The 24 Hour Tip Off Marathon on the ESPN Family of networks is highlighted by the games in primetime on Tuesday evening in the Champions Classic. Twelve hours earlier, two preseason conference favorites from mid-major conferences will duel with a chance to try to impress the future committee and potentially help their seeding in the NCAA Tournament. Yes, Iona and Wofford are hooking up in one of the most interesting and entertaining games of the marathon.
The Gaels' David Laury was picked as the MAAC Player of the Year in the preseason. As a 6-9 senior, he is expected to be the team leader. He averaged 14.0 points per game, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.2 blocks per game a season ago. Laury scored 15 points with seven rebounds in the opening win over Cleveland State.
AJ English was picked to the preseason All MAAC First Team. He had fourteen points and three rebounds to go along with six assists in the opener. A year ago he averaged 17.2 points per game with 4.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game. English will be expected to be a major player on this roster.
Freshman Shadrac Casimir had a massive performance in the opener. He scored twenty points to lead the team. He also had four rebounds and two assists. The freshman will need to have a big game in his first game on national television.
The Terriers will rely heavily on Karl Cochran. He had eleven points with five rebounds and five assists in the opening loss to Stanford. He is the preseason SoCon Player of the Year. In each of the last two years, he scored over fifteen points per game. Cochran is a high volume shooter. He made 41.5% of his shots a year ago, and just 36.1% his sophomore year. He can score, but he requires a lot of shots to do it.
Spencer Collins is similar. Collins has averaged over twelve points per game each of the last two years, but made 43.5% of his shots last year and just 37.6% two years ago. He is a scorer, but requires taking a lot of shots to do it. That's what has gotten the Terriers in trouble in the past- if both Cochran and Collins are not shooting efficiently, the Terriers struggle to win. If one of them can get going, then the Terriers tend to be OK.
Lee Skinner is the heart and soul of the team. He averaged 11.1 points and 8.5 rebounds a season ago. When Skinner is rebounding well, this team can be a tough out. He is the player who gets the team going when they need an emotional lift. At this early morning hour, that could be an important part of this game.
Skinner against Laury will be one of the key match ups in this one. I'm not sure how much they will go against each other, but Skinner's play will be a major indicator on how this Wofford team will perform in this early morning hour. Laury is so talented, it will take a team effort to slow him down along with English. This is going to be a tough showing for the Terriers. But, in this nationally televised contest, I expect either Cochran or Collins to step up and lead the way, and for Casimir to make a couple of crucial freshman mistakes late. Terriers 68, Gaels 65.