Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. With the CAA Tournament tipping on Friday, get up to speed on the conference and gain a leg up on your Big Dance Cinderella candidate research.
A Look Ahead… Postseason Style
First-Round Game to Watch: No. 8 UNC-Wilmington vs. No. 9 Georgia State. It’s not the sexiest matchup out there, but then again, what first-round game is? The teams split the season series and always seem to play one another close. This one should be pretty interesting, too, in that whichever team wins will have to turn around and face the team with the longest winning streak in the nation: George Mason.
First-Round Player To Watch: Northeastern’s Chaisson Allen. One of the more underrated guards in the conference, Allen has a strong build doesn’t seem to break under pressure. There will be no greater pressure than this weekend, so look for Allen to have a decent showing.
Team Most Likely to Pull an Upset: William & Mary. If only because they beat their first-round opponent, James Madison, during the regular season. That and junior Quinn McDowell is a threat from anywhere on the floor.
Team Most Likely to be Upset: Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams are really struggling coming into the CAA Tournament and unlike years past, they don’t seem to have the right demeanor about them to turn it around and make a run. Then again, that’s what this time of year is all about.
Team Most Likely to Win it All: George Mason. The Patriots have thoroughly dominated the league in the second half of the season and are playing their best basketball of the year at the perfect time. Look for this to be a two-bid conference, with both George Mason and Old Dominion capable of making some noise in the Big Dance.
A Look Back
It has been a banner year for the CAA on many levels, and still (barring some upsets in the conference tournament) it looks as though the league will be sending only two teams to the NCAA tournament. That said, the CAA can boast that it’s one of two leagues, along with the Big East, to have six 20-game winners. It also finished with one team ranked in the Top 25 (George Mason), has the nation’s fourth-leading scorer (Charles Jenkins). There’s a lot to get to in the check-in/postseason preview, so follow along as we recap the regular season that was and look ahead to the postseason that will be.
Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.
A Look Back
Well, a lot has happened since our last check-in. Way back then (err, two weeks ago), this was a relatively quiet league with a pretty decent out-of-conference showing. Sure, there were occasional upsets (like Drexel over Louisville or Delaware over Old Dominion), but not too much to turn the conference on its head. Now, seven games into conference play, that has changed. Big time. Virginia Commonwealth and Hofstra have lifted themselves to the top of the conference standings, while Drexel and Northeastern have fallen a long way. Nobody seems safe anymore and with everyone beating up on one another, the CAA’s chances at being a multi-bid conference seem all but vanished. That, however, doesn’t mean there’s no reason to enjoy the games. In fact, this probably makes it far more exciting to be a fan of the conference. It’s becoming quite clear that spectators should watch these games with no preset notion of which team is going to win, because that’s likely to be wrong. Without too much more chit-chat, let’s get to the recaps and all-important power rankings in this week’s CAA check-in.
Player of the Week:Joey Rodriguez, G, Virginia Commonwealth: The senior guard has been an understated part of the Rams’ league-second-best offense (72.9 points per game) as he runs the point with the poise and experience of a fourth-year player. In two victories last week, he contributed 14 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists while turning over the ball only four times and creating four steals. There’s little doubt Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess, and Brandon Rozzell would be able to do what they’re doing without Rodriguez’s steadying presence.
Team of the Week: William & Mary: Don’t act so surprised. The Tribe has, in the previous two games, been able to do what many teams in this conference have not on consecutive nights – blow teams out. In a league where every matchup is seemingly a nail-biter, William & Mary upset Drexel (which was coming off a win against Old Dominion) and then beat Towson by a combined total of 29 points.
Stat of the Week – 6: The number of CAA teams in the most recent Mid-Major Top 25 poll, which speaks to the amazing talent and balance at the top of this conference.
Charles Jenkins Watch
Week Four of our Charles Jenkins Watch, and he’s still at it. The senior guard hasn’t scored less than 13 points all season (and other than that one game, it has been less than 19) and last week compiled 41 points in two contests. He was, however, only 6-16 from the field in a loss against Old Dominion, but the Queens native still ranks seventh in the nation in scoring with an impressive average of 23.2 points per game.
1. Old Dominion
(14-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 22, SOS 40)
Last week: L 62-57 @ Drexel, W 75-64 @ Hofstra, W 64-58 vs. James Madsion
This week: 1.22 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.24 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 1.26 @ Georgia State
Previous rank: No. 1
What a wild week it has been for Old Dominion. And for that matter, everyone in the conference. But for the Monarchs in particular, this was a week during which they could prove their mettle, and why they’re the highest-ranked CAA team in the Mid-Major Top 25. After faltering on the road against a baffling Drexel team, Old Dominion rebounded nicely with a win against previously undefeated in the CAA Hofstra and then snapped James Madison’s nine-game winning streak. Not a bad way to round out the week. And the kicker is, they’re still gridlocked in a three-way tie for second in the conference standings.
2. George Mason
(13-5, 5-2 CAA – RPI 44, SOS 56)
Last week: W 66-51 vs. Georgia State, W 71-47 vs. Drexel
This week: 1.22 @ James Madison, 1.24 @ Delaware, 1.26 vs. Towson
Previous rank: No. 3
Ranked 12th in the Mid-Major Top 25, the Patriots have been one of the few teams who have played things out according to script – lose to teams ahead of you, beat those below you. George Mason has the second-highest RPI of any team in the conference right now, and continues to feast on a high field-goal percentage (48.4 percent – 18th in the nation). If that keeps up, along with the 14-points-per-game scoring averages of Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, there’s little doubt the Patriots will more than be in the mix come season’s end. Want even more of a reason to feel good? Check out how many games kenpom.com has the Patriots losing the rest of the way.
3. Virginia Commonwealth
(14-5, 6-1 CAA – RPI 68, SOS 163)
Last week: W 73-64 vs. Northeastern, W 71-54 vs. Georgia State
This week: 1.22 @ Old Dominion, 1.24 @ Towson
Previous rank: No. 5
Would you look at that? Seemingly in the blink of an eye, the Rams are at the top of the conference and have pieced together a five-game winning streak in a league where it’s becoming apparent that that’s quitter a difficult task to accomplish. VCURamNation is buzzing, and rightfully so as the Rams most recently exacted revenge against Georgia State, which handed them their only conference loss thus far. A showdown against Old Dominion at the Constant Convocation Center looms on Saturday, so Jamie Skeen and company better eat their Wheaties.
4. James Madison
(15-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 63, SOS 201)
Last week: W 79-67 vs. Georgia State, W 63-54 vs. UNC-Wilmington, L 64-58 @ Old Dominion
This week: 1.22 vs. George Mason, 1.24 @ Hofstra, 1.26 vs. Drexel
Previous rank: No. 4
Everything was lined up perfectly for the Dukes to steamroll into the toughest portion of their conference schedule riding an unprecedented winning streak. That is, until they lost to Old Dominion, and now must find a way to regroup with George Mason, Hofsta and Drexel on the horizon rather than look to extend a record streak. Still, what the Dukes accomplished during their impressive run (the school’s best since 1992-93) won’t soon be forgotten and a showdown against George Mason at 11 a.m. on Saturday probably has leading scorer Denzel Bowles (17.1 points per game) champing at the bit.
(12-6, 6-1 CAA – RPI 103, SOS 143)
Last week: L 75-64 vs. Old Dominion, W 66-57 vs. UNC-Wilmington
This week: 1.22 @ William & Mary, 1.24 vs. James Madison, 1.27 @ Virginia Commonwealth
Previous rank: No. 8
A mistake is a mistake, and it appears as though last week’s rank of No. 8 was way too low for the Pride. After the conclusion of the non-conference schedule, Hofstra simply skyrocketed and now sits tied with Virginia Commonwealth at the top of the standings. If not for a loss against Old Dominion, the Pride would be roaring even louder. Naturally, Charles Jenkins receives a large amount of attention, but don’t underestimate the minutes Mike Moore (14.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game) contributes. The key to Hofstra’s success so far has largely depended on its ability to hang on to the ball (17.2 turnover percentage) and nail free throws (75.5 free-throw percentage).
6. Drexel Dragons
(11-6, 3-4 CAA – RPI 65, SOS 95)
Last week: W 62-57 vs. Old Dominion, L 80-66 @ William & Mary, L 71-47 @ George Mason
This week: 1.22 vs. Northeastern, 1.24 vs. Georgia State, 1.26 @ James Madison
Previous rank: No. 2
You can’t help but think that Drexel did this to itself. Maybe it was coach Bruiser Flint’s suspension, maybe it was the realization that rebounding alone cannot win basketball games, maybe it was the high from downing Old Dominion, or maybe the Dragons had become such a target that other teams played at their top level in order to defeat Drexel. Whatever the case, the Dragons already have lost four conference games and back-to-back games in humiliating fashion. First it was an 80-66 pounding at the hands of William & Mary. Yes, you read that right, and yes the Tribe shot 60 percent in that game. Then the Dragons dropped a 71-47 decision to George Mason in which they scored 17 second-half points. So in a two-game span, Drexel lost by a combined 38 points and completely undid what little chance there might have been for an at-large bid.
(9-8, 4-3 CAA – RPI 137, SOS 180)
Last week: W 66-63 @ Towson, W 54-52 vs. Northeastern
This week: 1.22 @ Georgia State, 1.24 vs. George Mason, 1.26 @ William & Mary
Previous rank: No. 6
This is where the dividing line starts to fall between the CAA’s top teams and the rest of the pack. But with that said, any of the teams ranked sixth and below have proven very capable of beating anyone in the upper tier. The Blue Hens probably had a bit rougher week than anticipated as both victories against Towson and Northeastern came down to the wire – especially Jamelle Hagins’ dunk with 21 seconds remaining to give Delaware the victory against the Huskies. The Blue Hens are the last remaining team on this list with a winning record in conference play.
(9-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 131, SOS 110)
Last week: L 63-54 @ James Madison, L 66-57 @ Hofstra
This week: 1.22 vs. Towson, 1.24 @ Old Dominion, 1.26 vs. Northeastern
Previous rank: No. 7
It wasn’t the best week for Seahawks anywhere as UNC-Wilmington dropped down to .500 by losing consecutive contests to James Madison and Hofstra. Granted those are two of the better teams in the conference, but it was a hit UNCW probably couldn’t afford to take more than midway through the CAA slate. The Seahawks do a lot of things well, but nothing great which is pretty much the recipe for a .500 squad. Chad Tomko (16.1 points per game) and Keith Rendleman (10.2 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game) continue to leads a team that’s right in the thick of things, but probably not good enough to down the big boys come crunch time.
9. William & Mary
(6-12, 2-5 CAA – RPI 245, SOS 132)
Last week: W 80-66 vs. Drexel, W 83-68 @ Towson
This week: 1.22 vs. Hofstra, 1.24 @ Northeastern, 1.26 vs. Delaware
Previous rank: No. 11
The Tribe picked one heck of a way to snap a seven-game losing streak, eh? Not only did William & Mary trounce Drexel, but then it turned right around and dismantled Towson. In two games, the Tribe has beaten its opponents by a combined 29 points and have turned their downtrodden program into a respectable one in a matter of days. The real test will come Saturday, when the Tribe has to face a difficult Hofstra team at Kaplan Arena.
10. Georgia State
(8-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 205, SOS 200)
Last week: L 79-67 @ James Madison, L 66-51 @ George Mason, L 71-54 @ Virginia Commonwealth
This week: 1.22 vs. Delaware, 1.24 @ Drexel, 1.26 vs. Old Dominion
Previous rank: No. 11
While Georgia State has lost three games in a row, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they’re the only team in the conference to beat both Virginia Commonwealth and James Madison. The CAA’s version of a spoiler, no doubt. Last week, however, both school exacted their revenge on the Panthers, who are still searching for a go-to scorer down the stretch. Those three losses, however, came to three very talented schools. Don’t be surprised is Georgia State pulls a few more upsets before season’s end – snow-delayed games or not.
(4-13, 0-7 CAA – RPI 267, SOS 168)
Last week: L 66-63 vs. Delaware, L 83-68 vs. William & Mary
This week: 1.22 @ UNC-Wilmington, 1.24 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.26 @ George Mason
Previous rank: No. 10
Towson joins Northeastern as the two winless teams in CAA play But the Tigers do appear to be in slightly better shape than the Huskies. No, it’s not because they’ve only lost six straight instead of eight. But because they are getting contribution across the board (four scorers average double figures) and their rebounding (33.4) and points (70.1) averages aren’t nearly as bad. No game is going to be easy for Towson the rest of the way, but there’s little doubt the Tigers won’t get that first conference victory sooner rather than later.
(4-14, 0-7 CAA – RPI 184, SOS 30)
Last week: L 73-64 @ Virginia Commonwealth, L 54-52 @ Delaware
This week: 1.22 @ Drexel, 1.24 vs. William & Mary, 1.26 @ UNC-Wilmington
Previous rank: No. 9
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Well, maybe not mighty, but certainly not many could have predicted the Huskies would be winless through seven games of conference action. Northeastern has lost eight games in a row and is having trouble both scoring (62.8 points per game) and rebounding (28.5 rebounds per game). And in a conference where rebounding is king, that’s a problem. One quick look at Northeastern’s kempom.com page, and the amount of red tells you all you need to know. The Huskies haven’t beaten a team with an RPI higher than 130 this season. Thought if it’s any consolation, their strength of schedule is a robust 30. It will be interesting to see who wins Saturday’s matchup of two struggling programs in Drexel and Northeastern.
A Look Ahead
For whatever reason, the chips just happened to fall on Saturday as a huge day of games for the conference. Here’s a look at three games you won’t want to miss this weekend. And mine as well throw the NFL’s championship weekend games on top of that as well. Those things are gonna be good÷
Jan. 22, George Mason (13-5, 5-2) at James Madison (15-4, 5-2): Set the coffee maker and make sure you wake up for this one, which tips off at 11 a.m. from the JMU Convocation Center. The game will be televised on ESPNU and, more importantly, will provide a big road test for the Patriots, who are coming off a big win against Drexel. Player to watch: James Madison’s Denzel Bowles. The senior forward has compiled back-to-back 20-plus point games and boasts the top field goal percentage on the team (and second-best in the conference) at 60.9 percent. He also has yanked down double-digit rebounds in three of JMU’s previous four games.
Jan. 22, Virginia Commonwealth (14-5, 6-1) at Old Dominion (14-4, 5-2): If possible, this game might carry bigger implications than the George Mason-James Madison battle, if only because VCU sits atop the league and on a five-game winning streak. That said, Old Dominion is out to prove it’s still the top dog in the CAA. Player to watch: Old Dominion’s Frank Hassell. Two of his five double-doubles on the season have come in his past two games. The senior forward has the ability to take over a game, so watch out if the crowd gets behind him.
Jan. 22, Hofstra (12-6, 6-1) at William & Mary (6-12, 2-5): While this might not be the sexiest matchup of the CAA’s Super Saturday, it has the potential to be an important one no matter which team wins. If Hofstra takes it, it does no worse than maintain its position atop the conference. If the Tribe pulls an upset, it extends its winning streak to three and proves that nobody should take it lightly. Player to watch: William & Mary junior swingman Quinn McDowell. In his previous three games, he has scored 45 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. As the lead contributor on the Tribe, he’ll need to step up. It will also be interesting to see who guards Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins.
Caught on Film
Remember, if you like CAA basketball highlights (and we’re assuming you do since you made it this far), check out the CAA’s YouTube page for regular highlights.
***** – 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.
Three interesting contests headline tonight’s schedule, including NC State’s endeavor to pull a shocker of its own over now-#4 Duke. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.
Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.
A Look Back
Still searching for that last-minute holiday gift for your favorite Colonial Athletic Association diehard fan? Well, see if you can somehow wrap your hands around a DVD (or Blu-Ray – they’re all the rage) of Drexel’s monumental upset win against previously undefeated Louisville at the (yes, this is the real name) KFC Yum! Center. Or, if DVDs aren’t available – which in all likelihood, they’re not – maybe just a framed photo of the box score. Either way, chances are this win serves as an early present for mid-major fans everywhere. Entering the contest, kempom.com pegged Louisville as 86% favorites. With Drexel’s victory (the Dragons’ first against a ranked opponent since 2006), perhaps those in the Philadelphia area now will be forced to consider the petitions to change the Big 5 tag to the City 6. Given the way Temple and Villanova are playing, too, it looks to be a promising year in Philly. That, however, is beside the point. The point is that this conference’s stock is very high right now thanks to Old Dominion’s consistently high billing, Drexel’s upset win, VCU’s already sterling reputation, and George Mason’s six-game winning streak. Elsewhere last week, UNC-Wilmington beat Wake Forest for the first time in school history, and the CAA continued to roll along in non-conference play. Six teams in the conference boast RPIs in the top 100, and the CAA’s non-conference record is now 68-42 (.618). With only a handful of out-of-conference games remaining before the real fun begins, all CAA fans can be friends for a few more weeks, which is nice. We wouldn’t want anyone on edge for the holidays.
Player of the Week
Jamelle Hagins, F, Delaware: Since there weren’t that many games last week thanks to the exam schedule for a majority of CAA teams, let’s give some props to Hagins. The 6’8, 220-pound sophomore held his own against Villanova in Philadelphia en route to scoring 12 points, pulling down eight rebounds and blocking a whopping seven shots. Hagins is blossoming in his second year, and leads the conference in blocks per game, with four.
Team of the Week
Drexel Dragons: Should there be any other? The Dragons slowly and methodically tore apart Louisville, akin to what Gerard Butler’s character does to his adversary in Law Abiding Citizen, through a bevy of monster rebounding (46-26) and stingy defense. As of now, the CAA’s top four teams are in very good standing, not only among mid-major clubs, but in the national eye as well.
Stat of the Week
34: The number of consecutive double-digit scoring games for Hofstra guard CharlesJenkins. Which leads us to a new feature of the CAA Check-In…
Charles Jenkins Watch(new feature!)
As if you haven’t already heard enough about the superb guard from Hofstra, here’s a new feature to keep an eye on just how good he is compared to the rest of the nation’s scorers. And thanks to a 40-point performance against Binghamton, followed by 32-point and 21-point outbursts, he’s ranked fourth in the nation in scoring (24.9 points per game) behind Connecticut’s Kemba Walker (28.1), Northern Illinois’ Xavier Silas (28.1) and Nicholls State’s Anatoly Bose (25.0). Couple that with the fact that Jenkins graduated Sunday, and he’s ending 2010 with a flourish.
The CAA recap video from December 14 – AKA, the Drexel-Louisville game.
Highlights from Delaware’s loss against Villanova. Philly’s own (well, technically New Jersey’s own) Scott Graham on the play-by-play.
This’ll give you a look at UNC-Wilmington’s big win against Wake Forest, among others…
1. Old Dominion
(8-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 13, SOS 19)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.23 vs. Presbyterian
Previous rank: No. 1
While Old Dominion has relinquished its top spot in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll (as of December 13), second place isn’t a bad consolation prize. Naturally, the Monarchs still should be considered the class of the CAA, but it’s important to remember that Drexel hadn’t beaten Louisville when this Mid-Major Top 25 poll was released, so things could change. It’s still a little hard on the eyes to look at the disparity between ODU’s two losses, though: Nov. 12, 62-59 vs. Georgetown and, uhh, December 4 at, uhh, Delaware, 75-67…
2. Drexel Dragons
(8-1, 1-0 CAA – RPI 26, SOS 141)
Last week: W 52-46 @ No. 20 Louisville, W 61-57 @ St. Francis (Pa.)
This week: 12.22 @ No. 5 Syracuse
Previous rank: No. 4
Yeah, yeah, that win against Louisville was fantastic for Drexel’s image. Want to know if the Dragons are really for real? Check out Wednesday’s showdown against fifth-ranked Syracuse. As if the matchup itself wasn’t tough enough, the game’s in the Carrier Dome. Still, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, remember that Bruiser Flint’s squad had an amazing week that included a signature win, followed by a sloppy trap game victory. All of a sudden, the hopes for the CAA’s status as a two-bid conference don’t seem so distant.
3. George Mason
(8-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 70, SOS 143)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.22 @ Duquesne
Previous rank: No. 2
The Patriots are on a nice little six game winning streak, but given some of the high-quality wins by other CAA teams, George Mason’s run has largely gone unnoticed outside of Northern Virginia. People, however, should start to notice, as the Patriots boast three scorers averaging double figures – Luke Hancock (13.0), Cam Long (12.5)and Ryan Pearson (12.3) – and a team field goal percentage of .492, which is 16th in the nation.
4. Virginia Commonwealth
(7-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 69, SOS 142)
Last week: W 70-67 vs. Tulsa
This week:12.21 @ University of Alabama-Birmingham
Previous rank: No. 3
It wasn’t technically “last week,” but we’re going to mention VCU’s loss to Richmond anyway. The Rams dropped a 72-60 decision on December 11 at Richmond in what could have been a major statement game for them and the conference, and could have provided bragging rights in the Battle for Richmond. Instead, the Spiders picked apart VCU’s defense (55.1 percent from the field) and assisted 18 baskets to Virginia Commonwealth’s six. The Rams, however, bounced back nicely with a 70-67 win against Tulsa.
5. James Madison
(8-3, 0-1 CAA – RPI 100, SOS 250)
Last week: W 66-61 @ South Florida
This week: 12.22 vs. Marshall
Previous rank: No. 5
Phew. The Dukes finally return home after a lengthy five-game road trip in which they went 3-2. JMU has won its last two games, but the reward for finally returning home isn’t too sweet – a matchup against Marshall, the same team they lost to, 67-63, on December 7. Perhaps the change of scenery will aid James Madison this time around. If not, perhaps senior forward Denzel Bowles will. His efficiency from the floor is a ridiculous .623, helping him pour in a team-high 17.2 points per game.
(5-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 72, SOS 75)
Last week: W 81-69 vs. Wake Forest, W 64-50 vs. Radford
This week: 12.20 vs. Illinois State, 12.22 @ Campbell
Previous rank: No. 9
While it wasn’t quite on the same level as Drexel’s upset, UNC-Wilmington’s dismantling of intra-state rival Wake Forest last Sunday at the Greensboro Coliseum was quite impressive. The final score, 81-69, was a large reason why. The Seahawks shot 14-27 from three-point range and five players reached double figures in what was a marquee for coach Buzz Peterson in his first year at the helm.
(5-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 73, SOS 130)
Last week: L 78-59 No. 10 Villanova
This week: 12.22 vs. Penn
Previous rank: No. 6
It was fun while it lasted, but apparently all good things must come to an end. Prior to Saturday’s 78-59 loss against Villanova, the Blue Hens were riding a five-game winning streak – their longest since 2001. The short trip to Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia proved too much of a challenge for Delaware to notch its first win against a Top 25 team, though. Still, with an RPI of 73 and a home game against far more manageable Big 5 opponent in Penn upcoming next week, things don’t appear so Blue for the Hens.
(6-4, 1-0 CAA – RPI 159, SOS 183)
Last week: W 71-58 @ Manhattan
This week: 12.22 vs. Holy Cross
Previous rank: No. 7
In between a thrilling overtime victory against Binghamton and a blowout of Manhattan, the Pride slipped up against Florida Atlantic despite a 32-point effort from senior guard Charles Jenkins. It cost them a few slots in the RPI rankings, as well as the potential for a six-game winning streak heading into Wednesday’s game against Holy Cross. Still, if Jenkins keeps it up (24.9 points per game, 4.3 assists per game), Hofstra will never be counted out of a conference game this season.
(2-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 163, SOS 33)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.22 vs. Saint Louis, 12.23 vs. East Tennessee State/Southern Mississippi, 12.24 vs. TBA
Previous rank: No. 8
The CAA’s northern-most team has fallen the farthest south in the standings. Last in the conference in wins (two), the Huskies have dropped five in a row, most “recently” a 79-67 loss to URI on December 8. Bill Coen’s team has two tournaments remaining before the start of CAA play – the Cancun Governor’s Cup and the UCF Holiday Classic. Maybe a few exotic getaways (to Cancun and Orlando) are what this team needs to slide back on track. That said, NU’s strength of schedule is 33rd in the country, so who knows what might happen once conference play rolls around.
10. Georgia State
(4-4, 1-0 CAA – RPI 278, SOS 287)
Last week: W 76-67 vs. Florida A&M
This week: 12.22 @ Georgia Southern
Previous rank: No. 10
It’s a good, heck, a great thing for your conference when the team with an RPI of 278 maintains a .500 record (4-4) in non-conference play. Which is exactly what Georgia State is doing thanks to the strong play of, well, everybody. Nobody on the roster is averaging more than ten points per game, but nine players are averaging more than five per contest. And Harold Dobyis right there with an average of 4.9. Don’t expect the Panthers to contend for a CAA title, but enjoy what they’re doing for the conference.
11. William & Mary
(4-6, 0-1 CAA – RPI 248, SOS 172)
Last week: 12.16 W 72-44 vs. Shenandoah (Div. III), 12.18 L 71-62 @ Liberty
This week: 12.21 @ North Carolina
Previous rank: No. 11
First William & Mary’s football program took a crack at North Carolina. Now it’s basketball’s turn. The Tribe’s football team lost by four points (21-17). Just imagine if the basketball squad can keep the score that close… Junior swingman Quinn McDowell has been a one-man show for the Tribe, leading the team in points per game (14.6), rebounds per game (5.8) and three-point field goal percentage (.528).
(3-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 286, SOS 324)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.20 @ Hampton, 12.22 vs. Princeton
Previous rank: No. 12
OK, so the Tigers haven’t played what you would call a challenging non-conference schedule. They’ve still notched three wins, and have a legitimate chance at two more this week. Plus, despite the sub-par quality of opponent, Towson is scoring at a pretty decent rate – 74.5 points per game with an adjusted tempo rating of 71.5 (good for 33rd in the nation). In addition, junior forward Braxton Dupree is one of two players in the conference (Drexel’s Samme Givens is the other) who’s averaging a double-double (13.1 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game).
A Look Ahead
If you have plans on Wednesday, it might be best to postpone them. At least if you’re hoping to watch your favorite CAA team in action before the Christmas holiday. There are a number of intriguing games on the docket. Let’s check them out:
December 21, William & Mary at North Carolina (7-4): Alright, so this probably won’t be the best game out there, but it’s always fun to watch mid-majors take on traditionally strong programs, especially ACC schools. It doesn’t help the Pride that the Tar Heels are coming off a heartbreaking loss against No. 22 Texas, but who knows what will happen. That’s why they play the games. Player to watch: UNC junior forward TylerZeller. William & Mary doesn’t have anyone who can match up against the 7’ tree on paper. Zeller is leading the Tar Heels with 15.6 points per game, not too far ahead of UNC’s two other massive post players – 6’10 John Henson (10.5 points per game) and 6’9 Harrison Barnes (12.3 points per game).
December 22, Northeastern vs. St. Louis (4-5): This will be Northeastern’s first game since December 8, a 14-day layoff. Either the Huskies will enter their tournament in Cancun refreshed and ready to play, or they’ll appear disjointed and sluggish. St. Louis, out of the A-10, appears to be an ideal first-round matchup for what is quickly becoming Chassion Allen’s team. Player to watch: Whoever is going to rebound the basketball. No player on either of these teams is averaging more than six rebounds per game, which means anyone will have the opportunity to step up and control the boards. For a reference point, Allen leads the Huskies with 5.9 boards per game and Dwayne Evans leads the Billikens (5.6).
December 22, Drexel at No. 5 Syracuse (11-0): Well, the Dragons already have knocked off one previously undefeated Big East team. Why not do it again? The Orange have one game – Monday against Morgan State – before the Dragons come calling, while Drexel is off until it faces its second ranked opponent in about as many weeks. Much like the gameplan entering the contest in Louisville, Drexel must rely on its offensive and defensive rebounding to keep the score low. That should swing the tempo in its favor. Remember, the Dragons are fifth in the nation in rebounds per game (43.0), so that strategy isn’t nearly as crazy as it sounds. Player to watch: Syracuse senior forward Rick Jackson. The 6’9 Philadelphia native is averaging 13.5 points per game and 12.1 rebounds per game, but had his string of 10 straight double-digit scoring games snapped with an eight-point effort in a win against Iona last week.
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. VCUpulled off an upset at Wake Forest to advance to the semifinals of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off,Old Dominiondefeated 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, includingHofstra’s Charles Jenkins, who leads the CAA in scoring at 25.7 points per game, andUNC Wilmington’s Chad Tomko, whose critical late game baskets have propelled the Seahawks to two early victories. But the week belonged toRodriguez(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 Madisonand 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)
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 Burgess, Brandon Rozzell and Jamie Skeen are all averaging in double-figures at this very early junction of the season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 sophomoreIsaiah Philmore, who is averaging 18 PPG and 9.3 RPG so far in his sophomore season.
Hofstra (4) 1-3– The first four games of theMo Cassaraera 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 McLendonneed to alleviate some of his scoring burden, and someone has to fill the gaping void on the interior.
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.
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.
Frank Hassell (F) – Old Dominion (9.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG)
Denzel Bowles (F) – James Madison (20.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG)
Cam Long (G) – George Mason (12.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG)
Mike Moore – Hofstra
While Blaine Taylor and ODU are the early favorites in the CAA, they can also do damage against quality non-conference opponents.
What You Need to Know
A league record six CAA teams made the postseason last year. For the conference to match that number this season, squads such as Northeasternand William & Mary will need to retool on the fly after suffering heavy losses, and up-and-comers such as James Madison andDelaware will need to take a big step forward in 2011.
The aforementioned James Madison Dukes and Delaware Blue Hens both lost at least 20 games in 2009-10 and combined to win just seven conference games, but hopes are high for both programs. James Madison has the most explosive offensive duo in the CAA with Texas A&M transferDenzel Bowles and Julius Wells, both of whom averaged over 15 PPG last year. Delaware returns its top seven scorers, including an explosive duo in its own right with seniors Jawan Carter and Alphonso Dawson.
The predicted struggles of UNC Wilmington and Georgia State could end up costing the Colonial Athletic Association an NCAA Tournament berth in March. Both teams had a final RPI in the mid-200s last season and neither team should be much improved this season. The Colonial desperately needs its bottom-level teams to avoid dragging down the conference’s overall RPI in order to successfully secure two NCAA Tournament bids.
Old Dominion (NCAA Seed #9) – The CAA’s defending champions have the potential to be even better this season with four starters returning, including senior forward Frank Hassell and breakout candidateKent Bazemore. Even with the loss of leading scorer Gerald Lee, Old Dominion is still a physical team that wins with defense under coach Blaine Taylor, who has led the Monarchs to seven straight winning seasons and six straight postseason appearances. This year should be no different. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s October. The leaves are starting to turn colors. Halloween candy is already in the stores. There have been a few nights where you may have even turned on the heat. Midnight Madness is imminent and RTC is full bore into the 2010-11 Season Preview materials. For the second October in a row, we’re bringing you our RTC Impact Players series. The braintrust has gone back and forth on this and we’ve finally settled on a group of sixty players throughout ten geographic regions of the country (five starters plus a sixth man) to represent the who and where of players you should be watching this season. Seriously, if you haven’t seen every one of these players ball at least once by the end of February, then you need to figure out a way to get a better television package. As always in a subjective analysis such as this, some of our decisions were difficult; many others were quite easy. What we can say without reservation is that there is great talent in every corner of this nation of ours, and we’ll do our best to excavate it over the next five weeks in this series that will publish on Mondays and Thursdays. Each time, we’ll also provide a list of some of the near-misses as well as the players we considered in each region, but as always, we welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments.
Kyrie Irving – Fr, G – Duke. To get an idea how highly touted Kyrie Irving is, consider this: coming off a season where Duke won the national title and only lost one key playmaker on offense, most people believe that the Blue Devils will run their offense through the talented freshman from New Jersey who many recruiting experts rank among the best to ever come from the state that has produced so many great college players, including Duke legends Bobby Hurley and Jason Williams. His development during his sophomore year of high school when ESPN analysts stated that he “would be a top 300 player nationally in the 2010 class” and then said a few months later “could be an impact player in the Atlantic 10 or a high-major role player” to his senior year when he was a top five recruit (#1 according to some services) and those same recruiting analysts were stating “it will be shocking if he isn’t an all-conference performer and possible all-american his freshman season” portends the potential for his development into a truly special player. Irving is one of the rare players who arrives on campus with the ability to both score and distribute the ball to his teammates. After all the talk about how Coach K had lost his edge in recruiting, Irving might be his most dynamic recruit since Williams arrived in Durham back in 1999. Despite only being on campus for a few months, his Blue Devil teammates have probably already begun to appreciate his high basketball IQ, competitiveness, and all-around ability. Even though many will question his inclusion on our Impact Player team over his more proven teammate Nolan Smith, Irving has demonstrated a skill set in high school that goes beyond what Smith has demonstrated even with three additional years of experience under the watchful eye of Coach K. If Irving is able to make a smooth transition from the high school game to the college game (and having Singler, Smith, Seth Curry, and the Plumlees around should help), his game could make the Blue Devils heavy favorites to repeat when March arrives. With Irving’s game we don’t think it will be question of if but rather when he feels truly comfortable at the college level, so all the Duke haters should be preparing for a long season ahead.
Kyrie Irving Could be the Best Duke Guard Since J-Will
Malcolm Delaney – Sr, G – Virginia Tech. If you’re a Hokies fan and a Twitter fiend, back on May 8th you were probably just a little surprised but very happy that Malcolm Delaney tweeted that he was going to put off NBA riches for a year and return to school for his senior season. Nobody, however, could have been happier than Virginia Tech head coach Seth Greenberg. We shudder to think at the number of blood pressure medications that man must be taking these days, having seemingly been the victim of more last-second heartbreakers and burst NCAA Tournament bubbles (are we allowed to refer to “the bubble” in October?) than any one man should ever be expected to endure, but the return of Delaney to Blacksburg should have lowered Greenberg’s systolic by about 20 points. It probably went back up over the summer, though, after Greenberg lost two of his forwards for the season — specifically presumptive sixth man J.T. Thompson to a left ACL tear and Allan Chaney to viral myocarditis (a condition slightly less than 0.6% of all people in America have) — and has another one in Cadarian Raines recovering from surgery in March to repair a re-fractured left foot. The importance of Delaney, then, and the impact he’ll have in this geographical region become obvious. VT will have to go small, and that means more touches for Malcolm, who we’re guessing will have no problem taking on more responsibility in terms of both scoring and rebounding, and we’re saying this about the top scorer in the ACC last season (20.2 PPG). He played an average of 35.8 MPG last year (4th ACC, 58th nationally) and we wonder if he’ll even sit at all this season. Most importantly, if the Hokies are going to attempt to return to only their second NCAA Tournament in the last 15 years (and what would be Delaney’s first), Greenberg will be counting on emotional and vocal leadership on the floor and in the locker room from Delaney, his RTC South Atlantic Impact Player and ACC Player of the Year candidate.
In 2010, the Colonial Athletic Association represented itself well in March, sending a league-record six teams to the postseason. That group was led by league champion Old Dominion, who advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32 after upending Notre Dame. Both second-place Northeastern and third-place William & Mary fell in the first round of the NIT in a pair of close road losses at Connecticut and North Carolina, respectively. Fifth-place VCU swept Saint Louis in a best-of-three final to win the third annual CBI tournament, while seventh-place Hofstra fell in the CBI’s first round, and fourth-place George Mason lost its first game in the CIT.
Two of the CAA’s twelve teams will be under the direction of a new coach in 2010-11. Tom Pecora left Hofstra after nine seasons to lead the rebuilding effort at Fordham. Replacing Pecora is not Tim Welsh, like it was originally intended, but rather Mo Cassara, a first-time head coach who spent the last four seasons under Al Skinner at Boston College. UNC-Wilmington also made a coaching change, “reassigning” four-year head coach Benny Moss within the athletic department. The Seahawks’ new head man is the well-traveled Buzz Peterson, who has already made stops at Appalachian State (twice), Tulsa, Tennessee, and Coastal Carolina.
For the second consecutive year, a Virginia Commonwealth Ram was selected in the first round of the NBA Draft, this time being First Team All-CAA center Larry Sanders, who elected to forgo his senior season at VCU. Even with the loss of Sanders, the Colonial boasts a wealth of returning talent, especially at the guard spots. Two members of last year’s First Team are back, led by 2010 CAA Player of the Year and senior Charles Jenkins. Northeastern’s senior guard Chaisson Allen is also back, along with four seniors who made the 2010 Second Team: Delaware guard Jawan Carter, George Mason guard Cam Long, VCU guard Joey Rodriguez, and James Madison forward Denzel Bowles.
Larry Sanders brought the CAA a ton of pub last season, but skipped his senior season to go pro. (VCUAthletics.tv)
Power Rankings (last year’s overall and conference standings in brackets)
Old Dominion [27-9 (15-3)] – The Monarchs look to make it back-to-back Colonial Athletic Association championships this season. Leading scorer and First Team All-CAA forward Gerald Lee is gone, but four starters from last year’s title team are back, led by 6’8 senior forward Frank Hassell (9.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG). Hassell anchors a frontline that will once again be Old Dominion’s strength, a luxury in a league that doesn’t feature much frontcourt depth. Teaming with Hassell are a pair of seniors: the versatile Ben Finney (8.8 PPG, 5.8 RPG) and Keyon Carter (7.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG). There are question marks about the guard play, but there are worse alternatives in this league than junior Kent Bazemore (8.4 PPG, 4.2 RPG), a defensive specialist, and senior Darius James (7.0 PPG). Head coach Blaine Taylor has done a great job in leading the Monarchs to seven straight winning seasons and six straight postseason appearances, and while a number of teams are capable of winning the Colonial this year, Old Dominion is once again the team to beat until someone knocks them off.
VCU [27-9 (11-7)] – In year one of the post-Anthony Grant & Eric Maynor era, VCU won 27 games, second-most in school history, reached the postseason for the fourth consecutive year, and won the CBI tournament. Not bad for what was supposed to be a “transition year” at Virginia Commonwealth. This year, the Rams have to deal with the heavy loss of First Team All-CAA center Larry Sanders, who finished in the top five in the league in rebounding, blocked shots, and field goal percentage. The burden of some of that production will fall on the shoulders of 6’9 senior Jamie Skeen (8.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG), but expect the 2010-11 Rams to be a guard-oriented squad. Second Team All-CAA senior Joey Rodriguez is the top returning scorer (12.9 per game), but also led the CAA in assists (5.8 per game) and steals (1.9 per game). Seniors Brandon Rozzell (8.8 PPG), Ed Nixon (7.9 PPG), and wing Bradford Burgess (10.4 PPG, 5.1 RPG) should all see increased production this year. VCU was a bit unfortunate in close games last year, as all eight conference losses were by five points or fewer, including a four-point overtime loss to Old Dominion in the CAA Tournament semifinals. If a few of those close losses go the other way in Shaka Smart’s second year, VCU could very well be headed back to the NCAA Tournament.
George Mason [17-15 (12-6)] – In 2010, George Mason showed flashes of being a league contender; a seven-game win streak last January left the Patriots with a 15-7 (10-1) record, but they lost eight of their last ten games, and subsequently bowed out in the CAA quarterfinals. But all five starters are back this season, led by senior guard Cam Long (12.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG), a 2010 Second-Team All-CAA performer and 2011 Player of the Year candidate. Long will be complemented by a trio of juniors in forward Ryan Pearson (11.9 PPG, 6.4 RPG), guard Andre Cornelius (9.4 PPG), and forward Mike Morrison (8.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.6 BPG). If forward Luke Hancock (7.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG) and guard Sherrod Wright (5.5 PPG) can both blossom as sophomores, this could be one of Jim Larranaga‘s most talented teams and the most talented team in the CAA. As is, George Mason will likely be more consistent in 2011, and with that, the Patriots should be considered one of the favorites. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!
Standings (as of 2/22)
Northeastern (18-10, 13-3)
Old Dominion (21-8, 13-3)
George Mason (16-12, 11-5)
William & Mary (19-8, 11-5)
Drexel (15-14, 10-6)
VCU (19-7, 10-6)
Hofstra (16-13, 8-8)
Georgia State (12-17, 4-12)
UNC Wilmington (8-20, 4-12)
Towson (7-20, 4-12)
James Madison (12-17, 4-12)
Delaware (7-21, 3-13)
Did BracketBusters help the CAA? Probably not. The conference started out losing their first five games in the event, including the first two nationally televised games. Northeastern bumbled their chances trying for a three-pointer instead of getting a quick two when down three to Louisiana Tech. George Mason could not convert late, an offensive foul late ruined the Patriots chances of winning over Charleston. Towson started down 20-0 at Manhattan. The CAA went 3-9 overall in BracketBusters, and only 1-4 on the ESPN family of networks.
A Quick Look at the Bracket Today
If we were to start the CAA Basketball Championship today here is what the schedule would look like.
Noon – #8 Georgia State vs. #9 UNC-Wilmington
2:30 – #5 Drexel vs. #12 Delaware
6 – #7 Hofstra vs. #10 Towson
8:30 – #6 VCU vs. #11 James Madison
Noon – #1 Northeastern vs. #8/#9
2:30 – #4 George Mason vs. #5/#12
6 – #2 Old Dominion vs. #7/#10
8:30 – #3 William & Mary vs. #6/#11
Northeastern’s win over Old Dominion gives them the break for the top seed. Both Northeastern and Old Dominion have clinched a first-round bye.
William & Mary gets a tiebreaker for the #3 seed with their win over George Mason
Drexel’s two wins over Northeastern give them the tiebreaker for the #5 seed over VCU
UNC-Wilmington gets the three team tiebreaker with a 2-1 record against the group, Towson’s 2-2 record edges James Madison’s 1-2 record against the group.
Hofstra has clinched the #7 seed.
Important Games This Week
Hofstra at Northeastern (9pm ESPNU). The Pride, who have won seven of their last eight, have a chance to play spoiler to the Huskies’ chances at a regular season championship. The Pride have clinched the #7 seed and if they are swept by the Huskies, they will likely see them should they play in Saturday’s CAA Tournament Quarterfinals next week.
George Mason at Delaware 7pm. Why is this game important? The last road win from the Patriots came over a month ago. Add to that their 1-3 record against the top three teams, they need a win to give them momentum going into Saturday’s game.
Northeastern at George Mason Noon. The conference regular season championship will likely be decided in this, the first game of the day. The Patriots will get a chance to rebound from two tough home losses last week.
Northeastern (13-3). The Huskies made a lot of history on Tuesday night in their win over UNC Wilmington. Junior Chaisson Allen went over the 1,000 point mark, the Huskies won their first game ever at Trask Coliseum and they will have a chance this week to set a new school record for CAA conference victories. While the Huskies came back from as many down as 14 to win on the road, they squandered a home lead. Late in this game, what seemed to be the final possession, the Huskies struggled to establish their plan. It appeared like the strategy was to play for a game-tying three, despite the fact that a quick two and fouling seemed like a good decision. However their final three-pointers could not tie the game and gave Louisiana Tech a 70-67 win. Manny Adako had a solid week for the Huskies, making 57% of his shots and scoring 36 points this week. If the Huskies are to set the new school record for conference victories, they will clinch no worse than the #2 seed.
Old Dominion (13-3). The Monarchs took care of business against Towson, who had just seven players dressed, but could not bring their A game on national television against Northern Iowa and lost in the first of four BracketBusters TV losses by the CAA. The Panthers exploited the second-best three-point field goal percentage defense in the conference, and 17th nationally, downing 7-12 threes in the second half on way to a nine-point win. They did not have an answer for Ali Farokhmanesh either who scored all of his 23 points in the second half and made 5-9 threes. The Monarchs’ path to the top seed will need a Northeastern slip-up and two wins in their final two games this week.
George Mason (11-5). The Patriots went without Mike Morrison for the week and they could have used his 8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. This gave freshman Kevin Foster a chance to play and he took advantage, putting up a career high 22 Tuesday and then racked up his first career double-double Saturday. Other than Foster’s performance, it was a difficult week to be a Patriots fan as they dropped a conference game at home to the Tribe and then had a chance to come back against College of Charleston but fell by two. Ryan Pearson’s dribble-drive and bucket to tie the game was called a charge. After a look at the replay, it appears the refs got the call right to negate the bucket. One good sign this week is that George Mason is starting to make shots, this week shooting 49% from the field. However the downfall has been free throw shooting. They shot just 60% from the line and had a stretch Saturday of missing seven straight from the line, losing both games this week by two points. There is no doubt that the Patriots are an extremely talented group and will likely be better next year; however, if they get into any postseason play that will only help them moving forward.
William & Mary (11-5). In a game that will probably mirror those in Richmond in March, the Tribe overcame an 11-point deficit to beat George Mason at the Patriot Center by three. The importance of this game will hold in tiebreaking since this is the only game between the two. The Tribe struggled in New Rochelle, as Iona blistered past them shooting 65% from the field in the first half. Defending the Gaels wasn’t the only problem, as the Tribe could not make contested shots either and were held to 36% from the field. A 16-point loss at Iona probably tarnishes what was an impressive tournament resume that included wins at Wake Forest, at Maryland and home wins over Northeastern, Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond. Senior David Schneider did not have an awesome week, scoring 32 points but shooting only 5-16 (31%) from three-point range.
Drexel (10-6). Chris Fouch returned Saturday from a two-game respite to score 16 points but the Dragons turned the ball over 14 times in a 16-point loss to Bradley in the BracketBusters game. Drexel did not have an answer for Bradley’s four-guard oriented offense. This week was not a good week for the Dragons stingy defense, ranked third in the Colonial, let its opponents shoot 52% from the field. When Fouch was out junior Jamie Harris has stepped up to score 51 points over the last three games while shooting 37% from the field. Meanwhile, Virginia Commonwealth exposed the Dragons’ ability, or lack thereof, on the inside as they outrebounded Drexel by 19 and let Larry Sanders go 13-15 for 29 points. Drexel will have to fix the holes in their defense to try and salvage a bye in next weekend’s conference tournament. What they have on their side is their schedule: home against UNC Wilmington and a road game at James Madison, and two wins over first-place Northeastern.
VCU (10-6). Junior Larry Sanders went off for 29 points against Drexel but his biggest contribution was his 13 rebounds and 5 blocks. The Rams are starting to find their offensive groove, shooting 54% from the field this week and making 11 three pointers. Sanders scored 44 points and grabbed 22 rebounds for the Rams this week in his dominant performances this week. After losing two on the road, the Rams righted the ship and won two games at home by resounding margins. VCU did not let up in the BracketBuster either. Coming out of halftime leading by 12, the Rams shot 64% in the second half and proceeded to win by 17. VCU, which ranks sixth in field goal percentage defense at 41%, held their opponents this week to 34% shooting. A home revenge game against James Madison comes up on Wednesday and then a tough road game at Old Dominion for a chance to improve their seeding. It’s unfortunate because they have played so well as of late, but their 1-3 start in conference probably cost them a chance at a bye in the CAA tournament.
Hofstra (8-8). The Pride is quietly making their run, winning seven of their last eight games in the easier portion of their schedule. All of the wins came over the bottom half of the league. Junior Charles Jenkins has gone off, making a run at locking up a spot on the CAA first team, with 61 points this week shooting 46% from the field. Jenkins reached 100 career three pointers making him the 17th player in school history to do so. Seven of their last eight wins have been by double digits except for the overtime win Saturday against Rider. Only problem is Hofstra could not contain Broncs star Ryan Thompson who went off for a season-high 38 points on 11-23 shooting. The Pride could play spoiler to Northeastern’s chances at the regular season championship on Tuesday and then host Senior Day against Georgia State, who they still might see in the first round on Friday.
James Madison (4-12). Denzel Bowles has been a force so far but Canisius might have found the answer to defend him in the BracketBuster game Saturday. The Golden Griffins constantly double-teamed Bowles when he touched the ball and held him to a season low 11 points. Meanwhile Frank Turner exploited the Dukes’ failure to contain the dribble-drive and went for a double-double scoring 16 points and dishing out 13 assists while handing the Dukes a four-point loss. The Dukes are 2-12 on the road and have one more chance to win a conference game on the road Wednesday at Virginia Commonwealth before their Senior Day date with Drexel. The Dukes will be good next year with Devon Moore and Andrey Semenov coming back from injuries and will have a fair shot to win 20 games.
Georgia State (4-12). Trey Hampton drove the Panthers this week, scoring 33 points on 55% shooting, as Georgia State won two straight this past week. Another good sign? Georgia State, which ranks sixth in free throw percentage, shot 74% from the free throw line. The Panthers seized control in their BracketBuster game, notching one of the three wins for the CAA in a 15-point win over South Carolina State. Senior Joe Dukes has to get going for the Panthers to make a CAA Tournament run. He scored 25 points on Tuesday on 9-15 shooting but he has hit some cold spells against the top tier of teams in conference play. Dukes shot just 3-14 against William & Mary and Northeastern two weeks ago and has not improved on last year’s numbers except for free throw shooting, and needs to make more shots for the Panthers to advance to Quarterfinal Saturday in Richmond. We will see how he and the Panthers respond as they try for their first three-game win streak since the start of the new year against Old Dominion.
UNC Wilmington (4-12). Senior Montez Downey got his chance and he didn’t waste it Saturday, scoring a season high 23 points but the Seahawks have lost three in a row. Ousted coach Benny Moss was at the game against Northeastern and watched the Seahawks blow a 14-point lead. Saturday, UNC Wilmington faced one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country in Radford and let them make more free throws than the Seahawks attempted. Downey finished strong last year and, in what are likely his final two or three games in his career, will likely do the same. Junior Chad Tomko has struggled and shot just 24% last week, probably a sign of his lingering ankle injury. Junior John Fields has been hurt as well and did not travel to Radford Saturday, this was only the second game this season where Fields did not play.
Towson (4-12). Towson dressed only seven players in their loss to Old Dominion earlier in the week, letting Kenyon Carter and Frank Hassell muscle them inside. The Monarchs almost doubled the Tigers’ points in the paint on Tuesday night. Josh Thornton, Jimmy Smith and Jarrel Smith all came back on Saturday but it didn’t help in the BracketBuster game. Manhattan jumped out to a 20-0 lead and crushed the Tigers by 16. The Tigers got handled by another frontcourt again, letting the three big men for the Jaspers combine for 44 of the team’s 78 points and grab half the team’s offensive rebounds. The only bracket the Tigers will have to worry about is the CAA bracket in March, a win over Delaware on Saturday will likely ensure they don’t finish in last place.
Delaware (3-13). In the same week women’s basketball star Elena Delle Donne went for 54 points for Delaware in a victory, the Men’s team let Boston University’s John Holland go for 43 points on 70% shooting. The Blue Hens have had a problem with big time scorers, as they let Holland and Hofstra star Charles Jenkins go off for a combined 73 points, nine more points than Delaware averages per game. Meanwhile head coach Monte Ross, who has gone 39-83 at Delaware, is optimistic about the roster next year with a freshman impact player in Devon Saddler, a Charlotte transfer in Shamarr Bowden and the return of point guard Brian Johnson from injury. Ross said, “I can’t express enough that, when you’re building a program, you need time. That’s why I think we’ll be able to get to where we want to get to. And it takes time. We can absolutely get there.”