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2011-12 College Basketball Season Preview: Fairfield

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, David Kay and Peter Christian of the The Sports Bank. Send Paul an e-mail here: paulb05 AT hotmail DOT com.
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Fairfield Stags (Last Year: 25-8, 15-3 in MAAC)

2011-12 Projected Depth Chart:

F/C: Ryan Olander (Sr)/Vincent Van Nes (Fr)/Adam Jones (Fr)

G/F: Rakim Sanders (Sr)/Keith Matthews (So)/Kevin Thomas (Fr)

SG: Maurice Barrow (So)/Keegan Hyland (So)

G: Desmond Wade (Sr)/Colin Nickerson (Jr)/Gary Martin (Sr)

G: Derek Needham (Jr)/Jamel Fields (So)/Sean Crawford (Jr)

Gone: F-Yorel Hawkins, SF-Warren Edney, G-Lyndon Johnson

2011-12 Outlook:
Despite losing head coach Ed Cooley to Providence, the Fairfield Stags are still in a good position to repeat as MAAC regular season champions. The addition of a pair of transfers will play a huge part in the journey to once again cut down the nets.

Former Boston College Eagle Rakim Sanders and Houston transfer Desmond Wade both become eligible after sitting out last season. Sanders was a double digit per game scorer at Boston College, and also known for his defensive ability. He will have to play bigger and spend more time guarding in the post if new head coach Sydney Johnson goes with a four-guard look.

It will be interesting to see how Wade and Derek Needham co-exist on the floor together. Wade is a pure point guard and not much of a scoring threat, while Needham has been the starting point guard since arriving at Fairfield. Needham has led the Stags in scoring the past two seasons, so Wade's arrival could give him more opportunities to play off the ball and be more of a scorer than distributor.

Maurice Barrow figures to be the final piece of the four-guard lineup even though he plays more like a forward. Barrow had a solid freshman campaign and brings some athleticism and toughness to the floor. He plays bigger than his 6-5 height, as he finished second on the team in rebounds last season.

Ryan Olander will be the lone, true post player in the starting five. The seven-footer started all 33 games last season, and must bring that experience and leadership to a very young frontcourt that will feature three freshmen including 7-0 Vincent Van Nes, and undersized sophomore Kevin Matthews.

The strength of the bench will be like the starters: the guard play. Colin Nickerson and Jamel Fields both played significant roles last season and will do so again this year. Nickerson is without a doubt the team's top perimeter defender while Fields can play either guard spot and adds some scoring punch.

The MAAC figures to be a two horse race between Fairfield and Iona. If Johnson can pick up where Cooley left off and keep the Stags one of the toughest defensive teams in the country, there is very good chance of Fairfield repeating as MAAC regular season champs. However, the conference tournament will once again determine who is dancing come March.

Player to Watch: Derek Needham, PG
Needham has put together a terrific start to his college career, earning MAAC Rookie of the Year honors two seasons ago and being named a first-team all-conference selection last year. However, he averaged nearly four turnovers a game as a sophomore. That number should decrease with the addition of another ball-handler in Wade.

Key Non-Conference Games:
  • 11/14 vs. Providence
  • 11/17 at Minnesota
  • 11/24 vs. Arizona State (Old Spice Classic)
  • 11/25 vs. Dayton/Wake Forest (Old Spice Classic)
  • 11/27 vs. Minnesota/DePaul/Texas Tech/Indiana State (Old Spice Classic)
  • 12/22 at UConn

    Predicted MAAC Finish: 2nd

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