NYC Metro Ranking: Hofstra Back to #1
Seton Hall and St. John’s showed glimpses of what can make them successful, as well as what could be their downfall in the Big East this year. The Pirates used their activity to defeat in-state rival Rutgers, but then were abused inside by the combination of Geoff McDermott and Herbert Hill in a 91-69 loss at Providence. St. John’s welcomed back forward Aaron Spears in their win over DePaul, a game in which the Red Storm harassed the Blue Demons to the tune of 32.8% shooting from the field. Unfortunately for the Red Storm, they followed that effort with their worst display since the Maryland debacle, a 73-46 beating at the hands of West Virginia.
Army, seen by some as benefactors of a schedule that could be described as less than strenuous overall, lost their league opener to Colgate 73-71. The Black Knights then fell to emerging Patriot League favorite Holy Cross 66-42 to fall to 0-2 in the conference. The Black Knights have improved, but Patriot League play will be the true harbinger of just how much. St. Francis, a team that always seems to play solid defense, found their offensive groove in an impressive 68-52 win at LIU Monday night. The Terriers were led by Robert Hines’ 23 points and Kayode Ayeni added 14 off the bench. On the flip side of SFNY’s improvement is Iona, still winless after Tuesday’s 87-65 loss at Marist. Below are a couple of games in the area over the next couple of days to keep an eye on.
- St. John’s @ Seton Hall, Thursday 7:00 EST
This will be an interesting game to watch. On one side you have a St. John’s team that has struggled mightily at times to put the ball in the basket. It’s no secret that the Red Storm offense goes through Lamont Hamilton inside, and they should look here first in order to take advantage of Seton Hall’s lack of size. On the other side is a Seton Hall team that wants to run and force turnovers with their pressure defense. The strategy has been successful at times for the Hall, but if you watched the Providence game on Saturday you were treated to a layup line. It’s early in Big East play, but it is a game essential to two 1-1 clubs that will need this one in order to assure a trip to the Big East Tournament.
- Hofstra @ Drexel, Thursday 8:00 EST
I don’t make designations for a “Game of the Week”, but if you’ve paid any attention to the Colonial Athletic Association this year then you know just how important this one is. Both teams sit atop the league standings, tied with Virginia Commonwealth at 4-0 in league play. Drexel has already made news this season with wins over the likes of Villanova, Syracuse, and St. Joseph’s. Bruiser Flint’s squad is experienced and balanced, led by the backcourt of Bashir Mason and Dominic Mejia, and center Frank Elegar, the team’s leading scorer. Whether or not Hofstra leaves Philadelphia with a win depends on how Mike Davis-Sabb and Chris Gadley perform against Elegar and senior forward Chaz Crawford. Crawford leads the CAA in rebounds with ten per game. Second place in that category (Vladimir Kuljanin of UNC Wilmington) averages 7.7 boards per game. Look for the Hofstra guards (Loren Stokes, Antoine Agudio and Carlos Rivera) to lend a hand in the rebounding department. Do not miss this game.
- Xavier @ Fordham, Thursday 8:00 EST
The Rams will host the preseason pick to win the Atlantic 10 in a key game for both squads. The Musketeers, 1-0 in conference play, have won three straight (Illinois, Kansas State, Temple) since their loss to Queen City rival Cincinnati. Five Muskies average at least seven points per game, and Oklahoma transfer Drew Lavender has given Sean Miller a true point guard, something last season’s conference tournament champions lacked. Fordham has been plagued by inconsistent play all year, but they do come off of a win at Richmond on Saturday. If the Rams want to entertain any thoughts of having an impact on the conference race, they need to take care of business at home.
- Manhattan @ Iona, Friday 9:00 EST
Sometimes, there’s no better motivation for a struggling team than the sight of a bitter rival. Iona fans are hoping that this is indeed the case on Friday night as the Jaspers visit the 0-14 Gaels. Despite their early season struggles, Barry Rohrssen’s bunch is 3-1 in the MAAC and is riding a three-game winning streak. Returnees Devon Austin and Arturo Dubois have led the way, but how about freshman guard Darryl Crawford? Crawford, a 6’4 native of Harlem, is averaging 9.9 points per game for the Jaspers. Iona will counter with senior forward Anthony Bruin and recent addition Dexter Gray, a transfer from St. John’s. Games on TV Friday night are few and far between, so you may as well check this one out.
- Pennsylvania @ Columbia, Saturday 7:00 EST
This is the second half of the Princeton/Penn home stand for the Lions, who have the unenviable task of opening Ivy League play with the league’s most successful programs. The Quakers, picked to win the league, have been tested plenty to this point in the season thanks to a schedule that included Syracuse, Drexel, Villanova and North Carolina. A lot of talk before the season began focused on the Preseason Player of the Year Ibrahim Jaaber, but it’s senior forward Mark Zoller that has paced the Quakers (19.2 ppg, 8.0 rpg) to this point. Zoller’s matchup with Columbia’s John Baumann will be one to watch. This much can be said about Columbia: we’ll learn a lot more about their chances to compete in the Ivy League after this weekend than we did in their 87-38 pasting of Marywood on Saturday.
Here are the updated rankings.
- Hofstra (last week: 2): The Pride head into their biggest game of the year (to this point) riding a five-game win streak.
- Marist (1): The Red Foxes shot 50 percent in their 22-point win over Iona on Tuesday night.
- St. John’s (3): The Red Storm and Seton Hall stay put because no one behind them did enough to warrant being moved up this high. St. John’s has one major problem: inconsistency on the offensive end. During one stretch they’re adequate, the next: deplorable.
- Seton Hall (4): See previous statement. Seton Hall, as seen in their loss at Providence, will have a tough time slowing down some of the better big men in the Big East.
- Fordham (6): Although the Rams lost to defending league champion George Washington, they followed that up with a win at Richmond.
- Army (5): Improving their standing in the Patriot League will not be an easy task for the Black Knights, but at least they don’t have to play Holy Cross every night.
- Sacred Heart (7): The Pioneers had done a good job of hanging in at Mount St. Mary’s, trailing 36-34 at the half. Then they gave up 55 points in the second stanza. The good news is that their 3-1 record has them in second place in the NEC.
- Columbia (8): The Lions won two that they were supposed to, a 55-54 squeaker over Lehigh followed by the aforementioned whipping of Marywood. Marywood is not Princeton or Penn, their next two opponents.
- Fairleigh Dickinson (10): Thanks to their 96-95 win over Wagner on Saturday, the Knights are the NEC’s lone undefeated team. After hosting St. Francis (PA), things get tougher with Robert Morris (1/13) and a trip to New Britain to take on Central Connecticut State (1/18).
- Manhattan (13): The Jaspers won at Pepperdine, and then kept the momentum rolling with wins over Fairfield and Canisius. Things are looking up for this team, but it remains to be seen if the Jaspers can stay with Marist, Siena and Loyola (MD) in the MAAC.
- Stony Brook (9): After losing two games by double digits to Vermont and UMBC, the Seawolves recovered nicely in knocking off Binghamton at home Tuesday night.
- St. Francis-NY (15): I know, I know. How can the Terriers move up three spots? Well, none of the teams below them this week deserved to move into this spot, and the Terriers have improved on the offensive end of late.
- Long Island (11): The Blackbirds suffered a hangover from their four overtime loss to Mount St. Mary’s, falling 68-52 to St. Francis (NY) on Monday night.
- Wagner (12): If they didn’t have bad luck, they’d have none. The Seahawks fell 96-95 in overtime to Fairleigh Dickinson, losing out on a road win that would have done wonders for the team’s confidence.
- St. Peter’s (14): The Peacocks will look to end their seven-game losing streak this weekend when Canisius and Manhattan visit the Yanitelli Center.
- Fairfield (16): The Stags will look to end their four-game losing streak this weekend when Rider visits Harbor Yard.
- NJIT (17): The Highlanders, losers of thirteen straight, will look to end the skid at home against Longwood on Wednesday before they head out on a five-game road trip.
- Iona (18): “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever know”. The Gaels remain Division I’s lone winless team. But if Cal Tech can end a 59-game losing streak (go to http://www.athletics.caltech.edu/sports/mbb/mbb.html to see the headline), Iona can end a fourteen-game slide.