Let's get Know! Your! Foe! back on track with a preview of tomorrow evening's opponent - the Wagner Seahawks.
After starting 1-3 on the road, first year head coach Bashir Mason will finally get the chance to lead his team onto the floor at home. The Seahawks return four starters from a 25 win squad that shut down Princeton in last season's opener.
Wanting to learn more about this Tiger opponent, I talked with Staten Island Advance writer and Associated Press College Basketball Board member Cormac Gordon (still not pictured above) for the second straight season. A transcript of our conversation from earlier this morning can be found after the jump.
If you cover a team the Tigers will face down the line, let us know. I'd love to talk with you. I've reached out to a couple of Kent State people but am coming up dry.
For starters, can get me up to speed on what happened in Albany last night?
Wagner began the game in the same sort of lethargy that they have all season offensively. They’ve had trouble scoring the ball and they’ve been inefficient shooting the ball.
Midway through the second half they were down by 15 and with seven minutes left they were down 12. They pressured Albany, made a run and cut it to two. They missed a fairly decent three point look with four seconds left to tie the game and lost 66-63.
Tell me more about Wagner’s roster. There are a number of faces returning that Princeton has seen often during the prior three years.
Jon Williams, their 6’5” senior forward is averaging 17.5 points and 7.5 boards. He’s been their leading scorer and rebounder in every game they’ve played this year.
As Bashir Mason has pointed out several times, they lost Tyler Murray who was a three year starter – a wing player, captain of the team, a steadying influence and a good scorer.
One of the people who is replacing Murray is Dwaun Anderson, a freshman “Mister Michigan Basketball” who everyone has great expectations for - a 6’3” wing. Anderson has struggled. He played better last night, scored eight points and played pretty well.
He’s struggled in the Wagner offense and that’s been an issue because last year’s team-high scorer Latif Rivers has been sidelined with a knee problem. They need to get some offense somewhere. They haven’t gotten any inside from their big guys and they need somebody other than Williams to score the ball.
How different a team is Wagner under Mason? In what ways are they the same?
They still play terrific defense and they’ve done a very good job defensively despite the 1-3 record. The difference has been offensively. Rivers being out is a huge problem for them. He averaged 14.6 points per game last year, he’s a junior now. He’s started basically every game since he came to Wagner. A terrific 6’1” guard – a tough kid from Elizabeth, NJ who knows how to score.
Without him and without Murray they’re missing their two best scorers of the last two seasons. They’ve run into a real offensive drought. That’s not been helped at all by their inside players - Naofall Folahan and Orlando Parker, who are juniors andwho there were expectations for, have failed to get off offensively at all so far this season. That’s been a problem.
It seems unlikely Rivers will go tomorrow. Is that fair to say?
Yes. I think that’s unlikely.
Are the poor offensive numbers surprising? I know Wagner was a super defensive team last year as well. Not only have the Seahawks struggled to shoot the ball, they’ve struggled to take care of it (20 turnovers/game).
That’s been a real issue. They’ve turned the ball over excessively, but the did a little bit better of a job last night against Albany. If you watch them, what you see offensively Jon is a lack of fluidity and a lack of guys knowing each other.
As we know, there is no better experience than experience.
What Mason – who is a very defense-oriented guy – he’s very interesting, the youngest coach in Division I at 28 years old. He’s smart and poised. He’s got some young fellas on the wings and it is as much their lack of familiarly with the college game as anything else that’s causing the turnovers.
It’s obviously been a real issue for them. I guess the bottom line is, as always, this is going to take time.
What has to happen for Wagner to win their home opener? Is it the offense rising to reach the defense?
Absolutely. I think they’ll play defense although Princeton of course is traditionally one of the most difficult teams in America to play defense against. They will play defense, I think they will rebound – although they’ve not a great rebounding team.
They have to get into some sort of offensive flow and they have to make some shots. Sometimes obviously it is that simple. They have to pull up on the wings and make some shots.
If they do that they can play with Princeton – they’ve done that in the past and they will again. If they don’t they will have some difficulties.
What needs to go right for Princeton to win their second straight at the Spiro Sports Center?
If Princeton can run their stuff and get the sort of looks they’ve used to getting, they’ll be a handful for Wagner. That much is clear.
Thank you so much as always. I trust I’ll see you tomorrow night?
I’ll be there, one way or another.
Last year Wagner's Josh Thompson dunked over his mom at the school's Madness Before Midnight event. As you can see below, this time out Thompson involved both his parents as props.