Expectations high for men’s basketball

By on November 9, 2010

After a heartbreaking two-point loss at home to Robert Morris in the Northeast Conference Championship game last season, Quinnipiac opens this season as the unanimous pick to win the conference, according to a coaches’ poll on Nov. 3.

“I try not to make too much about it, but I also think it’s a little bit of a source of pride for us to know how much our program has grown in four years,” said Tom Moore, Quinnipiac’s head coach and reigning NEC Coach of the Year.

It is the first unanimous pick in the NEC in 14 years.

Last season, Quinnipiac’s first NEC regular season title earned its first bid to the National Invitational Tournament, where it suffered an 81-61 loss at the hands of Virginia Tech.

Coming off the most successful season in Quinnipiac’s history, the school rewarded Moore with a contract extension through 2015 worth $1.5 million dollars, according to the Associated Press.

The Bobcats have holes to fill with the loss of seniors James Feldeine, Jeremy Baker and Jonathan Cruz. Feldeine led the Bobcats in scoring last year at 16.5 points per game.

Even with the seniors departing, the Bobcats’ predicted success stems from the return of some key players. Reigning NEC Player of the Year Justin Rutty, who became the first Quinnipiac player to win the award, leads the frontcourt.

This year, he was picked to the Preseason All-NEC First Team by the coaches. Rutty is a tenacious rebounder and gets a good chunk of his points on the offensive glass. His 4.9 offensive rebounds per game ranked second in the nation.

Sophomore forward Jamee Jackson is poised for a breakout season, Moore said.

“I would be disappointed if Jamee didn’t have a couple of loud double-double games against key opponents this year,” Moore said.

Junior James Johnson will run the show at the point. Johnson averaged 12.1 points per game and dished out 132 assists last season. He also led the team with 40 total 3-pointers. The inside-outside threat of Rutty and Johnson, teammates for two full seasons, could spell trouble for opponents.

Johnson was picked to the All-NEC First Team by The Sporting News and was named best playmaker in the league by Lindy’s.

“I’ve started being more vocal in the weight room and on the court because there are a lot of new guys that don’t know, and I know what it takes to get there because I’ve been there,” Johnson said. “[The NIT] gave us a little taste but we want more of it.”

Senior guard Deontay Twyman will step into a much larger role this season, joining Johnson in the starting backcourt. Last season, Twyman averaged 7.1 points off the bench but was often still on the court late in the fourth quarter. He gives the Bobcats another scoring threat with his crafty ability to get into the lane and make plays.

Sophomores Dave Johnson and Raheem May-Thompson both played limited minutes last year, but will have to make major contributions off the bench.

Moore is looking forward to following the goals he brought to Quinnipiac three years ago.

“I remember telling the team when we first got here, there is going to be three distinct steps: going from eighth to near the top of the league, going from near the top of the league to the top of the league, and then staying at the top of the league,” Moore said. “We’re, I guess, somewhere between the second and the third stage.”

After a heartbreaking two-point loss at home to Robert Morris in the Northeast Conference Championship game last season, Quinnipiac opens this season as the unanimous pick to win the conference, according to a coaches’ poll on Nov. 3.

“I try not to make too much about it, but I also think it’s a little bit of a source of pride for us to know how much our program has grown in four years,” said Tom Moore, Quinnipiac’s head coach and reigning NEC Coach of the Year.

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