2013-14 Preview: Fairfield Stags
Stags could contend in MAAC if issues on offense are corrected
2013-14 MAAC Projected Standings1. Iona | 2. Manhattan | 3. Canisius | 4. Rider | 5. Quinnipiac | 6. Fairfield | 7. Siena | 8. Niagara | 9. Marist | 10. St. Peter's | 11. Monmouth
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2012-13: 19-16 (9-9 MAAC)
In-conference offense: 0.98 points per possession (7th)
In-conference defense: 0.92 points per possession (1st)
The Princeton offense evokes backdoor cuts and easy 3-pointers -- teams that slow you down and then pick you apart. Well, Fairfield has part of it down, but the offense is not pretty right now. Head coach Sydney Johnson has to figure out a way to improve it if the Stags want to compete in the MAAC's upper echelon. Fairfield had the best defense in the conference last season, but poor 3-point shooting and turnovers held it back.
Fairfield shot 31 percent on 3s during conference play, worst in the MAAC. While the Stags did hit the offensive glass hard, grabbing 37 percent of their misses, it was not enough to bring the offense above middle of the pack. Now two big pieces of that offense -- Derek Needham and Desmond Wade -- have graduated, and two major-conference transfers might hold the key to Fairfield's season.
Malcolm Gilbert and Sean Grennan transferred from Pittsburgh and Seton Hall, respectively, last season. Gilbert, a former top-20 center by multiple recruiting services, transferred from Pitt to play with his brother Marcus at Fairfield. Grennan, who played for the Pirates as a freshman, has a chance to make an immediate impact on a Fairfield backcourt that was left bare thanks to graduation. Grennan is regarded as an excellent shooter and might be the cure to some of Fairfield's 3-point woes.
Another area Fairfield needs to work on is evening out its free throw deficit relative to opponents. The Stags managed to finish last in the MAAC in both offensive and defensive free throw rate last season. The Stags took 117 fewer free throws than their opponents during the MAAC regular season, about 6.5 free throws per game.
If the offense improves to reach the level of Fairfield's defense, the Stags could once again be contenders in the MAAC. Otherwise, Johnson will probably get his club to grind out enough wins on the defensive end to stay right in the middle of the pack.
Projected 2013-14 conference finish: 6th
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2013-14 Insider College Hoops Preview
In the lead-up to the 2013-14 college basketball season, Insider is providing preview articles on every Division I team, as well as essays from Insider's analysts and experts.