Maine expatriate Murphy Burnatowski is slowly leading Colgate to quiet resurgence in Patriot League. (Photo courtesy of College Chalktalk)
Tomorrow night's trip to Hamilton, New York may not be a must-win game for Fordham per se, but after a crushing 46-point loss to St. John's on Saturday that qualifies as one of the lowest points of the Tom Pecora regime, it is imperative that the Rams come away from their first skirmish with Colgate since 1995 with a positive effort to take back with them to Rose Hill.
At 4-3 on the year, it has not gone completely downhill for the Rams, but another loss could be a huge momentum killer after a November that saw Fordham post one of their higher points in recent memory in an upset win over Manhattan.
As we have done throughout the season with Fordham's opponents, we bring in another expert to help us shed some light on the team the Rams will be facing, and coming back to our pregame Q&A segment once again will be Patriot League expert Kevin Doyle of NBCSports.com's "College Basketball Talk" site. Kevin, who helped provide further insight on Lehigh going into the Mountain Hawks' visit to Rose Hill last month, was gracious enough to take some time yet again to answer some questions on the Raiders and the matchup problems they may present:
Jaden Daly: We've been hearing a lot of great things about Matt Langel lately, and rightfully so. How much has he resurrected this Colgate program, and what would you consider to be the biggest improvement he has made?
Kevin Doyle: Colgate isn't there quite yet, but Langel definitely has the Raiders ahead of where former head coach Emmett Davis left the program when he was fired after the completion of the 2010-11 season. Langel comes from strong basketball roots being a disciple of Fran Dunphy. He played at Penn under Dunphy from 1996-2000, and then coached alongside him at Penn and Temple. In terms of improvements, the talent on the floor is simply at a higher level. Davis struggled recruiting kids to play in Hamilton, NY and, while it's unclear how successful of a recruiter Langel will turn out to be, he has brought talented players in via the transfer route.
JD: The arrival of Austin Tillotson from Monmouth has given the Raiders a much-needed second scoring option behind Murphy Burnatowski, but who else should we be looking out for Tuesday night?
KD: Tillotson and Burnatowski -- both transfers, mind you -- are certainly the two guys to watch. Keep an eye on Pat Moore, who is one of the lone holdovers from the Davis regime, along with Ohio transfer Ethan Jacobs. Predictably, both shoot exceptionally well from beyond the arc -- that's almost a prerequisite in Colgate's offense. For the season, Moore is 18-37 and Jacobs is 18-31. Here's the kicker: Jacobs is 6'11 and gives Colgate a strong presence inside on the defensive end, something they have been lacking for several years.
JD: With only 40 offensive rebounds on the season, how much will second chance opportunities be valued against a Fordham team whose efforts on the offensive glass are among the best in the Atlantic 10 despite their small lineup?
KD: Part of Colgate's strategy is when shots go up on offense, rebounding is not a premium. The Raiders would rather get back on defense, rather than gamble for an offensive rebound and suffer a fast-break chance for the opposition. The onus will be on Jacobs and Burnatowski to keep guys like Travion Leonard and Ryan Rhoomes off the glass -- easier said than done.
JD: Colgate is one of the best outside shooting teams in the nation at 47 percent as a team, and they face one of the best three-point defenses in the nation in Fordham. Do you see Langel altering his game plan to cut down from their average of 26 attempted threes per game?
KD: I would be interested to learn if the nation's best three-point shooting team has ever squared off against the nation's best defensive three-point shooting team because that's what we have here between Colgate and Fordham. The Raiders shoot it at 47%, while the Rams defend the three at 21.9%. That being said, Langel won't be altering his game plan of relying heavily on the perimeter shot. Against Georgetown -- who defends the three-point shot at 24.2% -- Colgate still hoisted up 24 shots from three.
JD: Coming in off a six-point loss at Georgetown and now facing a Fordham team that lost by 46 against St. John's, how much of a potential is there for a trap game, and what does Colgate need to do to neutralize the Rams?
KD: Colgate definitely won't be viewing this game as a trap. Simply put, they are not good enough to view any opponent as a potential "trap game." One factor that can't be ignored is the advantage playing in Hamilton and Cotterell Court provides Colgate. This is a gym that rarely features crowds that exceed 500, and it becomes difficult for the opposition to "get up" for a game at Colgate. Last season, Colgate was 11-21 overall, but 7-5 at home. This season, they enter the game against Fordham with a 4-3 mark, and are 2-0 at home. Colgate will be ready, and you can bet Tom Pecora will most definitely have the Rams ready after their embarrassing loss to St. John's.