Fordham Basketball: Success in Canada, Hurdles Back Home

Charles CostelloContributor ISeptember 2, 2014

Massachusetts' Chaz Williams, left, drives to the basket as Fordham's Bryan Smith, right, defends during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2014, in Amherst, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Jessica Hill/Associated Press

People are feeling pretty good about the Fordham Rams these days. Rightfully so, I might add.

Fordham head coach Tom Pecora told last week that he's been particularly impressed with freshmen Eric Paschall, Nemanja Zarkovic, Antwoine Anderson and Christian Sengfelder, saying, "we're getting a lot of good things out of a lot of people."

Pecora also said that sophomore Jon Severe "has continued to grow as a player," and called junior Ryan Rhoomes "a workhorse."

There's also the recently concluded trip to Canada, where the Rams went 4-0 after picking up wins against Concordia, Laval, McGill and Brookwood Elite.

That trip was a culmination of a productive offseason that began the minute Fordham was knocked out of the Atlantic 10 tournament on March 13.

Now for a little perspective.

No one is saying you shouldn't be optimistic, but let's remember that basketball games aren't won in the summer. We're still a couple of months away from the start of the regular season, and when it gets here Fordham will face one challenge after another.

That was confirmed last week when the school released its complete schedule, including Atlantic 10 opponents and dates.

When Fordham's nonconference schedule was announced last month, what stood out were the back-to-back games that the Rams will play against Big Ten opponents. They'll play at Penn State in their second game of the season, followed by a matchup at Maryland four days later.

Yes, there are games against New York Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Lowell and Maryland Eastern Shore sprinkled in, but those two games, as well as one later on at Madison Square Garden against St. John's, protects against anyone labeling the first month-and-a-half a cakewalk.

"When you're in a conference like the Atlantic 10, you have to go into it on the plus side," Pecora told Bleacher Report the day the nonconference schedule was made public.

If the Rams don't do that, it will be a major disappointment. They have to play the games, of course, but it's realistic to think they could be 8-3 at the start of conference play.

Then it gets real difficult.

Fordham's Atlantic 10 schedule opens on Jan. 4 with a game against Virginia Commonwealth. Then there's Rhode Island, Dayton, Saint Joseph's, La Salle and George Washington. Massachusetts, Saint Louis and Richmond are next. Six of those teams—VCU, Dayton, Saint Joseph's, George Washington, Massachusetts and Saint Louis—made the NCAA tournament last year.

"We're playing teams in the Big Ten and the Big East, and we're in the fifth-ranked conference in the country," Pecora said. "We're going to be playing top 25 teams, top 50 teams, last year nine top 100 teams, during the course of our A-10 schedule."

The league might not be better this year, but how could it be?

This is not to create some built-in excuse; it's to highlight the fact that Fordham's schedule is brutal. To try to build a program in the Atlantic 10 is a monumental task made even more challenging by the fact that the league has gotten better every year.

It's also to remind people who might be getting a little ahead of themselves that four wins in August are nice but don't count in the standings.

On the flip side, to say they mean nothing is wrong. The positive vibes coming out of Rose Hill are real. Pecora and his staff deserve a ton of credit for changing the culture so drastically. The players they brought in have bought in.

"Every year our goal is to have a winning season," Pecora said. "I think this year with the nonconference schedule we have, and then hopefully elevating ourselves in the Atlantic 10...we've gotten better every year, but so has this league. ... This is the best league Fordham has ever played in. It continues to grow as a league, and we continue to grow as a program."

That's something no one can deny.


Unless otherwise noted, quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. A full archive of his articles can be found hereFollow him on Twitter: @CFCostello