Mancuso: Rams’ Tough Sked

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The campus up at Rose Hill is quiet with the early semester break and implications of COVID-19 that caused a disruption to the start of the Fordham Men’s Atlantic-10 Conference basketball season.

Coach Jeff Neubauer has seen the impact of trying to get his team on the court, a problem all coaches have dealt with. HIs players were quarantined for a 45-day period and in their campus dorms. Practices were limited as the Rams were one of six teams that were idle in the 2020-21 season.

Months ago, Ivy League and Patriot League schools made a decision to not play due to COVID concerns.

So with daily testing and medical protocols in place, Wednesday afternoon, in an empty Rose Hill Gymnasium, Fordham took the court for the first time since March when they defeated George Washington in their opening round A-10 Conference game at the Barclays Center.

After that game in March, and with the Rams playing their best basketball of the season, the NCAA abruptly ended conference tournaments. The NCAA tournament was cancelled.

However this was not that same Rams team that left the Barclays Center in March.

“I’m proud of the guys,” said Neubauer after the Rams opening game, 71-47 loss to George Washington. “They decided to play the game. I let the players decide.”

They wanted to play. Fordham is playing a limited schedule of conference games and there is very little room to come out of the gate and look as bad as they did. Then again, after sitting idle due to the COVID disruptions, they were itching to get back on the court.

So the first game for a team that is once again projected to finish last in the conference should by all means not dictate this is all over. The problem, though, is a disrupted season and getting the games in with the constant concerns about COVID.

Fordham has little time to adjust. They take the court again Saturday afternoon as they travel to Philadelphia and have another conference game against La Salle, a team that is already eight games into their schedule.

GW had the advantage and at 2-6 snapped a four-game losing streak. The Rams will expect other schools to be sharp as conference opponents have had on-court experience the past three weeks.

But Neubauer, in his sixth season at Rose Hill, is not one to make excuses even though the results showed his Rams had many flaws Wednesday afternoon. There was never any question about the Rams forfeiting a schedule and moving on to next year, but the coach said he relayed a message to his team. “We’re not going to do this again. We’re not going out there and not being competitive.”

By all means, this was not the result the coach and his team were looking for. The Rams trailed from the start and were flat on both ends of the court. The Rams were 16-for-58 from the field, 2-of-14 from three-point range.

“Felt like practice,” Neubauer said. “Most important thing for a coach is improvement for a team between the first and second games. We have to be ready. We have to fight and compete and that’s what these guys have been good at.”

He added the difference needs to show Saturday, and it needs to be a quick adjustment because Fordham has a slate that has them playing twice a week the remainder of the way.

Again, you can place the blame on lack of preparation. If there were fans packed in the small confines of the Rose Hill Gym, the Rams would have heard the cat calls from one end of the campus to the other.

The positives came from Josh Colon with a team high 14-points. And there was the continued development of sophomore Joel Soriano with 12 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.

“Joel Soriano is going to be a terrific player,” Neubauer said. “He had a double double. We need to find more opportunities for him around the rim. He’s a building block around our program.”

And the Colonials tried to stop Soriano, but the 6-11 forward scored and took control.

Neubauer said the situation of starting late and further disruptions from COVID are out of their control, but the season has commenced and it’s time to move on to Saturday.

“Everyone is going through this but to different degrees,” he said. “The Ravens had different issues than the Steelers. Not using it as an excuse, but we have to get to mid season form quickly because we play Saturday.”

Of course there is time. In a normal situation and in different times there would be more room to make those quick adjustments. The Rams may have that feel of urgency after their first game.

Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Facebook.com/Rich Mancuso Watch Sports With Rich YouTube. Like, Comment, Subscribe.

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich has covered countless New York Mets, Yankees, and MLB teams along with some of the greatest boxing matches over the years. He is an award winning sports journalist and previously worked for The Associated Press, New York Daily News, Gannett, and BoxingInsider.com, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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