Last season the Rams of Fordham University hobbled into a Wednesday night A-10 tourney game on a three-game losing streak, limping into March as they had done the seven seasons prior.
What a difference a year makes.
After a 3-9 start to conference play and signs of more of the same, Fordham went on to win their last four games and five of their last six, doubling their conference win total from last season with an 8-10 record that might be considered a down year for most A-10 teams, but more of a hopeful new beginning for this year’s Rams under new head coach Jeff Neubauer.
Only St. Bonaventure heads into this year’s tournament with more momentum than Fordham.
The Rams will experience something they haven’t experienced for some time, a Wednesday night bye, as they prepare for a tough 8 v 9 noon matchup against the University of Richmond Spiders this Thursday, a team that swept Fordham during the conference season.
Is the third time a charm?
Fordham led late in their last meeting, taking a road lead into the final two minutes of play before the Spiders took control of the game. Still, a Joseph Chartouny three with six seconds remaining gave the Rams a chance at the road win and offered up a glimpse of what could be an exciting hometown matchup this Thursday.
PLAYER TO WATCH: RYAN RHOOMES
Rhoomes has been good all season long but finished the regular season with a career-high 27-points in a home win over the Rams of Rhode Island. Rhoomes is averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds over Fordham’s last three and dropped a 18.5-point, 10-rebound double-double average in his previous two meetings with the Spiders. He’ll need defensive help however as the Spiders’ offense has been virtually unstoppable against Fordham this season, combining to shoot 60% inside the arc and 45% from three in the previous two meetings between these teams.
MATCHUP NIGHTMARE: TWO-POINT DEFENSE
Fordham may have to outscore Richmond to win Thursday, as the Rams two-point defense ranks 301st nationally and will be going up against a Richmond two-point offense that’s top-10 nationally. The magic number may be 80. Richmond has lost their last five games when giving up 80 or more points. They own two A-10 wins this season while allowing 80, coincidentally the first of which came at Fordham in the 93-82 Spiders win.
A Fordham win on Thursday would setup a matchup with top-seeded Dayton, a team that bombed the Rams 64-50 at Rose Hill earlier this season. That’s an extreme long shot assuming the Rams can survive Richmond, which I have as a coin-flip right now (kenpom gives Fordham a 35% chance of victory against Richmond and predicts a four-point Spiders win). Neubauer’s best bet is a program-building win on Thursday before bowing out on Friday to the top-seeded Flyers.