COUGARS DEN: CofC needs a little help to stay out of ‘play-in game’

Coach Earl Grant speaks to the team in College of Charleston win over Northeastern Thursday night 68-61 in OT.(Michael Wiser)

It’s too bad that College of Charleston coach Earl Grant won’t win CAA coach of the year honors this season. As I’ve said before, this is as good a coaching job as I’ve seen in a while in any sport at any level.

I think had the Cougars finished 10-8 in the league, Grant would have had a legitimate shot at winning coach of the year. It would have been hard for coaches and media types to ignore the turnaround of the program along with the injuries that plagued the Cougars all season.

Now, it looks like the Cougars will finish the CAA schedule at 8-10 and on a four-game losing streak.

Still, considering all the injuries and the fact that it’s only Grant’s second season with the team, in a new league that the program wasn’t prepared to compete in, it’s a been a remarkable season no matter what happens in New York on Saturday and in Baltimore next weekend.

This team has showed tremendous grit, character and determination and that’s going to pay huge dividends down the road.

When the Cougars win the CAA title in the next few years, and I think they’ll do that, you can look back at this season as the starting the point. The foundation for everything that follows.

Had Canyon Barry, Joe Chealey and Grant Riller been healthy this season, they were have been legitimate contenders to win the league. Not saying the Cougars would have won the league, but I think they’d have won 3-to-5 more league games.

Think about where the program will be in the next three years if they can stay healthy and develop like they should. Think also about the fact that the CAA tournament will be in Charleston for the next three years as well.

It should be fun to watch.

Hofstra was my pick to win the CAA in the preseason and nothing has changed my mind. With a win over the Cougars on Saturday, they’ll be crowned regular-season champs with an automatic bid to the NIT.

They’ve got the best player in the league in Juan’ya Green and the best backcourt with Green and Ameen Tanksley. Throw in double-double machine Rokas Gustys and it’s a miracle that the Cougars beat them at TD Arena back in January.

The defensive job that Payton Hulsey did that day on both Green and Tanksley was outstanding and he’s got my vote as defensive player of the year. Payton was brought in to guard those big, physical wing players that the CAA seems to have in abundance.

Some things will have to fall into place for the Cougars to stay out of the seventh seed and the play-in game. The most important thing that’ll have to happen is for Northeastern to lose Saturday at Drexel, which could happen. If the Huskies lose, it won’t matter what the Cougars do, they’ll be the sixth seed and play on Saturday instead of Friday night and have that extra game.

COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON (16-12, 8-9 in CAA) at Hofstra (21-8, 13-4).

When: Saturday.

Time: 4 p.m.

Where: Mack Sports Complex, Hempstead, NY

Radio: WTMZ 910-AM

Television: MyTV

Series: Hofstra Leads 3-2

Last Meeting: CofC def. Hofstra, 72-61, on Jan. 7, 2016 at TD Arena.

THE COACHES

College of Charleston: Earl Grant is 25-36 in 2nd season at CofC.

Hofstra: Joe Mihalich, 51-45, in 3rd season at Hofstra, 316-248, in 18th season overall.

PROJECTED COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON STARTERS

#21 Marquise Pointer, G, 6-0, 205, Fr. (11.3 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.0 apg, 29.7 min)

#12 Cameron Johnson, G, 6-4, 196, So. (11.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.4 apg, 32.6 min)

#3 Payton Hulsey, G, 6-5, 215, Jr.-Tr. (5.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 28.4 min)

#5 Jarrell Brantley, F, 6-7, 245, Fr. (11.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.3 apg, 28.1 min)

#23 Nick Harris, F, 6-10, 245, RS-Fr. (4.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 0.3 apg, 20.2 min)

PROJECTED HOFSTRA STARTERS

#1 Juan’ya Green, G, 6-3, 205, Sr. (17.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 7.1 apg, 37.4 min)

#14 Brian Bernardi, G, 6-2, 200, Jr. (12.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 1.6 apg, 36.2 min)

#2 Ameen Tanksley, F, 6-6, 218, Sr. (15.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.3 apg, 34.5 min)

#12 Denton Koon, F, 6-8, 210, Gr-Sr. (11.6 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.8 apg, 35.6 min)

#11 Rokas Gustys, C, 6-0, 259, So. (13.7 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 1.0 apg, 29.9 min)

CAA SCENARIOS

College of Charleston will earn the No. 6 seed and first-round tournament bye at the upcoming CAA Basketball Championship on March 4-7 in Baltimore, if Drexel beats Northeastern and CofC defeats Hofstra or if Northeastern beats Drexel and the Cougars lose to Hofstra. The No. 6 seed will play the No. 3 seed in the quarterfinals on Saturday, March 5 at 8:30 p.m. (ET), while the No. 7 seed will play No. 10 seed Delaware on Friday, March 4 at 8:30 p.m. (ET) at Royal Farms Arena.

They Said It

“It’s another tough game. We will go in there and play them (Hofstra) on their home court on Senior Night. It will definitely be a challenge for us. We will have to get over the Northeastern game quickly. It will be a lot to get ready for. We are still playing a high level of basketball on the defensive end and have to correct things on offense. Hopefully, we will be playing at our best when it means the most.” – CofC head coach Earl Grant

APM