On October 26, days after their joint Midnight Madness season tipoff event at Carnesecca Arena in Jamaica, the programs hosted Media Day, spending the afternoon talking to the press about the upcoming season.
Both teams aren’t expected to be in the upper echelon of the Big East, according to the preseason coaches’ poll, which have the men and women slotted as sixth and seventh, respectively.
Sixth place would mark an improvement for the men, who finished eighth last season. led in large part by their dynamic freshman duo of guards Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett, statistically the highest scoring frosh duet in the conference.
Ponds, who earned Big East Freshman of the Year honors, led the team with 17.4 points per game, and LoVett added 15.9 on a nightly basis.
“They both had great seasons last year, this year I’ve asked them to do a little bit more,” said head coach Chris Mullin of his talented backcourt. “Marcus and Shamorie are really great with the ball, but they are also great without the ball, so just training them to do that because they haven’t done much of it.
“It will be a good balance to our attack to not overload one area and getting different guys involved in the offense,” he added.
Swingman Bashir Ahmed, who arrived as a junior from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, was the team’s third-leading scorer at 13.4 points per game.
Among those joining the high-scoring trio are forward Marvin Clark and guard Justin Simon. Clark transferred from Michigan State, and Simon arrives from the University of Arizona. Due to NCAA transfer regulations, both sat out last season but will be available to play in 2017-18.
“I feel like they will each have a tremendous impact, but I guess we will have to wait and see,” said Mullin on his incoming transfers. “If you just look at them physically, you can see that they are two guys we did not have on our roster last season, just from a physical stature.”
Last season, the Red Storm finished (14-19, 7-11 Big East) and reached the Big East Tournament quarterfinals after defeating the Georgetown Hoyas, who are now coached by Knicks legend Patrick Ewing. The Red Storm were eliminated by the eventual Big East champion Villanova Wildcats, who are picked to repeat, receiving eight of 10 first-place votes in the polls.
On the women’s side, seventh place would be a pretty significant drop-off for the Red Storm, having won over 20 games in each of the last four seasons, reaching the NCAA Tournament twice, and the WNIT in the other two seasons.
Last year, the team finished (22-12, 11-7 Big East), which was good for fourth-place tie in the conference.
The team had two key departures in Aaliyah Lewis and Jade Walker, and head coach Joe Tarteamella spoke on filling the void this season.
“When you look at Aaliyah Lewis and Jade Walker’s numbers, 24 points a game and 720 shots taken on the year, 64 minutes a game, there is a lot to replace there,” he said. “We have a really good group of young players, including the freshmen.”
He also pointed to Maya Singleton as one to watch emerge in a leadership role.
“Maya is an emotional leader, she works as hard as anybody we have,” said Tarteamella of Singleton, a senior who averaged 5.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per games last season, her first out of Trinity Valley Community College. “She has to be a break out player for us to be successful.”
The team had their season end in the third round in the WNIT, which also marked a tenth-straight national post-season appearance for the women’s program.
The women return three starters, including junior wing Akina Wellere, who scored 11.3 points per game last season.
The season tip-off will be a doubleheader at Carnesecca Arena at 4:30 p.m., when the women host St. Francis Brooklyn followed by the men, who will face the University of New Orleans.