NYC Metro Basketball Report
The last days of 2006 give schools their last shots of the season at non-conference foes, one last opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t before heading into conference play. At the Aeropostale Holiday Festival last week, St. John’s learned that their offense still has a long way to go if they are to compete nightly in the Big East. Hofstra, who won the Holiday Festival, has had a tough time inside all season but may have found another contributor in the form of sophomore forward/center Chris Gadley.
Army, without guard Matt Bell, lost at Michigan despite Jarell Brown’s 22 points, but the Black Knights recovered to defeat Sacred Heart thanks to 24 points from Brown.
Seton Hall, another team with inside issues, played three close games out in Provo, losing to Oral Roberts and BYU and beating Liberty. Rebounding was a sore spot for the Pirates, and head coach Bobby Gonzalez even removed senior pivot Grant Billmeier from the starting lineup for the Liberty game. Marist took care of business at home, winning the Marist Classic with triumphs over Northern Illinois and Central Arkansas. The Red Foxes hit 11-for-21 from behind the arc in the final. St. Francis (NY) upset Columbia for their second win of the season, but Iona remains winless after their loss to Princeton.
Here are five games over the next few days in the New York metropolitan area to pay attention to. Happy New Year!
·Marist @ Loyola (MD), Tuesday 7:30 PM EST
The Red Foxes, 2-0 in the MAAC, renew their quest for the school’s first conference title since 2002, when they shared the throne with Rider. Tuesday night Marist will visit a Greyhound team that gave Michigan State all they wanted and then some in a 74-61 loss Saturday. Loyola is led by Providence transfer Gerald Brown, a junior guard from Baltimore averaging 21.4 points per game. Fellow transfers Hassan Fofana (Maryland) and Omari Isreal (Notre Dame) also contribute to Jimmy Patsos’ team. The matchup between Jared Jordan and Brown will be one to keep an eye on, but also note the improved play of senior center James Smith this season.
·Stony Brook @ Vermont, Wednesday 7:00 PM EST
The Seawolves begin conference play in America East with a trip to Burlington to take on the Catamounts. SBU has already surpassed their win total for 2005-06, and with guard Ricky Lucas and forward Mitchell Beauford Steve Pikiell’s team should be able to knock some teams off in America East. Whether or not they have enough to pull off a road win over the league’s flagship program the past few years remains to be seen, but a win like this could give the program an extra boost. In terms of individual matchups, pay close attention to Lucas and Vermont’s sophomore guard Mike Trimboli.
·Rutgers @ Seton Hall, Wednesday 7:30 PM EST
Wednesday night is the first meeting between the two Big East programs in the Garden State, and this one should be interesting. Seton Hall has been plagued by a lack of size, especially when it comes to rebounding, and Rutgers has had turnover issues throughout the year. When a team that can go eight or nine deep averages only 9.6 assists per game to go with 14.4 turnovers, you have a problem. Look for the Pirates to pressure Rutgers from the start, and while the Scarlet Knights certainly aren’t a juggernaut inside, they have more bodies to go to than Seton Hall. Rebounding and turnovers will tell the story of this game.
·DePaul @ St. John’s, Wednesday 7:30 PM EST
St. John’s a team that struggled mightily offensively last week, hosts a hot Blue Demons squad that has won five straight coming into their Big East opener. DePaul hasn’t had a problem putting the ball in the basket during their current win streak, averaging 83.8 points per game over their last five. The Red Storm will have to rely on defense to win this one, and I’m not sure if they have an answer for Wilson Chandler of Sammy Mejia at this time. While Lamont Hamilton has been consistent inside for St. John’s, the perimeter scorers (Anthony Mason Jr., Avery Patterson and Daryll Hill) did not play well in the Holiday Festival last week.
·Hofstra @ UNC-Wilmington, Wednesday 7:30 PM EST
The Pride, winners of last week’s Holiday Festival, visit a Seahawks team that has looked nothing like last season’s CAA Tournament champions. This can be attributed to the departure of head coach Brad Brownell (he took the Wright State job) and senior guard T.J. Carter’s groin injury that will force the mainstay to miss this season entirely. It also doesn’t help when you lost three starters from last season’s 25-8 team. Hofstra will look to ride the coattails of their highly touted backcourt, led by Loren Stokes, Carlos Rivera and Holiday Festival MVP Antoine Agudio. How important was T.J. Carter to UNCW? Despite the Pride’s lack of interior depth, you may find out in this one.
·Also, Fordham visits defending Atlantic 10 champions George Washington on Wednesday.
Here are the updated ranking for January 2nd.
1. Marist (last week: 1): James Smith has become a consistent option for the Red Foxes this year, and the fact that Ryan Stilphen has picked it up of late makes this team that much better.
2. Hofstra (2): The Pride needed a Loren Stokes jumper to take out St. Joseph’s in the opener of the Holiday Festival, but no such drama was needed to beat St. John’s.
3. St. John’s (3): The Red Storm stay put despite their poor offensive showing last week due to Seton Hall and Army doing nothing to show that they should be ranked ahead of St. John’s.
4. Seton Hall (4): The Pirates were out-rebounded by BYU 55-34 on Saturday. If this trend continues, the Hall may not qualify for the Big East Tournament.
5. Army (5): Matt Bell’s ankle injury kept him out of the Michigan loss, but he was back for their win over Sacred Heart. Bell and Jarell Brown may be one of the better guard tandems in the Patriot League.
6. Fordham (9): The Rams took care of business in beating Fairfield and Quinnipiac last week, but they’re 1-5 in road/neutral games so far this season.
7. Sacred Heart (8): The Pioneers lost a nail biter at Army, making them 1-2 three games into a five-game road swing. St. Francis (NY) and Mount St. Mary’s will look to knock SHU out of first place in the NEC this weekend.
8. Columbia (6): The Lions couldn’t quite recover from their close loss to St. John’s, falling to St. Francis (NY) 67-58 on Saturday. The Lions should be able to take care of Lehigh and Marywood in their next two.
9. Stony Brook (8): How much have the Seawolves really improved since last season? You get to find out beginning Wednesday with their visit to Vermont.
10. Fairleigh Dickinson (10): The fact that the Knights were able to recover from their heartbreaking loss to Rider with a win at IUPUI says something about the mental toughness of Tom Green’s club.
11. Long Island (12): The Blackbirds stopped a three-game skid with a 72-61 win over St. Peter’s on New Year’s Eve. James Williams and Aubin Scott are two of the better players in the Northeast Conference to this point in the season, and LIU will need them even more in a league with no true favorite right now.
12. Wagner (11): I drank the Wagner Kool-Aid before the season began, so I’m hoping that the Seahawks used the time off (they haven’t played since December 21st) to figure out how to take better care of the basketball before they head into NEC play.
13. Manhattan (13): Manhattan stays put because neither St. Peter’s nor Fairfield did anything to show otherwise. It’s may be a long year for the Jaspers.
14. St. Peter’s (14): John Dunne’s Peacocks will look to end their four-game losing streak in the Buffalo area this weekend with games against Niagara and Canisius.
15. St. Francis-NY (17): Now that the Terriers have won a couple of games, we need to pay a little more attention to guard Jamaal Womack and forward Robert Hines. Those two, along with Allan Sheppard, can play some ball.
16. Fairfield (15): The Stags have struggled of late, but they are 1-1 in the MAAC heading into their game at Rider Tuesday night.
17. NJIT (16): The Highlanders have now lost eleven straight games after opening the season 2-0. Maybe they can shock Navy at home Tuesday night.
18. Iona (18): Delaware won two in a row last week (Niagara, La Salle), so the Gaels no longer have company in the winless category. Next up: Maryland. Ouch.