Metro Basketball Report: Final Ranking

April 2nd, 2007
Another season of college basketball in the New York City area is complete, and it’s another year of teams from leagues other than the Big East carrying the flag. Marist, who won the MAAC regular season crown outright for the first time in school history, got over the disappointment of not winning their conference tournament by winning at Oklahoma State in the MasterCard NIT. Hofstra, predicted by many as a team with a chance to be “this year’s George Mason”, wasn’t able to make the NCAA Tournament but they did notch their second straight postseason bid. After that, the area schools had to put the balls away until next season.


As of right now, Iona is the only school looking for a new head coach, and this due primarily to the fact that a few programs have recently made new hires. Look for the next head man in New Rochelle to have some significant connections to the area in order to help out with recruiting, something that a school can fall behind on the longer they go without a head coach. 2006-07 was a down year for many of the schools, but due to the amount of young talent slated to return, 2007-08 should be a much better year for New York City college basketball.


2006-07 Final Rankings


            1. Marist (last poll: 1): In addition to their first-ever outright MAAC crown, the Red Foxes won a school-record 25 games, and got the school’s first postseason win. Significant departures from the program include honorable mention All-American point guard Jared Jordan (two-time national assist champion), sharp shooting guard Will Whittington and seven foot center James Smith. Head coach Matt Brady will have a pair of four-year transfers at his disposal in Louie McCroskey (Syracuse) and Ryan Schneider (Vermont). But the most important newcomers may be freshman guards Jay Gavin (Forestville, MD) and Jeremiah Bowman (White Plains, MD).

            Regardless of who takes over in the backcourt, there are some big shoes to fill. Look for returning starters Ryan Stilphen and Ben Farmer to have a larger impact on the Marist attack, but this team will be hard-pressed to match this season’s success. But if you’re expecting the Red Foxes to become a doormat in the MAAC, you’ll learn the hard way that they still have some talent on campus. Stock heading into 2007-08: down.


            2. Hofstra (2): The Pride, despite the loss of forwards Aurimas Kieza and Adrian Uter, found a way to reach the twenty win plateau on the backs of their three-headed guard attack. Loren Stokes and Carlos Rivera are out of eligibility, leaving Antoine Agudio at the reigns in Hempstead. But the entire supporting cast this season returns, including bigs Chris Gadley and Mike Davis-Sabb, who learned a few lessons in the paint this season. Look for them, along with perimeter players Greg Johnson and Zygis Sestokas, to step up in larger roles next season.

            Coming into the program are a pair of guards (Devon Peterson and Nathaniel Lester) from Brooklyn, along with another body inside (junior college transfer Darren Townes). Look for all three to have an impact next year, but they will be hard-pressed to completely fill the space left by Stokes and Rivera. Stock heading into 2007-08: down.


            3. Fordham (7): If you’re trying to figure out which team in the NYC area has the best shot to make the NCAA Tournament next year, then Fordham may be your pick. In finishing the season 18-12, the Rams put together back-to-back seasons without a losing record for the first time since the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons. In case you forgot, the Rams were a member of the Patriot League when this occurred. Guard Marcus Stout has improved his scoring average in each of his three seasons in the Bronx, and forward Bryant Dunston once again was named All-Atlantic 10.

            Offensive consistency was something that plagued the Rams throughout the season last year, but look for things to improve next season. No recruiting commitments have been announced as of yet, but with all their key parts returning next season, Dereck Whittenburg’s Rams will be a team to watch in the Atlantic 10 in 2007-08. Stock heading into 2007-08: up.


            4. Sacred Heart (5): The Pioneers improved significantly in 2006-07, going from seventh to second place, and five points stood between them and an NCAA Tournament bid when it was all said and done. Head coach Dave Bike had a number of offensive options at his disposal, led by senior guard Jarrid Frye. Eight Pioneers averages at least eight points per game this season, and this is why they led the Northeast Conference in scoring at 78.5 points per game. Other than Frye and Tavio Hobson, the team returns intact, looking to make a run to the NCAA Tournament. No recruiting commitments have been announced at this time. Stock heading into 2007-08: up.


            5. St. John’s (3): If you look at this past season for the Red Storm with the “glass half full” perspective, then you’d point out that St. John’s qualified for the Big East Tournament for the first time in four seasons. “Glass half empty”: you’d state that St. John’s shouldn’t have the goal of merely qualifying for the event, which is played on their “home court”. Once again the Red Storm were without the services of guard Daryll Hill due to knee issues, and once again this team had trouble putting the ball in the basket at times. Besides Hill, Norm Roberts will have to find a way to replace forwards Lamont Hamilton and Aaron Spears.

            Forward Anthony Mason Jr. continued his progress, and look for him to be option number one next season. Heady guard Eugene Lawrence returns for his senior campaign, and there were some shining moments for freshman forward Qa’rraan Calhoun at the end of the season. Add to this highly touted recruits on the interior (C Dele Coker and PF Justin Burrell), and there is a chance for the Red Storm to build on the progress made this year despite losing Avery Patterson and Ricky Torres (transfers). Red Storm fans will also enjoy watching freshman guard Malik Boothe, who despite being only 5’7” gives in to no one on the court. Whether or not St. John’s improves their standing in the Big East remains to be seen, but Red Storm fans have never been known to be patient. Stock heading into 2007-08: down.


            6. Fairfield (4): Despite losing All-MAAC guard Michael Van Schaick and classmate Danny Oglesby to graduation, the Stags are headed in the right direction under head coach Ed Cooley. They struggled mightily out of the gates this season, starting the year with a 3-15 record before going on a seven-game win streak to make things interesting in the middle of the MAAC standings. A 4-4 finish to the season doesn’t do the amount of progress made by this team proper justice. Freshman forwards Greg Nero and Anthony Johnson were outstanding at times in the paint, and the team also received contributions from freshman Roi Buchbinder and veterans Marty O’Sullivan and Mamadou Diakhate in the paint.

            Add to this returning group (as of this time, there was no announcement as to whether or not O’Sullivan would be back next season) starting guards Jonathan Han and Herbie Allen and you have a group that could definitely compete for the MAAC’s automatic bid in 2007-08. And with incoming freshmen Warren Edney (Chatham, VA) and Yorel Hawkins (Apex, NC), the Stags will have some depth on the perimeter. Stock heading into 2007-08: up.


7. Fairleigh Dickinson (6): Despite predictions of impending doom from people such as me, the Knights put together a decent 2006-07, finishing in a three-way tie for fourth in the NEC. Of course they dropped their last four to end the season, including a 78-77 heartbreaker to Quinnipiac in the NEC Quarterfinals, but that shouldn’t take away from what this team was able to accomplish. The Knights ended league champion Central Connecticut State’s twelve game win streak with a 66-60 home victory on February 17th. Unfortunately for head coach Tom Green, he’s going to have to find a way to replace forwards Andre Harris and Michael Peeples, two of the team’s top three scorers this past season. Incoming freshmen John Galvin (Weston, CT) and Jordan Stasyszyn (Carlisle, PA) are two players that will have a chance to compete for playing time in the fall. Stock heading into 2007-08: down, but not by much.


            8. Manhattan (8): Like conference rival Fairfield, the Jaspers were a young team in search of an identity early in the season due to a coaching change. But unlike the Stags, Manhattan does not lose an all-conference performer heading into next season. Only Guy Ngarndi is graduating, leaving Head Coach Barry Rohrssen with a good amount of talent at his disposal next year. Freshmen Darryl Crawford and Antoine Pearson saw a lot of minutes in the backcourt, and sophomore Devon Austin was the team’s leading scorer. The only disappointment for the Jaspers was the play down the stretch of big man Arturo Dubois, who seemed to disappear down the stretch at times.

            Six foot eight center Alanzo George (Brooklyn, NY) is the only recruit slated to join the program at this time, but if you remember the success that Coach Rohrssen and his staff had in signing talent after being hired, you know that there will be some more newcomers added to the fold before classes start in September. Heading into their MAAC quarterfinal with Siena, I thought that both teams had a chance to meet next season with a little more on the line. I stand by that statement. Stock heading into 2007-08: up.


            9. Seton Hall (9): The Pirates, in their first year under Bobby Gonzalez, were done in by their lack of size. Freshman Eugene Harvey and junior Brian Laing were both honored by the Big East coaches for their efforts this season, but the Pirates’ lack of depth is what did them in this season. On a good note, John Garcia was finally able to see some time inside, but of course this happened right around the time that senior Grant Billmeier was lost for the year to an ACL tear. Stan Gaines provided some help on the block, but the Pirates plan was to use their quickness to turn opponents over, something that they did quite well in fact (they led the Big East with 10.3 steals per game).

            With other contributors such as Paul Gause, Jamar Nutter and Larry Davis returning next season, the key will be how much help the Pirates get from their newcomers inside. Brandon Walters (Brooklyn, NY), Augustine Okosun (Bryn Mawr, PA) and Michael Glover (Bronx. NY, brother of former St. John’s star Anthony Glover) will all be asked to contribute inside for the Hall. As much fun as small ball was at times last year, size is something that is always a necessity in the Big East. Hopefully the newcomers will be able to help out in that area. Stock heading into 2007-08: steady.