Halfway Down the Rabbit Hole

The next two nights mark the midway point of conference play. With half the conference merely one game out of first place, it feels like we’re no closer to picking a champion than we were three months ago. Although the top of the conference is very unsettled, it’s very interesting to look at the potential seeds in the bottom half.

Right now, we’re wondering which teams from the Delaware/Drexel/Elon Trio can do enough to avoid playing on that first Friday in Baltimore. The bottom four teams will play on Friday, and theoretically have the toughest paths to Monday’s Championship. Towson and Charleston have work to do to get back in the hunt for sixth place, and that just makes Thursday’s impending rockfight all the more intriguing.

I won’t be surprised if every one of these picks is wrong. If that’s the sacrifice I’ve got make for an exciting night of hoops, I’m all for it.


Delaware (3-5) at James Madison (5-3) — Video Stream — 7:00

Monté Ross and Matt Brady will face off in a game where the aggregate total of underclassmen (22) is equal to the total number of games in the all-time series. Kyle Anderson and Ron Curry are the elder statesmen guiding the two youngest teams in the CAA. Curry shared CAA Player of the Week honors with Damion Lee last week, but could’ve just as easily been usurped by Anderson, who averaged 24 points in Delaware’s 1-1 week.

Maybe those in the Richmond Office were just trying to spread the awards around the conference, as UD frosh Kory Holden was undeniably the best youngster in the league last week. Holden averaged 18 points and seven dimes last week, and is now just one Rookie of the Week award away from matching Devon Saddler’s mark (four) from the 2010-2011 season. Though they’re comparable in the immense ways in which they can impact a game, Holden is a much better facilitator than Saddler was in his younger years.

Curry averaged 23 points per game last week, and that’s a very welcome sign for the Purple and Gold faithful. The Dukes need their most experienced player, the only guy who’s played in an NCAA Tournament, to set the tone. Curry’s game is built on getting in the lane, and if his three-point shooting (8-of-11) in the past two games represents positive regression to the mean, it’ll go a long way towards keeping JMU in the top half of the conference.

Although I’m hardly thrilled about picking against a Blue Hen group coming off its two best shooting performances of the season, the task becomes easier when you realize they’ve allowed one opposing player to go for 30+ in back-to-back games.

The Dukes’ zone continues to make life difficult for the CAA, and Curry’s hot shooting is just enough to put his guys on top.

JMU 66, UD 65

Northeastern (6-2) at Drexel (3-5) — Video Stream — 7:00

The Dragons will try to keep this three-game homestand going in the right direction, after Damion Lee shot Drexel to victory this past Saturday against Charleston. Tonight’s opponent finds itself at the top of the conference standings, and presents a much tougher task. So although Bruiser Flint might have the best player on the court, Bill Coen probably has the next five.

Northeastern’s coming off a tough shooting performance at William & Mary, where a series of empty possessions allowed a close game to spiral out of control in the waning minutes. The Huskies won’t shoot 2-of-20 from three again, but if they commit turnovers on 21.5% of possessions again, the Dragons just might hang around. Drexel’s forcing the highest percentage of turnovers in league play, and this game projects as the kind of rockfight Flint’s team wants to play.

I’ve got two intriguing stats (courtesy of Northeastern’s pregame notes): since Coen took over in 2006, Northeastern is 6-1 when holding Drexel to 60 or fewer points. On the opposite end, Northeastern is just 1-10 when allowing Drexel to score 61+. Obviously Drexel’s had the upper hand in most years, but this year and this game will be different.

The second relevant stat is that Northeastern is 6-0 following a loss this season. Coming off a big one in Williamsburg, the Huskies need to right the ship heading into a three-game stint at Mathews. 60 points appears to be the magic number, but if Flint has it his way, neither team will get there.

Still, I think the Huskies’ balanced attack will make the most of their limited possessions.

NU 59, DU 56

Elon (3-5) at UNCW (6-2) — Video Stream — 7:00

The Seahawks have survived some close calls of late, and probably deserved to lose at Charleston Wednesday. Cedrick Williams stepped up in a big way on Saturday, posting a 22 and 14 double-double in the home win versus Towson. The forwards are just role players in Kevin Keatts’ guard-centric offense, but I think it would be wise to get the big guys more touches. There’s been a lot of pressure on Jackson and Spruill to carry the load, but Williams, Gettys, and crew are capable of easing the burden.

Elon’s Austin Hamilton has reached double figures in three consecutive games, including a 31-point outburst in Elon’s 92-84 win against Delaware. As is often the case with guys nearing the end of their college careers, Hamilton’s emergence is key for an Elon team that’s struggled to find consistent offense.

Elon and UNCW have joined Hofstra in the campaign to ban rockfights from the CAA. Both are among the 50 fastest teams in D-I, but rely on defense to set the tone. We’ll tune in expecting offensive fireworks, but might just be in for a defense showdown a la NU-DU.

Another interesting note from one of the CAA’s spectacular SIDs: Elon is 11-1 when it shoots above 40%, and 0-9 when it’s above that mark. The Phoenix is shooting right at 40.1% during conference play.

That’s enough to make me go against UNCW and its raucous home crowd.

EU 67, UNCW 64

Hofstra (5-3) at William & Mary (6-2) – Video Stream – 7:00

Alas, the premiere matchup of the night pits two of the CAA’s best offenses against each other. But at this point, you’re well aware that those offenses are trending in opposite directions. The Pride came into conference play looking like it could challenge the Tribe as the best deep-shooting team in the league, but has been merely average from three-point land (33.7%) thus far.

Hofstra’s recent slide represents a somewhat predictable bump in the road. The hot shooting that spanned from December into January seemed a bit unsustainable, and now Joe Mihalich’s team has to do a little soul searching. There’s so much talent on this team that it’s just a matter of manipulating certain variables to see what works. Senior big man Moussa Kone has helped fill the void, having scored 10+ in three of his last four. Perhaps Kone can be part of the equation, as working the ball inside could allow Hofstra to get better looks outside the arc.

The one player in this league who we haven’t mentioned enough is the Tribe’s Terry Tarpey. There isn’t just one stat that summarizes everything he brings to the table, but the fact that he’s leading the conference in Win Shares per 40 Minutes should give you an idea of the immense impact he has when he’s on the court. Also contributing to the Tribe’s offensive surge is sophomore Omar Prewitt, who’s now averaging 16 points and shooting 45.7% from three in conference play after a stellar four-game sequence.

With Tarpey and Prewitt alleviating the stresses on Thornton, I’m finding it hard to go against a Tribe team that’s 9-0 at home this season.

W&M 73, HU 71

On a Thursday

Towson (1-5) at Elon (2-4) – Video Stream – 7:00

Towson has lost nine of ten, with the one win coming against Elon back on January 5th. The Phoenix has lost three straight since beating William & Mary two weeks ago. As you can tell, both these teams really need a W.

Pat Skerry’s squad forced Elon into what was, at the time, its slowest game of the season (62 possessions). We’ll see if things are different in the next installment of tortoise versus hare. Pace will be the determining factor here, as Elon has struggled against slower-paced teams. If Towson takes care of the ball and cashes in at the free-throw line, it might have a chance.

The Phoenix’s performance in the final 10 minutes at JMU provided a bit of optimism. If Matt Matheny’s team can push the tempo, it can get a Towson team that struggles protecting the ball to give up some easy buckets.

This one might be ugly, and it’s anyone’s guess as to who will win. Give me the home team in a low-scoring slobberknocker.

Phoenix 14, Tigers 12

James Madison (4-2) at Northeastern (5-1) – Video Stream – 7:00

This feels like a complete redux from when these guys met two weeks ago. JMU enters this game as it did the last – having won its past two conference games against lesser competition, and seeking to prove itself against a contender.

Northeastern has the more talented starting five, but JMU’s team-oriented approach has helped the Post-Nation Era start of out on a positive. Yohanny Dalembert is shooting 33-of-47 (70.2%) in conference play, and while I think he should get more touches, you don’t want to mess with that kind of efficiency.

Meanwhile, Northeastern has a four-game conference winning streak, but just dropped a random nonconference home game against Detroit. The result was ultimately negligible, but Northeastern’s free-throw shooting (37-of-59, 62.7%) in the past two games has been a cause for concern. It held the Huskies back last season, and a team that doesn’t get much help from its bench needs to capitalize on the easy opportunities.

I want to pick the Dukes, but they’ve had trouble closing out games. I’m thinking the Huskies will squeak out a close one.

NU 65, JMU 62

Dub Up

We’ve reached the first intermission of conference play, and it’s not difficult to pick out the perceived anomaly in the CAA standings.

We look at the top, and are unsurprised to see Northeastern and William & Mary leading the pack, just as they were picked to do some four months ago.

Moving down to third place we find a Hofstra group that, despite back-to-back losses, has met and exceeded expectations so far this season. James Madison is a bit of a surprise, but was picked to finish fifth in the league and might’ve been higher had we known that Drexel’s Major Canady would miss the entire season.

So atop the standings, things are going about as planned. But there’s one unexpect guest that seems intent on Vaughn-and-Wilsoning this happy wedding.

At 4-2, the UNCW Seahawks are firmly entrenched in the top half of the CAA. UNCW owns the best two wins in the league, having triumphed on the homecourts of Northeastern and Hofstra teams that have combined to go 9-1 in all other conference games.

Because of the fluid status of this blog’s platform, we didn’t vocalize on-the-record picks during the preseason. Had we done that, I would have been higher on UNCW than most. 40% of the CAA ranks among the 50 least experienced teams in D-I. The Colleges of William & Mary and Charleston, also sporting youthful looks, aren’t far off that mark.

Enter UNCW, with hot new coach Kevin Keatts and a chip on its shoulder. Keatts inherited a trio of four-year collegiate guards and a talented, experienced big man who defends. Coaching changes almost always result in multiple transfers, and I was pleasantly encouraged by the lack of attrition that ensued when Keatts was hired.

Luke Hager and Nate Anderson were unfortunate casualties, but Keatts’ ability to bring in proven and promising talents like Jarvis Haywood and Denzel Ingram indicated that players inside and outside the program recognized he was for real.

Can the Seahawks keep it up? Emerging from trips to Boston, Williamsburg, and Long Island with two wins certainly bodes well for the future. Additionally, scales of balance work in UNCW’s favor. Here’s a look at the next five games:

@CofC (1/21), Towson (1/24), Elon (1/28). @Drexel (1/31), @JMU (2/4)

Given what they’ve done over the past two weeks, we have every reason to believe the Seahawks can emerge from that stretch with a winning record. If they can go (at least) 3-2 in that stretch, the Dubmen will be 7-4 heading into a huge three-game homestand (W&M, CofC, Northeastern).

Like their NBA counterparts from Atlanta, the ‘Hawks have to be taken seriously. If you’re still sleeping on them, you better wake up.

Here are picks and previews for the midweek slate:

William & Mary (5-1) at Delaware (2-4) – Video – 7:00

Saddler, Usher and Co. downed the Tribe three times last season, with the final game serving as W&M’s painful finale to the 2014 Season. The aforementioned players’ basketball abilities have them cashing checks, while Monté Ross is guiding the Baby Hens through a full-fledged youth movement.

The young Fightins’ still have much to learn, and a Wednesday Night Seminar at the Bob Carpenter Center provides for a potentially great teaching moment. This seminar will be led by Marcus Thornton, stud senior guard for the William & Mary Tribe. As a former All-Rookie Team selection and two-time All-CAA player, Thornton is both a master of his craft and a model for young guards across America.

Watch closely, Kory Holden. You’ll be an All-CAA guy one day, and can learn a lot from the one you’ll guard tonight.

Tribe 73, Hens 62

Drexel (2-4) at Hofstra (4-2) – Video – 7:00

Poor three-point shooting isn’t to blame for Hofstra’s last two losses. The Pride’s 34% mark from downtown is essentially the median mark in Division I, and represents a slight improvement from Hofstra’s first four conference games.

But the Pride came into conference play shooting 42.1% from three, and for Joe Mihalich’s team to justify attempting 25 3-pointers each night, we need to see Hofstra get back to knocking down closer to 40% of its long-range attempts. Dion Nesmith and Brian Bernardi are the main culprits here, as both have seen their shooting percentages drop in conference play.

Drexel followed its worst offensive performance of the Flint Era with its best offensive game of the season. Despite letting the game get too close for comfort, Drexel showed some things in its trip to Newark. Tavon Allen played his best game since before Christmas, and freshman Tyshawn Myles (11 points, 11 rebounds) came out of nowhere to play the best game of his young career.

Despite Drexel’s developments, Hofstra is an entirely different beast. The Pride needs a win, and although I’m not as bearish as the more insightful Dan Crain, I’m not expecting this one to be particularly close.

Hofstra lets the frustrations out.

Pride 75, Dragons 60

College of Charleston (1-5) at UNCW (4-2) – Video – 7:00

You read all about the Dubmen up top, and understand that they’re taking momentum home with them to Trask. But leading scorer Freddie Jackson, whose morphed into more than just the name of a famous R&B singer who I’d never heard of before listening to Slow Jamz, is a game-time decision. And that makes things interesting.

As per Eric Detwiler’s preview, CofC’s Joe Chealey has stepped up in the absence of recovering senior Anthony Stitt. Chealey and Canyon Barry get buckets, and as Charleston continues to grow under Earl Grant, the two sophomores will grow out of the volume-dependent chucking that often occurs when the team is down.

The Cougars are playing better of late, as evidenced by the win at Elon and the close game at Mathews from this past weekend. But Northeastern’s missed free throws allowed Charleston to hang around. I think tempo will work in the favor of the Seahawks, who can push the ball and get easy buckets inside. The Cougars will try to keep pace with 3-pointers. Perhaps they can, but I’m not banking on it.

Remember when Wainwright and Brownell made Trask a feared place to play? These faithful fans are buying in, and are ready to party like it’s 2006.

Seahawks 67, Cougars 62


Thursday Previews still to come

Courageous Cougars

A wild two days produced many headline-worthy stories. A three-way tie for first was created when Northeastern outgunned Hofstra and William & Mary came back from 22 down to topple UNCW. Delaware, winless just three weeks ago, moved to 2-3 in the CAA with an overtime win over Towson, and James Madison beat ice-cold Drexel in a game that produced fewer points (89) than Northeastern did against Hofstra (91).

And despite those happenings, the best moment from the past two days was Charleston’s win at Elon on Wednesday. The official CofC post-game release summarizes the grandiose challenges facing the Cougars. As bad as things were over the summer, this last month has been worse. Just two days before beating the Phoenix, the Cougars attended a memorial service for Chad Cooke, their former teammate who passed away on Christmas Eve. 

Going through such struggles off the court helped CofC pull together on the hardwood. Canyon Barry (23 points) and Joe Chealey (17 points) got hot from behind the arc to help Charleston snap its eight-game skid. Elon was playing at home and is having a much better year, but Charleston (now 14-5 all-time against Elon) just seemed to know its long-time foes deficiencies. Elon’s 50 points were season-low.

I try to exclude bias from this blog, but I’m definitely pulling for the Cougars a bit this year.

And on that, let’s look at what will surely be an interesting Saturday.

William & Mary (4-1) at Towson (1-4) – Video – 12:00

Coming off a big emotional victory, this smells like a potential trap game for the Tribe. Through its first five conference games Pat Skerry’s squad has held CAA foes to a dismal 23.4% mark from three, and you know the Tribe makes a living behind the arc.

But our five-game conference sample size indicates that these teams are trending in opposite directions. William & Mary is netting +0.26 points more than Towson on each possession. Towson can still harness the spirit of a rockfight with a 55-possession game, and the Tribe can still win by double digits.

Maybe the Tigers can compete if they can get to the line (1st in D-I in free-throw rate) in a grind-it-out game, but unless Four McGlynn awakens to hit a slew of 3-pointers, it’s hard to imagine their offense being able to do enough to keep up with the Tribe.

Fightin’ Thorntons 69, Tigers 58

UNCW (3-2) at Hofstra (4-1) – Video – 2:00

The first conference rematch comes early, and projects as a fun, up-tempo affair. Once again, we find the Seahawks playing on a contender’s home court. This will be the Dubmen’s sixth conference game, and fourth against the Northeastern/William & Mary/Hofstra triumvirate.

Addison Spruill was fantastic on Wednesday, scoring a career-best 33 points at Kaplan. That was the result of some unsustainably hot outside shooting. Spruill had success bullying his way into the paint, and we’ll look for that to continue against a Hofstra team that defends the perimeter well, but is just so-so at defending the paint. UNCW is at its best when its guard are attacking the lane and finishing down low. 

UNCW gave Hofstra quite the duel two weeks ago. That game at Trask was one of three instances in which Hofstra failed to score at least one point per possession. I’m inferring that the Pride’s offense will be better, and telling you that Joe Mihalich has his team knowing that giving up 91 points at Mathews (or anywhere) is unacceptable. That was a step in the wrong direction for a team that had played some very good defense since Christmas.

Look for Hofstra’s renewed focus on defense to pay off.

Hofstra 74, UNCW 65

Drexel (1-4) at Delaware (2-3) – Video – 4:00

In a rivalry where inexperience reigns supreme, your afternoon might be better spent watching the winter grass grow. Jokes aside, it’s fun to see young guards play, and you’re almost guaranteed to see one have a big game here. It’s crazy to think that Delaware, winless just three weeks ago, could move to 3-3 in the league with a win against a Drexel team coming off an absolutely horrendous offensive performance.

Dan Crain’s preview provides all of the insight you need. He’s understandably dismayed by Drexel, but I actually like this as a potential bounceback spot for the Dragons. Damon Lee will be most talented player on the floor, and although his supporting cast leaves much to be desired, I think the Dragons can come up with a win in a rivalry game.

Lees 58, Andersons 55

Charleston (1-4) at Northeastern (4-1) – Video – 7:00

I don’t have a lot to say on this one. I think the Cougars will start to play better now that they’ve snapped their losing streak, but I’m also expecting the Huskies to build some momentum heading into next Saturday’s trip to Williamsburg. Northeastern showed the ability to win a rapid, high-scoring affair.

It’s not that we doubt the Huskies ability to score, but it was still great to see four guys finish in double figures. The overall offensive balance was the best thing about this team coming into the season. I expect a defensive affair in the first half, with the Huskies figure things out in the second. 

Dogs 67, Cats 59


Elon (2-3) at James Madison (3-2) – Video – 8:00

This one’s intriguing for two teams trying to fight their ways into the upper half of the conference standings. I’ve got plenty of thoughts on the Andre Nation situation, and I’d rather let JMU Sports Blog divulge on the subject. Nation’s repeated instances made his dismissal the least surprising event ever, and I’m excited to see what Brady can do with this current group that got off to a 4-1 start (albeit against lesser competition) when Nation was suspended earlier this season.

Elon is coming off a tough home loss. The Phoenix is getting buckets from Elijah Bryant and Tanner Samson, but they’ve been volume scorers more than anything. Back at home with some added fan support after Winter Break, I think we’ll see an inspired performance from the Dukes.

Bradys 65, Mathenys 60

Here’s Where We Part

Four games into the gauntlet, each team in the league can pick out at least one foe with its record in reverse. Three 3-1 teams have a trio of 1-3 ones to match, and the two 2-2 teams are trying to figure out who they are. There’s also an 0-4 team that’s gotten the short end of every stick it’s seen since the end of last season. Flip flop Drexel and UNCW, and it’s about how you drew it up four months ago.

And on top, there’s a 4-0 team to balance it all out. For Hofstra, it starts with startling efficiency on offense, as the Pride ranks in the top decile of D-I teams in effective field goal percentage (53.2%). Unlike some of the previous Post-Exodus contenders in an eerily up-tempo CAA, Hofstra has a defense (89.4 defensive efficiency) that matches its offense through four games of conference play.

Things gets trickier now, as Wednesday Night will be the first night in which all of the teams aren’t playing on the same day. James Madison and Drexel will battle on Thursday Night, and we’ll preview that later. For now, let’s look at the four Wednesday Night games.

Charleston (0-4) at Elon (2-2) —Video — 7:00

Matt Matheny’s team got two stiff tests last week when William & Mary and Hofstra visited Alumni Gym. Whereas the Phoenix shot 12-of-25 from deep to take down the Tribe, a 4-of-21 mark from Bonusphere kept the Phoenix from pulling the same trick on the Pride. Even so, a 1-1 showing was impressive from the CAA newcomers.

Charleston’s losing streak stands at eight, and it’s anyone guess when that’ll end. The Cougars have shown recent improvement by scoring over one point per possession in both of their past two games. They had accomplished that just twice in their first 15 games. Unfortunately their defense hasn’t been up to par, and is allowing a league-worst 1.17 points per possession in league play thus far.

Charleston was competitive with Hofstra last week, forcing the Pride into its slowest game of the season. Maybe the Cougars will have a chance if they can do the same against the equally fast Phoenix, but I’m thinking the Phoenix will take its opportunity to kick an old SoCon foe while it’s down.

Elon 65, Charleston 56

Towson (1-3) at Delaware (1-3) — Video — 7:00

Last season is not this season, as Monté Ross and Pat Skerry went from dining on ripe bananas to a bunch so green it should be in a brown paper bag in the back of a dark closet. Both are among the 50 youngest teams in D-I. We shouldn’t expect the offensive fireworks we saw last year, but this one still sets up as an intriguing 50-50 Pick ‘Em.

Four McGlynn is averaging just 5.0 points per game in conference play, and Towson desperately needs him to snap out of that funk. Conversely, Kyle Anderson has been in double figures in all eight of his games this season. He’s easing the burden on the freshmen and sophomores that comprise the team, which gives me more faith in Delaware’s ability to put the ball in the hoop.

For turnover-prone Towson and second-chance permitting Delaware, this will likely come down to which team makes better on the extra opportunities. I’ll guess the team with the highest aggregate total of points off turnovers and second-chance points will be the victor.

Delaware 60, Towson 57

UNCW (3-1) at William & Mary (3-1) — Video — 7:00

Hofstra and Northeastern will have the fans’ eyeballs, but this one has almost as much intrigue. A UNCW crew with burgeoning confidence gets a shot to take down a contender for the second consecutive week. Freddie Jackson’s efforts in UNCW’s recent run earned him a share of Player of the Week honors. Kevin Keatts has his Seahawks ready to swarm any team that doesn’t bring its A-Game.

The Seahawks have been winning with defense, but it’s a wonder if they can stick with the sharpshooting Tribe. It’s obviously a small sample size, but UNCW has struggled to hit the three in conference play. And just as the sun rises each day, William & Mary is killing it from beyond the arc. Tony Shaver’s team has hit 39-of-95 3-point attempts (41.1%) thus far in conference play.

Terry Tarpey has hauled in double-digit rebounds in four straight, and posted a triple-double on JMU Saturday. He’s given the Tribe a massive boost when others (Omar Prewitt, Daniel Dixon) have struggled. I think the Tribe gets it done at home, and that we start to see sophomores Dixon and Prewitt return to form. After all, Marcus Thornton still calls Kaplan home.

William & Mary 72, UNCW 66

Hofstra (4-0) at Northeastern (3-1) — Video — 7:00

It goes without saying that this is a huge early season game between (what appears to be) the two best teams in the league. This will be Hofstra’s fourth road game in league play, but that hasn’t stopped the Pride from steamrolling its competition thus far. Hofstra’s offense is firing on all cylinders, and the opposition has lacked the firepower to keep up.

Northeastern presents a different challenge, as Bill Coen’s club can score and has defended the perimeter well to date. The key for me is David Walker, who’s been awfully quiet since opening week explosions versus Boston and Florida State. Walker is a big part of Northeastern’s staunch perimeter defense, and needs to help keep the team calm when Hofstra goes on an inevitable run. The Beasterton awoke versus Towson, and now needs his right-hand man to step up and join him.

I so want to pick Northeastern for the sake of parity in this league, but the large disparities in turnover percentage (15.8% for Hofstra, 22.3% for Northeastern) has me thinking that this won’t be the spot for the Pride to drop its first conference game.

Hofstra 71, Northeastern 70

4 in 8 turns 2 in 3

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.