The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights will have no shortage of challenges in their non-conference tour for 2014-15.
Opponents from the A-10, Big 10, Big East and ACC, will provide the Knights more than enough on-court educational opportunity in preparation for their NEC exam. For a Northeast Conference team that barely made the conference tournament last year, it can be difficult enough to face the likes of St. Joe's and Rutgers, but add trips to New York to face St. John's and a long bus ride to Indiana for a shot at Notre Dame and the early month could seem to drag on forever.
But, that's supposed to happen right? As a mid-major, you look for the opportunities to play against bigger schools. And you look for quality opposition, even if it doesn't come from an elite conference like the above mentioned. FDU will have those games as well with home stands against Princeton and Delaware.
Preparing for the upcoming season will be a challenge for the Knights in more ways than just their schedule. Losing Sidney Sanders Jr. means losing a 1st team All-NEC player as well as the conference's Most Improved Player last year. Sanders is essentially the reason FDU was able to surprise everyone by taking down Rutgers in last year's non-conference game. He racked up 22 points and 10 assists in the upset. Given last year's result, I can't wait to see FDU revisit Rutgers this November.
Fortunately, returning senior Mustafaa Jones managed to ring up 21 points against Rutgers last year, as well as finish the season as the team's second leading scorer. Averaging 9.7 ppg last year, Jones will certainly have an opportunity to lead FDU this year, and last year's game against Rutgers certainly shows that he has the skill to do so.
Returning with Jones, the lone senior on the roster, will be fellow starter Matt MacDonald. Also like Jones, the 6-5 MacDonald will need to up his 8.6 ppg from last year in order to help fill the loss of Sanders Jr.
2013-14 saw FDU reach the conference playoffs and fall to the Robert Morris Colonials. Looking forward, the Knights of FDU will look to build on that run and see if a tough non-conference ballot will help prepare themselves for the NEC and another shot at a playoff run.
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