After one of the more cringe-worthy non-conference showings this league has seen in awhile, Fordham looked destined to dwell at the bottom of the A-10. Losing to Sacred Heart (301 Kenpom) at home is never fun, and that loss was part of a 6 game skid for the Rams. However, Fordham would prove to be one of the grittiest defensive bunches in the country come league play. The Rams loved to play the role of the spoiler; they weren’t going to win the league, but they sure as heck weren’t going to let any powerhouses steamroll them in the process. Rhode Island and Davidson fell to the Rams at home, and VCU was unable to get a win in Rose Hill Gym. Despite what looked like a season heading for the gutter, Fordham turned things around and won 7 conference games.
Having been sidelined with an injury for almost the entirety of the 2016-17 season, it was difficult for Zarkovic to make any kind of imprint on this program. Neubauer hopes the opposite holds true when he’s completely healthy this year. Zarkovic had 9 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in a home win over Lipscomb last year. In his short season, he’d have 10 total steals and only 3 turnovers while he was on the court. Nemanja Zarkovic is great at taking the ball away and not coughing it up himself; as a sophomore, he had the 17th best turnover rate in the Atlantic 10. Expect Zarkovic to provide some valuable minutes off the bench now that he’s healthy.
The JUCO transfer Perris Hicks missed the 2016-17 season due to injury, but he’ll make a return for his senior year. Attending San Bernardino Valley College in 2015-16, Hicks averaged 17.1 points, 5.0 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game; he earned co-MVP honors in his collegiate conference. Obviously, JUCO numbers tend to be egregiously inflated, but Hicks seems good enough to make a positive impact on this program. Particularly, the point guard’s 40.3% shooting percentage from long range at the JUCO level is impressive. The Rams need three point threats as well; their 33.2% ranked 257th in the nation last season. Hicks can provide that. I’d expect him to see a good amount of playing time behind Chartouny at the 1 and maybe even rotate over to the 2.
Rising senior Will Tavares will play an important role for this program next season; he’s the only returning player to have seen court time in at least 30 games last year. He averaged just 20.8 points per game but notched almost 1 steal per contest. Like almost every other player on this roster, he’s feisty on the defensive end and utilizes Fordham’s system to force turnovers. At 6-6 and 205 pounds, I’d like to see Tavares be more aggressive on the offensive glass. His 2.3% offensive rebounding percentage was almost non-existent last season, and it didn’t help the Rams who ranked 324th nationally in that category. Tavares could make strides next season, but he’s not much of a shooting threat. He’s at his best when he gets fouled and cashes in from the free throw line. A big chunk of his scoring last season came from the stripe. If I’m Jeff Neubauer, I want Tavares taking it to the rack.
Fordham looked like somewhat of a mess when Antwoine Anderson and Christian Sengfelder decided to transfer, but Joseph Chartouny is the glue trying to keep this team together. As a sophomore, Chartouny had the best steal percentage in the nation at a whopping 5.8%. Averaging 3.2 steals per game, Chartouny was crafty on the defensive end of the floor; I’m still shocked he didn’t make the Atlantic 10 All-Defensive team. Still, he’s been a dynamic threat on both ends of the floor through his first two seasons, and he’ll play an even greater role this year. As a sophomore, he led the Rams in three point shooting at 37.9%; the team averaged an abysmal 33.2%. Chartouny is great with the basketball as well, averaging 5.0 assists per contest in 2016-17 and leading the A-10 in assist rate as a freshman. This team will need all it can get and then some from Joseph Chartouny this season; he’s really going to be a one-man show, and he’ll have to do a whole heck of a lot more all over the court.
Jesse Bunting was actually a pretty effective rebounder when he was on the floor last season; he had an offensive and defensive rebounding rate better than 11%. His minutes were limited, and there were some games he didn’t even see the court, but he does add size and a force on the glass. Bunting was utilized behind Christian Sengfelder at the 5; without him around this year, Bunting probably steps into the role of starting center and immediately earns a ton more playing time as a junior. He’ll have big shoes to fill though, as Fordham’s success will greatly depend on a capable frontcourt that can get post buckets in addition to rebounding at a better rate.
As a sophomore, Pekarek missed a majority of the Rams’ season due to injury. He got off to a good start to the season, notching 11 points in a loss to East Tennessee State. In the short amount of time that Pekarek was with Fordham last season, he struggled for the most part. The sophomore went 10-38 (26.3%) from three; he took way too many attempts from long range given his success rate. And even though he averaged just 15.9 minutes per contest, Pekarek committed more than 1 turnover per game before going down with a season-ending injury. Throughout his young career, Pekarek has been a high-volume three point shooter who’s failed to shoot better than 30% from deep. Maybe it’s time for him to use his 6-7 frame to manufacture some easier shots.
Slanina should be a fun player to watch this year, and there’s a chance he’s Fordham’s second best player at the end of the season. Though he too went down with an injury toward the end of the year, he started to add value to this Fordham program late in the season. At 6-10, Slanina has the size to compete with an Atlantic 10 conference that should be relatively thin on the front line. He can also shoot the three, as he knocked down three of them in a 15 point performance against Saint Joseph’s. I think Slanina will come back with a bang and be one of the Rams’ better players next season. Don’t be surprised to see him as a double digit scorer pulling in 5+ rebounds.
I really have high hopes that Tre Evans will be Fordham’s best player in a couple of seasons. The JUCO transfer comes from Kilgore College in Texas where he shot better than 40% from three and 83.5% from the charity stripe as a freshman. Needless to say, the Rams need a guy that can shoot. Christian Sengfelder was Fordham’s volume guy from three, taking an insane 207 attempts last season; without the rising senior around, Evans is going to have to pick up the slack. Three point shooting is important in a league like the A-10, and the Rams have been pretty bad in that metric. Hopefully Evans can be one of the guys to help turn the tide.
Freshman Cavit Havsa made big strides in the months of February and March, and despite seeing very little court time in the early parts of the season, he was an integral player off the bench late last year. Havsa averaged just 2.8 points per game all season, but he had 40 total in his last 5 games. Particularly impressive was his 4/4 three point shooting night in a narrow home loss to George Washington. While he only hit 1 of 8 threes in non-conference play, he stepped it up in A-10 play, hitting 7 of 15 from range. I really liked the poise this kid showed towards the end of the year, and with some more playing time this season, he should emerge as a key role player off the bench for the Fordham Rams.
Rising sophomore Chuba Ohams has big shoes to fill after a first year that was limited in playing time. He had a very impressive 20.6% defensive rebounding rate, but his 48.5% two point field goal percentage wasn’t great for a big man. It’s going to be Ohams, Slanina, and Bunting running this frontcourt for the most part, and Ohams may be the most crucial piece. As one of Fordham’s most efficient rebounders, Ohams will be key in helping the Rams keep opposing teams off the offensive glass, a category that the Rams struggled in immensely last year.
Fordham’s lone freshman this year is a 6-7, 190 lb. 2 star recruit. Ivan Raut has a chance to be a role player off the bench for the Rams this season, as they’re somewhat limited on the wing and in the post.
As of right now, we know of 6 non-conference games for Fordham thanks to NYC Buckets’ tracker.
Miami (OH) (Home), Nov. 10th
This is one of those games that the Rams need to win to start the season. Hosting a RedHawk team that won 4 conference games last season is easy to say the least; if Fordham doesn’t manage a win over one of the bottom dwellers in the MAC, this team is going to be in for a very long season.
Manhattan (Home), Nov. 26th
This one stung the Rams in 2016-17. The Jaspers took down Fordham 60-53 last year in this New York rivalry, but this will be Fordham’s chance for revenge. I don’t doubt that the Rams could have the edge in this one, especially with home court advantage, but blowing easy home games has typically been Fordham’s forte.
Harvard (Home), Dec. 6th
Harvard has a long history playing A-10 teams, especially recently, and they’ll get a shot on the road against Fordham this season. If the Rams manage to win this one, it’d be a big boost before conference play. That said, it’s going to take a lot, and I expect this Crimson team to be much-improved in the Ivy League.
Rutgers (Away), Dec. 12th
With one of the easiest non-conference schedules in the history of college basketball, Rutgers managed to win 11 games before league play last year. It also managed 4 league wins. Yes, the Scarlet Knights are improving. A bottom dweller in the Big Ten is still going to be a heavy favorite over a bottom dweller in the Atlantic 10, and I expect this game to go just like last year’s: Rutgers will come away with the victory.
West Virginia (Away), Dec. 23rd
This will be a nice tune up game before conference play. Getting to see some serious competition will be eye-opening for Fordham, a program that usually schedules pretty easy in non-conference. West Virginia will absolutely roll through Fordham, but props to Neubauer for getting one of these on the calendar.
The date for this one hasn’t been decided yet, but Maine is a team that ranked 337th according to Kenpom last year. I’d be very shocked if the Rams didn’t take down the Black Bears in Rose Hill Gym.
Home – George Mason, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Richmond, Davidson, Duquesne, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, VCU
Away – Dayton, George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Davidson, Duquesne, La Salle, Saint Joseph’s, VCU
In all honesty, the Rams don’t have the most difficult schedule in the world. Getting to play Duquesne and La Salle twice means probably picking up 2 conference wins somewhere in that mix. Home games against George Mason, Massachusetts, and Richmond could be competitive matchups. The Rams are going to get killed on the road when they face Dayton, George Washington, St. Bonaventure, Saint Louis, Saint Joseph’s, and VCU, but if they could defend home court, there might be 5 or 6 conference wins in the mix for the Fordham Rams.
I hate to have to say it, but Fordham’s going to be fighting to stay out of last place all season long. It’s a bummer that the Rams lost Antwoine Anderson and Christian Sengfelder as transfers after the somewhat optimistic season Fordham had in 2016-17. The Rams will need new starts to emerge, and current studs like Joseph Chartouny have to step up and give even more to this program. Incoming transfers, particularly from the JUCO level, will help in the coming seasons, but Fordham is going to need to keep bringing in new talent if it ever wants to rise from the rut that is the bottom half of the Atlantic 10.
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