As we finally head into the month of March, there is often only one thing in a sports fan’s mind: college basketball tournaments.
It is no different for the squads representing these universities, as the exciting fact holds true that no matter how the conference season fared for the team, the tournament can consist of a totally different story. This is what brings the team, as well as its fans, to life.
The Hofstra women’s basketball team is especially grateful of the new life that the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament will bring them after finishing in a three-way tie for the worst record in the conference at 5-13.
As the disappointing record shows, Hofstra will need to display lots of improvement to even contend against big name teams such as James Madison University or Elon University, who they will play in the quarterfinals, should they get past the first round.
Due to the record that classifies the Pride as the No. 8 seed in the conference, the first round of the CAA Tournament will have Hofstra line up against Towson University, who heads into the tournament holding the ninth seed in the conference. The game will be the first of the tournament, tipping off March 8 at 12 p.m. at the JMU Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Towson, who finished the season with the same record as the Pride, will be looking to rejuvenate their morale as well.
With nine losses in their past 10 games, the Tigers do not have many positives to take away from that poor stretch, with the exception that their sole victory came against Hofstra. As Hofstra took the first game in the matchup, this game will serve as a tie-breaker for the teams whose only true focus would be to make it out of the first round.
If the Pride is able to step past the Tigers and advance their play to the quarterfinals taking place the next day, they would face No. 1 seed Elon in an extremely tough battle to say the least.
Earning the first seed by way of a 16-2 record, the Elon Phoenix has proven to be formidable throughout the whole year. As Elon is in the top three of the conference in both scoring offense and scoring defense, Hofstra will have to bring everything they have to upset the perennial favorites of this tournament.
Should the Pride escape and come out with a miraculous win against the cream of the crop of the CAA, the following games will be up to the Hofstra women to continue their superior play against competition that is held in a lower regard than the No. 1 Phoenix.
For a run like this to happen for the Pride, they will need to get the most out of their bench to assist the stat-topping players that are Ashunae Durant and Krystal Luciano.
Hofstra has the third lowest offensive scoring in conference despite having the assist leader in Luciano to go along with Durant, the CAA’s third leading scorer.
Solid production from starters Aleana Leon and Sydni Epps are the keys in the Pride’s effort to close out games with victories. The contribution from these core players not only allow for a more free-flowing offense, but also allow Durant to free herself up from the defensive adjustments that can limit her own production.
Seen in matchups such as the one against University of North Carolina at Wilmington, when the Pride got three players in double-digit scoring, with an additional two more who score eight and nine points, respectively, Hofstra is able to pull out victories as they did that night by a strong margin of 12 points.
Luciano’s outstanding facilitation of the ball is sure to put her teammates in position to score. Capitalizing on these opportunities is crucial for a team that has struggled on defense.
In games when the Pride’s scoring defense is worse than its scoring offense, it is tough to stay within reach. Hofstra’s scoring defense, which ranks second to last in the CAA, is an issue that needs to be addressed if they want to get past the first matchup of the tournament against Towson.
As seen in various sports, a great defense can overcome offensive struggles to lead to big wins. Focusing on this aspect of the game would be of great importance for the Pride.
As we look at Hofstra’s standing as the team with the second to worst scoring margin in the CAA, it is clear to see that Hofstra will need improvements on both sides of the ball in order to compete in this weekend’s tournament.
If the Pride is looking to wreak any havoc in tournament play as the No. 8 seed, the ability to make this adjustment will be incredibly critical to their success.
Ultimately, contribution from a greater amount of players while ramping up the defense in times of inconsistent offensive play will put Hofstra in the best position to succeed in the CAA tournament.
Putting the necessity of improvement aside, the bright side of entering as a low seed is that it will allow Hofstra to dive into this tournament with nearly nothing to lose, while having a whole lot to gain.
Although it helps that the Pride does not have a target on its back like some other teams, one thing is for sure: Hofstra can definitely prove a lot as this weekend’s dark horse.