Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Five pre-game thoughts: Holy Cross

1.) Can this game be swapped with next Wednesday’s tilt against Iona? While the Flying Dutchmen can’t overlook Holy Cross (more on that in a moment), the Crusaders are 1-8 and an opponent the Dutchmen should beat. Iona, though, is an imposing matchup in the final non-conference game of the calendar year thanks to three-time defending MAAC player of the week Michael Glover dominating the inside. It’s always nice to go into the conference season with a stress-free victory. That said…

2.) …there’s advantages too to playing a winnable game just before Christmas. The Dutchmen have lost their last game before Christmas in each of the last three years and began the New Year in a funk every time. The 2007-08 team, which lost to Rhode Island on Dec. 22, went on to lose both games in the Holiday Festival before dropping four of its first five CAA games in January. The 2008-09 team lost to Iona on Dec. 23 in the midst of a 2-6 stretch. And last year’s team lost to Davidson in the Holiday Festival consolation game Dec. 21, beat Florida Atlantic eight days later and then lost six of its first seven January games against CAA foes. Those previous three teams all had flaws that probably would have cropped up even with a pre-Christmas win. But still, with such an inexperienced team beyond seniors Charles Jenkins and Greg Washington, it can’t hurt to win tonight.

3.) Don’t underestimate Holy Cross. Ahh, there it is. This is the second straight time the Dutchmen will face a reeling opponent, though Holy Cross is coming off its first win of the year. On paper, the Dutchmen are clear favorites: The Crusaders average just 63 points per game and are shooting a mere 29.9 percent from 3-point land, but we all know what happened two weeks ago tonight when Binghamton, one of the lowest-scoring teams in the country, put up 85 on the Dutchmen and would have won if it could have hit free throws at the end of regulation. It would be a good sign for the Dutchmen’s development if they could finally take control tonight from start to finish.

4.) Washington and David Imes need to be a bigger part of things on both ends of the floor. One thing Holy Cross does have in its favor is height: Two starters are 6-foot-8 or taller and 6-foot-9 Andrew Keister is averaging 11.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, so the Dutchmen will need Imes and Washington to be a presence tonight. Imes has hit the wall lately (3-of-11 from the field with 11 rebounds in his last three games), which is understandable for someone who is basically in his first full season of college basketball. But Washington is having another quiet December (4.5 points and six rebounds in four games). He has just 10 points in his last two games, during which he hasn’t recorded an offensive rebound. One or both players has to step up in order for the Dutchmen to thrive against the Crusaders.

5.) In Guards We Trust, the sequel? We were this close to using that as the headline for Monday’s Manhattan recap, but decided we needed to see the trio of Jenkins, Mike Moore and Brad Kelleher fill up the basket at least one more time. But the Manhattan win was very encouraging for those who have hoped Moore and/or Kelleher could give Jenkins the wingman he’s lacked the last three years, and a similar performance tonight would raise hopes for the CAA season. If Jenkins/Moore/Kelleher is a reasonable facsimile of Loren Stokes/Carlos Rivera/Antonie Agudio, then things get very interesting.

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