The 2003-2004 men’s basketball team was arguably the greatest basketball team to ever walk on campus. The team that featured seniors Luis Flores, Dave Holmes and Jason Benton won back-to-back MAAC Championships. When the Jaspers made it to the NCAA Tournament as a No.12 seed in 2004, they were matched up against No. 4 seed Florida, a school with nearly 50,000 students.
School size, money, or seed numbers didn’t matter that day, and the Jaspers beat the Gators by 15 points – Flores said they should have beat them by more. Flores and his teammates went back to the hotel, turned on ESPN, and watched as their upset was the lead story. His phone was overflowing with phone calls, and everywhere he and his teammates went, people were there to congratulate them.
They nearly pulled off another upset when they played Chris Paul and No. 3 Wake Forest, but couldn’t finish and lost 84-80.
Ten years later, the Jaspers look to mirror what happened in March of 2004. The expectations are high. They were ranked No. 59 by USA Today, first in the MAAC Preseason Poll, and are ranked seventh in the most recent Mid-Major Poll by College Insider.
The similarities between the two teams are eerie. This team, like the 2003-2004 team, features three senior leaders in George Beamon, Mike Alvarado and Rhamel Brown. Beamon, who is averaging 20.1 points per game, is a scorer like Flores, who averaged 24.0 points per game in his senior season. Both were First Team All-MAAC selections and Flores – who was drafted 55th to the Golden State Warriors – said Beamon does more than he did.
Both teams run a tireless press and both teams had Steve Masiello on the coaching staff. Masiello was an assistant under Manhattan’s Head Coach Bobby Gonzalez from 2001-2005 before going to Louisville to be an assistant under Rick Pitino.
And through 17 games, both teams have the same record at 13-4 thanks to eight game winning streaks.
This column will captivate the Jaspers’ season as they work their way toward their first MAAC title since 2004. The talent is there: Rhamel Brown and George Beamon were both Preseason First Team All-MAAC selections. The coaching is there: Steve Masiello was picked Preseason MAAC Coach of the Year. The motivation is there: Manhattan was three points away from being MAAC Champions last season.
But will the results be?