The longstanding rivalry game between the Manhattan Jaspers and Iona Gaels is one of the most exciting, anticipated, and competitive rivalries in not just mid major, but all of college basketball. This game is a 'must-attend' event for all NYC area hoops fans - if you're lucky enough to snag a ticket. The heated rivalry between these two teams, separated by only a few miles, dates back to the 1946-47 season. They have met 88 times since then including meeting in the MAAC finals for three consecutive years.
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports took to twitter earlier today declaring this game the "Best mid-major rivalry in college basketball".
Iona. Manhattan. The best mid-major rivalry in college basketball. Tonight in New Rochelle. No other words needed.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 29, 2016
Matt Norlander from CBS Sports described a meeting between these two teams back in 2013 by saying, "This was among the most passionate and invigorating college hoops environments anyone could place themselves in all season. The beauty, and irony, is that the atmosphere -- the heat -- inside Draddy [Gymnasium] (Manhattan College's Basketball Facility) was beyond anything the NCAA tournament's first weekend can provide in its exciting-but-sterile environments."
The only two schools from the MAAC to ever receive at-large NCAA births are set to meet again for the 89th time this evening in New Rochelle. Manhattan (8-10, 5-4 MAAC) enters tonight's contest with momentum coming off a win over the Monmouth Hawks. The Jaspers will be going for their 8th win in 11 contests after starting the season 1-7 thanks to an injury plagued line-up. The Jaspers are lead by Senior Captains RaShawn Stores and Shane Richards. Stores is averaging 10 ppg and 3.3 apg over the past ten games. During the same stretch Richards is supplying a team high 17.9 ppg while shooting 43.5% from the field.
The Gaels (10-9, 7-3 MAAC) started out hot in the MAAC with a 6-2 record but have fallen off as of late. The Gaels have dropped three of their last four contests which matches their total conference loss tally for each of the previous two seasons. Despite battling injuries of their own, Iona does have senior A.J. English at the helm who can put up points in a hurry. The NBA prospect is averaging 23.7 points per game and seems to always shine in the Manhattan / Iona rivalry series.
Manhattan Head Coach Steve Masiello may have summed up the feelings around tonight's game the best in an interview with the New York Post's Howard Kussoy where he explained, "No disrespect to anyone else, it’s been us and Iona at the top of the league the last three years, and in the back of everyone’s mind, whether they say this or don’t say it, I think everybody kind of waits to see what happens with Manhattan-Iona and what’s going on there,"
The sold out contest will air on ESPNU at 7:00pm EST.