Thursday, August 25, 2016

St. John's releases non-conference schedule

Chris Mullin begins year two at St. John's with challenging non-conference schedule that will test his Red Storm team's mettle before Big East play. (Photo by Newsday)

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)
The St. John’s Red Storm announced their men's basketball out-of-conference schedule Thursday afternoon, unveiling a 13-game docket against non-league opponents in 2016-17, headlined by marquee contests in the Battle 4 Atlantis, Gavitt Tipoff Games, and a road game with longtime rival Syracuse.
The first couple months of the season features seven local dates and appearances in three of New York City’s boroughs for the Red Storm and head coach Chris Mullin, who enters his second season at the helm. St. John’s 110th season commences on Friday, November 11, at Carnesecca Arena against Bethune-Cookman.
St. John's remains on its on-campus court to host Binghamton on November 14 in a preliminary round matchup in the Battle 4 Atlantis. The Red Storm will then travel to Minneapolis for the second annual Gavitt Tipoff Games to square off with Minnesota and head coach Richard Pitino on November 18. The Golden Gophers are one of three Big Ten opponents on the non-league schedule for the Red Storm, and the contest inside Williams Arena will be the fourth all-time in a series that dates back to 1994. Most recently, St. John’s topped Minnesota, 70-61, at Madison Square Garden in the 2014 NIT Preseason Tip-Off.
The Battle 4 Atlantis, which will take place at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas features an eight-team field. St. John’s begins the three-day event against reigning Big Ten champion Michigan State on November 23 inside Imperial Arena, in a nationally televised tilt, airing live on AXS TV. Nearly four decades since their last meeting, St. John’s and Michigan State will square off for only the third time in the history of the storied college basketball programs.
St. John’s second game at the Battle 4 Atlantis will take place on November 24, and will be against another 2016 NCAA Tournament participant, either Baylor or VCU.
The opposite side of the bracket includes Louisville, LSU, Wichita State and Old Dominion. The 2016 Battle 4 Atlantis field has combined for 169 NCAA Tournament appearances, including St. John’s 28 trips to the Big Dance.
The Red Storm returns to Queens for three of its next four contests, beginning with Delaware State on November 29, and continuing with Cal State Northridge (December 5) and Fordham (December 8) at Carnesecca Arena. A road game at Tulane, now coached by former NBA mentor Mike Dunleavy, precedes this homestand, to be played in New Orleans on December 2.
St. John’s will also participate in the 2016 Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival doubleheader at Barclays Center on December 11. The Red Storm will take on LIU Brooklyn, with Kentucky facing Hofstra in the second game.
Following a week off for final exams, St. John's will make their season debut at the “World’s Most Famous Arena” against Penn State on December 18 in the Madison Square Garden Holiday Festival.
St. John’s wraps up the non-conference portion of the schedule at the Carrier Dome on Dec. 21 for the 91st all-time meeting with Syracuse. It is the Red Storm’s first trip back to Central New York since downing the Orange, 69-57, on December 6, 2014. Last season, Mullin’s squad knocked off the Final Four-bound Orange, 84-72, at Madison Square Garden.

*Information from a St. John's University press release also contributed to this story.

Fairfield releases non-conference schedule

Sydney Johnson and Fairfield hope to capitalize on bright future in Stags' non-conference schedule. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

Among the surprises in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference last season, at least to those unfamiliar with the league, was the resurgence of Fairfield after a three-year morass.

Head coach Sydney Johnson, always the optimist when sizing up the prospects of his program's success, took the next step in building on a positive outlook on Wednesday, when the Stags released their non-conference schedule.

"We're thrilled to look towards our upcoming non-conference schedule and the challenges that await us," said Johnson in a release, as the sixth-year mentor must overcome the loss of first team all-MAAC honoree Marcus Gilbert while helping further develop an exciting young core of sophomores and juniors led by potential breakout star Tyler Nelson.

Fairfield begins its non-league slate with their annual exhibition tilt against the University of Bridgeport on November 4. Bridgeport, the alma mater of Stags radio play-by-play voice Bob Heussler, is the opening act on Fairfield's ledger for an 11th-straight season. The Stags' first official contest comes at Webster Bank Arena on November 11, against in-state rival and fellow former Connecticut 6 participant Sacred Heart.

A November 15 skirmish at Dartmouth begins a three-game road trip for the Stags, one that takes Fairfield to Staten Island to return a game with reigning Northeast Conference regular season champion Wagner on November 19, and also to Baltimore for a November 23 clash with former MAAC member Loyola. The month of November concludes with a home game against Army West Point on the 26th of the month, two days after Thanksgiving.

Following the opening weekend of MAAC play, Fairfield welcomes Bucknell into the Nutmeg State on December 6, returning a game played at the Sojka Pavilion last season. A break for final examinations precedes two games against Atlantic Coast Conference opposition, first at North Carolina State on December 18 before a neutral-site showdown against Boston College at Mohegan Sun Arena on December 21. The Stags conclude their non-conference season at the historic Palestra, where they meet Penn on December 30.

2016-17 Fairfield University Non-Conference Schedule (tip times and locations TBD unless noted)
Friday, November 4: vs. University of Bridgeport (exhibition)

Friday, November 11: vs. Sacred Heart (Webster Bank Arena)

Tuesday, November 15: at Dartmouth

Saturday, November 19: at Wagner

Wednesday, November 23: at Loyola (Md.)

Saturday, November 26: vs. Army West Point

Tuesday, December 6: vs. Bucknell

Sunday, December 18: at North Carolina State

Wednesday, December 21: vs. Boston College (Mohegan Sun Arena; Uncasville, Conn.)

Friday, December 30: at Penn

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free WNBA Roundup

(Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

You can’t really call it the midway point. The WNBA put the season on hold in late July, as Olympic competition was set to tip off,. Play resumes later this week. At the break, teams played roughly 75 percent of their 34-game schedule. Despite the disparity in games, the time is perfect to get a tempo-free look at the league. All numbers are courtesy of Basketball State:

1) Los Angeles (21-3, +16 efficiency margin)
2) Minnesota (21-4, +12)
3) New York (18-8, +3)
4) Chicago (12-12, +1)
5) Phoenix (10-14, -1)
6) Indiana (13-11, -2)
7) Atlanta (12-13, -2)
8) Washington (9-15, -2)
9) Seattle (9-15, -2)
10) Dallas (9-16, -4) 11) Connecticut (8-16, -8)
12) San Antonio (5-18, -9)

Analysis: Only four of the twelve league members had a positive efficiency margin. Good defense or bad offense? A little of both. No defense is forcing opponents into a turnover rate over 20 percent. The defenses are limiting all but three teams to under 50 percent effective field goal shooting. Chalk the defensive efficiencies to plain and simple shot contesting.

Defensive Efficiency Leaders
1) Los Angeles (92)
2) Minnesota (93)
3) New York (96)

To little surprise, this trio is at the forefront of championship conversations.

Offensive Efficiency Leaders
1) Los Angeles (108)
2) Minnesota (105)
3) Phoenix (103)
4) Chicago (103)

Where are the Liberty? Seventh in the league at 99. New York would entertain more offensive production, especially with consistent perimeter play. Regardless, coach Bill Laimbeer’s teams always pride themselves as being outstanding on the defensive end.

Caring for the ball: This is professional basketball, still it is impressive seeing the entire league under 17 percent in turnover rate. The leaders:

1) Chicago (13 percent)
2) Dallas (13.9)
3) Minnesota (14)
4) Atlanta (14)

Defensive Turnover Rate Leaders
1) Los Angeles (17 percent)
2) Indiana (16.9)
3) Minnesota (15.3)

Final observations: Dallas is not too far off the mark. They show a league-leading 39 percent offensive rebounding rate and the offensive efficiency is a better than average 101. The defense, though, is the difference. Their 50.6 percent eFG defensive mark is the poorest in the league. A 105 defensive efficiency ties them with Phoenix for worst in the league.
Phoenix, by the way, is the pacesetter in possessions, with 75 per outing. Most deliberate is Los Angeles at 69.7. That is over five possessions between the fastest and slowest-paced teams, making for a homogeneous group. Los Angeles is the only team under 70 possessions. Can’t argue with their results.

The Liberty lead with a 45.2 percent mark in eFG defense. That is the staple of their defensive success, as their defensive turnover rate is a modest 13 percent, the epitome of a team forcing you into bad shots and contesting virtually all shots.

What constitutes a WNBA contender, besides simply having a Tina Charles, Maya Moore or Candace Parker? Looking at Los Angeles, Minnesota and New York, you have teams that defend. Los Angeles and Minnesota are more efficient on the offensive end. All three care for the ball. The Liberty almost ensure that if you miss once, that’s it, get back on defense. New York is the pacesetter with an 82 percent defensive rebounding rate. Each of these teams can beat you in different ways, with the main constant being defense.

Friday, August 19, 2016

FDU picks up where it left off as NEC champs take to Canada for exhibition trip

Head coach Greg Herenda fields questions in advance of FDU's exhibition trip to Canada. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

Teaneck, NJ - They started to arrive around 11:30, 90 minutes before practice was scheduled to begin. That alone should tell you something.

FDU had a one o’clock practice scheduled this past Wednesday prior to leaving for an exhibition trip to Montreal. Most of the group anxiously arrived early to put in some extra work.

They are coming off a season which culminated in a storybook run. FDU won 18 games, a ten-win improvement improved from the year before. Greater significance lies in the second-seeded Knights running the table in March to capture the Northeast Conference championship. Their NCAA trip was short-lived, a loss to Florida Gulf Coast, but that setback did nothing to diminish the magnitude of what was accomplished.

Rather than rest on the laurels of a championship team, the Knights were eager to hit the floor and get back in action. They could not wait to get started. Their actions supported the words of junior star Earl Potts Jr., last season’s NEC Tournament MVP, who said, “we want to win another championship, get back in the NCAAs and hopefully win a few games there. That’s what we want to do.”

FDU returns four starters and eleven letterwinners from last year’s champion. They are veterans. As coach Greg Herenda pointed out after Wednesday’s practice, their experience surpasses the exploits enjoyed in March. “This is a group that the year before lost fifteen straight games,” Herenda noted. “Even in the midst of that, (streak) they believed they could win. They had to learn how to win, which they did this past year.”

For the Knights, it is a great opportunity to blend in several newcomers into an experienced cast. The trip was finalized the first week of August, and will include games against McGill and Brookwood. Beyond the court, Herenda sees this as an integral addition to the educational process of his group. “We bill ourselves as a global university,” he said. “This trip will allow our student-athletes to experience the culture of another country and will be an important part of the trip.”

When they speak of academics at FDU, it is with conviction and purpose. The team won the NEC Team Academic Award for the second straight season. That honor is bestowed on the team with the highest GPA. To Herenda, his staff and players, it is a distinction to be proud of.

The Knights know they will enter this season as the hunted rather than hunters. Their offseason preparation has been indicative, as they realize the position they are now in. “I know we are the target,” Herenda admitted. “But you know what? The target is moving. My staff and myself made sure complacency did not happen.”  
On Wednesday, about 90 minutes prior to the start of practice, we saw the proof.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

FDU Summer Workout: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

Teaneck, NJ - The games are what captivate us.

Face it, does the casual fan get excited about a practice? To them, those 2-3 hour sessions are necessary evils, from a spectator’s vantage point, leading to the finished product: The game, and for your team, hopefully a victory. Players and coaches view it differently.

For the former, it is a chance to not only prepare for an upcoming opponent, but an opportunity to get better. Granted, there are times players do not look forward to practice, but in the end realize they are required if you want to improve.

Coaches view practice like a laboratory. They are teachers instructing their pupils in the finer points of the game. Practice can also tell a lot about a coach. Hall of Fame mentor Jim Calhoun once said, “if I know nothing about your program and I can’t tell what your plan or philosophy is by watching your two-hour practice, then I do not feel you are a good coach.”

So much of this came to mind on Wednesday. FDU coach Greg Herenda held an open practice before his team left on a trip to Montreal. There will be practices and two games in Canada. The significance in this three hours at Rothman Center lie in the fact that the team was meeting for the first time since spring workouts. Coaches were on hand to observe and take notes. Herenda greeted and chatted with each as he also directed drills that lasted three to five minutes.

The exhibition games in Canada have our interest, to see how the defending Northeast Conference champions fare and who among them stands out. Beyond that, the open practice gave us much more of an insight: A veritable behind the scenes basketball education, the planning, preparation and teaching culminating in the finished product, a part of the game we as fans often take for granted. A part of the game, recommended to see if afforded the opportunity,  that is invaluable in shaping a program’s success.

FDU begins their workout by running the half court offense:
Assistant coach Dwayne Lee surveys the action as the Knights initiate the offense:
Assistant coach Bruce Hamburger watches a half court drill:
The follow-through on three-point shooting:
Free throw practice, never to be neglected:
Coach Greg Herenda addresses the team at the conclusion of the day's work:
The team huddle, with the Knights' next stop coming in Montreal:

Seton Hall podcast with John Fanta

Fresh from his summer internship with Fox Sports, the great John Fanta joins us to preview the upcoming men's and women's basketball seasons at Seton Hall, giving us a closer look at what to expect from the Pirates under head coaches Kevin Willard and Tony Bozzella in our latest podcast. You can listen by clicking below:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Canisius releases non-conference schedule

Phil Valenti and Canisius begin Reggie Witherspoon's first season with non-conference schedule that opens with a trip to Lexington to face Kentucky. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

Canisius begins the Reggie Witherspoon era with ten non-conference games and an appearance in the Bluegrass Showcase, as the Golden Griffins unveiled the opening chapter of their 2016-17 campaign in a Tuesday afternoon non-conference schedule release.

The Griffs commence their journey at Rupp Arena on November 13, when they face John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats in the first game of the Bluegrass Showcase. The trip to Lexington begins a three-game road swing that also features contests against Cleveland State and Duquesne on November 15 and 18, respectively. Canisius' home opener comes on November 21, when Tennessee-Martin invades the Koessler Athletic Center.

Two days later, the Griffs host Tennessee State before hitting the road again on November 26, heading to Ohio to meet Youngstown State. Following a break for final exams and the opening weekend of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play, Canisius has a brief two-game homestand, welcoming St. Francis Brooklyn into Buffalo on December 10 before Albany comes to town on the 12th of the month.

The final two non-league tuneups are a pair of longstanding local rivalries, beginning with Buffalo in the Big 4 Basketball Classic at the First Niagara Center on December 17. Canisius' final game before league play resumes is another clash of adversaries, as the Griffs head to the Reilly Center on December 22 to square off against St. Bonaventure.

2016-17 Canisius College Non-Conference Schedule (tip times TBD unless noted)
Sunday, November 13: at Kentucky (Bluegrass Showcase)

Tuesday, November 15: at Cleveland State (Bluegrass Showcase)

Friday, November 18: at Duquesne (Bluegrass Showcase)

Monday, November 21: vs. UT-Martin (Bluegrass Showcase)

Wednesday, November 23: vs. Tennessee State

Saturday, November 26: at Youngstown State

Saturday, December 10: vs. St. Francis Brooklyn

Monday, December 12: vs. Albany

Saturday, December 17: vs. Buffalo, 3:30 p.m. (Big 4 Basketball Classic, First Niagara Center)

Thursday, December 22: at St. Bonaventure, 7:30 p.m.

Marist releases non-conference schedule

Mike Maker begins his third season at Marist with challenging non-conference schedule that opens with Duke. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

Mike Maker's second season at Marist was a trying one, as the Red Foxes attempted to replace all-time leading scorer   Lewis. However, the infusion of young talent in the form of Brian Parker and Isaiah Lamb, coupled with the emergence of Khallid Hart as an all-conference talent and potent scorer, gives the Red Foxes reason to be optimistic heading into year three of the current regime in Poughkeepsie.

Maker's third year does not begin with a layup, as the season opens at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 11 against Duke, revealed after the Red Foxes' non-conference schedule was released Tuesday afternoon. The trip to Durham is the first game of the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, and Marist's inclusion in the event comes at the expense of Albany, who was initially slated to face Duke before New York governor Andrew Cuomo intervened by prohibiting Albany from traveling to North Carolina in protest of the controversial House Bill 2, which eliminates protection against discrimination of LGBT groups.

Marist resumes the Hall of Fame Tip-Off with a second road game, facing Dan Hurley and Rhode Island at the Ryan Center in Kingston on November 14. The Red Foxes contest their home opener two days later against John Becker and the University of Vermont, marking three straight postseason teams from last season in their first three games.

The Red Foxes' next two games will conclude the Hall of Fame Tip-Off, and will be played at Mohegan Sun Arena, first against Brown on November 19 before facing Grand Canyon the following day. Marist will then travel to Dartmouth, where Maker spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach, on November 26 before returning to McCann Arena on the 29th of the month to host UMass Lowell, the second of three America East opponents on the schedule.

Following the opening weekend of Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play, Marist heads to SEFCU Arena on December 7 to return a home-and-home series with Will Brown and Albany, who reached the College Basketball Invitational a year ago. The Red Foxes welcome Jacksonville to Poughkeepsie on December 10 before embarking on a two-game road trip that wraps up the non-league slate, first at Delaware on December 20 before visiting reigning Patriot League champion Holy Cross on the 23rd.

2016-17 Marist College Non-Conference Schedule (tip times TBD)
Friday, November 11: at Duke (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)

Monday, November 14: at Rhode Island (Hall of Fame Tip-Off)

Wednesday, November 16: vs. Vermont

Saturday, November 19: vs. Brown (Hall of Fame Tip-Off, Mohegan Sun Arena)

Sunday, November 20: vs. Grand Canyon (Hall of Fame Tip-Off, Mohegan Sun Arena)

Saturday, November 26: at Dartmouth

Tuesday, November 29: vs. UMass Lowell

Wednesday, December 7: at UAlbany

Saturday, December 10: vs. Jacksonville

Tuesday, December 20: at Delaware

Friday, December 23: at Holy Cross

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

St. John's to renew rivalry with Syracuse

After career game in upset win over Syracuse last year, Amar Alibegovic will get a chance to repeat his heroics when St. John's travels to Syracuse in December. (Photo by Chris Barca and Amy Rio/Queens Chronicle)

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)

St. John's will continue their historic rivalry with Syracuse this season, as they will meet on December 21 at the Carrier Dome. This will be the 91st meeting in a storied rivalry between the former conference rivals that dates back more than 100 years.

When Syracuse left the Big East in 2013, there was concern as to what would happen with this historic rivalry. It wasn't long before the schools entered into a home-and-home series, where they would meet once each season. Since then, St. John’s has captured victories over Syracuse in their previous two meetings, including last year’s 84-72 triumph against the Final Four-bound Orange on December 13 at Madison Square Garden.

The Red Storm makes its first trip back to the Carrier Dome since downing the Orange, 69-57, before a crowd of 24,884 on Dec. 6, 2014. Syracuse owns a 51-39 advantage in the series that began during the 1911-12 season.

Syracuse is fifth and St. John’s ranks ninth on the NCAA’s all-time wins list with 1,920 and 1,803 victories, respectively. Both programs are also among the NCAA's top 10 all-time winning percentages, and have combined for 66 NCAA Tournament appearances.

Entering his second season at the helm in Queens, head coach Chris Mullin returns a young roster featuring a blend of experience and talent. Rising sophomores Federico Mussini, Malik Ellison, Yankuba Sima and All-Big East Freshman Team selection Kassoum Yakwe will complement a highly touted crop of newcomers this season. The quartet played key minutes for the Red Storm in 2015-16, combining for nearly 40 percent of the team’s scoring, rebounding and assists.

Acclaimed first-year players Bashir Ahmed, Shamorie Ponds and Richard Freudenberg will make their Red Storm debuts, along with Marcus LoVett and Tariq Owens, both of whom sat out last season due to NCAA regulations.

*Information from a St. John's University press release also contributed to this story.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Breaking down Fordham's non-conference schedule

Joseph Chartouny guides Fordham into another non-conference season with potential to exceed last year, when he won Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year honors. (Photo by Alan Kelly/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

In his first season as head coach at Fordham, Jeff Neubauer's impact on the Rams was profound enough to where they reached the postseason for the first time since 1992, winning 17 games in the process and making the five years of Tom Pecora look more like a reign of error than any point in the beleaguered boss' tenure at Rose Hill.

A big part of the rapid turnaround was a non-conference schedule that positioned the Rams for several winnable games early in the season, an opportunity Fordham capitalized on by finishing its first two months of competition 9-2 before winning eight games in Atlantic 10 play and finishing eighth, something that had not been achieved under the prior regime.

This season provides more of the same, with the Rams' non-league ledger featuring many chances for victories in November and December, even if the low RPI numbers have caused some criticism from the local media.

"We have made an effort to strengthen our non-conference schedule," said Neubauer in defense to his philosophy. "All four of our road games are against potential Top 100 opponents, which will be beneficial to us once we start Atlantic 10 play."

A 13-game slate, headlined by eight home tilts at Rose Hill Gym that include three contested as part of a tournament Fordham is hosting, serves as the appetizer before the A-10 schedule kicks in after the calendar turns to 2017. We break down each opponent the Rams will face before then, offering a deeper preview to Neubauer's second campaign in the Bronx, which long-suffering Fordham fans hope is an equally successful encore.

Friday, November 11 at East Tennessee State: The Buccaneers are the sole Top 100 RPI team on the non-conference schedule at the present moment, finishing in the No. 83 spot in those rankings a year ago. Second-year head coach Steve Forbes loses Cincinnati expatriate Ge'Lawn Guyn in the backcourt, but brings in another high-major transfer to take his place in former Indiana big man Hanner Mosquera-Perea, who should step right in and become one of the leading scorers on a team who won 24 games and competed in the inaugural Vegas 16 last year. Point guard T.J. Cromer (14.9 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists per game) returns for his senior season to anchor the ETSU offense, with sixth man Desonta Bradford expected to slide into Guyn's spot in the starting lineup. Up front, 6-foot-7 senior Isaac Banks; who averaged six points and six rebounds per game in 23 minutes last year, should be a double-double threat with the increased playing time alongside Mosquera-Perea.

Monday, November 14 vs. NYIT: The Bears won only three games last season, but that did not scare Fordham away, as the Rams will host a Division II opponent in their home opener for the second consecutive season. Sophomore forward Jeffrey Hayden was limited to just 13 games as a rookie, but his 15.7 points per game solidify his status as NYIT's top returning scorer. Senior forward Kachi Nzerem should improve upon his 11 points per game last season.

Friday, November 18 vs. Fairleigh Dickinson: The Knights will not be taking opponents by surprise this season, as they did en route to their storybook Northeast Conference championship run last March. Head coach Greg Herenda's biggest accomplishment with FDU last season was being able to accomplish so much with such a young roster, as both Darian Anderson and Earl Potts Jr.; the two guards responsible for galvanizing the Knights toward their Cinderella finish, are still only juniors this year. Fellow guard Stephan Jiggetts is also a junior, adding furthermore to the optimism in Teaneck. Sophomore Mike Holloway, a pleasant surprise as a rookie last year, should be an all-NEC selection this year, as he is a potent scorer and rebounder who is the perfect bookend to Herenda's four-out, one-in offense.

Saturday, November 19 vs. Saint Peter's: The middle game of Fordham's tournament comes against a program not seen since 1990, when both the Rams and Peacocks were members of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Nevertheless, John Dunne has nowhere to go but up this season, returning four starters and all but one player from last season's breakout group that finished fourth in the MAAC, Saint Peter's highest finish since reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2011. Senior point guard Trevis Wyche may very well be the most underrated ball handler in the area, and could be a first team all-MAAC selection if he replicates his impressive junior campaign. Sophomore Antwon Portley is a lethal weapon when left unguarded, and Chazz Patterson's perimeter defense will challenge the Rams all day. Down low, Quadir Welton is a force to be reckoned with as he enters his senior season. The Peacocks add to their depth by welcoming three transfers who sat out last year, only cementing their status as one of the best teams Fordham will face before A-10 play begins.

Sunday, November 20 vs. Lipscomb: The Bisons return two of their top three scorers into their backcourt next season, led by junior point guard Nathan Moran, who averaged 12.1 points and 4.6 assists per game. Senior wing Josh Williams (11.7 points per game, 43 percent three-point field goal percentage) completes the pairing as he seeks to make up for lost time after being limited to just 14 games last season. Sophomore guard Garrison Mathews posted nearly 11 points per game as a freshman last season, and should exceed that total for head coach Casey Alexander this year.

Wednesday, November 23 vs. Rider: One of three MAAC teams that the Rams will face, Kevin Baggett; a rumored finalist for the Fordham job two years ago, brings the Broncs into Rose Hill intent on righting the ship from last season's disappointment. Point guard Teddy Okereafor has graduated, but sophomore Kealen Ives has the green light to shine early and often after a freshman season that showed mounds of potential. Ives' partner in the backcourt is the steady hand of Jimmie Taylor, who now reaches his senior season looking to put together a fourth consecutive double-figure scoring campaign. Rider's strength lies within its front line, though, as Kahlil Thomas stands on the precipice of an even bigger breakout than last year's near-double-double average, and Xavier Lundy  is an efficient shot taker that Fordham will need to focus on throughout the night. Southern Mississippi graduate transfer Norville Carey will see immediate minutes for the Broncs as he makes a formidable frontcourt even more imposing.

Saturday, November 26 vs. UT-Arlington: The Mavericks, who narrowly defeated Fordham in the season opener for both teams last year, return the favor by coming to Rose Hill two days after Thanksgiving. All five starters and all six leading scorers come back from a 24-win team that reached the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, including 6-7 forward Kevin Hervey, who averaged 18 points and just under 10 rebounds per contest, despite playing in just 16 games. Junior guard Erick Neal may be the best passer Fordham will face all season, bringing an average of well over six assists per game to the floor alongside shooters Drew Charles and Jalen Jones, who ranked first and second in three-point shooting percentage last season, respectively. Spanish import Jorge Bilbao is a bruising, 6-foot-8 big man who will create opportunities for Hervey to dominate inside, and one that the Rams will wish they had Ryan Rhoomes to defend.

Wednesday, November 30 vs. Sacred Heart: The Pioneers adjust to life without NEC Player of the Year Cane Broome after he transferred to Cincinnati, but sophomore Quincy McKnight will do his best to make sure that Anthony Latina does not have a total rebuild on his hands. Not only are McKnight's 11.4 points per game the top returning total for Sacred Heart, his 68 assists are as well. Guards Chris Robinson and Sean Hoehn will be counted on to provide a greater spark in the lineup, but the key to success in Fairfield will be the development of senior Matej Buovac and 6-foot-10 junior Filip Nowicki.

Saturday, December 3 at Harvard: Tommy Amaker's reign atop the Ivy League came to an end last season, but the Crimson have retooled and are in perfect position to possibly reclaim their throne. First and foremost, incoming freshman Bryce Aiken arrives from The Patrick School as Harvard's best prospect in recent memory, with hype greater than that of Jeremy Lin even AFTER Lin broke into NBA stardom. Amid the youth, 6-foot-9 Zena Edosomwan returns for his senior season, and point guard Siyani Chambers is back after withdrawing from school last year to preserve his final year of eligibility.

Thursday, December 8 at St. John's: The Rams invade Carnesecca Arena for the first time since December 13, 2009, when Jared Grasso led them into battle as interim head coach. Chris Mullin and the Red Storm have some unfinished business to settle after last year's trouncing at Rose Hill, and the frontcourt pair of Yankuba Sima and Kassoum Yakwe; the latter of whom debuted against Fordham a year ago, are poised to do even greater things as sophomores. Italian marksman Federico Mussini should be more disciplined this season alongside Marcus Lovett and Shamorie Ponds, a pair of highly touted freshmen that will instantly augment the St. John's backcourt. Tariq Owens, a 6-foot-10 big man, is eligible this season after transferring from Tennessee, adding another cog in Mullin's machine after an 8-24 season that laid the blueprint for improvement in year two.

Saturday, December 10 at Manhattan: The last time Fordham walked into Draddy Gymnasium, they emerged with an unlikely victory against a Manhattan team that ended up in the NCAA Tournament and nearly upset Louisville on that stage. Three years later, the Rams return for the 109th Battle of the Bronx, and will do so against a Jasper squad unlike the injury-ravaged seven-man unit that fought gamely last November. Head coach Steve Masiello finally has his notorious depth back in Riverdale this season, with a slew of guards and forwards to serve as complementary pieces to senior wing Rich Williams and junior forwards Calvin Crawford and Zane Waterman. Remember this name, though: Zavier Turner. The junior point guard sat out after transferring from Ball State last year, and possesses an explosive blend of scoring and quickness that makes him almost unguardable in one-on-one situations. Freshmen NaQuan Council and Aaron Walker will find their way slowly, but surely, by the end of the season.

Sunday, December 18 vs. Rutgers: The Rams return to Madison Square Garden for the Holiday Festival, but this time against the Scarlet Knights and head coach Steve Pikiell, who arrives after 11 seasons at Stony Brook and a long-awaited America East championship. Pikiell faces a tall rebuild just as he did when he began his journey at Stony Brook in 2005, but is undoubtedly the best possible choice Rutgers could have made in shepherding their program to new heights. Sophomore guard Corey Sanders will be a big part of the efforts in Piscataway for better or worse, as will Brooklyn product Mike Williams. Pikiell inherits a cadre of big men during his maiden voyage in the Garden State, led by seven-footer Shaquille Doorson and also including 6-foot-10 Ibrahima Diallo and rugged 6-foot-7 power forward Deshawn Freeman. Freshman Matt Bullock comes from nearby Roselle Catholic, and although somewhat undersized for the forward position, comes in somewhat under the radar in much the same way that fellow Roselle product Jameel Warney did for Pikiell four years ago at Stony Brook before developing into a three-time America East Player of the Year.

Wednesday, December 21 vs, Central Connecticut State: For the first time since 1996, someone other than Howie Dickenman will patrol the sidelines in New Britain, but the Blue Devils turned to a voice of experience and success to replace the local legend, hiring Donyell Marshall for his first head coaching job. Marshall will inject youthful enthusiasm while maintaining the status quo as a branch of the Jim Calhoun tree, and will have senior point guard Khalen Cumberlander back to lead the way. Sophomore guard Austin Nehls will be a viable second option, as will junior Kevin Seymour, but the front line will be a work in progress as rebounder extraordinaire Brandon Peel must be replaced. Mustafa Jones will get the primary share of the boards, but 6-foot-7 senior Tidell Pierre must contribute as much as possible for CCSU to make some headway come NEC season.