Now we come to the bottom of the poll, where there wasn’t much in the way of positives to be found this season. NJIT (0-29) completed a historically bad season, the worst winless campaign in the history of Division I basketball. With head coach Jim Casciano stepping down at season’s end the Highlanders are also in need of a head coach. Whoever steps into that opening will have a lot of work to do in terms of talent along with the confidence level of the returning players. Princeton (5-22) also made history for the wrong reasons, with year one of the Sydney Johnson regime coming in as the worst in school history. Add to this the fact that their two leading scorers (Noah Savage and Kyle Koncz) are both seniors, and you have to hope that guys like Lincoln Gunn can step into those holes next season.
Stony Brook (7-23) once again had a tough season in America East, but they were able to win their first round conference tournament game before falling to eventual champion UMBC. Their top two scorers from this year, Ricky Lucas and Mitchell Beauford, are both out of eligibility so any improvement made will most likely rest upon the shoulders of returnees such as Demetrius Young and Michael Tyree. Monmouth (7-24) was the benefactor of some help on the season’s final weekend, resulting in a trip back to the Northeast Conference Tournament after a one-year hiatus. However, for Dave Calloway’s team to improve upon their seven wins they must improve on the offensive end of the floor.
St. Francis (7-22) came into 2007-08 feeling optimistic about their chances at competing in the NEC, and instead was one of the area’s more disappointing teams as they didn’t even qualify for the conference tournament. The loss of a few key seniors, most notably Robert Hines and Marcus Williams, will put Brian Nash’s program into rebuilding mode heading into next season. Finally, St. Peter’s (6-24) says goodbye to a trio of seniors in Todd Sowell, Raul Orta and Tim Spitler. They had the unenviable task of trying to get the program moving in a positive direction after the graduation of Keydren Clark and the retirement of Bob Leckie. But with youngsters such as Wesley Jenkins, Darrell Lampley and Nick Leon due back, John Dunne won’t have an empty cupboard in 2008-09.
Before the actual ranking of these last six teams, here are the members of the Metro All-Rookie team.
Metro All-Rookie Team
G Jay Gavin (Marist) – 12.3 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 77.1% FT
With Louie McCroskey missing a good chunk of the season due to injury, things could have headed downhill in a hurry for the Red Foxes. But they didn’t, thanks in large part to the play of Gavin, who’s been racking up the honors this off-season. He’s also been named MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year, CollegeHoops.net Honorable Mention Mid-Major All-Freshman, and CollegeInsider.com Freshman Mid-Major All-American. And with a number of key contributors out of eligibility, this young sharpshooter is capable of even more in 2008-09.
G Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall) – 12.8 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 1.4 spg
The word explosive would be an accurate one to use in describing the scoring ability of Jeremy Hazell. The freshman from the Bronx, named to the Big East’s All-Rookie Team, was able to put on clinics at times this season. He lit up Louisville for twenty-nine points, and was also hot in losses to Connecticut (28 points) and West Virginia (30). But to underscore his streakiness, Hazell also have seven games in which he made no more than one field goal. Improved consistency could result in Hazell making one of the two All-Big East teams next season.
G Charles Jenkins (Hofstra) – 15.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 apg
Jenkins, named CAA Rookie of the Year, was the man to step into the role of being Hofstra’s number two scoring option. The freshman from Queens reached double figures in every game except for two: the season opener against Holy Cross, and their game at VCU January 12th. And those are two teams who tend to do pretty well on the defensive end so there shouldn’t be much shame in that. His most impressive effort came in their BracketBusters win at Iona, a game in which he recorded his first career double-double (28 and ten rebounds). With Antoine Agudio moving on, more of the scoring load falls upon his shoulders. But Charles has shown this season that he can get it done.
G Wesley Jenkins (St. Peter’s) – 13.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 41.7% 3PT
Named to the MAAC’s All-Rookie Team, Jenkins led the Peacocks in scoring this season. Hailing from Newark, Wesley was one of three St. Peter’s freshmen among the team’s top four scorers, which should mean good things in the future. The first sign of thing to come from Jenkins came in the fourth game of the season, one in which he scored twenty-six in a loss to Rutgers. This remained his career-high until the BracketBusters game with Boston University in which he scored twenty-seven.
F Justin Burrell (St. John’s) – 10.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 73.5% FT
Of all the youngsters to enter the St. John’s program this season, Burrell was the most impressive. Leading the team in rebounding and ranking second in scoring, the Big East All-Rookie Team selection showed he was more than capable of banging inside with some of the more established post presences in the league. With some of the other post players around him gaining some experience as well, look for him to improve his numbers with additional help from the likes of Sean Evans, Dele Coker and Rob Thomas.
Honorable Mention All-Rookie
G Corey Chandler (Rutgers)
G David Devezin (Marist)
G Kyle Johnson (Long Island)
F D.J. Kennedy (St. John’s)
F Mike Ringgold (Rider)
Final Rankings 18-23
18. St. Francis (7-22)
Maybe I went into this season expecting a little too much from the Terriers, but is reaching the middle of the pack in the NEC too much to ask? When relying too much on the three, St. Francis struggled to win games. But when they got the ball inside to Robert Hines and resolved to attack the basket they were capable of doing some things, most notably their win at Sacred Heart. Five seniors, including three starters, now leave the program and it should be interesting to see whether or not the Terriers can make a move up the standings next season.
19. St. Peter’s (6-24)
Like the Terriers, St. Peter’s will have to replace some senior leaders. However, they should look forward to next season with some optimism since three of their top four scorers will be back. Oh, those three were all freshmen this season. Nick Leon will take over full-time at the point, and while talented he has a tendency to speed up a little too much at times. The key to the Peacocks improving upon their six wins will be finding a replacement inside for Todd Sowell. And that will not be an easy task for John Dunne and his coaching staff.
20. Monmouth (7-24)
The Hawks scuffled at times on the offensive end, averaging an NEC-worst 59.2 points per game. Jhamar Youngblood and Whitney Coleman both averaged double figures, but when your top two scorers both hover around twelve points per game you’d better be getting it done by committee. Dave Calloway had no such luck this season. The good news is that Monmouth didn’t have one senior on the roster, and Coleman was one of just two juniors (Alex Nunner the other). So inexperience was a factor, and this should mean that next year the Hawks will move up in the NEC pecking order.
21. Stony Brook (7-23)
Steve Pikiell will have to replace his starting backcourt of Ricky Lucas and Mitchell Beauford heading into next season. And how well players such as Demetrius Young and Michael Tyree do in expanded roles will determine if the Seawolves can get out of that 8/9 game in the America East Tournament. But along with Emanuel Neto, Lucas and Beauford are the only players who won’t be returning so some progress is possible. But in order for Stony Brook to improve their standing, they’ve got to shoot the ball better. 39% from the field and 32.6% from behind the arc will make it tough on just about anyone to win games.
22. Princeton (5-22)
Year one under Sydney Johnson was a tough one and it may not have been a good year in which to make the trip out to the Maui Invitational. Senior forward Noah Savage was named Second Team All-Ivy League due to his play, but the Tigers struggled mightily on the offensive end of the floor. Lincoln Gunn will be the team’s leading returning scorer in 2008-09, but their style of play is one that will light up the scoreboard. So the assist-to-turnover ratio, which was tied for last in the conference, and rebounding margin (last in the Ivy) must improve next year.
23. NJIT (0-29)
The best way for the Highlanders to get over this season is to erase it from memory. Secondly, they’ll need to find a new head coach who understands the challenges that come with leading a provisional program. Forward Nesho Milosevic was a bright spot this season, leading the team in both scoring and rebounding in his first season on campus. So the question remains: how much better can this team be in 2008-09? Hate to say it, but unless the new coach is a miracle worker they should be right back at the bottom of this poll again next year. Just hope that the Highlanders win a couple in the process.
All-Metro Team & Ranking 1-5