Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.
The Week That Was
Changing of the Seasons: Logistics dictate that in order to get all 18 games in by March, the CAA has to play one conference game in December. Last Saturday was slated for five matchups, and UNCW plays at VCU on December 17. Road teams went 3-2, with George Mason winning 65-53 at Towson, James Madison a 62-60 victor at Hofstra, and Old Dominion gutting out a 69-59 win at Northeastern. Delaware held serve at home, beating rival Drexel, 71-60, and Georgia State cruised by William & Mary in Atlanta, 66-34. The full conference slate begins January 2.
Changing Of The Guards: Freshmen, especially guards, are seeing significant playing time around the CAA this season. All 12 CAA teams have at least one freshman on their team who is averaging better than 16 minutes per game and JMU and Northeastern are the only teams who haven’t had a freshman start at least one game. Four freshmen are among the CAA’s top 30 in scoring: UNCW’s Adam Smith, Drexel’s Damion Lee, William & Mary’s Marcus Thornton and Delaware’s Kyle Anderson. Three others–Towson’s Kris Walden, Mason’s Corey Edwards and Delaware’s Khalid Lewis — are among the top 15 in assists, while VCU’s Briante Weber and ODU’s Dimitri Batten are among the top 11 in steals.
Changing of the Discussion: CAA fans are used to seeing Old Dominion, VCU, and George Mason lead the “teams playing well in non-conference action” conversation. And while those three are certainly doing fine, James Madison and Georgia State are turning heads with high quality play too. The Dukes continue to play well offensively but have won three in a row behind a staunch defense, something Matt Brady has never had the luxury of coaching. Ron Hunter’s Panthers have won six straight contests and are giving up just 47.0 points per game and limiting opponents to 30.7% FG shooting during the run. The 34 points allowed to William & Mary were the second-fewest allowed in school history.
Changing of the Spotlight: It’s been a year of change around the CAA as many returning players have stepped into new roles and several newcomers are making an impact. Of the top 20 scoring leaders in the conference, 13 of them weren’t even among the top 30 in the league in scoring a year ago. The seven who were on last year’s top 30 list are Hofstra’s Mike Moore, Mason’s Ryan Pearson, VCU’s Bradford Burgess, ODU’s Kent Bazemore, UNCW’s Keith Rendleman and Northeastern’s Jonathan Lee and Joel Smith.
Bradford Burgess Is Smoother Than Silk For The Rams, And VCU's Defense Is Getting It Done At The Other End. (AP)
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…
Ryan Restivo of SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the CAA and an occasional contributor.
There is a lot at stake for what appears to be a one-bid league. BracketBusters did not help (3-9) and the CAA could not capitalize on TV games, winning just one of five. William & Mary used the non-conference slate, winning at Wake Forest and Maryland, to boost their chances as an at-large. Old Dominion won at Georgetown and crushed Charlotte as home to boost their at-large chances early. Northeastern and George Mason are likely to reach other postseason tournaments but have a good chance at making a run at the CAA automatic bid. Ken Pomeroy’s tournament odds give Old Dominion a 45.7% chance, followed by #5 seed VCU (24.4%). No team has ever won four games in four days to win the conference tournament in CAA history. If you are within the viewing area or able to watch on Sunday, the CAA semifinals of this tournament guarantee to be a great spectacle. However before eleven teams’ hopes are dashed Monday night, the themes that bring these teams together will dominate the tournament talk.
#1 Old Dominion would have to be considered the favorite. They are second in the CAA in offensive efficiency and first in defensive efficiency and have won five of their last six, their only loss in that span at Northern Iowa in the BracketBusters. Gerald Lee has been the focal point of their late season streak, shooting 54% from the field in the last six games. However, they will have a lot tougher path to the championship than ever because of a potential re-match with Virginia Commonwealth. The Monarchs escaped last Saturday with a three-point win at home and were beaten by VCU by 12 on the road earlier in February. There’s a chance the Monarchs’ semifinal game will be their toughest yet.
Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!
Standings (as of 2/15)
Northeastern (17-9, 12-3)
Old Dominion (20-7, 12-3)
George Mason (16-10, 11-4)
William & Mary (18-7, 10-5)
Drexel (15-12, 10-5)
VCU (17-7, 9-6)
Hofstra (14-13, 7-8)
James Madison (11-15, 4-11)
Georgia State (10-17, 4-11)
UNC Wilmington (8-18, 4-11)
Towson (7-18, 4-11)
Delaware (7-19, 3-12)
Another snowy week struck the CAA schedule. This is not a bold prediction but I guarantee we’re going to get games in the conference tournament that are the caliber of George Mason’s 82-77 overtime win over VCU on Tuesday night. Anyone who caught that game on ESPNU saw a real treat. Despite the snow, Hofstra drew a modest 893 in their game against Drexel Wednesday night. CAA Rookie and co-Player of the Week Drexel’s Chris Fouch left with an injury. Will he miss the rest of the season? Towson postponed its Wednesday night game to Thursday afternoon and gave interim-coach Brooks Lee his first career win as coach of UNC Wilmington. Meanwhile, James Madison walk-on redshirt freshman Ryan Knight was arrested for allegedly throwing snowballs at vehicles that were described as “missiles.” Meanwhile Old Dominion turned in another 20-win season, their fifth in the last six years. Unless there is more snow, the entire league will play on Tuesday night before heading into their weekend BracketBuster matchups in an effort to boost the league RPI.
Important Games This Week
Drexel @ VCU (7pm TCN). VCU has a chance to build some momentum on a three-game homestand starting tonight against Drexel after playing themselves out of the race this week. Drexel, meanwhile, can play themselves further in to gaining a first-round bye with a win but will have to do it without talented redshirt freshman Chris Fouch.
William & Mary @ George Mason (7pm MASN). The Patriots will be without Mike Morrison due to a suspension from Saturday’s game. The Patriot Center is a tough home atmosphere and erupted in their ESPNU win over VCU. It will be interesting to see if the Tribe can come out and get another signature road win.
Last week’s co-Player of the Week Matt Janning scored 29 points this past week on 10-23 shooting (43%) but the Huskies struggled in a road loss at William & Mary on Saturday. Janning had one of his worst road performances of the year, scoring eight points and going 0-5 from long range in a one-point loss. A team with Nkem Ojougbouh and Manny Adako in the frontcourt was outrebounded in both of their games this week. Grabbing open boards has been a problem this year as the Huskies rank 10th in the CAA in rebounding margin and last in offensive rebounds. The three-point shot was off this week as well, as the top CAA three-point shooting team shot just 13-40 (33%) this week. The conference schedule will continue to have winnable games at UNC Wilmington and a home game against Hofstra sandwiched between a BracketBuster against Louisiana Tech.
Old Dominion (12-3)
Despite the snow, the Monarchs crushed the Dukes on the road by 20. Gerald Lee is making his play for first team CAA, scoring 34 points on 12-24 (50%) shooting this week. A sold out Constant Convocation Center saw the Monarchs disrupt the Patriots in a 16-point win where Mason player Mike Morrison get ejected. The Monarchs improved this week from behind the arc. Junior Ben Finney turned in a 19-point, seven assist and seven rebound game. Currently the team ninth in the CAA in three-point field goal percentage shot 15-37 (41%). The one weakness that might be exploited, especially in the road BracketBuster game at Northern Iowa, is their 10th ranked free throw percentage of 65%. A home game against Towson should ensure some momentum going into the week and a road game at Georgia State will be their last conference road test before the conference tournament. A tiebreaker holds the Monarchs in second, as they lost their only game to Northeastern, but they still have a good chance to lock up the top seed.
George Mason (11-4)
Mike Morrison might not have the prettiest shooting stroke, but his basket with 2:46 left tied the game as the Patriot Center exploded in their 82-77 ESPNU televised win over VCU. The Patriots had not won at Old Dominion since 2004 and lost more than that on Saturday when the same Morrison drew two technical fouls and an ejection for yelling at officials. He drew a mandatory one-game suspension and George Mason added on another game so Morrison will be out the whole week for the Patriots. It will be interesting to see if they can keep in the race without him against William & Mary Tuesday night. George Mason has lost its last three road games, two of them by double digits to Drexel and Old Dominion.
William & Mary (10-5)
Kendrix Brown’s jumper with seven seconds left gave the Tribe a 53-52 win over Northeastern. David Schenider has struggled shooting, just 18-73 (25%) since mid-January. Despite that, the Tribe still ranks second in the conference in three-point field goal percentage (36%). One underlying problem that has plagued William & Mary has been turnovers. The Tribe turned over the ball 34 times last week, their highest in a two-game week since the first week of the season. While they had a great performance, making seven threes in a win over Delaware, the Tribe have continued to struggle this month shooting 24-89 (27%) from behind the arc. They will have a chance to carry that momentum to Fairfax against the Patriots and then into a road BracketBuster matchup in New Rochelle against the MAAC’s Iona Gaels.
Redshirt Freshman Chris Fouch returned to his native New York but hurt his left shoulder in the Wednesday night loss at Hofstra. Head coach Bruiser Flint said Fouch’s injury might be a season-ender but he will try to rehab and make it back for the CAA Tournament. Three of the Dragons’ final four games are on the road and we’ll see if the Dragons can keep up their third best defense in the league, holding teams to 39% FG, which they did in a 68-60 win Sunday over Delaware. Jamie Harris scored 16 of his team-high 21 points in the first half to lead the Dragons without Fouch. Look for Harris to step up Tuesday night at VCU, as it will be crucial to their remaining hopes for a first round bye in the conference tournament.
VCU head coach Shaka Smart got his first name in memory of a 19th-century Zulu king who united southern Africa. However, his leadership will be tested this week in the wake of two tough losses. Joey Rodriguez did all he could on Tuesday night, turning in a career high 24 points, but George Mason dealt them an emotional 82-77 overtime loss. In the loss VCU blew another double-digit lead on the road: this time it was as high as 15. VCU ranks third in three point field goal percentage but failed to convert Saturday night at James Madison, making a season-low three from distance in a 76-71 loss. The Rams host the tough Drexel defense on Tuesday before hosting Akron in a BracketBuster game.
As they currently stand, Hofstra can do no worse than their current seed since they hold a three-game lead and every head-to-head tiebreaker over the teams behind them. They are probably locked into the #6 seed since they cannot break a tiebreaker with VCU, who they lost to by 13 at home in their only meeting. There was at least a foot of snow but the show went on at the Mack Sports Arena in a big win over Drexel Wendesday. Junior Charles Jenkins, still working on his argument for Player of the Year, poured in 32 points and fellow junior Greg Washington set Hofstra’s all-time record for career blocks. Senior Cornelius Vines scored a career-high 24 points and tied a school record seven three pointers in a 17-point road win at UNC Wilmington. Jenkins nabbed co-Player of the Week honors and Chaz Williams, who could now be the favorite with Chris Fouch out, won Rookie of the Week. The Pride have a chance to build some momentum in conference at Delaware before hosting the disappointing Rider Broncs in their BracketBuster game.
James Madison (4-11)
Denzel Bowles led the Dukes this week with a team high 29 points and 13 rebounds but the Dukes fell in a makeup game loss at Towson by 4 on Monday. The school was closed but James Madison played the game Wednesday night: it didn’t help as Old Dominion crushed the Dukes at home. The Dukes made a season-low one three-pointer and shot 8% from behind the arc in a 20-point loss. The Dukes went on a 19-2 run early in the second half and Bowles tried to power his Dukes over VCU but fouled out with 7:56 to go. However the Dukes only committed three second half turnovers and held on to win at home by five. The win snapped a four game losing streak. This is one of the two best wins for JMU this year, with VCU (#66 RPI) and a home win over William & Mary (#51).
Georgia State (4-11)
The Panthers have won three games in 2010 and failed to win their second road game of the season, falling at Northeastern and at cellar dwellar Towson in overtime. What let down the Panthers this past week? Georgia State’s defense, which has held teams to 42% from the field and is sixth in conference, let both teams shoot a combined 49% (47-95) despite outrebounding both in each loss. A home game against James Madison is winnable as the bottom five scramble for positioning in the conference tournament.
UNC Wilmington (4-11)
Interim head coach Brooks Lee won his first game after an extra day delay due to snow. The Seahawks have been plagued by all their shortcomings this year. They rank third in free throws attempted at 555 but are the worst in the CAA at 64%. They haven’t been able to generate turnovers, ranking in the bottom of the conference in steals and assist to turnover ratio. Chad Tomko, with two sprained ankles, came out and scored a season high 22 at Towson to get Lee his first win as interim coach. The 17-point loss to Hofstra was a failure to hold the Pride on defense. One bright light to take into next year is the play of Ahmad Grant. Grant scored a career-high 23 points and 48 points on the week on 16-37 (43%) shooting. Grant has improved to where Lee said, “When he gets into the lane off the dribble, his arms are so long and he has a very good vertical, he can jump up and get his shot off over guys. Now that he’s added that to his game, it makes him more difficult to guard at the 3-point line. Now when a defender closes out on him, they have to honor drive and shot as well.”
The Tigers had a two-win week, with two close wins over bottom of the pack teams in the CAA. Tony Franklin made two free throws with 4.8 seconds left for a three-point win Monday over James Madison. Saturday’s three-pointer from Rashawn Polk with 17 seconds left in overtime gave the Tigers a five-point win. Towson has improved over the past week, shooting better than 48% in three straight games. The last time the Tigers shot better than 43% in three straight games was in December. Towson also benefitted from the free throw line, making a season-high 22 free throws in Monday’s win and converting 83% in Saturday’s overtime win. The Tigers hit a rough road trip which will take them from Williamsburg to Riverdale to play the MAAC’s Manhattan Jaspers after a mid-week matchup at William & Mary.
The Blue Hens could only generate enough offense to win one game this week as they fell to last place in the CAA. Delaware shot 63-178 (35%) on the week. Jawan Carter led Delaware with 54 points on the week but the Blue Hens struggled with perimeter defense, allowing 18 three-pointers in three games. The Blue Hens rank last in the conference in field goal percentage; three point field goal percentage and blocked shots.
Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!
Standings (as of 2/7)
Northeastern (16-8, 11-2)
George Mason (15-9, 10-3)
Old Dominion (18-7, 10-3)
VCU (17-5, 9-4)
Drexel (14-11, 9-4)
William & Mary (16-7, 8-5)
Hofstra (12-13, 5-8)
Georgia State (10-15, 4-9)
James Madison (10-13, 3-9)
UNC Wilmington (7-16, 3-9)
Delaware (6-17, 2-10)
Towson (5-17, 2-10)
The league had an interesting schedule change due to pending and impending snowstorms. Towson’s home game against James Madison was postponed on Thursday. UNC Wilmington pushed their game one-day against Delaware to Sunday and then to Monday after the snow fell. James Madison will travel to play Towson tonight. Meanwhile the team off to the best start in conference play, George Mason, hit an unexpected rough patch. However, should it have been expected? The young Patriot squad’s seven-game winning streak came against every sub-.500 team in conference. This strength of schedule will change soon enough with a game against heating up VCU, traveling to Old Dominion before a clash with William & Mary. With Northeastern and VCU starting to heat up, not even mentioning Drexel’s strong push, there’s still a race to the top in the CAA.
Important Games This Week
VCU @ George Mason (7pm ESPNU). George Mason lost their seven-game winning streak this week. However, all but one win comes over a CAA team that’s over .500. They have won their last eight home games and this only game with VCU may prove to have tiebreaker implications.
UNC Wilmington @ Towson (7pm ESPN360.com). You might not watch this one, but I will. I want to see how the Brooks Lee era continues as the Seahawks battle the Tigers. Towson has struggled immensely and will likely have a second straight 20-loss season. It will be interesting to see the energy of both teams: How will the Seahawks play for their interim coach on TV and how will the Tigers respond to their recent struggles?
Northeastern @ William & Mary (7pm). There will be no love lost on this Valentine’s Day eve matchup between the Huskies and Tribe. The Huskies could be on the path to the top seed in the conference by this time but the Tribe, who have won four out of their last five at home, will have something to say about that. With this being their only meeting, a loss would likely kill the Tribe’s chances at a top seed.
Northeastern (11-2). The Huskies went on their first true road trip in conference and came out with two wins on the week and increasing their road/neutral win streak to eight with wins over Delaware and Hofstra, each by double digits. The offense has been clicking lately as the Huskies have shot better than 50% in six of their last eight games and have won five of their last six games, all by double digits or more. Matt Janning led this week for Northeastern, shooting 42.8% from the field and making 5-10 three pointers to lead the Huskies with game highs of 17 in each win this week. They get a home test against Georgia State, who has not won an in-conference road game since December, followed by a trip to William & Mary that might decide the top four seeds in the CAA.
George Mason (10-3). The Patriots were stifled Wednesday night by the box-and-one, triangle-and-two defenses that the Panthers threw at them, being shut out in the final 2:52, as Mason fell 61-57. Cam Long scored just two points and made just one of nine shots on the night. Heading into Drexel, George Mason could not hold off the Dragons as they went on a 23-6 run and beat the Patriots by 13. The Patriots have struggled in their last three games from behind the arc, making just 12-47 (25.5%) in the last three games.
Old Dominion (10-3). The Monarchs used this week to stretch their home win streak to 20 but also saw their road losing streak stretch to two. The Monarchs elite defense, ranked sixth in efficiency entering Sunday, shut down the William & Mary and outrebounded them by 23 in a 19 point win over the Tribe. However, the Monarchs could not dish it out on the road, losing a halftime lead and falling to the VCU Rams by 12. Every loss this season for the Monarchs has been at a road/neutral site, which does not bode well for their BracketBuster game where they will face a Northern Iowa team that is undefeated at home.
VCU (9-4). The Rams continued their impressive trek through the conference with wins over UNC Wilmington and a 12-point win over Old Dominion to propel them back into the race for a top seed in the CAA Tournament. Larry Sanders was benched to start the game against Old Dominion and his backup, Kirill Pishchalnikov responded with 14 points and five rebounds. Sanders chipped in 14 of his own and a game-high 12 rebounds. VCU’s 51.4% effective field goal percentage is second to Northeastern’s in the CAA. After an amazing 20 three pointers in a win over Towson, VCU has come back to average making 4.3 three pointers in the last three games. Meanwhile, Sophomore Jay Gavin left the team for personal reasons. Gavin saw reduced playing time, playing just 11 minutes in the last seven games. Gavin transferred from Marist, where he was MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year, to Virginia Commonwealth after his coach Matt Brady went to James Madison.
Drexel (9-4). This is the team to watch out for down the stretch. Redshirt Freshman Chris Fouch has made a great impression scoring 28 and 17 in Drexel’s two wins this week. Fouch has scored double-digit points in the last seven games shooting 47.5% from the field. The Dragons have a chance to solidify their contention this week with games against Hofstra and Delaware. They have won five out of their last six, are third in field goal percentage defense and held their opponents to under 40% shooting in five of their last six games, this team is a definite contender for the conference title. They travel to Hofstra in a winnable game and then host Delaware before a crucial road date to Virginia Commonwealth on the 16th.
William & Mary (8-5). The Tribe were dealt a dose of reality in the Constant Convocation Center with a 19 point loss to Old Dominion. Their cold three point shooting hit a low, making just 5-25 attempts in the loss, and every player for the Tribe were held under nine points. In no other game has that happened before this season. That low point appeared to continue in the first half but the Tribe fought through it and prevailed in a tough environment in Atlanta to beat Georgia State by three. Credit should go to the defense, which held the Panthers to two points over the final three and a half minutes even while generating just seven turnovers. They start a homestand this week against Delaware and then a crucial game against Northeastern on Saturday.
Hofstra (5-8). The Pride blew out James Madison on the road by 20 but could not bring the same energy against top team Northeastern, shooting just under a season-low in their 20 point home loss to the Huskies Saturday. One problem this week for the Pride were turnovers, dishing out 35 of them on the week. Chaz Williams had a tough time, making just 4-19 and scoring just 9 points this week. Charles Jenkins is working on his Player of the Year candidacy still with 34 points on 10-22 shooting. The junior star has scored 20 points or more in four of the Pride’s last six games. One of their remaining tests comes this week at home against Drexel and a Saturday road date to UNC Wilmington looms ahead.
Georgia State (4-9). Jihad Ali’s career high 22 points and knocked down a clutch three with 42 seconds left to give the Panthers a win over first-place George Mason. This was just Ali’s fourth double digit scoring game of the season, doubling his previous high of 11. “I worked hard all week with Coach Barnes,” Ali said after the game. “They told me to stay in the gym and my time would come.” The Panthers’ threw a box-and-one and a triangle-and-two at the Patriots and it stifled them late, not allowing them a point over the final 2:52. The Panthers challenged the Tribe at home as well but were unable to make a field goal in the final 3:13, scoring just one point in that span, in a 59-56 loss to William & Mary. Head Coach Rod Barnessaid they got good looks in the second half but could not make enough shots to contend with the best three-point shooting team in the conference. They will be embarking on a road trip this week to Northeastern and then a more winnable game at Towson.
James Madison (3-9). Following a two-point loss at George Mason, Head Coach Matt Brady wanted to send a message the team leadership needs to step up. Brady threw his team out of practice Monday but his tactic did not work as Hofstra dealt the Dukes their worst loss in almost eight years. A 20 point loss at home to the Pride drove them a step even further back. Senior Pierre Curtis tried to lead (7.9 ppg, 4 assists per game) but the freshmen have not responded, resulting in their worst shooting percentage since their second game of the year. They have not been able to control the game from the three point line either, shooting 26.5% from behind the arc in the last seven games. Texas A&M transfer Denzel Bowles has done well but it hasn’t been enough, scoring 20.6 points per game in 15 games. Brady has told locals that he plans to sign at least two more junior college players in order to try to contend quickly as Bowles will be a Senior and Julius Wells (16.8 ppg) will be a Junior.
UNC Wilmington (3-9). The search is on for a new head coach at UNC Wilmington. As for the fired Head Coach Benny Moss? He has been reassigned as a special assistant to the athletic director. The school would have to pay the difference if he moved to a lower paying job so keeping him on in a role is cost-effective, since he was terminated with three years left on his deal. They are willing to spend around $250,000 per season, which might not be enough for some of the top major assistants in the country. Rumors have circulated that Vermont’s Mike Lonergan, 90-57 at Vermont, could be a candidate for any open CAA coaching job.
Delaware (2-10). This week the Blue Hens learned that forwards redshirt freshman Kelvin McNeil and Josh Brinkley will miss the rest of the season. Brinkley was the team’s leading rebounder with 6.2 rebounds per game and started 18 of the Blue Hens first 20 games. McNeil will go under arthroscopic surgery Wednesday. Meanwhile the Blue Hens were held to a season-low 30% field goal percentage in a 16-point loss at home to Northestern. The Blue Hens rank 11th in the conference in effective field goal percentage, and 310th in the country, at 44.7%. It will not get easier this week with trips planned to William & Mary and Drexel.
Towson (2-10). Brian Morris and Robert Nwankwo came back but it did not help as Towson lost their second of three road games on Tuesday by falling at Drexel by 42. Calvin Lee scored eight points but fouled out with just over 15 minutes left in the game. The problem this year has been the defense, and that’s an understatement. In their last four road losses, the Tigers have lost by 25, 9, 59 and 42. They grabbed a road win over a reeling UNC Wilmington team that just fired its coach but this team cannot take care of the glass. They were out rebounded in each of the last six games and have been out rebounded this year by five boards per game which helps lead to league lows in Field Goal percentage defense and scoring defense. The Tigers have not had a winning season under Pat Kennedy and the circles around a potential firing are starting to surface as they approach their third 20-loss season under Kennedy. Snow delayed their weekend game with James Madison and they will have a chance this week to pick up wins at home before traveling to Old Dominion and William & Mary in mid-February.
Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!
Standings (as of 2/1)
George Mason (15-7, 10-1)
Old Dominion (17-6, 9-2)
Northeastern (14-8, 9-2)
VCU (15-5, 7-4)
William & Mary (15-6, 7-4)
Drexel (12-11, 7-4)
Hofstra (11-12, 4-7)
James Madison (10-12, 3-8)
Georgia State (9-14, 3-8)
UNC Wilmington (7-15, 3-8)
Delaware (6-16, 2-9)
Towson (5-16, 2-9)
Important Games This Week
Wed 2/3 – William & Mary @ Old Dominion. This will be the Tribe’s chance to get back into the conference title hunt. William & Mary lost in their first meeting with Old Dominion by three in a game that had ten lead changes. If the Tribe can pull off a road win it will be another notch to a resume that includes wins at Wake Forest and at Maryland.
Sat 2/6 – George Mason @ Drexel. Coming into this week the Dragons have won four of five of their conference home games. Their top-flight defense will go up against the first-place Patriots for the only time this season, a team that has won seven in a row and 12 of its last 13 games. Ryan Pearson appears to be back for the Patriots and they are starting to hit on all cylinders. If the Dragons want to contend for a top 4 seed, a win would go a long way towards that goal.
George Mason (10-1)
Cam Long, battled and overcame serious cramping problems (Washington Post), and has found his groove as he scored a team-high 18 in a dominant 77-66 win over Delaware Wednesday night. Long made 8-9 free throws and helped propel a 17-0 first half run to take control, leading by as many as 21 early in the first half over the Blue Hens. The Patriots were without Ryan Pearson due to a tight hamstring but senior Louis Birdsong stepped in and scored 11 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, tying the team high with Mike Morrison. Saturday, the Patriots needed all 23 points from Cam Long as the Patriots held on to win 70-68 over James Madison. Long has scored 20 or more in four of George Mason’s last five games and help extend their season-high win streak to seven. Ryan Pearson returned to score 7 points and grab a team-high 8 rebounds.
Old Dominion (9-2)
The Monarchs coasted to their eighth straight win with a 56-40 win over Georgia State Thursday night. Gerald Lee led the Monarchs with 16 points and Trian Iliadis nailed three treys off the bench as the Monarchs got off to a hot start, shooting 50% from the field. However, Lee was frustrated with the team’s play. Northeastern made nine threes over all the zones the Monarchs threw at them Saturday, knocking the Monarchs out of first place in a 10-point road loss. Kenyon Carter, who grabbed 7 rebounds, said they had their chances. “When a team is hitting shots like that, you’ve just got to weather the storm.”
The Huskies shot a season-low 31% from the field as Drexel dealt Northeastern their first loss in the new year, falling 61-48 at home Wednesday night. Nkem Ojougbough led the Huskies with 14 points and five blocks but NU could not keep up early with the Dragons, who went on a 14-0 run early to keep the game in control. Chaisson Allen led the charge Saturday afternoon, making 7-10 shots and scoring a team-high 19 in Northeastern’s 74-64 win over Old Dominion. The Huskies led by as many as 19 in the second half as they shot a season high 59.5% from the field. Matt Janning scored 17 points and dished out a team-high 7 assists.
The Rams found their statement win, tying a CAA record with 20 three pointers in a 112-53 win over Towson on Wednesday night. Larry Sanders, who went for 17 points and 14 rebounds, said he was sick of losing and the Rams did not let up: shooting a season high 63.1% from the field, dishing the fourth most assists in CAA history (30) and scoring the most points in Rams history since 1978. Joey Rodriguez scored a season-high 22 points as the Rams coasted late by Georgia State 78-62 on Saturday night. The game was not without some anxious moments as the Rams scored just nine points in the first twelve and a half minutes of the second half, only to see get a three-point play from Ed Nixon to help keep the lead. Rodriguez made 12-13 free throws and dished out 9 assists.
William & Mary (7-4)
The Tribe was dealt their third straight loss, unable to score in the final 2:52 in a two-point loss at James Madison Wednesday night. Quinn McDowell made 5-6 three-point field goals on his way to a team-high 23 points. The Tribe came back from an eight-point halftime deficit and had many chances to tie or win but the Tribe missed their final six shots. David Schneider’s two free throws with 9 seconds left gave W&M breathing room in their 54-51 win over Drexel Sunday afternoon. Schneider made just 1-8 shots but his 11 points from free throws helped William & Mary snap a three game losing streak. Quinn McDowell scored 12 points on 3-8 shooting.
Chris Fouch and Jamie Harris both scored 13 as Drexel swept the season series at Northeastern Wednesday night. The Dragons led by as much as 15 and outrebounded the Huskies by 16. Jamie Harris scored 13 points but Drexel could not keep their three-game win streak alive, falling 54-51 at William & Mary Sunday. The Dragons could not come back even while holding the Tribe without a field goal in the final 6:21. Sammie Givens and Chris Fouch each had 11 points, Evan Neisler pulled down a team-high 9 rebounds.
Head Coach Tom Pecora took a different approach to his team’s losing streak. Pecora banned his players from wearing any “Hofstra” gear to practice until they broke out of their skid. It appeared to work Wednesday night, scoring the most points in a first half under Pecora on their way to a 93-54 win over UNC Wilmington. Greg Washington set a career-high 10 blocks and scored 14 points. Charles Jenkins scored 16 of his team-high 24 points in the first half as the Pride shot a season high 56.7%. Charles Jenkins scored 21 of his team-high 27 points in the second half and Chaz Williams added 18 points and 8 boards to beat Delaware by 10 at home Saturday. Tom Pecora moved to third on the Hofstra all-time wins list with his 147th win.
James Madison (3-8)
Denzel Bowles racked up another double-double — 17 points and 15 rebounds — in a comeback win over Radford Monday night. The Dukes came back on a 9-0 run to turn a one-point deficit with 3:12 left to an eight point lead. Radford tied a record for fewest free throws made and fewest attempted going 0-2 from the line. Pierre Curtis’ two made free throws with 2:08 to go broke the sixth tie of the game and gave the Dukes a 65-63 win over the Tribe Wednesday night. Despite not making a field goal in the final 4:11, Curtis made the only two free throws the Dukes made in the half to give them the win. Denzel Bowles led the Dukes with 21 points on 7-13 shooting and a team-high 8 boards. Denzel Bowles notched a double-double with 20 points and a team-high 13 rebounds but James Madison was unable to come back Saturday afternoon and fell 70-68 to George Mason. The Dukes could not overcome a deficit as large as 12 in the second half even shooting 69.6% from the field and making four threes. The Patriots forced 20 turnovers and scored 20 points off of them.
Georgia State (3-8)
Georgia State shot its worst percentage since 2003 in a 16-point loss at Old Dominion Thursday night. The Panthers got down big, shooting just 27.6% from the field and ending up behind 13 at halftime. Joe Dukes and Trae Goldston led the Panthers with 11 points each. The Panthers have lost five straight road games. Joe Dukes scored 20 points but the Panthers could not make baskets late, and shot 29.4% from the field in the second half, as they fell at Virgina Commonwealth by 16 Saturday night. James Fields’ three pointer with 6:27 left cut the VCU lead to three but the Rams went on a 9-2 run to close out the Panthers chances for good.
UNC Wilmington (3-8)
The Seahawks’ sixth straight loss would be Benny Moss’ last. UNC Wilmington suffered its second worst loss in the Seahawks’ history in the CAA, losing by 39 to Hofstra. Johnny Wolf led the Seahawks with 14 points but Chad Tomko, playing with a lingering sprained right ankle, did not score a point in 17 minutes. Tomko said, “We didn’t show any emotion or any pride.” Soon enough Moss was told that he was “reassigned” in the athletic department and assistant Brooks Lee will serve as the interim coach. Moss went 41-74 in four seasons, 23-45 in the CAA. … The Brooks Lee era did not start as planned Saturday. The Seahawks were frustrated by a zone and made just 5-34 shots from behind the arc and squandered a lead as large as eight early in a 58-53 loss to Towson. Matt Wilson, who scored 2 points and grabbed 2 rebounds is out indefinitely with a broken clavicle. John Fields scored a team-high 13 points and pulled down 21 of UNC Wilmington’s 47 rebounds. The Seahawks have lost seven of their last eight games.
The Blue Hens were doomed by poor shooting early as the Blue Hens got down by as many as 21 in a 77-66 loss at George Mason Wednesday night. Jawan Carter, Alphonso Dawson and D.J. Boney combined to shoot 1-17 early as the Patriots dominated on the floor and on the glass, outrebounding the Blue Hens by seven and blocking seven shots. Carter led the Blue Hens with 23 points on 8-18 shooting, making three of the Blue Hens’ four three point field goals. The Blue Hens started out slow, making just one of their first 16 shots, and getting down by as many as 13 in a 77-67 loss at Hofstra Saturday. Jawan Carter scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed 9 rebounds but the Blue Hens couldn’t rebound from making just seven field goals in the first half.
The Tigers, playing without Robert Nwankwo and Brian Morris, never stayed in the game with the Rams and fell to an embarrassing 112-53 loss at Virginia Commonwealth Wednesday night. This loss was the worst in the Tigers 30 year history of Division I play and the most since giving up 120 to Maryland in 1994. Jarrel Smith and Josh Thornton led the Tigers with a team-high 12 points. The Tigers got a team-high 13 from Josh Thornton and, as a team, made 14-15 free throws in a 58-53 win at UNC Wilmington. Their zone stifled the Seahawks as they made just 2 of their last 27 three pointers in the game. Calvin Lee recorded a double-double with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Robert Nwankwo returned after a two game respite with a shoulder injury to score 2 points and grab 5 rebounds. Brian Morris is expected to be back for the Tigers’ next game Wednesday at Drexel.
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.
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.
Six teams finished with 18 or more wins last season.
VCU’s Larry Sanders already picking up nation preseason honors here, here, and here.
Predicted Champion. Old Dominion (NCAA Seed: #9). The Monarchs return six players who made 13 or more starts last season, including All-CAA Gerald Lee, who is my vote for preseason POY. Lee stepped up as a leader last season, especially late in the year at the CAA tournament. Along side Lee forward Frank Hassell gives them probably the best one-two punch frontcourt in the league. Guard Darius James is poised for a breakout season and was deadly from 3-pt land last year, so his growth could be the key to ODU being the league’s most balanced squad. Add freshman stud Josh Hicks to the mix and you got a whole lot of talent walking into CAA arenas this season. Will it be the right mix of talent and experience to run through the competitive CAA regular season? Head coach Blaine Taylor has lived in the shadow of George Mason and VCU lately despite winning 119 games over the last five years. This is his best squad on paper since 2005.
Yesterday the calendar moved into September and we’re all foaming at the mouth around here to get started on the 2009-10 season preview materials, but we realize it doesn’t make much sense to start really gearing up on that until October. Nevertheless, one feature we want to start that we’ll be publishing weekly all the way up to the start of the season is our RTC 2009-10 Impact Players series. Each week we’re going to pick a geographic area of the country and break down the five players who we feel will have the most impact on their teams (and by the transitive property, college basketball) this season. Our criteria is once again subjective – there are so many good players in every region of the country that it’s difficult to narrow them down to only five in each – but we feel at the end of this exercise that we’ll have discussed nearly every player of major impact in the nation. Just to be fair and to make this not too high-major-centric, we’re also going to pick a mid-major impact player in each region as our sixth man. We welcome you guys, our faithful and very knowledgeable readers, to critique us in the comments where we left players off. The only request is that you provide an argument – why will your choice be more influential this season than those we chose?
Joe Trapani – Jr, F – Boston College. Al Skinner hit the jackpot when Vermont transfer Joe Trapani elected to join the BC basketball program for the 2008-09 season after a successful debut campaign with the Catamounts, averaging 11.4 points and 4.4 rebounds per game and earning America East all-rookie team honors. Trapani wanted to challenge himself at a higher level of competition, transferring to nearby Chestnut Hill where the 6’8 forward made quite an impression in his sophomore season, upping his scoring average to 13.4 ppg and rebounds to 6.6 per contest. Trapani earned a spot on this list mostly due to his all-around game; in fact, the skilled big man led the Eagles in assists in four games. His best performance may have come against Kyle Singler and Duke at home, an upset win for BC in which Trapani registered 20 points, seven rebounds and five blocks. Not many 6’8 forwards can score, rebound, dish and shoot 36% from deep. His inside-outside game reminded many of the Eagle faithful of the recently departed Jared Dudley and will be even more vital to the Eagles success in 2009-10 without leading scorer Tyrese Rice. While the rest of the roster returns, it is Trapani who must lead the way if BC wants to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament. Rakim Sanders, Corey Raji, Biko Paris and other Eagles will contribute, but Trapani’s model of consistency and constant leadership makes him indispensable to Skinner and the BC program.
Arinze Onuaku – Sr, F/C – Syracuse. The Syracuse behemoth is one of the most puzzling players in all of college basketball. There are two statistics that jump out at you when analyzing Onuaku’s 2008-09 junior season with the Orange: 67% and 30%. Incredibly, that was Onuaku’s field goal and free throw percentage last year… in order. That’s right, Onuaku was an insanely efficient 178-267 from the floor, higher than Blake Griffin, Tyler Hansbrough, Luke Nevill, Patrick Patterson, DeJuan Blair or anyone in college basketball. On the flip side, his free throw shooting (37-124) was abysmal and downright embarrassing, meaning if Onuaku doesn’t improve in this area mightily over the summer and into the upcoming season, Hack-A-Onuaku will be explored greatly by Big East coaches in 2009-10. The big man MUST improve to at least 50% if he doesn’t want to greatly cost the Orange. Onuaku’s impact to Syracuse is mostly positive, though. The field goal percentage speaks for itself, along with 10.3 PPG, 7.3 RPG and a 19/12 double-double against Cole Aldrich and Kansas last season. With Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris gone to riches (just kidding for two of them), Onuaku will be relied on heavily by coach Jim Boeheim to be a reliable force in the paint by blocking shots, staying out of foul trouble, scoring with efficiency and scooping up rebound after rebound. With Blair and Thabeet departed, nobody can have as much of an impact down low at Onuaku both in the Big East conference and in the entire Northeast region.
Jerome Dyson – Sr, G – UConn. When Jerome Dyson knocked knees with an unidentified Syracuse player and crumpled to the floor during a routine win for the 23-1 Huskies on Feb. 11, you could almost hear the collective groan from the UConn faithful throughout the Northeast. You see, the dirty little secret for UConn was that Dyson at 34.8% was one of the only two players on the roster (AJ Price at 40.2% was the other) who could reliably nail a three-pointer for the Huskies. UConn was never going to be confused for a team of marksmen, but it’s no coincidence that a team who was shooting a robust 36.4% from deep on the season at the time of injury shot a horrid 29.8% from outside the rest of the way. It was painfully obvious in the F4 loss to Michigan St. that once the Huskies got in the hole, the three-pointer – a useful offensive weapon in comeback attempts – simply wasn’t available to them (2-6 for the game). Dyson should be back at 100% this season, as his meniscus injury is completely healed and he has a chip on his shoulder from seasons lost. With four key contributors gone from last year’s team, Jim Calhoun will be looking at his senior guard to put the team on his back and take the lead in crunch time. This shouldn’t be much of a problem considering Dyson’s scorer’s mentality and natural abilities. If UConn is going to avoid a major letdown from its 31-win season, it’ll be largely due to the poise and play of the player who has always seemed just on the cusp of greatness, but due to some bad decisions mixed in with worse luck, has never quite made it there.
Kemba Walker – Soph, G – UConn. Kemba Walker is the latest in a long string of NYC-bred point guards who is set for stardom in the Big East. As a freshman backing up AJ Price in 2008-09, it was easily apparent to anyone watching that Walker was the player with the quicker first step, better touch around the basket, and ultimately, brighter future. As such, he’s a projected first rounder whenever he decides to come out for the NBA Draft. However, perhaps typical of many Big Apple products, his outside jumper is still a work in progress (27.1% from deep last year), but he needn’t rely on 22-footers because he can get to the cup and finish with anybody of any size (52% on twos, which is phenomenal for a six-foot guard). Walker had some ups and downs during his freshman year, but the reason he’s on our Northeast Region squad has a lot to do with his performance in the Elite Eight against Missouri where he sliced and diced the Tiger defense so effectively (23/5/5) that we should be forgiven for thinking he was the best player on the floor. Several of our braintrust believe that he could double his offensive output this season en route to becoming an all-american playmaker for the Huskies in the mold of former point guards Chris Smith and Khalid El-Amin. Regardless of postseason accolades, we should expect the UConn backcourt of Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker to be one of the very best in the nation this year.
Ricky Harris – Sr, G – UMass. While the Minutemen may have underachieved in 2008-09, the scoring production provided by Ricky Harris on a game-by-game basis did not go unnoticed. With point guard Chris Lowe and shot-blocking extraordinaire Tony Gaffney departed, Harris will be the centerpiece for Massachusetts in Chris Kellogg’s second year as the Minutemen head coach. Harris reached the top six in scoring in both his sophomore and junior campaigns at 18.2 ppg, so predicting a 20+ ppg senior season out of Harris is not outside the realm of possibility. He could very well challenge Dayton big man Chris Wright for A-10 POY this year and should be the #1 scoring force and premier outside shooter in the entire conference. Want more proof? This past season Harris became the 40th UMass player to accumulate 1,000 points in his college career and has scored in double-figures in 61 of his last 66 games along with 28 career contests with 20+ points. He lit up ACC foe Boston College for 35 points on 12-19 FG and 6-11 3PT in an overtime loss. While his rebounding and passing game leaves much to be desired, Harris will make or break whether the Minutemen surprise in a weaker Atlantic 10 and reach a postseason tournament this season. Now that Tyrese Rice and A.J. Price are no longer amateurs, nobody in the entire Northeast region can match his scoring potential on any given night. Harris’ ability to catch fire and will the Minutemen to victory earns him a spot on our all-Northeast squad.
DJ Rivera (MM) – Sr, G – Binghamton. Our mid-major “sixth man” for this region shouldn’t be viewed as a slight of any kind. We recognize that Rivera, the 6’4 do-anything guard from upstate New York can capably play with anyone in the Northeast region. In fact, the player who was openly snubbed by America East coaches when it came to conference POY votes last season might just be the top mid-major player in the entire country in 2009-10. You know the story: the nephew of Philly legend Hank Gathers, Rivera transferred from St. Joe’s after his sophomore year, received a hardship waiver from the NCAA, and proceeded to dominate the America East unlike anyone has, um, ever? Rivera showed his clutch abilities by averaging 25/11 against league rival Vermont in two games last year, and even dropped 20/5 on 9-14 FGs against Duke in Binghamton’s first-round blowout loss to the Devils. He’s an absolute stud, and we expect that after briefly flirting with the NBA Draft, he’ll be back with an enormous chip on his shoulder this season given the way the rest of his league treated him. It’s our wager that Rivera, with a substantial amount of his team returning, will make a run at a national scoring title (#5 returning scorer in the NCAA) and another trip to the NCAA Tournament to solidify his standing.
Honorable Mention. Tim Ambrose, Albany. Will Harris, Albany. Rakim Sanders, BC. John Holland, BU. Corey Lowe, BU. Ryan Wittman, Cornell. Louis Dale, Cornell. Jeremy Lin, Harvard. Matt Janning, Northeastern. Sharaud Curry, Providence. Ryan Rossiter, Siena. Alex Franklin, Siena. Edwin Ubiles, Siena. Andy Rautins, Syracuse. Wesley Johnson, Syracuse. Stanley Robinson, UConn. Marqus Blakely, Vermont.
Hofstra: So far the Pride have been the surprise of the CAA posting a league-best 6-1 record. After losing a lot of scoring from last year’s team this team was difficult to project. They haven’t really beaten anybody worthwhile on the out of conference slate but they had a pretty decisive victory over Towson on Saturday to start off 1-0 in the conference.
News & Notes. First, a few notable pieces of news from the weekend.
As many as six of Arizona’s players could be ineligible for their opener Monday against Florida Atlantic in the Preseason NIT. This relates to the ‘big mistake’ that Lute Olson made by allowing a letter with his name affixed to it go out to boosters seeking financial support for a local AAU Tournament (an NCAA violation). The named players may have received impermissable expenses during this AAU event.
We’re shocked, shocked we tell you, in finding Ole Miss and West Virginia (of all places) received Fs in a minority hiring report. Not sure what’s up with Dayton, though.
South Carolina starting guard Brandis Raley-Ross will miss 3-4 weeks with a sprained left knee. Similarly, Villanova guard Dwayne Anderson will join teammate Shane Clark on the injury roll with a stress fracture in his left foot – he’ll be out indefinitely.
And here’s another example of Nebraska pushing into the gray area with the rules relating to their supposedly non-public scrimmage with Marquette last week.
Game of the Weekend.Duke 82, Rhode Island 79. Maybe it was the light blue uniforms. Mere days after barely surviving Brown, URI nearly pulled off a major upset by going into Cameron Indoor Stadium and leading the Blue Devils most of the way before losing at the end in a hard-fought 82-79 battle. Jimmy Baron’s 24 (8 threes, several of which were ridiculous) led the way for the Rams, but the Devils scored on their last seven possessions to erase a 7-pt deficit with four minutes to go. Duke was led by Kyle Singler’s 21/5/5 assts and Jon Scheyer’s 23, but it was Duke’s defense that put the Devils in danger of breaking their 62-game home court non-conference winning streak (dating back to 2000). They gave up 10-14 from three and allowed URI to shoot 55% from the field. This game was on the U, so of course we couldn’t actually watch it – if anyone did get to see it, feel free to leave comments below.
Upset of the Weekend. Mercer 72, Alabama 69. The middle of the SEC looks pathetic so far this season. Already there were the Friday night debacle at Kentucky (VMI) and the near-miss at Arkansas (SE Louisiana); well, tonight Mark Gottfried was back to his old underachieving tricks. The Crimson Tide are projected to be in the SEC West mix for a division title and NCAA bid, but tonight’s game exposed some serious issues with this team. First, other than Ronald Steele (the good news for Bama fans is that he finally appears healthy), who put up 25 pts tonight, and JaMychal Green (17/12/3 blks), where will points come from? Alonzo Gee contributed a mere four points, and only one other player reached double figures (Mikhail Torrance). Perhaps even more importantly, the Tide were outrebounded by the smaller Bears, 49-32, which is simply inexcusable for an SEC team with vastly superior size. (like anyone in Alabama cares about hoops right now…) As for Mercer, this is becoming old hat for them. You may recall last year that Mercer went into USC and dropped the Trojans in their home opener, 96-81. They then promptly lost their next five games en route to an 11-19 campaign – will this year be any different? James Florence led the way for Mercer with 23/6/5 assts.
Northeastern 70, Providence 66. New Friar head man Keno Davis didn’t want to start like this. Providence is facing a tough enough conference season in the Big East; they didn’t need to put themselves behind the RPI eight-ball with an opening home loss to a mid-major. Northeastern has a good team, but what happened to Sharaud Curry (1-8 for 2 pts)? Matt Janning killed PC with 24/6 on 10-14 shooting.
Portland 80, Washington 74. Ditto for Lorenzo Romar. Washington is a trendy pick to make some noise in the Pac-10 this year, but if the Huskies find themselves on the bubble next March, they will lament losing this game. Jon Brockman had 30/14, but he got absolutely no help on the inside (Quincy Pondexter in particular laid an egg with zero points). An old bugaboo killed Washington – the free-throw line (19-32, .594). Nik Raivio (Derek’s little bro) led a balanced Portland attack with 19/7 rebs.
How’d #1 Look? UNC 86, Penn 71. The nation’s #1 team had a solid, if spotty, performance without reigning POY Tyler Hansbrough and their best defender Marcus Ginyard on the court Saturday. Six players reached double figures, including two freshman bigs, Tyler Zeller (18 pts) and Eric Davis (10/14). Bobby Frasor played 21 minutes, despite reports late last week to the contrary. Penn managed to get the game down to a ten-point deficit with four minutes remaining behind 11 threes and a big game from guard Tyler Bernardini (26 pts), but they never seriously threatened. All in all, considering what UNC didn’t have on the court in this game, we’d have to believe Roy feels pretty good about his team’s performance.
Mid-Major Corner. These games matter on resumes in March.
George Mason 80, Vermont 79 (OT). This looked like a tremendous battle of mids in Burlington, VT, on Saturday. GMU’s Darryl Monroe was awesome, tallying 19/17 including a beastly nine offensive rebounds and the game-winning FTs with 0.7 showing on the clock. Marquis Blakely, his counterpart on Vermont, was equally effective, going for 24/8/4 stls/4 blks in a game that was back-and-forth until the last possession.
Butler 58, Drake 48. Butler held Drake to 31% shooting and 14 first-half points in a methodical road win between two prominent mid-majors. Is Drake finished now that Keno Davis is gone?
UNLV 65, San Diego 60. An undermanned USD team with three players serving suspensions still nearly pulled the upset at UNLV Saturday night. This game was close throughout until UNLV, led by Wink Adams’ 19/4, made six key FTs down the stretch. Rob Jones led San Diego with 19/10/4 assts.
Creighton 82, New Mexico 75. Incredibly named P’Allen Stinnett (30 pts) and Booker Woodfox (26 pts) led a huge second-half surge for Creighton (19-3 in the final three minutes) to start its season off with a nice win.
FIrst Looks. Some coaches had their first games at new schools this weekend.
LSU 79, Jackson St. 65. Trent Johnson started his LSU career with a victory fueled by a late 17-6 run. Tasmin Mitchell had 17/7.
Indiana 83, Northwestern St. 65. Devan Dumes scored 21 pts in Tom Crean’s Hoosier debut. This was a good win for this program no matter what happens the rest of the way.
California 68, Pacific 56. Monty returned to coaching on the other side of the Bay by winning his first home game, a hard-fought victory led by Jerome Randle’s 24 pts and Patrick Christopher’s 18 pts.
Statistical Oddities. More like, offensive offensiveness.
Manhattan 56, NJIT 32. The abomination continues. NJIT shot a blistering 23% in tying the NCAA record for consecutive losses (34). Up next: @ Penn St. Monday night for the win, er, loss.
Washington St. 76, Mississippi Valley St. 25. Memo to MVSU: stop scheduling Wazzu. In the last two years, Washington St. has outscored MVSU 147-51 (or, the score of one of Wazzu’s Pac-10 football games).
Saturday Games of Interest.
Gonzaga 83, MSU-Billings 52. If Josh Heytvelt is once again healthy, this team is legit, and it appears that he is (15/8/3 blks). Austin Daye added 15/12/4 blks for as talented a front line as there is in the country.
Tennessee 114, UT-Chattanooga 75. UT set a new record for assists (32) as it won its 33d straight home game in a rout. Six Vols reached double figures, led by Tyler Smith’s 21/4/5 assts.
Memphis 90, Fairfield 63. Tyreke Evans came off the bench to lead the Tigers with 19/5/3 in his debut for Memphis. Despite the blowout, Calipari was upset with his defense – the Tigers allowed Fairfield to shoot 50% from the field and 44% from three.
USC 78, UC Irvine 55. USC struggled for a half before blowing out UC Irvine behind freshman sensation Demar DeRozan’s 14/3. Dwight Lewis added 18/7 and Taj Gibson 17/6.
Sunday Games of Interest.
Florida 81, Bradley 58. The Gators rode fourteen threes to an easy win over a decent Bradley squad. Nick Calathes dropped 13/7/6 asst/4 stls, and Dan Werner had Walter Hodge each contributed 17 pts.
Clemson 76, Temple 72. Clemson held on after blowing a 14-pt second half lead by hitting some big FTs down the stretch in the Charleston Classic. CU’s Trever Booker had 15/16, while Temple’s Dionte Christmas was relatively quiet with 14/5 and six turnovers.
Virginia 107, VMI 97. No upset magic today for VMI, coming off of its miraculous upset at Kentucky. UVa was led by Sylven Landesberg’s 28/8/8 assts, who set a freshman debut scoring record for the school.
Wisconsin 68, Long Beach St. 61. Marcus Landry’s (23/4/3 blks) huge three with 22 seconds remaining gave UW just enough cushion to avoid the home upset. Of some concern for Bo Ryan will be the Badgers allowing 48% shooting from their Big West foes.
Michigan St. 100, Idaho 62. MSU cruised behind Chris Allen and Raymar Morgan’s twin 21-pt performances.
Holy Cross 73, St. Joseph’s 69 (OT). This is a really good early win for the Patriot League against an A10 stalwart.
Notre Dame 94, USC-Upstate 54. Luke Harongody blew up for 30/14, including his fourth career three-pointer, in a blowout at home. Luke Zeller added 18/5 off the bench.
Kansas 71, Missouri-Kansas City 56. KU shook off a 1-13 shooting night from three to pull away from UMKC in the second half on the strength of their defense, which held their opponent to 29% shooting.
On Tap Monday (all times EST).
Davidson (-17.5) v. James Madison – 6pm (NIT)
Connecticut v. Hartford (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
Boston College (-13.5) v. Loyola (MD) (ESPNU) – 7pm (NIT)
Pittsburgh (-14) v. Miami (OH) (ESPN FC & 360) – 7pm
Purdue (-20.5) v. E. Michigan (ESPN2 & 360) – 7pm (NIT)
UAB (-10) v. Santa Clara – 8pm (NIT)
Missouri (-14) v. UT-Chattanooga (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
Oklahoma St. (-11) v. N. Texas (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
Marquette v. Chicago St. (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
Belmont v. Austin Peay – 8pm
Texas Tech v. Sam Houston St. (ESPN FC & 360) – 8pm
Oklahoma (-30) v. Miss. Valley St. (ESPNU) – 9pm
Arizona (-18.5) v. Florida Atlantic (ESPNU) – 11pm (NIT)
WYN2K. Last season was a letdown for the CAA faithful after two seasons of multiple bids and tournament wins over historical powerhouses to becoming a single bid conference with that team losing in a first round rout. The 2006 and 2007 NCAA tournament victories from George Mason and VCU have set the bar for this conference so that now just getting to the NCAA tournament and avoiding a blowout isn’t the criteria for a successful season anymore. Last season George Mason looked as if they were riding that magic carpet again, running through the CAA tournament and snagging that automatic bid after a rollercoaster season, only to be sent home early from the Big Dance by the three point onslaught of Notre Dame. This conference returns 65% of its starters and has some exciting freshmen and transfers entering the mix, but are they poised for another successful March?
Predicted Champion. VCU (#10 Seed NCAA). Tough call this season, as always in the competitive CAA, but the pick has to go VCU. Last season the Rams were atop the conference standings all season, only to stumble in the conference tournament. The selection comes mostly because of the experience of head coach Anthony Grant and reigning conference MVP Eric Maynor, whose slaying of Duke in the 2007 NCAA Tournament might have just been a preview of things to come as he enters his senior year. Sophomore Larry Sanders is another name to watch for this Rams squad as a defensive force in the front court. Last season Sanders only started half of the season’s games yet led the team in rebounding (5.2) and blocked shots (3.0). Speaking of Maynor…
Others Considered. Not to be overlooked are the Huskies of Northeastern who return their entire starting lineup and top nine scorers from last season including Matt Janning who could challenge Eric Maynor for conference MVP. Old Dominion and George Mason have been very successful programs for the conference in recent history as both are well coached and can potentially challenge the likes of VCU and Northeastern. Make no mistake that this could be another season for the CAA in which an ankle sprain or two in March could determine the conference champion.
Newcomers. Last season Delaware was atop the standings for most of the season with the success brought on by transfers Marc Egerson (Georgetown) and Jim Ledsome (Nebraska) becoming eligible. Look for the same thing to happen at Georgia State this season. Head coach Rod Barnes (2001 Naismith Coach of the Year), who had to endure a season watching his reserve team of transfer players best his team’s current starters each practice, could be the CAA’s hot new coach this season. Georgia State returns all-CAA guard Leonard Mendez (16 ppg) who will be surrounded by big school talent with the additions of Trey Hampton and Xavier Hansbro (former player of Barnes at Ole Miss), point guard Joe Dukes (Wake Forest), forward Bernard Rimmer (Mississippi State) and guard Dante Curry (South Florida). George Mason and UNCW had the best recruiting success this past off-season. Mason was able to nab point guard Andre Cornelius and forward Ryan Pearson from the lure of the BCS schools while UNCW locked up forward Kevon Moore and guard Jerel Stephson. All of these are players that could be playing in bigger conferences and are likely the most Division I ready freshmen entering the CAA this year.
Games to Watch.
George Mason at VCU (01.24.09)
Northeastern at VCU (01.28.09)
VCU at Old Dominion (02.14.09)
Northeastern at George Mason (02.14.09)
Old Dominion at Northeastern (02.28.09)
RPI Booster Games. The CAA has had success in recent years against out of conferences foes, both mid-major and BCS. This season the conference favorites don’t have a whole lot of opportunity to make a splash early on but their definitely is some winnable games against some notable programs that could start the multiple bid talk early.
James Madison at Davidson (11.17.08)
Georgia State at Georgia Tech (12.17.08)
VCU at Oklahoma (12.20.08)
Winthrop at Old Dominion (12.20.08)
Northeastern at Indiana (12.22.08)
George Mason at Dayton (12.30.08)
Northeastern at Memphis (12.31.08)
Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Fairly likely. VCU has a real chance of winning an at-large bid this season should they not grab the automatic bid from the conference tournament. Northeastern’s tough schedule could hinder them from a possible at-large birth. Starting at the end of November the Huskies are on the road five of six games before heading into conference play. Ouch. George Mason and Old Dominion don’t have much on the OOC slate which would mean they don’t have a lot of margin for error in the early part of their schedules. With the bottom half of the conference steadily improving, the RPI numbers could be good enough to get a team an at-large bid if they have between 14-16 conference wins.
65 Team Era. From 1987-2005, the CAA was a one-bid league. Of course, that changed in a big way in 2006, when two teams were invited to the NCAA Tournament and George Mason became the greatest Cinderella to make the F4 in history. Two more teams were invited in 2007, and while only George Mason was invited in 2008, there’s no reason to think that the CAA is not a conference generally on the rise. The CAA is 15-27 (.357) in the era, which definitely ranks it as one of the higher mid-major conferences. Hey, we gotta throw it in – this never gets old…
Final Thoughts. Last season proved that the depth of this conference is improving as annual bottom-feeders James Madison, Delaware and William & Mary all made noise at some point in the season. Look for that trend to continue as even the newest CAA members Georgia State and Northeastern could be contending for the top of the standings come March. That is not to say the big boys of the conference have declined. George Mason, VCU, Old Dominion, and UNCW all bring more talent this season than the conference has ever seen. The experience of the coaches on the sideline this season is a big asset for this conference and could spell trouble for opposing teams at the Big Dance. The team(s) that make it to the Big Dance this season could be poised for some not-so-much of an upset victories.