Fordham Rams Preview, Q&A, and Stream Info

Posted In News - By Alan Kelly On Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 With 0 Comments

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Tonight in the Bronx, George Mason (7-11, 1-4 A10) takes another shot at Fordham (10-6, 1-4 A10), a team which has quickly become something of a nemesis for the Patriots. The Rams are 5-0 all time against the Patriots, with four of those wins coming in the last two seasons. For both teams, the game represents an opportunity to move out of the basement of the Atlantic 10, while the loser will likely be destined for a bottom four finish and a Wednesday play-in game at the A10 tournament in March.

The Rams, 10-1 at home on the season, are led in scoring by Mandell Thomas, who averages 14.9 points, and Ryan Rhoomes, at 13.9 points, to go along with 8.3 rebounds. Shevon Thompson will once again be the tallest player on the floor, as Fordham’s tallest players are sophomore forward Dekeba Battee-Aston and redshirt senior center Ryan Canty, both at 6’9″.

To learn more about this season’s Fordham Rams, I caught up with Jaden Daly, founder of the New York City-based A Daly Dose of Hoops: First year head coach Jeff Neubauer seems to have settled on a starting five for the Rams, using the same lineup for the past five games. What should Mason fans know about the Fordham starters?

JD: In a nutshell:

G Antwoine Anderson – Has assumed the point guard responsibilities since Joseph Chartouny went down. Biggest difference for him is how much he has not only recognized his role in the offense, but also thrived in it. He had arguably a little too much free rein in Tom Pecora’s offensive schemes, which contributed to him being a turnover machine whenever the ball was in his hands. He’s still not the greatest when it comes to controlling the basketball, but he’s at least serviceable with it now, and will look to get his teammates involved before creating his own shot.

G Mandell Thomas – Is back to playing off the ball after running the point in the second half of last season. As a result, he’s finally become the dynamic scorer everyone knew he was capable of being from his freshman season, when he played alongside Branden Frazier. Can do a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball, and is arguably Fordham’s best defensive player. In a lot of ways, he reminds me of GW’s Patricio Garino, only more of a scorer and a couple inches shorter.

G Jon Severe – No doubt the biggest beneficiary of the coaching change, as he has been reborn on the defensive end. Under Pecora, he was as lackadaisical and inattentive as one could be on defense, but now he gets after you and runs you up and down the floor in the current system. His offense still hasn’t come around to what it was in his freshman season, but he seems to have settled into a deceptively strong shooter who could knock down a clutch basket while not necessarily having to carry the team on his back, which was something Pecora forced upon him way too early in his career, in my opinion. (See his 1-for-21 performance against St. John’s as a freshman for Exhibit A of such evidence)

F Christian Sengfelder – You could say he’s had a sophomore slump, but part of it is due to a foot injury that cost him a couple of games last month, the other is because a player of his size and skill set isn’t the offensive weapon under Neubauer that he was in the prior system. He’s still trying to get into shape, and the exhaustive effort this team commands on the defensive end sometimes wears him out. With that said, he’s still good for 10-12 PPG on his best effort, but in a lot of ways, his step back this year is a lot like Shevon Thompson getting used to Paulsen’s system.

F Ryan Rhoomes – If there was a Most Improved Player award in the A-10, he would be your winner. Best example of coaching when it comes to the talent on this team, and it shows in his numbers. Neubauer has stated on several occasions that Fordham’s best offense consists of throwing the ball in the post and having Rhoomes catch it and lay it in. Look for him to find his way to a double-double any way he can get one. Freshman guard and Quebec native Joseph Chartouny got off to a terrific start for Fordham, averaging 9.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.5 steals, but has not played since late December. What’s the latest on his status, and how important is his return to the Rams’ success?

JD: Chartouny is still suffering from a high ankle sprain, and there is no definitive timetable for his return. His absence has forced Fordham to be a little more optimal when it comes to ball handling, and his passing ability has been greatly missed in the last few games. When he does return, you will see the difference in how much crisper Fordham looks offensively, as they are still trying to find themselves on that side of the ball without him. Who are the most important reserves, and what can they offer the Rams off the bench?

JD: The bench usually goes about three or four-deep, but only two of those players can actually score somewhat regularly. Freshman guard Nych Smith has a decent shot for an A-10 rookie, and can pose a matchup problem on occasion. Nemanja Zarkovic, who you may remember from last season, has become more of a straight-up shooter, and has been very streaky through the year to this point. Freshmen Jesse Bunting and David Pekarek provide fresh bodies up front to spell Sengfelder and/or Rhoomes, but aside from grabbing a couple of rebounds in the paint, neither have really done much consistently on offense. Ryan Canty was expected to provide a much greater contribution for this group as a fifth-year senior, but for some reason, he and Neubauer have not really gotten along so well, and he has been buried on the bench for a large portion of the year as a result. What are the biggest differences between Jeff Neubauer’s system and Tom Pecora’s approach?

JD: For one thing, Neubauer actually gets this group to play with a purpose. Gone are the undisciplined Pecora teams that had no care for the defensive end while settling into a constant moving screen when bringing the basketball up. This year’s Fordham team has a lot more value for every possession, and will try to find the smart shot on offense before falling back to take you out of your element with their pressure schemes defensively. As a result, the Rams’ efficiency on both ends has gone up, and despite their 1-4 league record, actually ranks among the leaders in the A-10. The record might not be there, but the biggest difference the coaching change has brought on is the arrival of fundamentally sound basketball. The Rams started out hot in on-conference play, but have gone 1-4 against the A10 so far. Was Fordham’s 9-2 out of conference record indicative of real change, or just a product of a very soft schedule?

JD: The 9-2 non-conference record is, admittedly, smoke and mirrors. Fordham was going to play a soft non-league schedule no matter what, and on their nine-game homestand, their best matchups on paper were a Manhattan team that ended up only dressing seven players in that game, and an LIU Brooklyn team that lost three of their first four conference games. If you look at Neubauer’s Eastern Kentucky teams over the years before he came here, they were essentially built the same way, playing a very favorable schedule to build wins before getting into conference play, which overinflates their record a little bit. However, I will say that had Pecora gotten another year, Fordham would have found a way to lose an extra game or two in the non-conference that they ended up winning without him. What are some realistic expectations for Fordham over the final 11 games? Can they avoid the Wednesday play-in games in Brooklyn (at the A10 tournament)?

JD: I’m not so sure if they can get out of Wednesday, and that’s no fault of theirs. Something tells me it would take at least five more wins to escape the bottom four, and seeing how parity-laden and difficult the A-10 has remained this season, that is nowhere close to a guarantee. Fordham has opportunities to win a few more league games, but making the call right now, I say they will be one of the four teams on the court Wednesday night in Brooklyn.

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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