|Tyrrel Tate and Fayetteville State will matchup against Virginia State on Saturday.|
Virginia State (12-14, 6-10 CIAA) vs. Fayetteville State (9-16, 4-12)
Starting off a post-season tournament is never a team’s goal, but that’s where both Fayetteville State and Virginia State find themselves on Tuesday. Virginia State has had its moments this season, upsetting top-seeded Livingstone in Salisbury and beating rival Virginia Union for the first time in forever. The trouble with the Trojans is they were never able to put more than a couple good games together, failing to win more than two games in a row.
Fayetteville State did manage a five-game winning streak from late November to early January, but quickly sank to the bottom of a deep Southern Division. From mid-January to mid-Feburary, the Broncos lost 11 consecutive games, winning only one game against its Southern Divison rivals.
Virginia State won only meeting of the season between the teams, a 72-54 blowout in Petersburg. A key factor in today’s game will likely be who wins the battle down low. Despite their records, these teams have two of the best big men in the CIAA, FSU’s Tyrrel Tate and VSU’s Kenny Mitchell. Mitchell got the better of that matchup the last time, outscoring Tate 18-8. The Broncos will need much more production from Tate if they plan on dancing longer than one night.
Verdict: Virginia State gets the better of the Broncos.
Shaw (16-10, 10-6 CIAA) vs. Chowan (6-19, 0-16)
Before the season, if someone told you Chowan would be playing for its survival on the tournament’s first night, it wouldn’t have been a shock. The Hawks finished dead last in the Northern Division. Chowan lost all sixteen games it played against CIAA opposition. They did lead the conference in three-pointers made, and were a middle-of-the-pack team in terms off offense, scoring 70 points per game. On defense, though, it was all bad for the Hawks. They allowed a league high 76.8 points per game and allowed opponents to shoot almost 48 percent.
Unlike Chowan, Shaw was not supposed to struggle. The Bears entered the season as the defending regular season champs and with the conference’s best pro prospect, Karron Johnson. Entering conference play, they looked the part, sweeping through the Northern Division schedule unscathed with a 12-4 record. A loss to Livingstone sent them into free-fall, which coincided with Johnson leaving the team. Six weeks later, they find themselves in this opening day matchup.
Despite their record, and the loss of Johnson, Shaw is still a dangerous team. The Bears enter the tournament on a three game winning streak, and guards Latrail McCoy (12.5 ppg) and Curtis Hines (13.7 ppg) could catch fire at any time. That duo, combined with Chowan’s poor defense should equal a win for Shaw.
Verdict: Shaw wins. Beware of the Bear (s).
Bonus: Check out our full CIAA preview on The Shadow League.