CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2013

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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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The Other 26: Reshuffling the Top of the Deck

Posted by IRenko on January 26th, 2013

I. Renko is an RTC columnist. He will kick off each weekend during the season with his analysis of the 26 other non-power conferences. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.

It was a wild week for the TO26’s best teams, as seven of the teams ranked in our top ten — including our top five — all suffered losses. With Gonzaga, Creighton, VCU, Butler, and UNLV all going down, who has a rightful claim on the number one ranking?  Does New Mexico slide all the way from 6th to 1st after their win over Colorado State?

Not quite.  Yes, Gonzaga lost to Butler in a game played without Rotnei Clarke, Butler’s leading scorer. But it was in a hostile road environment, and even under those conditions, Gonzaga had a victory in hand with just a few seconds left on the clock. And on Thursday, the Zags followed up the loss with a 20-point drubbing of conference rival BYU. So Mark Few’s men will continue to hold the top spot in our rankings. But all of the action elsewhere will produce a substantial reshuffling. Without further ado, on the substantially revised Top 10, our weekly Honor Roll, and a few games to keep an eye on as the week unfolds.

Top Ten

RTC -- TO26 (1.26.13)

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CIO…the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2013

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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.

Conference POY Race

  1. Sherrod Wright, George Mason: If Mason is the top team in the CAA, then Wright is the league’s top player. He’s led the unbalanced Patriots in scoring in nine of the first 12 games, averaging 17.5 PPG a night. Wright has been super-efficient, too. He’s making 54.5 percent of his field goals, 45.5 percent of his threes, and his 61.9 percent effective field goal average ranks second in the league. The junior guard has scored 20-plus points in each of Mason’s last four games.
  2. Jerrelle Benimon, Towson: The Georgetown transfer is sixth in the league in scoring (16.2 PPG) and second in rebounding (11.6 RPG). Forget about the stats, though. Benimon’s toughness has transformed Towson into a competitor overnight. He’s a 6’8”, 245-pound pick-up truck that has hauled the Tigers to five wins already after a season in which they won just one game. Most impressive was his performance against Oregon State, in which Benimon played all 45 minutes of the overtime road win.
  3. Marcus Thornton, William & Mary: The Tribe’s point guard has made the sophomore leap, and is now an elite backcourt player in the CAA. While W&M’s schedule has been soft, Thornton has still led his team to wins. Until that stops, he’ll be among the front-runners for POY honors. The Upper Marlboro, Maryland, native is averaging 18.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
  4. Keith Rendleman, UNC-Wilmington: Five double-doubles through 12 games is par for the course for the senior forward who’s been doing this since his breakout sophomore year. Maybe the most gifted all-around forward in the league, Rendleman inspires hope on an otherwise inconsistent roster. His 16.2 points per game are a career best, and his 9.7 rebounds per contest aren’t far behind last year’s average of 10 RPG.
  5. Damion Lee, Drexel: Lee’s teammate, junior point guard Frantz Massenat, was the preseason pick for this award, but Lee has been the most impressive member of the Dragons’ backcourt. The sophomore is averaging 18.8 points per game, and just finished off a December in which he averaged 21.5 PPG. Lee is asked to do more this year, and his shooting percentages have dipped a bit, but that doesn’t diminish his value. The 6’6” Baltimore native is also averaging 5.4 rebounds per contest.

Reader’s Take 



Power Rankings

With the start of the conference play gearing up for (mostly) everyone this week, today’s power poll will discuss the best non-conference win for each team:

  1. George Mason: The Patriots beat Virginia to start the season, but that’s become commonplace for the CAA (which is 3-0 against UVA this year). More impressive was their 67-64 win over Richmond at the Richmond Coliseum on December 22. Mason has struggled a bit on the road this year, but that victory – capped by a Sherrod Wright buzzer-beating three-pointer – shows its ability to take care of business outside the Patriot Center.
  2. Drexel: This is a no-brainer for the Dragons, whose only other wins were against two Ivy League schools and Rice. Drexel finally notched a quality win on December 22 when it imposed its defensive will on Southern Conference favorite Davidson, and sophomore guard Damion Lee poured in 26 points en route to a 69-58 win. The Wildcats have a top-100 RPI, and have been impressive amidst a super-tough non-conference schedule. But Drexel, at home, was able to limit them.

    Damion Lee Is One Of The CAA's Top Scorers, But Drexel Struggled In Non-Conference Play.

    Damion Lee Is One Of The CAA’s Top Scorers, But Drexel Struggled In Non-Conference Play.

  3. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO…the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 26th, 2012

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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

  • Kings of the Coliseum? The CAA’s two teams were each underdogs in the inaugural Governor’s Holiday Hoops Classic played at Richmond Coliseum, but the Colonial ruled the event, going 2-0. George Mason came back from 12 points down to defeat Richmond 67-64 on a buzzer-beater by Sherrod Wright (when have we seen that before?). Old Dominion, meanwhile, was a two-touchdown underdog against Virginia, but beat the Cavaliers 63-61 to snap a nine-game losing streak. Virginia, an ACC school, dropped to 0-3 against the CAA this season (the Cavs are 9-0 against everybody else).
  • More Saturday Success: Also on Saturday, Drexel protected its home floor against defending Southern Conference champion Davidson, beating the Wildcats 69-58 behind 26 points from sophomore Damion Lee. After falling behind by 13, James Madison defeated San Jose State 77-68 after midnight out in Las Vegas. The CAA had its b­est day of the year Saturday, picking up four wins against teams with winning records.
  • Key Injuries: After missing the first nine games with a foot injury, guard Jonathan Lee – a preseason first team pick – returned for Northeastern. The senior picked up right where he left off, going for 19 points and five assists in his return, and then following up with a 15-point, 12-rebound performance. News wasn’t so bright at Hofstra: The Pride learned that Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, a transfer from UConn, won’t be able to suit up this season because of knee issues. The team is down to seven scholarship players.

George Mason\'s Sherrod Wright Lives For Big Moments. George Mason\’s Sherrod Wright Lives For Big Moments.

Reader\’s Take

 

Power Rankings

Here in the weekly power rankings, we\’re in the business of spreading Christmas cheer, but for everyone worthy of gifts under their tree, there are those who haven\’t been so deserving. So this week\’s list will include something naughty and something nice about each CAA team through the opening month and a half of the season:

  1. George Mason: Naughty: Vertrail Vaughns, a sweet-shooting southpaw who averaged 8.8 points per game as a sophomore, has been limited to just 3.7 in the scoring department this year. His minutes are down to 17 per game, and he\’s struggled from the floor, shooting just 28 percent from distance. He and freshman Patrick Holloway will continue to battle for minutes off the bench, and if Vaughns doesn\’t heat up, the youngster might grab the edge. Nice: Tabbed in the preseason as a possible breakout star, Sherrod Wright has more than delivered. The only Patriot averaging double-figures, Wright (16.9 PPG) is a picture of efficiency, shooting 56 percent from the field and 47.5 percent from three. The 6’4” junior\’s numbers are up across the board, and he clearly still has a nose for the clutch – drilling a game-winner to beat Richmond. Wright, who\’s scored 20-plus in his last three games, will be a Player of the Year candidate, as long as Mason remains atop the league. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 20th, 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.

Reader’s Take

 

Looking Back

  • Beating The Older Cousins: Last season the CAA lost all seven games its teams played against squads from the more powerful Atlantic Coast Conference. This year? The Colonial topped their previous mark on Day One of the college basketball season when George Mason won a home game against nearby Virginia. The CAA again took it to UVA when Delaware topped the Cavaliers in a Preseason NIT game. Here are the remaining opportunities for CAA-over-ACC upsets: William & Mary at Wake Forest; Delaware at Duke; George Mason vs. Maryland (in D.C.); UNC-Wilmington at Georgia Tech; Old Dominion vs. Virginia (in Richmond).
  •  Some “D’s,” Please: While the sample size is obviously tiny, there have already been some fragile defensive performances by Colonial teams. James Madison allowed 100 points against Shabazz-less UCLA, allowing the hot-handed Bruins to shoot close to 70 percent in a 63-point half. Hofstra also allowed an opponent, Marshall, to hit the century-mark – granted that game went to two overtimes and the Pride still won. Monmouth also plopped 91 on Hofstra, that time in a regulation Pride loss, and Purdue scored 83 against it. Not to be outdone, UNC-Wilmington let Richmond score 101 in an ugly loss. Perhaps most disappointing defensively is Drexel, which is allowing 70.3 points per game just one year after holding opponents to an average of 56.1.
  • Tribe Rising: William & Mary is 3-0 for the first time in 20 years. Sure, the Tribe’s opponents haven’t been tough (Hampton, Liberty and High Point are a combined 2-6), but any time you accomplish something for the first time since Bill Clinton was elected for his first term, it’s worth mentioning. Tony Shaver’s club was picked to finish ninth out of 11 teams in the CAA this season, but it’s shown no lack of firepower. Three of the league’s top five scorers thus far are from W&M.

It Didn’t Take Long For Tony Shaver And William & Mary To Turn Some Heads. (AP/Scott K. Brown)

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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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RTC Summer School: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the CAA.

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @CAAHoops and find him online at CAAHoops.com.

Three Key Storylines

  • A Different Look. Perhaps no conference faced the realignment wars more head on than the CAA. Georgia State announced in April it was moving to the Sun Belt effective in 2013. VCU and George Mason were both wooed by the Atlantic 10 — Shaka Smart took his Rams to a new conference while Paul Hewitt’s squad stuck. And Old Dominion followed Georgia State, making a football-driven decision to go to Conference USA. The summer was mostly spent managing off-court drama, so the season tip-off will be welcomed. Due to a longstanding CAA rule that programs leaving the CAA are not eligible for championships, ODU and Georgia State will essentially play lame duck seasons. When you factor in Towson and UNCW’s ineligibility due to APR results, the CAA Tournament — annually a raucous affair that plays to a sold-out Richmond Coliseum — will be a seven-team battle in March.

Frantz Massenat Returns For Drexel, The Early Favorites In The New-Look CAA. (AP)

  • Southern Bias No More? No team north of George Mason has won a CAA title since the conference expanded in 2000 to include four America East programs. In fact, VCU, Old Dominion, and George Mason have combined to win six straight CAA championships and eight of the last nine. However, VCU has moved to the A-10 and ODU is ineligible due to its impending move to Conference USA. Drexel finished 16-2 last year, losing to VCU in the CAA Tournament finals and Delaware returns every key player, adding St. Joseph’s transfer Carl Baptiste. Plus, Bill Coen has a senior backcourt and one of the conference’s top players in sophomore Quincy Ford. That leaves Hewitt’s team to fend off northern aggressors to keep the streak going.
  • Channeling Medeleev. Several CAA coaches face as many chemistry concerns as X-and-O hurdles. Hofstra’s Mo Cassara could start as many as five transfers, led by former UConn Husky Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. The Pride went 14-4 and 3-15 in Cassara’s two seasons in the conference and his ability to combine elements could give rise to either record this year. Pat Skerry has a similar challenge at Towson. Skerry is rebuilding around a trio of Big East transfers that includes former Georgetown Hoya Jerrelle Benimon, Providence grad Bilal Dixon, and South Florida transfer Mike Burwell. And Ron Hunter replaces six seniors with a blend of freshmen (including his son, RJ Hunter, who turned down offers from ACC and Big Ten programs) and Virginia Tech transfer Manny Atkins. Hunter may also get Southern Cal transfer Curtis Washington eligible.

Reader’s Take

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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 February 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

  • Just Watch: The, uh, “controversial” RPI and terrible November are old news for the national media when it discusses the CAA’s chance at an at-large bid. We keep hearing more calls of “they look like an NCAA Tournament team,” or ye olde eye test. Drexel has won 16 straight and 22 of 23 and VCU is 13-1 in its last 14 games, losing only on a 30-foot buzzer beater at George Mason. And those Patriots are 16-3 in their last 19 games. ODU and Delaware are not in the running for an at-large, bid but both are closing fast. The Monarchs are 12-3 in their last 15 games and the Hens have won seven straight.
  • Bustin’ Out: The CAA went 7-5 in BracketBusters last weekend, including a perfect 3-0 mark in televised games. VCU defeated Northern Iowa 77-68 on Friday, while Drexel dominated Cleveland State 69-49 and Old Dominion won 73-67 at Missouri State on Saturday. CAA teams are now 19-10 in TV games over the last eight years, which is the best winning percentage (.655) of any participating conference in the history of the event. The top six teams in the CAA all won as George Mason held off Lamar, Delaware got past Hampton and Georgia State topped UT-San Antonio. Hofstra also beat in-state foe Siena.
  • Must See TV: The CAA has reached a five-year agreement with the NBC Sports Group that will provide the most extensive and comprehensive exposure of the conference in its history. NBC Sports Network will provide national television coverage for a minimum of 12 men’s basketball games each year, including the semifinals and finals of the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The Comcast SportsNet regional networks will regionally televise 39 additional men’s and women’s basketball games, including the quarterfinals of the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The agreements will begin with the 2012-13 season and run through 2016-17. The CAA is the first college conference to strike a deal with the NBC network, turning its back on ESPN.

Can Shaka Smart Lead VCU To A Tournament Bid? We May Have To Wait Until The Conference Tournament To Find Out.

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (15-2, 24-5): The Dragons have won 16 in a row and is 22-1 in their last 23 games. Drexel’s winning streak is the second-longest in the nation currently and is the school’s longest ever in D-I. With eight rebounds on Wednesday, senior Samme Givens became only the sixth player in CAA history to amass 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. With its win over JMU, combined with George Mason’s loss to Northeastern, Drexel locked up the regular season championship and automatic NIT bid that goes with it. However with such impressive credentials, the Dragons want more. 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 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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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 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

 

Caught On Film

Check this clip out to see why William & Mary’s Quinn McDowell has earned the Twitter hashtag #quinntowin. Trailing by three, McDowell hits a game-tying bomb; trailing by two he converts a natural three-point play and then boxes out to get the deciding rebound on a missed free throw:

The Week That Was

  • Thud: Coming off its greatest season ever, the CAA is sporting a hangover. The league is 20-30 and lacks a notable win. (Old Dominion beating South Florida qualifies as the conference’s best.) What’s more, the early season has featured head-scratching losses. Preseason favorite Drexel lost to Norfolk State, Delaware lost to Radford (five wins last season), William & Mary lost to Lehigh by 25 points, and George Mason lost to Florida International. The CAA is a collective 0-3 against Florida Atlantic. While it seems silly to discount the notion of an at-large bid this early in the season, the conference has likely burned up any wiggle room it had come March.
  • Give It Up: Coaches have their clichés, and for good reason, but “value the basketball” has taken on a special meaning in early CAA action. The relative inexperience of CAA guards is taking its toll. James Madison is the only CAA team with more assists than turnovers (and that number is just 41/36). Seven of the CAAs 12 teams are in the bottom 100 in the nation in turnover percentage (the number of possessions that end in a turnover). Last season, seven CAA teams were in the top 100 of this category. Though they have played an impossible schedule, Towson sports an almost unbelievable 27 assists and 95 turnovers.
  • Frank Who? Old Dominion annually plays with a dominant big man, but coming into the season there were questions about whether or not Chris Cooper had the chops to continue the tradition. Early returns bode well. Cooper recorded double-doubles in three of ODUs four games, tallying a career-high 17 points and 12 boards against Kentucky, 13 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Howard, and 10 points and 11 caroms in a victory over Long Island. The senior forward also blocked seven shots and made six steals last week. Importantly, Cooper got his frontcourt mate Nick Wright back from suspension this week.
  • B-B-B-Baby You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: Bumpy starts from banner players has contributed to the burgeoning  bummer of a season. Bradford Burgess, Rob Brandenberg, Kent Bazemore, Eric Buckner, Brandon Britt, and Julian Boatner are all expected to be team and conference leaders. For one reason or another, none have provided that beacon. The list includes Tim Rusthoven, nicknamed Beasthoven.
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