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 Charles Jenkins. 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 Doby is 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 Tyler Zeller. 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.