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St. John's vs Fordham: Q & A with Jaden of Daly Dose of Hoops

The Rams are, once again, strug-g-ling.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The Fordham Rams are 3-4, but struggling. Their best player has taken a leave from the team and is rumored to be not coming back. The Atlantic Ten is unforgiving, the roster is one of the youngest in Division 1, and it looks like another long year in Rose Hill Gym for St. JOhn's opponent this Sunday in the Holiday Festival.

Let's delve into the meat of the Fordham Problem with Jaden Daly of Daly Dose of Hoops. You should read his stuff or his tweets. And we thank him as always for his help in understanding the Rams - he covers all of the local area squads.

1. So... Wow, the Rams are sneaky-terrible, huh? (Two close wins, a non-D1 win, and some bad, bad losses to get to 3-4!) Was this kind of year expected or is this a surprise?

Well, I'm not going to sugarcoat it: nearly EVERYONE associated with the program expected to be 5-2, at the very least.

With a schedule that ranks as one of the softer ones in recent memory around Rose Hill, the Rams really should have at least two more wins, maybe three if they made a few more shots on the road against Maryland. The losses to UMass Lowell and Maryland Eastern Shore, two of the lesser-regarded teams in all of Division I, were negated somewhat by the wins over Siena and Monmouth, but the impact of those losses, AT HOME, mind you, still resonates.

Going into the year, a lot of people figured Fordham would end the season at or around .500, which would justify keeping Tom Pecora around another year. However, in order for that to still happen, the Rams would need to have a .500 or better record in Atlantic 10 play, and they are simply not good enough for that at the moment. The A-10 has too many teams with more talent, and, at times, better in-game coaching, for Fordham to jump six, or maybe even seven, spots from their last-place prediction, and that would only get them into the conversation come March.

2. I thought the Rams had some experience coming back, but I see a number of freshmen playing major roles. How did that happen?

Fordham is still experienced, so you thought right. It's just that some of the experience is taking on a supporting role, as is the case with senior guard Bryan Smith, whom Pecora uses in somewhat of a Jamal Branch-esque energy role off the bench, or some others, namely Ryan Canty, are injured.

The Rams do start a pair of juniors in shooting guard Mandell Thomas, who might be the most explosive player on their roster, and Ryan Rhoomes, who has slowly become one of the better rebounding talents in the A-10. But their other impact players, freshmen Eric Paschall and Christian Sengfelder, have gotten an early baptism into the college ranks; and although the results have been mixed so far, there have been more bright spots than low points over the first seven games.

3. With Jon Severe out and maybe not coming back, who leads the Rams?

Some people may assume Eric Paschall, due to his high volume scoring and impressive raw potential, but in reality, it is the aforementioned Thomas and Rhoomes who are the de facto team leaders.

Thomas is gradually returning to the form he displayed as a freshman, when he singlehandedly won the Rams several contests in the middle of the season, and has put to rest the concerns of his recurring hamstring injury from last year with his start to this, his junior season.

Rhoomes, as mentioned before, is turning into one of the A-10's better rebounders, a credit to the relentless work ethic of both himself and assistant coach Tom Parrotta. Since adding muscle at the beginning of his sophomore season, he has become Fordham's greatest presence under the rim, and is starting to develop his mid-range game as a supplement to his potential. Think Chris Gaston, only more of a paint protector, and less refined on the perimeter.

The sad reality is, though, Fordham may not have realized just how much they would miss Branden Frazier and his leadership both on and off the court. Without him, they are, to use "Billy Madison" parlance, the puppy who lost his way, and is now starting to retrace its steps toward the world more familiar.

4. What do the Rams need to do to improve and win games against tougher opponents?

Fordham has to become smarter with their shot selection, and also play through inexperience. Again, there really isn't a nice way to sugarcoat a team that is perennially young and far too reliant on Pecora's in-game coaching, which has been, more often than not, a handicap in big spots. Take a look at the Rams' efforts against the likes of Butler, Saint Joseph's, and George Washington over the years, and you'll see for yourself.

With that being said, this year's roster is actually the most talented group Pecora has had since arriving from Hofstra five years ago, and has made strides to close the gap. But as your conference gets better the way the A-10 has, the slope only gets steeper and more slippery, which for a team like the Rams, has forced itself to maintain its balance just to avoid tumbling backwards as opposed to cultivating upward mobility.

5. If Tom Pecora got the St John's job years ago, what would the Johnnies look like? Just kidding, that's a troll question. What's Pecora's future looking like now? What's the tone around the program?

f Pecora got the St. John's job, admittedly, he would make some St. John's fans want to pay round-trip airfare to get Norm Roberts back in Queens. After the UMass Lowell loss, the majority of the Fordham message board openly clamored for Mike Rice to replace him. Yes, THAT Mike Rice. When your own fans are calling for a coach who threw basketballs at his players' heads in practice as a last resort to stop the profuse bleeding at Rose Hill, I think that's a pretty clear indicator of where you stand.

To his credit, though, Pecora has remained brutally honest to a fault, both with me and most other media types. He acknowledged his situation both over the summer when I checked in with him before Fordham's late August trip to Canada, and again after the UMass Lowell game.

He still has another two years on his contract, which was extended not too long after the Rams beat Harvard after the Crimson were in the Top 25 three years ago, so a coaching change is still a little complicated at the moment, but Fordham fans as a whole are pretty much at the end of their rope with him.

6. Is it just really hard to recruit a team that can compete in a high-level league when focusing on New York players?

Not at all. Take a look at what Steve Masiello has done at Manhattan. His team has featured a core of New York players leading the way, and the MAAC is just as competitive as the A-10. By the way, the Jaspers nearly upset Louisville in the NCAA Tournament last March. Recruiting philosophies do play a role in a team's success, or lack thereof in some cases, but in the end, it comes down to coaching just as much.