Springfield, Mass. - Iona College, the runner-up in last year's title game, is the preseason favorite to win the 2012 MAAC Men's Basketball Championship, according to the MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
Iona received eight of the first-place votes and 97 points, followed by last season's preseason pick Fairfield University, which received two first-place votes and 92 points. Loyola University Maryland finished in third with 76 points. Rider University followed in fourth place with 71 points, while defending champion Saint Peter's College took fifth with 52 points. Siena College received 44 points to finish sixth, followed by Niagara University (42 points) in seventh, Manhattan College (33) in eighth, Canisius College (25) in ninth and Marist College (18) in 10th to round out the poll.
Last season, the Gaels made their first appearance in the MAAC Championship final since winning the league crown in 2006 and also reached the title game of the 2011 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament. Iona returns three starters from that squad -- preseason All-MAAC First Team picks Mike Glover and Scott Machado and Third Team member Kyle Smyth. Glover, named to the Preseason Top 50 List for the John R. Wooden Award, is the league's top returning scorer (18.4 ppg) and rebounder (10.1 rpg). Machado finished second in the nation in assists per game with 7.6 an outing. Smyth averaged 10.1 points per game during his sophomore campaign, connecting on 45.1 percent of his shots from the field and 39.3 percent from three-point range. Second-year head coach Tim Cluess will also look to senior Jermel Jenkins, junior Lamont Jones and sophomore Sean Armand to help lead the Maroon and Gold in their quest for an eighth MAAC Championship.
Fairfield returns four starters and eight letterwinners that helped earn the MAAC regular season title last season. The Stags, who previously registered a league-high scoring defense of 58.3 points per game, will be led by preseason All-MAAC First Team selections Derek Needham and Ryan Olander as well as Rakim Sanders of the Second Team. Needham recorded 14.1 points and 4.5 assists per game during his sophomore campaign, while Olander averaged 10.4 points per game and shot 53.2 percent from the floor. First-year head coach Sydney Johnson will also rely on the efforts of juniors Colin Nickerson and Sean Crawford along with sophomores Maurice Barrow and Jamel Fields as the Stags look to earn the program's first MAAC championship title in 15 years.