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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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on February 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

  • Just Watch: The, uh, “controversial” RPI and terrible November are old news for the national media when it discusses the CAA’s chance at an at-large bid. We keep hearing more calls of “they look like an NCAA Tournament team,” or ye olde eye test. Drexel has won 16 straight and 22 of 23 and VCU is 13-1 in its last 14 games, losing only on a 30-foot buzzer beater at George Mason. And those Patriots are 16-3 in their last 19 games. ODU and Delaware are not in the running for an at-large, bid but both are closing fast. The Monarchs are 12-3 in their last 15 games and the Hens have won seven straight.
  • Bustin’ Out: The CAA went 7-5 in BracketBusters last weekend, including a perfect 3-0 mark in televised games. VCU defeated Northern Iowa 77-68 on Friday, while Drexel dominated Cleveland State 69-49 and Old Dominion won 73-67 at Missouri State on Saturday. CAA teams are now 19-10 in TV games over the last eight years, which is the best winning percentage (.655) of any participating conference in the history of the event. The top six teams in the CAA all won as George Mason held off Lamar, Delaware got past Hampton and Georgia State topped UT-San Antonio. Hofstra also beat in-state foe Siena.
  • Must See TV: The CAA has reached a five-year agreement with the NBC Sports Group that will provide the most extensive and comprehensive exposure of the conference in its history. NBC Sports Network will provide national television coverage for a minimum of 12 men’s basketball games each year, including the semifinals and finals of the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The Comcast SportsNet regional networks will regionally televise 39 additional men’s and women’s basketball games, including the quarterfinals of the CAA Men’s Basketball Championship. The agreements will begin with the 2012-13 season and run through 2016-17. The CAA is the first college conference to strike a deal with the NBC network, turning its back on ESPN.

Can Shaka Smart Lead VCU To A Tournament Bid? We May Have To Wait Until The Conference Tournament To Find Out.

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (15-2, 24-5): The Dragons have won 16 in a row and is 22-1 in their last 23 games. Drexel’s winning streak is the second-longest in the nation currently and is the school’s longest ever in D-I. With eight rebounds on Wednesday, senior Samme Givens became only the sixth player in CAA history to amass 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in a career. With its win over JMU, combined with George Mason’s loss to Northeastern, Drexel locked up the regular season championship and automatic NIT bid that goes with it. However with such impressive credentials, the Dragons want more. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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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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Playing Catch-Up: How The Big East Has Fared To Date

Posted by mlemaire on November 16th, 2011

Since the Big East microsite was a little later to the 2011-12 season than some of its other brothers and sisters, let’s take a few moments to get caught up on where things stand heading into this year.  These 16 teams are listed in no particular order.

Syracuse: Projected preseason Big East co-champs (with Connecticut) by the coaches and currently ranked No. 5 in the country by the Associated Press, the Orange are talented, deep and 3-0 to start the year. They captured the coveted de-facto New York state title with easy wins over Fordham, Manhattan and Albany. Through those three games, ten players have logged at least 30 minutes of playing time.  The early stat leaders have been 6’7” senior forward Kris Joseph (16.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG) who notched his 1000th career point against Manhattan, and 6’8” junior forward James Southerland (13.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG).  However it is likely individual numbers will not tell the story as the wealth will be spread around Syracuse’s vast depth.  You know the names.

  • Guards:  Scoop Jardine (senior), Brandon Triche (junior) Dion Waiters (sophomore) and Michael Carter-Williams (freshman)
  • Forwards: C.J. Fair (sophomore) and Rakeem Christmas (freshman)

All of the above along with a fit and productive sophomore center Fab Melo will keep Jim Boeheim and the air horn busy all year long.  

James Southerland Has Been Great So Far This Season

Louisville: The good news is that Louisville is 2-0 as they prepare for this weekend’s matchup against Butler. The bad news is the Cardinals are already thinner then when they started the season, having lost versatile role player Mike Marra for the season because of a knee injury suffered against Lamar. The team might be deep enough to absorb the loss of Marra, but they will be thin up front, especially if sophomore center Gorgui Dieng (7 RPG, 4.5 BPG) is continuously in foul trouble. As is often the case with Rick Pitino-coached teams, the Cardinals played suffocating defense in holding both Tennessee-Martin and Lamar below 30 percent from the field and that defense will keep Louisville competitive all season long. Freshman Chase Behanan (12 PPG, 12.5 RPG) looks the part of a double-double machine, but he will be in danger of wearing down if he consistently has to play more than 30 minutes per game.

Pittsburgh: Everybody knew that Pittsburgh would have one of the better starting lineups in the conference this season, but after two games, the jury is still out on how deep Jamie Dixon’s bench goes. Rider only dressed nine players on Saturday and Pittsburgh still needed to come behind in the second half to win. Ashton Gibbs (22.5 PPG) is going to shoot a lot and will be in contention for the conference’s scoring title. Tray Woodall (52.9 3PT%) seems to have drastically improved his shooting and will be dangerous offensive weapon, and Nasir Robinson and Dante Taylor help form a rugged and experienced frontcourt. But if the Panthers want to contend for the conference crown this season, a lot will depend on the development of roles players like Talib Zanna and freshmen Khem Birch, John Johnson, and Cameron Wright.

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CAA Wrap & Tourney Preview

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 4th, 2011

Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. With the CAA Tournament tipping on Friday, get up to speed on the conference and gain a leg up on your Big Dance Cinderella candidate research.

A Look Ahead… Postseason Style

  • First-Round Game to Watch: No. 8 UNC-Wilmington vs. No. 9 Georgia State. It’s not the sexiest matchup out there, but then again, what first-round game is? The teams split the season series and always seem to play one another close. This one should be pretty interesting, too, in that whichever team wins will have to turn around and face the team with the longest winning streak in the nation: George Mason.
  • First-Round Player To Watch: Northeastern’s Chaisson Allen. One of the more underrated guards in the conference, Allen has a strong build doesn’t seem to break under pressure. There will be no greater pressure than this weekend, so look for Allen to have a decent showing.
  • Team Most Likely to Pull an Upset: William & Mary. If only because they beat their first-round opponent, James Madison, during the regular season. That and junior Quinn McDowell is a threat from anywhere on the floor.
  • Team Most Likely to be Upset: Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams are really struggling coming into the CAA Tournament and unlike years past, they don’t seem to have the right demeanor about them to turn it around and make a run. Then again, that’s what this time of year is all about.
  • Team Most Likely to Win it All: George Mason. The Patriots have thoroughly dominated the league in the second half of the season and are playing their best basketball of the year at the perfect time. Look for this to be a two-bid conference, with both George Mason and Old Dominion capable of making some noise in the Big Dance.

A Look Back

It has been a banner year for the CAA on many levels, and still (barring some upsets in the conference tournament) it looks as though the league will be sending only two teams to the NCAA tournament. That said, the CAA can boast that it’s one of two leagues, along with the Big East, to have six 20-game winners. It also finished with one team ranked in the Top 25 (George Mason), has the nation’s fourth-leading scorer (Charles Jenkins). There’s a lot to get to in the check-in/postseason preview, so follow along as we recap the regular season that was and look ahead to the postseason that will be.

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 21st, 2011

 

Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.

A Look Back

Well, a lot has happened since our last check-in. Way back then (err, two weeks ago), this was a relatively quiet league with a pretty decent out-of-conference showing. Sure, there were occasional upsets (like Drexel over Louisville or Delaware over Old Dominion), but not too much to turn the conference on its head. Now, seven games into conference play, that has changed. Big time. Virginia Commonwealth and Hofstra have lifted themselves to the top of the conference standings, while Drexel and Northeastern have fallen a long way. Nobody seems safe anymore and with everyone beating up on one another, the CAA’s chances at being a multi-bid conference seem all but vanished.  That, however, doesn’t mean there’s no reason to enjoy the games. In fact, this probably makes it far more exciting to be a fan of the conference. It’s becoming quite clear that spectators should watch these games with no preset notion of which team is going to win, because that’s likely to be wrong. Without too much more chit-chat, let’s get to the recaps and all-important power rankings in this week’s CAA check-in.

  • Player of the Week: Joey Rodriguez, G, Virginia Commonwealth: The senior guard has been an understated part of the Rams’ league-second-best offense (72.9 points per game) as he runs the point with the poise and experience of a fourth-year player. In two victories last week, he contributed 14 points, eight rebounds and 13 assists while turning over the ball only four times and creating four steals. There’s little doubt Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess, and Brandon Rozzell would be able to do what they’re doing without Rodriguez’s steadying presence.
  • Team of the Week: William & Mary: Don’t act so surprised. The Tribe has, in the previous two games, been able to do what many teams in this conference have not on consecutive nights – blow teams out. In a league where every matchup is seemingly a nail-biter, William & Mary upset Drexel (which was coming off a win against Old Dominion) and then beat Towson by a combined total of 29 points.
  • Stat of the Week – 6: The number of CAA teams in the most recent Mid-Major Top 25 poll, which speaks to the amazing talent and balance at the top of this conference.

Charles Jenkins Watch

Week Four of our Charles Jenkins Watch, and he’s still at it. The senior guard hasn’t scored less than 13 points all season (and other than that one game, it has been less than 19) and last week compiled 41 points in two contests. He was, however, only 6-16 from the field in a loss against Old Dominion, but the Queens native still ranks seventh in the nation in scoring with an impressive average of 23.2 points per game.

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(14-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 22, SOS 40)
Last week: L 62-57 @ Drexel, W 75-64 @ Hofstra, W 64-58 vs. James Madsion
This week: 1.22 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.24 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 1.26 @ Georgia State

Previous rank: No. 1

What a wild week it has been for Old Dominion. And for that matter, everyone in the conference. But for the Monarchs in particular, this was a week during which they could prove their mettle, and why they’re the highest-ranked CAA team in the Mid-Major Top 25. After faltering on the road against a baffling Drexel team, Old Dominion rebounded nicely with a win against previously undefeated in the CAA Hofstra and then snapped James Madison’s nine-game winning streak. Not a bad way to round out the week. And the kicker is, they’re still gridlocked in a three-way tie for second in the conference standings.

2. George Mason
(13-5, 5-2 CAA – RPI 44, SOS 56)
Last week: W 66-51 vs. Georgia State, W 71-47 vs. Drexel
This week: 1.22 @ James Madison, 1.24 @ Delaware, 1.26 vs. Towson

Previous rank: No. 3

Ranked 12th in the Mid-Major Top 25, the Patriots have been one of the few teams who have played things out according to script – lose to teams ahead of you, beat those below you. George Mason has the second-highest RPI of any team in the conference right now, and continues to feast on a high field-goal percentage (48.4 percent – 18th in the nation). If that keeps up, along with the 14-points-per-game scoring averages of Cam Long and Ryan Pearson, there’s little doubt the Patriots will more than be in the mix come season’s end. Want even more of a reason to feel good? Check out how many games kenpom.com has the Patriots losing the rest of the way.

3. Virginia Commonwealth
(14-5, 6-1 CAA – RPI 68, SOS 163)
Last week: W 73-64 vs. Northeastern, W 71-54 vs. Georgia State
This week: 1.22 @ Old Dominion, 1.24 @ Towson

Previous rank: No. 5

Would you look at that? Seemingly in the blink of an eye, the Rams are at the top of the conference and have pieced together a five-game winning streak in a league where it’s becoming apparent that that’s quitter a difficult task to accomplish. VCURamNation is buzzing, and rightfully so as the Rams most recently exacted revenge against Georgia State, which handed them their only conference loss thus far. A showdown against Old Dominion at the Constant Convocation Center looms on Saturday, so Jamie Skeen and company better eat their Wheaties.

4. James Madison
(15-4, 5-2 CAA – RPI 63, SOS 201)
Last week: W 79-67 vs. Georgia State, W 63-54 vs. UNC-Wilmington, L 64-58 @ Old Dominion
This week: 1.22 vs. George Mason, 1.24 @ Hofstra, 1.26 vs. Drexel

Previous rank: No. 4

Everything was lined up perfectly for the Dukes to steamroll into the toughest portion of their conference schedule riding an unprecedented winning streak. That is, until they lost to Old Dominion, and now must find a way to regroup with George Mason, Hofsta and Drexel on the horizon rather than look to extend a record streak. Still, what the Dukes accomplished during their impressive run (the school’s best since 1992-93) won’t soon be forgotten and a showdown against George Mason at 11 a.m. on Saturday probably has leading scorer Denzel Bowles (17.1 points per game) champing at the bit.

5. Hofstra
(12-6, 6-1 CAA – RPI 103, SOS 143)
Last week: L 75-64 vs. Old Dominion, W 66-57 vs. UNC-Wilmington
This week: 1.22 @ William & Mary, 1.24 vs. James Madison, 1.27 @ Virginia Commonwealth

Previous rank: No. 8

A mistake is a mistake, and it appears as though last week’s rank of No. 8 was way too low for the Pride. After the conclusion of the non-conference schedule, Hofstra simply skyrocketed and now sits tied with Virginia Commonwealth at the top of the standings. If not for a loss against Old Dominion, the Pride would be roaring even louder. Naturally, Charles Jenkins receives a large amount of attention, but don’t underestimate the minutes Mike Moore (14.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds per game) contributes. The key to Hofstra’s success so far has largely depended on its ability to hang on to the ball (17.2 turnover percentage) and nail free throws (75.5 free-throw percentage).

6. Drexel Dragons
(11-6, 3-4 CAA – RPI 65, SOS 95)
Last week: W 62-57 vs. Old Dominion, L 80-66 @ William & Mary, L 71-47 @ George Mason
This week: 1.22 vs. Northeastern, 1.24 vs. Georgia State, 1.26 @ James Madison

Previous rank: No. 2

You can’t help but think that Drexel did this to itself. Maybe it was coach Bruiser Flint’s suspension, maybe it was the realization that rebounding alone cannot win basketball games, maybe it was the high from downing Old Dominion, or maybe the Dragons had become such a target that other teams played at their top level in order to defeat Drexel. Whatever the case, the Dragons already have lost four conference games and back-to-back games in humiliating fashion. First it was an 80-66 pounding at the hands of William & Mary. Yes, you read that right, and yes the Tribe shot 60 percent in that game. Then the Dragons dropped a 71-47 decision to George Mason in which they scored 17 second-half points. So in a two-game span, Drexel lost by a combined 38 points and completely undid what little chance there might have been for an at-large bid.

7. Delaware
(9-8, 4-3 CAA – RPI 137, SOS 180)
Last week: W 66-63 @ Towson, W 54-52 vs. Northeastern

This week: 1.22 @ Georgia State, 1.24 vs. George Mason, 1.26 @ William & Mary

Previous rank: No. 6

This is where the dividing line starts to fall between the CAA’s top teams and the rest of the pack. But with that said, any of the teams ranked sixth and below have proven very capable of beating anyone in the upper tier. The Blue Hens probably had a bit rougher week than anticipated as both victories against Towson and Northeastern came down to the wire – especially Jamelle Hagins’ dunk with 21 seconds remaining to give Delaware the victory against the Huskies. The Blue Hens are the last remaining team on this list with a winning record in conference play.

8. UNC-Wilmington
(9-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 131, SOS 110)
Last week: L 63-54 @ James Madison, L 66-57 @ Hofstra
This week: 1.22 vs. Towson, 1.24 @ Old Dominion, 1.26 vs. Northeastern

Previous rank: No. 7

It wasn’t the best week for Seahawks anywhere as UNC-Wilmington dropped down to .500 by losing consecutive contests to James Madison and Hofstra. Granted those are two of the better teams in the conference, but it was a hit UNCW probably couldn’t afford to take more than midway through the CAA slate. The Seahawks do a lot of things well, but nothing great which is pretty much the recipe for a .500 squad. Chad Tomko (16.1 points per game) and Keith Rendleman (10.2 points per game, 7.4 rebounds per game) continue to leads a team that’s right in the thick of things, but probably not good enough to down the big boys come crunch time.

9. William & Mary
(6-12, 2-5 CAA – RPI 245, SOS 132)
Last week: W 80-66 vs. Drexel, W 83-68 @ Towson
This week: 1.22 vs. Hofstra, 1.24 @ Northeastern, 1.26 vs. Delaware

Previous rank: No. 11

The Tribe picked one heck of a way to snap a seven-game losing streak, eh? Not only did William & Mary trounce Drexel, but then it turned right around and dismantled Towson. In two games, the Tribe has beaten its opponents by a combined 29 points and have turned their downtrodden program into a respectable one in a matter of days. The real test will come Saturday, when the Tribe has to face a difficult Hofstra team at Kaplan Arena.

10. Georgia State
(8-9, 3-4 CAA – RPI 205, SOS 200)
Last week: L 79-67 @ James Madison, L 66-51 @ George Mason, L 71-54 @ Virginia Commonwealth
This week: 1.22 vs. Delaware, 1.24 @ Drexel, 1.26 vs. Old Dominion

Previous rank: No. 11

While Georgia State has lost three games in a row, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that they’re the only team in the conference to beat both Virginia Commonwealth and James Madison. The CAA’s version of a spoiler, no doubt. Last week, however, both school exacted their revenge on the Panthers, who are still searching for a go-to scorer down the stretch. Those three losses, however, came to three very talented schools. Don’t be surprised is Georgia State pulls a few more upsets before season’s end – snow-delayed games or not.

11. Towson
(4-13, 0-7 CAA – RPI 267, SOS 168)
Last week: L 66-63 vs. Delaware, L 83-68 vs. William & Mary
This week: 1.22 @ UNC-Wilmington, 1.24 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.26 @ George Mason

Previous rank: No. 10

Towson joins Northeastern as the two winless teams in CAA play But the Tigers do appear to be in slightly better shape than the Huskies. No, it’s not because they’ve only lost six straight instead of eight. But because they are getting contribution across the board (four scorers average double figures) and their rebounding (33.4) and points (70.1) averages aren’t nearly as bad. No game is going to be easy for Towson the rest of the way, but there’s little doubt the Tigers won’t get that first conference victory sooner rather than later.

12. Northeastern
(4-14, 0-7 CAA – RPI 184, SOS 30)
Last week: L 73-64 @ Virginia Commonwealth, L 54-52 @ Delaware
This week: 1.22 @ Drexel, 1.24 vs. William & Mary, 1.26 @ UNC-Wilmington

Previous rank: No. 9

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Well, maybe not mighty, but certainly not many could have predicted the Huskies would be winless through seven games of conference action. Northeastern has lost eight games in a row and is having trouble both scoring (62.8 points per game) and rebounding (28.5 rebounds per game). And in a conference where rebounding is king, that’s a problem. One quick look at Northeastern’s kempom.com page, and the amount of red tells you all you need to know. The Huskies haven’t beaten a team with an RPI higher than 130 this season. Thought if it’s any consolation, their strength of schedule is a robust 30. It will be interesting to see who wins Saturday’s matchup of two struggling programs in Drexel and Northeastern.

A Look Ahead

For whatever reason, the chips just happened to fall on Saturday as a huge day of games for the conference. Here’s a look at three games you won’t want to miss this weekend. And mine as well throw the NFL’s championship weekend games on top of that as well. Those things are gonna be good÷

  • Jan. 22, George Mason (13-5, 5-2) at James Madison (15-4, 5-2): Set the coffee maker and make sure you wake up for this one, which tips off at 11 a.m. from the JMU Convocation Center. The game will be televised on ESPNU and, more importantly, will provide a big road test for the Patriots, who are coming off a big win against Drexel. Player to watch: James Madison’s Denzel Bowles. The senior forward has compiled back-to-back 20-plus point games and boasts the top field goal percentage on the team (and second-best in the conference) at 60.9 percent. He also has yanked down double-digit rebounds in three of JMU’s previous four games.
  • Jan. 22, Virginia Commonwealth (14-5, 6-1) at Old Dominion (14-4, 5-2): If possible, this game might carry bigger implications than the George Mason-James Madison battle, if only because VCU sits atop the league and on a five-game winning streak. That said, Old Dominion is out to prove it’s still the top dog in the CAA. Player to watch: Old Dominion’s Frank Hassell. Two of his five double-doubles on the season have come in his past two games. The senior forward has the ability to take over a game, so watch out if the crowd gets behind him.
  • Jan. 22, Hofstra (12-6, 6-1) at William & Mary (6-12, 2-5): While this might not be the sexiest matchup of the CAA’s Super Saturday, it has the potential to be an important one no matter which team wins. If Hofstra takes it, it does no worse than maintain its position atop the conference. If the Tribe pulls an upset, it extends its winning streak to three and proves that nobody should take it lightly. Player to watch: William & Mary junior swingman Quinn McDowell. In his previous three games, he has scored 45 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. As the lead contributor on the Tribe, he’ll need to step up. It will also be interesting to see who guards Hofstra’s Charles Jenkins.

Caught on Film

Remember, if you like CAA basketball highlights (and we’re assuming you do since you made it this far), check out the CAA’s YouTube page for regular highlights.

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 3rd, 2011

Nick Camarotta is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.

A Look Back

Should old out of conference schedules be forgot/and never brought to mind/should conference play be coming up/for Auld Lang Syne.

Or something like that… At any rate, it’s time to wrap up the out of conference schedule (save the BracketBusters and NCAA Tournament), and look ahead toward the beginning of league play. This past week was a bit disjointed because of the holiday schedule, but while the games weren’t all too exciting, the accomplishment of the conference as a whole was. The CAA now holds a 77-53 out of conference record, which is the league’s best-ever mark. The CAA’s previous best came during the 2005-06 season (76-52) when George Mason reached the Final Four, and Old Dominion and Hofstra played in the NIT. The only other time the Colonial finished more than 10 games above .500 was in the 2008-09 season (81-70). In addition, four teams are ranked in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll: Old Dominion (2), George Mason (7), Drexel (9) and Virginia Commonwealth (16). James Madison just missed the cut with 56 points to No. 25 Furman’s 65.  Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s look at the best out of conference win for the league so far. And the worst out of conference loss.

Here are some great reads before we get started with the power rankings:

  • Brian Mull of the Star News has a fantastic look at the CAA season to this point, examining each team’s out of conference schedule and the CAA’s chances as a multiple-bid conference.
  • Diamond Leung writes a nice piece on Drexel’s Chris Fouch, and his interesting role as the team’s leading scorer off the bench.

Player of the Week

Brandon Rozzell, G, Virginia Commonwealth: With another week of few games, thanks to the holiday season, the Player of the Week’s stats might not be as gaudy as we’re used to, but senior guard Brandon Rozzell was the best of the bunch. The 5’10 Richmond, Virginia, native poured in 41 points in two victories for the Rams last week, including 10-of-21 from beyond the arc. On the season, Rozzell is among VCU’s top three scorers, averaging 13.2 points per game. Unfortunately, that’s all he has shown he can do thus far, producing mediocre averages of 2.2 rebounds per game and 2.2 assists per game.

Team of the Week

Towson: Reach into a hat and take your pick… No team was particularly impressive this past week, and nobody played a marquee opponent. This was simply the calm before the storm – the last handful of blah games before the New Year. Towson gets the nod this time for an impressive win against LaSalle, and some news off the court as well. The transfer of junior guard Troy Franklin came as quite a shock to the league. Franklin was leading the team in minutes per game (35) and was scoring 12.6 points per game. Quite a blow to a team that already lacked depth before the start of conference play.

Stat of the Week

2: Number of CAA teams that won their respective holiday tournaments: Georgia State and Virginia Commonwealth. The Rams took home the title in the Hardwood Classic with a victory against New Hampshire, while the Panthers took care of business in the Dr. Pepper Classic by beating Chattanooga in the title game. For the Rams, it was their first in-season tournament title since the 1980s.

Charles Jenkins Watch

Week Two of our Charles Jenkins Watch takes us to, well, the same exact place it did last week. Even in a loss, Jenkins netted 20 points, but did have a streak of five games with five or more assists snapped in the defeat against Iona. Jenkins is averaging 23.5 points per game – tops in the CAA, and seventh in the nation.

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(9-3, 0-1 CAA – RPI 19, SOS 24)
Last week: L 81-58 @ No. 10 Missouri
This week: 1.03 @ Towson, 1.05 vs. Northeastern, 1.08 vs. George Mason

Previous rank: No. 1

The general consensus was that Old Dominion’s game against 10th-ranked Missouri would be just that – a game. Instead, the Monarchs fell flat, and couldn’t hang with the Tigers, who shot 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from beyond the arc. The loss is a humbling one for Old Dominion (ranked second in the Mid-Major Top 25) as coach Blaine Taylor’s team gears up for the beginning of conference play. Towson and Northeastern should provide nice momentum for a showdown against George Mason on Saturday.

2. Drexel Dragons
(9-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 20, SOS 122)
Last week: W 84-39 vs. Niagara
This week: 1.03 vs. Hofstra, 1.05 @ Virginia Commonwealth, 1.08 vs. Delaware

Previous rank: No. 2

While Drexel played only one game last week, we’ll take a look at two. On Dec. 22, the Dragons had a chance to beat their second ranked opponent of the season, but the task proved too difficult – No. 5 Syracuse at the Carrier Dome is simply too good. The Dragons lost, 93-65, but rebounded nicely with a demolition of Niagara in their final game before CAA play. Speaking of rebounding, Bruiser Flint’s squad ranks ninth nationally in rebounding percentage. The Dragons also rank first in the country in 3-point percentage defense (25.3).

3. George Mason
(9-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 64, SOS 134)
Last week: L 73-67 @ Dayton
This week: 1.03 vs. Delaware, 1.05 @ Hofstra, 1.08 @ Old Dominion

Previous rank: No. 3

According to kenpom.com’s four factors, you’re looking at the best team in the conference. Ranked 50th on Pomeroy’s website, the Patriots deserve to be in the mix with Old Dominion and Drexel, though Wednesday’s loss against Dayton really hurts their chances at an at-large bid (if there were even any before that). That 73-67 loss ended a seven-game winning streak. Senior guard Cam Long scored 20, but missed eight shots from beyond the arc (2-10) that could have made the difference.

4. James Madison
(10-3, 0-1 CAA – RPI 53, SOS 196)
Last week: W 60-51 @ Kent State
This week: 1.03 vs. Northeastern, 1.05 vs. Towson, 1.08 @ William & Mary

Previous rank: No. 5

The first team in the conference to reach the 10-win plateau, the Dukes also ensured the CAA its best-ever out of conference record, netting the Colonial its 77th win. Kent State suffered its first home loss in the 60-51 defeat. James Madison will ride a four game winning streak into conference play, and its schedule is quite favorable in this first week of league action. None of the teams the Dukes play have a winning record – the only three such teams in the CAA.

5. Virginia Commonwealth
(9-4, 1-0 CAA – RPI 69, SOS 132)
Last week: W 75-66 vs. Wofford, W 78-65 vs. New Hampshire
This week: 1.03 @ Georgia State, 1.05 vs. Drexel, 1.08 @ UNC-Wilmington

Previous rank: No. 4

A pair of games and a pair of wins for the Rams, who are still scoring and assisting at an impressive clip (74.4 points per game, 16.0 assists per game). While the quality of VCU’s final two conference opponents is a tad sub-par (Wofford and New Hampshire), the Rams should like their chances entering the first week of conference action. The scoring is balanced at the top (Jamie Skeen, Bradford Burgess and Brandon Rozzell all average more than 13 points per game), so if one has an off night, the others should pick it up.

6. Delaware
(6-5, 1-0 CAA – RPI 112, SOS 131)
Last week: W 54-53 @ Santa Clara, L 83-71 vs. American

This week: 1.03 @ George Mason, 1.05 vs. William & Mary, 1.08 @ Drexel

Previous rank: No. 7

Guard Devon Saddler nailed a key bucket down the stretch and was the only player in double figures in Delaware’s 54-53 victory against Santa Clara. The Blue Hens couldn’t string two together, however, as the short trip to American resulted in a 12-point loss. This week appears to be a difficult one for the Blue Hens, however, as they make trips to both George Mason and Drexel. Then again, Delaware is one of three teams to be Old Dominion this season, who knows what will happen?

7. UNC-Wilmington
(6-6, 0-1 CAA – RPI 143, SOS 151)
Last week: W 64-42 vs. Toledo
This week: 1.03 @ William & Mary, 1.05 vs. Georgia State, 1.08 vs. Virginia Commonwealth

Previous rank: No. 6

While the NFL’s version of the Seahawks were busy fighting for their playoffs lives, UNC-Wilmington held Toledo to its lowest points total of the season in an effortless win. It was also the fewest points the Seahawks allowed so far this season. But, it was against Toledo, which has been abysmal thus far. Right now, UNC-Wilmington is depending far too much on its 3-point shooting abilities (98-241 for 40.7%). That must change as play goes forward.

8. Hofstra
(7-5, 1-0 CAA – RPI 179, SOS 79)
Last week: L 87-62 @ Iona
This week: 1.03 @ Drexel, 1.05 vs. George Mason, 1.08 @ Northeastern

Previous rank: No. 8

Hofstra is just kind of… there. Not overwhelmingly talented, but certainly not deserving of any lower a ranking. The biggest thing the Pride have going for them is the play of Charles Jenkins, who continues to score at a fantastic rate, and is 10th in the nation in true shooting percentage (70.7). Still, kenpom.com predicts the Pride to finish the conference schedule 7-11, which is certainly not where coach Mo Cassara wants his team to be.

9. Northeastern
(4-8, 0-1 CAA – RPI 163, SOS 33)
Last week: L 65-63 vs. Princeton, L 75-62 vs. Furman
This week: 1.03 @ James Madison, 1.05 @ Old Dominion, 1.08 vs. Hofstra

Previous rank: No. 9

The turbulent season in Boston continues, as the Huskies escaped the snow storms that plagued the Northeast to play in a few holiday tournaments.  After finishing the Cancun Governor’s Cup with two wins, Northeastern couldn’t muster a victory in the UCF Holiday Classic and dropped games to Princeton and Furman. Still, as bad as things may appear, the Huskies’ strength of schedule is a robust 33, and once conference play begins, perhaps Bill Coen’s team will regain its swagger.

10. Towson
(4-7, 0-1 CAA – RPI 254, SOS 268)
Last week: W 93-90 (OT) @ LaSalle
This week: 1.03 vs. Old Dominion, 1.05 @ James Madison, 1.08 @ Georgia State

Previous rank: No. 12

Well isn’t this nice? We know, this is probably a bit too high for Towson, but let the Tigers have their moment in the sun. Once conference play begins, they’ll probably drop back down. But to go to LaSalle and come away with a thrilling overtime win in the final OOC game of the season (so far), is nothing to sneeze at. The Explorers are a deep, talented team, but Isaiah Philmore and Braxton Dupree both poured in 27 to gain the victory.

11. Georgia State
(6-5, 1-0 CAA – RPI 259, SOS 334)
Last week: W 72-42 vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, W 81-76 @ Chattanooga
This week: 1.03 vs. Virginia Commonwealth, 1.05 @ UNC-Wilmington, 1.08 vs. Towson

Previous rank: No. 10

What a nice little way for Georgia State to wrap up its out of conference slate – with two wins and a record above .500. Still, the Panthers must improve their free-throw shooting (55.9 percent – 344th in the nation) and turnover ratio if they want to notch some victories against some of the tougher teams in the CAA. A difficult test against Virginia Commonwealth looms on the horizon.

12. William & Mary
(4-8, 0-1 CAA – RPI 274, SOS 205)
Last week: L 83-81 @ Longwood
This week: 1.03 vs. UNC-Wilmington, 1.05 @ Delaware, 1.08 vs. James Madison

Previous rank: No. 11

Unfortunately, for the Tribe, it doesn’t get much worse than a two-point loss to Longwood. Unless, of course, it was a 20-point loss to Longwood. Either way, William & Mary has to do better than its current 42.7 field goal percentage if it hopes to remain competitive in conference play. Junior swingman Quinn McDowell and his 15.2 points per game won’t solve all the problems.

A Look Ahead

This is, aside from the conference tournament, perhaps the most exciting look ahead of the season. All of the anticipation that comes along with playing teams in your own conference is a mere 24 hours away. The CAA plays on three days this week. Here’s a look at what should be the best matchup on each:

  • Jan. 3, Northeastern (4-8, 0-1) at James Madison (10-3, 0-1): The struggling Huskies know they’re better than 4-8. The streaking Dukes are out to show that their loss against Georgia State in the CAA tune-up was nothing more than an anomaly. Player to watch: Northeastern’s Chassion Allen. The senior guard is clearly the leader of the Huskies, scoring 16.3 points per game and pulling down 5.8 rebounds per game. He can’t help the Huskies’ 3-point shooting percentage (35.9), however.
  • Jan. 5, Drexel (9-2, 1-0) vs. Virginia Commonwealth (9-4, 1-0): Of the games on this list, this is the only one where both teams have undefeated conference records. It may not seem like much, but when every win is so valuable in this ultra-competitive conference, this is a big one. Player to watch: Drexel sophomore guard Chris Fouch. It’s hard not to watch the sparkplug from New York, who’s averaging a team-best 19.1 points per game.
  • Jan. 8, George Mason (9-3, 1-0) vs. Old Dominion (9-3, 0-1): This appears to be a fantastic matchup on paper. Naturally, a lot depends on what these two teams do in the two games preceding this one, but even still – this is an early battle for top positioning. Kenpom.com has the Monarchs winning, 64-62, and if the actual game is that good, this should be a real treat. Player to watch: Senior forward Frank Hassell. He has been a beast all season, and is averaging close to a double-double with 12.3 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game. He’ll be a handful for the Patriots.

YouTube Highlights

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 20th, 2010

Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.

A Look Back

Still searching for that last-minute holiday gift for your favorite Colonial Athletic Association diehard fan? Well, see if you can somehow wrap your hands around a DVD (or Blu-Ray – they’re all the rage) of Drexel’s monumental upset win against previously undefeated Louisville at the (yes, this is the real name) KFC Yum! Center. Or, if DVDs aren’t available – which in all likelihood, they’re not – maybe just a framed photo of the box score. Either way, chances are this win serves as an early present for mid-major fans everywhere. Entering the contest, kempom.com pegged Louisville as 86% favorites. With Drexel’s victory (the Dragons’ first against a ranked opponent since 2006), perhaps those in the Philadelphia area now will be forced to consider the petitions to change the Big 5 tag to the City 6. Given the way Temple and Villanova are playing, too, it looks to be a promising year in Philly. That, however, is beside the point. The point is that this conference’s stock is very high right now thanks to Old Dominion’s consistently high billing, Drexel’s upset win, VCU’s already sterling reputation, and George Mason’s six-game winning streak. Elsewhere last week, UNC-Wilmington beat Wake Forest for the first time in school history, and the CAA continued to roll along in non-conference play. Six teams in the conference boast RPIs in the top 100, and the CAA’s non-conference record is now 68-42 (.618). With only a handful of out-of-conference games remaining before the real fun begins, all CAA fans can be friends for a few more weeks, which is nice. We wouldn’t want anyone on edge for the holidays.

Player of the Week

Jamelle Hagins, F, Delaware: Since there weren’t that many games last week thanks to the exam schedule for a majority of CAA teams, let’s give some props to Hagins. The 6’8, 220-pound sophomore held his own against Villanova in Philadelphia en route to scoring 12 points, pulling down eight rebounds and blocking a whopping seven shots. Hagins is blossoming in his second year, and leads the conference in blocks per game, with four.

Team of the Week

Drexel Dragons: Should there be any other? The Dragons slowly and methodically tore apart Louisville, akin to what Gerard Butler’s character does to his adversary in Law Abiding Citizen, through a bevy of monster rebounding (46-26) and stingy defense. As of now, the CAA’s top four teams are in very good standing, not only among mid-major clubs, but in the national eye as well.

Stat of the Week

34: The number of consecutive double-digit scoring games for Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins. Which leads us to a new feature of the CAA Check-In…

Charles Jenkins Watch (new feature!)

As if you haven’t already heard enough about the superb guard from Hofstra, here’s a new feature to keep an eye on just how good he is compared to the rest of the nation’s scorers. And thanks to a 40-point performance against Binghamton, followed by 32-point and 21-point outbursts, he’s ranked fourth in the nation in scoring (24.9 points per game) behind Connecticut’s Kemba Walker (28.1), Northern Illinois’ Xavier Silas (28.1) and Nicholls State’s Anatoly Bose (25.0). Couple that with the fact that Jenkins graduated Sunday, and he’s ending 2010 with a flourish.

YouTube Highlights

The CAA recap video from December 14 – AKA, the Drexel-Louisville game.

Highlights from Delaware’s loss against Villanova. Philly’s own (well, technically New Jersey’s own) Scott Graham on the play-by-play.

This’ll give you a look at UNC-Wilmington’s big win against Wake Forest, among others…

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(8-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 13, SOS 19)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.23 vs. Presbyterian

Previous rank: No. 1

While Old Dominion has relinquished its top spot in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll (as of December 13), second place isn’t a bad consolation prize. Naturally, the Monarchs still should be considered the class of the CAA, but it’s important to remember that Drexel hadn’t beaten Louisville when this Mid-Major Top 25 poll was released, so things could change. It’s still a little hard on the eyes to look at the disparity between ODU’s two losses, though: Nov. 12, 62-59 vs. Georgetown and, uhh, December 4 at, uhh, Delaware, 75-67…

2. Drexel Dragons
(8-1, 1-0 CAA – RPI 26, SOS 141)
Last week: W 52-46 @ No. 20 Louisville, W 61-57 @ St. Francis (Pa.)
This week: 12.22 @ No. 5 Syracuse

Previous rank: No. 4

Yeah, yeah, that win against Louisville was fantastic for Drexel’s image. Want to know if the Dragons are really for real? Check out Wednesday’s showdown against fifth-ranked Syracuse. As if the matchup itself wasn’t tough enough, the game’s in the Carrier Dome. Still, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, remember that Bruiser Flint’s squad had an amazing week that included a signature win, followed by a sloppy trap game victory. All of a sudden, the hopes for the CAA’s status as a two-bid conference don’t seem so distant.

3. George Mason
(8-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 70, SOS 143)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.22 @ Duquesne

Previous rank: No. 2

The Patriots are on a nice little six game winning streak, but given some of the high-quality wins by other CAA teams, George Mason’s run has largely gone unnoticed outside of Northern Virginia. People, however, should start to notice, as the Patriots boast three scorers averaging double figures – Luke Hancock (13.0), Cam Long (12.5) and Ryan Pearson (12.3) – and a team field goal percentage of .492, which is 16th in the nation.

4. Virginia Commonwealth
(7-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 69, SOS 142)
Last week: W 70-67 vs. Tulsa
This week:12.21 @ University of Alabama-Birmingham

Previous rank: No. 3

It wasn’t technically “last week,” but we’re going to mention VCU’s loss to Richmond anyway. The Rams dropped a 72-60 decision on December 11 at Richmond in what could have been a major statement game for them and the conference, and could have provided bragging rights in the Battle for Richmond. Instead, the Spiders picked apart VCU’s defense (55.1 percent from the field) and assisted 18 baskets to Virginia Commonwealth’s six. The Rams, however, bounced back nicely with a 70-67 win against Tulsa.

5. James Madison
(8-3, 0-1 CAA – RPI 100, SOS 250)
Last week: W 66-61 @ South Florida
This week: 12.22 vs. Marshall

Previous rank: No. 5

Phew. The Dukes finally return home after a lengthy five-game road trip in which they went 3-2. JMU has won its last two games, but the reward for finally returning home isn’t too sweet – a matchup against Marshall, the same team they lost to, 67-63, on December 7. Perhaps the change of scenery will aid James Madison this time around. If not, perhaps senior forward Denzel Bowles will. His efficiency from the floor is a ridiculous .623, helping him pour in a team-high 17.2 points per game.

6. UNC-Wilmington
(5-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 72, SOS 75)
Last week: W 81-69 vs. Wake Forest, W 64-50 vs. Radford
This week: 12.20 vs. Illinois State, 12.22 @ Campbell

Previous rank: No. 9

While it wasn’t quite on the same level as Drexel’s upset, UNC-Wilmington’s dismantling of intra-state rival Wake Forest last Sunday at the Greensboro Coliseum was quite impressive. The final score, 81-69, was a large reason why. The Seahawks shot 14-27 from three-point range and five players reached double figures in what was a marquee for coach Buzz Peterson in his first year at the helm.

7. Delaware
(5-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 73, SOS 130)
Last week: L 78-59 No. 10 Villanova
This week: 12.22 vs. Penn

Previous rank: No. 6

It was fun while it lasted, but apparently all good things must come to an end. Prior to Saturday’s 78-59 loss against Villanova, the Blue Hens were riding a five-game winning streak – their longest since 2001. The short trip to Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia proved too much of a challenge for Delaware to notch its first win against a Top 25 team, though. Still, with an RPI of 73 and a home game against far more manageable Big 5 opponent in Penn upcoming next week, things don’t appear so Blue for the Hens.

8. Hofstra
(6-4, 1-0 CAA – RPI 159, SOS 183)
Last week: W 71-58 @ Manhattan
This week: 12.22 vs. Holy Cross

Previous rank: No. 7

In between a thrilling overtime victory against Binghamton and a blowout of Manhattan, the Pride slipped up against Florida Atlantic despite a 32-point effort from senior guard Charles Jenkins. It cost them a few slots in the RPI rankings, as well as the potential for a six-game winning streak heading into Wednesday’s game against Holy Cross. Still, if Jenkins keeps it up (24.9 points per game, 4.3 assists per game), Hofstra will never be counted out of a conference game this season.

9. Northeastern
(2-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 163, SOS 33)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.22 vs. Saint Louis, 12.23 vs. East Tennessee State/Southern Mississippi, 12.24 vs. TBA

Previous rank: No. 8

The CAA’s northern-most team has fallen the farthest south in the standings. Last in the conference in wins (two), the Huskies have dropped five in a row, most “recently” a 79-67 loss to URI on December 8. Bill Coen’s team has two tournaments remaining before the start of CAA play – the Cancun Governor’s Cup and the UCF Holiday Classic. Maybe a few exotic getaways (to Cancun and Orlando) are what this team needs to slide back on track. That said, NU’s strength of schedule is 33rd in the country, so who knows what might happen once conference play rolls around.

10. Georgia State
(4-4, 1-0 CAA – RPI 278, SOS 287)
Last week: W 76-67 vs. Florida A&M
This week: 12.22 @ Georgia Southern

Previous rank: No. 10

It’s a good, heck, a great thing for your conference when the team with an RPI of 278 maintains a .500 record (4-4) in non-conference play. Which is exactly what Georgia State is doing thanks to the strong play of, well, everybody. Nobody on the roster is averaging more than ten points per game, but nine players are averaging more than five per contest. And Harold Doby is right there with an average of 4.9. Don’t expect the Panthers to contend for a CAA title, but enjoy what they’re doing for the conference.

11. William & Mary
(4-6, 0-1 CAA – RPI 248, SOS 172)
Last week: 12.16 W 72-44 vs. Shenandoah (Div. III), 12.18 L 71-62 @ Liberty
This week: 12.21 @ North Carolina

Previous rank: No. 11

First William & Mary’s football program took a crack at North Carolina. Now it’s basketball’s turn. The Tribe’s football team lost by four points (21-17). Just imagine if the basketball squad can keep the score that close… Junior swingman Quinn McDowell has been a one-man show for the Tribe, leading the team in points per game (14.6), rebounds per game (5.8) and three-point field goal percentage (.528).

12. Towson
(3-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 286, SOS 324)
Last week: Idle
This week: 12.20 @ Hampton, 12.22 vs. Princeton

Previous rank: No. 12

OK, so the Tigers haven’t played what you would call a challenging non-conference schedule. They’ve still notched three wins, and have a legitimate chance at two more this week. Plus, despite the sub-par quality of opponent, Towson is scoring at a pretty decent rate – 74.5 points per game with an adjusted tempo rating of 71.5 (good for 33rd in the nation). In addition, junior forward Braxton Dupree is one of two players in the conference (Drexel’s Samme Givens is the other) who’s averaging a double-double (13.1 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game).

A Look Ahead

If you have plans on Wednesday, it might be best to postpone them. At least if you’re hoping to watch your favorite CAA team in action before the Christmas holiday. There are a number of intriguing games on the docket. Let’s check them out:

  • December 21, William & Mary at North Carolina (7-4): Alright, so this probably won’t be the best game out there, but it’s always fun to watch mid-majors take on traditionally strong programs, especially ACC schools. It doesn’t help the Pride that the Tar Heels are coming off a heartbreaking loss against No. 22 Texas, but who knows what will happen. That’s why they play the games. Player to watch: UNC junior forward Tyler Zeller. William & Mary doesn’t have anyone who can match up against the 7’ tree on paper. Zeller is leading the Tar Heels with 15.6 points per game, not too far ahead of UNC’s two other massive post players – 6’10 John Henson (10.5 points per game) and 6’9 Harrison Barnes (12.3 points per game).
  • December 22, Northeastern vs. St. Louis (4-5): This will be Northeastern’s first game since December 8, a 14-day layoff. Either the Huskies will enter their tournament in Cancun refreshed and ready to play, or they’ll appear disjointed and sluggish. St. Louis, out of the A-10, appears to be an ideal first-round matchup for what is quickly becoming Chassion Allen’s team. Player to watch: Whoever is going to rebound the basketball. No player on either of these teams is averaging more than six rebounds per game, which means anyone will have the opportunity to step up and control the boards. For a reference point, Allen leads the Huskies with 5.9 boards per game and Dwayne Evans leads the Billikens (5.6).
  • December 22, Drexel at No. 5 Syracuse (11-0): Well, the Dragons already have knocked off one previously undefeated Big East team. Why not do it again? The Orange have one game – Monday against Morgan State – before the Dragons come calling, while Drexel is off until it faces its second ranked opponent in about as many weeks. Much like the gameplan entering the contest in Louisville, Drexel must rely on its offensive and defensive rebounding to keep the score low. That should swing the tempo in its favor. Remember, the Dragons are fifth in the nation in rebounds per game (43.0), so that strategy isn’t nearly as crazy as it sounds. Player to watch: Syracuse senior forward Rick Jackson. The 6’9 Philadelphia native is averaging 13.5 points per game and 12.1 rebounds per game, but had his string of 10 straight double-digit scoring games snapped with an eight-point effort in a win against Iona last week.
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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on December 6th, 2010

Nick Cammarota is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association.

A Look Back

This week in Colonial Athletic Association action is for those who enjoy it when ABC Family starts showing holiday programming the day after Halloween. It’s a dandy little taste of what everyone knows is coming, but for which the wait seems interminable. Yes, the first batch of conference games was held Saturday, and already there’s plenty to talk about. Namely…

  • Delaware’s 75-67 upset victory against Old Dominion. The Blue Hens were paced by senior guard Jawan Carter’s 29-point effort – his third straight 20-plus point performance. This one was special. Not only did it help Delaware to its first three-game winning streak since December of the 2008-09 season, but sent a message to the rest of the conference that, perhaps, things are not as clear-cut as some may have thought. Especially considering that the Monarchs were riding a five-game winning streak that included back-to-back-to-back victories against Clemson, Xavier and Richmond. And in the opening game of the season, Old Dominion hung with #16 Georgetown before falling late, 62-59. This, however, was the first true road game for the Monarchs after three at the Constant Convocation Center and three at a neutral site. What seems most impressive about the Blue Hens’ victory is that they only turned the ball over six times to ODU’s 14. And while Ben Finney and Kent Bazemore did their usual duty on the glass – 12 and 10 rebounds, respectively – Delaware was able to build and maintain a narrow lead for the majority of the contest. There’s little doubt Old Dominion is still the favorite to win the conference, but this game simply tells us that on a nightly basis, anything can happen. Which, at its essence, is really what college basketball is all about.

Player of the Week

  • Chris Fouch, G, Drexel: The 6’2 sophomore is beginning to prove his early-season points averages weren’t an aberration. In three games, Fouch scored 74 points, pulled down seven rebounds and assisted five baskets. The New York native began his week with a career-high 30-point outburst against Binghamton, came back to net 17 against city rival St. Joseph’s and then scored 27 in the CAA opener at Northeastern. Perhaps more impressive than his scoring efficiency (26-of-47, 61.7 percent) is that Fouch committed just one turnover in 93 minutes of playing time.

Team of the Week

  • Delaware Blue Hens: Apparently, all it took for Delaware to snap its seemingly annual December loss against Old Dominion was a change of scenery. Bob Carpenter Arena provided the perfect backdrop for the Blue Hens to score the first true upset in conference play. This was a big win, not only for the obvious reasons, but because it could help propel the Blue Hens to a few more victories in a fairly easy week coming up (strength of schedule-wise, at least). Following the victory against ODU, Delaware coach Monte Ross told the Delaware News Journal that the Blue Hens were the best defensive team in the league.

Stat of the Week

  • One: That’s the number of free throws Richmond attempted against Old Dominion in ODU’s 77-70 victory December 1. Conversely, the Monarchs attempted 20 shots from the charity stripe, hitting 15 of them. This is more than likely a statistical anomaly, but even so, it speaks to Old Dominion’s discipline and ability to limit the number of ways its opponents can score. Then again, discipline – in any facet of the game – is something that should be expected of such a veteran team.

Power Rankings

1. Old Dominion
(5-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 18, SOS 9)
Last week: W 77-70 vs. Richmond, L 75-67 @ Delaware
This week: 12.7 @ East Carolina, 12.9 vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, 12.11 vs. Dayton

Granted, this is a bad loss for a program that was ranked No. 1 in the Mid-Major Top 25, and it certainly takes a significant jab at the hearts of those hoping that the CAA might be a two-bid conference this season. But there’s no reason for Old Dominion to panic. They’ve got plenty of opportunities to rebound in the coming week, starting with a trip to East Carolina (7-2) on Tuesday.

2. George Mason
(6-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 128, SOS 191)
Last week: W 60-46 vs. George Washington, W 80-52 UNC-Wilmington
This week: 12.8 vs. Loyola-Maryland, 12.11 @ Liberty

Not only are the Patriots on a four-game winning streak, but the way they’ve been beating people is impressive – by an average of 19.7 points per game. Then again, in their only close game of the season, they lost to Wofford in overtime. Still, if George Mason can continue beating teams at even close to this pace, it’s going to be a fun season in Fairfax.

3. Virginia Commonwealth
(5-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 52, SOS 104)
Last week: L 60-59 @ South Florida, W 59-55 vs. William & Mary
This week: vs. 12.8 vs. Virginia Military, 12.11 @ Richmond

Hopefully, it doesn’t cause too much of an uproar that VCU is listed third. It’s not as much a slight to the Rams as it is a compliment to the Patriots. VCU beat a very talented UCLA team and hung with Tennessee, but until their rebounding and interior defense numbers normalize, George Mason gets the nod. For reference’s sake, VCU is three spots ahead of GMU in the Mid-Major Top 25 (No. 6 vs. No. 9).

4. Drexel Dragons
(5-1, 1-0 CAA – RPI 48, SOS 156)
Last week: W 79-39 vs. Binghamton, W 62-50 vs. St. Joseph’s, W 63-58 @ Northeastern
This week: 12.11 vs. Rider, 12.14 @ Louisville

Rebounding and Chris Fouch. There’s your formula for Drexel’s early-season success, with a little freshman phenom Dartaye Ruffin thrown in. The Dragons are on a three-game winning streak and scored an impressive road victory against a Northeastern team that is better than its record. For the stat heads out there, KenPom.com ranks Drexel’s offensive rebounding percentage at 44.5 – second in the nation. If the Dragons keep that up, they’ll be a force no matter how many Fouch scores.

5. James Madison
(6-2, 0-1 CAA – RPI 114, SOS 249)
Last week: W 88-78 @ Longwood, L 64-63 @ Georgia State
This week: 12.7 @ Marshall, 12.11 @ Radford

The fourth CAA team to receive votes in the Mid-Major Top 25 poll (about 15 votes out of making the cut), the Dukes have only played one team with an RPI above 125 this season, but their six-game winning streak masked that well, until… they lost to Georgia State in the CAA opener. While this 64-63 upset wasn’t quite on the scale of ODU-Delaware, it once again speaks to the parity in the league.

6. Delaware
(3-2, 1-0 CAA – RPI 172, SOS 270)
Last week: W 75-67 vs. Old Dominion
This week: 12.8 @ Hampton, 12.11 vs. Delaware State

While in the long run, the Blue Hens might not end up better than some of teams below them in this version of the power rankings, they claim the number six spot on the strength of their victory against the Monarchs. Any time a struggling program can beat a Top-20 RPI team, they deserve a little love. Sophomore forward Jamelle Hagins leads the conference in blocks per game (3.8) by more than a full block.

7. Hofstra
(4-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 153, SOS 124)
Last week: W 58-48 @ Rider, W 74-62 vs. Towson
This week: 12.8 @ Binghamton, 12.11 vs. Florida Atlantic

The Pride are coming off a two-win week with the potential for something far greater. The next four games for Hofstra appear very winnable, and if that happens to be the case, it would extend the Pride’s winning streak to eight games. Having senior guard Charles Jenkins doesn’t hurt, either. He’s leading the conference in scoring with 22.3 points per game and hasn’t netted less than 15 all year.

8. Northeastern
(2-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 154, SOS 68)
Last week: L 77-72 @ Providence, L 63-58 vs. Drexel
This week: 12.8 vs. Rhode Island

Unfortunately for the Huskies, senior guard Chaisson Allen (18.5 points per game) can only do so much. Despite Allen’s double-double against Drexel (19 points, 10 rebounds), the Huskies turned the ball over 10 times and shot 15.7 percent from beyond the arc. This is the time of year where the graduation of Matt Janning is really impacting coach Bill Coen’s team, which has lost four in a row. Rhode Island looms as a sizable test.

9. UNC Wilmington
(3-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 79, SOS 45)
Last week: W 73-69 @ George Washington, L 80-52 @ George Mason
This week: Idle

This is where it starts to become the “best of the rest.” None of these bottom four teams have accomplished much early in the season, aside from helping the CAA nab a few out-of-conference wins against mediocre programs. The Seahawks rank near the bottom of the nation in turnover percentage (26.5) and steal percentage (13.7). Senior guard Chad Tomko is good, but it’s doubtful he’ll be able to post a favorable assist-to-turnover ratio against some of the better teams in the league.

10. Georgia State
(3-3, 1-0 CAA – RPI 230, SOS 210)
Last week: L 60-56 (OT) @ Hampton, W 64-63 James Madison
This week: 12.11 vs. Western Michigan

When things looked bleak for the Panthers following a four-point overtime loss to Hampton (MEAC), they rebounded with one heck of a nail-biting win against James Madison. Still, Georgia State hasn’t been particularly impressive in its wins (Troy, Utah State, JMU), and without the presence of a starter who averages double figures in scoring – junior forward Eric Buckner leads the team at 9.3 points per game – it could be a long season for the Panthers.

11. William & Mary
(3-5, 0-1 CAA – RPI 237, SOS 167)
Last week: L 64-39 vs. Western Carolina, W 76-62 vs. Howard, L 59-55 @ Virginia Commonwealth
This week: Idle

Say what you will about the Tribe’s inability to hold onto the basketball, or create turnovers, but coach Tony Shaver challenged his team with its early schedule. In its first three games, William & Mary played Virginia, Richmond and Syracuse. That’s a tall order for any club, let alone a team that only has one senior on the roster.

12. Towson
(2-4, 0-1 CAA – RPI 324, SOS 325)
Last week: W 75-73 vs. Western Michigan, L 74-62 @ Hofstra
This week: 12.8 @ George Washington, 12.11 @ University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Don’t fret, Towson fans – two bits of good news coming your way. 1) In the coming week, the Tigers are staying ultra-local with games at George Washington and UMBC, so go out and see them. 2) Junior forward Braxton Dupree isn’t just the conference leader in rebounding (11.0 per game), he’s 11th in the nation. As for the bits of bad news? UMBC is the only team with a lower RPI than the Tigers that Towson plays until Jan. 19 against William & Mary.

A Look Ahead

We interrupt that tasty preview of CAA conference play for this regularly-scheduled slate of non-conference battles. So far, the Colonial has fared pretty well against the other conferences, boasting a 41-28 record. No team in the conference has less than two wins. That said, it’ll be interesting to see if this conference play blip has any impact on play moving forward. Here’s a look at some of the top games on the docket for the coming week, Road Rules style:

  • 12/7 – James Madison at Marshall (5-2): You’re probably thinking, Marshall? There’s another Conference USA school to watch that doesn’t begin with “Mem” and end with “phis?” Yep. There is. James Madison will have its hands full. Not only can the Thundering Herd score (76.9 points per game – good for 67th in the nation), but they average 38.4 rebounds per game and boast four players who average 11.0 points per game or better. Player to watch: Marshall sophomore guard DeAndre Kane. The 6’4 wingman is averaging a team-high 17.6 points per game, but has proven turnover prone. If the Dukes can rattle him early, it could hold the key to victory.
  • 12/11 - Virginia Commonwealth at Richmond (6-2): More than anything, this game might take on an anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-better complex for the Rams. Old Dominion already has beaten Richmond this season. If Virginia Commonwealth could not only beat the A-10 Spiders, but do it on the road, that’d go a long way toward showing how powerful the top of this conference has the potential to be. Player to watch: Richmond senior forward Justin Harper. The Spiders are seventh in the nation in field goal percentage. A large part of that is because Harper’s shooting a cool 59.7 percent from the floor. And they’re not all bunnies either; Harper has made 12 of his 20 3-pointers (48.0 percent) this year.
  • 12/14 - Drexel at Louisville (6-0): This game has the potential to gain plenty of attention for the CAA. What kind of attention, however, remains to be seen. Naturally, Louisville is a premiere team in the Big East, and will more than likely enter this game undefeated. If the Dragons can find a way to deal with the intimidating atmosphere, they next must find a way to slow an offense that averages 87.5 points per game and an astounding 19.2 assists per game. The Dragons’ one saving grace could be its rebounding (42.2 per game) and the fact that this will be the Cardinals’ third match of three on the week. Player to watch: Louisville sophomore forward Rakeem Buckles. This 6’8 powerhouse will no doubt present a challenge to Drexel’s bigs. How Samme Givens and Daryl McCoy handle the test should go a long way toward determining the result.

YouTube Highlights

The CAA puts together these fantastic videos that recap conference action. Naturally, the December 4 one is of particular interest.

This video is mostly Richmond-oriented, but at least it’ll give you a chance to see ODU in action on defense. People always forget about defense…

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Checking in on… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on November 23rd, 2010

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)

  1. 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 BurgessBrandon Rozzell and Jamie Skeen are all averaging in double-figures at this very early junction of the season.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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
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