With the end of 2008 just over a week away, it isn't too hard to figure out the main storyline for metropolitan area teams in the first half of the 2008-09 season: injuries. It's as if the run that began with Monmouth's Whitney Coleman going down for the season in the first nine minutes of the Hawks' season opener hasn't stopped, with teams all over the area being hit with key injuries. In fact, you could have a rather formidable six-man rotation with guys currently sitting out. At the guards, go with Marist's David Devezin (heel), Coleman (knee) and St. John's Anthony Mason Jr. (foot). Columbia's Patrick Foley (knee) can come off the bench, with St. John's Justin Burrell (hairline fracture to his face) and Seton Hall's John Garcia (knee) up front.
All six are either out for the year or have missed extensive time in recent weeks, with Devezin and possibly Burrell (he will play against Miami, but Malik Boothe won't) due back the quickest. Foley and Garcia seem to have the most time left in their recovery processes, while Mason Jr. and Coleman are both medical redshirt candidates due to their season-ending injuries. So which one is the most important? Judging by their last two games, it would go to Seton Hall's Garcia. Two games out, two losses to IUPUI (at the buzzer) and James Madison last night. And with the NCAA not clearing freshman Melvyn Oliver (he can practice and receive a scholarship this season, however), head coach Bobby Gonzalez will have to lean on Mike Davis and Brandon Walters inside.
Hopefully Garcia will be back in time for Big East play, maybe missing the opener next week at Syracuse, but even with him back navigating that loaded league with a limited number of bodies inside could be a serious problem. But despite the recent injury woes, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the area this past week, as another Manhattan player earned some MAAC recognition and some hot shooting sparked a Columbia run past Marist at the Aeropostale Holiday Festival.
Honors earned last week
- Manhattan guard Darryl Crawford was named MAAC Co-Player of the Week due to his twenty-nine point performance in the Jaspers' win over Binghamton last week. Also honored by the conference was Iona guard Scott Machado, who was named MAAC Rookie of the Week.
- The Ivy League named three area players to its weekly honor roll. Princeton guard Doug Davis, who could be well on his way to winning the league's Rookie of the Year award, and Columbia's Joe Bova and Norwua Agho were all pegged for the distinction.
- St. John's forward Sean Evans was named to the Big East Honor Roll, thanks to his averaging a double-double in two games at the Aeropostale Holiday Festival.
- Stony Brook freshman forward Danny Carter was named conference Rookie of the Week after he posted twenty points and six rebounds in the Seawolves 91-57 loss at Connecticut.
- St. John's D.J. Kennedy and Sean Evans, along with Columbia's K.J. Matsui, were named to the All-Tournament team at the Aeropostale Holiday Festival. Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney (MVP) and A.D. Vassallo rounded out the squad.
Team of the Week: Manhattan
The Jaspers picked up a pair of wins last week, knocking off Binghamton on Saturday and then turning around to beat a pesky LIU team on Monday night. While it was the aforementioned Crawford who was the catalyst for Barry Rohrssen's team against the Bearcats, leading scorer Chris Smith got the job done in the second half of Manhattan's 65-61 win over the Blackbirds last night. Smith scored twenty points in the second half, knocking down five three pointers in the run. What's encouraging about this team is that they can go to Crawford for scoring off the bench, and even though their numbers may not be that impressive at first glance people know what Devon Austin and Antoine Pearson are capable of. Sleeper in the MAAC? Why not.
Player of the Week: Darryl Crawford (Manhattan)
It was a lean week on the schedule for the area, so this honor may as well go to a guy who earned conference distinction for his effort. The numbers for Crawford in Manhattan's win over LIU weren't as impressive as the 29 points against Binghamton, but if he can give the Jaspers ten points and five rebounds per night then they could finish higher than their predicted sixth place (having seen Loyola, they should at least finish fifth). Other players with solid games last week included Danny Carter of Stony Brook (20 pts vs, UConn), Monmouth's Yaniv Simpson (25 pts against Lehigh) and the Rutgers freshman tandem of Mike Rosario (18 pts vs. Bryant) and Gregory Echinique (11 pts, 11 boards vs. Bryant).
Schedule (December 23rd-29th)
7 PM: Marist @ Delaware
Sacred Heart @ Penn State
Rider @ Binghamton
New Hampshire @ Fordham
Iona @ Hofstra The best game in the final day of games before Christmas break in the area, as the Pride will look to begin another win streak after falling at UMass on Saturday. The Gaels return to the area following a loss at ranked Ohio State, and they need a win following the road losses to the Buckeyes and before that Western Michigan. Keep an eye on both Iona's backcourt (especially Scott Machado) in how they deal with Charles Jenkins and Cornelius Vines, and a Hofstra frontcourt that has received better contributions from Greg Washington and Dane Johnson of late.
FDU @ St. Peter's
7:30: NJIT @ Rutgers
Fairfield @ #2 Connecticut no one will expect the Stags to win this game, but they've got the depth to make this one interesting for a little while. A very good test for Ed Cooley's team heading into MAAC play next week, and it could also be a preview of the type of team they could run into early in the NCAA Tournament should they earn the league's automatic bid in March. If Warren Edney and Jonathan Han can hold their own in the backcourt and forwards Anthony Johnson and Greg Nero avoid foul troubl, look for Fairfield to hang around. But it would be a little much to expect them to win this game.
Noon: Miami (FL) @ St. John's there's no such thing as overstating the importance of this game to the Red Storm. They've been tested twice this season, and of course those games against Boston College and Virginia Tech are their only blemishes on the season. Now Jack McClinton and a Miami offense that can put some points on the board visits MSG, but unfortunately for the Red Storm Malik Boothe is out due to injury, but Justin Burrell will be available for this one. A final test before Big East play begins next week.
3 PM: Drexel @ Rider
4 PM: Hofstra @ New Hampshire
7 PM: FDU @ Seton Hall
Iona @ USF I'm not even going to lie to you about this game: this is very winnable game for the Gaels. The Bulls have had some moments of ineptitude this season, and working in transfers Mike Mercer and Augustus Gilchrist is still a work in progress. If Iona can force players other than Jesus Verdejo to rely too much on the perimeter shot they can leave Tampa with the win. Sorry, but USF frankly cannot shoot the ball with consistency from either behind the arc or at the foul line.
2 PM: Stony Brook @ St. Peter's
Wagner @ NJIT
4 PM: Bucknell @ Marist
7 PM: Tennessee-Martin vs. Fordham The Rams are taking part in an in-season tournament at FIU, and they could be running into a buzz saw in this game. Lester Hudson is one of the nation's best perimeter scorers, and the Skyhawks are averaging just under seventy-seven points per game. Fordham doesn't have that kind of offensive punch, so they'll have to rely on their defense to win this one.
2 PM: Fordham @ Florida International
7 PM: Sacred Heart @ Columbia
American @ Manhattan the Jaspers host the defending Patriot League champs and the backcourt matchup should be entertaining at the least. Garrison Carr and Derrick Mercer have been through it all during their careers at American, and the same can be said for the Jasper backcourt of Antoine Pearson, Chris Smith and Darryl Crawford. The wild card: Devon Austin. I think he can have a big game in this one.
Updated Ranking (previous ranking in parentheses)
1. St. John's (9-2; 2)
2. Seton Hall (8-3; 1)
3. Fairfield (8-3; 4)
4. Hofstra (8-2; 3)
5. Rutgers (8-3; 5)
6. Rider (6-3; 6)
7. Manhattan (7-3; 7)
8. Wagner (6-3; 10)
9. Iona (4-7; 9)
10. Sacred Heart (3-4; 9)
11. Stony Brook (5-5; 12)
12. Columbia (4-6; 14)
13. Marist (3-8; 11)
14. LIU (4-6; 13)
15. Yale (2-6; 16)
16. Princeton (2-7; 15)
17. St. Francis (NY) (3-7; 17)
18. Army (3-8; 19)
19. FDU (1-7; 20)
20. Monmouth (2-12; 22)
21. St. Peter's (3-7; 18)
22. Fordham (1-7; 22)
23. NJIT (0-10; 23)