Team of the Week: Fordham
Results: W 76-72 @ Massachusetts, W 53-51 vs. Charlotte
Now, this one was close. Do you go with a team who knocked off the first-place team in their league and got a second win to move into a tie for first (Wagner)? Or do you go with a team that did some serious damage to the postseason hopes of two conference foes? I went with the latter, which is why the Fordham Rams are the team of the week. When the season began, I like many thought that Fordham could be one of the teams competing in the top half of the Atlantic 10, but things haven’t worked out that way in 2007-08. While the two wins certainly don’t get them out of the woods in terms of simply making the Atlantic 10 Tournament, these were two results that the kids desperately needed.
The win at UMass, nationally televised at that, featured another double-double for Bryant Dunston (15 and 12), and twenty-two points from guard Marcus Stout. Sebastian Greene chipped in with thirteen points and eleven rebounds in Fordham’s first win in Amherst since 1999. It was Stout’s free throws with eight seconds remaining that put the game away, fitting given the disparity in foul shots in the contest. Fordham went 22-31 from the charity stripe while the home-standing Minutemen went 8-11. Sunday’s two-point win over the 49ers came primarily because of the defense applied to guard Leemire Goldwire. Goldwire, averaging 20.2 points per game on the season, was held to twelve on 4-16 shooting from the field, 1-7 from behind the arc.
Bryant Dunston went for 14 and 13 (his tenth double-double this season), and Michael Binns was the only other Ram in double figures with ten points. Two good wins for a Ram team that will need all the help it can get in the final few weeks to ensure a trip to Atlantic City. But more importantly, they did some serious damage to the NCAA Tournament hopes of two league foes.
Honorable Mention: Columbia (earned a road sweep of Harvard and Dartmouth); Manhattan (twenty-one point home win over Marist on Friday night); Wagner (wins over Sacred Heart and Monmouth to move into a tie for first in the NEC).
Player of the Week: Durell Vinson (Wagner)
Numbers for the week: 17 points, 14 rebounds vs. Sacred Heart; 19 points, 19 rebounds vs. Monmouth.
Vinson, who’s averaging a double-double for the season (13.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg), has indeed been the difference-maker people expected him to be in his final season after missing all of 2006-07. In two games last week, both Seahawk wins, Vinson averaged 18 points and 16.5 rebounds per game. Another stat to pay attention to with Vinson is his field goal percentage, 57.0%, the highest of his career. The play of Vinson is the primary reason why Mike Deane’s team has a good shot to not only win the regular season title but also the NEC Tournament crown, which would mean a trip to the NCAA Tournament. The one issue for Durell, however, has been the foul line. He’s only a 33% shooter from the “charity” stripe. But as long as he controls the boards, Wagner’s got a shot to win some games down the stretch.
Honorable Mention: John Baumann (Columbia): 25 points, 9 rebounds @ Dartmouth and 20 points, 12 rebounds @ Harvard; Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall): 24.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg in two games; Nesho Milosevic (NJIT): 21 points, 11 rebounds @ La Salle and 22 points, 13 rebounds vs. Chicago State.
Other Notes from the past week
Stony Brook ends their ten-game losing streak with a 71-70 overtime win over Vermont.
Granted, the Vermont team they beat Sunday afternoon won’t be mistaken for the Coppenrath/ Sorrentine squads that made annual appearances in the NCAA Tournament a few years back. But in Mike Trimboli and Marquis Blakely there’s still some talent in Burlington. So the win should provide the Seawolves with some much-needed positive momentum heading into their last three games.
With the next two coming against New Hampshire and Maine, they could even make a move out of the America East cellar and possibly out of the 8/9 game on the first night of the conference tournament. And given just how far Stony Brook had fallen during their losing skid, which would be a good accomplishment in an otherwise disappointing season.
Once again inept on offense, St. John’s manages just 43 and 42 points in two double-digit losses.
Last week, I made the note of pointing out how the Red Storm took better care of the basketball in going on their three-game win streak. But when you barely manage to make a quarter of your field goals, it doesn’t matter how many times you give the ball to your opponent you won’t win. And that’s just what happened in losses to Cincinnati and Villanova, with the Johnnies shooting a putrid 25-for-98 (25.5%) in the two games.
When you rank fifteenth in the conference in field goal percentage and dead last in scoring, your margin of error is miniscule. The road to the Big East Tournament will get even tougher, with Marquette coming to town fresh off of a beating of Pittsburgh on Friday.
Youth will be served…just not this year.
The above statement would apply to both St. John’s and Rutgers, but the way in which the Scarlet Knights lost to Notre Dame on Sunday simply baffles the mind. With Luke Harangody missing the front end of a one-and-one (after Rutgers waited fifteen seconds to commit their sixth team foul, no less), all that either Byron Joynes or Earl Pettis had to do was grab the rebound. Miscommunication…ball goes out of bounds and back to the Irish. So instead of having to settle for a three to tie the game, Rutgers could have had a chance to win the game in the final seconds.
But that’s been the way the ball has bounced for the young Scarlet Knights, who should be commended for the fight they showed in the second half. Anthony Farmer led the charge back from an eight-point halftime deficit, but the end result all but assured Rutgers of not going to the Big East Tournament, even with four conference games remaining. But this is a young team that has to learn how to win tight games; a painful experience now that should pay dividends later.
NJIT has two chances left to get their first win of the season.
After a first half in which Chicago State and NJIT combined for fifty-nine points (34-25 CSU at the half), you wouldn’t think that both teams would come close to matching that number on their own in the second half. But that’s exactly what happened on Saturday, with the Cougars outscoring the Highlanders 52-51 in the second stanza. The 86-76 loss leaves NJIT with just two games on the schedule, both of which are on the road.
Longwood on Monday night and Utah Valley State on Saturday are the only games left between the Highlanders and a winless season. Unfortunately, the lack of success has overshadowed the recent play of forward Nesho Milosevic, who has recorded seven double-doubles this season, the last two coming in back-to-back games.
Games to keep an eye on
Marist @ Fairfield (Monday 7:30 PM, ESPN Full Court)
With both teams sporting 9-6 conference records, this game is huge when it comes to seeding for the rapidly approaching MAAC Tournament. Fairfield, less than .500 for the season at home (5-6), is coming off of an impressive home win over first-place Rider. Marist, on the other hand, will be looking to perform better on the boards after falling apart in the second half at Manhattan. And it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the winner of this one could find themselves one game out of first place.
Towson @ Hofstra (Wednesday 7 PM)
These two teams couldn’t be any more different when it comes to the offensive end of the floor. While the Pride relies upon Antoine Agudio and Charles Jenkins for the majority of their points, Towson has three players averaging at least twelve points per game, and another not too far behind them with nine. Neither team scores a lot of points (Towson- 64.3, Hofstra- 65.4), but this one could be entertaining, especially when you take into consideration the fact that the two are tied with 6-9 records in the CAA. One thing working in Hofstra’s favor: Towson’s record of 1-11 on the road.
St. Francis (NY) @ Long Island (Thursday 7:30 PM)
A light night on the schedule means that a game between one team holding onto NEC Tournament hopes by a thread will visit a team in the driver’s seat for the eighth and final slot. Last year the Terriers were able to make a late push into the tournament, and any repeat will have to begin in this short trip to LIU. The matchup in the backcourt between SFNY’s Jamaal Womack and LIU’s Jaytornah Wisseh should be an entertaining one to watch.
Brown @ Columbia (Friday 7 PM)
The Lions are a long shot to win the Ivy League, thanks to their two losses to first-place Cornell. But with a win over the Bears, they would move into a tie for second place in the conference. As for individuals, you’ve got a chance to check out two of the Ivy’s best players in Brown G Mark McAndrew and Columbia F John Baumann.
Navy @ Army (Saturday 2 PM, CBS)
Army G Jarell Brown and Navy G Greg Sprink are two of the Patriot League’s best scorers, and they’ll face off for the second time this season. Brown and the Black Knights got the better of the meeting in Annapolis, with his thirty-five points (and game-winning shot) taking down the Midshipmen. But there may be a little more than bragging rights on the line for Navy, as they’re only one game back in the loss column for the Patriot League lead.
Look for a preview of area teams taking part in the BracketBusters even later in the week.
Updated Rankings (last week’s ranking in parentheses)
1. Wagner (4)
2. Sacred Heart (1)
3. Rider (2)
4. Seton Hall (3)
5. Columbia (8)
6. Yale (5)
7. Army (6)
8. Fordham (11)
9. Marist (7)
10. Fairfield (12)
11. St. John’s (9)
12. Iona (10)
13. LIU (14)
14. Rutgers (13)
15. Hofstra (15)
16. Manhattan (19)
17. FDU (16)
18. Monmouth (17)
19. Princeton (18)
20. St. Peter’s (20)
21. Stony Brook (22)
22. St. Francis-NY (21)
23. NJIT (23)