The path to glory for mid-major programs not named VCU, Butler or Gonzaga was laid out by Iona last season. The secret: schedule up and you have a shot at an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Manhattan could be on that very same path this season. With five of its top six scorers back, including senior George Beamon, and several new faces expected to make an impact, the Jaspers could be the last team standing in the MAAC.
For a mid-major, making a run to NCAA starts with the schedule. And Manhattan has that in hand with games against Louisville, Dayton and South Carolina. There are also games against a loaded LIU team, an improving Stony Brook squad and George Washington.
“I’m looking forward to that Louisville game,” said Beamon, the MAAC’s leading returning scorer. “That’s one of the biggest stages. Rick Pitino is a great coach. Dayton, South Carolina, we have a couple of big games.”
Manhattan sneaked up on the college basketball world last year and finished with 21 wins. The Jaspers won’t be able to do that this season, but they won’t have to.
Coach Steve Masiello’s squad may have the best frontcourt in the league with returning forwards Rhamel Brown, Roberto Colonette, Emmy Andujar and 6-10 freshman Adam Lacey in the fold. If 6-10 Maryland transfer Ashton Pankey gets a NCAA waiver to play immediately, the Jaspers should emerge as the favorites.
“Manhattan’s biggest opponent is Manhattan,” said Masiello. “We control our destiny. That’s not to say that other teams can beat us. They can. But I feel this year we have all the pieces we need.”