Monday, July 9, 2018

MAAC Monday: Early all-conference predictions

Isaiah Reese, who received three votes for MAAC Player of the Year last season, should be preseason choice heading into junior season at Canisius. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

MAAC Monday returns with another special offseason edition, one in which we will attempt to gauge the impending preseason all-conference honors that accompany the release of the coaches' poll in October.

Coming up with a list of 15 players to bestow all-league distinctions upon is not the easiest task during the season, and we'll post the disclaimer now that our award editions of MAAC Monday over the course of the year are probably the longest to put together, outside of the first set of tiebreaker scenarios. Last season, we had Jermaine Crumpton and Kahlil Dukes -- who split Player of the Year honors in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference last season -- on our preseason second teams, with Crumpton's teammate, Isaiah Reese, left off our preseason list when we posted it in May. The latter will not happen again, as the junior guard may perhaps be the frontrunner for Player of the Year billing this time around. Here is our full list of 15, three months before the actual vote is revealed:

First Team
Preseason Player of the Year: Isaiah Reese, Canisius (16.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 4.7 APG, 2.2 SPG, 46% FG, 88% FT, 36% 3-pt FG in 2017-18)
Roland Griffin, Iona (11.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 53% FG, 67% FT)
Stevie Jordan, Rider (12.6 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 5.9 APG, 1.6 SPG, 45% FG, 66% FT)
Dimencio Vaughn, Rider (16.1 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.8 SPG, 51% FG, 76% FT, 35% 3-pt FG)
Cameron Young, Quinnipiac (18.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 42% FG, 75% FT, 30% 3-pt FG)

Analysis: Reese, along with teammate Takal Molson, tested the NBA Draft waters this offseason and gained valuable feedback from professional scouts before withdrawing and returning to Canisius, where he will lead the Golden Griffins into a season where the expectations are at perhaps the highest level since the program's 1996 MAAC title. It is not inconceivable to see Vaughn, Rider's leading scorer last season, get some votes for Preseason Player of the Year after his revelatory campaign as a redshirt freshman, and he will be a central figure for a Broncs team that returns nearly everyone from last year's regular season championship outfit while welcoming a pair of high school teammates in Ahmad Gilbert and Kimar Williams following their transfers from Minnesota and Florida International, respectively. Jordan is the man who makes the motor run in Lawrenceville, and after a Rookie of the Year-caliber season was supplemented by an even stronger production as a sophomore, the rock-solid point guard will be an even more integral piece to the puzzle for Kevin Baggett. Young, who received an extra year of eligibility during the offseason, instantly makes Quinnipiac a top-tier MAAC team this season, and will benefit greatly from the influx of guards that Baker Dunleavy and associate head coach Tom Pecora have recruited into Hamden. The wild card here is Griffin. Do not be surprised if the actual vote lands Rickey McGill on the first team, especially given the league's track record of rewarding its seniors, but Griffin has been hyped up by several coaches between the MAAC Tournament and the present day, justifying Tim Cluess' repeated gushing that he would be an even stronger component of the Iona machine this season. If the hype is any indication, Griffin -- the former Illinois State transfer -- could have a David Laury-esque impact in New Rochelle as the Gaels shoot for an unprecedented fourth consecutive MAAC championship. For what it's worth, Laury was the Preseason Player of the Year in 2014-15, and backed it up with regular season honors the following March as well.

Second Team
Rickey McGill, Iona (13.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 5.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 45% FG, 70% FT, 38% 3-pt FG in 2017-18)
Takal Molson, Canisius (12.6 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, 44% FG, 69% FT, 37% 3-pt FG)
Brian Parker, Marist (17.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.4 APG, 47% FG, 71% FT, 32% 3-pt FG)
Pauly Paulicap, Manhattan (10.0 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 2.5 BPG, 56% FG, 62% FT)
Frederick Scott, Rider (12.8 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 52% FG, 38% 3-pt FG)

Analysis: McGill, probably the one player in the MAAC that does not get anywhere near the credit he deserves for leading Iona by example on and off the floor, heads into his final season as the floor general behind the hardware for the reigning conference champions, and should have a final productive coda to one of the more decorated careers in league history. Molson will take the next step forward after a Rookie of the Year campaign turned into one where professional scouts took notice of the homegrown talent on the wing, one who will have Canisius ready to replicate their overachieving efforts of one year ago. Parker heads into his senior year with a possible first team nod if past voting is any indicator, and will have a chance to augment his defensive skills and become a more complete player under new head coach John Dunne, who undoubtedly has prepared himself to unleash a talent he coached against for three years at Saint Peter's. Paulicap, a junior going into his second year in the Manhattan program, is arguably the most explosive player in the conference, especially in the lane and under the rim. The argument can be made that Paulicap had the strongest debut season for any first-year Steve Masiello player, and with four seniors having graduated this past May, there is no question that the Elmont native is the face of the retooling Jaspers now. Scott is a redshirt sophomore much like his teammate, Dimencio Vaughn, and showed an innate ability to run the floor like a point guard despite his size on the front line. If he can improve his free throw shooting, Rider will go much further in March than expected.

Third Team
Jordan Allen, Rider (13.4 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 38% FG, 83% FT, 39% 3-pt FG in 2017-18)
Jesus Cruz, Fairfield (9.1 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.6 SPG, 43% FG)
Deion Hammond, Monmouth (12.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 41% FG, 67% FT, 39% 3-pt FG)
Malik Johnson, Canisius (7.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.5 SPG, 44% FG, 74% FT, 34% 3-pt FG)
Marvin Prochet, Niagara (10.3 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.0 BPG, 42% FG, 71% FT, 38% 3-pt FG)

Analysis: Allen, narrowly edged out by Molson in the Rookie of the Year race last season, has the benefit of playing alongside the likes of Jordan, Vaughn and Scott, which allows him to create mismatches on the floor and score at will if he can exploit defenses. He will need to develop more discipline as a volume shooter, however, if he is to be a continued boon to Rider's season. Cruz could very well be the most underrated player in the conference this year. A late find for Sydney Johnson last season, the native of Puerto Rico came out of the clouds to turn into one of the MAAC's best two-way players last year, and with both of the Stags' leading scorers having moved on -- Tyler Nelson to the professional ranks and Ferron Flavors, Jr. having transferred -- Cruz could find more opportunities on the offensive end this season, especially with a full year of Aidas Kavaliauskas running the point. Hammond is ready to step into the vacated role of Micah Seaborn as Monmouth's primary weapon, and definitely has the long-range chops to do so. In fact, head coach King Rice was adamant about wanting to get him more touches last season as a freshman. A pair of Western New York players round out the third team here, with Johnson getting recognition for the impact he makes both with the ball in his hands and by enhancing the talent level of those around him, and Prochet -- the MAAC's leading rebounder last season -- getting a nod as he heads into his senior season, one in which he may average close to a double-double per game.

Honorable Mentions
E.J. Crawford, Iona (12.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 46% FG, 80% FT, 34% 3-pt FG in 2017-18)
Tyere Marshall, Rider (10.3 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 1.0 APG, 51% FG)
James Towns, Niagara (9.1 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 2.1 APG, 48% FG, 79% FT, 36% 3-pt FG)

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