Checking In On… the CAAPosted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2011
The Week That Was
- Welcome Back, Kotter: Several players who will see significant playing time are now eligible—their dreams are their ticket in. Of note, Devon Moore is back running Matt Brady’s Bunch. The star point guard and preseason second team All-CAA pick made an immediate impact in his 33-minute opening act. Old Dominion has received much-needed help and solid play from both Clemson transfer Donte Hill and freshman Richard Ross. The duo has Blaine Taylor pondering a smaller lineup. And last night George Mason welcomed back Andre Cornelius from suspension. Cornelius is one of the best defenders in the conference and a lights-out (but streaky) shooter.
- The Dukes of Hazzard: They’re just two good ol’ boys who don’t mean harm, and were not selected as one of the CAAs top ten players in preseason voting. But James Madison’s Humpty Hitchens and Delaware’s Jamelle Hagins have been the best two players in the Association this year. Hagins has dominated the lane. He is eighth in the CAA in scoring (14.6 PPG), first in rebounding (11.5 RPG), second in field goal percentage (60.9%), 10th in free throw percentage (76.7%), and second in blocked shots (2.5 BPG). Meanwhile, Hitchens has been an inspiring player in Moore’s absence. The numbers are impressive, too–17.0 points per contest, a conference leading five helpers, he ranks fifth in steals, second in three-pointers made and percentage and is second in assist-to-turnover ratio.
- The Facts of Life: VCU senior Bradford Burgess and James Madison senior Julius Wells have each taken the good and taken the bad, and in their fourth seasons carry impressive streaks. Burgess has made 121 consecutive starts, the longest active streak in Division I basketball and tied for the most all-time at VCU. Wells hasn’t had a bad career himself. He’s started 108 straight games, second on the Dukes’ career list.
- VCU (8-3): The Rams are simply devastating opponents with their defense. In the past three games, VCU has outscored opponents 92-21 in points off turnovers. After a 14-steal night in their Tuesday win over UAB, the Rams now lead the country in opponent’s turnover rate at 29.1% and are second in steal percentage (16.0%).
- George Mason (7-4): One up, one down. On the night the Patriots got hyper-quick point guard Andre Cornelius back from suspension, they announced reserve big man Paris Bennett was being suspended for two games. You can bet Paul Hewitt is ready for the start of conference season. The Duquesne game represented the end of an 11-day layoff for Mason, and it didn’t go well. Old problems surfaced even with Cornelius’s 11 points. They didn’t defend on inbounds plays and in open court, and were outplayed by Duquesne in an 11-point home loss. It broke an 18-game home winning streak.
- Georgia State (8-3): Finally Georgia State won in a different manner. The Panthers had blown out six of their past seven foes, but held on for a squeaker at Utah Valley. That’s a school record eight straight for Ron Hunter’s team, and they are allowing only 51.8 PPG while scoring 73.4 PPG during the winning streak. GSU has held five foes under 50 points. Hunter is pleased: “This has got to be the gutsiest win we have had since I got to Georgia State. The team really responded well to some adverse conditions. It is a tough trip to come this far across the country and then you have to consider the altitude. It was just a great win for a team continuing to learn how to win.”
- James Madison (5-3): The stats are somewhat benign, but Devon Moore’s first game back for James Madison was highly successful. Moore played a team-high 33 minutes, scoring eight points (on 4-7 shooting) and adding four assists, three rebounds, and two steals. Most importantly, Moore provides added leadership and a legitimate defensive presence. He made a couple plays in their win over The Citadel that normal players don’t make.
- Drexel (5-4): Bruiser Flint is known for his preference, nay zeal, for getting the ball into the post. That’s the first option. If that doesn’t work, try again. And again. And if all those attempts to get the ball into the post fail, your last resort is to get the ball into the post. That’s why is was fun to see Flint, in a tie game with less than two minutes to play, spread the floor and let Chris Fouch (a guard!) make a play. Fouch obliged, hitting a lane runner and Drexel held on to beat Bradley. The Dragons are getting very good guard play, which is opening up the lane for Samme Givens—he had a 17/10 double-double in the Bradley win.
- Delaware (5-4): The Hens zipped past LaSalle to go 4-0 at home this year—their first 4-0 home start since before Y2K, when Mike Brey was patrolling the sidelines. Jamelle Hagins posted his sixth-straight double-double (with five blocks) in the win, but it was keyed by Khalid Lewis. The freshman scored a career-high 18 points and had a team-leading four assists, but also had an assist and hit four free throws down the stretch that buoyed the Hens. Ever-so-quietly, Monte Ross has his team playing well.
- Old Dominion (5-6): Are we going to see a new-look Monarchs? After struggling mightily against Central Florida in which they finished shooting 26.3% from three for the year and 42.4% on two point shots, Blaine Taylor unveiled a press and a small lineup against Richmond. The gambit almost worked as ODU lost in overtime. The Monarchs had scored 104 points combined in the two games prior to last night’s 90-82 loss. Forget stats—the very notion that ODU may go small is intriguing.
- Northeastern (3-6): Same old story for Bill Coen. Six times his team has turned the ball over 20 times in a game, including their last five games. Take a look to your left and see how that corresponds to their record. The Huskies turn the ball over on 27.5% of their possessions, fourth-worst in the country. (But not worst in the CAA. Towson is dead last nationally with a 31.7% turnover rate.) The news isn’t all grim. Freshman Quincy Ford is exploding onto the scene. Ford has scored in double figures in NUs past four games, averaging more than 15 points per game in the streak. Fellow freshman Reggie Spencer had a double-double against Louisiana Tech.
- UNCW (3-7): Buzz Peterson continues to mix and match lineups as he tries to find some consistency in his seven-man freshman class. However as usual it comes down to the guys that have been there. Donte Morales scored a season-high 16 points and Matt Wilson had a game-winning tip-in against Campbell. Wilson is now shooting 12-14 from the field on the year. The bizarre stat: UNCW had a 23-turnover improvement from one game to the next. The Seahawks had 28 in a bad loss to VCU VCU but just five against Campbell. They played well in a close loss at Wake Forest last night. The future looks bright again at Wrightsville.
- Hofstra (4-7): The Pride rolled past Binghamton 82-62 on Saturday to end a four-game losing streak. Mike Moore stuffed another stat sheet: he poured in a career-high 32 points, grabbed seven rebounds and had two steal. On the year Moore has a league-best eight 20+-point efforts this season and is second in the CAA in scoring (20.9 PPG). He’s been Hofstra’s top scorer in 10 of 11 games. But more importantly point guard extraordinaire Steven Mejia appears to have a healthy hammy.
- William & Mary (2-10): The Tribe played a listless half against Wesley College before turning on the jets in the second half. Then they went to Missouri, where the best possible realistic scenario unfolded: nobody was hurt, and the check cleared. As a wise man said, this team is either very disappointing or playing the greatest game of possum ever.
- Towson (0-11): The losing streak reached 30 games with losses to Coppin State and Manhattan and is closing in on a full 365 days without a victory, but Pat Skerry is undeterred. On his pre-holiday plans: “We’ll have a couple days of heavy lifting and a lot of skill work. I’m hitting the road recruiting.”
- Northeastern at NC State (Thursday): The Huskies boogie from Louisiana back home via Raleigh, and they have to prove a few things to themselves; namely that they can handle the basketball. If you can do it on the road against an ACC team, home conference games should not be a problem.
- James Madison at George Washington (Thursday): This is one of those games that good teams win. Devon Moore is back, and played once. The Dukes are in that murky middle quadrant of CAA teams. It’s important that they separate themselves, and these are the games to do it. A top four seed is wide open and theirs for the taking.
- Vermont at Towson (Friday): The Tigers travel to play Virginia after Christmas and then jump directly into the conference play; a conference in which they didn’t win a game last season. This may be their last chance for awhile to get the monkey off their backs. Vermont nipped ODU in Norfolk earlier this year, but it’s just the kind of looney season in which Towson gets this one to break their losing streak, which sits at 30 games.
Spotlight On…The Kids
We cheer them on and understand their academic commitments, but the players that hit the floor every night give back in many ways you don’t normally see. In the spirit of the holidays, this YouTube clip shows last Sunday afternoon, where 25 kids from the Richmond Boys & Girls Club were given $100 gift cards. They paired up with members of VCU’s basketball team and shopped around a Target before a pizza party.