CIO… the Colonial Athletic AssociationPosted by Brian Goodman on February 6th, 2013
- Old Dominion Fires Blaine Taylor: After 239 wins in a dozen seasons, Blaine Taylor’s run as Old Dominion head coach finished Tuesday afternoon when athletic director Wood Selig announced that the school’s all-time leader in victories had been released. The decision came a day after Old Dominion lost to George Mason, dropping the Monarchs to a record of 2-20 overall and 0-10 in the CAA (including a 1-12 mark on their home court). Selig said in a press conference that the decision went beyond the team’s on-court performance but would not specify. National media outlets and blogs like Deadspin quickly tried to connect the dots between Taylor’s hazy radio appearance last month and his firing. ODU now turns to longtime assistant Jim Corrigan to steer the Monarchs for the remainder of this woeful season.
Composing The Perfect All-CAA Team
Around this time last year I thought of a fun column idea and put it to practice. My goal, as written then, was to “create the best roster 1 through 12, using just one player from each CAA team. Your team must consist of exactly three freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and three seniors.”
I figured it could be a yearly staple, and a task that fans and other writers could emulate and compare. Then VCU had to go ruin it by leaving the CAA for the Atlantic 10. That left us with just 11 teams, and an imperfect system. That’s no reason to scrap the whole thing, though. For this year’s version, let’s tweak the rules and allow for one of the classes to have just two members. We’re still choosing one player from each CAA squad, so our roster will be 11-deep – still plenty deep enough to do some damage. Coaches typically use an eight- or nine-man rotation, and in this ideal world with an all-star team, they certainly wouldn’t need to be any deeper. But the goal here is to be strong top to bottom, and not just stack the best eight while merely filling the other slots with loose ends.
Below is my roster. Feel free to debate it, challenge it and make one that’s better:
- Freshman: R.J. Hunter, guard, Georgia State: Hunter isn’t just the runaway pick for Rookie of the Year in the CAA, he’s becoming a legitimate Player of the Year candidate. He’s fifth in the CAA in scoring (17.3 points per game), and leads all freshman guards in field goal percentage (44.5%). “I’ve seen him do some special things,” pops Ron Hunter said after R.J. scored 38 against Old Dominion on Saturday. “When he gets on a roll, he’s incredible.”
- Freshman: Andre Nation, guard, James Madison: The ubiquitous 6’5” guard is another player who should earn superlatives outside the rookie realm. Coach Matt Brady said Nation is “as good as a freshman defender as there is in the CAA,” and the truth is that Nation is one of the best defenders in the league, period. He’s also second among freshman in scoring, averaging 9.1 points per game.
- Freshman: We’ll leave this space blank, under the new rules of the game.
- Sophomore: Damion Lee, guard, Drexel: The reigning Rookie of the Year has made the leap as a sophomore, and he’s now one of the most dangerous scorers in the league. Just ask George Mason guard Sherrod Wright, a fellow expert in bucket-making. “You can’t give him open looks,” Wright said after Lee scored 29 in a comeback win over the Patriots last week. “Any type of open look, he is going to make.” In terms of NBA potential, Lee ranks up there with Hunter as the top bets in the CAA.
- Sophomore: Quincy Ford, forward, Northeastern: Ford’s numbers are extremely similar to the ones he posted last year – not that it’s a bad thing. He’s following a big freshman campaign with a quality sophomore season, this time on a team contending to win the league. The 6’8”, 212-pound Ford can play and guard multiple positions, making him a sweet fit on a dream team like this. Just plug him in with other quality players, and he’ll produce.
- Sophomore: Taran Buie, guard, Hofstra: The Penn State transfer is shooting around 35 percent, but sometimes efficiency numbers fail to consider significant factors. He’s one of two scholarship guards on Hofstra’s active roster, meaning he has a bit too much responsibility. “Taran’s a shot-maker,” coach Mo Cassara said. “He’s a big-time scorer. He wants the ball in his hands at the end of the game.” On this team, he won’t need to lead the offense.
- Junior: Jerrelle Benimon, forward, Towson: It’s the consistent excellence that makes Benimon a no-brainer for this team. He records a double-double more than 65 percent of the time and is capable of stat lines like 30 points and 18 rebounds, which he tallied in a loss at Temple in December. More often though, his dominant performances have led to Towson victories. “He’s carried us on many nights,” coach Pat Skerry said. After transferring from Georgetown, Benimon has turned into the Colonial’s best big man.
- Junior Devon Saddler, guard, Delaware: The league’s leading scorer may be a controversial pick for a team like this because, well, there’s plenty of other scoring on the roster. Maybe a workhorse around the basket like Jamelle Hagins would be the better option from Delaware. But Saddler is more than a scorer. The 6’2”, 210-pound power guard also grabs plenty of rebounds and is simply a burden to compete against because of his Eric Bledsoe-like physique.
- Junior: Tim Rusthoven, forward, William & Mary: Maybe the league’s best layup-maker, Rusthoven does not need a coach to run plays for him. He gets open underneath the hoop and can also stretch his offensive range, all while in the flow of the offense. “I always felt like if you can keep him healthy on the floor, he’s an all-CAA forward,” coach Tony Shaver said. He’s healthy this year, and he’s an all-Selig Dream Team forward.
- Senior: Sherrod Wright, guard, George Mason: When coach Paul Hewitt said last month that Wright was “playing as well as any player I’ve ever coached,” it was quite a compliment, considering the future NBA talent Hewitt directed at Georgia Tech last decade. Wright carries Mason’s offense, but to just call him a scorer would be underselling his value. He rebounds and defends well for a shooting guard, and has the type of body that could make him a darkhorse to join some of Hewitt’s old pupils in the pros some day.
- Senior: Keith Rendleman, forward, UNC-Wilmington: Despite the fact that he’s been UNCW’s best player for three straight seasons, Rendleman has the type of game that’s better suited for a more balanced lineup. On an all-star team with other players to pick up the scoring load, Rendleman could be a manic energy guy who’s a terror to keep off the glass. Still, there’s no knocking what he’s doing as the Seahawks’ star, averaging a double-double for the second consecutive season.
- Senior: DeShawn Painter, center, Old Dominion: Painter has been somewhat of a disappointment for Old Dominion, considering that some publications tabbed him as a preseason First-Team player. He simply doesn’t have the stamina or wealth of moves to carry offensively depraved ODU. But as an extra body on an all-star team, Painter’s soft jump shot and size makes him a commodity off the bench.
- Northeastern (14-8 overall, 9-1 in the CAA): The Huskies finally lost at home against Georgia State last Wednesday, but bounced back with a victory over Drexel.
- Georgia State (12-12, 7-4): Behind MVP performances from freshman R.J. Hunter, Suddenly-Scorching State has won six of its last seven games, including scalps at Northeastern and at Towson.
- George Mason (14-9, 7-4): With Johnny Williams out due to a concussion, junior forward Jonathan Arledge has flourished, scoring 14, 19 and 21 points in consecutive games.
- Delaware (11-11, 6-3): Talk about streaky: The Blue Hens have carried both a five-game winning streak and a five-game losing streak. More recently, they snapped a three-game skid with three straight victories.
- James Madison (13-11, 7-4): The Dukes’ defense-driven four-game run came to a close when Mason visited Saturday. It was JMU’s 19th loss in the last 20 tries against the Patriots.
- Towson (12-12, 7-4): The Tigers used Old Dominion as a slump-buster and then followed with a convincing home win against UNC-Wilmington. Though it gets to play Hofstra twice, Towson’s closing stretch is very difficult.
- Drexel (9-13, 5-5): The Dragons’ 20-point comeback win over George Mason might have been a season-saver. Even from the bottom half of the conference, Drexel is still a championship contender in this weak league.
- William & Mary (9-12, 3-7): Winning two out of three ain’t bad when you’re reeling from an eight-game losing streak. With two legitimate all-league talents in Marcus Thornton and Tim Rusthoven, W&M could still be dangerous.
- North Carolina-Wilmington (8-14, 3-7): The Seahawks haven’t been competitive on the road and let a home game against JMU slip away last week. It’s become another frustrating season for Buzz Peterson.
- Hofstra (5-17, 2-7): True to its nickname, the Pride scraps and fights to stay in ballgames. It just doesn’t have the requisite talent at this point.
- Old Dominion (2-20, 0-10): Most winnable games remaining on the roster: Home vs. William & Mary on February 16, home vs. UNCW on February 20, at Hofstra on February 24.