Monday, September 29, 2014

Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free NEC Analysis

Jamion Christian and Mount St. Mary's "Mayhem" system yielded best turnover rate in NEC en route to first conference championship since 2008. (Photo courtesy of Nelson Castillo via Blackbirds Hoops Journal)

The start of practice is virtually upon us. The time is appropriate to direct our attention on the upcoming season. It is also a good chance to look at how the recent campaign played out. The Northeast Conference once again accentuated the unpredictable.

Robert Morris and Wagner were the elite during the season, yet Mount Saint Mary’s got hot at the right time and claimed the conference postseason crown. The Mount edged St. Francis Brooklyn in the opening round before upsetting Wagner and Robert Morris to win the championship.

The following is a tempo-free look at the conference for league games only. The efficiency margin subtracts the defensive from offensive efficiency. Naturally, a positive figure is most desirable.

                            Efficiency Margin NEC Record

Wagner                            12                 12-­4

Robert Morris                    9                  14-­2

St. Francis Brooklyn           9                   9-­7

Mount Saint Mary’s            5                   9-­7

Bryant                              4                  10-­6

FDU                                 -­4                  6­-10

St. Francis(PA)                - ­7                   7­-9

CCSU                               -­8                   7-­9

Sacred Heart ­                 -12                  2-­14

LIU Brooklyn ­                  -13                  4­-12

Best offensive efficiency: Robert Morris and Bryant, 108

Best defensive efficiency: Wagner, 91

Best turnover rate: Mount St. Mary's and Bryant, 16.2%

Maybe the Mount’s succession to the title was not as surprising after all.

Best defensive turnover rate: Wagner, 19.4%

There was a reason behind the outstanding defense played by Bashir Mason’s club.

Fastest pace: CCSU 73, Mount Saint Mary’s 72

A decidedly high-octane pace for the pair breaking the seventy possession mark. The quicker tempo suited the Mount just fine.

Most deliberate pace: Robert Morris and St. Francis, (PA) 66 possessions

Neither of the two Western Pennsylvania schools were a big surprise with their pedestrian-oriented tempo.

Care of the ball: Keeping the turnover rate under 20% is the goal. Every NEC school was under that mark offensively. All right, CCSU checked in at 19.9, which when rounded up gives us 20%. Still, the Blue Devils of Howie Dickenman deserve some credit and do not deserve to be labeled careless with the ball, given the fact they played at the fastest tempo in the circuit.

Player of the Year: Andy Toole will enter this season without the services of Karvel Anderson. As a senior last season, the 6-2 Robert Morris guard averaged 21.7 points in NEC play. Anderson shot 47% from beyond the arc and had a team high 26 steals. His overall efficiency was an outstanding 19.6.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

St. John's: Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Analysis

Haggerty Award winner D'Angelo Harrison returns for senior season and opportunity to return St. John's to NCAA Tournament. (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The season ended with a postseason bid and a 20­-13 record. Those achievements failed to eliminate a bitter taste, largely due to the last two contests. A Big East Tournament loss to Providence and a first-round setback at the hands of Robert Morris at Carnesecca Arena. The latter defeat came in the opening round of the NIT, a tournament that saw the Red Storm enjoy a top seed in their bracket, and both games saw St. John’s stricken by malaise and seemingly going through the motions.

                Possessions           Points        Offensive Efficiency

St. John’s      1236                 1278                   104

Opponents     1228                 1230                   100

The Big East saw St. John’s finish 10­-8. The previous and following statistics are from conference games. St. John’s did get over the 100 threshold in offensive efficiency Defensively, they gave up a too generous 100, but that is the makeup of a 10-­8 season.

A look at the Four Factors:

                 eFG FT Rate OREB Pct TO Rate

St. John’s   48      35           31         16

Opponents  47      41           32         20

What the Red Storm did well....Care for the ball. While the opponents saw one fifth of their possessions end in the dreaded turnover, Steve Lavin’s club kept the figure under 20%. Outside of turnovers, the other three factors are close in comparison.

What is in store? Well, what is needed is consistency. The Storm dropped their first five conference games before finishing on a 8-of-10 run that included a six-game win streak. While the streak had its moments, (wins over Georgetown, Providence and Creighton) a more balanced showing is desired.

There is backcourt potential, led by D’Angelo Harrison, the leading returning scorer. (16.8 PPG in Big East play) The concern here is establishing a viable inside threat as a priority. St. John’s lacked a night in, night out frontcourt player capable of both scoring and defending.

The schedule naturally is highlighted by Big East play. Out of conference is the NIT Season Tip­-Off, a trip to Syracuse in December and a Garden date with Duke in January.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fordham Caps Off Undefeated Tour Of Canada

Eric Paschall erupted in final game of Fordham's trip to Canada, amassing 36 points as Rams ended tour of Great White North 4-0. (Photo courtesy of Adam Zagoria via

Fordham head coach Tom Pecora mentioned his team's tour of Canada several times during our preseason chat last month, emphasizing the aspect of team bonding during the week-long journey just as much as the ability for him to get a greater feel for his personnel as he enters his fifth season at Rose Hill on the heels of yet another embattled campaign that saw the Rams manage only a 10-21 record.

During four games at the end of August, Fordham returned home with a 4-0 record, showcasing several bright spots along the way. For those who missed the recaps of each game on Fordham's website, here is a look at what the Rams did on the hardwood north of the border:

Game #1: Fordham 70, Concordia 48, August 25, 2014
A 10-5 Concordia run to open the first quarter gave way to a 12-2 Fordham spurt punctuated by a Ryan Rhoomes jumper 64 seconds into the second quarter, dictating the tone for the Ram front line, which saw Rhoomes score eight points and support his cause with 12 rebounds. Freshman Christian Sengfelder, whose praises Pecora sang to us on multiple occasions, added seven points and 10 rebounds in the effort as well. Fordham took over the game late in the first half on a 20-3 run that showcased the talent of freshman point guard Nemanja Zarkovic, who scored 12 of his 16 points in the second half on a night where the native Canadian shot 6-of-10 from the field. Jon Severe was the only other Ram in double figures, scoring 10 points. "I thought we had our moments," a realistic Pecora remarked after the game. "This is the first time we brought everybody together, so obviously, we're pleased with the outcome."

Game #2: Fordham 80, Laval 72, August 26, 2014
Much like the Concordia game the night before, Laval played the role of aggressor through most of the first quarter, but the Rams were there to match them stride for stride before a 15-0 Fordham run capped off by a Jon Severe three-pointer with 6:42 remaining in the first half gave the Rams a 35-21 lead. Severe, whose 24 points on 7-of-13 shooting led Fordham, was one of three in double figures for Pecora, who also got 15 points from Antwoine Anderson and 14 from Christian Sengfelder. Despite leading by double digits for most of the second half, Fordham saw their advantage trimmed to three after Laval brought it to 73-70 with 3:35 remaining in regulation, but secured five unanswered points from Sengfelder and Severe to put the game on ice.

Game #3: Fordham 76, McGill 71, August 28, 2014
For the second time in three games, Nemanja Zarkovic led Fordham's offensive charge, with his 16 points leading four Rams in double figures. However, McGill, who defeated Jimmy Patsos and Siena in a similar exhibition last summer, drew first blood by jumping out to an 8-0 run. Fordham quickly scored the next five points, but the Rams ended the first quarter trailing 23-13. The double-digit deficit was short-lived though, as a 20-4 Fordham run gave the Rams a 33-27 lead behind 10 points from Zarkovic and five from fellow freshman Eric Paschall during the spurt. McGill was the aggressors to start the second half as well, going back in front by seven, and maintained their advantage until the final minute of the third quarter, when a Ryan Rhoomes jumper with 36 seconds remaining in the period tied the score at 54. A Jon Severe three followed by a Rhoomes layup put Fordham ahead by five just 44 seconds into the fourth quarter, a lead the Rams would expand to as many as eight midway through the period. A 13-5 McGill run tied the proceedings at 69, but Severe's layup with 1:16 to go in regulation, the final two of his 13 points, gave Fordham a lead it would never relinquish, as Bryan Smith's putback with 17 seconds left extended the advantage to 73-69.

Game #4: Fordham 91, Brookwood Elite 68, August 29, 2014
No official stats were kept for this game other than points and rebounds, but Eric Paschall had by far the game of his career, exploding for 36 points, including the first eight of the contest as he was one of four Rams in double figures. Ryan Rhoomes and Christian Sengfelder combined for 31 points to supplement Paschall, with senior guard Bryan Smith chipping in with 11 of his own as Fordham used separate 14-2 and 15-0 runs to pull away decisively in the second half.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

St. John's Women's Basketball: Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Analysis

Joe Tartamella enters third season at helm intent on maintaining status quo he helped build at St. John's. (Photo courtesy of The Associated Press)

In retrospect, it was a successful season. The St. John’s women finished 23-­11, runner­-up in the Big East Tournament, and earned an NCAA bid. A tempo-free look shows defense was a key:

                   Possessions           Points    Offensive Efficiency

St. John’s              2377             2254               99

Opponents             2353             2113               90

The Red Storm averaged 70 possessions per game, a brisk pace with the focus on getting out in transition. The 99 offensive efficiency is right at the cutoff of the general goal of 100, or one point per possession. The defense, allowing just a 90 in efficiency, is well above average.

A look at the Four Factors:

                eFG        FT Rate       OREB Pct      TO Rate

St. John’s   46            40                 34              22

Opponents  43            34                 32              22

What the Red Storm did well....Defend. They forced opposition into a 22% turnover rate. Teams generally try to keep the TO rate under 20 percent, so St. John’s was disruptive on defense. The field goal percentage defense is another testament to that defensive end. If opponents did not turn it over, they were often selecting a low percentage shot.

What is in store? A veteran cast returns to Queens. Leading scorer Aliyyah Handford (16.7 PPG) leads the way. The junior guard also topped the Storm in efficiency (using the NBA/WNBA model) at 12.9 . Coach Joe Tartamella will address the turnover situation. Eugeneia McPherson and Briana Brown are both gone. They were the lone regular starters with more assists than turnovers. Big East play should be challenging while the non-­league slate is highlighted by a date with UConn at the Garden in January’s Maggie Dixon Classic.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Seton Hall Big East Preview With John Fanta

With the Big East schedule being announced earlier today, we had the chance to catch up with "Mr. Seton Hall," John Fanta of 89.5 FM WSOU and the Pirate Sports Network, among his many talents, to get a better idea of where the Pirates will ultimately finish come March. You can listen to our interview with John below:

Fordham's Atlantic 10 Schedule

Tom Pecora and Fordham face uphill battle to begin Atlantic 10 season. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)

Last month, we revealed Fordham's nonconference schedule, the first half of our two-part preview that also included our annual preseason conversation with head coach Tom Pecora.

Now that we finally have a free moment or two, we can break down the second piece of the Rams' ledger. Fordham's Atlantic 10 schedule is, to steal a line from Billy Joel, frequently kind and suddenly cruel, the latter perhaps more noticeable from the onset.

The Rams begin conference play on January 4 by hosting league favorite VCU, also starting a stretch of three games in seven days that continues at Rhode Island on January 7 and ends at the Rose Hill Gym with reigning Elite Eight participant Dayton on January 10. It does not get any easier for Fordham, who goes through Philadelphia to take on Saint Joseph's on January 14 and La Salle three days later, only to return home to host likely NCAA Tournament team George Washington on January 22.

The George Washington game starts a run of four out of five home games for the Rams, who also host Rhode Island on January 28 before a February 1 jaunt to Dayton, which will be followed by back-to-back contests at Rose Hill against UMass on February 4 and Saint Louis on February 7. A February 11 journey to Richmond will take Fordham into a home date with Saint Joseph's on February 15, with a two-game road swing on deck against George Mason on February 18 and A-10 newcomer Davidson on February 21.

Up next for the Rams will be La Salle on February 25 at Rose Hill, with a return trip to UMass; one Fordham hopes will not be reminiscent of last season's 90-52 debacle, coming on February 28 before senior night against Duquesne on March 4 and a trip to St. Bonaventure on March 7 close out the regular season.

St. John's Releases Full Schedule

If senior-laden roster steps up as expected for St. John's, perpetually upbeat Steve Lavin could be going dancing once more. (Photo courtesy of Liam La Guerre via the Queens Courier)

After failing to "get it in" despite a valiant late-season effort just six months ago, the hype is real once more for St. John's fans after their beloved Red Storm released its 2014-15 schedule, one that begins with the Johnnies' home opener at Carnesecca Arena against NJIT on November 14.

"This very well could be the most challenging schedule of my tenure," head coach Steve Lavin; never one to shy away from testing his teams despite their erratic and somewhat perplexing results from past seasons, said in a release issued earlier this afternoon. "We will face many teams over the course of the regular season that made postseason appearances last year, and that will help our squad prepare for another postseason trip of our own."

Whether such a trip culminates with the program's third consecutive National Invitation Tournament appearance, an event that will be seen as somewhat of a letdown to the most rabid of St. John's fans, or a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, remains to be seen; but what can be observed from the Red Storm at first blush is the experience on this season's roster, the abundance of which rivals the aforementioned 2011 team, one that Lavin inherited from Norm Roberts and turned from underachieving doormat to scrappy competitor.

After the Johnnies host NJIT, they remain at Carnesecca Arena for preliminary home games against Franklin Pierce, (November 17) and LIU Brooklyn (November 19) that lead into the NIT Preseason Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden, where in the Red Storm will host Richard Pitino and reigning NIT champion Minnesota on November 26 before meeting either Georgia or Gonzaga three days later. Niagara and former St. John's assistant Chris Casey are next on deck at Carnesecca Arena on December 2 before a return game against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on December 6, renewing a legendary Big East rivalry that has sadly turned into a nonconference showdown.

The Red Storm get another home game at Carnesecca Arena against Fairleigh Dickinson on December 10 before returning to the Garden for the annual Holiday Festival on December 14, which will feature their sixth consecutive meeting with Tom Pecora and Fordham, and fourth straight at the "World's Most Famous Arena." Following the Sunday matinee, St. John's returns to their Queens campus for two more nonconference tuneups, coming against Saint Mary's and Long Beach State on December 19 and 22, with a clash versus Tulane inside Brooklyn's Barclays Center on December 28 being the final precursor to a Big East slate that begins on New Year's Eve in a noon tipoff at the Prudential Center against Seton Hall.

St. John's rings in 2015 on January 3, when they host Butler at Carnesecca Arena before welcoming Villanova to Madison Square Garden three days later. The Red Storm's first road swing in league play takes them to Providence (January 14) and DePaul (January 18) before two straight soirees at the Garden, first against Marquette on January 21, four days prior to a renewal of St. John's longtime rivalry with Duke, who visits the corner of 33rd and 8th on January 25 for the first time since being thoroughly decimated in a 93-78 Red Storm victory three years ago, one in which Madison Square Garden security prevented what would have been a court storm for the ages.

A journey to Omaha to meet Creighton on January 28 precedes what could be a pivotal Big East battle when the Johnnies lock horns with Providence on January 31 in a noon tipoff at the Garden. February, a month in which Lavin has always clicked on all cylinders with his St. John's teams, will be christened on the 3rd against Butler at venerable Hinkle Fieldhouse before Creighton comes to the Garden on the 7th of the month. The Red Storm host their penultimate game at Carnesecca Arena when DePaul comes to Queens on February 11, with a trek to Xavier (February 14) and Georgetown (February 17) on deck prior to Seton Hall coming across the river to Carnesecca on February 21.

The Seton Hall game begins a three-game homestand that also includes Garden appearances from Xavier (February 23) and Georgetown (February 28) before St. John's closes the regular season at Marquette and Villanova on March 4 and 7, respectively.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Saint Peter's Announces Full Schedule

Largely overlooked last season, Marvin Dominique returns with higher expectations for a Saint Peter's team that will be noticed much more this year. (Photo courtesy of Saint Peter's University)

The last of the eleven Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference teams to release its schedule has finally done so, and for Saint Peter's University, it is a very favorable slate that will further illustrate just how much head coach John Dunne can accomplish despite living in the shadows of other, larger programs, both within and outside the MAAC.

The Peacocks cut the ribbon on their 85th season with a November 14 trip to Providence to take on Brown, one of three Ivy League teams Saint Peter's will face on its ledger, and will remain in New England for a November 16 battle against Hartford of the America East Conference.

Saint Peter's home opener is also the first game of MAAC play this season, held earlier than usual when Niagara visits the Yanitelli Center on November 20, a date that was created by the need of Niagara to move a conference game to accommodate a prior commitment, which coincided seamlessly with Dunne's desire to get a home game for his team early in the season. The Peacocks will not be in Jersey City for long, however, as they hit the road to meet La Salle on November 22 as part of the Barclays Center Classic. Three days later, Saint Peter's contests a familiar foe in their Garden State rival Rutgers on November 25 at the RAC. For Dunne, who defeated the Scarlet Knights in 2012, the game will be a reunion of sorts with his former assistant coach Dalip Bhatia, who is now the director of basketball operations under Eddie Jordan at his alma mater in Piscataway.

Following the drive down the New Jersey Turnpike, Saint Peter's returns home for two games that conclude the Barclays Center Classic subregional, first on November 28 against Tennessee State before hosting either Norfolk State or St. Francis Brooklyn the following day. MAAC play resumes for the Peacocks on December 3, when they get their first look at Canisius, who must fill the void left by point guard and reigning MAAC Player of the Year Billy Baron. Next on the ledger will be a journey to the Agganis Arena on December 6 to match wits with Boston University, four days before Princeton makes the commute north to the Yanitelli Center.

On December 14, Saint Peter's will once again invade the Prudential Center for their annual skirmish with Seton Hall. This will mark the second year in a row in which the Peacocks and Pirates will have competed on December 14, with Desi Washington's heroics lifting Saint Peter's to an overtime victory a year ago after Brian Oliver sent the game to the extra session with an improbable game-tying three-pointer at the end of regulation. A welcome of Fairleigh Dickinson on December 23 and a trip to Cornell on the 28th close out 2014 for the Peacocks, who resume MAAC play on January 2 by ringing in 2015 against Quinnipiac at the TD Bank Sports Center.

Marist comes to the Yanitelli Center on January 4, three days before the Peacocks arrive at Draddy Gym for their first of two encounters with reigning MAAC champion Manhattan. The collision with the Jaspers starts a three-game road swing that will conclude against two in-state rivals, with Rider hosting Saint Peter's on January 10 and Monmouth doing the same on the 14th. Three of the next four games on the slate will be back home in Jersey City, though, starting with Manhattan on January 16 and continuing with Quinnipiac on the 21st before a Sunday visit to Siena on January 25 precedes Rider's trek to the Yanitelli Center on the 29th.

Saint Peter's closes January on the 31st, when they will square off with Iona at the Hynes Center before getting a well-deserved week off prior to home games against Fairfield and Siena on February 7 and 9, respectively. Much like Seton Hall on December 14, this will be the second straight season in which the Peacocks have played on February 7 and 9 as well. On February 7, 2014, Siena came to the Yanitelli Center in an encounter that is now known not just for a 66-53 Saint Peter's victory, but also for being just the second game in which Saints head coach Jimmy Patsos was ejected. On February 9 of last season, the Peacocks scored another decisive victory, defeating Monmouth by the final of 61-50.

The Peacocks will take their annual trip to western New York on February 13 and 15, first meeting Niagara before visiting Canisius. Monmouth comes to the Yanitelli Center on the 19th to break up a stretch of four out of five contests on the road, which picks up again when Fairfield and Marist host Saint Peter's on February 21 and 27, respectively.

Saint Peter's closes their regular season at home on March 1 against Iona.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Armand, Frazier Sign Professional Deals Overseas

Iona's Sean Armand is headed to Germany after signing pro deal, while Branden Frazier leaves Fordham for Netherlands. (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets)

Despite not hearing their names called among the 60 that comprised the NBA Draft, two of New York's best guards are celebrating their entry into the professional ranks after all.

Sean Armand, who for four years helped build Iona into one of the powerbrokers of metropolitan area basketball, is the first of those two after signing a one-year deal with Fraport Skyliners, a Frankfurt-based club in the German Bundesliga. Armand arrives in Germany on the heels of a senior season for the Gaels in which he averaged over 17 points per game, good enough to earn a spot on the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference's first team, in leading Iona to the National Invitation Tournament and a regular season MAAC championship.

Branden Frazier trades Rose Hill for Netherlands after signing with The Bright Kings Den Helder. (Photo courtesy of Fordham University)

Joining Armand as a newly-minted professional is fellow Brooklynite Branden Frazier, who today announced his signing with The Bright Kings Den Helder of the Dutch Basketball League. Frazier, who was Tom Pecora's first recruit at Fordham four years ago, blossomed into a warrior combo guard over his tenure at Rose Hill, eventually ranking ninth on the school's all-time scoring list, second in assists, and sixth in three-point field goals. This past season, Frazier was the Rams' leading scorer, with an 18.2 points per game clip that was third-best in the Atlantic 10.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Iona Releases Full Schedule

Senior forward David Laury leads an Iona team who fell three points short of MAAC championship repeat into a season where Gaels will seek redemption. (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets)

Over just four seasons in New Rochelle, Tim Cluess' resume reads a lot like that of former Yankees manager and newly enshrined Hall of Famer Joe Torre.

Four seasons and four postseason appearances, including two trips to the NCAA Tournament and an unforgettable 2013 MAAC championship run, are the headlines on Cluess' body of work, one that will write a new chapter on November 14, when Iona will commence its 2014-15 season with a return game against former Rutgers coach Gary Waters, now the head man at Cleveland State. The contest is one of two renewals from last year that the Gaels will start their ledger with this season, the second being a November 18 trip to Wofford, against whom Iona won their home opener last November.

From there, Cluess' team will participate in The Roundball Showcase, traveling to Wake Forest (November 21) and North Texas (November 23) before hosting Delaware State (November 26) and closing the eleventh month of the year on the 30th against Mike Anderson and Arkansas in Fayetteville.

MAAC play begins for Iona on December 7, when the Gaels journey into West Long Branch to take on Monmouth prior to Rider visiting the Hynes Center three days later to open a two-game homestand that concludes with Indiana State returning a 2012-13 BracketBuster contest on December 13 in New Rochelle. A three-game road swing to George Mason, (December 20) Massachusetts (December 30) and Siena (January 4) takes Iona into 2015 and the resumption of MAAC play, with three straight at home coming up soon after against the likes of Quinnipiac, Canisius and Fairfield on January 6, 10, and 13, respectively.

Three on the road await the Gaels after that, headlined by the western New York pilgrimage to Niagara (January 16) and Canisius (January 18) before taking on Rider on January 22 inside Alumni Gym. Home dates with Niagara (January 25) and Saint Peter's (January 31) ensue before Fairfield welcomes Iona into the WebsterBank Arena on February 2 before Siena (February 6) and Marist (February 8) come to New Rochelle.

Another three games away from home follow on the docket, beginning with the first renewal of the hottest rivalry in New York college basketball when Iona takes on reigning MAAC champion Manhattan, who defeated the Gaels in Springfield last March, on Friday, February 13 inside Draddy Gym. Quinnipiac (February 15) and Marist (February 20) are next to welcome the Maroon and Gold before Monmouth comes to the Hynes Center on February 22 as the final tuneup before the second round of the Gaels-Jaspers rivalry on February 27 in New Rochelle.

Iona closes the regular season on March 1, when the Gaels travel to Jersey City to face Saint Peter's.

Fairfield Releases Full Schedule

After rebuilding year last season, Marcus Gilbert and Fairfield face steep uphill climb back to top of MAAC. (Photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets)

Last season could best be described for Fairfield as a long and winding road of sorts, one that saw the Stags gain critical experience in the wake of losing floor general Derek Needham, who proved irreplaceable at various points of the year for head coach Sydney Johnson.

While his team is a year older and a year wiser, the premise remains the same for Johnson, who released a daunting schedule last week that sees his team open their first season without swingman Maurice Barrow; who graduated this past May, with five games in a ten-day span, beginning with an arduous back-to-back slate featuring Central Connecticut State in the annual Connecticut 6 tripleheader before visiting Cameron Indoor Stadium to take on Mike Krzyzewski and Duke as part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic on November 14 and 15, respectively.

"Every season I've been at Fairfield, we've played a difficult out of conference schedule," said Johnson, whose participation in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic also nets the Stags three home games from November 21-23 against Wofford, Sam Houston State and South Dakota. "This season is no different."

Following the in-season tournament experience, the Stags will travel to venerable Matthews Arena to meet Northeastern on November 29, with Bucknell coming to Bridgeport on December 1. MAAC play then begins for Fairfield four days later when reigning conference champion Manhattan comes to town, with that game preceding a December 7 affair in Hamden against Quinnipiac, the second time the Stags will play at the TD Bank Sports Center this season, as the venue is the site of this year's Connecticut 6.

A near-two-week hiatus for final exams comes to an end when Belmont comes to the WebsterBank Arena on December 20 to return a game the Stags contested in Tennessee a year ago. Fairfield hits the road two days later to take on reigning America East champion Albany before returning home to meet former MAAC rival Loyola, whom Johnson lost to in the 2012 MAAC championship during his first season as Ed Cooley's successor, on December 28. The Loyola game starts a three-game homestand that carries over into 2015 with the resumption of conference play against Siena (January 2) and Rider. (January 5)

Fairfield takes on Jimmy Patsos and the Saints one more time in Albany on January 11 before visiting the Hynes Center in New Rochelle two days later to face Iona. A January 16 home date with Marist precedes a journey to the Jersey Shore (January 18) to battle Monmouth, while the Stags alternate home and away uniforms once more against Canisius (at home on January 22) and Marist, to whom they travel on the 25th of the month. Home tilts with Monmouth (January 30) and Iona (February 2) will take Fairfield into a two-game swing through New Jersey, where awaiting them will be Rider on February 5th and Saint Peter's, who swept the Stags in all three meetings last year; with each victory coming on a three-pointer by Desi Washington, on February 7.

Three of Fairfield's next four games after that come at home, beginning with Quinnipiac on February 13. Only a February 15 trek to Riverdale to face Manhattan breaks up the homestand, which resumes when Niagara comes to Connecticut on February 19, with Saint Peter's following suit two days later. The annual western New York swing will close the regular season for the Stags, who visit Canisius on February 27 and Niagara on March 1.

Monmouth Releases Full Schedule

Redshirt junior Deon Jones returns to lead a young Monmouth team that should surprise more than just a handful of people in Hawks' second MAAC season. (Photo courtesy of Monmouth University)

Lost in both the dominance of Manhattan and Iona and emergence of Quinnipiac in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference last season was how much the other MAAC newcomer exceeded expectations with a scrappy roster that managed to compete in nearly all of their 20 conference games. Despite the remarkable growth, the bar for Monmouth remains set lower than some other programs in the area, but the stage is once again set for the Hawks to leave their prognostications squarely in the rearview mirror.

When head coach King Rice, never one to shy away from a challenge or let anyone know exactly what it is that plagues his team at any given moment, released Monmouth's schedule last week, two things stood out. First, his young; yet experience-laden, roster will face their share of stern tests early and often in the nonconference season, beginning with a November 14 opener inside a hostile environment against West Virginia in Morgantown and including road trips to Maryland (November 28) and likely American Athletic Conference championship contender SMU. (November 30) Second, the Hawks benefit from home games in the non-league portion of the year against a possible postseason threat (CAA frontrunner Towson on November 23) and an in-state high-major making an uncharacteristic trip down the shore in Rutgers, who invades the Multipurpose Activity Center in West Long Branch on December 28.

Following the West Virginia game, the Hawks open the doors to the MAC for three games as part of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic, welcoming Bethune-Cookman (November 21) and former Northeast Conference rival Central Connecticut State (November 22) before the aforementioned collision with Towson precedes the journeys to Maryland and SMU. MAAC play will begin on December 4 for Monmouth, who heads into McCann Arena to meet Marist before coming back home three days later for a battle with Tim Cluess and Iona, the 2013-14 MAAC regular season champions.

The renewal of a rivalry with Fordham (December 10) at Rose Hill Gym is next on the slate before the Hawks wax nostalgic with a pair of former NEC adversaries in Wagner (December 20 in Staten Island) and St. Francis Brooklyn, whom Monmouth greets in the Garden State on December 23 prior to hosting Rutgers. Rice's young charges will then ring in 2015 with the dreaded "Buffalo trip," taking on Canisius January 2 and Niagara on January 4 before a home showdown with Quinnipiac (January 9) precedes a trip to in-state rival Rider on the 12th of the month.

Home tilts with Saint Peter's (January 14) and Fairfield (January 18) will serve as precursors to a rare January nonconference skirmish, one which comes against Penn at the historic Palestra on the 21st of the month to start a stretch of three games in five days that also includes a home game against Niagara on January 23 and a battle with reigning conference champion Manhattan at Draddy Gym on January 25.

The Jaspers return the favor by coming to the MAC on Super Bowl Sunday, (February 1) but not before the Hawks head up to Bridgeport on January 30 to take on Fairfield. A return meeting with Quinnipiac takes place in Hamden on February 5 before Canisius visits the MAC on February 8 for the first time since Andrew Nicholas' buzzer-beater lifted Monmouth to an unlikely 83-82 upset of the Golden Griffins. Next up for the Hawks will be Siena on February 14 in Albany before Marist comes to New Jersey two days later. A February 19 soiree in Jersey City against Saint Peter's will be next on the ledger, with Monmouth's final road game coming on the 22nd against Iona. The Hawks conclude the regular season at the MAC for a two-game homestand against Rider on February 26 and Siena on March 1.