The effort and change on the defensive level has been well documented, but Fordham has also seen a resurgence in their offense through non-conference play.
The Rams have scored 82.7 points per game, good for 44th in the country. Compared to their 65 per game last season, that bounce has helped propel them to an 8-1 record.
First year head coach Jeff Neubauer has seen a team willing to give effort on the defensive end, which has helped him build the defense-first program he wants. The offensive resurgence has been thanks to the unselfishness of the group: Fordham averages 19.2 assists per game, ranking 12th in the country in that category.
Neubauer said he has started to see senior Ryan Rhoomes (14.1 ppg) take a step forward over the last three weeks.
“He’s such an unselfish player that we really had to encourage him, when he got the ball deep in the paint, he needs to score,” Neubauer said. “He’s really worked at it, he’s improved and he’s got a very aggressive mentality. He’s still an unselfish player and he’s still going to pass the ball, but we’ve got him to look at the basket more and it really has helped all of our team.”
Rhoomes has scored double-digit points in all but one game this season and leads the team with 7.1 rebounds. The team’s second leading rebounder has been their most impactful young starter in 21 year-old freshman Joseph Chartouny (8.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) who has already won Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Week honors twice.
“He just helps us in so many ways,” Neubauer said. “He rebounds the ball, he’s a terrific passer, he’s just a really good basketball player, so he’s been a pleasure to coach.”
It is that type success that has helped propel the Rams to their 8-1 record; their best start to a season since the 1970-71 season. That year was Digger Phelps’ only season at Rose Hill, he took the Notre Dame job after guiding Fordham to the NCAA tournament. Neubauer understands that his locker room won’t take their early success for granted, especially for a program that has yet to earn a postseason berth since their trip to the 1992 NCAA tournament.
“I want them to be confident,” Neubauer said. “There are enough guys in the locker room that have lost to Sacred Heart, UMass Lowell and Maryland Eastern Shore. There are guys that have been through it and they understand that every game is an absolute challenge.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.