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Friday’s Pregame Shootaround: Bitter rivals meet in New Rochelle

Jan 31, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

jaspers Getty Images

GAME OF THE NIGHT: Manhattan at Iona, 9:00 p.m. (ESPNU)

Whether or not Canisius has company atop the MAAC standings after Friday’s action will depend upon the result of this contest between schools separated by just over ten miles. Both teams can score, with Manhattan scoring just over 78 points per game and Iona averaging a shade over 83. The difference: defense, with Steve Masiello’s Jaspers using their depth and quickness to force opponents into rushed decisions.

As for the Gaels they can be downright indifferent on that end of the floor at times, and it’s an area Tim Cluess’ group has to improve in if they’re to return to the NCAA tournament. The scoring battle between Manhattan’s George Beamon and Iona’s Sean Armand will be fun to watch, and each team has multiple players capable of stealing the spotlight.

THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: Princeton at Harvard, 7:00 p.m.

This is the first of two meetings between the prohibitive favorite to win the Ivy League (Harvard) and one of the teams most capable of knocking the Crimson off. This is an incredibly important game for the visiting Tigers, who have already lost to Penn and can ill-afford to fall two games behind Harvard in the loss column at this early juncture in the “14-game tournament.”

If they’re to win in Cambridge, Princeton’s likely going to need a big night from senior guard T.J. Bray, who’s averaging 17.2 points per game. And they’ll also need to slow down Harvard forward Wesley Saunders, who’s accounting for 15.0 points and 5.1 rebounds per game.

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

1) Murray State looks to move to 8-1 in OVC play as they visit Austin Peay, a team they beat by 22 less than three weeks ago. Dexter Fields led six Racers in double figures with 20 points in that meeting.

2) Rider needs a win at Saint Peter’s in order to remain within striking distance of the leaders in the MAAC, as they’re currently two games out of first place.

3) Mercer is also on the road, visiting ETSU in need of a win to guarantee that they retain sole possession of first place in the Atlantic Sun. Langston Hall scored 19 points to lead Mercer to a ten-point win in the first meeting, a game the Bears won despite allowing the Bucs to grab 14 offensive rebounds.

4) FGCU’s in hot pursuit of Mercer, and they look to continue that with a win over Stetson. The Hatters have struggled defensively, allowing opponents to shoot nearly 46% from the field.

5) Oakland hosts Youngstown State and the focus will be on senior guard Travis Bader, who enters the game eight three-pointers away from the NCAA’s career record.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Columbia at Yale, 7:00 p.m.
  • Penn at Dartmouth, 7:00 p.m.
  • Cleveland State at Detroit, 7:00 p.m. (ESPNU)