The Selection Sunday chatter and buzz is over. It is time to focus on the actual games and not where teams should have been seeded.
The Manhattan College men’s basketball team found out what its road in the NCAA Tournament will be like: a play-in game as a 16-seed, with the winner moving on to face the Kentucky Wildcats.
Here’s what you need to know about Manhattan’s play-in game.
Manhattan Jaspers (19-13) vs Hampton Pirates (16-17)
University of Dayton Arena, Dayton, Ohio
Tuesday, March 17, 2015, 6:40 PM
G Deron Powers, 5-11, Jr., 10.5 ppg, 3.7 apg
G Brian Darden, 6-2, Jr., 9.7 ppg, 36% 3pfg
G Reginald Johnson, 6-2, Jr., 11.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg
G Quinton Chievous, 6-6, Gr., 10.1 ppg, 6.2 rpg
F Jervon Pressley, 6-8, Jr., 4.9 rpg, 1.4 bpg
– The Pirates enter the 2015 NCAA Tournament as the only team under .500. A recent hot-streak that saw the Pirates win four in a row to win the MEAC Tournament, has the team peaking at the right time of the season.
– Hampton reached the NCAA Tournament despite losing its leading scorer and rebounder in Dwight Meikle (13.0 ppg, 7.5 rpg) to an ankle injury on March 9. The status of the 6-foot-7 forward for Tuesday night is uncertain.
– The Pirates are 5-0 this season when playing at a neutral site.
Players to Watch
– Reginald Johnson will have to step up as Hampton’s go-to-guy if Meikle is out on Tuesday. The 6-foot-2 combo guard is the de facto leading scorer under Meikle’s absence and played like it in the MEAC Tournament. In the four-game run to win the championship, Johnson averaged 16.5 points per game along with 3.5 rebounds per game and 2.8 assists per game.
– Quinton Chievous is one of the few players on Hampton’s roster with some size. At 6-foot-6 and playing the four position, Chievous will be counted on to rebound and provide some interior defense for the Pirates. His 6.2 rebounds per game make him an exceptional rebounder for a player of his height, and his 10.1 points per game make him a respectable threat on offense.
G RaShawn Stores, 5-11, Sr., 42% 3pfg, 3.0 apg
G Donovan Kates, 6-6, Sr., 3.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg
F Shane Richards, 6-5 Jr., 13.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg
F Emmy Andujar, 6-6 Sr., 16.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg
F Ashton Pankey, 6-10 Jr., 13.5 ppg, 6.7 rpg
– The Jaspers have won seven of their last eight, including four in a row, to win the MAAC Tournament and clinch an NCAA Tournament berth.
– Last season, the Jaspers nearly upset 13-seed and defending champions, the Louisville Cardinals, and are looking for their fourth victory in the tournament.
– Manhattan is making a consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in its history, the other coming in 2003 and 2004.
Players to Watch
– Emmy Andujar, the walking triple-double threat, has led the Jaspers from the start of the season. He has been present in every single game and is the undoubted focal point of the offense. Many times, it is Andujar who runs the team’s offense and brings the ball up the court as a point-forward. As a 6-foot-6 forward who can handle the ball, Andujar will pose a matchup nightmare for the Pirates.
Ashton Pankey might have single-handedly been responsible for turning Manhattan’s season around. The Jaspers were decent at 8-8, but then Pankey decided to go on a tear offensively that added a whole new dimension to Manhattan’s offense. The 6-foot-10 forward has played like a beast down low, scoring in double figures in 16 consecutive games and has become the official Robin, to Manhattan’s Batman, in Andujar. But at times, it has been Pankey, not Andujar, who has looked more like Batman. This was none more apparent than at the 2015 MAAC Tournament where Pankey took home Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament with marks of 15.7 points per game, eight rebounds per game and two blocks per game.
Key Matchup: Ashton Pankey vs. Jervon Pressley
Throughout the season, many people pointed out Manhattan’s lack of size in the starting lineup as a weakness.
But, if those people thought Manhattan lacked size, then what will they think of Hampton’s starting lineup which consists of four guards at 5-foot-11, 6-foot-2, 6-foot-2 and 6-foot-6. Not to mention its lone forward, Pressley, who stands at 6-foot-8.
That brings us to the key matchup of the game, which pins two forwards in Pankey and Pressley together.
If the Jaspers want to exploit Hampton’s lack of size, it is at the five position where it will start. Pankey holds a two-inch advantage on Pressley, but whereas Pankey weighs 225 pounds, Pressley weighs 250.
That is a 25-pound difference for you math geniuses.
But the fact is, that is of very little significance to Pankey. If you do not believe it, just ask Iona’s David Laury—6-foot-9, 245 pounds—who needed help on defense to contain Pankey in the MAAC Championship game, and still failed miserably, allowing Pankey to score 21 points and grab 10 rebounds.
Throughout that game, Iona double-teamed Pankey every time he touched the ball, a tactic Hampton might resort to if Pressley cannot keep Pankey in check.
But even if it does go to it, there is a high probability that it just might not work. Throughout the MAAC Tournament, Pankey showed the patience on offense to attract the doubles and kick the ball out to the open man.
With shooters like Richards and Stores on the floor, that might be dangerous for the Pirates.
Key Stat: Turnover Margin
All season long, Manhattan’s trademark has been its defensive pressure.
Its full court press and tendency to switch in and out of zones in the half court has caused much confusion for opposing teams and has led to high numbers of turnovers in games.
Well, the Jaspers might have just been paired up against the perfect opponent.
The Hampton Pirates turn the ball over 14.2 times per game, playing right into the hands of Manhattan’s strength, which is its defensive pressure that has caused opponents to turn the ball over 16.6 times per game.
Hampton’s turnover margin is minus .2, while Manhattan’s margin is a plus 2.1.
When the Jaspers win, it is usually behind the strength of its defense and facing a team like the Pirates, which turns the ball over so much, can only be beneficial to the Jaspers.