Tiny Dancers: Manhattan returns to NCAAs for first time since 2004

George Beamon and the Jaspers could be a trendy upset pick. (USATSI)

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The Jaspers are back after a 10-year hiatus.

Manhattan moved past MAAC No. 1 seed Iona in Monday night's title game, getting the program into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2004.

This is a worthy team. The MAAC's top four clubs were good, but there wasn't anyone as well-rounded as these Jaspers. They gave Iona a good game. Remember, the Gaels had represented the MAAC in the past two NCAA Tournaments.

But now the cycle has swung back around and given Manhattan a chance. It's the program's seventh appearance in the Big Dance and its first MAAC conference title.

The Jaspers play D, and despite being undersized, guard the paint as if it was protecting family members. When Manhattan loses, it's not for lack of effort. Ever.

Player to know: George Beamon. Something of a throwback player. Beamon hurt his ankle last season, and he was out for almost all of 2012-13 because of it. Back in January he sprained his shoulder, and in talking with Jaspers coach Steve Masiello a week and a half ago, he said Beamon would be good by mid-March. This is great news for a team that has a 3-point threat in Rich Williams, a low-post threat in Rhamel Brown, a fearless go-getter in Emmy Andujar and a point guard in Michael Alvarado who's on the mend to 100 percent after twisting his ankle 11 days ago.

Beamon's the star, though. He's got good mid-range game, a deceptive first step and knows which shots are the right shots. Could totally see him going for 24 and keeping Manhattan in a close 4/13 tilt.

The Vitals:

  • Record: 24-7 overall, 15-5 in the MAAC
  • Most recent tournament appearance: 2004 (reached Round of 32 as a 12 seed)
  • Jerry Palm predicts: 13 seed
  • RPI: 69
  • KenPom ranking: 69
  • Sagarin ranking: 75
  • Best wins: at La Salle, vs. Iona (twice)
  • Worst losses: vs. Fordham, at Fairfield, at Siena
  • Notable stat: 16.1. That's Rhamel Brown's block percentage -- tops in the entire country. Manhattan is a defense-first team that starts with Brown and works its way out. He's a very solid big man, even if he doesn't have amazing athleticism. He baits opponents and makes them pay.
  • Closing quip: Masiello will relish this opportunity for his program and himself. He's a great marketer and media-savvy coach who will do wonders for Manhattan basketball and the MAAC as it gets ready for a wild ride. The team is totally capable of stealing an upset, no matter the opponent. There are certain double-digit seeds that aren't really that scintillating, but you'd better try to catch Manhattan, whenever its game is played.
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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