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Season Preview: Towson Tigers

October 11, 2011

Robert Nwankwo

2010-11 Record: 4-26 (0-18, 12th in CAA)

What happened last season: Do we have to revisit it? We do? You sure? Ok, we’ll make it short then. The Tigers lost their last 19 games. They did not win a CAA game all season, which had never happened to any team before.

What’s Changed: Instead of being fired, coach Pat Kennedy resigned after winning just 67 games in seven seasons with the Tigers. New athletic director Mike Waddell tabbed Pittsburgh assistant Pat Skerry as the head coach, and despite optimism surrounding the new hire, Towson’s top player Isaiah Philmore transferred to Xavier, and center Braxton Dupree withdrew from school.

Key Team Stat: (76.0) Points per game allowed by Towson last year. Pick your defensive stat and the Tigers were probably worst in the conference and close to the bottom nationally: 1.133 points per possession allowed (342nd out of 345 teams), 48.6 defensive field goal percentage (338th), 40.2 defensive 3-point percentage (342nd). Baltimore pickup games feature more defense.

Key Player Stat: (3.1) Blocks per game, a league high, for 6-8 forward Robert Nwankwo in 2009-10. Nwankwo was academically ineligible last season, which was part of the reason Towson’s defense was so atrocious. His paint presence alone won’t turn the Tigers into the new Monarchs: Even with Nwankwo in 09-10, they allowed a league-worst 76.2 ppg.

Who’s Vince:  It will be interesting to see what type of improvements Nwankwo made in his year off. Fairly raw offensively as a junior, he still averaged 9.9 ppg because of his strength and athleticism. If he used the season off to develop a post move or two, Nwankwo could be one of the league’s top big men, now that Messrs Skeen, Hassell and Bowles are gone.

Who’s E: Believe it or not, Towson won four games last season. And in one of those games, Nov. 16 vs. Coppin State, RaShawn Polk scored 29 points. The 6-2, 205-pounder averaged 11.6 points per game, making him the leading returning scorer for the Tigers. He’s not the most consistent player, but he’s the type of guy who can get hot and seem unstoppable for spurts.

Entourage: In his first full year after suffering a season-ending knee surgery in 2009, 6-9 forward Erique Gumbs showed potential as a useful energy guy. And including Polk and Nwankwo, that takes care of the entire returning roster for Towson. The only other “veteran” the team will have his Marcus Damas, a sophomore transfer from Cowley Community College in Kansas. It’s all freshmen from there.

Realistic Goal: With a brutal non-conference schedule that includes games at Kansas, Michigan and Virginia, the Tigers won’t snap their streak of 15 straight losing seasons, but if they win 10 games by season’s end, that would be a small victory.

Tournament Chances: Not worth discussing

DN-R Prediction: 12th in the CAA

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