As the season approaches every team has questions. This series is going to look at three key ones.
1. Can the Rams avoid finishing last in the Atlantic 10? — Fordham is 2-46 in Atlantic 10 play the past three seasons. The Rams haven’t finished higher than 12th since the 2006-07 season, when they went 18-12. Right now though a 12th place finish seems impossible (though one person is on record for it), but getting out the basement of the standings could happen.
Of course the gap is huge. Last season Charlotte, which went 2-14 in the A-10, was outscored by 12.7 points per 100 possessions in league play; Fordham on the other hand was outscored by 23.1 point per possession. Fordham’s best hope of getting out of the basement is that the graduation of Jerrell Williams and the transfer for Aaric Murry cripples the LaSalle offense and the Explorers are forced to rebuild for a season. Head coach Tom Pecora thinks the Rams should compete for a conference tournament spot. Still, it seems like four conference wins should be the over/under for the Rams this season.
2. Which freshman will make the biggest impact? – There are seven freshmen on the Fordham roster this season. A number of them come with highly touted prep credentials. Devon McMillan, a 5’10” point guard from Brooklyn has been getting strong reviews from his teammates and media members that have seen the Rams practice. Jeffrey Short is another freshman that could make an immediate impact. The 6’4” guard from the Bronx offers a larger option on the wing.
It takes a little longer for big men to develop, especially at the mid-major level. With Chris Gaston and Kervin Bristol definitely picking up some solid minutes in the frontcourt, players like Ryan Canty and Luka Zivkovic will have to show something special to get significant playing time immediately. (Jon Rothstein thinks Canty might have what it takes.) What was particularly odd was that none of the Fordham players were named to the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Rookie team. At least one first year player is going to emerge for the Rams and that guy will have a good chance to put up the type of numbers necessary to be on the squad at the end of the season.
3. Will Pecora find some depth that he likes this season? – Last season Fordham finished 333rd in the nation in bench minutes at 20.6%. That’s an absurdly low figure, especially when you note that the Rams played at a 68.5 possession pace during Atlantic 10 play, third fastest in the league. Gaston, Brenton Butler, Brenden Frazier and Alberto Estwick all played significant minutes and ranked in top 325 players in terms of percent of minutes in the country. With all the freshmen that Pecora has brought in, plus only losing Butler and Jacob Green, there will probably be a lot of opportunities for players to earn their minutes. No matter what Pecora says, Gaston is still going to play a lot of minutes, but hopefully everyone can find a role and Pecora can learn to trust a few more players with significant playing time. It seems like the influx of freshmen talent show free up Pecora to play with more combinations.