CIO… the Colonial Athletic AssociationPosted by Brian Goodman on December 4th, 2012
- A Sunny New CAA Destination: After more than a month of negotiations, the CAA announced Friday that it will add the College of Charleston as a full-time member beginning next July. C of C, located in a prime tourism spot, will be the Colonial’s 10th full member once Old Dominion and Georgia State are gone (it will also be the southernmost, and strangely enough, the westernmost in longitude). Charleston, coached by Doug Wojcik, went 19-12 last season, and should fit into the top half of CAA basketball after leaving the weaker Southern Conference. Commissioner Tom Yeager said he isn’t necessarily done shopping for new members, but won’t pull the trigger on any school unless it’s the right fit.
- Four Hofstra Players Arrested, Suspended: Hours after the Charleston announcement was made, this less cheerful news broke: Jimmy Hall, Shaquille Stokes, Kentrell Washington and Dallas Anglin were arrested and charged in six burglaries that took place on Hofstra’s campus. They are charged with stealing laptops, cell phones, and money in October and November. All players pled not guilty, but each is suspended from school until the case is resolved. Putting aside the more important societal issues, it’s a big blow to coach Mo Cassara’s team. Hall, an early Rookie of the Year favorite, was the Pride’s second leading scorer and top rebounder. Stokes, a Hawaii transfer, averaged 10 points per game in his first year with the Pride.
- Another Weak Week: The CAA continued its brutal non-conference stretch by going 3-13 this week (not including the one intra-conference game between William & Mary and Old Dominion). The CAA has won just 40 percent of its games this year (32-47 combined record outside the conference) and looks like a definite one-bid league. Who’ll get that bid? No one has stood out thus far. While there’s still plenty of season left, the majority of the non-conference portion will wind down at the end of the month. The CAA has done nothing through November, though, to earn it much respect nationally.
- George Mason (5-3) – Maryland was just a bit too big, fast, and defensively imposing for George Mason, who played the Terrapins tight in a neutral-site game last weekend. Still, the Patriots can build on some things from that defeat. They turned the Terps over 19 times and limited future first-round draft pick Alex Len to 12 points. Freshman Patrick Holloway has emerged as a wild card for the Pats, hitting four threes and scoring 17 points in that game against Maryland. Unfortunately for Holloway, his three double-digit scoring games have come in the Patriots’ three losses. Still, the skinny hometown guard is stealing minutes from more veteran players and could really flourish once CAA play comes around. Holloway had announcers comparing him to Stephen Curry .
- Drexel (2-5) – I told you not to worry about this team last week. But maybe there is some cause for concern. The Dragons lost at home to Rider and now have an RPI in the 230s. Drexel started the season 2-4 last year, so a 2-5 start shouldn’t be too alarming. But we can’t assume that the Dragons will magically flip a switch after final exams, like they did last year. The backcourt, even with Chris Fouch out for the year with a broken ankle, is probably the CAA’s best, but the team is lacking scoring punch in the post. Dartaye Ruffin is inconsistent down there (he’s averaging 11.5 points per game in wins and 7.2 in losses) and Darryl McCoy has been a non-factor on offense.
- William & Mary (4-3) – The first team to notch a CAA victory this year is William & Mary. The Tribe did it against a team in Old Dominion that it has historically struggled against. W&M outrebounded ODU and shot 50 percent against it – numbers that would look farcical in previous years. ODU, of course, isn’t its typical self. But what about W&M? It’s tough to get a read on how real the Tribe is, but last week was definitely a positive one. They took Richmond to two overtimes before eventually losing, and the Tribe shot well in that game too. Sophomore guard Marcus Thornton is not slowing down, and might just be the best player this league has.
- Northeastern (4-3) – The Huskies were a pleasant surprise, pulling out key wins without star player Jonathan Lee, but now it appears they could use their senior captain back. Out since the beginning of the season with a foot injury, Lee will give the Huskies just what they need when he returns: a bit more depth and reliability. The three returning starters – Joel Smith, Quincy Ford and Reggie Spencer – have produced thus far, but the consistency isn’t necessarily there with the rest of the roster. Northeastern has just one cupcake out of five remaining non-conference games before its CAA slate begins. This next stretch will tell us a lot about this team’s potential to compete for a league title.
- Delaware (2-6) – Delaware has lost five straight, and while a brutal schedule makes that somewhat acceptable (the Blue Hens have already played Kansas State, Pittsburgh, Temple and Duke), a 63-60 loss against Lafayette is concerning. The 2-7 Leopards are not a good basketball team, but they forced 18 Delaware turnovers and built a 20-point lead before the Hens’ comeback rally fell short. Sure it was a road game for Delaware, but it’s not as if the Kirby Sports Center (attendance: 1,079) is an intimidating place to play. The compact Cameron Indoor Stadium, however, can be intimidating, and certainly was for the Hens, who were walloped 88-50 by Duke.
- Georgia State (4-4) – Rashaad Richardson is quickly earning a reputation as a clutch shooter. After making a half-court heave to beat Tennessee State two weeks ago, Richardson again drilled a game-winning 3-pointer, this time with 10 seconds remaining against Liberty. The junior guard averages less than six points per game, but he certainly knows when to make them count. Sign of a well-coached team: Georgia State is 3-0 in games decided by a basket or less. And that coach, Ron Hunter, just earned his 300th career victory. GSU has some winnable games on the docket before it opens its CAA schedule against Drexel on Jan. 2.
- James Madison (2-5) – JMU’s poor record is only overshadowed by the surrounding drama between its coach and most talented player. Matt Brady suspended A.J. Davis for “a violation of team standards,” which seems to be a vague way of saying that he doesn’t like the fifth-year senior’s attitude. Davis was reinstated on Monday, but his role moving forward remains in question. Truth be told, freshman guard Andre Nation had been outplaying Davis anyway, and now he’ll need to keep up his hot start. A ball magnet, Nation has already hit 19 points twice this season, and has recorded three or more steals in three separate games. The team looked much better in its first full game with Andrey Semenov, the senior forward who missed most of six games with a groin injury. Madison has some very winnable games coming up, and Dukes could use a confidence jolt heading into the new year.
- Old Dominion (1-6) – Well maybe this is a good year for Old Dominion to be ineligible for the CAA tournament. Typically stocked with tough, hardened veterans, this rebuilding squad has struggled to swim and may soon be engulfed by its increasingly difficult out-of-conference schedule. ODU had won nine straight against W&M before losing last week. That was the Monarchs’ fifth straight loss, and you’d have to go back to 2001-02 to find the last time ODU lost five in a row. N.C. State transfer DeShawn Painter isn’t the impact star that some projected him to be, and there simply isn’t a go-to-guy this offense can turn to when things go wrong. Aside from that, the Monarchs’ defensive numbers rank in the bottom half of the CAA, which is unheard of for a Blaine Taylorteam.
- UNC-Wilmington (3-4) – Have the Seahawks found their Robin to Keith Rendleman’s Batman? Redshirt freshman guard Craig Ponder scored 26 points in a close loss to Marshall on Sunday. Ponder, who played four games last year before going down with a season-ending injury, had a previous career high of seven points. Ponder said his confidence is growing, and that’s a good thing on a team starved for production in the backcourt. The Dub can’t score consistently, but its defense is keeping it in games. That’s the CAA way, and the Hawks can certainly steal some home games if they continue to defend.
- Towson (3-4) – Towson ranks second in the CAA in scoring offense (66.4 points per game) and second in scoring defense (63.9). Does that mean the Tigers are the second best team in the league? Unlikely. Towson has had the easiest schedule thus far, but it will meet some tougher competition this month. That the Tigers rank second in those two categories is an indictment of the CAA as a whole. Last season, those numbers would have ranked fifth in both overall offense and defense. Towson lost to a quality Loyola team, and then let one slip away against not-so-good UMBC. It can’t be emphasized enough how much Towson has improved since last year, when it was arguably the worst team in Division I, but the Tigers still have a ways to go before they are even considered one of the better teams in the CAA – regardless of what the stats say.
- Hofstra (3-5) – The gravity of Hofstra’s situation goes beyond on-court production, but for the purposes of this space, let’s discuss how the Pride, strictly as a basketball team, are affected. Hofstra must now be viewed through a different lens after four players – including two of its top four scorers – were suspended from school after being arrested for burglary. Freshman forward Jimmy Hall was averaging 12.7 points and 9.4 rebounds per game, but his career, which started so promisingly, might be over. Sophomore guard Shaquille Stokes added another scorer for Hofstra, but the Hawaii transfer’s time on Long Island appears ephemeral. Freshmen guards Dallas Anglin and Kentrell Washington were both members of the rotation, averaging roughly 15 minutes apiece.
- UMass at Northeastern, 7 PM, Tuesday: A good chance for Northeastern to test itself against its commonwealth mates. It’s also an opportunity to check in on Chaz Williams, a diminutive Hofstra transfer who has become a star for UMass, averaging 15.3 points, 7.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game.
- VCU at Old Dominion, 9 PM, Friday (NBCSN): The CAA defectors against the soon-to-be-CAA defectors. VCU looks primed to reach the NCAA Tournament in its first season in the Atlantic 10, while ODU appears to have its worst team ever under Blaine Taylor in its final year in the CAA. Maybe this old rivalry will spark something in the Monarchs.
- Towson at Georgetown, Noon, Saturday (MASN): Sure, Georgetown should roll over on Towson, but the Hoyas aren’t necessarily an offensive juggernaut (they won 37-36 against Tennessee last week). This match-up will mark the return of Jerelle Benimon to Georgetown. The Hoyas transfer has averaged 14.4 points and 9.9 rebounds in his first season playing for Towson.
- Northern Iowa at George Mason, 6 PM, Saturday (NBCSN): Two mid-majors familiar with March magic, this should be an even game between a pair of quality teams. Northern Iowa is 4-3 and has played then-No. 2 Louisville and then-ranked Memphis tight.
Charleston: We addressed in an earlier installment the predicament of Commissioner Tom Yeager, who may need to find a new location for the CAA’s conference tournament, now that Virginia Commonwealth fans will no longer pack the Richmond Coliseum. A modest proposal: Let’s take it south. Full disclosure, I’m being selfish here, and wouldn’t mind an early March trip to beautiful Chucktown. But even though Charleston is somewhat of a geographic outlier, I’m sure fans from teams around the league would go out of their way to swing a trip there – needing only the CAA Tournament as a good excuse. There are certainly some issues, starting with the venue. The school’s gym, TD Arena, is nice and relatively new, having opened in 2008, but it holds just 5,100. Maybe that can be bumped up to 6,000 with some creativity, but that still would be quite small for the league’s signature event. Plus, is it really fair to give the newcomers home-court advantage right away? Probably not. Charleston has already secured hosting duties for the 2015 and 2016 baseball tournaments, though. Is basketball next?