The first two months of the 2012-13 season have not been pretty for the Manhattan Jaspers, who were picked to finish No. 2 in the MAAC Preseason Coaches' Poll.
With star wing George Beamon missing all but four games, the Jaspers stand at 3-9, 1-1 in the MAAC. Just after they appeared to be turning the season around with a strong, 75-55 victory over Siena, they then dropped four games in a row.
But with nonconference play in the past, Manhattan can now look ahead to MAAC competition, where it is currently one of eight schools tied for second place.
St. Peter's (6-6, 1-1 MAAC) has solid wins over Rutgers and Iona already, but it has also been plagued with awful losses to teams like Binghamton and Fairleigh Dickinson.
Here is what each team needs to do on Friday in order to improve to 2-1 in the MAAC:
Keys for Manhattan
Don't give away possessions
Scoring in general has been difficult for Manhattan this season. The Jaspers effective field-goal percentage ranks No. 284 in the nation, and they are averaging fewer than 57 points per game.
However, the problem that looms larger on offense is the Jaspers' turnover rate.
Manhattan turns the ball over in 27 percent of its possessions, and you simply cannot win games when you give away possessions so often, especially when scoring is difficult to begin with.
Contain Desi Washington
Delaware State transfer Desi Washington was a key addition for St. Peter's this year. With his team-best 16.2 points per game, he has been an important reason why the Peacocks are a surprising .500 team entering the new year.
In home games, he is posting 19.4 points.
Although seniors Blaise Ffrench and Yvon Raymond both have the ability to be double-digit scorers, Washington is by far the main scoring threat. If Manhattan lets him go off for a huge performance, St. Peter's will run away with this game on their home floor.
The biggest key to stopping Washington is getting in his face every time he touches the ball on the perimeter. Although his 36.5 percent conversion rate from beyond the arc is not outstanding, more than 48 percent of Washington's points have come from there this season.
In the Peacocks' most recent game against Central Connecticut State, Washington was quiet for most of the game until he scored eight points down the stretch on a pair of three-pointers and a long jumper, finishing with 15 points.
He has only scored in double figures twice when being held to fewer than three three-pointers.
Keys for St. Peter's
Take care of the basketball
As poor as Manhattan has been at taking care of the rock, it has also used pressure defense to cause plenty of problems for opponents.
The Jaspers rank No. 21 in the nation turnover percentage defense, with opponents giving the ball away in nearly a quarter of their possessions. Although they give away many possessions each game, they have been able to stick with a lot of teams by forcing other teams to cough up the ball as well.
As evidenced by the first two months of the season, the Jaspers' turnover woes will almost surely continue to strike on Friday.
Contain Rhamel Brown
In his first two seasons, forward Rhamel Brown cemented his reputation as a defensive force. This year, especially in the last two games, his offense has taken off.
Through 12 games, he is averaging 11.4 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 1.4 steals per game. In the last five games, he is posting 15.2 points, 2.8 blocks and 1.8 steals per contest.
There is no doubt that Brown is turning into the type of player that could make the All-MAAC First Team, and St. Peter's is thin in the frontcourt.
The Peacocks' best forward is senior Darius Conley. Conley, who struggled last year against Manhattan with averages of only 6.5 points and three rebounds in two meetings, has a large body at 6'7" and 235 pounds. If he stays out of foul trouble, he can compete with Brown in the post.
My pick: St. Peter's 56, Manhattan 51
The first team to score 50 points will be the winner in this game. Both schools have struggled to score this year; Manhattan ranks No. 336 in the nation with 56.8 points per game, and St. Peter's is No. 282 with 62.4.
With Manhattan still lacking a go-to scorer, Washington's scoring ability will give St. Peter's a huge offensive advantage.
For the Jaspers to come away with a win, they will need to get hot from three-point range as well as receive a big game from Brown.