Can Drexel Win the CAA Without Damion Lee?

Posted by Tommy Lemoine on December 6th, 2013

After losing senior guard Chris Fouch for almost the entire season and finishing in the bottom half of its league last year, Drexel’s 2013-14 campaign seemed to be one filled with resurgent optimism, especially after a promising month of November. The Dragons nearly beat UCLA in Pauley Pavilion on college basketball’s opening night before winning three straight contests, including victories over Elon and Rutgers, to advance to the NIT Season Tip-Off semifinals in Madison Square Garden. There, Bruiser Flint’s squad jumped out to an early 27-8 lead on fourth-ranked Arizona, proving to a national audience — and perhaps itself — that it could play with anyone. But in the second half, CAA Player of the Year candidate Damion Lee went down with a torn ACL, and the outlook for Drexel this season changed in an instant. A team predicted to compete for the league title was suddenly and decidedly shorthanded.

NCAA Basketball: NIT Season Tip-Off-Drexel vs Arizona

Does Damion Lee’s Injury Change the Outlook for the Dragons?

With Lee, Frantz Massenat and Fouch, who was granted a sixth year of eligibility because of his ankle injury, the Dragons were set to have arguably the best backcourt in the conference. And while they still might, what with Massenat’s preseason all-conference stature and Fouch’s elite shooting ability, losing a player as dynamic as Lee undoubtedly lowers the team’s ceiling going forward. The question will be to what extent. At 6’6″, Lee led the team in scoring last season with 17.1 points per game, consistently displaying his ability to pull up from anywhere on the court and attack the rim when his team needed it. He was also an effective rebounder for his position, compiling four 20+ point, 10+ rebound performances over his career up to this point. With all three guards back and healthy this year, merely keying on Lee or attempting to shut down Fouch or Massenat was simply not a viable strategy for opponents; if one or even two guys had bad night, another of the backcourt stars was there to carry the load. Perhaps most importantly, the three of them on the court together meant that no one had to play outside of their comfort zones, unlike last season when Massenat struggled to be both point guard and relied-upon scorer each night.

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 15th, 2013

CIO header

Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Caught On Film

The CAA not only made a rare appearance on “SportsCenter,” but it reached the pinnacle of the iconic show’s Top Plays segment. Northeastern sophomore Quincy Ford’s double-clutch three-pointer to tie Drexel with 1.9 seconds remaining was selected the No. 1 play of Tuesday night. (Unfortunately it had no chance of unseating Jadaveon Clowney’s hit in the ongoing “Best of the Best” segment). Northeastern has become Buzzer Beater U. this season, but this is its first time penetrating the national sports scene with a late-game shot.

Check out the play:

And see it on SportsCenter:

 

Power Rankings

Typically, each week of the season brings a dose of clarity: The more available data, the more conclusions we can draw from trends and developments. But this year, in the Bizarro CAA, each week has seemingly brought new information to refute – rather than confirm – something we previously thought. As of Sunday, George Mason was the only Colonial squad ranked in the top 100 (or even the top 145) in terms of RPI, but that comes a day after a loss to UNC-Wilmington, which is treading in the 300s.

Here are this week’s power rankings (subject to change by the hour) along with an observation from this past week that might help to portend future developments. Or, given the way of the Bizarro CAA, may not.

  1. Delaware (8-8 overall, 3-0 in the CAA): Delaware has shot better than 50 percent in each of its two wins last week, and suddenly the Blue Hens look like an offensive juggernaut (by CAA standards), scoring more than a point per possession in each of their last five games. UDel’s 3-0 CAA start has come against teams with a combined 11-36 overall record, so it’s too early to anoint the Hens a head-and-shoulders favorite. But things are looking up in Newark. Devon Saddler is scoring a CAA-best 26.3 points per league game, and shooting a ridiculous 63.4 percent to get there. Fellow guard Jarvis Threatt’s 18.7-point average within CAA play ranks fourth. Read the rest of this entry »
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Drexel Begins to Right Ship With 69-58 Win Over Davidson

Posted by IRenko on December 23rd, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC correspondent and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Satuday night’s game between Davidson and Drexel.

After Drexel’s 69-58 win over Davidson on Saturday night, head coach Bruiser Flint minced no words when talking about his team’s disappointing play to that point. “I’ve been telling the team, honestly, that I’m actually surprised that [our losses] have been as close as they are. That’s how bad we’ve been. We’ve had our opportunities to actually win some of these games, and we’ve been horrible.” But with conference play on the near horizon, the CAA’s preseason favorite took a strong step in the right direction on Saturday night, improving its record to 4-7 before 1,879 fans at the Daskalaikis Athletic Center in Philadelphia.

Drexel Fans Are Hoping Frants Massenat and Damion Lee Can Lead a Turnaround (Josh Verlin / Philahoops)

Sophomore guard Damion Lee, the Dragons’ leading scorer, hadn’t practiced all week because of a foot injury, but came off the bench to pace the team with 26 points on 8-of-17 of shooting. Senior point Frantz Massenat added 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting. But it was Drexel’s renewed commitment to defensive toughness that earned their coach’s praise after the game. “We finally got back to guarding people,” Flint said. “That was the key right there.” Flint’s Drexel teams have been known for their tight, physical defense, but they’ve allowed more than a point per possession this year. The last time the Dragons gave up more than a point per possession over the course of a season was 2005. When asked if he saw some of the passion and toughness that had been missing from previous games, a relieved Flint declared: “Yeah, it’s about time. We haven’t been seeing that in some of the other games, we’ve been back on the heels. We didn’t play on our heels. We came up with some tough stops, dug some balls out, stuff like that.  We made some tough plays.”

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The Other 26: The New A-10 Asserts Itself

Posted by IRenko on December 21st, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

When the A-10 added Butler and VCU to its ranks this past offseason, we knew that the two teams would strengthen the now 16-team conference. The two schools, each of which has had recent improbable Final Four runs, were expected to join the ranks of Xavier, Temple, St. Louis, and Dayton, and, along with a resurgent St. Joseph’s, UMass, and LaSalle, make the A-10 the deepest and, arguably, most exciting non-BCS conference in the country. But after the past week, it’s become clear that not only are these two programs going to add depth to the A-10, they may very well conquer it in their first year.

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports)

Rotnei Clarke’s Sharpshooting Helped Butler to a Big Upset of Top-Ranked Indiana (Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

By now you know that Butler took down top-ranked Indiana 88-86 in a thrilling overtime win last Saturday. What was most surprising about the win, though, was how Butler did it. It wasn’t their vaunted defense, which gave up 1.13 points per possession to Indiana’s full-throttled attack — the second most this year for the Bulldogs and well above their averages during the Brad Stevens era. Rather, it was Butler’s efficient offense, which registered 1.16 points per possession. Part of that was their three-point shooting (11-24, 48.1%) with Rotnei Clarke leading the way (5-11). We have come to expect that from Butler, which often relies on the three-point shot as a great equalizer. But the more surprising, and perhaps more significant, elements of Butler’s offense were its willingness to attack the basket and its prodigious output on the offensive glass.  Sophomore wing Roosevelt Jones led the attack, often exploiting a favorable matchup against Jordan Hulls, en route to 16 points on 6-10 shooting (no threes). And the Bulldogs rebounded nearly half of their own misses — 48.7%. To some extent, the Bulldogs took advantage of sloppy block-outs by Indiana, but this reflects a season-long strength and a marked shift from the early years of Brad Stevens’ tenure. In Stevens’ first four seasons, Butler never averaged an offensive rebounding percentage of more than 32.8 percent. But last year, the Bulldogs hauled in 35 percent of their misses, and this year, it’s up to 39.4 percent.

As impressive as Butler’s win was, VCU quietly made waves of its own this past week as they pummeled Alabama and Western Kentucky by a combined 51 points. In both games, VCU went for the kill early, jumping out to big leads on the strength of their Havoc defense. The Rams did not allow Alabama to score a field goal until 10:44 had elapsed, en route to a 33-18 halftime lead that they would convert into a 73-54 final score. Alabama finished the game with 18 turnovers — a season high, as it often is for teams facing VCU’s defensive pressure. Four days later, VCU suffered no letdown from its BCS beatdown, whipping on Western Kentucky, one of the Sun Belt’s top teams and last year’s Tournament participant. After jumping out to 15-3 lead, the Rams would head into halftime up 42-16, cruising the rest of the way to a 76-44 win.  VCU forced a whopping 32 turnovers, including one on each of Western Kentucky’s first three possessions.

The old Bulldogs may be learning new tricks while the Rams thrive on the tried-and-true, but regardless of how they’re doing it, both teams have vaulted themselves to the top of A-10 heap.  Don’t take my word for it, ask the computers. Any of them — Butler and VCU are the A-10’s two highest ranking teams in the RPI, Sagarin ratings, and Pomeroy ratings.  The A-10’s mainstays have not distinguished themselves. Temple was routed badly by Duke in its first real competitive game of the year and just lost to Canisius at home by 10 points; Xavier is trying to replace five starters; St. Louis is trying to get their feet under them after losing their coach and then their star point guard to injury; and St. Joe’s, UMass, and Dayton have struggled to find consistency. As a result, there is a good chance that the A-10 will crown a champion it has never crowned before.

On to this week’s Top 10 and more …

Top Ten Rankings

RTC -- TO26 (12.21.12)

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What Has Happened to Drexel?

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2012

David Changas (@dchangas) is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report from the Drexel-Tennessee State game tonight in Nashville.

Early in the 2011-12 season, Bruiser Flint’s Drexel Dragons got off to a woeful start, losing four of their first six before a remarkable finish led to a 29-7 record, the Colonial Athletic Association regular season championship and a run to the quarterfinals of the NIT. With nearly everyone returning from last year’s squad, the Dragons were touted as the odds-on favorite to repeat in the CAA, with their stiffest competition, VCU, having moved on to the Atlantic 10. Unfortunately for Flint, this season has started even worse than last year, as Drexel dropped to 2-6 after yet another disappointing loss, this time to a heretofore underachieving Tennessee State squad Tuesday in Nashville. The question surrounding this team is whether it can repeat last year’s turnaround.

Bruiser Flint’s Team Has Not Gotten Off to a Good Start This Season At All

Led by preseason CAA player of the year Frantz Massenat and sophomore guard Damion Lee, Drexel has a potent backcourt that can score consistently. In their third game of the season, though, the Dragons lost senior guard Chris Fouch, who was the team’s leading scorer in the early going (16.7 PPG). Fouch, who led the Dragons in scoring as a sophomore, appeared ready to return to that form after finishing fourth on last year’s team. “Chris brought a little more toughness to the team, which we miss a little bit,” Flint said. While Lee and Massenat are capable scorers, neither is particularly adept at creating his own shot. Massanat (4.7 APG) is a pass-first point guard who can penetrate and get to the basket, but, at times has trouble finishing, and can struggle against quick guards. Lee works hard to come off screens, but is not going to overwhelm defenders off the dribble. Moreover, Fouch was the team’s best three-point shooter, hitting nearly half of his 25 attempts through the team’s first three games. Without Fouch, the Dragons have made only 34% of their attempts from long range, with Lee shooting a paltry 28.9% from behind the arc.

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 2012

Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • 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.

It Didn’t Take Long For Tony Shaver And William & Mary To Turn Some Heads. (AP/Scott K. Brown)

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RTC Summer School: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the CAA.

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @CAAHoops and find him online at CAAHoops.com.

Three Key Storylines

  • A Different Look. Perhaps no conference faced the realignment wars more head on than the CAA. Georgia State announced in April it was moving to the Sun Belt effective in 2013. VCU and George Mason were both wooed by the Atlantic 10 — Shaka Smart took his Rams to a new conference while Paul Hewitt’s squad stuck. And Old Dominion followed Georgia State, making a football-driven decision to go to Conference USA. The summer was mostly spent managing off-court drama, so the season tip-off will be welcomed. Due to a longstanding CAA rule that programs leaving the CAA are not eligible for championships, ODU and Georgia State will essentially play lame duck seasons. When you factor in Towson and UNCW’s ineligibility due to APR results, the CAA Tournament — annually a raucous affair that plays to a sold-out Richmond Coliseum — will be a seven-team battle in March.

Frantz Massenat Returns For Drexel, The Early Favorites In The New-Look CAA. (AP)

  • Southern Bias No More? No team north of George Mason has won a CAA title since the conference expanded in 2000 to include four America East programs. In fact, VCU, Old Dominion, and George Mason have combined to win six straight CAA championships and eight of the last nine. However, VCU has moved to the A-10 and ODU is ineligible due to its impending move to Conference USA. Drexel finished 16-2 last year, losing to VCU in the CAA Tournament finals and Delaware returns every key player, adding St. Joseph’s transfer Carl Baptiste. Plus, Bill Coen has a senior backcourt and one of the conference’s top players in sophomore Quincy Ford. That leaves Hewitt’s team to fend off northern aggressors to keep the streak going.
  • Channeling Medeleev. Several CAA coaches face as many chemistry concerns as X-and-O hurdles. Hofstra’s Mo Cassara could start as many as five transfers, led by former UConn Husky Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. The Pride went 14-4 and 3-15 in Cassara’s two seasons in the conference and his ability to combine elements could give rise to either record this year. Pat Skerry has a similar challenge at Towson. Skerry is rebuilding around a trio of Big East transfers that includes former Georgetown Hoya Jerrelle Benimon, Providence grad Bilal Dixon, and South Florida transfer Mike Burwell. And Ron Hunter replaces six seniors with a blend of freshmen (including his son, RJ Hunter, who turned down offers from ACC and Big Ten programs) and Virginia Tech transfer Manny Atkins. Hunter may also get Southern Cal transfer Curtis Washington eligible.

Reader’s Take

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Two Days in the Coliseum: Reflections on the CAA Tourney

Posted by JWeill on March 7th, 2012

Rush the Court contributor Joshua Lars Weill (@AgonicaBoss|Emailreports from Richmond, Va., at the Colonial Athletic Association conference championship.

Richmond Coliseum is not a pretty place. It’s old. The color of the inside can best be described as “concrete.” The rafters are dark and the seats darker. It boasts all the ambiance of an airplane hangar. Each year, at the Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament, the fans grumble about the decrepit surroundings and some columnist writes an article in the local paper talking about how old and lousy the Coliseum is.

And yet, somehow the inferior surroundings make the actual experience of watching the conference tournament there stand out all the more. Without the bells and whistles of a modern, NBA-style arena, you’re left with just the contrasting team colors and the fans that adorn them, the rival pep bands and a sort of pure college basketball that shines plenty all by itself.

This Sunday, the arena is buzzing. Old Dominion, two-time defending champion, is battling this season’s regular-season champion Drexel in the first semifinal. Drexel is the outlier, from far-off Philadelphia, while the other teams in the final four hail from the state of Virginia, including Virginia Commonwealth, which is less than two miles away. VCU will face George Mason in the second game, a rivalry that has already resulted in two hard-fought, borderline acrimonious meetings already this season.

Richmond Coliseum has been the site of the CAA tourney every year since 1990.

The teams here are the best in the CAA, the top four seeds. But they’re also all fundamentally flawed. That’s no damnation, it’s just the way things are. It’s part of what makes college basketball – especially mid-major conference college hoops – irreplaceable, and unmatched in its own specific glory. The Monarchs of ODU feature a player sporting goggles held on with a Croakie and a guy with a knee brace who limps visibly. The players’ names on the Drexel uniforms are comically large, as if designed for AARP approval. VCU’s starting center plays only 15 minutes a game and hasn’t scored more than 10 points in a game all season. One of George Mason’s starting guards shoots under 20% from three. What’s not to love about all that imperfection? In an imperfect world, we can all appreciate some less-than-perfection.

Each of the last four teams sees this event as its only sure path to the NCAA tournament. Only Drexel and VCU offer possible at large candidacies, and neither is overwhelmingly strong. For Drexel’s coach, Bruiser Flint, an NCAA bid would bring some much-needed legitimacy to his program. Old Dominion has been there before.

The opening semifinal starts with lots of intensity and not many shots made. The Dragons manage an early lead. ODU’s bench uses flash cards to call its plays, thus assuring that the players have no answer to the coach’s inevitable question of, “Why the hell did you do that?!”

A fan in the lower bowl holds up a homemade sign, simple scribbled words on a half-still-rolled white poster board that reads, “ODU SUCKS!!”It’s unclear to whom the fan’s allegiances are to, though not who they are against, apparently.

Sucking or not, Old Dominion works its way back into the game methodically, tightening the defense on one end and earning extra scoring chances with offensive rebounds on the other. But the Old Dominion crowd, once boisterous, is subdued by the deficit and their team’s inability to get into any sort of offensive rhythm. At a timeout, Big Blue, ODU’s lion mascot, who inexplicably wears a T-shirt under a jersey, tries to raise the spirits of the Monarchs fans. He fails. Drexel’s Dragon mascot is more cartoonish and more entertaining, a look of forever confusion molded onto his face. But neither has the sheer oddity of the VCU ram, Rodney, which looks a great deal more like a dog with horns attached than a ram.

Drexel’s big men Daryl McCoy and Samme Givens are built in a typically mid-major fashion, beefy and strong but not tall and long as their counterparts at Kentucky or Kansas or North Carolina. They create space with muscle and hustle, not with genes. Givens yells at Damion Lee, his teammate, “SCREEN, DAMION!” as an ODU defender rushes to set a pick on his blind left side. Lee doesn’t turn or acknowledge Givens, but as the pick is set he glides just outside it, sensing the body near him.

Thirty-two minutes in Monarchs star forward Kent Bazemore finally gets going, snaring a rebound above the rim and finding a teammate for a basket and foul that cuts the lead to 10 points for the first time in what seems like ages. As the teams go to a scheduled timeout, Bazemore appeals to the suddenly awakened ODU crowd with grand waves of his long, spindly arms. Drexel, as it has all season, finds a way to match the run, breaking a trapping press three straight times for easy baskets. Bazemore’s response is woefully short, and he grimaces at his own airballed three as it bounces meekly out of bounds. Read the rest of this entry »

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Set Your TiVo: 03.05.12

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 5th, 2012

Brian Otskey is the Big East correspondent for RTC and a regular contributor. You can find him @botskey on Twitter. See bottom of the post for the Official RTC Star System.

Four conference tournament titles will be decided this evening. The most important game may be in the Colonial where the loser of the game needs to make a good impression for the NCAA Selection Committee. Rankings are subject to change with a new RTC Top 25 coming out today.

Colonial Athletic Association Championship: Drexel vs. VCU (at Richmond, VA) – 7:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

Will Shaka Smart Earn Himself More Nets Tonight?

  • This is a huge game because the loser is going to be sweating it out for the next week. Drexel won the first and only meeting between these teams way back on January 8. The Dragons bring the #4 eFG% defense to the table along with one of the slowest tempos in Division I. That combination could really frustrate a VCU team that likes to play faster and score in transition. The Rams are the best team in the nation when it comes to defensive turnover percentage but creating turnovers against Bruiser Flint’s Dragons is going to be very difficult. It’s always easier to slow a team down than it is to speed one up and that’s exactly what Drexel has to do in order to win in Richmond tonight. Drexel point guard Frantz Massenat will have to play a complete game and set the tone for his team in front of what should be a quasi-road atmosphere.
  • The one problem an aggressive team like Shaka Smart’s group can have is foul trouble. Drexel is a solid free throw shooting team (76% in CAA play) so VCU needs to avoid fouling and putting the Dragons in the bonus early and often. VCU’s defensive free throw rate is not good and Drexel had a remarkable 89.7% free throw rate when these teams got together in Philly in early January. VCU simply can’t afford another effort like that if it hopes to win the CAA’s automatic NCAA bid. The Rams are not a particularly great shooting team but Bradford Burgess and Troy Daniels pose major perimeter threats. Burgess has last year’s experience to fall back on in a pressure situation and you have to believe that helps when faced with what should be a very close elimination game.
  • The point guards could decide this game. Massenat can distribute and shoot with the best of them in this conference while VCU’s Darius Theus must play the role of facilitator and not as the go-to scorer. Theus went 1-6 from the floor in the first meeting but did record six assists. A few less shots and a couple more assists could be the difference for VCU tonight. For Drexel, Samme Givens has to come up big on the boards. The 6’5” swingman is a terrific rebounder for his size and should look to take advantage of VCU’s weakness on its offensive glass. We think this is going to be a contest that comes down to the very end. With an NCAA bid on the line and no guarantees for the loser, it should be quite an atmosphere in Richmond on this night.

West Coast Conference Championship: #20 Gonzaga vs. #24 St. Mary’s (at Las Vegas, NV) – 9:00 PM EST on ESPN (****)

  • These teams will meet for the third time after splitting the regular season series, each winning at home. Gonzaga smashed BYU on Saturday night behind 30 points from Kevin Pangos and the Bulldogs will look to do more of the same against a St. Mary’s defense that is vulnerable to the three-ball. The Gaels allow opponents to shoot 37.5% from deep and that’s not something Randy Bennett wants to see when going up against a shooter as talented as Pangos. While the SMC defense is a concern, the Gaels shoot more threes than Gonzaga and can gain an edge because of it. When Clint Steindl and Matthew Dellavedova are knocking down triples, St. Mary’s is tough to beat. Gonzaga’s defense is pretty good on the perimeter but it will be tested significantly by the Gaels’ guards and forwards. Read the rest of this entry »
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CAA Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 2nd, 2012

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @caahoops.

CAA Tournament Glance

Tournament Preview

Without question, all eyes are on Drexel and VCU. Both squads finished the regular season in impressive fashion. After dropping its first two conference games, the Dragons won an unprecedented 16 straight to take the regular season title. The Rams are the second seed at 15-3 and have won 14 of 15 games. VCU is two buzzer-threes from 17-1 in conference. Troy Daniels missed a three at the buzzer and the Rams lost to Georgia State, and George Mason’s Sherrod Wright swished a 30-footer to beat VCU on Valentine’s Day.

Nobody really wants to face Old DominionBlaine Taylor, for the tenth time in his 10 seasons at ODU, has his team playing its best basketball in February. And the Monarchs grinding style fits perfectly with the slogging that will occur in the conference tournament. Though their path to a title is the most rigorous one, George Mason has both the most talent and most depth in the conference. Finally, Delaware has quietly won eight straight and can surprise.

But really, this tournament comes down the secret rooting interest of people who want the CAA to get an at-large bid. They want Drexel vs. VCU in the finals on Monday. The reason is clear: because the CAA didn’t have a stellar November, they don’t carry the sufficient resume bulk to make the field. However, you look at these two teams — the eye-test — and they clearly belong.

However, we’re very certain Paul Hewitt and Blaine Taylor have a little something to say in the matter. And while we’re at it — don’t count out Georgia State. Ron Hunter’s team plays outstanding defense, which will keep them in every game.

Season Recap

If the key to a mid-major conference obtaining at large bids into the NCAA tournament resides in separation—the top teams in the conference getting distance between themselves and the bottom of the conference—then the CAA accomplished the mission. Drexel (16-2), VCU (15-3), George Mason (14-4), and Old Dominion (13-5) fairly beat down the rest of the CAA. The top four teams did not lose to a bottom four team.

The Dragons lost their first two games but won 16 straight—an unprecedented feat. VCU lost two of its three games on last second three-point shots—the Rams’ Troy Daniels missed a bomb at the buzzer in a loss to Georgia State, and George Mason’s Sherrod Wright hit a 30-footer at the horn to beat VCU.

The season went remarkably according to plan. The top three teams (Drexel, VCU, Mason) finished in precisely the order expected, and Delaware (12-6) finished in the first division as predicted.

The differences reside with injuries. William & Mary was expected to rise, but a bevy of preseason and early season injuries sank the Tribe to 11th. James Madison finished the season with six healthy players and several phone calls to Hawkeye Pierce. Even head coach Matt Brady couldn’t avoid the big. Brady tore his Achilles tendon during practice when he ran scout team point guard duty. The Dukes fell to the #8 seed.

Georgia State, in its first season under Ron Hunter, surprised. The Panthers were expected to finished 11th but won 11 conference games and 20 overall.

Conference Accolades

  • Coach of the Year: Ron Hunter, Georgia State Opinions may vary based on what you value, but a very strong case can be made that Hunter made the most out of the least. Bruiser Flint was expected to win a tough conference and he did so. A 16-2 CAA record is worthy of acclaim. Shaka Smartlost four of his top five players, but coached VCU to second place and into the at-large conversation—this also merits acclaim. However, Hunter not only turned around the Georgia State ledger, he changed the culture in his first year. Georgia State was the definition of a moribund program, and there is a breath of life in Atlanta. Hunter won 11 CAA games with nothing going in his favor when he walked onto campus. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2012

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Do You Hear What I Hear?: The world knows of the streak ending— Towson’s 66-61 victory over UNCW broke a record 41-game losing streak — but Pat Skerry is still not relaxing. We’ve discussed that Skerry has been unyielding despite the losses, and he continues to press forward. Skerry noted that he gave his kids Sunday off, but that he “took the jackhammer to them” in Monday’s practice. That is exactly the kind of unrelenting quest for excellence that lured Athletic Director Mike Waddell to hire Skerry. With Towson opening a new 5,000-seat arena next season, you can see that win #1 will be followed with many more.
  • Here Comes Santa Claus: Three CAA teams were chosen for televised games in ESPN’s “Bracketbusters” event. VCU will host Northern Iowa on ESPN2 at 7 PM on Friday, Feb. 17, Drexel will visit Cleveland State on ESPNU at 11 AM on Sat., Feb. 18 and Old Dominion will travel to Missouri State on ESPNU at 5 PM on Feb. 18. Interestingly, the CAA leader, George Mason, play the sixth place team in the Southland Conference, Lamar. The CAA has had five teams chosen for televised games in four of the last six years, which is the most of any participating conference. CAA teams were 4-1 in televised games in 2010-11 and are 16-10 in TV games over the last seven years.

    Pat Skerry And Towson Earned Its First Victory In A Very Long Time Last Week (AP)

  • Winter Wonderland: It isn’t just Towson on a winning streak. The top four teams in the CAA standings went 3-0 last week and continued impressive winning streaks. In their past five games, those squads are a total of 19-1, with the only loss being Old Dominion at VCU. Drexel has won nine in a row and 15 of its last 16 overall as well as 13 in a row at home. VCU is on a seven-game win streak and has captured 15 of its last 17, while George Mason has claimed six straight games and 11 of its last 12. Drexel’s streak is tied for the 8th-longest in the nation currently, while VCU’s is the 12th-longest and Mason’s is tied for 14th. Old Dominion has also won three in a row and seven of its last eight. The CAA is the only conference in the nation to have three teams with current winning streaks of six or more games.
  • The Little Drummer Boy: William & Mary’s Quinn McDowell was named one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which honors student-athletes who excel on and off the court. Tony Shaver called McDowell the best leader he’s ever coached. Honorees must have noteworthy accomplishments in community, classroom, character and competition. Other finalists include Ohio State’s William Buford, Pitt’s Aston Gibbs, Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Belmont’s Mick Hedgepeth, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, Butler’s Ronald Nored, Michigan’s Zack Novak, Penn’s Zack Rosen and North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller.

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (9-2, 17-5):The Dragons are simply beating up teams. The streak is now nine straight and 15-1 over the past 16 games. The expected stat resides on defense: only two CAA teams have come within 12 points of Drexel in the run, and the Dragons have held its past 11 opponents to just 49.7 ppg. All have scored less than 60 points. The unexpected stat: Drexel is shooting 48.9% from the floor and 43.9% from three over the past four games. Frantz Massenat may not be the player of the year, but he is certain the most valuable player. He averaged 14.3 PPG and 5.7 APG last week and tops the CAA in three point FG% (47.5%). Massenat is averaging a team-high 12.5 PPG and 4.1 APG for the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On.. the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 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.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Workin’ Part Time At A Five And Dime: This week marked the annual five games in 10 days stretch that always challenges CAA squads. Because of Bracketbusters and the need to get 18 league games played in January and February, the CAA must play one game in December and one Monday during the year to get in all the games. The result is a stretch of Wednesday-Saturday-Monday-Wednesday-Saturday games that make CAA legs rubbery. The first three games went fairly according to schedule, but the back two games are likely to produce some surprises.
  • About That Home Court Advantage…: Home teams went 5-1 on Monday night, thwarting an early-season trend of success by visiting squads. The unusual home court success, which is unusual in itself, meant that through the first 54 conference contests, home teams are only 31-23 (.574). Old Dominion has a league-best 4-1 road record in CAA play, while George Mason and Northeastern are 3-1. Seven of the league’s 12 teams are .500 or better on the road in CAA play.
  • I Get Delirious Whenever You’re Near: The stretch of five games in ten days is beginning to separate teams in the standings, and the rest of this week is likely to further that trend. A six-team glut for one of the top four spots in the CAA Tournament will winnow to five as Northeastern and Delaware, both 5-4, match up tonight. And with only Drexel vs. Georgia State among the top six playing each other Wednesday and two games pitting top-six teams on Saturday, the divide is sure to grow.

The Latest Hero For Drexel Was Big Man Dartaye Ruffin

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (7-2, 15-5): The Dragons have become a force in the Association. Drexel has seven straight wins with six different leading scorers. The latest hero is big man Dartaye Ruffin—his 18 points led Drexel past William & Mary. Might not be a big deal to the rest of the world, until you realize Drexel had lost five straight in Williamsburg. Bruiser Flint has the luxury of not needing top gunner Chris Fouch playing well.
  2. George Mason (8-1, 16-5): Paul Hewitt probably used the word sloppy a lot this week. After drilling Delaware, his Patriots slogged to a 12-point win over Towson and survived a homer against UNCW. Ryan Pearson now has eight double-doubles after identical 24/10 games against UD and UNCW. Bryon Allen led the way against the Seahawks with 17 points, a career high. The good news for Hewitt: he has multiple weapons, and focus is correctable. Read the rest of this entry »
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