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