Wagner’s schedule is out and it’s now blatantly obvious that Bashir Mason thinks his team can compete for an NEC title. The Seahawks have built a schedule that promises to be extremely challenging.
The trickiest thing about scheduling from an NEC perspective is getting games at home. Wagner’s no exception here. The Seahawks will play Chestnut Hill (a Division II school), Vermont (America East), Lafayette (Patriot League) and NC Central (MEAC) at Spiro. The game against the Catamounts on Nov. 21 is must see. Two strong mid-major programs will be going at it. I also like that the games against Monmouth and Coppin State, the weakest teams on Wagner’s schedule, are on the road.
Also, even though PSU (a game Wagner could actually win) and St. John’s are on their schedule, the Seahawks’ biggest game might be against LaSalle on Dec. 19. The Explorers went to the Sweet 16 last season and are a popular team in the Atlantic 10. It’ll be the first game ever between the two teams and it should be a good one. Wagner actually matches up pretty well with Dr. John Giannini’s squad.
Here’s a breakdown of the key games on Wagner’s schedule. Thanks to our friends at City of Basketball Love who provided the breakdowns for all the Philadelphia area teams. (Follow their Twitter account.)
Nov. 9 at Penn State (10-21, 2-16 Big Ten)
Coach: Pat Chambers
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Jermaine Marshall (15.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.6 apg), Sasa Borovnjak (7.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg), Nick Colella (4.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg, 1.1 apg)
Name to know: Tim Frazier – The do-everything point guard missed all but four games last season after getting injured. He’s back as a graduate student and should be able to help Penn State all over the court. Frazier was in the Top 10 in usage rate as a junior and while he won’t have to press so hard this season, he should give the offense a big boost.
The Skinny: Three seasons ago Chambers inherited a team that was underperforming and is obviously a second priority to football at PSU. The Nittany Lions still are still struggling to find their identity, but have a chance to rebound and at least be respectable in the Big Ten if Frazier can give them a boost upon his return. Being at the start of the season, this is a game Wagner can win and it could look better in March than November.
Nov. 15 at St. John’s (17-16, 8-10 Big East)
Coach: Steve Lavin
Postseason: NIT (Second Round)
Starters Returning: 5
Key Loss(es): Amir Garrett (5.4 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
Name to know: Jakarr Sampson – The sophomore forward is poised for a breakout season after averaging 14.9 ppg a season ago. He already has the usage rate of a superstar and as he learns how to fit into the Red Storm’s offense Sampson’s influence will only expand.
The Skinny: The Red Storm have one of the most talented rosters in the entire Big East. Lavin has St. John’s primed to contend for an NCAA tournament berth this season. The biggest challenges will be keeping D’Angelo Harrison on the court and improving the team’s overall shooting prowess. Even a slight improvement will be enough considering Chris Obekpa (15.8% block percentage) is patrolling the backline.
Nov. 21 vs. Vermont (21-12, 11-5 America East)
Coach: John Becker
Postseason: CBI (First Round)
Starters Returning: 5
Key Loss(es): Trey Blue (8.6 ppg)
Name to know: Brian Voelkel – Yes, he was the seventh leading scorer on his own team, but Voelkel changes the game in a multitude of ways. He averaged 8.6 rpg and 4.9 apg last season while consistently giving Becker someone to pencil into the power forward position. Voelkel also went to the free throw line at a surprisingly strong clip and shot 67 percent there. He’s the classic guy who kills teams without having to score a bunch a bunch of points.
The Skinny: An extremely veteran team, Vermont is one of the favorites in America East this season. The Catamounts are consistently amongst the best teams in the conference and this coming season should be no exception. Led by a senior class that includes talented players like Luke Apfeld (10.7 ppg), Clancy Rugg (11.4 ppg), Sandro Carissimo (10.0 ppg) and Voelkel the future looks bright for Becker.
The Gulf Coast Showcase Tournament includes these teams: Stetson, St. Bonaventure, Southern Illinois, San Diego, Louisiana Tech, Western Illinois and UNC-Greensboro. The desired matchups are Louisiana Tech and Western Illinois because both teams have the potential to dominate their respective conferences and help Wagner’s RPI. Another good opponent would be St. Bonaventure. Wagner controls a lot in this scenario. The eight-team bracket means winning garners better opponents. This should be a big focus of Mason’s during non-conference.
Dec. 3 vs. Lafayette (19-15, 10-4 Patriot League)
Coach: Fran O’Hanlon
Starters Returning: 3
Key Loss(es): Tony Johnson (13.3 ppg, 4.8 apg), Levi Giese (6.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
Name to know: Seth Hinrichs — The Leopards’ leader in scoring (14.9 ppg) and rebounding (4.9 rpg) last year, Hinrichs is one of several front-runners for the 2013 Patriot League Player of the Year trophy. At 6’7″, he’s a matchup problem for a lot of teams considering he shot 46 percent (78-for-171) from 3-point range last year but isn’t afraid to post up, either. He’s very efficient in his scoring, with an eFG% of 61 percent last season (91st nationally), putting up a very solid 113.6 o-rating on KenPom to boot.
The Skinny: The Leopards haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 1999-2000, but they’ve been agonizingly close lately in losing three of the last four Patriot League championship games (2010, 2011, 2013). Expected to replace Johnson–a first-team All-League selection his senior year–as the starting point guard is true freshman Nick Lindner, a hard-nosed, talented guard out of Germantown Academy (Pa.). How quickly Lindner adjusts to the college game could determine if Lafayette can get over the hump and into the Big Dance.
Dec. 7 at Pennsylvania (9-22, 6-8 Ivy)
Coach: Jerome Allen
2012-13 Postseason: None
2012-13 RPI/KenPom: 292/243
Starters Returning: 5
Key Loss(es): None
Name to know: Tony Hicks — The Chicago native had a solid first year as a Quaker, averaging 10.4 points, but that scoring average jumped to over 15 ppg once Ivy League play started. A 6’2″ combo guard, Hicks by all accounts had a very impressive summer and could be in for a big sophomore season. He’s a slasher who’s able to create for himself equally well in the open court as in the half-court set, but what really could help him take the next step as a basketball player is the fact that he’s not making his teammates better as well.
The Skinny: The Quakers return every player from last year’s roster, and add a fairly talented freshman class, meaning depth should not be a problem. Seniors Miles Cartwright (13.5 ppg) and Fran Dougherty (12.8 ppg) lead a proud program that hasn’t been to the NCAAs since 2007 but arguably has its most talented roster since. Sophomore center Darien Nelson-Henry (7.6 ppg, 4.1 rpg), a true 7-footer with great hands and feet, has the potential to average a double-double this year.
Dec. 14 at Rider (19-15, 12-6 MAAC)
Coach: Kevin Baggett
2012-13 Postseason: CIT (Second Round)
2012-13 RPI/KenPom: 147/155
Starters Returning: 2
Key Loss(es): Jonathon Thompson (13.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.5 spg), Nurideen Lindsey (8.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 1.6 apg, 1.3 spg), Dera Nd-Ezuma (2.5 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
Name to know: Anthony Myles — Rider’s second leading scorer a season ago Myles is now poised to become the Broncs’ go-to guy. His development from his junior to senior season will be the key in replacing the production lost from Thompson’s graduation.
The Skinny: While Rider lost some key players from last season’s surprising team. The Broncs have the talent to once again challenge in the MAAC. The backcourt will be under the direction of Anthony Myles (12.4 ppg) and Zedric Sadler (5.1 ppg) and if Daniel Stewart (10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg) can find more consistency up front the Broncs should make the postseason again.
Dec. 19 at La Salle (24-10, 11-5 Atlantic 10)
Coach: John Giannini
Postseason: NCAA Sweet 16
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Ramon Galloway (17.2 ppg, 3.7 apg)
Name to know: Tyreek Duren — Though it was Ty Garland who hit the game-winning “Southwest Philly Floater” that sent the Explorers past Kansas State and onto the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, it’s Duren who could be Philadelphia’s best player in 2013-14. The senior guard was second on the team in scoring last year (14.2 ppg), but more than his scoring it’ll be Duren’s leadership that the Explorers will need this year now that Galloway has graduated. There are plenty of upperclassmen on Giannini’s squad, but Duren–the starting point guard since his freshman season–has been preparing for this role his whole career.
The Skinny: Even with the loss of Galloway – who led the team in scoring (17.2 ppg), assists (3.7/game) and steals (1.9/game) – the Explorers are deep in the backcourt thanks to Duren, Garland (13.1 ppg), Sam Mills (8.0 ppg) and Delaware transfer Khalid Lewis, eligible this season after sitting out the entire 2012-13 season. If forward Jerrell Wright (10.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg) can continue his strong play from the end of last season, La Salle should make a run at a second consecutive NCAA bid.
Jan. 4 vs. North Carolina Central (22-9, 15-1 MEAC)
Coach: LeVelle Morton
Starters Returning: 4
Key Loss(es): Ray Willis (12.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Name to know: Jeremy Ingram — After Ebuka Anyaorah went down with a season-ending injury, Ingram stepped into the starting lineup last season and finished as a first team all-MEAC selection. He led the team scoring 15.1 ppg and he was also quite efficient considering he used 24% of NCCU’s possessions while the court. Now that Willis has graduated he’ll help power the Eagles’ offense.
The Skinny: Even though NCCU went 15-1 in the MEAC – and finished second after not playing conference champion Norfolk St. – the Eagles didn’t make it past the quarterfinals of the conference tournament last season. It’s also incredible to think about the fact that this team played a 38-36 slugfest with the Seahawks last non-conference. Now they’ll come to Staten Island for a game that will once again hinge on the defensive end of the court. Expect Morton to keep the team focused on the opportunity to capture a MEAC title and unseat Norfolk State.
Other games: Nov. 12 vs. Chestnut Hill, Nov. 18 at Coppin State, Dec. 30 at Monmouth,