A Saturday with five CAA games – my how we’ve missed these. It’s another day where the CAA is guaranteed at least five wins – we’ll be inching our way towards .500 in no time!
I need to get on the road to Williamsburg, so let’s go the picks.
Delaware (5-8) at Old Dominion (2-12) – noon, Comcast SportsNet
This is Delaware’s CAA opener. The Blue Hens have gained a little momentum, having won their last two games. They’ve also won eight straight regular-season CAA games. They finally look healthy, as Jarvis Threatt has stepped it up lately. Kyle Anderson is now playing without the cumbersome protective mask, and Jarvis Brinkley just had a season-high 17 points in Monday’s game against Rider.
Old Dominion looks better than it did earlier this season, but the Monarchs are still struggling to win close games. They played tough against JMU, but ultimately committed a few too many turnovers. DeShawn Painter is playing at a high level, but he needs a sidekick or two to consistently produce alongside him. Old Dominion’s strength right now is its frontcourt prowess, and they’ll continue to get better down low as Nick Wright gets closer to full strength.
It’s obvious that Wright and Keenan Palmore are feeling the effects of the long Christmas break layoff, and it may be awhile before they can play at their potential. Jamelle Hagins will make sure DeShawn Painter doesn’t do anything crazy, and the guards will take care of the rest.
Blue Hens 68, Monarchs 56
UNCW (5-8) at Northeastern (6-7) – 1:00
Ken Pomeroy recently published his revised predictions for how all of the conferences will finish. In the CAA he has Northeastern at 6th, and UNCW at 11th. These two teams could not have started their conference seasons more differently. UNCW opened with a home loss to Towson, while Northeastern dismantled George Mason down the stretch on the road.
Northeastern’s run to the finals in Alaska seems like a long time ago, but the George Mason win on the road was a big boost, and could give the Huskies momentum. It will be the second straight opponent for UNCW coming off an unexpected win on the road.
What should you watch for? Defense. Both teams have struggled with defense at times during the season. Minimizing easy buckets, and denying entry passes into the post will go along way for either team.
When UNCW has the ball, it is a question of who will be the threat other than Keith Rendleman. Rendleman is a great athlete, but even the best cannot win games by themselves. The guard rotation, all has the ability to make big shots, but has not demonstrated the required consistency. Craig Ponder has the ability to score and create his own shots, and seems to be the best bet as the secondary offensive option.
For Northeastern, they need to be aggressive. Driving the lane can pay huge dividends in opening up easy shots. Being patient against a team which has shown the inability to stop opponents is never a bad idea. Joel Smith and Quincy Ford will be key factors in how well the game goes. If those two can create good shots and frustrate the defense, Northeastern will cruise to victory.
Both teams here have shown the potential to play well at times, and also the ability to make mistakes that will lose the game. Right now though, it is hard to see the Seahawks garnering their first road win in almost a year against a team coming off a big victory over George Mason. Playing without the suspended Tyree Graham will mean more Tanner Milson, which is usually extremely good, or extremely bad.
Huskies 65, Seahawks 56
James Madison (7-6) at Georgia State (5-9) – 2:00
The Dukes ride into the GSU Sports Arena with a four-game winning streak. Georgia State has lost five in a row, and the loss to Drexel Wednesday was the first time the Panthers failed to keep it close in their recent skid.
JMU won its conference opener without the aid of redshirt senior Devon Moore. Now the Dukes will have to do it without fellow fifth-year Andrey Semenov. Why can’t Matt Brady’s squad ever catch a break?
There will be young, talented guards all over the floor Saturday afternoon. RJ Hunter has topped the 20-point mark six times this season, and someone’s going to have to really pick it up to contest him for CAA Rookie of the Year. It’s disappointing to see talent exit the conference, but it will be fun to watch RJ destroy the Sun Belt over the next three years. He might be a top-10 scorer in the nation as early as next season.
JMU will put three freshmen on the floor often Saturday. Just like the Old Dominion game, they’ll need some veteran stability (paging AJ Davis). Davis will probably draw Manny Atkins duty. This game is one of the two tossups today, and the Dukes just seem to have a lot going against them. There seems to be a new feeling with the three freshman, but playing without two of your best players is tough to overcome.
Panthers 67, Dukes 64
George Mason (7-6) at William and Mary (7-6) – 2:00
The winner of this matchup may be the only team above .500 at the end of the day. These two have buoyed the CAA during the nonconference struggles, but they both come into today’s matchup with losing streaks. Mason had an offensively encouraging performance in its last game, but its defense couldn’t slow Northeastern down. William and Mary just played two Power-6 conference road games, losing to Purdue (who just beat Illinois Wednesday night) and Vanderbilt.
William and Mary is still shooting 47.5% from the field. They have three scorers averaging in double figures, compared to just one for Mason. Rusthoven and Gaillard need to stay out of foul trouble to give the Tribe a chance to capitalize from long-range. Brandon Britt was held scoreless Wednesday, so expect him to play with an extra charge.
I can’t really pinpoint who will be Mason’s #2 scorer this season. Next year, I expect it to be Patrick Holloway. This season, I think the Patriots will rely on the low post tandem of Erik Copes and Jonathan Arledge. They combined for 16 points and 18 boards against Northeastern, and if they can be legitimate threats it will open up outside looks for Vertrail Vaughns and Holloway. Corey Edwards has given the Patriots stability at the point, and he will also help ease the scoring burden.
This game is another tossup, and I’ve unsuccessfully picked both of these teams in their past two games. I’m going to go with the Tribe, just because this will possibly be its biggest home game of the year. It also probably has something to do with the fact that I’m attending this game.
Tribe 70, Patriots 65
Towson (6-8) at Drexel (5-8) – 4:00
This is the only matchup between two teams are 1-0 in the CAA. Towson has to feel good about its recent road success. The Tigers enter The DAC looking for their third straight road win. Drexel just thumped Georgia State with a sweltering second-half performance.
Towson has employed a similar hard-nosed style of basketball we’ve seen Drexel and Old Dominion play in recent years. There will be plenty of All-CAA talent on display, as Jerrelle Benimon, Damion Lee, and Frantz Massenat will surely find a home among the Top 15 players in the league. The Tigers are actually 38th in the nation in rebounding, averaging 39.6 caroms per game.
As well as Towson’s played over the past week, I like Drexel to protect its home floor. Towson looked shaky in the last ten minutes of its contest with UNCW. Daryl McCoy has pulled down 26 rebounds in his last two games, and he’ll look to push Benimon and Bilal Dixon out of their comfort zones around the hoop.
Dragons 71, Tigers 62