Shane Richards (top) and Mandell Thomas (bottom) lead their Manhattan and Fordham teams into Battle of the Bronx for final time in their four-year careers. (Richards photo courtesy of Big Apple Buckets, Thomas photo courtesy of The Fordham Ram)
The metropolitan area is abuzz over Chris Mullin's first season at the helm of his alma mater, St. John's, not to mention the promise of Long Island's two-headed monster of Hofstra and Stony Brook, and the standing of Columbia as a serious contender in the Ivy League.
Not to be forgotten are the Bronx's two representatives at the Division I level, and both parties will make sure of that Saturday evening, when Fordham hosts Manhattan in the 108th Battle of the Bronx, which tips off at 5 p.m. from historic Rose Hill Gymnasium for the first time since 2012 after the previous two installments of the storied rivalry were contested at Draddy Gymnasium and Barclays Center, last year's site, marking the first time since 2001 that the Battle of the Bronx was not played in the Bronx.
Fordham enters the crosstown collision at 3-1 in head coach Jeff Neubauer's first season, rebounding from a loss on the road against a UT-Arlington team that came back to score a major upset against Ohio State with three consecutive victories to open a nine-game homestand. The Rams have been aided by an emphasis on defense that had not been as profound under Neubauer's predecessor, Tom Pecora, and have held each of their last three opponents under 60 points as a group of veterans and underclassmen gradually buys in to the philosophy of their new coaching staff.
Across the floor, Manhattan is 1-2 on the season, and has fought off injuries in each of their first three contests. Their most recent effort, a gritty 69-67 victory over one of Fordham's conference rivals in George Mason, saw only six Jaspers take the floor as the two-time reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions were without the services of two of their everyday starters in point guard RaShawn Stores and center Carlton Allen. Nonetheless, the resilient culture brewed by head coach Steve Masiello has always found a way to rise to the top, and senior Shane Richards has been nothing short of yeomanlike in the start to his final campaign in Riverdale, getting help from junior guard Rich Williams in the form of a career-high 26 points in the win over George Mason.
Without any further ado, we present our annual refresher course in the recent history between the two schools, as well as a "tale of the tape" at each position as a local Super Bowl gets underway once more:
Game and Media Information
Date: Saturday, November 28, 2015
Site: Rose Hill Gymnasium, Bronx, NY
Time: 5 p.m.
Video Stream: Atlantic 10 Digital Network (Andrew Bogusch, Mike Watts)
Fordham Radio: 90.7 FM WFUV, wfuv.org (Tony Reali, James Decker)
Manhattan Radio: GoJaspers.com (Christian Heimall, Brian Mahoney)
All-Time Series: Manhattan leads, 56-51 (has won three of last four)
Last 5 Meetings
December 22, 2014 at Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY: Manhattan 71, Fordham 57
Fordham sprinted out of the gate to a 10-0 run, not allowing a Manhattan basket for the first 4:35 of the game. Trailing 16-4, Steve Masiello made the adjustment that ultimately won the game, electing to go to the Jaspers' patented full-court press. The change in tactics worked to the tune of a 48-17 run that flipped any and all momentum squarely into the hands of Manhattan, who were also aided by the Rams' 12-for-25 performance at the free throw line. In his final game against Fordham, Emmy Andujar battled his way to a near-double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds, earning Mike Cohen Most Valuable Player honors in the process.
November 26, 2013 at Manhattan: Fordham 79, Manhattan 75
Manhattan saw firsthand the potential of Jon Severe, who scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the first half, draining one three-pointer after another. The Jaspers would fight back, though, taking a 73-71 lead on a three-point play from George Beamon with 4:07 remaining in regulation. Fordham would execute better down the stretch, however, closing the game on an 8-2 run capped off by a Travion Leonard dunk in the final seconds to give the Rams a win over a Manhattan team that took Louisville to the limit in the NCAA Tournament four months later.
November 29, 2012 at Fordham: Manhattan 65, Fordham 58
Following a season-opening road trip in a schedule Tom Pecora would frequently refer to as "brutal," the meeting with the Jaspers served as Fordham's home opener, and drew a near-sellout crowd. The Rams proved to be quite comfortable in their familiar surroundings through most of the night, scratching their way to a 52-49 lead late in the second half. However, four turnovers and the emergence of then-junior Michael Alvarado down the stretch proved to be too much to overcome as Manhattan defeated their intra-borough rival for the second consecutive season.
December 7, 2011 at Manhattan: Manhattan 81, Fordham 47
Those in attendance at Draddy Gymnasium braved a torrential December downpour to witness a drubbing of the Rams in Steve Masiello's Battle of the Bronx debut. Five players scored in double figures for the Jaspers on a night where Fordham was forced into 20 turnovers, with Devon "Fatty" McMillan singlehandedly committing ten of them.
December 8, 2010 at Fordham: Fordham 73, Manhattan 59
Three days before the Rams erased a 21-point deficit in a court-storming upset of St. John's, Tom Pecora's baptism to the Manhattan rivalry resulted in a convincing win. Fordham closed the first half against the Barry Rohrssen-led Jaspers on an 18-5 run and never looked back, getting 21 points from Brenton Butler and an 11-point, 16-rebound double-double from Kervin Bristol in the victory.
Tale of the Tape:
Tyler Wilson (6-0 Jr., 4.3 PPG, 1.7 RPG, 6.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 27% FG, 54% FT) vs. Joseph Chartouny (6-3 Fr., 9.8 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 5.5 APG, 2.0 SPG, 50% FG, 78% FT, 50% 3pt)
What Wilson lacks in scoring, he more than makes up for in his passing and defensive abilities, which will be of extreme importance for Manhattan against a Fordham backcourt that does its damage in various facets of the game. His Canadian counterpart has blossomed in his own right, as Chartouny has done a little bit of everything for the Rams in his rookie season, and comes off a 15-point, 10-rebound double-double in the victory against Colgate. Both young men have shown an exceptional ball handling ability to start the year, and the winner of this clash will likely be the one who is able to emerge the more impactful playmaker, something Chartouny has already proven himself to do.
Thomas Capuano (5-11 Fr., 8.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 2.3 SPG, 50% FG, 100% FT, 33% 3pt) vs. Mandell Thomas (6-2 Sr., 15.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 3.8 APG, 2.3 SPG, 48% FG, 69% FT, 43% 3pt)
Assuming RaShawn Stores cannot go for Manhattan on Saturday, Capuano will get his third start of the young season. The freshman has drawn the praise of Steve Masiello already, playing "like a 30-year veteran" in the coach's words after a 14-point performance against George Mason that also included four assists and five steals as he hustled his way into one of the better all-around efforts on the night. For Fordham, Thomas has begun his final go-round in top form, leading the Rams in scoring while also making an impact without the ball in his hands. He has also committed just two miscues all year, something that will be key against the Manhattan press. Thomas' senior leadership should be what wins out, but Capuano's relentless play on both ends will make him earn the edge.
Rich Williams (6-5 Jr., 17.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.7 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 36% FG, 72% FT, 35% 3pt) vs. Jon Severe (6-2 Jr., 9.3 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.3 SPG, 39% FG, 100% FT, 33% 3pt)
Williams has been equally proficient at both ends for the Jaspers to date, and has willed himself to succeed more given the shape of the Manhattan roster in recent weeks. His 26-point, 9-rebound masterpiece against George Mason was even more impressive considering Shane Richards was held to just half Williams' point total. Severe has been reborn under Jeff Neubauer, and looks the part of a wild animal on the prowl when in a defensive stance. The junior guard is still looking to become a multi-dimensional threat on the offensive end, though, which is something Williams has already cast himself as. That difference will be a boon to the Jaspers, who will orchestrate their attack through the man who has established himself as the Robin to Shane Richards' Batman.
Shane Richards (6-5 Sr., 21.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.6 APG, 2.0 SPG, 39% FG, 74% FT, 41% 3pt) vs. Christian Sengfelder (6-7 So., 13.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 46% FG, 55% FT, 53% 3pt)
Richards has been Manhattan's most valuable player, putting a shorthanded team on his back in each of the Jaspers' first three games and doing whatever it takes to win, highlighted by his game-winning three-point play with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation against George Mason. Sengfelder has picked up where he left off after a promising rookie season, adding some post moves to a deceptively strong floor game that showcases his proficiency both in the lane and as a pick-and-pop shooter. This could be the most hotly contested matchup of the evening, and while Sengfelder has the size and physicality mismatch in his favor, Richards has made a career of prospering with the deck stacked against him. Look for Manhattan to funnel their offense into the hands of their senior leader, and for Richards to overcome the odds once again.
Zane Waterman (6-9 So., 10.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 38% FG, 75% FT, 38% 3pt) vs. Ryan Rhoomes (6-8 Sr., 13.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.3 APG, 1.8 BPG, 1.0 SPG, 71% FG, 50% FT)
Waterman has gone above and beyond the call of duty as the Jaspers' top performer down low, and contributed nine points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes against George Mason before fouling out. Rhoomes has fought through foul trouble of his own in November, but should be able to establish his position against Waterman to get his trademark high-percentage shots around the rim. Of Fordham's starting five, he will no doubt be Manhattan's biggest challenge given their lack of frontcourt depth if Carlton Allen, AK Ojo, and Samson Akilo are all inactive.
The strength of Manhattan's reserves will be determined by how many of them are available. Walk-on guards Matt Maloney and Jason Camus, the latter of whom did not even play against George Mason, have been all the Jaspers have had as far as substitutes in recent games, whereas Fordham has five capable role players whose mere presence will keep the Rams fresher. Ryan Canty, who has had multiple strong performances against Manhattan in the past, will spell Sengfelder and Rhoomes, while Antwoine Anderson can give both Chartouny and Thomas some time off in the backcourt. Freshmen Jesse Bunting and Nych Smith have also shown flashes of promise, with Nemanja Zarkovic capable of being the change of pace Fordham needs against Manhattan's press.
The disparity between the two sides in this category does not have as much of a chasm this time around, thanks to the prowess of Jeff Neubauer, who experiences the Battle of the Bronx for the first time. Already four games into his first season at Rose Hill, the former Eastern Kentucky boss has transformed the Rams' on-court brand, undergoing an extreme makeover from what it had become. Gone is the stagnant offense and lackadaisical defense, replaced by a strong commitment toward a common goal. On the Jasper bench, Masiello continues to do what he does best, which is get his team into the best possible condition as the season goes on. Equal parts talent developer and master motivator, he knows what formulas to use for each player and each game, components that have made him one of the best tacticians in the area. Masiello still has the edge here, but the gap has closed significantly.
Tom Pecora said it best when previewing this annual skirmish, accurately stating that "records are thrown out the window." This game is almost always close one way or another, and should be again Saturday evening. Manhattan will try to pull out another scrappy victory, while Fordham seeks to make a statement with their fourth consecutive win. For what it's worth, both of the last two coaches to make their Battle of the Bronx debut did so in winning fashion, and did so on their home floor. In a razor-thin margin, that trend will continue, as Neubauer will get the better of a game and gallant Jaspers squad, but not without his team taking their share of bumps first.
Fordham 70, Manhattan 64