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COLUMN: Quinnipiac men’s basketball poised for success

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The odds were stacked against the Quinnipiac Bobcats last season.

They were picked to finish last in the conference’s preseason poll. They were relying upon many players who had either never played college basketball before or who never played significant minutes on a postseason-caliber team. They had a coach who had never previously led a program.

And with just over six minutes remaining in the second half of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference semi-final game, the Quinnipiac Bobcats just needed to find a way to close it out.

They couldn’t.

Fast forward eight months and the second chance to close it out is here.

A new season is upon us, which means a clean slate and a year under-the-belt for second-year head coach Baker Dunleavy and his system.

The difference now for the Bobcats is they are ready.

No, that second chance will not be Saturday, Nov. 10 when Quinnipiac opens its season at the Wells Fargo Center against the defending-champion Villanova Wildcats. It will be when Quinnipiac makes another run in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament. It will happen.

Let’s just say coming into this new season, the narrative has changed.

The Bobcats return a MAAC player of the year candidate in Cameron Young. Rich Kelly and Jacob Rigoni are in their second year after superb rookie campaigns. Dunleavy has brought in one of the most talented freshmen classes the MAAC has seen. The two transfers who had to sit out last year, Kevin Marfo and Travis Atson, will be in uniform and ready to go.

The odds are not stacked against the Bobcats this season.

In fact, they are for them. Quinnipiac was picked in a tie for third with Iona in this year’s MAAC men’s basketball preseason poll. Rider and Canisius were the two slotted ahead.

Does this mean Quinnipiac will win the MAAC and reach the NCAA Tournament? Not necessarily.

But does this mean Quinnipiac will put up a repeat of the last few years and show disappointment? Not one bit.

The difference now is the pressure is on. Yes, it’s only year two in the new system but with the momentum the program showed last season there’s reason to believe this is the year for major movement up the conference.

In the landscape of Quinnipiac athletics, the women’s basketball team has won the MAAC two years in a row and three NCAA tournament games in those last two years. The success needs to rub off, and it’s fair to expect the men’s basketball team to compete at this level now.

The goal coming into a season in college basketball is to reach the madness that is March. It’s time for it to happen in Hamden.

Quinnipiac has a chance to win its conference and reach the big dance this season. I’m not saying the Bobcats will. I’m just saying they will be right there until the end.

They will be right there until all they need to do is just close it out.

The question this year isn’t can they, it’s will they.

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