Bracket Prep: Western Kentucky, Davidson, James Madison, Gonzaga & Iona

Posted by BHayes on March 12th, 2013

bracketprep2(2)

Championship Week continued in full blast on Monday night, as five more NCAA Tournament tickets were punched. As each of the 31 automatic qualifiers plays their way into the Dance over the next week, we’ll take some time to give you an analytical snapshot of each team that you can refer back to when you’re picking your brackets next weekend.

Western Kentucky

Sun Belt Cinderellas Again -- Welcome Back To The Big Dance Hilltoppers

Sun Belt Cinderellas Again — Welcome Back To The Big Dance Hilltoppers

  • Sun Belt Champion (20-15, 14-10)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #166/#183/#184
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +0.5
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #15-#16

 Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

  1. Who needs the regular season anyways? For the second consecutive campaign, Western Kentucky saw months of mediocrity give way to an unlikely week of dominance at the Sun Belt Tournament, where they depart as champions again. The sequel may never be as thrilling as the original – the 2012 Hilltoppers were just 9-18 (!) before winning their final six games to earn the auto-bid – but this Western Kentucky team is as unlikely a Big Dance participant as any.
  2. Western Kentucky isn’t elite in any one facet of the game, but they may be able to match up with their opening round opponent with regard to physicality and toughness. The Hilltoppers are third in the Sun Belt in effective height, and also rank third in the league in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentages. 6’6” sophomore George Fant is slightly undersized for the amount of time he spends in the paint, but leads the team in rebounding at 6.6 boards per game. Fant also ranks in the top 50 in the country in fouls drawn per 40 minutes. Senior Jamal Crooks (11.8 PPG, 4.1 APG) is another high-motor Hilltopper – his emotional energy and leadership is a crucial reserve for the young team around him.
  3. Expect WKU to compete on both ends, but don’t mistake intensity with skill. They do not shoot the ball well from deep, turn the ball over at an unacceptable clip (on 22.3% of possessions), and don’t play a whole lot of defense either. It all adds up to a rather unimpressive paper profile, and the 10-10 Sun Belt record before this week does little to make you feel better about things. The exact seed line will depend on what happens elsewhere, but either way, it’s hard to envision the Hilltoppers being competitive, much less capable of manufacturing an upset for the ages.

Davidson

Soak It In De'Mon -- You And The Wildcats Are Tournament Bound Yet Again

Soak It In De’Mon — You And The Wildcats Are Tournament Bound Yet Again

  • Southern Conference Champion (26-7, 20-1)
  • RPI/Pomeroy/Sagarin = #69/#66/#67
  • Adjusted Scoring Margin = +9.4
  • Likely NCAA Seed: #12-#14

Three Bruce Pearls of Wisdom.

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2013

CIO header

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.

Mid-Season Awards

The CAA schedule is roughly halfway over, so it’s time to see who’s leading the race to rack up hardware.

Coach of the Year

  1. Bill Coen, Northeastern
  2. Pat Skerry, Towson
  3. Matt Brady, JMU

All-Rookie Team:

  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State (ROY)
  • Andre Nation, JMU
  • Jerome Hairston, Towson
  • Chris Dixon, UNC-Wilmingon
  • David Walker, Northeastern

All-CAA Defensive Team:

  • Jerrelle Benimon, Towson (DPOY)
  • Andre Nation, JMU
  • Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
  • Devon Moore, JMU
  • Keith Rendleman, UNCW

All-CAA First Team:

  • Jerrelle Benimon (POY)
  • Sherrod Wright, George Mason
  • Joel Smith, Northeastern
  • Damion Lee, Drexel
  • Keith Rendleman, UNCW

All-CAA Second Team:

  • Rayshawn Goins, JMU
  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State
  • Marcus Thornton, William &  Mary
  • Devon Saddler, Delaware
  • Quincy Ford, Northeastern

All-CAA Third Team:

  • Tim Rusthoven, William & Mary
  • Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
  • Devon Moore, JMU
  • Devonta White, Georgia State
  • Frantz Massenat, Drexel

Power Rankings

After his team lost its third straight game last week, Delaware guard Devon Saddler said the Blue Hens needed to go to the movies to grow camaraderie and snap out of the slump. If the Hens did in fact share a movie night, it worked. They beat host Drexel last night on NBC Sports Network, despite nearly blowing a late 15-point lead. Every team in the CAA should pop some popcorn and watch a movie. In this week’s power rankings, I’ll suggest which current flicks each team should visit their nearby Regal to see.

  1. Northeastern (13-7 overall, 8-0 in the CAA): A skilled team of experts taking down targets on a regular basis, the Huskies might as well buy tickets for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Zero, after all, is Northeastern’s total of CAA losses through eight games. The Huskies are just the seventh Colonial team to begin a season 8-0. The last two to do so won the CAA title. Five of the eight wins have been by five or fewer points, but not the most recent one. NU smacked George Mason on Sunday, sweeping the series with a 20-point home win. The televised game was Northeastern’s announcement to the league that it’s the team to beat. Only one school earns a bye in the seven-team CAA tournament this year, and NU is already three games in the loss column ahead of next-best Mason/James Madison. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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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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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 Brian Goodman on January 25th, 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

  • Workin’ Part Time At A Five And Dime: This week marked the annual five games in 10 days stretch that always challenges CAA squads. Because of Bracketbusters and the need to get 18 league games played in January and February, the CAA must play one game in December and one Monday during the year to get in all the games. The result is a stretch of Wednesday-Saturday-Monday-Wednesday-Saturday games that make CAA legs rubbery. The first three games went fairly according to schedule, but the back two games are likely to produce some surprises.
  • About That Home Court Advantage…: Home teams went 5-1 on Monday night, thwarting an early-season trend of success by visiting squads. The unusual home court success, which is unusual in itself, meant that through the first 54 conference contests, home teams are only 31-23 (.574). Old Dominion has a league-best 4-1 road record in CAA play, while George Mason and Northeastern are 3-1. Seven of the league’s 12 teams are .500 or better on the road in CAA play.
  • I Get Delirious Whenever You’re Near: The stretch of five games in ten days is beginning to separate teams in the standings, and the rest of this week is likely to further that trend. A six-team glut for one of the top four spots in the CAA Tournament will winnow to five as Northeastern and Delaware, both 5-4, match up tonight. And with only Drexel vs. Georgia State among the top six playing each other Wednesday and two games pitting top-six teams on Saturday, the divide is sure to grow.

The Latest Hero For Drexel Was Big Man Dartaye Ruffin

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (7-2, 15-5): The Dragons have become a force in the Association. Drexel has seven straight wins with six different leading scorers. The latest hero is big man Dartaye Ruffin—his 18 points led Drexel past William & Mary. Might not be a big deal to the rest of the world, until you realize Drexel had lost five straight in Williamsburg. Bruiser Flint has the luxury of not needing top gunner Chris Fouch playing well.
  2. George Mason (8-1, 16-5): Paul Hewitt probably used the word sloppy a lot this week. After drilling Delaware, his Patriots slogged to a 12-point win over Towson and survived a homer against UNCW. Ryan Pearson now has eight double-doubles after identical 24/10 games against UD and UNCW. Bryon Allen led the way against the Seahawks with 17 points, a career high. The good news for Hewitt: he has multiple weapons, and focus is correctable. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 28th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

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

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

Power Rankings

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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2011

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

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

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

Power Rankings

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 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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RTC Conference Primers: #11 – CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 26th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

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

 

Top Storylines

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

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

Predicted Order of Finish (predicted conference records in parentheses)

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Summer School in the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on September 8th, 2010


Alex Varone of College Basketball Daily is the RTC correspondent for the CAA and MAC.

Around the CAA

  • 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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 »
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