Coach Barry Rohrssen is clearly immersed in a slow rebuilding process, a monument to gradualism at the New York City campus. The Jaspers made a splash in 1995, making the NCAA Tournament and then knocking off fourth-seeded Oklahoma in the first round under then-coach Fran Fraschilla. In 2004, coach Bobby Gonzalez helped lead the champions of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to a first-round win over Florida in the Big Dance. Ever since Gonzalez left for Seton Hall, however, the Jaspers haven't made much of an imprint on the March Madness landscape. Rohrssen is in his fourth season at Manhattan, and yet his program hasn't even made the CIT postseason event (let alone the CBI tourney and the well-established NIT).
NOTE: Manhattan uses a three-guard lineup.
Center – Laurence Jolicoeur – Junior, 6'9", 215; 2009-10: 6.3 ppg, 4 rpg
The native of Queens, N.Y., scored a season-high 15 points in an 83-74 loss to Morgan State on Dec. 12… Jolicoeur received reduced minutes from Rohrssen in a three-game stretch from Nov. 28 through Dec. 6, but he's become a more central part of the rotation – again – in Manhattan's last three games… Despite being the starting center on his team, Jolicoeur has snared more than six rebounds in only one game this year, on Nov. 21 versus William and Mary.
Forward – Andrew Gabriel – Junior, 6'6", 225; 2009-10: 6.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg
This Brooklyn boy has come on strong in recent weeks for the Jaspers. Gabriel has posted three double-figure scoring games this season, and they've all come in Manhattan's last five games… Gabriel hasn't attempted more than four free throws in any one game this season… To this point in the season (Manhattan stands at 6-5), Gabriel has fouled out in four of the Jaspers' 11 contests.
Guard – Darryl Crawford – Senior, 6'4", 185; 2009-10: 15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 2.3 assists per game
This is Manhattan's best and most complete player, without question. Crawford leads the Jaspers in scoring, rebounding, assists (tied with Antoine Pearson), and minutes. What's interesting about Crawford's profile is that he rings up team-leading numbers – as a wing player, mind you –without doing appreciable damage from 3-point range. The product of Harlem, N.Y., shoots only 19 percent behind the arc, so this means that the Dores – John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor in particular – will need to deny Crawford on dribble penetration and on the glass as well.
Guard – Patrick Bouli – Senior, 6'2", 185; 2009-10: 5.7 ppg, 3 rpg
As is the case with Gabriel, Bouli doesn't get to the foul line. He's attempted more than two free throws in only one game this season (on Dec. 9 versus Hofstra), and moreover, he didn't earn a single foul shot in six separate games despite playing at least 22 minutes in each of them… The native of Cameroon, for all his limitations, has stepped up his game in December. Bouli produced two of this three double-figure scoring games in this month, on Dec. 9 versus Hofstra (10 points) and in Manhattan's most recent game on Dec. 19 against LIU-Brooklyn.
Guard – Antoine Pearson – Senior, 6'1", 186; 2009-10: 12 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 2.3 apg
Pearson is what one could easily call a Bronx Bomber. While other guards on the Jaspers don't light up the world from 3-point range, this senior from the Bronx, N.Y., hits 40 percent of his long-distance field goal attempts. While other "Men of Manhattan" try to slash to the goal and create high-percentage looks, Pearson's the performer who will spot up for a dagger from downtown. If Manhattan's getting the spacing and flow it wants in its offensive sets, Pearson will receive a number of looks from 3-point range.
The "bench" for Barry Rohrssen is a loose term, because two other Jaspers could potentially start this game.
Guard Rico Pickett, a 6-4 junior, plays starter-level minutes, but he often comes off the pine as Manhattan's sixth man. As a non-New York-based American, Pickett hails from Decatur, Ala., and has allowed this big-city program to extend its national profile. He sat out last season while transferring from Alabama, and despite his status as a reserve, he's second on the team in scoring. Pickett averages 12.8 points a game while posting 4.4 rebounds per contest. Despite playing on the perimeter, Pickett has grabbed seven boards in three of his last five games, so he'll be another rebounding guard whom the Dores must keep off the glass.
The other big bench guy for the Jaspers is Brandon Adams, who made his second start of the season in Manhattan's most recent game on Dec. 19. The 6-6 forward from Yonkers, N.Y., is tied for second on the team in rebounding. Like Pickett, Adams averages 4.4 rebounds per outing and will need to be sealed out on Wednesday night at Memorial Gym.
Keys to the Game
- Board-dom, not boredom. As you can see, Manhattan doesn't have a lot of dynamic shooters, and the Jaspers don't get to the foul line very often, either. Crawford is the one appreciably prolific performer on this club, and he shoots just 40 percent from the field. Unless Manhattan plays well above its pay grade, Vanderbilt should have many available rebounds to pursue. As long as VU blocks out and keeps the Jaspers' guards from doing damage on the offensive glass, the visitors from the MAAC – bereft of second-chance baskets – will have a very hard time scoring.
- Find your spot, know your opponent. Manhattan has a shooter (Pearson), a bunch of rebounding guards, and a collection of undersized pivot men who don't look to score. As long as Stallings gets his team to deny the specific strengths of each Jasper player, VU won't suffer from the missed assignments and deficient displays that sank the Good Ship Vanderbilt against Illinois and Western Kentucky.