Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Iona tops preseason MAAC predictions, Monmouth 2nd, Manhattan 3rd

Tim Cluess and Iona receive No. 1 preseason poll selection for second consecutive year, as Gaels garnered ten of eleven first-place votes. (Photo courtesy of Brian Beyrer via Iona College Athletics)

If the purpose of conference awards and preseason polls is to reward winning, then the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference certainly fulfilled that axiom this evening.

As expected, Iona topped the preseason coaches' poll for the second year in a row, receiving all but one first-place vote and earning 119 out of 121 possible points.

"I think we'll have better depth than we did last year," Gaels head coach Tim Cluess said when assessing his team on the MAAC's prerecorded award show, which was broadcast live on ESPN3. Since expanding to a 20-game conference schedule, Iona has gone an astounding 35-5 in league play the past two seasons, yet has walked away empty-handed in the conference tournament, falling to Manhattan in both of the last two championship games.

Speaking of the reigning champions, the Jaspers ended up in a tie for third with Rider, as both teams received 91 points, with Manhattan securing the lone first-place vote that Iona did not get.

"We have to understand that we're not the last two years' teams," said Steve Masiello, cautioning that this season's incarnation of the Jaspers will be a different unit than those that preceded it. However, the same mentality that contributed to Manhattan striving to become only the third program in MAAC history to win three consecutive league titles remains as strong as any point in Masiello's tenure, which now begins its fifth season.

"We're trying to make history," he reaffirmed, driving home the prevailing theme of Manhattan's latest attempt at an encore. "We have to understand that every time we step on the court, the other team is trying to take the championship from us. We can't let that happen."

In between Manhattan, Iona, and Rider was Monmouth, who was picked second on the heels of an 18-win season and appearance in the conference semifinals. The Hawks return nearly everyone from last year's roster, including junior point guard Justin Robinson, who was named to the conference's preseason first team, and add transfer Je'lon Hornbeak after he sat out the past season following his exodus from Oklahoma.

Siena, who seeks to rebound from an 11-20 season marred by injuries, rounds out the top five. Canisius, Quinnipiac, Fairfield, Saint Peter's, Marist, and Niagara conclude the predicted order of finish.

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