Friday, December 9, 2016

Battle of the Bronx Preview: Manhattan vs. Fordham

Steve Masiello and Manhattan look to get back on track against crosstown rival Fordham Saturday. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

The top-ranked team in the nation comes to the area Saturday afternoon when Villanova heads to the Prudential Center to take on Notre Dame, with the top dog in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tipping off later in the day once Iona takes the court against Ohio University. Completing the tripleheader of sorts is one of New York's oldest rivalries, which will add juice to a game that sees two teams taking the floor in search of a pick-me-up.

Manhattan hosts Fordham Saturday evening in the 109th Battle of the Bronx, which gets underway at 7 p.m. from Draddy Gymnasium. It will be the first time the Jaspers and Rams have played in Riverdale since the 2013-14 season, when Fordham stole a road victory from a Manhattan team that went on to win the MAAC and nearly upset Louisville in the NCAA Tournament, continuing the true home-and-home nature of the rivalry after Fordham hosted at Rose Hill Gymnasium last season.

At 2-7 on the year, the Jaspers enter their crosstown clash on a four-game losing streak, the most recent entry to that string being a hard-fought double-overtime defeat at Morgan State on Tuesday. Steve Masiello and his team have encountered tough sledding in the absence of senior guard and preseason all-MAAC selection Rich Williams, but are admittedly in a better position than they were a season ago due to the influx of much-needed depth in the rotation. In Williams' stead, point guard Zavier Turner has already made quite the impact for himself as the lead scorer, amassing a pair of 30-point games through just nine contests thus far to mitigate the transitioning backcourt. Up front, Zane Waterman has returned to his consistent self to join Calvin Crawford and junior college newcomer Zavier Peart as the Jaspers' most productive big men, giving Masiello multiple options in the paint to game plan for.

Jeff Neubauer won Battle of the Bronx debut handily last season, and is intent on starting a winning streak in Fordham's oldest rivalry. (Photo by Vincent Simone/NYC Buckets)

Across the floor, Fordham checks in at 5-5, playing their second game in three days on the heels of a demoralizing 90-62 loss at St. John's Thursday night. The Rams' five-game winning streak earlier in the season seems like a distant memory now that a span of four straight losses, much like the current skid Manhattan is in the midst of has hindered progress temporarily in Jeff Neubauer's second season at the helm. Graduate transfer Javontae Hawkins has been everything he was advertised to be through the first ten games of the season since arriving from Eastern Kentucky, averaging 14.2 points per game and leading the team with 4.8 rebounds per contest. The Fordham offense has changed a bit, though, becoming more reliant upon the three-pointer without the dominating post presence of Ryan Rhoomes. Expect Manhattan to pay increased attention to closing out and guarding the arc, something that has plagued them in the first month of the season.

Without any further ado, we prepare you for Saturday's matchup with a refresher course in the recent history of the rivalry, coupled with our annual tale of the tape between both schools for each position as a timeless classic readies for its latest renewal:

Date: Saturday, December 10, 2016
Site: Draddy Gymnasium; Riverdale, NY
Time: 7 p.m.
Video Stream: Jasper Sports Network (Christian Heimall, Brian Mahoney, Chris Williams - free audio also available)
Fordham Radio: WFUV (90.7 FM and online at, Matt Murphy, James Decker)

All-Time Series: Manhattan leads, 56-52 (Jaspers have won three of last five meetings)

November 28, 2015 at Fordham: Fordham 87, Manhattan 64
Fordham used Manhattan's lack of depth to their advantage in Jeff Neubauer's Battle of the Bronx baptism, dominating an injury-ravaged Jasper roster in the second half after a valiant opening stanza by the visitors. Mandell Thomas' 26 points led all scorers as the senior guard earned Mike Cohen Most Valuable Player honors in the prelude to the Rams' convincing victory against St. John's just four days later to further an undefeated nine-game homestand.

"This has always been intense. Fordham-Manhattan, a rivalry game. The crowd gets into it, and it's even better when we win." - Mandell Thomas after last year's victory

In the other locker room, the focus was on making sure the impact of the loss resonated with a battle-scarred roster.

"Let us be mad about this," Masiello encouraged. "I think it's great. I want them to feel the pain, because this is going to be our motivation come January and February."

December 22, 2014 at Barclays Center: Manhattan 71, Fordham 57
The Rams actually opened this game on a 16-4 run before Masiello went to his trademark press defense to flip the script on what looked to be a decisive Fordham win. The Jaspers went on a 48-17 tear once they became more aggressive defensively, also feeding off a 12-for-25 performance by Fordham from the free throw line that then-head coach Tom Pecora lamented after the game.

"We started hot and we ended cold, that's for sure." - Tom Pecora, addressing Fordham's torrid start and Manhattan's run that followed

November 26, 2013 at Manhattan: Fordham 79, Manhattan 75
The Jaspers would have the last laugh four months later after winning their first MAAC championship in ten years and taking Louisville down to the wire in the NCAA Tournament, but on this night, they were witness to Jon Severe's coming-out party in the first half. Then a freshman, Severe scored 22 of his game-high 30 points in the opening stanza to set the tone for a thrilling second half that saw Manhattan wrest the lead away entering the final media timeout. The Rams would regroup, closing the game on an 8-2 run that was highlighted by an acrobatic layup from Branden Frazier and a breakaway dunk by Travion Leonard to ice what was a significant road win for Fordham.

"This game has been going on way before my time, so just knowing that we could just get a win under our belt at Manhattan for Fordham is a good thing. They beat us the last two years, so we wanted to come in here and just play our hardest and get a win. That's what happened." - Point guard Branden Frazier, who scored 21 points in Fordham's win

November 29, 2012 at Fordham: Manhattan 65, Fordham 58
The Rams' home opener was contested on this night after an appearance in the NIT Preseason Tip-Off, combined with challenging road games against high-major opponents, formed a schedule Pecora later deemed to be "brutal" in retrospect. A near-capacity crowd saw a close game throughout, with Fordham fighting their way to a late second-half lead before Michael Alvarado took over. Now on Masiello's staff, Alvarado served as an efficient tactician in his own right over the closing minutes, helping force four Fordham turnovers to secure a road win and Mike Cohen Most Valuable Player recognition.

"Down the stretch, they just out-toughed us. Alvarado took the game over and that was the difference." - Tom Pecora

December 7, 2011 at Manhattan: Manhattan 81, Fordham 47
Masiello's first dance against Fordham remains the largest margin of victory on either side during his tenure, and the commanding performance was just as much of a downpour for the Jaspers on the floor as it was during a torrential rain not commonly seen in early December. The Jasper defense established its mettle for years to come on this night, forcing 20 turnovers by the Rams, half of which were committed by Devon "Fatty" McMillan alone, and five players in double figures for Manhattan proved to be more than enough on the scoreboard.

Guards: Zavier Turner (5-9 Jr., 17.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.2 SPG, 45% FG, 89% FT, 42% 3pt) vs. Joseph Chartouny (6-3 So., 11.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 6.6 APG, 3.2 SPG, 45% FG, 82% FT, 30% 3pt)
A clash in styles between the two floor generals makes this matchup the most intriguing one of the night. The explosiveness of Turner, whom Masiello has called unguardable in one-on-one situations, collides with the deft passing skills and aggressive defensive tendencies of reigning Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year Chartouny, who has picked up where he left off in an exemplary freshman campaign. The Canadian facilitator will make his share of plays to keep Fordham on its game against a Manhattan press he was able to survive last season, and will be able to hold the natural scoring tendency Turner possesses in check just enough to limit his impact on the offensive end.
Advantage: Fordham

Tom Capuano (5-11 So., 7.8 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.3 SPG, 38% FG, 83% FT, 28% 3pt) vs. Antwoine Anderson (6-1 Jr., 11.2 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2.2 SPG, 43% FG, 76% FT, 28% 3pt)
Capuano, who earned his coach's trust by playing major minutes out of necessity last season, leads the Jaspers in minutes per game this year as well, continuing to be a workhorse whose most valuable contributions usually go unnoticed. In Anderson, though, he meets a two-way competitor who is just as good on the ball as he is off of it. Second on the team in steals behind Chartouny, Anderson will look for any opportunity to exploit a Manhattan team that has been stymied by ball control, as the Jaspers are averaging nearly 21 turnovers per game.
Advantage: Fordham

Tyler Wilson (6-0 Sr., 1.8 PPG, 1.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 3/21 FG, 83% FT) vs. Javontae Hawkins (6-5 Gr., 14.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 44% FG, 85% FT, 24% 3pt)
Manhattan has alternated between Wilson and freshman Aaron Walker in the third guard spot, but more recent games have seen Wilson's experience win out over the precociously talented Walker. Either way, whoever gets the start will have his hands full with Hawkins, who has made the most of his last go-round to date and should have a mismatch in his favor through the opening minutes until the Jaspers go to their bench. This will be the part of the floor in which Williams will be missed the most.
Advantage: Fordham

Forwards: Zane Waterman (6-9 Jr., 11.0 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 53% FG, 64% FT, 42% 3pt) vs. Christian Sengfelder (6-7 Jr., 12.9 PPG, 3.7 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 44% FG, 73% FT, 37% 3pt)
Waterman has been the most consistent piece of Manhattan's interior arsenal, improving upon his impressive close to last season by playing like an all-MAAC forward in the early going. In Sengfelder, he faces a mirror image of himself in a sense, a fellow stretch four who can serve as an efficient pick-and-pop shooter. The German import has put together a solid junior campaign to date, although still not matching the potential he had as a freshman under Pecora. If Waterman can stay out of foul trouble, he has the ability to burn the Rams from five different spots on the floor, as evidenced by his occasional quarterbacking while the Jaspers bring the ball up.
Advantage: Manhattan

Ahmed Ismail (7-2 Jr., 4.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.4 BPG, 56% FG, 46% FT) vs. Jesse Bunting (6-8 So., 3.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.0 SPG, 57% FG, 46% FT, 1/3 3pt)
Ismail's size alone makes him a formidable rim protector, even as his post presence continues to evolve with each passing game. The Egyptian should be able to effectively neutralize Bunting, who is also a high-percentage shot taker much like his probable matchup on Saturday. The key for the Jaspers will be throwing the ball into the post and using their size to counteract Fordham's quickness in transition, and Ismail will help the cause on that front.
Advantage: Manhattan

Manhattan is much better off here than they were in this game a year ago, as the infusion of fresh bodies has made their unique system fire on all cylinders once again. Expect to see Calvin Crawford, Zavier Peart and Aaron Walker early and often, while role players like Na'Quan Council and Samson Usilo will have the ability to make their presence known. Fordham also employs five major reserves for the most part, although aside from sophomore sharpshooter Will Tavares, (58 percent from three-point range) none have shown much of an offensive initiative. Nemanja Zarkovic, however, does give the Rams a second proficient ball handler if he is on the court alongside Chartouny. Nonetheless, the Jaspers have the horses to rotate in and out with much more effective results than their counterparts.
Advantage: Manhattan

Jeff Neubauer proved his skills as a strategist last season, but is still learning on the fly while a pair of Pecora recruits in Chartouny and Sengfelder help carry the offense. The advantage on the bench was larger for the Rams in this game last season than it had been in any point over the past five years, a credit to his philosophy centered on valuing the ball and creating turnovers on the defensive end. Still, it would be unwise to doubt the brilliance of Masiello's basketball mind, even if Manhattan's record opens the door for criticism. The sixth-year Jasper boss continues to ensure his end justifies the means, trusting his process of building a team that becomes increasingly lethal as the year goes on. A film savant, he is able to dissect even subtle nuances of each opposing player and use it to his benefit, something that will be on display Saturday night as he matches wits with a fellow former Big East assistant in Neubauer.
Advantage: Manhattan

Both teams enter this matchup in need of a win, with Manhattan even more desperate to come out on top after allowing Canisius to come back from a 15-point lead before Morgan State stole their most recent contest on Tuesday. The Jaspers will have the luxury of being more rested, as Fordham comes into Riverdale with just one day of preparation after their loss to St. John's. Manhattan is not a team one normally wants to face with little time to gear up for them, so Neubauer will be coaching with a heightened sense of urgency. With that said, though, the Rams' shooting from deep will make or break them, as will their propensity to create steals in the open floor. Manhattan must limit their turnovers while limiting the three-point shot, and Fordham needs not only to get back to basics defensively, but also dictate the tempo from start to finish. This is where the Jasper depth ultimately wins out as the determining factor in an otherwise evenly-matched contest.

Manhattan 77, Fordham 73

1 comment:

  1. Sure hope your prediction is right.
    I agree the Jaspers have the edge in bench-depth, quality big men and Turner speed and interior offense.
    We'll see Saturday night...