Morning Five: 01.31.12 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on January 31st, 2012

  1. Seth Davis is back with his annual Jigsaw Man column. For those of you who are not familiar with the concept, Seth adopts the persona of “The Jigsaw Man” to pick out players who if they switched teams would fill significant voids and does so while speaking in the third person. He tries to avoid picking out obvious targets like Anthony Davis who would make any team better even if they didn’t have a deficiency at that position. We are not sure if we are just getting cranky in our old age, but it seems like Seth is cheating a bit with some of his picks. Stealing players like Terrell Stoglin (the leading scorer in the ACC), Scott Machado (maybe the best point guard in the country), and Mike Moser (a potential All-American and a long-time crush of Andy Glockner and Ryan Greene) seems to be too easy. Obviously, adding the best point guard in the nation would make Duke a better team. So if you are reading this Seth Jigsaw Man (and we know that you are), step it up a little bit next year. Pick someone like Alex Oriakhi who is wasting away on the bench, but could and should be a double-double guy in the right situation instead of picking a potential All-American who is the best player on a top 10 team like Moser.
  2. Whenever we hear someone talk about how unsavory recruiting is for top football recruits we hear someone else talk about how it is worse in basketball. We now have found at least one example where it is not. According to some media reports, one five-star football recruit who chose to attend Alabama over LSU was influenced by a promise that the former would give the recruit’s girlfriend a job. Interestingly, according to the NCAA bylaws, this appears to only be an infraction if it was committed for a basketball recruit, but for a football recruit apparently is it ok. The NCAA never ceases to amaze us.
  3. Last week, the National Coordinator of basketball officials in Division I, John Adams, posted a memo urging officials to pay a closer attention to sportsmanship and call technical fouls on coaches and players who violate this principle. After the officiating over the weekend, Adams decided that he needed to respond to the criticism of officials. While he did not discuss the atrocious officiating in Philadelphia or the missed goaltending call in upstate New York, Adams did discuss the role of officials in dealing with unsportsmanlike acts. Adams essentially believes that the controversial sportsmanship fouls were correct and hopes that these moves will help rebuild college basketball’s image after a rough past few months. While legislating the trash talking more effectively may reduce some of the unseemly incidents we have seen, we would also like to see Adams work on improving the officiating of all areas of the game.
  4. With his team on its way to a second straight solid season and a potential NCAA Tournament bid that it did not get last year, Iona coach Tim Cluess was given a contract extension through the 2016-17 season. Cluess, who came to the school without any prior Division I head coaching experience, is actually in the last guaranteed year of his initial contract. Thanks to a 25-win season to start his coaching career and what appears to be an even better second season, Cluess has a well-deserved contract extension, which should only help him with recruiting although we cannot imagine that any recruit thought Cluess was in jeopardy of losing his job.
  5. His team is currently on the wrong side of the bubble, but that did not stop VCU coach Shaka Smart from making a bold proclamation that the “the best programs in the state are in the CAA. It’s really not even close.” When you look at the numbers over the past ten years, the three programs he is referring to (VCU, George Mason, and Old Dominion) have put up much better numbers (detailed in the article) than the the ACC programs (Virginia and Virginia Tech). So technically Smart is correct even if he does come off as untactful, but it is more amusing to hear new George Mason coach Paul Hewitt talk about this when he guided another ACC program (Georgia Tech) right into the ground.
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Checking In On.. the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 25th, 2012

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Workin’ Part Time At A Five And Dime: This week marked the annual five games in 10 days stretch that always challenges CAA squads. Because of Bracketbusters and the need to get 18 league games played in January and February, the CAA must play one game in December and one Monday during the year to get in all the games. The result is a stretch of Wednesday-Saturday-Monday-Wednesday-Saturday games that make CAA legs rubbery. The first three games went fairly according to schedule, but the back two games are likely to produce some surprises.
  • About That Home Court Advantage…: Home teams went 5-1 on Monday night, thwarting an early-season trend of success by visiting squads. The unusual home court success, which is unusual in itself, meant that through the first 54 conference contests, home teams are only 31-23 (.574). Old Dominion has a league-best 4-1 road record in CAA play, while George Mason and Northeastern are 3-1. Seven of the league’s 12 teams are .500 or better on the road in CAA play.
  • I Get Delirious Whenever You’re Near: The stretch of five games in ten days is beginning to separate teams in the standings, and the rest of this week is likely to further that trend. A six-team glut for one of the top four spots in the CAA Tournament will winnow to five as Northeastern and Delaware, both 5-4, match up tonight. And with only Drexel vs. Georgia State among the top six playing each other Wednesday and two games pitting top-six teams on Saturday, the divide is sure to grow.

The Latest Hero For Drexel Was Big Man Dartaye Ruffin

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (7-2, 15-5): The Dragons have become a force in the Association. Drexel has seven straight wins with six different leading scorers. The latest hero is big man Dartaye Ruffin—his 18 points led Drexel past William & Mary. Might not be a big deal to the rest of the world, until you realize Drexel had lost five straight in Williamsburg. Bruiser Flint has the luxury of not needing top gunner Chris Fouch playing well.
  2. George Mason (8-1, 16-5): Paul Hewitt probably used the word sloppy a lot this week. After drilling Delaware, his Patriots slogged to a 12-point win over Towson and survived a homer against UNCW. Ryan Pearson now has eight double-doubles after identical 24/10 games against UD and UNCW. Bryon Allen led the way against the Seahawks with 17 points, a career high. The good news for Hewitt: he has multiple weapons, and focus is correctable. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2012

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take

 

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 and Delaware’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)

Power Rankings

  1. 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 »
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CAA First Place Showdown: Everybody’s a Winner

Posted by IRenko on January 9th, 2012

I. Renko is an RTC correspondent.

On Saturday night, the only two undefeated teams in the CAA faced off in a battle for first place, as Georgia State visited George Mason.  Only one team could, and did, emerge victorious, as Mason held off the Panthers for a 61-58 win.  But given the gulf that separated these two teams coming into the season, the result was a meaningful “win” for the coaches of both teams, each of whom has had something to prove during the early part of the CAA season.

At the start of this season, George Mason and Georgia State had little in common.  Mason won 27 games last year, won the CAA regular season championship, and earned a #8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.  Georgia State went 12-19, finished in the bottom half of the CAA, and had its season promptly ended in the CAA Tournament — by George Mason.  Mason has been a perennial CAA contender over the last several years and pulled off a miracle run to the Final Four in 2006.  Georgia State has been a perennial also-ran since joining the CAA in 2005 and hasn’t played a single national postseason game of any kind.  Mason, returning three starters from last year’s squad, was picked to finish second in the conference this year.  Georgia State was picked to finish second to last.

Mike Morrison and George Mason Edged Georgia State for First Place, but the Panthers are "Gonna Be Around to Stay for a While"

About the only thing the Patriots and the Panthers shared was an offseason coaching change.  But the circumstances of the two coaching changes were considerably different, one resulting from success, the other from futility.  Jim Larranaga, who built the Mason program and led the Patriots on their improbable Final Four run in 2006, left for the higher profile of the ACC, landing a coaching job at Miami.  Mason, in turn, landed a coach with a high profile ACC pedigree and his own Final Four experience to replace him:  Paul Hewitt, who took Georgia Tech to the Final Four in 2003.  Georgia State’s coaching change was the result of four subpar seasons turned in by Rod Barnes.  To replace him, the Panthers went deep into the Summit League, where they found Ron Hunter, who had been coaching at IUPUI since well before it was a Division I program.

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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 22nd, 2011

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • Welcome Back, Kotter: Several players who will see significant playing time are now eligible—their dreams are their ticket in. Of note, Devon Moore is back running Matt Brady’s Bunch. The star point guard and preseason second team All-CAA pick made an immediate impact in his 33-minute opening act. Old Dominion has received much-needed help and solid play from both Clemson transfer Donte Hill and freshman Richard Ross. The duo has Blaine Taylor pondering a smaller lineup. And last night George Mason welcomed back Andre Cornelius from suspension. Cornelius is one of the best defenders in the conference and a lights-out (but streaky) shooter.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard: They’re just two good ol’ boys who don’t mean harm, and were not selected as one of the CAAs top ten players in preseason voting. But James Madison’s Humpty Hitchens and Delaware’s Jamelle Hagins have been the best two players in the Association this year. Hagins has dominated the lane. He is eighth in the CAA in scoring (14.6 PPG), first in rebounding (11.5 RPG), second in field goal percentage (60.9%), 10th in free throw percentage (76.7%), and second in blocked shots (2.5 BPG). Meanwhile, Hitchens has been an inspiring player in Moore’s absence. The numbers are impressive, too–17.0 points per contest, a conference leading five helpers, he ranks fifth in steals, second in three-pointers made and percentage and is second in assist-to-turnover ratio.
  • The Facts of Life: VCU senior Bradford Burgess and James Madison senior Julius Wells have each taken the good and taken the bad, and in their fourth seasons carry impressive streaks. Burgess has made 121 consecutive starts, the longest active streak in Division I basketball and tied for the most all-time at VCU. Wells hasn’t had a bad career himself. He’s started 108 straight games, second on the Dukes’ career list.

Andre Cornelius' Return Couldn't Come At A Better Time

Power Rankings

  1. VCU (8-3): The Rams are simply devastating opponents with their defense. In the past three games, VCU  has outscored opponents 92-21 in points off turnovers. After a 14-steal night in their Tuesday win over UAB, the Rams now lead the country in opponent’s turnover rate at 29.1% and are second in steal percentage (16.0%).
  2. George Mason (7-4): One up, one down. On the night the Patriots got hyper-quick point guard Andre Cornelius back from suspension, they announced reserve big man Paris Bennett was being suspended for two games. You can bet Paul Hewitt is ready for the start of conference season. The Duquesne game represented the end of an 11-day layoff for Mason, and it didn’t go well. Old problems surfaced even with Cornelius’s 11 points. They didn’t defend on inbounds plays and in open court, and were outplayed by Duquesne in an 11-point home loss. It broke an 18-game home winning streak. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 14th, 2011

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take

 

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. Smith is 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)

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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 7th, 2011

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take

 

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)

Power Rankings

  1. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Game On: 12.06.11 Edition

Posted by KCarpenter on December 6th, 2011

Well, as expected Charleston Southern seized on its one advantage and managed to force Florida State into 21 turnovers. Of course, it didn’t matter: The Seminoles locked down and held its Monday night opponent to 29.9% from the field while shooting 48.4% on its end. It was a 15-point victory, but it felt like the margin was bigger considering how quickly Florida State jumped to a big lead.

The Seminoles Had Little Problem Blasting Charleston Southern Last Night

Tonight, we have a couple of nice gut-check games and then the equivalent of an angry child getting their aggression out by punching a pillow a bunch of times.

The Main Event

  • Memphis at Miami at 9:00 PM on ESPN2

Even without Reggie Johnson, Miami has been pretty good this year. A loss to Purdue and an overtime road loss to Mississippi are understandable, but they are also blown chances at really putting the Hurricanes on the national map. With a faltering Memphis team coming to Coral Gables, the team has a good chance at a nice signature win. Without a strong front court presence, Miami has struggled to rebound effectively, but Memphis has been fairly terrible at rebounding so far this season too,  giving the Hurricanes an opening. In terms of weaknesses, Miami’s mediocre perimeter defense will have to hold strong against a Tigers team that has shot 44.2% from beyond the arc. The game may come down to pace as Miami tries to slow it down against Josh Pastner’s run-happy team. In any case, this should be a pretty entertaining game this evening.

The Undercard

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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 30th, 2011

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take

The Week That Was

  • Whew: Order was restored last week, when CAA teams went 12-10 and looked like The Association we’ve come to know. The 12 wins included several notable performances. Northeastern rolled St. John’s in Queens 78-64, and it wasn’t that close. The Huskies led all but 37 seconds of the game. Hofstra used a 20-4 second half spree to down previously unbeaten Cleveland State, 63-53. The win is doubly-notable because leading scorer Mike Moore was held to five points. Both James Madison and George Mason won their final two games of early exempt tournaments, and Georgia State (3-0) and Delaware (2-0) had undefeated weeks. Finally, VCU gave 13th-ranked Alabama all it could handle on Sunday night before dropping a 72-64 decision. The Rams led most of the second half before the Tide stepped on the gas pedal late.
  • Who? AJ Davis was 5-50 from three in two seasons at Wyoming, but hit eight of nine threes in a win over Rider and went 3-5 against Penn. Davis has now made 16-27 (59.3%) from three in five games for JMU. Davis scored the first 14 points of the second half for the Dukes in its win over Penn. Interestingly, Davis has scored 87 points in the second half of games this season and 27 points in the first half. His accuracy seems to be catching on. JMU as a team is hitting threes third-best nationally (46.9%). Predictably, that makes head coach Matt Brady nervous.
  • Wow: Delaware’s Devon Saddler is leading the country in scoring (24.5 PPG), but the CAA has seen many amazing individual performances. In fact, it forced the conference pooh-bahs to select tri-players of the week. Saddler, who averaged 26.5 points , five rebounds, and four assists in a pair of Delaware wins, was joined in the honor by JMUs Davis (23.3  and 5.7 RPG, hit 16 of 22 from three-point range) and Joel Smith from Northeastern (29 points and 10 rebounds in the St. John’s win, including 7 of 12 from three-point range) in the honor.
  • What? Why?  Non-conference gives way, temporarily, to conference play this week. It’s weird to jam in conference games just before exams, but it’s necessary.  Because there’s eight weekends in January and February and one Saturday is betrothed to Bracketbusters, the CAA is forced to play one week of Saturday-Monday-Wednesday-Saturday action, as well as play one conference game in December. This is that weekend. Ten of the CAA’s 12 teams open conference play. UNCW and VCU will face each other on Dec. 17. The move was made to allow VCU to play George Washington in the BB&T Classic this Sunday.

It's Tough To Find Anyone In The Country Stroking The Three Better Than James Madison's A.J. Davis. (CAASports.com)

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (2-2): The Dragons played just one game, but it was telling. Drexel thumped Winthrop and had the look of a top-tier CAA team. The Dragons grabbed a lead and didn’t rest—they played harder and better. The result was a coach’s dream—a 10-point lead became an 18-point lead, not a four-point lead. Guard Frantz Massenat scored a career-high 23 points and hit 6-8 threes while directing the attack, and freshman Damion Lee continued to play well, contributing nine points, eight rebounds, and seven assists. What’s more, Drexel is close to getting leading scorer and top gunner Chris Fouch back from injury.
  2. Northeastern (3-1): For lack of flowery language, the Huskies just plain look different. They are big, long, and attack gaps.  They beat teams up and beat up St. John’s in every facet of the game including grabbing 53.8% of their misses on offense. The Huskies don’t give opponents the easy energy baskets, forcing opponents to shoot 21.8% from three (ninth nationally), and blocking shots on 16.8% of defensive possessions, good for 12th nationally. Because he a basketball coach, Bill Coen wants them to focus on taking better taking care of the basketball and fouling less often.
  3. George Mason (4-2): It’s impossible to figure out what to make of the Patriots. First, they took the weekend off. Second, while they’ve improved markedly since their first game we’re not sure what we know—the schedule strength is an abysmal 322th. Still, Paul Hewitt has one of the conference’s best players playing well—Ryan Pearson has three double-doubles and scored a team-high 23 points against Brown and 24 points against Albany He is third in the CAA in scoring (21.3 PPG) and second in rebounds (9.0 RPG). It’s worth repeating that freshman Corey Edwards is beginning to look awfully comfy in the point guard spot, and incumbent Andre Cornelius—one of the conference’s best defenders—returns from a ten-game suspension in less than three weeks.
  4. James Madison (3-2): The Dukes are firepower personified. You have read about AJ Davis and you know how well Humpty Hitchens is playing, but Matt Brady is getting yeoman’s work from Andrey Semenov. What’s more, senior Julius Wells is making a difference in stats other than FGA and Alioune Diouf passed up a redshirt to join the rotation this weekend to help defensively. All of this and their best player, Devon Moore, is still two weeks from becoming eligible. Of note, Rayshawn Goins opted for surgery and will miss the season, taking a redshirt.
  5. VCU (3-3): The Rams have almost imperceptibly improved in every game they’ve played this season. One key has been the exuberant play of freshman Briante Weber, who plays with as much energy as anyone in the country. His defense energizes the team defense. To wit, Western Kentucky was held to one field goal and committed nine turnovers in the last 13 minutes against VCU. Shaka Smart is getting unspectacular but steady play from point guard Darius Theus, and Brad Burgess is beginning to grow into his superstar. The Rams were in control of their game against Alabama on Sunday for 34 minutes before letting it slip away. To a man they know they need 40 minutes of effort.
  6. Old Dominion (4-3): The story of Old Dominion’s topsy-turvy season can be summed up by its last two games. The Monarchs built a 12-point second half lead against Vermont but gave it up and lost in overtime. The cause? The Monarchs were beaten on the backboards (48-37). Old Dominion just does not get killed on the boards by teams named Vermont. Next game was a brutal rock fight victory over East Carolina. Star guard Kent Bazemore is clearly pressing, and it’s impacting everyone. Bazemore is 8-37 from the field in his past three games, and when you tack on point guard Marquel DeLancey’s 1-15 you can see ODU isn’t exactly overwhelming anybody. ODU players will have to guard against standing around waiting for Bazemore–who still clearly doesn’t have the same explosion due to an injured foot–to make a play. On the bright side, Nick Wright returned from suspension and gives Blaine Taylor a different look. Wright can play high post and trigger the offense, but he can score—Wright put a 24/10 double-double on Vermont. Plus, Dmitri Batten had a confidence-booster in the East Carolina win.
  7. Hofstra (3-4): The Dutchmen accomplished something nobody—including Vanderbilt—has done. They beat Cleveland State. The Pride got a lot of little things from a lot of players, and none were named Mike Moore. It’s significant because Hofstra has to prove to itself can beat quality competition without Moore pouring in 23 points. That’s exactly what they got. Bryant Crowder returned over the weekend from coach’s exile and gave the Pride more versatility in the post. Still, it seems like this team will rise and fall with senior Nat Lester. It seems Hofstra wins when he plays well, and struggles when he doesn’t.
  8. Delaware (2-2): The Hens boast the nation’s leading scorer in Devon Saddler, but honestly the team is looking better and better because Saddler has tempered his shooting ways and gotten more Hens involved in the offense. To wit: Saddler had scored 32 points against Lafayette on Saturday, but in a tie game with less than a minute to play penetrated the lane and kicked the ball to freshman Kyle Anderson, who promptly buried a back-breaking three. And Jamelle Hagins played his best game of the year, a 13/14/3 block masterpiece. There is a very tangible meshing feel to this team.
  9. Georgia State (4-3): Though the competition has been McNeese State, Samford, Liberty, and South Carolina State, the Panthers won all four games last week to even their record after the 0-3 disaster in Washington. Ron Hunter still is not playing as fast as he’d like–65.9 possessions per game is 248th nationally—but they are getting contributions that are complimentary. Jihad Ali scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and went six-for-six from the floor, including four three-pointers in the Liberty win. That’s worth mention because if Hunter can get enough scoring from Ali and Devonta White, it frees superman Eric Buckner to make athletic plays without having to worry about carrying an offensive load. Buckner blocked a career-high seven shots against Liberty
  10. UNCW (0-4): Point guard Craig Ponder was hobbled all season by an ankle injury and finally gave up the ghost—he is undergoing season-ending surgery.  That forces Buzz Peterson to begin a revolving door approach to his point guard play. Tanner Milson, Freddie Jackson, and KK Simmons (two freshmen and a sophomore) will all take turns. We knew UNCW was young and Peterson would play the kiddies, but this stat bears out just how reliant they are on youth: freshmen have accounted for 145 of the Seahawks’ 242 points (59.9%) this season. Side note: UNCW was 0-3 from three in a loss to Davidson, marking the first time since 1996 it didn’t hit a trey
  11. William & Mary (1-6): It’s almost Bizarro World to consider Quinn McDowell—a first team All-CAA honoree and in the conversation for player of the year—took one field goal attempt in 33 minutes against Howard on Saturday. However, that sums up the slow start for the Tribe. Brandon Britt is playing better after his awful start, and freshman sensation Marcus Thornton is starting to figure out “good shots” in college. Most importantly for Tony Shaver is that Beasthoven made his first appearance of the year. Sophomore Tim Rusthoven hit went 4-5 from the floor in 21 minutes, scoring 13 points and grabbing six rebounds (four on offensive end). In the words of someone who was there: he was the best player on the floor. Shaver could not have dreamed of a worse start to the season, but the pieces are beginning to come together.
  12. Towson (0-5): The Tigers can say they played in front of the President, losing 66-46 in their home opener against Oregon State, coached by Barack Obama’s brother-in-law. However they are doing what Pat Skerry asks—continue to play hard and improve every night. Towson is actually a +4.8 rebound margin against the ninth-toughest schedule in the country. Sophomore Marcus Damas recorded a double-double against Oregon State with career-highs of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Skerry is near begging his team to cut down on turnovers, which continue to plague them.

Looking Ahead

  • Drexel at St. Joseph’s (Wednesday): The Dragons are 9-42 lifetime against the Hawks and have not won up at Hawk Hill since 1978. Drexel won this game last year and walks to the jump circle having never—ever—beaten St. Joseph’s in consecutive games. The Hawks will test them, as they’ve built a 4-2 record against a tough schedule. That said, Drexel may get Chris Fouch back and still have not played to their potential. This has all the makings of a rock fight.
  • Old Dominion at Northeastern (Saturday): The Huskies have a decidedly ODU look. They grabbed 21 offensive rebounds against St. John’s, while ODU was busy being outrebounded by Vermont. Matthews Arena is a tough place to play for CAA foes—it’s a hockey arena co-opted for basketball. Northeastrn has won two of the last three against ODU in the building. This is a match-up of minds: Bill Coen and Blaine Taylor are X/O, white board maniacs; and Northeastern is feeling good about itself while ODU is not, which probably puts ODU exactly where they want to be.
  • James Madison at Hofstra (Saturday): This game pits two of CAA teams that are outpacing expectations and this game will surely have tiebreaker ramifications come late February. Matt Brady has practically begged for defense. The old saying is that good teams win on the road, and they do so by playing defense. There you go.
  • Drexel at Delaware (Saturday): Drexel is a great defensive team, and I read somewhere that good teams win on the road by playing great defense. Delaware is preaching turn the corner this year, so what better opportunity to put on your turn signal than to beat the conference favorites at home? This is also the conference’s second most-hated rivalry. It’s worth noting that last season Delaware beat the CAA favorite Old Dominion in a December home game as well.

 Spotlight On…Northeastern

Bill Coen graduated four senior starters and the Huskies predictably lost their first eight conference games last season. However, they rallied late, winning six of their final ten games as sophomores Jon Lee, Joel Smith, and Kauri Black gained experience. Those three are bringing along a talented freshman class quickly and results are positive. NU is leading the CAA in rebounding—something they did poorly last year—and are aggressive with the basketball.

“Those guys have played here for three years,” says Coen. “They just have a different sense of confidence and a feel for one another that can only develop by playing together.”

The scary part for CAA opponents is that Ryan Pierson and Alwayne Bigby, two of Coen’s go-to players in the past two seasons, have yet to make a significant impact. What’s more, the Huskies’s biggest deficiencies are correctable: they turn the ball over and foul too much. Both are products of their aggressive play, and both can be mitigated by smart aggression.

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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 24th, 2011

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can also find his musings online at caahoops.com or on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take

 

Caught On Film

Check this clip out to see why William & Mary’s Quinn McDowell has earned the Twitter hashtag #quinntowin. Trailing by three, McDowell hits a game-tying bomb; trailing by two he converts a natural three-point play and then boxes out to get the deciding rebound on a missed free throw:

The Week That Was

  • Thud: Coming off its greatest season ever, the CAA is sporting a hangover. The league is 20-30 and lacks a notable win. (Old Dominion beating South Florida qualifies as the conference’s best.) What’s more, the early season has featured head-scratching losses. Preseason favorite Drexel lost to Norfolk State, Delaware lost to Radford (five wins last season), William & Mary lost to Lehigh by 25 points, and George Mason lost to Florida International. The CAA is a collective 0-3 against Florida Atlantic. While it seems silly to discount the notion of an at-large bid this early in the season, the conference has likely burned up any wiggle room it had come March.
  • Give It Up: Coaches have their clichés, and for good reason, but “value the basketball” has taken on a special meaning in early CAA action. The relative inexperience of CAA guards is taking its toll. James Madison is the only CAA team with more assists than turnovers (and that number is just 41/36). Seven of the CAAs 12 teams are in the bottom 100 in the nation in turnover percentage (the number of possessions that end in a turnover). Last season, seven CAA teams were in the top 100 of this category. Though they have played an impossible schedule, Towson sports an almost unbelievable 27 assists and 95 turnovers.
  • Frank Who? Old Dominion annually plays with a dominant big man, but coming into the season there were questions about whether or not Chris Cooper had the chops to continue the tradition. Early returns bode well. Cooper recorded double-doubles in three of ODUs four games, tallying a career-high 17 points and 12 boards against Kentucky, 13 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Howard, and 10 points and 11 caroms in a victory over Long Island. The senior forward also blocked seven shots and made six steals last week. Importantly, Cooper got his frontcourt mate Nick Wright back from suspension this week.
  • B-B-B-Baby You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet: Bumpy starts from banner players has contributed to the burgeoning  bummer of a season. Bradford Burgess, Rob Brandenberg, Kent Bazemore, Eric Buckner, Brandon Britt, and Julian Boatner are all expected to be team and conference leaders. For one reason or another, none have provided that beacon. The list includes Tim Rusthoven, nicknamed Beasthoven.
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Morning Five: 11.08.11 Edition

Posted by nvr1983 on November 8th, 2011

  1. Paul Hewitt hasn’t coached his first official game at George Mason, but he already has his first minor crisis to deal with as senior guard Andre Cornelius was suspended 10 games by the school for his role in a credit card fraud case in which he was arrested in September. Cornelius, who started every game last season for the Patriots and averaged 9.5 PPG as a junior, pleaded guilty to credit card fraud, a misdemeanor, and received a six-month suspended sentence, but had a felony larceny charge dropped. Cornelius will be allowed to practice with the team, but not play in games for them until the fall semester is complete (December 20), which would allow him to return for the game against Duquesne the following day. In the meantime, Hewitt will have to find someone to replace Cornelius and his outside shooting and veteran presence.
  2. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy, who recently announced that he would be taking time off to deal with his new diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, has not set a timetable for his return yet according to interim head coach Glynn Cyprien. However, Cyprien noted that Kennedy has been stopping by to watch practices and even attended a team meeting yesterday. With no date set for Kennedy’s return, we expect that Cyprien will be coaching the Aggies in their season opener against Liberty on Wednesday. When Kennedy returns (and we expect that he will based on what we have heard) it should be a big boost for the spirits of this team and could help them go on a quick run.
  3.  As part of its ongoing college basketball preview, Grantland asked Mark Titus to preview the Big East. It is a sort of odd selection since Titus “played” at Ohio State, but he knows basketball and it is a solid preview even if we disagree with his selection of the conference champion. He does make a good point about how we may be viewing Connecticut incorrectly based on how they ended last year on a hot run rather than considering the entirety of their season. Overall, it is a solid primer for the non-hardcore college basketball fan, who Titus notes he is aiming for in the post.
  4. We have already shared our thoughts on Tyshawn Taylor and Kansas with regard to his potential as a leader. The fine gentlemen over at Basketball Prospectus put together an interesting analysis on Taylor and how he has evolved during his first three years in Lawrence by looking at how he is portrayed in articles by comparing the ratio of positive to negative words used to describe him. We are sure that someone will criticize the methodology and we certainly don’t consider this a rigorous analysis by any means, but it is interesting to see how the perception of Taylor has changed over the years. We would be be more interested in seeing a similar analysis of another player who was controversial or had legal issues, but ended up playing well for his team later in his career just to see if a bad reputation can be changed in the media by playing well and staying out of trouble.
  5. One of the more interesting aspects of college sports is the passion of the fans particularly the student sections. No group of fans is more well-known for this than college basketball fans, who thanks to the the seating arrangements of most college arenas can play a surprisingly big role in the game by throwing off the opposition. Over the years fans have offered up some rather amusing taunts and today’s students are no exception. The first example of the season came from Ohio where Ohio University-Zanesville was taunted by fans of opposing Mount Vernon Nazarene University as the fans dressed up as exotic animals and sheriffs in reference to the surreal event in Zanesville, Ohio last month. While some may question the taste of the taunts, you have to admit it is fairly creative.
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RTC Conference Primers: #11 – CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 26th, 2011

Michael Litos of CAAHoops.com is the RTC correspondent for the CAA. You can find him on Twitter @caahoops.

Reader’s Take I

The conference has seen Eric Maynor, then Charles Jenkins, win back-to-back player of the year awards. This year, it’s a wide-open race.

 

Top Storylines

  • Encore Performance? Last season was undoubtedly the best in conference history. In addition to VCU‘s incredible Final Four run, George Mason and Old Dominion gave the CAA three NCAA Tournament teams for the first time ever. The obvious question becomes: How in the world do you follow that? The CAA is better top-to-bottom this year, which is great for competitiveness but lousy for at-large bids.
  • Disabled List, Midseason “Call Ups” A Factor: The CAA is going to look very different in January, as some of the conference’s best players will miss parts of the nonconference season for varying reasons. Old Dominion’s Kent Bazemore, a first team All-CAA selection, is expected back in December from a foot injury. Ditto Drexel’s leading scorer Chris Fouch (knee). William & Mary’s Quinn McDowell, another first teamer, is battling knee problems as well. Old Dominion’s Richard Ross and James Madison’s Devon Moore return from academic suspensions after the first semester, and Blaine Taylor also gets Clemson transfer Donte Hill eligible.
  • Be Very Quiet. I’m Hunting Dragons: Speaking of Drexel, it will be interesting to watch how the Dragons react to being a conference favorite. Drexel has won at least ten conference games in eight of its ten CAA seasons, but has never entered a season with such lofty expectations. That changes this year, as Drexel is the only CAA team to return its scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and blocks leader.  What’s more, Bruiser Flint’s lack of success in March is glaring: Despite those successful regular seasons, Drexel has played in the CAA tournament semifinals just once since 2003.
  • One Tribe, Y’all: Despite finishing 4-14  last year, CAA eyes are trained on William & Mary and its cadre of young guards. One year removed from an NIT season, Tony Shaver’s team lost eight CAA contests by five or fewer points, and seven of those were by four or fewer. Shaver played six freshmen or sophomores regularly, and that experience will pay tremendous dividends. Plus, senior Quinn McDowell is a player of the year candidate. If the Tribe can get a beastly performance on the boards from sophomore Tim Rusthoven, William & Mary may shoot up the standings.

What Does Shaka Smart Have In Mind For An Encore After VCU's Run For The Ages?

Predicted Order of Finish (predicted conference records in parentheses)

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