There are five games in the Colonial today, and many of them are televised, or at least viewable. So save the Billy Murray flick for night time.
Let’s be honest here — it’s not that often that the JMU Convocation Center hosts a big basketball game. Sure, there’s plenty of upset opportunities when great CAA squads roll into Harrisonburg, but that’s different. In those cases, the gravity of the game is dependent upon the outcome. And over the last 10 or 12 years, upsets in JMU’s favor have been few and far between.
This weekend’s game between the Dukes and George Mason feels different. As someone who grew up watching ACC and Big East heavyweights clashing in primetime, it has a little bit of that savage importance, the dogfight that could go a long way to determining who earns the regular season crown.
In one corner, there’s George Mason. To be the best, you’ve gotta beat the best — it least that’s what I’m told by my zen master, not to mention Ryan McCarthy’s dad in Never Back Down — and George Mason has probably been the CAA’s best team over the last seven years. Still, at 5-4 in conference play and one loss away from being dangerous irrelevance, it’s hard to peg the Patriots as anything but a middling one-trick pony this season.
Then, there’s JMU. An injury-prone team that hasn’t really been able to tie it all together in 20 years. As long as senior forward Andrey Semenov is sitting on the bench nursing his ankle/foot, this team won’t reach its true potential. Even in a down year for the CAA, I can’t imagine that a JMU team playing at less than 100% is the best the CAA has to offer.
Wait, did I just defuse the mushroom cloud of hype surrounding today’s game?
The truth is that, despite each team’s fairly obvious offensive ineptitudes, this game remains huge. For JMU, the irreverent upstarts, the desire to flip the script and contend for a title is getting higher and higher each day. For Mason, the desire to stave off mediocrity and stay in the top half of the conference is likely just as great. For a rivalry like JMU-GMU, the passion is always there. The goals are just a little different than normal this year.
Should JMU win today, they likely ascend to the status of “team most likely to catch Northeastern.” If everybody holds serve, JMU remains 1.5 games back with a month to play and the Huskies still on their docket.
If Sherrod Wright pulls a Kobe and scores 81 points, or if George Mason’s bench shows up in a big way (in my humble opinion, both are equally as likely), Mason will run out with a win. This scenario is referred to as “sheer and utter chaos.”
In this landscape of sheer and utter chaos, JMU and Delaware are both two games back and still have a game to play against each other on February 17, meaning one team will fall even further back. And since both teams still have to go to Boston for a game later this month, Northeastern will laugh it’s way all the way to a Number 1 seed in the CAA tournament.
Here’s all you know about the ensuing craziness of a Mason victory today. In such a scenario, you could honestly make a case, that the team with the most realistic chance to catch Northeastern in the standings would be….
If Mason upends JMU today, the CAA will catch fire. And Huskies supporters will fan the flames.
Hofstra (5-16, 2-6) at William & Mary (8-12, 2-7) – 12 pm – (Comcast SportsNet/MSG Network)
An intriguing matchup between two of the hardest playing teams in the league. Both teams have faced similar struggles of getting consistent production and contributions from the bench.
William and Mary has been such a streaky squad. Maybe that has to do with beginning to rely on the three-ball more often, but it seems the Tribe always puts itself in the possession where it needs to rally out of a huge hole to make things interesting. If the team plays a full 40 minutes of basketball, its Big 3, with help from Kyle Gaillard, should be enough to avenge last month’s loss to the Pride in New York.
At this point, we’re well aware that most of Hofstra’s offensive production will probably come from Taran Buie and Stevie Mejia. Hofstra will need big games from David Imes and Stephen Nwaukoni to help combat #Beasthoven and Gaillard. Hofstra hasn’t scored more than 60 points on the road during any of its CAA contests.
What’s the over/under on total bench points? It’s hard to say, not knowing whether or not Tony Shaver will bring Brandon Britt and Matt Rum off the bench. Each team will rely heavily on its starters to carry the load, but the Tribe just has a few more offensive options.
Bill & Mary 64, Hofstra 59 (O/U bench points: 12)
UNCW (8-12, 3-5) at Delaware (10-11, 5-3) – 2 pm – (video stream)
UNCW kicks off a mini-road trip at Delaware on Saturday afternoon. For Delaware, it’s a chance to start a three-game winning streak and remain in contention for the top seed in Richmond. UNCW will get a chance to win its second-straight road contest, after failing to record a road win before last weekend.
Recently the Seahawks have been struggling mightily on offense, though their defense has kept them in the past few competitions. They will be hard pressed to get a win on the road though if their offense is not functioning at a high level. Delaware has a number of playmakers on offense, and the Seahawks cannot afford to miss easy opportunities the way they have at times.
As always, Keith Rendleman and Chris Dixon will be the two players that need special defensive attention from the opponents. Rendleman will likely be double-teamed on most half-court touches for the duration of his CAA career. At this point he’s used to it, and manages to still record impressive statlines. Chris Dixon was effectively shut down by Devon Moore in the second half on Monday night’s game, and which really discouraged his teammates from giving him the ball. I expect Delaware to try something similar if it looks like Dixon could have another 20+ game.
On the other end of the court, the triple-headed attack of Saddler, Threatt, and Hagins will look to cause problems by breaking down the Dubmen’s defense. At times, the defense can be overly aggressive and that trio has the ability to make any team pay for any lapse in discipline.
At the end of the day though, Delaware is clearly the better of these two teams. They have more quality depth, and should be able to drive through a consistently shaky defense to get easy looks at the rim. UNCW’s inconsistent offensive production in road games combined with the fact that the game is in Delaware makes it difficult to predict a Wilmington upset.
Delaware 77, UNCW 65
Old Dominion (2-18, 0-8) at Georgia State (11-12, 6-4) – 2 pm
Georgia State just took down CAA leader Northeastern Wednesday, and now plays host to a last-place Old Dominion squad. Should be a pretty interesting transition in opponents for the Panthers, who have a great opportunity to move to .500 with a win.
The Monarchs are coming off of another heartbreaking loss. Towson was the one crushing their hopes this time around. It’s been a rough season thus far, but ODU has showed the potential to challenge most teams.
The key matchup could be between two young backcourts. Georgia State holds the advantage with freshman RJ Hunter who has had no problem putting points on the board this season. His performance against Northeastern certainly backs it up, as he tied his career-high with 27 points.
The Monarchs’ strength seems to have shifted towards to their big men. DeShawn Painter has been solid all season, but redshirt sophomore Richard Ross has turned it on lately. Opponents will start thinking twice before attempting a shot when Ross patrols the paint. He currently ranks second in the CAA with 2.5 blocks per game. He’s also coming off a double-double where he collected 13 points and 10 boards.
In their previous matchup with ODU, Georgia State cruised to a 69-54 victory. With the Panthers playing so well and the Monarchs playing so poorly, I don’t see things changing too much in the rematch. GSU prevails again.
Georgia State 68, Old Dominion 55
George Mason (12-9, 5-4) at James Madison (13-10, 7-3) – 4 pm – (Comcast SportsNet)
You probably don’t need much more than what you already read up top: James Madison has put itself in position to have the best chance at catching Northeastern. On the other hand, the Dukes have just one win over the Patriots in the Matt Brady era, so the Patriots are the team most likely to hinder Madison’s chances at improving its stock as the CAA’s second-place team.
Mason enters Harrisonburg itching for a win, and needing to give itself a chance to forget Thursday night’s collapse against Drexel. Statistically, the Patriots have had the CAA’s best defensive team all year, although James Madison has taken advantage of a weak CAA schedule to allow the fewest points of any team during league play.
Damion Lee effectively defended Sherrod Wright in the second half of Thursday night’s game. I’m not sure who the Dukes will put on Wright, but I’d guess either AJ Davis or Andre Nation. Putting the freshman Nation on a redshirt junior Wright could be risky, but Nation seems to be gaining confidence with every game (he got his second CAA Rookie of the Week award this week).
Jonathan Arledge had a career night Thursday. Corey Edwards played just 18 minutes, compared to 30 for Bryon Allen. It was the first time Edwards played fewer than 20 minutes since the Maryland games two months ago. Both point guards committed three turnovers against Drexel. Whoever plays point guard will need to effectively break down the Madison defense. After sitting the final 13 minutes of Thursday’s game with ice on his ankle, you’d have to think Devon Moore won’t be 100% healthy for JMU.
Huge game for both teams, as people can start to take James Madison seriously if the Dukes can defeat the Patriots. A George Mason win will take everyone’s fingers off the metaphorical panic button. Mason’s frontcourt has the size to give Rayshawn Goins trouble. You have to think Sherrod Wright will actually take the most shots for Mason today. Will it be enough? James Madison gets its done with a more-balanced offensive attack.
James Madison 65, George Mason 62
Drexel (9-12, 5-4) at Northeastern (13-8, 8-1) – 6 pm (Comcast SportsNet/video stream)
You probably wouldn’t know it from talking to Bruiser Flint, but Drexel is making strides to get back in the conference race. A win at Northeastern would certainly make that a reality, but a loss would put the Dragons (and the rest of the Association) in a tough position to catch the Huskies. We’re starting to see more offensive production from Dartaye Ruffin and Derrick Thomas. The Dragons need offense from guys other than Massenat and Lee, although in #14′s case, it hasn’t really made a difference. Since returning from injury two Saturdays ago, Lee has scored 10, 14, 20, 30, and 29 points in consecutive games.
It’ll be interesting see how Bill Coen handles Lee. I think we might see David Walker guarding Lee to start the game, with a potential switch to Joel Smith or Quincy Ford looming large. The frontcourt matchup will be important. Ford and Reggie Spencer need to bring it against Drexel’s physical bigs. Dinko Marshavelski didn’t see the floor much Monday night, the result of a fast-paced high-scoring affair. The Dragons play at a pace that will allow Coach Coen to deploy Marshavelski as needed.
The frontcourt matchup is big, but Frantz Massenat needs to be a truly efficient floor general. The Dragons will lose by double digits in they turn the ball over 16 times like they did against George Mason. Massenat has shot 25% (12-of-48) over the last four games. The Dragons are 3-1 over that span, but they’ll need Massenat to have a great game to have a chance to a win at Matthews.
This game will tell us just how close Drexel is to being a contender (not that anyone is doubting the Dragons’ ability to make a run in March) or just how far ahead the Huskies are. Damion Lee has been incredible lately, but I’m worried he’ll be asked to do too much against a high-scoring Northeastern team.
Northeastern 69, Drexel 62