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.
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.
(6-5, 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?
(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.
(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.
(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.
(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.
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