Team: Niagara Purple Eagles
Affiliation: Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference
Coach: Jada Pierce, 3rd year (16-45)
Last year: 8-22, 5-15 (9th)
Head coach Jada Pierce has seen Niagara muster eight wins in both her seasons at the helm, finishing in 10th place in conference her first season and ninth last year.
Pierce is optimistic that will change. She expects her team, which lost only one starter from last year's team, to start eliminating little mistakes and maintain composure late in games. After starting two freshmen last season in Morgan Baughman and Maggie McIntyre, it's reasonable to think the awareness should go up in 2017-18.
"I feel like the expectations are actually pretty high," Pierce told MAAC Sports. "I feel like last year we underachieved a little bit."
She has a centerpiece in Victoria Rampado, one of the best players in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Can the rest of the core continue to develop, and will in-game experience last year translate to better performances? Six of their conference losses last season were by less than six points, so a couple tweaks could mean a lot in the standings.
Rampado is back for her redshirt senior year after leading the MAAC in scoring as a junior. She's the only player from either local MAAC school, Niagara and Canisius, to make the All-MAAC preseason first-team. A Niagara Falls, Ontario native, Rampado averaged 16.8 points and was fourth in the conference with 7.9 rebounds per game. She recorded eight double-doubles last season and has worked on improving her outside shot in the offseason.
The combination of Rampado and forward Kaylee Stroemple gives Niagara a strong post presence. Stroemple, a preseason third-team member, notched 13 points, six rebounds and 2.3 assists per game last season. She also scored a career-high 26 points against Quinnipiac, last year's MAAC champion and the favorite this season.
Dagny Davidsdottir is another promising and mobile player in the front court. If she advances in her sophomore year Niagara will be more than set inside.
Niagara can create space for their bigs with their outside shooting. The Purple Eagles were tops in the MAAC in 3-point percentage, hitting 33.7 percent.
Niagara's turnover numbers improved last season, but just barely. The Purple Eagles averaged less than 17 giveaways a game for the first time since 2009-10, but their 15.7 turnovers per game were still second worst in the conference. The bigs were the most frequent offenders. Rampado turned the ball over 81 times, with Stroemple trailing closely behind with 72.
Paige Mosley, who sat out last year after transferring from Clemson, is no longer with the program. She would have added more depth to the forward unit.
Inside the numbers
Niagara had the second-worst scoring defense in the MAAC last year partially due to its inability to defend the perimeter. Teams shot 34.2 percent from 3-point range on the Purple Eagles. Monmouth and Siena are the only teams that gave up a higher percentage in the conference.
Inside the schedule
Niagara plays Maryland in the third game of the year. The Terrapins made it to the third round of the NCAA Tournament last year, blowing by Bucknell and West Virginia in their first two games. Drexel went to the WNIT. Locally, in the non-conference slate Niagara travels to St. Bonaventure for its opener Friday and hosts UB Dec. 18. MAAC favorite Quinnipiac plays at Dwyer on Jan. 28, while crosstown rival Canisius travels north on Feb. 20.
The Purple Eagles are picked ninth in the MAAC in the preseason coaches poll, but a positive deviation from last year's finish isn't out of the question.
Nov. 10 at St. Bonaventure 5:30 p.m.
Nov. 12 Saint Joseph’s 12 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Maryland 11 a.m.
Nov. 19 at Oakland 7 p.m.
Nov. 25 Louisiana-Lafayette^ 2 p.m.
Nov. 26 Louisiana Tech^ 2 p.m.
Dec. 1 Cleveland State 7 p.m.
Dec. 3 at Hartford 4 p.m.
Dec. 7 Drexel 2 p.m.
Dec. 18 Buffalo 7 p.m.
Dec. 22 at Colgate 12 p.m.
Dec. 30 Iona* 3 p.m.
Jan. 2 at Fairfield* 7 p.m.
Jan. 4 at Quinnipiac* 7 p.m.
Jan. 7 at Siena* 1 p.m.
Jan. 13 Manhattan* 3 p.m.
Jan. 15 Siena* 2 p.m.
Jan. 18 at Rider* 11 a.m.
Jan. 20 at Saint Peter’s* 1 p.m.
Jan. 26 Marist* 7 p.m.
Jan. 28 Quinnipiac* 2 p.m.
Feb. 1 at Canisius* 7 p.m.
Feb. 3 Saint Peter’s* 3 p.m.
Feb. 8 at Manhattan* 7 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Monmouth* 3 p.m.
Feb. 16 Rider* 7 p.m.
Feb. 18 Monmouth* 2 p.m.
Feb. 20 Canisius* 7 p.m.
Feb. 24 at Marist* 7 p.m.
Mar. 1-5 MAAC Tournament TBA
* MAAC games
^ South Point Shootout
No. Name Pos. Cl. Ht. Hometown
4 Jai Moore G So. 5-9 Brooklyn
10 Jamie Sherburne G Sr. 5-7 Hudson, N.H.
11 Kharysma Bryant G Jr. 5-8 Rochester
12 Emerald Ekpiteta F Fr. 5-11 London, England
15 Adila Gathers F R-Jr. 5-11 Buffalo
21 Maggie McIntyre G So. 5-0 Mantua, NJ
22 Victoria Rampado F R-Sr. 6-2 Niagara Falls, Ont.
24 Morgan Baughman G So. 5-10 Carlisle, PA
31 Claire Wanzer G Fr. 5-8 Amherst
32 Diona Johnson G R-Jr. 5-9 Rochester
33 Dagny Davidsdottir F So. 6-1 Reykjavik, Iceland
44 Kaylee Stroemple F Sr. 5-11 North Canton, Ohio