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2015 NCAA Tournament Team Preview: MAAC Champion Manhattan Jaspers

They've been here before, and don't be surprised if they make a lot more noise this time. Be worried, top seeds.

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

So let's just go ahead and get all that annoying crap out of the way, right from the start:

  • They are known as the Jaspers, and they play their basketball for Manhattan College
  • It is located in the Bronx. not in Manhattan (I don't know why).
  • They were just in this position a year ago.
  • It's pronounced AHN-doo-harr

Top Player - Emmy Andujar

Here are some interesting things you should know about Emmy Andujar (again, that's AHN-doo-harr). He actually has two twitter handles; his original, @upt0wn3boogiie5, has been inactive for about six months now. His second, @MC_Bound_Emmy, is the one that is currently active and just so happened to be created the summer after his freshman season with the Jaspers.

That point in time also happens to be two months after his older brother, Jose, was murdered at gunpoint in the streets of the Bronx. That's Jose's "In Memoriam" gracing the top of both accounts.

This story came full circle early this season. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Jaspers lost what was to be their third game in a row, and had fallen to 1-5 on the season. Andujar had posted 21 points and 10 rebounds in an earlier overtime loss to Massachusetts, but otherwise was struggling as the team's new offensive focal point to the tune of 8.6 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

Then, against Marist that Sunday, Emmy came to play. He posted an impressive 8 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and one steal - in the first half. He went on to finish with 15 and 15 as they crushed the Red Foxes and snapped their losing streak. The following day, he went to court to testify against his brother's murderer.

The Jaspers lost a couple after that, but not because of Andujar. In 19 games since missing the first win against Canisius, Emmy is averaging 18.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg, and 3.8 apg, and most certainly holding his own according to KenPom, who has his assist rate at 96th in the country, as well as 52nd in steal rate. The man can do it all.

Player that Makes You Sound Smart - Shane Richards

Andujar is the team's best player, for sure, but Shane Richards is not far behind and might be even more crucial to Manhattan's success. He is a better pure shooter than Andujar (59.9% TS) and does almost as much offensive damage with far, far less possession of the ball. In fact, the Jaspers are 6-1 in games where he scores at least 20 points, and only 6-6 in games where he couldn't reach the 10-point plateau.

Granted, he can have his off days: the overtime loss to Rider was his third game of the season with at least five made 3-pointers, but he followed that by missing all eight of his long-range attempts the next game. Flaws aside, if he gets consistently involved in the scoring and it isn't at the sake of Andujar, watch out.

What to Expect From Manhattan

This team entered the tournament as a 13-seed last season and faced the worst possible matchup in Steve Masiello's mentor Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals. Despite playing their better counterpart, they never trailed by more than seven and briefly led late in the second half. This year they continue in the Pitino mold as a team that excels at creating turnovers and keeping you off the glass, and they defend the perimeter well.

True, there's no more George Beamon. But Andujar, Richards, and five other players (Ashton Pankey, Tyler Wilson, Rich Williams, Donovan Kates, and RaShawn Stores) who played meaningful minutes both last season and in that game are back, so you should absolutely expect more of the same. Depending on the matchups, I would not hesitate to pick them for at least a first round upset, if not a run to the Sweet 16.