Steve Masiello and Manhattan begin non-conference season with six games in 19 days, which should position Jaspers team ready for MAAC play and late-season push. (Photo by Bob Dea/Daly Dose Of Hoops)
Twelve games, the first half of which will come within a 19-day span in November.
That is Manhattan's non-conference schedule in a nutshell after it was released Wednesday evening, a slate that will get a relatively young Jasper team ready for Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference play in a season that head coach Steve Masiello has already compared to his first go-round at the helm in Riverdale, attributing the similarity to the makeup of his initial roster in 2011-12, which won 21 games and reached the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament.
The challenge for Masiello -- who begins his eighth season in charge of the Manhattan program -- will be to assimilate a group of five newcomers to a system in which only seven players that saw minutes last season return for the 2018-19 campaign. However, if past history is any indication, the ability of the fifth-winningest coach in school history -- who needs only 14 more victories to pass his former boss, Bobby Gonzalez, for fourth on the all-time list -- to develop talent and get it ready for competition should never be taken into question.
Beginning with the Jaspers' earliest-ever season opener -- on November 6 -- and ending on December 23 for the second-straight year, we now offer our annual closer look at each team lining up on the opposite of the floor from Manhattan, shedding further light on the first half of the season in the Bronx:
Elon: Tuesday, November 6 - Draddy Gymnasium
The Phoenix appears on the Manhattan schedule for the first time, and head coach Matt Matheny will look to build off a 14-18 season with an opening-night affair that will be a precursor to Elon hosting North Carolina three days later. Tyler Seibring, a second-team all-Colonial Athletic Association forward last season, is back for his senior year in the paint and should be the focus on the scouting report for Pauly Paulicap following a junior season in which the 6-foot-9 all-purpose threat averaged over 15 points and six rebounds per game, and shot 49 percent from the floor, connecting at a near-43 percent clip from distance. Fellow seniors Dainan Swoope and Steven Santa Ana, the latter of whom gained brief fame after he was inadvertently tripped by Grayson Allen in a game against Duke earlier in his career, will carry the load in the backcourt.
Did You Know? After going five years without opening the season at home, Manhattan will do so for the second season in a row. In addition, Elon's Duje Radja, a sophomore forward, has NBA lineage. His father, Dino, is a Hall of Famer who spent four years with the Boston Celtics in the 1990s.
UMBC: Monday, November 12 - UMBC Event Center, Catonsville, Md.
The second first-time opponent for the Jaspers is the program responsible for slaying the giant this past March, as the Retrievers became the first No. 16 seed to win an NCAA Tournament game, thrashing No. 1-seeded Virginia by a 74-54 final score that captivated the nation. While guards Jairus Lyles and K.J. Maura have since graduated, head coach Ryan Odom retains the services of third-leading scorer Joe Sherburne for one more season, and the three-point threat will likely be the go-to guy for UMBC as a senior. Junior wing Arkel Lamar should also see an uptick in production after a double-figure scoring season as a sophomore.
Did You Know? One of three opponents from the America East Conference this season, UMBC is the league's first school to play Manhattan since January 1, 2013, when the Jaspers welcomed Stony Brook -- who will visit Riverdale on December 5 -- to Draddy Gymnasium in a battle of future professional big men Rhamel Brown and Jameel Warney.
Coastal Carolina: Friday, November 16 - BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Ky.
The first of three games in Northern Kentucky's multi-team tournament comes against the Chanticleers and head coach Cliff Ellis, once the architect of Power 5 programs at Clemson and Auburn, and the winner of 825 games in a career approaching its sixth decade. Senior Zac Cuthbertson, a 6-foot-7 slasher who averaged nearly 15 points and seven rebounds per game last season, will be the primary option on offense for Coastal Carolina, while Canadian Amidou Bamba, a 6-foot-8 junior, will slide into the starting lineup after coming off the bench for 30 of the Chanticleers' 32 games last season. As a sophomore, Bamba shot over 63 percent from the floor, and will likely have the first assignment against Paulicap.
Did You Know? Coastal Carolina represents the second Cinderella on Manhattan's schedule. Although not related to the basketball program, the Chanticleers shocked the world en route to winning the 2016 NCAA Division I Baseball Championship.
Northern Kentucky: Saturday, November 17 - BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Ky.
Only two starters return for the Norse after a 22-10 season that ended in a near-upset of Louisville in the National Invitation Tournament, but one of them is double-double threat Drew McDonald, a 6-foot-7, 250-pound senior who could be among the contenders for Player of the Year honors in the Horizon League by the end of the season. Redshirt sophomore Jalen Tate, the other incumbent starter for head coach John Brannen, is a 6-foot-5 wing who could pose a matchup problem at any given time. Junior guard Tyler Sharpe is a former Louisville transfer who shot 38 percent from three-point range last season.
Did You Know? Northern Kentucky marks the second Horizon League opponent that Steve Masiello will have coached against in his career.
UNC Asheville: Sunday, November 18 - BB&T Arena, Highland Heights, Ky.
The Bulldogs have a new head coach this season in Mike Morrell, the former Shaka Smart assistant who replaced Nick McDevitt after the latter took over at Middle Tennessee. The new sheriff in town will have a difficult first season, though, as only four players who suited up last season return. One of those four, LJ Thorpe, is a redshirt freshman who was injured just six minutes into UNC Asheville's season opener.
Did You Know? Mike Morrell is the second coach with VCU ties to coach against Manhattan this season, and will do so 24 hours after Northern Kentucky's John Brannen, who was on staff under Anthony Grant from 2006-2009.
George Washington: Saturday, November 24 - Charles E. Smith Center, Washington, DC
The Colonials will need to replace Yuta Watanabe in what has already been described as a make-or-break year for head coach Maurice Joseph. To make matters more arduous in Foggy Bottom, Jair Bolden and Patrick Steeves -- the second and third-leading scorers for George Washington -- have also departed, bringing on a full rebuild just two years removed from a National Invitation Tournament championship. Sophomore Terry Nolan will be the likely point guard after registering 82 assists as a freshman, second-best behind the aforementioned Bolden. Former St. Benedict's Prep standout Arnaldo Toro, a former high school teammate of Warren Williams, could be a sneaky double-double threat after recording almost eight points and seven rebounds per game as a sophomore.
Did You Know? George Washington and Manhattan will face off for the first time since November 16, 2013, when the Colonials -- behind Maurice Creek and Isaiah Armwood -- handed the eventual MAAC champion Jaspers their first loss of the season in an 80-74 decision at Draddy Gymnasium. In addition, George Washington sophomore Justin Mazzulla is the younger brother of former West Virginia stalwart Joe Mazzulla, whom Steve Masiello coached against while on Rick Pitino's staff at Louisville in the mid-2000s.
Fordham: Saturday, December 1 - Draddy Gymnasium
Riverdale is the site for the 111th Battle of the Bronx, and what is sure to be a full student section will contribute to a certainly raucous atmosphere as the Jaspers seek retribution for a loss at Rose Hill last November. Head coach Jeff Neubauer enters his fourth season in charge of the Rams with question marks in multiple places on his roster, particularly in the frontcourt behind senior Prokop Slanina. If David Pekarek and Jesse Bunting can stay healthy, Fordham can be deceptively strong and allow for sophomore marksman Ivan Raut to be a more lethal option on the perimeter. In the backcourt, the loss of Joseph Chartouny will be almost impossible to overcome, but the arrivals of Erten Gazi and Antwon Portley -- both of whom sat out last season after transferring from DePaul and Saint Peter's, respectively -- have allowed for hope to once again spring eternal. Portley's past experience against Manhattan could prove to be a significant factor.
Did You Know? When the Battle of the Bronx is played in December, Manhattan is 3-0 under Masiello. Furthermore, the Jaspers have not allowed more than 57 points to Fordham in the three previous meetings in December during Masiello's tenure.
Stony Brook: Wednesday, December 5 - Draddy Gymnasium
Now in his third season coaching the Seawolves, Jeff Boals has forged his own imprint on the program, as no player recruited by his predecessor, Steve Pikiell, remains on the roster. What Stony Brook does possess, though, is a potential all-America East player in redshirt junior forward Akwasi Yeboah, who remains the focal point of Boals' attack. Senior guard Jaron Cornish returns as the second option for the Seawolves, and Elijah Olaniyi -- a sophomore from the Newark East Side program that produced Seton Hall glue guy Ismael Sanogo -- should take a step forward as a steady big man down low.
Did You Know? Sophomore Anthony Ochefu, the younger brother of former Villanova big man Daniel Ochefu, has already been compared to Jameel Warney, the Seawolves' all-time leading scorer and program-changing recruit from Roselle Catholic. To add to the burgeoning big man's resume, he played behind Mohamed Bamba -- the sixth overall pick in this past June's NBA Draft -- at the Westtown School in Ochefu's native Pennsylvania.
Hofstra: Monday, December 10 - Draddy Gymnasium
The longstanding series with the Pride returns to Riverdale for the fourth time in seven seasons, and will see Manhattan attempt to stop Justin Wright-Foreman, Hofstra's dynamic senior guard who ranked fifth in the nation in scoring last year. The reigning Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year and a Queens native, Wright-Foreman will be the unquestioned face of perhaps a sleeper contender to win the CAA, and will have a deep cadre of running mates with him, as Hofstra's backcourt retains the services of Eli Pemberton, Desure Buie and Kenny Wormley. The question mark for Joe Mihalich will be in the paint, as rebounder extraordinaire Rokas Gustys has taken his talents to the professional ranks, leaving 6-foot-10 graduate transfer Jacquil Taylor with the opportunity to step in and pick up the pieces immediately.
Did You Know? Steve Masiello has never lost to Hofstra in his tenure as Manhattan's head coach, and has not lost to Joe Mihalich since February 2013, when the Jaspers suffered a narrow four-point defeat to a Niagara team that won the MAAC regular season championship and represented the conference in the National Invitation Tournament.
Connecticut: Saturday, December 15 - Harry A. Gampel Pavilion, Storrs, Conn.
The Dan Hurley era begins in full swing for the Huskies, who have a roster ready to compete as UConn's new leader hopes to restore the gravitas and elite status that Jim Calhoun spent two-and-a-half decades crafting to perfection. Guards Jalen Adams and Christian Vital return for their senior and junior seasons, respectively, and if Alterique Gilbert can return at 100 percent, the backcourt in Storrs could be among the best in the nation. Brendan Adams, a recruit initially committed to Hurley at Rhode Island before following the coach to the Nutmeg State, will have time to develop, and will be able to learn from graduate transfer Tarin Smith (Duquesne by way of Nebraska) in the process. Up front, the Huskies will rely on graduate transfer Kassoum Yakwe and redshirt freshman Sidney Wilson, both of whom arrive in Storrs by way of St. John's.
Did You Know? Masiello and Hurley split the Peter A. Carlesimo Award, given by the Metropolitan Basketball Writers Association to the best coach in the New York area, in 2012. UConn assistant Tom Moore, who followed Hurley back to the program he spent 13 years at under Calhoun, has also coached against Masiello during his time at Quinnipiac.
Albany: Thursday, December 20 - SEFCU Arena, Albany, NY
In what is sure to be a defense-oriented chess match between Masiello and Will Brown, the Great Danes will need to overcome the loss of each of the program's top four scorers from last season. Senior forward Devonte Campbell is the top option among the incumbents, and junior Ahmad Clark is the only other significant returner. Three backcourt newcomers who are immediately eligible will go a long way toward maintaining the status quo in the capital region: Junior college transfer Jeremiah Starks, UMass expatriate Rayshawn Miller, and former Seton Hall walk-on Philip Flory, who was an unsung hero for the Pirates down the stretch last year when Desi Rodriguez was injured.
Did You Know? Manhattan's only other meeting with Albany provided Masiello with his first career postseason win, as the Jaspers defeated the Great Danes in the 2012 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, 89-79, behind 34 points from George Beamon.
St. Francis Brooklyn: Sunday, December 23 - Pope Physical Education Center, Brooklyn, NY
Fifth-year senior and Staten Islander Glenn Sanabria remains the backbone on the corner of Remsen and Court, and he will once again serve as floor general for the Terriers alongside the likes of sophomore Jalen Jordan, who will be more integral to the machine now that Rasheem Dunn has transferred to Cleveland State and Josh Nurse will be out for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured leg. Brooklyn native Cori Johnson remains in the rotation as he continues to recover from a torn ACL suffered two years ago, and he will be a key cog in the paint for the Terriers, who will welcome junior college transfer Christian Rohlehr to the roster in the hope that he provides the same defensive spark that Amdy Fall did en route to Northeast Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Did You Know? Manhattan has defeated St. Francis Brooklyn in each of the past three seasons, erasing a double-digit deficit in last year's season opener to down the Terriers in overtime on a night where Rich Williams made his return from a torn meniscus that sidelined him for the entire 2016-17 season. Masiello and Terriers head coach Glenn Braica were also assistant coaches in the Big East together, as Braica was Norm Roberts' top deputy at St. John's while Masiello was on staff at Louisville.