Final Metro Ranking Part II: Bottom Half

    
April 5th, 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 (Part II)

 

            10. Columbia (11): Coming into the season, I thought that the Lions had a good chance to challenge for the Ivy League title. And they did get off to a good start, winning their conference opener against Princeton. But they lost their next three league contests, and while they were competitive all season they didn’t have a significant impact on the title race until they knocked off Yale February 24th. The good news in this 16-12 season: not one senior was on this roster in 2006-07, meaning that the Lions have a very good chance to compete at the top of the standings in 2007-08.

            Leading scorer John Baumann, a first team all conference selection, is one of ten Lions that played at least 12.8 minutes per game this year. Experience will be plentiful, so don’t be surprised if Joe Jones’ squad wins the Ivy’s automatic bid next year. Stock heading into 2007-08: up.

 

            11. Wagner (10): Once again I drank the Wagner “Kool Aid” heading into 2006-07, and I once again consider myself to be let down by the results. Despite returning numerous key contributors from 2005-06, the Seahawks went 11-19 this season, 8-10 in the competitive Northeast Conference. Only Matt Vitale will be lost due to graduation, so maybe this group was a little too young to compete for the NEC title. Youth will not be an excuse next year with the number of key components returning next season, including leading scorers Mark Porter and James Ulrich.

            The Seahawks lost six of their last eight games, including blowouts at the hands of Central Connecticut and Sacred Heart to end their season. A lack of scoring from the bench is what did this team in, so hopefully the year in experience will bring about some welcome contributions from the reserves. Stock heading into 2007-08: up (hopefully).

 

            12. St. Francis (NY) (13): The Terriers were able to double their win total from 2005-06 (nine, up from four in 2005-06), but to measure their progress solely in wins and losses would be unfair. Head coach Brian Nash got his players to commit to the defensive end while improving their offensive output. You’d never think that this team would score 102 points in a game, something they accomplished in their win over Robert Morris February 17th. The three-game win streak to end the regular season meant their first NEC Tournament appearance in four years, where the fell to eventual champion CCSU in the quarterfinals.

            Forward Robert Hines came onto the scene and was one of the better players in the NEC, garnering second team All-NEC honors. The Terriers will have to find a way to replace swingman Allan Sheppard, but this is a young team that has a lot of talent returning in 2007-08. Look for the Terriers to have more of a say in who wins the Northeast Conference next year. Stock heading into 2007-08: up.

 

            13. Army (15): After a horrid stretch in the later stages of the season that saw the Black Knights lose seven straight and eight of their last nine, Army won their Patriot League quarterfinal over Lehigh. They eventually fell to Bucknell in the semifinals, but at least they didn’t see the Bison or Holt Cross in the first round. Despite playing a number of players each game, the fortunes of the Black Knights depended on the backcourt of Jarell Brown and Matt Bell. This wasn’t a particularly strong offensive team, but they certainly didn’t lack in the effort department.

            In order for this team to compete next season, they need to find a replacement for Bell on the offensive end. Or at least hope that Jarell Brown becomes one of the nation’s best scorers. No offense, but I don’t see that happening next year. This will be a more balanced team out of necessity, and with heavy personnel losses at Bucknell, American and Lehigh, the opportunity to move up in the Patriot League pecking order is there. Stock heading into 2007-08: steady.

 

            14. Long Island (12): At 3-2 in NEC play heading into their game with Central Connecticut State on January 15th, the Blackbirds seemed to be in good shape when it came to qualifying for the NEC Tournament. Well, they then lost their next seven league games to put themselves in a hole they couldn’t find their way out of. LIU went 3-10 in to end the season, missing out on the eight-team conference tournament. Five contributing seniors, led by leading scorer James Williams, leave Brooklyn due to graduation, and you have to wonder where the points will come from next season.

            Look for incoming freshman Jaytornah Wisseh (Brooklyn, NY) to have a chance to put up some points. Wisseh, despite being 5’11”, is a point guard with a nose for the basket, something that the Blackbirds will need desperately in 2007-08. Stock heading into 2007-08: down.

 

            15. Stony Brook (14): Like St. Francis, the Seawolves improved their win total from 2005-06 by five games, winning nine this season. But unlike the Terriers, this improvement didn’t mean a rise in the conference standings, once again bringing up the rear in America East. Four key seniors, led by leading scorer Ricky Lewis, move on with the end of this season, so it remains to be seen which youngsters step into larger roles in 2007-08. The good news is that head coach Steve Pikiell played a lot of his younger players this season, giving them valuable experience. How they do next year will depend on who steps into new roles and produces, but this program is headed in the right direction, slowly but surely. The departures due to graduation may slow the progress down some, however. Stock headed into 2007-08: down.

 

            16. NJIT (16): In their first season of Division I college basketball, the Highlanders won five games. Of course, it’s tough to find a) games you can win and b) games period when you’re an independent. Among the departures due to graduation are the team’s leading scorer, guard Clayton Barker, along with forward Marc Milbourne Shaw. Head coach Jim Casciano will have a tough time recruiting to a small school that can’t dangle the carrot of a possible NCAA Tournament bid due to their lack of a conference affiliation. The Highlanders will be a program to watch in the near future due to the recent nature of college athletics (conference shuffling), so to get into a league at some point would definitely be a positive for the school. Stock heading into 2007-08: down.

 

            17. St. Peter’s (17): In year one after Keydren, the Peacocks found out just how tough the adjustment would be without their four-year star. Add to this a new coaching staff and you have all the makings of a really tough season in Jersey City. On the positive side of things, only forward/ center Kinzey Reeves leaves the program, and he wasn’t counted on for much of a tangible contribution other than leadership. Forward Todd Sowell and guards Raul Orta and Kevin Spann will look to help lead John Dunne’s squad up the MAAC standings, and incoming freshmen Jordan Costner (West Orange, NJ) and Wesley Jenkins (Bloomfield, NJ) will have an opportunity to contribute as well. Yes they only won five games this season, but I look for the Peacocks to be much improved in 2007-08. Stock heading into 2007-08: up.

 

            18. Iona (18): One year after the Gaels represented the MAAC in the NCAA Tournament, the sky practically fell on the program, going winless until their win over Rider February 3rd. The end result of the 2-28 season was the decision by the program and head coach Jeff Ruland to go their separate ways, buying out the final two years of his contract. You can blame injuries and a lack of experience for the majority of healthy contributors for this season. Do not expect the Gaels to play this poorly in 2007-08 regardless of who the next head coach is. I look for someone with strong ties to the New York metropolitan area to get the job.

Redshirts Gary Springer (injury) and Younes Idrissi (Georgia) should be available next year; while we should probably wait and see about Dexter Gray (academics limited the St. John’s transfer to four games). How much the Gaels improve will undoubtedly depend on who gets the head coaching job and what they can do during the summer in terms of recruiting. Stock heading into 2007-08: undecided.

 

Metro Ranking Part One: Top Half