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Hoops Preview: North Florida and Western Illinois


Two for one special here as the Cowboys begin the home segment of the Cancun Challenge tonight.  With two games in two days it's easier to take a look at the both games at the same time.  This a busy week as it will be three games in a span of just five days.

First off the North Florida Osprey (0-2) fly into town.  Last year this team only won 13 games and it's 0-2 start may not look impressive but they've play a tough schedule so far.  In their season opener the Osprey lost to Florida State 75-55; after that followed a blow 95-49 thrashing by #5 Pitt.  So the slow start is not surprising but how good is this team? 

I'd have to say they're not as good as Northern Coloroado who the Pokes lost to on Saturday.  But a big improvement over Kean University whom the Cowboys beat to start the year.  The Osprey are coached by Matt Driscoll who has a 39-95 career record as head coach.  There are four starters back this year so they are familiar with the system. 

Andy Diaz averaged 8/5 a year but was on the of the worst free throw shooters ever: hit just 37% of his attempts from the stripe.  This year is averaging 13/5 and still hasn't made a free throw.  Parker Smith with his 10 points is the only other Osprey averaging double digits this year. 

On Saturday the Pokes host the Leathernecks of Western Illinois (2-0).  A Leatherneck is a bulldog and the school is based in Macomb, IL.  I've spent many nights in Macomb during college but I don't remember all of them.  A few years ago they were made fun of because their uniforms had "Illinois" misspelled.

  Their schedule is the opposite of North Florida having face two cream puffs in St. Francis (IL) and Savannah State.  They do face #15 Missouri at the same time as the Pokes play so I would imagine this will give us a better idea of what type of team they truly are afterwards.

The two players who have started the seasons hot for WIU are Matt Lander and Ceola Clark who are both averaging over 16 points a game.  Both are guards but Lander prefers inside shots while Ceola launches shots from downtown. 

Interesting note on their roster:  one player is named Emeka Okafor Jr, related to the NBA star maybe?  Also there is Abdou Niang who attended Stoneridge Prep the same school as Wyoming players Djibril Thiam, Amath M'Baye and Arthur Bouedo.  Neither Ekafor or Niang have seen many minutes this year.