Final Four Daily Diaries: Saturday

Posted by rtmsf on April 3rd, 2011

RTC is at the Final Four in Houston, our sixth as a fan but our first as a member of the working media. What that means, exactly, we’re still trying to figure out, but we think it has something to do with wearing a rectangular piece of plastic with our mug on it and nodding approvingly at the people in the NCAA blazers walking around the innards of Reliant Stadium. Or maybe it means dropping dime on one of the coaches at the dais for one thing or another — we’re not sure. Anyway, over the next four days of collegiate basketball activity here in H-town, we’ll be providing a daily diary in much the same way we’ve done with our correspondents throughout this year’s Tournament — equal parts observation and analysis, with a hint of the absurd.

Saturday, April 2 – Houston, Texas

  • For my money, of which I will have very little after this trip to Houston, the moments prior to the start of the first game at Semifinal Saturday are the absolute best of the entire season.  The anticipation, buzz, nervous vibe, whatever you want to call it… is off the charts, as all four schools dare to dream the impossible.  Bands are playing, fans are screaming, media are flittering, and the whole place contains an electricity that is only captured in my opinion at the collegiate level of sports.  There’s something peculiar about schools and fandom that makes this so, and it’s different than what you see with fans in the various professional sports leagues around the country and world.  At any rate, if I could bottle that energy in the air in those fifteen minutes prior to the first tipoff, I’d strap a nipple to that thing and drink it down as a part of my daily regimen.  No question.

VCU Fans Were More Amped Than Anybody Here Tonight

  • That said, my seating arrangement in the pressbox of Reliant Stadium (remember, this is a football stadium by design) left a little to be desired.  The worst part actually wasn’t the view — I could see the players and the ball going through the hoop fine, and so forth — rather, it was the giant windows that kept the noise of the stadium below from reaching all of us within the box.  It muffled everything to the point where I felt I wasn’t actually watching the game live inasmuch as viewing it as a tourist observes the sharks as the local aquarium.  It was more like watching the game on television rather than being there, even though I didn’t have a high definition screen in front of me and the PA announcer was clear as day (piped into the room).

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The Other 26: Examining Butler & VCU’s Runs to the Final Four

Posted by rtmsf on April 2nd, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC contributor.  Throughout the season, he has authored a column, The Other 26, which examines the teams from the non-power conferences and their impact on the game at a national level.  Today he attempts to tackle the questions of how Butler and VCU have crashed the party down in Houston.

First it was George Mason, and now it is their brethren Virginia Commonwealth in the Colonial Athletic and distant cousin Butler in the Horizon League. Not too far off in the distance are those pesky Davidson Wildcats who burst onto the national scene in 2006, nearly knocked off Maryland in 2007 with freshman sensation Stephen Curry, and just missed crashing the Final Four party with this lusty crew by just a game back in 2008.

 

Mason Set the Template in 2006

By my count, that is four different teams—one more not too far away either—from true Mid-Major conferences to reach the tasteful waters of the Final Four since 2006. Prior to 2006, one would have to search all the way back to 1998 to find a non-power league team—the Utah Utes—that reached this stage. The overriding question that not only myself, but many others in the college basketball world have is: How are these guys doing it? We can all elect to listen to the self-proclaimed “experts” on the subject who know all when it comes to college hoops, but then again didn’t one of them state in so many words that VCU “doesn’t pass the laugh test?” Now, I will not pretend to stand atop the highest of horses and preach what I believe several of the reasons are why Butler and Virginia Commonwealth have had a great deal of success in the 2011 edition of the world’s greatest postseason tournament, but I will rather merely provide a slew of reasons why Butler and Virginia Commonwealth will be squaring off against one another on Saturday evening instead of Kansas and Pittsburgh, or any of the other marquee names out there for that matter.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 04.02.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on April 2nd, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

Butler

  • Butler head coach Brad Stevens is undefeated since he has begun wearing glasses on the sidelines. This should be a non-story, but Butler’s recent success makes one consider the importance of this.
  • Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack will be the key players for Butler in their Final Four matchup with VCU. This is not surprising, as Howard and Mack have been the catalysts for the Bulldogs success all season.
  • The hands-on cerebral approaches of Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart have been huge in leading their respective teams to the Final Four. This approach has proved to be extremely successful considering the success of the two young coaches.
  • Despite being a star player, Butler big man Matt Howard tries to keep a low profile at Butler. This is almost impossible due to the contributions Howard has made for the Bulldogs throughout his career.

Connecticut

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NCAA Regional Diary From San Antonio

Posted by rtmsf on March 29th, 2011

After another weekend of scintillating and shocking NCAA Tournament results, it’s time to check back in with our various correspondents who were in Anaheim, San Antonio, New Orleans and Newark reporting on the games this weekend.

Location: San Antonio, TX
Round: Regional Final
Teams: VCU, Kansas
Date: 27 March 2011

To read all the diaries throughout the NCAA Tournament, click here.

The San Antonio Riverwalk is Always a Hit.

  • This is the second time in this Tournament that I’ve personally witnessed this happen (Gonzaga vs. St. John’s being the other).  Kansas’ strategy from the opening tip was to get the ball inside early and often to their big men, Marcus and Markieff Morris.  It worked in the beginning as the twins got KU off to a 6-2 start, but VCU started to figure out the entry passes, and before long the Kansas guards were trying to throw the ball into a quadruple-team underneath.  The perimeter players weren’t looking to score at all, and I sometimes wonder if a focused strategy to take advantage of a strength (as here) actually backfires in the sense that the perimeter players don’t have an opportunity to play offensively.  In the Richmond game, as a contrasting example, the KU perimeter players got going early and UR as a result was out of the game by the second television timeout.
  • I love Shaka Smart for many reasons, not least of which is his bulldog mentality of taking on all comers, but watching him get down into a defensive crouch on the sidelines as his players guard the ball on that side of the floor is phenomenal.  He moves his feet very well for his advanced age of all of 33 years old.  With Brad Stevens Lambeau Leap into the team circle after beating #1 Pitt last week, and Smart acting as a sixth defender for the Rams, youth in the coaching ranks is most definitely served.
Shaka Can!
  • Whew, Markieff Morris (eight turnovers) and Tyrel Reed (1-9 FGs) would like to have this game back.  Through the first twelve minutes of action, Markieff had already turned the ball over six times to VCU, including a ridiculous Ewing-step-through travel that he damn well knows better than to do in the college game.  Reed suffered a miserable game, and he never looked less comfortable than when Kansas was in desperate need of someone — anyone — to hit some threes down the stretch, but he was badly off on all of them.  It was pretty clear to me from my vantage point that both of these guys were feeling the pressure of expectations, and they were generally crushed by it.
  • I liked Self’s decision to try to get Josh Selby into the game early to combat the scoring woes of his team on the perimeter.  Other than Selby, none of the KU guards are elite talents capable of scoring on demand.  It didn’t work out today, as Selby went 1-5 for two points and clearly wasn’t feeling it, but it was still worth the gamble.  He couldn’t have done much worse than the pair of Reed and Brady Morningstar (2-16 FGs).
  • Speaking of Selby, has any freshman in America been a bigger disappointment this season?  Hailed as the possible missing piece to a dominant KU team, he looked good in December before tailing off completely the rest of the way to become nearly a late-season afterthought.  It’s not very often that high school players good enough to rate #1 in the nation by at least one scouting service will suffer such a weird diminishment of his playing time and influence.  Yet, had he been akin to a John Wall or even a Brandon Knight, Kansas might still be playing.  The perimeter absolutely killed the Jayhawks today.

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NCAA Tournament Tidbits: 03.28.11

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 28th, 2011

Throughout the NCAA Tournament, we’ll be providing you with the daily chatter from around the webosphere relating to what’s going on with the teams still playing.

East

  • In what was thought to be a transition year for Kentucky, head coach John Calipari has led the Wildcats to the Final Four. Due to the personnel and roster turnover from last season, it can be argued that this season is Calipari’s best work.
  • The Final Four matchup between Connecticut and Kentucky is made even more interesting due to the history between John Calipari and Jim Calhoun. However, both men have acknowledged that the feud is behind them.
  • John Calipari has seen his Final Four banners from his tenures at UMass and Memphis get taken down due to NCAA violations. Kentucky president Dr. Lee Todd insisted on Sunday that “this banner will not be taken down.”
  • Kentucky junior guard DeAndre Liggins was undoubtedly a pest for North Carolina. Liggins was a stalwart defensively, got into the heads of several Tar Heels, and made the shot that seemingly lifted the Wildcats to the Final Four.
  • While Sunday’s loss stings for North Carolina now, it can be argued that the loss will eventually benefit the program. If Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller all return to Chapel Hill, UNC will enter next season as a title contender once again.

Southeast

  • With two Final Four appearances already under his belt at the age of 34, Butler head coach Brad Stevens is moving up the coaching pantheon at a rapid pace. Considering the success of the past two seasons, we can assume that Stevens is just getting started.
  • Butler forward Matt Howard takes a workmanlike approach to the game of basketball. This approach embodies Butler basketball, and he’s not through yet.
  • The Bulldogs have experienced two close calls with injuries in their last two games. The anxiety that fills Butler fans’ hearts when someone comes up limp have been as heart-stopping as the Butler’s unexpected heroics.
  • An interesting piece about whether Miami (FL) should go after Brad Stevens or Shaka Smart to be the Hurricanes’ head coach. This is interesting due to the fact that Frank Haith is still gainfully employed by the Hurricanes and was thought by many to have one year left to translate the Durand Scott/Malcolm Grant/Reggie Johnson trio into some postseason success.
  • Even with his Elite Eight loss to Butler, Florida head coach Billy Donovan is still proud of the season his Gators put together. After embarrassing early season losses to Central Florida and Jacksonville, the Gators put together a run that mimicked the 2006 and 2007 editions of the Florida Gators.

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NCAA Regional Reset: Southwest Region

Posted by rtmsf on March 22nd, 2011

We’re down to sixteen teams, so it’s time to visit with each of our regional experts and analyze what happened in each of the four regions and what should be expected this coming weekend. Every one of these predictions is guaranteed to be absolutely and totally correct.

Region: Southwest

The Alamo City Host a Behemoth and Three Cindys

New Favorite (Same as the Old Favorite):  #1 Kansas, 34-2.  Kansas is one of the biggest favorites a region has ever seen, as a #10, a #11 and a #12 seed remain opposite the mighty Jayhawks in San Antonio.  While Florida State, VCU and Richmond are all capable teams with varying strengths and weaknesses, none of the three pose a serious threat to KU so long as Bill Self’s team shows maturity and takes them seriously.

Horse of Darkness:  #10 Florida State,  23-10.  In two NCAA Tournament games, the Seminoles are firing on all cylinders defensively, holding Texas A&M and Notre Dame to a total of 107 points and a defensive PPP of 0.86.  When you’re locking teams up like that, especially offensive juggernauts like the Irish, then you have a chance to win any game you play.  VCU is beatable, but Kansas is a completely different animal. 

Biggest Surprise (1st Weekend):  Three Double-Digit Seeds Advancing.  Nobody, and we mean nobody, would have had this bracket unless they were shooting darts or perhaps was a Richmond native who attended Florida State.  It’s so rare that in the twenty-seven years since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, three double-digit seeds have never made the same regional.  Until this year.  It’ll certainly make for an interesting group of fans in the Alamodome, as two smallish schools and a football school join a hoops powerhouse in San Antonio. 

Completely Expected (1st Weekend):  Kansas Advancing.  The Jayhawks didn’t really dominate Boston University nor Illinois over the weekend, but unlike Duke and certainly Pitt, they weren’t really threatened either.  The Southwest Region was already one of the weaker ones; with the bloodbath of high seeds that got eliminated over the weekend, it’s become even more so.

I’m Exceptionally Smart and Prescient: It’s not easy to act smart in a region that blew up like this one, but my Sweet Sixteen Sleeper, Richmond, was a good choice.   Pointing out that Louisville is prone to stinkers and that UR should be able to defeat Vandy was a phenomenal call, which will surely more than compensate for this one… 

Except When I Make Stupid Predictions: Calling VCU Overseeded at #11.  Ok, maybe Jay Bilas Inceptioned my brain or something, but in terms of VCU’s resume, they were in fact overseeded and maybe that is now contributing to how well they’re sticking it to the power conference teams in this bracket.  Everyone underestimated this team because, while we knew they had talent, they hadn’t played like it down the stretch this year.  Now they’re a game away from the Elite Eight and nobody is counting them out at this point.

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NCAA First Four Game Analysis – Wednesday

Posted by rtmsf on March 16th, 2011

Last night went from 68 to 66 at the First Four in Dayton (we’re 2-0!), and here’s our analysis for tonight’s two games.

#16 UT-San Antonio vs. #16 Alabama State – East Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) – 6:30 pm ET on truTV.

Gibson Represents UTSA's Best Hope to Advance

The UT-San Antonio Roadrunners finished just 9-7 in the Southland, but enter the NCAA Tournament winning six of their last seven games after pulling off an upset of favorite McNeese State in the final. UTSA boasts one of the best guards in the conference in Devin Gibson, a 17 PPG scorer who also ranks 30th in the nation in assist rate and lives at the free throw line. He’s clearly the centerpiece of the Roadrunner attack and will be vital to contain if Alabama State hopes to pull off the upset. The SWAC champion ranks in the 300s in both points per game and offensive efficiency, but they do enter the tournament just as hot as their opponent, having won 11 of 12. The Hornets employ an incredible rotation of 13 players averaging double-digit minutes, the most effective weapon being senior forward Tramayne Moyer, a 12.5 PPG scorer who shoots 50% from the floor but only plays 21 minutes per contest. Alabama State does grab an astounding 37% of their misses. If UTSA just limits that strength, they should be in the clear to advance and take on Ohio State in Cleveland on Friday. UTSA shoots fairly well from both the three point and free throw line at 36% and 72%, respectively, while Alabama State is incredibly porous at defending both. Despite their hockey-line style substitution patterns, the Hornets simply don’t have the firepower to down the Roadrunners.

The RTC Certified Pick: UT-San Antonio.

#11 USC vs. #11 VCU – Southwest Region First Round (at Dayton, OH) – 9 pm ET on truTV.

Jamie Skeen Will Have His Hands Full With Vucevic Inside

These two teams were undoubtedly surprised to not only see their names on the bracket released Sunday, but also as #11 seeds.  USC and VCU — the battle of the acronyms — come into tonight’s game on decidedly different paths.  The Pac-10 Trojans came on strong in the second half of the season, winning seven on their last ten games including nice victories over conference leaders Arizona and Washington.  They doing so through the play of the best power conference big man you’ve never heard of, Nikola Vucevic (17/10), and the steady guardplay of mid-season transfer Jio Fontan (4 APG, 1.6:1 ATO ratio).  Head coach Kevin O’Neill has his team playing its typically sturdy defense, and they’ll need it to counter the offensive talents of the Shaka Smart’s quartet of double-figure scorers, Jamie Skeen (15 PPG), Bradford Burgess (14 PPG), Brandon Rozzell (11 PPG) and Joey Rodriguez (11 PPG).  The matchup between Fontan and Rodriguez is particularly interesting because both players are the centerpieces of their respective offense, and while not big individual scorers, they make their systems run smoothly.  The question is whether the VCU team that ran through the CAA Tournament to the finals before bowing out to Old Dominion will show up, or will it be the Ram team that lost four of five to close the regular season?  It says here that with VCU’s inability to defend the post or the perimeter very well, USC will advance on the back of Vucevic’s talents inside and just enough support from his guards. 

The RTC Certified Pick: USC. 

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CAA Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 4th, 2011

Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. With the CAA Tournament tipping on Friday, get up to speed on the conference and gain a leg up on your Big Dance Cinderella candidate research.

A Look Ahead… Postseason Style

  • First-Round Game to Watch: No. 8 UNC-Wilmington vs. No. 9 Georgia State. It’s not the sexiest matchup out there, but then again, what first-round game is? The teams split the season series and always seem to play one another close. This one should be pretty interesting, too, in that whichever team wins will have to turn around and face the team with the longest winning streak in the nation: George Mason.
  • First-Round Player To Watch: Northeastern’s Chaisson Allen. One of the more underrated guards in the conference, Allen has a strong build doesn’t seem to break under pressure. There will be no greater pressure than this weekend, so look for Allen to have a decent showing.
  • Team Most Likely to Pull an Upset: William & Mary. If only because they beat their first-round opponent, James Madison, during the regular season. That and junior Quinn McDowell is a threat from anywhere on the floor.
  • Team Most Likely to be Upset: Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams are really struggling coming into the CAA Tournament and unlike years past, they don’t seem to have the right demeanor about them to turn it around and make a run. Then again, that’s what this time of year is all about.
  • Team Most Likely to Win it All: George Mason. The Patriots have thoroughly dominated the league in the second half of the season and are playing their best basketball of the year at the perfect time. Look for this to be a two-bid conference, with both George Mason and Old Dominion capable of making some noise in the Big Dance.

A Look Back

It has been a banner year for the CAA on many levels, and still (barring some upsets in the conference tournament) it looks as though the league will be sending only two teams to the NCAA tournament. That said, the CAA can boast that it’s one of two leagues, along with the Big East, to have six 20-game winners. It also finished with one team ranked in the Top 25 (George Mason), has the nation’s fourth-leading scorer (Charles Jenkins). There’s a lot to get to in the check-in/postseason preview, so follow along as we recap the regular season that was and look ahead to the postseason that will be.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.15.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 15th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Kansas State revived their Tournament chances (at least for now) with a big win last night. Can Michigan State do the same? Plus, first place is on the line in the Colonial. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

George Mason @ VCU – 7 pm on ESPNU (****)

Shaka Smart and VCU Can Even Things Up In the Patriot Tonight

Entering tonight, VCU sits one game behind George Mason as the teams meet for the only time in the regular season. The Patriots are one of the hottest teams in the nation, currently on an 11 game winning streak, while the Rams suffered their first home loss in over a year at the hands of Old Dominion on Saturday. To avoid a second straight home loss, VCU will have to contain George Mason’s potent guard-oriented attack.

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The 10 BracketBuster Games You Don’t Want to Miss

Posted by KDoyle on February 1st, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC Contributor.  His weekly column, The Other 26, explores the minutiae of the twenty-six Division I conferences outside the BCS sextet. 

One of the best weekends of the year prior to Championship Week and, of course, the NCAA Tournament, is when the BracketBusters are played. It provides a nice break from conference play, and some of the top mid-major teams in the country have an opportunity to strut their stuff, build up that all-important resume, and have a last opportunity of picking up a quality non-conference victory. Because many of the top games are televised, it is also a great chance for all you guys out there that solely pay attention to the BCS teams around the country to gain some insight of who may have a shot at upsetting a higher seed and advancing a round or two when filling out your Tournament bracket next month. Here are my top 10 BracketBuster game, from tenth to first:

10.   Kent State at Drexel—February 18, 9PM (ESPNU)

Neither team is in the running for an at-large bid, but obtaining additional confidence heading into their respective conference tournaments is what both will play for. Drexel is just a step below the top teams in the CAA, while Kent State is right in the mix for the MAC crown as there has not been one team that has truly distinguished themselves. The Flashes, led by Justin Greene’s 16 points and 7.5 boards a night, are one of the more balanced teams in the MAC as five players average nine points or more. Chris Fouch, arguably Drexel’s top player, will really test Kent State’s backcourt.

9.   Austin Peay at Fairfield—February 19, 1PM (ESPNU)

Fairfield has been flying under the radar playing in the MAAC this year—not as much attention has been given to the league due to Siena’s return to mediocrity after a great run under Fran McCaffery—and they are one of the hottest teams in the nation. Aside from a tough one point loss at Loyola (MD) in mid-January, Fairfield has not lost since November 23 against St. Joseph’s. They are currently the favorite to win the MAAC, but there are a host of teams nipping at their heels. The Stags will take on an Austin Peay squad that sits atop their league—the Ohio Valley Conference—as well. The game will feature two of the better point guards in the land of mid-majors as Derek Needham for Fairfield averages 14 points and 5 assists, and Caleb Brown for Austin Peay is second in the OVC in assists.

8.   Hofstra at Wright State—February 19, 11AM (ESPNU)

Hofstra and Wright State are both teetering on the edge of becoming legitimate contenders in their respective leagues. The Pride got out to a quick 5-0 start in the CAA, but have gone 3-3 in their last six to fall behind Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason. In the crazy Horizon League this year, it is anyone’s best guess who will be the last one standing. Cleveland State with Norris Cole looks to be the current favorite, but Wright State is not far behind. The storyline for this game will undoubtedly revolve around Charles Jenkins who has a legitimate shot of hearing his name called by David Stern on NBA Draft night, but don’t be surprised if Vaughn Duggins for Wright State steals the show. The fifth-year senior has scored in double figures in every game save two, and is the fourth leading scorer in the Horizon League.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.27.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 27th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tonight we highlight the little guys. First place is on the line in the Colonial while St. Mary’s looks to widen its lead in the WCC. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Hofstra @ VCU – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)

VCU Will Need a Little More From Rodriguez This Evening

Both teams are tied atop the CAA at 8-1 but the Rams are the favorite here at home where they’re undefeated on the year. VCU has lost only twice at home in the last three years and both defeats were to the same team: Northeastern. Shaka Smart’s team loves to shoot the three, but is missing a key part of that attack with Brandon Rozzell out due to a broken hand. Without Rozzell in the fold, VCU will turn to Joey Rodriguez and Bradford Burgess for the bulk of their three point shooting. Rodriguez is coming off a season high 28 points at Towson while Burgess is making 44% of his threes this season. Against a Hofstra defense ranked #290 against the trey, you can bet VCU will be firing up plenty of them tonight, as they usually do.

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 21st, 2011

 

Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.

A Look Back

Well, a lot has happened since our last check-in. Way back then (err, two weeks ago), this was a relatively quiet league with a pretty decent out-of-conference showing. Sure, there were occasional upsets (like Drexel over Louisville or Delaware over Old Dominion), but not too much to turn the conference on its head. Now, seven games into conference play, that has changed. Big time. Virginia Commonwealth and Hofstra have lifted themselves to the top of the conference standings, while Drexel and Northeastern have fallen a long way. Nobody seems safe anymore and with everyone beating up on one another, the CAA’s chances at being a multi-bid conference seem all but vanished.  That, however, doesn’t mean there’s no reason to enjoy the games. In fact, this probably makes it far more exciting to be a fan of the conference. It’s becoming quite clear that spectators should watch these games with no preset notion of which team is going to win, because that’s likely to be wrong. Without too much more chit-chat, let’s get to the recaps and all-important power rankings in this week’s CAA check-in.

  • Player of the Week: Joey Rodriguez, G, Virginia Commonwealth: The senior guard has been an understated part of the Rams’ league-second-best offense (72.9 points per game) as he runs the point with the poise and experience of a fourth-year player. In two victories last week, he contributed 14 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists while turning over the ball only four times and creating four steals. There’s little doubt Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess, and Brandon Rozzell would be able to do what they’re doing without Rodriguez’s steadying presence.
  • Team of the Week: William & Mary: Don’t act so surprised. The Tribe has, in the previous two games, been able to do what many teams in this conference have not on consecutive nights – blow teams out. In a league where every matchup is seemingly a nail-biter, William & Mary upset Drexel (which was coming off a win against Old Dominion) and then beat Towson by a combined total of 29 points.
  • Stat of the Week – 6: The number of CAA teams in the most recent Mid-Major Top 25 poll, which speaks to the amazing talent and balance at the top of this conference.

Charles Jenkins Watch

Week Four of our Charles Jenkins Watch, and he’s still at it. The senior guard hasn’t scored less than 13 points all season (and other than that one game, it has been less than 19) and last week compiled 41 points in two contests. He was, however, only 6-16 from the field in a loss against Old Dominion, but the Queens native still ranks seventh in the nation in scoring with an impressive average of 23.2 points per game.

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(14-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 22, SOS 40)
Last week: L 62-57 @ Drexel, W 75-64 @ Hofstra, W 64-58 vs. James Madsion
This week: 1.22 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.24 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 1.26 @ Georgia State

Previous rank: No. 1

What a wild week it has been for Old Dominion. And for that matter, everyone in the conference. But for the Monarchs in particular, this was a week during which they could prove their mettle, and why they’re the highest-ranked CAA team in the Mid-Major Top 25. After faltering on the road against a baffling Drexel team, Old Dominion rebounded nicely with a win against previously undefeated in the CAA Hofstra and then snapped James Madison’s nine-game winning streak. Not a bad way to round out the week. And the kicker is, they’re still gridlocked in a three-way tie for second in the conference standings.

2. George Mason
(13-5, 5-2 CAA – RPI 44, SOS 56)
Last week: W 66-51 vs. Georgia State, W 71-47 vs. Drexel
This week: 1.22 @ James Madison, 1.24 @ Delaware, 1.26 vs. Towson

Previous rank: No. 3

Ranked 12th in the Mid-Major Top 25, the Patriots have been one of the few teams who have played things out according to script – lose to teams ahead of you, beat those below you. George Mason has the second-highest RPI of any team in the conference right now, and continues to feast on a high field-goal percentage (48.4 percent – 18th in the nation). If that keeps up, along with the 14-points-per-game scoring averages of Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, there’s little doubt the Patriots will more than be in the mix come season’s end. Want even more of a reason to feel good? Check out how many games kenpom.com has the Patriots losing the rest of the way.

3. Virginia Commonwealth
(14-5, 6-1 CAA – RPI 68, SOS 163)
Last week: W 73-64 vs. Northeastern, W 71-54 vs. Georgia State
This week: 1.22 @ Old Dominion, 1.24 @ Towson

Previous rank: No. 5

Would you look at that? Seemingly in the blink of an eye, the Rams are at the top of the conference and have pieced together a five-game winning streak in a league where it’s becoming apparent that that’s quitter a difficult task to accomplish. VCURamNation is buzzing, and rightfully so as the Rams most recently exacted revenge against Georgia State, which handed them their only conference loss thus far. A showdown against Old Dominion at the Constant Convocation Center looms on Saturday, so Jamie Skeen and company better eat their Wheaties.

4. James Madison
(15-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 63, SOS 201)
Last week: W 79-67 vs. Georgia State, W 63-54 vs. UNC-Wilmington, L 64-58 @ Old Dominion
This week: 1.22 vs. George Mason, 1.24 @ Hofstra, 1.26 vs. Drexel

Previous rank: No. 4

Everything was lined up perfectly for the Dukes to steamroll into the toughest portion of their conference schedule riding an unprecedented winning streak. That is, until they lost to Old Dominion, and now must find a way to regroup with George Mason, Hofsta and Drexel on the horizon rather than look to extend a record streak. Still, what the Dukes accomplished during their impressive run (the school’s best since 1992-93) won’t soon be forgotten and a showdown against George Mason at 11 a.m. on Saturday probably has leading scorer Denzel Bowles (17.1 points per game) champing at the bit.

5. Hofstra
(12-6, 6-1 CAA – RPI 103, SOS 143)
Last week: L 75-64 vs. Old Dominion, W 66-57 vs. UNC-Wilmington
This week: 1.22 @ William & Mary, 1.24 vs. James Madison, 1.27 @ Virginia Commonwealth

Previous rank: No. 8

A mistake is a mistake, and it appears as though last week’s rank of No. 8 was way too low for the Pride. After the conclusion of the non-conference schedule, Hofstra simply skyrocketed and now sits tied with Virginia Commonwealth at the top of the standings. If not for a loss against Old Dominion, the Pride would be roaring even louder. Naturally, Charles Jenkins receives a large amount of attention, but don’t underestimate the minutes Mike Moore (14.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game) contributes. The key to Hofstra’s success so far has largely depended on its ability to hang on to the ball (17.2 turnover percentage) and nail free throws (75.5 free-throw percentage).

6. Drexel Dragons
(11-6, 3-4 CAA – RPI 65, SOS 95)
Last week: W 62-57 vs. Old Dominion, L 80-66 @ William & Mary, L 71-47 @ George Mason
This week: 1.22 vs. Northeastern, 1.24 vs. Georgia State, 1.26 @ James Madison

Previous rank: No. 2

You can’t help but think that Drexel did this to itself. Maybe it was coach Bruiser Flint’s suspension, maybe it was the realization that rebounding alone cannot win basketball games, maybe it was the high from downing Old Dominion, or maybe the Dragons had become such a target that other teams played at their top level in order to defeat Drexel. Whatever the case, the Dragons already have lost four conference games and back-to-back games in humiliating fashion. First it was an 80-66 pounding at the hands of William & Mary. Yes, you read that right, and yes the Tribe shot 60 percent in that game. Then the Dragons dropped a 71-47 decision to George Mason in which they scored 17 second-half points. So in a two-game span, Drexel lost by a combined 38 points and completely undid what little chance there might have been for an at-large bid.

7. Delaware
(9-8, 4-3 CAA – RPI 137, SOS 180)
Last week: W 66-63 @ Towson, W 54-52 vs. Northeastern

This week: 1.22 @ Georgia State, 1.24 vs. George Mason, 1.26 @ William & Mary

Previous rank: No. 6

This is where the dividing line starts to fall between the CAA’s top teams and the rest of the pack. But with that said, any of the teams ranked sixth and below have proven very capable of beating anyone in the upper tier. The Blue Hens probably had a bit rougher week than anticipated as both victories against Towson and Northeastern came down to the wire – especially Jamelle Hagins’ dunk with 21 seconds remaining to give Delaware the victory against the Huskies. The Blue Hens are the last remaining team on this list with a winning record in conference play.

8. UNC-Wilmington
(9-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 131, SOS 110)
Last week: L 63-54 @ James Madison, L 66-57 @ Hofstra
This week: 1.22 vs. Towson, 1.24 @ Old Dominion, 1.26 vs. Northeastern

Previous rank: No. 7

It wasn’t the best week for Seahawks anywhere as UNC-Wilmington dropped down to .500 by losing consecutive contests to James Madison and Hofstra. Granted those are two of the better teams in the conference, but it was a hit UNCW probably couldn’t afford to take more than midway through the CAA slate. The Seahawks do a lot of things well, but nothing great which is pretty much the recipe for a .500 squad. Chad Tomko (16.1 points per game) and Keith Rendleman (10.2 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game) continue to leads a team that’s right in the thick of things, but probably not good enough to down the big boys come crunch time.

9. William & Mary
(6-12, 2-5 CAA – RPI 245, SOS 132)
Last week: W 80-66 vs. Drexel, W 83-68 @ Towson
This week: 1.22 vs. Hofstra, 1.24 @ Northeastern, 1.26 vs. Delaware

Previous rank: No. 11

The Tribe picked one heck of a way to snap a seven-game losing streak, eh? Not only did William & Mary trounce Drexel, but then it turned right around and dismantled Towson. In two games, the Tribe has beaten its opponents by a combined 29 points and have turned their downtrodden program into a respectable one in a matter of days. The real test will come Saturday, when the Tribe has to face a difficult Hofstra team at Kaplan Arena.

10. Georgia State
(8-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 205, SOS 200)
Last week: L 79-67 @ James Madison, L 66-51 @ George Mason, L 71-54 @ Virginia Commonwealth
This week: 1.22 vs. Delaware, 1.24 @ Drexel, 1.26 vs. Old Dominion

Previous rank: No. 11

While Georgia State has lost three games in a row, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they’re the only team in the conference to beat both Virginia Commonwealth and James Madison. The CAA’s version of a spoiler, no doubt. Last week, however, both school exacted their revenge on the Panthers, who are still searching for a go-to scorer down the stretch. Those three losses, however, came to three very talented schools. Don’t be surprised is Georgia State pulls a few more upsets before season’s end – snow-delayed games or not.

11. Towson
(4-13, 0-7 CAA – RPI 267, SOS 168)
Last week: L 66-63 vs. Delaware, L 83-68 vs. William & Mary
This week: 1.22 @ UNC-Wilmington, 1.24 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.26 @ George Mason

Previous rank: No. 10

Towson joins Northeastern as the two winless teams in CAA play But the Tigers do appear to be in slightly better shape than the Huskies. No, it’s not because they’ve only lost six straight instead of eight. But because they are getting contribution across the board (four scorers average double figures) and their rebounding (33.4) and points (70.1) averages aren’t nearly as bad. No game is going to be easy for Towson the rest of the way, but there’s little doubt the Tigers won’t get that first conference victory sooner rather than later.

12. Northeastern
(4-14, 0-7 CAA – RPI 184, SOS 30)
Last week: L 73-64 @ Virginia Commonwealth, L 54-52 @ Delaware
This week: 1.22 @ Drexel, 1.24 vs. William & Mary, 1.26 @ UNC-Wilmington

Previous rank: No. 9

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Well, maybe not mighty, but certainly not many could have predicted the Huskies would be winless through seven games of conference action. Northeastern has lost eight games in a row and is having trouble both scoring (62.8 points per game) and rebounding (28.5 rebounds per game). And in a conference where rebounding is king, that’s a problem. One quick look at Northeastern’s kempom.com page, and the amount of red tells you all you need to know. The Huskies haven’t beaten a team with an RPI higher than 130 this season. Thought if it’s any consolation, their strength of schedule is a robust 30. It will be interesting to see who wins Saturday’s matchup of two struggling programs in Drexel and Northeastern.

A Look Ahead

For whatever reason, the chips just happened to fall on Saturday as a huge day of games for the conference. Here’s a look at three games you won’t want to miss this weekend. And mine as well throw the NFL’s championship weekend games on top of that as well. Those things are gonna be good÷

  • Jan. 22, George Mason (13-5, 5-2) at James Madison (15-4, 5-2): Set the coffee maker and make sure you wake up for this one, which tips off at 11 a.m. from the JMU Convocation Center. The game will be televised on ESPNU and, more importantly, will provide a big road test for the Patriots, who are coming off a big win against Drexel. Player to watch: James Madison’s Denzel Bowles. The senior forward has compiled back-to-back 20-plus point games and boasts the top field goal percentage on the team (and second-best in the conference) at 60.9 percent. He also has yanked down double-digit rebounds in three of JMU’s previous four games.
  • Jan. 22, Virginia Commonwealth (14-5, 6-1) at Old Dominion (14-4, 5-2): If possible, this game might carry bigger implications than the George Mason-James Madison battle, if only because VCU sits atop the league and on a five-game winning streak. That said, Old Dominion is out to prove it’s still the top dog in the CAA. Player to watch: Old Dominion’s Frank Hassell. Two of his five double-doubles on the season have come in his past two games. The senior forward has the ability to take over a game, so watch out if the crowd gets behind him.
  • Jan. 22, Hofstra (12-6, 6-1) at William & Mary (6-12, 2-5): While this might not be the sexiest matchup of the CAA’s Super Saturday, it has the potential to be an important one no matter which team wins. If Hofstra takes it, it does no worse than maintain its position atop the conference. If the Tribe pulls an upset, it extends its winning streak to three and proves that nobody should take it lightly. Player to watch: William & Mary junior swingman Quinn McDowell. In his previous three games, he has scored 45 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. As the lead contributor on the Tribe, he’ll need to step up. It will also be interesting to see who guards Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins.

Caught on Film

Remember, if you like CAA basketball highlights (and we’re assuming you do since you made it this far), check out the CAA’s YouTube page for regular highlights.

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