14. Fairleigh Dickinson Knights
2005-06 record: 20-12 (14-4 NEC; regular season champions)
Last season’s final ranking (in my NYC Metro area poll): 7th
Head coach: Tom Green (378-292 at FDU, overall)
Leading Returnees: Points (Michael Peeples-9.4 ppg); Rebounds (Peeples-4.7 rpg); Assists (Bernell Murray-3.4 apg)
Returning Starters: 2 (Sr. F Michael Peeples (6’6, 205), Jr. G Bernell Murray (5’9, 173))
Key Losses: G Chad Timberlake, F Gordon Klaiber, C Andrea Crosariol (all starters)
Do not take this ranking as a sign that the Knights aren’t going to be a good team this season because they very well could be. Head coach Tom Green’s issue is that he lost so much in the form of Timberlake, Klaiber, and Crosariol. While the loss of the first two was expected (graduation), Crosariol deciding to sign a professional contract to play in Europe was a loss that the program wasn’t necessarily planning on. However, they have replaced one seven-footer for another, with Lawrence Brown joining the program by way of Portsmouth, England. To expect him to be a major contributor would be unfair, with there being a need to add some muscle to his 210-pound frame. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the only two returnees to have averaged more that twenty-six minutes per game, Peeples and Murray.
Peeples, a senior wing player from Detroit, was a solid contributor last season and will have more opportunities to create offense in an expanded role. Murray was the distributor last season and should see his role expand some, allowing him to create a little more offense for himself. Murray is a solid decision maker, noted in his 1.83-to-1 assist to turnover ratio. But the triumvirate that may hold the key to the Knights’ prospects this year are guards John Blackgrove (Sr. 6’2, 190) and Cameron Tyler (So. 6’0, 190), and forward Andre Harris (Sr. 6’7, 228). The most important of these three has to be Harris, who will be counted on for scoring inside. Tyler played well last season off the bench for the Knights, so he should do well in an expanded role. Blackgrove, in his first year at FDU after transferring from Fordham, had back trouble last season, limiting his effectiveness.
As for the newcomers, look for freshman Sean Baptiste and junior college transfer Manny Ubilla, both guards and New Jersey natives, to contribute right away. Lawrence Brown, a seven-footer from England who played at Millersburg Military Institute in Kentucky last year, is a work in progress.
Schedule at a Glance
The Knights have a tough start this season, opening with games at Providence and Seton Hall to begin the year. Providence will be the greater test of the two games, with their interior depth and young but talented backcourt. Seton Hall, however, could be a chance for this team to get a road win against an opponent from a glamour conference. The Pirates lost two key contributors in Donald Copeland and Kelly Whitney, and they also bring in a new coach in Bobby Gonzalez. FDU has home non-conference games against St. Peter’s, Wisconsin-Green Bay, and Canisius, then another tough road test at Drexel. They will also take part in the College of Charleston Tournament, with College of Charleston, Radford, and IUPUI also taking part.
Conference play offers up an 18-game slate, beginning with a trip to Quinnipiac December 9th. One interesting aspect of the schedule is that FDU will have five straight home games in February, before finishing up the regular season with visits to Wagner and St. Francis (NY). If they can take care of business at home in those five games, look for the last two to decide seeding in the NEC Tournament, opposed to whether or not they will qualify (only the top eight teams qualify for the conference tournament).
Interesting note: FDU has participated in postseason play the last two years. They were the NEC’s representative in the NCAA Tournament in 2005, and went to the NIT last season.
2005-2006 Team Averages
· Points per game: 74.3 - Points per game allowed: 70.8 - Points per game margin: + 3.5
· Rebounds per game: 36.8 - Rebounds per game allowed: 38.3 - Rebounding margin: -1.5
· Assists per game: 15.9 - Turnovers per game: 14.6 - Assist-to-turnover ratio: 1.1:1
· Field goal percentage: 45.6% - FG Percentage allowed: 41.5%
· 3-Point Percentage: 35.5% - 3-PT Percentage Defense: 35.0%
· Free Throw Percentage: 64.5%
· Longest winning streak: 11 (St. Francis-NY, Sacred Heart, @ St. Francis-PA, @ Robert Morris, LIU, @ Wagner, Robert Morris, @ LIU, Mount St. Mary’s, @ Sacred Heart, @ Wisconsin-Green Bay) January 20-February 18
· Longest losing streak: 3 (Drexel, @ St. Peter’s, @ then #10 Louisville) December 17-December 28
· FDU lost their last two games of the season: Monmouth in the NEC title game, then Manhattan in the opening round of the Postseason NIT.