Monday, August 31, 2015

Monmouth releases nonconference schedule

Justin Robinson goes into junior season with MAAC Player of the Year aspirations as Monmouth begins a season of high expectations with challenging nonconference schedule. (Photo courtesy of the Asbury Park Press)

When Monmouth joined the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in the summer of 2013, head coach King Rice spoke excitedly about his desire to challenge his team, being unafraid to test a young roster in a conference most felt the Hawks would be thrown to the wolves in, as evidenced by their last-place prediction in the 11-team league.

Two years in the MAAC later, Monmouth has built off ninth and fourth-place finishes, coming just two wins short of an NCAA Tournament appearance. With that in mind, and with all but two players from last year's rotation back for an encore in West Long Branch, the Hawks are thinking big, and their nonconference schedule released Monday afternoon reflects such a philosophy.

"We are very excited about this schedule," Rice said in a release highlighting how Monmouth will start his fifth season at the helm. "I think our program has really taken some steps forward over the last four years, and this is definitely a way to challenge them."

The Hawks follow up an 18-win season with a campaign-opening trip to the West Coast, tipping off against UCLA on November 13 and then visiting USC on November 16. Once back in the Eastern time zone, Monmouth will travel to Drexel on November 21 in their final tuneup prior to participating in the Advocare Invitational, formerly the Orlando (nee Old Spice) Classic.

In Disney World's ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, Monmouth first takes on Notre Dame at 6:30 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, November 26, with another game the following day and their final contest in the Sunshine State on the 29th of the month, the latter two against teams to be determined. After the traditional opening weekend of MAAC play in December, the Hawks' lone non-league home game takes place on Sunday, December 13, when Wagner makes their way over the Outerbridge Crossing into the Multipurpose Activity Center. The matchup with the Seahawks, Monmouth's former Northeast Conference rival, kicks off a stretch of four games in eleven days that will also see the Hawks travel to Georgetown, (December 15) Rutgers, (December 20) and Cornell, (December 23) before their final test of the 2015 calendar year, a December 28 skirmish against Army West Point at Christl Arena. All tip times, except the Notre Dame game, are to be determined at a later date.

2015-16 Monmouth Hawks Nonconference Schedule
Friday, November 13: at UCLA
Monday, November 16: at USC
Saturday, November 21: at Drexel
Thursday, November 26: vs. Notre Dame (Advocare Invitational, Orlando, Fla.)
Friday, November 27: vs. TBD (Advocare Invitational, Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, November 29: vs. TBD (Advocare Invitational, Orlando, Fla.)
Sunday, December 13: vs. Wagner
Tuesday, December 15: at Georgetown
Sunday, December 20: at Rutgers
Wednesday, December 23: at Cornell
Monday, December 28: at Army West Point

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Liberty 81, Lynx 68: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

NEW YORK CITY - ‘Be in it to win it.’ 

The lottery bills that as its classic slogan. It is no use daydreaming about potential riches if you do not ante up the dollar (or a few more) for the chance. The same goes for championships. If you want to win one, get in the playoffs for starters.

The New York Liberty took that step, clinching a WNBA postseason berth for the first time since 2012. The Liberty defeated the Minnesota Lynx 81-­68 at Madison Square Garden. The game was billed as the leaders of the Western Conference versus the East’s top team, the homestanding Liberty.

Once again, it was vintage Tina Charles (18 points, 11 rebounds) and Epiphanny Prince, with a team-high 22 points, showing the way. Maya Moore of the Lynx led all scorers with 25 points. Moore was held scoreless the first quarter when the Liberty built a double-digit lead they would not relinquish, as the defense (Minnesota managed just a 90 efficiency) and supporting cast featuring Kiah Stokes (11 rebounds) and Tanisha Wright (6 assists) came through.

Almost forgotten is the man on the bench, Bill Laimbeer. Not totally overlooked for his body of work, but it is rarely mentioned how the administration let him go following last season. After a search, the Liberty decided he ultimately was best suited for the job. Credit the powers that be for getting that right. He has not only constructed a talented team, but one with chemistry that is the envy of many a team, not just WNBA clubs. In addition, the team has taken on his personality of toughness and bought completely into his mindset of solid defense as job one.

Laimbeer insists there is a lot of basketball to be played. Considering what could happen in the playoffs, he could be right, and deserves a world of credit.

The Lovin' Spoonful sang of "Summer in the City," a time when we and our amenities (at Penn Station especially) are not always at full strength:
Carolyn Swords of the Liberty limbers up pregame:
A classy Madison Square Garden tribute to recently departed fan favorite Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins:
Tanisha Wright is all concentration on the line:
All a blur, as Essence Carson of the Liberty gives chase to a Lynx guard headed to the basket:
Epiphanny Prince of the Liberty discusses victory No. 19:
Liberty coach Bill Laimbeer in his postgame meeting with the media:

Friday, August 28, 2015

Wagner releases nonconference schedule

Mike Aaman returns for a full, and hopefully healthy, senior season as Wagner looks to fuel another run to top half of NEC standings with strong nonconference schedule. (Photo courtesy of the Staten Island Advance)

Wagner has already been regarded as the Northeast Conference team with the most upside going into the coming season, so it should come as no surprise that the Seahawks are once again challenging themselves in the nonconference portion of their schedule.

Led by head coach Bashir Mason, whose four years of experience and in-game execution belies his tender age of 31, the Verrazano Warriors play their first of eleven non-league games at Carnesecca Arena on Friday, November 13, when they meet St. John's for the third time in six years, this time with the honor of being the first official opponent of new Red Storm head coach Chris Mullin. Wagner's Big East weekend continues two days later for a Sunday date with Seton Hall on the Pirates' South Orange campus at historic Walsh Gymnasium.

A string of four straight home games is next up on the slate for the Green & White, the first of which is a return game against Bob Walsh and Maine on November 21. After a one-week hiatus, the Seahawks welcome the College of Staten Island to the Spiro Sports Center as the Dolphins make the trek down Victory Boulevard. Wagner hosts Morgan State (December 2) and American (December 6) to complete their homestand before a four-game road trip begins on December 8 against Rider at Alumni Gymnasium.

The meeting with the Broncs is Wagner's first of three straight against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opponents, with journeys to Monmouth (December 13) and Fairfield (December 18) immediately following. The marquee date on the Seahawks' pre-NEC ledger comes on December 22 in a trip to the newly christened EagleBank Arena for only the second battle in program history with George Mason, a school Wagner has not faced since 1983. The Patriots, led by new head coach Dave Paulsen, return seniors Shevon Thompson and Patrick Holloway to a roster looking to escape the doldrums of the Atlantic 10.

Wagner concludes its nonconference schedule at home against UMass Lowell on December 30, as the River Hawks come to Staten Island for the first-ever clash between the two schools.

2015-16 Wagner Seahawks Nonconference Schedule
Friday, November 13: at St. John's (Carnesecca Arena)
Sunday, November 15: at Seton Hall (Walsh Gymnasium)
Saturday, November 21: vs. Maine
Saturday, November 28: vs. College of Staten Island
Wednesday, December 2: vs. Morgan State
Sunday, December 6: vs. American
Tuesday, December 8: at Rider
Sunday, December 13: at Monmouth
Friday, December 18: at Fairfield
Tuesday, December 22: at George Mason
Wednesday, December 30: vs. UMass Lowell

Emmy Andujar signs professional contract in Spain

Emmy Andujar's next step after two MAAC championships will come in Spain, where former Jasper signed with Forca Lleida. (Photo courtesy of Vincent Simone via Big Apple Buckets)

For four years, Emmy Andujar not only personified the hard-working, relentless style that his Manhattan teams came to be known for, he also embodied the high-character, team-first mantra that guided the Jaspers to back-to-back Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference championships.

Andujar's perseverance and grit paid off Friday evening, when the Bronx native announced that he signed his first professional contract, coming to terms with Forca Lleida of Spain's LEB Oro.

"New chapter, new goals," Andujar said via his Instagram account, where he declared he would be moving on to the next level. "I'm very thankful to have the opportunity to take my talents to Spain and start my rookie career there. I want to thank God, my family, mentors, (the) coaching staff at Manhattan, and my friends with all the support. I'm looking forward to this and making the best of it. Time to work."

Andujar, who graduated this past May as the only player in Manhattan history to amass at least 1,300 points, 750 rebounds, 350 assists, and 150 steals in his career, was the Jaspers' scoring, rebounding, and assist leader during a senior season that landed him first team all-MAAC honors as he anchored a successful conference title defense with a second consecutive championship victory over Manhattan's archrival, Iona. He is also the fifth Jasper in the past two years to begin a career in the professional ranks, joining last year's senior class of Michael Alvarado, George Beamon, and Rhamel Brown; as well as Ashton Pankey, who signed with Israel's Hapoel Galil Elyon Club earlier this week.

Fordham releases nonconference schedule

Fordham fans will have nine chances to see Mandell Thomas lead Rams into battle at Rose Hill Gym in first season under new head coach Jeff Neubauer. (Photo courtesy of The Fordham Ram)

A constant goal for Tom Pecora when assembling his Fordham teams' schedules on a yearly basis was getting more home games at Rose Hill Gymnasium. As the years passed, the Rams were able to attract opponents to the Bronx, but still not to the level the now-former head coach desired.

Pecora was replaced by Jeff Neubauer in March, but the same scheduling philosophy has remained through the transition in regimes, and was revealed this afternoon as Fordham released its nonconference schedule, one that sees a nine-game homestand for the Rams before the beginning of Atlantic 10 play.

Fordham's lone road game in the first half of the season will be its opener against Texas-Arlington on Saturday, November 14, in the Rams' first-ever meeting against the Mavericks. Three days later, the first of nine consecutive home dates for Fordham comes against Division II Queens College, with Fairleigh Dickinson visiting Rose Hill on November 21, and Colgate on November 24 before the two highlights of the non-league slate.

On November 28, the 107th Battle of the Bronx will see the Rams entertain crosstown rival Manhattan once again, with the Jaspers coming to Fordham for the first time in three years. Following the clash against the two-time reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions, St. John's comes over the Whitestone Bridge for a December 2 tilt that will see Chris Mullin and the Red Storm take the floor at Fordham for the first time since December 11, 2010, when the Rams overcame a 21-point second-half deficit to score an 84-81 upset marked by a sellout crowd storming the court.

A pair of Northeast Conference opponents are next on the ledger, with Central Connecticut State (December 5) and LIU Brooklyn (December 8) being welcomed by the Rams, who also host Coppin State on December 13. Fordham's final home game before A-10 play comes against Maine on December 19, and their last non-league skirmish is a neutral site showdown with Boston College on December 22 as part of the Atlantic 10/ACC Challenge at Barclays Center.

2015-16 Fordham Rams Nonconference Schedule
Saturday, November 14: at Texas-Arlington, 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, November 17: vs. Queens College, 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 21: vs. Fairleigh Dickinson, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, November 24: vs. Colgate, 8 p.m.
Saturday, November 28: vs. Manhattan, 5 p.m. (107th Battle of the Bronx)
Wednesday, December 2: vs. St. John's, 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 5: vs. Central Connecticut State, 4 p.m.
Tuesday, December 8: vs. LIU Brooklyn, 7 p.m.
Sunday, December 13: vs. Coppin State, 1 p.m.
Saturday, December 19: vs. Maine, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, December 22: vs. Boston College, TBA (Atlantic 10/ACC Challenge, Barclays Center)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

St. John's releases nonconference schedule

An ambitious nonconference schedule awaits Chris Mullin, who begins his head coaching career on November 13 when St. John's hosts Wagner. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)

Hours after signing the ninth player in a productive offseason, Chris Mullin can now get to work on preparing his St. John's team for what lies ahead, as the Red Storm released its nonconference schedule late Monday afternoon.

"We are going to be tested early and often," said Mullin, who will lead his alma mater into battle at five different venues before Big East play, including a trip to Hawaii for the Maui Invitational. "Our guys are going to be challenged going up against a variety of programs that play different styles of basketball. Regardless of the opponent, we will be consistent with our work ethic and preparation for each game."

As is customary at St. John's, the slate begins with a pair of exhibition games at Carnesecca Arena, first against St. Thomas Aquinas; against whom the Red Storm played in a similar contest last year, on November 4 before Sonoma State comes to Queens on November 7. The first official game of Mullin's tenure occurs on Friday, November 13, when Wagner comes across the Verrazano Bridge to Carnesecca to meet St. John's for the third time in six seasons.

The Red Storm remain on campus for their next two games, taking on UMBC (November 16) in a Maui Invitational preliminary affair and Rutgers (November 19) in the inaugural Gavitt Tipoff Games, before flying to Hawaii to participate in the Maui Invitational for the first time. Upon arriving on the island, St. John's meets Vanderbilt in the first round on November 23, with either Indiana or Wake Forest waiting in the wings the following day in the middle of a three-game stint that concludes on November 25 versus an opponent to be determined.

St. John's lone true road game in the non-league portion of the season comes at Rose Hill Gymnasium on December 2 against local rival Fordham. It will be the first visit to the Bronx for the Red Storm since December 11, 2010, when Fordham overcame a 21-point second-half deficit en route to an 84-81 win that saw the Rams' fan base rush the court after playing to a capacity crowd. Next up for the former Redmen is their 2015-16 Madison Square Garden debut, which takes place in the Holiday Festival on December 6 against St. Francis Brooklyn and head coach Glenn Braica, a one-time St. John's assistant.

Three of the next four tilts are on campus, beginning with Niagara, (December 9) and also including Incarnate Word (December 18) and NJIT on December 20. The one exception in this stretch is a December 13 skirmish with Syracuse at Madison Square Garden in the renewal of one of the greatest rivalries in Big East history. The Red Storm conclude the nonconference ledger with a neutral site contest against South Carolina in the Hall of Fame Shootout on December 22 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. All tip times are to be determined.

2015-16 St. John's Red Storm Nonconference Schedule
Wednesday, November 4: vs. St. Thomas Aquinas (exhibition, Carnesecca Arena)
Saturday, November 7: vs. Sonoma State (exhibition, Carnesecca Arena)
Friday, November 13: vs. Wagner (Carnesecca Arena)
Monday, November 16: vs. UMBC (Maui Invitational, Carnesecca Arena)
Thursday, November 19: vs. Rutgers (Gavitt Tipoff Games. Carnesecca Arena)
Monday, November 23: vs. Vanderbilt (Maui Invitational, Lahaina Civic Center, Maui)
Tuesday, November 24: vs. Indiana or Wake Forest (Maui Invitational, Lahaina Civic Center, Maui)
Wednesday, November 25: vs. TBD (Maui Invitational, Lahaina Civic Center, Maui)
Wednesday, December 2: at Fordham
Sunday, December 6: vs. St. Francis Brooklyn (Holiday Festival, Madison Square Garden)
Wednesday, December 9: vs. Niagara (Carnesecca Arena)
Sunday, December 13: vs. Syracuse (Madison Square Garden)
Friday, December 18: vs. Incarnate Word (Carnesecca Arena)
Sunday, December 20: vs. NJIT (Carnesecca Arena)
Tuesday, December 22: vs. South Carolina (Mohegan Sun Hall of Fame Shootout, Uncasville, Conn.)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Liberty 78, Dream 67: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

NEW YORK CITY – Legendary coach Al McGuire often spoke of the importance regarding the ‘marquee’ player. That individual in McGuire’s Marquette program would have their picture on the cover of the media guide, and naturally get the call when a play had to be executed.

On the New York Liberty, it is safely assumed the player fitting that description is Tina Charles, though coach Bill Laimbeer and Charles herself would point out Epiphanny Prince could also be termed as such given her backcourt play. Your ‘marquee’ player is essential. The supporting cast is just as vital to a team’s success.

On Friday, the Liberty defeated the Atlanta Dream 78-­67 at Madison Square Garden. The Liberty overcame a nine-point second-half deficit. Much of the credit goes to Charles, a game-high 25-point scorer who added seven rebounds. Prince scored 18 points, burying a few crucial threes when the home group erased the Dream lead and took over.

As essential as the aforementioned pair’s performances were, you could not lose sight of those getting the call to respond. Brittany Boyd came off the bench, energizing the attack when the Liberty made their third quarter run. Tanisha Wright and Candice Wiggins combined for two points on 0-for-7 shooting, but their contributions were immeasurable, as they combined to defensively harass Dream star Angel McCoughtry into a quiet 13-point evening.

The Liberty improved to a conference leading 18­-7 as the Dream fell to 9-­16. On this night, the victory was possible with the featured performer(s) rising to the occasion. It would not be possible without those, in those all important and unheralded ‘secondary’ roles, rising to the challenge. The Liberty continue their special season, embracing the true attributes of a team, a complete; and very good one, at that.

Angel McCoughtry of the Dream, a picture of concentration on the line:
The Liberty defense never rests, with Epiphanny Prince and Tanisha Wright defending Tiffany Hayes of Atlanta:
Former Liberty coach Pat Coyle, now at Saint Peter's, on a scouting mission for the Connecticut Sun:
Brittany Boyd of the Liberty on the run in a high-energy approach:
Epiphanny Prince composes herself at the line prior to a free throw attempt:
A view of Madison Square Garden during Friday's contest:
With the win in the books, the MSG court prepares to be "torn down":

Mullin adds to recruiting class as Kassoum Yakwe signs with St. John's

Top 100 prospect Kassoum Yakwe signed with St. John's Sunday evening, enhancing Chris Mullin's first recruiting class. (Photo courtesy of The Sporting News)

When hired at his alma mater to replace Steve Lavin in March, Chris Mullin promised the St. John's fan base he endeared himself to with his exploits as a player three decades ago that he would hit the ground running as it related to recruiting.

Five months and a major cosmetic overhaul of the Red Storm roster later, the perennial NBA All-Star and former Olympic gold medalist has made good on his promise, a vow that was bolstered Sunday evening by the signing of Kassoum Yakwe.

Yakwe, a 6-7 forward who originally hails from Bamako, Mali, was ranked as high as No. 57 in the nation, chose the Red Storm over Oregon, and will enroll at St. John's for the fall semester, which begins shortly. Although not official until today, his impending arrival was broken this past Thursday by J.P. Pelzman of the Bergen Record, who announced via Twitter that Yakwe would indeed join the St. John's program.



"We are excited to welcome Kassoum to St. John's University and our basketball program," Mullin said in a release issued by the university. "He possesses tremendous athleticism, has good instincts, and will be a defensive presence. I look forward to working closely with him as he continues his basketball development."

A product of Long Island's Our Savior New American program, which also produced current Red Storm guard Felix Balamou and former forward Chris Obekpa, Yakwe caught the eye of the St. John's staff during last month's Peach Jam, where his breakout performance yielded averages of 9.2 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 5.0 blocked shots per game to complement a 68 percent shooting effort that garnered him All-Tournament Second Team honors over his five games.

Yakwe is the ninth signee for St. John's since Mullin's hire, joining four incoming freshmen, two graduate transfers, junior college transfer Darien Williams, and Tariq Owens, who will redshirt this season following his transfer from Tennessee. Prior to Yakwe's commitment, the Red Storm's recruiting class was ranked No. 39 in the nation by 247Sports.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hofstra releases nonconference schedule

Juan'ya Green leads experienced Hofstra squad into a nonconference schedule that provides chances for several key Pride wins early. (Photo courtesy of the New York Post)

A Daniel Dixon three-pointer in the final seconds of an epic CAA Tournament semifinal kept Hofstra from making further postseason noise, instead relegating the Pride to the College Basketball Invitational, in which they chased Vermont for 40 minutes but never managed to get over the hump in a close defeat.

Regardless, the experience gained in March will go a long way toward solidifying the expectations in Hempstead, which have been raised enough to where the nonconference schedule released by head coach Joe Mihalich Wednesday afternoon is a slate in which Hofstra will not only face a collection of teams that will be forwardly placed in their respective leagues, but also one that affords the Pride many chances to build toward what should be a very fulfilling year if everything goes according to plan.

The season begins at the Mack Sports Complex with a pair of home games, first against Canisius on November 13 before local counterpart Molloy College of nearby Rockville Centre makes the short jaunt to Hempstead on November 16. From there, Hofstra heads to the Virgin Islands to take part in the Paradise Jam, taking on Florida State in the first leg of the journey on November 20 before two more games against opponents to be determined.

Returning stateside on November 28 to battle St. Bonaventure on the road, the Pride also head to Philadelphia to return one of last year's home games when they meet La Salle at Tom Gola Arena. The December 2 clash with the Explorers will be one where Mihalich returns to the program he spent 17 years at as an assistant coach before being hired as the head coach at Niagara. On December 6, Hofstra takes the floor at Madison Square Garden against Appalachian State in the Holiday Festival. The contest at the "World's Most Famous Arena" will be Hofstra's first at the Garden since the Pride participated in the 2009 Holiday Festival, and will be the first game of a doubleheader that also features St. John's against St. Francis Brooklyn.

A trip up Interstate 87 into Albany awaits Hofstra next, as the Pride will face Siena on December 9 in a game that will see Mihalich match wits with his former Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rival Jimmy Patsos, the head coach of the Saints. Following a hiatus for final exams, the Pride return to the hardwood on December 20 to renew their local rivalry with Stony Brook, this time at Island Federal Credit Union Arena. In the first meeting between the two schools since the 2008-09 season, the Pride and Seawolves produced an instant classic last November, with Dion Nesmith's jumper in the final seconds propelling Hofstra to a dramatic 66-65 victory to claim Long Island bragging rights.

Two home games conclude the non-league ledger, with Florida Atlantic coming to the Mack Sports Complex on December 22, while Sacred Heart visits Hempstead on December 28. All game times are to be determined.

2015-16 Hofstra Pride Nonconference Schedule
Friday, November 13: vs. Canisius
Monday, November 16: vs. Molloy College
Friday, November 20: vs. Florida State (Paradise Jam)
Saturday, November 21-Monday, November 23: vs. TBD (Two games, Paradise Jam)
Saturday, November 28: at St. Bonaventure
Wednesday, December 2: at La Salle
Sunday, December 6: vs. Appalachian State (Holiday Festival, Madison Square Garden)
Wednesday, December 9: at Siena
Sunday, December 20: at Stony Brook
Tuesday, December 22: vs. Florida Atlantic
Monday, December 28: vs. Sacred Heart

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.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Javion Ogunyemi to transfer back to Siena (UPDATED)

Javion Ogunyemi, who transferred from Siena earlier in offseason, is seeking a possible return to Loudonville, citing family reasons. (Photo courtesy of the Albany Times Union)

Siena may not lose Javion Ogunyemi after all.

The 6-8 forward, who initially announced his intent to transfer at the end of March following his sophomore season, has now received a release from Boston University, where he had since matriculated following his departure.

Initially reported by ESPN's Jeff Goodman, Ogunyemi is said to be seeking a return to the Saints, for whom he averaged 9.3 points and 4.8 rebounds per game as a key cog in a depleted Siena frontcourt that lost Imoh Silas for the entire season with a torn ACL, and Brett Bisping for the majority of an 11-20 campaign due to a fractured toe that required surgery to repair.

Mark Singelais, who covers the Saints for the Albany Times Union, further states that a source close to Ogunyemi; who committed to Boston University citing a desire for a change of scenery, stated the forward had been "deeply affected" by the murder of his cousin in his hometown of Troy, New York, and had become "a little homesick" while in Boston preparing to begin his NCAA-mandated year in residence with the Terriers. Marisa Jacques, who covers Siena for Time Warner Cable News in the Capital Region, confirmed moments ago that Ogunyemi would indeed be returning to Siena.

Ogunyemi intends to meet with head coach Jimmy Patsos in the coming days upon the coach's return from Kuwait, where he is spending the week volunteering on behalf of the United Service Organizations' "Operation Hardwood." It is unknown at this time whether or not he will still need to sit out during the upcoming season, being that he would be returning to Siena just several months after leaving in the first place. Furthermore, Singelais' report reveals that Siena has filled each of their thirteen scholarships, which means Ogunyemi would need to apply for need-based financial aid if one of the current players' scholarships is not reassigned.

A player transferring back to his original school is not unheard of, as Jerome Seagears returned to Rutgers weeks after transferring to Auburn in the wake of the events that cost former coach Mike Rice his job. Seagears eventually transferred again at the end of the 2013-14 season, and will suit up for UNLV as a senior this fall.

In other Siena news, the Saints announced that recently graduated senior Rob Poole signed a professional contract with MKS Start Lublin of Poland's Tauron Basket Liga, the highest level of professional leagues in that country.

Liberty 84, Sky 63: Ray Floriani's Photo Essay

NEW YORK CITY - The absence of a marquee player can have different implications. The team minus their ‘franchise’ performer can collectively step up and reach greater heights. The half-empty side can see that team fold under the circumstances. The opposition, on the other hand, can lapse into a state of complacency realizing a significant threat will not be on the floor that night.

Tuesday, the Chicago Sky entered Madison Square Garden minus the services of Elena Delle Donne, one of the WNBA’s elite, who was sidelined with an ankle injury.

The Liberty recorded their fourteenth (14-­6) victory, defeating the Sky 84-­63. New York was in a one-possession affair early in the second half. Relying on their trademark defense, Bill Laimbeer’s club weathered the Chicago challenge and proceeded to open a comfortable lead. For the Liberty, it was not a case of assuming the task would be easier with Delle Donne on the sideline. As Laimbeer noted, they had to get away from trying to match the Sky jump shot for jump shot. Just get back and focus on defense, the type allowing Chicago only 68 for a second-half offensive efficiency.

“We take pride in our defense,” Laimbeer said following the victory. “It’s what we’re all about.” It is something the team could fall back on for a night when Tina Charles struggled with four points and 2-of-10 shooting. On her behalf, Charles did grab eight rebounds, and naturally, defended.

That quality of outstanding defense is something seeing the Liberty through what is becoming a special season. Outstanding defense and the effort required, regardless of whom they may face.

The Liberty, in pink uniforms, gather in a pregame huddle:
Lights out for player introductions:
The Madison Square Garden sign notes Monday night was Breast Cancer Awareness Night:
A panoramic view of play on the opposite end, with the Liberty on offense:
A return "home" for Cappie Pondexter, shown here on an inbounds play:
Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer had former players on both teams. Here, she greets a few fans:
Only in New York: Kiah Stokes grants a fan's wish by autographing his arm:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tempo Tuesday: Ray Floriani's Tempo-Free Atlantic 10 Wrapup

Barclays Center on Semifinal Saturday at the Atlantic 10 Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Ray Floriani)

The pre­season pick of many Atlantic 10 prognosticators cut down the nets that championship Sunday afternoon at Barclays Center. VCU earned the A-10 championship, but it was a decidedly different script. The Rams entered Brooklyn a contender, but not necessarily the favorite. A few injuries were negotiated during the season, as well as a surprise from newcomer Davidson and just the night-to-night competition of a consistently strong league. A tempo-free look at the conference follows, with efficiency margin being the offensive efficiency subtracted by the defensive. The numbers, for conference play only, courtesy of bbstate.com:

1) Davidson (14-4 record, 66 possessions, +13 efficiency margin)
2) Dayton (13-5, 64, +12)
3) Richmond (12-6, 64, +10)
4) VCU (12-6, 68, +7)
5) Rhode Island (13-5, 68, +6)
6) George Washington (10-8, 62, +3)
7) La Salle (8-10, 66, 0)
8) St. Bonaventure (10-8, 66, -1)
9) Saint Joseph's (7-11, 66, -5)
10) UMass (10-8, 68, -6)
11) Fordham (4-14, 68, -7)
12) George Mason (4-14, 65, -9)
13) Duquesne (6-12, 68, -12)
14) Saint Louis (3-15, 65, -15)

Offensive leaders:
1) Davidson (114 offensive efficiency)
2) Dayton (106)
T-3) George Washington (104)
T-3) Richmond (104)

Defensive leaders:
1) Rhode Island (89 defensive efficiency)
2) La Salle (93)
T-3) VCU (94)
T-3) Richmond (94)
T-3) Dayton (94)

At a coaching clinic, UConn women’s mentor Geno Auriemma criticized the axiom ‘offense sells tickets, defense wins ballgames.’ A defensive advocate in his own right, Auriemma feels you better have the offensive ability to put points on the board against the multiple defenses you may encounter. La Salle is an excellent example. The defensive efficiency was excellent, but the Explorers were an 8-­10 team. The offense netted just a 93 efficiency. La Salle shot a 46% eFG mark, one of the lowest in conference. Their 19% TO rate was also at the bottom half of A­-10 results. Those two areas go a long way toward explaining their subpar offensive showing.

Championship game, March 15, 2015 (Barclays Center) - VCU 71, Dayton 65
For some, this game was remembered by the last two minutes, which took about a half-hour of clock time. There were timeouts as a trailing Dayton was in a fouling mode, and the seconds seemed to melt away at a glacial pace.

Beyond that was a contest decided by pace and three-point shooting. VCU forced tempo with a 72-possession game, definitely more to the liking of the Rams. Normally a good three-point shooting team, Dayton was 2-of-12 (17%) from downtown. VCU, on the other hand, checked in at 37% with a 10-of-27 showing. Turnover rates saw VCU check in at 18%, while Dayton was 14%, both acceptable numbers with the showing of the Flyers significant in that Shaka Smart’s club excelled at forcing teams into turning the ball over.

Again, putting the ball in the basket is key. VCU, with their three-point showing, was 51.8% in eFG while the Flyers struggled at 40%, the difference in the outcome giving the Rams their first A-­10 championship.

We are not here to debate about the coaching change and Jeff Neubauer assuming the reins at Rose Hill. Regardless, a few numbers are in order to assess and illustrate the five seasons former coach Tom Pecora spent at Fordham:

2010-11: 1-15 conference record, -24 efficiency margin
2011-12: 3-13, -21 efficiency margin
2012-13: 3-13, -17 efficiency margin
2013-14: 2-14, -16 efficiency margin
2014-15: 4-14, -7 efficiency margin

Quite evidently, there was improvement. Not leaps and bounds by any stretch, but progress in what was, and still remains, a rebuilding effort of significant proportions. The efficiency margins during Pecora’s tenure gradually increased. Pecora’s last year saw the best move forward. The Rams won four conference games, and for the second straight year, they earned an opening-round tournament win at Barclays Center. The season ended at the hands of eventual A-­10 champion VCU, in a game that was much more competitive than anyone could have expected when conference play tipped off.

The conference pace saw everyone under the ‘NASCAR’ pace of seventy possessions per outing. There were transition teams, but not at a constant full throttle break. It was more a case of opportunity breaks. The competitive nature of the conference lent itself to more scenarios of controlled tempo.

The turnover margins can be read in two ways. With only three teams over the 20% mark, you could say the talent was there to care for the ball on offense. Pace again can be in the discussion. As noted previously, with teams not at an all-out tempo, the chances to eliminate costly turnovers are more prevalent. Davidson, with a 13.6% TO percentage, was the conference leader in that category. That mark goes a long way toward describing their outstanding offensive efficiency.

Wrapup - A sentence for all:
Davidson: Conference-leading 56% eFG mark.
Dayton: 17% TO rate complimented accurate shooting.
Richmond: One of the most deliberate paced, at 64 possessions per game.
VCU: Forced opponents into a conference-leading 22% TO rate.
Rhode Island: Solid all-around defense, allowing 45% eFG shooting and forced opponents into a 21% TO rate.
George Washington: Most deliberate pace, at 62 possessions per game.
La Salle: Consistency, as efficiency on defense at home was 92.
St. Bonaventure: Plus-4 efficiency margin in the confines of Reilly Center.
Saint Joseph's: Conference-low 15.2% free throw rate affected the offense.
UMass: Too generous with the threes, allowing a 36% percentage, second-lowest in the league.
Fordham: Fordham’s efficiency margin was plus-3 at home.
George Mason: Conference-leading 55% rebound percentage.
Duquesne: Offense fueled by 51% eFG shooting and 17% TO rate.
Saint Louis: A 21.2% TO rate, very uncharacteristic of recent Billiken teams.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Canisius releases nonconference schedule

Jim Baron and Canisius have four home games in non-league portion of schedule, which begins with visit to Hofstra. (Photo courtesy of The Buffalo News)

Jim Baron has found a way to get more out of Canisius than expected in each of his first three years at the helm, including last year, when a team loaded with new talent managed a fifth-place finish in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference despite the loss of his son, Billy, the reigning MAAC Player of the Year the previous season. 

With the nonconference schedule his Golden Griffins released Friday morning, it is not inconceivable to suggest that the 61-year-old leader can do the same, as Canisius finds several winnable games to complement a handful of strong tests before league play.

The Griffs will open the season on Long Island, taking on Hofstra at the Mack Sports Complex on November 13. It will be the first time Canisius has gone against Hofstra coach Joe Mihalich since he joined the Pride after a 15-year tenure at the Griffs' fierce adversary, Niagara, where he became the winningest coach in MAAC history. Three consecutive home games follow on the ledger, with Lehigh, (November 16) Cornell, (November 21) and longtime local rival St. Bonaventure (November 24) all coming to the Koessler Athletic Center. Another geographically enhanced rivalry is next for Canisius, who visits Buffalo's campus for the first time since 2011 for a November 28 meeting with the defending Mid-American Conference champion Bulls.

The traditional opening weekend of MAAC play begins the month of December, with two road games against Penn State (December 10) and Kent State (December 12) on the slate immediately following for the Griffs, who visit the Nittany Lions and Golden Flashes in preliminary round games of the Continental Tire Classic, which Canisius will travel to Las Vegas for. Before making the journey to Sin City, however, a December 19 home game with Boston University will mark the final non-league contest on the Griffs' home floor. Once in Las Vegas, Louisiana-Monroe will be Canisius' first opponent on December 22, with a game the following day against an opponent still to be determined. Nonconference play does not end there, though, as the Griffs take a rare hiatus from the MAAC in January to meet Dartmouth on January 12, 2016, traveling to New Hampshire to face the Big Green. All tip times are to be determined unless noted.

2015-16 Canisius Golden Griffins Nonconference Schedule
Friday, November 13: at Hofstra
Monday, November 16: vs. Lehigh, 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 21: vs. Cornell
Tuesday, November 24: vs. St. Bonaventure
Saturday, November 28: at Buffalo
Thursday, December 10: at Penn State
Saturday, December 12: at Kent State
Saturday, December 19: vs. Boston University, 2 p.m.
Tuesday, December 22: vs. Louisiana Monroe, 5:30 p.m. (Continental Tire Classic)
Wednesday, December 23: vs. TBA (Continental Tire Classic)
Tuesday, January 12: at Dartmouth