I didn’t see the SportsCenter bit on Saturday that poked fun at Towson for its 40th straight loss. I can say with total honesty that the time duration it has been since I watched 15 straight minutes of SportsCenter can be measured in years, not weeks or months. It’s unwatchable.
But the fact that they would spend time there–in that manner–has stuck in my crawlspace since I heard about it. It’s far too easy and far too childish to take pot shots at Towson right now. Yeah, grand journalism to poke fun at kids working their asses off in a historically disadvantaged situation. And no, I didn’t see the segment, but I don’t need to see my dog’s poop in the back yard to smell it.
I know it isn’t a ratings bonanza, but ESPN could’ve–within a one-email communication–learned some of the good that’s going on with this team. Things like:
- Robert Nwankwo walked on to the team but earned a scholarship, took last year to focus on academics, and came back to play his senior year when he didn’t have to. Both his parents are doctors, by the way. He isn’t taking the easy way out. Oh, and Nwankwo has seven double-doubles on the year and ranks in the top 20 nationally with 2.6 blocks per game.
- Pat Skerry added two additional members to the academic staff. One travels with the team full-time. The team’s GPA this year is the highest it has been since 2004.
- Will Adams was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease as a senior in high school and he’s spent the last two years in treatment. He was cleared to resume his education and basketball career this past summer. As if that wasn’t enough, Adams missed four games this season with a kidney stone. He returned last weekend at Mason.
- Seven months after playing his final high school basketball game, Kris Walden scored 11 points in his first ever collegiate game in Phog at Kansas.
- Deyon Cook is one of three walk-ons. Cook has been trying for four years to earn a spot on the squad and was finally successful this season. Cook has made four three-pointers, including completing a four-point play against La Salle. Kid’s got a story for his grandchildren now.
- The Tigers may be winless, but have corralled 37.0 percent of their offensive misses, a mark that is second in the CAA. Towson has outrebounded three straight opponents, a stretch that includes games against Old Dominion and George Mason, both of which rank in the top five of the CAA in rebounding margin. How many coaches would kill to have that kind of heart on their squad?
Look, I’m not blind. The fact of the matter is that Towson may not win a single game this year. I believe they are going to get killed tonight against VCU and the streak reaches 42.
This is just one of those times where the decline of standards, journalism, taste, and respect intersect. It’s a time when you decide how you want to view the world: through an ignorant level of cynicism disguised as humor, or through seeing what possibilities exist.
It’s why I’ve missed nothing on ESPN, and why we have it better.
And now it’s on to why you’re here–the games played on the court.
Mason (8-1) at Hofstra (1-8): It’s homecoming for Ryan Pearson, who hails from Far Rockaway, NY. (And sometimes Very Far Away Rockaway.) We must also point out this absolutely outstanding and funny piece from Defiantly Dutch. As you may know, Jerry Beach and the Mason Nation have never exchanged Christmas cards. But Beach found a handful he likes.
Here’s why I like Mason in this one, and it has nothing to do with the mirror image records. (I still say HU is going to beat one of the top four teams, but this isn’t the night.) I see a pattern developing.
It has to do with focus. The Patriots carry as much line item talent as anyone in the conference; however their tendency to drift through games and play individually as opposed to collectively is what holds them back. Earlier in January Mason lost to Drexel, played sketchy against JMU, but then–presumably after a self-wake up call–blasted Delaware.
Mason then sleepwalked (or is that sleptwalk?) through Towson and never seemed very interested in UNCW. They are hitting the road, where it’s actually easier to focus.
Mason 75, Hofstra 65.
Old Dominion (7-2) at UNCW (4-5): This is another game of road focus, and nobody is better in a devastating to your opponent way when focused than ODU. It may also expose a trend as a problem. For UNCW it’s about turnovers.
The Dubmen are eighth in the CAA, turning the ball over on 21.1% of its possessions. And ODU forces turnovers on 25% of its defensive possessions. While UNCW trails just Northeastern in terms of shooting (49.6 effective FG percentage), they need to first take shots to make shots.
Here’s how it sums. The only game in the last five that UNCW has scored more than 61 points was its only win–68 vs. William & Mary last Saturday. I don’t care if you’re at home–a struggling offense playing against ODU is a cruel way to learn a lesson. The lesson: while everyone has been concerned with defense, the offense has been slipping.
Side note–I know the ODU jerseys were found, but if it’s me I’m holding out for the new ones. They were taken Lord Knows Where and found in a parking lot. There’s not enough laundry detergent in the world to make me shake the thought of what may have happened to them.
ODU 65, UNCW 58.
Delaware (5-4) at Northeastern (5-4): This game, barring an unthinkable huge February run, is essentially an elimination game for one of the top four seeds. Both teams are 5-4 and five losses with February looming is a scary proposition.
The Hens are not a bad defensive team–pretty much in the middle of all statistical categories except two-point field goal percentage (42.1% is third) and turnover rate (13% is last). And after the last three games with Georgia State, Drexel, and ODU (56 PPG average) Bill Coen is happy to see just an average defensive team.
Barring outliers the game sets up well for NU. The Huskies have been protecting the ball as of late. When combined with YoUDee’s risk-averse defensive principles, I can see single digit turnovers. Plus, I’d wager a big part of Delaware’s FG% defense is Jamelle Hagins swatting shots like a convict on the run swats mosquitos on a sticky Florida evening. NU isn’t known for block scoring.
Northeastern 67, Delaware 63
Georgia State (6-3) at Drexel (7-2): Revenge week begins for Drexel. The Dragons have lost to tonight’s opponent and Saturday’s opponent (Delaware) this year. Bruiser Flint said yesterday that his team didn’t lose to Georgia State. Rather, the Panthers beat them, and they beat them badly.
Ron Hunter’s team officially put itself on the CAA map when his Panthers bludgeoned Drexel 58-44 back on January 2. The Dragons will have a sold out, hot DAC awaiting the rematch. In fact, the DAC will be in all its steamy glory tonight–DAC Pack falling all over the aisles and court.
One line from Doug Roberson set the challenge for me: But you can’t be considered the best team until you can beat a hot team on their floor. It should be a classic rock fight, as Georgia State allows 0.80 points per possession, and Drexel just 0.88.
Drexel 55, Georgia State 49.
VCU (7-2) at Towson (0-9): The team that creates the most problems for an offense against the team that is already at the bottom of nearly every offensive category is what a talking head would refer to as a “decided advantage.” Of all the tough matchups for Pat Skerry, this is probably the worst.
VCU 71, Towson 45.