‘Greater Metropolitan Area’ Preview

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Kevin Doyle (@KLDoyle11)

(Ed Note: CoBL is thrilled to welcome aboard Kevin Doyle to serve as the site’s NYC correspondent. Kevin also writes for the great hoops site RushTheCourt, and knows a lot about the greater NY metropolitan area’s collegiate basketball scene.)

New York City and Philadelphia: the game of basketball was practically invented in these two cities. Although the game obviously stretches across the entire nation with AAU teams and prep schools in every corner of the country, one could argue many cities have surpassed these two in terms of producing high-level talent. Yet, the history and tradition is unparalleled in NYC and Philly. With so many colleges—ranging from the lowest tiers of Division I basketball to BCS conference teams—playing hoop in the greater NYC area and Philly, it only seemed logical to breakdown which schools the City of Basketball Love will be competing against for the 2012-13 season.

A total of 16 teams from the greater metropolitan area spanning across eight different conferences are previewed.

Without further ado, let’s take a deeper dive into the teams:

Army Black Knights
Conference: Patriot League

Against the CoBL: vs. Lafayette (1/16), vs. Lehigh (2/3), @ Lafayette (2/13), @ Lehigh (3/2)

2011-12 record: 12-18 (5-9 in the PL)

Head Coach: Zach Spiker (35-46 at Army)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Ella Ellis (17.5 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.1 APG). Quite possibly the best player you’ve never heard of in the New York area, Ellis is as smooth as they come. At 6’7, he has a propensity to reach the basket with ease, yet still shoots a respectable 36 percent from three and 79 percent from the stripe for his career.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—Army hasn’t finished above .500 since 1985, but that may change this year. They could surprise as 10 of their top 11 scorers return, and All-PL player Ellis is poised for a big year. A top four finish in the PL is a possibility with Holy Cross and Lafayette vulnerable.
  • Picked to Finish—sixtth in the eight team league.

Columbia Lions
Conference: Ivy League

Against the CoBL: @ Villanova (11/20), @ Pennsylvania (2/1), vs. Pennsylvania (2/23)

2011-12 record: 15-15 (4-10 in the Ivy League)

Head Coach: Kyle Smith (30-28 at Columbia)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Brian Barbour (15.5 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 4.4 APG). For the third straight year, Columbia will rely on Barbour to run the offense. From scoring to distributing, Barbour is one of the Ivy League’s best in both departments. His 1.9 A/T ratio was fourth best in the league last season, and his 90.1 FT% ranked first in the league and fourth nationally.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—For just the fourth time in history, Columbia was picked to finish in the top half of the Ivy League. Brian Barbour has developed into one of the Ivy’s best distributors and shooters. The Lions are a dark horse to win the Ivy League, something they haven’t done since 1968.
  • Picked to Finish—3rd in the eight team league.

Fairfield Stags
Conference: MAAC

Against the CoBL: @ Drexel (12/16), at St. Joseph’s (12/22)

2011-12 record: 22-15 (12-6 in the MAAC)

Head Coach: Sydney Johnson (22-15 at Fairfield)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Derek Needham (11.8 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 3.4 APG)—Soon to be a four year starter who will go down as one of the most decorated player in Fairfield history, Needham has an outside chance to be a 2,000 point scorer for his career. He currently sits at 1,364 points for his career, and would need to average 23.5 PPG this year to do it. With graduation claiming Rakim Sanders, Needham will be looked to be more of a scoring point guard this year—something that he was as a freshman.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—Many would say Fairfield underperformed in Sydney Johnson’s first year at the helm. Now, with the MAAC as competitive and tough as ever, the Stags look to be a middle-of-the-pack team. Replacing Rakim Sanders is no easy task, but look for Maurice Barrow to have a big season.
  • Picked to Finish— Preseason poll not released until Nov. 9th

Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
Conference: Northeast Conference

Against the CoBL: @ Lehigh (12/1), vs. Lafayette (12/7)

2011-12 record: 3-26 (2-16 in the NEC)

Head Coach: Greg Vetrone (19-71 with FDU)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Melquan Bolding (15.1 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.9 APG)—A transfer from Duquesne, Bolding filled up the stat sheet, but did so in too many of the wrong columns, specifically turnovers and 3PT%. No longer playing alongside Lonnie Hayes for the season who was recently dismissed from the team will place added pressure on Bolding’s shoulders.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—Only place to go is up after a combined 8-50 record over the last two years. FDU’s strength figured to lie in its backcourt, but with Lonnie Hayes off the team and suspended players filling the roster, this could be a very trying season for the Knights.
  • Picked to Finish—11th in the 12 team league.

Fordham Rams
Conference: Atlantic 10

Against the CoBL: @ Lehigh (12/4), vs. St. Joseph’s (1/30), @ La Salle (2/9), @ St. Joseph’s (3/2), vs. Temple (3/6)

2011-12 record: 10-19 (3-13 in the A10)

Head Coach: Tom Pecora (17-40 with Fordham)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Chris Gaston (17.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.1 APG)—For his size, you’d be hard pressed to find a better rebounder in America. Standing at 6’7, Gaston nearly averaged a double-double last season and has a very good shot at averaging 20 and 10 as a senior with graduation claiming fellow big man Kervin Bristol.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—In now his third season in the Bronx, it’s time for Tom Pecora to start seeing results. The Rams return their top four scorers, yet the A10 is as tough as ever with Butler and VCU joining the league. Since joining in 1995, Fordham has finished above .500 in the A10 just twice.
  • Picked to Finish—14th in the 16 team league.

Hofstra Pride
Conference: Colonial Athletic Association

Against the CoBL: @ Delaware (1/9), vs. Drexel (1/23), @ Drexel (2/18), vs. Delaware (2/27)

2011-12 record: 10-22 (3-15 in the CAA)

Head Coach: Mo Cassara (31-34 with Hofstra)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (DNP – Transfer year from Connecticut)—He’s had his issues in the past with the law, but one has to hope for Coombs-McDaniel’s and Hofstra’s sake that after a year sitting out due to transferring from Connecticut his head is now on straight. At 6’7, JCM poses countless match-up problems at the small forward position, and will be the Pride’s go-to player on the offensive end from the get go.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—Cassara was pleasantly greeted with Charles Jenkins in his first year on Long Island and won 21 games with him, but in year two it was a struggle to reach double digit wins. With transfers JCM and Taran Buie now available, Hofstra has the potential to make noise again in the CAA.
  • Picked to Finish—7th in the 11 team league.

Iona Gaels
Conference: MAAC

Against the CoBL: @ La Salle (12/20), @ St. Joseph’s (12/28)

2011-12 record: 25-8 (15-3 in the MAAC)

Head Coach: Tim Cluess (50-20 with Iona)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Lamont ‘MoMo’ Jones (15.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.9 APG)—The second year transfer from Arizona will need to carry the load this season for the Gaels. After playing second fiddle to Scott Machado and Mike Glover last year, Tim Cluess will hand the keys to the car over to Jones for his senior season who was named 1st Team All-League by the MAAC coaches. A dominant scorer averaging 15.7 PPG last year, Jones will flourish in Cluess’ up-tempo offense.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—Kevin Willard brought the recruits in, but Tim Cluess has coached the talented group to a 50-20. Iona earned an at-large bid to the NCAAT last year, but choked away what looked to be a sure win against BYU. MoMo Jones and Sean Armand may be the best backcourt in the MAAC.
  • Picked to Finish—Preseason poll not released until Nov. 9th

Long Island Blackbirds
Conference: Northeast Conference

Against the CoBL: @ Lafayette (11/12), vs. Lafayette (12/1)

2011-12 record: 25-9 (16-2 in the NEC)

Head Coach: Jack Perrie (First season)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Julian Boyd (17.4 PPG, 9.3 RPG, .8 APG)—Boyd has been an impact player for Long Island since he stepped on campus as a freshman as he’s averaged double figures in points since his freshman season. Now a senior, Boyd has a chance to average 20 PPG and 10 RPG, and lead the Blackbirds to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—In late September, four LIU players were suspended due to a brawl with the track team, but then reinstated just weeks later. Jack Perrie can breathe a sigh of relief now as his Blackbirds seemingly went from the frontrunner of the NEC, to middle-of-the-pack team.
  • Picked to Finish—1st in the 12 team league.

New Jersey Institute of Technology Highlanders
Conference: Great West

Against the CoBL: @ Villanova (12/28), @ Lafayette (1/2), vs. Pennsylvania (1/17)

2011-12 record: 15-17 (5-5 in the GW)

Head Coach: Jim Engles (41-83 with NJIT)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Chris Flores (13.1 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 3.3 APG)—It wasn’t the easiest of transitions for NJIT to the Division 1 level, but Flores certainly alleviated many of the growing pains. He has been arguably the Highlanders’ top recruit to date in D1, and has been a fixture in their starting lineup since his freshman season. He is already better than a 1,000 point scorer, and will eclipse the 1,500 point mark midway through this year.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—Although they routinely play one of the worst schedules in the country, having a combined 30 wins the past two seasons ain’t too shabby for a program that was 1-30 in 2008-09. Returning four of their top five players makes NJIT a contender in the Great West.
  • Picked to Finish—2nd in the five team league.

Quinnipiac Bobcats
Conference: Northeast Conference

Against the CoBL: vs. Lehigh (11/27)

2011-12 record: 18-14 (10-8 in the NEC)

Head Coach: Tom Moore (93-65 with Quinnipiac)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Ike Azotam (15.8 PPG, 9.5 RPG, .8 APG)—Despite being a tad undersized for the power forward position, Azotam is perhaps the NEC’s best rebounder averaging nearly a double-double last year. With James Johnson having graduated, Azotam is now the focal point of the Bobcats’ offense.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—Tom Moore has done a stellar job during his time in Hamden, but cannot seem to get over the hump in the NEC. He’s led Quinnipiac to the postseason the last three seasons, but not to the NCAA Tournament. Long Island, Robert Morris, and Wagner are all roadblocks in 2012-13.
  • Picked to Finish—4th in the 12 team league.

Sacred Heart Pioneers
Conference: Northeast Conference

Against the CoBL: vs. Lehigh (11/25), @ Lafayette (12/9), @ La Salle (12/22)

2011-12 record: 14-18 (8-10 in the NEC)

Head Coach: Dave Bike (519-480 with Sacred Heart)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Shane Gibson (22.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 2.2 APG)—Gibson may very well be the top scorer in the nation when the book is closed on the 2012-13 season. His 22.0 PPG ranked fifth in the country last year, and only Creighton’s Greg McDermott returns to the college game this year.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—SHU brings back virtually their entire team and has the potential to be a real dark horse in the NEC. Gibson will produce in a big way, as always, but the Pioneers must have Steve Glowiak become a more reliable scorer, as well as Justin Swidowski and Chris Evans healthy for an entire year in order to contend.
  • Picked to Finish—6th in the 12 team league.

Seton Hall Pirates
Conference: Big East

Against the CoBL: vs. Villanova (2/25)

2011-12 record: 21-13 (8-10 in the Big East)

Head Coach: Kevin Willard (34-31 with Seton Hall)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Fuquan Edwin (12.5 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 1.3 APG)—A staple in Seton Hall’s lineup since he was a freshman, Edwin will become the focal point of the offense with Jordan Theodore and Herb Pope gone. While a proficient offensive player, his most significant impact on a game comes on the defensive end as his 3.0 SPG were tops in the nation last year.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—Jumping out to a 15-2 mark and top 25 ranking, S.H. looked like a lock to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Then, the wheels came off. It won’t be easier this season for Kevin Willard with nearly 50% of the scoring gone, plus the top rebounder and assist man.
  • Picked to Finish—14th in the 15 team league.

St. Francis (NY) Terriers
Conference: Northeast Conference

Against the CoBL: @ Lafayette (11/9)

2011-12 record: 15-15 (12-6 in the NEC)

Head Coach: Glenn Braica (30-30 with St. Francis (NY))

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Ben Mockford (11.8 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 1.2 APG)—The transfer from Iona became an immediate impact player after sitting out a season. His 83 3PT made ranked first on the team, and he will become an even bigger threat on the offensive end if his game evolves from being exclusively outside shooter.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—The Terriers have been a game away the last two years from finishing about .500 for the first time since 2004. With their top five players returning, they have the pieces to make some noise in the NEC. Sophomore Jalen Cannon (8.0 PPG, 8.8 RPG) is poised to have a breakout year.
  • Picked to Finish—5th in the 12 team league.

St. John’s Red Storm
Conference: Big East

Against the CoBL: @ Villanova (1/2)

2011-12 record: 13-19 (6-12 in the Big East)

Head Coach: Steve Lavin (34-31 with St. John’s)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—D’Angelo Harrison (16.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.0 APG)—No one will question his talent, but Harrison’s decision making on the floor came into question during spurts of his freshman year. A dynamic guard who finds ways to get to the rim, while being a solid 3PT shooter, Harrison forced the issue too many times—exhibited by a 37.4 FG% versus a 36.2 3PT%. Make no mistake about it though, this is a future NBA player.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—So many of the good feelings Steve Lavin brought to the Johnnies in his first season disappeared last year. With Nurideen Lindsey transferring and Moe Harkless to the NBA, it won’t be easy, but St. John’s still has a boatload of talent that will mature and develop with each game.
  • Picked to Finish—10th in the 15 team league.

Wagner Seahawks
Conference: Northeast Conference

Against the CoBL: @ Temple (12/1), vs. Pennsylvania (12/29)

2011-12 record: 25-6 (15-3 in the NEC)

Head Coach: Bashir Mason (First season)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Latif Rivers (14.6 PPG, 2.6 RBG, 2.2 APG)—A second team All-NEC selection last year, Rivers will look to capitalize on his sophomore campaign and become one of the premier scorers in the NEC this season. Nearly automatic from the charity stripe and deadly outside shooter, Rivers has already accumulated 868 points through his first two years. Is 2,000 within reach?
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—The big question: Can Bashir Mason carry over the success that Dan Hurley brought to Wagner? Fortunately for Mason, he has a strong nucleus of players returning, and already is bringing in some top recruits (see: Greg Senat). Wagner should be atop the NEC come year’s end.
  • Picked to Finish—3rd in the 12 team league.

Yale Bulldogs
Conference: Ivy League

Against the CoBL: @ St. Joseph’s (11/12), @ Pennsylvania (2/8), vs. Pennsylvania (3/9)

2011-12 record: 19-10 (9-5 in the Ivy League)

Head Coach: James Jones (176-191 with Yale)

Outlook:

  • Top Player—Austin Morgan (11.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 2.3 APG)—One of the top shooters in the Ivy League (90% FT and 39% 3PT), Morgan will be asked to lead the Bulldogs on the offensive end this year. He set a Yale record for FT% in a season, and if he finds more consistency on his outside shot, Morgan could be the most feared shooter in the Ivy League.
  • Everything in two Tweets…because one isn’t enough—The Ancient Eight seems to be heading in two different directions, and Yale needs to make sure they’re not left behind in the lower tier of the league. Despite losing All-Ivy performer in Greg Mangano, look for highly regarded sophomore Brandon Sherrod to have a breakout year.
  • Picked to Finish—6th in the eight team league.
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