Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Breaking down Manhattan's nonconference schedule

Steve Masiello and Manhattan revealed first steps in road to Jaspers' second title defense Tuesday afternoon, releasing nine-game nonconference schedule that features four home contests. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)

Throughout the offseason, one motive has been made clear by Steve Masiello as Manhattan College prepares for yet another Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championship defense: The unbridled desire, which at times resembles more of a need, to make history by becoming only the third program to win three consecutive MAAC titles.

Tuesday afternoon, the preliminary blueprint was revealed in the latest encore the Jaspers will take the stage to perform, that being a nine-game non-league schedule that sees four teams visit Draddy Gymnasium before conference play for the first time in Masiello's tenure, which now begins its fifth season.

"We know it will be a difficult early slate, especially with what we lost," the coach conceded, which keeps in line with his vision of testing his team in such a way to where it will see a bevy of coaching styles and schemes on both ends of the ball before and after the grueling 20-game MAAC slate, "but it is time for the next group of Jaspers to step up and leave their mark on the program."

"We are extremely excited about the direction of the program," he continued, "and with that comes stellar competition, which we feel this nonconference schedule gives us. It is not only challenging, but also gives us an opportunity to play in front of our home fans as well as on a national level, which is great for our brand."

Beginning with a November 9 exhibition against Division II Bridgeport, and culminating with a trip to Eastern Kentucky on December 29, we break down each game for Manhattan, and what they will face along the road to what could ultimately be a return to the NCAA Tournament:

University of Bridgeport: Monday, November 9 - Draddy Gymnasium (exhibition)
The Knights return four of their five leading scorers, including three starters, from a 24-7 team that won the East Coast Conference and gave Southern Connecticut State all they could handle in the Division II East Regional. Bridgeport's offense, an outfit that averaged 81 points per game behind the three-pronged backcourt of Devon Elliott, Jesse Jones and Ernest Rouse; each of whom also shot 43 percent or better from three-point range, is an uptempo attack that will no doubt aid Manhattan for their eventual battles against archrival Iona later in the season.
Did You Know? This is the second straight year in which Manhattan's exhibition opponent will compete in the ECC, as the Jaspers defeated LIU Post in a similar game last November.

Saint Mary's College: Monday, November 16 - McKeon Pavilion, Moraga, Calif.
The Gaels will be in a retooling mode under head coach Randy Bennett as they look to qualify for their ninth consecutive postseason. Gone is the seemingly automatic double-double of 6-10 manchild Brad Waldow, as well as four other seniors from a 21-win squad last season. However, a new crop of talent is poised to take the next step, headlined by sophomore point guard Emmett Naar, the latest product of Saint Mary's strong Australian pipeline. As the sixth man in his rookie campaign, Naar averaged nearly four assists per game while knocking down three-pointers at a 45 percent clip in an impressive debut effort that echoes back to the career of program legend Matthew Dellavedova.
Did You Know? This will only be the second meeting between Manhattan and Saint Mary's, with the Jaspers having won the initial contest during the 1991-92 season, which ended in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament under the direction of Jasper Hall of Famer Steve Lappas.

Bucknell University: Saturday, November 21 - Draddy Gymnasium
All but four players return to the roster for the Bison as Nathan Davis, a former Bucknell assistant who was on staff when the program earned a major upset victory over Kansas as a No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament, takes over the reins in Lewisburg. Senior shooting guard Chris Hass, who led the team in scoring with an average of 16 points per game, will reprise his role as the primary marksman for the Bison, with sophomores Nana Foulland and Zach Thomas making improved strides up front. A key for Bucknell will be the steady hands of Ryan Frazier, the starting point guard who enters his senior season on the heels of a near 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio as a junior.
Did You Know? Bucknell is Manhattan's first Patriot League opponent since November 25, 2009, when the Jaspers faced American University.

George Mason University: Wednesday, November 25 - Draddy Gymnasium
A new era begins for the Patriots, as Dave Paulsen arrives from Bucknell to face the task of returning a former Cinderella to its captivating, winning, ways. The good news for Paulsen is that four of the five leading scorers for former coach Paul Hewitt return to Fairfax this season, led by double-double machine Shevon Thompson, a 6-11 senior from Jamaica who averaged 12.5 points and 11.3 rebounds per game in one of the few bright spots of the 2013-14 campaign. Sharpshooter Patrick Holloway returns to the backcourt for his senior season, and junior point guard Marquise Moore is back in the fold as well. Finally, Jalen Jenkins, whose 75-foot heave defeated the Jaspers at the buzzer last season, is back for his junior season as well, looking to improve on an average of eight points per game.
Did You Know? Jenkins was a high school teammate of Manhattan guard Tyler Wilson. The two played their pre-collegiate years at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx.

Fordham University: Saturday, November 28 - Rose Hill Gymnasium, Bronx, NY
The Rams will be the third consecutive team with a new coach that will lead his team into battle against Manhattan, as Jeff Neubauer comes to the Bronx to replace Tom Pecora after a decade-long run at Eastern Kentucky. Fordham will have a different look now that Eric Paschall has transferred to Villanova, but several core pieces remain in the perennial fight to escape the bottom rungs of the Atlantic 10. After finishing the second half of his junior season at the point guard spot, Mandell Thomas now has the title of floor general for an entire year, with a rejuvenated Jon Severe alongside him in the backcourt as the highly touted high school phenom is now a junior. In addition, Christian Sengfelder will be a focal point in the paint as the German sophomore, who spent time with his country's national team this summer, leads the interior efforts along with senior Ryan Rhoomes following a promising rookie campaign. The Rams' front line gets yet another boost this season with the return of Ryan Canty, who rejoins the team after redshirting last year due to injury.
Did You Know? The Battle of the Bronx returns to Rose Hill nearly three years to the day that Fordham last hosted Manhattan. On November 29, 2012, then-junior Michael Alvarado had one of his many defining moments as a Jasper, taking over in the second half en route to being named the Mike Cohen Most Valuable Player in a 65-58 Manhattan victory in which the Bronx native scored 19 points off the bench.

Columbia University: Wednesday, December 9 - Draddy Gymnasium
After a one-year hiatus, the Lions finally return the last of a four-game series against Manhattan that has seen the last two meetings contested at Levien Gymnasium. Now in his sixth season at the helm, Kyle Smith has perhaps his deepest and most talented team in Morningside Heights, a group that has already been labeled as a contender to break the stranglehold of Ivy League dominance currently enjoyed by Harvard. Now entering his senior season, German guard Maodo Lo is arguably the most underrated player in the metropolitan area, coming off a 43 percent showing from three-point range last season while his backcourt partner Isaac Cohen, also a senior, dished out 111 assists against just 43 turnovers one year ago. Sophomore Kyle Castlin will also be a major player following a freshman season in which the Georgia native averaged over ten points per game. Columbia also returns the services of two of its most integral pieces after both missed the 2014-15 season due to injury, those being senior guard Grant Mullins and fellow senior Alex Rosenberg, the latter of whom will help juniors Jeff Coby and Luke Petrasek take the next step down low for the Lions.
Did You Know? Manhattan rode the No. 1 train to their last meeting against Columbia, a 71-70 victory that saw George Beamon cap a 28-point performance with a three-point play in the final second of regulation. "I've never enjoyed New York trains as much as I will tonight," Masiello gushed after the Jaspers' heroics.

University of Memphis: Saturday, December 12 - FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tenn.
The Tigers undergo a makeover of sorts this season, with leading scorer Austin Nichols having transferred to Virginia to join an exodus that has also claimed the likes of Pookie Powell and Kuran Iverson to La Salle and Rhode Island, respectively. Regardless, the show resumes on Beale Street, with Shaq Goodwin and Trahson Burrell leading the way as each begins his final season in a Memphis uniform. Graduate transfer Ricky Tarrant is immediately eligible upon his arrival from Alabama, and will lead a formidable backcourt trio that also consists of senior Kedren Johnson and junior Avery Woodson as five freshmen learn the ropes on a team that may just be the American Athletic Conference's biggest X-factor.
Did You Know? Masiello and Memphis head coach Josh Pastner were both walk-ons with ringside seats to the 1997 national championship: Masiello for Kentucky, and Pastner for Arizona.

St. Francis College (St. Francis Brooklyn): Monday, December 14 - Draddy Gymnasium
The Jaspers take on the Terriers for the first time since the 2008-09 season, when both programs were still finding their way through their respective conferences. Since then, Manhattan has, of course, won a pair of MAAC championships, but St. Francis has been a force in the Northeast Conference during the same time span under head coach Glenn Braica, winning the regular season league crown last year before coming within an eyelash of the school's first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Reigning NEC Player of the Year Jalen Cannon and fellow all-conference first team selection Brent Jones have both graduated, but the Terriers remain in good hands behind senior guard Tyreek Jewell, who will pick up the slack in the backcourt while Chris Hooper and NEC Defensive Player of the Year Amdy Fall shore up the interior on Remsen Street. Sophomore guard Glenn Sanabria, a Staten Island native, is poised for a breakout season as the successor to Jones.
Did You Know? Former Manhattan head coach Barry Rohrssen is a St. Francis alumnus, and also began his coaching career by spending two seasons as an assistant in Brooklyn Heights.

Morgan State University: Sunday, December 20 - Hill Field House, Baltimore, Md.
The Jaspers and Bears meet for just the fourth time in their histories, and one year to the day of their most recent encounter, a 73-69 Manhattan victory at Draddy Gymnasium that saw Morgan State nearly pull off the upset. Head coach Todd Bozeman loses his son, Blake, to graduation, but returns senior forward Cedric Blossom, who averaged over 14 points and seven rebounds per game for the Bears a year ago. Point guard Donte Pretlow is also another incumbent on a deceptively strong mid-major team with mounds of experience that will help Morgan State challenge for a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference championship.
Did You Know? In last year's win over Morgan State, Shane Richards established the school record for career three-point field goals with his 166th career trey early in the second half, a mark he will continue to add to during his senior season this year.

Eastern Kentucky University: Tuesday, December 29 - McBrayer Arena, Richmond, Ky.
Manhattan's final non-league affair comes against the Colonels, a strong foe out of the Ohio Valley Conference with a new coach in Dan McHale. Eastern Kentucky may look young on paper with only two returning starters in senior swingman Ja'Mill Powell and junior point guard Isaac McGlone, but the cupboard has already been loaded with high-major talent in the form of JaVontae Hawkins; who regains his eligibility after sitting out last year when transferring from South Florida, and Jarelle Reischel, who will be eligible immediately as a graduate transfer from Dan Hurley's budding powerhouse at Rhode Island.
Did You Know? Although this is the first time Masiello and McHale will face off as head coaches, this is not the first chapter in their history. First, McHale was a student manager for Tubby Smith on the Kentucky teams in which Masiello was a walk-on. The two would later spend a year on the Manhattan coaching staff in 2004-05, Masiello as an assistant coach and McHale as director of basketball operations, before joining Rick Pitino's staff at Louisville together the following season.

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