After the top five in the final rankings, there were a few schools that hovered around the .500 mark for most of the season, only to come out on the short end so to speak. But that doesn’t mean that this season was a complete failure for teams such as LIU, Fairfield and Yale. The Blackbirds finished dead even at 15-15, their first non-losing record 1997-98. Jim Ferry’s team, led by guard Jaytornah Wisseh and forward Eugene Kotorobai, will have to replace Kotorobai and Kellen Allen as they look to improve upon this season’s seventh-place finish in the Northeast Conference.
As for the Stags of Fairfield (14-16), head coach Ed Cooley will see key contributors such as Second-Team All-MAAC performer Jonathan Han and backcourt partner Herbie Allen back next season. Yale (13-15), who was expected by some to be more of a player in the Ivy League race (it ended up being everyone try to chase Cornell), has to replace a mainstay at guard in Eric Flato, along with swingman Caleb Holmes and big man Matt Kyle. But some key contributors will be back next season, led by forward Ross Morin.
Also in the group is a pair of Big East schools in St. John’s and Rutgers, and Fordham. Both Big East members were extremely young this season, but a year of seasoning along with some key recruits (especially Mike Rosario at Rutgers) should allow both to be in the top five next year. Fordham, on the other hand, can fall back one no such excuse as their season would have to be regarded as a disappointment. And that word may be kind. But before the ranking of those six teams, here are the members of the Second-Team All-Metro squad.
G Manny Ubilla (Fairleigh Dickinson) - 20.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 4.9 apg, 42.9% 3PT
A member of the NEC’s Second Team All-Conference squad, Ubilla was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise disappointing year for Tom Green’s Knights. The senior from Freehold, N.J. failed to reach double figures just twice this season, and he also ranked second in the conference in three-point percentage. His best scoring effort this season was the thirty-nine he dropped on Rhode Island back on January 2nd.
G Mark Porter (Wagner) - 16.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 5.5 apg, 1.9 spg
One of the keys to the success enjoyed by the Seahawks was the play of the senior guard from Atlantic City, also named First Team All Conference in the NEC. His 5.5 assists per game ranked behind only Robert Morris’ Tony Lee in the NEC, and he led a team with five players averaging double figures in points per game. The senior will definitely be missed on the Staten Island campus next season. Porter, who averaged thirty-seven minutes per game this season, had three games in which he reached double digits and assists and two double-doubles.
F John Baumann (Columbia) – 16.1 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 51.4% FG
The main cog in the Lions’ attack, Baumann was named to the Ivy League’s First Team All-Conference squad due to his efforts. Baumann, who leaves Columbia as the number six scorer in the history of the program, ranked second in the Ivy League in all three categories listed above and first in scoring in Ivy League games. For the second straight season Columbia finished at .500 in conference play, something that wouldn’t have been possible if not for the hard work of Baumann.
F Todd Sowell (St. Peter’s) – 12.7 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.2 bpg
To describe the senior forward from Brooklyn as a warrior would be appropriate, given the fact that he gave his all each and every night out on the floor for the Peacocks. Named to the MAAC’s Second Team All-Conference squad for his effort, Sowell averaged the second double-double of his career (he also did this as a sophomore). They may not have won many games, but the Peacocks may have done even worse than their six wins if not for Todd Sowell. He’ll definitely be missed in Jersey City.
F Durell Vinson (Wagner) – 13.6 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 55.8% FG
Vinson, like Mark Porter (they’ve been teammates in both high school and college), was named to the Northeast Conference’s First Team All-Conference squad and was the difference-maker this season for Mike Deane’s Seahawks. Last season Wagner sputtered without the services of their most dependable big, but this year they finished in second place in the NEC. How dominant was Vinson on the glass this season? His average was tops in the NEC by four rebounds per game.
Final Rankings 6-11
6. Fairfield (14-16)
The Stags, after getting off to a slow start for the second consecutive season, were able to fight their way back into the thick of the MAAC regular season race by season’s end. Alas, they fell short of the top spot and ended up finishing in fifth place, losing to Loyola (MD) in a close MAAC quarterfinal. While they do lose seniors such as Marty O’Sullivan and Mamadou Diakhate, the bulk of this team will be back in forwards Greg Nero and Anthony Johnson, and guard Jonathan Han and Herbie Allen. They’ve got a shot to make some noise in the MAAC next season.
7. Fordham (11-17)
Heading into the season, you would have thought that the Rams would have a better shot at finishing 17-11 instead of 11-17. But even with five senior starters returning, they found a way to plummet from the preseason prognostication of fifth in the Atlantic 10 to twelfth, barely qualifying for the conference tournament. Bryant Dunston once again did the job inside, and as a team Dereck Whittenburg’s squad did improve offensively. But they weren’t consistent enough on defense, or when it came to taking care of the basketball. It’ll be interesting to see what this team can do next year with a recruiting class led by guard Jio Fontan arriving on campus.
8. St. John’s (11-19)
The Red Storm certainly went through their share of growing pains, hitting rock bottom in the blowout loss to Georgetown in the Garden, a place in which the two charter members of the Big East have staged many memorable battles. The 74-42 was one for the books as well, and not for good reasons either. The only key contributor who won’t be back is senior guard Eugene Lawrence, which should mean that Norm Roberts’ team is ready to make a move up the Big East standings. Forwards Anthony Mason Jr. and Justin Burrell will be the headliners in 2008-09.
9. Long Island (15-15)
The Blackbirds head into the off-season with optimistic thoughts following their best season in ten years, along with the fact that a few of the key contributors are slated to return. Guard Jaytornah Wisseh was one of the NEC’s best by season’s end, and he’ll be back along with two members of the league’s All-Rookie Team in guards David Hicks and Kyle Johnson. Pairing those two with Wisseh will make the Blackbirds quite dangerous in 2008-09.
10. Yale (13-15)
The Bulldogs finished .500 in conference play, the eighth straight season in which they’ve completed Ivy League play with at least seven league wins. And in another dose of good fortune, they’ll return a pair of Second Team All-Conference Team members in forwards Travis Pinick and Ross Morin. Both led the conference in a statistical category (in Ivy League games), with Pinick averaging 8.9 rebounds per game and Morin shooting 64.2% from the field. But unfortunately for head coach James Jones, he’ll have to replace a quartet of seniors led by team captain Eric Flato.
11. Rutgers (11-20)
It was a tough way for the young Scarlet Knights to learn what playing in the Big East is all about, but they should all be back next season and they head into 2008-09 on a positive note. JR Inman hit a shot at the buzzer to defeat bitter rival Seton Hall in the season finale, and with McDonald’s All-American Mike Rosario on his way Fred Hill should have a pretty good team in 2008-09. Freshmen Corey Chandler and Mike Coburn were two of the team’s top four scorers, and Hamady N’Diaye got even more experience inside. Not sure just how far they can move up the Big East standings next season, but look out for these guys.
All-Metro Team & Ranking 1-5
All-Rookie & Ranking 18-23