College Hoops Thursday: Your Commentary

January 27th, 2011
First place is on the line in the Colonial Athletic Association on Thursday night as Hofstra (14-6, 8-1) heads south to take on VCU (16-5, 8-1) in a matchup that features two of the best guards at the mid-major level. Charles Jenkins (23.7 ppg, 5.0 apg) is practically a household name at this point in his career and with a pro body combined with an excellent skill set the senior from Queens is a solid bet to end up on an NBA roster next season. But Shaka Smart's Rams have a very good point guard of their own in senior Joey Rodriguez (10.8 ppg, 4.8 apg), with his ability to run the show being a key factor in VCU's success. But the guards aren't the only players who will be on display Thursday night as each team has talent inside as well. The best player of this group may be VCU's Jamie Skeen, who's averaging a team-best 14.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

Skeen shoots 54% from the field and also does a good job of getting to the foul line, knocking free throws down at a 74% clip. On the opposite side will be Hofstra senior Greg Washington, a slender big man who can step out and knock down the mid-range jumper in addition to blocking shots on the defensive end. Washington ranks second in the CAA in blocks with an average of two per game, and while he scores just seven points per game with the presence of Jenkins and Mike Moore (14.7 ppg) it's not Washington's job to be a lights-out scorer. David Imes provides some of the "muscle" up front for the Pride, who are being out-rebounded by an average of 2.8 rebounds per game. But that margin's better than VCU's, who have a rebounding margin of minus-4.0 on the season. With neither team being all that dominant on the boards rebounding could be one area that may decide the outcome.

In addition to Rodriguez on the perimeter VCU has junior Bradford Burgess, who averages 13.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per game while shooting 50.7% from the field and 44.3% from distance. Burgess doesn't have to create as many things offensively as Jenkins and Moore are required to do since he's got Rodriguez to do that, but he does a good job of producing (effective FG% : 59.1, offensive rating: 113.5) when the opportunities present themselves. In looking at the two teams the percentages from the field are very similar but Hofstra holds the edge in regards to the foul line, shooting 76% to 70% for the Rams. And that's to be expected when just one of the five Hofstra players who account for at least 18% of the team's possessions fails to make at least 70% of his free throws (Dwan McMillan-67.7%).

If the game is close late that could play a role in the outcome, especially with the presence of point guard Brad Kelleher lightening some of the load on Jenkins from a ball-handling standpoint. But VCU has won seven straight games and stands 9-0 at the Siegel Center, and with veterans such as Burgess, Rodriguez and Ed Nixon it comes as no surprise that the Rams are this good at home. But Mo Cassara's squad has gone out and simply gotten the job done on multiple occasions, and with a player the caliber of Jenkins a threat to score 30 every time out Hofstra has a shot to win not just on Thursday night but when the stakes are raised at the CAA Tournament in early March. Thursday's contest is the first step for one of these teams towards a first round by in said tournament, and just as importantly a step towards a regular season title.

Arizona hosting UCLA is another key game on the schedule from a "resume" standpoint, with both teams looking solid right now but a few more solid victories won't hurt either. The matchup between Derrick Williams (Arizona) and Reeves Nelson (UCLA) should be worth the price of admission alone, although Solomon Hill and Tyler Honeycutt should be entertaining as well. Saint Mary's looks to rebound from Saturday's loss at Vanderbilt with a win at Gonzaga, a task easier said than done due to both the atmosphere at The Kennel and Mark Few's team likely upset about dropping a pair of conference games last week. Boston College gets an opportunity at a huge victory as they visit Duke, and Maryland visits Virginia in desperate need of a win at this point in the season. Two other contest to keep an eye on are Oral Roberts visiting first-place Oakland in the Summit League, and Iona hosting Rider in a rematch of an entertaining 100-96 Iona victory earlier this month.

Top 25
8:00 PM Boston College at (3) Duke (ESPN3)
9:00 PM (21) Illinois at Indiana (BTN)
7:00 PM (22) Vanderbilt at Mississippi State (ESPN2)
11:00 PM (24) Saint Mary's at Gonzaga (ESPN2)
10:00 PM (25) Utah State at San Jose State

NCAA Division I Games
4:00 PM Towson at George Mason
7:00 PM Colgate at Holy Cross
7:00 PM Michigan at Michigan State (ESPN)
7:00 PM Long Island at Fairleigh Dickinson
7:00 PM UNC Greensboro at Chattanooga
7:00 PM Maryland at Virginia
7:00 PM Wofford at Appalachian State (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Kent State at Ball State
7:00 PM Mount St. Mary's at Central Connecticut State
7:00 PM Miami (OH) at Central Michigan
7:00 PM Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic
7:00 PM Western Kentucky at Florida International
7:00 PM Coastal Carolina at High Point
7:00 PM Saint Joseph's at La Salle
7:00 PM UNC Asheville at Liberty (ESPN3)
7:00 PM Oral Roberts at Oakland
7:00 PM Robert Morris at Quinnipiac
7:00 PM Charleston Southern at Radford
7:00 PM Saint Francis (PA) at Sacred Heart
7:00 PM Marist at Saint Peter's
7:00 PM Hofstra at VCU (ESPNU)
7:00 PM Gardner-Webb at Virginia Military
7:00 PM Furman at Western Carolina
7:00 PM Wagner at Bryant University
7:00 PM Centenary at IPFW
7:30 PM Rider at Iona
7:45 PM St. Francis (NY) at Monmouth
7:45 PM Tennessee State at Morehead State
8:00 PM Cleveland State at Illinois-Chicago
8:00 PM Louisiana-Monroe at Arkansas State
8:00 PM Austin Peay at Eastern Kentucky (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Idaho at Louisiana Tech (ESPN3)
8:00 PM Youngstown State at Loyola (IL)
8:00 PM Southern Utah at North Dakota State
8:00 PM Elon at Samford
8:00 PM UMKC at South Dakota State
8:00 PM South Alabama at Troy
8:05 PM North Texas at Louisiana-Lafayette
8:30 PM USC at Arizona State
8:45 PM Jacksonville State at Southeast Missouri State
9:00 PM UCLA at Arizona (ESPN2)
9:00 PM DePaul at South Florida (ESPNU)
9:00 PM Boise State at New Mexico State (ESPN3)
9:00 PM Southern University at Alcorn State
9:00 PM Tennessee Tech at Eastern Illinois
9:00 PM Chicago State at Utah Valley
9:30 PM Texas-Pan American at North Dakota
9:30 PM Houston Baptist at South Dakota
10:00 PM UC Santa Barbara at Cal Poly
10:00 PM Oregon at Stanford
10:00 PM UC Riverside at UC Davis
10:00 PM San Francisco at Loyola Marymount
10:00 PM San Diego at Portland
10:05 PM Idaho State at Sacramento State
10:05 PM Cal State Northridge at UC Irvine
10:05 PM Portland State at Eastern Washington
10:30 PM Fresno State at Nevada (ESPN3)
10:30 PM Santa Clara at Pepperdine
11:00 PM Oregon State at California (FSN)