Metro Basketball Report: Holiday Edition

    
December 24th, 2006
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Due to finals and the holidays, many teams in the New York metropolitan area have light schedules in the mid to late portion of December. This gives teams some time to figure out what’s right and what’s wrong with their squads to this point. And this also gives me time to decide what I’d get some of these teams if they were on my shopping list. Below are a few gift ideas for some of the teams in the area, as well as updated rankings that show just how unpredictable this season has been. Hofstra saw their six-game win streak come to a screeching halt in Syracuse Friday night, while Seton Hall followed their worst outing of the year (80-61 loss to Virginia Tech) with arguably their best (94-85 win over Penn).

Marist lost by ten at Wright State, and don’t look now by St. John’s has won six in a row, restoring order in NYC college basketball with their 76-70 win over surprising Columbia last night. And we can’t go without giving due respect to St. Francis (NY), who won their first game of the season, 76-73 over Manhattan on Thursday. This means that the Jaspers have lost to the Terriers as well as the New Jersey Institute of Technology this season. Lastly, Iona remains one of two teams (Delaware) left without a win to this point in the season. Happy Holidays!

 

Christmas List

·        Iona: Nike football gloves and a win. The Gaels, struggling mightily after losing last year’s senior class, haven’t helped themselves out any by averaging 18.8 turnovers per game. If the Gaels can’t do a better job of holding onto the ball, their next two games (Princeton, at Maryland) could get really ugly.

·        Columbia: A little more respect. Yes, the New York Times wrote an article yesterday on the Lions’ 7-4 start to the year, but the loss to St. John’s yesterday will be seen by some who haven’t seen CU play as a sign that nothing has changed in the realm of New York City college basketball. Don’t be fooled, because the Lions have a legitimate shot to break the Penn/Princeton stranglehold on the Ivy League. How much of a chance to they have? We’ll find out the first weekend of league play (January 12-13), with both teams visiting Columbia.

·        Wagner: Some help at the foul line. The Seahawks are ninth in the NEC in free throw percentage, averaging 62.4% from the charity stripe. Yes, teams like Syracuse and Connecticut have gotten by despite pedestrian foul shooting, but Wagner doesn’t have that kind of talent. And in a conference that is wide open (based on the first weekend of league play), what you do at the foul line could be the difference in hosting a conference tournament game or two and not even qualifying (only the top eight qualify).

·        St. Francis (NY): Shooting help. Period. Wonder why it took so long for the Terriers to get their first win? SFNY is last in the NEC in foul shooting (59.1%), three-point shooting (27.6%), and field goal percentage (36.5%). The last stat is more than four percentage points behind the next team, Fairleigh Dickinson and Mount St. Mary’s at 40.9%. Averaging eighteen turnovers per game is bad enough, but when you can’t convert enough of the opportunities that you do get, you’re not going to win many games.

·        Seton Hall: Three points shooting. Maybe this is a product of their guard-heavy rotation and the fact that they put up a lot of shots from behind the arc, but Seton Hall shoots 30.9% from downtown. Guys like Eugene Harvey, Jamar Nutter, Brian Laing, Paul Gause and Larry Davis are more than able to hit shots from distance, but the percentage must improve if the Pirates want to compete in the Big East. No disrespect to Grant Billmeier or Stan Gaines, but the Pirates don’t have to horses inside, so the perimeter will be their ticket to success.

·        St. Peter’s: Fewer turnovers. If you think that Iona’s 18.8 turnovers per game are worst in the MAAC, think again. The Peacocks turn the ball over 19.3 times per outing, a good place to start when trying to figure out why they’re 3-8. Even though their three best offensive options, Raul Orta, Todd Sowell and Kevin Spann, lead the team in scoring, this trio averages 6.9 turnovers per outing between them. The Peacocks’ fourth-leading scorer, junior forward Akeem Gooding, averages five per game. If this trend continues, expect to see the Peacocks on the opening night of the MAAC Tournament.

 

Updated Rankings:

1.      Marist (last week 1): Yes they didn’t play well at Wright State, but no one below them showed anything as to why they should replace the Red Foxes in the top spot.

2.      Hofstra (2): See the reason for leaving Marist at one and change a couple of words. That’s why Hofstra stays put in spite of their loss at Syracuse.

3.      St. John’s (5): The Red Storm have won their last six, and will look to keep the streak going despite the loss of Aaron Spears (suspension for violating team rules).

4.      Seton Hall (4): The Pirates were nothing more than a sieve in their loss at MSG to Virginia Tech Thursday night, but they made up for it in beating Penn at home on Saturday.

5.      Army (3): When you follow up a two-game tour of the SUNY college system (Purchase, Maritime) with an 88-47 beating at Notre Dame, you drop. Next up is a Michigan team that should be smarting from the whipping that UCLA gave them on Saturday.

6.      Columbia (6): Even with their loss to St. John’s last night, I really like this team. Look for the Lions to make some noise in the Ivy League, and they can put themselves in the driver’s seat when league play begins (Princeton, Penn at home).

7.      Sacred Heart (8): How do you recover from a blowout loss to Boston College? You take it out on Harvard. It remains to be seen what the Pioneers can do in the NEC this year, but they can finish in the top half of the league.

8.      Stony Brook (10): The Seawolves have been inconsistent this season, and that can be seen in their loss at Dartmouth (71-50), followed up by a win over FDU (82-58). Can they finish in the middle of America East? I can’t say for sure, but I do know that league rivals will have their hands full with guard Ricky Lucas.

9.      Fordham (7): There’s no shame in losing at Texas A&M, but they really let one slip away at College of Charleston yesterday. But that tends to happen when you go 9-for-17 from the foul line and get out-rebounded 41-32.

10.  Fairleigh Dickinson (9): The Knights only drop one spot due to the ineptitude of Wagner and Manhattan. However, they did play well enough to beat Rider Friday night, but FDU couldn’t finish.

11.  Wagner (11): If not for the recent play of Manhattan and Long Island, Wagner would be further down in the poll.

12.  Long Island (13): LIU lost to a Binghamton team that beat Miami-Florida (I know that’s not saying much this season), while Manhattan fell to a then-winless St. Francis (NY).

13.  Manhattan (12): If anyone knows what to make of this team, now 3-7, let me know. However, it’s easy to see that forward Arturo Dubois is a man inside for head coach Barry Rohrssen.

14.  St. Peter’s (14): Give John Dunne and his Peacocks credit for taking on UNC Greensboro and Florida State on the road. The Peacocks should do some things in the MAAC this season.

15.  Fairfield (15): The Stags haven’t played since December 10th, meaning that there may be a holiday hangover when they return to the court on the 28th at Fordham.

16.  NJIT (first ranking): The Highlanders are in their first season of Division I basketball, and the boys from Newark are finding out just how tough the competition is. After winning their first two, NJIT has lost nine straight.

17.  St. Francis (NY) (17): Congratulations on that first win of the season. With Columbia and Sacred Heart next on the schedule, that second win may have to wait a little bit.

18. Iona (16): The winless watch is now down to two: Iona and Delaware. The next two for Iona: Princeton, at Maryland. That’s’ how much last year’s seniors meant to this program.