On a Thursday

We enter the Thursday Night showdown with a three-way tie for second place, which could become a four-way tie for first place depending on tonight’s outcome.

Some brief thoughts from Wednesday’s action before we dive into the grandeur significance of tonight’s game…

Northeastern’s 75-64 win over William & Mary verified what we knew but hadn’t seen: that the Huskies can beat any team in this league. Although the natural reaction is to downplay the win on account of Daniel Dixon’s absence, it must be noted that the Tribe’s three-point shooting (12-of-22, 54.5%) wasn’t the issue here. Northeastern had a 38.1% offensive rebounding mark, which gave Northeastern a 12-2 advantage for second-chance points. Dixon would not have helped on that front.

Northeastern registered assists on 20 of its 26 buckets en route to 1.44 points per possession. David Walker, Scott Eatherton, T.J. Williams, and Zach Stahl all had O-Ratings above 144. Walker scored the game-high 21 points, and bolstered his 191 O-Rating with a seven assist, zero-turnover performance.

From the Tribe’s side, I found it interesting that Tom Schalk played as many minutes as Sean Sheldon (19), and it wasn’t because of foul trouble. Usual suspects Marcus Thornton and Terry Tarpey chipped in 17 points apiece, and frosh Greg Malinowski came off the bench to hit 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

I touched on this in the preview, but it’s fascinating how Hofstra and Towson’s differing styles produce similar results. As the top offensive rebounding teams in the CAA, these two thrive on second-chance points and getting to the free-throw line.

Towson came into Wednesday’s dual with the second best three-throw rate (50.9%) in the nation. But it was Hofstra that posted an astounding 85.7% free-throw rate by getting to the line 42 times. So when you hear that the Tigers converted seven more field goals on the same number of attempts, you don’t have to wonder why they lost.

Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley combined for 42 points, with 24 of them coming from the foul line. Green leads the country with 183 free-throw makes. Towson’s Four McGlynn had 27 points off the bench, and John Davis chipped in 17 points.

JMU won its fourth game in a row, downing Drexel 82-78. The Dukes shot 57.1% on the game, but committed more than twice as many turnovers as the Dragons. Early in the second half it felt like Damion Lee was going to be too lead Drexel to another victory, but JMU used a 25-13 run to turn a tie game into a 12-point lead. Drexel whittled that lead down to just three with 23 seconds left, but Ron Curry sealed it with a free throw.

Tom Vodanovich tallied 18 points on a plethora of cuts to the basket, and Dimitrije Cabarkapa continued his recent advent by scoring 12 points in 11 minutes. The aforementioned Curry (25 points) went toe-to-toe with the aforesaid Lee (26 points).

By averaging 16.9 points and four assists in conference play, Curry has emerged as a dark horse for First Team All-CAA. He’s averaged 18.6 points in the 11 games of the Post-Nation Era. His rise to prominence has coincided with his suddenly lethal three-point shot. Curry’s shot 42.9% from three in conference play. Curry had shot 25.6% on 223 attempts over his first two seasons.

The Charleston Cougars pulled into a ninth place tie with a 77-63 win versus Elon. Charleston shots 65.2% in the first half and 56.3% on the night while holding Elon to 37.5% from the field. Canyon Barry had 22 points, and fellow sophomore Joe Chealey had 16.

Charleston survived a three-point onslaught from Tanner Samson, who scored 20 of Elon’s first 33 points. Elijah Bryant scored 20 points, and committed just one turnover.


UNCW (10-4) at Delaware (6-8) – Video Stream – 7:00

On the surface this looks like a potential quarterfinal matchup in Baltimore, but further inspection reveals this as an opportunity for Delaware to pull within one game of Drexel. With a trip to the DAC still on tap and some solid wins (W&M twice, at Northeastern) under its belt, Delaware actually still has a decent chance to avoid Friday in Baltimore. A win against another upper echelon squad would certainly help that cause.

We’ve got guards on guards on guards tonight, as UNCW’s quartet of Addison Spruill, Freddie Jackson, Craig Ponder, and Jordon Talley all scored in double figures in the Northeastern win last Saturday. The four guards are all averaging in double figures in conference play. Talley played a huge part in UNCW’s wins last week, and as Eric Detweiler’s pregame notes, this is the second of (hopefully many) Talley vs. Kory Holden showdowns.

Delaware went into Kaplan and snapped William & Mary’s 14-game home winning streak. The Hens are guard-oriented in the same vein, as Holden, Kyle Anderson, and Cazmon Hayes lead the way. Anderson has been in double figures in all but one game this season, Hayes has recovered from a so-so start to conference play to score in double figures in nine of his past 11.

Both teams flashed flaws in UNCW’s skin-of-the-teeth overtime win in January. The Hens committed 20 turnovers (with 10 from Kory Holden), and the Hawks hit just 12-of-21 from the foul line while posting a 58.1% defensive rebounding mark. The Hens’ flaw looks more exploitable, as UNCW has forced a CAA-best 21.5% turnover rate throughout conference play.

UNCW hasn’t owned sole possession of first place this late in the season since Brownell, Callahan and Blizzard roamed the sidelines. You think Kevin Keatts’ group is about to relinquish that now?

Green Birds 65, Blue Birds 63


Six weeks ago, Northeastern head man Bill Coen stated that the CAA’s hyper competitive nature meant that each team would wind up with at least four conference losses. It’s held true for six weeks, as we’re about 80% of the way through the conference slate and still have six of the league’s 10 teams within two games of first place.

That further adds to the importance of tonight’s games, as Charleston, Drexel, and Northeastern have chances to pull themselves into ties with the teams they’re opposing. On the other side, if Elon, JMU, and William & Mary can thwart those attempts, they’ll do wonders in their quests to obtain favorable matchups in Baltimore.

Four games in 11 days. This is the homestretch y’all.

Elon (3-11) at Charleston (2-12) — Video Stream — 7:00 

Elon’s lost 10-of-11 and Charleston’s lost eight of nine. That’s what we’re looking at in this unofficial Battle for the Ninth Seed, which might be each team’s final chance to avoid skidding into Baltimore on black ice. A win probably puts Elon in the 8-9 game with Towson or Delaware, while a loss would give Charleston a season sweep and the tiebreaker in the conference standings.

Elon’s had some positive developments (namely Austin Hamilton’s surge), but I just like Charleston at home tonight. The Cougars controlled the tempo in the first matchup, and the Phoenix is netting a CAA-worst -10.5 points per 100 possession in conference play. It’s time for the Charleston, the country’s 14th least lucky team (KenPom explains the whole luck thing here), to have some things go its way.

Cougars 65, Phoenix 61

Drexel (8-6) at James Madison (9-5) — Video Stream — 7:00 

These guys met five weeks ago in JMU’s first game without Andre Nation, and the Dukes smothered the Dragons into their lowest scoring game of the Bruiser Flint Era. But there are many reasons to expect this one to be different, as Rodney Williams’ availability will certainly be a game changer. JMU flirted with danger by committing a 30.5% turnover rate in the first matchup, and Drexel can’t conceivably shoot 24% from the floor again.

Dan Crain’s long-awaited post summarizing Drexel’s four-guard vs. three-guard lineups concludes that the three-guard rendition has netted 17 points better than the four-guard rendition over a full 40-minute game. Although we know Drexel’s rebounding isn’t up to Bru’s usual standard, JMU is feeble on the glass. I agree with Crain’s thought that this is the perfect opportunity for the Dragons to use the three-guard lineup to bait Yohanny Dalembert into some early fouls. He’s the only JMU big that doesn’t fancy himself as a stretch four, and Bruiser’s bruisers could have a field day on the glass without Dalembert.

Matt Brady has shown a recent tendency for man defense, but given the success his team had with zones against Drexel the first time around, we should expect him to play something that gives Drexel ample opportunities from beyond the arc. That’s a scary proposition when you’re facing Damion Lee, a marksman who hits from the outside at a 40% clip. But if Ron Curry can match even 80% of Lee’s offensive production, he’ll continue to cement himself as one of the CAA’s best players.

JMU has some momentum after a successful 3-0 road swing, and it’s hard to ignore the dominance we saw in the first matchup.

Dukes 69, Dragons 68

Hofstra (8-6) at Towson (5-9) — Video Stream — 7:00 

Towson shot 57.8% in an out-of-character 86-point offensive explosion at Hofstra 18 days ago. That was the low point of Hofstra’s season, as the Pride had just lost for the fifth time in six games. But since the calendar turned to February, Hofstra’s won three of four, and has held its opponents below 70 points in each of its three wins.

That’s the magic number for Mihalich’s group, as the Pride is 15-1 when keeping the opposition below the 70-point mark. You worry about pace here, but Hofstra’s 81-57 massacre at The DAC proved that the Pride can blow the shell off a snail. Hofstra attempted just 12 3-pointers at Drexel, and we’re hoping that’s something that continues. Moussa Kone (10-of-10) and first-half hero Malik Nichols defined efficient in that one.

Meanwhile, Pat Skerry’s squad continues to show steady progress, having played .500 basketball over the past month. If this team manages to survive its seemingly inevitable Friday game, it would prove to be a tough matchup for some highly-seeded team in Baltimore. The Tigers physical, choppy style is reminiscent of your older brother’s CAA, and would frustrate the heck out of a team that wants to play a game in the 70s.

Like Towson, Hofstra also puts a lot of emphasis on rebounding the ball on the offensive end. It’s not the best matchup for Green, Tanksley, & Associates, but I think they can get enough 3-pointers to fall to steal one on the road. Using that 70-point mark as a barometer, I’m picking the Pride.

Pride 69, Tigers 67

William & Mary (10-4) at Northeastern (9-5) — Video Stream — 7:00 

Wednesday’s crème de la crème provides the Huskies with the chance to garner an attention-grabbing win. Northeastern is 0-3 against W&M and UNCW this year, and needs to win a big one to a) grab part of a tiebreaker with William & Mary and b) show everyone that they can beat (and be) the CAA’s top dogs.

A few recent trends work in Northeastern’s favor tonight, as the Huskies are 8-1 when coming off a loss, and are 6-1 all-time against the Tribe in Mathews. But William & Mary’s last trip to Mathews was victorious, and we know that the Tribe plays up (or down) to the level of its competition. William & Mary is still without Daniel Dixon, but won’t just roll over for the Huskies.

Northeastern permits outside shooting, and W&M is an absurdly good three-point shooting program. Having said that, I like the Huskies at home. Scott Eatherton earned Jerrelle Benimon status before the season began, which means we unfairly overlook his greatness because expect. He’s scored in double figures in 22 of 27 games this season, and although he’s not putting up the eye-popping numbers from a year ago, he’s become a much better overall player.

This seems like a prime spot for The Beasterton to emerge.

Huskies 72, Tribe 66

(Un)Lucky 13

I’m happy with how the scheduling worked out this week. The CAA’s constant clustering makes it impossible to hash out definitive seeding scenarios, but with the 13th collective conference game spread over the three-day midweek stretch preceding Friday the 13th, we’ll get a chance to watch our games more closely than if they were all bunched up on a Wednesday night.

We’ll probably end Thursday night more baffled than ever, but if the Tournament started today, things would be simple. The four teams that are below .500 in league play would play on Friday, while the other six would get an extra day to rest.

But Towson and Delaware are looking to jumble things up tonight, and given the way the season’s played out thus far, we expect one of them to do just that.

Both games are slated for Comcast SportsNet, but if it’s not syndicated in your area, you should be able to see both here.

Towson (4-8) at Drexel (7-5) — Comcast SportsNet — 6:00

Drexel won the first meeting 55-41, but it’s worth noting that Towson has been victorious in its last two trips to The DAC. As one of the more striking moments from Towson’s historic turnaround season (2012-2013), the first one was particularly memorable. You don’t need me to tell you that that was a lost season for Drexel.

Drexel got back to its roots Saturday, holding Charleston below 30% from the field and scoreless (0-of-11) from beyond the arc. It was a reminder that Bruiser Flint’s team still wants to win the same way it’s won for the past 10+ years. Still, there were nits to be picked, as Charleston posted a 37.2% offensive rebounding rate.

That could be problematic against the sixth-best offensive rebounding team in the country. Towson just slaughtered JMU on the offensive boards, and while Drexel isn’t as anemic on the glass, it’s an area where Drexel hasn’t been up to its typically excellent standard. This is part of the reason why Dan Crain hates it when Damion Lee plays the four, as it prevents Lee and the team from playing to its strengths.

So here we are, wondering if Drexel can slow down Towson’s Samme Givens clone, sophomore forward John Davis. Pat Skerry’s tenacious young group has quickly integrated into his system, evidenced by its offensive rebounding successes and propensity to get to the foul line. From the Towson side, the strategy will revolve around letting Davis, Foster, and Parker-Rivera crash the boards in hopes of creating second chances and foul trouble for the Drexel bigs.

But we can’t forget a huge part of the reason why the Tigers get so many offensive caroms – because they miss a lot of shots, as proven by the lowest effective field goal percentage (45.4%) in the league play. The Dragons have actually been worse on the whole season, but we know which team is trending up.

We’re either looking at a sickening crash back to reality, or another reason to #DUBelieve. Even though Pomeroy tells us DrexeI’s overachieving, I just can’t stop believing right now.

Drexel 57, Towson 56

James Madison (7-5) at Delaware (5-7) —Comcast SportsNet — 8:00 

As things stand today, Delaware looks like the primary threat to escape the depths of the standings and avoid a Friday game in Baltimore. Over the past month, the Hens are 5-4 with wins against top-rung fixtures William & Mary and Northeastern. Remember that as a potential tiebreaker. The youthful Hens showed uncommon poise Saturday, as Delaware countered Northeastern’s 10-0 post-halftime spurt with a decisive 16-3 run of its own.

Efficient post play has been at the heart of Delaware’s turnaround as Marvin King-Davis (10.2 points, 5.8 rebounds) and Maurice Jeffers (7.0, 4.2) have given Monté Ross’ team an added dimension in conference play. In UD’s guard-oriented attack, it’s crucial for the big men to make the most of their limited touches. Jeffers scored 20 on Saturday, and has been a big part of the Hens’ resurgence.

James Madison also comes in on a high note, as Ron Curry and Joey McLean parlayed their successful weeks into Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week (shared with Sammy Mojica) honors. Curry’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer at Towson was another sign of his assumption to leadership. It was also the type of skin-of-your-teeth win that validates JMU’s status as KenPom’s 20th most “Lucky” team.

As was the case in the last matchup, we go in expecting the guards (Curry, Anderson, Holden) to get theirs. King-Davis was Delaware’s zone breaker shatterer, as MKD dropped a career-best 31 points. On the other end, JMU forwards Tom Vodanovich and Yohanny Dalembert scored 17 points apiece. JMU beat Delaware 88-82 in Harrisonburg 13 days ago, but if this game plays out like that one did, I’ve got every belief that the Hens will come out on top. Delaware is better equipped to a win games played in the 70s and 80s.

If JMU plays zone, Delaware has proven it can score inside and from the perimeter. Delaware is still horrendous defensively, but the Hens have shown some legitimate offensive balance of late.

Back at The Bob, I expect Delaware to keep the pressure on the 7-5 trio to keep on winnin’.

Delaware 70, James Madison 66

The Best Power Forward

Saturday should be remembered as a day when Pat Skerry and thousands of coaches and fans across America joined together to raise awareness and funds for Autism. In the second year of Coaches Powering Forward for Autism, a phenomenal cause received much-needed publicity, and great hoops games helped drive the train.

If you needed a reminder that college basketball has more faces that Harvey Dent, look no further than what happened in our league on Saturday. Although many conferences could claim to be a microcosm of this madness, the CAA exemplifies its craziness as well as any. Five games were played, and each had a little something to offer.

The five games were played between the reigning conference champ and our preseason favorite, the 33rd and 34th youngest teams in D-I, two tortoises, two hares, and two CAA blue bloods facing off for first place. The results included a surprising upset, a buzzer-beating jumper, a 54-possession defensive battle, its 75-possession antithesis, and a new conference leader that fittingly won in a rockfight.

Need some elaboration?

Let’s start with William & Mary, a team that endured an interesting 48-and-a-half hour stretch south of Virginia. The Tribe entered the trek playing well enough to be noticed by The Post, well enough to get Shades of 48 writing again, and well enough to have its success become a taboo subject at Gheorge: The Blog.

Playing in front of 5,000+ on a night when John Goldsberry’s number was retired, UNCW forced 16 first-half turnovers, snagged 22 offensive rebounds (at a 43.1% clip), and didn’t allow the sweet-shooting Tribe to make its first 3-pointer until the 5:52 mark of the second half. That’ll be enough to beat W&M 98% of the time.

Yet it was one of the Tribe’s five offensive rebounds that proved to be the game’s most pivotal. Tom Schalk grabbed three offensive boards, with the final one resulting in a stickback that proved to be the go-ahead basket in the Tribe’s 56-53 win. It seems weird to say that a team stole one when it held the opposition to 28.8% shooting, but that’s certainly how it felt.

Schalk, a finesse big man who played a total of 31 minutes last season, scored a career-high 13 points in 20 minutes. The senior forward had started the previous three games while Sean Sheldon was working his way back from injury.

Tony Shaver was enamored to have his team come out on top in a gutty game. For a team that plays pretty basketball, the Tribe proved a lot by winning ugly.

“We told our team about a week ago, at some point we’re not going to make every shot, and we’ve got to find a way to win those games.”

Heading into the road trip, William & Mary had shot 55.1% over its previous six games. A loss at Charleston on Thursday proved what we already knew: that such shooting was unsustainable, and something that would be difficult to rely upon on consecutive days in Baltimore.

If you want to be the last team standing four weeks from today, you’d better be able to win a chippy battle. The Tribe erased all doubts on Saturday night.

Check out Dub writer Eric Detweiler’s three pieces on the game, found here, here, and here.


Delaware went into Mathews Arena having won just one road game this season. More experienced groups are better built for the rigors of March, but such words would be lost on the young Hens, who outworked the elder Northeastern Huskies and threw the conference a curve with a 73-68 road win.

The Hens were energized from the opening tip, blocking shots and attacking the lane. Delaware redshirt sophomore Maurice Jeffers was a force all afternoon, dropping a career-high 20 points while baiting Northeastern’s bigs into fouls. Sophomore Cazmon Hayes ran off seven consecutive points in the second half in what proved to be a decisive run.

T.J. Williams led Northeastern with 18 points. The Huskies shot just 21-of-31 from the foul line.

In the 2:00 game, Towson’s plethora of young talent glistened brightly, and dominated the lane all day. Unfortunately for Pat Skerry’s squad, this game was won on the perimeter, as JMU’s Ron Curry put up the CAA’s best individual performance of the day. Curry banged home five 3-pointers en route to 27 points, and his 18-foot jumper as time expired gave the Dukes the 63-61 win.

96.8% of the game’s scoring was done by underclassmen, which is a sign that these are two teams that should be expected to make a leap next season.

In Charleston, the Cougars attempted to build a winning streak when they hosted the resurgent Drexel Dragons. Damion Lee had an off game, but Tavon Allen stepped up to post a businesslike 18 points (6-of-10) and five assists in Drexel’s 59-45 win. Drexel has now won five in a row, and Allen has posted an offensive rating of at least 119 in four of the five. Allen is averaging 3.8 assists over that stretch, and for a guy who’s historically exhibited poor shot selection, that’s a hugely positive sign.

Anthony Stitt led Charleston with 15 points, and has scored in double figures in both games since returning from injury.

The final result from Saturday saw Hofstra parlay some defense with its offense. In a matchup between the country’s 16th and 22nd fastest teams, the Pride held its opponent below a point per possession for the second consecutive game. The Pride forced turnovers on 24% of possessions, turning 18 Phoenix turnovers into 23 points en route to an 80-69 win against Elon.

Super senior Dion Nesmith came off the bench to drop a season-high 22 points, and Juan’ya Green had 15 points and 10 assists. Despite those impressive lines, Moussa Kone’s 10 points and nine boards may have been the most encouraging. One discouraging sign was Hofstra’s 64.5% mark from the charity stripe. I’m interested to see how iffy free-throw shooting could effect this big Northeastern-Hofstra game on Thursday.

Austin Hamilton and Elijah Bryant each scored 11 points for Elon. Bryant was also charged with eight turnovers.


We’ve seen 12 games in six weeks, and get six more over the next three. With six teams within two games of first place, it’s time to gear up for a photo finish.

Pick a Side

I hear there’s a debate raging regarding the potential CAA Player of the Year. We’ll get a great look at the two headliners on Senior Day at Kaplan. But on a night when the only two league games just so happen to feature both players, everyone gets a chance to formulate opinions.

Drexel (5-5) at Elon (3-7) — Video Stream — 7:00

The Dragons could be tied for fourth by Thursday’s end, but as Dan Crain notes in his astute preview, the Phoenix plays a style that will force Drexel to play faster than it wants to play. That proved to be problematic for Drexel in the first matchup, because when Elon drilled 10 3-pointers in the first half, Drexel tried to keep pace and ended up committing 19 turnovers.

Things are considerably different now as Elijah Bryant, who scored 32 in the first matchup, has adopted the kind of high-volume chucking that makes J.R. Smith look efficient. Bryant tries to do too much, and Matt Matheny seems to realize he needs to pump the brakes on the stud freshman. Ironically, Elon’s lone win in the past seven games came in Bryant’s first collegiate start – a game in which Elon scored 92 points and Bryant was limited to 17 minutes.

A three-game homestand proved to be quite fruitful for Drexel, as the Dragons put the CAA on notice when they downed Northeastern and UNCW in consecutive games. Damion Lee has been the CAA’s single most dominant player, Sammy Mojica has brought offense and stability to the point guard spot, and Rodney Williams chipped in his best offensive game just two games after his month-long layoff.

The concerns about Drexel and game pace are valid, but Bru’s crew just won a 71-possession game against a UNCW team that’s 8-3 in league play. That’s an obvious anomaly, but with burgeoning confidence and the best player on the floor, I think the Dragons can find success in their first trip to Elon.

Drexel 67, Elon 66

William & Mary (8-2) at Charleston (1-9) — Video Stream — 7:30

William & Mary has shot 55.1% over its past six games, and now owns the nation’s 19th best offense (KenPom). The offensive brilliance was on full display last Saturday, as the Tribe went down to Harrisonburg and throttled JMU’s zone with quick passes to the foul line and outlet passes out to open shooters. Thornton and Omar Prewitt started the avalanche in the first half, and Daniel Dixon and Terry Tarpey kept it going even when JMU had switch to man defense.

It was the kind of full-fledged team domination that has people doubting Marcus Thornton’s credentials for CAA Player of the Year. Dixon and Prewitt combined to take twice as many shots as Thornton, and for good reason. The sophomore duo scored 46 points on just 24 field goal attempts. The big question coming into the season was how much of the burden Thornton would be asked to bare, and that hasn’t been a concern of late.

Now the Tribe strolls down to Charleston, where it’ll face a Cougar team whose last seven losses have been by six points or less. Anything can happen in this league, and while a last-place over first-place upset would be the ultimate poetic justice, it’s hardly likely. Like Bill & Mary, Charleston is also super dependent upon three-point shooting.

You can’t pick against Thornton & Co. in a potential shootout.

Tribe 70, Cougars 62

Muddled Middle

Eight February games separate us from March Madness, and Selection Sunday is less than six weeks away. Cherish every moment, because it will all end too soon. The top of the conference is starting to take shape, but the middle is as muddled as ever. On Wednesday, some of those teams in the middle have chances to make big statements.

Hofstra (5-5) at Delaware (4-6) — Video Stream — 7:00

Despite the fact that KenPom still projects Hofstra to finish four games better than Delaware, the Hens can knot things up with their third consecutive home win. When two teams with offenses that can put up points also happen to carry the league’s worst scoring defenses (in CAA play), you’ve got the potential for high-scoring affair that suddenly has a big impact on the conference standings.

It’s obvious that Delaware was missing Kyle Anderson to start the season, but Marvin King-Davis, who missed six games after an suffering an injury in the season opener, is also rounding into form. King-Davis is averaging right around a dozen points in conference play, and blew up for 31 points last week in Harrisonburg.

But it’s a double-edged sword, as JMU’s ho-hum frontcourt balled out against Delaware. And in his first meeting with Delaware, Hofstra freshman Rokas Gustys scored 11 and hauled in 16 boards as part of the Pride’s 40.5% offensive rebounding mark. Delaware can’t allow Hofstra to get that many chances again.

The Hofstra Quartet of Green, Tanksley, Bernardi, and Nesmith has shot below 38.2% in conference play. Hofstra’s lack of a post threat has magnified its lackluster three-point shooting, and burdened a beleaguered defense that just let Towson score 50 points in the second half. Hofstra’s defense has been generally awful since a trip to Mathews. But a game that will be dominated by guards gives Hofstra a chance to right the ship.

If Bernardi can contain whichever guard he matches up with, Hofstra should be able to stop the skid.

Hofstra 72, Delaware 69

UNCW (7-3) at James Madison (6-4) — Video Stream — 7:00

The Dukes will host a team in the upper echelon for the second straight game. They need to close out their three-game homestand on a high note, as a three-game road swing awaits. JMU has the privilege of visiting UNCW on Senior Night, and needs to take care of business tonight to insure a series split.

UNCW is on the other side of that, looking to split the second leg of a pair of roadies. Kevin Keatts’ squad will host William & Mary and Northeastern on consecutive Saturdays and with the big dogs looming, the Hawks have a chance to head back to Trask on a high note. Keatts shortened the rotation at Drexel, and went with a seven-man rotation throughout the game. Malik Pugh managed only two minutes, which says a lot considering how much Freddie Jackson struggled.

The most troubling part of JMU’s game versus William & Mary was that the Dukes went scoreless for more than 10 minutes of the game. The Dukes racked up 19 turnovers, and I think that will be problematic against a UNCW group that’s forcing the highest percentage of defensive turnovers (20.9%) in league play. JMU’s young bucks have shown some promise of late, but UNCW has shown the ability to play well anywhere in the conference.

If the Seahawks can win in Boston and Long Island, I’ll bet they can do it in Harrisonburg, too.

UNCW 66, James Madison 63

Towson (4-6) at Northeastern (6-3) — Video Stream — 7:00

The final day of January was kind to these teams. Towson played its best offensive game of the season, and Northeastern had four players in double figures, and two more with at least eight points. Despite the offensive explosions from this past weekend, we know better than to expect that here. We got a rockfight when these guys met in Baltimore, and I expect that to be the case again in Boston.

Although the first matchup between these two produced “only” 22 turnovers, it’s fair to expect more from teams that are committing the highest percentage of turnovers in league play. To that point, I’ll also be watching to see how the CAA’s best offensive rebounding team (Towson) does against its best defensive rebounding team (Northeastern). The team that comes up with the most extra chances will be at a big advantage.

Towson has won three of four and is certainly playing better. John Davis is among the national leaders in double-doubles, Four McGlynn appears to have emerged from his shooting slump, and freshmen Mike Morsell and Byron Hawkins have made some big strides. But despite that, it’s difficult to go against the Huskies at home. In a rockfight, you just expect the elder team to make those winning plays and triumph.

Northeastern 66, Towson 61

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