NEC Team Primer: #1 Wagner Seahawks

Head Coach: Bashir Mason, 2nd Season (19-12, 12-6 NEC)
Last Season: 19-12, 12-6 (NEC), Lost to LIU Brooklyn in NEC tournament semifinals, 94-82
RPI/KenPom: 135/180
NEC Preseason Poll: 1st out of 10 teams
State of Programs: NEC Favorite
Starters Returning: 3

Key Loss(es): Jonathon Williams (15.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Eric Fanning (16.7 mpg, 6.4 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Josh Thompson (23 starts, 3.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
Incoming Players: Nolan Long (F), Greg Senat (F)

Wagner Seahawks logoProjected Starting Lineup:
PG: Kenneth Ortiz (11.8 ppg, 5.4 apg, 4.3 rpg, NEC Defensive POY)
G: Latif Rivers (13.0 ppg, 39.4% 3pt%)
G: Dwaun Anderson (4.2 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
F: Mario Moody (6.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 bpg)
C: Naofall Folahan (3.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg)

Key Reserves: Jay Harris (G), Orlando Parker (F), Marcus Burton (G)

Major Storylines:

  • Managing the Backcourt Minutes – Wow, there is a ton of talent available in the Wagner backcourt. The addition of Jay Harris gives the Seahawks four legitimate potential starts at the point guard and shooting guard positions. The biggest addition might not even be Harris, but a healthy Latif Rivers. Rivers struggled coming back from a knee injury last season and was never quite the same. Now with a full offseason he’s going to be even more effective.
  • A Teacher and a Student – As successful as Wagner was last season the Seahawks were working with a first-year head coach in Bashir Mason. Mason – who is working on his graduate degree – is also learning on the job as a head coach. He’ll be more prepared during his second season and I expect he’ll have some ideas about how to fix some of the defensive deficiencies the Seahawks had last season.
  • Finishing What They Started – The Seahawks have been one of the best teams in the NEC the past two seasons, but both have ended in disappointing home losses in the NEC tournament. Wagner needs to find a way to get past the final four in the conference and advance to a championship game, because if the Seahawks can get to the NCAA tournament they have the talent to give a team a scare.

The Skinny:
The Seahawks are the most talented team in the NEC. Whether they can put it all together is the question. Injuries didn’t help last season, but it appears that Latif Rivers is completely healthy. A healthy Rivers gives Wagner an outside shooting option that it definitely needed last season after they shot 35.3% in NEC play last season. Another player that could help the three-point shooting is Jay Harris. The Valparaiso transfer is going to give the Seahawks another dynamic scorer in the backcourt. Considering this team also has Marcus Burton and the reigning NEC Defensive Player of the Year Kenneth Ortiz that means there is going to be a lot of opportunities for Bashir Mason to pick and choose the hot hand.

There are also options on the wing. Dwaun Anderson is the type of player that could have a breakout season in his sophomore year. A former top recruit, Anderson basically spent last season getting reacclimated to competitive basketball and adjusting to the speed of Division I. Still, all of those ESPN Sportscenter Top 10 plays were representative of elite athleticism that isn’t often seen in the NEC.

Mason also has options in the front court. Orlando Parker, Mario Moody and Naofall Folahan form a nice trio of talented forwards. They also offer different abilities. Moody is an elite defender on the level of his teammate Ortiz. Given more minutes he could lead the team in blocks. It also appears that Moody is going to be given a bigger role offensively and he has the skill to be a double-double type player if he can stay on the court. Folahan adds a lot of veteran leadership that should just help anchor the Seahawks’ defense and help Mason keep everything together. It’ll also be interesting to see how the two freshmen, Nolan Long and Greg Senat, are integrated into the lineup.

Mason wants to use this deep lineup as much as possible. Whether or not he’ll really play 12 guys come March is a whole different question, but for now the Seahawks are the deepest and most talented team in the NEC.

Key Quotes:

“That guy can really shoot… And he’s buying into defense and the way we push the pace. He’s a good guy. Hopefully he’ll have a really big year for us.” – Kenneth Ortiz on Valparaiso transfer Jay Harris

“Right now in my mind I plan to play 12 guys.” – Bashir Mason on how deep his rotation will go

“Mario Moody with an extended role I think he’ll fill in nicely for Jon Williams. He brings a different dynamic. He’s a different type of player. More athletic and has natural play-making ability. He’ll be another shot-blocker on the court. I’m looking forward to him stepping into that role and playing well.” – Mason on how Moody’s development can offset the loss of Williams

Predictions:

Ryan – Injuries can always derail a season, but out of all the NEC teams, Wagner is prepared the best for such misfortune. With a bevy of athletic guards, polished shooters, and defensive minded big men down low, Bashir Mason has a lot of weight on his shoulders. He must juggle the rotation and determine his optimal lineup come January. There’s no way he’ll play 12 guys in the second half of the season, but you can bet he’ll have the best group of 9-10 guys playing 10+ minutes per game. (18 wins, 11-5 NEC)

John – I don’t know if Wagner is really going to play 12 players, but I know that the rotation will be deep and talented. The roster oozes potential. It’s up to Mason to put it all together. I think that in his second season that’s exactly what will happen and the Seahawks will be the team to beat in the NEC. (18 wins, 12-4 NEC)

Other NEC Team Primers:
#10 Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
#9 St. Francis (PA) Red Flash
#8 Sacred Heart Pioneers

#7 St. Francis Brooklyn Terriers
#6 LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds
#5 Bryant Bulldogs
#4 Central Connecticut Blue Devils
#3 Robert Morris
#2 Mount St. Mary’s

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