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
D-D-D-Defense: In the CAA we call them rock fights, but the rest of the country calls 58-54 victories “defense-oriented basketball.” No matter the nomenclature, defense is reigning supreme in the Association so far. Five teams have held its opposition to less than 60 points per game in conference play, led by Georgia State. The Panthers, despite Ron Hunter’s desire to run, run and run some more, are holding CAA opponents to 49.2 points per game and an astounding 0.73 points per possession. Teams are shooting 30.9% against Georgia State, made impressive when you consider 11 of the 12 teams are shooting greater than 38% for the season. You want a specific example? Fine. Over the course of two games, VCU hurled boulders. The Rams didn’t allow a field goal over a stretch of 16:57 last week — the last eight minutes of the James Madison game and the first nine minutes of the Delaware game. Want even more? See below.
We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do: VCU is working on a string of 11 straight sellouts in its 7,600-seat Stu, already a CAA record. The Rams are one of six teams in the nation (Gonzaga, Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, and Kansas State) to have sold out every game this season. The fans of Georgia State have taken notice of the team’s success. The Panthers drew a tad shy of 3,000 for its win over UNCW—three times their average from last season. What’s more, a student named Nick Bray created Hunterville, a tent city modeled after Duke’s Krzyzewskiville. Old Dominion has played before eight crowds of better than 7,000 at the Ted this season, including a sellout crowd of 8,460 versus nationally ranked Missouri, and Drexel has had sellout crowds for its past two games against VCU and George Mason.
Be. Aggressive. Be Aggressive: Freshmen are seeing significant playing time and making a huge difference 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 each CAA team has had a freshman start at least two games. Four freshmen are among the CAA’s top 30 in scoring: UNCW’s Adam Smith, Drexel’s Damion Lee, W&M’s Marcus Thornton and UD’s Kyle Anderson.Two are among the top 15 in assists: Towson’s Kris Walden andDelaware’s Khalid Lewis; and two are in the top 15 in steals: VCU’s Briante Weber, and NU’s Quincy Ford. UNCW’s Cedrick Williams is ranked 14th in the league in rebounding (5.9 RPG) and Ford is 17th (5.4 RPG).
Maybe You Should Bring Your Cheerleaders On The Road: Visiting teams went 6-6 last week, continuing an early-season trend of success by the road warriors. Through the first 36 conference contests, home teams are only 19-17 (.528). Old Dominion moved to 3-0 on the road in CAA play after edging Delaware 68-66 in overtime last Wednesday, while Northeastern also improved to 3-0 on the road after winning 64-62 at Hofstra. George Mason also has three CAA road victories (3-1). Six of the league’s 12 teams are .500 or better on the road in CAA play.
Frantz Massenat's Emergence As A Floor General Has Paid Dividends For The Dragons. (Scott K. Brown/AP)
Drexel (4-2, 12-5): The Dragons have won 10 of its past 11 games and swept VCU, Mason, and UNCW in the past week — combined conference record 12-6 (or 12-3 against teams not named Drexel). Frantz Massenat has blossomed as a floor general and is averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game. He ranks third in the CAA in assists (3.7 APG) and first in three-point FG% (46.9%). However the biggest tell that Drexel is scary: Chris Fouch and Samme Givens, Bruiser Flint’s two most productive players, scored a combined 26 points in the wins over VCU and Mason. The Dragons are also leading the CAA in three-point field goal percentage, led by freshman Damion Lee. But the defense, Drexel’s calling card, is still there: Drexel has held its past six opponents to just 49.2 points per game. All have scored fewer than 60 points. Read the rest of this entry »
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
Lather: Shaka Smart’s VCU Rams put a 73-51 pounding on crosstown rival Richmond. The game turned on a mid-second half spree generated by the defense. From 11:03 to 3:35, a 20-4 run changed a 47-45 boxing match into a 67-49 runaway. Freshman Briante Weber is the head harasser, but Rob Brandenburg and Darius Theus gave the Spiders no room to operate. The Rams, supposed to struggle with four starters gone from its Final Four team, are without question playing the best basketball in the Association. Bradford Burgess is looking like a player of the year, scoring in double figures in eight straight games, and the Rams are getting increasing contributions from different sources—on Friday it was freshman Treveon Graham, who subbed for a foul-plagued Theus admirably. VCU coming together weeks faster than people thought is a scary proposition.
Rinse: Of all the fresh faces making waves in the CAA, none have made a greater impact that UNCW freshman Adam Smith. Smithis tied for third in the nation in scoring among all freshmen with 17.9 PPG, trailing only Kyle Vinales of Central Connecticut (19.9 PPG) and Juan’ya Green of Niagara (19.7 PPG). He is tied with Justin Edwards of Maine (17.9 PPG). Smith has scored double figures in all seven UNCW games, including a 27-point effort at Toledo and 23 points at Maryland. Not to be outdone, Northeastern’s Quincy Ford is getting more comfortable with college. Making the first start of his career, Ford scored a career-high 18 points and snared a team-best seven rebounds in Northeastern’s 79-68 loss at Bradley last Tuesday. The freshman, who is one of 11 children and was home-schooled in high school, was 8-of-15 from the floor and made four steals, blocked two shots and dished out a pair of assists.
Repeat: We mentioned the early success of Georgia State last week, but the Ron Hunter train keeps rolling. The Panthers overwhelmed Rhode Island 96-64, their seventh straight win. Devonta White scored 20 points and Brandon McGee added 18 off the bench. Importantly, each of the seven wins has been more impressive than the last. Georgia State’s 75-possession attack produced 32 fast break points with just nine turnovers, a turnover rate of 12.0%. And while the opposition hasn’t exactly been the Showtime Lakers of the 1980s, the Panthers have beaten their opponents in the streak by an average of 25 points per game. Plus, Georgia State continues to gain confidence and learn how to be productive and win. That becomes incredibly important when you look at their first three games of the conference season: Drexel, at VCU, and at George Mason. Those three teams were predicted as #1 through #3 in preseason.
Paul Hewitt And The Patriots Are Gathering Steam In The Colonial. (AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)
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 the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!
Standings (as of 2/22)
Northeastern (18-10, 13-3)
Old Dominion (21-8, 13-3)
George Mason (16-12, 11-5)
William & Mary (19-8, 11-5)
Drexel (15-14, 10-6)
VCU (19-7, 10-6)
Hofstra (16-13, 8-8)
Georgia State (12-17, 4-12)
UNC Wilmington (8-20, 4-12)
Towson (7-20, 4-12)
James Madison (12-17, 4-12)
Delaware (7-21, 3-13)
Did BracketBusters help the CAA? Probably not. The conference started out losing their first five games in the event, including the first two nationally televised games. Northeastern bumbled their chances trying for a three-pointer instead of getting a quick two when down three to Louisiana Tech. George Mason could not convert late, an offensive foul late ruined the Patriots chances of winning over Charleston. Towson started down 20-0 at Manhattan. The CAA went 3-9 overall in BracketBusters, and only 1-4 on the ESPN family of networks.
A Quick Look at the Bracket Today
If we were to start the CAA Basketball Championship today here is what the schedule would look like.
Noon – #8 Georgia State vs. #9 UNC-Wilmington
2:30 – #5 Drexel vs. #12 Delaware
6 – #7 Hofstra vs. #10 Towson
8:30 – #6 VCU vs. #11 James Madison
Noon – #1 Northeastern vs. #8/#9
2:30 – #4 George Mason vs. #5/#12
6 – #2 Old Dominion vs. #7/#10
8:30 – #3 William & Mary vs. #6/#11
Northeastern’s win over Old Dominion gives them the break for the top seed. Both Northeastern and Old Dominion have clinched a first-round bye.
William & Mary gets a tiebreaker for the #3 seed with their win over George Mason
Drexel’s two wins over Northeastern give them the tiebreaker for the #5 seed over VCU
UNC-Wilmington gets the three team tiebreaker with a 2-1 record against the group, Towson’s 2-2 record edges James Madison’s 1-2 record against the group.
Hofstra has clinched the #7 seed.
Important Games This Week
Hofstra at Northeastern (9pm ESPNU). The Pride, who have won seven of their last eight, have a chance to play spoiler to the Huskies’ chances at a regular season championship. The Pride have clinched the #7 seed and if they are swept by the Huskies, they will likely see them should they play in Saturday’s CAA Tournament Quarterfinals next week.
George Mason at Delaware 7pm. Why is this game important? The last road win from the Patriots came over a month ago. Add to that their 1-3 record against the top three teams, they need a win to give them momentum going into Saturday’s game.
Northeastern at George Mason Noon. The conference regular season championship will likely be decided in this, the first game of the day. The Patriots will get a chance to rebound from two tough home losses last week.
Northeastern (13-3). The Huskies made a lot of history on Tuesday night in their win over UNC Wilmington. Junior Chaisson Allen went over the 1,000 point mark, the Huskies won their first game ever at Trask Coliseum and they will have a chance this week to set a new school record for CAA conference victories. While the Huskies came back from as many down as 14 to win on the road, they squandered a home lead. Late in this game, what seemed to be the final possession, the Huskies struggled to establish their plan. It appeared like the strategy was to play for a game-tying three, despite the fact that a quick two and fouling seemed like a good decision. However their final three-pointers could not tie the game and gave Louisiana Tech a 70-67 win. Manny Adako had a solid week for the Huskies, making 57% of his shots and scoring 36 points this week. If the Huskies are to set the new school record for conference victories, they will clinch no worse than the #2 seed.
Old Dominion (13-3). The Monarchs took care of business against Towson, who had just seven players dressed, but could not bring their A game on national television against Northern Iowa and lost in the first of four BracketBusters TV losses by the CAA. The Panthers exploited the second-best three-point field goal percentage defense in the conference, and 17th nationally, downing 7-12 threes in the second half on way to a nine-point win. They did not have an answer for Ali Farokhmanesh either who scored all of his 23 points in the second half and made 5-9 threes. The Monarchs’ path to the top seed will need a Northeastern slip-up and two wins in their final two games this week.
George Mason (11-5). The Patriots went without Mike Morrison for the week and they could have used his 8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. This gave freshman Kevin Foster a chance to play and he took advantage, putting up a career high 22 Tuesday and then racked up his first career double-double Saturday. Other than Foster’s performance, it was a difficult week to be a Patriots fan as they dropped a conference game at home to the Tribe and then had a chance to come back against College of Charleston but fell by two. Ryan Pearson’s dribble-drive and bucket to tie the game was called a charge. After a look at the replay, it appears the refs got the call right to negate the bucket. One good sign this week is that George Mason is starting to make shots, this week shooting 49% from the field. However the downfall has been free throw shooting. They shot just 60% from the line and had a stretch Saturday of missing seven straight from the line, losing both games this week by two points. There is no doubt that the Patriots are an extremely talented group and will likely be better next year; however, if they get into any postseason play that will only help them moving forward.
William & Mary (11-5). In a game that will probably mirror those in Richmond in March, the Tribe overcame an 11-point deficit to beat George Mason at the Patriot Center by three. The importance of this game will hold in tiebreaking since this is the only game between the two. The Tribe struggled in New Rochelle, as Iona blistered past them shooting 65% from the field in the first half. Defending the Gaels wasn’t the only problem, as the Tribe could not make contested shots either and were held to 36% from the field. A 16-point loss at Iona probably tarnishes what was an impressive tournament resume that included wins at Wake Forest, at Maryland and home wins over Northeastern, Virginia Commonwealth and Richmond. Senior David Schneider did not have an awesome week, scoring 32 points but shooting only 5-16 (31%) from three-point range.
Drexel (10-6). Chris Fouch returned Saturday from a two-game respite to score 16 points but the Dragons turned the ball over 14 times in a 16-point loss to Bradley in the BracketBusters game. Drexel did not have an answer for Bradley’s four-guard oriented offense. This week was not a good week for the Dragons stingy defense, ranked third in the Colonial, let its opponents shoot 52% from the field. When Fouch was out junior Jamie Harris has stepped up to score 51 points over the last three games while shooting 37% from the field. Meanwhile, Virginia Commonwealth exposed the Dragons’ ability, or lack thereof, on the inside as they outrebounded Drexel by 19 and let Larry Sanders go 13-15 for 29 points. Drexel will have to fix the holes in their defense to try and salvage a bye in next weekend’s conference tournament. What they have on their side is their schedule: home against UNC Wilmington and a road game at James Madison, and two wins over first-place Northeastern.
VCU (10-6). Junior Larry Sanders went off for 29 points against Drexel but his biggest contribution was his 13 rebounds and 5 blocks. The Rams are starting to find their offensive groove, shooting 54% from the field this week and making 11 three pointers. Sanders scored 44 points and grabbed 22 rebounds for the Rams this week in his dominant performances this week. After losing two on the road, the Rams righted the ship and won two games at home by resounding margins. VCU did not let up in the BracketBuster either. Coming out of halftime leading by 12, the Rams shot 64% in the second half and proceeded to win by 17. VCU, which ranks sixth in field goal percentage defense at 41%, held their opponents this week to 34% shooting. A home revenge game against James Madison comes up on Wednesday and then a tough road game at Old Dominion for a chance to improve their seeding. It’s unfortunate because they have played so well as of late, but their 1-3 start in conference probably cost them a chance at a bye in the CAA tournament.
Hofstra (8-8). The Pride is quietly making their run, winning seven of their last eight games in the easier portion of their schedule. All of the wins came over the bottom half of the league. Junior Charles Jenkins has gone off, making a run at locking up a spot on the CAA first team, with 61 points this week shooting 46% from the field. Jenkins reached 100 career three pointers making him the 17th player in school history to do so. Seven of their last eight wins have been by double digits except for the overtime win Saturday against Rider. Only problem is Hofstra could not contain Broncs star Ryan Thompson who went off for a season-high 38 points on 11-23 shooting. The Pride could play spoiler to Northeastern’s chances at the regular season championship on Tuesday and then host Senior Day against Georgia State, who they still might see in the first round on Friday.
James Madison (4-12). Denzel Bowles has been a force so far but Canisius might have found the answer to defend him in the BracketBuster game Saturday. The Golden Griffins constantly double-teamed Bowles when he touched the ball and held him to a season low 11 points. Meanwhile Frank Turner exploited the Dukes’ failure to contain the dribble-drive and went for a double-double scoring 16 points and dishing out 13 assists while handing the Dukes a four-point loss. The Dukes are 2-12 on the road and have one more chance to win a conference game on the road Wednesday at Virginia Commonwealth before their Senior Day date with Drexel. The Dukes will be good next year with Devon Moore and Andrey Semenov coming back from injuries and will have a fair shot to win 20 games.
Georgia State (4-12). Trey Hampton drove the Panthers this week, scoring 33 points on 55% shooting, as Georgia State won two straight this past week. Another good sign? Georgia State, which ranks sixth in free throw percentage, shot 74% from the free throw line. The Panthers seized control in their BracketBuster game, notching one of the three wins for the CAA in a 15-point win over South Carolina State. Senior Joe Dukes has to get going for the Panthers to make a CAA Tournament run. He scored 25 points on Tuesday on 9-15 shooting but he has hit some cold spells against the top tier of teams in conference play. Dukes shot just 3-14 against William & Mary and Northeastern two weeks ago and has not improved on last year’s numbers except for free throw shooting, and needs to make more shots for the Panthers to advance to Quarterfinal Saturday in Richmond. We will see how he and the Panthers respond as they try for their first three-game win streak since the start of the new year against Old Dominion.
UNC Wilmington (4-12). Senior Montez Downey got his chance and he didn’t waste it Saturday, scoring a season high 23 points but the Seahawks have lost three in a row. Ousted coach Benny Moss was at the game against Northeastern and watched the Seahawks blow a 14-point lead. Saturday, UNC Wilmington faced one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the country in Radford and let them make more free throws than the Seahawks attempted. Downey finished strong last year and, in what are likely his final two or three games in his career, will likely do the same. Junior Chad Tomko has struggled and shot just 24% last week, probably a sign of his lingering ankle injury. Junior John Fields has been hurt as well and did not travel to Radford Saturday, this was only the second game this season where Fields did not play.
Towson (4-12). Towson dressed only seven players in their loss to Old Dominion earlier in the week, letting Kenyon Carter and Frank Hassell muscle them inside. The Monarchs almost doubled the Tigers’ points in the paint on Tuesday night. Josh Thornton, Jimmy Smith and Jarrel Smith all came back on Saturday but it didn’t help in the BracketBuster game. Manhattan jumped out to a 20-0 lead and crushed the Tigers by 16. The Tigers got handled by another frontcourt again, letting the three big men for the Jaspers combine for 44 of the team’s 78 points and grab half the team’s offensive rebounds. The only bracket the Tigers will have to worry about is the CAA bracket in March, a win over Delaware on Saturday will likely ensure they don’t finish in last place.
Delaware (3-13). In the same week women’s basketball star Elena Delle Donne went for 54 points for Delaware in a victory, the Men’s team let Boston University’s John Holland go for 43 points on 70% shooting. The Blue Hens have had a problem with big time scorers, as they let Holland and Hofstra star Charles Jenkins go off for a combined 73 points, nine more points than Delaware averages per game. Meanwhile head coach Monte Ross, who has gone 39-83 at Delaware, is optimistic about the roster next year with a freshman impact player in Devon Saddler, a Charlotte transfer in Shamarr Bowden and the return of point guard Brian Johnson from injury. Ross said, “I can’t express enough that, when you’re building a program, you need time. That’s why I think we’ll be able to get to where we want to get to. And it takes time. We can absolutely get there.”