Archives for posts with tag: American

Rivalries are organic.  They can’t be mandated- that’s why the Maryland-Rutgers football fight remains a shrug even though the Big Ten’s two newest schools would be a natural fit. Just ask UConn how their “rivalry” with Central Florida is going.  In the area there was Georgetown-Syracuse and there still is George Washington-George Mason…and while we’ll always have Virginia-Virginia Tech (see last Sunday) the best basketball rivalry remains in the Commonwealth’s capital city.

Virginia Commonwealth University is a public research university boasting 24,000+ undergrads.  The University of Richmond is a private, non-sectarian liberal arts college with under 5,000 undergrad and graduate students combined (less than VCU’s grad student total).  One school is a part of the downtown fabric of the city…while the other, despite sharing the name with said city is lodged on the outskirts.  You even have to drive past the “Country Club of Virginia” to get there.

VCU has been the popular Cinderella over the last decade, with more than a few upsets under their belts before we even get into their run from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011.  Richmond?  Been there, done that.  The Spiders were the first #15 seed to win in the tournament (sorry, Syracuse) and they also bounced big-name favorites like Indiana, Auburn and Vanderbilt in the dance.

The Rams joined the Colonial Athletic Association in 1995, only to have Richmond leave for the Atlantic 10 two seasons later.  The two schools still played annually, comparing the apples of one league to the oranges of the other.  Until 2012 when Shaka Smart brought his havoc defense to the A-10 and promptly took his program to the Tournament finals.  VCU has appeared in the title tilt every year it’s been in the league…while Richmond hasn’t advanced to the league semifinals since 2011.  To make things more interesting the Spiders have lost to the Rams in the quarterfinals two of the last three years.

Rival up.

Last Night-

VCU (22-5, 12-2 Atlantic 10) beat Richmond (15-11, 9-5) 84-73 to complete a season-sweep of the Spiders.  The Rams hit 58% of their shots while sinking 7 of 14 three-pointers…and used a mid-game 15-0 run to take control.  JeQuan Lewis nets 16 points with 7 rebounds and 5 assists to lead the way while VCU holds T.J. Cline to 4-of-12 shooting.  The victory gives VCU a half-game lead in the A-10 (Dayton plays St. Bonaventure Saturday at 2) while the Spiders are in danger of dropping into a three-way tie for third (and they don’t own the tiebreaker with George Mason).

Alma Mater Update- so much for major momentum.  The Orange are saddled with a two-game losing streak and the distinct possibility of going to McDonough Arena for the NIT.  Over the final three weeks of the regular season they’ll face Georgia Tech twice (can’t escape that red-hot rivalry), host Duke and visit Louisville.  One thinks a 3-1 performance will keep them safely in Bubbleland.

Saturday-

1 p.m.

Virginia Tech (18-7, 7-6 ACC) at #8 Louisville (21-5, 9-4), ACC Network.  The Hokies followed up their improbably rally against Virginia with a gritty road victory at Pitt.  Up next?  Only the best defensive team in the conference:  the Cardinals rank second in points allowed and turnover margin while ranking third in rebounding margin.  Did I mention they’re tops at defending the three?  Tech has to deal with the season-ending injury to Chris Clarke;  the sophomore was arguably their best all-around player and contributed greatly in multiple areas of the game.  Buzz Williams’ bunch has their work cut out for them.

1:30 p.m.

Navy (15-12, 10-5 Patriot League) vs Army West Point (9-17, 3-11), CBS Sports Network.  The last time these two teams met?  How about a 96-80 overtime thriller where Shawn Anderson poured in 30 points for the Midshipmen.  Kennedy Edwards tallied a season-high 20 points for the Black Knights in that loss; Jordan Fox scored 17 to lead Army past Holy Cross in their most recent game.  The Midshipmen have lost two of three but are in the driver’s seat to host at least their conference quarterfinal game (the Patriot League uses a home-court system for its tournament).  The Black Knights are in position to also host a tournament game, but one in the dreaded first round as a #7 or #8 seed.

4 p.m.

George Mason (18-8, 8-5 Atlantic 10) vs Rhode Island (16-9, 8-5).  Could coach Dave Paulsen’s program be a year ahead of schedule?  One winter after going 5-13 in league play, the Patriots are pushing for a double-bye in the A-10 Tournament…and are fresh from beating Richmond by 23.  Senior Marquise Moore is making his candidacy for conference Player of the Year, averaging 18 points and 11 rebounds per game.  The Rams have lost two straight, including a perplexing defeat to Fordham where they shot just 30% while scoring 43 points (full disclosure:  Fordham is also the Rams so perhaps that led to confusion).  Doc Nix and the Green Machine will be waiting at Eagle Bank Arena.

6 p.m.

Howard (6-20, 3-8 MEAC) vs North Carolina A&T, (2-24, 0-11).  The Bison ended their slide at six straight losses by beating Morgan State (despite 21 turnovers).  The Aggies also won  recently, but their victim was NAIA-Division II Allen.  The closest A&T has come to a win in the league was a two point loss at Coppin State.  Charles Williams scored 30 points in the previous meeting this season (a 15-point Bison win);  the freshman has continued to play well in leading the team in scoring this winter.  James Miller scored 26 in that win-and the senior is going out in style, averaging 19 points per game this month.

8:15 p.m.

#14 Virginia (18-7, 8-5 ACC) at #10 North Carolina (22-5, 10-3).  These two schools tangled on a Saturday night in March last year in the ACC Tournament Final;  this game would be for first place if it weren’t for a two-game slide that saw the Cavaliers cough up a 14-point second half lead at Virginia Tech…followed by a tough loss at home to Duke.  The Tar Heels lead the conference in scoring while UVa allows the fewest points per game.  To the surprise of nobody on the planet, coach Roy Williams team is super-talented yet has multiple lapses over a 40-minute stretch.  Justin Jackson (6th in the ACC in scoring), Kennedy Meeks (4th in rebounding) and Joel Berry II (4 assists per game directing the offense) will provide the latest test for Tony Bennett’s top-notch defense.  The question again though-as has been the case all winter-is will London Perrantes get any help from an underperforming frontcourt?

Sunday-

12 p.m.

American (6-20, 3-12 Patriot League) vs Holy Cross (13-15, 7-8).  Wednesday’s loss at Lafayette dropped the Eagles from 8th to 10th in the conference…while the Crusaders are also cooling off.  Five losses in seven games has a one-time contender in the role of Patriot League pretender…but don’t tell that to coach Bill Carmody.  All he did after they finished 5-13 and in 9th place last March was win four games en route to the NCAA Tournament.  AU turned the ball over 23 times en route to a 63-55 loss the last time these two teams tangled.

George Washington (13-13, 5-8) at Duquesne (10-16, 3-10), NBC Sports Network.  The Colonials won the previous meeting this winter 65-63 thanks to shutting down the Dukes’ perimeter attack (4-of-21 from three-point range) while Tyler Cavanaugh tallied 11 points and 10 rebounds.  The senior’s heated up lately, posting three double-doubles in his last four games.  The road has been rough for GW during conference season:  the team’s lone win in seven games away from Smith Center was in nearby Fairfax against George Mason.

1 p.m.

#23 Maryland (22-4, 10-3 Big Ten) at #11 Wisconsin (21-5, 10-3), CBS.  Depending what happens with Purdue (also 10-3 in the conference) at Michigan State Saturday, this very well could be for first place (Boilermakers own tiebreakers with both teams).  Coach Mark Turgeon’s team is at its best when it’s defending well…while the Badgers allow the fewest points per game in the league.  Nigel Hayes was the Big Ten’s Preseason Player of the Year, but its actually Ethan Happ who’s making the difference this season.  The six-foot-ten sophomore is second in the conference in shooting percentage as well as steals, while ranking third in rebounding and tenth in blocks.  Happ leads Wisconsin in those categories as well as scoring and assists.  The Terrapin big men will have their hands full inside…while the Badgers’ guards will be tested by Melo Trimble (32 points against Northwestern) outside.  And the winner still might be chasing Purdue…

Georgetown (14-12, 5-8 Big East) at #20 Creighton (21-5, 8-5), Fox Sports 1.  Much like a candidate trying to work out Electoral College math to get to 270, the Hoyas faithful are trying to figure out what it would take-barring the automatic berth from winning the Big East Tournament-to get this team into the NCAA’s.  Conventional wisdom would say four wins in five regular season games (with no bad losses) followed by two more wins at Madison Square Garden to have even a prayer.  The Bluejays have been losing altitude since Maurice Watson Jr. went down for the season with a knee injury;  they’ve dropped four of seven while slipping from 7th in the nation to one bad loss away from being unranked.  The Hoyas held Creighton to 34% shooting and 1-for-18 from three-point range in a 20-point win last month;  they’ll have over a week to prepare for the Bluejays this time.

 

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

There was quite a bit of excitement when the Big Ten announced that their men’s basketball tournament would be held at Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.  But instead of a conference that had four top ten teams entering the 2013 NCAA Tournament or even the 2016 batch that yielded four schools in the top 20, there’s Wisconsin at #11 (after losing to Northwestern) while Purdue is 16th.  And before you get involved in the whole “strength of schedule” thing, look at the “projected top 16 seeds” released by the Tournament Selection Committee:  NO BIG TEN TEAMS.  While I’ve compared this made-for-TV exercise to tasting cookie batter, there is still some validity to the process.  And that process points to the Big Ten and say they’re pretenders instead of contenders in a world where the teams to beat range from bluebloods (Kentucky and Duke) to upstarts (Gonzaga and Butler).

Blame the name schools having off-seasons:  Michigan State has yet to really recover from a rough non-conference slate and Indiana’s December loss to Nebraska was more of a trend than a hiccup.  Ohio State and Michigan are bubble afterthoughts.  It’s also tough for the national media to get their heads around Northwestern and Minnesota as contenders.  Add in a Maryland team that lost four starters while playing a less than ambitious non-conference record, and you have a below-the-radar season for a school used to being above-the-fold on the front page.  Who’s ready for a first round that features 14th place Rutgers?

Bracket Racket- now that we are less than one month away from Selection Sunday, we’ll be including the ESPN and CBS NCAA Tournament projections.  Remember that the field of 68 is fluid…and has the attention-span off a hummingbird.

Alma Mater Update- two straight close losses have the Orange slipping down the bubble at 8-6 in the conference.  Remaining games on the road to the NCAA’s have Duke at home and Louisville on the road…with a home-and-away series against fellow Bubble resident Georgia Tech.  SU hasn’t had a comfortable win in exactly one month…and one hopes they respond to the latest bump in the road.

#23 Maryland (21-4, 9-3 Big Ten)- Anthony Cowan stepped up Saturday in the Terps’ 86-77 win over Ohio State with 19 points after scoring 19 in the team’s previous three games (and shooting 2-15 during the two-game losing streak).  The bench also outscored the Buckeyes’ reserves 33-0.  But up next are two tough tests on the road against conference contenders Northwestern (yes, I know…try not to chuckle) and Wisconsin.  Both models have the Terrapins a #6 seed:   CBS tickets them to the South Region and a first round game against the Georgia Tech/Wake Forest winner while ESPN has them in the East bracket against Clemson or Marquette.

Georgetown (14-12, 5-8 Big East)- Now that was the Jessie Govan we thought we might see.  The six-foot-ten sophomore tallied 23 points and 8 rebounds in the 80-62 win over Marquette.  After their team defense was described as “lazy” by the Golden Eagles JuJuan Johnson in December, the Hoyas responded by holding Marquette to under 40% shooting for most of the game and 3-for-14 from three-point range.  Now the question is:  can this team get back to .500 in conference play and merit at-large consideration in March?  They still have Creighton and Villanova on their schedule…plus road games at St. John’s and Seton Hall.  ESPN has the Hoyas as the eighth team to miss the tournament.

#14 Virginia (18-6, 8-4 ACC)- It’s cloudy in Charlottesville after an 80-78 double-overtime loss to Virginia Tech.  Cassell Coliseum is a very difficult place to get a win…no matter how good you might be.  But blow a 14-point halftime lead?  When you’re one of the best defensive teams in the nation, let alone the ACC?  Their starting forwards shot 2-for-10 from the field against the Hokies…and UVa missed 10 of 24 free throws.  London Perrantes can continue to dazzle from the perimeter, but if he doesn’t have help inside the rough and tumble world of the best conference in the game can be a little unforgiving.  The latest models both have the Cavaliers as a #4 seed playing Akron in the round of 64;  ESPN has UVa in the East while CBS places them in the Midwest.

Virginia Tech (17-7, 6-7 ACC)- now THAT was a big program win.  How do you rally from 14 down against your in-state rival?  How do you come back from 17 turnovers?  Somehow they forced the Cavaliers into a 2-for-9 shooting funk over a six-minute stretch in the second half…and got a gift when London Perrantes’ last-minute layup died on the backboard rim, resulting in a jump ball that went the home team’s way.  Seth Allen’s 20 points off the bench were punctuated by his game-winning jumper in the lane with 3.2 seconds left.  Sophomores Justin Robinson (4 rebounds, 6 assists and a blocked shot) and Chris Clarke (7 boards and 3 assists) continue to do the little things that an NCAA Tournament team needs.  Up next?  Back to back road games against the likes of Pitt and #8 Louisville.  CBS has the Hokies a #9 seed in the Midwest, facing VCU…while ESPN has them seeded 9th in the West and a first-round game with USC.

George Mason (17-8, 7-5 Atlantic 10).  Saturday’s 73-67 victory over Fordham was one of those games the Patriots would have lost earlier this winter or last year:  somehow they survived going scoreless for over seven minutes in the second half.  Sophomore guard Otis Livingston II has turned it on as of late, scoring 18 points while playing 37 minutes per game during the three-game winning streak.  The current surge has coach Dave Paulsen’s team pushing for a double-bye…but in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.  And over the next month the Patriots play conference co-leaders Dayton and VCU plus third place Richmond and fourth place Rhode Island.  Buckle up…

George Washington (13-12, 5-7 Atlantic 10).  How do you bounce back from the heartbreak of a last-second loss to VCU?  Feed Tyler Cavanaugh the ball early and often, which is what GW did in their 76-70 triumph over St. Bonaventure.  They also locked up on the perimeter, holding the Bonnies to 22% shooting from three-point range.  Remember the double-bye I mentioned earlier?  There’s also the dreaded first round of the A-10 Tournament that matches up the bottom four schools…and the Colonials are one game ahead of Fordham and Saint Louis for tenth place.  They own the tiebreaker with the Billikens and visit the Rams March 1st…ending a stretch where they play four of five games against teams that are sub-500 in league play.

American (6-19, 3-11 Patriot League).  The Eagles can also avoid playing in the first round of their conference tournament, but they’ll need to win the rest of their regular season games while getting help.  And even then they’d be in a tiebreaker at 7-11.  Let’s just give AU a chance to enjoy their 61-58 win over Army where they turned over the Black Knights 21 times.  They go for a season sweep of Lafayette Wednesday.  If you can’t avoid the dreaded first round, you may as well try to host it.

Howard (6-20, 3-8 MEAC).  The offensively challenged (338th in shooting and 331st in assists) Bison didn’t go down quietly at Hampton…but still have a way to go before righting the ship.  Of course the ship would be sailing a lot better if the injured James Daniel III had played more than two games this winter.  Instead, fellow senior James Miller and a nucleus of unseasoned young talent tries to fly on one engine.  Thank goodness they got a Monday night win at Morgan State…Miller leading the way with 24 points and a crucial block in the final minute of a 70-67 win over the Bears.  They next face winless in the league North Carolina A&T.

 

 

The college basketball world breathed a collective sigh of relief when Grayson Allen learned his lesson and returned to the Duke lineup for their bludgeoning of Georgia Tech.  After being suspended “indefinitely” for his third trip of an opposing player in less than a calendar year, the All-American sure learned his lesson this time.  I mean–even Bobby when taking out Daniel LaRusso’s leg in the All-Valley Karate Tournament was more apologetic (Dutch, a completely different story).  Johnny Lawrence would be proud with how the prized pupil of Durham’s Cobra Kai chapter handled himself in his return.  Just as by announcing the need for back surgery after the loss to Virginia Tech takes the focus off the Blue Devils’ loss in Blacksburg, the return of Grayson Allen after one game away sours those on the fence regarding the Blue Devils.  Just as the coach who publicly chastised an Oregon player in the handshake line after a loss now decides to teach his players “internally”, the phrase “double standard” once again begins and ends with a D.  A big, blue D.

 

Alma Mater Update-

How do you lose to Boston College?  Even though it was on the road, the Eagles don’t even try unless it’s hockey.  They even already have their “we can’t compete because of strict academic standards” speech ready for their eventual defeat.  As underwhelming as the ACC opener was, the win over Miami gave one hope.  At least until they play Pitt at noon Saturday.  It’s going to be one of those bubblicious seasons for SU-made worse because of the broom closet my Alumni Group has elected to watch games at in DC.  While the “Big Country Breakfast” is worthy of its name, one feels like they are in the middle seat on an airplane.  For future reference- use the restroom before tipoff.

Saturday’s games:

Noon-

Georgetown (8-7, 0-3 Big East) vs #18 Butler (13-2, 2-1).  The Hoyas haven’t started 0-4 in conference play since Hall of Fame coach John Thompson, Jr. retired midway through the 1998-99 season.  The Bulldogs are coming off a home win over top-ranked and defending national champ Villanova…so they might be ripe for the picking.  They’re also own the #1 turnover margin in the conference…while the Hoyas rank 9th and if there was a “costly turnover category” one feels they’d be leading that.  At least this game starts at noon instead of 11 a.m. like last week’s morning matinee with Xavier.

1pm-

VCU (12-3, 2-0 Atlantic 10) vs UMass (10-5, 0-2).  We could use the transitive property of basketball and say that because the Rams beat George Mason and the Patriots beat the Minutemen, Virginia Commonwealth is better than Massachusetts.  You could also go the Captain Obvious route and simply realize that VCU is better than UMass.  Just when the A-10 was getting used to a world without Melvin Johnson, freshman Samir Doughty tallies 23 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists in the Rams’ midweek win over Duquesne.  Meet the new boss…similar to the old boss.

2pm-

#21 Virginia Tech (12-2, 1-1 ACC) at #12 Florida State (14-1, 2-0).  The road will be cruel this winter in the Atlantic Coast Conference…as witnessed by the Hokies in their 104-78 loss at NC State where they allowed the Wolfpack to shoot 64% from the field.  It doesn’t get any easier…as the Seminoles lead the lead in shooting percentage and are second in the ACC in scoring.  Can Buzz Williams cook up a defense that can contain FSU’s Dwayne Bacon (18 points per game and less than a week removed from a game-winning three against Virginia)?

3:15 pm-

Maryland (13-2, 1-1 Big Ten) at Michigan (11-4, 1-1).  The Terps showed their fans the absolute ceiling (25-point thumping of Illinois) and floor (scoreless final 6:02 in a loss to Nebraska) for the upcoming conference season.  The Wolverines have been much more consistent, looking as equally underwhelming in their three-point loss at Iowa as they did in a three-point win at home against Penn State.  The maize and blue are also 13th in the Big Ten in rebounding margin and last in the league at defending the three-pointer.  With #25 Indiana coming to College Park Tuesday, this is a must-win from a standings, confidence and momentum standpoint for Melo Trimble and company.

5pm-

George Mason (11-4, 1-1 Atlantic 10) at St. Bonaventure (9-5, 1-1).  The Patriots held their own in their conference opener against VCU and played well in their victory over UMass…but will this translate to the road?  It’s been said that “defense and rebounding travel”…and Mason (led by Marquise Moore) leads the A-10 in rebounding margin.  The Bonnies boast the highest scoring offense in the conference and hit a league-best 38% of their three-pointers.  Junior Jaylen Adams is the A-10’s top scorer at 23 points per game and likely hasn’t forgotten last winter’s 3-for-16 shooting performance in Fairfax against GMU.

7pm-

Howard (3-12) at Columbia (5-7).  The Bison began MEAC play Wednesday with a 78=66 loss at home to Florida A&M.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that James Daniel played for the first time all season and the nation’s returning leading scorer tallied a team-high 24 points.  There’s more good news in the form of James Miller playing for the first time in eight games–netting 18 points.  Now that coach Kevin Nickelberry has his stars back, he needs to keep them healthy while finding the right combinations with the rest of a roster that’s shown plenty of talent.  This game is the final dress rehearsal for the preseason MEAC favorites.

Sunday-

12pm-

George Washington (9-6, 1-1 Atlantic 10) vs Richmond (8-6, 2-0). After making 11 of 18 three-pointers in their 73-69 win over Davidson Thursday night, the Colonials may find things a little stickier on the perimeter against the Spiders (2nd in the A-10 at defending the three).  GW continues to have issues taking care of the ball:  17 turnovers against the Wildcats didn’t help the school that’s last in the conference in turnover margin (Richmond is fourth-best in the league).  It’s a matchup of versatile big men in Tyler Cavanaugh against T.J. Cline- both average 17 points per game while being their team’s offensive focal point.  Richmond may be unbeaten in league play, but let the record show both of their A-10 wins have come against schools that are 0-2 in the early going.

2pm-

American (4-10, 1-2 Patriot League) at Lehigh (7-7, 1-2).  Both teams are coming off home losses…but the Eagles may be able to build off their 69-60 defeat to conference-leading Bucknell better than the Mountain Hawks in their attempted recovery from blowing an 18-point lead in a loss to Loyola (Md.).  AU freshman Mark Gasperini will have his hands full with two-time Patriot League Player of the Year Tim Kempton (21 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 38% from three-point range).  Sophomore Lonnie Rivera has the hot hand for the Eagles…although the 15 points he scored against the Bison were nine shy of equaling his total during Patriot League play last winter.  Thursday may be an isolated incident.

Navy (5-10, 0-3 Patriot League) vs Colgate (3-13, 1-2).  After dropping their first two conference games by a combined five points, the Midshipmen dropped the ball early and often Thursday against Boston University-turning the ball over 27 times during a 71-53 loss.  Coming into Annapolis is a red-hot freshman by the name of Will Rayman (averaging 22 points per game in conference play) and a team that actually has a better record on the road than on their own campus.  Okay, so 2-7 isn’t that much better than 1-6…but when you’re already ten games under .500 the first weekend in January you have to cook the books in some manner to highlight the possibilities.

8pm-

#11 Virginia (11-3, 1-2 ACC) vs Wake Forest (10-5, 1-2).  How crazy is the Atlantic Coast Conference season after one full week?  Entering Saturday’s games 10 of the 15 schools were 1-1.  The Cavaliers can ill afford to start 1-3 in league play…and they face a Demon Deacons team that is their defensive opposite.  While UVa  leads the conference in scoring defense and opponent’s field goal percentage, Wake ranks 13th in points allowed and 15th in opponent’s shooting.  They also don’t have the offensive weapons Florida State and Pitt possess.  Quietly, junior guard Devon Hall has scored in double figures in each of the Cavaliers’ ACC games…is that a three-game oasis or the start of a trend?

 

PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM-

After taking a break from their near-annual series last winter, American and Howard meet on Saturday, December 3rd.  One of the many dress rehearsals for two schools in one-bid leagues.  For AU and HU, RPI and SOS are simply excess filler in alphabet soup when the calendar turns to March–as the only way either school gets to the NCAAs is to win its respective league tournament.  American is just two years removed from taking on Wisconsin in the Round of 64, while Howard has its best chance in a quarter century to be playing in the big dance.

Yes, you read correctly.  It’s taken some time, but coach Kevin Nickelberry has Howard poised to make noise this winter-picked to finish first in the MEAC preseason poll.  A far cry for a school that not only hasn’t had a winning season since 2001-02, but had lost at least 20 games for eleven straight years.  Senior guard James Daniel III led Division I in scoring (27.1 points per game) last winter, but injuries (primarily to James Miller who was averaging 15 points per game before going down in December) butchered the Bison’s hopes of building off the previous campaign’s 16-16 mark.  Daniel and Miller  are just two of the top eight players in Howard’s rotation returning, so depth and experience should not be an issue.  Six-foot-ten Marcel Boyd (9.9 rebounds per game) and six-foot-seven Solomon Mangham (5.6 boards per contest) both enjoyed breakout junior seasons despite each missing time with injuries.  That’s a nice presence down low to let both Jameses go to work outside.

The schedule begins, ominously enough, in Ann Arbor Friday evening against NCAA Tournament hopeful Michigan.  The non-conference slate reads like a who’s who of area teams:  in addition to their home game against American, the Bison visit Georgetown, George Washington, Maryland, VCU and Old Dominion.  The MEAC schedule was kind this winter;  South Carolina State was picked to finish second and Hampton was ranked third in the preseason-and Howard only has to face each school once during the regular season.

American enters year four under coach Mike Brennan…and even though he didn’t recruit his current seniors, Brennan knows they’ve been instrumental to his success. “They bought into what we’ve been doing right away,” Brennan said, “having a group do that immediately and having them over the course of four years was just as helpful as being able to go out and recruit your own guys who’d fit with what you’d want to do.”  The Eagles have a major identity change with Jesse Reed, after exhausting opposing defenses throughout his career, has finally exhausted his eligibility.  One wouldn’t be surprised if the other Patriot League teams took a collection for Reed’s graduation present- the 6-foot-5 guard from Saltsburg, PA led AU in scoring each of his final three years and was the team’s top rebounder his last two seasons with the Eagles.

In theory, Delante Jones will have to step into the void but the sophomore from Chantilly will attract plenty of defensive attention.  “To be honest, I think he’ll have a tough year as people know about him and he’s our leading returning scorer,” Brennan said,”but he’s one of the hardest workers and one of the more coachable guys I’ve been around.  He’s made a lot of strides in the preseason.”  Serbian center Andrija Matic, George Washington transfer Matt Cimino and freshman Mark Gasperini each bring 6-foot-10 frames into the post.  Do they rebound by committee or does one of the bigs become the lead dog?

The schedule begins with a bang-an opening night date with #25 Maryland Friday, November 11th before they visit Texas A&M.  There’s also a December duel at defending National Champion Villanova.  “Those games usually sound better in recruiting in June…than they do two days before you’re going to play Maryland.” Brennan said, “it’s a great opportunity for those guys and they’re ready to compete.  You try to put together a schedule that prepares you for league play.”  American is picked to finish fifth in the Patriot League…a conference whose tournament they won in Brennan’s first year and whose title they played for in his second season at the school.  “It’s a great league-eveybody knows each other.  Obviously I think they got it right with the top four teams…those are the older teams this year.” Brennan said, “but the league has shown there’s not a big discrepancy between who finishes first and who finishes last.”  How well this team gels around Jones could determine where AU winds up…