Previewing the Manhattan Jaspers Ahead of the MAAC Tournament

by Pete Janny and Caroline McCarthy, Sports Editor & Asst. Sports Editor

The Manhattan women’s and men’s basketball teams will travel to Atlantic City this week
to compete in the 2020 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Basketball tournament. The tournament runs from Mar. 10-14 and all games will be played at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.

“I love the fact that it’s in Atlantic City,” said senior forward Pauly Paulicap. “I feel like it’s a neutral spot for teams in the MAAC so it should be exciting.

Men’s Basketball:

On the men’s side, Siena won the MAAC regular season with a 15-5 conference record. After placing ninth a season ago, Saint Peter’s was able to lock down the two seed with a 14-6 showing in the MAAC.

When considering the MAAC competition since his arrival in Riverdale, Sophomore Tykei Greene believes there’s more parity this season than last.

This year is more wide open because a lot of teams are capable of getting beaten. It just depends on who wants it more that day,” Greene said.

Manhattan College enters the tournament as an underdog. They started the week as the eighth seed with an 8-11 record, but are now the ninth seed after losing to Fairfield and relinquishing the eight spot to them.

“Since day one we have had a chip on our shoulders and we are just going to go out and put our best foot forward,” Paulicap said when asked if he believes his team is an underdog heading into the tournament.

The Jaspers will take on Fairfield for the third time this season during the first round of the tournament on Tuesday at 5 p.m.. To advance, Manhattan must return to their identity, which is grounded in defense. According to Paulicap, the team will need to focus on doing the little things.

“One thing we do emphasize is being the tougher team,” Paulicap said. “We have to do little things like dive for loose balls, secure rebounds, and hit open shots.”

The Jaspers women’s and men’s basketball teams will be in Atlantic City from March 10-14 for the MAAC Tournament. GOJASPERS / COURTESY

The Jaspers, void of a consistent scoring threat, must find ways to use their balance scoring attack to their advantage. Greene and Paulicap were the Jaspers’ best scoring contributors during the regular season at only 10.2 and 10.0 points-pergame, respectively.

“I think it’s a blessing that we could have each guy put up the amount of points that they do,” Greene said. “It takes the weight off of other players’ shoulders.”

Manhattan head coach Steve Masiello strives to cultivate a family feel to his team. Approaching the tournament, he stresses the importance of sticking together as a team.

“It’s so easy to be complacent in the moment but it’s about using the moment to give your best,” Paulicap said. “Coach’s message has been to just put your best foot forward in the moment.”

Women’s Basketball:

The Manhattan College Women’s basketball team (15- 14, 12-8 MAAC) is the third seed in the tournament, the program’s highest seed since earning the third seed for the 2011-2012 tournament. This season was head coach Heather Vulin’s best campaign since arriving in Riverdale ahead of the 2016-2017 season. Vulin has turned an 8-win program in her first year into a 15-win program in her fourth year at the school. Seeded above the Jaspers in this year’s tournament are Marist and Rider, who each beat Manhattan twice during the regular season. Manhattan will likely need to get through both those vaunted opponents if they want to win the MAAC tournament.

“The games we lost to Marist and Rider were hard fought games and we were right there,” freshman point guard Emily Lapointe said. “I think executing our game plan [will help us beat them].

With [Marist and Rider] we can’t have a lot of mistakes with them. So being aggressive both offensively and defensively will be important.”

Marist and Rider finished the MAAC regular season each with a 18-2 record. Manhattan, Fairfield and Quinnipiac all finished with records of 12-8, with the Jaspers taking the fourth seed due to tie-breaker rules.

The similar records between these teams show how competitive the tournament will be. Although Marist and Rider are the clear favorites, all of the teams in the conference are very close in terms of skill and ability.

“I think especially this season it’s a lot more competitive,” junior center Courtney Warley said. “Even our last couple of games- we’ve had a lot of close games in conference this year. So I think anyone has a shot at the tournament this year. Every team is going to have to play their best to win.”

For the Jaspers, playing their best will include having to capitalize on their game plan of getting the ball in the paint and making sure to make use of their key scorers. Ever since the team’s Western New York road trip in late February, Vulin has been experimenting with taller lineups. Warley, in particular, has excelled of late, tallying double figures in points in her last seven games. Her best sample of the season came in Western New York when she scored 23 and 21 points in wins over Canisius and Niagara, respectively.

“Courtney, Julie, Pam, Tulie they do a great job catching it and finishing,” said Lapointe. “We just gotta stay locked in and stick to our game plan and make sure we keep that a priority.”

Manhattan’s run in Atlantic City will start on Thursday, March 12 when they will play the fifth-seeded Quinnipiac Bobcats (15-14, 12-8 MAAC) at 2:30 p.m.