Elon vs UNCW – Wilmington was the surprise of the conference. Picked near the bottom, UNCW only went 15-3 sharing the title with Towson. Second year coach Takayo Siddle, a former Kevin Keatts assistant, appears to be following the same path. He will use Wilmington as a stepping stone to a bigger job.
I thought Elon would have an excellent year, maybe even threaten to win the league. Mike Schrage is excellent. He has recruited some good young talent. They flashed ability last season. It seemed like they might break out. Wrong. Injuries hampered them to start. Poor play handled the rest, that is, until the final two games of the year. After losing three consecutive home games, Elon ended the season by going on the road and blowing out both Hofstra and Northeastern. Which version shows up, the one from first 29 games or the team from the last two?
These two teams split home wins during the year. Elon led by 10 with a 10 1/2 to go in Wilmington, when the Seahawks hit them with a 12-0 run, finally winning, 73-66. Shrage went bigger in the rematch to take advantage of the ever-switching UNCW defense. They found mismatches inside, scoring 44 points in the paint. They pulled away late to win 78-65.
Wilmington has had an amazing season, winning several close games. However, it is teams like Wilmington that often struggle in conference tournaments. Think of the cliche water seeks its level. As I felt Elon would be improved this year, I shall trust that they have finally put their act together, the fast finish, not a fluke. Schrage will no doubt have Elon ready for best. Will that be good enough to pull the upset? Given that I think UNCW will not play their best, I opt for the minor upset.
Elon 72 UNCW 69
College Charleston vs Hofstra – College of Charleston made a terrific hire in snagging Pat Kelsey from Winthrop. Kelsey had Winthrop, from the Big South, play with a rating that would win games in the Big Ten. Charleston is well supported. They have great tradition. The Colonial could go from about to break up, to a conference with several excellent teams. Charleston, in a four game stretch, won in Chattanooga, a win that has aged incredibly well as did what came next, a win over Tulane, a loss in overtime at Furman, followed by a win in Tulane. They are obviously capable of playing to a high level.
Hofstra also made a terrific hire. Speedy Claxton is a legendary player from Hofstra. If year one is an indicator, the words “legendary coach” may one day be said. How is this for an opening act. They went to Houston, led most of the game before losing in overtime. No worries, a month later they did not blow the game at Arkansas, outrebounding and outpointing the now nationally ranked Razorbacks, 89-81. The Pride finished 13-5 in conference. They obviously have a high ceiling. Hofstra did level off at years end, getting blown out by Elon. They then struggled for a while before they put away last place William and Mary, who had beaten them in Virginia.
Hofstra won a tight game in Charleston 76-73. They also won the conference finale at home 89-84. However, in the home win, College of Charleston was playing their sixth game in twelve days. They had just blown a 15 pointt lead in losing in the last seconds 80-79. Meeks was limited as he returned from injury. Hofstra had many chances to blow the game open. They were playing a team that figured to not be at their best. They could not get separation. Think that might guide us to who the better team truly is.
College of Charleston 78 Hofstra 73