StLouHoo's Preview:

The First Bounce

Towson Tigers

Welcome to the first installment of StLou's Previews for the 2018-19 season. Virginia is opening with what should be a relative lightweight, hoping that a home event with a struggling mid-major will provide a good warm-up for the entire roster. But did Towson get that memo?

Game Details:

Date/Time:Tuesday, November 6th, 7:00 pm ET
Location:John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, VA


What 'They' Say

Vegas:UVA -25.5, O/U 131.5, equates to a 78-53 Hoo win
TAPE:Ranks Towson 259th, predicts a 76-50 Hoo win, 99% confidence
KenPom:Ranks Towson 230th, predicts a 78-54 Hoo win, 98% confidence


Depth Chart:

PG#0 Tobias Howard, 6'2" 185, JR
No stats for this player
SG#2 Jordan McNeil, 6'5" 190, SR
16.9 mpg, 4.7 ppg, 0.8 apg, .391 3P%
SF#23 Brian Fobbs, 6'4" 213, JR
No stats for this player
PF#20 Nakye Sanders, 6'8" 236, JR
No stats for this player
C#44 Alex Thomas, 6'9" 268, SR
16.0 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, .453 FG%
Key Reserves
G#13 Quinton Drayton, 6'4" 206, FR
No stats for this player
G#25 Nicolas Timberlake, 6'4" 190, FR
No stats for this player
G#3 Allen Betrand, 6'4" 180, FR
No stats for this player
F/C#11 Dennis Tunstall, 6'9" 220, JR
15.1 mpg, 2.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg, .732 FG%


The ABC's of Towson:

A) This team is nothing like last year's. Last year, the Tigers were a solidly average CAA squad, and even took ACC bottomfeeder Pitt to the wire. But that team had four seniors in its primary rotation (including Mike Morsell, brother of 2019 Hoo pledge Casey) who all left. To make matters worse, projected returning stars Zane Martin and Justin Gorham transferred to bigger programs (New Mexico and Houston, respectively). Head coach Pat Skerry (8th year) has practically an entirely new roster to work with.

B) There are a couple veterans left to work with. Jordan McNeil and Alex Thomas return as the elder statesmen of the program. McNeil is in his fifth year at Towson, and he has been a regular rotation player throughout his career. While his averages last year weren't eye popping, he is capable of big nights, dropping 18 points against Oakland and double figures three other times. With increased minutes, he could be a big scorer. Thomas isn't a scoring presence, but is a solid rebounder and shot blocker who will at least anchor their defense well. Junior forward Dennis Tunstall is the only other rotation mainstay to return.

C) Transfers and freshmen will be their downfall. Six true freshmen arrived this summer, and predicting which, if any, will make an impact is impossible at this point. So let's talk about the transfers. Arriving from Duquene to join Tunstall and Thomas in the post rotation is Nakye Sanders (5.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg as a sophomore), at 6'8" and 240 lbs, he's got the heft to bang with any of our bigs. Two JUCO guards will join McNeil as likely backcourt starters. Tobias "TJ" Howard will man the point (13.4 ppg, 4.0 apg, 39% 3P% at Chipola JC after starting his career at Western Kentucky). NJCAA All-American Brian Fobbs scored 26.4 ppg and pulled 12.7 rpg at Genesee CC, and will likely be the primary scoring option for Towson.


Their Season To Date



Keys to getting the win:

1) Control the defensive glass. Pat Skerry's Towson teams have always been great O-Rebounding squads, ranking in the top 10% nationally in 6 of his 7 seasons at Townson (and barely missing the cut in the 7th), finishing as high as 3rd nationally in 2015 (team OR% of 41.1%). Obviously with a brand new team, their effectiveness is TBD, but I sincerely doubt he's about to deemphasize something that's been a core tenet of his program's offensive identity. Every Hoo, whether a starter or a deep reserve, will need to make D-Rebounding their top priority to keep the Tigers to one-and-done offensive trips. Second chance points could keep them in it.

2) Keep them off the FT line. Another staple of Skerry's offenses is their ability to draw fouls. Last year was a down year in this regard, but in his first 6 seasons, his teams ranked in the top 20% nationally in offensive FT Rate, placing in the top 5 teams nationally on three occasions. Diakite and Huff have reps as being foul prone and will be tested here. So will young Hoos stepping into big roles (Marco, Kihei, maybe Kody). The whistle will likely not be our friend in this one.

3) Play inside out. Last year's offense ground to a standstill when the guards played a perimeter focused offensive game. But when we focused on playing inside out, made paint touches a priority early in the shot clock, it opened up the entire floor. The Hoos must reestablish this habit from the get-go this year, refusing to simply coast against mid-majors on their superior size and shooting, and instead making paint touches a part of their offensive identity. Feed Salt. Let Key drive and dish. Space the floor with sharp-shooting 4's, not to shoot, but to open up and exploit driving lanes. The quicker we can establish our dominance on the inside, the quicker we'll put this game away.




We're going to win this game, let's go ahead and get that out of the way. Towson is not just "just a mid-major," they're projected to be a losing one, pegged to finish anywhere from 8th to last in the 10-team CAA. They've got a couple of nice players who could make some noise in the Colonial in the spring (I personally am very intrigued by Fobbs), but this week, returning naught but 3 role players, on the road against an ACC front-runner with a chip on it's shoulder? Forget about it.

This game will just be about the margin of victory, and how quickly our stars can find their rhythm and build up enough cushion to let the bench get extended run. Take care of business on the glass, keep the Tigers off the free throw line, and smother Fobbs, and we'll see those reserves early and often.

Hoos Win 82-49