The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference descends upon Springfield for the final time in their three-year agreement with the Basketball Hall of Fame host this weekend, and after its all-conference teams were revealed on Monday, we're going to jump the gun a little bit in revealing our award picks before the actual honorees are recognized later in the week. For those of you scoring at home, here are our preseason prognostications from back in October.
Going into the season, we were overrating Baron just a little bit. Five months later, we could not have been more wrong about the man who makes the Golden Griffins' motor run, as the other highly successful coach's son in the nation put together a season that truly is one for the ages, highlighted by the 24 points per game and ability to knock down a shot from almost anywhere in the building. Without Baron, Canisius would still be a team in the middle of the MAAC standings. Without Sean Armand and George Beamon, Iona and Manhattan would still be contending for a regular season championship, so that's what this comes down to.
Rookie of the Year: Khallid Hart, Marist (14.6 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 38% 3pt) (Photo courtesy of the Buffalo News)
While Marquis Wright made the impact everyone expected he would for Jimmy Patsos and Siena, he was admittedly overshadowed by the emergence of a fellow dynamic, high-scoring freshman guard. A redshirt under Chuck Martin last season, Hart blossomed in Jeff Bower's first year at the helm, running the former NBA head coach's offense with equal parts confidence and aplomb as Marist earned the No. 6 seed in the MAAC tournament, the program's best result since current James Madison head man Matt Brady won a regular season championship on the shores of the Hudson in 2007.
Sixth Man of the Year: Evan Hymes, Siena (9.5 PPG, 2.5 APG, 35% 3pt) (Photo courtesy of 4 Guys In Blazers)
Due to a technicality, Iona's David Laury; who would be the runaway winner if he did not start five more games than the maximum permitted by MAAC bylaws, Hymes becomes the choice here. One of Jimmy Patsos' biggest difference makers, Hymes makes up for his 5-8 stature with a larger than life competitive spirit and ability to knock down clutch shots, as he did two weeks ago in the Saints' upset of Manhattan. Speaking of the Jaspers, Emmy Andujar got heavy consideration in this category, as did reigning Sixth Man Maurice Barrow of Fairfield, but Hymes' contributions to a Siena team that overachieved with their 11-9 MAAC record after being picked tenth in the conference's preseason poll are enough to give him the call.
Defensive Player of the Year: Rhamel Brown, Manhattan (9.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.8 BPG. 53% FG) (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)
No contest. Criminally left off the all-MAAC first team for the second year in a row, the best big man in the New York area only picked up where he left off in this, his final campaign in Riverdale. Making his presence known both under the rim and by altering shots in the lane, the man Steve Masiello compared to an insurance company made sure the Jaspers were in good hands even when George Beamon and Michael Alvarado were not on the floor, guiding Manhattan to a 22-7 record and 13 wins away from Draddy Gym.
Coach of the Year: Tom Moore, Quinnipiac (19-10, 14-6 MAAC) (Photo courtesy of Quinnipiac University)
This award will likely be presented to Tim Cluess, which isn't a bad choice considering that although everyone expected Iona to be among the class of the conference, hardly anyone had the Gaels finishing league play with a 17-3 mark, setting a MAAC record for most conference wins in a single season. However, what no one anticipated was just how smooth Quinnipiac's transition from the Northeast Conference would be as they stepped up in class. Despite losing Umar Shannon for the season, the Bobcats have remained near the top of the leaderboard all year, and scored an unlikely 3-1 record against Iona and Manhattan thanks to the hard-nosed rebounding style that Moore honed to perfection as a Jim Calhoun assistant, as well as Ike Azotam and Ousmane Drame.