Fordham Rams Are Trailblazers


Go back to early November and the Fordham Rams knew the experts were wrong as most said they would finish 11th in the Atlantic-10 Men’s Basketball Conference standings. The Rams, though, said they would be trailblazers.

And those who selected Fordham to finish as one of the bottom seeds in the conference standings are now serious about these Rams and they should be. After their season finale win Saturday at Rose Hill, they head this week to the A-10 Tournament at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as a third seed.

These Rams, though, always believed they would be in this position. Critics said their 24 overall wins came against non-conference teams, most since the 1990-1991 squad that won 25. The Rams, though, refused to hear the critics and their 12 conference wins surpassed a Fordham 2006-2007 team that won ten conference games.

An accomplishment they always believed would get them to this point begins Thursday evening, opposing either sixth seed Duquesne, 11th seed LaSalle, or 14th seed Rhode Island in the quarterfinals of the A-10 Tournament with a double-bye.

They lost to top seed VCU, 80-61 two weeks ago at Richmond. In that game, the Rams did not convert from three-point range. They missed opportunities, failed to adjust, and VCU by all means is a well balanced team. Fordham did not play their transition game.

Then, top scorers Darius Quisenberry and Khalid Moore were shut down. Many will say when they are stopped, the Rams are not what their record reflects, but first year coach Keith Urgo saw his Rams constantly rebound after an ugly loss. The next game at Loyola-Chicago, of course they responded with another conference win.

We focus on what we can control, our energy,” Urgo said Saturday. After every game up at Rose Hill, he has been saying the Rams are at their best with their offense, defense. He said their transition game forces the opposition to work hard and make mistakes.

These Rams head to the tournament with that energy and will have a home court advantage as the home team in Brooklyn. The past few weeks, the old Rose Hill Gym became the toughest ticket to get in town and the Fordham community jumped on these trailblazers.

Even as a third seed, Fordham will be an underdog to win this tournament. Should they pull this off, (and why should we not believe they won’t) Fordham gets that automatic bid to be one of 68 teams to play on in March,

We have not heard about Fordham and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament since a Digger Phelps coached team of 1971 that advanced to the Sweet 16, at the time it was a much slimmer field of 32. They also had a play-in game prior to the 1991 NCAA Tournament that featured champions of six conferences with the lowest computer rankings the previous season and lost to St. Francis as members of the MAAC Conference.

The last decade or more Rose Hill and men’s basketball were not recognized, but they are now. Trailblazers they claim to be and they’re headed to Brooklyn this week after a record 18th win at Rose Hill, the most home wins for a Division 1 school.

Momentum and never look back,” Quisenberry said after scoring 21 points, his 111th career double-figure game.”They had us ranked 11. We knew what we were capable of. Our offense, we never reality worry about. I came here to be a trailblazer. It’s been surreal.”

He called that pre season rank disrespectful and Quisenberry had every reason to back up his claim. Saturday, the Rams held Duquesne to shooting .136, (3-22) a team leading the conference in three-point field goal percentage.

Went into season with a goal of being trailblazers,” Moore said. “Doing something that wasn’t done before.”

Again, just a few years ago this was not possible. Urgo, though, since assuming the head coaching role from Kyle Neptune, always said it was the players and building that foundation to win from that first game in early November.

But they want more and expect that in Brooklyn. One less conference loss and the Rams could have been a second seed, though they will settle as a number three away from Rose Hill. Not far from home is the Barclays Center, and the “Thrill of Rose Hill” becomes a neutral court as they try and punch their ticket to the big dance.

Think our guys are prepared,” Urgo said. “Neutral site, we have to bring it ourselves. The grind of the A-10 season is physical and well coached teams. A lot of teams, if not most, are playing better than they are all year.”

And like the Rams, teams in this tournament are all confident they can win it all. March Madness has a share of upsets, though this time around it’s different for these trailblazers from Rose Hill because they are a number three seed.

Been a fantastic month,” Urgo said. “Created traditions for years to come, not just this month If we continue to generate the energy.”

Rich Mancuso: Twitter@Ring786 Mancuso. Watch “Sports With Rich” with Rich and co-host Robert Rizzo Tuesday evening 8pmET on the SLG Network and YouTube

About the Author

Rich Mancuso

Rich Mancuso is a regular contributor at NY Sports Day, covering 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, in a career that spans almost 40 years.

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