Sunday, November 15, 2009

PAC men's basketball preview

Thomas More turned in a rare double play last year in basketball, winning both the Presidents' Athletic Conference men's and women's championships. It should be tougher this time around for the Saints, who suffered some big losses to graduation and have a new head coach on the men's side. The following is a preview of the Presidents' Athletic Conference men's teams in predicted order of finish, according to the conference's preseason poll:

1. Thomas More
Head coach: Jeff Rogers (1st year)
Last year: 102- in conference, 19-9 overall. Won PAC tournament. Lost to Capital in first round of NCAA tournament.
Outlook: The Saints put together one of the best stories in Division III basketball last year, going from worst (3-23 two years ago) to conference champion. head coach John Ellwood is gone, leaving for the same job at Division II Ashland. Also gone are four starters. Jeff Rogers, the Saints' assistant coach last season, moves over one spot on the bench this year so there won't be much of a change int he team's style of play. Senior point guard Romell Salone (9.9 ppg) is the only returning starter but the Saints' reserves last season logged more minutes than those of most teams. Thomas More has 13 newcomers on the roster including six transfers. With a new coach and so many new players, there's bound to be a period of adjustment. But the Saints will be tough to beat, especially at home, where they were 12-2 last year.

2. Washington & Jefferson
Head coach: Glenn Guierrez (4th year - 48-38 career)
Last year: 7-5, 20-10. Won ECAC South Division championship.
Outlook: The Presidents' inside game took a huge hit with the graduation of Josip Lucic-Jozak and Wahad Olawabi. Both were first-team all-conference picks last year and 1,000-point career scorers. Look for a larger scoring burden to fall to swingmen Albert Varacallo (10.1 ppg) and Brian Felker, pictured, (11.3 ppg). Also back is point guard Matt Drakeley (7.2 ppg). Guard Paul Matthews, who transferred from Hampden-Sydney for the second semester of last season but played in only two games with the Presidents, should have a much larger role this season. “These four players are as good as anyone else’s four in the conference," Gutierrez said. The Presidents will play good defense and shoot well from the perimeter. If they can hold their own on the boards, then they'll have a good shot at winning the conference championship.

3. Bethany
Head coach: Andrew Sachs (1st year)
Last year: 9-3, 17-12
Outlook: Sachs, who comes to Bethany from Holy Cross, is the Bison's third coach in three seasons. Bethany has a Washington County look as the roster includes senior Joe Testa (Trinity), senior Jonas Ankrom (Canon-McMillan), freshman Nick Wilcox (Peters Township) and freshman Nick Bryant (Washington). Gone is Lance Beckwith, a first-team all-PAC pick who played only one season with the Bison. Testa and junior Ryan McFadden give Bethany two returning starters inside. Ankrom, who sat out last season with an injury, is a good perimeter shooter. Expect Wilcox to make an immediate impact. With so much coaching turnover, you expect there to be a period of adjustment. if the Bison can adapt quickly to Sachs' style and schemes, then the Bison will be a dangerous team.

4. Grove City
Head coach: Steve Lamie (12th year - 156-132 career)
Last year: 6-6, 12-13
Outlook: The Wolverines have three returning starters, including 6-7 Andy O'Keefe (12.8 ppg), fifth-year senior Joe McCoy (11.0 ppg) and three reserves who combined to make 10 starts a year ago. Guard Luke Tomaselli, who missed last season because of injury, also returns. When Lamie is given that kind of experience, he usually produces a team that contends for the conference title. The key will be developing a reliable group of reserves to help what should be a strong starting lineup. Though picked fourth in the preseason poll, don't count out the Wolverines.

5. Westminster
Head coach: Larry Ondako (7th year - 76-85 career)
Last year: 7-5, 10-17
Outlook: Westminster hopes the strides it made during the second half of last season carry over to this year. The Titans started last year 1-11, their worst start ever with the one win coming against eventual league champion Thomas More. Westminster was resilient and won nine of its last 16. A similar start could be coming as Ryne Murray, the reigning PAC Player of the Year after leading the conference in scoring (20.2) and rebounding (10.4), won't play until mid-December because he has only one semester of eligibility remaining. Until then, the Titans will rely on sophomore Ron Briggs (7.6 ppg) and senior Steve Bielich (10.7 ppg), the latter a three-year starter who has been injury riddled.

6. Thiel
Head coach: Tim Loomis (4th year)
Last year: 1-11, 2-23
Outlook: Loomis, the former California University coach, called last year's disaster of a season "the toughest I've ever gone through." By the beginning of the second semester, the Tomcats had lost six of its top eight players. But don't expect Thiel to be down for long. The Tomcats could be the surprise team of the league. Loomis has gutted the roster and brought in several impact players, including three transfers, to go with guards Devon Adams (11.2 ppg) and Cory Chaffee (11.1 ppg). The Tomcats will do more pressing and trapping on defense. "We'll be able to stop people this year," Loomis says. Look for Youngstown State transfer Blair Rozenbald to make a significant contribution.

7. WaynesburgHead coach: Frank Ferraro (7th year - 62-83 career)
Last year: 2-10, 6-19.
Outlook: Like most of Waynesburg's athletic teams, this program has struggled in recent years. The Yellow Jackets have seen their win total drop in each of the last three seasons. Last year's 19 losses were the most for Waynesburg since 1968-69 -- the season before Rudy Marisa became the Yellow Jackets' coach. Waynesburg has nine players returning but only two starters, junior Ryan Courneen (13.0 ppg) and senior point guard Jarrell Rodriguez (5.6 ppg). The Yellow Jackets have been undersized for many years and that won't change this season. The big preseason question is, other than Courneen, who is going to provide scoring?

Head coach: Jeff Santarsiero (14th year)
Last year: 0-0, 8-17
Outlook: Geneva is not eligible to win the conference championship. The Golden Tornadoes had an unexpected poor season last year and defense was the primary reason as Geneva allowed a whopping 81 points per game. Four starters return, including the top two scorers Richard Colick 916.0 ppg) and Dave Phillips (13.6 ppg). Also back is long-range shooter Bryan Hill (11.1 ppg), who was limited only seven games because a knee injury and a bout with mono. T.J. Bevilacqua, a 6-5 swingman, is a transfer from Illinois Tech, and should be an impact newcomer. The Golden Tornadoes have the potential to be vastly improved, but it all depends on their ability to stop opponents. "We're all about defense this year," Santarsiero said. Geneva plays at Division I Youngstown State Nov. 24.

Saint Vincent
Head coach: D. P. Harris (7th year - 125-40 career)
Last year: 0-0, 22-3
Outlook: Saint Vincent is not eligible to win the conference championship. The Bearcats, who are in their final season as a Division III provisional member, are coming off a 22-win season but that was accomplished with several holders from the Bearcats' schoalrship days. Four starters who combined for 71 percent of the offense have graduated. The lone returning starter is guard B.J. McGill (11.5 ppg). Mike Watkins (Ringgold) gives the bearcats an inexperienced 6-8 player in the low post. Saint Vincent must get immediate production from several newcomers, the most interesting of which is 6-11 center Alberto Benetti from Verona, Italy. The Bearcats enter the season with a 27-game home-court winning streak. We're going to play fast and we're going to press," Harris said. "We're kidding our selves if we think we're going to put together another 22-win season. We're looking forward to next year so we can compete for a conference championship."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saint Vincent Basketball is having a terrible time and the word is that DP Harris is replacing all his players next year with a new team. Because of NCAA rules DP Harris has to recruit players who qualify academically and that will be a challenge. He is looking for transfer players from D1 schools and have a ready team this way he does not have to coach since he does not have the skills which becomes apparent with this year's team.

December 14, 2009 at 1:06 PM  

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