In the third year of the Barry Rohrssen era, we know we can expect three things from Manhattan. They are, in no particular order, senior Devon Austin, junior Antoine Pearson, and sophomore Chris Smith. These three players are who Rohrssen has built his Jasper squad around, and their success will play a big part in dictating the team’s success.
Manhattan finished 12-19 and 5-13 in the conference last year. They can build on a late season win at home against Siena. The win is even more notable since Siena proved its ability in the NCAA tournament with a win over Vanderbilt.
Manhattan returns 88 percent of its points, 86 percent of its assists, and 84 percent of its rebounds. To make it simple, Manhattan returns a lot. They only lost seldom-used Frank Traore to graduation and freshman guard Rashad Green.
Green started 27 of 31 games for Manhattan last year and was the team’s best rebounder. He will be tough to replace, but the team overall needs to improve on rebounding this year.
In the starting lineup, expect Green to be replaced by a strong forward type like Andrew Gabriel, Brandon Adams, or Herve Banogle. The other option would be to use another wing player, Darryl Crawford.
I vote for Gabriel because it will get them stronger and tougher inside where they need help. It can also open up the floor for Pearson, Smith, and Austin on the outside. Gabriel has improved his offensive game from last year and can play with his back or front to the hoop.
There is one incoming freshman, Djibril Coulibaly. He is a larger body that can man the post and add depth to the center position. Coulibaly has the defensive presence down low to block shots and should help the team with rebounding.
The three returning leading scorers will carry much of the load offensively again. Pearson (12.2 ppg), Austin (11.6 ppg), and Smith (9.9 ppg) together scored almost half the points for the Jaspers last year. They shot 57 percent of the team’s three balls but only shot a combined 35 percent from behind the arc.
If they can improve on their three-point percentage, they can open up the floor more for each other and for the post men.
The Jaspers also need to make a commitment to playing defense. Opponents last year shot an astounding 47.5 percent from the field against the Jaspers. This is an aspect that Coach Rohrssen stresses to his players, so expect to see an improvement in the team's defense this year.
Although Siena is the heavy favorite yet again, Manhattan should be able to improve on its five conference wins last year and could finish in the middle of the pack with a MAAC record of anywhere from 8-10 to 12-6.
The key to Manhattan’s success is its ability to play well on the road against conference teams. They went an abysmal 1-8 away from Draddy Gym last year against MAAC opponents.
The Jaspers’ out of conference schedule this year has no teams on it that are from BCS conferences. They are only playing two teams from the top 10 conferences, La Salle and Fordham, both out of the A-10.
This does not mean they can overlook any teams. This is a Manhattan team still maturing that has not proved itself and will be questioned game by game.
You can also find my interview with Manhattan College Coach Barry Rohrssen here.