Sunday, January 3, 2010

Quick Review of CAA Action and Thoughts From Various Televised Games

Today you have an absolutely huge game in the Missouri Valley as Missouri State (12-1, 2-0 MVC) travels to Northern Iowa (11-1, 2-0 MVC). Another great game is Xavier at Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacons try to beat two A-10 teams in a row. Finally the Sunday night game on ESPNU at 8:00 PM is another MVC dandy, Southern Illinois (9-2, 2-0 MVC) at Illinois State (11-2, 1-1 MVC). Sure you have Clemson vs. Duke at around the same time on FSN, but cmon, you know Duke never loses at home. Watch the Valley slugfest instead.

The home teams in yesterday's CAA action went a surprising 5-1. The one road win was courtesy of the Mary. If you have already read my article about yesterday's Hofstra - William and Mary game, you know what went down there.

But I have one last observation on Hofstra. The Pride simply don't have a legitimate three point shooting threat, sans Charles Jenkins at 44 percent. Sorry folks, Cornelius Vines is not a three point threat, especially since currently he shoots 27 percent from three (last season he shot 33 percent from three - not exactly great). And there is seemingly no hope on the horizon for the Pride as far as finding an outside shooter. JUCO transfer Brad Kelleher has not been granted eligibility by the NCAA (Hofstra is appealing). You can't consistently win without a legitimate outside shooting threat.

Speaking of which, Old Dominion finally found out exactly that. When you have an opponent that matches your frontcourt play, you need your backcourt to step up and play well. The Monarchs backcourt failed to meet the challenge yesterday. George Mason held serve at home and thoroughly beat ODU 71-55. GMU forwards Ryan Pearson and Michael Morrison combined for 32 points on 13 of 23 shooting and 13 rebounds.

ODU forwards Gerald Lee (17 points) and Keyon Carter (8 points) combined to shoot 11 of 17 from the field. The problem for the Monarchs was the rest of the team shot 14 of 42 from the field including 2 of 12 from beyond the arc. The Patriots shot 6 of 12 from beyond the arc and outrebounded the best rebounding team in the CAA 35-27.

Meanwhile it was a game of runs at the Bob Carpenter Center in Delaware. Drexel jumped out to a 33-20 lead with 2 minutes left in the first half. Then over the course of the next fourteen and half minutes, the Blue Hens outscored the Dragons 31-4. No, that's not a misprint. During this span, Drexel shot 2 of 15 from the field, committed seven turnovers and missed two front ends of one and one free throws.

But the run festival didn't stop there. After Delaware came back to lead 51-37, Drexel would go on a 19-5 run over the next nearly seven minutes to tie the game at 56 with two Gerald Colds free throws with 1:39 left. But Jawan Carter would knock down four free throws and assist on the last Blue Hen basket to give Delaware a 62-58 win. The Blue Hens had four players in double figures scoring with Carter scoring 14, while Alphonso Dawson led Delaware with 15 points. Jamie Harris led Drexel with 18 points.

In my CAA review on New Year's Eve, I talked about how UNCW and Chad Tomko in particular needed to be more careful in handling the ball. Guess he didn't get the memo. Tomko had eight of UNCW's 28 turnovers as VCU pasted the Seahawks 91-57 yesterday. How bad was it? The score was 40-8 VCU with 2:22 left in the first half. And with 9:50 left, it was 77-31.

VCU had all 14 of its players play nine minutes or more in the game. The Larry Sanders-John Fields matchup never materialized as Sanders dominated, scoring 16 points and blocking 5 shots in only 19 minutes. VCU outscored UNCW in the paint 48-24 and scored 34 points off UNCW turnovers (amazed it wasn't more). Tomko led the Seahawks with 14 points while Fields added 10 points and 9 rebounds.

Northeastern appears back as it thoroughly dominated a Denzel Bowles-less James Madison squad throughout, coasting to a 73-61 win. Northeastern was up as many as twenty, 39-19 in the first half. Chaisson Allen and Matt Janning combined for 32 points on 13 of 18 shooting, including 6 of 11 from beyond the arc. The Huskies shot nearly 52 percent from the field and had 18 assists to 11 turnovers, while outrebounding the Dukes 35-23.

Julius Wells led the Dukes with 18 points and JMU did shoot 7 of 14 from beyond the arc. Bowles missed the game due to a one game suspension for violating team rules. Bowles will be in the lineup when they host Delaware on Monday as the Dukes look for their first CAA win of this season.

Finally, Georgia State quietly improved their CAA conference record to 2-0 with a solid 70-61 home win over Towson. Trey Hampton dominated inside for the Panthers as he scored 22 points on 9 of 10 shooting and added four blocks. The Panthers shot 47 percent for the field and played their trademark defense, holding the Tigers to 34 percent shooting from the field.

The Panthers got 18 from Trae Goldston and a double double from Joe Dukes (13 points and 10 rebounds). Towson got 14 points from Josh Thornton on 4 of 6 shooting from beyond the arc. Robert Nwankwo added seven blocks for the Tigers.

When you are off the entire week for the Christmas break, you have some time in your hands to watch college basketball. So I got to watch many games and I have some quick thoughts on a few.

1) Saw a very entertaining last few minutes of the Richmond-Wake Forest game. Both teams were playing for the "Best Team to Lose to William and Mary This Season" award. OK, maybe not, but it was NCAA tournament quality basketball. Wake would win this home game in overtime 74-68. Kevin Anderson had a terrific game for the Spiders with 31 points in a losing effort. Both teams have big road wins - Richmond won at Florida while Wake won at Gonzaga. Depending on how both do in conference this season, there's a good chance you will see them in the Dance come March.

2) Speaking of Gonzaga, John Wall and Xavier Henry may be the two best freshmen in the country, but my favorite freshman is the Zags' Elias Harris. He averages nearly 14 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. He can shoot the three (9 of 20 from beyond the arc) but he is more comfortable driving to the basket (57.6 percent shooting from the field). Perhaps it was a good thing that Austin Daye graduated. I think Harris is already better than Daye. He sure is more consistent thatn Daye. The Zags were downright dominant against Oklahoma at home and got a nice comeback win vs. Illinois. Gonzaga is one of those teams that is going to get better and better as the season goes on.

3) I watched the last few minutes of the Temple - Kansas game yesterday. Even with six or so minutes left, Kansas had their starters on the floor and they just crushed Temple 84-52. Having seen the Jayhawks live, I can tell you they are deep, talented, yet fundamentally sound (and I saw them minus C.J Henry and Brady Morningstar, both of whom are back now). They are worthy of the #1 ranking.

But the part mentioning about this game is that I am watching ESPN Sportscenter last night. The indescript anchor starts talking about the game and basically says that Temple wasn't going to provide any competition for Kansas? Was this guy serious? Temple was ranked #19 going into the game, playing at home and had defeated previously undefeated #3 Villanova at home. Unbelievable. Just another example of what Kyle Whelliston accurately calls "The Sports Bubble".

4) I watched the second half of the Boston College-South Carolina game this week. The Eagles were up 21 at halftime, 48-27. When the second half started, the Gamecocks came out with a full court press. South Carolina forced four turnovers in less than a minute and cut the lead 50-37. It was clearly obvious that the Eagles did not know how to handle the press and a timeout was needed. However Eagles' Coach Al Skinner waited until the Eagles turned the ball over two more times and the Gamecocks' Brandis Raley-Ross hit a three to cut the lead to ten.

By that time it was too late to change the momentum. The Gamecocks were back in the game and would actually cut the led to three 64-61 on a free throw with 6:54 remaining. Boston College would hold on for a nine point win, 85-76. But the point is it should never have been that close. Skinner should have called timeout after the third or fourth turnover in the second half. You're not panicking if you call timeout there. You are trying to end the momentum the other team is getting. Karma got back at Boston College as Maine upset the Eagles on their home court yesterday 54-51.

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