Marist had a bit of a breakthrough season in 2013: Steadied by a host of upperclass contributors, the Red Foxes went 10-4, earned the top seed in the MAAC Tournament, and picked up a handful of notable wins against Stony Brook and Towson. It was a strong season for Marist, one that helped reshape the face of the MAAC, but one that also forebodes potential issues in 2014: With the departure of so many key assets, can the Red Foxes duplicate their efforts from a season ago? Marist's schedule is a minefield of potential pain, but the Red Foxes -- to their credit -- didn't decelerate when given the opportunity to do so.
Here are some schedule highlights and games of note:
Stomp on Skulls to Freedom
February 14: @Stony Brook; February 23: v. Air Force (Denver, C.O.); March 7: Towson; March 25: Brown; April 8: @Hofstra
This is the meat that makes Marist's agenda for 2014 a potentially frequent effort in testing the heat of a stove burner with different fingers. The bulk of the Red Foxes' nonconference schedule is long on programs that are going to hang right around the top 20 discussion this coming spring, a fact that is more important than the simple existence of Denver (a reach game) and Marquette (a potentially dangerous date) appearing on Marist's slate. These five programs have established residency in a development of Division I Acres that Marist hopes to one day have a permanent address, avoiding the transiency that the program has experienced in the past. How the Red Foxes compete in these five games is vitally important for Marist in terms of building a bridge to 2015 and providing assurance that 2013 was more than the residue of a host of returning letterwinners exerting experience over competition that didn't have the kind of experiential learning that the Red Foxes maintained. Of special importance are two contests: (1) The game against Air Force comes one day after facing the Pioneers, and Marist will need to deal with altitude against a feisty opponent capable of delivering a curbstomping; and (2) The game against Stony Brook has all kinds of factors associated with it -- a Northeast program in a league that the MAAC aspires to replicate; Marist is looking to earn its second consecutive win against the Seawolves; and it's the season-opener for both clubs, setting the tone for the season to come.
March 15: @Siena; March 22: Quinnipiac; March 29: Manhattan; April 5: @Detroit; April 19: @Monmouth; April 26: Canisius
Here's the deal: The MAAC is pure anarchy. The MAAC's membership is a slew of teams that are competitively similar, and the league has a history of making things go sideways in insane ways during the conference tournament. The fight to get into the MAAC Tournament this coming year could be among the best races in the nation, but Marist has a tool that its peers don't have: The opportunity to host the league postseason on its home field. If Marist can survive the regular season -- and that's not a given as the Red Foxes will start with two difficult opponents in Siena and Quinnipiac and may need to press its play late in the year when bonkers becomes the norm -- the Red Foxes could be in a preferable position to earn its first NCAA Tournament invitation ever.