Double-duty this week to try to finish these up. Lots of mph work to be done late this week and next and I don’t want to shortchange you.
Hofstra checks in at #6, and Mason at #3. (Previously, ODU #1, UNCW #12, W&M #11, and Drexel #7).
Blue Ribbon Open
LAST SEASON: 21-11 (.656)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 11-7 (5th)
STARTERS RETURNING: 3
HOMECOURT: David S. Mack Sports Complex (5,047)
COACH: Tom Pecora (Adelphi ‘83)
RECORD AT SCHOOL: 136-111 (8 years)
CAREER RECORD: 136-111 (8 years)
ASSISTANTS: Van Macon, David Duke, Michael Kelly
TEAM WINS (last 5 yrs.): 21-26-22-12-21
RPI (last 5 yrs.): 71-30-73-242-102
2008-09 FINISH: Lost in CAA Quarterfinals
Key for Hofstra: It isn’t really consistency as it is a flow. Hofstra played a 54 possession game against Northeastern and an 85 possession game against James Madison and won them both. Stick with me here, because on the surface you’d think they are “comfortable at any pace.”
I say it is that they play better when they are in a flow, whether the pace is a fast one or a slow one. It’s those middle-type games, with fits and starts of fast and slow, that give them trouble. A better flow (the best word I can muster) smoothes out the rough spots of those games that have different needs within the 40 minutes.
Solid point guard play helps flow: Hofstra was dead last in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio and 11th in total assists.
Guy You Think Is Important, and He Is: Charles Jenkins. Well, duh. Everything runs through Jenkins, who returns as the only player in the country who averaged more than 19 points, four rebounds, and four assists per game. Keep this in your memory banks: Jenkins really struggled shooting the ball for a big portion of last season. I mean bad slump/long time. However the Pride still won 11 conference games and 21 overall. Imagine a breakout-er season.
Guy Who Is Actually More Important: Nat Lester. Six points and four rebounds isn’t going to get it done. Lester can be a difference maker and take the load off of Jenkins’s shoulders. Over the Pride’s final 13 games, Lester averaged 10.7 ppg and had a 22-point, 11-rebound double-double in a win over James Madison. Importantly Lester improved in nearly every major statistical category from his freshman to sophomore year seasons—a harbinger coaches love to see.
Guy Who Could Play On My Team: Like it’s any surprise I pick Corny Vines. OK, so he rarely plays defense and his emotions get the best of him. I don’t care. Love the oversized mouthpiece and constant chewing; the attitude that even if he’s missed six straight shots and let you score three straight times he is still the best player on the floor. And the Hail Mary swishes from beyond the arc are frighteningly entertaining.
The 6-2 senior had seven games of 15 or more points, and seven games of five or fewer points, but a better example: he played 38 minutes and scored a career high 23 points in Hofstra’s January win against Delaware, and played 10 scoreless minutes in the two teams’ February matchup.
Guy I’m Not Sold On: Chaz Williams. He’s 5-9 and a rocket, but he’s a freshman who can get out of control. Those guys don’t play well in the CAA, especially when a guy like Charles Jenkins is standing next to you. Your comp: probably Chad Tomko.
Coach Seems To Like: Halil Kancevic. Says Pecora: “He has a big skill level for a player that size.” Also, Aussie Brad Kelleher was a top 10 juco three-point shooter.
Games I Will Not Miss: at Kansas (11/13). I’m a sucker for Rock-Chalk, and for CAA upsets. At ODU, 1/9. These two teams always put on a great show. ODU eliminated Hofstra last season in another classic.
Blue Ribbon Open
LAST SEASON: 22-11 (.667)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 13-5 (2nd)
STARTERS RETURNING: 2
HOMECOURT: Patriot Center (10,000)
COACH: Jim Larranaga (Providence ‘71)
RECORD AT SCHOOL: 207-131 (11 years)
CAREER RECORD: 404-301 (24 years)
ASSISTANTS: Chris Caputo, Michael Huger, Eric Konkol
TEAM WINS (last 5 yrs.): 16-27-18-23-22
RPI (last 5 yrs.): 152-15-124-61-53
2008-09 FINISH: Lost in NIT First Round
Key for Mason: Maturity, plain and simple. It is maturity on three levels: the junior (Cam Long) and the senior (Lou Birdsong) have to be leaders; the sophomores have to take that important step (Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison, Andre Cornelius); and the freshmen have to be mature enough to be ready to play.
The talent is there, but a team with this construction of skill and youth risks becoming a band of individuals.
Guy You Think Is Important, and He Is: Cam Long. Every great team needs “that guy.” Long led the Patriots in scoring, assists, steals, and three point percentage, and finished second in rebounding and free throw percentage. In fact his three point accuracy (46-104, 40.4%) was third in the conference. Good enough, eh? This season, it may be about making big shots late.
Guy Who Is Actually More Important: Andre Cornelius. He will be on the floor because he can distribute the ball and plays in-your-jersey defense, and he can get inside a defense to cause trouble. But if Mason is to be very successful on offense, one of two things will need to occur. First, they will have to get out and run (Larranaga is already talking about that). Or, somebody will have to shoot the ball consistently from deep or they will see 47 zones defenses that never leave the paint and we will see a lot of 56-52 games. Cornelius can trigger either option.
Guy Who Could Play On My Team: Ryan Pearson. Another lefty. However Pearson has a mean streak about him that we like. Plus, he can do a lot of different things on the court and be put in varying situations and succeed. He has that winner look about him.
Guy I’m Not Sold On: Isaiah Tate. This was a toughie, because I like each of the Patriots’s big men. And I couldn’t name Cornelius again even though he has a woeful looking shot. Tate gets the call, mainly because I’ve never seen him do anything other than shoot threes, and even that is inconsistent. I don’t care who says what, we haven’t seen anything from Tate in two years, and now Larranaga has more talent to work with.
Coach Seems To Like: Paris Bennett. Who knows how many minutes Bennett will log this year, but he is Larranaga’s kind of player. Unselfish, and has no issue making the stars stars.
Games I Will Not Miss: Hosting Dayton on 12/8–two very good mid majors going toe-to-toe. JMU at Mason (1/30). Both teams should be rounding into form and not yet beaten up from a long season. Should be a great rivalry game.