The month of December is when college basketball heats up thanks to the end of the college football season. There are also mid-season defections and transfers to account for, along with injuries. That's what teams in the New York metropolitan area have dealt with recently, beginning with Fordham firing Dereck Whittenburg following the decision of PG Jio Fontan to transfer. Assistant Jared Grasso has taken over and picked up a win in his first game as head coach, beating Stony Brook and scoring 93 points in the process. At least the Rams retain the services of freshman Chris Gaston, who's well on his way to being one of the best freshmen in the Atlantic 10.
On the injury front Rutgers will be without Gregory Echenique for the next 4-6 weeks due to an eye injury, but that didn't cost them in their win over Monmouth earlier this week. Hamady N'diaye, who's a bit banged up himself, played what many would consider to be the best game of his career in racking up 22 points, ten rebounds and eight blocks. Echenique's injury also means more playing time for Dane Miller and the bigs as a whole will need to step up and help out Mike Rosario on the perimeter. Both Rutgers and Fordham are off on Saturday but there's still plenty of action to take in.
Seton Hall plays their final game before the return of Keon Lawrence from suspension and the first game of Memphis transfer Jeff Robinson's Pirate career. Their home game against VMI promises to be a high-scoring affair but Seton Hall has plenty of weapons who can light it up. If Bobby Gonzalez's team can take full advantage of Herb Pope inside they should remain undefeated. Rider visits winless UMBC in a game they should win following a tough home loss to La Salle and Columbia visits winless Bryant. Stony Brook and Saint Peter's will also take on winless foes with the Seawolves visiting Colgate and the Peacocks hosting Wagner.
Marist hosts Boston University in hopes of picking up their first win of the season in a return game for last season's ESPNU BracketBusters event, and the young Red Foxes will have their hands full with the experienced Terriers. The best game in the evening will likely be Iona visiting Providence in a game very few will expect the Gaels to win but they can give the Friars some problems. Keno Davis' Friars will run and they've got a number of dangerous offensive options, most notably Greedy Peterson inside and Marshon Brooks and Sharaud Curry on the perimeter.
But PC can get a little out of control at times when running and Kevin Willard's team have been quite successful in forcing turnovers. The Gaels have forced an average of twenty turnovers per game and that's played a major role in their 4-3 start. Scott Machado will have to navigate the PC defense that extends full court only to drop back into an active 2-3 zone, and if Kyle Smyth and Jonathan Huffman can gets some open looks Iona can make things interesting at the Dunkin Donuts Center.
Sunday's slate features Fordham visiting St. John's and the battle of Fairfield with Sacred Heart taking on Fairfield. Princeton and St. Francis (NY) will both hit the road but their opponents couldn't be more different. The Tigers get UNC Greensboro while the Terriers visit a red-hot Syracuse team in the Carrier Dome.
Noon VMI at Seton Hall
1p Long Island at Lafayette
1p Columbia at Bryant
2p Wagner at Saint Peter's
2p Stony Brook at Colgate
2p Boston University at Marist
4p New Hampshire at Hofstra
4p Manhattan at Morgan State
7p Army at Dartmouth
7p Rider at UMBC
7p Pennsylvania at Monmouth
7p Iona at Providence
8p FDU at Missouri
1p St. Francis (NY) at Syracuse
4p Fordham at St. John's
4p Sacred Heart at Fairfield
Fairfield over Sacred Heart: Two of the better guards in the area will be on display in this rivalry game Sunday afternoon in Sacred Heart's Corey Hassan and Fairfield's Derek Needham. But the key will be how the Pioneers match up with Fairfield's Anthony Johnson, as well as the deeper frontline that Ed Cooley's team has. That will be the difference in a close win for the Stags.