I shall attempt to write this preview without bias. Tony Shaver is a top five favorite coach of mine, not only on the court, for creating such beautiful offense but also, off court, for being brutally honest and simultaneously, unrelentingly positive in both his talk and demeanor. He is the perfect coach for William and Mary, an institution that will not bend academically,] to allow for their basketball program to flourish. (The combo of Tommy Amaker and Harvard is the quintessential opposite.)
Shaver’s teams are consistently among the most efficient offensively in the country. With a myriad of shooters, surrounding big man and fringe pro prospect, Nathan Knight, William and Mary’s gorgeous spacing and constant motion frees up any one of his intelligent shooters, who rarely take a bad shot. For a basketball purist, it is just beautiful to watch. I think the modern numbers people would love the three point shooting overload too. William and Mary lost much from last season but in addition to Knight, they have another potential NBA player in Justin Pierce, super athletic frosh Chase Audige, ex-Boston College lefty Matt Milon and sophomore Luke Loewe round out a starting five that is loaded with potential. Last years CAA male scholar athlete of the year Paul Rowley began this season injured. It is no coincidence that the Tribe has improved as his minutes have increased. Another athletic frosh LJ Owens is one of the first off the bench. I would expect his minutes to increase as the year goes on as he is another with a big upside. Frosh Thornton Scott is the back up point guard. At 6 ft 5, he could become another major player in what looks to be a bright future in Williamsburg.
The tribe was a bit banged up to start the year but with all healthy now results have been improved, although still a bit erratic. Conference play began at home. James Madison jumped ahead 29-17 but the Tribe edged ahead 37-36 at the half. The second half was back and forth but the Tribe held JMU without a field goal over the last five minutes and won 79-74. Justin Pierce (a junior by the way) had 20 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists and 4 steals. Nathan Knight (another junior) had 17 points, 8 rebounds, 6 blocks, and 4 assists. There is William and Mary in a nutshell. 6’7″ Justin Pierce had 7 assists! Nathan Knight at 6′ 10″ had 4 assists. Super frosh Chase Audige had 19 points on 7-11 shooting.
The Tribe had an easier time winning wire to wire 71-61 over Towson. This time their maligned defense shut down Towson. The Tribe were led by junior Matt Milon and of course Pierce did his usual 18 points on 7-12 shooting alongside 6 rebounds and 4 assists. In the next game, on the road for the first time William and Mary jumped ahead 17-5 and led again by 12 in the second half, but as Shaver said, “we gave the game away with atrocious offense and poor decisions” and lost 58-56 to Delaware to put them at 2-1 going into today’s game.
On the other side, Drexel has played well in all three conference games. They never let Northeastern feel comfortable, they chopped sizzling hot Hofstra’s quick 22 point lead down to 6 before running out of gas. Then, after falling behind struggling Elon, they dominated the end of the first half and most of the second half and won rather comfortably. Freshman Point Guard Wynter has been a revelation. He had 8 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists in the Elon contest. With offensive machines Demir and Harper and ultra efficient Trevor John, Drexel has pieced together a legit unit. However, shutting down a young and struggling Elon team is one thing, shutting down Shaver’s bunch is another.
You can bet that William and Mary will not have the offensive meltdown they had at Delaware. I went a bit more in depth on their players in an attempt to convey that this is a more athletic William and Mary team than years past, that they are capable of defending. While they opened the season with injuries and youth, they are now healthy and older, and the huge upside this team his is showing on occasion. When is it ever mentioned that William and Mary may have two pro prospects?! When does athletic freshmen (plural) get tossed around at William and Mary? This team has all that.
Drexel does not have the athletes to defend what will be a super focused Tribe team. There will be no blowing double digit leads today. I also want to be the first to say, that William and Mary will get their first NCAA bid next year… And could make a run this season. As for today:
William and Mary 88 Drexel 74