At 8:00 PM Eastern on Friday night in Greenville, South Carolina, College of Charleston and Furman lift the lid on their college basketball seasons.
This is a critical game for both schools, looking to get their programs on the right track. College of Charleston, after firing coach Doug Wojcik over the summer, is looking for a new beginning. Under new head man Earl Grant, they could be getting just that. Grant has gone out and excited the Cougar community. The team also looked more exciting on offense in the one exhibition game against Emory.
After losing a player the caliber of Willis Hall, the Cougars will be relying more heavily on the likes of Adejhi Baru and Anthony Stitt. Baru was the highest ranked recruit to ever show up on campus in Charleston. He has failed to play to that level at this point in hit career. Baru averaged nine points per game and had seven rebounds per game a year ago. He is tall and talented, but needs to break out.
Anthony Stitt averaged ten points per game a season ago and came up with a team high 98 assists. Stitt will need to improve his shooting and be the offensive leader of this team. He shot 34% from three point range and led the team in three pointers made. He made only 35% from the floor.
The most interesting player might just be Joe Chealey, who scored 6.9 points per game. Chealey looked really impressive in the exhibition game. He was injured a season ago late in the year, but he seems to have a pure stroke from the floor. He needs to be a spark in his sophomore year. Will he be able to be that kind of spark against on the road against the Paladins?
The Paladins are in the second year of a major rebuilding project under Niko Medved. While there were some slight improvements a year ago for Furman under Medved, there is still a lot of work to be done.
The Paladins will rely this year on Stephen Croone, one of the best players in the SoCon. He is an OK shooter, and is as quick to the basket as anyone. He also makes 75% of his free throws and averages 3.7 assists per game. Croone is a really talented player that will have to play consistently well to lead his team to victory.
Daniel Fowler appears to be a very talented freshman. He scored a team high fourteen points against North Greenville in the exhibition game. He made 2 of 3 from three point range and 6 of 6 from the free throw line. Fowler is a 6-4. He appears to be a little on the small side, but as he continues to develop, he can become a real star for the Paladins.
Kendrec Ferrara is a 6-9 junior. He really started to come on towards the end of last year and I think he is due for a breakout season. He scored fourteen points and had four rebounds against North Greenville. Ferrara was one of the keys to the Paladins a year ago. When he was playing well, the Paladins tended to look better.
With Croone going one on one with Stitt and Baru going one on one with Ferrara, this game has a couple of very interesting personal match-ups that make this a game to watch this week. Croone will need to have a huge game for the Paladins to win in front of the home crowd. Ferrara's continued growth and improvement is also critical. He will present a challenge to Baru and needs to win that match-up.
If the Paladins are going to win this game, they are going to need the home crowd in Timmons to be loud and to cause problems for the Cougars. They are less talented than their opponent in this one. The match-ups should be really interesting in this one. Look for the Cougars to eek out a close win. College of Charleston 71, Furman 66.
Editor's Note (9:45 AM): Stephen Croone has been ruled out of tonight's match up due to concussion symptoms.