Despite losing Greg Nero and Warren Edney before the season even began, Ed Cooley led his Fairfield Stags to within one game of the NCAA Tournament. The Stags will have to replace Anthony Johnson and Mike Evanovich up front, but with the steadily improving Ryan Olander back and a solid recruiting class. And with MAAC Rookie of the Year Derek Needham more than likely to improve (as will classmate Colin Nickerson), look for the Stags to be pegged one of the preseason favorites come October. The same can be said for Iona, who welcomes Tim Cluess as their new head coach.
Kevin Willard parlayed a third-place finish into the job at Seton Hall, but enough can't be said for how well he did in three years in New Rochelle. Led by Scott Machado and a host of returnees, the cupboard definitely isn't bare for Coach Cluess. And with top assistant Jared Grasso the Gaels will be heard from on the recruiting trail; as interim head coach he put together a very good class at Fordham despite not being a lock to get the job permanently. Iona and Saint Peter's look to be the teams poised to close out the top four next season given the amount of talent returning to both teams.
The outstanding backcourt duo of Wesley Jenkins and Nick Leon will return to Jersey City, as will forward Ryan Bacon, for John Dunne. Add in UTEP transfer Blaise Ffrench and the Peacocks can make a case when it comes to actually winning the MAAC. Coach Dunne and his staff have done a good job of rebuilding the program and getting them into position to have realistic championship hopes, and next season could mean another jump for Saint Peter's. And while Rider loses Ryan Thompson due to graduation they do return a number of skilled contributors and should finish in the top half of the league standings next season.
Niagara got off to a slow start in conference play but they finished well, getting to the conference tournament semifinals where they lost to Fairfield. Four senior contributors will need to be replaced but it's never wise to sell Joe Mihalich short. Look for the Purple Eagles to remain competitive and threaten to finish in the top half of the standings. Canisius will also have to replace a key senior in point guard Frank Turner, who leaves as one of the best players in school history. But with key contributors such as Greg Logins, Elton Frazier and Tomas Vasquez-Simmons due back Tom Parrotta's team could make a move in 2010-11.
The bottom three is the group with the most work to do in the offseason. Jimmy Patsos has a team that could at the least gain separation on Manhattan and Marist next season, although finding a replacement for Brett Harvey won't be easy. But with Brian Rudolph and Jamal Barney returning in addition to some solid recruits the Greyhounds should at the least finish ahead of the Jaspers and Red Foxes. Manhattan will take on heavy losses in the backcourt, which gets even worse with Rico Pickett (the MAAC scoring champ) deciding to pursue pro opportunities overseas.
The good news for Manhattan? Barry Rohrssen brings in a good recruiting class complete with help in the backcourt in the form of Michael Alvarado and Dayvon Whitaker, and forward Joel Wright should also have an impact in Riverdale. As for Marist, they've got a lot of work ahead of them despite Javon Parris being the lone departing senior. Chuck Martin's squad won just one game last season, and they'll need to reach double figures at the least to convince fans (and possibly the powers that be) that the program isn't in a holding pattern. This is a young group that took more than its share of lumps in 2009-10, but next year looks to bring more of the same at first glance.
Below is a ridiculously early ranking of the ten MAAC teams for next season, complete with personnel additions and losses. These will be updated as new developments on the recruiting trail (and transfer/dismissal) happen.
Verbal commitments in italics
Personnel losses: C Jonathan Huffman, G Milan Prodanovic
Personnel addition: G Sean Armand (Brooklyn, NY), F Aleksander Kesic (Belgrade, Serbia), F Randy DeZouvre (Montreal, QC/Monroe (NY) College), F Michael Glover (Bronx, NY/College of Eastern Utah), G Jayon James (Paterson, NJ)
Personnel losses: F Anthony Johnson, F Mike Evanovich, F Greg Nero (did not play in 2009-10; career possibly over), F Shimeek Johnson (transfer), G Jamal Turner (transfer)
Personnel additions: G Jamel Fields (Albany, NY), Keith Matthews (Sebastian, FL), F Maurice Barrow (Queens, NY), F Majok Majok (Sudan/Northfield Mount Hermon School)
Personnel losses: F Alex Franklin, F Edwin Ubiles, G Ronald Moore, G Just-in'love Smith, G Denzel Yard (transfer)
Personnel additions: F Trenity Burdine (Reading, PA), G Rakeem Brookins (Philadelphia, PA)
4. Saint Peter's
Personnel losses: F Jamin Shumate (transfer)
Personnel additions: G/F Chris Burke (Willingboro, NJ), G Blaise Ffrench (UTEP transfer; sat out 2009-10), F Markese Tucker (Trenton, NJ/will redshirt in 2010-11), G Chris Prescott (West Hartford, CT/St. Joseph's, will sit out 2010-11 per NCAA transfer rules)
Personnel losses: G Ryan Thompson, F/C Robbie Myers, G Carl Johnson (transfer), F Jermaine Jackson (transfer)
Personnel additions: F Daniel Stewart (Philadelphia, PA), G Anthony Myles (Dover, DE), G Tommy Pereira (Nottingham, England)
Personnel losses: G/F Bilal Benn, G Rob Garrison, G Tyrone Lewis, F Demetrius Williamson
Personnel additions: G/F Antoine Mason (New Rochelle, NY), G Skylar Jones (Mount Vernon, VA), F Shaquille Duncan (Philadelphia, PA), G Harold Washington (Brandywine, MD/Cecil CC) G Kevon Moore (UNC Wilmington transfer; sat out 2009-10), F Joe Thomas (Miami, FL)
Personnel losses: G Frank Turner, G Bob Bevilacqua
Personnel additions: G Ashton Khan (Scarborough, ON), F Eric Kindler (Trinity, PA), F Chris Manhertz (Bronx, NY), G Gaby Belardo (USF transfer; sat out 2009-10)
Personnel losses: G Brett Harvey, F Garrett Kelly, G Tony Lewis, F Jawaan Wright
Personnel additions: G Dylon Cormier (Baltimore, MD), G Justin Drummond (Washington, DC), G Pierson Williams (Woodland Hills, CA), F David Samuels (New Rochelle, NY), F Erik Etherly (Northeastern transfer, sat out 2009-10)
Personnel losses: G Antoine Pearson, G/F Darryl Crawford, G Patrick Bouli, G Victor Jackson, F Brandon Adams, G Rico Pickett (leaving school early)
Personnel additions: G Mike Alvarado (Bronx, NY), F Rhamel Brown (Brooklyn, NY), F Robert Martina (Pompano Beach, FL), G Kidani Brutus (Bronx, NY), G Torgrim Sommerfeldt (Oslo, Norway), F Roberto Colonette (Queens, NY/ASA Institute)
Personnel loss: G Javon Parris
Personnel additions: F Jay Bowie (Tampa, FL), C Adam Kemp (Sherrill, NY), F/C Peter Prinsloo (Dover, DE)