Coming out of halftime,Tony Shaver had a plan to get William & Mary back in the game. The Tribe entered the intermission trailing by a dozen, and was down by 14 within the opening minute of the second half. Shaver called timeout with 19:09 to play in the game. At that point, the Tribe initiated its big run.

William & Mary doubled down on defense, and outscored Charleston 42-19 in the second half. Up by just two with less three minutes to play, the Tribe initiated a 9-0 run.

Brandon Britt attacked the lane ferociously (something he did all game). Marcus Thornton zig zagged his way through the lane, and spotting up for mid-range jumper after mid-range jumper. Kyle Gaillard successfully pushed the ball in transition, leading to multiple coast-to-coast buckets. Terry Tarpey put up a very Tarpey-esque line (nine points, eight boards) and freshman Daniel Dixon hit some big shots.

Whether it involved hitting the deck for a loose ball or preventing Charleston from chasing down a missed shot, it seemed like the Tribe made the right play on every 50-50 ball. Tim Rusthoven had a rather forgettable night offensively, but dove for (and came up with) the ball in the final minute that effectively ended the game. When the game was on the line, the Tribe showed out big time.

Charleston was hampered by the same problems that plagued it all season long — namely committing fouls and enduring long scoring droughts. The Cougars connected on 6-of-13 from three in the first half, but shot 0-of 10 from downtown in the second.

Willis Hall concluded his career with 15 points and 14 boards. Anthony Thomas had 14 points on 7-of-9 shooting. It was the final game of their very memorable years for “The College” in Charleston.

But for 2014, “The College” in Williamsburg won the Battle.

Yes, there were a ton of fouls (62) called here. Towson attempted 25 more free throws than JMU, but didn’t convert enough for that to be the be-all end-all difference on the scoreboard.

The big discrepancy came from beyond the arc. JMU had to pack it in to prepare for drives from Jerrelle Benimon and Mike Burwell, and was often late closing out on the long-range attempts. At one point, Towson had connected on 9-of-13 attempts. Specifically, Four McGlynn shook loose for four 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, when the Dukes faced manageable single-digit deficits, they could never knock down that big three to make it a one-possession game. The Dukes finished just 3-of-20 from downtown. That’s where the fouls really affected this game. Andrey Semenov, far and away JMU’s best three-point shooter, played just 16 minutes due to foul trouble.

Benimon, Burwell, McGlynn, and Marcus Damas combined to score all but 10 of Towson’s points. The Tigers shot 39-of-61 from the foul line. Benimon (12-of-21) in particular was noticeably shaky. He finished with his run of the mill 18-10 double-double.

JMU’s sophomore trio of Nation, Cooke, and Curry combined to score 45 points. The big positive here was the play of freshman Paulius Satkus. A native Lithuanian, Satkus had eight points and seven boards in 21 minutes of play. He’d played just 10 total minutes throughout the entirety of conference play.

Yes, fouls played a huge part here, but JMU just couldn’t hit the big shots to make this one closer.

Facing a sizable halftime deficit, Chris Fouch came out of halftime throwing haymakers. Unfortunately for Bruiser Flint’s squad, Northeastern swung right back.

Drexel scored an entire game’s worth of points (60) in the second half, but Northeastern shot 65.2%  after the break to withstand a late Drexel run. The Huskies secured their spot in Sunday’s semifinal with a 90-81 win.

Northeastern came in having played just one game in the past two weeks. The Huskies looked sluggish down the stretch in the regular season, but played with a renewed vigor on Saturday afternoon.

Scott Eatherton proved himself as the biggest omission from the All-CAA First Team by checking in with a 23-15 double-double. Undersized four-man Zach Stahl battled his way to 19 points and 12 rebounds. David Walker netted 18 points, and freshman T.J. Williams iced the game by hitting 10-of-12 free throws.

The box score shows that Northeastern held only a slight advantage (42-36) for points in the paint, but a lot of Drexel’s points came when the game was pretty much decided. The Huskies possessed a 43-31 advantage on the glass, and utilized a 29-6 run in the first half to build a double-digit halftime lead.

The sixth-year senior Fouch scored a game-high 30 points, with 26 off those coming in the second half. Frantz Massenat closed out his CAA career with 19 points. Freshman Rodney Williams finished with 11 points, seven boards and four blocks.

It’s an obviously disappointing end for a senior-laden Drexel squad. At 16-14, the Dragons are eligible to continue playing in the postseason. I have no idea if they’d accept an invitation to the CBI or CIT. I’d like to think we’ll get to see Fouch and Massenat in Drexel uniforms at least one more time.

Northeastern will advance to play Delaware on Sunday at 2:30.

Behind some hot jump shooting from its guards, Drexel staked an early 11-4 lead. At that point, the Dragons began a 10-minute stretch in which they were colder than an arctic tundra. Northeastern’s Scott Eatherton notched a double-double in the first half, and David Walker threw down back-to-back uncontested dunks to conclude a 29-6 run from Northeastern.

When it was all said and done, the Huskies took a 35-21 lead into halftime.

Eatherton had 11 points and 11 rebounds in the first half, and Walker tallied 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting. The Huskies held a 25-14 advantage on the glass, and outscored the Dragons by 10 in the paint.

Frantz Massenat (11 points) accounted for half of the Dragons field goals. All Dragons not named Frantz combined to shoot 4-of-18 (22.2%) from the field. Rodney Williams was credited with four blocks, but also registered three personal fouls. The Dragons also shot a dismal 4-of-9 from the foul line.

In order to avoid an early exit, the Dragons will need Chris Fouch to get it going offensively, and for Dartaye Ruffin to toughen up down low.

The way Zeke Upshaw was playing, Hofstra looked ready to spring an upset. The Pride came out of the half with a three-point lead, but it was quickly apparent that the second half of the game was to be played at a much different pace. Fouls started flying on both sides, and Hofstra stud Zeke Upshaw’s fourth came with 14:21 to play.

Lacking its primary three-point threat, the Pride offense was pushed further and further away from the basket. It was sloppy and out of sync, and despite senior Stephen Nwaukoni’s (13 points, 15 boards) ability to create extra possessions, Hofstra committed far too many live-ball turnovers against Delaware’s deliberate offense.

Jarvis Threatt scored 18 points in the second half, and Davon Usher tallied a game-high 28 points to give Delaware the 87-76 win.

Hofstra’s 45.9% offensive rebounding mark led to an 18-4 advantage for second-chance points, but the Pride couldn’t overcome 15 turnovers that led to 25 YoUDee points. As mentioned, the live-ball turnovers killed the Pride: Delaware scored 16 fast-break points, while Hofstra posted a goose egg in that category.

After Upshaw went out, Delaware doubled its lead to 10. When Upshaw came back in, he couldn’t afford to play aggressively on either end of the floor. Upshaw closed out his collegiate career with a team-high 23 points.

Delaware will advance to play the winner of Drexel-Northeastern.

07
Mar
stored in: Uncategorized

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Overall, it’s hard to argue with these selections. Jerrelle Benimon repeated as the Player of the Year, which was absolutely fitting, and Monté Ross did an excellent job of keeping Delaware on track throughout the myriad of suspensions. That made him an easy pick for Coach of the Year.

The hardest part was leaving Scott Eatherton off the First Team, but I think the voters were right to include two Blue Hens. You give a little edge  to seniority (11 of the 16 All-CAA selections were seniors) while also knowing Eatherton will be a potential Player of the Year candidate next season.

Outside of the First, Second, and Third Team selections, 13 other players received votes for All-CAA honors, and only two of them (Mike Burwell and Brandon Britt) will graduate. That’s your next group of stars. Couple that with the return of Quincy Ford and Damion Lee, and the magnitude of the losses doesn’t seem quite as severe.

Links galore:

- Robert Canady enlightens us on the challenges facing the McGlynn family. Four had surgery on his brain in high school, and now his younger brother is recovering from brain surgery as well.

- Josh Verlin and Jeff Neiburg wrote an extensive two-part Tournament preview, found here and here.

- Over the past week, Jake Fischer has checked in in a big way with a) a thorough CAA Tournament Preview, b) predictions for CAA Awards , and c) a Q&A with Frantz Massenat.

- Whether you’re in the play-in game or you’re the number one seed, you head into Baltimore with the same mentality. Monté Ross and Joe Mihalich understand this.

- For a team like Charleston, Baltimore is a shot at redemption.

- Matt Leon provides some quotes on the mindsets of Massenat and Fouch

- Kevin Tresolini details Delaware’s rise as a CAA contender.

- Dan Crain says that Drexel’s studs guards must be aware and share. He also says thanks for supporting Dragons Speak.

- As you know, the CAAT will be played in Baltimore for the first time ever. That’s a hot topic.

- King Kresse’s previews the first round. I’m not quite sure who he picked in that last matchup…

- Dave Fairbank comments on William & Mary’s chances to make a run on Baltimore.

- Kevin Rossi previews Drexel-Northeastern.

- Eric Detweiler previews UNCW-Hofstra.

- The guys at JMU Sports Blog know the Dukes are up against the wall in their first round matchup, but they remain optimistic.

- I’m just going to link to the Baltimore Sun’s men’s basketball homepage. In preparation of the weekend, those guys are churning out articles.

And now, the previews…

Hofstra-UNCW (March 7th) – 7:00 – Comcast SportsNet

Hofstra and UNCW play tonight, and the winner will continue playing on Saturday. Hofstra won both of the previous two meetings, with the latter victory coming as the final loss in UNCW’s 14-game losing streak. Since that day nearly four weeks ago, UNCW’s played .500 ball, which included home wins over Towson and Northeastern.

Hofstra is neck-and-neck with William & Mary in the race to be the worst defensive team in the league. That’s partially a product of the pace at which Joe Mihalich wants to play. Nevertheless, the offensively-challenged Seahawks will find open looks against the CAA’s worst three-point defense (HU allowed opponents to shoot 39.7% from three in conference play). It’s up to Milson, Sherwood, and Sons to knock them down.

Ultimately, you just feel better about Hofstra’s primary offensive options. The Pride knows where the offense should come  from, but its porous defense can also make a poor offense look good. This game is a true tossup — were it not for a win against Andre Nation-less JMU, Hofstra would come into this one ice cold.

Senior Zeke Upshaw shoots the Pride into Saturday.

Pride 67, Seahawks 64

Delaware-Hofstra/UNCW – noon – Comcast SportsNet

I think this Doug Wojcik quote gives you a pretty good idea of Delaware’s Jarvis Threatt’s value:

“They played a little differently than the last time we saw them and everything now is played through him. He shoots 14 free throws and he gets 13 assists. The difference in the game was really (Kyle) Anderson’s threes. Also, can you defend (Carl) Baptiste with three guys? He has big hands and he rolls to the basket. They have really good players with four seniors out there. I’m really impressed by (Davon) Usher. He jump switches all the time. Usher is the difference in why they are conference champs. He is an unbelievable piece for them which they added last July as a transfer from Mississippi Valley State. They are plugged in and have the right chemistry going right now.”

That came after Jarvis had 13 points, 13 assists, six boards, and five steals at Charleston. Those five steals keyed a 17-3 advantage in points off turnovers. As a team, the YoUDees committed just five turnovers.

Both Hofstra and UNCW gave Delaware tough games, though one could argue that only one of those games (the conference opener versus Hofstra) was one in which Threatt was fully integrated into the offense. The Fightins’ just dropped 89 points on the league’s most efficient defense, which should put those Threatt concerns to rest.

If it’s UNCW…

I think UNCW’s slower pace, deeper bench and ability to create turnovers would pose more of a challenge to Delaware. UNCW matched Delaware stride for stride in the first three-quarters of the game (and nearly all the way in the first game) but couldn’t prevail.

If it’s Hofstra…

The Pride could get hot from three against a suspect defense while keeping the Blue Hens from getting too many second-chance opportunities.

Either way…

I can’t pick against Delaware.

Blue Hens score 70-plus and win by 10.

Northeastern-Drexel – 2:30 – Comcast SportsNet

It’s a good thing there’s a big gap between the second and third games on Saturday. The way Bill Coen and Bruiser Flint’s squads get after it, that 6:00 game could still get pushed back.

Honestly, did any two teams play each other tougher this season? This will be an absolute battle. After 90 minutes of basketball, Drexel holds a slim 145-142 advantage. The big thing though, is that the teams split in the regular season, and Drexel needed two overtimes to earn that first victory. Dragon fans must really hate Demetrius Pollard.

After winning three consecutive roadies to pull to 4-3 in conference play, Northeastern dropped six of its final nine games. Having played just one game in the past two weeks, the Huskies come in well rested. That’s important, as it seemed like heavy minutes started to weigh on the Northeastern starters (particularly Scott Eatherton) down the stretch.

One thing that sticks out is the Huskies’ successes away from Matthews – they were 4-4 on the road in CAA play, and picked up their biggest win in Baltimore. Couple that with the fact that they own the CAA’s biggest nonconference win (versus Georgetown in Puerto Rico) and it’s obvious that this young team has the talent to beat anyone in Baltimore.

I’ve already got a headache just thinking about making a prediction for this game. I feel safe saying it’s probably going down to the final minute. Last season, Frantz Massenat’s final shot at the Coliseum was an airball.

Different city, different team, different result.

Drexel 58, Northeastern 57

James Madison-Towson – 6:00 – Comcast SportsNet

Remember last year when Towson went 8-1 in the second half of conference play, and concluded a postseason-less year as the CAA’s hottest team? This year, we won’t have to wonder what sort of damage the Tigers can do in the tournament. It’s all in front of them now, and they were one road debacle away from rolling into 1st Mariner Arena with an 11-game winning streak and the tournament’s one seed.

Towson won both games against JMU, but the Dukes made undeniable strides between games (the Tigers’ 80-71 win on February 4th really wasn’t that close). The most noticeable difference was the play of Andrey Semenov, who dropped a goose egg in the first game before exploding for 22 points on Senior Night.

JMU doesn’t need the 22-point Semenov to stay competitive, but it sure can’t have the zero-point rendition. JMU was the the worst three-point shooting team in conference play, and Towson had the CAA’s best three-point defense (30.4%, 23rd in D-I). If Semenov starts knocking down threes, and JMU makes Towson pays for its turnovers, the Tigers will be on upset alert.

Ultimately, Towson just has too many things going in its favor.  In the second meeting between these two, a 69-66 win at the Convo, the Tigers shot 30-of-31 from the charity stripe. It’s unlikely Towson can hit that other-worldly number again, but JMU lacks the senior horses to pull the big upset.

Benimon and Co. used a big advantage on the glass to get it done.

Towson 72, JMU 66

The College of William & Mary- The College of Charleston – 8:30 – Comcast SportsNet

When considering that this matchup pits the CAA’s most efficient offense versus its most efficient defense, this game brings as much intrigue as any other first round matchup. Not to be forgotten is that this is our third installment of The Battle to be deemed “The College”.

It doesn’t surprise you that William & Mary shot the highest percentage (40.9%) from beyond the arc during conference play. It might shock you to realize that Charleston was the CAA’s second-best three-point shooting team (38.2%) from downtown in conference play. Nori Johnson’s resurgence (44.6% from deep) was a big part of that, and Canyon Barry’s return helped make that area a strength for the Cougars.

When the Cougars visited Kaplan, the Tribe hit 7-of-13 treys and won by 11. In the second leg, the Tribe shot 2-of-16 from three while allowing the Cougars to connect of 14-of-22 attempts, and lost by 33. Obviously long-range shooting will be big here, but I also worry that the Tribe will struggle with the Cougars’ physicality.

Beasthoven’s only 20-point game of conference play came in the final game, which definitely inspires confidence. He needs to be aggressive, and keep a hungry Cougar team off the glass. The Tribe will need to take a gang-rebounding mentality against Wojcik’s physical team. W&M can get to the line with ease here.

We’ve grown accustomed to seeing Tony Shaver’s team make runs in even-numbered years (excluding 2012), but that 33-point beatdown is fresh in my mind. Ultimately, I worry about Charleston’s tendency to be foul-prone. In the first two games, the Tribe has attempted more than three times as many total foul shots (39) as the Cougars (12). We’ve seen what happens with Nori and AT pick up early fouls, and it isn’t good. I hate to say that it will come down to how the referees officiate the game, but it will come down to how the referees officiate the game.

I’m going with the Thorntons, but it should be known that I changed my mind mid-paragraph.

Tribe 68, Cougars 66

06
Mar

Baltimore. Land of crabcakes, urban pirates, and my beloved Orioles. I took a field trip there once, in the eighth grade, to see the Baltimore aquarium. And now, CAAhoops is taking a permanent field trip there, every March, to play a little bit of basketball.

This is the first time there’ll be a Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament in any place other than Richmond since 1989; it’s the first time ever that the tournament will be held outside of the state of Virginia. And I have to tell you: as a kid who moved to Richmond at age 9, graduated from a prominent Richmond-area high school, and grew up watching CAA basketball, it’s a little bit like watching somebody else make out with my girlfriend.

Sadly, the time has come for this great postseason tournament to depart the Old Dominion state. It’s been a fun ride. But with so many Virginia schools having jumped ship — VCU, George Mason, ODU, even the University of Richmond, once upon a time — it no longer feels appropriate to give RVa the annual heliocentric treatment it once deserved.

All this court-shuffling doesn’t happen without obvious and immediate impact on the tournament games themselves. Towson, now playing as the de facto home team in 1st Mariner Arena, can step into roughly the same role VCU adopted when the Rams commuted to the Richmond Coliseum each postseason.

Pat Skerry hopes his burgeoning fan base packs the arena this weekend, which can seat at least 11,000 fans. I’m sure quite a few fans will be there wearing the black and gold — not that the Tigers need a home court advantage. When you arm yourself with the conference’s best scoring margin and best field goal defense, then throw in the nation’s leading double-double machine, that tends to be a winning formula in and of itself.

But for every advantage Towson has inside, regular season champion Delaware can match it on the outside. The Blue Hens’ backcourt is so laughably potent, I don’t even know how to appropriately finish this sentence. Their scoring abilities defy conventional wordsmithing.

Then there’s William & Mary, whose inside-out game built around Marcus Thornton’s laser shooting and Tim Rusthoven’s ruggedly effective short and mid-range game (a combined 30.6 points per game) could gas any team in the tournament.

There are others. JMU could put up a scrappy defense of its 2013 tournament title. Charleston could outrebound its way to a few upsets. Drexel has never been fully healthy, but always has the talent and coaching to make a run. Even Hofstra seems to be peaking at the right time. Outside of Wilmington, no team seems completely out of the race here.

But all that seems pretty unlikely. There’s a pretty clear divide between the top three teams and the bottom six.

It’s just as well, too — at the height of CAAhoops madness, around the time of VCU’s Final Four run and the infamous #3bidsforCAA NCAA tournament, the Colonial’s RPI conference ranking was in the single-digit camp and threatening to upstage the Atlantic 10.

Now, the new CAA (53-70 against non-conference opponents this season) sits down at 15th, and fading fast into the depths of conference mediocrity. What the league needs more than anything this March is some positive PR. It needs another Cinderella run.

Tournament upsets are always sexy and exciting, but in 2014, the CAA needs one of its three best squads to show up and represent in the NCAA tournament. Nothing could be more beneficial than a hot-shooting Colonial team in the Sweet 16, or beyond.

And it’s not hard to imagine. Envision the Hens blitzing a Power-6 team with inferior guard play, or Benimon bulldozing his way through double-teams. Imagine Thornton swishing a 28-foot buzzer beater. If you’re a fan of CAA basketball, you need to be rooting for one of the favorites this weekend in Baltimore.

Players graduate. Schools change conferences. Tournaments move to new cities. In college basketball, nearly everything changes.

But there may be one thing that is likely stay the same: a CAA team, whoever it might be, seems poised to make a magical run through the month of March.

Chase Kiddy

01
Mar

The top four teams won Wednesday. That, and phenomenal work from the always phenomenal Rob Washburn (thanks Nick Sunderland for the link), makes our job easy and today much clearer.

Yet today is still every bit as nerve-wracking. As Dave from VA noted in the comments section of our last post, there’s still plenty on the line today.

Despite the fact that four teams have locked up their seeds, every team has something on the line. It’s Senior Day in Boston, Charleston, and Long Island, and also Senior Day where we’ll all convene next weekend.

This may seem selfish, but it feels like we got shortchanged with most of these seniors. The #CAAHoops community got only one or two years to watch Jerrelle Benimon, Mike Burwell, Rafriel Guthrie, Zeke Upshaw, Willis Hall, Anthony Thomas and Nori Johnson in action.

I know the fans of all those schools (especially Charleston fans, who will miss those guys after four years of hard work) want to slap me right now.

We can’t forget to shout out to the four-year CAA guys like Marcus Damas, Stephen Nwaukoni and Chris Avenant. Damas and Nwaukoni stayed loyal to their programs through coaching changes and dark times. Those guys are special, and will be dearly missed.

Good news abounds in the fact that Hofstra’s Dion Nesmith will be playing for the Pride again next season. His experience at point guard will be huge for a team that will be heavy on transfers come together. Despite plenty of unknowns, I think I’ll have the Pride pretty high in my preseason rankings next season.

A late wrap on Wednesday’s action

– Jarvis Threatt returned to score 24 points and dish out six assists. It’s alarming that he missed 11 free throws, but Delaware spoiled UNCW’s Senior Night and won by 13.

Frantz (24 points), Dartaye (double-digit boards for third consecutive game) and Fouch closed out their tenure at the DAC with a 56-45 win. Here’s King Kresse’s perspective on that same game.

– William & Mary survived a scare from Hofstra, and rode a balanced offensive performance to a 79-74 win. Here’s Dave Fairbank’s nifty gamer. 

– Towson got 28 points, 16 boards from Jerrelle Benimon, and hit 30-of-31 from the foul line to beat James Madison 69-66. JMUSB weighs in on Andrey Semenov’s final game at the Convo.

And for today…

Drexel at Northeastern — 1:00 — Video

As Dan Crain notes, this is a possible preview of a first round matchup. Drexel is locked into the 4-5 game, and you can check out Rob Washburn’s scenarios to see how Northeastern can get here as well.

Chris Avenant is Northeastern’s only senior, and the fact that Bill Coen’s team is scheduled to return most of its core means that it will probably be my favorite to win the league next season.

Winners of five of seven, the Dragons look to be coming on at the right time. Winning six of eight before Baltimore would be pretty great, and avoiding playing an overtime game for the umpteenth time this season would be even better.

Dragons 84, Huskies 81 (2OT)

Delaware at College of Charleston — 2:00 — Comcast SportsNet

The first game with Marv and Jarv back went pretty well. Five players scored in double figures, although King-Davis played just four minutes. Now we’ll see if the YoUDees can improve on their offensive performance (exactly one point per possession Wednesday) against the CAA’s best defensive team.

You don’t need me to tell you how much Charleston’s offense is scuffling. The Cougars didn’t even score a point in the first overtime period last Saturday at Wilmington. Here’s to hoping Senior Day can give this team a little extra offensive juice, or that Bugs Bunny bursts through the door with some of Michael’s Secret Stuff.

I know Delaware needed 42 points from Davon Usher to top Charleston in the first game…but can you really pick a team that struggles to put the ball in the basket over the league’s offensive juggernaut?

Blue Hens 68, Cougars 63

William & Mary at Towson — 4:00 — Comcast SportsNet

William & Mary has proven it can handle the CAA’s middle tier. This matchup provides one final chance for the Tribe to beat a contender. As we had hoped for Wednesday, the Tribe got some nice performances from the secondary offensive options (Kyle Gaillard closed out his Kaplan career with 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting).

The first matchup between these teams was a close game that Towson just ran away with in the final 10 minutes. The Tigers are playing better than any team in the league right now.

I just don’t see a letdown from another epic class of seniors.

Tigers 82, Tribe 75

James Madison at Hofstra — 7:00 — Video 

To me, it’s this simple equation:

Senior Day for a desperate team + the visiting team missing its best defender (consequently lowering morale) = home team getting back in the left-hand column.

It’s really not that simple, but I can dream right?

But this is a game where the Pride should be able to hold a hefty advantage on the glass. Nwaukoni gets a double-double. Upshaw goes for a big game. Pride get off the schneid.

Pride 67, Dukes 61

26
Feb

On the last Wednesday of the regular season, the obvious headline of Senior Night in Philadelphia, Harrisonburg and Wilmington (and kind of Williamsburg) is challenged only by the return of Jarvis Threatt and Marvin King-Davis for Delaware. Those two are back in time to help the Blue Hens secure a share of the CAA regular season title.

Also noteworthy tonight: a Drexel win would put the Dragons in the 4-5 game in Baltimore, and a Hofstra needs a win to avoid the 8-9 play-in game.  Matt Brady’s squad can avoid that 8-9 play-in game tonight with a win over Towson.

Delaware at UNCW — 7:00 – Video

One could easily chalk this up as the first-place team versus the worst-place team, but if you watched the first meeting between these two you’d have no idea that was the case. The Hawks gave the Hens everything they wanted and more in Newark. Now it’s Senior Night, and the final regular season game for six Seahawks.

Despite a massive losing streak that lasted more than two months, a win here would allow UNCW to break even at Trask (currently 6-7) for the season. The Dubmen have settled into a balanced rotation that’s been boosted by Shane Reybold’s return, Dylan Sherwood’s breakout, and the opportunity to finally get in a little practice time (after playing eight games in the first 17 days of February).

The Seahawks need to hold the rebounding advantage, limit turnovers, and get a big performance from one of their guards. Even if that happens, I’m expecting the YoUDees to feel a rejuvenation of sorts with the return of two starters. It probably won’t be pretty, but the return of an all-conference caliber guard is bound to help Monté Ross’ squad.

Blue Hens 70, Seahawks 66

Towson at James Madison — 7:00 – Video

It’s almost a given that the Dukes will be outrebounded here, and they’ve got to avoid giving the Tigers a hefty number of attempts from the line. But there’s one area where JMU excels and Towson flops, and that involves turning opponents over. Given that Matt Brady’s had a week to game plan for this one, I’m intrigued for this potential quarterfinal preview.

Expect Brady to throw the kitchen sink at Jerrelle Benimon — Yohanny Dalembert, Taylor Bessick, Tom Vodanovich and even Charles Cooke should see time on the stud big man. For the Dukes to have a real chance here, sixth-year senior Andrey Semenov will need to help the CAA’s worst three-point shooting team (26.5% in conference play) drop some bombs against the league’s best three-point defense (Towson opponents shooting 28.2% from three in league play).

The Tigers have won eight of their last nine, and look to be heading into the CAA Tournament with a head of steam. JMU’s ability to convert turnovers into points could make this one surprisingly close, but Pat Skerry’s seniors are just playing too well right now.

Tigers 73, Dukes 71

Hofstra at William & Mary — 7:00 – Video ($$)

William & Mary’s shooting a CAA-best 41.7% from beyond the arc. On the contrary, Hofstra is “defending” that arc by allowing a CAA-worst 39.3% from three. For two teams on contrasting ends of the conference standings it might seem that simple.

That narrative was slashed in the first meeting, as the Pride flipped the script by holding the Tribe to 32% shooting from three, and hitting 10-of-20 from Bonusphere on its own. That appears to have been Hofstra’s plateau, as the Pride have only won one game in the five weeks since. A win here, coupled with a JMU loss, will force a pivotal game on Saturday, where the loser is relegated to the 8-9 play-in game. Getting a strong offensive performance from someone other than Zeke Upshaw and Dion Nesmith is crucial to Hofstra’s success.

William & Mary is locked and loaded as the 3 seed, so I’m hoping to see the secondary offensive options (Kyle Gaillard, Julian Boatner, Terry Tarpey) do some confidence-building things here. As Mike Barnes notes, a strong defensive performance from Tony Shaver’s crew would be more encouraging.

Tribe 70, Pride 59

Charleston at Drexel — 7:00 – Video

Beating Delaware did Bruiser Flint’s squad so many favors. Aside from getting Drexel to .500 in conference, that win:

a) Ensured that the Dragons would not be in the play-in game.
b) Gave them a high-leverage win (in the event of a tiebreaker).
c) Put the Blue Hens in a situation where they’ll likely still be playing an important game next Saturday at Charleston — giving Drexel a little more leeway in the race for seeding.

Yeah, Tavon Allen sure picked a brilliant time for a resurgence, and it was encouraging to see some elements from the classic Drexel win there. Now, this epic group of Drexel seniors will try to extract revenge against Willis Hall & The Heartbreakers. The Cougars come in having lost six of nine, and looking to find some consistency before their first CAA Tournament. I can’t imagine how frustrated their fans are right now, having routed William & Mary by 33 just to lose to UNCW by two.

On an emotional night when the DAC Pack says good bye to Frantz, Chris, Dartaye Goran, Stevan and Jake, Coach Wojcik’s first trip to the DAC probably won’t end so happily ever after.

Dragons 69, Cougars 61

24
Feb

Before conference play began in January, I fleshed out some labels for CAA teams based on the first 10-15 games of the season. The result was a projected stratification of hoops team- Contenders, Middlers, and Pretenders.

Let’s revisit that now.

The Contenders

Delaware: The Embarassment of Riches

Record Then: 7-7

Record Since: 13-2

Record Now: 20-9

Identifying Quote: “…Delaware’s got the highest-scoring offense in the CAA, and it’s not close. If the object is to outscore your opponent, UD has a great chance to play late into March.”

Stat you should know: The Hens still average the highest offensive production in the conference (79.2 ppg). But it’s senior guard Davon Usher who is the eye-catcher. Usher, who has seen an increased role with the team since the suspension of Jarvis Threatt at the end of January, is averaging a CAA-best 22.8 points per game in conference play. Embarassment of Riches, indeed.

Games left: @UNCW , @CofC

Season Prediction: History often repeats itself. Delaware will win the regular season title with a 14-2 record, but fall short in the tournament championship game.

Towson: The Bruiser

Record Then: 8-6

Record Since: 12-3

Record Now: 20-9

Identifying Quote: “The Tigers led the conference in rebounding margin at +6.6; this year, they’ve pushed it to +7.5 through 14 games… they want Benimon to punch you in the mouth, and they want to watch you bleed.”

Stat you should know: Forget CAA rankings. Jerrelle Benimon ranks third in the country in rebounds (11.4 rpg through February 24) and has more double-doubles this year than any other D-I basketball player (18). Unsurprisingly, Towson leads the following categories in conference play this year: Scoring Margin, Field Goal Percentage Defense, 3-Point Field Goal Percentage Defense, Rebounding Offense, Blocked Shots, Offensive and Defensive Rebounds, and Offensive Rebound percentage.

Games left: @JMU, William & Mary.

Season Prediction: Towson trails Delaware by a game and its remaining schedule has no easy wins. It will miss out on the regular season title, but the Tigers are my pick to win the tournament title as of today.

William & Mary: The Firing Squad

Record Then: 7-5

Record Since: 10-5

Record Now: 17-10

Identifying Quote: “They’ll spot up and blow the doors off you if you let them. Stats: 3rd in Scoring Offense, 1st in Steals, 1st in Assists, 1st in Field Goal Percentage, 1st in 3-Point Field Goal Percentage. They will light you up like a bad game of Call of Duty.”

Stat you should know: Marcus Thornton is shooting a nice 41.6% from behind the arc this season, which is somehow slightly worse than what he was connecting at last year (44.7% in ’12-’13). As a team, the Tribe has made 9.1 3-pointers per game in CAA play, 1.6 more than the second-best team (College of Charleston, 7.5 threes per game) and more than double the worst team (James Madison, 4.4 threes per game).

Games left: Hofstra, @Towson

Season Prediction: William & Mary (along with the other six teams in the conference) has been mathematically eliminated from winning the regular season title. But an NCAA run is not completely out of the question if the sharpest of the CAA’s shooters can get hot in Baltimore. They’re built an awful lot like a Cinderella team.

Middlers

Drexel: The Favorite

Record Then: 8-5

Record Since: 7-7

Record Now: 15-12

Identifying Quote: “They’re still without guard Damion Lee, who averaged 13 points per game before tearing his ACL against Arizona in late November… Throw in the 8-5 record with wins over Alabama, Cleveland State and Rutgers, and this is the clear-cut favorite.”

Stat you should know: Drexel is the only team in the CAA shooting at least 75% from the free-throw line this season. Also: the Dragons are second-best in Turnover Margin in conference play, but second-worst in Steals.

Games left: CofC, @Northeastern

Season Prediction: Favorite? Well, I guess we can’t get them all right all the time. Drexel has had some impressive wins this season, like Sunday’s 69-65 road win over Delaware. But without Lee, this team has been too inconsistent in too many games, and never quite good enough to take too seriously. I’d be surprised if the Dragons saw an NIT invite; I’d be even more surprised if they advanced past the CAA tournament semifinal round.

College of Charleston: The New Guy

Record Then: 7-7

Record Since: 7-8

Record Now: 14-15

Identifying Quote: “We don’t know much about Charleston, and it’s not just because they’re the new guy.”

Stat you should know: The Cougs rank 38th nationally in rebounding with 38 rebounds per game, and several metrics suggest that, despite the ubiquitous presence of Jerrelle Benimon, they are the best rebounding team in the CAA. Now, if they just had a go-to scorer…

Games left: @Drexel, Delaware

Season Prediction: Despite some nice numbers, Charleston is a good bet to finish in the conference’s bottom three and is unlikely to make it past Towson in the first round of the CAA tournament.

James Madison: The ?????

Record Then: 5-9

Record Since: 6-8

Record Now: 11-17

Identifying Quote: “Maybe JMU will defend its championship title. Maybe it’ll go 3-13 in conference play. If I was a teacher handing out grades, this one is an I for incomplete. Ask me again in February.”

Stat you should know: JMU ranks 350th out of 351 basketball teams in player experience. That inexperience has led to impatience, as the Dukes have shot an abysmal 26.5% from downtown this year, the worst mark in the conference and one of the worst in the nation.

Games left: Towson, @Hofstra

Season Prediction: JMU is a nice young defensive team and will likely be a force in the conference over the next few years. But this team is so bad at scoring sometimes, you’d think you were watching a soccer game. The Dukes have a low ceiling in March, and likely have no postseason to look forward to outside of a handful of days in Baltimore.

Northeastern: The Other Guys

Record Then: 3-10

Record Since: 6-10

Record Now: 9-20

Identifying Quote: “Northeastern lost Quincy Ford for the season.”

Stat you should know: Without Ford, scoring is at a premium in Boston this season. Northeastern ranks among the bottom 50 D-I schools in points per game (65.2). Unfortunately for the CAA, three other conference schools (Charleston, JMU, Wilmington) rank even lower than the Huskies.

Games left: Drexel

Season Prediction: Northeastern has righted the ship since Quincy Ford went down… but not by much. This just isn’t the same team we saw rip through CAA play last year. I think Northeastern stands a chance to take down Drexel in their regular season finale, but a 7-9 record likely matches them up against a dangerous William & Mary team in Baltimore — the same Tribe team that just handled the Huskies 81-67.

The Pretenders

Hofstra: The Other Guys

Record Then: 4-9

Record Since: 4-12

Record Now: 8-21

Identifying Quote: “Hofstra is up and coming, with a pretty strong emphasis on the coming.”

Stat you should know: Despite a pretty bad record, Hofstra is one of only three schools with a positive Rebounding Margin (+0.4) in CAA conference play this year. And that Zeke Upshaw (19.4 ppg) ain’t too shabby, either.

Games left: @William & Mary, JMU

Season Prediction: Hofstra has been a tough out through the final weeks of the season, but it’s too little, too late. The Pride is all but guaranteed a bottom-two finish in conference play, and doesn’t have much to look forward to outside of a possible hollow victory over UNCW in a de facto play-in game.

UNC-Wilmington: The Other Guys

Record Then: 6-9

Record Since: 3-12

Record Now: 9-21

Identifying Quote: “UNC-Wilmington is reeling from the loss of Keith Rendleman, the best rebounder in the history of the program, to graduation (and Korea).”

Stat you should know: Wilmington ranks eighth or ninth in six major offensive categories in CAA play this year. The only thing it seems to be good at is assisting shots (10 apg). When you’re only scoring 60 points per game, 10 assists is actually not too terrible of a mark.

Games left: Delaware

Season Prediction: Fluky victory over Towson aside, the Seahawks have less than a snowball’s chance in Dante’s Inferno to make it out of the first round. Wilmington should start rebuilding as soon as possible.