Category archive: Fairfield Stags

Late last week Iona received news that Lamont "MoMo" Jones, instrumental in helping Arizona to the Elite Eight last season, has been granted a hardship waiver and can play immediately, instead of sitting in residence under NCAA rules.

The MAAC regular-season conference race and postseason automatic qualifier berth just got more interesting and competitive with Jones joining the Gaels.

The truth is this league was already locked in to having one of the best races, outside of the power six, with or without Jones.

But now that he's eligible, the stakes are even higher with Fairfield and Iona preparing for what should be a chase to the finish. At the MAAC level, it will rival anything the Horizon or Missouri Valley has to offer this season.

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Gary A. Vasquez/US PresswireAdding MoMo Jones to Iona's lineup makes the Gaels better. But will it be good enough to get past Fairfield in the MAAC?

"This league is very top heavy,'' said St. Peter's coach John Dunne, whose Peacocks stunned the field by winning the MAAC AQ on Fairfield's home court in Bridgeport, Conn., last season. "Iona and Fairfield are the most talented. The additions they have clearly make them much more talented. But it will be interesting to see how the dynamic changes those teams.''

Loyola (Md.) and Rider, both with many returnees, are seen as the potential St. Peter's in this league -- a team that could surprise the favorites and win the automatic berth with three strong days in Springfield, Mass. (site of this season's MAAC tournament).

"We got Jordan Latham eligible from Xavier, too,'' Loyola coach Jimmy Patsos said. "I like Fairfield 1, Iona 2 and us and Rider after that. I think it could be a great race. We're deep. We're not as talented. But we're as deep as any team in the league. The key will be Jeff Jones from Virginia for Rider. Can he light it up or not? Fairfield has a new coach, but [it'll] be fine. And [Iona's] [Mike] Glover will be a targeted man.''

MoMo Jones joins an Iona team that is led by returnees Scott Machado on the wing and Glover inside.

Boston College transfer Rakim Sanders is eligible to join the Stags, last season's regular-season MAAC champs, alongside returnees Derek Needham and center Ryan Olander.

The difference between the Stags and Gaels is that Fairfield has two high-profile transfers instead of just one. Former Houston point guard Desmond Wade is also eligible, and he'll take over as the playmaker, sliding Needham to the wing with Sanders as a forward. "I think Rakim is the best player in the league,'' said former Fairfield coach Ed Cooley, now the head coach at Providence. "I don't think there is one matchup in the MAAC [that doesn't favor] him. There is an answer for Glover in the MAAC, and that's length in Olander. The question will be Fairfield's overall chemistry. Now there is a true point guard in Desmond Wade. But the X factor will be Rakim, because no one is close to him.''

Sanders was a tough matchup for ACC teams that played the Eagles. But his last season with BC started poorly with an ankle injury, and neither he nor the team recovered, as he couldn't fit back into the lineup with Reggie Jackson. Sanders found a new home with Cooley, a former BC assistant with strong ties to Sanders and Eagles coach Al Skinner. Cooley is gone, but new coach Sydney Johnson, formerly of Princeton, has been pleasantly surprised by Sanders so far.

The team went to Italy in August, and through the first week of practice, Sanders has lived up to the hype. "He has been very good for us, and there is a reason he started his career in the ACC,'' Johnson said. "He has that caliber of talent. He has a high basketball IQ. He looks the part, too. He's a strong physical kid, who is fast and quick and has an understanding of how to play. He does the right things, and he's unselfish. I'm very pleased with him.''

Johnson said Wade is much more of a natural point, but he can play off the ball like Needham. He said he plans to alternate who handles the ball.

That question is an ongoing issue at Iona now that MoMo Jones is eligible. Machado handled it last season. And Jones did the same for Arizona. Cooley said taking the ball out of Machado's hands could hurt the chemistry, unless this team jells quickly together.

Iona coach Tim Cluess hadn't addressed this topic, because he didn't know Jones' fate for this season. Jones got the waiver because he transferred back to New York, his hometown, to be closer to his ailing grandmother.

How does he solve the problem with who has the ball? "Get two balls,'' Cluess said. "That's the interesting part. Realistically we're just starting to work on it on the court since we didn't want to invest time since we didn't know if they could play together. We will look at who has the ball, will they be interchangeable or if either can play the wing.''

Finding consistency next to Glover inside is also a question for the next few weeks. The expectation was that junior forward Taaj Ridley could be that person, but he has been hampered by foot and Achilles issues.

"I think it's wide-open,'' said Cluess, whose Gaels lost to St. Peter's in the MAAC final last March after the Peacocks upset Fairfield. "Fairfield has the edge. They won it last year, and they have two high-major players. But Loyola has five starters back and is a team that is dangerous. We have to make sure we have that team chemistry. Fairfield has the Boston College transfer, and he could be the best player in the league. They added Wade to what should be a powerhouse. But I like our chances against anybody with the way we shoot the ball.''

Iona and Fairfield have the mix of high-level transfers and four-year players who have blossomed into high-level college players. Each team could win a NCAA tournament game or two in the right scenario. But getting an at-large berth will be determined in the next two months.

The schedules for each favor getting recognized by the selection committee in March. Iona is in the wide-open Puerto Rico Tip-Off with an opener against Purdue on Nov. 17 and the possibility of playing Temple if the Gaels can knock off the Boilermakers. Playing at Marshall, a C-USA top-two team and going on the road in a winnable matchup at Richmond highlight the schedule. It doesn't hurt for power-rating points that Iona plays 11 road games before January.

Fairfield plays at Minnesota, a sleeper in the Big Ten, and has a legit shot to win the weakened Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla. Beating Old Dominion in December in Springfield will help, too. Drawing top-five UConn in Hartford, Conn., and visiting Drexel in late December will also assist the power rating.

Johnson walked into a ready-made situation to win again. "This isn't a rebuilding project,'' said Johnson, who led the Tigers to a thrilling Ivy League playoff win over Harvard and then nearly clipped Kentucky in the NCAA tournament opener for both teams. "Ed positioned us. We don't have a lot of excuses. We're preparing ourselves the best we can for March. I want to look in the mirror and when the time comes I want us to have done everything we can to seize the moment and this opportunity.''

At this time last year, Ben Hansbrough's name didn't appear on the Wooden Award preseason watch list.

Five months later, he edged out Connecticut's Kemba Walker for Big East Player of the Year.

Using that as a backdrop, let's remember that the list of 50 Wooden nominees is flawed, much like any of the award lists. The Wooden Award does not allow its voters to nominate any freshmen or transfers (either four-year or junior college) on their ballots.

And with college basketball as loaded with talent as any year since 2007-08, narrowing it down to 50 is not easy. So below I've attempted to come up with the names that didn't make it, either as "just missed the cut" omissions or just because they're freshmen or transfers. These guys aren't on the list (which can be found here), but might show up when it's updated during the season.

This group is by no means definitive, either. There's no telling who else might emerge nationally as the games get under way.

Let's take a look …

The omissions (in alphabetical order):

Julian Boyd, Long Island: The Blackbirds are the favorite again in the Northeast Conference and the main reason is because Boyd is back and ready to dominate the stat sheet.

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: The diminutive point guard does a little bit of everything; he averaged 15.8 ppg, 7.5 apg and 5.0 rpg for the Bobcats last season.

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Duke's Seth Curry
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesSeth Curry hasn't done enough to warrant a mention on a preseason watch list, but he might end up being a Wooden addition.

Jared Cunningham, Oregon State: Cunningham has some of the best hops in the sport and a chance to be a Pac-12 star, allowing the Beavers to finally move up in the standings this season.

Seth Curry, Duke: Curry was a standout shooter for the Blue Devils on their trip to China and could be one of the top scorers on the team.

Brandon Davies, BYU: Davies was recently reinstated to the Cougars, and the offense is expected to flow through him inside and out as BYU mounts a campaign to win the WCC in its first year in the league.

Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's: SMC coach Randy Bennett envisions this as one of the best teams he's ever had, but a lot of that will have to do with whether Dellavedova can shoot like Mickey McConnell did last season.

Greg Echenique, Creighton: Echenique was a rebounding force for Venezuela this summer and should do even more for the Bluejays with a full season to work with.

TyShwan Edmondson, Austin Peay: The Governors should be the favorite in the Ohio Valley with a legit scorer like Edmondson, who has a strong man, Will Triggs, to take pressure off him.

Kyle Fogg, Arizona: Fogg is next in line to assume a leadership position for the Wildcats, who are in a position to compete for Pac-12 titles for years to come.

Kevin Foster, Santa Clara: As a sophomore, Foster sort of came out of nowhere to average 20.2 ppg and become one of the nation's top 3-point shooters.

Chris Gaston, Fordham: The Rams aren't any good, but the nation's leading returning rebounder (11.3 rpg) at least deserves a shout-out in this space.

Yancy Gates, Cincinnati: UC coach Mick Cronin said he'd be surprised if Gates wasn't one of the 10 names on the Big East preseason first team.

Malcolm Grant, Miami (Fla.): The Hurricanes have to play most of the season without big man Reggie Johnson, so Grant will have more opportunities to shine.

Rob Jones, Saint Mary's: Jones could be a double-double regular for the Gaels, and for Saint Mary's to win the WCC, Jones will have to be a star.

Doron Lamb, Kentucky: John Calipari says Lamb will be the Wildcats' best player. Just Coach Cal mind games, or the truth?

Meyers Leonard, Illinois: Leonard didn't contribute a whole lot as a freshman, but he was a hidden gem on the U.S. U-19 team in Latvia this summer. The Illini are expecting big things out of him.

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh: McCollum is the nation's leading returning scorer (21.8 ppg) and is in the top five in steals (2.5 spg). Oh, and he did that as a freshman. What more do you need to know?

Cameron Moore, UAB: The Blazers have been consistently good under Mike Davis and have had unheralded C-USA stars. Moore is the latest.

Toure' Murry, Wichita State: If the Shockers win the Missouri Valley over Creighton, a lot of the credit will end up going to the veteran Murry.

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Ryan Pearson
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireRyan Pearson looks to lead Mason to another run to the NCAAs.

Brandon Paul, Illinois: Illini coach Bruce Weber was a bit surprised Paul didn't crack the top 50 on the Wooden list, given his overall importance to this team.

Ryan Pearson, George Mason: The Patriots are a trendy pick for the Top 25 and a lot of that has to do with the versatility of Pearson.

Damier Pitts, Marshall: The Thundering Herd are a real sleeper to gain an NCAA tourney berth out of Conference USA in large part because of Pitts.

Herb Pope, Seton Hall: Pope has come back from multiple life-threatening situations and has a real shot as a senior to put it all together and finally shine.

Terrence Ross, Washington: The Huskies can't be dismissed as a major player for the Pac-12 title, and if they win it, Ross will be a significant reason why.

Robert Sacre, Gonzaga: Sacre has matured into a solid post player, and that progress shows no signs of stopping as the Zags once again compete for the West Coast title.

Mike Scott, Virginia: If the sleeper Cavs mount a run to the NCAA tournament, the oft-injured Scott will be the reason why.

Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State: If Sidney is in shape and plays up to his potential, he has SEC Player of the Year potential and could be the difference between the Bulldogs making the NCAAs or NIT.

Andrew Smith, Butler: The Bulldogs will have fewer stars this season, but Smith has a chance to outshine Khyle Marshall and newcomer Roosevelt Jones with his scoring prowess in the post.

Chace Stanback, UNLV: Stanback's suspension to start the season is only one game, so that won't diminish his ability to lead the Rebels in their hunt for a Mountain West title.

Raymond Taylor, Florida Atlantic: FAU quietly won the Sun Belt East Division last season and Mike Jarvis' diminutive point guard was the catalyst behind the regular-season championship.

Hollis Thompson, Georgetown: If the Hoyas are to make the NCAA tournament again and be a pest in the upper half of the Big East, then Thompson needs a breakout season.

Kyle Weems, Missouri State: Doug McDermott is the one everyone is talking about in the Valley, but let's not forget that Weems is the reigning MVC Player of the Year. Too bad for the Bears he's their only returning starter.

Kendall Williams, New Mexico: The sophomore guard was the leading scorer in four postseason NIT games for the Lobos and should only get better with the addition of Australian Hugh Greenwood.

The transfers

Dewayne Dedmon, USC: Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill firmly believes this JC transfer is an NBA talent who could dominate the post and average a double-double for SC.

Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State: The former UTEP big man is ready to have a bust-out season for a team that has serious bounce-back potential after a disappointing 2010-11 campaign.

Mike Rosario, Florida: The former Rutgers scoring guard finally has plenty of support around him and will put up numbers for a winner.

Rakim Sanders, Fairfield: The Boston College transfer should flourish after dropping down a level, and he should get coach Sydney Johnson another trip to the NCAA tourney. Johnson is beginning his first year at Fairfield after leading Princeton to the 2011 tourney.

Royce White, Iowa State: White is finally ready to be a star on the college scene after multiple transgressions at Minnesota.

Brandon Wood, Michigan State: The Spartans picked up a rare senior transfer (taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule) from Valparaiso who could be one of the best shooters in the Big Ten.

Tony Woods, Oregon: The embattled Woods arrived from Wake Forest after legal issues and has a chance to really shine as a double-double player for the first time in his career.

The freshmen

Bradley Beal, Florida: Beal has a chance to be a productive player in a frontcourt that has a vacuum after multiple seniors departed.

Gary Bell Jr., Gonzaga: Coach Mark Few has been anticipating Bell's arrival for over a year now. He's expected to step in and deliver right away.

Wayne Blackshear, Louisville: The Cardinals fancy themselves a Big East title contender, and that's partly because they consider Blackshear a star in the making.

Jabari Brown, Oregon: Brown was the star of the Ducks' trip to Italy with his scoring prowess, and expect that to continue in the Pac-12.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State: There is some question right now as to Carson's eligibility, but if he's good to go, the Sun Devils might become relevant in the Pac-12 again.

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Anthony Davis
Brendan NolanThere seems to be little doubt that freshman Anthony Davis will have a major impact for UK.

Erik Copes, George Mason: Copes was bound for George Washington before Karl Hobbs was fired; now he'll be a headline performer for the Patriots and first-year coach Paul Hewitt.

Anthony Davis, Kentucky: Davis has a chance to be the SEC Player of the Year and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, so expect him to be on the midseason list when freshmen are allowed.

Andre Drummond, Connecticut: He will be an immediate star and help lift the Huskies into the national title chase again. He's more than likely a future top-five pick in the NBA.

Myck Kabongo, Texas: Coach Rick Barnes has had quite a bit of success with big-time freshmen guards, and Kabongo is next in line.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky: Gilchrist will be another star on what will be a headline team throughout the season.

Johnny O'Bryant, LSU: Coach Trent Johnson needs the Tigers to start trending upward again, and he has a shot with the arrival of the big man from Mississippi.

LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State: OSU is a bit of a mystery team in the Big 12, but the All-American from Dallas could push the Cowboys into contention.

Austin Rivers, Duke: Rivers will have the ball in his hands quite a bit and appears to be the next Duke star in a lengthy list of recognizable names.

Josiah Turner, Arizona: The Wildcats will win the Pac-12 regular-season title if Turner is as good as advertised.

Cody Zeller, Indiana: If coach Tom Crean is going to turn the Hoosiers into a relevant team this season, it will be because of Zeller and his impact in the Big Ten.

The fallout from Florida and Fairfield canceling their game because of Tuesday's Northeast snowstorm will be felt long after the season ends for one team.

Florida won't feel any effects from it. The Gators will return the money from purchased tickets and continue as if nothing happened. But the sting will last for Fairfield.

The Stags were due a guaranteed sum of $75,000 to $80,000 for playing the game, a standard fee for teams that play a road game against a power-six school without a return.

Florida has confirmed that because the game wasn't played, it isn't responsible for paying Fairfield. The money that Fairfield was due would have been used in a variety of ways, including helping pay for coach Ed Cooley's salary and for the recruiting budget. The Stags played one other guaranteed game this season (at Penn State), but the exposure wasn't the same. Fairfield was also due to be on ESPNU on Tuesday night against the Gators, but instead lost a rare nationally televised appearance.

As the MAAC favorites, the Stags still have two other nationally televised games on ESPNU -- at Loyola (Md.) on Jan. 14 and against Iona on Feb. 4. The Gators already lost a home to Jacksonville on Dec. 20, so a chance at a potential upset is now gone, as is the possible power-rating points for playing the SEC East preseason favorites.

"We haven't played a very good schedule, [it's] good enough for who we are right now, but to get a strength of schedule game like that, it would have helped our RPI in case you go on a long run,'' Cooley said of his 8-3 Stags (2-0 in the MAAC). "We lost a national spotlight game in recruiting, a chance to sell our university and a chance for people to watch us play that normally wouldn't.''

And then there is the financial hit.

"These are funds that we would use in recruiting that we need for subscription services for opportunities to recruit," Cooley said. "All of this money goes into the program. I'm just pissed off that we didn't get on television, too. We sacrificed with our team early with competition that wasn't as stiff but we got better, and we've won seven in a row. I thought the way we've been playing and practicing that we had a chance. We were going there to win. Whether or not we did, who knows. But we had a lot going for us.''

Cooley said both coaching staffs, especially Florida coach Billy Donovan and assistant Larry Shyatt, did everything they could to help the Stags reach Gainesville in time to play the game.

Cooley said the original plan was for Fairfield to fly to Orlando on a direct flight Monday at 11:10 a.m. from White Plains, N.Y. But that flight was canceled Sunday night during the snow storm. Cooley said the Stags then tried to get out on a charter flight but couldn't get charter service to pick them up.

"We couldn't get anything out of the Northeast. We tried Monday night and even Tuesday, the day of the game,'' Cooley said. "We were trying to fly day of the game and tried to do it from Manchester, N.H., all the way down to Washington, D.C. Everything was sold out. There wasn't one ticket to buy to get to Orlando, Tampa or Jacksonville or Miami.''

Cooley said the Stags looked into a number of possibilities, one of which included Cooley, one assistant, a trainer and nine players making the trip.

And another option was even more desperate. "It came down to seats at one point, and we thought maybe if I fly down with the top six guys,'' Cooley said. "It was some crazy stuff. I was on the phone with Billy and Larry, class guys, they wanted to play the game as much as we did. It was a matter of Mother Nature. This is a big, big loss for our program not playing the game.''

The Gators and Stags were looking into alternative dates, but they couldn't play this week. Florida plays at Xavier on Friday, while Fairfield hosts Army. The schools looked at open dates later in January and then into February but couldn't agree on a slot that wasn't an issue for their respective conferences.

"There was just no way to squeeze it in there,'' Cooley said. "Now we'll have 11 days in between games.''

Fairfield likely has to win the MAAC tournament to get an NCAA tournament bid, but not having the game against Florida will hurt the Stags' overall RPI for seeding in March.

• New Mexico coach Steve Alford said Wednesday that Emmanuel Negedu won't play for the foreseeable future after his defibrillator went off at halftime against The Citadel on Dec. 19. Negedu collapsed while at Tennessee in September 2009. He didn't lose consciousness but the "bad read" of his defibrillator meant he had to be held out of competition while undergoing more tests. Negedu was in Las Vegas last week for New Mexico's games against Colorado and Northern Iowa. He said at the time that he was "under the weather" and was going to have some tests. Alford said that Negedu would go on the trip to Texas Tech (a 61-60 win Wednesday) and Dayton (Saturday). New Mexico cleared Negedu to play, but Indiana -- his first choice after Tennessee -- didn't clear him to play. Alford said everything had been fine with Negedu since he's been at New Mexico. When visited Albuquerque in October, Negedu said he had no issues throughout the summer and early fall. But this latest red flag may mean he won't play again.

"He's a great kid, and we're hoping for the best,'' Alford said. "He's a tremendous kid. He's only a sophomore. We'll wait and see how it plays out. But I told him the best thing is finding this out beforehand. Unfortunately others don't. We'll take care of him. We're glad he's with us.''

Monroe's return adds to Georgetown's potential

October, 28, 2009
NEW YORK -- Greg Monroe was the perfect candidate to leave school early for the NBA draft.

He was a big man with exceptional passing reads who had lived up to his high school hype. He was the Big East Rookie of the Year after averaging a dozen points and nearly seven boards a game. He had NBA personnel tantalized by his skill set. And he led Georgetown -- to the NIT.

You can't blame Monroe for the Hoyas' sudden free fall in the middle of their Big East schedule that saw them drop seven of their nine games in January. (Six of the seven were league losses; the other was at Duke.) Monroe was hardly alone, as inexperience reigned over the Hoyas at the worst time.

"I don't know how to explain it," Monroe said of the downward spiral in which the Hoyas went from 11-1 to 13-8 en route to a pedestrian 16-15 finish (7-11 Big East). "We didn't make plays down the stretch when we needed them: a stop, a rebound or execute our offense. We couldn't find a way to do it. There's a big difference this year since we understand what has to be done. We will win more games this year."

A year ago, Georgetown cruised into the Old Spice Classic in Orlando and torched rival Maryland by 27 points. The Hoyas then beat Memphis at home by nine in overtime. And then, the kicker, Georgetown opened Big East play in late December with a stunning 11-point win at co-league favorite UConn. All three of those victims went to the NCAA tournament, with UConn a No. 1 seed.

"I thought we had a chance to be special in this league after that game," Monroe said as he recalled the UConn game while at last week's Big East media day in New York. "We had a tough game after that [a 16-point home loss to Pitt]. But it was a special conference last year. This year there is more balance. The league lost a lot of stars. We have a better focus and we know what it takes to win more games."

Monroe could have bolted. He could have run for the easy money as Georgetown floundered for the first time under John Thompson III with a 12th-place finish in the Big East after winning the league in consecutive years with a Final Four berth two seasons ago.

But the Hoyas' win-loss record had nothing to do with Monroe's decision.

"I just had to evaluate myself, and I knew I wasn't ready to make that step," said Monroe, whom an NBA team likely would have selected in the top 10 despite his assessment. Monroe said his skills weren't polished enough. He wasn't physical enough.

"Of course I want to play in the tournament," Monroe said. "But I can't make a mistake leaving too early."

Somehow Thompson wasn't surprised by the refreshing and true analysis.

"He can look in the mirror and be honest with himself," Thompson said. "He likes the collegiate experience. He likes being at Georgetown. There are a lot of kids out there that look for the first opportunity to go. Sometimes it's right, and sometimes it's wrong. They want to jump and get to the league. But he can look in the mirror and be honest with himself that he has to be stronger and improve his offense. There's no rush for him to make that jump."

Now, don't be surprised if he does it after his sophomore season. The 6-foot-11 Monroe should be in contention with Notre Dame's Luke Harangody for Big East Player of the Year if he can live up to his expectations. The Hoyas should be a better fit for making a run at a top-three finish with the experienced junior backcourt of Austin Freeman and Chris Wright, role-playing wings Jason Clark and Nikita Mescheriakov and a deeper frontcourt.

Losing DaJuan Summers (13.6 points per game) early to the NBA draft and senior guard Jessie Sapp (6.5 PPG) is a hit. You can spin their departures all you want, but Summers was still a talent and a potential mismatch. Sapp added a solid, experienced guard. But there was clearly something amiss with last year's group that didn't always mesh. The spring training-like buzz about this group is that it is in a better space.

"The hunger is different," Thompson said. "The energy is different. It's not an excuse, but we did have six players in our rotation last year that were going through it for the first time. That's a reality. It was a bad year to be inexperienced in this conference."

Thompson is banking on the natural growth process of a college team. Through the first two weeks of practice, he is seeing that this squad is no longer running scared at times.

The confidence Thompson gleaned during the offseason was evident by his taking on a more challenging schedule in December. Thompson didn't hesitate to schedule top-15 team Butler in the Jimmy V Classic in New York on Dec. 8 and then fly out to Anaheim to play one of the Pac-10 favorites in Washington at the Wooden Classic. Thompson has said it's a Big East-like week. It is, with more travel. He likely wouldn't do that stretch if he weren't confident this team could make a run within the conference.

Playing the Colonial League's top team in Old Dominion again at home -- a team that has given the Hoyas fits recently -- will be a tough follow-up to that Butler-Washington stretch when the Hoyas return to Washington, D.C., to face the Monarchs on Dec. 19.

"We have the pieces," Monroe said. "We lost two great players in Jessie Sapp and DaJuan Summers, but with me, [junior] Julian Vaughn emerging and the freshmen coming along well, we've got the pieces for us to be versatile."

Thompson said the wide-eyed look of a young team is gone. This squad still doesn't have a senior. But it has a big man who could be one of the best in the country. If he is, the Hoyas should be a factor throughout the season, not just in spots in November and December.

• The MAAC predictions had Siena projected to win the league yet again. The Saints have a real shot to win a third straight first-round NCAA tournament game. The Saints won 27 games last season and return key players Ronald Moore and Edwin Ubiles.


As has been the case recently, Niagara was picked second. Rider, with preseason player of the year Ryan Thompson, was third followed by Fairfield, Loyola, Saint Peter's, Canisius, Manhattan, Iona and Marist.

There was a time earlier this decade when the latter three teams were at the top of this conference. That shows how difficult it is to maintain success at this level when there are coaching changes. The continued excellence in the MAAC at Siena and Niagara can be attributed to the decisions of the coaches and schools to keep Fran McCaffery and Joe Mihalich, respectively. The long-term commitment by both coaches is a direct result in their programs' maintaining a place atop the league.