The relative strength of the Atlantic Ten is still up in the air. Currently the fourth best conference according to Mr. RPI — behind the Big Ten, Pac 12 and the Mountain West — the league has had some decent wins and some troubling losses. Overall, the conference is sporting a rather pedestrian 59% winning percentage thus far. The league only has two top 25 RPI wins as of this writing — VCU (Memphis) and Butler (North Carolina). In sum, we have no clue how good this league is or will be. This much we do know: Fordham, GW, Rhode Island, Duquesne and Saint Bonaventure are not making any post-season plans this season. And St. Joseph’s has some freak athletes.
We are entering the low-risk/low-reward portion of the Flyer schedule. UD will face Manhattan, Weber State and Northern Illinois, all at home, over the next two weeks. While these aren’t exactly complete cupcakes, they are extremely winnable ballgames. The Flyers should be able to take care of business fairly effortlessly against that trio, gaining confidence before they roll into Alabama on December 5th.
UD’s record against lesser foes is actually fairly solid — the only glaring losses I can recall over the past few seasons came at the hands of Buffalo and East Tennessee State. Simply put, it takes a special type of underdog to come into the Sweater Centre and walk away victorious. When it comes to out-of-conference play, UD is a bully within the confines of its home gym, the less talented opposition — a redhead with autism.
There are no style points to be earned over the next few weeks. Unless of course the Big Frog decides to wear a dickey under his jersey. Archie Miller and Co. don’t necessarily care about the margin of victory, they just want to be ahead by at least a point after forty minutes.
When encountering these type of stretches of game, a savvy coach should have four goals in mind:
1. win the games
2. avoid injuries
3. get your bench/freshmen as much time as you possibly can
4. get your Christmas shopping done
That’s it, that’s literally all the Arch needs to worry about from now until the Flyers venture down to Tuscaloosa. Now, let’s take a quick look at the Jaspers of Manhattan College.
Coached by Steve Masiello, a Rick Pitino clone in every sense of the word – which is to say his suits are more expensive than your parent’s mortgage payments, the Jaspers have post-season aspirations. All five starters return to a club that finished 21-13 the previous year, good enough for a third place finish in the conference. The twenty-one wins marked a fifteen win turnaround from the previous season, the best improvement in D1 last season. Manhattan ended their year with a second-round loss to Fairfield in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament, which is not at all a waste of time.
Picked to finish second in the MAAC, the Jaspers come into tomorrow’s game with a 1-2 record. Manhattan opened the season with losses to Louisville and Harvard before earning their first victory at home against Hofstra on Wednesday. The game against Dayton starts a mini-tour of the A10, as the Jaspers will follow tomorrow’s contest with visits to Fordham and George Washington.
The Jaspers lack offensive fire-power, averaging just a mere 54 points per game at this early stage of the season. Defensively, Manhattan has allowed around 71 points per contest, putting them firmly in the bottom third of the nation. The Jaspers lack the size to rebound and defend inside and don’t shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter. A perfect storm of ineptitude? We shall see.
Manhattan is led by senior guard George “Steamin” Beamon, who scored 29 points and grabbed 7 rebounds in his first game of the season against Hofstra after being sidelined with a bum ankle earlier in the month. Beamon led the MAAC in scoring last season, with just over 19 points per game, and was the conference’s third-leading three-point shooter (43%) as well. Beamon was unanimously selected to the MAAC’s preseason first-team. His mom was said to be very proud.
Joining Beamon in the backcourt is point-guard Michael Alvardo. Alvardo made some major strides offensively since arriving at Manhattan two seasons ago, but remains a turnover prone ball handler. Alvardo is averaging 11 points, 2 assists and 2 rebounds on the season and is one of Manhattan’s better perimeter shooters. RaShawn Stores, a 5’11” guard, will also see considerable time against the Flyers. Stores is mainly a defensive-minded guard and takes the majority of his attempts from behind the arc (36% on the year).
Rhmeal Brown (12 ppg, 9.3 rpg) is a sturdy Nate Green type . He had an impressive 18/15 in a losing effort against Louisville. Brown, named the MAAC’s Defensive Player of the Year last season, is being asked to become more of an offensive weapon this season. He has answered the bell, people. He is a double-double waiting to happen. Brown connects on 65% of his attempts, but is a god-awful from the line (just 35%).
Emmy Andujar (stats) was a member of the league’s All-Freshman team and does a little bit of everything for the Jaspers. Manhattan describes him as a “triple-double” waiting to happen, which seems a tad optimistic. Andujar is averaging 6 points, 3 boards and 2 assists per game.
“Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare.”
The Jaspers will hang around for around thirty minutes before UD wears them down. Josh Benson leads all scorers with 17 points. Dillard dishes out 9 assists. Archie finally wears a suit that fits him, but Masiello wins the clothes game by a mile anyway. Hillbillies beat the City Boyz, 75-66.
On a different note, Urban Meyer can spend all game pointing at things, won’t matter, Michigan beats Ohio State tomorrow, ruining the Buckeyes perfect exhibition season that no one was really paying attention to, or will remember, anyway. Kind of like Big Ten football in general when you think about it.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.