Evening, folks. It’s been quite sometime. I’d love to chat it up, but we’ve got a lot of ball to watch over the next 48 hours. As we head into the second half of this league-wide four-in-eight stretch, certain teams are picking up momentum, while others are already in precarious situations.
The Squad: Charleston (0-2)
The Slate: vs. Hofstra, vs. Delaware
The Guess: These guys lost a teammate on Christmas Eve and after everything they went through this summer, it’s fair to wonder how much of their focus is on basketball. They haven’t scored more than 50 points in four games, a direct result of some dismal three-point shooting (10-of-66 from downtown) over that span.
In order to alleviate pressure on the guards, they need to get the ball inside to Adjehi Baru and Donovan Gilmore. The CAA is light on big men, and those two have combined to shoot 56.8% inside the arc. Despite the recent woes, Earl Grant’s team proved throughout the nonconference schedule that it can shoot the basketball. Working the offense through the post would open things up on the perimeter.
The Cougars have to end this six-game losing streak this weekend. They don’t want to carry it onto the road, where they’ll play five of their next six. I think they end it versus Delaware. 1-1.
The Squad: Delaware (0-2)
The Slate: at UNCW, at Charleston
The Guess: For the second consecutive year, the reigning conference champion is one of the five youngest teams in D-I. Inexperience breeds inconsistency, which explains why a guy like Kory Holden can drop 27 against St. Bonaventure and not make a field goal against Northeastern. At least they’ve gotten two of their more challenging conference games out of the way.
Maybe the Hens can sneak one on the road in these cavernous, student-less stadiums, but this team is struggling to get consistent offense from guys not named Kyle Anderson. As the freshmen become more dependable, I think we’ll start to see some wins. For now, though, I think the YoUDees are lookin’ at an 0-2 trip to the Carolinas.
The Squad: Drexel (0-2)
The Slate: at Towson, at UNCW
The Guess: 0-2. They’ve got the talent to win both of these games, but for the umpteenth season in a row, they’re going through the rigors without depth. Without Rodney Williams (expected back in mid-to-late February), Damion Lee is playing the four. It’s an unfortunate situation when Bru has to limit his best player to “only” 34 minutes to protect him from injury.
Rashann London’s emergence (double digits in four of six) has been huge because this team is sorely lacking a third scorer. That’s especially true when your second-leading scorer is streaky Tavon Allen, who never met a shot he didn’t like. Playing outside the DAC with only eight active players, this roadie reeks of 0-2.
The Squad: Elon (1-1)
The Slate: vs. W&M, vs. Hofstra
The Guess: Elon followed its best offensive performance in a D-I game this season (10 3-pointers in the first half at Drexel) with its worst since the first week of the season. In fairness, Towson plays at the slowest pace in the conference (340th in the country), and was Elon’s introduction to the rockfights that await in the CAA. The silver lining from the Towson game was that it was the first game in which the Phoenix kept the turnover number in the single digits. At Towson Elijah Bryant, AKA your future CAA Freshman of the Year, committed just one turnover after committing at least three in every game since November.
This team is still adjusting to the loss of Luke Eddy. I believe in Matt Matheny’s club, but it’d be asking a lot to defeat the big dogs this early, even at home. 0-2 looks very possible, though they should have a good chance to win both games.
The Squad: Hofstra (2-0)
The Slate: at Charleston, at Elon
The Guess: For the second consecutive season, the CAA is being sieged by a speedy yet mistake-free team. We knew Juan’ya Green would be great, but I’m just baffled that Ameen Tanksley (39-of-83 from three, 47%) has been every bit Green’s equal. Tanksley and Brian Bernardi (47-of-97, 48.5% from deep) have turned Hofstra into one of the best three-point shooting teams (24th in D-I) in the country. If Rokas Gustys can give half of what he gave against Delaware (11 points, 16 boards), this really might be the team to beat in the CAA.
Hofstra heads South with a four-game winning streak, having won each game by an average of 19.5 points. Don’t expect such large margins of victory, but Charleston and Elon probably have too many question marks to challenge Hofstra right now. 2-0.
The Squad: James Madison (2-0)
The Slate: vs. Northeastern, at W&M
The Guess: Lacking a single senior and desperately needing a leader, Ron Curry has committed a total of three turnovers in his last three games, spanning 95 minutes of game time. Through his first two conference games, Yohanny Dalembert is averaging 14 points on a terrific 11-of-13 from the field. He might only be a productive offseason away from First Team All-CAA.
After stumbling into conference play, the Dukes 2-0 start has been somewhat surprising. We were starting to question whether or not Andre Nation was helping or hurting this team, but his desertion of the three-ball has contributed to a much more efficient offense. If the Dukes are going to contend (or at least stay in the top half) in the conference, they can’t afford to drop two against premium competition. They could really prove a lot with a home win against Northeastern. For the sake of keeping things interesting, let’s say they split these two. 1-1 for the Dukes.
The Squad: Northeastern (1-1)
The Slate: at JMU, at Towson
The Guess: UNCW straight up out-efforted Northeastern on Monday, but Bill Coen will make sure that’s not a concern going forward. The alarming thing for me was the 14-of-22 mark from the charity stripe, which conjured up some painful memories from last season. Although the overall free-throw shooting is much improved from a year ago, this is still something that should be watched.
After this weekend, the Huskies will return home for four consecutive home games. The Huskies need to head into that stretch at .500 in the league. Northeastern commits its fair share of turnovers, which makes me think a trip to Harrisonburg could result in a sloppy, pace-less rockfight. Towson probably doesn’t have the guns to stick with Northeastern yet. The Beasterton awakens on this road trip to help the Huskies split a pair. 1-1.
The Squad: Towson (1-1)
The Slate: vs. Drexel, vs. Northeastern
The Guess: We knew the Georgetown-Temple-La Salle stretch would be tough, and the Tigers were practically skidding on black ice through the end of the nonconference schedule. Farleigh Dickinson was a loss that should’ve been a win. Fortunately conference play represents a clean slate, and as we saw in the Elon win, Skerry’s squad can control the tempo in these conference games.
Four McGlynn’s transition from shooter to scorer has gone about as well expected, and we’re seeing sophomore John Davis elaborate on the considerable promise he flashed last season. We knew coming into the season that point guard was a big question, so it’s not surprising that turnovers plagued this team throughout its six-game skid. Home games provide a great chance to get back on track, and a win against Drexel would give the Tigers a bit of momentum heading into a weekend duel with Northeastern. As it stands, 1-1 seems like a safe bet for this stretch.
The Squad: UNCW (1-1)
The Slate: vs. Delaware, vs. Drexel
The Guess: The last pre-hiatus blog post was about Kevin Keatts taking over at the Dub. Fast forward nine months, and Keatts has already put the entire CAA on watch by waltzing into Mathews Arena and gouging preseason favorite Northeastern. Keatts is getting the most out of a team comprised of Buzz Peterson’s holdovers. The Seahawks have direction and are starting to believe in themselves.
Coming off a huge win, the cliché thing to do would be to pick two wins against the league’s bottom feeders. That’s exactly what I’ll do. Addison Spruill, Freddie Jackson, and Craig Ponder are all in their fourth years of college basketball, and will be opposing mostly freshmen and sophomore guards. That adds up to a 2-0 stretch, which would equal a 3-1 start to conference play. Kevin Keatts has these guys knowing that they can play with anyone.
The Squad: W&M (2-0)
The Slate: at Elon, vs. JMU
The Pick: 2-0. There’s not much to say here. Marcus Thornton will be the best player on the floor in both matchups, and when he’s doing so many different things well (as he did in front of NBA Scouts at Drexel), William & Mary is going to be tough to stop. Sophomore Omar Prewitt looked a little more like himself in the first two conference games, and classmate Daniel Dixon has scored in double figures in six of his last seven.
Gheorghe: The Blog said the Tribe should emerge from the first four games at no worse than 3-1, but that was before W&M beat Charleston and Drexel by 30 and 26, respectively. I know they were probably extra amped for the “The Battle of the Colleges”, but these thrashings have been undeniably impressive. The next two games should be much more challenging, but Thornton should be able to lead the Tribe to victory over two upstarts. 2-0.