Living up to expectations
Coming off of a record-setting season in which Head Coach Pat Skerry led his team to 18 wins, an NCAA record for season turnaround from the 1-31 season two years ago, the Tigers have one thing on their mind: improvement.
And the coaches and players aren’t the only ones. Much of the college sports world has high expectations for Skerry and his team for the 2013-14 season.
NBCSports.com ranked Towson as the sixth-best mid-major team in the nation. USA Today predicted that the team will be a 14-seed in the NCAA Tournament in March and the Tigers are preseason favorites to win the Colonial Athletic Association.
“You hope it’s not the kiss of death,” Skerry said. “It’s a good thing for our program and for our University based on where we were a couple years ago. … We’re not there yet, but we can get there.
That’s the difference. We have the pieces.”
With these expectations comes a challenging schedule.
The Tigers will face four teams from “major” conferences. Towson will host Temple Nov. 14, travel to Villanova three days later, play in front of the “Rock Chalk” faithful from Kansas Nov. 22 and travel cross-country for a rematch with Oregon State Dec. 18.
The game against Villanova will be on FOX Sports 1, the game against Kansas can be seen on ESPN3, and the game against Oregon State can be seen on the Pac-12 Network.
Towson will also play 16 conference games from Jan. 11 to March 1 before hosting the CAA Tournament in Baltimore, Md.
“It’ll certainly prepare us for the regular CAA play,” Skerry said of the schedule. “I’m hoping we can be really good early. Time will tell, but I know we have to be really good when [the CAA Tournament] comes rolling into Baltimore.”
The nation also has high expectations for individual players. Reigning CAA Player of the Year, senior forward Jerrelle Benimon, was named to the 2013-14 Lou Henson Preseason All-America First Team.
Benimon is coming off a season when he was a Lou Henson All-American, ranked second in the NCAA with 20 double-doubles and third in the nation in rebounding with 11.2 boards per game en route to setting a Towson single-season record with 346 rebounds.
He ranked third in the CAA with 17.1 points per game and in the top five in the CAA in field goal percentage (53.5%), blocks per game (1.9) and minutes per game (36).
Transfer guard, sophomore Four McGlynn, will be eligible to play after sitting out last season because of transfer rules after earning America East Rookie of the Year at the University of Vermont two seasons ago.
ESPN’s Ken Pomeroy projected that McGlynn will be one of the top five most productive transfers in the country, CBS Sports’s Jon Rothstein has him as a top 20 under-the-radar transfer and
College Sports Madness named McGlynn to its fourth-team All-CAA team.
College Sports Madness also named senior forward Marcus Damas to the second team, and Benimon to the first team.
“[McGlynn] is our best shooter,” Skerry said. “He should help our spacing on offense. He’s got to do what he can do, which is make threes, make free throws and not turn the ball over.”
Team chemistry might prove to be one of the biggest supporting factors for Towson this season.
The Tigers’ starting five will look similar to last season, as they only lost one starter in center Bilal Dixon. Sophomore Jerome Hairston is set to start at point guard, senior Mike Burwell at shooting guard, Damas at small forward, Benimon at power forward and sophomore Timajh Parker-Rivera at center.
Towson is also welcoming two freshmen forwards in Walter Foster and John Davis.
Forward Barrington Alston and guard Marquis Marshall, son of former NBA Player Donyell Marshall, will both play this season after redshirting last year.
“Our chemistry has come a long way since 12 months [ago] and it needs to continue to do that,” Skerry said. “Chemistry wins in any organization. … If we’re a united group that brings energy every day, then we’re going to be right there.”
Towson will look to start the season where it left off as it hosts Navy in SECU Arena for the season-opener Nov. 8.
Tip-off for that game is set for 7:30 p.m.