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Rothstein Files: MAAC Offseason Notebook; Questions, Power Rankings And Players To Watch

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: The Loyola Greyhounds bench celebrates after a play on court against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 15, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

PITTSBURGH, PA – MARCH 15: The Loyola Greyhounds bench celebrates after a play on court against the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second round of the 2012 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Consol Energy Center on March 15, 2012 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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By Jon Rothstein
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FIVE QUESTIONS ENTERING THE MAAC

1. CAN LOYOLA REPEAT?

Without question — but the loss of Justin Drummond is big. With Drummond deciding to transfer, the Greyhounds lose a double-figure scorer from last year’s team — but he can be replaced if forward Jordan Latham has the breakout year many expect. Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos did a masterful job defensively with this group last year and has three core pieces back in skilled big man Erik Ethlerly, point guard Dylon Cormier, and long range gunner Robert Olson. If Latham produces and freshman guard Damion Rashford can provide a jolt off the bench with his offense, Patsos has a legitimate chance to win the MAAC for the second time in as many seasons.

2. WHY IS THE MANHATTAN THE FAVORITE?

Depth, depth, and more depth. Even though the status of Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey has yet to be determined for the upcoming season, the Jaspers still have all the requisites to be the MAAC’s best team. Steve Masiello returns five starters from last year’s group that won 21 games including point forward Emmy Andujar, who could emerge as one of the better mid-major talents in the country as a sophomore. With a stellar back court in Mike Alvarado and George Beamon along with a sturdy interior featuring Rhamel Brown, Roberto Colonette, and possibly Pankey, Manhattan could very well have five players average in double figures. Keep an eye on freshman guard CJ Jones, a ferocious defender who should flourish under Masiello in a lock down defender type role.

3. IS IONA MORE TALENTED THAN LAST SEASON?

We think so. The Gaels don’t have a facilitator like Scott Machado but there’s more size and frankly, more players that can make plays for themselves offensively. Momo Jones seems primed for a big time year as a senior and Iona has a slew of wings —- Curtis Dennis (transfer from Toledo), Sean Armand, Tre Bowman (JUCO transfer), and freshman A.J. English who look to be capable of scoring in double figures. Once David Laury and potentially Norvel Pelle become eligible in December, Tim Cluess will be able to put multiple players on the floor that could log minutes in a BCS conference. Keep an eye on 6-9 JUCO transfer Shawn Jackson, who will have to play a pivotal role holding down the Gaels’ front court until Laury and Pelle are eligible to get on the floor.

4. HOW MANY TEAMS CAN WIN THE CONFERENCE?

Potentially six or seven. There are certain things that haven’t been proven yet but the depth in the MAAC is better than its been in an awful long time. If former La Salle big man Devon White can log major minutes for Niagara after suffering an achilles injury, Joe Mihalich’s team could compete with anyone in the conference. We’re also keeping a close eye on Rider with the addition of St. John’s transfer Nurideen Lindsey, and Sydney Johnson still has three grizzled veterans on the perimeter at Fairfield with Derek Needham, Colin Nickerson, and Desmond Wade. Those three teams are all more than capable of getting hot when it’s all on the line in Springfield next March.

5. WHO IS THE SLEEPER?

Siena. The Saints were short on bodies last year due to injuries and eligibility issues but Mitch Buonaguro rallied his team late in the season and led them to a strong finish which ended a game short of the MAAC title game. O.D. Anosike is a walking double-double and the additions of both Imoh Silas and Lionel Gomis should bolster Siena’s front court. Rob Poole should flourish as a sophomore and the combination of Evan Hymes and a healthy Rakeem Brookins should give the Saints one of the league’s quicker back courts. This is a unique team — one that has a chance to be there at the end.

MAAC PRESEASON POWER RANKINGS

1. MANHATTAN

THE SKINNY: Sophomore point forward Emmy Andujar is special.

2. LOYOLA

THE SKINNY: Back to back? Never bet against Jimmy Patsos, especially in the Greyhounds’ last year in the conference before departing for the Patriot League.

3. IONA

THE SKINNY: There is more talent in New Rochelle than there was a year ago. Seriously.

4. SIENA

THE SKINNY: New found depth has the Saints in position to contend.

5. NIAGARA

THE SKINNY: La Salle transfer Devon White is the X-Factor.

6. RIDER

THE SKINNY: Nurideen Lindsey will score over 30 at least five times.

7. FAIRFIELD

THE SKINNY: We like Sydney Johnson’s perimeter — but what about the front court?

8. MARIST

THE SKINNY: The Red Foxes could surprise people if their freshmen can contribute.

9. CANISIUS

THE SKINNY: Jim Baron inherits some decent talent in Buffalo.

10. ST. PETER’S

THE SKINNY: The Peacocks are the MAAC’s ultimate underdog — and that’s just the way they like it.

MAAC PRESEASON FIRST TEAM

Momo Jones, Iona

George Beamon, Manhattan

Juan’ya Green, Niagara

Erik Etherly, Loyola

Chavaughn Lewis, Marist

MAAC PRESEASON PLAYER OF THE YEAR

O.D. Anosike, Siena

TEN THAT HAVE WAITED AND WILL MAKE A MAJOR IMPACT

1. Nurideen Lindsey, Rider (transfer)
2. David Laury, Iona (transfer)
3. Shawn Jackson, Iona (JUCO)
4. Tre Bowman, Iona (JUCO)
5. Isaac Sosa, Canisius (transfer)
6. Freddy Asprilla, Canisius (transfer)
7. Desi Washington, St. Peter’s (transfer)
8. Rakeem Brookins, Siena (red shirt)
9. Lionel Gomis, Siena (red shirt)
10. Imoh Silas, Siena (red shirt)

TEN BREAKOUT PLAYERS
1. Momo Jones, Iona
2. Donovan Kates, Manhattan
3. Rhamel Brown, Manhattan
4. Jon Thompson, Rider
5. Junior Fortunat, Rider
6. Jordan Latham, Loyola
7. Keith Matthews, Fairfield
8. Desmond Wade, Fairfield
9. Jay Bowie, Marist
10. Blaise Ffrench, St. Peter’s

TEN IMPACT FRESHMEN

1. Amadou Sidibe, Fairfield
2. Coleman Johnson, Fairfield
3. Khallid Hart, Marist
4. Eric Truog, Marist
5. CJ Jones, Manhattan
6. Norvel Pelle, Iona
7. A.J. English, Iona
8. Imoh Silas, Siena
9. Chazz Patterson, St. Peter’s
10. Damion Rashford, Loyola

FIVE UNDER-THE-RADAR FRESHMEN

1. Elias Desport, St. Peter’s
2. Justin Jenkins, Fairfield
3. Shane Richards, Manhattan
4. Khalil Alford, Rider
5. Grant Ellis, Iona

Will Loyola repeat as MAAC champions this year? Let us know in the comments below…