There are so many hurdles, both large and small, to climb to build a Division I college basketball program basically from scratch and another was on display at Rose Hill on Wednesday night for Fordham and Jeff Neubauer.
The Rams entered on one of their best Atlantic 10 stretches in a decade, having won four of seven, the last coming in double overtime at defending champion St. Joseph’s and Hawk Hill on Saturday. Dreams of finishing in the middle of the Atlantic 10 pack were dancing in their heads as they took the floor against wounded and struggling La Salle, who after a hot start to conference play had lost four of five and were without arguably its most influential player in point guard Pookie Powell.
Powell’s absence (he was 61st in turnover rate nationally before missing the last four games due to injury) seemed to play directly into the hands of a confident Fordham defense that is still second in the country in forcing turnovers.
On Jan. 11, Fordham went to Davidson (where the home team is 163-26 in the last 14 seasons) and came back to New York with one of the biggest surprises of the Atlantic 10, baffling the Wildcats and holding them to 0.86 points per possession in a 60-54 loss that was Davidson’s slowest game of the season (63 possessions).
But when Fordham coach Jeff Neubauer looked and saw there was a return match a little more than two weeks later, he knew beating Davidson a second time would be a tall order.
Davidson coach Bob McKillop’s resume speaks for itself: 526 career wins, 14 seasons with 20 wins, eight NCAA Tournament appearances, and widely regarded as one of the top offensive minds in college basketball. And so, with a second look at Neubauer’s unorthodox trapping and pressuring half-court defense, the Wildcats were ready.
Jeff Neubauer didn’t show any emotion as Antwoine Anderson capped a memorable night at Rose Hill by drilling a step-back jumper to beat VCU 69-67 in overtime. Not a fist pump, nothing.
Even after the game, he downplayed the significance of the victory, and perhaps rightfully so. After all, Fordham is still just 8-11 overall and 2-4 in the Atlantic-10 with 12 regular season games remaining. Losing most of those games could still lead to a record in line with many other past seasons for the program, which – as you probably already know – has not tasted much resembling success since moving to the Atlantic-10 two decades ago.
But on Wednesday night, to paraphrase Herb Brooks in Miracle, Fordham stayed with VCU and Fordham shut them down. And while they might not have been the greatest college basketball team in the world, they beat a program that has been to six consecutive NCAA Tournaments and a Final Four, and had a 54-19 record as a member of the A-10 before Wednesday. For Fordham, who posted its second winning record since 1992 (the last time they graced the NCAAs, as Patriot League champ) in 2015-16 and has just one winning conference record in the Atlantic-10 ever, it was a night for hope. Hope that someday they could, maybe not be among the conference’s elite, but at least compete, and someday have their name called on Selection Sunday.
It’s Year 2 of the Jeff Neubauer Era at Fordham, and it seems to feature a lot of the same things that made the inaugural season successful: a hyper-aggressive defense that loves to create havoc in the half-court and wear teams down mentally to go with an offense that is much more patient, but likes to work inside out and shoot three-pointers when available.
The Rams rode those things to a 17-14 record, their first winning mark since 2006-07 and only the second in a quarter-century, dating back to when they were playing in the Patriot League (Fordham also made a postseason appearance since 1992, albeit in the CBI). They finished 8-10 in the Atlantic-10 after winning no more than four games in any of the previous five seasons.
BRONX, N.Y. – Every loss counts the same in the standings, obviously, but Wednesday night’s 76-72 defeat in overtime to St. Bonaventure is going to sting a little longer than some of the others for Fordham. Continue reading
BRONX, N.Y. – Sometimes a battle of contrasting styles can produce the most entertainment value for your valuable hard-earned money, and Sunday’s Richmond-Fordham clash at Rose Hill was no exception.
One one side, you had the Spiders, coached by Pete Carill and Princeton educated (he does have a B.A. in English from the place) Chris Mooney, who values the basketball and movement off it above everything else. On the other, you had Fordham’s Jeff Neubauer, who played for a guy named Speedy (Morris) and was schooled as a coach under John Beilein (including five years at Richmond), where confusing and baffling opponents into turning it over and getting easy points is one of the primary objectives.
WASHINGTON – Yes, Fordham was 9-2 and there were many positive signs under first-year coach Jeff Neubauer for a program that hasn’t won more than 10 games in a season since 2007-08, but putting the Rams’ resume under the proverbial microscope suggested they might be due for a bit of a comeuppance in their Atlantic 10 opener at George Washington Sunday night.
Consider that Fordham’s non-conference strength of schedule ranked 351st, dead last in Division I. All of its wins were at home, and none came against an opponent currently higher than No. 240 (St. John’s) in KenPom. The trip to the nation’s capital was the Rams’ first true road game since Nov. 14 and they weren’t exactly taking on a cupcake (not that there are many of those in the A-10, but even relatively).
Fordham’s Tom Pecora does not do tumultuous. His teams are never racked by transfers, or continually beset by suspensions. Since arriving at Fordham in 2010, Pecora always seems to have a tightest of handles on his Rams, so this offseason was an unusual one. Continue reading