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