With Momo Jones having joined Scott Machado and Mike Glover in professional ranks, Iona's stage has been set for Sean Armand to complete his evolution. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)
Earlier this morning, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference unveiled its preseason third team, which consists of a pair of Manhattan Jaspers in senior guard Michael Alvarado and junior Emmy Andujar; as well as Siena shooting guard Rob Poole, Fairfield swingman Maurice Barrow, the conference's reigning Sixth Man of the Year, and two burgeoning big men in newcomer Ike Azotam of Quinnipiac and Chris Manhertz of Canisius. The league will reveal its second team tomorrow and first team on Friday via its Twitter feed, but we'll do our friends at the MAAC office one better tonight in offering our award predictions for a 2013-14 campaign that features Iona seeking a successful title defense for their third consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance.
Player of the Year: Sean Armand, Iona (16.6 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 3.0 APG, 41% 3pt in 2012-13) (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)
Most other MAAC insiders will most likely anoint Canisius' Billy Baron for this honor, and although that is a well-deserved pick, we are just of the belief that Armand will make such a jump from last season to the point where he becomes a household name across the nation as he enters his senior year, and does so as the face of the Gaels after serving as sidekick to Momo Jones last season after a supporting role behind Scott Machado and Mike Glover two years ago. What makes Armand so formidable is his shooting from both sides of the arc, as last season proved that the Brooklyn native can do more than just shoot three-pointers, of which he made 112 as Iona emerged from a morass in which they lost six of seven games by three points or less to run the table in Springfield on the way to the program's first conference championship since 2006. With a longer and much more athletic lineup around him, not to mention walking double-double David Laury in the paint, expect Armand's all-around totals to be much higher this season as he will be near the top of the leaderboard in national scoring.
Rookie of the Year: Marquis Wright, Siena (Photo courtesy of the Albany Times Union)
All you need to do when considering Wright among the top freshmen in a league that has always been conducive to immediate impacts is look at his productivity during Siena's five-game trip to Montreal at the end of August, when he averaged 13.6 points per game for the Saints, and demonstrated enough skill to lead the new uptempo system installed by Jimmy Patsos to the point where the new coach had no problem penciling Wright into the starting five as Siena's point guard for the Saints' opener against Albany on November 8th. Pay attention to Trevis Wyche of Saint Peter's as well this season, as the freshman will run the point for John Dunne and the Peacocks.
Sixth Man of the Year: Shane Richards, Manhattan (7.2 PPG, 40% 3pt in 2012-13) (Photo courtesy of USA Today)
A co-Rookie of the Year honoree in the MAAC last season, Richards is the biggest X-factor in Steve Masiello's arsenal as the Jaspers enter the 2013-14 season intent on proving their number one ranking in the preseason poll to be a valid appraisal of the talent in Riverdale. The arrival of Ashton Pankey to form arguably the best frontcourt in the New York metropolitan area will free Richards up on the wing to receive, and subsequently bury, open three-point looks from Michael Alvarado and the returning George Beamon. Most dangerous from the corners, the Manhattan native should see more games like his 18-point outburst against South Carolina last December as the Jaspers go through the season.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rhamel Brown, Manhattan (11.4 PPG, 7.2 RPG, 3.0 BPG, 1.0 SPG in 2012-13) (Photo courtesy of Manhattan College)
Surprisingly denied a spot on the MAAC's first team at the end of last season, Brown should have no problem earning that distinction as the senior builds off a dominating campaign in which he won his second straight MAAC Defensive Player of the Year award. Just as he will do for Shane Richards, Ashton Pankey's return to the hardwood will benefit Brown even more, as opposing teams will be forced to pick their poison when defending the lane, which allows Brown to alter shots at an even greater velocity just seven months removed from setting the school record for blocked shots. A dark horse candidate for Player of the Year honors, Brown has already been described by Steve Masiello as one of the greatest players to ever put on a Manhattan uniform, something the world will see over the next several months.
Coach of the Year: Tom Moore, Quinnipiac (Photo courtesy of Quinnipiac University)
This honor came down to Moore and Jimmy Patsos of Siena, but if Quinnipiac can live up to the fourth-place prediction we levied upon them last month, Moore should have no problem earning the award for top tactician as he guides the Bobcats into a major step up in competition after the school left the Northeast Conference in July. Like fellow Jim Calhoun disciples Steve Pikiell, Howie Dickenman and Kevin Ollie, Moore is the perfect blend of fierce competitor and affable personality, and blends that with the hard-nosed mentality infused in him as an assistant coach at UConn to make his team a tough out on any given night. If Moore can get Quinnipiac to finish anywhere in the top half of the MAAC standings come March, this award could very well be his to take home.