[img id="78036" align="alignleft"]
Like an informant entering the Witness Protection Program, the men’s basketball team members are about to find out who they are.
Chicago (7–7, 1–2 UAA) begins a four-game road trip Friday evening at Carnegie (4–10, 0–3) before traveling to Case (9–5, 1–2) for a Sunday afternoon game.
The common link between the three teams is that they occupy the three bottom spots in the UAA standings, but there is reason to believe that the Maroons’ low positioning may be misleading. Both of Chicago’s UAA losses came at the hands of ranked opponents, fourth-ranked Wash U and 15th-ranked Brandeis. Chicago held second-half leads in each game.
If the Maroons really are better than their record indicates, they will need to prove it this weekend against the softest competition the always-difficult UAA has to offer.
Despite the standings, fourth-year guard Jake Pancratz is not taking the challenge lightly.
“This weekend’s opponents are going to be tough,” he said. “Their records do not reflect the quality at which they are capable of playing, and I would not be surprised to see both of these teams have some major upsets during conference play.”
In order to defeat Carnegie, the Maroons will have to contain the dual threat of fourth-year guard Jack Anderson and third-year forward Matthew Pettit. Anderson leads the Tartans in scoring at 17.8 points per game and is an aggressive player, as evidenced by his average of nearly nine free throw attempts per game. Pettit, on the other hand, provides the muscle to Carnegie’s attack. An efficient low post scorer who shoots 58.3 percent from the field, Pettit is also the Tartans’ top rebounder with 8.1 boards per game.
Defending Case is a completely different challenge. Whereas Carnegie relies on a few key scorers, the Spartans have a balanced offense that features eight different players with field goal percentages above 45 percent. It’s no surprise, then, that Case leads the conference in field goal percentage, but their potentially lethal offense is held back by a propensity to lose the ball. The Spartans are last in the UAA with an average turnover margin of minus-six.
Ultimately, success or failure for the Maroons this weekend will depend on whether or not they can build on last weekend’s relatively successful home stand. Chicago’s 65–58 Beach Night win over NYU broke a five-game losing streak and gave the Maroons their first UAA win of the campaign. The 69–75 loss to Brandeis was certainly a setback but still a good enough performance that Pancratz thinks Chicago can carry some momentum into this weekend.
“If we play with the effort we have had over these last couple games, we will put ourselves in a good position to get two wins,” he said.
Though Chicago has not always scored enough to win their games this season, Pancratz emphasized that the Maroons are capable of lighting up the scoreboard, an ability that will certainly be tested this weekend.
“We have enough weapons on our team to put up enough points to win any game,” he said.