CAA Preview: Towson Tigers

towsontigersHead Coach: Pat Skerry (7th season)

2016-2017 Record: 20-13 (11-7 CAA)

Projected Finish: 2

Preseason All-Conference Selections: G Mike Morsell (Second Team), G Deshaun Morman (Honorable Mention)

 

Key Additons

  • G Travis Ingram (I.C. Norcom, Suffolk, Va.)
  • G Jeffrey Prophete (Fort Lauderdale, Sunrise, Fla.)
  • G Quinton Drayton (Bowie/Bowie, Md.)

Key Losses:

  • F William Adala Moto (12.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
  • F John Davis (11.8 ppg, 7.6 rpg)

by Kyle Williams

For better and for worse, Towson was the quintessential CAA basketball team last season. They were competent, but not great; they had talent, but not an overwhelming amount; and they won, but they won ugly. Lead by William Adala Moto and John Davis, the Tigers grit-and-grinded their way to a third place finish and the semifinals of the CAA conference tournaments.

This season will be one of change for Towson. Their imposing frontcourt is no more, with Adala Moto and Davis both gone. They were largely responsible for Towson’s league leading rebounding numbers, averaging 14.2 rebounds per game, including 4.3 offensive. The success of this team was largely predicated on these second chance opportunities and playing stifling interior defense; that is no longer the case. The Tigers find themselves guard-heavy, and will have to rely more on scoring from the perimeter. Mike Morsell returns as the de-facto leader of this team, averaging a team best 13.4 points per game. He will be joined in the backcourt by returning CAA all-defense point guard Deshaun Morman, who averaged 10 points and 2 assists per game, along with 1.5 steals, good for fourth in the conference. While he is a great on ball defender, his distribution numbers have to go up for this team to compete. Without reliable big men to clean up the paint, ball movement will be more important for this team to score, and Morman is a key to that. He’ll have to feed Morsell, along with returning shooters Eddie Keith II and Jordan McNeil (42% and 36% from beyond the arc, respectively) for Towson to keep up with the top teams in the conference. Down low, the Tigers will have to rely on Alex Thomas and Justin Gorham for buckets, and although they won’t come close to matching the frontcourt production from last year, they are big bodies to clog the paint and help keep Towson among the top defenses in the conference.

This offseason, Towson added some depth to their guard rotation by brining in a triumvirate of recruits. Travis Ingram is explosive and showed good finishing in transition, and should be able to take advantage of the turnovers this defense forces. Quinton Drayton is a long guard at 6’5 and showed good rebounding instincts for a guard. The most intriguing of their young guards is Jeffrey Prophete; he can finish at the rim, has decent passing vision, and has some range to his jump shot. If he can develop into a secondary ball handler for this team, it provides a much needed second dimension to the offense.

This year’s Towson team feels wildly variable. On the one hand, they lost their two best players and a big part of their identity with them. However, Pat Skerry is a damn good coach, and has pulled this team back from much worse. Towson has been quietly consistent in his tenure, winning more conference games in the last five years (42) than anyone else in the CAA over that period of time. They are always near the top of the conference in scoring defense (1st last year), and that should continue. There is an infrastructure in place that can help this team to at least reach 0.500 in conference play regardless of circumstance.

Bottom Line: Towson is a team no one in the CAA is going to want to play come January. They play hard, defend well, and somehow make just enough shots to win. They excel at the so-called “rock fights” the CAA is partially known for, and there will be nights when they grind people to dust. This team has a higher floor than others in the conference because of their defensive scheming and general style of play; their offense is the x-factor that will determine the course of their season. Morsell is really good; if Morman takes a step forward as a passer and at least one of their freshman hit, then this could be a team fighting for a top 4 spot. As it stands right now, expect Towson to play a lot of semi-unwatchable games and finish in the middle of the conference.  

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