Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by rtmsf on February 1st, 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

  • Do You Hear What I Hear?: The world knows of the streak ending— Towson’s 66-61 victory over UNCW broke a record 41-game losing streak — but Pat Skerry is still not relaxing. We’ve discussed that Skerry has been unyielding despite the losses, and he continues to press forward. Skerry noted that he gave his kids Sunday off, but that he “took the jackhammer to them” in Monday’s practice. That is exactly the kind of unrelenting quest for excellence that lured Athletic Director Mike Waddell to hire Skerry. With Towson opening a new 5,000-seat arena next season, you can see that win #1 will be followed with many more.
  • Here Comes Santa Claus: Three CAA teams were chosen for televised games in ESPN’s “Bracketbusters” event. VCU will host Northern Iowa on ESPN2 at 7 PM on Friday, Feb. 17, Drexel will visit Cleveland State on ESPNU at 11 AM on Sat., Feb. 18 and Old Dominion will travel to Missouri State on ESPNU at 5 PM on Feb. 18. Interestingly, the CAA leader, George Mason, play the sixth place team in the Southland Conference, Lamar. The CAA has had five teams chosen for televised games in four of the last six years, which is the most of any participating conference. CAA teams were 4-1 in televised games in 2010-11 and are 16-10 in TV games over the last seven years.

    Pat Skerry And Towson Earned Its First Victory In A Very Long Time Last Week (AP)

  • Winter Wonderland: It isn’t just Towson on a winning streak. The top four teams in the CAA standings went 3-0 last week and continued impressive winning streaks. In their past five games, those squads are a total of 19-1, with the only loss being Old Dominion at VCU. Drexel has won nine in a row and 15 of its last 16 overall as well as 13 in a row at home. VCU is on a seven-game win streak and has captured 15 of its last 17, while George Mason has claimed six straight games and 11 of its last 12. Drexel’s streak is tied for the 8th-longest in the nation currently, while VCU’s is the 12th-longest and Mason’s is tied for 14th. Old Dominion has also won three in a row and seven of its last eight. The CAA is the only conference in the nation to have three teams with current winning streaks of six or more games.
  • The Little Drummer Boy: William & Mary’s Quinn McDowell was named one of 10 finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which honors student-athletes who excel on and off the court. Tony Shaver called McDowell the best leader he’s ever coached. Honorees must have noteworthy accomplishments in community, classroom, character and competition. Other finalists include Ohio State’s William Buford, Pitt’s Aston Gibbs, Michigan State’s Draymond Green, Belmont’s Mick Hedgepeth, Purdue’s Robbie Hummel, Butler’s Ronald Nored, Michigan’s Zack Novak, Penn’s Zack Rosen and North Carolina’s Tyler Zeller.

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (9-2, 17-5):The Dragons are simply beating up teams. The streak is now nine straight and 15-1 over the past 16 games. The expected stat resides on defense: only two CAA teams have come within 12 points of Drexel in the run, and the Dragons have held its past 11 opponents to just 49.7 ppg. All have scored less than 60 points. The unexpected stat: Drexel is shooting 48.9% from the floor and 43.9% from three over the past four games. Frantz Massenat may not be the player of the year, but he is certain the most valuable player. He averaged 14.3 PPG and 5.7 APG last week and tops the CAA in three point FG% (47.5%). Massenat is averaging a team-high 12.5 PPG and 4.1 APG for the season. Read the rest of this entry »
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Checking In On… the CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on January 18th, 2012

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

Reader’s Take

 

The Week That Was

  • D-D-D-Defense: In the CAA we call them rock fights, but the rest of the country calls 58-54 victories “defense-oriented basketball.” No matter the nomenclature, defense is reigning supreme in the Association so far. Five teams have held its opposition to less than 60 points per game in conference play, led by Georgia State. The Panthers, despite Ron Hunter’s desire to run, run and run some more, are holding CAA opponents to 49.2 points per game and an astounding 0.73 points per possession. Teams are shooting 30.9% against Georgia State, made impressive when you consider 11 of the 12 teams are shooting greater than 38% for the season. You want a specific example? Fine. Over the course of two games, VCU hurled boulders. The Rams didn’t allow a field goal over a stretch of 16:57 last week — the last eight minutes of the James Madison game and the first nine minutes of the Delaware game. Want even more? See below.
  • We’ve Got Spirit, Yes We Do: VCU is working on a string of 11 straight sellouts in its 7,600-seat Stu, already a CAA record. The Rams are one of six teams in the nation (Gonzaga, Duke, Michigan State, Kansas, and Kansas State) to have sold out every game this season. The fans of Georgia State have taken notice of the team’s success. The Panthers drew a tad shy of 3,000 for its win over UNCW—three times their average from last season. What’s more, a student named Nick Bray created Hunterville, a tent city modeled after Duke’s Krzyzewskiville. Old Dominion has played before eight crowds of better than 7,000 at the Ted this season, including a sellout crowd of 8,460 versus nationally ranked Missouri, and Drexel has had sellout crowds for its past two games against VCU and George Mason.
  • Be. Aggressive. Be Aggressive: Freshmen are seeing significant playing time and making a huge difference around the CAA this season. All 12 CAA teams have at least one freshman on their team who is averaging better than 16 minutes per game and each CAA team has had a freshman start at least two games. Four freshmen are among the CAA’s top 30 in scoring: UNCW’s Adam Smith, Drexel’s Damion Lee, W&M’s Marcus Thornton and UD’s Kyle Anderson. Two are among the top 15 in assists: Towson’s Kris Walden and Delaware’s Khalid Lewis; and two are in the top 15 in steals: VCU’s Briante Weber, and NU’s Quincy Ford. UNCW’s Cedrick Williams is ranked 14th in the league in rebounding (5.9 RPG) and Ford is 17th (5.4 RPG).
  • Maybe You Should Bring Your Cheerleaders On The Road: Visiting teams went 6-6 last week, continuing an early-season trend of success by the road warriors. Through the first 36 conference contests, home teams are only 19-17 (.528). Old Dominion moved to 3-0 on the road in CAA play after edging Delaware 68-66 in overtime last Wednesday, while Northeastern also improved to 3-0 on the road after winning 64-62 at Hofstra. George Mason also has three CAA road victories (3-1). Six of the league’s 12 teams are .500 or better on the road in CAA play.

Frantz Massenat's Emergence As A Floor General Has Paid Dividends For The Dragons. (Scott K. Brown/AP)

Power Rankings

  1. Drexel (4-2, 12-5): The Dragons have won 10 of its past 11 games and swept VCU, Mason, and UNCW in the past week — combined conference record 12-6 (or 12-3 against teams not named Drexel). Frantz Massenat has blossomed as a floor general and is averaging a team-high 12.5 points per game. He ranks third in the CAA in assists (3.7 APG) and first in three-point FG% (46.9%). However the biggest tell that Drexel is scary: Chris Fouch and Samme Givens, Bruiser Flint’s two most productive players, scored a combined 26 points in the wins over VCU and Mason. The Dragons are also leading the CAA in three-point field goal percentage, led by freshman Damion Lee. But the defense, Drexel’s calling card, is still there: Drexel has held its past six opponents to just 49.2 points per game. All have scored fewer than 60 points. Read the rest of this entry »
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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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RTC Conference Primers: #11 – CAA

Posted by Brian Goodman on October 26th, 2011

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

Reader’s Take I

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

 

Top Storylines

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

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

Predicted Order of Finish (predicted conference records in parentheses)

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Checking in on… the Colonial

Posted by rtmsf on February 8th, 2010

Ryan Restivo of the MAAC-based SienaSaintsBlog is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. SienaSaintsBlog now features exclusive video!

Standings (as of 2/7)

  1. Northeastern (16-8, 11-2)
  2. George Mason (15-9, 10-3)
  3. Old Dominion (18-7, 10-3)
  4. VCU (17-5, 9-4)
  5. Drexel (14-11, 9-4)
  6. William & Mary (16-7, 8-5)
  7. Hofstra (12-13, 5-8)
  8. Georgia State (10-15, 4-9)
  9. James Madison (10-13, 3-9)
  10. UNC Wilmington (7-16, 3-9)
  11. Delaware (6-17, 2-10)
  12. Towson (5-17, 2-10)

The league had an interesting schedule change due to pending and impending snowstorms. Towson’s home game against James Madison was postponed on Thursday. UNC Wilmington pushed their game one-day against Delaware to Sunday and then to Monday after the snow fell. James Madison will travel to play Towson tonight. Meanwhile the team off to the best start in conference play, George Mason, hit an unexpected rough patch. However, should it have been expected? The young Patriot squad’s seven-game winning streak came against every sub-.500 team in conference. This strength of schedule will change soon enough with a game against heating up VCU, traveling to Old Dominion before a clash with William & Mary. With Northeastern and VCU starting to heat up, not even mentioning Drexel’s strong push, there’s still a race to the top in the CAA.

Important Games This Week

Tue 2/9               

VCU @ George Mason  (7pm ESPNU).  George Mason lost their seven-game winning streak this week. However, all but one win comes over a CAA team that’s over .500. They have won their last eight home games and this only game with VCU may prove to have tiebreaker implications.

Wed 2/10

UNC Wilmington @ Towson (7pm ESPN360.com).  You might not watch this one, but I will. I want to see how the Brooks Lee era continues as the Seahawks battle the Tigers. Towson has struggled immensely and will likely have a second straight 20-loss season. It will be interesting to see the energy of both teams: How will the Seahawks play for their interim coach on TV and how will the Tigers respond to their recent struggles?

Sat 2/13

Northeastern @ William & Mary (7pm).  There will be no love lost on this Valentine’s Day eve matchup between the Huskies and Tribe. The Huskies could be on the path to the top seed in the conference by this time but the Tribe, who have won four out of their last five at home, will have something to say about that. With this being their only meeting, a loss would likely kill the Tribe’s chances at a top seed.

Team Reviews

  • Northeastern (11-2).  The Huskies went on their first true road trip in conference and came out with two wins on the week and increasing their road/neutral win streak to eight with wins over Delaware and Hofstra, each by double digits. The offense has been clicking lately as the Huskies have shot better than 50% in six of their last eight games and have won five of their last six games, all by double digits or more. Matt Janning led this week for Northeastern, shooting 42.8% from the field and making 5-10 three pointers to lead the Huskies with game highs of 17 in each win this week. They get a home test against Georgia State, who has not won an in-conference road game since December, followed by a trip to William & Mary that might decide the top four seeds in the CAA.
  • George Mason (10-3).  The Patriots were stifled Wednesday night by the box-and-one, triangle-and-two defenses that the Panthers threw at them, being shut out in the final 2:52, as Mason fell 61-57. Cam Long scored just two points and made just one of nine shots on the night.  Heading into Drexel, George Mason could not hold off the Dragons as they went on a 23-6 run and beat the Patriots by 13. The Patriots have struggled in their last three games from behind the arc, making just 12-47 (25.5%) in the last three games.
  • Old Dominion (10-3).  The Monarchs used this week to stretch their home win streak to 20 but also saw their road losing streak stretch to two. The Monarchs elite defense, ranked sixth in efficiency entering Sunday, shut down the William & Mary and outrebounded them by 23 in a 19 point win over the Tribe. However, the Monarchs could not dish it out on the road, losing a halftime lead and falling to the VCU Rams by 12. Every loss this season for the Monarchs has been at a road/neutral site, which does not bode well for their BracketBuster game where they will face a Northern Iowa team that is undefeated at home.
  • VCU (9-4).  The Rams continued their impressive trek through the conference with wins over UNC Wilmington and a 12-point win over Old Dominion to propel them back into the race for a top seed in the CAA Tournament. Larry Sanders was benched to start the game against Old Dominion and his backup, Kirill Pishchalnikov responded with 14 points and five rebounds. Sanders chipped in 14 of his own and a game-high 12 rebounds. VCU’s 51.4% effective field goal percentage is second to Northeastern’s in the CAA. After an amazing 20 three pointers in a win over Towson, VCU has come back to average making 4.3 three pointers in the last three games.  Meanwhile, Sophomore Jay Gavin left the team for personal reasons. Gavin saw reduced playing time, playing just 11 minutes in the last seven games. Gavin transferred from Marist, where he was MAAC Co-Rookie of the Year, to Virginia Commonwealth after his coach Matt Brady went to James Madison.
  • Drexel (9-4).  This is the team to watch out for down the stretch. Redshirt Freshman Chris Fouch has made a great impression scoring 28 and 17 in Drexel’s two wins this week. Fouch has scored double-digit points in the last seven games shooting 47.5% from the field. The Dragons have a chance to solidify their contention this week with games against Hofstra and Delaware. They have won five out of their last six, are third in field goal percentage defense and held their opponents to under 40% shooting in five of their last six games, this team is a definite contender for the conference title. They travel to Hofstra in a winnable game and then host Delaware before a crucial road date to Virginia Commonwealth on the 16th.
  • William & Mary (8-5).  The Tribe were dealt a dose of reality in the Constant Convocation Center with a 19 point loss to Old Dominion. Their cold three point shooting hit a low, making just 5-25 attempts in the loss, and every player for the Tribe were held under nine points. In no other game has that happened before this season. That low point appeared to continue in the first half but the Tribe fought through it and prevailed in a tough environment in Atlanta to beat Georgia State by three. Credit should go to the defense, which held the Panthers to two points over the final three and a half minutes even while generating just seven turnovers. They start a homestand this week against Delaware and then a crucial game against Northeastern on Saturday.
  • Hofstra (5-8).  The Pride blew out James Madison on the road by 20 but could not bring the same energy against top team Northeastern, shooting just under a season-low in their 20 point home loss to the Huskies Saturday. One problem this week for the Pride were turnovers, dishing out 35 of them on the week. Chaz Williams had a tough time, making just 4-19 and scoring just 9 points this week. Charles Jenkins is working on his Player of the Year candidacy still with 34 points on 10-22 shooting. The junior star has scored 20 points or more in four of the Pride’s last six games. One of their remaining tests comes this week at home against Drexel and a Saturday road date to UNC Wilmington looms ahead.
  • Georgia State (4-9).  Jihad Ali’s career high 22 points and knocked down a clutch three with 42 seconds left to give the Panthers a win over first-place George Mason. This was just Ali’s fourth double digit scoring game of the season, doubling his previous high of 11. “I worked hard all week with Coach Barnes,” Ali said after the game. “They told me to stay in the gym and my time would come.” The Panthers’ threw a box-and-one and a triangle-and-two at the Patriots and it stifled them late, not allowing them a point over the final 2:52. The Panthers challenged the Tribe at home as well but were unable to make a field goal in the final 3:13, scoring just one point in that span, in a 59-56 loss to William & Mary. Head Coach Rod Barnes said they got good looks in the second half but could not make enough shots to contend with the best three-point shooting team in the conference. They will be embarking on a road trip this week to Northeastern and then a more winnable game at Towson.
  • James Madison (3-9).  Following a two-point loss at George Mason, Head Coach Matt Brady wanted to send a message the team leadership needs to step up. Brady threw his team out of practice Monday but his tactic did not work as Hofstra dealt the Dukes their worst loss in almost eight years. A 20 point loss at home to the Pride drove them a step even further back. Senior Pierre Curtis tried to lead (7.9 ppg, 4 assists per game) but the freshmen have not responded, resulting in their worst shooting percentage since their second game of the year. They have not been able to control the game from the three point line either, shooting 26.5% from behind the arc in the last seven games. Texas A&M transfer Denzel Bowles has done well but it hasn’t been enough, scoring 20.6 points per game in 15 games. Brady has told locals that he plans to sign at least two more junior college players in order to try to contend quickly as Bowles will be a Senior and Julius Wells (16.8 ppg) will be a Junior.
  • UNC Wilmington (3-9).  The search is on for a new head coach at UNC Wilmington. As for the fired Head Coach Benny Moss? He has been reassigned as a special assistant to the athletic director. The school would have to pay the difference if he moved to a lower paying job so keeping him on in a role is cost-effective, since he was terminated with three years left on his deal. They are willing to spend around $250,000 per season, which might not be enough for some of the top major assistants in the country. Rumors have circulated that Vermont’s Mike Lonergan, 90-57 at Vermont, could be a candidate for any open CAA coaching job.
  • Delaware  (2-10).  This week the Blue Hens learned that forwards redshirt freshman Kelvin McNeil and Josh Brinkley will miss the rest of the season. Brinkley was the team’s leading rebounder with 6.2 rebounds per game and started 18 of the Blue Hens first 20 games. McNeil will go under arthroscopic surgery Wednesday. Meanwhile the Blue Hens were held to a season-low 30% field goal percentage in a 16-point loss at home to Northestern. The Blue Hens rank 11th in the conference in effective field goal percentage, and 310th in the country, at 44.7%. It will not get easier this week with trips planned to William & Mary and Drexel.
  • Towson (2-10).  Brian Morris and Robert Nwankwo came back but it did not help as Towson lost their second of three road games on Tuesday by falling at Drexel by 42. Calvin Lee scored eight points but fouled out with just over 15 minutes left in the game. The problem this year has been the defense, and that’s an understatement. In their last four road losses, the Tigers have lost by 25, 9, 59 and 42. They grabbed a road win over a reeling UNC Wilmington team that just fired its coach but this team cannot take care of the glass. They were out rebounded in each of the last six games and have been out rebounded this year by five boards per game which helps lead to league lows in Field Goal percentage defense and scoring defense. The Tigers have not had a winning season under Pat Kennedy and the circles around a potential firing are starting to surface as they approach their third 20-loss season under Kennedy. Snow delayed their weekend game with James Madison and they will have a chance this week to pick up wins at home before traveling to Old Dominion and William & Mary in mid-February.

When not covering the CAA for Rush The Court, Ryan writes about Fantasy Baseball on Rotosavants.com, on his own website RyanRestivo.com and at SienaSaintsBlog.com.  Ryan will take your questions here.

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