “Their philosophy is real simple in the sense that they simply do not let you score the basketball.” The Billikens gave up less than four made three point shots a game last season and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in Rick Majerus’ tenure as head coach. Majerus returns four starters including crafty lead guard Kwamain Mitchell as well as 6-foot-11 big man John Manning, who Majerus feels could eventually be a major contributor.
– DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said the Blue Demons are still waiting on word from the NCAA Clearinghouse on the eligibility of freshman forward DeJuan Marrero. The 6-foot-5 Marrero was DePaul’s top recruit in the Class of 2012 and should fit right into Purnell’s high octane approach once he’s able to play.
– Niagara is hopeful that La Salle transfer Devon White is ready to play by December after suffering an achilles injury earlier this summer. The 6-foot-8 White could be a major force in the MAAC for a team that desperately needs an inside presence. The Purple Eagles have one of the better perimeters in the conference with Juan’ya Green, Antoine Mason, and Marvin Jordan but the addition of White could give Joe Mihalich another key cog to work with. White averaged 5.8 points and 4.7 rebounds last year at La Salle.
– Manhattan has submitted all of the necessary paperwork regarding Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey with the hope that the big man will receive a waiver and be eligible to play immediately next season without having to sit out a year. Should Pankey be ruled eligible for the 12-13 campaign, Steve Masiello and the Jaspers should be the runaway favorites in the MAAC. With Pankey, Rhamel Brown, and point forward Emmy Andujar, Manhattan would have a baseline that could trade blows with certain BCS level programs. Last season at Maryland, Pankey averaged 4.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game.
– The Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on November 16 and 17 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn could be the sleeper of the early season tournaments. While the match ups have yet to be announced, the field features St. Joseph’s, Florida State, BYU, and Notre Dame — four teams that have a legitimate chance to make the NCAA Tournament. The Hawks and Seminoles should both be in the top third of their respective leagues while Mike Brey and the Irish will have massive expectations going into the Big East. BYU also returns a solid core with lefty point guard Matt Carlino, Brandon Davies, and Tyler Haws, who missed last season while serving a Mormon mission.
– Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman might be getting the majority of the publicity surrounding Maryland’s incoming recruiting class, but don’t sleep on Charles Mitchell. The 6-foot-7 native of Marietta, Georgia brings a ferocity to the game that you don’t see out of many first year college players. Expect Mitchell to be an immediate contributor for Mark Turgeon and the Terrapins.
– A forgotten piece for Jim Larranaga and Miami next season could be combo guard Bishop Daniels. Daniels red shirted last season for the Hurricanes, who should be picked somewhere in the top five of the ACC. If Daniels can become an offensive threat off the bench, Larranaga could have a really solid back court trio with he, Durand Scott, and burgeoning sophomore guard Shane Larkin.
– Dayton coach Archie Miller isn’t taking any prisoners in his second season as head coach of the Flyers. Miller has put together an arduous non-conference schedule with home games against MAAC favorite Manhattan, Missouri Valley contender Illinois State, Murray State, and UAB. Dayton will also travel to USC and Alabama in addition to participating in the Charleston Classic, where they will face Colorado in the first round. All of those games are before the Flyers hit conference play in the revved up Atlantic-10.
– Incredibly saddening news out of Chicago as Iona bound forward Mike Haynes was shot and killed after a dispute over a necklace on Thursday. The 6-foot-7, 22 year old Haynes was supposed to be a major part of the Gaels’ front court over the next two seasons after spending the past few years in junior college. Our prayers and condolences are with the Haynes family.
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