Exempt events are always fun, and this year Xavier will be heading to Charleston for the Charleston Classic on the ESPN family of networks. The bracket features possible matchups against mid-major powers like Buffalo and UConn (coming soon to a power conference near you!) and maybe the best team in the nation in Florida. To get to those games, though, Xavier first has to take on Towson, one of the top three teams in the Colonial Athletic Conference.
Towson is coached by Pat Skerry, who has been head man there since 2011. He ran the gamut of assistant jobs at everywhere from Tufts University to Pitt - with a stop as a D3 head coach at Curry College - before stepping into his current role. Inheriting a 4-26 squad, he went a ghastly 1-31 in his first season. Just two years later, he won 25 games, finished second in the league, and took the Tigers to the CIT quarters.
It has been up and down since then. Skerry’s teams play very slowly and crash the offensive glass hard. His defenses rarely force turnovers and have been anywhere from mediocre to dreadful. His offenses have risen and fallen on the glass and the free throw line; don’t expect to see them putting up a lot of threes.
Jordan McNeil, G (6.6/1.2/1.2, .383/.272/.727)
McNeil was a 6’5” guard who was fourth on the team in scoring and third in made threes last year. He’s also the only guy who scored over 100 points last year who isn’t coming back. He ran out of eligibility and presumably graduated.
Brian Fobbs, 6’4” G (17.5/5.9/1.3, .453/.367/.804)
Tobias Howard, 6’2” G (10.2/1.9/2.5, .363/.345/.750)
Nakye Sanders, 6’8” F (8.3/5.5/0.8, .520/.385/.687)
Dennis Tunstall, 6’9” F (5.7/7.7/0.5, .554/.400/.619)
That’s a lot of returning talent for Skerry and his crew. Fobbs and Howard are a pair of senior guards who both look to get their own shots. Howard led the team with 80 assists last year, which indicates just how sticky the ball must be in the Towson offense. Fobbs does a little bit of everything and does it pretty well.
Sanders and Tunstall are senior forwards that round out Towson’s own version of the Core Four. Their gaudy three-point percentages come on a combined total of six makes last year; these are both paint guys. Tunstall is a rim protector who crushes the glass at both ends, while Sanders cleans up the defensive glass and is the more reliable scorer.
Also keep an eye out for rising sophomores Solomon Uyaelumno and Nick Timberlake. Uyaelumno was a solid rebounder and scorer inside last year, and Timberlake played only nine games due to a foot injury. Neither of them put up an eye-popping stat line, but one or both could be poised to break out this year.
Juwan Gray, 6’8” Jr. F
Gray is a San Diego transfer who spent two years on the west coast. He put up 6.6 PPG over his time there and shot 36.4% from deep. He took a step back in production and minutes as a sophomore, but the talent is there and he could be a big piece for this team.
After losing 60 PPG of scoring from the 2017-18 team, Towson took a step back last year. Now they’ve got a veteran-laden squad with a couple of interesting young pieces that should be able to make some noise in the CAA. They pose a potentially tricky first game for Xavier, but the Muskies also have a ton of experience to go with their deep well of talent. Towson should make a run in their own league, but they shouldn’t be a threat in Charleston.