One note before tonight's previews. San Diego State's win over New Mexico last night puts them into the Mountain West NCAA Tournament discussion. It's looking like a big year for the wannabe conferences such as MWC, A10 and Conference USA where you can see each conference get 3 bids or more. The question is will those bids be taken from the power conferences like the PAC-10 or at the expense of solid mid majors like the Valley, the Colonial or the WCC.
Before I get into tonight's action in the CAA, there are three big non CAA games to note first. 12-2 Cornell travels to #1 Kansas tonight. Be curious to see how the Big Red perform against the #1 team in the nation. Cornell's seven footer Jeff Foote should provide an interesting test for all american Cole Aldrich. And my guess is that the Jayhawks will match up Xavier Henry vs. Ryan Wittman. That should be very interesting.
There is a huge game in the Valley as 13-2 Wichita State travels to 12-2 Missouri State. This is only the Shockers fourth road game of the year. The last one didn't go so well, a 15 point drubbing by Illinois State. Bears forward Kyle Weems has scored in double figures in all fifteen games this season. When you shoot 51 percent from the field and 48.5 percent from beyond the arc, chances are you will score consistently in double figures.
The Valley has another game on ESPNU that should be just as good. 12-1 Northern Iowa, #1 ranked in the most recent Mid Majors Baker's Dozen Poll here, travels to Carbondale and takes on my friend Sun Min's 9-3 Southern Illinois. I used to work with Sun and I nicknamed her "The Saluki" since she used to work at Southern Illinois prior to coming to Hofstra (and is now at Columbia).
One week, four games. You have to hand it to the CAA. When they start conference play, they START conference play. Tonight is the third game in a span of four games in eight days for all the CAA teams. The only teams not playing tonight are Northeastern and Mason, who face off tomorrow night in Boston. Hopefully there will be more than 824 people at the game tomorrow night - that was the attendance for the last Huskies home game vs.Madison.
Then everyone plays again on Saturday, then afterwards everyone crashes on Sunday due to exhaustion.
Georgia State travels to UNCW to face the Seahawks tonight, looking to bounce back from their home loss to Drexel. The Panthers feature a solid backcourt tandem in Joe Dukes and Trae Goldston who combine for 26 points a game. Goldston is fifth in the CAA in three point FG percentage and third all time at GSU in three point field goals with 172 (a thank you to Allison George, the associate AD for Communications for GSU Athletics for sending me their press release for tonight's game).
UNCW is coming off a big win over William and Mary at Williamsburg. It was all about the offensive glass as they had 16 offensive rebounds vs. the Mary, none more important than the last one, a John Fields tip in with 3.4 seconds left to win the game. Fields has been terrific for the Seahawks, averaging 13 points, 9 rebounds and is shooting 57 percent from the field. Chad Tomko averages nearly 5 assists per game, but averages nearly 4 turnovers per game. He must be careful against GSU's Joe Dukes who averages 1.7 steals per game and is fifth in the CAA in steals.
Hofstra hosts Towson at the Mack Center this evening. Hofstra has lost four of their last five games. As much as everyone talks about Hofstra needing consistent secondary scorers to complement Charles Jenkins (and Chaz Williams, Nate Lester and Halil Kanacevic are trying their best), as Jenkins goes, Hofstra goes. And Jenkins has struggled. Since the start of the second half of the St John's games thru the game against Mason, Jenkins has shot 25 of 66 (37.8 percent) from the field. The only game he shot well in, 7 of 12 vs. Florida Atlantic, the Pride won.
In my review of Monday night CAA action, I neglected to mention one other constant from the past two CAA conference games - Towson losing. The Tigers are now 0-3 in CAA conference play. It's pretty understandable when you are talking about a team that's dead last in the CAA in scoring defense and FG percentage defense. The bright side, the play of Robert Nwankwo. Nwankwo, the only player in the CAA averaging in double figures in scoring and rebounding, is averaging 11.7 points and 10.4 rebounds, while shooting nearly 62 percent from the field. Nwankwo also leads the CAA in blocks, averaging 3.8 blocks per game. Nwankwo will be a hand full for a very foul prone Pride frontcourt.
VCU travels to Drexel looking to rebound from a home loss to Northeastern, their second straight year losing to the Huskies at home. The Rams will need a complete game from Larry Sanders if they want to beat Drexel. Sanders was scoreless in the first half against the Huskies and only played 11 minutes due to foul trouble but then scored all 12 of his points in the second half. The Rams also need to improve on their three point shooting from Monday as VCU went 6 of 21 from the beyond the arc against Northeastern.
Drexel's Jamie Harris is fast becoming one of the CAA's top scorers. Subtract his four point game against Kentucky, and in the past other four games, Harris has averaged nearly 23 points per game on 53 percent shooting from the field. Harris' outstanding game overshadowed another solid defensive performance by forward Daryl McCoy. For the second straight game, McCoy had double figures in rebounding (12) as the six foot 9 270 pound rock is providing the Dragons' with their usual inside presence.
The Mary try to bounce back from their stunning last second loss at home to UNCW with a win over Delaware. William and Mary shot a horrid 1 of 12 in the second half from beyond the arc and as aforementioned, were pasted on the offensive glass by the Seahawks. Those who think Delaware will provide an easier task on the rebounding end will be surprised to know that they are third in the CAA in offensive rebounds (UNCW is second and ODU is first). The key for the Tribe is to get the "schneid" out of David Schneider. In his last three games, the leading scorer for the Mary is shooting 14 of 37 ( 37.8 percent) and 8 of 27 from beyond the arc (29.6 percent).
Delaware is Jawan Carter all the time. Carter filled up the stat sheet in the Hens loss to JMU - 18 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds. Carter is averaging 16.6 points and 5.4 assists per game. He is also on pace to shoot over 200 free throw attempts on the season (he is averaging currently around 7.5 free throw attempts per game). And since he is averaging 81 percent on the season, there will be a lot of made free throws.
Finally, we have James Madison, and their dynamic front court duo of Denzel Bowles and Julius Wells take on Old Dominion's frontcourt law firm of Hassell, Finney and Lee. Bowles and Wells have been terrific for the Dukes as they average to combine for nearly 41 points, nearly 17 rebounds and 5 assists per game. However, JMU suffered another season ending injury as sophomore Andrei Semenyov is out for the season due to back problems (which he has had since his freshman season).
Frank Hassell, Ben Finney and Gerald Lee, along with Keyon Carter are mainly responsible for ODU being first in rebounding margin, scoring defense, along with being first in the CAA in FG percentage at 45 percent. What is also impressive is that the Monarchs are first in assists per game, second in assist to turnover ratio and second in turnover margin in the CAA. Pretty impressive.