After falling in the CAA tournament title game a season ago, William & Mary will make its second consecutive appearance in the game Monday night. Their path to the CAA final wasn’t an easy one either, as they needed a Daniel Dixon three-pointer with eight tenths of a second remaining in double overtime to beat Hofstra 92-91 on Sunday.
CAA Player of the Year Marcus Thornton, who assisted on Dixon’s game-winning three, scored a CAA tournament single-game record 37 points to lead the way for the Tribe with Omar Prewitt adding 33 points. Juan’ya Green, the CAA Newcomer of the Year, led Hofstra with 26 points to go along with seven assists and four steals. Dion Nesmith added 21 points and Brian Bernardi 17 for the Pride, who drop to 20-13 on the season.
William & Mary will play either UNCW or Northeastern in Monday’s title game, which can be seen on NBCSN at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
The CAA was one of the wilder league races of the season. Heading into the final week of the season, there were four teams tied for first place in the conference. In that final week, all four teams split their two games, meaning that there was a four-way tie for first place: William & Mary, UNC Wilmington, James Madison and Northeastern. If the year should tell you anything, it’s that the conference tournament is going to be wild.
For me, William & Mary is the favorite to win what should be a wild CAA tournament, and the reason that I’ll pick them here is, simply, because they have the best player in the conference. No one can take over a game like Marcus Thornton can, and if the Tribe are ever going to get that elusive first NCAA tournament bid, it’s going to be this season.
And if they lose?: UNC Wilmington, Northeastern and James Madison
Your guess is as good as mine here. James Madison has played well despite losing their most talented player midway through the season. Northeastern was a favorite in the preseason that earned their share of the league title. And UNCW? They were led by a Rick Pitino disciple to a surprising first place finish.
Hofstra: The Pride have the best one-two punch in the conference in Juan’ya Green and Ameen Tanksley.
Delaware: The Blue Hens are young this season, but they rallied late in the year when Kyle Anderson got healthy to end the year 9-9 in the league.
Player of the Year: Marcus Thornton, William & Mary
Thornton was the most dynamic player in the conference this season, helping to lead the Tribe to a four-way tie for first in the conference. Thornton averaged 19.6 points this season, shooting 40.9 percent from three while carrying his team for much of the season. Thornton is the kind of player that can lead the Tribe through the league tournament and to a win in the NCAA tournament.
Coach of the Year: Kerry Keatts, UNC Wilmington
No one expected much from the Seahawks this season, as they were coming off of a year where they finished just 9-23 overall and 3-13 in the league. But Keatts turned things around, as UNCW finished in a four-way tie for first.
Scott Eatherton, Northeastern – Northeastern was a favorite to win the conference entering the season and they finished tied for first thanks in large part to Eatherton, who led the team in scoring and rebounding.
Juan’ya Green, Hofstra – Hofstra didn’t quite have the season they were expected to, but Green was as good as advertised, finishing the season averaging 17.0 points and 6.5 assists, the latter of which led the conference.
Damion Lee, Drexel – Lee was having a terrific season, averaging 21.4 points on the year when he broke his hand two weeks ago.
Addison Spruill, UNC Wilmington – Spruill led UNCW in both scoring and rebounding this season, the anchor for the league’s most surprising team.
CBT PREDICTION: William & Mary reaches their first NCAA tournament with a win over Delaware in the final.
After losing many of the key contributors from last season’s CAA tournament champion team, the 2014-15 season hasn’t gone too well for Monte Ross’ Delaware Blue Hens. Saturday afternoon Delaware moved to 6-8 in CAA play with a 73-70 win over William & Mary, which entered the game in sole possession of first place. The win is Delaware’s ninth straight in the series, and they also snapped the Tribe’s 14-game home win streak.
Two Marvin King-Davis free throws with 15 seconds remaining sealed the win for Delaware, with Kyle Anderson, Kory Holden and Cazmon Hayes scoring 15 points apiece to lead the way offensively. Marcus Thornton, one the best all-around guards in the country, led William & Mary with 27 points and Omar Prewitt added 25.
William & Mary, now 10-4 in CAA play, is tied with Northeastern and UNCW in the loss column. The Seahawks are also 10-4, and Northeastern is 9-4.
Georgia forward’s status remains uncertain for Tuesday’s game against No. 1 Kentucky
After winning five straight games to rebound from an 0-2 start to SEC play Georgia played its worst game of the season Saturday against South Carolina. Mark Fox’s Bulldogs shot 22 percent from the field, making just eight of their thirty-three two point attempts in the 67-50 loss, and the absence of starting forward Marcus Thornton contributed to their struggles.
Thornton (13.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg), who leads the team in both scoring and rebounding, remained home after suffering a concussion (he hit the floor hard as a result of a flagrant foul) in Georgia’s win over Vanderbilt last Tuesday night. The question now is whether or not Thornton will be available when the Bulldogs visit No. 1 Kentucky on Tuesday.
“I just don’t know,” Billy Thornton said. “It’s day-by-day. I just don’t have a good sense about it. It wouldn’t surprise if he wasn’t available for that game; it wouldn’t surprise me at all. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Rebounding wasn’t an issue for Georgia in their loss at South Carolina, but when you shoot as poorly as they did there are bound to be plenty of opportunities to grab offensive rebounds. But without Thornton the other options at the four struggled mightily, with freshman Yante Maten getting the start and playing just 18 minutes before fouling out.
Given the front court firepower that Kentucky will counter with, having Thornton would clearly help the Bulldogs slow down the likes of Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein. But at 14-6 overall and 5-3 in SEC play the bigger concern is making sure that Thornton is at full strength for the stretch run, with Georgia aiming for its first NCAA tournament berth since 2011.
Balanced effort moves William & Mary into tie for first in the CAA (VIDEO)
William & Mary entered Saturday’s game against Northeastern one game behind the Huskies in the CAA standings, and after their loss at Delaware on Wednesday this was a game Tony Shaver’s team had to get. And thanks to a balanced offensive effort the Tribe picked up the win, beating Northeastern 78-62 with Omar Prewitt leading four starters in double figures with 19 points.
Sean Sheldon and Tony Tarpley added 15 points apiece, with Tarpley also grabbing eight rebounds, and senior guard Marcus Thornton scored 13 as William & Mary pulled even with the Huskies at 6-2 in CAA play. Quincy Ford led Northeastern with 17 points and Scott Eatherton added 12, but the Huskies’ struggles from beyond the arc proved too much to overcome.
Northeastern, which is shooting 38 percent from beyond the arc for the season, made just two of its twenty attempts on the afternoon. By comparison, William & Mary (the CAA’s best three-point shooting team) made six of its nineteen attempts.
2014-2015 Season Preview: Stanley Johnson, Sam Dekker lead wing forward rankings
The wing position in college basketball this season will be fun to keep track of. It can be argued that from a depth standpoint this is the strongest position for incoming freshmen, with two players expected to be NBA Draft lottery selections in the near future and others expected to have a significant impact on their team’s fortunes. But there are also skilled veterans among the ranks, including one who reached the Final Four last season and another whose team fell one win short of that goal. What’s the common bond amongst many of these players? Versatility, which allows them to impact games in multiple facets.
Below are some of the best wings in college basketball this season, beginning with a gifted freshman from the Pac-12.
1. Stanley Johnson, Arizona: Johnson has the build of a pro and the skill set to match, as he’s capable of scoring at all three levels with great consistency. He’s no slouch on the defensive end either, which is key when fitting into what was one of the nation’s best defensive teams a season ago. In a season without a clear-cut choice for national Player of the Year, Arizona’s freshman wing could be right in the mix come March.
2. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin: Dekker went from reserve to starter in 2013-14 and his productivity was one reason for the Badgers’ trek to the Final Four. Dekker averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds per game, shooting nearly 47 percent from the field. If he can raise his three-point shooting back to freshman year levels (39.1%), and he looked better shooting the ball at the LeBron James Skills Academy in July, Dekker becomes an even tougher assignment for opposing teams.
3. Delon Wright, Utah: The late Bum Phillips’ words regarding Earl Campbell may apply to Wright when it comes to discussing the most versatile players in college basketball: “he may not be in a class by himself, but it don’t take long to call roll.” Wright (15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 5.3 apg) was a pivotal figure for the Utes in 2013-14, leading the team in scoring and assists. It could be argued that Wright should be on the lead guards list given how often he’s allowed to initiate the offense for Larry Krystkowiak’s team, but he fits in at any of the three perimeter positions.
4. Kelly Oubre, Kansas: One of three freshmen to make the top ten in our list, Oubre has the skill set needed to be one of the most gifted scorers in the country immediately. The 6-foot-8 lefty has a slight build, but he can finish through contact and is a good perimeter shooter as well. Oubre also uses ball screens well, an attribute that was on display at the adidas Nations camp in August. Given the production Kansas lost on the wing in the form of Andrew Wiggins, Oubre will have plenty of chances to put points on the board.
5. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona: Hollis-Jefferson is one of the best on-ball defenders in the country, and he was very good around the basket as a freshman. The question for Hollis-Jefferson (9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg in 2013-14) is a simple one: how much has he improved his perimeter shooting over the summer? Hollis-Jefferson showed progress in July at the Lebron camp, and a consistent perimeter shot would make him an even tougher player for opponents to defend.
6. Treveon Graham, VCU: The 6-foot-6 senior has been a consistently productive player for Shaka Smart throughout his career, averaging 15.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game last season. Graham can certainly shoot the ball from the perimeter, but he’s good in the mid-range game and can put the ball on the deck as well. He’ll be one of the leaders for a team expected by many to win the Atlantic 10.
7. Justin Jackson, North Carolina: The third freshman in the top ten, the 6-foot-8 Jackson can score both inside and out for the Tar Heels in 2014-15. As a high school senior Jackson averaged 31.5 points, 9.1 rebounds and 2.0 assists per game, and his length makes him a nuisance on the defensive end of the floor.
8. Aaron White, Iowa: With Roy Devyn Marble having moved on, the 6-foot-8 White will be an even more important player for the Hawkeyes in 2014-15. As a junior White averaged 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, shooting 58.6% from the field. The loss of Marble should open up more opportunities for White, especially when it comes to the mid-range game where he was so successful a season ago.
9. Branden Dawson, Michigan State: Dawson’s had to navigate injuries for most of his career in East Lansing, but there should be little doubt regarding his skill level. Last season Dawson averaged 11.2 points and 8.3 rebounds per contest, and given the amount of production the Spartans lost (Keith Appling, Gary Harris and Adreian Payne) the senior will need to be even more influential on the offensive end.
10. Wesley Saunders, Harvard: Saunders is one of the leaders for the Crimson, having averaged 14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game as a junior. Saunders’ versatility is one of his greatest attributes, and he’s also done a good job of getting to the foul line in each of the last two seasons.
THE NEXT TEN
11. Anthony Brown, Stanford
12. Justise Winslow, Duke
13. Winston Shepard III, San Diego State
14. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
15. Bryce Dejean-Jones, Iowa State
16. Sam Thompson, Ohio State
17. Dustin Hogue, Iowa State
18. Theo Pinson, North Carolina
19. Kyle Collinsworth, BYU
20. Anthony Drmic, Boise State
ALSO CONSIDERED: Justin Anderson (Virginia), Patricio Garino (George Washington), Vince Hunter (UTEP), Nick King (Memphis), Justin Martin (SMU), Sheldon McClellan (Miami), Larry Nance Jr. (Wyoming), Le’Bryan Nash (Oklahoma State), Marcus Thornton (Georgia), Tyrone Wallace (California), Byron Wesley (Gonzaga).