Checking In On… the CAAPosted by Brian Goodman on December 28th, 2011
The Week That Was
- From GSU To JMU: Georgia State is being lauded for its ninth straight win, a school record. But the Panthers aren’t alone in their high quality play. VCU has won six in a row and seven of its last eight. The Rams’ six victories have all been by double digits, which is the first time they have accomplished that feat since 1973-74. Drexel has captured its last four games, George Mason has claimed six of its last eight contests, and James Madison has won five of its last six, including three in a row on the road.
- From CAA To NBA: Since it was a light week for the current CAA players and the NBA season beginning stole headlines, this is a good time to spotlight recent grads. The CAA is well-represented with five players on NBA roster. Former CAA players include Northeastern’s J.J. Barea (Minnesota Timberwolves), Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins (Golden State Warriors), VCU’s Eric Maynor (Oklahoma City Thunder), Towson’s Gary Neal (San Antonio Spurs) and VCU’s Larry Sanders (Milwaukee Bucks). The Association has had a player drafted into the Association the past three years (Maynor, Sanders, and Jenkins).
- From HS SR To NCAA FR: Freshmen are seeing significant playing time around the CAA this season. All 12 teams have at least one freshman who is averaging better than 16 minutes per game and JMU is the only team that hasn’t had a freshman start at least one game. Four freshmen are among the CAA’s top 30 in scoring: UNCWs Adam Smith, Drexel’s Damion Lee, William & Mary’s Marcus Thornton, and ODUs Dimitri Batten. Four are among the top 15 in assists: Towson’s Kris Walden, Mason’s Corey Edwards, Delaware’s Khalid Lewis, and Drexel’s Lee. Three are in the top 10 in steals: VCU’s Briante Weber, Northeastern’s Quincy Ford, and Mason’s Edwards. Three are also three in the top 20 in rebounding: UNCW’s Cedrick Williams and Northeastern teammates Ford and Reggie Spencer.
- VCU (9-3): The Rams dumped UNCG 80-68 to run its winning streak to six games. After three straight rowdy home wins, VCU predictably started slowly, forcing just four turnovers in the first half. A huge early second-half run gave the Rams breathing room. VCU is beating teams by an average of 19 points in the streak. Juvonte Reddic is the newest hero for a balanced attack. Reddic went 13-16 from the floor last week and is averaging 15.7 points and seven rebounds over his last three contests.
- George Mason (8-4): Mason rallied from a dubious performance against Duquesne to rout Manhattan. Of note: funky superstar Ryan Pearson had a double-double (25/10), his fourth of the year but first since opening the season with three straight dub-dubs. Though the schedule hasn’t been overly onerous, Mason is still leading the CAA in both field goal percentage (47.4%) and field goal percentage defense (38.2%). They’ve shot 45% or better in ten of their 12 games. That’s talent.
- Georgia State (9-3): Earlier this year coach Ron Hunter called James Fields his Tim Tebow—Fields doesn’t do anything particularly well, but seemed to always be on the winning team in preseason scrimmages. Hunter may have to amend that comparison based on his team’s victory over Georgia Southern, their school-record ninth straight. Fields scored a career-high 18 points and also contributed five assists, four rebounds and four steals in the 72-52 triumph. Tebow Fields was 7-11 from the floor, making both threes.
- James Madison (6-3): Matt Brady channeled Dickens in the Dukes’s 62-57 win over GW last week. JMU drilled 17-26 from the field (65%) and hit six of nine threes to take a 44-24 best of times halftime lead. However the shots stopped falling and a 55-33 laugher became 58-54 after a 21-3 GW burst. The Dukes held on for the gray-hair-inducing victory. JMU made a worst of times one field goal in the final 13:34. The huge takeaway and hidden advantage is that with Devon Moore back, Brady can go with a lineup that has five three-point shooters with Moore, Humpty Hitchens, Julius Wells, AJ Davis, and Andrey Semenov). When we last saw this match-up nightmare, VCU used it to get to the Final Four.
- Drexel (6-4): The Dragons bludgeoned Binghamton 68-44 last week, an important first step. First step, you ask? For the first time all season, Bruiser Flint played with his entire core group intact. Chris Fouch is averaging 16 points in his past four games, after scoring just eight points in his first two games back after knee surgery. What’s more, Dartaye Ruffin finally showed some life. Ruffin’s best outing of the year was against Binghamton, a 10-point, eight-rebound effort.
- Delaware (5-5): Jamelle Hagins ran his double-double streak to seven with a 15-point, 15-rebound effort at Howard. He also blocked five shots and has 28 sendaways on the year. However the Hens dropped a head-scratcher in overtime and remain the most confusing CAA squad north of Norfolk. Hagins is averaging 14.8 points and 13.5 rebounds during his reign of terroir.
- Old Dominion (6-6): Did we mention confusing? Look no further than ODUs past two games and scores of 90-82 and 81-73. In years past Blaine Taylor’s squad would need about nine overtimes to reach those numbers. Donte Hill and Richard Ross are making a difference since becoming eligible at the semester’s break (two games). Ross had six points and eight rebounds in the loss to Richmond, and Hill had 11 points and nine rebounds in the win over VMI. Taylor is going to a smaller lineup, which is quite frankly weird.
- UNCW (3-7): The Seahawks played admirably at Wake Forest but lost. Courtesy of Star News beat reporter Brian Mull, here is the main culprit: Wake Forest torched the UNCW defense for 1.21 points per possession, scoring on 19 of its final 21 trips to pull away in an 87-78 victory. Freshman Adam Smith poured in a UNCW freshman-record 32 points in the game and has eight double-digit efforts and three 20+ point games. Smith is fifth in the CAA and fifth among all freshmen in the country with a 17.0 PPG average.
- Northeastern (3-7): The good news: the Huskies, who had turned the ball over 20 or more times in each of their six losses, had just 10 turnovers against NC State. The bad news: Northeastern reverted to last year’s team, getting beaten badly on the backboards and allowing NC State to shoot 52% from the field and make 11-20 threes. Bill Coen’s team has a good identity test against Vermont on Friday.
- Hofstra (5-7): For the first time all season, Hofstra won back-to-back games—drubbings of Binghamton and Colgate. Mo Cassara made a final decision on talented but troubled center Bryant Crowder, who went from suspended to leaving Hofstra for personal reasons. The departure means Hofstra played one game this season with its projected starting point guard and center. That point guard, Steven Mejia, continues to battle a bum hamstring, and it appears to be getting worse. But the Dutchmen put five players in double figures in the Colgate win—they are a team learning itself.
- William & Mary (2-10): The Tribe lost again, this time at the hands of Iona. However the construction of the game was far more to Tony Shaver’s liking. Quinn McDowell came out of his prolonged slump, hitting 4-6 threes and scoring 18 points. The team shot 10-22 from beyond the arc, and Kendrix Brown grabbed nine rebounds.
- Towson (0-12): Pat Skerry is now dealing with a national fascination of Towson’s futility, but he remains undeterred in what he’s trying to accomplish, and what the near-term might look like. He even said the words after Towson’s loss to Vermont: “Our defense let us down all night and if we don’t guard or rebound at a high level, we won’t win a game. That’s who we are.”
- Fairfield at Drexel (Wednesday): The Dragons, finally healthy, will get a good test of their full squad. Drexel has won four in a row in increasingly impressive fashion and this is an opportunity to reclaim their most-favored CAA team status just prior to the opening of the conference season.
- George Mason at College of Charleston (Friday): The one thing Paul Hewitt has lacked is any modicum of consistency. A second straight solid performance, as Lou Brown would implore, is a streak. It’s safe to say the rest of the Patriots realize they need to feed Ryan Pearson if they want to win.
- Temple at Delaware (Friday): The Hens have proven themselves rock solid at home, and the Owls are a step up in competition. This game is more a prove-it-to-themselves battle—it’s one thing to beat Lafayette in a November snoozerilla. It’s quite another to knock off one of the A10s best as conference season looms.
- All of them (Monday): The conference season begins, and not a moment too soon. Familiar faces will be trading blows in CAA-style throwdowns, called rock fights. Of particular interest: Drexel at Georgia State, pitting the preseason favorite against the Ronnie-come-lately; and Old Dominion at James Madison, which features two top-four seed hopefuls in a game that may be referenced come tiebreaker time.
Drexel entered the year in rare air—the preseason choice for champions. After a slow start that included a humbling loss to Norfolk State, chatter around the Association revolved around “same old Drexel,” which is to say tough, but mediocre. Few noticed a depleted roster kept Drexel from practicing with its full team until last week. The odd problem was that all the injuries were in the same position—wing guard. This caused a shuffling of everyone to cover the hole. The Dragons have won four in row behind gunner Chris Fouch, which is opening up the lane for undersized but deadly post player Samme Givens. Drexel has two weeks of full metal jacket practice under its belts now, and its final two games prior to the start of the conference season will be very telling.