Over the next few weeks, we’ll examine and critique some of the more intriguing preseason conference polls. Here, we take a look at the good, the bad and the weird coming out of the Colonial, Conference USA and Summit League polls.
There are plenty of question marks in the CAA this season. (Christopher Szagola/US Presswire)
The voters got it right at the top, tabbing Northeastern as the favorite in the CAA, followed by William & Mary and Hofstra. The Huskies are the one unit in this league to add more proven talent than they lost, not only bringing back the vast majority of last year’s roster – including Defensive Player of the Year and rebounding monster Scott Eatherton (15.9 PPG, 10.2 RPG, 1.8 BPG) – but also regaining Quincy Ford, who was one among the CAA’s best all-around players before missing most of last year. Still, the recent departure of fourth-leading scorer Demetrius Pollard, combined with the fact that Bill Coen’s club went just 11-21 last season, makes you wonder if Northeastern can actually live up to its top billing. William & Mary also has an argument for the number one spot after finishing third in the standings a year ago and narrowly losing the CAA title game, welcoming back the conference’s best player (Marcus Thornton) and CAA Rookie of the Year (Omar Prewitt). Hofstra is rightfully slotted at third; despite last year’s 10-23 campaign, an influx of talented transfers and recruits, including former Niagara guard Juan’ya Green (16.5 PPG), justifies the anticipated climb.
We looked at the best of the AAC non-conference schedules in Part I, after explaining a bit of what makes for a good non-conference schedule. This season, there’s quite a bit more bad than good, which could drag down the collective RPIs of AAC members and ultimately lead to lower NCAA Tournament seeds come March.
Larry Brown’s SMU Mustangs, a popular sleeper pick, have a lot riding on a trip to Virginia.
Cincinnati: The Bearcats return the favor of a visit last season from MW favorite New Mexico with a road trip of their own to The Pit. They also will play former Big East rival and mid-level ACC squad Pitt at Madison Square Garden. Then… well, there’s the rivalry game with Xavier, which seems poised to finish in the bottom half of a newly constituted (read: relatively weaker) Big East; N.C. State, clearly headed toward the bottom of the ACC, and Conference USA also-ran MTSU. That trio might end up in the RPI top 100; it’s highly unlikely any other team on the schedule will come close.
Louisville: If the defending champs can escape Rupp Arena with a win, all will be forgiven by both their fans and the committee, as a road win against Kentucky is perhaps the highest quality victory available in college basketball this year. Southern Miss, which finished with an RPI of #30 last season, is favored to win Conference USA. They face a potential Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off final against North Carolina at the Mohegan Sun. They need the Tar Heels to be there, because the rest of their foes are middling teams in weak leagues, with Charleston the most likely to crack the top 100, and several – we’re looking at you, Hofstra and UMKC – seeming likely to end up north of #300.
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.
Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.
A Look Back
This week in Colonial Athletic Association action is for those who enjoy it when ABC Family starts showing holiday programming the day after Halloween. It’s a dandy little taste of what everyone knows is coming, but for which the wait seems interminable. Yes, the first batch of conference games was held Saturday, and already there’s plenty to talk about. Namely…
Delaware’s 75-67 upset victory against Old Dominion. The Blue Hens were paced by senior guard Jawan Carter’s 29-point effort – his third straight 20-plus point performance. This one was special. Not only did it help Delaware to its first three-game winning streak since December of the 2008-09 season, but sent a message to the rest of the conference that, perhaps, things are not as clear-cut as some may have thought. Especially considering that the Monarchs were riding a five-game winning streak that included back-to-back-to-back victories against Clemson, Xavier and Richmond. And in the opening game of the season, Old Dominion hung with #16 Georgetown before falling late, 62-59. This, however, was the first true road game for the Monarchs after three at the Constant Convocation Center and three at a neutral site. What seems most impressive about the Blue Hens’ victory is that they only turned the ball over six times to ODU’s 14. And while Ben Finney and Kent Bazemore did their usual duty on the glass – 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively – Delaware was able to build and maintain a narrow lead for the majority of the contest. There’s little doubt Old Dominion is still the favorite to win the conference, but this game simply tells us that on a nightly basis, anything can happen. Which, at its essence, is really what college basketball is all about.
Player of the Week
Chris Fouch, G, Drexel: The 6’2 sophomore is beginning to prove his early-season points averages weren’t an aberration. In three games, Fouch scored 74 points, pulled down seven rebounds and assisted five baskets. The New York native began his week with a career-high 30-point outburst against Binghamton, came back to net 17 against city rival St. Joseph’s and then scored 27 in the CAA opener at Northeastern. Perhaps more impressive than his scoring efficiency (26-of-47, 61.7 percent) is that Fouch committed just one turnover in 93 minutes of playing time.
Team of the Week
Delaware Blue Hens: Apparently, all it took for Delaware to snap its seemingly annual December loss against Old Dominion was a change of scenery. Bob Carpenter Arena provided the perfect backdrop for the Blue Hens to score the first true upset in conference play. This was a big win, not only for the obvious reasons, but because it could help propel the Blue Hens to a few more victories in a fairly easy week coming up (strength of schedule-wise, at least). Following the victory against ODU, Delaware coach Monte Rosstold the Delaware News Journal that the Blue Hens were the best defensive team in the league.
Stat of the Week
One: That’s the number of free throws Richmond attempted against Old Dominion in ODU’s 77-70 victory December 1. Conversely, the Monarchs attempted 20 shots from the charity stripe, hitting 15 of them. This is more than likely a statistical anomaly, but even so, it speaks to Old Dominion’s discipline and ability to limit the number of ways its opponents can score. Then again, discipline – in any facet of the game – is something that should be expected of such a veteran team.
1. Old Dominion
(5-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 18, SOS 9)
Last week: W 77-70 vs. Richmond, L 75-67 @ Delaware
This week: 12.7 @ East Carolina, 12.9 vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, 12.11 vs. Dayton
Granted, this is a bad loss for a program that was ranked No. 1 in the Mid-Major Top 25, and it certainly takes a significant jab at the hearts of those hoping that the CAA might be a two-bid conference this season. But there’s no reason for Old Dominion to panic. They’ve got plenty of opportunities to rebound in the coming week, starting with a trip to East Carolina (7-2) on Tuesday.
2. George Mason
(6-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 128, SOS 191)
Last week: W 60-46 vs. George Washington, W 80-52 UNC-Wilmington
This week: 12.8 vs. Loyola-Maryland, 12.11 @ Liberty
Not only are the Patriots on a four-game winning streak, but the way they’ve been beating people is impressive – by an average of 19.7 points per game. Then again, in their only close game of the season, they lost to Wofford in overtime. Still, if George Mason can continue beating teams at even close to this pace, it’s going to be a fun season in Fairfax.
3. Virginia Commonwealth
(5-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 52, SOS 104)
Last week: L 60-59 @ South Florida, W 59-55 vs. William & Mary
This week: vs. 12.8 vs. Virginia Military, 12.11 @ Richmond
Hopefully, it doesn’t cause too much of an uproar that VCU is listed third. It’s not as much a slight to the Rams as it is a compliment to the Patriots. VCU beat a very talented UCLA team and hung with Tennessee, but until their rebounding and interior defense numbers normalize, George Mason gets the nod. For reference’s sake, VCU is three spots ahead of GMU in the Mid-Major Top 25 (No. 6 vs. No. 9).
4. Drexel Dragons
(5-1, 1-0 CAA – RPI 48, SOS 156)
Last week: W 79-39 vs. Binghamton, W 62-50 vs. St. Joseph’s, W 63-58 @ Northeastern
This week: 12.11 vs. Rider, 12.14 @ Louisville
Rebounding and Chris Fouch. There’s your formula for Drexel’s early-season success, with a little freshman phenom Dartaye Ruffin thrown in. The Dragons are on a three-game winning streak and scored an impressive road victory against a Northeastern team that is better than its record. For the stat heads out there, KenPom.com ranks Drexel’s offensive rebounding percentage at 44.5 – second in the nation. If the Dragons keep that up, they’ll be a force no matter how many Fouch scores.
5. James Madison
(6-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 114, SOS 249)
Last week: W 88-78 @ Longwood, L 64-63 @ Georgia State
This week: 12.7 @ Marshall, 12.11 @ Radford
The fourth CAA team to receive votes in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll (about 15 votes out of making the cut), the Dukes have only played one team with an RPI above 125 this season, but their six-game winning streak masked that well, until… they lost to Georgia State in the CAA opener. While this 64-63 upset wasn’t quite on the scale of ODU-Delaware, it once again speaks to the parity in the league.
(3-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 172, SOS 270)
Last week: W 75-67 vs. Old Dominion
This week: 12.8 @ Hampton, 12.11 vs. Delaware State
While in the long run, the Blue Hens might not end up better than some of teams below them in this version of the power rankings, they claim the number six spot on the strength of their victory against the Monarchs. Any time a struggling program can beat a Top-20 RPI team, they deserve a little love. Sophomore forward Jamelle Hagins leads the conference in blocks per game (3.8) by more than a full block.
(4-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 153, SOS 124)
Last week: W 58-48 @ Rider, W 74-62 vs. Towson
This week: 12.8 @ Binghamton, 12.11 vs. Florida Atlantic
The Pride are coming off a two-win week with the potential for something far greater. The next four games for Hofstra appear very winnable, and if that happens to be the case, it would extend the Pride’s winning streak to eight games. Having senior guard Charles Jenkins doesn’t hurt, either. He’s leading the conference in scoring with 22.3 points per game and hasn’t netted less than 15 all year.
(2-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 154, SOS 68)
Last week: L 77-72 @ Providence, L 63-58 vs. Drexel
This week: 12.8 vs. Rhode Island
Unfortunately for the Huskies, senior guard Chaisson Allen (18.5 points per game) can only do so much. Despite Allen’s double-double against Drexel (19 points, 10 rebounds), the Huskies turned the ball over 10 times and shot 15.7 percent from beyond the arc. This is the time of year where the graduation of Matt Janning is really impacting coach Bill Coen’s team, which has lost four in a row. Rhode Island looms as a sizable test.
9. UNC Wilmington
(3-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 79, SOS 45)
Last week: W 73-69 @ George Washington, L 80-52 @ George Mason
This week: Idle
This is where it starts to become the “best of the rest.” None of these bottom four teams have accomplished much early in the season, aside from helping the CAA nab a few out-of-conference wins against mediocre programs. The Seahawks rank near the bottom of the nation in turnover percentage (26.5) and steal percentage (13.7). Senior guard Chad Tomko is good, but it’s doubtful he’ll be able to post a favorable assist-to-turnover ratio against some of the better teams in the league.
10. Georgia State
(3-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 230, SOS 210)
Last week: L 60-56 (OT) @ Hampton, W 64-63 James Madison
This week: 12.11 vs. Western Michigan
When things looked bleak for the Panthers following a four-point overtime loss to Hampton (MEAC), they rebounded with one heck of a nail-biting win against James Madison. Still, Georgia State hasn’t been particularly impressive in its wins (Troy, Utah State, JMU), and without the presence of a starter who averages double figures in scoring – junior forward Eric Buckner leads the team at 9.3 points per game – it could be a long season for the Panthers.
11. William & Mary
(3-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 237, SOS 167)
Last week: L 64-39 vs. Western Carolina, W 76-62 vs. Howard, L 59-55 @ Virginia Commonwealth
This week: Idle
Say what you will about the Tribe’s inability to hold onto the basketball, or create turnovers, but coach Tony Shaver challenged his team with its early schedule. In its first three games, William & Mary played Virginia, Richmond and Syracuse. That’s a tall order for any club, let alone a team that only has one senior on the roster.
(2-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 324, SOS 325)
Last week: W 75-73 vs. Western Michigan, L 74-62 @ Hofstra
This week: 12.8 @ George Washington, 12.11 @ University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Don’t fret, Towson fans – two bits of good news coming your way. 1) In the coming week, the Tigers are staying ultra-local with games at George Washington and UMBC, so go out and see them. 2) Junior forward Braxton Dupree isn’t just the conference leader in rebounding (11.0 per game), he’s 11th in the nation. As for the bits of bad news? UMBC is the only team with a lower RPI than the Tigers that Towson plays until Jan. 19 against William & Mary.
A Look Ahead
We interrupt that tasty preview of CAA conference play for this regularly-scheduled slate of non-conference battles. So far, the Colonial has fared pretty well against the other conferences, boasting a 41-28 record. No team in the conference has less than two wins. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if this conference play blip has any impact on play moving forward. Here’s a look at some of the top games on the docket for the coming week, Road Rules style:
12/7 – James Madison at Marshall (5-2): You’re probably thinking, Marshall? There’s another Conference USA school to watch that doesn’t begin with “Mem” and end with “phis?” Yep. There is. James Madison will have its hands full. Not only can the Thundering Herd score (76.9 points per game – good for 67th in the nation), but they average 38.4 rebounds per game and boast four players who average 11.0 points per game or better. Player to watch: Marshall sophomore guard DeAndre Kane. The 6’4 wingman is averaging a team-high 17.6 points per game, but has proven turnover prone. If the Dukes can rattle him early, it could hold the key to victory.
12/11 - Virginia Commonwealth at Richmond (6-2): More than anything, this game might take on an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better complex for the Rams. Old Dominion already has beaten Richmond this season. If Virginia Commonwealth could not only beat the A-10 Spiders, but do it on the road, that’d go a long way toward showing how powerful the top of this conference has the potential to be. Player to watch: Richmond senior forward Justin Harper. The Spiders are seventh in the nation in field goal percentage. A large part of that is because Harper’s shooting a cool 59.7 percent from the floor. And they’re not all bunnies either; Harper has made 12 of his 20 3-pointers (48.0 percent) this year.
12/14 - Drexel at Louisville (6-0): This game has the potential to gain plenty of attention for the CAA. What kind of attention, however, remains to be seen. Naturally, Louisville is a premiere team in the Big East, and will more than likely enter this game undefeated. If the Dragons can find a way to deal with the intimidating atmosphere, they next must find a way to slow an offense that averages 87.5 points per game and an astounding 19.2 assists per game. The Dragons’ one saving grace could be its rebounding (42.2 per game) and the fact that this will be the Cardinals’ third match of three on the week. Player to watch: Louisville sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles. This 6’8 powerhouse will no doubt present a challenge to Drexel’s bigs. How Samme Givens and Daryl McCoy handle the test should go a long way toward determining the result.
The CAA puts together these fantastic videos that recap conference action. Naturally, the December 4 one is of particular interest.
This video is mostly Richmond-oriented, but at least it’ll give you a chance to see ODU in action on defense. People always forget about defense…