A-10 Tournament: Fordham Preview

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Wednesday, March 12th, 2014 With 0 Comments

Tonight, the 12th-seeded Patriots open their first-ever Atlantic 10 conference tournament at 7pm against the 13th-seeded Fordham Rams (9-20, 2-14). The winner of this opening round game at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn will advance to play the fifth-seeded Dayton Flyers on Thursday afternoon at 2:30 pm. George Mason (11-19, 4-12) was able to leapfrog Fordham and escape the Atlantic 10 standings basement by winning four of their last eight regular season games, but to truly avoid the ignominy of last place, they also need to win what is essentially a play-in game.

Just as we did prior to the first meeting between the two teams back in January (re-read my Fordham introduction from January right here), I caught up with Jaden Daly from A Daly Dose of Hoops to trade a few questions and find out what’s new with each team. Below are his responses about Fordham, and you can find my answers about Mason right here.

masonhoops.com: Fordham beat George Mason on January 22 to move to 8-10 on the season, but they’ve gone just 1-10 since, including losing their last 8 conference games. Did the Rams’ season reach a breaking point, or is their recent record just another reflection of how good the rest of the Atlantic 10 is this season?

JD: I would say it’s been a confirmation of both, to be honest with you. I think Fordham may have belatedly realized just how much stronger the Atlantic 10 turned out to be even without three of its teams from last season, and when you throw that into an offense that was hamstrung by Jon Severe down the stretch more than they were aided by him; primarily due to his inconsistency and tendency to take excessive advantage of Tom Pecora’s liberal green light on seemingly every possession, it unfortunately became a recipe for disaster.

masonhoops.com: Have their been any major changes to the Rams’ player rotation during those last 11 games?

JD: For the most part, there really hasn’t been a cosmetic makeover, except maybe a decrease in bench personnel. Pecora has resorted to the starting five he’s used throughout the season in recent games, that being the Rams’ four-guard outfit that utilizes 6’3″ Bryan Smith at the four. Ryan Canty has been seeing additional minutes as of late with Travion Leonard getting extended periods of rest and sliding down to the No. 3 forward on the de facto depth chart behind Canty and Ryan Rhoomes, while Chris Whitehead has been firmly entrenched as the backup point guard behind Branden Frazier. Other than Jermaine Myers, who comes in for a cup of coffee here and there, what you see to start the game (Frazier, Mandell Thomas, Severe, Smith, Rhoomes) will usually be the personnel for most of the day.

masonhoops.com: What does Fordham have to do in order to advance and live another day?

JD: Fordham needs to do just two things, and the first is take smart shots. Granted, with Frazier running the offense, that is easier said than done, but if you remember the first meeting between these two in January, he was a solid facilitator for the most part, (he was scoreless in the first half before taking matters into his own hands after the intermission, going for 22) and that was one of the most integral factors in the Rams defeating the Patriots at Rose Hill. The second key to victory, and one that Mason fans will certainly agree with, is that Pecora needs to avoid being outcoached by Paul Hewitt. In other words, he needs to get Fordham to make fewer mistakes down the stretch, and if it just so happens that the Rams are trailing at the under-4 timeout in the second half, Pecora needs to light a fire and get his team to play with a sense of urgency, something that has been difficult throughout the season.

masonhoops.com: Rams freshman guard Jon Severe joined Patriots big man Jalen Jenkins on the conference All-Rookie team and averages over 17 points per game, but is shooting just 33% from the field. Having that type of volume scoring talent can be a weapon (he scored 21 points against Mason in the first meeting), but it can also come back to hurt his own team (he went 1-21 from the field in a blowout loss to St. John’s in December). How big of a risk is Severe for the Rams, especially going into a big arena like the Barclay’s Center, with it’s NBA sight lines?

JD: Severe is huge, and you bring up an excellent point with his 1-for-21 effort against St. John’s in the Holiday Festival massacre at Madison Square Garden in December. In fact, one can argue that Severe has not been the same since that shooting debacle. Yes, he has scored in bunches on several occasions since then, but for the most part, his confidence was visibly shaken for a long time after that to the point where he would be visibly discouraged if he did not get a shot on every possession. Severe needs to be able to dial it back, especially on the big stage in his hometown, because he may let his nerves and adrenaline get the best of him. If that happens, it’s going to be a long night for the Rose Hill natives.

masonhoops.com: How important is this game to Fordham head coach Tom Pecora’s job security? The former Hofstra coach is now 33-84 in 4 seasons in Rose Hill.

JD: As divided as the Fordham fan base is over Pecora, his job security is in no imminent danger. With highly touted forward Eric Paschall (think a smaller, more athletic version of Chris Gaston) slated to arrive next season, the Rams’ beleaguered head coach appears to have gotten an extra year on his lease, one that has already become both expensive and expansive due to the contract extension that former athletic director Frank McLaughlin signed him to two years ago. Barring a complete and utter meltdown of Bobby Gonzalez or Mike Rice-esque proportions, Pecora will be back next season. However, if he doesn’t show significant improvement in his fifth year, the Rose Hill bank may foreclose.

masonhoops.com: Thanks again, Jaden.

About - Alan Kelly is a 2010 and 2013 graduate of George Mason University and a former member of the Patriot Platoon. He had the memorable experience of being in the middle of the college decision process as George Mason's Final Four run unfolded. He currently resides in Northern Virginia.

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