Philly Hoop Group Classic Preview: Game 2

Who:  Towson Tigers

Where:  The Palestra

When :  Saturday, 6:30 PM EST

TV:  CN8

Here’s a scouting report on the Towson Tigers…

Starters (Subject to Change)

  • Tony Franklin – 5’11” Freshmen
  • Brian Morris – 6’6″ Junior
  • Jarrel Smith – 6’7″ Sophomore
  • Robert Nwankwo – 6’7″ Sophomore
  • Junior Hairston – 6’8″ Senior

Schedule Thus Far (3-2)

  • Navy : W – 86-68
  • @ Niagara : L – 62-79
  • Hampton : W 82-73
  • NJIT : W – 61-48
  • vs Villanova : L – 47-64

Towson was picked to finish around 7th-10th place in the CAA.  They are coached by Pat Kennedy, the longtime coach of Florida State in the mid 80s to mid 90s.  He’s won 461 games in 29 seasons, but in his 5th year with Towson, he’s still looking for his first winning season.  They went 13-18 (7-11) last year.

However, this is a very different Towson team.  While many players have upperclassmen eligibility, many of them are transfers.  Some PSU fans probably know the Tigers’ G Brian Morris.  He went to the same high school as Mike Walker (Trinity High in Camp Hill).  He transferred from Richmond, sat last year, and now is in his first season with the Tigers.  Jerrel Smith has the same situation.  He transferred with his twin brother, Jimmy (you have no idea how long it took me to figure that out), from Colorado State and also sat out last year.  Junior Hairston is the Tigers’ best player, but he missed the first three games of the season due to suspension for a violation of team rules (along with another Harrisburg area baller, Ricardo Brown, who was apart of that dominant Harrisburg club a few years ago).  Ricardo was redshirted last year and was suspended for the first five games.  I highly doubt Kennedy has any plans to play him tonight.  But back to Hairston; he was a transfer from the College of Charleston and played his first year with the Tigers last season.  A 2nd team all-CAA selection by the coaches, he averaged 12 points and 9 boards in 32 minutes last season.   Along with Hairston, Josh Thornton is the only significant contributor from last season still contributing this season.

Frontcourt: You already know about Hairston (6-8, 205).  Jerrel Smith has been a major contributor as well.  He’s averaging 12 points and 6 boards a game at the wing position.  Inside, true freshmen Calvin Lee (9 points, 6 boards a game) and sophomore Robert Nwankwo (5 points, 5 boards) have been holding it down without Hairston.  Lee is listed at 6-8, 215 and Nwankwo’s at 6-7 205.  Expect to see a little bit of 6-6 sophomore David Brewster today as well.  He didn’t log any minutes yesterday against ‘Nova, but he’ll probably be needed for a few minutes due to playing 2 games in less than 24 hours.  FWIW, senior Tony Durant (6-7 245) averaged 26 minutes a game last season.  He’s only played in 27 minutes in 5 games this season.  This is not a big frontcourt.  They have decent height, but Cornley should be able to bang these guys up inside, there’s no beef.  They only have a Rebounding Percentage of 46.9% (good for 284th in the country).  So owning the boards shouldn’t be a problem.  Unless we have a hangover from yesterday…..

Backcourt: Brian Morris, Josh Thornton, and Troy Franklin are the main players in the backcourt for the Tigers.  Morris is tall, but not overly athletic.  He’s averaging 9 points, 6 assists, and 4 boards per game,  but he’s only hit 7 of 22 shots from behind the arc.  Thornton (6-1) was the Tigers’ leading scorer last year at 13 points a game.  He came off the bench yesterday as Hairston returned to the starting lineup.  He’s a better shooter from outside than Morris, but he’s off to a slow start this season, making only 11 of 37 for 29%.  He’s logged an average of 28 minutes a game this season and is averaging 10 points, 2 assists, and 3 boards.  True freshmen Troy Franklin (5-11) has taken over at the point for the Tigers.  His statline : 10 PPG, 5 APG, 3 RPG, with 3 Turnovers a game.  Seniors Rocky Coleman (6-3) and Tim Crossin (6-1) could log some minutes today as well.

Towson plays primarily a 2-3 zone on defense.  They were very active yesterday, forcing 10 first half Villanova turnovers yesterday.  They’ll mix in some 1-3-1, as well.  We MUST shoot better today than we did last night.  We missed too many open perimeter jumpers.  Problem is, do we have the legs to shoot better?  Pringle played 33 minutes yesterday, Battle played 38.  It’s a miracle Danny Morrissey can still walk.  He’s really struggling with those bad knees. I’d like to see us work the middle of the zone and get Cornley on the block.  He could have a field day.

Towson is scoring challenged.  Most mid-majors are perimeter-oriented.  Towson shot 5-27 from behind the arc yesterday and are shooting under 30 percent for the season from deep.  Thornton and Morris might hit a few, but they’re not going to go off as a team.  Also, they do the turn the ball over, averaging 14.6 a game with a 20.8 TO %.  Hairston’s good, but our guys have seen better (primarily Seawright last night).  This is a team we should beat.  They’re very balanced, but there are no mismatches on paper in their favor that they can exploit.

The only team that will beat PSU today is PSU.  How will they rebound from this loss?  I mean, last year these guys folded against Rider and Central Florida after the South Carolina loss.  Also, we played 7 guys yesterday.  How are those guys physically?  Ed has GOT to get this team focused and ready to play on such short rest.  We lose this game, goodbye postseason. The effort today CANNOT be lackadaisical.

PREDICTION: So, I just realized I haven’t really announced why I’ve been picking games against the spread this season. Happy Hour Valley, a buddy of his (John), and myself are going to do a little PSU pick em contest this season.  Every game where there’s a spread, I’ll pick the game.  If there isn’t a spread, I’ll pick the game anyway, but it obviously won’t count in the contest.  So far, there have been 3 games with lines – W&M, Penn, and URI.  We did cover against W&M and Penn, and URI covered yesterday.  I’m 2-1 so far, losing the W&M game.  You can head over to Happy Hour Valley, as I’m sure he’ll be keeping track of the standings and such on his blog.  But anyways, we’re favored by 7 tonight.  I’ll say we cover and win by 15, 74-59.

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