BOSTON, Mass. - Tomorrow evening the road to "March Madness" begins as the Little East Conference tournament gets underway. In the first round of this year's tournament men's basketball faces a huge test as they take on the top-seeded Warriors of Eastern Connecticut State University at 7:30 p.m. in Willimantic, Connecticut at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.
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Tomorrow's first-round tournament game will mark the first between UMass Boston and the Warriors since the 2005-06 season. In that year the Beacons ran the table to hoist the program's first and only conference title and earn their second trip to the NCAA Division III baseball tournament. UMass Boston defeated Eastern Connecticut by the final of 60-56 in the Clark Gymnasium.
Since then the Beacons have recorded just two wins against Eastern Connecticut, the most recent coming in 2009 in the form of a 75-69 win in Willimantic. This season the Beacons dropped both of their regular season meetings first falling at Eastern Connecticut by the final of 81-60. In their second meeting, the Beacons were handed a 71-58 loss in Boston.
SCOUTING THE BEACONS
If the Beacons are to be successful against the Warriors they will need to capitalize early and often. Offensive runs and defensive stops will be essential to gaining distance on one of the top scoring teams in both the conference and in Division III.
Head coach Charlie Titus will look to junior forward Carl Joseph (Brockton, Mass.) to be a dominant force from both the floor and on the glass. Going into tomorrow's contest the Brockton native is averaging 18.2 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. He is shooting over 44% from the field and 75% at the line. Of his 170 boards, 60 have come on the offensive glass. His 46 blocks has him ranked in the top-5 in the Little East, while his 34.6 minutes of playing time per game leads the Beacons.
Fellow junior Gregory Young (Boston, Mass.) will have to put together one of his best games in a Beacons uniform to help carry the team. Currently second on the team with 10.2 points per game, Young has shown he has the ability to take over a contest when he finds his rhythm. In the paint it will be on senior Kadeem Coulter (Boston, Mass.) to carry a majority of the load for UMass Boston. In Saturday's loss to Western Connecticut State University, the Boston native produced the best game of his college career with a 20 points and 12 rebounds double-double. He also matched the single game record for blocks with seven.
SCOUTING THE WARRIORS
For head coach Bill Geitner his Warriors have become a juggernaut in the Little East Conference over the last five seasons. With their win on Saturday, Eastern Connecticut became the first team in LEC history to go a perfect 14-0. They enter this year's tournament having dropped just one game since January 7 and are currently outscoring their opponents by 9.2 points per game.
From the field the Warriors are shooting 44%, while behind the arc they are a 37.3% shooting team. At the line they are just as consistent shooting 71.7%. Their big-men have dominated the glass outrebounding the opposition a staggering 1,019-814.
Proving to be the driving force all season for the Warriors has been the trio of Brian Salzillo, Mike Garrow, and Trachone Preston. Each player is averaging over 15 points per game, with Salzillo and Garrow tied with 17.8 ppg going into tomorrow's tournament game. Hugh Lindo has been a force on the glass with his 9.7 rebounds per game, with Garrow right behind him with his 7.8 boards per game.
If the Beacons were to pull off the upset of the year they would advance to the semi-finals of this year's tournament, which will be played on Friday at the highest remaining seed. The championship game will be played the following day at the same location with the winner earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. If the Warriors defeat UMass Boston they will host the final two rounds of this year's tournament in Willimantic.