Metro Ranking and Report: Update #1

December 3rd, 2008
We're just about finished with the first month of the season in the metropolitan area, and it's become quite obvious who the best team in the area is right now. Seton Hall has gotten off to a 6-1 start, which includes a pair of gutty comebacks in Puerto Rico to finish third in that in-season tournament. Jeremy Hazell has shown himself to be one of the most explosive scorers in the Big East; what has come in his sophomore campaign (23.3 ppg; tops in the Big East) is a level of consistency that wasn't always present last season. Hazell has scored at least fifteen points in each game, including a pair of thirty-two point games against Memphis (Seton Hall's lone defeat) and Monmouth.

It would be easy to look at the perimeter when dissecting Seton Hall's start to the season, but that would be a disservice to one John Garcia. The senior forward is currently averaging eleven points and ten rebounds per game for head coach Bobby Gonzalez, who isn't afforded the luxury of multiple post options like other schools in the Big East. Robert Mitchell is averaging around seven boards per game and despite their lack of interior depth the Pirates are just a -0.4 in rebound margin. Coach Gonzalez's team holding its own on the backboards is a case of maximum desire making up for a minimal amount of height, and that work ethic would go a long way in explaining the comeback wins over USC and Virginia Tech. All this makes the Pirates a rather easy choice for Team of the Month.

Honorable Mention

St. John's (6-1): The Red Storm have only lost at Boston College, but more importantly they lost Anthony Mason Jr. for the year due to injury.
Hofstra (4-1): The Pride were defeated soundly in their opener against Clemson in the Charleston Classic, but they recovered to win their final two games in the event. Charles Jenkins is averaging 23.6 ppg, but he's received help from Cornelius Vines and Tony Dennison in the backcourt.
Wagner (4-1): In all fairness, the Seahawks haven't been tested outside of a season-opening loss to Lafayette. There are still some questions to be answered for Mike Deane's club in the backcourt.

Player of the Month

It would be easy to go with Hazell by himself for this distinction, but Rider junior Ryan Thompson should get some credit as well. Thompson has helped fill the void left by the departure of older brother Jason (who's done alright with the Sacramento Kings so far) with 19.8 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, ranking first and third respectively in the MAAC in those categories. He's already got a pair of double-doubles in wins over Lehigh and Lafayette, and was just one rebound short in the Broncs' home win over Cal-State Northridge. Rider hosts Rutgers tonight, and with the unpredictable Scarlet Knights already owning defeats to St. Bonaventure and Lehigh it wouldn't be a shocker for the Broncs to win the game. And expect Ryan to play a large part in the victory should that be the case.

Five for the Month

G Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall) 23.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 spg
G Charles Jenkins (Hofstra) 23.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.6 apg
F Ryan Thompson (Rider) 19.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg
F Ryan Schneider (Marist) 12.5 ppg, 9.7 rpg
F/C John Garcia (Seton Hall) 11.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg

Two for the Bench: G Wesley Jenkins (St. Peter's) 18.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg and G/F D.J. Kennedy (St. John's) 15.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg

Schedule (Wednesday through Sunday)

Wednesday December 3rd

7 PM: Wagner @ Columbia
Holy Cross @ Yale
Fordham @ Hofstra
Rutgers @ Rider at first glance many would take the Big East school to win this one, even though it's on the road. But don't be fooled, Rutgers has had to lean on freshman Mike Rosario and Greg Echinique in the early going. The veterans haven't been as consistent as head coach Fed Hill needs them to be, an explanation for those losses to St. Bonaventure and Lehigh. Winner becomes the second-best team in New Jersey.

Thursday December 4th

7 PM: St. Francis (NY) @ Robert Morris
Mount St. Mary's @ Sacred Heart (ESPN360/ ESPN Full Court) a rematch of last year's NEC Tournament final, which the Mountaineers won on the road to grab the automatic bid to the NCAA's. Can the Pioneers slow down guard Jeremy Goode (22 ppg)? That'll be a key in this one if they're to win.
LIU @ St. Francis (PA)

Friday December 5th

7 PM: Canisius @ Manhattan
Lehigh @ Stony Brook
7:30 St. Peter's @ Fairfield
Iona @ Marist a Marist team that could end up better than many thought they'd be this year opens up MAAC play by hosting an Iona team that could make a move up the conference standings. Gary Springer leads the way for the Gaels with more than fourteen points per game, but after him this is a balanced offense with eight players scoring between 5.6 and 7.6 points per game. Iona is the deeper team, but will it mean a 1-0 start to conference play?

Saturday December 6th

2 PM: Binghamton @ Rutgers
NJIT @ Maryland-Eastern Shore
Monmouth @ Quinnipiac
Yale @ Wagner
4 PM: FDU @ Sacred Heart
7 PM: Hofstra @ Towson the CAA opener for both teams, and a game that is much tougher than it looks to be on paper. Towson is undefeated at home, but that can be forgotten due to the fact that the Tigers have been blown out in all three of their roadies. Forwards Jarrel Smith and Junior Hairston lead the way for Pat Kennedy's club, but they'll have their hands full with Charles Jenkins. Should be a good one.

Princeton @ St. Bonaventure
LIU @ Robert Morris
St. Francis (NY) @ St. Francis (PA)

Sunday December 7th

2 PM: Manhattan @ Rider Rider's been picked to be one of the top teams in the MAAC this season, while the Jaspers will visit Lawrenceville hoping to show themselves as a viable sleeper in the title race. Manhattan followed up a three-game win streak to start the season with consecutive losses to St. Francis (NY) and Hofstra, but it's their ability to hit the boards that gives them a shot in this one. Manhattan leads the MAAC in rebounding margin (+5.2), which could help make up for shooting percentages that rank in the bottom half of the league. And the individual matchup between Ryan Thompson and Devon Austin should be entertaining.

Canisius @ St. Peter's
Mount Ida @ Stony Brook
3:30: Iona @ Fairfield

Updated Rankings

1. Seton Hall (6-1)
2. St. John's (6-1)
3. Hofstra (4-1)
4. Rider (3-1)
5. Rutgers (4-2)
6. Fairfield (4-3)
7. Iona (2-3)
8. Wagner (4-1)
9. Manhattan (3-2)
10. Marist (2-4)
11. Princeton (2-3)
12. Stony Brook (3-3)
13. Yale (1-4)
14. LIU (1-3)
15. St. Peter's (1-4)
16. Sacred Heart (1-3)
17. Columbia (2-4)
18. St. Francis (NY) (1-4)
19. Fordham (0-5)
20. Army (1-6)
21. FDU (0-5)
22. Monmouth (1-7)
23. NJIT (0-6)