Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.
Standings (as of 1/2):
- William & Mary (10-2, 2-0)
- Georgia State (8-6, 2-0)
- George Mason (7-6, 2-0)
- VCU (9-2, 1-1)
- Old Dominion (9-5, 1-1)
- Hofstra (8-6, 1-1)
- Northeastern (6-7, 1-1)
- Drexel (6-8, 1-1)
- Delaware (5-8, 1-1)
- James Madison (6-6, 0-2)
- UNC Wilmington (4-8, 0-2)
- Towson (3-8, 0-2)
Important Games This Week
UNC Wilmington @ William & Mary — One of the best three point shooting teams (W&M) versus one of the best three point defenses (UNC-W). Can UNC Wilmington snap W & M’s ten game win streak?
Northeastern @ Virginia Commonwealth — Northeastern has disappointed so far this season amid lofty expectations, will they turn it around against one of the CAA’s hottest teams?
Hofstra @ Old Dominion — Old Dominion is undefeated at home this season, the Pride and Monarchs are both very good defensive teams. Expect a battle in the 40-50 range in Norfolk.
William & Mary is on a Roll. The Tribe have won ten straight, a new school record, and won 48-47 at Hofstra on a Kendrix Brown three point play to continue their historic season. William & Mary is 2-0 in the CAA for the first time since 1997-98. The Tribe have not started this well since 1948-49 when they started 14-2.
More impressively, the Tribe never gave up the lead at Maryland after the 4:44 mark in the first half in a convincing 83-77 win in College Park. After dropping their first two games to Connecticut by nine and Harvard in triple-overtime, the Tribe have racked up impressive statement wins over Richmond, Wake Forest and Maryland. According to Kenpom.com, their Offensive efficiency is tops in the nation (124.2).
Georgia State is a Mystery. With no impressive wins on the schedule so far, Georgia State enters conference play at 8-6, and kind of a mystery. An example: they took a lead as high as 15 on Saturday against Towson (3-8) only to trail by two with 6:27 to go in the game. Trey Hampton led the way with 22 points on 9-10 shooting from the field as they showed no rust from a ten-day layoff.
George Mason Starts Off New Decade Right. After posting a one of their worst losses, a 27-point loss to Radford, to close the decade, the Patriots started off the new decade right. George Mason went on an 18-4 run to take what was a one point game and push it to a 16 point victory. Ryan Pearson led the way for the Patriots with 17 points and tied a season-high eight field goals made.
VCU…New Decade, No Problem. Every single VCU player scored at least two points in a 91-57 blowout over UNC Wilmington. VCU led by as many as 46 and Larry Sanders scored a team-high 16 points in only 19 minutes. Sanders and the Rams haven’t been tested since grinding out a one point win on December 19th over Tulane. Sanders has scored in double-digits in every game but one this season and has improved his scoring as well as his field goal and free throw percentages in his junior year.
Defensive Letdown in Fairfax. The Old Dominion Monarchs did not show up in the second half in a double-digit loss to George Mason, and snapped a three game win streak. The Monarchs have played a tough non-conference schedule and were finally reaping the benefits of their defensive prowess with wins over Georgetown and the Atlantic 10’s Charlotte and Duquesne.
ODU had won five out of its last six entering the game but did not bring the defense that has held opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 42.3% entering Saturday. They allowed George Mason to dominate inside going 22-41 (53.6%) from inside the arc. The last time ODU allowed a team to score over 70 points was January 31, 2009 — a span of 28 games.
Hofstra’s Train is Delayed. What was supposed to be Charles Jenkins’ coming out party this season has been a slight disappointment. Jenkins has not scored over 20 points in his last three games and was stifled, along with the entire Hofstra offense, in a tough one point loss to William & Mary. Jenkins scored 23 points on national television at Kansas and followed that up later in November with 38 points against Fairfield at home but otherwise teams have been able to contain him, and the Pride have yet to develop any other threats for their CAA counterparts to guard. Their next leading scorer, Nathaniel Lester, has two more three-point attempts (24) than turnovers (22) and has regressed from his three point field goal percentage last season. Hofstra’s best win out of conference might be their four point win over Fairfield, a middling team in the MAAC; they have yet to show that they can compete with the upper echelon of the conference.
Northeastern Managing Expectations. The Huskies entered the 2009-10 season as the preseason #2 team, second only to Old Dominion. Behind preseason first team all-CAA Matt Janning’s senior leadership, they were expected to rack up quality wins in the non-conference. The Huskies, however, got on a five game losing streak which included a home loss to Providence and ended with a 15 point loss to Western Michigan. They were able to recover in Honolulu and win on Christmas over Southern Methodist and showed on Saturday why they have the offense to be a force in the CAA.
The Huskies shot 60% from the floor and scored a season-high 47 points in the first half to blow out James Madison, 73-61. To put it in perspective, they matched their lowest point total in a game (47 in a two point loss to Drexel) in one half to even their record at 1-1.
Drexel Looking to Rebound. The Dragons have managed to play many close games but have ended up n the wrong side of all but one this season. Saturday at Delaware was an enigma. Having a lead as large as 13 in the first half only to squander it in under six minutes out of the break. Drexel went cold from the field, shooting 35% in the second half. Leading scorer Jamie Harris scored 11 of his team-high 18 points in the first half.
The Dragons have been on two separate three game win streaks this year for all six of their wins. They have been led by Harris, who has scored in double-digits in every win but one this season. Drexel’s offense has not impressed this year and shooting has been the problem. Shooting less than 30% behind the arc and just over 45% inside it has not helped a team that shoots free throws at 63.3%, good for 303rd in the nation.
Blue Hen Win Streak. Delaware has a two game win streak for the first time since the start of last year. Led by St. Joseph’s transfer Jawan Carter, who has scored double digits in every game but one, Delaware looks poised to improve on last year’s six CAA wins. Their problem is that they’ve taken too many three-pointers and shot only 27.1% (324th in the country, last in the CAA) from behind the arc.
James Madison Starting to Come Alive. Texas A&M transfer Denzel Bowles fits the Matt Brady trend of players he can give the ball to and just let them go. Bowles has averaged over 20 points since debuting in December but sat out a one game suspension for violating team rules on Saturday. Bowles will probably be given the reins for the rest of the year when he is in the lineup (expected back on Monday night against Delaware). He has taken double-digit shots in every game but one; he took nine shots in their four-point loss at Stanford. The proclaimed shot doctor Brady has fixed the Dukes’ two point shooting to where it’s the best in the league (50.7%, 85th in the nation). They have a chance Monday to snap a two game losing streak against Delaware but then travel to Old Dominion, a team Brady has not beaten on the road in his two tries (0-2 with Marist & James Madison).
UNC Wilmington’s Good and Bad News. The positives for the Seahawks? They notched an early non-conference win over Penn State on a neutral floor and have one of the best perimeter defenses in the country. The bad news? Their offense has struggled mightily, shooting only 16% in the first half and getting down 29-4 in a 91-57 loss at VCU. The Seahawks have turned the ball over at least 15 times in every game but one this season. They turned the ball over a season-high 28 times Saturday, 15 in the first half alone. Monday night doesn’t promise to be any better at conference leader William & Mary, either.
Towson Continues to Struggle. The Tigers shot a season low 33.9% in losing at Georgia State, 70-61. The problems this season have been mostly on the defensive end for the Tigers, ranking last among CAA teams in FG% defense and rebounding margin. Towson will embark on attempting to break some bad trends this week. Towson has yet to win a road game (0-4) this season and will get two chances at Hofstra and James Madison. They will also try to break a record against Old Dominion, as eighth-year head coach Pat Kennedy has yet to beat the Monarchs. The last time the Tigers beat Old Dominion was a 67-55 win in 2002, their only win in the 12-game series history.