2007-08 Holy Cross Basketball Preview
Holy Cross Crusaders
Overall Rank: #73
Conference Rank: #1 Patriot
2006-07: 25-9, 13-1, 1st (t)
2006-07 postseason: NCAA
Holy Cross put an end to the Bucknell dominance in the Patriot League last year by knocking them out of the conference tournament in the finals. It was not just one lucky day in March that made the Crusaders successful. Coach Ralph Willard’s squad went 13-1 in conference play, with the one loss coming at Bucknell. The two teams could not have been more even last year, but it is the Crusaders who have the upper hand heading into the 2007-2008 campaign.
However, there are some major concerns in Worcester. With the departures of Keith Simmons and Torey Thomas, the strength of the team moves to the frontcourt. Simmons was more than just a great scorer, although he was definitely that as well. To go along with his 16.9 points per game, the 6-5 guard added 5.8 rebounds. Thomas ran the show and contributed 13.7 points per game. His turnovers were a little high, but there is no question that Thomas was an effective floor leader.
It is likely that Andrew Beinert will earn some time at both guard positions this year. The 6-3 Floral Park, New York native is a smart floor leader, an excellent passer and a more than capable scorer. It may be hard to keep Beinert off the floor and Holy Cross could definitely use his versatility on the perimeter. Josh Jones may find it difficult to find minutes in a loaded frontcourt, but the 6-8, 220 pound freshman is a good athlete and will be a solid foundation for the future in the frontcourt.
Who to Watch:
It is 6-11 center Tim Clifford who will dominate the paint after averaging 11.7 points and 4.6 rebounds last season. However, Alex Vander Baan may be the most important player. Vander Baan averaged 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds last season starting at the power forward position. This year he may be asked to play the small forward spot. He has the outside shooting ability and the ball handling skills to play the three, but how it works out on the defensive end remains an issue. The reason for moving him to the three is due to the bevy of talent up front with Andrew Keister, Adam May, Greg McCarthy and Eric Meister. Keister, a freshman, only saw action in a few games last year and received a medical redshirt, but he did show some potential. It is Meister who would most likely step into the starting power forward spot if Vander Baan can indeed successfully move to the small forward position. Meister did not put up big numbers in the scoring column, but he will be a force on the defensive end and an effective rebounder. In the team’s last game, Meister had his coming out party, scoring 14 points and grabbing eight rebounds against Southern Illinois in the NCAA Tournament. If he can keep up that offensive production, Holy Cross will be in great shape.
The perimeter group may not be the strength of the team and replacing Simmons and Thomas will not happen any time soon, but there is plenty of potential and experience. Pat Doherty provided the spark off the bench last year and will step into the starting point guard role this season. Nagging injuries have been a concern, but now is the time for the junior to step up and become a team leader. Kyle Cruze is not your typical shooting guard. His numbers do not show it, averaging 5.3 points and 2.2 assists, but Cruze started the last 25 games of the season. Barring some unexpected consistent scoring, Cruze is not the long term answer this season. At 6-6, Colin Cunningham will add some size to the perimeter. He is a decent shooter and will be able to show off his skills now that the team needs him to look for his shot more often. Lawrence Dixon missed over half of the games last season with an injury. The 6-5 wing is a tough, hardworking defender and, if the injury bug does not strike again, the junior will be a solid contributor.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Pat Doherty, Junior, Guard, 5.3 points per game
Kyle Cruze, Senior, Guard, 2.1 points per game
Colin Cunningham, Junior, Forward, 1.8 points per game
Alex Vander Baan, Junior, Forward, 6.4 points per game
Tim Clifford, Senior, Center, 11.7 points per game