Heap Big Hump Night…

It’s snowing in Richmond right now, which means one thing: it will be 65 degrees tomorrow. Just saying…

***

There is so much to get to on this morn I am unsure where to start. The problem is parsing through the simple yet complex: JMU at Hofstra and Drexel at Mason are easily the two biggest games of the season, and will likely end up that way once the smoke clears. The only other game I can see–both in the past and in the future–that measures up: ODU at Nor’easter on the season’s final day. Roadie to Boston anyone?

It is that simple. Yet not.

So where to begin…

***

I’ll start here, with an example of unintentional comedy. Commentary abounds but I won’t let it get in the way of the Dukes/Pride basketball game. But stay tuned as I have a long way to go on this one.

Here is your game primer. I love this game because it is one of directional force–two teams playing very good basketball butting heads. JMU got 21 minutes and 14 points out of The JYD teh other night but will be without Andrey Semenov (who definitely needs a nickname). The Dukes are winners of four of five and Kyle Swanston has chosen to make shots again.

Hofstra, winners of three in a row and seven of nine, is rather bulldozing teams. They remind me of Drexel from two years ago–just enough offense, rebounding their butts off, and defending you from the time you step off the bus until the time you step back on the bus.

It’s a good thing Pecora’s bunch gets all those rebounds to generate extra possessions. They are near the bottom of the conference in terms of taking care of the basketball (last in turnovers and 11th in turnover rate) and shooting (38% is last). The Pride is 10-0 when it shoots 40% and 10-2 in games decided by five or fewer points.

All of that nets out thus: Hofstra plays ugly, wants it ugly, and if they play just a little above average on offense (hold down TOs and shoot two percent better than average) they stand a very good chance of winning.

JMU is also near the bottom of the conference regarding protecting the basketball, and a middling rebounding team. That does not bode well. Still, JMU holds the sheer talent advantage, which should not be minimized. JYD, Swanston, and the Dynamic Duo Freshmen (Wells and Moore) can play with anyone in the conference.

Key: who commits the fewest turnovers, and the score–the higher the better for JMU.

Impacts: In my mind, everything. The seventh loss for either team puts them in “win the last two and hope” mode. This is especially true for Hofstra, who is the only team of the Seven For Four group to NOT lose to a bottom five team. Of course this means their tiebreaker scenarios are particularly ugly because all of their losses are within the Seven For Four.

For JMU it is about confidence. They are surfing right now and loving it. Uncle Mo would be huge going into its JYD Senior Night against VCU with a roadie win.

Because I’ve done it all year, I’ll pick a side: Hofstra in a uglyfest.

***

Stats primer for Drexel at Mason. Here’s one thing you need to know: Drexel is a CAA-best 5-2 on the road in the conference this season, and trailed Nor’easter by 13 points in the second half in Boston last week before winning. If you are a Mason fan, don’t relax until you calculate the number of possessions needed to erase a deficit, relative to the time left on the clock. Chew on that for a bit.

The thing that stands out to me is that Mason is at the top of the conference defensively and Drexel is at the bottom offensively. Plus, Mason is something like 358-0 at home this year. Doom for the Dragons, no?

No.

Here’s what Drexel does better than anybody, and it is the reason they are winning high scoring games and low scoring games. They execute and don’t take chances, trying to do things they cannot. They don’t gamble for steals, preferring to keep their man in front of them, get a hand in their face, and box their butt out. That leads to a defensive points per possession number that is tops in the conference. They can also play at different paces offensively.

Put simply, Mason is the most complete team in the conference and built to win. Why? They defend well and can beat you from deep, on the dribble, or by tossing it to Darryl Monroe on the block. They play with a calmness that is impressive to watch. All they need is for Cam Long to develop an arrogance in the next couple of weeks and they could be my pick to come out of Richmond. (Long way to go on that one, but that’s what I’m thinking right now.)

Keys: Drexel cannot panic. It will be a low possession, low scoring game. Barring anything that could be considered an outlier (such as either team shooting about 24%) this one will be decided in a traditional manner: play a little bit better than the other guy, make foul shots down the stretch, and gut it out.

If Mason establishes a lead, the Dragons need to resist jacking up threes to catch up. In a 55-52-type game, there are only so many “catch up points” to go around and you cannot get them all at once.

As for Mason, they need to establish that lead and step on Drexel’s necks. A 37-29 deficit won’t faze Bruiser. That’s where Long has to step on the gas pedal and make that a 44-31 lead. Translation: Mason has to do what Mason does.

Impacts: This is a far more important win for Drexel from a pure numbers perspective. The Dragons would drop back into that donnybrook for the fourth seed and have Nor’easter coming up. But confidence-wise, they won’t be shaken.

It’s the other way around for Mason. It is a nice win and would salt away at least the three seed for the Patriots, but they have been at or near the top all season. A loss and 10-6 facing a possible Friday game is not good for the noggin.

I’ll take Mason at home in a score that is the same as the Hofstra/JMU game if Hofstra wins.

***

Other games, home team gotta win version:

Georgia State at Nor’easter

Delaware at VCU (7:00 on the Comcast Network and CSS)

Git Er Done version: ODU at UNCW

They play version: The College at Towson

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~ by mglitos on February 18, 2009.

3 Responses to “Heap Big Hump Night…”

  1. Roadie to Boston on 2/28 just might have to happen…

  2. I’ve been friggin’ nervous about Drexel all day.

  3. i love caa basketball… it’s always fun to watch, every season comes down to the wire, it’s just really great ball!!! it’s too bad the bottom of the conference doesn’t get work done outside the conference to bring it up in stature, but i am sure that will change in the future.

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