Sunday, December 21, 2008

GAMEDAY: University of Delaware vs. Boston University

This time of year is usually interesting in college basketball. You've got tons of holiday hoops tournaments going on this week and next, yet students aren't in class at the majority of institutions around the nation and players have just had an extended practice break because of final exams. These games sometimes have the ability to feel like a shell of contests the team has played earlier in the season, when the students were in school and able to cheer on their team. Even given BU's sparse crowds at Case Gymnasium, the spectators will most likely be even more spotty Sunday afternoon for a 12 p.m. tip-off.

That means that both the Terriers and Blue Hens will need to rely on their own energy to win -- which is no easy task given the two squads just finished their finals, haven't played a meaningful game in over a week and the crowd will be a non-factor. This, perhaps, is an even bigger test of BU's fortitude than playing against nationally-ranked Notre Dame was last Saturday. It's pretty easy to get pumped up for a game against the then-No. 12 team in the nation, but a game against an unranked opponent from the CAA (albeit a former rival from in the North Atlantic Conference and America East) the task may not be as effortless (BU trails the all-time series, 16-10).

What has been a bone of contention with BU's coaching staff and team for the first six games of the season (the lack of gritty plays) has all but been eliminated -- 1) with a stout defensive effort against Yale and 2) with an incredibly focused hustle performance in a narrow loss to Notre Dame. BU's contest against Delaware will be a huge benchmark into determining whether the lack of grit BU coach Dennis Wolff spoke of earlier in the season is truly gone, as it appears to be. If the Terriers are able to get up for this game -- three days before Christmas and after an eight-day break -- and down a team they lost to last season in Delaware (73-55), it will be an extremely encouraging sign regarding the mentality of BU and its goals for the season. Another story line to follow will be the continued improvement of Tyler Morris, who managed 23 points in his first six games, but has 32 points and 16 rebounds in his last three and played one of the best games of his career against Notre Dame. Interestingly enough, Morris' first game back following his Rookie of the Year campaign was in BU's lopsided loss against the Blue Hens last season.

Delaware, like the Terriers, isn't particularly strong in the interior, so expect a lot of 3-pointers attempted on Sunday. The bulk of the Blue Hens' scoring comes from three players: Marc Egerson (averaging a double-double at 14.9 points and 10.7 rebounds per game) Alphonso Dawson (17.3 ppg) and Jawan Carter (18.6 ppg). It's not likely that the Terriers shutdown all three, but if BU can manage to hold one of them under double digits or limit Egerson's second-chance opportunities as the team's best rebounder, they should be in good shape. Delaware is a good matchup for the Terriers as UD dosen't have anyone who can do serious damage in the post. The Blue Hens mainly rely on perimeter shooting, which BU excels at guarding against.

Projected starting lineups:

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