We asked some of our writers to answer the hardest hitting questions and make some bold predictions ahead of the Marist men’s and women’s basketball campaigns. Check out their thoughts on the women:
Who is going to be the stand out difference-maker this season?
Connor Kurpat: I think that Marist’s captain Rebekah Hand is going to have a huge impact on the team this year. Last year, she made the All-MAAC First Team, averaging 15.7 points a game. She led the team in points per game, minutes per game, free-throw percentage, and rebounds per game. Also, she placed first in the MAAC and second in the NCAA in free-throw percentage and additionally placed third in the MAAC in points per game. Going into her senior year, I think she is primed to do some great things and only improve on what she was able to do last year, especially if she is paired with fellow captain Alana Gilmer, Marist’s starting forward who made the All-MAAC First Team as well.
Tom Gleeson: Rebekah Hand will continue to be the Red Foxes’ difference-maker in the 2019-2020 season. For Hand, consistency is a strength of hers and she has provided that for her team since she was a freshman. Now as a senior captain, she is poised to lead her team in taking over the MAAC once again. Hand averaged 15.7 PPG last season and 16.1 PPG in her sophomore season.
Lily Caffrey-Levine: Just because all your friends said Rebekah Hand is going to be the difference-maker this season doesn’t mean you should too! Except for the fact that you should, because she has the most consistent shooting on the team . Last season, she was only eight free throws shy of breaking the all-time NCAA free throw streak— she made it to 62. Free throws won’t win a MAAC Tournament, but consistency will. 62 free throws in a row is consistency, 10 fold. Her other aforementioned stats from last year won’t hurt either, and with the team Giorgis has built, Hand has the teammates and the skills to show the MAAC what she’s got. So there it is, I’m jumping off the Rebekah Hand bridge with all my friends.
Jonathan Kinane: It’s got to be Rebekah Hand. The senior is the jack of all trades for the Red Foxes. Last year she led the team in scoring, rebounding, free throw percentage, and minutes. When you couple those stats with her veteran presence, you get a floor general type player who Marist will lean on when the game is tight and the calendar moves toward March.
Will Bjarnar: So apparently Rebekah Hand is really good! Oh, disregard my sarcastic exclamation point. Of course, she’s good; she’s been the de facto leader for the Red Foxes in terms of offensive productivity and, what’s perhaps even more crucial, consistency (I’d say “you’re doing amazing, sweetie,” but creepy). However, the question is “who will be the difference maker?” A lot of teams have a Rebekah Hand — though none of theirs are as prolific a scorer nor all-around player — but not many have an Alana Gilmer, that all-reliant second option whose offense is made all the more impressive by her defensive efficiency. She finished second on her team in blocks (20, trailing only her much taller teammate, Lovisa Henningsdottir), but I care more about what you see game-by-game than what the box scores say. Gilmer is a pest as an on-ball defender, and she’ll consistently be Marist’s most important defender late in games, whether they’re close or not.
Who is going to be the biggest competition?
Connor: The Rider Broncs seem like they are going to be Marist’s strongest competition this season. The Broncs MVP, Stella Johnson, looks like she is on track for another great year, after averaging 18.8 points per game last season and being named the MAAC Player of the Year. Quinnipiac will also give the Red Foxes some trouble this year; however, they are without five of their top six stat leaders from last season, which include Jen Fay, Aryn McClure, and Paula Strautmane. That should give Marist the edge in most of those matchups. Also, don’t sleep on last year’s 2-16 Iona, who have lots of freshman and redshirt players joining the roster this season who are looking to make an immediate impact.
Tom: The Quinnipiac Bobcats will be Marist’s biggest competition this upcoming season. The Bobcats are riding a 52-game winning streak against conference opponents. Marist’s season ended on a 30 point loss to Quinnipiac in the MAAC Conference Championship, one win away from making the NCAA Tournament. The Bobcats are projected to finish second in the MAAC behind the Red Foxes; however Marist needs to prove themselves against the Bobcats to solidify themselves as a true candidate to win the conference title and conference championship.
Lily: For the love of all that is good this side of the Hudson River I can not watch this team lose to Quinnipiac again.
Jonathan: Quinnipiac. The Bobcats have won three straight MAAC Championships and had won games in two consecutive NCAA tournaments until last year’s first-round loss to South Dakota State. The team looks a lot different after losing a senior class that included their only double-digit scorers, Jen Fay and Aryn McClure. Taylor Herd is the leading returning scorer for the Bobcats who defeated Marist in all three meetings last season, including an 81-51 rout in the MAAC championship.
Will: Quinnipiac, who has been to Marist what Toby Flenderson was to Michael Scott. Eventually (spoiler coming), Michael leaves for Colorado, and Toby can no longer give him fits. So, Colorado = NCAA Tournament. And Marist = Michael. Obviously.
What is going to be the biggest obstacle?
Connor: One of the hardest things the Red Foxes will face this year is the tough stretch of games they are going to have to play in January. Included in that stretch are Canisius, Niagara, Rider, Manhattan, Quinnipiac, and Monmouth. Those are all teams that could go .500 this year, with Quinnipiac, Rider, and Manhattan looking to make a serious run for the chip this year. So, I think January is going to be a real “prove it” month for Marist and we are going to see what kind of team they really are.
Tom: Marist’s biggest obstacle this season will be jumping past Quinnipiac and claiming dominance in the MAAC. It is likely that Marist will play the Bobcats three times this year, twice in the regular season and possibly another time in the MAAC Championships. Beating a team two out of three times is very difficult, especially when the opponent has a 52-game winning streak against the conference. To separate themselves from the pack, the Red Foxes need to beat Quinnipiac twice this year.
Jonathan: Expectations. The Red Foxes were picked to finish at the very top of the MAAC, which feels a lot more open than years past. Marist will have to face the pressure of being the favorite, having a target on their back during every conference game. Some teams crumble under the pressure of high expectations, taking things for granted or overlooking seemingly easy opponents. It will be up to the Red Foxes to carry themselves like the team they know they are and live up to the hype.
Will: I wish this question was phrased a bit more openly — like, “what will be the team’s biggest obstacle from here into the near future?” or something — but no one’s looking, so I’ll cheat and answer that one. This team possesses the exact advantage that Quinnipiac enjoyed for three-straight MAAC-winning seasons: experience and age. Now, experience is no obstacle, but the idea of transitioning out of familiarity is a daunting concept. The Hand twins, Gilmer, Grace Vander Weide, and Claire Oberdorf will all depart following this year, leaving a roster chock-full of youngsters. Now, this isn’t a bad thing either. But I think it will be interesting to see how Brian Giorgis begins to filter his less-seasoned players into the game plan. He’ll be able to rely on Willow Duffell, Molly Smith, and Allie Best next season — three players who have all seen consistent minutes since they joined the program three seasons ago — but you can’t win games on the shoulders of a trio. Giorgis is too smart to even entertain not involving his young players, so I guess this isn’t an answer to “what will be the obstacle,” and more so an answer to “how will a potential obstacle be handled?” Sorry. I cheated big time.
Lily: This is cheesy and existential, and should just be the opening monologue of a movie about their 2019-2020 campaign, however it turns out, but themselves. This is a team that has talent, coaching, and offensive and defensive talent. They make it this close every year before Quinnipiac pulls ahead in the second quarter. They can win the MAAC, but it’s time to step back, play hard, and know that they can win the MAAC. Forget the seasons before, forget the preseason polls, heck, forget 2008. Go out there and do it.
Connor: This season I have the Red Foxes getting to an overall record of 20-4 before the season ends. I think that they are going to split games with Rider, Quinnipiac, and Manhattan, with the home team getting the edge in their matchups. Also, I think that UT Arlington and Central Michigan are going to challenge Marist and hand them losses at the beginning of the season, as they are both had great seasons last year.
Tom: The Red Foxes will finish the regular season 24-5 and 18-2 in conference play. They will lose one game each to Rider and Quinnipiac, but sweep the rest of the conference. In out of conference play, the Red Foxes have a four-game stretch at the beginning of the season where they play Central Michigan, Princeton, Green Bay, and UT Arlington. They will struggle in those four games, losing three of them. They will get back on track after that once they open conference play.
Lily: Here’s the thing with this year’s team: they lost solid contributors in Lovisa Henningsdottir and Allie Clement, and gained four freshmen. It’ll be hard to make up for Henningsdottir’s 44 shots blocked (No. 5 in the MAAC) and stats with younger, inexperienced players— but maybe sometimes change is a bad thing. The Big Three of this team, if you will, are Alana Gilmer, Grace Van Der Weide, and Rebekah Hand, and they have played for Giorgis together for three years now (four for Hand). They’ve always been good but now, they’re at the helm. They have the experience with Giorgis, the experience with this team and each other, and the individual talent. This is the year for them to take the MAAC by storm. 25-8 (17-4 in conference play) and they’re taking the MAAC, damnit.
Jonathan: 24-9 (15-5 in the MAAC). I have Marist coming in at 24 wins, improving last year’s total by one. I think the regular season will see them make it through non-conference play with a winning record. Once into the MAAC slate, they should cruise against the bottom of the conference but be challenged by the likes of Quinnipiac, Rider, and Manhattan. If the Red Foxes can protect their home court, they should win the league in the regular season. I do predict that they will get that crucial win in the MAAC title game that eluded them last year and who knows? Maybe they make some noise in the NCAA tournament and win a game.
Will: 33-0, defeating Oregon in the title game. Eat your heart out, Shea Serrano.
Who’s going to be the most unexpected contributor?
Lily: I’m indecisive. But I wouldn’t be doing everyone justice to pick just one. So I am going with everyone that is not a senior. This isn’t a cop-out, I promise! Everyone is psyched about the return of Alana Gilmer, Grace Vander Wiede, and Rebekah Hand (and maybe even about how Hannah Hand is doing after an injury-ridden career), but this team has talent, and a lot of it is young. But Willow Duffel started 31 games as a sophomore, and Sarah Barcello played in all 33 as a freshman. Kendall Kirk shot 38-percent from the field and from three as a rookie. I’m not trying to give all my colleagues a participation trophy here and just saying everyone wins, but look at the stats. They all contribute something that can take this team to the next level. They probably can’t do it alone, but together? Watch out Quinnipiac.
Connor: Allie Best is definitely going to make a bigger impact on the team this year. Last year, she led the MAAC in assists and assists per game, while also setting new career-highs in rebounds per game, assists per game, free-throw percentage, and steals. Now that she’s a junior, I think that her knowledge and comfort within the game has only grown and that she is going to be utilized more in the offense this year. By the end of the year, I could see her leading the team in assists and getting around 20 plus steals.
Tom: Willow Duffell will give Marist both the offensive and defensive push they need to elevate them to the top of the conference. As a sophomore, she started 31 games and averaged 6.6 ppg, but will contribute more offensively this upcoming season. Duffell gained valuable experience as a young player for this Red Fox team; now it’s her turn to apply the lessons she has learned thus far and help guide Marist to win the MAAC. She will be the leading rebounder and the backbone of this team.
Will: Unexpected isn’t the right word to describe Allie Best, who I’ve been impressed by since she stepped on campus. Though she only started in two games last season, she’s been a minute-getter since she was a freshman, and averaged half a game in minutes last season. I’m probably biased, seeing that I’m such a sucker for a pure point guard, but Best’s play is the one that entices me the most. She was the team’s second-best passer last season (by the numbers, that is; Vander Weide finished with an absurd 156 assists), and is another solid defender and a hawk in the passing lanes on a team that has a slew of them. With more minutes comes the chance for more productivity; you’d Best (HA!) believe Allie delivers on such opportunities.
Jonathan: Sarah Barcello. As a freshman, she played in all 33 games and averaged nearly six points per contest. The numbers that grab my attention were her 41 percent clip beyond the arc and her 48 made threes, good for second on the team. If Barcello can make the leap that we are accustomed to seeing between freshman and sophomore seasons, she may see more minutes which gives her a chance to become a volume scorer. Don’t be surprised to see her possibly win a starting role and fill up baskets around the MAAC.
Edited by Will Bjarnar