Alex Varone is the RTC correspondent for the MAC and CAA.
A Look Back
- The CAA has represented itself well in some of the nation’s early-season tournaments. VCU pulled off an upset at Wake Forest to advance to the semifinals of the NIT Preseason Tip-Off, Old Dominion defeated St. Peter’s and Clemson to advance to the final of the Paradise Jam, and George Mason finished fourth in the eight-team Charleston Classic.
- Strong performances in the aforementioned early-season tournaments have led CAA teams to a combined 19-18 start in non-conference play. That number should improve shortly as 14 of this week’s 21 games involving CAA teams will be played at home, where the league’s twelve teams have started the season a combined 10-2.
Player of the Week
Joey Rodriguez, VCU – There are a variety of worthy candidates this week, including Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins, who leads the CAA in scoring at 25.7 points per game, and UNC Wilmington’s Chad Tomko, whose critical late game baskets have propelled the Seahawks to two early victories. But the week belonged to Rodriguez (18.3 PPG, 10.3 APG, 2.0 SPG), the catalyst behind VCU’s impressive 3-0 start. The senior scored 22 points and dished out 17 assists in a 101-point offensive outburst in the season-opening win over UNC Greensboro, and followed it up with 15 points and 8 assists against Winthrop and 18 points and 6 assists against Wake Forest.
Stat of the Week
0-6 – The early record for Colonial Athletic Association teams against those ranked in the Top 25. However, of those six losses, only Hofstra’s 44-point drubbing at the hands of North Carolina in Puerto Rico, and UNC Wilmington’s 40-point loss at Ohio State were true disappointments to the league. Both James Madison and UNC-Wilmington were as competitive as one could expect in double-digit losses at Kansas State and Florida, respectively, and preseason favorite Old Dominion came oh-so-close to upsetting Georgetown, falling by three points at home while William & Mary rebounded from a tough first two games to give Syracuse all it could handle in a loss by three points.
Power Rankings (preseason ranking in parentheses)
- VCU (2) 3-0 – VCU winning at Wake Forest, and thereby advancing to the semifinals of the NIT Tip-Off, is the story of the week in the CAA. Wake Forest may end up not being very good this season, but the Rams beat an ACC team in a true road game by 21 points, and now have an opportunity to boost their resume with a game this week against Tennessee and then either Villanova or UCLA in New York City. Rodriguez has been the star for this team, but Bradford Burgess, Brandon Rozzell and Jamie Skeen are all averaging in double-figures at this very early junction of the season.
- Old Dominion (1) 4-1 – A win over Georgetown would have been great for Old Dominion’s eventual NCAA Tournament hopes, but the Monarchs have a couple of other fast-approaching opportunities to pick up a key non-conference win: Dec. 1 vs. Richmond, Dec. 11 vs. Dayton, Dec. 30 at Missouri. Even with the loss against the Hoyas, ODU still ended the week with a winning record, taking care of business with wins over High Point and St. Peter’s, and beating Clemson to reach the final of the Paradise Jam. The Monarchs went on to take home the event’s crown by beating Xavier in the championship.
- Drexel (10) 2-0 – It’s only been two games, but the Drexel Dragons have been very impressive in a pair of road wins: a three-point win at Loyola (MD), and a 21-point win at Penn. But a third road game to start the season (Nov. 24 at Rhode Island) will be a big test for these Dragons. Sophomore Chris Fouch has scored over 20 points in both Drexel wins, while junior Samme Givens has grabbed over 10 rebounds in each victory.
- George Mason (3) 2-2 – The Patriots had an opportunity to pick up a couple of nice early-season tournament wins against NC State and Wofford, but let both games slip away in the second half. Nevertheless, George Mason notched quality wins over Harvard and at Charlotte to start the season. With a manageable schedule over the next couple of weeks, the Patriots could very likely put together a long win streak and climb even higher in these rankings.
- James Madison (5) 2-1 – The Dukes handled themselves fairly well with a respectable 14-point road loss at Kansas State, and a seven-point win at The Citadel to begin their season. Senior Denzel Bowles has continued where he left off last season, scoring in double-figures in both games thus far, but junior Rayshawn Goins‘ performance (17 points, 12 rebounds at Kansas State; 13 points, 10 rebounds at The Citadel) has been noteworthy.
- UNC-Wilmington (11) 2-2 – UNC-Wilmington temporarily vaults up five spots in the power rankings because both of its losses were against teams that are nationally ranked–a 19-point loss at Florida, and a 40-point loss at Ohio State–while it picked up two wins at home against Liberty (in overtime) and Morehead State (by two points). Senior Chad Tomko hit a crucial three-pointer to send the Liberty game into overtime, and hit a game-winning field goal to defeat Morehead State, one of the favorites to win the Ohio Valley Conference.
- Northeastern (7) 2-1 – Northeastern was fortunate to get off to a 2-0 start, as its wins over Boston University and at Southern Illinois were by a combined three points, the latter a one-point OT win after a late technical foul call on the Salukis. A 16-point home loss to three-time defending MAAC champion Siena probably showed that the Huskies still have a long way to go. Chaisson Allen continues to do everything for Northeastern, as he leads the team in points, rebounds, assists, and steals thus far.
- Delaware (8) 1-2 – The Blue Hens followed up on a disappointing pair of double-digit losses to Ohio and Cornell with a 32-point trouncing of Howard at home. Senior guard Jawan Carter, who averaged over 18 points per game last season, got off to a poor start to the season, hitting only two of 16 field goals and scoring seven total points in Delaware’s first two games. Carter did manage to find the touch in the blowout over Howard, nailing eight three-pointers.
- Towson (9) 1-2 – The Tigers sandwiched a 15-point home win over Coppin State in between a pair of road losses against teams from the MAC–a three-point loss at Miami (Ohio) and an 11-point defeat at the hands of Buffalo. In the midst of the somewhat disappointing start, a pleasant surprise for Towson has been the play of sophomore Isaiah Philmore, who is averaging 18 PPG and 9.3 RPG so far in his sophomore season.
- Hofstra (4) 1-3 – The first four games of the Mo Cassara era at Hofstra hasn’t gone quite as planned. Sure, the Pride dismantled non-Division 1 opponent Farmingdale State, but were then embarrassed by North Carolina, blew an eight-point lead in the final minutes against Western Kentucky, and never competed against Nebraska. Charles Jenkins has been his usual brilliant self, but fellow guards Mike Moore and Shemiye McLendon need to alleviate some of his scoring burden, and someone has to fill the gaping void on the interior.
- Georgia State (12) 1-1 – After just two games, the Panthers still look like the least talented team in the Colonial, but a split of their first two games, including a solid ten-point win over Troy, moves Georgia State out of the basement in these rankings for now. Notably, Georgia State scored 80 points in the win over Troy, which is something that it did only once all of last season. But don’t confuse this team for an offensive powerhouse, as it will likely take a different guy each night to carry the load.
- William & Mary (6) 0-3 – Losing at Virginia and at Richmond isn’t a disaster by any stretch, but losing by 24 and 34 points, respectively, is an early cause for alarm. The three-point shot was the Tribe’s go-to offensive weapon last year, but William & Mary has only converted 10 out of 41 treys (24%) in its first two games, before hitting 10-of-22 from beyond the arc in a hard-fought loss at Syracuse.
A Look Ahead
Here are five key games to watch this week:
- Nov. 24 – VCU vs. Tennessee (NIT Tip-Off)
- Nov. 24 – Drexel at Rhode Island
- Nov. 24 – Radford at George Mason
- Nov. 26 – VCU vs. Villanova/UCLA (NIT Tip-Off)
- Nov. 27 – Northeastern at Utah State