After proving to be one of the MAAC’s most prolific scorers as a junior in 2011-12, Manhattan guard George Beamon didn’t get the opportunity to build on that success in 2012-13. Limited to just four games due to a severe ankle injury, Beamon received a medical redshirt and with it the opportunity to go out on “his terms.” And through 14 games Beamon picked up right where he left off in 2011-12, scoring 20.1 points per game for a team pegged by many as the favorite to win the MAAC.
But on Thursday night Beamon’s run of good health came to an end, as he was forced to leave the Jaspers’ 81-76 loss at Quinnipiac early in the first half with a right shoulder injury. On Friday it was reported by Joshua Newman of the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press that Beamon suffered a sprained SC joint in the shoulder and could miss three to four weeks of game action.
Given Beamon’s production this is a big personnel loss for Steve Masiello’s Jaspers. But to jump to the conclusion that Manhattan’s chances of winning the MAAC are finished because of it would be a mistake.
While Beamon’s the primary scoring option there are other players capable of picking up the slack offensively. Michael Alvarado accounted for 23 points and ten rebounds on Thursday night, with Shane Richards (11 points) and Ashton Pankey (ten) also reaching double figures on a night that saw Rhamel Brown struggle offensively (seven points on 2-for-11 shooting). Those are some of the options at Masiello’s fingertips when it comes to accounting for the loss of Beamon, and keep in mind that the Jaspers went through an adjustment period of sorts during last season’s injury-riddled campaign.
Manhattan struggled mightily during non-conference play last season with a diminished roster, but they still managed to go 9-9 in MAAC play and reach the title game of the MAAC tournament. And given the number of players in this season’s rotation who were a part of that run, Manhattan has the pieces needed to make the necessary adjustments.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.