Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2012

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at or on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take


The Week That Was

  • Do You Hear What I Hear?: The world knows of the streak ending— Towson’s 66-61 victory over UNCW broke a record 41-game losing streak — but Pat Skerry is still not relaxing. We’ve discussed that Skerry has been unyielding despite the losses, and he continues to press forward. Skerry noted that he gave his kids Sunday off, but that he “took the jackhammer to them” in Monday’s practice. That is exactly the kind of unrelenting quest for excellence that lured Athletic Director Mike Waddell to hire Skerry. With Towson opening a new 5,000-seat arena next season, you can see that win #1 will be followed with many more.
  • Here Comes Santa Claus: Three CAA teams were chosen for televised games in ESPN’s “Bracketbusters” event. VCU will host Northern Iowa on ESPN2 at 7 PM on Friday, Feb. 17, Drexel will visit Cleveland State on ESPNU at 11 AM on Sat., Feb. 18 and Old Dominion will travel to Missouri State on ESPNU at 5 PM on Feb. 18. Interestingly, the CAA leader, George Mason, play the sixth place team in the Southland Conference, Lamar. The CAA has had five teams chosen for televised games in four of the last six years, which is the most of any participating conference. CAA teams were 4-1 in televised games in 2010-11 and are 16-10 in TV games over the last seven years.

    Pat Skerry And Towson Earned Its First Victory In A Very Long Time Last Week (AP)

  • Winter Wonderland: It isn’t just Towson on a winning streak. The top four teams in the CAA standings went 3-0 last week and continued impressive winning streaks. In their past five games, those squads are a total of 19-1, with the only loss being Old Dominion at VCU. Drexel has won nine in a row and 15 of its last 16 overall as well as 13 in a row at home. VCU is on a seven-game win streak and has captured 15 of its last 17, while George Mason has claimed six straight games and 11 of its last 12. Drexel’s streak is tied for the 8th-longest in the nation currently, while VCU’s is the 12th-longest and Mason’s is tied for 14th. Old Dominion has also won three in a row and seven of its last eight. The CAA is the only conference in the nation to have three teams with current winning streaks of six or more games.
  • The Little Drummer Boy: William & Mary’s Quinn McDowell was named one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which honors student-athletes who excel on and off the court. Tony Shaver called McDowell the best leader he’s ever coached. Honorees must have noteworthy accomplishments in community, classroom, character and competition. Other finalists include Ohio State’s William Buford, Pitt’s Aston Gibbs, Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Belmont’s Mick Hedgepeth, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, Butler’s Ronald Nored, Michigan’s Zack Novak, Penn’s Zack Rosen and North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller.

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (9-2, 17-5):The Dragons are simply beating up teams. The streak is now nine straight and 15-1 over the past 16 games. The expected stat resides on defense: only two CAA teams have come within 12 points of Drexel in the run, and the Dragons have held its past 11 opponents to just 49.7 ppg. All have scored less than 60 points. The unexpected stat: Drexel is shooting 48.9% from the floor and 43.9% from three over the past four games. Frantz Massenat may not be the player of the year, but he is certain the most valuable player. He averaged 14.3 PPG and 5.7 APG last week and tops the CAA in three point FG% (47.5%). Massenat is averaging a team-high 12.5 PPG and 4.1 APG for the season.

    Drexel's Frantz Massenat Might Not Be The Best Player In The CAA, But He Might Be The Most Important (AP)

  2. George Mason (10-1, 18-5): “It was a good week for our point guards,” said Paul Hewitt. To wit: Bryon Allen scored a career-high 17 points against UNCW and 14 points against JMU, which was his 11th double-figure effort of the season. It was also a good week for Ryan Pearson, who is staking his claim to the lead for player of the year honors. Pearson posted double-doubles vs. JMU (29 points/15 rebounds) and UNCW (20 points/12 rebounds) last week. Pearson has scored double digits in 20 of his last 24 games. Mason is tops the CAA in FG% (46.6%) and is second in FG% defense (38.6%).
  3. VCU (9-2, 18-5): Shaka Smart’s team continues it Archie Bunker defense—stifle! Three more wins last week and only 49.7 PPG given up. In fact, CAA teams are averaging just 55.5 PPG against them, and the Rams are fourth in the nation with 10 steals per game. The result: five straight wins and a 15-2 stretch. Most importantly—Rob Brandenberg broke out of a season-long slump, giving VCU another weapon on offense not named Brad Burgess.
  4. Old Dominion (9-2, 14-9): The biggest news from Norfolk this week was Blaine Taylor having outpatient knee surgery on Monday. Ever the cowboy, Taylor was back on the sideline for Tuesday’s practice. The reason for the lack of news was that it was just another 3-0 week for ODU, in the ODU way—defense and rebounding. The Monarchs gave up an average of 49.7 PPG last week, and have won seven of its last eight games and are 5-1 on the road in CAA play. Sneaky note: Clemson transfer Donte Hill is getting very cozy. Hill scored a season-best 12 points vs. NU and had 11 points vs. W&M.
  5. Northeastern (7-4, 11-10): Bill Coen’s approach is decidedly unsexy but very effective. Limit possessions, take care of the basketball, and go hit the glass. The result is eight wins in 11 games and a chance this week to stake a claim to a top four seed. Quincy Ford continues to add to his Freshman of the Year resume. Ford is getting better while other freshmen are hitting the wall. Ford scored a team-high 18 points at ODU and had 17 points and seven rebounds versus Hofstra. He has seven double-digit scoring efforts in the last nine games and is fifth in steals.
  6. Georgia State (6-5, 14-8): Tough week for Ron Hunter’s team, including a 59-58 home loss to VCU. Four of GSUs five CAA losses have been by three points or less, and their defense continues to be strong. GSU ranks in the top 20 nationally in scoring defense (58.6 PPG) and FG% defense (37.7%). They have limited their CAA foes to 56.1 PPG and 35.4% FG shooting. The problem seems to be on offense, where CAA teams are clogging the midrange game and daring them to shoot threes, not a strength.
  7. Delaware (5-6, 9-12): The Hens keep getting outstanding individual performances, but never in the same game. Monte Ross has a dangerous but disjointed team. Last week saw Devon Saddler, who’s 2nd in the CAA in scoring (18.8 PPG), drop 24 at NU and 22 at Drexel. Freshman Jarvis Threatt averaged 11.0 PPG last week, including 16 points at Drexel and  five steals at NU. The problem? The inside duo of Jamelle Hagins and Josh Brinkley fairly disappeared last week.
  8. UNCW (4-7, 8-13): What happens when you are the team that loses to Towson? You have your practice jerseys taken away, along with locker room and player’s lounge privileges revoked. Buzz Peterson had his Seahawks practicing shirts-and-skins, at 6 a.m., “John Chaney style.” Freshman Adam Smith seems to have hit the wall, going 4-17 from the field in the Towson game. Keith Rendleman continues to be a load. Rendleman posted double-doubles vs. ODU (12pts/17reb) and Towson (16pts/10reb) and has 12 for the season.
  9. James Madison (3-8, 10-13): Here’s scheduling gone way wrong. Over the summer Matt Brady put a non-conference game on the Monday following the CAAs five games in 10 days stretch. Brutal, but doable. Brady had no way of knowing that thanks to injuries and illness he would be down to seven players, a walk-on would be in the regular rotation, and a student manager suits up every day for practice. Predictably, JMU was drubbed by ETSU.
  10. Hofstra (1-10, 7-16): The bizarre close-but-no-cigar season for Mo Cassara continues to deepen. The Pride have lost eight of their 10 games by seven or fewer points, but it gets weirder when you look past the final score. Hofstra has been drilled twice by VCU, but in every one of the other eight games, they were in a one-possession game with three minutes or less to play.
  11. William & Mary (2-9, 4-19): The Tribe were the only team in the CAA to go through the brutal five game in 10 days stretch without winning. What’s worse, all three losses last week were double-digit affairs. The Tribe looked as if they’d turned the corner when they lost a tight, overtime game at VCU. William & Mary has VCU tonight at home—a litmus test game for sure.
  12. Towson (1-10, 1-22): Erique Gumbs got the finishing flush in their streak-breaker over UNCW, but Robert Nwankwo continues to post impressive numbers. Nwankwo posted double-doubles vs. VCU (16 points/13 rebounds) and UNCW (12 points/11 rebounds), and has nine double-doubles for the season. Nwankwo is among CAA leaders in scoring (11.5 PPG/21st), rebounding (9.0 RPG/4th) and blocks (2.6 BPG/3rd). The Tigers have Hofstra on Wednesday night with an opportunity to reach 11th place.

Bryon Allen (3) and George Mason Have A Tougher-Than-Many-Believe Roadie Against Delaware On Saturday

Looking Ahead

  • Drexel at Northeastern (Wednesday): Bill Coen’s Huskies continue to hang on the fringes of the coveted Friday bye awarded to the top four finishers in the regular season. Protecting home turf against the best team in the Association is a good way to take the next step.
  • George Mason at Delaware (Wednesday): This is not a trap game inasmuch it is a game Mason could easily lose. The Patriots drilled Delaware 89-63 in DC just two weeks ago; however Delaware is a far better team playing at home. Mason has relaxed a couple times this season and if that occurs Saturday the talented inside/outside combination of Jamelle Hagins and Devon Saddler can beat them.
  • Old Dominion at George Mason (Saturday): There are more implications to this game than we have space to write. Top of the list: Mason beat ODU in Norfolk earlier this year, so it carries tiebreaker implications for two teams with regular season title hopes. What’s more, Mason will carry the sweep mantle into the CAA tourney should the Patriots win.
  • Northeastern at VCU (Saturday): Take exactly what we wrote for the Drexel game, and apply it here, only put the Huskies on the road. This would be a HUGE roadie, as Northeastern gets VCU just once and would own the tiebreaker with VCU. For the Rams, it would effectively end Northeastern’s ability to catch them in the standings.

Spotlight On… The Win, and Signs

Yes, Towson broke its 41-game losing streak this week, but perhaps Pat Skerry knew it was coming. About 45 minutes before tipoff of the UNCW game, Skerry received a panicked phone call from his wife. An owl, she thought, had flown through the plate glass window of their sun porch. Skerry advised his wife to call 9-1-1 but to be certain to keep him updated. It turns out that the bird was a hawk, and Skerry realized what was in front of him. You see, UNCW’s mascot is the Seahawks. Skerry used the story of the dead (Sea)Hawk in his pregame speech, and the rest is history— a 66-61 Towson victory.

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