By Sean Kennedy
7:00 PM: Drexel (10-9, 2-4 CAA) @ Hofstra (7-14, 3-3 CAA)
The Dragons are reeling in conference play, coming off a buzzer-beater defeat against William & Mary, and losers of three of their past four games. They’ll look to get their CAA campaign back on track against a Hofstra team they defeated in both meetings last season. Of course, both teams are much different than last year’s squads, with Hofstra leading scorer Taran Buie having been suspended by the team and leaving the program, and Damion Lee out for the season for Drexel. However, the Pride struggled with turnovers and shot just around 40% in each of those meetings, and those problems have carried over this season, as they’re averaging over 13 giveaways per game and shooting just 42.5%.
Senior swingman Zeke Upshaw leads the offensive attack for the Pride, averaging 19 points per game. Still, Upshaw and second-leading scorer Dion Nesmith both shoot around 40%, although Nesmith excels behind the arc at 43%. One area Hofstra could cause problems for a Dragons team a bit shorthanded on the front line is on the glass. The Pride are an above-average squad on the boards behind the efforts of 6’8″ senior Stephen Nwaukoni, who averages almost 9 rebounds per game. Nevertheless, with Drexel getting healthier by the day, they should be able to find their way against the Pride.
7:00 PM: La Salle (11-8, 3-2 A-10) @ George Washington (16-3, 4-1 A-10)
Having let a win slip through their fingers in a double OT loss to VCU, the Explorers have a hard road ahead in the nation’s capital against George Washington. La Salle prevailed against the Colonials at home a few weeks ago behind the hot shooting of Sam Mills, who sank 5 threes for a game-high 17 points. However, since that loss for George Washington, they’ve won four straight, including a solid home victory over VCU. With the Explorers on a 2-game losing streak, these two squads have been heading in opposite directions of late; La Salle will try to reverse that course.
The Colonials have 6 players capable of leading the team in scoring on any given night, all averaging between 8 and 14 points. Former Villanova Wildcat Isaiah Armwood patrols the interior with averages of 11 points, 8 rebounds, and over 2 blocks; Armwood recorded a double-double against La Salle this season as he and Kevin Larsen were all over the offensive glass. George Washington had a rare off night shooting the ball from the outside in that earlier contest between these two squads. I wouldn’t expect the same with the Colonials back at home and La Salle has a difficult task ahead of them.
7:00 PM: Saint Joseph’s (13-6, 3-2 A-10) @ Dayton (13-7, 1-4 A-10)
The Hawks hit a speed bump last game against Richmond, but will look to find a smoother road when they travel to Ohio to take on the Flyers. Dayton won the lone meeting between these teams last season at home, but with former leading scorer Kevin Dillard leading the way for them. Currently, Dayton is in a bit of a dry spell, having lost 3 straight games, but they still feature one of the best offenses in the country shooting 48% from the field and 38% from three.
Unlike their name, the Flyers like to slow the pace down and pound the rock on the interior. Forwards Dyshawn Pierre and Devin Oliver lead a balanced Dayton attack, each averaging 12 points and 7 and 6 rebounds per game, respectively. Roberts, Jr. and Kanacevic will have their work cut out for them on the defensive end against that pair, but should be able to go right back at them when the Hawks have the ball. Langston Galloway has average 4 threes per game in the last 4 games, and Kanacevic just had a near 20-20 game against the Spiders. This game should go right down to the wire, but with St. Joe’s catching the Flyers at a rough stretch of their season, they can pull this one out.
7:00 PM: Temple (5-13, 0-7 AAC) vs. Rutgers (8-12, 2-5 AAC) – ESPN News
Still looking for their first win ever as a member of the American Athletic conference, Temple takes on a Scarlet Knights team they lost to in the final minute on New Year’s Day. Rutgers has lost 5 of 6 games since that win over Temple and appear primed to be the first conference victory for the Owls. Dalton Pepper scored 19 straight points for the Owls in the second half of that game, and coming off a career-high last game against Cincinnati, look for another big game from the senior. Also in that first meeting against Rutgers, Quenton DeCosey dropped a team-high 25 points; however, DeCosey has been in a major shooting slump of late, having gone 0-12 from three over his past 2 games. Temple needs DeCosey to regain his stroke from the outside to start getting on the right side of these close outcomes.
For Rutgers, Kadeem Jack scored 18 against Temple, and is coming off a double-double against UConn. The big man averages a team-high 7 boards a game and is a big reason the Scarlet Knights have excelled on the glass this season. Anthony Lee will need to neutralize him on both ends of the floor. 5’9″ Myles Mack leads the Knights in scoring, and is capable of going off for a big night at any time, with 6 games of 20+ points this season. With Lee and Cummings both having struggled from the floor in these teams’ first contest, and the home crowd behind them, Temple should prevail and pop their American conference cherry.