Fairfield (17-12) at Manhattan (11-16)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, March 1, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Draddy Gymnasium (2,345) -- Riverdale, New York. Television: None. Home Record: Fairfield 7-5, Manhattan 6-4. Away Record: Fairfield 7-7, Manhattan 5-10. Neutral Record: Fairfield 3-0, Manhattan 0-2. Conference Record: Fairfield 9-7, Manhattan 8-8. Series Record: Manhattan leads, 46-43.
GAMES NOTES: With both teams looking to earn a bye in the first round of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament the Fairfield Stags and Manhattan Jaspers will meet up in league play Friday night.
There are just two games left in the regular season for Fairfield which is currently tied for fifth in the MAAC with a record of 9-7. Only the top six teams in the conference get byes in the league tournament meaning the Stags, who have won seven of their last eight league battles, is well within range of a coveted bye. The Stags close out the regular season on Sunday at Marist.
Manhattan is currently on the outside looking in of those top six seeds with an even 8-8 record in league play. However the Jaspers have control of their own destiny as wins in the next two contests would ensure themselves a bye come conference tournament time. Manhattan will be feeding off the momentum of wins in five of its last six games entering this contest. Manhattan's final game of the season will be a tough one on the road against Loyola-Maryland.
These teams didn't look particularly even when they met up at Alumni Hall in mid-February. The Jaspers rolled to a 62-40 victory in that contest which ended a streak for the Stags in which they won eight of nine meetings. Manhattan leads the tightly contested all-time series, 46-43.
Fairfield took a step out of MAAC action last time out with a non-conference bout with Albany in BracketBusters action. The Stags were defeated, 58-50, in that contest by turning the ball over 18 times, while shooting just 37.8 percent from the floor.
Low-scoring affairs are a common occurrence for Fairfield which plays at a slower pace than some other teams in the league. The Stags are second in the league in assists (13 apg) and fourth in field-goal percentage (.434) but they score just 62.8 points per game. On defense the Stags have been tight allowing just over 60 points per game, while allowing the fifth fewest assists per game in the country (8.8). Derek Needham (14.9 ppg, 3.3 apg) is the most productive scorer on the roster and one of only a pair of players putting in more than nine points per game. Needham had a team-high 15 points against Albany and has scored in double figures in seven of the last eight games. Maurice Barrow (9.1 ppg) has spent most of the season coming off the bench.
Manhattan was also involved in a BracketBusters affair last time out and it escaped with a 65-64 win over Buffalo in that contest. The Jaspers led by eight points with five minutes remaining and narrowly let that advantage slip away by missing their final four field-goal attempts.
Just like Fairfield, Manhattan has not been lighting up the scoreboard frequently. However for the Jaspers it has more to do with a lack of efficiency rather than tempo. Manhattan is second to last in the league in points (59.2 pg), while third to last in assists (11.1 pg) and field-goal percentage (.414). The Jaspers are also last in the league in rebounds (32.6 pg) though they keep teams in range by allowing just 61 points per game. Rhamel Brown (11.8 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 3.0 bpg) is the only player on the roster scoring in double figures. Brown has been one of the better bigs in the conference this season, leading the league in field-goal percentage (.560) and blocks. Michael Alvarado (8.7 ppg, 2.2 apg) leads the way in the backcourt.
If either of these teams are going to make a surprise run in the MAAC Tournament, having the opening round off could be critical. This is likely to be a low-scoring affair in which the Jaspers will have a slight edge by playing at home.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Manhattan 62, Fairfield 55
03/01 10:37:00 ET