Outlook: After a good first season for Jeff Neubauer at Fordham two seasons ago, the Rams finished under .500 for the ninth time in their last ten seasons last season and enter this season with 56 percent of their scoring gone from a year ago. Can a team mostly of juniors and seniors get things back on track or will a winning season be problematic to achieve in 2017-18?
Who’s in: Ivan Raut (F), Tre Evans (G)
Who out: Javontae Hawkins (G), Christian Sengfelder (F), Antwoine Anderson (G)
Key Non-Conference games: vs Manhattan (11-26-17), Harvard (12-6-17), @ Rutgers (12-12-17)
The Fordham Rams enter into the third season of the Jeff Neubauer era and his 30-33 overall record in his first two seasons at the helm are the Rams’ best back-to-back seasons in a decade.
But the fact is Fordham hasn’t been a .500 or better team in the Atlantic 10 in more than a decade and have had just two winning seasons since their last NCAA tournament appearance all the way back in 1992 when they were still a member of the Patriot League.
It doesn’t look like things will get much easier at Rose Hill in 2017-18. Neubauer will need to find replacements for three of his top four scorers in guard Javontae Hawkins, who graduated, forward Christian Sengfelder, who transferred to Boise State as a grad transfer, and guard Antwoine Anderson, who transferred to Connecticut as a grad transfer.
What’s left is a team with just one double-digit scorer returning in junior guard Joseph Chartouny (12.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 5.0 apg). He returns as the Rams’ starting point guard. His 31.9 assist rate finished in the top 50 in the nation and his 5.8% steal percentage which led the nation.
After Chartouny, Fordham will have to rely on guys who played in under 20 percent of the team’s possessions last season. The top guys being senior guard Will Tavares (5.6 ppg) and junior forward Prokop Slanina (5.9 ppg). Tavares played in 30 games in his first season in Rose Hill but averaged just 20.8 mpg. He didn’t shoot the ball great with a 40 percent effective field goal percentage. The 6-foot-10 Slanina played in 23 games in his first season at Fordham but missed the final nine games of the season last year due to injury. Both are likely to make a regular move into the Rams’ starting five.
Another player whose season was cut short prematurely was junior forward David Pekarek. He played in just 15 games, missing the team’s final 17 games. When he did play, he struggled shooting the ball with a 37.7 effective field goal percentage.
A player to possibly look out for this season is Bronx native sophomore forward Chuba Ohams who came on a great deal during Atlantic 10 play and finished with nine starts. He may end up being the best returning rebounder on the roster with one of the better offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. With the departure of Sengfelder, he could land himself as a solid fixture in Fordham’s starting lineup.
Another guy who can help out in a big way is 6-foot-2 sophomore guard Tre Evans, who played in junior college last season. Evans averaged 15.5 ppg for Kilgore College in Texas. For a team that could be desperate for offense, he could be just what Fordham needs to fill some of the losses they had in the offseason.
Fordham really struggled offensively last season. They posted an A-10 second-worst 64.2 points per game and finished 307th in the nation in offensive efficiency. They played one of the slowest tempos in the country, getting roughly 64 possessions a game. Yet, defensively they finished 81st in the nation in defensive efficiency and were second-best in the country in both turnover percentage on the opposition and steal percentage.
The Rams will start with four games as part of the inaugural Jamaica Classic with the first two coming at Rose Hill versus Miami (OH) (Nov. 10) and LIU Brooklyn (Nov. 13). The Battle of the Bronx between Manhattan (Nov. 26) comes right after they return from Jamaica. They also host Harvard (Dec. 6) in a mid-major filled home non-conference schedule that has become the norm during Neubauer’s tenure. They’ll see Florida State (Nov. 17) in Jamaica and Rutgers (Dec. 12) and West Virginia (Dec. 23) on the road. Fordham will open A-10 play on the road versus a strong VCU squad (Dec. 30). They’ll face Dayton (Feb. 17) just once this season but that meeting will be on the road. They will get their only meeting against Rhode Island (Jan. 24) at Rose Hill Gym.
Unfortunately, for diehard Fordham fans, I think they are going to being more of the same in what they saw most of last season and that’s if they are lucky. They are doing to need Joseph Chartouny to become the man on this team and be a force on both ends of the court if they want to come even close to a .500 season. If this offense continues to sputter like it did a season ago, this could be a long season in the Bronx. But if guys like Slanina and Pekarek stay healthy and guys like Ohams, Cavit Hevsa, and Jesse Bunting come along this season, then it could be possible they could have themselves a .500 season. Will that get the Fordham fans excited? Likely not.