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Colonial Quarterfinals Preview

March 9, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments

Colonial Quarterfinals Preview

Preview by Toni Jainez

The CAA tournament started on the right path as Friday’s first round games were both won in the last few minutes of play. Today’s quarterfinal games will prove to be the most competitive matches of the season. All of the games have the potential to go down to wire, following up a very competitive first round.

No. 1 Virginia Commonwealth Rams vs. No. 9 Towson Tigers
Fresh off of a first round win are the Tigers (8-20), who will take on a Ram ball club that they have lost to twice this season – both times by 25 point margins. VCU enters the game on a 5 game winning streak (including three road wins) led by CAA Player of the Year senior guard Domonic Jones. Senior guard Jamaal Gilchrist leads the Tigers, who have won their first CAA tournament game Friday versus William & Mary.

VCU leads the CAA in both field goal percentage offense and defense. In the previous meetings, the Tigers allowed VCU to shoot 54% and 64% from the floor, while VCU held Towson to 39% and 27% shooting. VCU may prove to be too strong for the Tigers, but if the Rams can’t hit from the field and allow Gilchrist to explode again, then expect the Tigers to pressure the Rams for a trip to the semifinals.

January 28, 2004 – at VCU 101, Towson 76
February 14, 2004 – VCU 68, at Towson 44

Prediction – VCU 78, Towson 66

No. 4 Old Dominion Monarchs vs. No. 5 Hofstra Pride
Both teams will be playing in their first game of this year’s tournament. Old Dominion enters this matchup coming off of a tough four game stretch in which the Monarchs loss 3 of 4 games. All three losses were against the top three teams in the CAA. Hofstra enters this game having won 4 of their last 5 games. These two teams split regular season contests, with ODU winning at home 71-66 and Hofstra winning at home as well 80-79.

Leading ODU is sophomore forward Alex Loughton, who averages 16.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per contest. Leading the Pride is junior forward Kenny Adeleke, who leads the league in rebounding. Both teams defend and shoot the ball well, but ODU plays better perimeter defense. Hofstra, on average, out rebounds their opponents by six, but they are also more prone to turn the ball over.

This game has the potential to be a total nail-bitter. Both teams are pretty even on offense and defense with ODU having the advantage defending the three-pointer (which Hofstra loves to shoot). ODU is also a better free throw shooting team, connecting on a league’s-best 71% . Friday’s first round games proved how important free throws are in tournament play, so if the game goes to the wire, I would give the edge to the Monarchs.

January 10, 2004 – at Old Dominion 71, Hofstra 64
February 7, 2004 – at Hofstra 80, Old Dominion 79

Prediction – Old Dominion 73, Hofstra 71

No. 2 Drexel Dragons vs. No. 7 UNC Wilmington Seahawks
UNCW is coming off of a slim victory in the first round versus James Madison 44-41 and won the great defensive effort. However, when you play a team like Drexel (fast, excellent shooting), your players have to have fresher legs. Drexel comes into the game with a loss at archrival Delaware, but before that game won 9 of 10 games. These two teams finished their regular season series very early. UNCW beat Drexel 71-64 in early January and took the Dragons to OT in Philadelphia in a 67-66 loss in late January. Both teams, however, have changed very much since the first month of the year. While Drexel was establishing an 8-2 February record, UNCW was struggling to finish .500 on the season (finished February 3-5).

Leading the Dragons is senior Tim Whitworth. Whitworth has scored in double-figures in all but four contests this year. He leads a very balanced Drexel offensive attack with 14.1 points per game and is arguably the most deadly three-point shooter in the conference – shooting 54% on 100+ attempts.

UNCW is literally led by their entire team. This defensive-oriented squad rarely has a player stick out on the stat sheet. Head Coach Brad Brownell commented that you win championships with defense. “[That] is the way we play,” said Brownell. The Seahawks have only scored 70 or more points four times this season in conference play. Junior shooting guard Ed Spencer has led UNCW in scoring six times this season.

This game will come down to whether Drexel can match UNCW’s intensity on defense (this is always the question for any team playing the Seahawks). Drexel has a very good offensive game, which should give them a big edge. 30% of the Dragon’s points come from three point range, where they make on average 39% of their attempts. UNCW has only allowed teams to shoot 29.1% from behind the arc this season. PERIMETER DEFENSE will be the key to the semifinals for UNCW. However, Drexel could open this game wide open – UNCW just played 24 hours ago while the Dragons have fresh legs.

January 10, 2004 – at UNC Wilmington 71, Drexel 64
January 31, 2004 – at Drexel 67, UNC Wilmington 66 OT

Prediction – Drexel 63, UNC Wilmington 62

No. 3 George Mason Patriots vs. No. 6 Delaware Blue Hens
The Patriots enter this contest having won five of their last six games, wrapping up the No. 3-seed with a win at Old Dominion 70-66. Delaware stayed out of the first round game with an impressive win over Drexel 76-64. Both teams split during the regular season with each winning at home. Delaware has lost 3 of their last 5 games – all three to top four teams (including a home loss to VCU in double OT 71-69).

Leading the Patriots in scoring is sophomore forward Jai Lewis with 16.6 points per contest. Lewis has a soft touch under the basket and gives the Patriots a big inside presence on defense. Delaware’s leading scorer is senior guard Mike Ames. Ames has been key for the Blue Hens, averaging 15.3 points per game, leading the Delaware backcourt. The key to this game will be George Mason’s backcourt defense. Delaware shoots 38% from three-point range and has guards that can explode from the perimeter, including Ames, junior Mike Slattery and sophomore Rulon Washington. The Patriots shoot the three a lot more than the Blue Hens, converting 34% of those shots. The key for Delaware is inside play. Starting for the Blue Hens is sophomore forward Harding Nana, who has become an impressive inside player for Delaware. He averages 13.1 points in only 15 games played – ten of which he has started. Delaware starts more size inside than George Mason, but the Patriots are more fast paced, as they start a rotation of three, or even four, guards. Look for a close scoring battle between these two teams with many shot attempts from both teams.

January 28, 2004 – at Delaware 74, George Mason 65
February 21, 2004 – at George Mason 75, Delaware 61

Prediction – Delaware 79, George Mason 78 OT

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