Western Illinois is the final stop on W&M's out of conference hoops schedule, which finds us, as usual, puzzled about what we've got. Coming off a solid 74-68 win over longtime rival ODU, the Wrens carry a 7-5 record into tonight's contest against the Leathernecks. However, the if/but/candy/nut corollary tells us that W&M should probably be no worse than 9-3, and could be even better than that. Losses to High Point and Hampton remain inexplicable, and the Tribe may be the only team this season to go on a 20-2 run in the second half of a loss (we pulled this trick against Richmond).
Beyond a set of perplexing on-court results, it's also difficult to assess W&M's on-court potential. Senior guard Brandon Britt is still working his way back into the rotation after missing the season's first nine games due to a suspension. Britt has missed 15 of the 20 shots he's attempted in his three games, averaging only 6.7 ppg in 19 minutes.
In Britt's absence, senior Julian Boatner is putting up the best numbers of his W&M career, making 42.1% of his three-pointers and tallying 7.1 points per contest. He's also been solid with the ball, recording 27 assists against only 11 turnovers playing as an off guard. But Boatner's nowhere near as athletic as Britt, and is a liability on defense, especially against quick opponents.
Britt's return, along with that of injured freshman Daniel Dixon, means that Tony Shaver's able to use at least a nine-man rotation. While this ain't exactly Kentucky, it's certainly better than the early season's seven-man runs. Additionally, with Britt back in the lineup, Boatner and freshman revelation Omar Prewitt (13.8 ppg, good for second on the team) head a group of reserves that matches up well with just about any CAA foe.
|I can't figure them out, either, Rudyard|
All of which leaves us with Rudyard Kipling on the brain. The operative word for the Wrens as they head into conference play, is 'if':
If Britt can find his way back
If Marcus can soar; Beasthoven hits the floor
And lead W&M's diverse attack
If Omar keeps comin', and Gaillard can score
While Shaver juggles pieces and minutes
And Tarpey's hustle frees Boatner to gun
Theirs is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - they'll be the Man, my son!
We'll find out starting on Wednesday, as W&M kicks off the CAA schedule at home against preseason darling Drexel before traveling to highly-regarded Delaware. With a win tonight, the Tribe will enter CAA play with the league's second-best OOC record. That ain't much, but it's something.