Dub v. Duke

UNCW (25-7) versus Duke (23-10) – 12:15, CBS – Providence, Rhode Island

The basketball gods have chosen CAAHoops to kickstart the madness for a second consecutive season, as the Round of 64 will open with the upstart UNCW Seahawks dueling with the fabled Duke Blue Devils.

You know the Blue Devils, but we’ll pretend you don’t know much about this year’s team. They’ve got one of the best combo guards (and overall players) in the country in sophomore Grayson Allen, a stretch four who could be the NBA Draft’s first pick in Wiz Khalifa lookalike Brandon Ingram, and (per usual) a man named Plumlee.

And while you might be unaware, you’re supposed to lament for the Blue Devils on account of their lack of depth. Coach K gets 21.2% of minutes from his bench, and while Joe Mihalich would kill for such a luxury, Duke ranks a lowly 346th in bench minutes.

It’s noteworthy that, like every other D-I hoops team (sans the few penalized), Duke has the ability to offer 13 scholarships.

Much has been written about how UNCW’s depth and style of play could eventually wear on the Blue Devils’ six-man rotation. However, UNCW’s style is one side of a double-edged sword, as the Seahawks’ physical defensive brand has allowed opponents to tally the second-highest free-throw rate (54.3%) in the country. A Duke team that frequently receives the benefit of the doubt from referees gets to the charity stripe at a solid clip (40.2% free-throw rate, 88th in D-I), and deploys a defensive strategy that has resulted in the 10th lowest defensive free-throw rate (25.4%) in the country.

Knowing these stats, that K berates refs like no other, and that Gray Tripper has proven to be perhaps the least virtuous player (dude gets away with everything) in the country, you realize that UNCW has to post strong field goal percentages to have a chance. We all recognize that the Seahawks are at their best when they can set up their press, and Kevin Keatts’ club might also need to compensate for a large free throw disparity.

While Duke has the star power, I consider UNCW to be better-rounded. They don’t have a Grayson Allen/Brandon Ingram-level superstar duo, but instead possess an intriguing backcourt quartet featuring Jordon Talley, Craig Ponder, Denzel Ingram, and Chris Flemmings. Flemmings will be tasked with guarding Ingram, so one of the smaller guards will need to do his best on Allen. Freshman C.J. Bryce is a good bet to spend time on both players.

Key battles will take place in the post, as C.J. Gettys and Marcus Bryan will need to keep Marshall Plumlee off the offensive glass, and create a few second-chance opportunities for the Seahawks. Both guys have shown the ability to block some shots, and a couple big swats could lead to some easy runouts for the Seahawks.

Although Duke will be running on a full week’s rest, UNCW has the talent and intangibles to create a particularly enticing matchup. And while Duke’s hot three-point shooting often leads to big runs, Keatts has expressed confidence that his team can fight back from deficits when needed.

Nine years ago, the Greg Paulus-led Blue Devils ran into another CAA squad with a great group of guards. It resulted in a game-winning play known as “The Dagger”.

I’m hoping this one will come to be known as Denzel’s Dagger.

Dubmen 79, Dukies 77

Northeastern 71, Towson 60

The Northeastern Huskies’ late-season revival continued in Baltimore, as Bill Coen’s bunch won for the sixth time in seven games. Seniors David Walker and Quincy Ford combined for 38 points, as Northeastern shot 61.9% (13-of-21) in the second half to down Towson by a final score of 71-60.

Reserves Jimmy Marshall and T.J. Williams paced the Huskies in the first half, as both had seven points at halftime. Walker and Ford took over after intermission, with the duo pouring in 30 points in aggregate after halftime.

Pat Skerry’s squad entered the game as a top 10 team in free-throw rate. The Tigers didn’t get to the foul line at all in the first half, and attempted just four free throws before the final minute of play. Northeastern came into the contest ranked 27th in defensive free-throw rate, and effectively took away Towson’s primary means of offense.

William Adala Moto posted an 18-12 double-double, but did not get to the foul line for the first time all season. Sophomore Mike Morsell finished with 16 points, and hit a number of threes to keep Towson close in the second half.

Bill Coen credited the use of smaller lineups against a Towson team that frequently plays lineups featuring five players that are 6’5″ or taller. This helped the Huskies space the floor, and hit 8-of-17 from three on the evening.

Walker and Zach Stahl will play in their fourth CAA Semifinal game in as many seasons.

 

 

 

 

UNCW 66, Charleston 64

The Charleston Cougars came into their Quarterfinal matchup averaging just under 6.6 3-pointers per game on 34.1% shooting. Thus, things were going as well as could be hoped for when the Cougars shot 7-of-9 from three in the first half, and opened up a 40-27 halftime lead.

In that same first half, a UNCW team that was the second-best three-point shooting team (36%) in league play shot 0-of-6 from distance. It didn’t take long for things to flip around in the second half, as UNCW hit six 3-pointers as part of a 22-3 run that gave the Seahawks the lead.

Of course, the drama was just starting there. The resilient young Cougars went blow-for-blow wit the Seahawks, and had two chances to win within the final minute.

CAA Rookie of the Year Jarrell Brantley (15 points) had the ball stripped from his hands on the first attempt. Following a UNCW free throw, Brantley received the ball and managed to get a running look from the foul line.

The shot bounced off the front of the rim, and allowed UNCW to advance with the 66-64 victory.

Marcus Bryan kept UNCW within striking distance early, converting 7-of-8 from the field in the first half. The sophomore forward finished the game with a career-high 16 points.

Chris Flemmings (13 points) was the key cog in UNCW’s second half heatwave, as the All-CAA First Teamer connected on three treys in the opening minutes of the second half. Frosh C.J. Bryce proceeded to have his own mini run, finishing the game with nine points.

Brantley and Cam Johnson (21 points) combined to tally 18 of Charleston’s 24 second-half points.

UNCW will get the winner of Towson/Northeastern at 3:30 tomorrow.

William & Mary 79, James Madison 64

William & Mary used a dominant 30-9 first-half run to build a double-digit lead, and hit 17-of-18 free throws in the second half to subdue a flurry of JMU 3-pointers. When it was all said and done, the Tribe was on the right side of a 79-64 bout, and positioned for a Sunday Semis rematch with the Hofstra Pride.

The Tribe shot 63.3% (19-of-30) from inside the arc, as Omar Prewitt (25 points) and Co. successfully finished a bevy of backdoor cuts. Prewitt found himself matched up with smaller defenders on switches, and did a great job of taking advantage of the mismatches.

Sean Sheldon (11 points) and David Cohn (10 points) chipped in efficient offense. The bench, particularly Connor Burchfield and Jack Whitman, provided a huge spark. Burchfield connected on all four of his attempts from the field, including three 3-pointers, and Whitman hit a few buckets in the Tribe’s first half run.

JMU made things interesting in the second half, as Joey McLean (13 points) hit a trio of threes, including two back-to-back buckets that got JMU within seven with 5:45 to play. JMU managed to pull within five with 1:36 to go, but was seemingly sapped of all momentum when McLean was whistled for his fifth foul on an inbounds play thereafter.

JMU senior Ron Curry tallied 20 points, but needed 19 shots and 10 free-throw attempts to get there.

Sean Sheldon indicated in the presser that playing JMU the week prior gave the Tribe a good idea of what JMU would try to do defensively. The Tribe shredded the JMU defense en route to 1.16 points per possession.

W&M will look advance to the CAA Finals for the third consecutive season.

Hofstra 80, Drexel 67

Hofstra’s potential Achilles heel in Baltimore is its lack of depth, which is why it was crucial to see the Pride come out on top after having its reserves tested early. Hofstra fought through foul trouble (bigs Rokas Gustys and Andre Walker alternated court time following each accrued foul) in an 80-67 win that proved Hofstra could get the job done in less than optimal circumstances.

CAA Player of the Year Juan’ya Green posted 22 points, six boards, and four assists, and hit a 3-pointer that capped 14-4 second-half run that quelled a Drexel rally. Gustys tallied a 16-11 double-double in 20 minutes of playing time, and Ameen Tanksley and Brian Bernardi combined for 27 points. Walker, Desire Buie, and Justin Foreman-Wright accounted for 17% of the minutes — a noteworthy mark for the team that averaged the fewest percentage of bench minutes (14.3%) of any team in Division I.

Drexel forwards Rodney Williams and Kaz Abif were the Dragons main sources of offense, with Abif hitting numerous mid-range jumpers every time the Pride threatened to break the game open. Sophomore Sammy Mojica (10 points) got off to a hot start to the game, but that dissipated as he too struggled with fouls. Mojica, Williams, and Abif were three of the five Dragons to finish the game with four fouls each.

Drexel trailed by as many as 20 in the second half, but managed to get within nine following Tavon Allen’s corner three with 9:40 to play. Following a flurry of three throws, Hofstra embarked on the aforementioned 14-4 run that essentially put the game away.

Hofstra awaits the winner of the William & Mary-James Madison game.