Bobby Cremins' Cougars may not be the pick to win the SoCon in the preseason but they don't lack for returning talent with three starters from a season ago back on campus. Guard Andrew Goudelock averaged 19.3 points per game last season, including a 24-point outing in Charleston's overtime win over North Carolina. Only once did the senior fail to reach double figures and that was in a 67-55 win over Davidson on December 5th. In addition to the three starters back the Cougars also regain the services of junior forward Antwaine Wiggins, who missed all of last season due to a torn ACL. Expected to make a leap in production before the injury, Wiggins averaged 8.3 points per game in 2008-09 and can cause headaches with his slender build and ability to get to the basket. Opponents averaged 13 turnovers per game against Charleston last season, and the Cougars forced 15 or more in thirteen games.
With both teams looking to play at an accelerated tempo the key will be which team takes better care of the basketball; both have a number of capable offensive options that can create scoring opportunities. And while Maryland lost some key players they'll have to learn how to get along without so did the Cougars, who have to replace the departed Casaan Breeden and Tony White Jr. If Jeremy Simmons can hold his own against Williams, who enters this season in much better physical condition, the Cougars have a chance to pull the upset.
In other games tonight Pittsburgh hosts UIC in the Flames' first game under new head coach Howard Moore, and unless senior Robo Kreps puts forth a career game it's tough to see the visitors giving Pitt a scare similar to the one provided by Rhode Island on Monday. Texas, who was led by sophomore Jordan Hamilton (26 points, 10 rebounds) in their win over Navy, hosts a Louisiana Tech team that has to replace a number of key contributors from last season. Also to watch for the Longhorns will be the progression of freshmen Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson as both will need to have a significant impact if they're to challenge at the top of the Big 12. And Illinois, who put forth the most impressive showing of the four hosts on Monday night, takes on a Toledo squad playing its first game under new head coach Tod Kowalczyk. Due to the mass exodus of players following Gene Cross' resignation (4-28 record last season) the Rockets may not be able to provide much resistance for the Illini.
7 PM Charleston at Maryland (ESPNU)
Illinois-Chicago at #4 Pittsburgh (ESPN3)
8 PM Toledo at #16 Illinois (ESPN3)
9 PM Louisiana Tech at #25 Texas (ESPNU)