CAA action here as the Charleston Cougars host the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks. These teams have been having radically different seasons, as Charleston has been one of the best teams in the conference while Wilmington has been one of the worst. Oddsmakers unsurprisingly have the Cougars as a massive favorite for this one.
Wilmington Spiraling Out Of ControlTo say Wilmington has been a disappointment this season would be a pretty big understatement. Just a few years ago they were one of the better mid-major programs and made the NCAA tournament as a 12 seed, but they have been falling off a steep cliff the past couple of seasons. They started the year off 5-3, and have been stuck in a never-ending cycle of losing ever since then. They've lost 12 of their last 13 games, with the one win in that span coming by only two points. They've been somewhat serviceable at home this season, but they've been an absolute disaster on the road.
Not only are they 0-8 on the road this season, but they haven't even been competitive in most of those eight losses. Seven of those eight losses have been by at least 14 points, and many have been by considerably more. The offense has been one of the worst in the country, as they rank 324th nationally in overall offensive efficiency according to advanced analytics site Kenpom.com. They only have one guy averaging double figures and even he isn't too efficient, as he shoots just 40.9 percent from the field. Despite playing at a very slow pace, they still turn the ball over a lot. Kai Toews, a guard who had been playing a huge role while getting 26.5 minutes per game, randomly left the program a few weeks ago.
Charleston's Year?While Wilmington appears to be completely falling apart, Charleston looks like one of the best teams in the CAA this season. They enter with a 12-8 record, but that improves to 6-2 in conference play. The six non-conference losses were mostly the result of playing a difficult schedule, and they lost a lot of close games to bigger conference opponents. They also had some impressive wins during the non-conference slate, like when they beat a very solid Georgia State team, or trounced Marshall by double-digits on the road. Six of their last eight wins have come by at least 11 points, showing that they have no trouble blowing out inferior competition. The team has an unquestioned leader in senior guard Grant Riller.
He leads the team in points, rebounds, and assists, and is averaging 21.6 points per game. He's a true gamer, and one of the best players in the conference. One thing I like about this Cougars team is that they're very experienced, as each of their top four scorers are upperclassmen. That experience is reflected in their solid fundamentals, as they don't turn the ball over very much and knock down 76.4 percent of their free throw attempts. They also have a ton of length, which certainly helps them in certain matchups. The offense has been very solid overall, and they are 80th in overall offensive efficiency according to Kenpom, a pretty impressive figure for a CAA school.