Location: Niagara University, NY
Nickname: Purple Eagles
Conference: Metro Atlantic Athletic
Last Year’s Record: 26-9
Why they’ll make it: Seeing the Purple Eagles so high in the countdown may surprise a few of you, but this is a very talented basketball team. This guard-laden team was a nightmare to defend last year and looks to be more of the same this season. Led by Pennsylvania products, Tyrone Lewis and Bilal Benn, the Purple Eagles are fully capable of challenging Siena for conference supremacy. Along with Rob Garrison and Anthony Nelson, they combined for close to 50 points of offense per game. Throw-in transfer Kevon Moore from UNC-Wilmington and this is, without a doubt, a backcourt capable of getting to the Big Dance.
Why they won’t make it: Niagara is going to need someone to step up in the post. While there aren’t many teams with a great low-post presence at the mid-major level, there needs to be some sort of production in the paint. The Purple Eagles had that player last season in second-team all-conference performer, Benson Egemonye, but he’s long gone now. Right now, Demetrius Williamson, Scooter Gillette, and Eric Williams are all applying for Egemonye’s former position. If none of them are capable, Niagara’s Big Dance dreams may not come true.