Friday, November 9, 2007

New Season, New Look... Marist Hoops Preview

This time last year, campus was buzzing with anticipation for Red Fox Basketball. Thoughts of one of the nations top point guards leading the Red Foxes to a MAAC crown and March Madness bid danced through the minds of Marist faithful. Now, that all seems long and far ago and on the eve of this years season opener the buzz has turned to background noise.

Who's Out
With the loss of last years senior "Big Three" of Jared Jordan (NBA), Will Wennington (all time 3's leader) and James Smith (NBDL), it will be a new look Marist team that will be on the floor in Sunday's season opener agaisnt Deleware. Living up to last years 25-win(should have been in the Big Dance) team, who defeated OK State in the first round of the NIT and brought more hype to Marist Hoops since Rik Smits rocked the rims of McCann, won't be easy. Especially considering the type of teams that Siena, Niagara and Loyola are putting out there. But don't count out this years Red Foxes just yet.

Who's In
In addition to the return of starting seniors Ryan Stilphen and Ben Farmer, the Red Foxes look to establish a new core built around fan favorite Spongy Benjamin, who will be cleaning up the boards down low and former Syracuse guard Louie McCroskey who can get the hole at will. Senior forward Shae McNamara should see some more minutes and look for the pure shooting Ryan Schneider from Vermont to pick up the slack left by Wennington from downtown, while grabbing more rebounds. The thing that Brady does so well year after year is bring in big talent, and he did so again this season with point guard David Devezin, who will help fill the void left by Jordan. Devezin played at Texas A&M two seasons ago and backed up point guard Acie Law, who is now a rookie on the Atlanta Hawks.
This years Red Fox club is revamped with more athletic talent and depth and will look utilize that that in their new system.

"We've got more players in the rotation, we're more versatile and we've got more team speed," said Coach Matt Brady. "We're going to play much faster."

With Red Foxes more athletic this season you can expect a more up-tempo style of play on both sides of the ball. With the addition of two quick guards in backcourt (McCroskey and Devezin) and more playing time for the 'Energizer Spongy', look for this team to excel in transition and utilize the fast break. Also, expect a better effort on the defensive end with a high energy press and full-court trap. The perimeter defense will also improve from last season as McCroskey is a hard nose defender who can shut down the quicker guards in the MAAC.

On the flip side, inexperience and a lack of cohesion could hurt them early on. There are simply too many questions and 'what ifs' surrounding this 'post- Jordan' team and not enough experience playing together to crown them MAAC champions for the second straight year. With a tough out of conference schedule and a much improved MAAC conference across the board, the Red Foxes will have to come together quickly to have any chance of being a powerhouse once again.

After tomorrows season opener against Delaware, the Red Foxes will travel to Puerto Rico to play Miami in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Tip-Off. The Foxes will then come home and for Colgate and Richmond before heading to Bucknell. Other notable games include St. Johns and Hoftstra/ V-Tech in the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden. The Red Foxes will have a rematch against rival Siena with a home and home in early February and an ESPN BracketBuster game later in the month before the MAAC tournament starts up in March.

Health is the key for the Red Foxes as they depend on their athleticism to 'play fast' and out hustle their opponents. However, even when at full strength, the lack of experience playing together and the inability for the seniors to adapt to the new system right away, will hurt the Red Foxes chances. Ultimately, they'll have to wait for MAAC tournament time to make some noise in this conference.
Prediction: 19-12, 4th in the MAAC

MAAC Prediction
1. Siena
2. Loyola
3. Niagara
4. Marist
5. Manhattan
6. Rider
7. Fairfield
8. Iona
9. Canisius
10. Saint Peter’s

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