American-BU preview: Who's going to NCAA's?

American-BU preview: Who's going to NCAA's?
March 12, 2014, 12:15 am
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Matchup: American University (19-12, 13-5 Atlantic 10) at Boston University (24-9, 15-3)

When: Wednesday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Agganis Arena

Broadcast: TV - CBSSN, Radio - 570 AM.

What's at stake: The Patriot League Tournament title and with it an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

History: The Eagles dominated the first meeting for an 86-56 win at home on January 22 by making 30 of 42 field goal attempts for a school record 71.4 percent. Nearly one month later, the Terriers took the rematch 71-62 on their turf. AU advanced to the Patriot League Championship for the fifth time in program history and first since winning back-to-back crowns in 2008 and 2009. BU entered the conference this season.

Streaks: No. 2 seed AU lost five of its final eight regular season games, but has now won four of five including tournament wins over Colgate and Holy Cross. First place Boston has won four straight and nine of 10.

Secret Weapon: Speaking with Coach Brennan this week about the semifinal win over Holy Cross, the first player he mentioned by name wasn't Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year Tony Wroblicky. Also not leading scorer Jesse Reed or starting point guard Darius Gardner. Instead, walk-on guard Charlie Jones, the owner of a 2.1 points per game average. What the 6-foot-4 freshman provides for the Eagles isn't measured by statistics, but rather machines owned by PEPCO and Dominion Power. 

Gardner said of his backcourt mate, "His name is Charlie Jones but we call him 'Energizer Bunny," Gardner said this week. "He might not every game and sometimes just a minute or two. But in that minute or two he gives everything."

Holy Cross found that out. The Eagles trailed 39-29 with 16 minutes remaining before closing the game on a 28-7 run in the 57-46 win. The spark came from Jones, who finished with five points and four rebounds, including an offensive board that directly led to a go-ahead 3-pointer with less than eight minutes remaining.

"Charlie was in there, gave us a ton of energy," Brennan said.

Brennan first noticed Jones while recruiting another player - Villanova recruit Phil Booth - as an assistant coach at Georgetown.

"He was getting minutes early in games [At American] just because of his energy level, Brennan said of the Manchester, Maryland native and Mount St. Joseph's product. "He's a competitive kid, played for a really good High School program."

Turns out Jones had plans to attend AU as a student so Brennan asked about him joining the team. Clearly the coach is glad he did.

"When you put him in the game, something is going to happen," said a grinning Brennan. "[Against Holy Cross] he got offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds. He defends. We've gotten that from him all year."

KenPom: American 115 Boston 111

RPI: American 133 Boston 81

Coaches: American - Mike Brennan; Boston - Joe Jones

Leaders: Scoring (Jesse Reed, 14.1), Rebounding (Tony Wroblicky, 7.3), Assists (Darius Gardner, 4.2)

Honored: Two members of the All-Patriot League team meet in the title game: Wroblicky and Boston point guard Marcus Watson Jr. (13.5 ppg, 7.0 apg). In his first season, Brennan was named Coach of the Year after directing the Eagles to a second place finish. AU entered the season predicted to finish ninth in the 10-team conference.

Terriers: The Patriot League is not known for its offenses, but Boston can keep the scoreboard operators busy. The Terriers led the conference in points per game (72.5). They've taken their scoring ways to another level in the tournament with 91 points in each of their two games. The 5-10 sophomore Watson directs the production with a smarts and skill. In the quarterfinals versus Lafayette, Watson had 21 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. In the semifinals versus Army, a staggering 17 assists. Showing the production didn't just come against conference foes, Watson went for 13 points and seven assists in BU's 83-77 victory at Maryland on December 21. Ironically, those are the exact same numbers he tallied in the win over AU. Boston ranks second among Patriot League in 3-point field goals per game (8.2).

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