STANDISH, ME - Saint Joseph's College has been forecasted to finish second in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC), according to the 2011-12 men's basketball preseason poll.
Albertus Magnus, which finished third in the GNAC standings and participated in the ECAC Tournament a year ago, leads the poll based on a vote from all GNAC coaches.
2011-12 Men's Basketball Preseason Poll:
1. Albertus Magnus (86)
2. Saint Joseph's (83)
3. Johnson & Wales (79)
4. Norwich (62)
5. Suffolk (45)
6. Anna Maria (38)
8. Emerson (32)
1. Albertus Falcons
The Falcons are coming off of an 18-11 record from 2010-11, while they finished 15-4 in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference before advancing to the ECAC Tournament semifinals. Albertus was led last season by GNAC All-Conference First Team member Ray Askew (Hamden, Conn.), who returns for his senior year in 2011-12. Last season, Askew led the Falcons with 21.5 points per game, 603 total points scored, 312 rebounds and a 50.5-shooting percentage from the floor. For his efforts, Askew was also named to the All-Region Second Team by D3Hoops.com as he was ranked 20th in the nation in points per contest and 18th in the country with 11.1 rebounds per game.
Sophomore Darius Watson (New Britain, Conn.), who was named the GNAC Rookie of the Year last season, is coming off of a freshman campaign in which he averaged 12.7 points per game and shot 45.5-percent from the field.
Albertus will look to fill the void left by the departure of Walden St. Juste, a player who averaged 16.9 points, 2.2 steals and 2.1 assists per game last season.Arshad Jackson (Hartford, Conn.) will likely step up into a bigger role for the Falcons after he averaged 9.8 points and 17.9 minutes per contest in 2010-11.
2. Saint Joseph's of Maine
Saint Joseph's returns four starters - and five of the team's top six scorers - from a squad that went 20-8 overall and 15-3 in conference play last season. The GNAC record was good for the top seed in the conference playoffs, but the Monks' hopes of winning a second league championship in three years were dashed when Johnson & Wales University topped the Royal Blue in the GNAC title game at the Harold Alfond Center in late February.
The disappointing loss has driven the returners, led by senior two-year captains Zach O'Brien (Schenectady, N.Y.) and Chris Petzy (Kensington, N.H), to work harder than ever before, particularly in the offseason. O'Brien, a 2011 First Team All-GNAC selection, leads a talented group of returners as the 6'4 swingman became the second player in team history to pace the Monks in scoring (16.9 PPG), rebounding (4.8 RPG) and assists (4.3 APG) in a single season. Petzy, another outstanding offensive player, averaged 15.4 PPG and led the conference in three-point success with a 45.5% (65-143) rate as a junior. Both players started all 28 contests last winter.
3. Johnson & Wales
Johnson & Wales finished the 2010-11 campaign with a 21-9 overall record, a 14-4 mark in the Great Northeast Athletic Conference and captured the tournament championship. The squad also recorded the first win in school history at the NCAA tournament. Senior Lamonte Thomas, the 2011 GNAC Player of the Year, will be returning to for his final season after finishing his junior campaign with his 30.7 points per game and 6.1 assists per contest. Thomas led all scorers in all divisions while leading the GNAC with 6.1 assists per contest. He had 16 games with at least 30 points and two games of 40 or more points, including 43 points in the Wildcats victory against Ramapo in the first round of the NCAA Division III Championship.
Norwich looks to resume its recent success on the hardwood. The Cadets finished 16-11 last season Head Coach Paul Booth hopes that a strong finish to the 20010-11 slate resumes with the beginning of 2011-12. Norwich ended last year winning six of its final nine games.
NU's nucleus consists of junior guards Josh Cabrera (Providence, R.I.) and Ryan Williams (Dallas, Texas) and senior forward Antonio Davis (Albany, N.Y.). Davis led the 2010-11 squad in scoring (15.4 ppg), rebounding (nine pg), blocked shots (26), and field goal percentage (50.6). Cabrera ranked third in scoring (10.7 ppg) and joined his fellow front court mate Williams to be an effective one-two punch from outside the arc, hitting 38 of 104 attempts for 36.5 percent. He was also the top performer at the charity stripe a year ago, hitting at 81.3 percent. Williams canned 31 of 84 three-point tries (36.9) and was one of the four Cadets' players to average in double figures in scoring (10.6).
*Previews courtesy of Albertus Athletic Communications, St. Joseph's Athletic Communications, JWU Athletic Communications and Norwich Athletic Communications