Pack your bags and get ready for some basketball! Everything you need to know about the preseason basketball tournaments involving SEC East teams this season are right here… Well, everything except local travel arrangements and restaurant suggestions. Get ready for remote and beautiful destinations such as Maui, Hawaii; Kansas City, Missouri; somewhere in Connecticut; and East Rutherford, New Jersey. We can only hope that the basketball being played is as stunning as the scenery. If you’re ready to hit the Motel 6 in your city of choice and watch some great hoops then we have you covered with the rest of the details. Just don’t forget to leave the light on.
Progressive CBE Classic
The field: *Missouri, *Georgia, *Notre Dame, *California, Austin Peay, Bowling Green, Detroit, George Washington, Mercer, Niagara, Sam Houston State, South Dakota State (*automatically advances to championship round)
Dates: November 13 – 17, 2011; Championship rounds – November 21 & 22, 2011
Location: Kansas City, MO
1st round Matchup: Georgia vs. California
Potential Later Round Matchups: Georgia vs. Notre Dame or Georgia vs. Missouri
Thoughts: In the opening round of championship play, Georgia plays a Golden Bears team that should challenge Arizona and UCLA to win the Pac-12. Cal returns three double figure scorers from last year and looks to build upon a fourth place finish. Meanwhile, Georgia lost Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins as early entries into the NBA draft. Mark Fox’s Bulldogs will be looking for leadership and scoring, and could find both in freshman McDonald’s All American Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Win or lose, Georgia will be matched up with either the Fighting Abromaitis’ team of Notre Dame or the Missouri Tigers. Missouri has outstanding guard play and will test Georgia’s young back court. Tim Abromaitis is a 6’8″ bruiser who will challenge the void left down low by the losses of Leslie and Thompkins.
Prediction: Georgia drops both to come back to Athens 0-2.
When Delvon Roe came out of high school he so highly sought after that his decision to spurn North Carolina for Michigan State led Roy Williams to reportedly call Roe out for having “lied” to him in Williams’ autobiography. Unfortunately, Roe never lived up to expectations in East Lansing as he battled to overcome a series of knee injuries. Yesterday, Roe announced that he was retiring due to ongoing knee injuries and his desire to pursue other interests. We wish Roe the best in his future endeavors, which appear to be geared towards acting at this time.
Two weeks after the ACC held a series of meetings that threatened the continued existence of the Big East, the presidents of the remaining Big East schools will reportedly meet to “talk about the future and how to go forward as a strong Big East” according to Connecticut president Susan Herbst. This meeting comes a week after the presidents and athletic directors in the Big East met to try to figure out which schools to poach from other conferences to replace Syracuse and Pittsburgh. We find it amusing that Herbst sent the e-mail informing the Associated Press of the meeting, which makes her the public representative of the meeting, since the previous person who the public viewed as the face of the Big East was Mark Nordenberg, the chancellor at Pittsburgh and one-time chair of the conference, because Herbst is widely thought to merely be a puppet acting on the wishes of Jim Calhoun and has already stated that the school is essentially looking out for its own good.
You can expect to see a very different Old Dominion team when the season starts as they will start the season without any of their five starters from last season as Kent Bazemore will be out for the first month of the season while he recovers from fractured left footy. So don’t be surprised if you see Old Dominion struggling early in the season especially when they could potentially play Kentucky on November 20 in a game that would normally pique our interest. You also shouldn’t be surprised if Old Dominion is in the thick of the CAA race in late February with a full strength Bazemore playing alongside two additional players–Richard Ross and Donte Hill–who may become eligible for the spring semester.
The recruitment of Rodney Purvis has been nothing if not interesting. The 6’4″ guard out of Raleigh, North Carolina is widely considered one of the top 20 players in the nation had previously committed to play atLouisville before backing out of that commitment and taking the Cardinals off his list completely. Purvis is set to make another commitment later today and is reportedly deciding between North Carolina State, Memphis,Connecticut, and Virginia Commonwealth. Most people are expecting Purvis to end up at UConn, but if he decides to go to NC State expect to see headlines similar to what you saw when Cody Zeller decided to go toIndiana a year ago.
If you want to know why we don’t get too worked up over all these verbal commitments we would like to point you in the direction of Kendrick Nunn, a shooting guard in the class of 2013, decommited from Texas A&M late on Wednesday. Nunn announced his change of heart on Twitter and stated that it was not a reflection on his relationship with the Aggie coaching staff. As we have stated numerous times, it is ridiculous to expect that teenagers won’t have a change of heart when they make a decision so early. We understand why fans get excited with verbal commitments, but they shouldn’t be shocked when that same player decommits.
***** – 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.
Four automatic bids will be handed out this evening in places stretching from Connecticut to Las Vegas. All rankings from RTC and all times Eastern.
Colonial Championship (at Richmond, VA): VCU vs. Old Dominion — 7 pm on ESPN (****)
Old Dominion looks like a safe bet even if they lose but VCU more than likely has to win this game to make the NCAA Tournament. The Rams and Monarchs split the season series, each winning on the other’s home floor. This game will be all about pace and one team’s strong defense against the other’s potent offense. If Old Dominion can keep this game in the half court, they can let their stellar two point defense and rebounding take over. The Monarch’s are the best offensive rebounding team in the country while VCU ranks #303 in defensive rebounding percentage. Old Dominion also ranks highly in defensive rebounding, placing them among the best overall rebounding teams in the nation, led by Frank Hassell, averaging just under 15/10 on the season. Over his last eight games, Hassell has been even better, averaging 19/10 down the stretch. Not coincidentally, the Monarchs have won all eight of those games and 12 of their past 13. ODU is #9 in two point defense but allows 36.9% three point shooting, #298 in America. That has been the bugaboo for Blaine Taylor’s group and the Rams are one team that can really take advantage of that. Four out of ten VCU field goals attempted are threes and they shoot it at a pretty good clip, 35.6% this season. However, that percentage drops to 33.7% when you look at CAA games only. The Rams must create offense through their defense by forcing turnovers. That will offset part of the rebounding edge ODU is almost sure to have. An energetic and aggressive defense can help push the pace and take Old Dominion out of its rhythm. The Monarchs struggle to shoot and score, relying on their defense and rebounding to win games most of the time. Shaka Smart should use some zone from time to time in order to force Old Dominion to make jump shots, something they don’t do well. Rebounding out of a zone is always difficult (especially against the #1 offensive rebounding squad) but we feel it’s worth the risk. VCU shouldn’t spend all game in a zone but mixing it up defensively will greatly help their cause. Old Dominion gets 57.5% of its points from two point range but they have a few threats from deep, most notably Kent Bazemore. He’s arguably their best three point shooter and also a terrific defender, ranked eighth nationally in steal percentage. The Rams shouldn’t have that much trouble answering Old Dominion from the arc considering they have a number of quality shooters, including Bradford Burgess (16/13 vs. George Mason yesterday), but they need to get some looks inside for Jamie Skeen. The Wake Forest transfer has had a terrific year in Richmond and is averaging 21.7 PPG over his last three. It’ll be tough to score against Old Dominion’s interior defense but Skeen should look to get to the free throw line where he’s a 73.7% shooter. VCU is a good free throw shooting team overall and they’ve made it to the line on 41.5% of their possessions in conference play. Foul trouble for Old Dominion would open up the interior a bit and allow the Rams to spread the floor easier. VCU had lost four of their last five games heading into the conference tournament but seems to have found new life just down the road from campus in Richmond. They’ll be slight underdogs tonight but this is anybody’s game. Old Dominion will likely win the rebounding battle but whoever controls the turnover margin and the tempo will likely win this game and clinch the automatic berth.
And down the stretch they come! Just like a commentator of a competitive horse race fervently belches when the horses make the final turn, college basketball commentators, analysts, and enthusiasts alike all speak of the game with greater eagerness and zeal at this time of the year. Judgment Week—still am not sure what ESPN is trying to do with this—has passed us, Championship Week is nearly upon us, and we all know what comes after that: the Madness!
While the majority of Other 26 teams around the country still have one or two remaining games left in the regular season, there are a handful of teams out there who have completed the second part of their season. Many coaches, especially those coaching in perennial single bid leagues, break down their year into three seasons: 1) the non-conference, 2) conference play, 3) the postseason. The opportunity is presented for many teams that have struggled during much of the season to get hot at the right time and advance onto the greatest postseason tournament in all of sports.
At the beginning of conference play, I wrote in a previous article the concept of “three games in March” which is often the mentality of teams from smaller conferences who have to win three games, or four in some cases, to advance to the Dance—it is their only way in. Well, here is that opportunity.
The conference tournaments will officially begin in the middle of next week with a few of the smaller conferences going at it. If one really wants to get technical though, the argument can be made that the Ivy League has a season-long conference tournament that commences at the beginning of league play.
Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.
A Look Back
This week in Colonial Athletic Association action is for those who enjoy it when ABC Family starts showing holiday programming the day after Halloween. It’s a dandy little taste of what everyone knows is coming, but for which the wait seems interminable. Yes, the first batch of conference games was held Saturday, and already there’s plenty to talk about. Namely…
Delaware’s 75-67 upset victory against Old Dominion. The Blue Hens were paced by senior guard Jawan Carter’s 29-point effort – his third straight 20-plus point performance. This one was special. Not only did it help Delaware to its first three-game winning streak since December of the 2008-09 season, but sent a message to the rest of the conference that, perhaps, things are not as clear-cut as some may have thought. Especially considering that the Monarchs were riding a five-game winning streak that included back-to-back-to-back victories against Clemson, Xavier and Richmond. And in the opening game of the season, Old Dominion hung with #16 Georgetown before falling late, 62-59. This, however, was the first true road game for the Monarchs after three at the Constant Convocation Center and three at a neutral site. What seems most impressive about the Blue Hens’ victory is that they only turned the ball over six times to ODU’s 14. And while Ben Finney and Kent Bazemore did their usual duty on the glass – 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively – Delaware was able to build and maintain a narrow lead for the majority of the contest. There’s little doubt Old Dominion is still the favorite to win the conference, but this game simply tells us that on a nightly basis, anything can happen. Which, at its essence, is really what college basketball is all about.
Player of the Week
Chris Fouch, G, Drexel: The 6’2 sophomore is beginning to prove his early-season points averages weren’t an aberration. In three games, Fouch scored 74 points, pulled down seven rebounds and assisted five baskets. The New York native began his week with a career-high 30-point outburst against Binghamton, came back to net 17 against city rival St. Joseph’s and then scored 27 in the CAA opener at Northeastern. Perhaps more impressive than his scoring efficiency (26-of-47, 61.7 percent) is that Fouch committed just one turnover in 93 minutes of playing time.
Team of the Week
Delaware Blue Hens: Apparently, all it took for Delaware to snap its seemingly annual December loss against Old Dominion was a change of scenery. Bob Carpenter Arena provided the perfect backdrop for the Blue Hens to score the first true upset in conference play. This was a big win, not only for the obvious reasons, but because it could help propel the Blue Hens to a few more victories in a fairly easy week coming up (strength of schedule-wise, at least). Following the victory against ODU, Delaware coach Monte Rosstold the Delaware News Journal that the Blue Hens were the best defensive team in the league.
Stat of the Week
One: That’s the number of free throws Richmond attempted against Old Dominion in ODU’s 77-70 victory December 1. Conversely, the Monarchs attempted 20 shots from the charity stripe, hitting 15 of them. This is more than likely a statistical anomaly, but even so, it speaks to Old Dominion’s discipline and ability to limit the number of ways its opponents can score. Then again, discipline – in any facet of the game – is something that should be expected of such a veteran team.
1. Old Dominion
(5-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 18, SOS 9)
Last week: W 77-70 vs. Richmond, L 75-67 @ Delaware
This week: 12.7 @ East Carolina, 12.9 vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, 12.11 vs. Dayton
Granted, this is a bad loss for a program that was ranked No. 1 in the Mid-Major Top 25, and it certainly takes a significant jab at the hearts of those hoping that the CAA might be a two-bid conference this season. But there’s no reason for Old Dominion to panic. They’ve got plenty of opportunities to rebound in the coming week, starting with a trip to East Carolina (7-2) on Tuesday.
2. George Mason
(6-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 128, SOS 191)
Last week: W 60-46 vs. George Washington, W 80-52 UNC-Wilmington
This week: 12.8 vs. Loyola-Maryland, 12.11 @ Liberty
Not only are the Patriots on a four-game winning streak, but the way they’ve been beating people is impressive – by an average of 19.7 points per game. Then again, in their only close game of the season, they lost to Wofford in overtime. Still, if George Mason can continue beating teams at even close to this pace, it’s going to be a fun season in Fairfax.
3. Virginia Commonwealth
(5-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 52, SOS 104)
Last week: L 60-59 @ South Florida, W 59-55 vs. William & Mary
This week: vs. 12.8 vs. Virginia Military, 12.11 @ Richmond
Hopefully, it doesn’t cause too much of an uproar that VCU is listed third. It’s not as much a slight to the Rams as it is a compliment to the Patriots. VCU beat a very talented UCLA team and hung with Tennessee, but until their rebounding and interior defense numbers normalize, George Mason gets the nod. For reference’s sake, VCU is three spots ahead of GMU in the Mid-Major Top 25 (No. 6 vs. No. 9).
4. Drexel Dragons
(5-1, 1-0 CAA – RPI 48, SOS 156)
Last week: W 79-39 vs. Binghamton, W 62-50 vs. St. Joseph’s, W 63-58 @ Northeastern
This week: 12.11 vs. Rider, 12.14 @ Louisville
Rebounding and Chris Fouch. There’s your formula for Drexel’s early-season success, with a little freshman phenom Dartaye Ruffin thrown in. The Dragons are on a three-game winning streak and scored an impressive road victory against a Northeastern team that is better than its record. For the stat heads out there, KenPom.com ranks Drexel’s offensive rebounding percentage at 44.5 – second in the nation. If the Dragons keep that up, they’ll be a force no matter how many Fouch scores.
5. James Madison
(6-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 114, SOS 249)
Last week: W 88-78 @ Longwood, L 64-63 @ Georgia State
This week: 12.7 @ Marshall, 12.11 @ Radford
The fourth CAA team to receive votes in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll (about 15 votes out of making the cut), the Dukes have only played one team with an RPI above 125 this season, but their six-game winning streak masked that well, until… they lost to Georgia State in the CAA opener. While this 64-63 upset wasn’t quite on the scale of ODU-Delaware, it once again speaks to the parity in the league.
(3-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 172, SOS 270)
Last week: W 75-67 vs. Old Dominion
This week: 12.8 @ Hampton, 12.11 vs. Delaware State
While in the long run, the Blue Hens might not end up better than some of teams below them in this version of the power rankings, they claim the number six spot on the strength of their victory against the Monarchs. Any time a struggling program can beat a Top-20 RPI team, they deserve a little love. Sophomore forward Jamelle Hagins leads the conference in blocks per game (3.8) by more than a full block.
(4-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 153, SOS 124)
Last week: W 58-48 @ Rider, W 74-62 vs. Towson
This week: 12.8 @ Binghamton, 12.11 vs. Florida Atlantic
The Pride are coming off a two-win week with the potential for something far greater. The next four games for Hofstra appear very winnable, and if that happens to be the case, it would extend the Pride’s winning streak to eight games. Having senior guard Charles Jenkins doesn’t hurt, either. He’s leading the conference in scoring with 22.3 points per game and hasn’t netted less than 15 all year.
(2-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 154, SOS 68)
Last week: L 77-72 @ Providence, L 63-58 vs. Drexel
This week: 12.8 vs. Rhode Island
Unfortunately for the Huskies, senior guard Chaisson Allen (18.5 points per game) can only do so much. Despite Allen’s double-double against Drexel (19 points, 10 rebounds), the Huskies turned the ball over 10 times and shot 15.7 percent from beyond the arc. This is the time of year where the graduation of Matt Janning is really impacting coach Bill Coen’s team, which has lost four in a row. Rhode Island looms as a sizable test.
9. UNC Wilmington
(3-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 79, SOS 45)
Last week: W 73-69 @ George Washington, L 80-52 @ George Mason
This week: Idle
This is where it starts to become the “best of the rest.” None of these bottom four teams have accomplished much early in the season, aside from helping the CAA nab a few out-of-conference wins against mediocre programs. The Seahawks rank near the bottom of the nation in turnover percentage (26.5) and steal percentage (13.7). Senior guard Chad Tomko is good, but it’s doubtful he’ll be able to post a favorable assist-to-turnover ratio against some of the better teams in the league.
10. Georgia State
(3-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 230, SOS 210)
Last week: L 60-56 (OT) @ Hampton, W 64-63 James Madison
This week: 12.11 vs. Western Michigan
When things looked bleak for the Panthers following a four-point overtime loss to Hampton (MEAC), they rebounded with one heck of a nail-biting win against James Madison. Still, Georgia State hasn’t been particularly impressive in its wins (Troy, Utah State, JMU), and without the presence of a starter who averages double figures in scoring – junior forward Eric Buckner leads the team at 9.3 points per game – it could be a long season for the Panthers.
11. William & Mary
(3-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 237, SOS 167)
Last week: L 64-39 vs. Western Carolina, W 76-62 vs. Howard, L 59-55 @ Virginia Commonwealth
This week: Idle
Say what you will about the Tribe’s inability to hold onto the basketball, or create turnovers, but coach Tony Shaver challenged his team with its early schedule. In its first three games, William & Mary played Virginia, Richmond and Syracuse. That’s a tall order for any club, let alone a team that only has one senior on the roster.
(2-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 324, SOS 325)
Last week: W 75-73 vs. Western Michigan, L 74-62 @ Hofstra
This week: 12.8 @ George Washington, 12.11 @ University of Maryland-Baltimore County
Don’t fret, Towson fans – two bits of good news coming your way. 1) In the coming week, the Tigers are staying ultra-local with games at George Washington and UMBC, so go out and see them. 2) Junior forward Braxton Dupree isn’t just the conference leader in rebounding (11.0 per game), he’s 11th in the nation. As for the bits of bad news? UMBC is the only team with a lower RPI than the Tigers that Towson plays until Jan. 19 against William & Mary.
A Look Ahead
We interrupt that tasty preview of CAA conference play for this regularly-scheduled slate of non-conference battles. So far, the Colonial has fared pretty well against the other conferences, boasting a 41-28 record. No team in the conference has less than two wins. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if this conference play blip has any impact on play moving forward. Here’s a look at some of the top games on the docket for the coming week, Road Rules style:
12/7 – James Madison at Marshall (5-2): You’re probably thinking, Marshall? There’s another Conference USA school to watch that doesn’t begin with “Mem” and end with “phis?” Yep. There is. James Madison will have its hands full. Not only can the Thundering Herd score (76.9 points per game – good for 67th in the nation), but they average 38.4 rebounds per game and boast four players who average 11.0 points per game or better. Player to watch: Marshall sophomore guard DeAndre Kane. The 6’4 wingman is averaging a team-high 17.6 points per game, but has proven turnover prone. If the Dukes can rattle him early, it could hold the key to victory.
12/11 – Virginia Commonwealth at Richmond (6-2): More than anything, this game might take on an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better complex for the Rams. Old Dominion already has beaten Richmond this season. If Virginia Commonwealth could not only beat the A-10 Spiders, but do it on the road, that’d go a long way toward showing how powerful the top of this conference has the potential to be. Player to watch: Richmond senior forward Justin Harper. The Spiders are seventh in the nation in field goal percentage. A large part of that is because Harper’s shooting a cool 59.7 percent from the floor. And they’re not all bunnies either; Harper has made 12 of his 20 3-pointers (48.0 percent) this year.
12/14 – Drexel at Louisville (6-0): This game has the potential to gain plenty of attention for the CAA. What kind of attention, however, remains to be seen. Naturally, Louisville is a premiere team in the Big East, and will more than likely enter this game undefeated. If the Dragons can find a way to deal with the intimidating atmosphere, they next must find a way to slow an offense that averages 87.5 points per game and an astounding 19.2 assists per game. The Dragons’ one saving grace could be its rebounding (42.2 per game) and the fact that this will be the Cardinals’ third match of three on the week. Player to watch: Louisville sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles. This 6’8 powerhouse will no doubt present a challenge to Drexel’s bigs. How Samme Givens and Daryl McCoy handle the test should go a long way toward determining the result.
The CAA puts together these fantastic videos that recap conference action. Naturally, the December 4 one is of particular interest.
This video is mostly Richmond-oriented, but at least it’ll give you a chance to see ODU in action on defense. People always forget about defense…
***** – 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.
Although the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer was granted an exception, tonight is the NCAA-mandated start of the college basketball season. Here are five games to keep an eye on this evening. Rankings as per the latest RTC Top 25. All times eastern.
#18 Georgetown @ Old Dominion – 7 pm on Comcast-D.C. and WSKY Hampton Roads (VA) (****)
Georgetown & ODU Re-Convene a Solid Rivalry Tonight (WaPo/J. McDonnell)
Perhaps the most anticipated game of the night features two teams starting a new era without their best players. Gone are Greg Monroe of Georgetown and Gerald Lee of Old Dominion, but each team returns its four other starters. Both teams are known for playing excellent defense and a slower tempo style, so tonight’s game figures to be in the 50s or low 60s as a consequence of that. Among the Georgetown returnees are Austin Freeman, the Big East preseason POY, and senior point guard Chris Wright. Freeman is a terrific all-around player and a major threat from the three-point line for the Hoyas. If you’re looking for a good indication of the final result during the game, look no further than the enigmatic Wright. In games where he scored ten points or less last year, Georgetown was just 3-7. When he had at least 11 points, the Hoyas were 20-3. In contrast to past Georgetown teams, this group of Hoyas will run their offense almost exclusively through their backcourt. Freeman, Wright and Jason Clark are arguably Georgetown’s best players and none of them happen to be taller than 6’3. That isn’t to say Georgetown has nobody up front. Julian Vaughn returns for his senior season after transferring from Florida State at the conclusion of his freshman year. Last year against Old Dominion, Vaughn had 13 points on 5-8 FG. Gerald Lee was saddled with foul trouble and thus a non-factor in the game (six points and only one rebound). With Lee now departed, Vaughn may have another good game in the paint for Georgetown. For the Monarchs of ODU, four starters return from a 27-win team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Their key players in this game will be Frank Hassell battling inside with Vaughn, point guard Kent Bazemore and Ben Finney who had 13/6/5 assts the last time these teams met. That last meeting was on campus at Georgetown, a game won by the Monarchs. In fact, the visiting team has won every game in this series since it started in the 2006-07 season. Bazemore is an interesting player. He’s a lefty point guard (there are actually two other lefties on the ODU roster) who shot the exact same percentage from the floor and the free throw line last year (48.6%). For Blaine Taylor’s team, free throw and three-point shooting could cause major problems in this game, especially against a defense as tight as Georgetown’s. Keyon Carter is Old Dominion’s best returning three-point shooter and he only shot 34.7% from behind the arc last season. This should be a hard fought, close game that may come down to the final possession. Georgetown was a difficult team to prepare for last year as they had the talent to beat both NCAA finalists Duke and Butler, but also lost games to the likes of Ohio, Rutgers and South Florida. Good guard play and a solid effort from Vaughn should allow Georgetown to grab a nice road win to start the season. For ODU, Hassell must contain Vaughn while Finney and Bazemore have to hold their own against Georgetown’s vaunted backcourt. If Taylor’s team can hold the Georgetown backcourt in check, look for the Monarchs to pull out a win. We hate to go cliché but that’s easier said than done.
The last time Northern Iowa won a game, this happened. Times have changed as Ali Farokhmanesh, Adam Koch and Jordan Eglseder have graduated. This is Kwadzo Ahelegbe’s team now. The senior averaged 10.6 PPG last season and now anchors a relatively young team. Against Syracuse’s strong 2-3 zone tonight, Northern Iowa must work the ball into the paint and free throw line area effectively. To do that, sophomore Jake Koch must start to become the impact player coach Ben Jacobson hopes he’ll be. Playing largely behind Eglseder last year, the Ashwaubenon, WI, native only played 13.6 minutes a game last year. He’ll be counted on for much more this time around, along with Johnny Moran and Lucas O’Rear. For UNI to win tonight the guards must be on fire shooting over the zone and Koch has to avoid foul trouble. The Panthers have nobody else on the roster 6’8 or taller who saw any significant action last season. Look for Syracuse to take advantage of that and eat Northern Iowa alive in the paint. The player most likely to do just that is freshman stud Fab Melo. At 7’0 and 265 lbs, Melo is a force inside for which UNI has no answer. You could see a really big freshman debut for Mr. Melo this evening. Syracuse just has too much up front for Northern Iowa to contend with. Rick Jackson, Melo and everybody’s favorite breakout candidate Kris Joseph should dominate at home for the Orange. The backcourt tandem of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine only adds to the ‘Cuse’s talent and depth (we haven’t even mentioned their bench). Both can play the point and shoot it well from the arc. All in all, Jim Boeheim’s club just has too much talent for Northern Iowa tonight. We’d be surprised if the final margin was less than ten points.
Frank Hassell (F) – Old Dominion (9.2 PPG, 6.7 RPG)
Denzel Bowles (F) – James Madison (20.8 PPG, 9.2 RPG)
Cam Long (G) – George Mason (12.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.3 SPG)
Mike Moore – Hofstra
While Blaine Taylor and ODU are the early favorites in the CAA, they can also do damage against quality non-conference opponents.
What You Need to Know
A league record six CAA teams made the postseason last year. For the conference to match that number this season, squads such as Northeasternand William & Mary will need to retool on the fly after suffering heavy losses, and up-and-comers such as James Madison andDelaware will need to take a big step forward in 2011.
The aforementioned James Madison Dukes and Delaware Blue Hens both lost at least 20 games in 2009-10 and combined to win just seven conference games, but hopes are high for both programs. James Madison has the most explosive offensive duo in the CAA with Texas A&M transferDenzel Bowles and Julius Wells, both of whom averaged over 15 PPG last year. Delaware returns its top seven scorers, including an explosive duo in its own right with seniors Jawan Carter and Alphonso Dawson.
The predicted struggles of UNC Wilmington and Georgia State could end up costing the Colonial Athletic Association an NCAA Tournament berth in March. Both teams had a final RPI in the mid-200s last season and neither team should be much improved this season. The Colonial desperately needs its bottom-level teams to avoid dragging down the conference’s overall RPI in order to successfully secure two NCAA Tournament bids.
Old Dominion (NCAA Seed #9) – The CAA’s defending champions have the potential to be even better this season with four starters returning, including senior forward Frank Hassell and breakout candidateKent Bazemore. Even with the loss of leading scorer Gerald Lee, Old Dominion is still a physical team that wins with defense under coach Blaine Taylor, who has led the Monarchs to seven straight winning seasons and six straight postseason appearances. This year should be no different. Read the rest of this entry »
Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.
Standings (as of 1/10):
William & Mary (12-3, 4-1)
Old Dominion (12-5, 4-1)
George Mason (9-7, 4-1)
Northeastern (9-7, 4-1)
Drexel (8-9, 3-2)
VCU (10-4, 2-3)
James Madison (8-7, 2-3)
Hofstra (9-8, 2-3)
Georgia State (8-9, 2-3)
UNC Wilmington (6-9, 2-3)
Delaware (5-11, 1-4)
Towson (3-11, 0-5)
Important Games This Week:
Delaware @ Northeastern — Northeastern will likely run their winning streak to eight matching a winning streak from five years ago.
Old Dominion @ UNC Wilmington — Wilmington is a good sleeper candidate, they face a tough week playing ODU and then going to hot Northeastern.
George Mason @ James Madison — Another tough road test for the Patriots, who only have one road win all season. They’ve lost their last two road games by 25 and 27 and the Dukes are 5-1 at home this season.
William & Mary (4-1)
Monday night The Tribe snapped their school-record tying 10 game win streak on a John Fields tip in with 3.4 seconds to go. The Tribe tied a 1929-30 record with that 10 game win streak. Not only were they outrebounded in the second half, 29-16, but they gave up 13 offensive rebounds in the second half alone. William & Mary senior forward Steven Hess put it best, “I think teams are going to come after us on the boards now. We just kind of got manhandled inside.” On Wednesday senior David Schneider nailed a three pointer with 2.8 seconds left to give the Tribe a 74-73 overtime win at Delaware. Schneider scored 11 of his season-high 26 points in overtime. His first three pointer set a new school record for threes with 224. Saturday the Tribe shot 65.2% in the second half and the defense held Drexel to a 24.1% field goal percentage in a 73-48 rout. Sophomore Quinn McDowell led all scorers with 20 points and has scored at least one point in every single game in his career.
Old Dominion (4-1)
The Monarchs made a position switch Monday night moving sophomore Kent Bazemore to point guard, senior Gerald Lee to small forward and junior Darius James came off the bench to play shooting guard. All of the switches paid off this week. Lee scored a team-high 19, Bazemore set career highs in points (14) and assists (9) as Old Dominion cruised to a 16 point win over Towson. Wednesday night wasn’t as easy. After a crucial block with the game tied, ODU went on a two-on-one break leading to Ben Finney’s layup with 13 seconds to go to beat the Dukes, 74-72. Bazemore beat his career high again with 19 points and had only one turnover. On Saturday, the Monarchs shot a season-low 33.3% from the field but held on to a lead as large as 15 in a 57-46 win over Hofstra. Making 14-34 free throws, (41.2%) the Monarchs struggled to barely beat their season worst free throw percentage when they made just 2-5 at Georgetown.
George Mason (4-1)
Sophomore Ryan Pearson scored 10 of his team-high 17 points in the final 5:40 in a hard fought 67-63 win over Hofstra on Monday. The Patriots made 14-18 free throws in the second half, making eight in the final three minutes to seal the win. Sophomore Andre Cornelius and freshman Luke Hancock scored 21 of their combined 24 points in the second half. On Wednesday the Patriots got run over by Northeastern’s three-point barrage in a blowout loss, 71-46. The Huskies went on a 14-3 run to secure a double-digit lead. Ryan Pearson led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds. On Saturday, the Patriots reversed their performance by using runs of 16-1 and 10-3 to take a double-digit lead they would never give up in a 13-point win over UNC Wilmington. Sophomore Mike Morrison led the way with a team-high 15 points.
Northeastern, the only team to beat the Rams in their last 23 home games, won by forcing the Rams to take outside shots and playing tough defense in a 62-57 win. Manny Adako scored a season-high 23 points on 11-14 shooting. Chaisson Allen followed up Thursday, tying a career-high making six three-pointers in a 71-46 win over George Mason. The Huskies stifled the young Patriots at home committing a season-low eight turnovers to a season-high 16 assists. To cap it off Saturday, Matt Janning led the way with a season-high 23 points on 8-15 shooting as the Huskies shot 51.2% in a 66-54 victory at Georgia State. The Huskies are currently on a seven game winning streak, their best since their eight game win streak in the 2004-05 season.
The Dragons started out hot and never surrendered the lead at Georgia State, shooting a season high 68% in the first half and getting a career-high 32 points from Jamie Harris, in a 72-57 win Monday night. Wednesday, Drexel snapped a seven game losing streak against VCU with a 75-72 win. Gerald Colds and Chris Fouch each scored 19 points. Harris helped stifle VCU’s aggressive defense with 15 points and 8 assists. Saturday was a completely different story as Drexel shot a season-low 24.1% from the field in a 25 point home loss to William & Mary. Gerald Colds led the way for the Dragons with 15 points.
The Rams started out with a 21-4 run, but went cold making just four of their next 21 shots and Northeastern grinded out baskets dealing the Rams a 62-57 loss. Larry Sanders (10 points) was forced to take outside shots and made his first field goal with 17:25 left. Northeastern never let VCU get to the bonus, a team that averaged 17.8 free throws made per game going into the game, forcing them into a season-low four free throws (they hit three). The last time VCU made three or fewer free throws in a game was a February 17, 2007 loss against Bradley (3 for 8), a span of 84 games. On Wednesday, VCU made 20 of 21 free throws but Sanders missed the only one with a chance tie the game with 13.1 seconds left in a 75-72 road loss to Drexel. VCU’s best defender Ed Nixon played only one minute and that played into the hands of Drexel’s hot shooting (10-17) from behind the arc. Derek Burgess scored a career high 30 points on 9-14 shooting. Saturday the Rams had to go without Larry Sanders due to a one game suspension for hitting Drexel’s Evan Neisler but junior Brandon Rozzell led the way scoring a career-high 19 points as VCU was able to coast past Delaware 77-64.
James Madison (2-3)
The Dukes found out sophomore Andrey Semenov’s lingering back issue will cost him the season. Last Saturday’s one game suspension for Denzel Bowles was for three alcohol-related misdemeanors on New Year’s Day. Bowles and Julius Wells combined to shoot 22-41 (53.6%) while the rest of the team combined to take only 18 shots in the Dukes’ 71-65 win over Delaware. Wells, however, could not hit a three pointer with time expiring in a 74-72 loss at Old Dominion. The Dukes made one field goal in the final four and a half minutes. A clutch Ben Louis three pointer with 1.5 seconds left gave the Dukes a 69-66 win over Towson. Wells went for 23 points, scoring 20+ points in each game this week, and Bowles added 21. The star power of Wells (76 points) and Bowles (64 points) combined for two-thirds of the Dukes scoring (212 points) this week.
Freshman Chaz Williams scored a career-high 20 points but junior Charles Jenkins was held to 11 points as Hofstra lost 67-63 to George Mason. Halil Kanacevic had a career-high 18 points, 10 rebounds and career-high 5 blocks in Hofstra’s 77-61 Wednesday win over Towson. Williams scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half, leading Hofstra on a 20-6 run to close out the first half. Hofstra could not keep the momentum, struggling in the half court and could not close the gap late in a 57-46 Saturday loss at Old Dominion. Jenkins, their only double-digit scorer on the night, led the way with 18 points. The Pride turned the ball over 21 times, one off their season-high.
Georgia State (2-3)
Head coach Ron Barnessaid the Panthers got a wake up call Monday night, but he needed one for the whole week. The Panthers struggled, trailing by as many as 21 points in a 72-57 home loss to Drexel, snapping an eight game home win streak. Wednesday night, Trae Goldston missed a potential game-tying three with 24 seconds left in a 57-50 loss to UNC Wilmington. Joe Dukes had a team-high 21 points on 8-23 shooting but the rest of the team shot 30.7% for the game. Georgia State saw an early lead evaporate Saturday versus Northeastern, and an 11-0 Huskies run put them in control in a 12-point home loss. The Panthers had closed the Northeastern lead to two at halftime, but the Huskies stormed out on a 16-3 run to put the game out of reach. Dukes (15 points) led the way on 5-13 shooting. The Panthers have been plagued by poor shooting and have shot under 40% in 10 of their 17 games this season. The Panthers were outrebounded this week by 17 (106-91).
UNC Wilmington (2-3)
Chad Tomko’s layup missed but John Fields fought successfully for the tip in with 3.5 seconds left to beat William & Mary, 62-61. UNC Wilmington had the lead only three times, twice with under a minute to go. They beat the Tribe on the glass by outrebounding William & Mary 45-34, which included 19 offensive rebounds. On Wednesday, Fields scored 13 points and grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds to lift UNC Wilmington in a 57-50 win over Georgia State, despite the Seahawks shooting 34.6% in the second half. Tomko, cousin of major league pitcher Brett Tomko, added 6 of his 10 points in the second half. Saturday was a different story. Fields got frustrated against swarming George Mason defenders and the Seahawks struggled to score, falling at George Mason, 59-46. Fields, constantly double- and triple-teamed, scored only four points as they disrupted his post game and tempted him to go to his weak side. Turnovers plagued the Seahawks as they have turned the ball over 20 times or more in four of their last five games.
Jawan Carter had a career-high 11 assists and scored double digit points (18) for the seventh straight game but the Blue Hens could not extend their two-game win streak, falling 71-65 at James Madison on Monday. Wednesday was an even better chance for their second CAA win; Jawan Carter made a three pointer with 22 seconds left to send the game to overtime but the Blue Hens could not hold their largest lead of the game — up by seven with 32 seconds left — in a tough 74-73 loss to William & Mary. The Blue Hens shot a season-best 12-26 from three-point range. Sophomore Adam Pegg scored ten at James Madison and set a new career high of 13 against the Tribe. On Saturday, Delaware missed their first eight shots of the second half and could not recover as VCU put them away, 77-64. Carter, the only double-digit scorer for the Blue Hens, scored 22 points. Delaware has lost 14 straight conference road games.
Head Coach Pat Kennedy notched his second career ejection in 893 games when he drew two straight technical fouls with 8:56 to go as Old Dominion blew out his Tigers, 87-71, on Monday night. Towson shot 48.3% against a tough defense, their best since their season-opening win over Miami (Ohio) when they shot 52.6%, but they were outrebounded by 21. Wednesday, Robert Nwankwo had his fourth double-double of the season (14 points, 10 rebounds) while recording a team-high six blocks but the Tigers could not close the gap, losing 77-61 at Hofstra. The Tigers tied a team high in free throws made (20) but tied a team low in field goals made (19). On Saturday, the Tigers held the lead twice in the last two and half minutes but JMU got a three pointer from Ben Louis to deal the Tigers a 69-66 loss. The Tigers are on a six game losing streak and are the only team yet to record a win in the CAA.
When not covering the CAA for Rush The Court, Ryan writes about Fantasy Baseball on Rotosavants.com and writes on his own website: RyanRestivo.com. Ryan is busy being immersed in baseball draft prep and has a very cool Fantasy Baseball project for drafts. You can contact him here.