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

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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 30th, 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

  • Whew: Order was restored last week, when CAA teams went 12-10 and looked like The Association we’ve come to know. The 12 wins included several notable performances. Northeastern rolled St. John’s in Queens 78-64, and it wasn’t that close. The Huskies led all but 37 seconds of the game. Hofstra used a 20-4 second half spree to down previously unbeaten Cleveland State, 63-53. The win is doubly-notable because leading scorer Mike Moore was held to five points. Both James Madison and George Mason won their final two games of early exempt tournaments, and Georgia State (3-0) and Delaware (2-0) had undefeated weeks. Finally, VCU gave 13th-ranked Alabama all it could handle on Sunday night before dropping a 72-64 decision. The Rams led most of the second half before the Tide stepped on the gas pedal late.
  • Who? AJ Davis was 5-50 from three in two seasons at Wyoming, but hit eight of nine threes in a win over Rider and went 3-5 against Penn. Davis has now made 16-27 (59.3%) from three in five games for JMU. Davis scored the first 14 points of the second half for the Dukes in its win over Penn. Interestingly, Davis has scored 87 points in the second half of games this season and 27 points in the first half. His accuracy seems to be catching on. JMU as a team is hitting threes third-best nationally (46.9%). Predictably, that makes head coach Matt Brady nervous.
  • Wow: Delaware’s Devon Saddler is leading the country in scoring (24.5 PPG), but the CAA has seen many amazing individual performances. In fact, it forced the conference pooh-bahs to select tri-players of the week. Saddler, who averaged 26.5 points , five rebounds, and four assists in a pair of Delaware wins, was joined in the honor by JMUs Davis (23.3  and 5.7 RPG, hit 16 of 22 from three-point range) and Joel Smith from Northeastern (29 points and 10 rebounds in the St. John’s win, including 7 of 12 from three-point range) in the honor.
  • What? Why?  Non-conference gives way, temporarily, to conference play this week. It’s weird to jam in conference games just before exams, but it’s necessary.  Because there’s eight weekends in January and February and one Saturday is betrothed to Bracketbusters, the CAA is forced to play one week of Saturday-Monday-Wednesday-Saturday action, as well as play one conference game in December. This is that weekend. Ten of the CAA’s 12 teams open conference play. UNCW and VCU will face each other on Dec. 17. The move was made to allow VCU to play George Washington in the BB&T Classic this Sunday.

It's Tough To Find Anyone In The Country Stroking The Three Better Than James Madison's A.J. Davis. (CAASports.com)

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (2-2): The Dragons played just one game, but it was telling. Drexel thumped Winthrop and had the look of a top-tier CAA team. The Dragons grabbed a lead and didn’t rest—they played harder and better. The result was a coach’s dream—a 10-point lead became an 18-point lead, not a four-point lead. Guard Frantz Massenat scored a career-high 23 points and hit 6-8 threes while directing the attack, and freshman Damion Lee continued to play well, contributing nine points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. What’s more, Drexel is close to getting leading scorer and top gunner Chris Fouch back from injury.
  2. Northeastern (3-1): For lack of flowery language, the Huskies just plain look different. They are big, long, and attack gaps.  They beat teams up and beat up St. John’s in every facet of the game including grabbing 53.8% of their misses on offense. The Huskies don’t give opponents the easy energy baskets, forcing opponents to shoot 21.8% from three (ninth nationally), and blocking shots on 16.8% of defensive possessions, good for 12th nationally. Because he a basketball coach, Bill Coen wants them to focus on taking better taking care of the basketball and fouling less often.
  3. George Mason (4-2): It’s impossible to figure out what to make of the Patriots. First, they took the weekend off. Second, while they’ve improved markedly since their first game we’re not sure what we know—the schedule strength is an abysmal 322th. Still, Paul Hewitt has one of the conference’s best players playing well—Ryan Pearson has three double-doubles and scored a team-high 23 points against Brown and 24 points against Albany He is third in the CAA in scoring (21.3 PPG) and second in rebounds (9.0 RPG). It’s worth repeating that freshman Corey Edwards is beginning to look awfully comfy in the point guard spot, and incumbent Andre Cornelius—one of the conference’s best defenders—returns from a ten-game suspension in less than three weeks.
  4. James Madison (3-2): The Dukes are firepower personified. You have read about AJ Davis and you know how well Humpty Hitchens is playing, but Matt Brady is getting yeoman’s work from Andrey Semenov. What’s more, senior Julius Wells is making a difference in stats other than FGA and Alioune Diouf passed up a redshirt to join the rotation this weekend to help defensively. All of this and their best player, Devon Moore, is still two weeks from becoming eligible. Of note, Rayshawn Goins opted for surgery and will miss the season, taking a redshirt.
  5. VCU (3-3): The Rams have almost imperceptibly improved in every game they’ve played this season. One key has been the exuberant play of freshman Briante Weber, who plays with as much energy as anyone in the country. His defense energizes the team defense. To wit, Western Kentucky was held to one field goal and committed nine turnovers in the last 13 minutes against VCU. Shaka Smart is getting unspectacular but steady play from point guard Darius Theus, and Brad Burgess is beginning to grow into his superstar. The Rams were in control of their game against Alabama on Sunday for 34 minutes before letting it slip away. To a man they know they need 40 minutes of effort.
  6. Old Dominion (4-3): The story of Old Dominion’s topsy-turvy season can be summed up by its last two games. The Monarchs built a 12-point second half lead against Vermont but gave it up and lost in overtime. The cause? The Monarchs were beaten on the backboards (48-37). Old Dominion just does not get killed on the boards by teams named Vermont. Next game was a brutal rock fight victory over East Carolina. Star guard Kent Bazemore is clearly pressing, and it’s impacting everyone. Bazemore is 8-37 from the field in his past three games, and when you tack on point guard Marquel DeLancey’s 1-15 you can see ODU isn’t exactly overwhelming anybody. ODU players will have to guard against standing around waiting for Bazemore–who still clearly doesn’t have the same explosion due to an injured foot–to make a play. On the bright side, Nick Wright returned from suspension and gives Blaine Taylor a different look. Wright can play high post and trigger the offense, but he can score—Wright put a 24/10 double-double on Vermont. Plus, Dmitri Batten had a confidence-booster in the East Carolina win.
  7. Hofstra (3-4): The Dutchmen accomplished something nobody—including Vanderbilt—has done. They beat Cleveland State. The Pride got a lot of little things from a lot of players, and none were named Mike Moore. It’s significant because Hofstra has to prove to itself can beat quality competition without Moore pouring in 23 points. That’s exactly what they got. Bryant Crowder returned over the weekend from coach’s exile and gave the Pride more versatility in the post. Still, it seems like this team will rise and fall with senior Nat Lester. It seems Hofstra wins when he plays well, and struggles when he doesn’t.
  8. Delaware (2-2): The Hens boast the nation’s leading scorer in Devon Saddler, but honestly the team is looking better and better because Saddler has tempered his shooting ways and gotten more Hens involved in the offense. To wit: Saddler had scored 32 points against Lafayette on Saturday, but in a tie game with less than a minute to play penetrated the lane and kicked the ball to freshman Kyle Anderson, who promptly buried a back-breaking three. And Jamelle Hagins played his best game of the year, a 13/14/3 block masterpiece. There is a very tangible meshing feel to this team.
  9. Georgia State (4-3): Though the competition has been McNeese State, Samford, Liberty, and South Carolina State, the Panthers won all four games last week to even their record after the 0-3 disaster in Washington. Ron Hunter still is not playing as fast as he’d like–65.9 possessions per game is 248th nationally—but they are getting contributions that are complimentary. Jihad Ali scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and went six-for-six from the floor, including four three-pointers in the Liberty win. That’s worth mention because if Hunter can get enough scoring from Ali and Devonta White, it frees superman Eric Buckner to make athletic plays without having to worry about carrying an offensive load. Buckner blocked a career-high seven shots against Liberty
  10. UNCW (0-4): Point guard Craig Ponder was hobbled all season by an ankle injury and finally gave up the ghost—he is undergoing season-ending surgery.  That forces Buzz Peterson to begin a revolving door approach to his point guard play. Tanner Milson, Freddie Jackson, and KK Simmons (two freshmen and a sophomore) will all take turns. We knew UNCW was young and Peterson would play the kiddies, but this stat bears out just how reliant they are on youth: freshmen have accounted for 145 of the Seahawks’ 242 points (59.9%) this season. Side note: UNCW was 0-3 from three in a loss to Davidson, marking the first time since 1996 it didn’t hit a trey
  11. William & Mary (1-6): It’s almost Bizarro World to consider Quinn McDowell—a first team All-CAA honoree and in the conversation for player of the year—took one field goal attempt in 33 minutes against Howard on Saturday. However, that sums up the slow start for the Tribe. Brandon Britt is playing better after his awful start, and freshman sensation Marcus Thornton is starting to figure out “good shots” in college. Most importantly for Tony Shaver is that Beasthoven made his first appearance of the year. Sophomore Tim Rusthoven hit went 4-5 from the floor in 21 minutes, scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds (four on offensive end). In the words of someone who was there: he was the best player on the floor. Shaver could not have dreamed of a worse start to the season, but the pieces are beginning to come together.
  12. Towson (0-5): The Tigers can say they played in front of the President, losing 66-46 in their home opener against Oregon State, coached by Barack Obama’s brother-in-law. However they are doing what Pat Skerry asks—continue to play hard and improve every night. Towson is actually a +4.8 rebound margin against the ninth-toughest schedule in the country. Sophomore Marcus Damas recorded a double-double against Oregon State with career-highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Skerry is near begging his team to cut down on turnovers, which continue to plague them.

Looking Ahead

  • Drexel at St. Joseph’s (Wednesday): The Dragons are 9-42 lifetime against the Hawks and have not won up at Hawk Hill since 1978. Drexel won this game last year and walks to the jump circle having never—ever—beaten St. Joseph’s in consecutive games. The Hawks will test them, as they’ve built a 4-2 record against a tough schedule. That said, Drexel may get Chris Fouch back and still have not played to their potential. This has all the makings of a rock fight.
  • Old Dominion at Northeastern (Saturday): The Huskies have a decidedly ODU look. They grabbed 21 offensive rebounds against St. John’s, while ODU was busy being outrebounded by Vermont. Matthews Arena is a tough place to play for CAA foes—it’s a hockey arena co-opted for basketball. Northeastrn has won two of the last three against ODU in the building. This is a match-up of minds: Bill Coen and Blaine Taylor are X/O, white board maniacs; and Northeastern is feeling good about itself while ODU is not, which probably puts ODU exactly where they want to be.
  • James Madison at Hofstra (Saturday): This game pits two of CAA teams that are outpacing expectations and this game will surely have tiebreaker ramifications come late February. Matt Brady has practically begged for defense. The old saying is that good teams win on the road, and they do so by playing defense. There you go.
  • Drexel at Delaware (Saturday): Drexel is a great defensive team, and I read somewhere that good teams win on the road by playing great defense. Delaware is preaching turn the corner this year, so what better opportunity to put on your turn signal than to beat the conference favorites at home? This is also the conference’s second most-hated rivalry. It’s worth noting that last season Delaware beat the CAA favorite Old Dominion in a December home game as well.

 Spotlight On…Northeastern

Bill Coen graduated four senior starters and the Huskies predictably lost their first eight conference games last season. However, they rallied late, winning six of their final ten games as sophomores Jon Lee, Joel Smith, and Kauri Black gained experience. Those three are bringing along a talented freshman class quickly and results are positive. NU is leading the CAA in rebounding—something they did poorly last year—and are aggressive with the basketball.

“Those guys have played here for three years,” says Coen. “They just have a different sense of confidence and a feel for one another that can only develop by playing together.”

The scary part for CAA opponents is that Ryan Pierson and Alwayne Bigby, two of Coen’s go-to players in the past two seasons, have yet to make a significant impact. What’s more, the Huskies’s biggest deficiencies are correctable: they turn the ball over and foul too much. Both are products of their aggressive play, and both can be mitigated by smart aggression.

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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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The 10 BracketBuster Games You Don’t Want to Miss

Posted by KDoyle on February 1st, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Set Your Tivo: 12.14.10

Posted by Brian Otskey on December 14th, 2010

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

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

A pair of games on the “U” highlight tonight’s schedule, the best of this slow week. Can the two home favorites avoid a letdown after big wins this past Saturday?  All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Oakland @ #4 Tennessee – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)

UT Needs to Avoid the Letdown Bug Tonight

After their huge win over Pittsburgh on Saturday behind Scotty Hopson’s career-high 27 points (10-13 FG), the Volunteers return home to face a 5-5 Oakland team out of the Summit League. Sounds easy, right? Not true, Oakland is not your ordinary .500 team. The Golden Grizzlies are in the midst of a brutal non-conference schedule, one that has already included games against West Virginia, Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State and still has Michigan and Ohio State to come after tonight’s game. Oakland nearly upset Michigan State on Saturday, falling by just a single point. Tennessee will look to use its speed and athleticism against Oakland as Bruce Pearl features a lineup of versatile guards and forwards. By contrast, Oakland features a solid front line of Keith Benson and Will Hudson. The 6’11 Benson averages 18/12 plus three blocks a game, a dominant force in the paint. Tennessee needs a strong effort out of Brian Williams in order to defend him. Stopping Hudson will also be key to a Tennessee win as he shoots 66% from the floor. Pearl may even look to a zone in order to defend the Oakland bigs or just use a double team on Benson. Tennessee, which shot 7-11 from three against Pitt, has the potential to outshoot Oakland from deep as the Golden Grizzlies rank just #281 in defending the trey. Reggie Hamilton (16 PPG, 4 APG, 39% 3pt FG) has to be on his game along with Benson and Hudson for Oakland to have a chance to win. Oakland doesn’t shoot it well from deep but Hamilton is their biggest threat, though he’s just five for his last 19 (26%). With Hopson and Tobias Harris, Tennessee has two extraordinary weapons at 6’7 and 6’8 that Oakland can’t quite match. Greg Kampe’s team is going to have to get the job done in the paint with his front court duo and that’s where rebounding comes in. Both teams are excellent rebounding units, especially on the offensive end. Each ranks in the top 15 in the country in offensive rebounding percentage though Oakland could only muster 30 total rebounds against Michigan State. Winning the rebounding battle is critical to any success Oakland hopes to have in this game. Turnover margin is the other key battle to keep an eye on. The Vols struggle handling the ball, averaging 17 turnovers a game including 20 against Pitt. Point guard Melvin Goins does a nice job but it’s really the other players that cause most of the turnover problems. They made up for that with 56% shooting against the Panthers but don’t expect that to happen again. Oakland turns it over 16 times per game so they’ll need to pay attention to this as well since they don’t force many turnovers at all. Tennessee gets to the foul line better than anyone else in D1 and Oakland’s starters play a lot of minutes. Combine those two statistics and you have a potential depth issue for the Golden Grizzlies. If players start fouling out, particularly Benson or Hudson, it’s going to be very difficult, almost impossible, to win. Expect an up-tempo game with Tennessee trying to avoid a letdown after Saturday’s terrific performance. If the Vols don’t take this game seriously, Oakland will hang around all night and have a chance to win. If Tennessee plays their game and doesn’t turn the ball over, expect the home team to come away with a nice win.

Drexel @ #20 Louisville – 9 pm on ESPNU (***)

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 6th, 2010

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

A Look Back

This week in Colonial Athletic Association action is for those who enjoy it when ABC Family starts showing holiday programming the day after Halloween. It’s a dandy little taste of what everyone knows is coming, but for which the wait seems interminable. Yes, the first batch of conference games was held Saturday, and already there’s plenty to talk about. Namely…

  • Delaware’s 75-67 upset victory against Old Dominion. The Blue Hens were paced by senior guard Jawan Carter’s 29-point effort – his third straight 20-plus point performance. This one was special. Not only did it help Delaware to its first three-game winning streak since December of the 2008-09 season, but sent a message to the rest of the conference that, perhaps, things are not as clear-cut as some may have thought. Especially considering that the Monarchs were riding a five-game winning streak that included back-to-back-to-back victories against Clemson, Xavier and Richmond. And in the opening game of the season, Old Dominion hung with #16 Georgetown before falling late, 62-59. This, however, was the first true road game for the Monarchs after three at the Constant Convocation Center and three at a neutral site. What seems most impressive about the Blue Hens’ victory is that they only turned the ball over six times to ODU’s 14. And while Ben Finney and Kent Bazemore did their usual duty on the glass – 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively – Delaware was able to build and maintain a narrow lead for the majority of the contest. There’s little doubt Old Dominion is still the favorite to win the conference, but this game simply tells us that on a nightly basis, anything can happen. Which, at its essence, is really what college basketball is all about.

Player of the Week

  • Chris Fouch, G, Drexel: The 6’2 sophomore is beginning to prove his early-season points averages weren’t an aberration. In three games, Fouch scored 74 points, pulled down seven rebounds and assisted five baskets. The New York native began his week with a career-high 30-point outburst against Binghamton, came back to net 17 against city rival St. Joseph’s and then scored 27 in the CAA opener at Northeastern. Perhaps more impressive than his scoring efficiency (26-of-47, 61.7 percent) is that Fouch committed just one turnover in 93 minutes of playing time.

Team of the Week

  • Delaware Blue Hens: Apparently, all it took for Delaware to snap its seemingly annual December loss against Old Dominion was a change of scenery. Bob Carpenter Arena provided the perfect backdrop for the Blue Hens to score the first true upset in conference play. This was a big win, not only for the obvious reasons, but because it could help propel the Blue Hens to a few more victories in a fairly easy week coming up (strength of schedule-wise, at least). Following the victory against ODU, Delaware coach Monte Ross told the Delaware News Journal that the Blue Hens were the best defensive team in the league.

Stat of the Week

  • One: That’s the number of free throws Richmond attempted against Old Dominion in ODU’s 77-70 victory December 1. Conversely, the Monarchs attempted 20 shots from the charity stripe, hitting 15 of them. This is more than likely a statistical anomaly, but even so, it speaks to Old Dominion’s discipline and ability to limit the number of ways its opponents can score. Then again, discipline – in any facet of the game – is something that should be expected of such a veteran team.

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(5-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 18, SOS 9)
Last week: W 77-70 vs. Richmond, L 75-67 @ Delaware
This week: 12.7 @ East Carolina, 12.9 vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, 12.11 vs. Dayton

Granted, this is a bad loss for a program that was ranked No. 1 in the Mid-Major Top 25, and it certainly takes a significant jab at the hearts of those hoping that the CAA might be a two-bid conference this season. But there’s no reason for Old Dominion to panic. They’ve got plenty of opportunities to rebound in the coming week, starting with a trip to East Carolina (7-2) on Tuesday.

2. George Mason
(6-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 128, SOS 191)
Last week: W 60-46 vs. George Washington, W 80-52 UNC-Wilmington
This week: 12.8 vs. Loyola-Maryland, 12.11 @ Liberty

Not only are the Patriots on a four-game winning streak, but the way they’ve been beating people is impressive – by an average of 19.7 points per game. Then again, in their only close game of the season, they lost to Wofford in overtime. Still, if George Mason can continue beating teams at even close to this pace, it’s going to be a fun season in Fairfax.

3. Virginia Commonwealth
(5-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 52, SOS 104)
Last week: L 60-59 @ South Florida, W 59-55 vs. William & Mary
This week: vs. 12.8 vs. Virginia Military, 12.11 @ Richmond

Hopefully, it doesn’t cause too much of an uproar that VCU is listed third. It’s not as much a slight to the Rams as it is a compliment to the Patriots. VCU beat a very talented UCLA team and hung with Tennessee, but until their rebounding and interior defense numbers normalize, George Mason gets the nod. For reference’s sake, VCU is three spots ahead of GMU in the Mid-Major Top 25 (No. 6 vs. No. 9).

4. Drexel Dragons
(5-1, 1-0 CAA – RPI 48, SOS 156)
Last week: W 79-39 vs. Binghamton, W 62-50 vs. St. Joseph’s, W 63-58 @ Northeastern
This week: 12.11 vs. Rider, 12.14 @ Louisville

Rebounding and Chris Fouch. There’s your formula for Drexel’s early-season success, with a little freshman phenom Dartaye Ruffin thrown in. The Dragons are on a three-game winning streak and scored an impressive road victory against a Northeastern team that is better than its record. For the stat heads out there, KenPom.com ranks Drexel’s offensive rebounding percentage at 44.5 – second in the nation. If the Dragons keep that up, they’ll be a force no matter how many Fouch scores.

5. James Madison
(6-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 114, SOS 249)
Last week: W 88-78 @ Longwood, L 64-63 @ Georgia State
This week: 12.7 @ Marshall, 12.11 @ Radford

The fourth CAA team to receive votes in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll (about 15 votes out of making the cut), the Dukes have only played one team with an RPI above 125 this season, but their six-game winning streak masked that well, until… they lost to Georgia State in the CAA opener. While this 64-63 upset wasn’t quite on the scale of ODU-Delaware, it once again speaks to the parity in the league.

6. Delaware
(3-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 172, SOS 270)
Last week: W 75-67 vs. Old Dominion
This week: 12.8 @ Hampton, 12.11 vs. Delaware State

While in the long run, the Blue Hens might not end up better than some of teams below them in this version of the power rankings, they claim the number six spot on the strength of their victory against the Monarchs. Any time a struggling program can beat a Top-20 RPI team, they deserve a little love. Sophomore forward Jamelle Hagins leads the conference in blocks per game (3.8) by more than a full block.

7. Hofstra
(4-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 153, SOS 124)
Last week: W 58-48 @ Rider, W 74-62 vs. Towson
This week: 12.8 @ Binghamton, 12.11 vs. Florida Atlantic

The Pride are coming off a two-win week with the potential for something far greater. The next four games for Hofstra appear very winnable, and if that happens to be the case, it would extend the Pride’s winning streak to eight games. Having senior guard Charles Jenkins doesn’t hurt, either. He’s leading the conference in scoring with 22.3 points per game and hasn’t netted less than 15 all year.

8. Northeastern
(2-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 154, SOS 68)
Last week: L 77-72 @ Providence, L 63-58 vs. Drexel
This week: 12.8 vs. Rhode Island

Unfortunately for the Huskies, senior guard Chaisson Allen (18.5 points per game) can only do so much. Despite Allen’s double-double against Drexel (19 points, 10 rebounds), the Huskies turned the ball over 10 times and shot 15.7 percent from beyond the arc. This is the time of year where the graduation of Matt Janning is really impacting coach Bill Coen’s team, which has lost four in a row. Rhode Island looms as a sizable test.

9. UNC Wilmington
(3-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 79, SOS 45)
Last week: W 73-69 @ George Washington, L 80-52 @ George Mason
This week: Idle

This is where it starts to become the “best of the rest.” None of these bottom four teams have accomplished much early in the season, aside from helping the CAA nab a few out-of-conference wins against mediocre programs. The Seahawks rank near the bottom of the nation in turnover percentage (26.5) and steal percentage (13.7). Senior guard Chad Tomko is good, but it’s doubtful he’ll be able to post a favorable assist-to-turnover ratio against some of the better teams in the league.

10. Georgia State
(3-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 230, SOS 210)
Last week: L 60-56 (OT) @ Hampton, W 64-63 James Madison
This week: 12.11 vs. Western Michigan

When things looked bleak for the Panthers following a four-point overtime loss to Hampton (MEAC), they rebounded with one heck of a nail-biting win against James Madison. Still, Georgia State hasn’t been particularly impressive in its wins (Troy, Utah State, JMU), and without the presence of a starter who averages double figures in scoring – junior forward Eric Buckner leads the team at 9.3 points per game – it could be a long season for the Panthers.

11. William & Mary
(3-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 237, SOS 167)
Last week: L 64-39 vs. Western Carolina, W 76-62 vs. Howard, L 59-55 @ Virginia Commonwealth
This week: Idle

Say what you will about the Tribe’s inability to hold onto the basketball, or create turnovers, but coach Tony Shaver challenged his team with its early schedule. In its first three games, William & Mary played Virginia, Richmond and Syracuse. That’s a tall order for any club, let alone a team that only has one senior on the roster.

12. Towson
(2-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 324, SOS 325)
Last week: W 75-73 vs. Western Michigan, L 74-62 @ Hofstra
This week: 12.8 @ George Washington, 12.11 @ University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Don’t fret, Towson fans – two bits of good news coming your way. 1) In the coming week, the Tigers are staying ultra-local with games at George Washington and UMBC, so go out and see them. 2) Junior forward Braxton Dupree isn’t just the conference leader in rebounding (11.0 per game), he’s 11th in the nation. As for the bits of bad news? UMBC is the only team with a lower RPI than the Tigers that Towson plays until Jan. 19 against William & Mary.

A Look Ahead

We interrupt that tasty preview of CAA conference play for this regularly-scheduled slate of non-conference battles. So far, the Colonial has fared pretty well against the other conferences, boasting a 41-28 record. No team in the conference has less than two wins. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if this conference play blip has any impact on play moving forward. Here’s a look at some of the top games on the docket for the coming week, Road Rules style:

  • 12/7 – James Madison at Marshall (5-2): You’re probably thinking, Marshall? There’s another Conference USA school to watch that doesn’t begin with “Mem” and end with “phis?” Yep. There is. James Madison will have its hands full. Not only can the Thundering Herd score (76.9 points per game – good for 67th in the nation), but they average 38.4 rebounds per game and boast four players who average 11.0 points per game or better. Player to watch: Marshall sophomore guard DeAndre Kane. The 6’4 wingman is averaging a team-high 17.6 points per game, but has proven turnover prone. If the Dukes can rattle him early, it could hold the key to victory.
  • 12/11 - Virginia Commonwealth at Richmond (6-2): More than anything, this game might take on an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better complex for the Rams. Old Dominion already has beaten Richmond this season. If Virginia Commonwealth could not only beat the A-10 Spiders, but do it on the road, that’d go a long way toward showing how powerful the top of this conference has the potential to be. Player to watch: Richmond senior forward Justin Harper. The Spiders are seventh in the nation in field goal percentage. A large part of that is because Harper’s shooting a cool 59.7 percent from the floor. And they’re not all bunnies either; Harper has made 12 of his 20 3-pointers (48.0 percent) this year.
  • 12/14 - Drexel at Louisville (6-0): This game has the potential to gain plenty of attention for the CAA. What kind of attention, however, remains to be seen. Naturally, Louisville is a premiere team in the Big East, and will more than likely enter this game undefeated. If the Dragons can find a way to deal with the intimidating atmosphere, they next must find a way to slow an offense that averages 87.5 points per game and an astounding 19.2 assists per game. The Dragons’ one saving grace could be its rebounding (42.2 per game) and the fact that this will be the Cardinals’ third match of three on the week. Player to watch: Louisville sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles. This 6’8 powerhouse will no doubt present a challenge to Drexel’s bigs. How Samme Givens and Daryl McCoy handle the test should go a long way toward determining the result.

YouTube Highlights

The CAA puts together these fantastic videos that recap conference action. Naturally, the December 4 one is of particular interest.

This video is mostly Richmond-oriented, but at least it’ll give you a chance to see ODU in action on defense. People always forget about defense…

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

Alex Varone is the RTC correspondent for the MAC and CAA.

A Look Back

  • The CAA has represented itself well in some of the nation’s early-season tournaments. VCU pulled off an upset at Wake Forest to advance to the semifinals of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off, Old Dominion defeated St. Peter’s and Clemson to advance to the final of the Paradise Jam, and George Mason finished fourth in the eight-team Charleston Classic.
  • Strong performances in the aforementioned early-season tournaments have led CAA teams to a combined 19-18 start in non-conference play. That number should improve shortly as 14 of this week’s 21 games involving CAA teams will be played at home, where the league’s twelve teams have started the season a combined 10-2.

Player of the Week

Joey Rodriguez, VCU – There are a variety of worthy candidates this week, including Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins, who leads the CAA in scoring at 25.7 points per game, and UNC Wilmington’s Chad Tomko, whose critical late game baskets have propelled the Seahawks to two early victories. But the week belonged to Rodriguez (18.3 PPG, 10.3 APG, 2.0 SPG), the catalyst behind VCU’s impressive 3-0 start. The senior scored 22 points and dished out 17 assists in a 101-point offensive outburst in the season-opening win over UNC Greensboro, and followed it up with 15 points and 8 assists against Winthrop and 18 points and 6 assists against Wake Forest.

Stat of the Week

0-6 – The early record for Colonial Athletic Association teams against those ranked in the Top 25. However, of those six losses, only Hofstra’s 44-point drubbing at the hands of North Carolina in Puerto Rico, and UNC Wilmington’s 40-point loss at Ohio State were true disappointments to the league. Both James Madison and UNC-Wilmington were as competitive as one could expect in double-digit losses at Kansas State and Florida, respectively, and preseason favorite Old Dominion came oh-so-close to upsetting Georgetown, falling by three points at home while William & Mary rebounded from a tough first two games to give Syracuse all it could handle in a loss by three points.

Power Rankings (preseason ranking in parentheses)

  1. VCU (2) 3-0 – VCU winning at Wake Forest, and thereby advancing to the semifinals of the NIT Tip-Off, is the story of the week in the CAA. Wake Forest may end up not being very good this season, but the Rams beat an ACC team in a true road game by 21 points, and now have an opportunity to boost their resume with a game this week against Tennessee and then either Villanova or UCLA in New York City. Rodriguez has been the star for this team, but Bradford BurgessBrandon Rozzell and Jamie Skeen are all averaging in double-figures at this very early junction of the season.
  2. Old Dominion (1) 4-1 – A win over Georgetown would have been great for Old Dominion’s eventual NCAA Tournament hopes, but the Monarchs have a couple of other fast-approaching opportunities to pick up a key non-conference win: Dec. 1 vs. Richmond, Dec. 11 vs. Dayton, Dec. 30 at Missouri. Even with the loss against the Hoyas, ODU still ended the week with a winning record, taking care of business with wins over High Point and St. Peter’s, and beating Clemson to reach the final of the Paradise Jam. The Monarchs went on to take home the event’s crown by beating Xavier in the championship.
  3. Drexel (10) 2-0 – It’s only been two games, but the Drexel Dragons have been very impressive in a pair of road wins: a three-point win at Loyola (MD), and a 21-point win at Penn. But a third road game to start the season (Nov. 24 at Rhode Island) will be a big test for these Dragons. Sophomore Chris Fouch has scored over 20 points in both Drexel wins, while junior Samme Givens has grabbed over 10 rebounds in each victory.
  4. George Mason (3) 2-2 – The Patriots had an opportunity to pick up a couple of nice early-season tournament wins against NC State and Wofford, but let both games slip away in the second half. Nevertheless, George Mason notched quality wins over Harvard and at Charlotte to start the season. With a manageable schedule over the next couple of weeks, the Patriots could very likely put together a long win streak and climb even higher in these rankings.
  5. James Madison (5) 2-1 – The Dukes handled themselves fairly well with a respectable 14-point road loss at Kansas State, and a seven-point win at The Citadel to begin their season. Senior Denzel Bowles has continued where he left off last season, scoring in double-figures in both games thus far, but junior Rayshawn Goins‘ performance (17 points, 12 rebounds at Kansas State; 13 points, 10 rebounds at The Citadel) has been noteworthy.
  6. UNC-Wilmington (11) 2-2 – UNC-Wilmington temporarily vaults up five spots in the power rankings because both of its losses were against teams that are nationally ranked–a 19-point loss at Florida, and a 40-point loss at Ohio State–while it picked up two wins at home against Liberty (in overtime) and Morehead State (by two points). Senior Chad Tomko hit a crucial three-pointer to send the Liberty game into overtime, and hit a game-winning field goal to defeat Morehead State, one of the favorites to win the Ohio Valley Conference.
  7. Northeastern (7) 2-1 – Northeastern was fortunate to get off to a 2-0 start, as its wins over Boston University and at Southern Illinois were by a combined three points, the latter a one-point OT win after a late technical foul call on the Salukis. A 16-point home loss to three-time defending MAAC champion Siena probably showed that the Huskies still have a long way to go. Chaisson Allen continues to do everything for Northeastern, as he leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals thus far.
  8. Delaware (8) 1-2 – The Blue Hens followed up on a disappointing pair of double-digit losses to Ohio and Cornell with a 32-point trouncing of Howard at home. Senior guard Jawan Carter, who averaged over 18 points per game last season, got off to a poor start to the season, hitting only two of 16 field goals and scoring seven total points in Delaware’s first two games. Carter did manage to find the touch in the blowout over Howard, nailing eight three-pointers.
  9. Towson (9) 1-2 – The Tigers sandwiched a 15-point home win over Coppin State in between a pair of road losses against teams from the MAC–a three-point loss at Miami (Ohio) and an 11-point defeat at the hands of Buffalo. In the midst of the somewhat disappointing start, a pleasant surprise for Towson has been the play of sophomore Isaiah Philmore, who is averaging 18 PPG and 9.3 RPG so far in his sophomore season.
  10. Hofstra (4) 1-3 - The first four games of the Mo Cassara era at Hofstra hasn’t gone quite as planned. Sure, the Pride dismantled non-Division 1 opponent Farmingdale State, but were then embarrassed by North Carolina, blew an eight-point lead in the final minutes against Western Kentucky, and never competed against Nebraska. Charles Jenkins has been his usual brilliant self, but fellow guards Mike Moore and Shemiye McLendon need to alleviate some of his scoring burden, and someone has to fill the gaping void on the interior.
  11. Georgia State (12) 1-1 – After just two games, the Panthers still look like the least talented team in the Colonial, but a split of their first two games, including a solid ten-point win over Troy, moves Georgia State out of the basement in these rankings for now. Notably, Georgia State scored 80 points in the win over Troy, which is something that it did only once all of last season. But don’t confuse this team for an offensive powerhouse, as it will likely take a different guy each night to carry the load.
  12. William & Mary (6) 0-3 – Losing at Virginia and at Richmond isn’t a disaster by any stretch, but losing by 24 and 34 points, respectively, is an early cause for alarm. The three-point shot was the Tribe’s go-to offensive weapon last year, but William & Mary has only converted 10 out of 41 treys (24%) in its first two games, before hitting 10-of-22 from beyond the arc in a hard-fought loss at Syracuse.

A Look Ahead

Here are five key games to watch this week:

  • Nov. 24 – VCU vs. Tennessee (NIT Tip-Off)
  • Nov. 24 – Drexel at Rhode Island
  • Nov. 24 – Radford at George Mason
  • Nov. 26 – VCU vs. Villanova/UCLA (NIT Tip-Off)
  • Nov. 27 – Northeastern at Utah State
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CAA Tournament Preview

Posted by rtmsf on March 4th, 2010

Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the CAA and an occasional contributor.

There is a lot at stake for what appears to be a one-bid league. BracketBusters did not help (3-9) and the CAA could not capitalize on TV games, winning just one of five. William & Mary used the non-conference slate, winning at Wake Forest and Maryland, to boost their chances as an at-large. Old Dominion won at Georgetown and crushed Charlotte as home to boost their at-large chances early. Northeastern and George Mason are likely to reach other postseason tournaments but have a good chance at making a run at the CAA automatic bid. Ken Pomeroy’s tournament odds give Old Dominion a 45.7% chance, followed by #5 seed VCU (24.4%).  No team has ever won four games in four days to win the conference tournament in CAA history. If you are within the viewing area or able to watch on Sunday, the CAA semifinals of this tournament guarantee to be a great spectacle. However before eleven teams’ hopes are dashed Monday night, the themes that bring these teams together will dominate the tournament talk.

#1 Old Dominion would have to be considered the favorite. They are second in the CAA in offensive efficiency and first in defensive efficiency and have won five of their last six, their only loss in that span at Northern Iowa in the BracketBusters. Gerald Lee has been the focal point of their late season streak, shooting 54% from the field in the last six games. However, they will have a lot tougher path to the championship than ever because of a potential re-match with Virginia Commonwealth. The Monarchs escaped last Saturday with a three-point win at home and were beaten by VCU by 12 on the road earlier in February. There’s a chance the Monarchs’ semifinal game will be their toughest yet.

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