2022 Coppin State vs Towson - Men's

Towson Men's Basketball: Tigers Have Big Hype After Regular-Season Title

Towson Men's Basketball: Tigers Have Big Hype After Regular-Season Title

Last season, not many CAA men's basketball fans and onlookers expected Towson to be at the point it is now. The Tigers have the league's attention.

Oct 12, 2022 by Briar Napier
Towson Men's Basketball: Tigers Have Big Hype After Regular-Season Title

At this point last season, not many Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball fans and onlookers expected Towson to be at the point it is now.

Well, the Tigers certainly have the league's attention now.

Going from near the league's basement to regular-season conference champs, Towson had a year to remember in 2021-2022, plus something to build upon, boasting an array of excellent players who also happen to be back for another year.

The difference now, however, is that the Tigers no longer are the hunters, but the hunted. 

How they'll handle that new pressure may determine whether they'll be dancing in March or watching the festivities from home. With the personnel they have on offer, they'll almost surely always be in the thick of the fight.

What is there to look out for with Towson men's basketball this season? 

Below is a look into what the Tigers will bring to the table for the 2022-2023, as FloHoops previews every men's basketball team in the CAA.

2021 Season Review

What was there to like about the Tigers last season? Just about everything. 

Towson won its first CAA regular-season title and first overall as a program in nearly three decades, completing a remarkable run from being ranked eighth in the league's preseason poll to winning an automatic berth to the NIT. 

Perhaps the only blip on the year was that - the Tigers played their postseason basketball in the NIT, not the NCAA Tournament, after being upset in the CAA Tournament semifinals by fifth-seeded Delaware, which went on to take the conference's place in the Big Dance. 

The trip to the NIT ended quickly, as well, as Towson was dispatched out of the first round by Wake Forest, but a 25-win season meant the team tied its single-season record at the Division I level for victories and could hold its head up high for what it accomplished as a preseason afterthought. 

Towson was the only school with two players on the All-CAA first team in Nicolas Timberlake (14.4 points per game) and Cam Holden (13.5 points), with the latter throwing in an All-Defensive team nod, along with teammate Charles Thompson (1.6 blocks per game). 

Coach Pat Skerry, who has taken Towson from a program sporting a 1-31 record in his first season in charge to one that has four 20-win campaigns across 11 seasons, has proven himself to be one of the league's best sideline leaders. Now, he'll hope that he can add a NCAA Tournament appearance to that resume.

On The Court

Towson is an elite rebounding team (especially on the offensive glass), which isn't a surprise to the Tigers fans and CAA fans who have been following Skerry's court philosophy for years. 

Throughout his decade in charge of the program, none of Skerry's Towson teams - even the pitiful single-win team of the 2011-2012 season, have ever finished below 45th nationally in offensive rebounding percentage (per KenPom), even ending the season in the top 10 on three occasions. 

Everyone on the floor gets involved in crashing to the hoop on missed shots, with eight Tigers players averaging at least two boards per night last season. 

Though the pursuit of the rebound has become a staple of the Towson game plan, what really helped the Tigers take a step forward during its historic run last year was that it was superbly efficient on both ends. 

Per KenPom's national rankings, Towson was the only team in the league that had a top-100 ranking in both offensive and defensive efficiency, the latter category of which undoubtedly was helped by the fact that Holden led the CAA in steals (67, 2.0 per game) and rapidly adjusted to his new league after transferring during the previous offseason from Tennessee-Martin. 

Considering that Timberlake, Holden and Thompson - three pillars of whatever Towson did a year ago - all return for another go this year, don't be surprised if the Tigers' efficiency numbers don't just stay the CAA's best, but also rank among some of the country's best.

Key Returner

Nicolas Timberlake, G, Gr., Braintree, Massachusetts

Speaking of Timberlake, he was the man for Towson last season, taking a step forward in his career development from strictly being a bench piece as a sophomore - when he won the CAA's Sixth Man of the Year award - to a bonafide stud, who is one of the preseason favorites for CAA Player of the Year this time around. 

Timberlake improved in nearly every major statistical category from his junior to senior years, starting all 34 games and going on an end-of-year tear by scoring in double figures for his final eight contests. 

His recent evolvement into a dangerous 3-point shooter, however, might be the scariest part to of his game for CAA defenses to plan for - Timberlake averaged more triples per game (5.6) last season than in any point of his career, yet smashed his former career best single-season 3-point percentage by going 40.6% behind the arc to finish as one of the Tigers' best deep threats, along with top shooter (and fellow returner) Jason Gibson's 42.9% rate. 

Timberlake does a little bit of everything well, and after Towson came close to making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1991, he and the rest of the team's talented returners will be pushing to make the program's long-awaited return happen. 

If Timberlake keeps on the upward trajectory he's been on his whole career, it's hard to see anyone in the CAA stopping him from leading the charge.

Key Addition

Sekou Sylla, G/F, Gr., Brooklyn, New York

Towson has its returning core and has proven itself to be a contender for more CAA silverware, so the important task for Skerry and his staff during the offseason was to get the key newcomer pieces to help pitch in to the efforts for a repeat regular-season title. 

Enter Sylla, who knows all about shouldering the production from his days as a superstar at the Division II level with Nova Southeastern in Florida. 

Sylla was a monster for the Sharks in his lone season with the program, after transferring from another D-II school, The College of Saint Rose, being the main force behind Nova Southeastern's incredible 31-0 start to last season and a top-overall seed in the D-II tourney, before the Sharks fell in the Elite Eight. 

He finished as the Division II Conference Commissioners Association National Player of the Year, after averaging an eye-popping double-double average with 22.4 points and 10.4 rebounds per game on 57.8% shooting from the floor, his second consecutive season averaging a double-double with over 20 points a night just to further state that last season was not a flash in the pan but rather routine for his college career. 

How the 6-foot-5 baller will handle the jump in competition is the main pressing question, but the skillset obviously is there, and Towson already has the proven production returning, to where it doesn't necessarily need to rely on Sylla to be a dominant player. 

But if he does become that? The rest of the CAA could be in for a world of hurt.

Game To Watch: Towson Vs. UNC Wilmington

Why circle on the calendar a matchup that's over four months away? 

For starters, it's worth the attention when considering how possible it is that a CAA regular-season championship could be on the line in this very game. 

The Seahawks and Tigers are slated to meet just once during the regular season - this game right here - and for two programs that went from losing seasons to winning trophies the next year, they'll likely be at each other's throats all year and involved in a horse race for top billing in the CAA. 

UNCW didn't capture a conference title (regular season or tournament) under second-year leader and reigning CAA Coach of the Year Takayo Siddle, but it was one of the few teams in America to end its season by winning a postseason tournament. The Seahawks triumphed over Middle Tennessee State in late March to capture the College Basketball Invitational title. 

The obvious next goal is booking a trip to March Madness, and with Towson and UNCW each likely thinking they can make their own surges toward that aspiration, February's meeting could have massive stakes, if each team lives up to the hype. 

The two schools split their season series last year, but the Tigers in their later-season meeting handed the Seahawks their worst league loss of the season - a 24-point shellacking at home in mid-February. 

But with returners, including senior guard CAA All-Defensive Team selection Shykeim Phillips (11.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals per game), ready and prepared to stymie the arsenal of offensive weapons Towson is sure to throw at them, the rematch over 365 days later in North Carolina could make for a knock-down, drag-out war for a possible No. 1 seed in the closely-following CAA Tournament.