Checking In On… the CAAPosted by Brian Goodman on February 25th, 2012
Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.
The Week That Was
- Just Watch: The, uh, “controversial” RPI and terrible November are old news for the national media when it discusses the CAA’s chance at an at-large bid. We keep hearing more calls of “they look like an NCAA Tournament team,” or ye olde eye test. Drexel has won 16 straight and 22 of 23 and VCU is 13-1 in its last 14 games, losing only on a 30-foot buzzer beater at George Mason. And those Patriots are 16-3 in their last 19 games. ODU and Delaware are not in the running for an at-large, bid but both are closing fast. The Monarchs are 12-3 in their last 15 games and the Hens have won seven straight.
- Bustin’ Out: The CAA went 7-5 in BracketBusters last weekend, including a perfect 3-0 mark in televised games. VCU defeated Northern Iowa 77-68 on Friday, while Drexel dominated Cleveland State 69-49 and Old Dominion won 73-67 at Missouri State on Saturday. CAA teams are now 19-10 in TV games over the last eight years, which is the best winning percentage (.655) of any participating conference in the history of the event. The top six teams in the CAA all won as George Mason held off Lamar, Delaware got past Hampton and Georgia State topped UT-San Antonio. Hofstra also beat in-state foe Siena.
- Must See TV: The CAA has reached a five-year agreement with the NBC Sports Group that will provide the most extensive and comprehensive exposure of the conference in its history. NBC Sports Network will provide national television coverage for a minimum of 12 men’s basketball games each year, including the semifinals and finals of the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The Comcast SportsNet regional networks will regionally televise 39 additional men’s and women’s basketball games, including the quarterfinals of the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The agreements will begin with the 2012-13 season and run through 2016-17. The CAA is the first college conference to strike a deal with the NBC network, turning its back on ESPN.
- Drexel (15-2, 24-5): The Dragons have won 16 in a row and is 22-1 in their last 23 games. Drexel’s winning streak is the second-longest in the nation currently and is the school’s longest ever in D-I. With eight rebounds on Wednesday, senior Samme Givens became only the sixth player in CAA history to amass 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. With its win over JMU, combined with George Mason’s loss to Northeastern, Drexel locked up the regular season championship and automatic NIT bid that goes with it. However with such impressive credentials, the Dragons want more.
- VCU (14-3, 24-6): The national media has begun glomming onto the Rams due to a simple formula: last year’s Final Four run plus this year’s gaudy record. VCU now has won 24 or more games in six straight seasons. However VCU is playing better than that. The evidence? Northern Iowa was 12th in the country for fewest turnovers per game and VCU sped them into a season high 19 fumbles. VCU won despite UNI shooting 53% from three and 56% overall. Darius Theus continues his late game heroics. He had seven points and three assists in the last five minutes of the Rams’ win over Northern Iowa, and made a late steal that led to game-clinching free throws over UNCW. The new and improved Rob Brandenberg continued his late season surge, filling up 21 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals to buoy VCU over UNCW.
- George Mason (14-3, 23-7): Chucking the basketball isn’t a problem. The Patriots have hit 51% or better from the field in four of its past five games. Paul Hewitt has a team of weapons. Ryan Pearson continues to be option 1a for the player of the year honors. Pearson posted double-doubles vs. VCU (24/11) and Lamar (17/10) and has scored double digits 26 times and has 12 double-doubles on the campaign. Sherrod Wright has scored double figures in five of his last six games, and Bryon Allen had 10 points and 13 assists against Northeastern. So what’s the problem? The Patriots cannot help midgame napping. Mason toyed with Lamar but had to get a huge late three from senior Andre Cornelius to breathe easier. Cornelius, nearly invisible since his return from suspension, drilled a back-breaking three with about two minutes to play.
- Old Dominion (13-4, 19-11): The Monarchs served three notices last week that they are a force to be reckoned with. First, Kent Bazemore won the Conference Player of the Week award and clearly has his swagger back. Second, Blaine Taylor was quoting sow’s ears, silk purses, and thongs in his postgame press conference. That’s a sign of confidence. Finally, the result: ODU won at Missouri State and at Georgia State. Swagger is playing out on the scoreboard. The difference may also reside in a freshman. Dimitri Batten continues to see more floor time, and make a bigger impact on the game. It was 28 minutes against Georgia State, with 13 points on the night.
- Delaware (11-6, 16-12): The Hens have won seven straight games to get to 11 CAA victories, the program’s most since joining the CAA. Freshman Jarvis Threatt is 49-56 from the foul line in the last four games and is averaging 20.5 points in those contests. Assuming it gets past Towson in the opening round of the CAA tournament, Delaware will butt heads with the #4 seed ODU Monarchs. The two teams went to overtime earlier in the season, and that was before Delaware starting playing well.
- Georgia State (10-7, 19-10): The Panthers’ slim hopes for a top-four seed vanished in an overtime loss to Old Dominion on Wednesday. Eric Buckner blocked six shots and now has 104 for the season. He leads the CAA and is only the sixth player to ever cross 100 blocks in a single season, and third not named David Robinson. Even with the loss vs. ODU, the program’s net gain is obvious. Georgia State’s ten CAA victories are its most ever and its 19 overall wins are the fourth-highest total in school history.
- Northeastern (9-8, 13-15): Joel Smith went 5-9 from three in the win over George Mason and has hit 16-27 from beyond the arc in NUs past three games. Jon Lee paced the Huskies against Mason with a career-high 27 points, including hitting 18-20 free throws. Kashief Edwards was 8-10 from the floor and 6-6 from the stripe, finishing with 22 points. Edwards had scored 22 points in the prior five games combined, and it was his first trip to double figures since November 30. The Huskies, locked into the #7 seed, close the regular season Saturday at Delaware.
- UNCW (5-12, 9-19): In their past 14 games, the Dubmen are 2-0 vs. William & Mary and 0-12 against the rest of the CAA. Buzz Peterson has asked for more toughness from his young team, but that message didn’t include two players. Keith Rendleman had a 24/10 double double against VCU, his CAA-best 16th double-double. Rendleman is second in the CAA in rebounding and sixth in scoring. The other player getting better is freshman Cedrick Williams, who had 11 points and 8 rebounds at ODU. He’s grabbed eight or more boards in four of his last five games.
- James Madison (4-13, 11-19): The injury situation for JMU went from comical to macabre last week. Head coach Matt Brady, 47 years old, tore his Achilles tendon because he was forced into duty. Brady was running the scout team point guard role in practice when his tendon tore. Humpty Hitchens, the team’s best player and emotional barometer, sprained his shoulder and missed two games last week. Andrey Semenov and AJ Davis have stepped in ably, but the Dukes are a M*A*S*H unit.
- William & Mary (4-13, 6-24): The Tribe has officially ensconced itself as the team with a bad record that nobody wants to play. William & Mary has won two of its last three games, and the lone loss was a two-point scare of Drexel in Philadelphia. The return of JohnMark Ludwick has mattered. The 6’9” senior has been injured all season but hit Hofstra with 10 points, five rebounds, and three assists in 17 minutes Brandon Britt scored 24 points to lead the way.
- Hofstra (2-15, 9-21): Mo Cassara has faced his share of the injury plague. The Pride are down to seven healthy bodies and it shows late in games. The Dutchmen are now 2-8 in games decided by six points or less or in overtime after its 75-71 loss to William & Mary on Wednesday. Mike Moore has a league-best 16 20+-point efforts and leads the CAA in scoring (19.8 PPG). He’s been Hofstra’s top scorer in 23 of 29 games. Nathaniel Lester has tallied double figures 21 times in the last 22 games. Lester and Moore have combined for over 52% of Hofstra’s offense this season.
- Towson (1-16, 1-29): We’ve said it before and it bears repeating, especially in late February. The losses mount for Pat Skerry’s team, but they continue to play hard. Robert Nwankwo had his 14th double-double of the season and 11th in the past 12 games with 12 points and 14 rebounds in the loss to Delaware. Nwankwo ranks seventh on the CAA’s all-time blocked shots list with 222.
- George Mason at VCU (Saturday): The stakes are simple: the winner gets the #2 seed in the CAA tournament, and the loser gets the #3 seed. What’s more, VCU continues to angle for an at large bid and needs every win it can get. The Rams’s Siegel Center is sold out for the 18th straight time—a raucous atmosphere is expected.
- Drexel at Old Dominion (Wednesday): Like VCU, Drexel wants to win every game on the schedule to remove all doubt for an NCAA tournament berth. Blaine Taylor and a sold out Ted Constant Center are a formidable obstacle. In fact, the Monarchs are playing their best basketball of the season, which CAA folks know is about as surprising as the sun coming up.
Spotlight On…The Tournament
As new teams like Delaware and to an extent Drexel have made big noise during the regular season, the CAA Tournament has been the domain of the big three (VCU, ODU, George Mason), and UNCW. With the exception of 1998 (Richmond), only four CAA schools have won the CAA tournament since 1995: UNCW (2000, 2002, 2003, 2006), George Mason (1999, 2001, 2008), VCU (1996, 2004, 2007, 2009), and Old Dominion (1995, 1997, 2005, 2010-11). It has been 19 seasons since the CAA championship game did not include one of these teams. The good news for Drexel is the dominance of the regular season champion. Old Dominion became only the second team in the past ten seasons to win the CAA tournament without being the #1 seed (Mason as a #3 in 2008).