MAAC Question Marks For 2015-16

Now that the 2014-15 season has come to an end, we learned plenty about the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Few would have thought at this time last year that Canisius would be the final team to play this past season, being eliminated by NJIT in the College Insider Tournament. The conference sent four teams to postseason and Manhattan claimed their second straight tournament championship over Iona in the MAAC tournament.

Here are some of the question marks facing teams in the conference heading into the 2015-16 season.

Can Manhattan pull off a possible three-peat in the MAAC? If so, they will have done it in a more unique way than Siena’s past three-peat.

Can Iona Rebound and Would a Third Regular Season Title Mean Tournament Success? There is a legitimate chance that the Gaels will be the favorite come October, but head coach Tim Cluess knows that they will need to shore up their rebounding. With the exit of MAAC Player of the Year David Laury, most of that will have to rest on newcomers.

Who Can Step Into Rider’s Big Man Shadow?  The key to the Broncs resurgence this past season was due, in part, to senior Matt Lopez. The 7′ presence changed the way the Broncs were able to play and led them to 21 wins, how they replace the big man will be key to see if they can contend again the conference.

How Does Manhattan Put It Together Again? After going to back to back NCAA tournaments, it would seem the sky is the limit for head coach Steve Masiello. However, they have done it in very different ways the last two seasons, this past season with a more attacking style on defense to earn a second straight tournament title. Now that Ashton Pankey will be leaving, they lose their best presence inside and MAAC tournament MVP. Without him, could they chase that elusive regular season title? That will depend on how much progress the current freshman and sophomore classes make over the course of the season.

How Close Monmouth Is Coming King Rice was very clear after the end of their season ending loss to Iona in the MAAC semifinals. “We’re coming and pretty soon we’ll be the older guys,” Rice said after their loss to the Gaels. “We’ll see how it goes then.” Two of the Hawks strongest pieces sat out this past season in Micah Seaborn and Je’lon Hornbeak, add them to a group to MAAC First Team guard Justin Robinson and Monmouth can be a viable threat with their back court.

How Far Has Canisius Reloaded? Jim Baron was clear in that this was a rebuilding year for the Golden Griffins, but all they did was won 11 conference games and advanced to the CIT quarterfinals. They return sophomores Zach Lewis and Phil Valenti, which entering the year might be one of the better guard and forward combinations in the league. However, they will need to replace the production from Josiah Heath inside (9.9 ppt, 6.8 rpg) as the senior accounted for just under 20% of the team’s rebounds on the season. They will also need Jan Grzelinski to step into the point guard spot, he claimed it during the season, but senior Jeremiah Williams quickly took over playing time as the season progressed.

Can Quinnipiac Win Through Their Guards? The last two seasons, the Bobcats have established themselves as a team that can win through their front court, especially with their relentless rebounding. However, Ousmane Drame and Justin Harris depart, and the bigs up front next season will be very young in Alain Chigha and Sam Dingba. They both have a bright future, but the way Tom Moore’s team will have to win in 2016 will be through guards like Ayron Hutton, Dimitri Floras and Westchester CC transfer Giovanni McLean, should he be eligible.

How Will Saint Peter’s Rebuild? The Peacocks had a lot invested in this past season with seniors Desi Washington and Mavin Dominique. Injuries prevented the team from reaching an even record, but their potential materialized in Albany where they lost to eventual tournament champion Manhattan. How will the Peacocks rebuild? Likely John Dunne’s group will do it behind sophomore Quadir Welton and freshmen Rodney Hawkins and Elisha Boone. How they supplement the roster will be key to making their next build up to a chance at the conference title.

Can Siena’s Returnees Lead to Defensive Resurgence? While the Saints roster has been impacted by four transfers out of the program this season, they will get an added boost when senior Imoh Silas and junior Brett Bisping return to the roster in the fall. They should help Siena’s defense, which allowed league high 73.8 ppg. Adding Silas as a rim protector and Bisping back to their defense should help the Saints push towards being a contender next season.

Will Niagara’s Youth Movement Turn To Veteran Leadership? Chris Casey has now completed his rebuild of the entire roster, so now will be a good time to show that the young core can take steps forward. LIU Post transfer Emile Blackman fit in with the roster right away, averaging 13.5 ppg to lead the team and freshman Dominique Reid showed he could be a post presence, averaging 9.8 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Now it will be up to them and the core of Ramone Snowden, Wesley Myers and Karron Davis to show that the Purple Eagles can contend.

Can Fairfield Quickly Retool? To say Sydney Johnson’s future with the Stags may be dependent on how his team performs this season may be an overstatement, he is signed until the 2018-19 season, but Fairfield will be looking for progress this coming season. Marcus Gilbert will be a senior next year, but freshman Tyler Nelson showed plenty of progress and could be another building block for the Stags. They will need Amadou Sidibe, who has struggled to stay healthy, to put together a complete senior year to contend in conference play.

How Does Maker Build Marist From Here? Blessed with the greatest scorer in school history in his first season, Mike Maker will have his work cut out for him in year two when he will have to make up for at least 48% of the Red Foxes points this past season. Phillip Lawrence took a step forward this past season, but the future of Marist will mostly revolve around Khallid Hart as a featured guard. How they build around him will be key to whether they can crack the MAAC’s top 5 seeds.

Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2014-15 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference and Hofstra for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]

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