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2014-15 MAAC Basketball Preview

After a crazy year in the MAAC in 2014-15 the conference seems to be collectively rebuilding. Who are the teams to beat and who are the long shots to keep an eye on?

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Last year the MAAC produced five postseason bids among it's eleven teams with Steve Masiello's Manhattan Jaspers punching their ticket to the NCAA Tournament.  This year should be just as fun in the MAAC as the conference marches their way to the Times Union Center in Albany for the conference tournament.

1. Iona Gaels
Last Year: 22-11 (17-3), 1st MAAC, NIT
Departures: Sean Armand (17.5 ppg), Tre Bowman (13.9 ppg), Mike Poole (6 ppg), DaShawn Gomez (2.1 ppg), Kristian Duravcevic (0.5 ppg), Shackquiel Scott (Transfer)
Key Returners: David Laury (14 ppg), AJ English (17.2 ppg), Isaiah Williams (11.3 ppg)

As long as Tim Cluess is at the helm for Iona the Gaels will be a contender in the MAAC. Cluess will be entering his fifth season at the New York based school with four postseason appearances and four 20 win seasons under his belt. There has been no shortage of talent in New Rochelle over Cluess' tenure but this year he may have a battle for Player of the Year on his own roster with big man David Laury and guard AJ English. English can do it all in the backcourt while Laury takes care of things in the paint after averaging 14 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks per game. Rounding out a dangerous trio for the Gaels is 6'7 junior Isaiah Williams who averaged 11.3 points and 4 rebounds last year. Look for Marshall transfer Kelvin Amayo and Longwood transfer Jeylani Dublin to also bolster the Gaels depth this year.

2. Siena Saints
Last Year: 20-18 (11-9), 5th MAAC, CBI Champion
Departures: Steven Cruz (0.2 ppg), Rich Audu (TR, 0.7 ppg), Marcus Hopper (TR)
Key Returners: Rob Poole (14.6 ppg), Brett Bisping (11.5 ppg), Lavon Long (9.4 ppg)

What a first year for Jimmy Patsos at Siena! Not only did the Saints have a 12 win improvement, they ended up knocking off Fresno State, Stony Brook, Penn State, and Illinois in-route to a CBI tournament title. Everyone for the most part is back for the Saints and now Patsos' squad is set to make a run at the MAAC and a NCAA Tournament birth.  Leading the way will be Rob Poole who will be one of the MAACs best backcourt players in 2014-15.  Joining Poole in the backcourt is sophomore Marquis Wright who lead the MAAC in assists last year with nearly 200 helpers for the season. Fellow sophomore Lavon Long also made a huge impact in the frontcourt along with Brett Bisping, a junior this year who averaged 11.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game a year ago.  Patsos may have another immediate impact freshman on his hands this year with Jimmy Paige, a 6'4 forward from Cape Henry Collegiate in Virginia.

3. Quinnipiac Bobcats
Last Year: 20-12 (14-6), t-4 MAAC, CIT 
Departures: Ike Azotam (16.2 ppg), Umar Shannon (14.3 ppg), Shaq Shannon (6.1 ppg), Kendrick Ray (TR)
Key Returners: Ousmane Drame (13.7 ppg), Zaid Hearst (15.5 ppg)

Tom Moore had a pretty successful year in the Bobcats first trip through the MAAC and now he'll be looking to compete for a conference title. Leading the way for his Bobcats is big man Ousmane Drame who finished last year ranked eighth in the country with 10.5 rebounds per game, along with 13.7 points and 2.1 blocks. Simply put, Drame is the best big man in the conference. Contributing right next to Drame will be top returning scorer Zaid Hearst who averaged 15.5 points and 6.6 rebounds a year ago. Quinnipiac has a solid mix of veterans and some youngsters that will make this a team that can win the MAAC in 2014-15.

4. Manhattan Jaspers
Last Year:
25-8 (15-5), MAAC Tournament Champion, NCAA 2nd Round
Departures: George Beamon (18.8 ppg), Michael Alvarado (11.9 ppg), Rhamel Brown (10.1 ppg), CJ Jones (TR, 1.6 ppg), Adam Lacey (TR)
Key Returners: Emmy Andujar (8.7 ppg), Shane Richards (8.3 ppg), Ashton Pankey (7.2 ppg)

The offseason should've been spent celebrating Manhattan's great season and NCAA Tournament appearance but instead a shadow was cast when Steve Masiello left for South Florida and eventually had to reverse course back to Manhattan after a background check found out he lied on his resume and he never actually graduated from Kentucky.  The core from last year's Jaspers team is gone and Masiello may not have gotten as much time as he would've liked to groom his young team this year. The Jaspers have talent and can challenge for another MAAC title but they are a bit of a wild card. Ashton Pankey and Cincinnati transfer Jermaine Lawrence may be the best frontcourt in the conference, while Emmy Andujar and Shane Richards can continue to rise as a scoring threat. The biggest question mark will be in the backcourt where RaShawn Stores is set to man the ship but without a lot of depth behind him.

5. St. Peter's Peacocks
Last Year:
14-17 (9-11), t-6 MAAC
Departures: Chris Burke (7.4 ppg), Howard Sellars (TR, 1.3 ppg), Markese Tucker (TR, 1.2 ppg), Vic Adams (5.6 ppg)
Key Returners: Marvin Dominique (16.6 ppg), Desi Washington (13.5 ppg)

Experience is the key for John Dunne in his ninth year at St. Peter's. Dunne's Peacocks return nearly everyone and will be a squad with six seniors lead by one of the best 1-2 punches in the MAAC in Marvin Dominique and Desi Washington. The 6'7 Dominique is a former Fordham transfer who can do it all as evidenced by his nearly 17 points and 9 rebounds per game a year ago. Meanwhile Washington is a talented guard who posted 13.5 points last season and was always a threat to steal the ball. Look for sophomores Quadir Welton and Trevis Wyche to show their maturation from an offseason in Jersey City, the two started all 31 games for the Peacocks as freshmen a year ago.  St. Peter's may be your best pick for a dark horse in the MAAC.

6. Rider Broncs
Last Year:
14-17 (9-11), t-6 MAAC
Departures: Anthony Myles (16.2 ppg), Daniel Stewart (15.2 ppg), Tommy Pereira (4.6 ppg), Brandon Channer (TR, 0.7 ppg), Skyler Scrivano (TR)
Key Returners: Jimmie Taylor (12.1 ppg), Zedric Sadler (8.3 ppg), Kahlil Thomas (5.8 ppg)

VCU transfer Teddy Okeraefor will give the Rider Broncs a huge boost going into this season. The British 6'4 guard will be among the best point guards in the MAAC and he also allows Jimmie Taylor to become an off guard, where he'll become even more of a scoring threat. Rider's young core of Okeraefor, Taylor, Zedric Sadler, Kahlil Thomas makes them a tough and dangerous team in the MAAC. Senior Lehigh transfer Anthony D'Orazio will give the Broncs a bit of a boost as well. Don't be surprised to see some teams a the top get tripped up in Lawrenceville this season.

7. Monmouth Hawks
Last Year: 11-21 (5-15), 9th MAAC
Departures: Khalil Brown (TR, 3 ppg), Tyrone O'Garro (TR, 4 ppg), Jalen Palm (TR, 0.9 ppg), Marcelo Reudiger (TR, 0.7 ppg), Christian White (TR, 0.9 ppg)
Key Returners: Deon Jones (15.1 ppg), Andrew Nicholas (14.3 ppg)

Much like Rider, Monmouth will get a big boost from a transfer.  Former Providence big man Brice Kofane joins the fray and he'll look to form a solid starting lineup with big 6'6 guards Deon Jones and Andrew Nicholas. Nearly everyone is back from the Hawks inaugural run in the MAAC and this squad could be another surprise team this year.

8. Marist Red Foxes
Last Year:
12-19 (9-11), t-6 MAAC
Departures: Jay Bowie (12.1 ppg), Adam Kemp (10.1 ppg), Pieter Prinsloo (2.2 ppg ), Patrick Ramsey (0.9 ppg), Isaiah Morton (TR, 3.1 ppg)
Key Returners: Chavaughn Lewis (17.5 ppg), Khalid Hart (14.7 ppg)

Well that didn't take long... after the unorthodox hiring of Jeff Bower, the Red Foxes were left with a coaching search for the second year a row. Bower bolted to run the front office with the Detroit Pistons and Marist landed on Division III head coach Mike Maker.  Maker inherited a squad with two big building blocks in senior scoring threat Chavaughn Lewis and defending MAAC Freshman of the Year Khalid Hart. The biggest question though is if Maker's Princeton-style offense will slow down the Red Foxes scoring attack.  Many teams that have installed a Princeton based offense have struggled through their first go round.

9. Fairfield Stags
Last Year:
7-25 (4-16), 10th MAAC
Departures: Maurice Barrow (14 ppg), Lincoln Davis (TR, 2.6 ppg), Justin Jenkins (TR, 4.1 ppg)
Key Returners: Marcus Gilbert (13.9 ppg), K.J. Rose (8 ppg)

It was a long year for Sydney Johnson's young squad a year ago, but now his Stags come back with some more experience. The Stags have nowhere to go but up and Marcus Gilbert, K.J. Rose, and Amadou Sidibe will be the leaders.  Fairfield isn't ready to compete for a MAAC title but expect the Stags to be greatly improved from a year ago.  A .500 season in conference is the logical next step for Johnson.

10. Canisius Golden Griffins
Last Year:
21-13 (14-16), t-3 MAAC, CIT
Departures: Billy Baron (24.1 ppg), Chris Perez (12.9 ppg), Chris Manhertz (8.4 ppg), Louis Dunbar (TR), Dominique Raney (5.5 ppg), Jordan Heath (10.5 ppg)
Key Returners: Zach Lewis (9.5 ppg)

Jimmy Baron's Golden Griffins were one the nation's most fun teams to watch a year ago, usually because his son Billy Baron was bombing impressive scoring performances. The tone has changed in Buffalo now as it's time to rebuild for Canisius, as pretty much everyone is gone. Zach Lewis, who averaged nearly 10 points per contest a year ago, is the top returning scorer. Lewis will be mixed in with seven freshmen and a few junior college additions. It could be a long season for Canisius but never count Jimmy Baron out.

11. Niagara Purple Eagles
Last Year:
7-26 (3-17), 11th MAAC
Departures: Marvin Jordan (9.7 ppg), Antoine Mason (TR, 25.6 ppg), Joe Thomas (TR, 3.4 ppg), Aaron Bodie (TR, 0.5 ppg), Tahjere McCall (TR, 7.5 ppg)
Key Returners: Ramone Snowden (8.1 ppg), Wesley Myers (6.7 ppg), Rayvon Harris (6.2 ppg)

Year two of the rebuild is in place for Chris Casey and it's set to be another long one in Buffalo. At least Purple Eagles' fans had Antoine Mason to root for a year ago and now the nation's top scoring threat is wearing blue and orange while playing for Bruce Pearl at Auburn. Niagara will go into 2014-15 as likely one of the nation's youngest teams with seven freshmen. Ramone Snowden, Wesley Myers, and Rayvon Harris are a solid trio, but that's about all we know about the Eagles.