Tournaments Ahoy

I ventured out to Annapolis on Monday to scope College of Charleston’s 72-58 win against Navy. King Kresse (!) was also on the scene, and he’s got a much more intimate understanding of what to look for from this team. Check out his return to the blogosphere and thoughts on the game here.

Like Kresse, I came away impressed by a number of things Charleston did on the offensive side of the ball.

The Cougars shot 11-of-24 (45.8%) from three, an effort spearheaded by Cameron Johnson, Marquise Pointer, and Evan Bailey. That trio contributed in a variety of ways. Johnson (11 points, 3-of-4 from three) effectively sealed the victory with two backbreaking 3-pointers in the waning minutes of the game. Pointer (11 points, 3-of-6 from three) played with fearless aggression, and ran Charleston’s offense with a purpose. Bailey (12 points, 2-of-5 from three) came off the bench and played a huge role in bringing Charleston back from an early 11-0 deficit.

Plagued by foul trouble all evening, Canyon Barry put up 22 points in 25 minutes, sandwiching a 3-pointer and a traditional three-point play around Johnson’s two treys to give the Cougars a cushion after the Midshipmen had cut to within four. Charleston only committed seven turnovers, which is rather impressive when considering that neither of its primary ballhandlers (Pointer and Payton Hulsey) were on the roster last season.

The interior defense needs improvement, as Navy outscored Charleston 22-10 in the paint. Allowing 22 points in the paint certainly isn’t bad, but Navy missed plenty of point-blank opportunities that more talented teams will capitalize upon. Charleston’s big men produced just 12 points in 76 minutes of playing time, and couldn’t seem to defend the post without fouling, which allowed Navy to enjoy a 34-19 advantage in free-throw attempts.

Navy isn’t a good team, but Charleston took care of business and showed some resilience to come back from an early deficit, and protect its lead when Navy tried to rally. When considering that the Cougars are missing two impact players (starting point guard Joe Chealey and freshman Grant Riller, who might’ve started), you’ve got to cut them a bit of slack this season, especially in the early going. There’s promise here, and while there will be bumps, it’ll be fun to watch this group grow.

Outside of Annapolis, our teams have largely continued to win the games they’re supposed to win.

While the league missed out on opportunities to secure some big-time victories, Elon and James Madison didn’t look out terribly of place in their ventures to Ann Arbor and “neutral” Charleston, West Virginia. A career night from Derrick Walton Jr. (24 points, 6-of-7 from three) propelled Michigan to an 88-68 win over Elon, while the Mountaineers turned 19 JMU turnovers in 27 points en route to an 86-73 win against the Dukes.

Elsewhere, UNCW proved it could win convincingly against D-I talent, while Hofstra and Northeastern verified they could do the same against lesser competition. William & Mary won its second consecutive road game at Liberty, and Towson garnered its first win of the year against Morgan State. Elon bounced back in its Wednesday night home opener with a 27-point victory against Belmont Abbey.

The lone setback was Drexel’s nine-point home loss to High Point, which was a secondary concern on a day when it was announced that redshirt sophomore Major Canady would miss a second consecutive season due to injury.

While Drexel was plagued by many of the same problems as its first game (abysmal free-throw shooting, foul trouble), it was encouraging to see Tavon Allen (21 points) come off the bench and absolutely light it up) for a second consecutive game. Terrell Allen (11 points) also showed his first game was no aberration, as High Point simply couldn’t keep the freshman off the foul line (9-of-15 on free throws).

Heading into this weekend and the holidays, the early season tournaments will provide more chances to procure marquee victories. I’ve provided links to multiple Blogging the Bracket (SB Nation) previews, which are well researched and informative.

Towson heads down to our southernmost border for the Gildan Charleston Classic, and gets an Oklahoma State team (2:00 on Thursday, 11/19/15 on ESPN3) that’s yet to be tested. Ole Miss, Seton Hall, and Virginia are also in this field, so the Tigers have plenty of chances to learn about their mettle.

In the Paradise Jam, Hofstra will aim to be the second CAA team in as many years to take down Florida State. A competitive field featuring South Carolina and Tulsa provides Hofstra with multiple chances to make a statement.

JMU and Northeastern will play different roles in the Men Against Breast Cancer Classic, and while this tournament isn’t saddled with Power Five teams, it will give these groups valuable experience in a tournament atmosphere. Given that JMU and Northeastern will likely need to win at least three games in three days to reach the NCAA Tournament, it will be interesting to see how they handle the back-to-back-to-back slate.

JMU is one of the tournament hosts, as Florida International, Oral Roberts, and UT Martin will make the trip to Harrisonburg. Per Nick Sunderland, we’ll see much more of Devontae Morgan this weekend. There’s also a chance that Yohanny Dalembert will lace ‘em up in Harrisonburg.

Northeastern will head up to Oxford, Ohio this weekend, where it will play Lipscomb, Florida Atlantic, and a Miami (OH) bunch that gave Xavier a stern test on the road. Northeastern got to exercise its bench a bit against Wentworth, and Bill Coen will certainly need to do the same this weekend.

Elon won’t head to the Bahamas as part of the Battle 4 Atlantis, but will play a top-tier program (Syracuse) for the second time this week. It’ll all come full circle next week, as Elon will host Mount St. Mary’s, and either Texas A&M CC or Furman after Thanksgiving.

Drexel gets in on the action next week in the Great Alaska Shootout. You learn a lot about your team by spending Thanksgiving together in Alaska, and this trip paid big dividends for Coen’s Northeastern squad three years ago. Toledo might be the best team at this event, which shows that there is an opportunity for Drexel to win some games and build momentum.

And since we’ve discussed every team but Delaware up to this point, we’ll mention that the Hens will finish out November by stacking roadies at Iona and Temple around a home opener against Farleigh Dickinson.

Aficionados of Charleston, UNCW, and William & Mary still have plenty to root for, as each of those clubs will be in action on Saturday.

At a critical juncture in the season where we can support each other wholeheartedly, make sure you’ve got your rootin’ shoes on this weekend.


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