Checking In On.. the CAAPosted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2012
The Week That Was
- Workin’ Part Time At A Five And Dime: This week marked the annual five games in 10 days stretch that always challenges CAA squads. Because of Bracketbusters and the need to get 18 league games played in January and February, the CAA must play one game in December and one Monday during the year to get in all the games. The result is a stretch of Wednesday-Saturday-Monday-Wednesday-Saturday games that make CAA legs rubbery. The first three games went fairly according to schedule, but the back two games are likely to produce some surprises.
- About That Home Court Advantage…: Home teams went 5-1 on Monday night, thwarting an early-season trend of success by visiting squads. The unusual home court success, which is unusual in itself, meant that through the first 54 conference contests, home teams are only 31-23 (.574). Old Dominion has a league-best 4-1 road record in CAA play, while George Mason and Northeastern are 3-1. Seven of the league’s 12 teams are .500 or better on the road in CAA play.
- I Get Delirious Whenever You’re Near: The stretch of five games in ten days is beginning to separate teams in the standings, and the rest of this week is likely to further that trend. A six-team glut for one of the top four spots in the CAA Tournament will winnow to five as Northeastern and Delaware, both 5-4, match up tonight. And with only Drexel vs. Georgia State among the top six playing each other Wednesday and two games pitting top-six teams on Saturday, the divide is sure to grow.
- Drexel (7-2, 15-5): The Dragons have become a force in the Association. Drexel has seven straight wins with six different leading scorers. The latest hero is big man Dartaye Ruffin—his 18 points led Drexel past William & Mary. Might not be a big deal to the rest of the world, until you realize Drexel had lost five straight in Williamsburg. Bruiser Flint has the luxury of not needing top gunner Chris Fouch playing well.
- George Mason (8-1, 16-5): Paul Hewitt probably used the word sloppy a lot this week. After drilling Delaware, his Patriots slogged to a 12-point win over Towson and survived a homer against UNCW. Ryan Pearson now has eight double-doubles after identical 24/10 games against UD and UNCW. Bryon Allen led the way against the Seahawks with 17 points, a career high. The good news for Hewitt: he has multiple weapons, and focus is correctable.
- VCU (7-2, 16-5): The Rams are locked in on defense. Havoc has held the past two opponents to 48 and 49 points and are giving up 57 points in CAA play. The Rams forced 25 turnovers and made 15 steals vs. ODU. With 13 steals against Hofstra, VCU now has 13 games with 10 or more steals. Juvonte Reddic scored 28 points in a win over William & Mary, but Darius Theus used this week to become the unquestioned leader of the team. Theus made the game-winner in overtime to beat W&M and scored 12 second half points to lead VCU past ODU.
- Georgia State (6-3, 14-6): Another test passed. A dream early season—5-1 and national love—was on the verge of crumbling. This week the Panthers dropped two roadies, including a double OT heartbreaker against Delaware that quite frankly they should’ve won. A weak team folds; however, Ron Hunter’s squad shook an early hangover and ran away from JMU. It was the kind of game good teams win—and that’s what happened.
- Old Dominion (7-2, 12-9): The Monarchs self-destructed against rival VCU—25 turnovers, and many were of the pass-off-the-backboard kind. What made it worse was that while ODU was visiting Richmond, their home uniforms were stolen (and eventually recovered) from their home locker room. The ODU coaching staff was rightfully angry. Northeastern bore the brunt of that anger—a solid performance has the Monarchs making the turn at 7-2. And despite anything you have to say about how they got there, ODU is 7-2 against the league.
- Northeastern (5-4, 9-10): Making shots is going to be the key for NU from here on out. The defense is not an issue. Northeastern has held six of its last ten opponents to 57 points or less and is giving up just 60.4 points per game in CAA play. However, sharpshooter Joel Smith is in the middle of a terrible funk, and his ability to stretch defenses is the most important part of freshman sensation Quincy Ford getting room to operate. Bill Coen’s tight-to-the-vest approach will keep the Huskies in every game—firepower will put them over the top.
- Delaware (5-4, 9-10): Monte Ross is getting a solid defensive effort from his squad—UD ranks third in the CAA in field goal percentage defense (39.3%) and has held 12 of its past 13 opponents to less than 42% shooting. But what’s most important to their success—contributions from unexpected sources. Freshman Jarvis Threatt set a YouDee freshman record by scoring 30 points in a double overtime win over Georgia State. He was 10-15 from the floor, including 6-9 from three-point range, and hit four free throws in the final 16 seconds.
- UNCW (4-5, 8-11): The Hawks have now lost four of five after staying close to George Mason but dropping a 67-61 decision. Freshman Freddie Jackson is becoming a comfy point guard. Keith Rendleman continues to assault the Association. Rendleman posted double-doubles against JMU (12/17) and W&M (15/11) and has 10 for the season. He’s scored double digits in 16 of his last 17 games and ranks second in the CAA in rebounding (10.8 RPG) and 5th in scoring (15.8 PPG). He’s averaging 18.1 PPG and 12.3 RPG in CAA play.
- Hofstra (1-8, 7-14): Mo Cassara and his band of merry young men got their first CAA victory over JMU this week, a long time coming. The Pride have lost three games in the final possession, so it was refreshing to win one when Steven Mejia converted a three-point play in the game’s final seconds. We mentioned last week they were the best 0-6 team we know. You can extend that to 1-8—the Pride never backed down to VCU in a road loss.
- James Madison (2-7, 9-11): As if this disastrous season couldn’t get worse, Matt Brady lost star point guard Devon Moore to a severely sprained wrist on the final sequence of the Dukes’ loss to Hofstra. Moore couldn’t play against Georgia State and JMU was summarily drilled. Credit needs to be given to Humpty Hitchens, who could’ve mailed in a tough season but keeps playing with a passion and desire that’s hard to match. Brady has been relegated to using walk-ons in his regular rotation.
- William & Mary (2-7, 4-17): The Tribe lost at VCU by one point in overtime, a gut-wrenching loss. (And we’re not afraid to say the Tribe fell victim to one of the worst calls in basketball history—an offensive foul 45 feet from the basket due to minimal contact.) Two more losses followed but Tony Shaver’s team continues to play hard. Freshman stud Marcus Thornton continues to improve on the defensive end and learn the nuance of college basketball. It portends a good-looking future.
- Towson (0-9, 0-21): The Tigers had a 12-point loss to the top team in the conference and trailed Delaware by just five points with nine minutes to play. There is hope.
- Georgia State at Drexel (Wednesday): Revenge time for the Dragons. Ron Hunter’s team officially put itself on the CAA map when his Panthers bludgeoned Drexel 58-44 back on January 2. The Dragons will have a sold out and hot DAC awaiting the rematch. It should be a classic rock fight, as Georgia State allows 0.80 points per possession, and Drexel just 0.88.
- Delaware at Northeastern (Wednesday): This game, barring a huge February run, is essentially an elimination game for one of the CAAs coveted top four seeds. The top four finishers in the CAA regular season get a bye in the CA tournament first round—rest. Both teams are 5-4 and five losses and February looming is a scary proposition.
- VCU at Georgia State (Saturday): Speaking of revenge, and of Georgia State making a mark in early January, Shaka Smart gets an opportunity to reclaim some lost ego when the Panthers won at VCU on January 4. Smart has to like his chances—that night the Rams had their worst shooting night since 1999. It couldn’t happen again. Or could it?
- Delaware at Drexel (Saturday): It’s actually revenge week for Bruiser Flint. Both teams that have beaten Drexel are on the schedule this week. What you may not know is the heat in this rivalry. Despite being undermanned, the Hens frequently get the better of their Philly friends. Both teams are playing for something—as mentioned Delaware wants a Friday bye, and Drexel is shooting for a regular season championship. These are the kinds of games you win if you want either prize.
Spotlight On… Rivalry, CAA Style
When the hottest national rivals are mentioned, VCU and Old Dominion are rarely in the conversation. It should be. The two programs are separated by less than 100 miles down Interstate 64, have played through two conferences together, and have been the bellwether programs of the CAA for 15 years. Back in October, ODU head coach Blaine Taylor made waves when he declared:
You can’t value yourself based on the tournament … the tournament can make rock stars out of average people … the tournament is not really the litmus test on whether your team is strong.
The target was obvious — Shaka Smart and VCU. And here’s how Smart opened his post-game press conference after VCUs 61-48 win over ODU on Saturday: