CIO… the Colonial Athletic AssociationPosted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012
- Beating The Older Cousins: Last season the CAA lost all seven games its teams played against squads from the more powerful Atlantic Coast Conference. This year? The Colonial topped their previous mark on Day One of the college basketball season when George Mason won a home game against nearby Virginia. The CAA again took it to UVA when Delaware topped the Cavaliers in a Preseason NIT game. Here are the remaining opportunities for CAA-over-ACC upsets: William & Mary at Wake Forest; Delaware at Duke; George Mason vs. Maryland (in D.C.); UNC-Wilmington at Georgia Tech; Old Dominion vs. Virginia (in Richmond).
- Some “D’s,” Please: While the sample size is obviously tiny, there have already been some fragile defensive performances by Colonial teams. James Madison allowed 100 points against Shabazz-less UCLA, allowing the hot-handed Bruins to shoot close to 70 percent in a 63-point half. Hofstra also allowed an opponent, Marshall, to hit the century-mark – granted that game went to two overtimes and the Pride still won. Monmouth also plopped 91 on Hofstra, that time in a regulation Pride loss, and Purdue scored 83 against it. Not to be outdone, UNC-Wilmington let Richmond score 101 in an ugly loss. Perhaps most disappointing defensively is Drexel, which is allowing 70.3 points per game just one year after holding opponents to an average of 56.1.
- Tribe Rising: William & Mary is 3-0 for the first time in 20 years. Sure, the Tribe’s opponents haven’t been tough (Hampton, Liberty and High Point are a combined 2-6), but any time you accomplish something for the first time since Bill Clinton was elected for his first term, it’s worth mentioning. Tony Shaver’s club was picked to finish ninth out of 11 teams in the CAA this season, but it’s shown no lack of firepower. Three of the league’s top five scorers thus far are from W&M.
- Drexel (1-2) – Hit the panic button! The Dragons, everyone’s pick to capture the CAA title, lost their first two games! Oh, the humanity! Slow down, worrywarts. Remember that Drexel started 2-4 last season and did just fine, finishing with a 29-7 record. Even while struggling early, the Dragons have shown their balance on offense, with five guys averaging double-figures. With all-time leading scorer Samme Givens gone, Bruiser Flint knew he needed someone new to step up and add something to the forward rotation. Sophomore Kazembe Abif appears to be that guy – and he might not be the only one. Freshman Tavon Allen also scored 15 points in his first game, a win over Penn.
- Delaware (2-1) – The Blue Hens defeated Virginia for the first time in nine tries, sending it to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals of the NIT Tip-Off, where they’ll meet Kansas State on Wednesday. The win over UVA was Delaware’s first against an ACC team in 50 years. Meanwhile, UD split against Philly schools La Salle (a 73-67 loss) and Penn (84-69 win). Delaware is allowing 0.925 points per possession and scoring 1.025 – both second best in the league. Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt, who share point guard duties, are averaging 16.0 and 14.3 points per game, respectively. Problem is, they don’t create for others. The Blue Hens average a league-low seven assists per game. And this isn’t a small sample size problem; last year they averaged less than 10 per game, one of the nation’s worst marks. There’s no reason why senior forward Jamelle Hagins, a beast on the boards with 12.3 rebounds per game, should be scoring in single digits like he is now (9.3 PPG).
- George Mason (2-2) – As expected, Sherrod Wright has made “The Leap.” The junior guard is averaging 16.8 points in his first season as a starter, but his 22 against New Mexico – matching a career-best – weren’t enough to vault the Patriots into the Paradise Jam championship game. A win in that game would have set up a title matchup against a tired UConn, which needed two overtimes to beat Quinnipiac in a semifinal game that went way past midnight. In the earlier semi, Mason blew a five-point lead with less than 10 seconds remaining against New Mexico. Aside from Wright, Mason doesn’t have anyone playing consistently. For all its size, the Patriots are averaging just 18.5 rebounds a night and blocking just 1.2 shots per game. They are, however, shooting the ball well and protecting it too.
- Northeastern (2-1) – Call them Buzzer-Beater University. The Huskies won just before the final horn twice in a row, topping Boston University and Princeton by one-point thanks to shots by Demetrius Pollard (a 3-pointer) and Reggie Spencer (a layup created off penetration from freshman Zach Stahl). Both victories were double-digit comebacks, and the Princeton win took some guts. Northeastern, which trailed by 18, closed the game on a 29-10 run, holding Princeton scoreless for the final three minutes. The Huskies are doing this all without Jonathan Lee, their star guard who’s out with a knee injury. Senior guard Joel Smith (17 PPG), sophomore forward Quincy Ford (15 PPG) and Spencer (14.7 PPG) are picking up the load.
- William & Mary (3-0) – The Tribe is following a formula that made it an NIT participant in 2010. It’s shooting lights out (50 percent) and not turning the ball over (just 11 per game). In fact its top three scorers – Marcus Thornton, Tim Rusthoven and Brandon Britt – are all making more than 54 percent of their shots. Thornton, the sophomore guard whom Shaver promised would be special, is delivering. He’s scoring 18.7 per game and has made nine of 20 3-point attempts (45 percent). Last season he was a mediocre 33.6 percent shooter from deep. Rusthoven, a now-healthy forward, is matching Thornton’s 18.7 points and doing it in less than 26 minutes per game. Britt, who was special as a freshman but seemed to lose his way as a sophomore, appears to be back on track. W&M even has a prototypical glue guy in swingman Terry Tarpey, a freshman who’s seemingly always moving on the court.
- Hofstra (3-2) – Hofstra, hit hard by last month’s Superstorm, has weathered its own storm, following an 0-2 start with three consecutive wins. The success corresponds with the return of Penn State transfer Taran Buie, who was suspended for the first two games. He adds to a balanced unit that’s getting contributions from plenty of newcomers. This team will get another boost when UConn transfer Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (also suspended for two games but still out with an injury) joins the frontcourt. Hofstra is playing up-tempo by CAA standards, churning out 73.4 possessions per game. That’s part of the reason Hawaii transfer Shaquille Stokes was able to pour in a career-high 26 points in a 103-100 win over Marshall. Freshman forward Jimmy Hall (12.8 PPG, 9.6 RPG) leads a team that has been taking care of business on the glass.
- James Madison (0-1) – Disguised in JMU’s 100-70 blowout loss at UCLA was that the Dukes outscored the high-octane Bruins in the second half, even while UCLA didn’t rely on any scrubs. Madison was the final team in all of Division I basketball to play its opener, and it certainly appeared to be a step behind the Pac-12 powerhouse. On the bright side, senior forward Rayshawn Goins, who sat out all of last season with a torn labrum in his shoulder, scored 24 points against a considerably taller front line. He’ll give the Dukes an inside option they simply did not have last year. If JMU can shoot well from the outside, that offense will be scary for opposing coaches to prepare for. Defensive improvements, though, will dictate what type of success Matt Brady’s group has.
- Old Dominion (1-3) – When’s the last time Old Dominion got 36 points off its bench and still lost? A more diligent reporter might be able to dig up that statistic; I’ll just tell you it’s been a while. That’s what happened in the team’s 79-70 defeat against UT-San Antonio. ODU, which is as young as it has ever been under Blaine Taylor, isn’t a lock to shut down opponents like it has been in the past … and like it will need to be this season. The Monarchs are the only team in the CAA without a player averaging 10 or more points per game. Freshman guard Keenan Palmore is leading the way with 9.8 points, 3.3 assists and 2.0 steals per game. The Monarchs don’t have much depth or firepower, but don’t count out Taylor to coach this team up into a winner by the time the conference slate rolls around.
- Georgia State (0-2) – The Panthers are minus-37 for the season, but their schedule will soften considerably. GSU opened at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and while it lost handily to Duke, it didn’t look completely out of place. Freshman R.J. Hunter, son of coach Ron Hunter, wasn’t intimidated by the big scene on opening night. And then Manny Atkins, a Virginia Tech transfer, showed what he’s capable of with a 21-point performance in a loss against BYU. The Panthers have twice as many turnovers as assists, and are shooting a miserable 36.2 percent from the field. It’s tough to say whether those horrendous numbers are circumstantial or a sign of a long season for Coach Hunter.
- Towson (2-2) – The Tigers, through four games, have already exceeded their win total from 2010-11. Victories against Radford and Kennesaw State are hardly worthy of a parade, but credit second-year coach Pat Skerry, who brought some grown-ups into the playpen. Five of the top six scorers weren’t active Tigers last year, including team leader Jerelle Benimon, a Georgetown transfer who’s scoring 18 per game while adding 10.5 rebounds. He’s the only player in the CAA averaging a double-double, as of Monday morning. Towson, which bottomed out pretty much every statistical category in the CAA last year, is now competitive.
- UNC-Wilmington (1-2) – Picked in the preseason to finish last in the CAA, Wilmington has done little to disprove that status. After an opening-night win against UNC-Asheville, the Seahawks have lost their last two games by a combined 81 points to Richmond and Ohio. The 101-58 loss to the Spiders was the third worst defeat in Seahawks history. Strong senior forward Keith Rendleman has been his usual self, but everyone else is a wild card. Senior guard Tyree Graham, a Rutgers transfer via Texas Tech, will need to be a factor on the perimeter like he was in the win. He was scoreless in the loss against Ohio.
- Delaware vs. Kansas State (NIT Tip-Off, 7 p.m. Wednesday, Madison Square Garden, ESPNU) – The Blue Hens will play their first-ever game at MSG, and it will be against a K-State team expected to finish in the top half of the Big 12. Watch the backcourt matchup between UDel’s Saddler and Threatt against K-State’s Angel Rodriguez and Will Spradling. All four guys can score, but the Blue Hens might have the advantage in terms of athleticism there. A win might make Delaware the CAA team to beat.
- Drexel vs. St. Mary’s (DirecTV Classic, 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Anaheim, CA, ESPN2): Tune into this one before you dig into Thanksgiving dinner. While Drexel has started slow, it can get back on track with a win against the West Coast Conference powerhouse. St. Mary’s guard Matthew Dellavedova is a joy to watch; can the Dragons dial up a defense that will make ugly up his game a bit?
- William & Mary at Wake Forest (7 p.m., Friday): Another shot for the CAA to knock off an ACC team. Wake Forest is the weakest of the bunch, already having been throttled by Iona. W&M has beaten Wake Forest before, winning by 10 in November 2009.
Caught On Film
Everyone loves a good buzzer-beater. How about two, courtesy of Northeastern…