Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 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

  • D-D-D-Defense: In the CAA we call them rock fights, but the rest of the country calls 58-54 victories “defense-oriented basketball.” No matter the nomenclature, defense is reigning supreme in the Association so far. Five teams have held its opposition to less than 60 points per game in conference play, led by Georgia State. The Panthers, despite Ron Hunter’s desire to run, run and run some more, are holding CAA opponents to 49.2 points per game and an astounding 0.73 points per possession. Teams are shooting 30.9% against Georgia State, made impressive when you consider 11 of the 12 teams are shooting greater than 38% for the season. You want a specific example? Fine. Over the course of two games, VCU hurled boulders. The Rams didn’t allow a field goal over a stretch of 16:57 last week — the last eight minutes of the James Madison game and the first nine minutes of the Delaware game. Want even more? See below.
  • We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do: VCU is working on a string of 11 straight sellouts in its 7,600-seat Stu, already a CAA record. The Rams are one of six teams in the nation (Gonzaga, Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, and Kansas State) to have sold out every game this season. The fans of Georgia State have taken notice of the team’s success. The Panthers drew a tad shy of 3,000 for its win over UNCW—three times their average from last season. What’s more, a student named Nick Bray created Hunterville, a tent city modeled after Duke’s Krzyzewskiville. Old Dominion has played before eight crowds of better than 7,000 at the Ted this season, including a sellout crowd of 8,460 versus nationally ranked Missouri, and Drexel has had sellout crowds for its past two games against VCU and George Mason.
  • Be. Aggressive. Be Aggressive: Freshmen are seeing significant playing time and making a huge difference around the CAA this season. All 12 CAA teams have at least one freshman on their team who is averaging better than 16 minutes per game and each CAA team has had a freshman start at least two games. Four freshmen are among the CAA’s top 30 in scoring: UNCW’s Adam Smith, Drexel’s Damion Lee, W&M’s Marcus Thornton and UD’s Kyle Anderson. Two are among the top 15 in assists: Towson’s Kris Walden and Delaware’s Khalid Lewis; and two are in the top 15 in steals: VCU’s Briante Weber, and NU’s Quincy Ford. UNCW’s Cedrick Williams is ranked 14th in the league in rebounding (5.9 RPG) and Ford is 17th (5.4 RPG).
  • Maybe You Should Bring Your Cheerleaders On The Road: Visiting teams went 6-6 last week, continuing an early-season trend of success by the road warriors. Through the first 36 conference contests, home teams are only 19-17 (.528). Old Dominion moved to 3-0 on the road in CAA play after edging Delaware 68-66 in overtime last Wednesday, while Northeastern also improved to 3-0 on the road after winning 64-62 at Hofstra. George Mason also has three CAA road victories (3-1). Six of the league’s 12 teams are .500 or better on the road in CAA play.

Frantz Massenat's Emergence As A Floor General Has Paid Dividends For The Dragons. (Scott K. Brown/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (4-2, 12-5): The Dragons have won 10 of its past 11 games and swept VCU, Mason, and UNCW in the past week — combined conference record 12-6 (or 12-3 against teams not named Drexel). Frantz Massenat has blossomed as a floor general and is averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game. He ranks third in the CAA in assists (3.7 APG) and first in three-point FG% (46.9%). However the biggest tell that Drexel is scary: Chris Fouch and Samme Givens, Bruiser Flint’s two most productive players, scored a combined 26 points in the wins over VCU and Mason. The Dragons are also leading the CAA in three-point field goal percentage, led by freshman Damion Lee. But the defense, Drexel’s calling card, is still there: Drexel has held its past six opponents to just 49.2 points per game. All have scored fewer than 60 points. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 28th, 2011

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

  • From GSU To JMU: Georgia State is being lauded for its ninth straight win, a school record. But the Panthers aren’t alone in their high quality play. VCU has won six in a row and seven of its last eight. The Rams’ six victories have all been by double digits, which is the first time they have accomplished that feat since 1973-74. Drexel has captured its last four games, George Mason has claimed six of its last eight contests, and James Madison has won five of its last six, including three in a row on the road.
  • From CAA To NBA: Since it was a light week for the current CAA players and the NBA season beginning stole headlines, this is a good time to spotlight recent grads. The CAA is well-represented with five players on NBA roster. Former CAA players include Northeastern’s J.J. Barea (Minnesota Timberwolves), Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins (Golden State Warriors), VCU’s Eric Maynor (Oklahoma City Thunder), Towson’s Gary Neal (San Antonio Spurs) and VCU’s Larry Sanders (Milwaukee Bucks). The Association has had a player drafted into the Association the past three years (Maynor, Sanders, and Jenkins).
  • From HS SR To NCAA FR: Freshmen are seeing significant playing time around the CAA this season. All 12 teams have at least one freshman who is averaging better than 16 minutes per game and JMU is the only team that hasn’t had a freshman start at least one game. Four freshmen are among the CAA’s top 30 in scoring: UNCWs Adam Smith, Drexel’s Damion Lee, William & Mary’s Marcus Thornton, and ODUs Dimitri Batten. Four are among the top 15 in assists: Towson’s Kris Walden, Mason’s Corey Edwards, Delaware’s Khalid Lewis, and Drexel’s Lee. Three are in the top 10 in steals: VCU’s Briante Weber, Northeastern’s Quincy Ford, and Mason’s Edwards. Three are also three in the top 20 in rebounding: UNCW’s Cedrick Williams and Northeastern teammates Ford and Reggie Spencer.

Ryan Pearson (center) Is Brimming With Confidence For The Patriots. (Getty)

Power Rankings

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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2011

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

  • Welcome Back, Kotter: Several players who will see significant playing time are now eligible—their dreams are their ticket in. Of note, Devon Moore is back running Matt Brady’s Bunch. The star point guard and preseason second team All-CAA pick made an immediate impact in his 33-minute opening act. Old Dominion has received much-needed help and solid play from both Clemson transfer Donte Hill and freshman Richard Ross. The duo has Blaine Taylor pondering a smaller lineup. And last night George Mason welcomed back Andre Cornelius from suspension. Cornelius is one of the best defenders in the conference and a lights-out (but streaky) shooter.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: They’re just two good ol’ boys who don’t mean harm, and were not selected as one of the CAAs top ten players in preseason voting. But James Madison’s Humpty Hitchens and Delaware’s Jamelle Hagins have been the best two players in the Association this year. Hagins has dominated the lane. He is eighth in the CAA in scoring (14.6 PPG), first in rebounding (11.5 RPG), second in field goal percentage (60.9%), 10th in free throw percentage (76.7%), and second in blocked shots (2.5 BPG). Meanwhile, Hitchens has been an inspiring player in Moore’s absence. The numbers are impressive, too–17.0 points per contest, a conference leading five helpers, he ranks fifth in steals, second in three-pointers made and percentage and is second in assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • The Facts of Life: VCU senior Bradford Burgess and James Madison senior Julius Wells have each taken the good and taken the bad, and in their fourth seasons carry impressive streaks. Burgess has made 121 consecutive starts, the longest active streak in Division I basketball and tied for the most all-time at VCU. Wells hasn’t had a bad career himself. He’s started 108 straight games, second on the Dukes’ career list.

Andre Cornelius' Return Couldn't Come At A Better Time

Power Rankings

  1. VCU (8-3): The Rams are simply devastating opponents with their defense. In the past three games, VCU  has outscored opponents 92-21 in points off turnovers. After a 14-steal night in their Tuesday win over UAB, the Rams now lead the country in opponent’s turnover rate at 29.1% and are second in steal percentage (16.0%).
  2. George Mason (7-4): One up, one down. On the night the Patriots got hyper-quick point guard Andre Cornelius back from suspension, they announced reserve big man Paris Bennett was being suspended for two games. You can bet Paul Hewitt is ready for the start of conference season. The Duquesne game represented the end of an 11-day layoff for Mason, and it didn’t go well. Old problems surfaced even with Cornelius’s 11 points. They didn’t defend on inbounds plays and in open court, and were outplayed by Duquesne in an 11-point home loss. It broke an 18-game home winning streak. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2011

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

  • Lather: Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams put a 73-51 pounding on crosstown rival Richmond. The game turned on a mid-second half spree generated by the defense. From 11:03 to 3:35, a 20-4 run changed a 47-45 boxing match into a 67-49 runaway. Freshman Briante Weber is the head harasser, but Rob Brandenburg and Darius Theus gave the Spiders no room to operate. The Rams, supposed to struggle with four starters gone from its Final Four team, are without question playing the best basketball in the Association. Bradford Burgess is looking like a player of the year, scoring in double figures in eight straight games, and the Rams are getting increasing contributions from different sources—on Friday it was freshman Treveon Graham, who subbed for a foul-plagued Theus admirably. VCU coming together weeks faster than people thought is a scary proposition.
  • Rinse: Of all the fresh faces making waves in the CAA, none have made a greater impact that UNCW freshman Adam Smith. Smith is tied for third in the nation in scoring among all freshmen with 17.9 PPG, trailing only Kyle Vinales of Central Connecticut (19.9 PPG) and Juan’ya Green of Niagara (19.7 PPG). He is tied with Justin Edwards of Maine (17.9 PPG). Smith has scored double figures in all seven UNCW games, including a 27-point effort at Toledo and 23 points at Maryland. Not to be outdone, Northeastern’s Quincy Ford is getting more comfortable with college. Making the first start of his career, Ford scored a career-high 18 points and snared a team-best seven rebounds in Northeastern’s 79-68 loss at Bradley last Tuesday. The freshman, who is one of 11 children and was home-schooled in high school, was 8-of-15 from the floor and made four steals, blocked two shots and dished out a pair of assists.
  • Repeat: We mentioned the early success of Georgia State last week, but the Ron Hunter train keeps rolling. The Panthers overwhelmed Rhode Island 96-64, their seventh straight win. Devonta White scored 20 points and Brandon McGee added 18 off the bench. Importantly, each of the seven wins has been more impressive than the last. Georgia State’s 75-possession attack produced 32 fast break points with just nine turnovers, a turnover rate of 12.0%. And while the opposition hasn’t exactly been the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s, the Panthers have beaten their opponents in the streak by an average of 25 points per game. Plus, Georgia State continues to gain confidence and learn how to be productive and win. That becomes incredibly important when you look at their first three games of the conference season: Drexel, at VCU, and at George Mason. Those three teams were predicted as #1 through #3 in preseason.

Paul Hewitt And The Patriots Are Gathering Steam In The Colonial. (AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)

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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2011

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

  • Changing of the Seasons: Logistics dictate that in order to get all 18 games in by March, the CAA has to play one conference game in December. Last Saturday was slated for five matchups, and UNCW plays at VCU on December 17. Road teams went 3-2, with George Mason winning 65-53 at Towson, James Madison a 62-60 victor at Hofstra, and Old Dominion gutting out a 69-59 win at Northeastern. Delaware held serve at home, beating rival Drexel, 71-60, and Georgia State cruised by William & Mary in Atlanta, 66-34. The full conference slate begins January 2.
  • Changing Of The Guards: Freshmen, especially guards, are seeing significant playing time around the CAA this season. All 12 CAA teams have at least one freshman on their team who is averaging better than 16 minutes per game and JMU and Northeastern are the only teams who haven’t had a freshman start at least one game. Four freshmen are among the CAA’s top 30 in scoring: UNCW’s Adam Smith, Drexel’s Damion Lee, William & Mary’s Marcus Thornton and Delaware’s Kyle Anderson. Three others–Towson’s Kris Walden, Mason’s Corey Edwards and Delaware’s Khalid Lewis — are among the top 15 in assists, while VCU’s Briante Weber and ODU’s Dimitri Batten are among the top 11 in steals.
  • Changing of the Discussion: CAA fans are used to seeing Old Dominion, VCU, and George Mason lead the “teams playing well in non-conference action” conversation. And while those three are certainly doing fine, James Madison and Georgia State are turning heads with high quality play too. The Dukes continue to play well offensively but have won three in a row behind a staunch defense, something Matt Brady has never had the luxury of coaching. Ron Hunter’s Panthers have won six straight contests and are giving up just 47.0 points per game and limiting opponents to 30.7% FG shooting during the run.  The 34 points allowed to William & Mary were the second-fewest allowed in school history.
  • Changing of the Spotlight: It’s been a year of change around the CAA as many returning players have stepped into new roles and several newcomers are making an impact. Of the top 20 scoring leaders in the conference, 13 of them weren’t even among the top 30 in the league in scoring a year ago. The seven who were on last year’s top 30 list are Hofstra’s Mike Moore, Mason’s Ryan Pearson, VCU’s Bradford Burgess, ODU’s Kent Bazemore, UNCW’s Keith Rendleman and Northeastern’s Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith.

Bradford Burgess Is Smoother Than Silk For The Rams, And VCU's Defense Is Getting It Done At The Other End. (AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2011

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

 

Caught On Film

Check this clip out to see why William & Mary’s Quinn McDowell has earned the Twitter hashtag #quinntowin. Trailing by three, McDowell hits a game-tying bomb; trailing by two he converts a natural three-point play and then boxes out to get the deciding rebound on a missed free throw:

The Week That Was

  • Thud: Coming off its greatest season ever, the CAA is sporting a hangover. The league is 20-30 and lacks a notable win. (Old Dominion beating South Florida qualifies as the conference’s best.) What’s more, the early season has featured head-scratching losses. Preseason favorite Drexel lost to Norfolk State, Delaware lost to Radford (five wins last season), William & Mary lost to Lehigh by 25 points, and George Mason lost to Florida International. The CAA is a collective 0-3 against Florida Atlantic. While it seems silly to discount the notion of an at-large bid this early in the season, the conference has likely burned up any wiggle room it had come March.
  • Give It Up: Coaches have their clichés, and for good reason, but “value the basketball” has taken on a special meaning in early CAA action. The relative inexperience of CAA guards is taking its toll. James Madison is the only CAA team with more assists than turnovers (and that number is just 41/36). Seven of the CAAs 12 teams are in the bottom 100 in the nation in turnover percentage (the number of possessions that end in a turnover). Last season, seven CAA teams were in the top 100 of this category. Though they have played an impossible schedule, Towson sports an almost unbelievable 27 assists and 95 turnovers.
  • Frank Who? Old Dominion annually plays with a dominant big man, but coming into the season there were questions about whether or not Chris Cooper had the chops to continue the tradition. Early returns bode well. Cooper recorded double-doubles in three of ODUs four games, tallying a career-high 17 points and 12 boards against Kentucky, 13 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Howard, and 10 points and 11 caroms in a victory over Long Island. The senior forward also blocked seven shots and made six steals last week. Importantly, Cooper got his frontcourt mate Nick Wright back from suspension this week.
  • B-B-B-Baby You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: Bumpy starts from banner players has contributed to the burgeoning  bummer of a season. Bradford Burgess, Rob Brandenberg, Kent Bazemore, Eric Buckner, Brandon Britt, and Julian Boatner are all expected to be team and conference leaders. For one reason or another, none have provided that beacon. The list includes Tim Rusthoven, nicknamed Beasthoven.
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RTC Conference Primers: #11 – CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 26th, 2011

Michael Litos of CAAHoops.com is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can find him on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take I

The conference has seen Eric Maynor, then Charles Jenkins, win back-to-back player of the year awards. This year, it’s a wide-open race.

 

Top Storylines

  • Encore Performance? Last season was undoubtedly the best in conference history. In addition to VCU‘s incredible Final Four run, George Mason and Old Dominion gave the CAA three NCAA Tournament teams for the first time ever. The obvious question becomes: How in the world do you follow that? The CAA is better top-to-bottom this year, which is great for competitiveness but lousy for at-large bids.
  • Disabled List, Midseason “Call Ups” A Factor: The CAA is going to look very different in January, as some of the conference’s best players will miss parts of the nonconference season for varying reasons. Old Dominion’s Kent Bazemore, a first team All-CAA selection, is expected back in December from a foot injury. Ditto Drexel’s leading scorer Chris Fouch (knee). William & Mary’s Quinn McDowell, another first teamer, is battling knee problems as well. Old Dominion’s Richard Ross and James Madison’s Devon Moore return from academic suspensions after the first semester, and Blaine Taylor also gets Clemson transfer Donte Hill eligible.
  • Be Very Quiet. I’m Hunting Dragons: Speaking of Drexel, it will be interesting to watch how the Dragons react to being a conference favorite. Drexel has won at least ten conference games in eight of its ten CAA seasons, but has never entered a season with such lofty expectations. That changes this year, as Drexel is the only CAA team to return its scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks leader.  What’s more, Bruiser Flint’s lack of success in March is glaring: Despite those successful regular seasons, Drexel has played in the CAA tournament semifinals just once since 2003.
  • One Tribe, Y’all: Despite finishing 4-14  last year, CAA eyes are trained on William & Mary and its cadre of young guards. One year removed from an NIT season, Tony Shaver’s team lost eight CAA contests by five or fewer points, and seven of those were by four or fewer. Shaver played six freshmen or sophomores regularly, and that experience will pay tremendous dividends. Plus, senior Quinn McDowell is a player of the year candidate. If the Tribe can get a beastly performance on the boards from sophomore Tim Rusthoven, William & Mary may shoot up the standings.

What Does Shaka Smart Have In Mind For An Encore After VCU's Run For The Ages?

Predicted Order of Finish (predicted conference records in parentheses)

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Morning Five: 05.25.11 Edition

Posted by jstevrtc on May 25th, 2011

  1. Could have sworn there was a thunderclap after we first read this one. Jim Calhoun’s prediction for the Big East is that “I think you’ll see a separation” of the conference along the fault line of those BE schools that play football and those that play everything but football. Also interesting is that he thinks it’ll happen “within the next couple of years, four or five years down the road,” and adds, “I don’t think I’ll see this.” Calhoun leaving Connecticut in that time frame wouldn’t surprise anyone, but it’s still odd to conceptualize.
  2. A day after Ed DeChellis said adios to Penn state, PSU athletic director Tim Curley began the (not at all expected) search for a new head coach. For you speculating Nittany Lion backers, put names like Brad and Shaka out of your minds. Fran Dunphy would be a total coup and ain’t gonna happen, either. Curley says DeChellis left the program in an “excellent state,” but there’s no doubting he needs a name, here, or at the very least a young shark to get the student body excited. So, place your bets: Pat Flannery? Bruiser Flint? Ron Everhart? Joe Paterno?
  3. Mark Titus became a pretty famous guy a few years ago with the website Club Trillion, his blog about his adventures as a last-man-on-the-pine walk-on on the Ohio State basketball team. Regarding the recent allegations involving the football team and Jim Tressel, Titus recently posted on his site that he noticed how cars driven by football players were always nicer than those driven by basketball players, leading him to deduce that either the football players were awarded larger stipends, were better at managing money, came from wealthier families, or “received discounted and/or free cars.” The OSU faithful, many of whom were probably once Titus’ biggest fans, aren’t happy, as evidenced by the comments section [h/t: Lost Lettermen].
  4. Arik Armstead is the #1 high school football player in the country, according to Scout.com. He’s verbally committed to play at USC. So why is he making a visit to the University of Nevada with an eye toward playing college basketball? Well, he says he’d rather play hoops, and ESPN.com says he’s the 33rd best power forward in the country. And his father is good friends with Wolf Pack head coach David Carter. USC says he can also play basketball for them if he wants, and having the Song Girls cheer for you in two sports is a preposterously enticing deal, but Armstead throws in a quote at the end that makes us think he may actually be considering the roundball.
  5. Gentlemen of Villanova, get your passports ready. Jay Wright’s going all Clark W. Griswold on us and taking his team on a ten day European vacation in August. Because Wright has only two starters returning next season, it’s a good chance for the Wildcats to bond while playing some quality clubs just ahead of their 2011-12 campaign and after two straight years of disappointing NCAA Tournament results. Make sure to look both ways twice when crossing those streets, fellas.
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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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Bruiser Flint Explodes, Costs Drexel a Game

Posted by rtmsf on January 6th, 2011

Last night during a closely-fought CAA battle in Richmond between two teams sporting 1-1 records and with eyes on a conference crown this season, Drexel head coach Bruiser Flint lost his mind.  With fifteen seconds to go and Drexel down a single point, star guard Chris Fouch misfired on a three-pointer, but on the rebound opportunity, Flint believed that his team had gotten fouled.  This is the aftermath to that non-call.  (h/t VCURamNation)

Flint’s two technical fouls and subsequent ejection gave VCU four foul shot opportunities which Joey Rodriguez converted, blowing a one-point margin up to five and effectively ending the game.  Had Flint gotten his point across in a subtler way to the referees, his team would have at worst been down three with the ball and a chance to tie the game on a final possession. 

Considering that Drexel held VCU to under 30% shooting on its home floor and the Dragons hadn’t won there in five years, Drexel fans have to be thinking that this was a major brainfart on Flint’s part.  He apologized after the game, but per CAA rules, he’ll be forced to sit out Saturday’s game against Delaware.  The fiery coach has shown a temper in the past, but after ten years of relative mediocrity at the school, you have to wonder that if Flint isn’t able to get something going in the CAA, this season will be his last.  Drexel has been to several NITs under Flint, but he has yet to make the NCAA Tournament there.  Losing your cool over a blown foul call to cost your team a chance to win and having to miss another conference game (possibly costing them another) isn’t the way to break that kind of record. 

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2011

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

A Look Back

Should old out of conference schedules be forgot/and never brought to mind/should conference play be coming up/for Auld Lang Syne.

Or something like that… At any rate, it’s time to wrap up the out of conference schedule (save the BracketBusters and NCAA Tournament), and look ahead toward the beginning of league play. This past week was a bit disjointed because of the holiday schedule, but while the games weren’t all too exciting, the accomplishment of the conference as a whole was. The CAA now holds a 77-53 out of conference record, which is the league’s best-ever mark. The CAA’s previous best came during the 2005-06 season (76-52) when George Mason reached the Final Four, and Old Dominion and Hofstra played in the NIT. The only other time the Colonial finished more than 10 games above .500 was in the 2008-09 season (81-70). In addition, four teams are ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll: Old Dominion (2), George Mason (7), Drexel (9) and Virginia Commonwealth (16). James Madison just missed the cut with 56 points to No. 25 Furman’s 65.  Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s look at the best out of conference win for the league so far. And the worst out of conference loss.

Here are some great reads before we get started with the power rankings:

  • Brian Mull of the Star News has a fantastic look at the CAA season to this point, examining each team’s out of conference schedule and the CAA’s chances as a multiple-bid conference.
  • Diamond Leung writes a nice piece on Drexel’s Chris Fouch, and his interesting role as the team’s leading scorer off the bench.

Player of the Week

Brandon Rozzell, G, Virginia Commonwealth: With another week of few games, thanks to the holiday season, the Player of the Week’s stats might not be as gaudy as we’re used to, but senior guard Brandon Rozzell was the best of the bunch. The 5’10 Richmond, Virginia, native poured in 41 points in two victories for the Rams last week, including 10-of-21 from beyond the arc. On the season, Rozzell is among VCU’s top three scorers, averaging 13.2 points per game. Unfortunately, that’s all he has shown he can do thus far, producing mediocre averages of 2.2 rebounds per game and 2.2 assists per game.

Team of the Week

Towson: Reach into a hat and take your pick… No team was particularly impressive this past week, and nobody played a marquee opponent. This was simply the calm before the storm – the last handful of blah games before the New Year. Towson gets the nod this time for an impressive win against LaSalle, and some news off the court as well. The transfer of junior guard Troy Franklin came as quite a shock to the league. Franklin was leading the team in minutes per game (35) and was scoring 12.6 points per game. Quite a blow to a team that already lacked depth before the start of conference play.

Stat of the Week

2: Number of CAA teams that won their respective holiday tournaments: Georgia State and Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams took home the title in the Hardwood Classic with a victory against New Hampshire, while the Panthers took care of business in the Dr. Pepper Classic by beating Chattanooga in the title game. For the Rams, it was their first in-season tournament title since the 1980s.

Charles Jenkins Watch

Week Two of our Charles Jenkins Watch takes us to, well, the same exact place it did last week. Even in a loss, Jenkins netted 20 points, but did have a streak of five games with five or more assists snapped in the defeat against Iona. Jenkins is averaging 23.5 points per game – tops in the CAA, and seventh in the nation.

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(9-3, 0-1 CAA – RPI 19, SOS 24)
Last week: L 81-58 @ No. 10 Missouri
This week: 1.03 @ Towson, 1.05 vs. Northeastern, 1.08 vs. George Mason

Previous rank: No. 1

The general consensus was that Old Dominion’s game against 10th-ranked Missouri would be just that – a game. Instead, the Monarchs fell flat, and couldn’t hang with the Tigers, who shot 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from beyond the arc. The loss is a humbling one for Old Dominion (ranked second in the Mid-Major Top 25) as coach Blaine Taylor’s team gears up for the beginning of conference play. Towson and Northeastern should provide nice momentum for a showdown against George Mason on Saturday.

2. Drexel Dragons
(9-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 20, SOS 122)
Last week: W 84-39 vs. Niagara
This week: 1.03 vs. Hofstra, 1.05 @ Virginia Commonwealth, 1.08 vs. Delaware

Previous rank: No. 2

While Drexel played only one game last week, we’ll take a look at two. On Dec. 22, the Dragons had a chance to beat their second ranked opponent of the season, but the task proved too difficult – No. 5 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome is simply too good. The Dragons lost, 93-65, but rebounded nicely with a demolition of Niagara in their final game before CAA play. Speaking of rebounding, Bruiser Flint’s squad ranks ninth nationally in rebounding percentage. The Dragons also rank first in the country in 3-point percentage defense (25.3).

3. George Mason
(9-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 64, SOS 134)
Last week: L 73-67 @ Dayton
This week: 1.03 vs. Delaware, 1.05 @ Hofstra, 1.08 @ Old Dominion

Previous rank: No. 3

According to kenpom.com’s four factors, you’re looking at the best team in the conference. Ranked 50th on Pomeroy’s website, the Patriots deserve to be in the mix with Old Dominion and Drexel, though Wednesday’s loss against Dayton really hurts their chances at an at-large bid (if there were even any before that). That 73-67 loss ended a seven-game winning streak. Senior guard Cam Long scored 20, but missed eight shots from beyond the arc (2-10) that could have made the difference.

4. James Madison
(10-3, 0-1 CAA – RPI 53, SOS 196)
Last week: W 60-51 @ Kent State
This week: 1.03 vs. Northeastern, 1.05 vs. Towson, 1.08 @ William & Mary

Previous rank: No. 5

The first team in the conference to reach the 10-win plateau, the Dukes also ensured the CAA its best-ever out of conference record, netting the Colonial its 77th win. Kent State suffered its first home loss in the 60-51 defeat. James Madison will ride a four game winning streak into conference play, and its schedule is quite favorable in this first week of league action. None of the teams the Dukes play have a winning record – the only three such teams in the CAA.

5. Virginia Commonwealth
(9-4, 1-0 CAA – RPI 69, SOS 132)
Last week: W 75-66 vs. Wofford, W 78-65 vs. New Hampshire
This week: 1.03 @ Georgia State, 1.05 vs. Drexel, 1.08 @ UNC-Wilmington

Previous rank: No. 4

A pair of games and a pair of wins for the Rams, who are still scoring and assisting at an impressive clip (74.4 points per game, 16.0 assists per game). While the quality of VCU’s final two conference opponents is a tad sub-par (Wofford and New Hampshire), the Rams should like their chances entering the first week of conference action. The scoring is balanced at the top (Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell all average more than 13 points per game), so if one has an off night, the others should pick it up.

6. Delaware
(6-5, 1-0 CAA – RPI 112, SOS 131)
Last week: W 54-53 @ Santa Clara, L 83-71 vs. American

This week: 1.03 @ George Mason, 1.05 vs. William & Mary, 1.08 @ Drexel

Previous rank: No. 7

Guard Devon Saddler nailed a key bucket down the stretch and was the only player in double figures in Delaware’s 54-53 victory against Santa Clara. The Blue Hens couldn’t string two together, however, as the short trip to American resulted in a 12-point loss. This week appears to be a difficult one for the Blue Hens, however, as they make trips to both George Mason and Drexel. Then again, Delaware is one of three teams to be Old Dominion this season, who knows what will happen?

7. UNC-Wilmington
(6-6, 0-1 CAA – RPI 143, SOS 151)
Last week: W 64-42 vs. Toledo
This week: 1.03 @ William & Mary, 1.05 vs. Georgia State, 1.08 vs. Virginia Commonwealth

Previous rank: No. 6

While the NFL’s version of the Seahawks were busy fighting for their playoffs lives, UNC-Wilmington held Toledo to its lowest points total of the season in an effortless win. It was also the fewest points the Seahawks allowed so far this season. But, it was against Toledo, which has been abysmal thus far. Right now, UNC-Wilmington is depending far too much on its 3-point shooting abilities (98-241 for 40.7%). That must change as play goes forward.

8. Hofstra
(7-5, 1-0 CAA – RPI 179, SOS 79)
Last week: L 87-62 @ Iona
This week: 1.03 @ Drexel, 1.05 vs. George Mason, 1.08 @ Northeastern

Previous rank: No. 8

Hofstra is just kind of… there. Not overwhelmingly talented, but certainly not deserving of any lower a ranking. The biggest thing the Pride have going for them is the play of Charles Jenkins, who continues to score at a fantastic rate, and is 10th in the nation in true shooting percentage (70.7). Still, kenpom.com predicts the Pride to finish the conference schedule 7-11, which is certainly not where coach Mo Cassara wants his team to be.

9. Northeastern
(4-8, 0-1 CAA – RPI 163, SOS 33)
Last week: L 65-63 vs. Princeton, L 75-62 vs. Furman
This week: 1.03 @ James Madison, 1.05 @ Old Dominion, 1.08 vs. Hofstra

Previous rank: No. 9

The turbulent season in Boston continues, as the Huskies escaped the snow storms that plagued the Northeast to play in a few holiday tournaments.  After finishing the Cancun Governor’s Cup with two wins, Northeastern couldn’t muster a victory in the UCF Holiday Classic and dropped games to Princeton and Furman. Still, as bad as things may appear, the Huskies’ strength of schedule is a robust 33, and once conference play begins, perhaps Bill Coen’s team will regain its swagger.

10. Towson
(4-7, 0-1 CAA – RPI 254, SOS 268)
Last week: W 93-90 (OT) @ LaSalle
This week: 1.03 vs. Old Dominion, 1.05 @ James Madison, 1.08 @ Georgia State

Previous rank: No. 12

Well isn’t this nice? We know, this is probably a bit too high for Towson, but let the Tigers have their moment in the sun. Once conference play begins, they’ll probably drop back down. But to go to LaSalle and come away with a thrilling overtime win in the final OOC game of the season (so far), is nothing to sneeze at. The Explorers are a deep, talented team, but Isaiah Philmore and Braxton Dupree both poured in 27 to gain the victory.

11. Georgia State
(6-5, 1-0 CAA – RPI 259, SOS 334)
Last week: W 72-42 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, W 81-76 @ Chattanooga
This week: 1.03 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.05 @ UNC-Wilmington, 1.08 vs. Towson

Previous rank: No. 10

What a nice little way for Georgia State to wrap up its out of conference slate – with two wins and a record above .500. Still, the Panthers must improve their free-throw shooting (55.9 percent – 344th in the nation) and turnover ratio if they want to notch some victories against some of the tougher teams in the CAA. A difficult test against Virginia Commonwealth looms on the horizon.

12. William & Mary
(4-8, 0-1 CAA – RPI 274, SOS 205)
Last week: L 83-81 @ Longwood
This week: 1.03 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 1.05 @ Delaware, 1.08 vs. James Madison

Previous rank: No. 11

Unfortunately, for the Tribe, it doesn’t get much worse than a two-point loss to Longwood. Unless, of course, it was a 20-point loss to Longwood. Either way, William & Mary has to do better than its current 42.7 field goal percentage if it hopes to remain competitive in conference play. Junior swingman Quinn McDowell and his 15.2 points per game won’t solve all the problems.

A Look Ahead

This is, aside from the conference tournament, perhaps the most exciting look ahead of the season. All of the anticipation that comes along with playing teams in your own conference is a mere 24 hours away. The CAA plays on three days this week. Here’s a look at what should be the best matchup on each:

  • Jan. 3, Northeastern (4-8, 0-1) at James Madison (10-3, 0-1): The struggling Huskies know they’re better than 4-8. The streaking Dukes are out to show that their loss against Georgia State in the CAA tune-up was nothing more than an anomaly. Player to watch: Northeastern’s Chassion Allen. The senior guard is clearly the leader of the Huskies, scoring 16.3 points per game and pulling down 5.8 rebounds per game. He can’t help the Huskies’ 3-point shooting percentage (35.9), however.
  • Jan. 5, Drexel (9-2, 1-0) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (9-4, 1-0): Of the games on this list, this is the only one where both teams have undefeated conference records. It may not seem like much, but when every win is so valuable in this ultra-competitive conference, this is a big one. Player to watch: Drexel sophomore guard Chris Fouch. It’s hard not to watch the sparkplug from New York, who’s averaging a team-best 19.1 points per game.
  • Jan. 8, George Mason (9-3, 1-0) vs. Old Dominion (9-3, 0-1): This appears to be a fantastic matchup on paper. Naturally, a lot depends on what these two teams do in the two games preceding this one, but even still – this is an early battle for top positioning. Kenpom.com has the Monarchs winning, 64-62, and if the actual game is that good, this should be a real treat. Player to watch: Senior forward Frank Hassell. He has been a beast all season, and is averaging close to a double-double with 12.3 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game. He’ll be a handful for the Patriots.

YouTube Highlights

The CAA’s YouTube page is a one-stop shop for all CAA highlights. Check it out.

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 20th, 2010

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

A Look Back

Still searching for that last-minute holiday gift for your favorite Colonial Athletic Association diehard fan? Well, see if you can somehow wrap your hands around a DVD (or Blu-Ray – they’re all the rage) of Drexel’s monumental upset win against previously undefeated Louisville at the (yes, this is the real name) KFC Yum! Center. Or, if DVDs aren’t available – which in all likelihood, they’re not – maybe just a framed photo of the box score. Either way, chances are this win serves as an early present for mid-major fans everywhere. Entering the contest, kempom.com pegged Louisville as 86% favorites. With Drexel’s victory (the Dragons’ first against a ranked opponent since 2006), perhaps those in the Philadelphia area now will be forced to consider the petitions to change the Big 5 tag to the City 6. Given the way Temple and Villanova are playing, too, it looks to be a promising year in Philly. That, however, is beside the point. The point is that this conference’s stock is very high right now thanks to Old Dominion’s consistently high billing, Drexel’s upset win, VCU’s already sterling reputation, and George Mason’s six-game winning streak. Elsewhere last week, UNC-Wilmington beat Wake Forest for the first time in school history, and the CAA continued to roll along in non-conference play. Six teams in the conference boast RPIs in the top 100, and the CAA’s non-conference record is now 68-42 (.618). With only a handful of out-of-conference games remaining before the real fun begins, all CAA fans can be friends for a few more weeks, which is nice. We wouldn’t want anyone on edge for the holidays.

Player of the Week

Jamelle Hagins, F, Delaware: Since there weren’t that many games last week thanks to the exam schedule for a majority of CAA teams, let’s give some props to Hagins. The 6’8, 220-pound sophomore held his own against Villanova in Philadelphia en route to scoring 12 points, pulling down eight rebounds and blocking a whopping seven shots. Hagins is blossoming in his second year, and leads the conference in blocks per game, with four.

Team of the Week

Drexel Dragons: Should there be any other? The Dragons slowly and methodically tore apart Louisville, akin to what Gerard Butler’s character does to his adversary in Law Abiding Citizen, through a bevy of monster rebounding (46-26) and stingy defense. As of now, the CAA’s top four teams are in very good standing, not only among mid-major clubs, but in the national eye as well.

Stat of the Week

34: The number of consecutive double-digit scoring games for Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins. Which leads us to a new feature of the CAA Check-In…

Charles Jenkins Watch (new feature!)

As if you haven’t already heard enough about the superb guard from Hofstra, here’s a new feature to keep an eye on just how good he is compared to the rest of the nation’s scorers. And thanks to a 40-point performance against Binghamton, followed by 32-point and 21-point outbursts, he’s ranked fourth in the nation in scoring (24.9 points per game) behind Connecticut’s Kemba Walker (28.1), Northern Illinois’ Xavier Silas (28.1) and Nicholls State’s Anatoly Bose (25.0). Couple that with the fact that Jenkins graduated Sunday, and he’s ending 2010 with a flourish.

YouTube Highlights

The CAA recap video from December 14 – AKA, the Drexel-Louisville game.

Highlights from Delaware’s loss against Villanova. Philly’s own (well, technically New Jersey’s own) Scott Graham on the play-by-play.

This’ll give you a look at UNC-Wilmington’s big win against Wake Forest, among others…

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(8-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 13, SOS 19)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.23 vs. Presbyterian

Previous rank: No. 1

While Old Dominion has relinquished its top spot in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll (as of December 13), second place isn’t a bad consolation prize. Naturally, the Monarchs still should be considered the class of the CAA, but it’s important to remember that Drexel hadn’t beaten Louisville when this Mid-Major Top 25 poll was released, so things could change. It’s still a little hard on the eyes to look at the disparity between ODU’s two losses, though: Nov. 12, 62-59 vs. Georgetown and, uhh, December 4 at, uhh, Delaware, 75-67…

2. Drexel Dragons
(8-1, 1-0 CAA – RPI 26, SOS 141)
Last week: W 52-46 @ No. 20 Louisville, W 61-57 @ St. Francis (Pa.)
This week: 12.22 @ No. 5 Syracuse

Previous rank: No. 4

Yeah, yeah, that win against Louisville was fantastic for Drexel’s image. Want to know if the Dragons are really for real? Check out Wednesday’s showdown against fifth-ranked Syracuse. As if the matchup itself wasn’t tough enough, the game’s in the Carrier Dome. Still, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, remember that Bruiser Flint’s squad had an amazing week that included a signature win, followed by a sloppy trap game victory. All of a sudden, the hopes for the CAA’s status as a two-bid conference don’t seem so distant.

3. George Mason
(8-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 70, SOS 143)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.22 @ Duquesne

Previous rank: No. 2

The Patriots are on a nice little six game winning streak, but given some of the high-quality wins by other CAA teams, George Mason’s run has largely gone unnoticed outside of Northern Virginia. People, however, should start to notice, as the Patriots boast three scorers averaging double figures – Luke Hancock (13.0), Cam Long (12.5) and Ryan Pearson (12.3) – and a team field goal percentage of .492, which is 16th in the nation.

4. Virginia Commonwealth
(7-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 69, SOS 142)
Last week: W 70-67 vs. Tulsa
This week:12.21 @ University of Alabama-Birmingham

Previous rank: No. 3

It wasn’t technically “last week,” but we’re going to mention VCU’s loss to Richmond anyway. The Rams dropped a 72-60 decision on December 11 at Richmond in what could have been a major statement game for them and the conference, and could have provided bragging rights in the Battle for Richmond. Instead, the Spiders picked apart VCU’s defense (55.1 percent from the field) and assisted 18 baskets to Virginia Commonwealth’s six. The Rams, however, bounced back nicely with a 70-67 win against Tulsa.

5. James Madison
(8-3, 0-1 CAA – RPI 100, SOS 250)
Last week: W 66-61 @ South Florida
This week: 12.22 vs. Marshall

Previous rank: No. 5

Phew. The Dukes finally return home after a lengthy five-game road trip in which they went 3-2. JMU has won its last two games, but the reward for finally returning home isn’t too sweet – a matchup against Marshall, the same team they lost to, 67-63, on December 7. Perhaps the change of scenery will aid James Madison this time around. If not, perhaps senior forward Denzel Bowles will. His efficiency from the floor is a ridiculous .623, helping him pour in a team-high 17.2 points per game.

6. UNC-Wilmington
(5-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 72, SOS 75)
Last week: W 81-69 vs. Wake Forest, W 64-50 vs. Radford
This week: 12.20 vs. Illinois State, 12.22 @ Campbell

Previous rank: No. 9

While it wasn’t quite on the same level as Drexel’s upset, UNC-Wilmington’s dismantling of intra-state rival Wake Forest last Sunday at the Greensboro Coliseum was quite impressive. The final score, 81-69, was a large reason why. The Seahawks shot 14-27 from three-point range and five players reached double figures in what was a marquee for coach Buzz Peterson in his first year at the helm.

7. Delaware
(5-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 73, SOS 130)
Last week: L 78-59 No. 10 Villanova
This week: 12.22 vs. Penn

Previous rank: No. 6

It was fun while it lasted, but apparently all good things must come to an end. Prior to Saturday’s 78-59 loss against Villanova, the Blue Hens were riding a five-game winning streak – their longest since 2001. The short trip to Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia proved too much of a challenge for Delaware to notch its first win against a Top 25 team, though. Still, with an RPI of 73 and a home game against far more manageable Big 5 opponent in Penn upcoming next week, things don’t appear so Blue for the Hens.

8. Hofstra
(6-4, 1-0 CAA – RPI 159, SOS 183)
Last week: W 71-58 @ Manhattan
This week: 12.22 vs. Holy Cross

Previous rank: No. 7

In between a thrilling overtime victory against Binghamton and a blowout of Manhattan, the Pride slipped up against Florida Atlantic despite a 32-point effort from senior guard Charles Jenkins. It cost them a few slots in the RPI rankings, as well as the potential for a six-game winning streak heading into Wednesday’s game against Holy Cross. Still, if Jenkins keeps it up (24.9 points per game, 4.3 assists per game), Hofstra will never be counted out of a conference game this season.

9. Northeastern
(2-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 163, SOS 33)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.22 vs. Saint Louis, 12.23 vs. East Tennessee State/Southern Mississippi, 12.24 vs. TBA

Previous rank: No. 8

The CAA’s northern-most team has fallen the farthest south in the standings. Last in the conference in wins (two), the Huskies have dropped five in a row, most “recently” a 79-67 loss to URI on December 8. Bill Coen’s team has two tournaments remaining before the start of CAA play – the Cancun Governor’s Cup and the UCF Holiday Classic. Maybe a few exotic getaways (to Cancun and Orlando) are what this team needs to slide back on track. That said, NU’s strength of schedule is 33rd in the country, so who knows what might happen once conference play rolls around.

10. Georgia State
(4-4, 1-0 CAA – RPI 278, SOS 287)
Last week: W 76-67 vs. Florida A&M
This week: 12.22 @ Georgia Southern

Previous rank: No. 10

It’s a good, heck, a great thing for your conference when the team with an RPI of 278 maintains a .500 record (4-4) in non-conference play. Which is exactly what Georgia State is doing thanks to the strong play of, well, everybody. Nobody on the roster is averaging more than ten points per game, but nine players are averaging more than five per contest. And Harold Doby is right there with an average of 4.9. Don’t expect the Panthers to contend for a CAA title, but enjoy what they’re doing for the conference.

11. William & Mary
(4-6, 0-1 CAA – RPI 248, SOS 172)
Last week: 12.16 W 72-44 vs. Shenandoah (Div. III), 12.18 L 71-62 @ Liberty
This week: 12.21 @ North Carolina

Previous rank: No. 11

First William & Mary’s football program took a crack at North Carolina. Now it’s basketball’s turn. The Tribe’s football team lost by four points (21-17). Just imagine if the basketball squad can keep the score that close… Junior swingman Quinn McDowell has been a one-man show for the Tribe, leading the team in points per game (14.6), rebounds per game (5.8) and three-point field goal percentage (.528).

12. Towson
(3-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 286, SOS 324)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.20 @ Hampton, 12.22 vs. Princeton

Previous rank: No. 12

OK, so the Tigers haven’t played what you would call a challenging non-conference schedule. They’ve still notched three wins, and have a legitimate chance at two more this week. Plus, despite the sub-par quality of opponent, Towson is scoring at a pretty decent rate – 74.5 points per game with an adjusted tempo rating of 71.5 (good for 33rd in the nation). In addition, junior forward Braxton Dupree is one of two players in the conference (Drexel’s Samme Givens is the other) who’s averaging a double-double (13.1 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game).

A Look Ahead

If you have plans on Wednesday, it might be best to postpone them. At least if you’re hoping to watch your favorite CAA team in action before the Christmas holiday. There are a number of intriguing games on the docket. Let’s check them out:

  • December 21, William & Mary at North Carolina (7-4): Alright, so this probably won’t be the best game out there, but it’s always fun to watch mid-majors take on traditionally strong programs, especially ACC schools. It doesn’t help the Pride that the Tar Heels are coming off a heartbreaking loss against No. 22 Texas, but who knows what will happen. That’s why they play the games. Player to watch: UNC junior forward Tyler Zeller. William & Mary doesn’t have anyone who can match up against the 7’ tree on paper. Zeller is leading the Tar Heels with 15.6 points per game, not too far ahead of UNC’s two other massive post players – 6’10 John Henson (10.5 points per game) and 6’9 Harrison Barnes (12.3 points per game).
  • December 22, Northeastern vs. St. Louis (4-5): This will be Northeastern’s first game since December 8, a 14-day layoff. Either the Huskies will enter their tournament in Cancun refreshed and ready to play, or they’ll appear disjointed and sluggish. St. Louis, out of the A-10, appears to be an ideal first-round matchup for what is quickly becoming Chassion Allen’s team. Player to watch: Whoever is going to rebound the basketball. No player on either of these teams is averaging more than six rebounds per game, which means anyone will have the opportunity to step up and control the boards. For a reference point, Allen leads the Huskies with 5.9 boards per game and Dwayne Evans leads the Billikens (5.6).
  • December 22, Drexel at No. 5 Syracuse (11-0): Well, the Dragons already have knocked off one previously undefeated Big East team. Why not do it again? The Orange have one game – Monday against Morgan State – before the Dragons come calling, while Drexel is off until it faces its second ranked opponent in about as many weeks. Much like the gameplan entering the contest in Louisville, Drexel must rely on its offensive and defensive rebounding to keep the score low. That should swing the tempo in its favor. Remember, the Dragons are fifth in the nation in rebounds per game (43.0), so that strategy isn’t nearly as crazy as it sounds. Player to watch: Syracuse senior forward Rick Jackson. The 6’9 Philadelphia native is averaging 13.5 points per game and 12.1 rebounds per game, but had his string of 10 straight double-digit scoring games snapped with an eight-point effort in a win against Iona last week.
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