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By Raphielle Johnson

December 20th, 2005


College Basketball: New York Metro Ranking

Top two remain strong


In this the second installment of my ranking of the college basketball teams in the New York metropolitan area, the turnover takes place in the middle of the poll as the top two teams, Iona and Hofstra, did nothing to justify dropping them in the rankings. The Gaels have not played since a 79-76 win at Marist on the 11th, but they should not be penalized for concentrating on their exams. Iona will put their undefeated record (7-0) on the line at Kentucky on the 23rd in what should be a good barometer for Jeff Ruland’s guys. Hofstra, with a record of 6-2, rebounded nicely from a blowout loss at Virginia Commonwealth with wins over Stony Brook and Dartmouth. Added to the rankings are the Red Foxes of Marist, thanks to a 56-53 win over St. John’s. I figure that if the Red Storm can be ranked, then something had to be done on behalf of Matt Brady’s local squad. Below are the new rankings of the fourteen teams in this week’s poll. (Read the previous poll.)


1. Iona (7-0) (last ranking: 1) - The backcourt tandem of Steve Burtt Jr. and Ricky Soliver combine to average 41.2 points per contest. But they will have their hands full with Rajon Rondo when they head to Lexington for their next game. With a win over Iowa State already in hand, could a win over Kentucky add to a possible at-large resume? We’ll see about that.


2. Hofstra (6-2) (2) – The Pride may boast the second best backcourt in the NYC area in the form of Antoine Agudio (15.0 ppg) and Loren Stokes (14.1 ppg). And playing in the tough Colonial Athletic Association against the likes of Old Dominion, UNC Wilmington, and Virginia Commonwealth (87-64 winners over the Pride on the 7th), they’ll need all the help they can get.


3. Wagner (6-1) (7) – Seven Seahawks average between 6.4 and 14.0 points per game, a scoring balance that has led to a four-game winning streak. The most recent win was a 63-61 nail-biter at Rhode Island. But we’ll find out how good this team can be when they travel west to face UCLA on the 21st.


4. Seton Hall (6-3) (5) – Yes, the schedule hasn’t been the toughest, and yes they lost a 44-42 decision to Northwestern on Sunday. But did anyone honestly expect Donald Copeland to average 15.0 points and 4.0 assists per contest? Whether this continues into Big East play remains to be seen, but the increased contribution from Jamar Nutter is another bonus for the Pirates.


5. St. Peter’s (4-4) (11) – Making the largest jump in the poll is St. Peter’s, owners  of a four-game win streak as well as a share of first place in the MAAC. Keydren Clark is up to the usual, leading the Peacocks with 22.4 points per game. Add to this the scoring of Raul Orta (13.0 ppg) and Todd Sowell (12.5 ppg, 10.1 rpg), and this has the makings of a team that can make a move toward the top of their league. Next up is a home game against Fairleigh Dickinson on the 22nd.


6. Columbia (6-2) (8) – The Lions hit a rough spot, losing games to Army and Wagner after starting off 5-0. But thanks to the trio of Brett Loscalzo (13 points), John Baumann (14), and Ben Nwachukwu (15), Columbia rebounded with a 71-67 win over Lafayette. Next up are games at Notre Dame and St. John’s, more than enough of a challenge for the Lions.


7. Farleigh Dickinson (5-4) (4) – The Knights of FDU drop slightly, not so much for their 1-2 record in the past three as for the play of the teams above. FDU, looking to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, is off to a 2-0 start in the Northeast Conference. With a non-conference schedule that has included Maryland and Seton Hall, and will include Louisville (December 28th), the Knights will be well-tested come January, when league play hits its peak.


8. Manhattan (3-4) (6) – After losing their first four of the season, Bobby Gonzalez’s Jaspers have rebounded nicely in winning their last three games by an average of 12.3 points per game. Yes, the quality of their opponents leaves something to be desired (their last two wins: North Dakota St., Loyola MD), but this is only fair when looking at who they started the season out with. Next are games against Fordham and St. Francis (NY) before they look to improve their undefeated record (2-0) in MAAC play.


9. Marist (3-4) (not ranked) – Making their debut in the poll are the Red Foxes of Marist, owners of the aforementioned win against St. John’s. Will Whittington, who scored 20 points against the Red Storm, was MAAC Player of the Week thanks to his contribution to the win. And when you can make Darryl Hill go 6-for-19 from the floor, you may be on to something. This being said, an allowance had to be made for the Red Foxes, despite the distance in mileage (90 miles) from New York City.


10. St. John’s (5-3) (3) – A seven spot drop for a 5-3 team? Below two teams with identical 3-4 records? It goes something like this...Manhattan beat Marist...which beat St. John’s, and that’s why the Red Storm fell so far. Despite having four players in double figures and holding Marist to 38% from the field, SJU came up on the short end of the stick thanks to percentages of 33% from the field and 50% from the foul line. Taking twenty-six three pointers while making only seven doesn’t help the cause either. But look for Norm Roberts’ team to move up, even with a trip to Duke on the 21st.


11. St. Francis-NY (3-5) (9) – The Terriers drop two spots in the poll, but come off of a solid defensive effort in a 55-45 win over Hartford on the 18th. Not a high scoring team, St. Francis has eight players averaging at least four points per game. Led by Christian Brown’s 13.8 ppg, this team will have to rely on each other as well as their defense in order to make noise in the Northeast Conference. Upcoming games against Hofstra and Manhattan will be a good indicator of where they stand in the NYC area.


12. Fordham (3-6) (10) – To say the least, this is not what was expected of a team that some thought at the start of the year could challenge for an NIT bid. With Bryant Dunston (16.3 ppg, 7.7 rpg) leading the way, and Jermaine Anderson (16.2 ppg) and Marcus Stout (13.9 ppg) helping out, things could improve for the Rams. But can these three continue to average 30-plus minutes per game? In order for this team to qualify for postseason play, they might have to.


13. LIU-Brooklyn (2-4) (12) – After winning games against New Hampshire and Hartford, the Blackbirds gave ninety-one to Harvard in a 12-point loss to the Crimson. In losses, LIU has given up an average of 81 points per game, which is much too high for this team to be successful. Six players average at least 6.7 points per game, led by James Williams at 15.0 ppg. But if the Blackbirds can’t defend any better, then it will be another year of wondering if Charles Jones can come back.


14. Stony Brook (0-6) (13) – Close losses to Lehigh and Columbia, and four other losses by double digits. It’s going to be a long season for Steve Pikiell and the Seawolves this season I fear.




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