Over the past three seasons, the men’s basketball program has been among the nation’s elite.

The Yellowjackets are 72-12 since the 2001-2002 season.

Coming off a 25-2 season, the Yellowjackets are ranked No. 5 by http://www.D3Hoops.com and No. 3 in Street and Smith’s Preseason Top 10.

The defending University Athletic Association champs are also picked to win the conference again by coaches in the UAA.

Rochester’s sole regular season loss was to conference rival Washington University.

Their second lost was to Keene State College, 82-79, in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Division III national championship tournament.

Three years ago, the Yellowjackets finished 21-4 in the regular season, earning an at-large bid to the Big Dance.

Rochester defended that selection very well by reaching the Final Four. Their final mark was 24-6.

The success of 2001-2002 led to high expectations for 2002-2003.

Rochester was ranked highly in several preseason media polls, including the number one spot in a couple of them.

The Yellowjackets were 22-3 in the regular season and earned another bid to the tournament.

The Yellowjackets defeated Western Connecticut State College before losing in the Sweet 16 to Amherst College. The final mark was 23-4.

“I think we will be a good basketball team,” Head Coach Mike Neer said. “We have a strong core of veteran player and a talented freshman class. Now we need to become a coherent group.”

“We have a trio who has played at a very high level together,” Neer said.

The three seniors – forward Seth Hauben and guards Ryan Mee and Brendan McAllister – know what it takes to win games.

Graduation claimed a big portion of the Yellowjackets’ post players. Andrew Larkin, Brian Jones, Makedo Wisseh and Brian Mackey each were key players who led the Yellowjackets last year.

Hauben returns for his senior year determined to carry Rochester to a national championship.

He has dominated opponents with scoring and rebounding ability.

He led the Yellowjackets in scoring at 16.8 points per game, rebounding 10.3 boards per contest, and blocked shots last year.

At season’s end, Hauben was named a First Team All-American by two publications and a Second Team All-American by a third.

He was the East Region Player of the Year, the Upstate N.Y. Player of the Year and the UAA Player of the Year.

Senior Mike Goia, a transfer from the University of Vermont, will start at one of the wing spots.

“Clearly, Mike is going to help us,” Neer said. “He is very versatile and talented. He shoots well from the outside, gets to the rim and is unselfish. He is truly a triple-threat.”

One of the challenges is to find someone to play up front with Hauben and Goia.

There are four candidates to step up and play down low, including sophomore Eric Snider, and freshmen Jon Oniyriuka, Dan Milbrand and Uche Ndubizu.

Much of Rochester’s experience this season is found in the backcourt. Seniors Ryan Mee and Brendan McAllister will play vital roles in scoring from the outside.

“We have outside shooters and guards who know when to feed the posts and when to shoot it,” Neer said.

Joe Canty, a 6-foot-4-inch junior, will step to the forefront at the point guard position.

Canty was second in assists last year with 53 and has made a name for himself as a lockdown defender.

Tim Brackney, a sophomore guard, has good deep shooting skills and quickness.

“Tim is working to become more efficient in his ball handling and passing,” Neer said. “Rob Dominiak, another freshman guard, was a scorer at Birch Wathen Lenox High School in Manhattan.”

Due to personal reasons, senior guard Gabe Perez and sophomore Seth Bowler won’t be in uniform this year for Rochester.

“We hope to develop depth as the season progresses,” Neer said.

Rochester will play seven of its first eight games at home.

Rochester will face another schedule of tough non-conference games.

Big games for Rochester will be against New York University and Washington University.

Opening night is this Friday at 8 p.m. in the Palestra.

Rovinsky can be reached at mrovinsky@campustimes.org.

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