UMass-Lowell (1-1) at Central Connecticut St. (1-1)
When: Tuesday, 11/13, 7pm
Where: Detrick Gym, New Britain, CT
How to Watch: NEC FrontRow
Kenpom- CCSU 77-72 (68%)
T-Rank- CCSU 78-75 (61%)
Possible Starting Lineups:
G- Tyson Batiste, 6’2” Jr.
G- Ian Krishnan, 6’2” Fr.
F- Tyler Kohl, 6’5” Sr.
*F- Jamir Coleman, 6’7” Jr.
C- Deion Bute, 6’9” Sr.
*Jamir Coleman missed the Georgetown game with a hamstring injury, and Joe Hugley (6'7" Jr.) started in his place.
G- Ryan Jones, 6’3” Sr.
G- Obadiah Noel, 6’4” Soph.
F- Christian Lutete, 6’5” Jr.
F- Joey Glynn, 6’6” Fr.
F- Josh Gantz, 6’7” Sr.
Win: H-#226 Wagner (88-84 in OT)
Loss: A-#136 UMass (83-75)
*Ratings per Kenpom
Welcome to the post-Jahad Thomas era of Riverhawks basketball.
Thomas, who was 6’2” and basically played the point forward for Pat Duquette, was really good; he was first team All-America East as a senior, and averaged a Tyler Kohl-like 21.1 ppg/8 rpg/4 apg last season. However, despite the presence of Thomas and shooter Matt Harris (37% from three), UMass-Lowell didn’t quite meet expectations last season, ultimately finishing 6-10 in the league and losing to UMBC in the quarterfinals, despite holding a 9-point halftime lead.
This season seems to be a rebuilding year for Duquette, as he’s relying on underclassmen at a variety of spots. However there is arguably more overall talent on this team than in year's past. Radford transfer Christian Lutete is averaging a double-double with 15 ppg and 11 rpg through two games, while athletic wing Obadiah Noel is chipping in 14.5 ppg. Then there are the freshmen, specifically Alex Rivera and Joey Glynn, who have both seen starter-level minutes so far this season (Rivera missed the season opener).
Duquette also has some stability in 6’3” point guard Ryan Jones, who averaged 11.3 ppg and 4.6 apg a season ago, and looks to take on more of a leadership role for the Riverhawks. The other returning starter, 6’7” Josh Gantz, chipped in 8.4 ppg and 4.2 rpg last season, and did a really nice job finishing around the rim (73.5%), as well as stretching the defense (35%).
The Riverhawks picked up a nice win over the weekend, scoring 1.16 PPP in beating Wagner in overtime. Instead of relying on one player like in years past, Duquette has opted to spread around the offense; seven different players scored at least 8 points in the Wagner win.
Player to Watch: Alex Rivera (6'1" Freshman)
It's not often a non-Vermont America East school can reign in a talent like Rivera, who is from Lowell and spurned some higher caliber programs (such as UMass and St. Louis) to stay home.
The combo-guard missed the season opener because of an NCAA violation for playing in an unsanctioned charity game (ridiculous, I know). In his debut against Wagner on Saturday, he came off the bench to score 14 points on 6 of 11 shooting (2 of 5 from three), and also had five rebounds.
Rivera is lightning quick, both in his first step and in his shot release, and is equally comfortable shooting from deep and taking the ball to the rack. He's the kind of player that a program can be built around.
Things to Watch:
Head coach Pat Duquette likes to get out and run; in each of the last three seasons, the Riverhawks have ranked in the top 36 in adjusted tempo (including 13th in 2016), and so far this year they are averaging 74 possessions per 40 minutes, which would be D1 program high.
How do they do it? They extend their defense beyond the three-point line and look to get deflections, which can get them out in transition. In the half-court set, they waste no time trying to drive the ball to the rim. Last season they had a 39.2 free throw rate, which was the 41st highest nationally.
Meanwhile, Central Connecticut has been quite the opposite; Donyell Marshall has typically played at a snail's pace, ranking in the bottom 50 in adjusted tempo in each of his 2+ seasons at the helm.
One is not better than the other, but it will be important for both teams to play at the pace they prefer.
While UML started two bigs in each of their two games (Joey Glynn and Josh Gantz both started against Wagner), in crunch time on Saturday, Duquette went with Gantz surrounded by four guards. It provided plenty of spacing, as guys like Rivera, Lutete and Noel have the quickness to take guys off the dribble and go right to the rim, or kick out to shooters.
On the flip side, we all know what the Blue Devils like to do; pound the paint. However, they've yet to play a team that can go with a 4-guard lineup, and it'll be interesting to see what Marshall does. During the comeback against Georgetown on Saturday, Marshall utilized a lineup of Segwai, Krishnan, Kohl, Hicks, and Bute/Wallace, which provided more spacing and quickness defensively (albeit in a zone).
Don't be shocked to see a similar lineup, especially if Coleman isn't healthy.
As mentioned earlier, Jamir Coleman missed the Georgetown game due to a hamstring injury suffered late in the win over Hartford.
Additionally, Deion Bute looked to be in a lot of pain after going down late in the loss to Georgetown on Saturday. Given his off-season knee injury (I have no idea if it was his knee, and also which leg he hurt), don't be surprised to see Donyell Marshall play it conservative and keep Bute out until he's healthy, at least that's what I would do.
If that is the case, expect to see the Blue Devils go small, with Kohl seeing a lot of time at the 4 and a Hugley/Wallace time share at the 5. This might be an opportunity for a guy like Mike Underwood to get some run on the wing.
Coming into the season, I looked at this game and figured it would be a win; UML lost a ton from last season, during which CCSU won 76-73 in Lowell.
However, I watched the Riverhawks' win over Wagner, and they looked really good. Instead of relying on one guy offensively, such as Jahad Thomas who had a 30.6% usage rate last year, Duquette is really spreading it around and has a number of guys who can beat you.
Also of note; the computers disagree widely on the Riverhawks. Kenpom has UML about 30 spots lower than Central Connecticut, but T-Rankings has the Riverhawks about 20 spots higher. I means nothing, but it is interesting.
Either way, losing this game after the strong showing against Georgetown would be quite a let-down. If, and it's a big if, they are fully healthy, I don't see CCSU losing this game.