17. Fairleigh Dickinson (2006-07 Record: 14-16, 9-9 NEC)
Head coach: Tom Green
Returning Starters: 2- G Cameron Tyler (junior): 6’0”, 190; G Manny Ubilla (senior): 6’2”, 185
In recent years, it seemed as if the Knights were always in the thick of the NEC title race. Even in 2006-07, FDU had a shot to host a quarterfinal, but they limped into the NEC Tournament on a three-game skid to end the regular season. From there, it was off to Quinnipiac in hopes of winning their second game of the year on the Bobcats’ home court. But it wasn’t meant to be, with Quinnipiac ending their season with a one-point win (78-77). Now with three starters gone, all in the frontcourt no less, 2007-08 could be a year in which the Knights take a step back in the NEC. Then again, I predicted as much last year, only to see them finish .500 in conference play.
Luckily for Coach Green, he will have some capable guards (including both starters) back in Teaneck this season. Junior Cameron Tyler (14.3 ppg, 5.1 apg, 4.4 rpg) is FDU’s leading returning scorer, assist man and rebounder, but he could move over to the two guard spot if the Knights decide to go with three guards. Senior guard Bernell Murray, a solid bench contributor last season, could move into the starting backcourt, forming a three-pronged attack with Tyler and classmate Manny Ubilla (11.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg). Murray was third on the team in total assists, starting the eleven games that Ubilla did not last season. Sean Baptiste, who played in twenty-nine games last season, should also see more than the 12.7 minutes per game he logged in 06-07. Incoming freshman Jordan Stasyszyn (Carlisle, PA), a serious threat from behind the arc, could also play a role in the Knights’ plans this season.
The questions lie in the frontcourt, which has the task of replacing starters Andre Harris (first team All-NEC), Michael Peeples (probably the Knights’ most versatile player) and Jordan Ingram. All three started all thirty games in 06-07, and experience behind them is scarce to say the least. The only returnee with a credible amount of game experience last season is senior forward Eric Hazard (5.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg), who averaged eighteen minutes per game. Although the 6-6 Hazard is no banger inside, he can shoot the three, done at a clip of 41.2% in 06-07. The other frontcourt returnees, sophomores Brian Lytle and Lawrence Brown averaged seven minutes per game or less last year, and Brown only played in five games. Luckily for FDU, Brown is a seven-footer who at the least should be able to change some shots inside. 6’8” John Galvin (Weston, CT) should also get some playing time, but look for the Knights to go small if they can.
Although five players join the program this season, only Galvin and Stasyszyn are available this season with the other three being either transfers or medical redshirts. Anthony Jeune (Camden, NJ) will sit out this season after suffering a serious injury in his senior year of high school while Eric Moore (Buffalo) and Alvin Mofunanya (St. Joseph’s) will sit out per NCAA transfer rules.
Schedule-wise, FDU tips things off in the NIT Season Tip-Off (November 12th-13th) against St. Joseph’s in the Syracuse regional. The following night brings either the host school (Syracuse) or Siena depending on the results. Other non-conference games include trips to Rider (November 19th), St. John’s (November 25th) and Charlotte (December 30th) mixed in amongst home dates with the likes of Florida Atlantic (November 23rd), Stony Brook (December 15th) and St. Peter’s (December 22nd). Conference play will bring a tough three-game road swing in mid-January: Sacred Heart (17th), Central Connecticut State (19th) and Monmouth (24th).
Well, the FDU guards can hold their own with just about anyone in the NEC and New York metropolitan area, but the key to their season is how much the inexperienced frontcourt develops. They’ll be a small team (save Brown, of course), but without much height last season they were only out-rebounded by 0.7 rebounds per game. Coach Green is one of the best in the NEC, and he usually finds a way to make sure the Knights contend, but the order could be too tall this season. They’ll be competitive, but it could be a struggle to qualify for the conference tournament until season’s end.