The Manhattan men’s basketball team got an early sense of what the head coaches in the MAAC were thinking about them at the MAAC Preseason awards show.
The reigning conference champions Manhattan Jaspers placed third in the MAAC preseason rankings, which were voted on by the conference’s 11 head coaches.
“I’m really excited about this year for Manahttan basketball,” Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello said in a conference call after the rankings were announced. “The chance to defend the MAAC Championship and go to the NCAA, we want to keep that momentum going, we’re trying to build on that. The MAAC race is going to be extremely competitive this year.”
The Siena Saints tallied 107 points to come in second, and Manhattan collected 97 points to finish third.Finishing in front of the Jaspers, were the Iona Gaels and Siena Saints. Iona, whom the Jaspers defeated in the 2014 MAAC Championship game, was picked to win the conference this season, receiving 10 first place votes from the 11 head coaches for a total of 112 points.
“We’re excited. The league is wide open,” Jimmy Patsos, the head coach of Siena, said. “It’s anybody’s game. Teams are going to better.”
In addition to discovering its preseason ranking, two Manhattan players received MAAC honors. Senior Emmy Andujar was selected to the MAAC Second Team and junior Ashton Pankey was tabbed for the Third Team.
Andujar comes off a season where he averaged 8.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. The MAAC head coaches have high expectations for Andujar, who will undoubtedly have a bigger role on the team with the departure of Michael Alvarado, George Beamon and Rhamel Brown.
The same goes for Ashton Pankey, who averaged 7.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last season. He will likely see an increase in his numbers, as he is now one of the focal points of the Jasper’s offense.
The MAAC’s 11 head coaches also voted Iona’s David Laury as the Player of the Year and completed their rankings with Saint Peter’s in fourth, followed by Quinnipiac in fifth, Monmouth in sixth, Rider in seventh, Marist in eighth, Fairfield in ninth, Canisius in 10th and Niagara in 11th.
“There’s a lot of very good teams,” Masiello said about MAAC basketball for this season. “I think it is a wide open race as all the coaches said, and I think it’s going to come down to who’s playing the best in February, March.”