NU men picked to finish 6th

The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's basketball coaches have made their predictions for the upcoming season.

Niagara University men's basketball finished sixth in the preseason coaches poll announced Thursday night, with juniors Marcus Hammond and Raheem Solomon earning first- and third-team preseason All-MAAC honors, respectively.

Greg Paulus' Purple Eagles placed a surprising sixth last season after being picked 10th in the preseason poll and losing head coach Patrick Beilein, who resigned for personal reasons less than two weeks before the opening game.

Hammond became the 14th Purple Eagles to earn first-team All-MAAC honors after leading NU with 14.3 points, 4.6 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. He finished ninth in the conference in scoring, 11th in assists and third in 3-point percentage (.425). Hammond was a unanimous pick for preseason first team.

Solomon averaged 9.6 points and 3.6 rebounds while trailing only Hammond in minutes for the Purple Eagles last season, up from 7.8 points and 2.6 assists as a freshman.

Hammond is joined on the first team by fellow unanimous choices Jalen Pickett (Siena), Manny Camper (Siena) and Deion Hammond (Monmouth). KC Ndefo (Saint Peter's) rounded out the group.

Pickett was the unanimous pick to defend his player of the year title, and his Saints were unanimously picked to place first. Iona, in its first season under Rick Pitino, was picked second, followed by Monmouth and Saint Peter's in a tie for third. Manhattan was fifth, then NU, Quinnipiac, Fairfield, Marist, Canisius and Rider.

Voted preseason second team were Canisius’ Majesty Brandon, Iona’s Asante Gist and Isaiah Ross, Manhattan’s Warren Williams and Quinnipiac’s Tyrese Williams. The third team features Fairfield’s Jesus Cruz, NU's Solomon, Quinnipiac’s Jacob Rigoni and Saint Peter’s Doug Edert and Daryl Banks.

The NU women were picked to finish 10th, trailed only by Battle of the Bridge rival Canisius. Neither program had a player picked to an all-conference team.

Manhattan was picked ot finish first with 109 votes, just one point higher than both Fairfield and Quinnipiac, who tied for second. Marist and Iona round out the top five, followed by Siena, Rider, Monmouth, Saint Peter's, Niagara and Canisius.

Fairfield's Lou Lopez-Senechal was voted preseason player of the year and was joined on the preseason first team by teammate Katie Armstrong, Iona's Juana Camilion and Manhattan's Emily LaPointe and Courtney Warley. The second team featured Monmouth's Lucy Thomas, Quinnipiac's Shaq Edwards and Mikala Morris, Rider's Amanda Mobley and Saint Peter's Taiah Thornton. Finally, Iona's Paulla Weekes, Manhattan's Gabby Cajou, Marist's Willow Duffell and Siena's Amari Anthony and Rayshel Brown made third team.

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The MAAC Council of Presidents announced changes to basketball scheduling Friday due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Eschewing its previously-released schedule, which featured games Tuesday and Friday for the men and Wednesday and Sunday for the women against separate opponents, the conference is moving a 20-game round robin schedule with five home and five away series for each team.

Games will be played Friday and Saturday against the same opponent and at the same location. Men's and women's teams will play the same opponent at the same time, one series at each school. So, if the NU men open the season hosting two games against Marist, for example, the NU women would play at Marist on the same dates.

There is still a make-up week scheduled for the penultimate week of the season, should any games need to be rescheduled. The conference will attempt to use the same officiating crew for both games of each series and limit the people permitted at each facility while traveling. It also retained the ban on fan attendance through December and set the minimum available roster size for each game at eight scholarship players and one coach.

“The MAAC’s goal with the revised scheduling format is to complete the conference season and meet the NCAA minimum of 13 Division I games to be played by teams,” MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor said in a statement. “In light of the evolving state and local health standards, the increasing levels of infection rates, and decisions related to testing teams and officials three times a week for COVID-19, the MAAC membership revised its existing format for this season. The health and safety of our student-athletes and those associated with our programs is the priority of the Council of Presidents.”

The Council also gave Ensor final say over scheduling, should the pandemic force cancellations. If programs are unable to play a chunk of games, Ensor will be able to schedule extra games between two teams, up to four total for the year.

No date has been set for the announcement of the new schedules.

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