February 19, 2015

Conference title on the line

The Maroons have a 7–4 conference record as the regular season comes to an end. The squad has three games remaining, all against UAA competition, and is currently in a three-way tie for first place in the conference. Before taking on the Wash U Bears next weekend to close out the regular season, the Maroons have their last homestand this weekend. They will seek revenge against both the Brandeis Judges and the NYU Violets in Ratner, today and on Sunday, respectively.

The Judges find themselves at the bottom of the conference table coming into the last three games of the regular season. Since defeating the Maroons at home about a month ago, the Judges have gone 1–6. Regardless, the team has shown that they can give the Maroons trouble on a bad shooting night and, as the Maroons are in a tie for first place, this not a game that Chicago can afford to drop.

Brandeis has been weak on the offensive end this season, scoring about 150 points less than the next most shooting-troubled team in the conference. While the squad remains young, and perhaps promising for the future, their 2015–2016 potential will not help them tonight. Unless the Maroons struggle in the same way they did earlier in the season up in Boston, the Judges should prove unable to impose their will upon the Chicago team.

The real test, of course, comes Sunday at noon against the Violets of NYU. The Violets work through third-year forward Evan Kupferberg. The Violet lynchpin is averaging a double-double on the year with 18.1 points and 10.4 boards. The combined efforts of third-year forwards Nate Brooks and Alex Voss will need to be enough to shut him down if the Maroons want to emerge victorious. If the Maroons can win the battle on the glass, their chances of toppling the Violets will be drastically increased.

Behind its star forward, NYU has been putting up big numbers, averaging almost 80 points per game in conference play. The Violets should provide a good matchup for the Maroons, who are second in the conference in defense. If the Maroons want to win, they will need to keep up with the Violets’ high-octane offense. They can do this through the three-point shot.

This season the Maroons have lived and died by the three. In conference play, the side has hoisted up more shots from distance than any other team. When they fall, the Maroons usually win. Making the three opens up the paint for Brooks and second-year forward Blaine Crawford, where the big, strong men have been able to wiggle their way to the hoop with dream shakes and spin moves.

Despite the gravity of winning these two games, the Maroons are staying level-headed. Third-year guard John Steinberg said, “We know the situation and how important these games are to our season, but [we] are not looking at these games any different than the rest of our season. We’re going to take it one possession at a time, execute our game plan, and if we can do that, then we have a great chance of succeeding.”

With this mentality, the Maroons will approach the home stretch of their season, looking to at least stay tied for the first place position in the UAA. Wins this weekend could provide the Maroons with momentum approaching Wash U’s senior night and the postseason.