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Big 4 teams experience few highs; Griffs unfulfilled; Bona makes strides

Canisius was picked to finish seventh in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll. The Griffs placed sixth. In that respect one might conclude the season went better than expected.

But why was a team with five seniors playing significant roles so lightly regarded in the first place? Given the Griffs' experience level, was there any satisfaction to be derived from a .500 record and another quarterfinal ouster from the MAAC Tournament? And is the program making acceptable progress as coach Tom Parrotta prepares for a sixth season at the helm?

"While Tom and I certainly had hoped for more success on the court this year, this group of seniors have had a great impact on our program and have helped us improve our conference finish in each of the last three years," responded Athletic Director Bill Maher. "As we look to next year, Tom and I are continuing to review the program and to identify what is necessary to help us to finish in the top of our conference and compete for the MAAC Championship."

Here's a review of how the Big 4 teams fared this season and what the future holds:


Record: 15-15.

Assessment: A quick exit from the MAAC tourney and an unfulfilling end to the careers of Elton Frazier, Greg Logins, Tomas Vazquez-Simmons, Julius Coles and Robert Goldsberry.

Coaching Skinny: Parrotta's signed through 2012-13 but doesn't have much to show to this point (59-96).

Pleasant Surprise: Sophomore guard Alshwan Hymes set the school single-game record with nine threes in a victory over Northwestern State and has range to at least 23 feet. When he's on, whew!

Outgoing: All the aforementioned.

Incoming: No one signed early, but Griffs have a verbal commitment from Kansas State transfer Freddy Aspirilla, a 6-foot-10 center. Shooting guard David Santiago becomes eligible after transferring from American University in Puerto Rico.

Needs: Graduation of Logins, Frazier and Vazquez-Simmons leaves questions in low post. Aspirilla and Chris Manhertz could provide immediate answers.

Outlook: Aspirilla would be eligible after first semester and give Griffs a potentially formidable low-post presence with Manhertz at his side.


Record: 9-23.

Assessment: Twelve wins seemed about right after heavy graduation losses, but an early-season injury to standout freshman Antoine Mason trimmed that expectation.

Coaching Skinny: It would take three straight seasons like this one to put Joe Mihalich on the hot seat.

Pleasant Surprise: Freshman Marvin Jordan looked like a Tyrone Lewis clone at times from beyond the arc, but he's not yet the equivalent as a slasher. He'll need to improve his shot selection but could evolve into a prolific scorer.

Outgoing: You don't lose the elite passer and leader that was Anthony Nelson and not feel the void. The nation's steals champion will be missed, especially on the defensive end.

Incoming: Another reload on the Ridge. Mason, the team's leading scorer after three games, returns as a red-shirt freshman following season-ending injury. Redshirt freshman forward Joe Thomas hammered the boards in practice. Recruits include 6-3 guard Juan'ya Green and 6-5 forward Ameen Tanksley out of Mihalich's Philadelphia pipeline. Green, a thoroughbred, could step right in either at the point or on the wing.

Needs: Point guard, and a consistent post contributor alongside Kashief Edwards. Forwards Scooter Gillette and Erik Williams were up and down. Thomas could be the answer. Purple Eagles also have a verbal commitment on a juco big man from California.

Outlook: Mihalich had no choice but to role with freshmen and take his lumps this season. It's going to pay off.


Record: 19-13 (still playing in Tournament).

Assessment: Far exceeded expectations after losing top five scorers from previous season.

Coaching Skinny: There's some frustration among the faithful over Bulls' failure to capture the MAC, but Witherspoon's averaged 19 wins (and counting) over last three seasons.

Pleasant Surprise: Forward Javon McCrea put up a double-double in the season opener, went on to become Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year and tossed in 28 points in a MAC tourney loss to Kent State. When he develops a mid-range jumper oh my.

Outgoing: Point guard Byron Mulkey, a second-team All-MAC selection, and forward Jawaan Alston, a fixture in Witherspoon's four-man post rotation.

Incoming: Bulls have signed 6-foot-8, 200-pound forward Xavier Ford out of Colorado Springs, Colo., and still have a scholarship to give.

Needs: Filling Mulkey's spot is the primary challenge. Freshman Jarod Oldham and sophomore Tony Watson II are the top candidates. Bulls showed more faith in Oldham as season progressed. Sophomore Mike Clifford, freshman Cameron Downey and the incoming Ford will contend to fill Alston's role.

Outlook: An early-season adjustment period could be in store while Bulls acclimate to change at the point. But with starters Mitchell Watt, Titus Robinson, Zach Filzen and Dave Barnett returning, there's plenty of upside.

>St. Bonaventure

Record: 16-15.

Assessment: Post first winning record in almost a decade, improved to a seventh-place finish in the Atlantic 10 and developed depth along the way.

Coaching Skinny: Mark Schmidt has turned the program around in his four years and could draw interest on the coaching market if Bonnies win 20 or more next year.

Pleasant Surprise: Swingman Demitrius Conger looked lost as a freshman but his athleticism came to the fore this year. He's a leaper/slasher who now needs to become a more consistent finisher and rebounder.

Outgoing: Point guard Ogo

Adegboye arrived as a juco transfer and became an ironman as a senior, playing eight complete games and finishing among the nation's leaders in minutes played.

Incoming: Have signed point guard Derrick Millinghaus out of Schenectady and shooting guard Eric Mosely, a former Austin Peay player now at a Cincinnati junior college. Both are under 6-foot.

Needs: Freshman Matthew Wright from Toronto could be Adegboye's replacement while Minninghaus acclimates. Wright's game is mature beyond his years.

Outlook: An NCAA berth belongs among next season's goals as all A-10 center Andrew Nicholson returns for his senior season. But Bonnies will have to be mentally tougher on the road.


Common Ground?

An annual Big 4 Tournament seems like a natural, especially with scheduling becoming so difficult at the mid-major level. Here's Maher's take on the possibility:

"It is my hope to revisit (with the other schools from the Big 4) the conversation of a Big 4 Tournament with the final/consolation down at HSBC Arena as a doubleheader concept. If we can get everyone to agree to play a home/away rotation at campus sites on say the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and then the championship/consolation on Saturday at the Arena, I believe the event has merit.

"With all four teams now playing each other, I'm hopeful that we can get some traction for it. We were close two years ago and with the difficulty of scheduling non-conference games; it's worth taking another run at it."


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