I’ll readily admit that I questioned Towson after it dropped a game at Wilmington early last week. It’s just logical to question the team that gives up the win to the team on the 14-game skid, especially when that first team was the preseason pick to win the league. Towson had a lower effective field goal percentage at Trask than it did at Allen Fieldhouse. The Tigers are undeniably talented, but occasionally look like a collection of strangers depending on their individual talents to defeat their opponents.
In the face of adversity, the Tigers have responded with three consecutive big wins, which has allowed them to separate as the clear-cut number two seed. With some luck, they’ll still have an outside shot to be the one seed in the CAA Tournament. For Pat Skerry’s team, the most impressive thing has been its ability to pull away from the opposition down the stretch of big games.
Here in the Association, a lot of close games are played — thus far, 15 of the 60 league games have been decided by four points of fewer. In the past three games, Towson has outscored William & Mary, Delaware, and Northeastern 76-41 in the final 10 minutes of the game. The Tigers trailed in two of those games, but exploded in the end to put the opposing teams away.
Keep in mind that’s 76 points in 30 minutes of basketball. In that span, Mike Burwell is averaging 19.7 points per game on 40% shooting from three. Sophomore Timajh Parker-Rivera has scored in double figures in three consecutive games. Rafriel Guthrie has been in double figures in eight of the past 10 games, and gives the team another talented slasher.
Jerrelle Benimon has been his usual awesome self, but it’s worth noting that, of the three times this season when he’s failed to eclipse double-figure scoring, two have come against Northeastern. In fact, he only attempted nine total field goals in two games against Northeastern. The rest of the CAA should take note.
We enter the regular season’s penultimate weekend still trying to assess this middle cluster of team. Things got even messier Wednesday, when Charleston Shavered William & Mary by shooting 14-of-22 from three and James Madison Bruisered its way to a win by holding Drexel to 30.4% shooting (1-of-12 from three).
Both of those box scores are worth a peak – Charleston’s numbers were gaudy across the board, and JMU’s underclassmen accounted for all 63 of the team’s points, and pulled in all but two of the rebounds.
In regards to seeding, let’s assume that William & Mary (8-5) avoids a complete collapse, and wraps up the three seed. Here’s some blind analysis on the race for seeds four through eight:
Charleston (6-7) — @ UNCW (2/22), @ Drexel (2/26), Delaware (3/1)
Drexel (6-7) – @ Delaware (2/23), Charleston (2/26), @ Northeastern (3/1)
James Madison (6-8) – Towson (2/26), @ Hofstra (3/1)
Northeastern (6-8) – @ W&M (2/22), Drexel (3/1)
Hofstra (4-9) – Towson (2/22), @ W&M (2/26), James Madison (3/1)
With three games left and only seven conference losses thus far, Charleston and Drexel best control their own destinies because they play each other, and have chances for a high-leverage win (in the event of a tiebreaker) against Delaware. Each squad also plays one road game, though Charleston’s trip to Wilmington looks far less daunting than Drexel’s voyage to Boston.
The difference lies in the fact that when Drexel visits Delaware tomorrow, it will be Senior Day at the Bob, where the Blue Hens will be trying to clinch a share of the regular season championship. Will next Saturday’s trip to Charleston hold any weight for Monte Ross’ group? That remains to be seen, but there’s a real chance that Delaware will have secured the one seed by then.
(Late edit: I just realized Jarvis Threatt and Marvin King-Davis could return in Charleston.)
At the moment, JMU and Northeastern look like they’ll avoid the play-in game, but both teams would be well served to keep winning. Those two split in the regular season. If it comes down to a tiebreaker Northeastern has a nice looking win against Towson to fall back on, but JMU still gets to go another round with that same Tiger team.
Obviously Hofstra faces an uphill climb, but with three games left the Pride need to be included in this conversation. By stealing one at home against Towson or on the road against a W&M team it ravaged by 17, the Pride could get in position to work its way out of the play-in game when JMU visits next Saturday.
I like Charleston’s chances to end up in the 4-5 game in Baltimore, and believe they’ll play whoever wins the Northeastern-Drexel game in the regular season finale. JMU smells like a seven seed to me, but I’m excited to see Matt Brady’s squad after a week of preparation for Towson.
Ultimately, it’s all massive speculation and we’ll know way more after this weekend.
Towson at Hofstra – 4:00 — Video
It’s wild to think that the last time these guys met, they were both 3-2 in league play. Since then, Towson’s won seven of eight, with Hofstra mirroring in the opposite. Hot first half three-point shooting kept the Pride in Wednesday’s game against Delaware, and if Joe Mihalich’s team doesn’t beat itself with careless turnovers, it will have a chance here.
But the Tigers seem to be rounding into the team we thought they’d be before the season began. The seniors not named Benimon are making plays.
Tigers 77, Pride 65
Northeastern at William & Mary – 4:00 – CSN
Two weeks ago, the Tribe was well on its way to a blowout win before sloppiness in the waning minutes allowed things to get a little too close for comfort. The Huskies have played better ball on the road (4-3) than at home (2-5), so it’s reasonable to expect that they won’t fall into a massive hole like they did in the first matchup.
There’s no sense in panicking over two lousy games, but Marcus Thornton has failed to score in double figures in two of the past three games. W&M was most successful attacking the paint against Northeastern in game one, and I hope that’s the strategy that is employed the second go round. Let Thornton get into the flow of the game, and dominate in the second half.
After all of that analysis up there, it’s scary to think what a Northeastern win here could do to the standings. I think the Huskies could come up big here, but I’m not counting on it.
Tribe 67, Huskies 62
Charleston at UNCW – 7:00
Charleston and UNCW were on the opposite ends of thrashings involving William & Mary. The Tribe hit 16 3-pointers in a 23-point home win over Wilmington, then allowed 14 3-pointers in a 33-point road loss at Charleston. Don’t let that lead you to believe this will be an easy victory for Charleston. If the first game between the league’s newfound southernmost rivals was any indication, this will be a battle.
After playing eight games in 17 days of February, the Dubmen finally returned to their own beds for a little shut eye and rest before this one. It’s homecoming, so expect the students to be out and supporting the Seahawks (for the first half, at least). It seems like Charleston has some positive momentum, but last Saturday’s home stinker against Northeastern says otherwise. As I said above, I like Charleston’s opportunity to get to the four seed, and that has to start here.
The cat gets the bird.
Cougars 65, Seahawks 62
Drexel at Delaware (Sunday) – 3:00 — CSN
It’s the second battle between two rivals with stud guards that play at different tempos and don’t turn the ball over. It’s also Senior Day for Saddler, Usher and Baptiste, and a chance to clinch a share of the regular season championship. Notable from Wednesday night was Kyle Anderson scoring 18 points, and posting his best conference game this season. He’d struggled in this previous three games, so it was big positive.
Drexel comes in desperate for a win, but I don’t think it works out that way. Pound it inside to Ruffin and Williams, and you might have a chance. Otherwise, I think Delaware concludes its regular season on a high note.
YoUDees 73, Dragons 66