ATB: Illini Come Up Huge, Wolters Drops 53 Points, and Missouri’s Plight…

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 8th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Stay Away From Number One. My best advice for teams trying to avoid losses: stay out of the No. 1 spot in the AP Poll. Every team should take the floor on a given night with that underlying objective – winning games is a generally good thing, I’d wager – which makes that logic a really interesting counterfactual. The only way to reach the top is by winning games, but if every team to inherit No. 1 dating back to January 7 (when Duke opened up the week at No. 1 for the fourth consecutive week) has gone on to surrender the ranking in the seven days that followed, it begs the question: are teams better off avoiding the coveted weekly AP crown? Of course not. That preamble was, in essence, a roundabout way to introduce you to the latest slain No. 1. On Monday, upon the AP poll’s customary afternoon release, it will be official – especially if Indiana falls at Ohio State Sunday. The Hoosiers were the main storyline from Thursday night, but they weren’t the only one.

Your Watercooler Moment. A Win Illinois Needed.

There is only one way to go about discussing Illinois’ win over No. 1 Indiana Thursday night. It is a season-defining moment. The Illini were fading fast in Big Ten play, descending into NIT territory far quicker than anyone could have imagined after an excellent nonconference season, but as we’ve seen time and again this time of year, one win can change everything. This win – which saw Illinois rip off a 13-2 run with under four minutes remaining after being down by double digits for most of the second half – changes the conversation around Illinois. It brings renewed optimism to a conference season that, up until Thursday night, had done more harm than good to the Illini’s Tournament chances. The road ahead doesn’t get any easier, and Illinois will need to improve its still-lacking 3-7 league record. But with a win of this magnitude in your back pocket, Illinois’ view on the rest of the season changes considerably. The final eight regular season games and Big Ten Tournament are no longer about hunting upset wins. The Illini got that Thursday night. From here on out, John Groce’s team needs to handle business against equal-to-inferior competition (Purdue, at Northwestern, Penn State, Nebraska, at Iowa), watch the bubble soften up around them and sit back as its solid computer figures and stable of marquee wins carry them over the finish line. Those above games aren’t guarantees – such games don’t exist in this year’s Big Ten. But Illinois is more than capable of handling all of them. Few wins will mean more on Selection Sunday than this one; Illinois is back in the discussion, at the very least, and depending on how the at-large picture shakes out over the next month, the Illini could look back to Thursday as the night they sealed their Tournament fate.

Your quick Hits…

  • Wolters Goes For 53. Few mid-to-low major players in today’s college game hold as much national appeal as Wolters. Not to the casual post-Superbowl Hoops crowd; rather, he is something of a college hoops nerd’s cult fascination, for reasons understandable and not. On Thursday night, he did something memorable. Something that will stick with Wolters for the rest of his basketball-playing career. He scored a Division-I season-high 53 points. He converted nine three point shots, and 17 total field goals. He expanded the Wolters legend into a tangible and largely appreciable concept for college hoops fans previously unaware of his brilliance. Wolters is an excellent basketball player, but no one – not even the most ardent Wolters’ supporters – saw this coming.

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 6th, 2013

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Top Storyline

  • Old Dominion Fires Blaine Taylor: After 239 wins in a dozen seasons, Blaine Taylor’s run as Old Dominion head coach finished Tuesday afternoon when athletic director Wood Selig announced that the school’s all-time leader in victories had been released. The decision came a day after Old Dominion lost to George Mason, dropping the Monarchs to a record of 2-20 overall and 0-10 in the CAA (including a 1-12 mark on their home court). Selig said in a press conference that the decision went beyond the team’s on-court performance but would not specify. National media outlets and blogs like Deadspin quickly tried to connect the dots between Taylor’s hazy radio appearance last month and his firing. ODU now turns to longtime assistant Jim Corrigan to steer the Monarchs for the remainder of this woeful season.
Blaine Taylor's firing is a sobering reminder that you never know when a mid-major coach's magic will run out. (Peter Casey/USA Today)

Blaine Taylor’s firing is a sobering reminder that you never know when a mid-major coach’s magic will run out. (Peter Casey/USA Today)

Composing The Perfect All-CAA Team

Around this time last year I thought of a fun column idea and put it to practice. My goal, as written then, was to “create the best roster 1 through 12, using just one player from each CAA team. Your team must consist of exactly three freshmen, three sophomores, three juniors and three seniors.”

I figured it could be a yearly staple, and a task that fans and other writers could emulate and compare. Then VCU had to go ruin it by leaving the CAA for the Atlantic 10. That left us with just 11 teams, and an imperfect system. That’s no reason to scrap the whole thing, though. For this year’s version, let’s tweak the rules and allow for one of the classes to have just two members. We’re still choosing one player from each CAA squad, so our roster will be 11-deep – still plenty deep enough to do some damage. Coaches typically use an eight- or nine-man rotation, and in this ideal world with an all-star team, they certainly wouldn’t need to be any deeper. But the goal here is to be strong top to bottom, and not just stack the best eight while merely filling the other slots with loose ends.

Below is my roster. Feel free to debate it, challenge it and make one that’s better:

  • Freshman:  R.J. Hunter, guard, Georgia State: Hunter isn’t just the runaway pick for Rookie of the Year in the CAA, he’s becoming a legitimate Player of the Year candidate. He’s fifth in the CAA in scoring (17.3 points per game), and leads all freshman guards in field goal percentage (44.5%). “I’ve seen him do some special things,” pops Ron Hunter said after R.J. scored 38 against Old Dominion on Saturday. “When he gets on a roll, he’s incredible.”
  • Freshman: Andre Nation, guard, James Madison: The ubiquitous 6’5” guard is another player who should earn superlatives outside the rookie realm. Coach Matt Brady said Nation is “as good as a freshman defender as there is in the CAA,” and the truth is that Nation is one of the best defenders in the league, period. He’s also second among freshman in scoring, averaging 9.1 points per game.
  • Freshman: We’ll leave this space blank, under the new rules of the game.
  • Sophomore: Damion Lee, guard, Drexel: The reigning Rookie of the Year has made the leap as a sophomore, and he’s now one of the most dangerous scorers in the league. Just ask George Mason guard Sherrod Wright, a fellow expert in bucket-making. “You can’t give him open looks,” Wright said after Lee scored 29 in a comeback win over the Patriots last week. “Any type of open look, he is going to make.” In terms of NBA potential, Lee ranks up there with Hunter as the top bets in the CAA.

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Morning Five: 02.06.13 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on February 6th, 2013

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  1. When it was announced that Old Dominion had fired Blaine Taylor yesterday many people immediately wondered whether the team’s 2-20 record this season was bad enough to lead to an in-season firing especially given Taylor’s overall exceptional record at the school. However as David Teel points out the suspicion that Taylor’s history of alcohol abuse and his recent strange behavior makes the firing “equal parts sad, awkward and unusual”. Given his history and the suspicions around it we doubt that you will see many angry columnists firing off their usual columns questioning the goals of college athletics when they fire a coach mid-season. Normally we are indifferent if a fired coach winds up getting another head coaching job and that is true in Taylor’s case too, but if the speculation is true we hope that he is able to get his life back together.
  2. If you have been waiting to hear Dick Vitale to call a Final Four game, it will finally happen this April. For international viewers. Vitale may be a polarizing figures to some, but it has always seemed strange that the face of college basketball to many casual fans has never worked courtside because NBC and CBS have owned the rights to the NCAA Tournament and presumably Vitale has a pretty strong non-compete clause in his contract that other ESPN talents such as Jay Bilas were able to get around. While people have mentioned the possibility of Vitale calling games during the NCAA Tournament for years, this situation probably works out best for all parties: US viewers are given more nuanced commentary while international viewers will be given the most recognizable voice in American sports.
  3. This is probably a case of reading too much into a statement, but Mason Plumlee has (sort of) come out and said that he expects Ryan Kelly to return this season. Actually if you read the statement it sounds more hopeful than anybody, but the fact that this is even news is reflective of how little information Duke has released about Kelly’s injury or how well his rehab is going. While we can understand the lack of desire Duke must have to share any information about Kelly’s condition with fans and the media we have to wonder what effect it is having on Kelly’s potential Draft status. We never consider Kelly to be a potential first round pick even on his best day, but you would think that a fairly athletic 6’11” forward who can hit shots from the perimeter would be someone that NBA teams would be interested in looking at. With the way that Duke is handling Kelly’s medical information we wonder how concerned NBA teams are of the long-term health of his feet. Obviously NBA teams will have their physicians examine Kelly before and after the NBA Draft, but we are guessing that the lack of information is not helping Kelly’s cause.
  4. Two things from Andy Glockner’s Bracket Watch caught our eyes this week: the number of teams that have had bad losses with injuries and the lack of locks. While we tend to think that Glockner might be the East German judge of the bracketologists he certainly has a point about the effect of serious injuries on team’s that have some ugly losses. Although there is no team that fits the 2000 Cincinnati profile there are several prominent teams like Duke and Miami that have had some pretty ugly losses that occurred when they were not at full strength. Assuming the teams are at full strength the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee will have quite a bit of work to sort out all of the “bad” losses that occurred while teams were missing significant pieces.
  5. Arkansas’ blowout victory over Florida last night may have been a shock to the tempo-free fans, but while some unsavory characters were busy blaming others for their own ridiculous statements it is worth noting that Ken Pomeroy even suggested the possibility that some like last night could happen even if he didn’t necessarily see it happening for last night’s game. What the game really underscores is the lack of a dominant team this year. This isn’t necessarily a phenomenon limited to this season, but it seems like people forgot about that after how good Kentucky was a last year. When you combine that with some of the other excellent basketball around the country (particularly in the Big Ten) the last two months of the college basketball season promises to be an exciting one.
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ATB: Carrier Dome Brings Orange Comfort, Iowa State Climbs and What’s Happening to Old Dominion?

Posted by Chris Johnson on February 5th, 2013

ATB

Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn

Tonight’s Lede. Mondays Are Slow. If Friday is the worst weeknight for quality college basketball games, Monday isn’t far behind. You have your two ESPN Big Monday match-ups, and those are typically fun, but beyond that, the schedule is as dry as can be. There were a few notable exceptions tonight. Seton Hall-Pittsburgh was entertaining. Oklahoma State-Iowa State was a promising commentary on the Cyclones’ future. Grambling State lost… again! I’m gasping for air here. We’re better off saving the prelude and jumping into the night’s action.

Your Watercooler Moment. Offense Coming Along For Syracuse.

Signs of Improvement on offense were visible in Syracuse's win (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Signs of Improvement on offense were visible in Syracuse’s win (Photo credit: AP Photo).

Snapping an offensive downturn, especially when that downturn is at least partially thanks to the ineligibility of key reserve shooter James Southerland, is not the easiest thing to accomplish in the midst of conference play. Offensive problems are intrinsically harmful; if you can’t score, then by and large you can’t win games. And those intrinsic problems may still exist for Syracuse after Monday’s win over Notre Dame at the Carrier Dome. We just don’t know, because for as good as the Orange looked in shooting 48.9 percent from the field, and as effective as C.J. Fair (18 points) and Michael Carter-Willliams (eight assists, one turnover) can be even without Southerland around to spread the floor, the fact of the matter is Syracuse just played a team that’s surrendered an average of 1.07 points per possession this season. That mark leaves Notre Dame tied with Seton Hall for the Big East’s worst defense (before Ken Pomeroy’s rankings adjusted for Monday night’s games). That doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of positives to take away from the win. The Orange held Notre Dame to 35 percent from the field, and the Big East’s most accurate three-point shooting team to 6-of-20 from beyond the arc; Rakeem Christmas chipped in 12 points and blocked four shots on the other end; Jerami Grant (14 points on 6-of-8 shooting) continues to make a case for next year’s MCW breakout candidate. After losing two straight road games, it has to feel good to return to one of the nation’s most unassailable home venues. The Orange’s offensive questions won’t go away, not quite yet. First, they have to prove they can beat a capable defensive squad (that Louisville win was nice, but it came before Syracuse put up 57 and 55 points, respectively, against Cincinnati and Pitt), preferably on the road.

Tonight’s Quick Hits…

  • Big 12 Home Teams Stay Strong. Of the two winning teams Monday night from the Big 12, only one (Iowa State) is actually worth talking about. West Virginia held on against Texas at home, in a game I didn’t personally watch but can only imagine was one of the most ugliest conference games we’ll have all season. On to more important matters: Iowa State is slowly but surely creeping up the Big 12 ladder. Monday night’s win over Oklahoma might not sound like much, but it did push Fred Hoiberg’s team into third place in the league standings, and the Cyclones have a huge chance to ascend further when they travel to Kansas State Saturday. Iowa State has some nice wins in the run of conference play – KSU, Baylor, pushing Kansas to overtime (even if it was a loss, it is nonetheless worth mentioning) and OU. Winning in the Little Apple would top them all. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 30th, 2013

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Mid-Season Awards

The CAA schedule is roughly halfway over, so it’s time to see who’s leading the race to rack up hardware.

Coach of the Year

  1. Bill Coen, Northeastern
  2. Pat Skerry, Towson
  3. Matt Brady, JMU

All-Rookie Team:

  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State (ROY)
  • Andre Nation, JMU
  • Jerome Hairston, Towson
  • Chris Dixon, UNC-Wilmingon
  • David Walker, Northeastern

All-CAA Defensive Team:

  • Jerrelle Benimon, Towson (DPOY)
  • Andre Nation, JMU
  • Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
  • Devon Moore, JMU
  • Keith Rendleman, UNCW

All-CAA First Team:

  • Jerrelle Benimon (POY)
  • Sherrod Wright, George Mason
  • Joel Smith, Northeastern
  • Damion Lee, Drexel
  • Keith Rendleman, UNCW

All-CAA Second Team:

  • Rayshawn Goins, JMU
  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State
  • Marcus Thornton, William &  Mary
  • Devon Saddler, Delaware
  • Quincy Ford, Northeastern

All-CAA Third Team:

  • Tim Rusthoven, William & Mary
  • Jamelle Hagins, Delaware
  • Devon Moore, JMU
  • Devonta White, Georgia State
  • Frantz Massenat, Drexel

Power Rankings

After his team lost its third straight game last week, Delaware guard Devon Saddler said the Blue Hens needed to go to the movies to grow camaraderie and snap out of the slump. If the Hens did in fact share a movie night, it worked. They beat host Drexel last night on NBC Sports Network, despite nearly blowing a late 15-point lead. Every team in the CAA should pop some popcorn and watch a movie. In this week’s power rankings, I’ll suggest which current flicks each team should visit their nearby Regal to see.

  1. Northeastern (13-7 overall, 8-0 in the CAA): A skilled team of experts taking down targets on a regular basis, the Huskies might as well buy tickets for “Zero Dark Thirty.” Zero, after all, is Northeastern’s total of CAA losses through eight games. The Huskies are just the seventh Colonial team to begin a season 8-0. The last two to do so won the CAA title. Five of the eight wins have been by five or fewer points, but not the most recent one. NU smacked George Mason on Sunday, sweeping the series with a 20-point home win. The televised game was Northeastern’s announcement to the league that it’s the team to beat. Only one school earns a bye in the seven-team CAA tournament this year, and NU is already three games in the loss column ahead of next-best Mason/James Madison. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 23rd, 2013

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

A Spotlight On Towson Athletic Director Mike Waddell

It’s Sunday morning and I send a direct message via Twitter to Towson athletic director Mike Waddell. It’s probably not the most conventional way to request a five-minute interview that will turn into a half-hour, but Waddell isn’t the most conventional A.D. Minutes later, Waddell messages back: “Call Now,” along with his cell phone number. And seconds later, another message: “6 minutes response time. Lol.” Think of Waddell as a first-responder – the fire-truck bowling down the street, sirens blaring, a crisis to confront. His emergency here is public relations. The most accessible athletic director in Division I athletics – unofficially, at least – lives to market the once-sorry program that he’s helping turn around in a blink. His impact since taking over Towson athletics in September 2010 is far-reaching, but let’s just focus on basketball, which, as he notes, is “the one sport that can be a revenue generator” in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Towson AD Mike Waddell Has Stuck With Pat Skerry, A Move That Has Paid Dividends With The Tigers Making Noise.

Towson AD Mike Waddell Has Stuck With Pat Skerry, A Move That Has Paid Dividends With The Tigers Making Noise.

After a 26-point win over James Madison on Saturday, Towson is 10-9 and 4-1 in the CAA. The school hasn’t had a winning record this late in the season since 1999-2000, which, technically, is last century. Bill Clinton was still in the Oval Office, not at the Golden Globes. The Tigers are not eligible for the CAA Tournament or any postseason play this season because of academic sanctions which go back to the previous regime. It’s a shame too, because Towson could be one of the best stories in college basketball. After a 1-31 season, the Tigers are one of the top teams in the CAA. Who knows if they’d win the league title, but CBS would practically explode if it had the chance to craft one of those feel-good segments you see every March. Inevitably, that segment would have to start with the vision of Waddell.

Following the 15th consecutive losing season for Towson hoops, Waddell said goodbye to coach Pat Kennedy. He looked at his own athletic program, at the coaches in charge of the sports that were succeeding, and aimed to fill the men’s basketball opening with a gritty, like-minded candidate. “Who are we going to bring in who can grind the way these people grind?” Waddell asked himself. The A.D. says the first person on his wish list was Pat Skerry, then an assistant from Jamie Dixon’s staff at Pittsburgh. Skerry grew up just outside of Boston and has the hearty accent to prove it. More importantly, he expected success and knew there wouldn’t be shortcuts to attain it. Waddell hired Skerry, who hopped into a kitchen lacking any utensils last season. Year One was an expected disaster, but Skerry has quickly brought in enough talent – including three Big East transfers – to now compete.

The roster isn’t home grown, but it looks scary good for the future. Barring the unforeseen, only fifth-leading scorer Bilal Dixon will be gone next year, which could be a new era for Towson basketball. In addition to boasting a deep roster featuring do-everything forward Jerrelle Benimon and flourishing guard Jerome Hairston, Towson will open a sparkling 5,200-seat arena, it will be eligible again for postseason competition, and it will have the CAA Tournament in its backyard for the first time. George Mason, Delaware and Drexel will again be among the favorites to win the CAA next year, but Towson will be more than just a dark horse pick to claim its first Colonial title, at First Mariner Bank Arena in Baltimore.

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 15th, 2013

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Caught On Film

The CAA not only made a rare appearance on “SportsCenter,” but it reached the pinnacle of the iconic show’s Top Plays segment. Northeastern sophomore Quincy Ford’s double-clutch three-pointer to tie Drexel with 1.9 seconds remaining was selected the No. 1 play of Tuesday night. (Unfortunately it had no chance of unseating Jadaveon Clowney’s hit in the ongoing “Best of the Best” segment). Northeastern has become Buzzer Beater U. this season, but this is its first time penetrating the national sports scene with a late-game shot.

Check out the play:

And see it on SportsCenter:

 

Power Rankings

Typically, each week of the season brings a dose of clarity: The more available data, the more conclusions we can draw from trends and developments. But this year, in the Bizarro CAA, each week has seemingly brought new information to refute – rather than confirm – something we previously thought. As of Sunday, George Mason was the only Colonial squad ranked in the top 100 (or even the top 145) in terms of RPI, but that comes a day after a loss to UNC-Wilmington, which is treading in the 300s.

Here are this week’s power rankings (subject to change by the hour) along with an observation from this past week that might help to portend future developments. Or, given the way of the Bizarro CAA, may not.

  1. Delaware (8-8 overall, 3-0 in the CAA): Delaware has shot better than 50 percent in each of its two wins last week, and suddenly the Blue Hens look like an offensive juggernaut (by CAA standards), scoring more than a point per possession in each of their last five games. UDel’s 3-0 CAA start has come against teams with a combined 11-36 overall record, so it’s too early to anoint the Hens a head-and-shoulders favorite. But things are looking up in Newark. Devon Saddler is scoring a CAA-best 26.3 points per league game, and shooting a ridiculous 63.4 percent to get there. Fellow guard Jarvis Threatt’s 18.7-point average within CAA play ranks fourth. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 9th, 2013

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Looking Back

  • Earning Their Stripes: The Towson Tigers are quickly becoming the darlings of the CAA. A year after finishing 1-31 and earning national attention for their losing ways, the Tigers have started 2-0 in the CAA, winning both games on the road. Before last week, Towson hadn’t registered a CAA road win since February 2010. Almost overnight, second-year coach Pat Skerry has infused the program with enough talent and attitude to be a legitimate contender in the league… if only the Tigers were eligible. Due to academic issues from before Skerry arrived, Towson cannot compete for a CAA championship or any type of postseason play. Still, this season can go a long way in turning around a historically moribund program.
  • Drexel Misses Record: One of those Towson wins last week was over Drexel, which snapped the Dragons’ 17-game regular-season winning streak within CAA play. Drexel fell one game short of matching George Mason’s 18-game run from January 2011 to January 2012. Ironically, neither last year’s Drexel team (which is responsible for most of that streak) or the previous season’s George Mason team won the CAA tournament title.
  • We Won’t Protect This House!: With so much parity in the CAA, common wisdom said that any game would be a toss-up, and maybe the difference from night to night would be who was at home. Well, Week One of league play certainly didn’t shape up that way. Home teams went 2-7. Or, for a glass half-full look, road teams went 7-2. Those seven road wins included two by Towson and one by Northeastern over George Mason, which had won 18 straight in the Patriot Center.  Delaware, meanwhile, won at Old Dominion for the first time since 2003.
With The CAA Likely To Be A One-Bid League, Jamelle Hagins Has The Conference In His Crosshairs.

With The CAA Likely To Be A One-Bid League, Jamelle Hagins Has The Conference In His Crosshairs.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. George Mason: It seems the Patriots are just looking to give away the top spot in the power poll, but no one is there to seize it. Mason lost its CAA opener at home to Northeastern, a team that had dropped six of its previous seven. The Patriots got back on track with a road victory over William & Mary. Sherrod Wright‘s streak of four straight games with 20-plus points snapped against Northeastern, when he tallied 19. He made up for it with a career-best 28 against W&M. Mason is likely still the favorite to win the CAA, but at this rate, the Patriots (or whoever wins the conference tournament) would probably be a No. 15 or 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The CAA has never sent a team that was slotted as a 16-seed, and none of its entrants have been worse than a 12-seed since 2004.
  2. Northeastern: A true statement victory, Northeastern won its CAA opener at George Mason by outscoring the Patriots 54-37 in the second half. After winning at UNCW, the Huskies made another statement by beating Drexel in Philly. In the win against Mason, one of the league’s top defensive teams, the Huskies shot 53 percent from the field, 56 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free throw line. Those are winning numbers against pretty much anybody. NU had been 4-0 in games in which it averaged more than 1.1 points per possession, but instead got it done on the defensive end against Drexel, limiting the Dragons to 36 percent shooting and 0.85 points per possession. Read the rest of this entry »
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CIO…the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 2nd, 2013

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Conference POY Race

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

Reader’s Take 



Power Rankings

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 26th, 2012

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Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Looking Back

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

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

Reader\’s Take

 

Power Rankings

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

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

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 12th, 2012

Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Looking Back

  • Future Tournaments In Charm City: After 24 straight years at the Richmond Coliseum, the annual CAA Tournament is uprooting and moving north. Beginning next season and running through 2016, Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena (basketball capacity: 11,800) will host the league’s crown jewel event. When VCU left the CAA for the Atlantic 10, a significant chunk of the tournament’s Richmond fan base left with it. That opened the door for the CAA to negotiate a new venue – something the league’s northern schools have clamored for, citing the Rams’ unfair home court advantage. Baltimore quickly made an aggressive push to host, and the CAA announced Wednesday that its tournament would feast on crab cakes for three years, beginning in 2014. While the league office is located in Richmond, and the city is roughly centralized geographically, the projected drop-off in attendance from VCU’s departure made the location and its dingy arena a bit less appealing. Baltimore’s 1st Mariner Arena (opened in 1962 as the Baltimore Civic Center) is no state-of-the-art building, but it will at least help showcase the Colonial to a new town.

bmore charm city

  • Remember When We Used To Do This More Often?: VCU and Old Dominion, two teams that combined to win the last four CAA championships, met up again in Norfolk, Virginia, for their first non-conference game. VCU left last summer for the Atlantic 10, while Old Dominion announced its plans to defect this summer for Conference USA. Meanwhile, the teams gave us another chance to pine for the days of Frank Hassell battling Jamie Skeen on the low block. This match-up had appeal but not much on the line. The Rams cruised to a 13-point halftime lead and maintained it throughout the second half, sending the Monarchs deeper into their early-season slump. Au revoir, ODU and VCU.
  • Tigers Roar, At Last: Towson earned its first win over a plus-.500 team since February 2010, beating Vermont, 68-64. Its next game, though a loss, was just as impressive. The Tigers went to the wire against Georgetown in a slug-it-out defensive battle. Before the season we predicted in this space that Towson would be the CAA team no one wants to play, even if it isn’t in the top tier. That appears to be true. The Tigers have won the rebounding battle in their last eight games, and have a genuine star in forward Jerrelle Benimon.
  • Another Losing Week: The CAA conglomerate once again failed to reach .500 last week. But its 9-12 record actually brought the league’s season-long non-conference winning percentage up to .385. That’s mark ranks 21st among all conferences. The league’s RPI (#24) is even worse. The CAA has taken a fast nose-dive after losing VCU. Last year the league held the 14th-best RPI, and the previous season it was ninth, one spot ahead of the Atlantic 10 (the league to which VCU defected in a strictly basketball move).

Reader’s Take

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CIO… the Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 4th, 2012

Mark Selig is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can also find more of his written work at jamesmadison.rivals.com or on Twitter @MarkRSelig.

Looking Back

  • A Sunny New CAA Destination: After more than a month of negotiations, the CAA announced Friday that it will add the College of Charleston as a full-time member beginning next July. C of C, located in a prime tourism spot, will be the Colonial’s 10th full member once Old Dominion and Georgia State are gone (it will also be the southernmost, and strangely enough, the westernmost in longitude). Charleston, coached by Doug Wojcik, went 19-12 last season, and should fit into the top half of CAA basketball after leaving the weaker Southern Conference. Commissioner Tom Yeager said he isn’t necessarily done shopping for new members, but won’t pull the trigger on any school unless it’s the right fit.
  • Four Hofstra Players Arrested, Suspended: Hours after the Charleston announcement was made, this less cheerful news broke: Jimmy Hall, Shaquille Stokes, Kentrell Washington and Dallas Anglin were arrested and charged in six burglaries that took place on Hofstra’s campus. They are charged with stealing laptops, cell phones, and money in October and November. All players pled not guilty, but each is suspended from school until the case is resolved. Putting aside the more important societal issues, it’s a big blow to coach Mo Cassara’s team. Hall, an early Rookie of the Year favorite, was the Pride’s second leading scorer and top rebounder. Stokes, a Hawaii transfer, averaged 10 points per game in his first year with the Pride.
  • Another Weak Week: The CAA continued its brutal non-conference stretch by going 3-13 this week (not including the one intra-conference game between William & Mary and Old Dominion). The CAA has won just 40 percent of its games this year (32-47 combined record outside the conference) and looks like a definite one-bid league. Who’ll get that bid? No one has stood out thus far. While there’s still plenty of season left, the majority of the non-conference portion will wind down at the end of the month. The CAA has done nothing through November, though, to earn it much respect nationally.

Tim Rusthoven is putting together an excellent junior season for William & Mary, but without winning the conference tournament, he may not get a chance to play on the big stage.

Reader’s Take

 

Power Rankings

  1. George Mason (5-3) – Maryland was just a bit too big, fast, and defensively imposing for George Mason, who played the Terrapins tight in a neutral-site game last weekend. Still, the Patriots can build on some things from that defeat. They turned the Terps over 19 times and limited future first-round draft pick Alex Len to 12 points. Freshman Patrick Holloway has emerged as a wild card for the Pats, hitting four threes and scoring 17 points in that game against Maryland. Unfortunately for Holloway, his three double-digit scoring games have come in the Patriots’ three losses. Still, the skinny hometown guard is stealing minutes from more veteran players and could really flourish once CAA play comes around. Holloway had announcers comparing him to Stephen Curry . Read the rest of this entry »
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