Drexel Begins to Right Ship With 69-58 Win Over Davidson

Posted by IRenko on December 23rd, 2012

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

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

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

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

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2012

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

Looking Back

  • Future Tournaments In Charm City: After 24 straight years at the Richmond Coliseum, the annual CAA Tournament is uprooting and moving north. Beginning next season and running through 2016, Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena (basketball capacity: 11,800) will host the league’s crown jewel event. When VCU left the CAA for the Atlantic 10, a significant chunk of the tournament’s Richmond fan base left with it. That opened the door for the CAA to negotiate a new venue – something the league’s northern schools have clamored for, citing the Rams’ unfair home court advantage. Baltimore quickly made an aggressive push to host, and the CAA announced Wednesday that its tournament would feast on crab cakes for three years, beginning in 2014. While the league office is located in Richmond, and the city is roughly centralized geographically, the projected drop-off in attendance from VCU’s departure made the location and its dingy arena a bit less appealing. Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena (opened in 1962 as the Baltimore Civic Center) is no state-of-the-art building, but it will at least help showcase the Colonial to a new town.

bmore charm city

  • Remember When We Used To Do This More Often?: VCU and Old Dominion, two teams that combined to win the last four CAA championships, met up again in Norfolk, Virginia, for their first non-conference game. VCU left last summer for the Atlantic 10, while Old Dominion announced its plans to defect this summer for Conference USA. Meanwhile, the teams gave us another chance to pine for the days of Frank Hassell battling Jamie Skeen on the low block. This match-up had appeal but not much on the line. The Rams cruised to a 13-point halftime lead and maintained it throughout the second half, sending the Monarchs deeper into their early-season slump. Au revoir, ODU and VCU.
  • Tigers Roar, At Last: Towson earned its first win over a plus-.500 team since February 2010, beating Vermont, 68-64. Its next game, though a loss, was just as impressive. The Tigers went to the wire against Georgetown in a slug-it-out defensive battle. Before the season we predicted in this space that Towson would be the CAA team no one wants to play, even if it isn’t in the top tier. That appears to be true. The Tigers have won the rebounding battle in their last eight games, and have a genuine star in forward Jerrelle Benimon.
  • Another Losing Week: The CAA conglomerate once again failed to reach .500 last week. But its 9-12 record actually brought the league’s season-long non-conference winning percentage up to .385. That’s mark ranks 21st among all conferences. The league’s RPI (#24) is even worse. The CAA has taken a fast nose-dive after losing VCU. Last year the league held the 14th-best RPI, and the previous season it was ninth, one spot ahead of the Atlantic 10 (the league to which VCU defected in a strictly basketball move).

Reader’s Take

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What Has Happened to Drexel?

Posted by rtmsf on December 5th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 28th, 2012

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

Looking Back

  • Chris Ouch!: Drexel learned that top scorer Chris Fouch will miss the rest of this season with a broken right ankle. It’s a tough blow for the Dragons and their senior, who also missed all what would have been his freshman season with a knee injury, before winning rookie of the year as a sophomore. Fouch, a 6’0″ sixth man and shooting specialist, led the Dragons in scoring two seasons ago and was leading them through three games this year with a 16.7 PPG average. That puts more of a burden on guards Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee, a pair of CAA first team preseason picks.
  • Everybody’s Got A Loss: Any unrealistic dreams of a perfect season by a CAA team were dashed this week when upstart William & Mary followed its 3-0 start with a pair of losses. Surely we didn’t expect to see any team go deep into the season without a tarnish, especially given the teams W&M beat to become undefeated. The Tribe had a shot to upset Wake Forest – maybe the worst team in the ACC – after doing so two seasons ago, but dropped that game after snapping their unbeaten streak against Miami (OH).
  • Bright Lights Unkind To Hens: When Delaware beat Virginia in an NIT Tip-Off game, it set up a trip to Madison Square Garden for the Blue Hens. Playing on ESPN for the world to see, Delaware couldn’t muster another upset. It lost 66-63 against Kansas State, and then was trounced 85-59 in the third-place game by Pittsburgh. Devon Saddler, at least, looked like a superstar in NYC, scoring 60 points in the two games combined.

Reader’s Take

 

POY Stock Watch

It’s too early to crown a Player of the Year in the CAA, but there’s no harm in using the first handful of games for each team to set a baseline for the race. These five have earned front-runner status with their early play.

Devon Saddler has been outstanding so far this season (US Presswire)

  • Joel Smith – The Northeastern guard wasn’t named to the league’s preseason first or second team, but he’s stepped up in the absence of a teammate that was – guard Jonathan Lee, who’s out with an injury. Smith is second in the conference in scoring (17.8 PPG) and leads his team in assists and steals.
  • Devon Saddler – Delaware’s power guard leads the league in scoring (22.2PPG), even if others surpass him in efficiency. If Saddler can display the all-around game to match his bucket-making prowess, the comparisons to former Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins – a two-time CAA POY who’s now in the NBA – will materialize.
  • Marcus Thornton – It’s a point guard’s league, and Thornton might be the most responsible primary ballhandler, even if he’s just a sophomore. He’s shooting 54.2 percent from the field and is as consistent as they come.
  • Jerelle Benimon – Towson coach Pat Skerry promised in the preseason that Benimon would be a “beast,” and the Georgetown transfer has delivered. Round up his rebounds and he’s averaging a double-double, adding a measure of toughness that Towson desperately needed.
  • Keith Rendleman – That UNCW is .500 after six games should earn Rendleman a trophy itself. As mentioned before, he’s the only consistent player on his team, but he brings it every night and has made a lacking roster competitive.

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2012-13 RTC Conference Primers: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 2nd, 2012

Mark Selig of the Daily News-Record and http://jamesmadison.rivals.com is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can follow him on Twitter at @markrselig.

Top Storylines

  • Strange League Makeup: Perennial contender VCU left for the Atlantic 10, leaving 11 teams in the CAA, but only seven of those squads will participate in this year’s league tournament held in Richmond. Outgoing Old Dominion and Georgia State are ineligible under CAA bylaws, while UNC-Wilmington and Towson are ineligible for any postseason play because of low APR scores. College of Charleston recently approved a move from the Southern Conference and will likely join next season.
  • Can Bruiser Take The Dragons Dancing? Drexel’s 12th-year coach has won 199 games with the Dragons, but Bruiser Flint has never brought the team to the NCAA Tournament (his last Tourney appearance was in 1998 with UMass). The Dragons, champions of the regular season last year, are the favorites to repeat and this time also win the conference tourney now that VCU isn’t around to boast what was essentially home-court advantage at the Richmond Coliseum. Flint has had his share of headaches in the Virginia state capital, but a lot of them would go away if he could just snip that Coliseum net.

Frantz Massenat Leads The Dragons As Preseason Favorites. (AP)

  • Multiple Bids? That seems to be the question every year in the CAA, a conference that sent multiple teams to the tournament in 2011, 2007 and 2006. Without VCU – a fringe Top 25 team – that appears unlikely. But a team like Drexel could theoretically build itself a strong enough at-large résumé and then get upset in the CAA Tournament. It would take a big season from a George Mason or Delaware to have the Colonial flag waved at multiple NCAA sites, though. Old Dominion, ineligible for the league title, created a rugged enough non-conference schedule for itself to be an at-large consideration, but the Monarchs probably aren’t talented enough this year to breeze through that slate.

Reader’s Take I


Predicted Order of Finish

  1. Drexel (15-3)
  2. Delaware (13-5)
  3. George Mason (13-5)
  4. Northeastern (10-8)
  5. Old Dominion (9-9)
  6. James Madison (9-9)
  7. Georgia State (7-11)
  8. Hofstra (7-11)
  9. William & Mary (6-12)
  10. Towson (6-12)
  11. UNC-Wilmington (4-14)

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RTC Summer School: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2012

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

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

Three Key Storylines

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

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

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

Reader’s Take

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CAA Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 2nd, 2012

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

CAA Tournament Glance

Tournament Preview

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

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

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

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

Season Recap

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

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

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

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

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

Conference Accolades

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

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

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

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

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

Power Rankings

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 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 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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