Set Your Tivo: 02.18-02.20

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 18th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

With only two weeks left in the regular season, it’s time for teams to make their moves. This weekend provides ample opportunities for some to do so. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

VCU @ Wichita State – 7 pm Friday on ESPN2 (***)

Skeen Leads VCU In Scoring (14.6 PPG), But Is Also Top Ten In the CAA In Rebounding (7.7 RPG) And PP40 (19.0)

This could very well prove to be an elimination game. VCU has lost two straight games at home and now has to venture out of conference on the road. Wichita State has lost three games at home already this season, however, and probably has to win out and make a run in the MVC Tournament in order to have a chance at a bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers don’t have a win in the RPI top 50 and those three home losses are really holding them back. VCU was blasted on the boards by Old Dominion recently (40-21) and it’s going to be hard to avoid that again in this game. If the Rams can’t create extra possessions through turnovers, it’s going to be a very long night.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.15.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 15th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Kansas State revived their Tournament chances (at least for now) with a big win last night. Can Michigan State do the same? Plus, first place is on the line in the Colonial. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

George Mason @ VCU – 7 pm on ESPNU (****)

Shaka Smart and VCU Can Even Things Up In the Patriot Tonight

Entering tonight, VCU sits one game behind George Mason as the teams meet for the only time in the regular season. The Patriots are one of the hottest teams in the nation, currently on an 11 game winning streak, while the Rams suffered their first home loss in over a year at the hands of Old Dominion on Saturday. To avoid a second straight home loss, VCU will have to contain George Mason’s potent guard-oriented attack.

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Set Your Tivo: 02.11-02.13

Posted by Brian Otskey on February 11th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

So many games, so little time to talk about them. Here are the biggest games of the weekend and why you should pay attention to them. Fair warning: it’s a long list. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.

#12 Syracuse @ #19 Louisville – 12 pm Saturday on ESPN (****)

The Cards Need Knowles To Catch Fire Over the Angry Syracuse Zone

With Rakeem Buckles and Gorgui Dieng practicing again for Louisville, the Cardinals are starting to get some of their depth back. Their status for this game is unknown but there’s a chance at least one of them will play. The Cardinals beat Syracuse twice last season and they’ll look to do it again in what is an important separation game for both teams. Only one game in the loss column separates third and eleventh place in the Big East with both of these teams in the thick of that jumbled mess.

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The 10 BracketBuster Games You Don’t Want to Miss

Posted by KDoyle on February 1st, 2011

Kevin Doyle is an RTC Contributor.  His weekly column, The Other 26, explores the minutiae of the twenty-six Division I conferences outside the BCS sextet. 

One of the best weekends of the year prior to Championship Week and, of course, the NCAA Tournament, is when the BracketBusters are played. It provides a nice break from conference play, and some of the top mid-major teams in the country have an opportunity to strut their stuff, build up that all-important resume, and have a last opportunity of picking up a quality non-conference victory. Because many of the top games are televised, it is also a great chance for all you guys out there that solely pay attention to the BCS teams around the country to gain some insight of who may have a shot at upsetting a higher seed and advancing a round or two when filling out your Tournament bracket next month. Here are my top 10 BracketBuster game, from tenth to first:

10.   Kent State at Drexel—February 18, 9PM (ESPNU)

Neither team is in the running for an at-large bid, but obtaining additional confidence heading into their respective conference tournaments is what both will play for. Drexel is just a step below the top teams in the CAA, while Kent State is right in the mix for the MAC crown as there has not been one team that has truly distinguished themselves. The Flashes, led by Justin Greene’s 16 points and 7.5 boards a night, are one of the more balanced teams in the MAC as five players average nine points or more. Chris Fouch, arguably Drexel’s top player, will really test Kent State’s backcourt.

9.   Austin Peay at Fairfield—February 19, 1PM (ESPNU)

Fairfield has been flying under the radar playing in the MAAC this year—not as much attention has been given to the league due to Siena’s return to mediocrity after a great run under Fran McCaffery—and they are one of the hottest teams in the nation. Aside from a tough one point loss at Loyola (MD) in mid-January, Fairfield has not lost since November 23 against St. Joseph’s. They are currently the favorite to win the MAAC, but there are a host of teams nipping at their heels. The Stags will take on an Austin Peay squad that sits atop their league—the Ohio Valley Conference—as well. The game will feature two of the better point guards in the land of mid-majors as Derek Needham for Fairfield averages 14 points and 5 assists, and Caleb Brown for Austin Peay is second in the OVC in assists.

8.   Hofstra at Wright State—February 19, 11AM (ESPNU)

Hofstra and Wright State are both teetering on the edge of becoming legitimate contenders in their respective leagues. The Pride got out to a quick 5-0 start in the CAA, but have gone 3-3 in their last six to fall behind Virginia Commonwealth and George Mason. In the crazy Horizon League this year, it is anyone’s best guess who will be the last one standing. Cleveland State with Norris Cole looks to be the current favorite, but Wright State is not far behind. The storyline for this game will undoubtedly revolve around Charles Jenkins who has a legitimate shot of hearing his name called by David Stern on NBA Draft night, but don’t be surprised if Vaughn Duggins for Wright State steals the show. The fifth-year senior has scored in double figures in every game save two, and is the fourth leading scorer in the Horizon League.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.27.11

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 27th, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Tonight we highlight the little guys. First place is on the line in the Colonial while St. Mary’s looks to widen its lead in the WCC. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

Hofstra @ VCU – 7 pm on ESPNU (***)

VCU Will Need a Little More From Rodriguez This Evening

Both teams are tied atop the CAA at 8-1 but the Rams are the favorite here at home where they’re undefeated on the year. VCU has lost only twice at home in the last three years and both defeats were to the same team: Northeastern. Shaka Smart’s team loves to shoot the three, but is missing a key part of that attack with Brandon Rozzell out due to a broken hand. Without Rozzell in the fold, VCU will turn to Joey Rodriguez and Bradford Burgess for the bulk of their three point shooting. Rodriguez is coming off a season high 28 points at Towson while Burgess is making 44% of his threes this season. Against a Hofstra defense ranked #290 against the trey, you can bet VCU will be firing up plenty of them tonight, as they usually do.

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Set Your Tivo: 01.21-01.23

Posted by Brian Otskey on January 21st, 2011

***** – quit your job and divorce your wife if that’s what it takes to watch this game live
**** – best watched live, but if you must, tivo and watch it tonight as soon as you get home
*** – set your tivo but make sure you watch it later
** – set your tivo but we’ll forgive you if it stays in the queue until 2013
* – don’t waste bandwidth (yours or the tivo’s) of any kind on this game

Brian Otskey is an RTC contributor.

Almost all of the action is on Saturday but what a day it will be. A couple of huge games start us off right away at noon but the rest of the day will not disappoint. It’s very unfortunate but #21 St. Mary’s @ #23 Vanderbilt is not on television and neither is Belmont at East Tennessee State on Sunday, a battle for first in the Atlantic Sun. You obviously won’t be able to watch those games unless you’re attending but definitely check and see how they play out. All rankings from RTC and all times eastern.

#1 Ohio State @ #18 Illinois – 12 pm Saturday on CBS (****)

Sylvester and the Buckeyes Had the Last Laugh When Illinois Was #1 in 2005

It should be a crazy environment in Champaign on Saturday when the #1 team in the land pays a visit. Illinois is having a good year but probably not as good as some of the more optimistic Illini fans would have hoped. That can change in a big way with a marquee win over the Buckeyes. You’ll recall what happened almost six years ago in Columbus. Illinois was #1 at 29-0 on the last day of the regular season and lost on a Matt Sylvester three with five seconds to play as the unranked Buckeyes knocked off the eventual national runner up. By the way: Gus Johnson was working that one in 2005 and he’ll be in Champaign on Saturday if you even needed another reason to tune in.

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 21st, 2011

 

Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.

A Look Back

Well, a lot has happened since our last check-in. Way back then (err, two weeks ago), this was a relatively quiet league with a pretty decent out-of-conference showing. Sure, there were occasional upsets (like Drexel over Louisville or Delaware over Old Dominion), but not too much to turn the conference on its head. Now, seven games into conference play, that has changed. Big time. Virginia Commonwealth and Hofstra have lifted themselves to the top of the conference standings, while Drexel and Northeastern have fallen a long way. Nobody seems safe anymore and with everyone beating up on one another, the CAA’s chances at being a multi-bid conference seem all but vanished.  That, however, doesn’t mean there’s no reason to enjoy the games. In fact, this probably makes it far more exciting to be a fan of the conference. It’s becoming quite clear that spectators should watch these games with no preset notion of which team is going to win, because that’s likely to be wrong. Without too much more chit-chat, let’s get to the recaps and all-important power rankings in this week’s CAA check-in.

  • Player of the Week: Joey Rodriguez, G, Virginia Commonwealth: The senior guard has been an understated part of the Rams’ league-second-best offense (72.9 points per game) as he runs the point with the poise and experience of a fourth-year player. In two victories last week, he contributed 14 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists while turning over the ball only four times and creating four steals. There’s little doubt Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess, and Brandon Rozzell would be able to do what they’re doing without Rodriguez’s steadying presence.
  • Team of the Week: William & Mary: Don’t act so surprised. The Tribe has, in the previous two games, been able to do what many teams in this conference have not on consecutive nights – blow teams out. In a league where every matchup is seemingly a nail-biter, William & Mary upset Drexel (which was coming off a win against Old Dominion) and then beat Towson by a combined total of 29 points.
  • Stat of the Week – 6: The number of CAA teams in the most recent Mid-Major Top 25 poll, which speaks to the amazing talent and balance at the top of this conference.

Charles Jenkins Watch

Week Four of our Charles Jenkins Watch, and he’s still at it. The senior guard hasn’t scored less than 13 points all season (and other than that one game, it has been less than 19) and last week compiled 41 points in two contests. He was, however, only 6-16 from the field in a loss against Old Dominion, but the Queens native still ranks seventh in the nation in scoring with an impressive average of 23.2 points per game.

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(14-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 22, SOS 40)
Last week: L 62-57 @ Drexel, W 75-64 @ Hofstra, W 64-58 vs. James Madsion
This week: 1.22 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.24 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 1.26 @ Georgia State

Previous rank: No. 1

What a wild week it has been for Old Dominion. And for that matter, everyone in the conference. But for the Monarchs in particular, this was a week during which they could prove their mettle, and why they’re the highest-ranked CAA team in the Mid-Major Top 25. After faltering on the road against a baffling Drexel team, Old Dominion rebounded nicely with a win against previously undefeated in the CAA Hofstra and then snapped James Madison’s nine-game winning streak. Not a bad way to round out the week. And the kicker is, they’re still gridlocked in a three-way tie for second in the conference standings.

2. George Mason
(13-5, 5-2 CAA – RPI 44, SOS 56)
Last week: W 66-51 vs. Georgia State, W 71-47 vs. Drexel
This week: 1.22 @ James Madison, 1.24 @ Delaware, 1.26 vs. Towson

Previous rank: No. 3

Ranked 12th in the Mid-Major Top 25, the Patriots have been one of the few teams who have played things out according to script – lose to teams ahead of you, beat those below you. George Mason has the second-highest RPI of any team in the conference right now, and continues to feast on a high field-goal percentage (48.4 percent – 18th in the nation). If that keeps up, along with the 14-points-per-game scoring averages of Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, there’s little doubt the Patriots will more than be in the mix come season’s end. Want even more of a reason to feel good? Check out how many games kenpom.com has the Patriots losing the rest of the way.

3. Virginia Commonwealth
(14-5, 6-1 CAA – RPI 68, SOS 163)
Last week: W 73-64 vs. Northeastern, W 71-54 vs. Georgia State
This week: 1.22 @ Old Dominion, 1.24 @ Towson

Previous rank: No. 5

Would you look at that? Seemingly in the blink of an eye, the Rams are at the top of the conference and have pieced together a five-game winning streak in a league where it’s becoming apparent that that’s quitter a difficult task to accomplish. VCURamNation is buzzing, and rightfully so as the Rams most recently exacted revenge against Georgia State, which handed them their only conference loss thus far. A showdown against Old Dominion at the Constant Convocation Center looms on Saturday, so Jamie Skeen and company better eat their Wheaties.

4. James Madison
(15-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 63, SOS 201)
Last week: W 79-67 vs. Georgia State, W 63-54 vs. UNC-Wilmington, L 64-58 @ Old Dominion
This week: 1.22 vs. George Mason, 1.24 @ Hofstra, 1.26 vs. Drexel

Previous rank: No. 4

Everything was lined up perfectly for the Dukes to steamroll into the toughest portion of their conference schedule riding an unprecedented winning streak. That is, until they lost to Old Dominion, and now must find a way to regroup with George Mason, Hofsta and Drexel on the horizon rather than look to extend a record streak. Still, what the Dukes accomplished during their impressive run (the school’s best since 1992-93) won’t soon be forgotten and a showdown against George Mason at 11 a.m. on Saturday probably has leading scorer Denzel Bowles (17.1 points per game) champing at the bit.

5. Hofstra
(12-6, 6-1 CAA – RPI 103, SOS 143)
Last week: L 75-64 vs. Old Dominion, W 66-57 vs. UNC-Wilmington
This week: 1.22 @ William & Mary, 1.24 vs. James Madison, 1.27 @ Virginia Commonwealth

Previous rank: No. 8

A mistake is a mistake, and it appears as though last week’s rank of No. 8 was way too low for the Pride. After the conclusion of the non-conference schedule, Hofstra simply skyrocketed and now sits tied with Virginia Commonwealth at the top of the standings. If not for a loss against Old Dominion, the Pride would be roaring even louder. Naturally, Charles Jenkins receives a large amount of attention, but don’t underestimate the minutes Mike Moore (14.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game) contributes. The key to Hofstra’s success so far has largely depended on its ability to hang on to the ball (17.2 turnover percentage) and nail free throws (75.5 free-throw percentage).

6. Drexel Dragons
(11-6, 3-4 CAA – RPI 65, SOS 95)
Last week: W 62-57 vs. Old Dominion, L 80-66 @ William & Mary, L 71-47 @ George Mason
This week: 1.22 vs. Northeastern, 1.24 vs. Georgia State, 1.26 @ James Madison

Previous rank: No. 2

You can’t help but think that Drexel did this to itself. Maybe it was coach Bruiser Flint’s suspension, maybe it was the realization that rebounding alone cannot win basketball games, maybe it was the high from downing Old Dominion, or maybe the Dragons had become such a target that other teams played at their top level in order to defeat Drexel. Whatever the case, the Dragons already have lost four conference games and back-to-back games in humiliating fashion. First it was an 80-66 pounding at the hands of William & Mary. Yes, you read that right, and yes the Tribe shot 60 percent in that game. Then the Dragons dropped a 71-47 decision to George Mason in which they scored 17 second-half points. So in a two-game span, Drexel lost by a combined 38 points and completely undid what little chance there might have been for an at-large bid.

7. Delaware
(9-8, 4-3 CAA – RPI 137, SOS 180)
Last week: W 66-63 @ Towson, W 54-52 vs. Northeastern

This week: 1.22 @ Georgia State, 1.24 vs. George Mason, 1.26 @ William & Mary

Previous rank: No. 6

This is where the dividing line starts to fall between the CAA’s top teams and the rest of the pack. But with that said, any of the teams ranked sixth and below have proven very capable of beating anyone in the upper tier. The Blue Hens probably had a bit rougher week than anticipated as both victories against Towson and Northeastern came down to the wire – especially Jamelle Hagins’ dunk with 21 seconds remaining to give Delaware the victory against the Huskies. The Blue Hens are the last remaining team on this list with a winning record in conference play.

8. UNC-Wilmington
(9-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 131, SOS 110)
Last week: L 63-54 @ James Madison, L 66-57 @ Hofstra
This week: 1.22 vs. Towson, 1.24 @ Old Dominion, 1.26 vs. Northeastern

Previous rank: No. 7

It wasn’t the best week for Seahawks anywhere as UNC-Wilmington dropped down to .500 by losing consecutive contests to James Madison and Hofstra. Granted those are two of the better teams in the conference, but it was a hit UNCW probably couldn’t afford to take more than midway through the CAA slate. The Seahawks do a lot of things well, but nothing great which is pretty much the recipe for a .500 squad. Chad Tomko (16.1 points per game) and Keith Rendleman (10.2 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game) continue to leads a team that’s right in the thick of things, but probably not good enough to down the big boys come crunch time.

9. William & Mary
(6-12, 2-5 CAA – RPI 245, SOS 132)
Last week: W 80-66 vs. Drexel, W 83-68 @ Towson
This week: 1.22 vs. Hofstra, 1.24 @ Northeastern, 1.26 vs. Delaware

Previous rank: No. 11

The Tribe picked one heck of a way to snap a seven-game losing streak, eh? Not only did William & Mary trounce Drexel, but then it turned right around and dismantled Towson. In two games, the Tribe has beaten its opponents by a combined 29 points and have turned their downtrodden program into a respectable one in a matter of days. The real test will come Saturday, when the Tribe has to face a difficult Hofstra team at Kaplan Arena.

10. Georgia State
(8-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 205, SOS 200)
Last week: L 79-67 @ James Madison, L 66-51 @ George Mason, L 71-54 @ Virginia Commonwealth
This week: 1.22 vs. Delaware, 1.24 @ Drexel, 1.26 vs. Old Dominion

Previous rank: No. 11

While Georgia State has lost three games in a row, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they’re the only team in the conference to beat both Virginia Commonwealth and James Madison. The CAA’s version of a spoiler, no doubt. Last week, however, both school exacted their revenge on the Panthers, who are still searching for a go-to scorer down the stretch. Those three losses, however, came to three very talented schools. Don’t be surprised is Georgia State pulls a few more upsets before season’s end – snow-delayed games or not.

11. Towson
(4-13, 0-7 CAA – RPI 267, SOS 168)
Last week: L 66-63 vs. Delaware, L 83-68 vs. William & Mary
This week: 1.22 @ UNC-Wilmington, 1.24 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.26 @ George Mason

Previous rank: No. 10

Towson joins Northeastern as the two winless teams in CAA play But the Tigers do appear to be in slightly better shape than the Huskies. No, it’s not because they’ve only lost six straight instead of eight. But because they are getting contribution across the board (four scorers average double figures) and their rebounding (33.4) and points (70.1) averages aren’t nearly as bad. No game is going to be easy for Towson the rest of the way, but there’s little doubt the Tigers won’t get that first conference victory sooner rather than later.

12. Northeastern
(4-14, 0-7 CAA – RPI 184, SOS 30)
Last week: L 73-64 @ Virginia Commonwealth, L 54-52 @ Delaware
This week: 1.22 @ Drexel, 1.24 vs. William & Mary, 1.26 @ UNC-Wilmington

Previous rank: No. 9

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Well, maybe not mighty, but certainly not many could have predicted the Huskies would be winless through seven games of conference action. Northeastern has lost eight games in a row and is having trouble both scoring (62.8 points per game) and rebounding (28.5 rebounds per game). And in a conference where rebounding is king, that’s a problem. One quick look at Northeastern’s kempom.com page, and the amount of red tells you all you need to know. The Huskies haven’t beaten a team with an RPI higher than 130 this season. Thought if it’s any consolation, their strength of schedule is a robust 30. It will be interesting to see who wins Saturday’s matchup of two struggling programs in Drexel and Northeastern.

A Look Ahead

For whatever reason, the chips just happened to fall on Saturday as a huge day of games for the conference. Here’s a look at three games you won’t want to miss this weekend. And mine as well throw the NFL’s championship weekend games on top of that as well. Those things are gonna be good÷

  • Jan. 22, George Mason (13-5, 5-2) at James Madison (15-4, 5-2): Set the coffee maker and make sure you wake up for this one, which tips off at 11 a.m. from the JMU Convocation Center. The game will be televised on ESPNU and, more importantly, will provide a big road test for the Patriots, who are coming off a big win against Drexel. Player to watch: James Madison’s Denzel Bowles. The senior forward has compiled back-to-back 20-plus point games and boasts the top field goal percentage on the team (and second-best in the conference) at 60.9 percent. He also has yanked down double-digit rebounds in three of JMU’s previous four games.
  • Jan. 22, Virginia Commonwealth (14-5, 6-1) at Old Dominion (14-4, 5-2): If possible, this game might carry bigger implications than the George Mason-James Madison battle, if only because VCU sits atop the league and on a five-game winning streak. That said, Old Dominion is out to prove it’s still the top dog in the CAA. Player to watch: Old Dominion’s Frank Hassell. Two of his five double-doubles on the season have come in his past two games. The senior forward has the ability to take over a game, so watch out if the crowd gets behind him.
  • Jan. 22, Hofstra (12-6, 6-1) at William & Mary (6-12, 2-5): While this might not be the sexiest matchup of the CAA’s Super Saturday, it has the potential to be an important one no matter which team wins. If Hofstra takes it, it does no worse than maintain its position atop the conference. If the Tribe pulls an upset, it extends its winning streak to three and proves that nobody should take it lightly. Player to watch: William & Mary junior swingman Quinn McDowell. In his previous three games, he has scored 45 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. As the lead contributor on the Tribe, he’ll need to step up. It will also be interesting to see who guards Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins.

Caught on Film

Remember, if you like CAA basketball highlights (and we’re assuming you do since you made it this far), check out the CAA’s YouTube page for regular highlights.

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2011

Nick Camarotta is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.

A Look Back

Should old out of conference schedules be forgot/and never brought to mind/should conference play be coming up/for Auld Lang Syne.

Or something like that… At any rate, it’s time to wrap up the out of conference schedule (save the BracketBusters and NCAA Tournament), and look ahead toward the beginning of league play. This past week was a bit disjointed because of the holiday schedule, but while the games weren’t all too exciting, the accomplishment of the conference as a whole was. The CAA now holds a 77-53 out of conference record, which is the league’s best-ever mark. The CAA’s previous best came during the 2005-06 season (76-52) when George Mason reached the Final Four, and Old Dominion and Hofstra played in the NIT. The only other time the Colonial finished more than 10 games above .500 was in the 2008-09 season (81-70). In addition, four teams are ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll: Old Dominion (2), George Mason (7), Drexel (9) and Virginia Commonwealth (16). James Madison just missed the cut with 56 points to No. 25 Furman’s 65.  Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s look at the best out of conference win for the league so far. And the worst out of conference loss.

Here are some great reads before we get started with the power rankings:

  • Brian Mull of the Star News has a fantastic look at the CAA season to this point, examining each team’s out of conference schedule and the CAA’s chances as a multiple-bid conference.
  • Diamond Leung writes a nice piece on Drexel’s Chris Fouch, and his interesting role as the team’s leading scorer off the bench.

Player of the Week

Brandon Rozzell, G, Virginia Commonwealth: With another week of few games, thanks to the holiday season, the Player of the Week’s stats might not be as gaudy as we’re used to, but senior guard Brandon Rozzell was the best of the bunch. The 5’10 Richmond, Virginia, native poured in 41 points in two victories for the Rams last week, including 10-of-21 from beyond the arc. On the season, Rozzell is among VCU’s top three scorers, averaging 13.2 points per game. Unfortunately, that’s all he has shown he can do thus far, producing mediocre averages of 2.2 rebounds per game and 2.2 assists per game.

Team of the Week

Towson: Reach into a hat and take your pick… No team was particularly impressive this past week, and nobody played a marquee opponent. This was simply the calm before the storm – the last handful of blah games before the New Year. Towson gets the nod this time for an impressive win against LaSalle, and some news off the court as well. The transfer of junior guard Troy Franklin came as quite a shock to the league. Franklin was leading the team in minutes per game (35) and was scoring 12.6 points per game. Quite a blow to a team that already lacked depth before the start of conference play.

Stat of the Week

2: Number of CAA teams that won their respective holiday tournaments: Georgia State and Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams took home the title in the Hardwood Classic with a victory against New Hampshire, while the Panthers took care of business in the Dr. Pepper Classic by beating Chattanooga in the title game. For the Rams, it was their first in-season tournament title since the 1980s.

Charles Jenkins Watch

Week Two of our Charles Jenkins Watch takes us to, well, the same exact place it did last week. Even in a loss, Jenkins netted 20 points, but did have a streak of five games with five or more assists snapped in the defeat against Iona. Jenkins is averaging 23.5 points per game – tops in the CAA, and seventh in the nation.

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(9-3, 0-1 CAA – RPI 19, SOS 24)
Last week: L 81-58 @ No. 10 Missouri
This week: 1.03 @ Towson, 1.05 vs. Northeastern, 1.08 vs. George Mason

Previous rank: No. 1

The general consensus was that Old Dominion’s game against 10th-ranked Missouri would be just that – a game. Instead, the Monarchs fell flat, and couldn’t hang with the Tigers, who shot 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from beyond the arc. The loss is a humbling one for Old Dominion (ranked second in the Mid-Major Top 25) as coach Blaine Taylor’s team gears up for the beginning of conference play. Towson and Northeastern should provide nice momentum for a showdown against George Mason on Saturday.

2. Drexel Dragons
(9-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 20, SOS 122)
Last week: W 84-39 vs. Niagara
This week: 1.03 vs. Hofstra, 1.05 @ Virginia Commonwealth, 1.08 vs. Delaware

Previous rank: No. 2

While Drexel played only one game last week, we’ll take a look at two. On Dec. 22, the Dragons had a chance to beat their second ranked opponent of the season, but the task proved too difficult – No. 5 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome is simply too good. The Dragons lost, 93-65, but rebounded nicely with a demolition of Niagara in their final game before CAA play. Speaking of rebounding, Bruiser Flint’s squad ranks ninth nationally in rebounding percentage. The Dragons also rank first in the country in 3-point percentage defense (25.3).

3. George Mason
(9-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 64, SOS 134)
Last week: L 73-67 @ Dayton
This week: 1.03 vs. Delaware, 1.05 @ Hofstra, 1.08 @ Old Dominion

Previous rank: No. 3

According to kenpom.com’s four factors, you’re looking at the best team in the conference. Ranked 50th on Pomeroy’s website, the Patriots deserve to be in the mix with Old Dominion and Drexel, though Wednesday’s loss against Dayton really hurts their chances at an at-large bid (if there were even any before that). That 73-67 loss ended a seven-game winning streak. Senior guard Cam Long scored 20, but missed eight shots from beyond the arc (2-10) that could have made the difference.

4. James Madison
(10-3, 0-1 CAA – RPI 53, SOS 196)
Last week: W 60-51 @ Kent State
This week: 1.03 vs. Northeastern, 1.05 vs. Towson, 1.08 @ William & Mary

Previous rank: No. 5

The first team in the conference to reach the 10-win plateau, the Dukes also ensured the CAA its best-ever out of conference record, netting the Colonial its 77th win. Kent State suffered its first home loss in the 60-51 defeat. James Madison will ride a four game winning streak into conference play, and its schedule is quite favorable in this first week of league action. None of the teams the Dukes play have a winning record – the only three such teams in the CAA.

5. Virginia Commonwealth
(9-4, 1-0 CAA – RPI 69, SOS 132)
Last week: W 75-66 vs. Wofford, W 78-65 vs. New Hampshire
This week: 1.03 @ Georgia State, 1.05 vs. Drexel, 1.08 @ UNC-Wilmington

Previous rank: No. 4

A pair of games and a pair of wins for the Rams, who are still scoring and assisting at an impressive clip (74.4 points per game, 16.0 assists per game). While the quality of VCU’s final two conference opponents is a tad sub-par (Wofford and New Hampshire), the Rams should like their chances entering the first week of conference action. The scoring is balanced at the top (Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell all average more than 13 points per game), so if one has an off night, the others should pick it up.

6. Delaware
(6-5, 1-0 CAA – RPI 112, SOS 131)
Last week: W 54-53 @ Santa Clara, L 83-71 vs. American

This week: 1.03 @ George Mason, 1.05 vs. William & Mary, 1.08 @ Drexel

Previous rank: No. 7

Guard Devon Saddler nailed a key bucket down the stretch and was the only player in double figures in Delaware’s 54-53 victory against Santa Clara. The Blue Hens couldn’t string two together, however, as the short trip to American resulted in a 12-point loss. This week appears to be a difficult one for the Blue Hens, however, as they make trips to both George Mason and Drexel. Then again, Delaware is one of three teams to be Old Dominion this season, who knows what will happen?

7. UNC-Wilmington
(6-6, 0-1 CAA – RPI 143, SOS 151)
Last week: W 64-42 vs. Toledo
This week: 1.03 @ William & Mary, 1.05 vs. Georgia State, 1.08 vs. Virginia Commonwealth

Previous rank: No. 6

While the NFL’s version of the Seahawks were busy fighting for their playoffs lives, UNC-Wilmington held Toledo to its lowest points total of the season in an effortless win. It was also the fewest points the Seahawks allowed so far this season. But, it was against Toledo, which has been abysmal thus far. Right now, UNC-Wilmington is depending far too much on its 3-point shooting abilities (98-241 for 40.7%). That must change as play goes forward.

8. Hofstra
(7-5, 1-0 CAA – RPI 179, SOS 79)
Last week: L 87-62 @ Iona
This week: 1.03 @ Drexel, 1.05 vs. George Mason, 1.08 @ Northeastern

Previous rank: No. 8

Hofstra is just kind of… there. Not overwhelmingly talented, but certainly not deserving of any lower a ranking. The biggest thing the Pride have going for them is the play of Charles Jenkins, who continues to score at a fantastic rate, and is 10th in the nation in true shooting percentage (70.7). Still, kenpom.com predicts the Pride to finish the conference schedule 7-11, which is certainly not where coach Mo Cassara wants his team to be.

9. Northeastern
(4-8, 0-1 CAA – RPI 163, SOS 33)
Last week: L 65-63 vs. Princeton, L 75-62 vs. Furman
This week: 1.03 @ James Madison, 1.05 @ Old Dominion, 1.08 vs. Hofstra

Previous rank: No. 9

The turbulent season in Boston continues, as the Huskies escaped the snow storms that plagued the Northeast to play in a few holiday tournaments.  After finishing the Cancun Governor’s Cup with two wins, Northeastern couldn’t muster a victory in the UCF Holiday Classic and dropped games to Princeton and Furman. Still, as bad as things may appear, the Huskies’ strength of schedule is a robust 33, and once conference play begins, perhaps Bill Coen’s team will regain its swagger.

10. Towson
(4-7, 0-1 CAA – RPI 254, SOS 268)
Last week: W 93-90 (OT) @ LaSalle
This week: 1.03 vs. Old Dominion, 1.05 @ James Madison, 1.08 @ Georgia State

Previous rank: No. 12

Well isn’t this nice? We know, this is probably a bit too high for Towson, but let the Tigers have their moment in the sun. Once conference play begins, they’ll probably drop back down. But to go to LaSalle and come away with a thrilling overtime win in the final OOC game of the season (so far), is nothing to sneeze at. The Explorers are a deep, talented team, but Isaiah Philmore and Braxton Dupree both poured in 27 to gain the victory.

11. Georgia State
(6-5, 1-0 CAA – RPI 259, SOS 334)
Last week: W 72-42 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, W 81-76 @ Chattanooga
This week: 1.03 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.05 @ UNC-Wilmington, 1.08 vs. Towson

Previous rank: No. 10

What a nice little way for Georgia State to wrap up its out of conference slate – with two wins and a record above .500. Still, the Panthers must improve their free-throw shooting (55.9 percent – 344th in the nation) and turnover ratio if they want to notch some victories against some of the tougher teams in the CAA. A difficult test against Virginia Commonwealth looms on the horizon.

12. William & Mary
(4-8, 0-1 CAA – RPI 274, SOS 205)
Last week: L 83-81 @ Longwood
This week: 1.03 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 1.05 @ Delaware, 1.08 vs. James Madison

Previous rank: No. 11

Unfortunately, for the Tribe, it doesn’t get much worse than a two-point loss to Longwood. Unless, of course, it was a 20-point loss to Longwood. Either way, William & Mary has to do better than its current 42.7 field goal percentage if it hopes to remain competitive in conference play. Junior swingman Quinn McDowell and his 15.2 points per game won’t solve all the problems.

A Look Ahead

This is, aside from the conference tournament, perhaps the most exciting look ahead of the season. All of the anticipation that comes along with playing teams in your own conference is a mere 24 hours away. The CAA plays on three days this week. Here’s a look at what should be the best matchup on each:

  • Jan. 3, Northeastern (4-8, 0-1) at James Madison (10-3, 0-1): The struggling Huskies know they’re better than 4-8. The streaking Dukes are out to show that their loss against Georgia State in the CAA tune-up was nothing more than an anomaly. Player to watch: Northeastern’s Chassion Allen. The senior guard is clearly the leader of the Huskies, scoring 16.3 points per game and pulling down 5.8 rebounds per game. He can’t help the Huskies’ 3-point shooting percentage (35.9), however.
  • Jan. 5, Drexel (9-2, 1-0) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (9-4, 1-0): Of the games on this list, this is the only one where both teams have undefeated conference records. It may not seem like much, but when every win is so valuable in this ultra-competitive conference, this is a big one. Player to watch: Drexel sophomore guard Chris Fouch. It’s hard not to watch the sparkplug from New York, who’s averaging a team-best 19.1 points per game.
  • Jan. 8, George Mason (9-3, 1-0) vs. Old Dominion (9-3, 0-1): This appears to be a fantastic matchup on paper. Naturally, a lot depends on what these two teams do in the two games preceding this one, but even still – this is an early battle for top positioning. Kenpom.com has the Monarchs winning, 64-62, and if the actual game is that good, this should be a real treat. Player to watch: Senior forward Frank Hassell. He has been a beast all season, and is averaging close to a double-double with 12.3 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game. He’ll be a handful for the Patriots.

YouTube Highlights

The CAA’s YouTube page is a one-stop shop for all CAA highlights. Check it out.

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Floriani: Tempo-Free at the Preseason NIT

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 29th, 2010

Ray Floriani of College Chalk Talk is the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC, and makes additional contributions based on his analysis from action around the country.

There has been a lot of news coming out of Knoxville, Tennessee, as of late. Until last week, all of it centered on activity off the court – from Bruce Pearl’s recent troubles with the NCAA to last year’s player suspensions. Presently, the conversation is shifting to what is transpiring on the floor as Tennessee captured the Preseason NIT at Madison Square Garden. They did it in resounding defensive fashion.

Let’s take look at a tempo-free analyses of each of the games contested at the World’s Most Famous Arena.

First Semifinal

eFG FT RATE OREB PCT TO RATE
VCU 39 28 29 18
Tennessee 42 26 38 19

Neither team was a walk-it-up-the floor type as they both came to New York averaging over 70 possessions per game. In an 80-possession contest, Tennessee had the offensive efficiency edge, 96-90. The talk at halftime was the Rams’ shooting, or lack of it. Their eFG percentage the first half was a horrid 28%. Only a rebounding edge and the Tennessee’s careless ball-handling style (23% TO rate) kept them within one at intermission.  In the second half, VCU found the range thanks to 6’2 guard Brandon Rozzell (23 points, 19 in the final half). The big story was rebounding. Bruce Pearl’s club cleaned the glass the second half. Scotty Hopson, a 6’7 wing who was a matchup problem all night for VCU, had 11 boards to complement his 18 points and 6’10 Brian Williams enjoying a New York homecoming, adding 13 rebounds. In the end, the Vols edged the Rams, 77-72.

Jamie Skeen made these fans proud of his tenacity on the boards.

Second Semifinal

eFG FT RATE OREB PCT TO RATE
UCLA 44 31 26 18
Villanova 44 45 33 10

At the half, Villanova enjoyed a 15-point lead and a huge 122-78 edge in offensive efficiency. In a low 70s possession game (UCLA 73, Villanova 71), the final numbers were a bit more respectful but Villanova still enjoyed a 116-96 OE edge. Credit a better second half by UCLA largely due to an improved defensive effort after halftime. Throughout the contest, the Bruins could not keep the Villanova guards in front of them defensively as Ben Howland planned. Corey Fisher shot 6-9 en route to a game high 26 points. Fisher constantly drew fouls from beaten Bruin defenders and was 14-15 from the line. Villanova cleaned the glass, largely due to sophomore Mouphtaou Yarou who pitched in a big 13-point 16-board night.  UCLA did have four in double figures, but not Tyler Honeycutt. The 6’8 forward came in averaging 15 PPG but struggled scoring just eight points on 3-8 shooting. Villanova was able to prevail, 82-70, also on the basis of their low turnover rate.

Consolation

eFG FT RATE OREB PCT TO RATE
VCU 56 26 33 17
UCLA 54 15 52 26

VCU was devastated on the glass, but extremely efficient overall. The pace was to the Rams’ liking (UCLA 80 possessions, VCU 76) with Shaka Smart’s club owning an impressive 117-106 edge in offensive efficiency. Even with a quick pace, VCU did not get into transition similar to the semis and actually trailed UCLA 16-6 in fast break points.  As noted in the table, UCLA owned the backboards largely due to Tyler Honeycutt (13 rebounds) and Reeves Nelson (10). The turnover rate was a killer for the Bruins with Honeycutt and Reeves in the mix again, combining for 8 of the 21 Bruin miscues.  Another encouraging sign for VCU was inside play. The Rams scored 34% of their points from three (actually right on the team average coming to New York) but displayed a nice presence in the paint in Jamie Skeen. The 6’9 senior scored a game high 23 points while grabbing a team high 9 boards. In the end, VCU topped UCLA, 89-85. The level to which the Bruins’ defense improves is a major storyline in Westwood.

Final

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RTC Live: Preseason NIT Semifinals

Posted by rtmsf on November 24th, 2010

Games #33-#34.  It’s back to the World’s Most Famous Arena for the semifinal round of the Preseason NIT.

Villanova comes into this one at 4-0, although their path has not been as easy as their margins of victory would indicate. Bucknell and Boston U. both gave the Wildcats a fight, all while they are dealing with a suspension to star freshman JayVaughn Pinkston. Villanova’s attack is centered around their backcourt, and while Corey Fisher has yet to really catch fire this season, Maalik Wayns looks like a potential superstar. UCLA will be the first real test for this Villanova team. The Bruins come into this one at 3-0 and a bit under the radar. The front line of Reeves Nelson (19.3 ppg), Tyler Honeycutt, and Joshua Smith is underrated and Lazeric Jones is an upgrade over Jerime Anderson at the point. The question mark is going to be Malcolm Lee. He rolled an ankle against Pepperdine, and his status (as of this writing) is still uncertain.

The nightcap is between Tennessee and VCU. Tennessee is a bit of a question mark this season. They have some talented and versatile players in Tobias Harris, Scotty Hopson, and Cam Tatum. All three are capable scorers with length and athleticism. But Brian Williams still is not in shape at center and the combination of Melvin Goins and Trae Golden has not exactly yielded terrific point guard play. VCU may play in the CAA, but don’t be fooled — this is a very good basketball team. Joey Rodriguez is the best point guard you’ve never seen play (18.3 ppg, 10.3 apg, 2.0 TO’s in three games), Jamie Skeen is a power forward transfer from Wake Forest, Ed Nixon is as good a defender as you will find on the perimeter, and Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell are terrific complementary scorers. I’ll go as far as to say that I think VCU will win tonight.

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