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Previewing Niagara: Pirates take on Purple Eagles in season opener

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Antoine Mason is Niagara's top returning scorer (18.7 ppg).
Antoine Mason is Niagara's top returning scorer (18.7 ppg).
Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Seton Hall will take on MAAC foe Niagara in their regular season opener on Saturday night at 6pm. Here is a preview of what to expect from the Purple Eagles:
2012-13 Niagara (19-13, 13-5; KenPom: 138; RPI: 123, Regular Season MAAC Champions)
Niagara looked to return most of their talent from a successful 2012-13 campaign which saw them finish on top of the regular season MAAC standings. However, Juan'ya Green (16.5 ppg) and Ameen Tanksley (11.3 ppg), Niagara's 2nd and 3rd leading scorers, opted to transfer to Hofstra after the 2012-13 season. T.J. Cline (7.9 ppg) and Malcolm Lemmons (13.5 mpg) also decided to transfer from the program.

The Purple Eagles will need to be led by junior guard Antoine Mason (18.7 ppg) - son of former NBA star Anthony Mason - who returns as their leading scorer, and redshirt senior Marcus Ware (6.4 ppg, 4 rpg), a Monmouth transfer. Aside from Mason and Ware, Niagara brings back just two players who averaged over 10 mpg last season in guards Marvin Jordan (28.5 mpg, 8.2 ppg) and Tahjere McCall (19.8 mpg, 4 ppg). Niagara has also added Rhode Island transfer Rayvon Harris, who played sparingly in 2011-12 for the Rams, and Iowa State transfer Cameron Fowler, who was handed a redshirt as a freshman in Ames.

With so many departures, expect Niagara to finish with an RPI below 200, perhaps below 250 if incoming transfers Ware, Harris, and Fowler fail to produce. All three transfers and Antoine Mason put up decent numbers in a recent 96-71 exhibition win over Division 3 Buffalo State. Freshman Ramone Snowden added 17 points.

A look at Niagara's roster shows that they have just two players taller than 6-foot-6 that have any Division 1 experience: 6-foot-8 Marcus Ware and 6-foot-7 junior Joe Thomas (2.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 9.4 mpg). Ware and Thomas will be backed by N.J. freshmen Aaron Bodie (6-foot-7, Newark East Side) and Dominique Reid (6-foot-8, Timber Creek), who round out the Purple Eagle front court. Due to their opponent's shallow back-to-the-basket depth, Seton Hall head coach Kevin Wilard would be smart to continue his game plan of getting center Gene Teague a few touches on every offensive possession. With Teague and Patrik Auda manning the low-post at the same time, Seton Hall should be able to create plenty of match up problems in Newark tomorrow night.

KenPom Says: No. 63 Seton Hall - 74, No. 176 Niagara - 64 (85%)