Previewing the Atlantic 10 Tournament

Posted by Joe Dzuback (@vtbnblog) on March 12th, 2014

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10 Conference. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Everything’s Gonna Be OK

The unasked question at Media Day last October was how the conference would fare without Temple and Xavier (not to mention Charlotte and Butler). In the 17 seasons since John Calipari left Massachusetts, the Owls or the Musketeers won (or shared in) 10 conference regular season titles, won eight conference tournaments, collected 25 of the 56 NCAA bids, and represented with at least one entrant in all but a single postseason (2005). Their last season in the league had more whimper than bang, so the remaining 13 members have to build their future without the name recognition and traditions that those programs contributed to the whole. If this season is the foretelling of things to come, though, the A-10 will be in great shape over the long run. Stellar non-conference play by George Washington, Massachusetts and Dayton, along with strong showings from Virginia Commonwealth (albeit disappointing by preview standards) and Saint Louis have put the conference in a no-man’s land between the basketball-first conferences (the West Coast, the Missouri Valley, C-USA and Mountain West) and the conferences that sit atop Division I. Whether the chosen metric is the RPI (ranked #6), Ken Pomeroy (ranked #8), Sagarin (ranked #8) or Dunkel (ranked #8), the Atlantic 10 is clearly positioned closer to the elite conferences than the other 25. Anticipating between four and six NCAA bids, the conference is about to kick off the second edition of its tournament at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and ready for the limelight.

With a bevy of quality coaches, including Shaka Smart and Jim Crews, the A-10 is trending upward.

With a bevy of quality coaches, including Shaka Smart and Jim Crews, the A-10 is trending upward.

Four, Five… or Six?

The consensus of season previews anticipated that Virginia Commonwealth, Saint Louis and Massachusetts would catch the Selection Committee’s attention, but by the eve of conference play, two more — Dayton (12-3) and George Washington (12-2) — had joined them to assemble a group that potentially could equal last season’s record five bids (matched twice before). Massachusetts and Dayton faltered in conference play, but the Minutemen were secure enough by mid-January that the slippage has translated into a #7 seed line this week. A 1-5 start put Dayton out of the field of 68, but a 6-1 February followed by a 3-0 (so far) March has moved Archie Miller’s squad back into the conversation as a possible First Four (#12 seed) candidate. As for VCU (#8), St. Louis (#6) and GW (#8), all appear to be secure enough that an early round exit from the conference tournament should not jeopardize their NCAA bids. St. Joseph’s, despite a mediocre 9-4 (eventually 10-4) non-conference record, compiled an 11-3 A-10 record and appeared to be squarely in the field. An 0-2 closing put the Joe’s at 11-5 and back into a possible round one game in Dayton. The Hawks will need a win or two this week to bolster their resume.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on December 12th, 2013

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

Taking Stock – Atlantic 10 versus Division I

The conference roars along with a 69 percent winning percentage versus the rest of Division I, but is this year’s showing strong enough for the conference to maintain the three to four NCAA bid Selection Sunday pace the conference has grown accustomed to in the last decade? Maybe …

If a conference bubble team (Dayton?) finds itself in a side-by-side comparison with another team from another “basketball-first” conference (counting the Missouri Valley, Mountain West, Conference USA and the West Coast conferences here), the prospects are good, as the A-10 has won 80 percent of its games against those teams. Whether consulting the RPI or Ken Pomeroy, the Atlantic 10 sits atop that cluster of conferences.

Table01131212

(Note: A10 teams have no scheduled games with four conferences, those conferences are not listed here)

The A-10 ranks #7 in the RPI, ahead of the SEC, while Pomeroy ranks the league #8, well separated from the next best conference — the WCC. Power conferences, however, continue to bedevil all but the A-10’s four best representatives. Logging a 12-23 (34.3%) record to date is not good news. With under one-third of their games versus the power conferences (counting eight conferences here – the American, ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, the Pac-12 and the SEC in this group… this season) remaining to play, finishing with a .500 record is theoretically possible but highly unlikely. Closing that gap may be a realistic goal as teams have four games remaining against the ACC (6-6 so far) and five versus the SEC (1-1 so far), two conferences where they have held their own. Virginia Commonwealth in particular can boost its postseason prospects with wins over Virginia Tech and Boston College, two ACC opponents the Hokies will face during Christmas Week.

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Checking In On… the Atlantic 10

Posted by Joe Dzuback on November 28th, 2013

Joe Dzuback is the RTC correspondent for the Atlantic 10. You can also find his musings online at Villanova by the Numbers or on Twitter @vtbnblog.

 

Highlights and Lowlights From the Week (from highest to lowest)

Looking for high profile wins in the early season invitational tournaments and traditional home-away settings, the conference had some bright spots but overall the results were mixed:

Big man Cady Lalanne has been outstanding for UMass. (Maria Uminski/ Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

Big man Cady Lalanne has been outstanding for UMass. (Maria Uminski/ Massachusetts Daily Collegian)

  1. Massachusetts — The Minutemen were voted #24 in the AP’s Top 25 on the strength of their weekend at the Charleston Classic. Coach Derek Kellogg’s squad ran their winning streak to six with wins over power conference representatives Nebraska (81-65) and Clemson (62-56) and (then) #19 New Mexico over the course of the Charleston weekend. Center Cady Lalanne became the much anticipated low post beast, scoring 47 points on 17-of-36 (13-of-16 from the line) shooting while grabbing 35 rebounds over the three game run. He logged two double-doubles in the three game set. Chaz Williams is the guiding force for the squad (and he did not disappoint in Charleston either), but if Lalanne (along with Maxie Esho and Raphiael Putney) emerge as legitimate threats game-to-game, this Massachusetts squad will challenge for the conference title. Read the rest of this entry »
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George Mason Readies Itself For Upgrade in Competition This Season

Posted by Alex Moscoso (@AlexPMoscoso) on November 18th, 2013

Alex Moscoso is an RTC correspondent. He filed this report after the George Mason vs. Northern Iowa game on Saturday.

On Saturday afternoon, Northern Iowa came to Fairfax, Virginia, to play George Mason for the second consecutive year. Both teams are etched into the minds of college basketball fans because of some recent unforgettable moments in March. The Panthers have remained relatively intact since their stellar moment in 2010. Same coach, same league, and moderate success in the Missouri Valley. The Patriots, however, have experienced a sort of program face-lift since their Final Four run. They lost long-time head coach, Jim Larranaga, to the ACC’s Miami (FL) in 2011, and hired Paul Hewitt, the former George Tech coach whose career there produced mixed results, as his replacement.  They also upgraded their conference affiliation by moving from the Colonial to the Atlantic 10, starting this season. While Hewitt was in Atlanta, he relied on talented underclassmen, like Thaddeus Young and Iman Shumpert, to drive his program.  But this season at George Mason, he’ll need to rely on his slate of returning upperclassmen to transition into the A-10 and make a run at the school’s first NCAA Tournament under his watch.

George Mason's Sherrod Wright Lives For Big Moments.

George Mason’s Sherrod Wright Lives For Big Moments.

Hewitt has led the Patriots to 20 wins in each of his first two seasons, and they return nearly everyone of significance including redshirt senior Sherrod Wright, who averaged 16.6 PPG last year. Despite that success, Hewitt has not yet managed to earn enough quality or timely wins to make the NCAA Tournament. Now that George Mason will be in a higher-profile league, the tougher competition will give his team more opportunities for signature wins on its resume. So far this season, the Patriots have eked out a win against American and beaten Lamar handily. The visit by the Panthers represented their first test against competition comparable to what they’ll be facing in the A-10 most nights out.

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Morning Five: 10.10.13 Edition

Posted by rtmsf on October 10th, 2013

morning5

  1. Wednesday was a bit of a weird college basketball news day, mostly filled with quotes, non-controversies, and Andrew Wiggins. Ever heard of him? Let’s start with Jesus Shuttlesworth combined with Butch McRae (bonus points for that reference), otherwise known as Kansas’ young superstar, Wiggins. His fantastic Sports Illustrated cover started making the rounds on social media Tuesday night and Luke Winn’s profile story (print or digital subscription only) released yesterday. The comparison he makes is with another couple of former Jayhawk stars who came to the Great Plains to make their basketball marks, Wilt Chamberlain in 1955 and Danny Manning in 1984. Wiggins is the third star in this line of succession, but as Winn writes in his supplemental Wilt, Danny, Andrew: 22 Thoughts column (available online), “It is not a pronouncement that Wiggins will have a Wilt-like impact.” It is, however, an informative and compelling read, but his 22 Thoughts piece might be more fun. Over the series of blurbs, Winn manages to reference Neal Cassady, shows a ridiculous looking drawing of a giant “Wilt” hand dunking a basketball, and reveals some Wiggins-related tweets from starstruck KU students that will have you cracking up at the absurdity of it all. Check out both stories, even if you are so cheap that you have to read the paper copy in the checkout line at the grocery store.
  2. As we all know, Kansas also picked up Kelly Oubre from the class of 2014 earlier this week. The commitment was notable in that it represented the third straight time that uber-recruiter John Calipari had been beaten out for an elite recruit (Wiggins, Emmanuel Mudiay, Oubre). While three times isn’t necessarily a trend, it is a bit odd considering Calipari’s prodigious record of recruiting success. Well, at least one explanation for the commitment was revealed on Wednesday, as Oubre’s father, Kelly Sr., told the Lawrence Journal-World that Self “doesn’t kick you out if you’re not ready.” Although he didn’t name who he was referencing with his barb, it was interpreted by the rest of the world as a shot at Calipari’s one-and-done program (he later told KSR’s Matt Jones that he meant nothing of the sort). Kentucky fans rightfully took umbrage at the allusion, pointing out that a number of talented freshman have in fact become sophomores at Kentucky (Terrence Jones, Alex Poythress, Doron Lamb, to name a few), but the damage was already done. Kentucky vs. Kansas again, anyone — this is getting pretty good.
  3. Or Kentucky vs. Michigan State? Wait, we already have that one on the schedule, coming on November 12, just over a month from now. The background on this is somewhat convoluted, but the gist of it is that a student at Michigan State’s September Madness reported that head coach Tom Izzo said that the Spartans were going to “kick Kentucky’s a–.” John Calipari of course caught wind of it, and did what he does even better than recruiting and coaching — he spun it to his favor. In two separate public venues over the last week, Calipari has made reference to the MSU comment and spun it back to his own players “not knowing” when they will play the other elite teams on their schedule. Leave it to some other enterprising reporter to poll the Wildcat players as to when they will play the defending national champions (answer: December 28), but suffice it to say that the marketing pitch is already in full blast this season. Like we said, non-controversies.
  4. Players don’t know when they play, and coaches don’t know who they play. Does anybody pay attention anymore? We’re only half-kidding. Jeff Eisenberg at The Dagger published an interesting piece on Wednesday that revealed George Mason head coach Paul Hewitt and Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli didn’t even realize they were playing in the same conference (the Atlantic 10, if you’ve lost track) this season as recently as July. Even this week, Martelli mentioned that, as he waited for his train to Brooklyn, he wondered where his peer and longtime A-10 competitor Fran Dunphy at Temple was. Then he realized that Temple is now in the Big East, along with Xavier and one-year wonder Butler. Honestly, it’s going to take a while to get used to these changes for everyone. We really can’t blame them for this gaffe (but that doesn’t excuse the fictional Kentucky players that don’t realize who they’re playing).
  5. Some injury news to finish off a strange M5 on this Thursday (we warned you). Texas point guard Javan Felix underwent hip surgery last week and is currently on the mend with an indefinite timetable for his return. With all the pressure on the Longhorn basketball program given athletic director DeLoss Dodds’ recent disparaging comments, this is not good news for Rick Barnes. Felix is the most experienced returning guard on the team, and if he can’t go at 100 percent this season, Barnes is going to need to do the best coaching job of his entire career just to keep this team above water. Down at Florida, Will Yuguete and Eli Carter are still not ready to practice due to their injuries, but more importantly, Billy Donovan has reinstated senior guard Scottie Wilbekin to the team. Wilbekin has had found repeated trouble in his time at Florida, but he has satisfied his head coach in recent months to earn his spot again. The Gators are a tough team to figure this season — they bring in some excellent transfer and freshman talent, but the returnees more or less look like a collection of role players. We know they’ll be good, but can they become great?
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George Mason Fires a Warning Shot on Opening Night

Posted by IRenko on November 10th, 2012

I. Renko is a DC-based correspondent for Rush the Court. You can follow him on twitter @IRenkoHoops.

Maybe Drexel will have some company at the top after all.  The Dragons are the CAA’s prohibitive favorite after the conference lost VCU to the A-10, and perennial contenders George Mason and Old Dominion graduated the majority of their starting lineups.  But on opening night in Fairfax, George Mason proved that despite their losses, they are poised to compete for the conference championship. The Patriots defeated visiting Virginia 63-59, their first-ever win over an ACC team in an exciting, competitive game before a near-sellout crowd at the 10,000-seat Patriot Center.  While one should never read too much into a single game, the Patriots offered important, if tentative, answers to the most pressing offseason questions that will decide whether they can make a run at both Drexel and an NCAA Tournament bid.

Paul Hewitt’s Patriots Look Poised to Compete for a CAA Title After Knocking Off UVA on Opening Night

Can Mason replace the interior presence of Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison?

For three years running, the Patriots’ starting frontcourt featured Ryan Pearson, last year’s CAA POY, and Mike Morrison.  The players worked especially well together, with Morrison’s length and athleticism complementing Pearson’s skilled offensive game.  While the Patriots returned a host of veteran perimeter players, the loss of Pearson and Morrison presented the team’s most pressing concern.  Most of the attention on their potential replacements has focused on sophomore center Erik Copes, a former top 100 recruit who has a strong defensive presence but a still-developing offensive game.  Copes, however, missed the game against Virginia, serving the first of a three-game suspension for “student-athlete conduct violations.”  So the task of filling Pearson’s and Morrison’s big shoes fell primarily to two players who did not see the floor last year — redshirt junior Johnny Williams, who sat out last year’s campaign with an injury, and unheralded freshman Marko Gujanicic. Read the rest of this entry »

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RTC Summer School: Colonial Athletic Association

Posted by Brian Goodman on August 3rd, 2012

Over the next couple of week’s we’ll be checking in with each of the high mid-major leagues as to their mid-summer offseason status. Up next: the CAA.

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @CAAHoops and find him online at CAAHoops.com.

Three Key Storylines

  • A Different Look. Perhaps no conference faced the realignment wars more head on than the CAA. Georgia State announced in April it was moving to the Sun Belt effective in 2013. VCU and George Mason were both wooed by the Atlantic 10 — Shaka Smart took his Rams to a new conference while Paul Hewitt’s squad stuck. And Old Dominion followed Georgia State, making a football-driven decision to go to Conference USA. The summer was mostly spent managing off-court drama, so the season tip-off will be welcomed. Due to a longstanding CAA rule that programs leaving the CAA are not eligible for championships, ODU and Georgia State will essentially play lame duck seasons. When you factor in Towson and UNCW’s ineligibility due to APR results, the CAA Tournament — annually a raucous affair that plays to a sold-out Richmond Coliseum — will be a seven-team battle in March.

Frantz Massenat Returns For Drexel, The Early Favorites In The New-Look CAA. (AP)

  • Southern Bias No More? No team north of George Mason has won a CAA title since the conference expanded in 2000 to include four America East programs. In fact, VCU, Old Dominion, and George Mason have combined to win six straight CAA championships and eight of the last nine. However, VCU has moved to the A-10 and ODU is ineligible due to its impending move to Conference USA. Drexel finished 16-2 last year, losing to VCU in the CAA Tournament finals and Delaware returns every key player, adding St. Joseph’s transfer Carl Baptiste. Plus, Bill Coen has a senior backcourt and one of the conference’s top players in sophomore Quincy Ford. That leaves Hewitt’s team to fend off northern aggressors to keep the streak going.
  • Channeling Medeleev. Several CAA coaches face as many chemistry concerns as X-and-O hurdles. Hofstra’s Mo Cassara could start as many as five transfers, led by former UConn Husky Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. The Pride went 14-4 and 3-15 in Cassara’s two seasons in the conference and his ability to combine elements could give rise to either record this year. Pat Skerry has a similar challenge at Towson. Skerry is rebuilding around a trio of Big East transfers that includes former Georgetown Hoya Jerrelle Benimon, Providence grad Bilal Dixon, and South Florida transfer Mike Burwell. And Ron Hunter replaces six seniors with a blend of freshmen (including his son, RJ Hunter, who turned down offers from ACC and Big Ten programs) and Virginia Tech transfer Manny Atkins. Hunter may also get Southern Cal transfer Curtis Washington eligible.

Reader’s Take

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ACC Summer Recess: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Posted by KCarpenter on July 12th, 2012

Over the next four weeks we’ll be taking a step back and looking at each team in the ACC to assess where each program — and the conference as a whole — stands before we totally turn our attention to the 2013-14 season later this fall. Today’s target: Georgia Tech.

Where They Stand Now

Georgia Tech Head Coach Brian Gregory Has His Work Cut Out In Atlanta

Last season was a season of transition for Georgia Tech. After the firing of longtime coach Paul Hewitt, Brian Gregory took over a program that had spent the last few years slowly slumping to the bottom of the ACC. As the Yellow Jackets prepared a new home court, his team was left without a true home, forced to make use of Phillips Arena along with a few other venues. A new coach, no home court,  and a legitimate talent deficit made it no surprise that Georgia Tech faltered. In a season when their best moments come in December and January, Georgia Tech didn’t have a lot to celebrate as conference play went on. Still, the future seems promising for Georgia Tech: McCammish Pavillion is finally set to open and Gregory will better know what to expect from his team in the second year.

Who’s Leaving?

The nice part about having a young team is that you don’t have to worry about losing a lot of players to graduation. The Yellow Jackets will lose Pierre Jordan and Nick Foreman, a pair of back-up guards who each averaged about 10 minutes a game in the past season, but that’s the only toll from graduation. Sophomore big man Nate Hicks has transferred to Florida Gulf Coast University. Hicks didn’t get a lot of playing time in Atlanta, averaging a paltry 7.7 minutes per game. The biggest departure is the dismissal of Glen Rice, Jr., from the team. The troubled swingman was benched at the end of his freshman season by Paul Hewitt and served a pair of suspensions last season under Gregory. He was finally dismissed from the team after a run-in with the law that featured Rice driving under the influence while one of his passengers discharged a gun.  Rice was the leading scorer and rebounder for Georgia Tech, but his off-the-court troubles certainly seem serious enough to make his departure seem like the best option for Rice and the team.

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Two Days in the Coliseum: Reflections on the CAA Tourney

Posted by JWeill on March 7th, 2012

Rush the Court contributor Joshua Lars Weill (@AgonicaBoss|Emailreports from Richmond, Va., at the Colonial Athletic Association conference championship.

Richmond Coliseum is not a pretty place. It’s old. The color of the inside can best be described as “concrete.” The rafters are dark and the seats darker. It boasts all the ambiance of an airplane hangar. Each year, at the Colonial Athletic Association conference tournament, the fans grumble about the decrepit surroundings and some columnist writes an article in the local paper talking about how old and lousy the Coliseum is.

And yet, somehow the inferior surroundings make the actual experience of watching the conference tournament there stand out all the more. Without the bells and whistles of a modern, NBA-style arena, you’re left with just the contrasting team colors and the fans that adorn them, the rival pep bands and a sort of pure college basketball that shines plenty all by itself.

This Sunday, the arena is buzzing. Old Dominion, two-time defending champion, is battling this season’s regular-season champion Drexel in the first semifinal. Drexel is the outlier, from far-off Philadelphia, while the other teams in the final four hail from the state of Virginia, including Virginia Commonwealth, which is less than two miles away. VCU will face George Mason in the second game, a rivalry that has already resulted in two hard-fought, borderline acrimonious meetings already this season.

Richmond Coliseum has been the site of the CAA tourney every year since 1990.

The teams here are the best in the CAA, the top four seeds. But they’re also all fundamentally flawed. That’s no damnation, it’s just the way things are. It’s part of what makes college basketball – especially mid-major conference college hoops – irreplaceable, and unmatched in its own specific glory. The Monarchs of ODU feature a player sporting goggles held on with a Croakie and a guy with a knee brace who limps visibly. The players’ names on the Drexel uniforms are comically large, as if designed for AARP approval. VCU’s starting center plays only 15 minutes a game and hasn’t scored more than 10 points in a game all season. One of George Mason’s starting guards shoots under 20% from three. What’s not to love about all that imperfection? In an imperfect world, we can all appreciate some less-than-perfection.

Each of the last four teams sees this event as its only sure path to the NCAA tournament. Only Drexel and VCU offer possible at large candidacies, and neither is overwhelmingly strong. For Drexel’s coach, Bruiser Flint, an NCAA bid would bring some much-needed legitimacy to his program. Old Dominion has been there before.

The opening semifinal starts with lots of intensity and not many shots made. The Dragons manage an early lead. ODU’s bench uses flash cards to call its plays, thus assuring that the players have no answer to the coach’s inevitable question of, “Why the hell did you do that?!”

A fan in the lower bowl holds up a homemade sign, simple scribbled words on a half-still-rolled white poster board that reads, “ODU SUCKS!!”It’s unclear to whom the fan’s allegiances are to, though not who they are against, apparently.

Sucking or not, Old Dominion works its way back into the game methodically, tightening the defense on one end and earning extra scoring chances with offensive rebounds on the other. But the Old Dominion crowd, once boisterous, is subdued by the deficit and their team’s inability to get into any sort of offensive rhythm. At a timeout, Big Blue, ODU’s lion mascot, who inexplicably wears a T-shirt under a jersey, tries to raise the spirits of the Monarchs fans. He fails. Drexel’s Dragon mascot is more cartoonish and more entertaining, a look of forever confusion molded onto his face. But neither has the sheer oddity of the VCU ram, Rodney, which looks a great deal more like a dog with horns attached than a ram.

Drexel’s big men Daryl McCoy and Samme Givens are built in a typically mid-major fashion, beefy and strong but not tall and long as their counterparts at Kentucky or Kansas or North Carolina. They create space with muscle and hustle, not with genes. Givens yells at Damion Lee, his teammate, “SCREEN, DAMION!” as an ODU defender rushes to set a pick on his blind left side. Lee doesn’t turn or acknowledge Givens, but as the pick is set he glides just outside it, sensing the body near him.

Thirty-two minutes in Monarchs star forward Kent Bazemore finally gets going, snaring a rebound above the rim and finding a teammate for a basket and foul that cuts the lead to 10 points for the first time in what seems like ages. As the teams go to a scheduled timeout, Bazemore appeals to the suddenly awakened ODU crowd with grand waves of his long, spindly arms. Drexel, as it has all season, finds a way to match the run, breaking a trapping press three straight times for easy baskets. Bazemore’s response is woefully short, and he grimaces at his own airballed three as it bounces meekly out of bounds. Read the rest of this entry »

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CAA Tournament Preview & Season Wrap-Up

Posted by Brian Goodman on March 2nd, 2012

Michael Litos is the RTC correspondent for the Colonial Athletic Association. You can follow him on Twitter at @caahoops.

CAA Tournament Glance

Tournament Preview

Without question, all eyes are on Drexel and VCU. Both squads finished the regular season in impressive fashion. After dropping its first two conference games, the Dragons won an unprecedented 16 straight to take the regular season title. The Rams are the second seed at 15-3 and have won 14 of 15 games. VCU is two buzzer-threes from 17-1 in conference. Troy Daniels missed a three at the buzzer and the Rams lost to Georgia State, and George Mason’s Sherrod Wright swished a 30-footer to beat VCU on Valentine’s Day.

Nobody really wants to face Old DominionBlaine Taylor, for the tenth time in his 10 seasons at ODU, has his team playing its best basketball in February. And the Monarchs grinding style fits perfectly with the slogging that will occur in the conference tournament. Though their path to a title is the most rigorous one, George Mason has both the most talent and most depth in the conference. Finally, Delaware has quietly won eight straight and can surprise.

But really, this tournament comes down the secret rooting interest of people who want the CAA to get an at-large bid. They want Drexel vs. VCU in the finals on Monday. The reason is clear: because the CAA didn’t have a stellar November, they don’t carry the sufficient resume bulk to make the field. However, you look at these two teams — the eye-test — and they clearly belong.

However, we’re very certain Paul Hewitt and Blaine Taylor have a little something to say in the matter. And while we’re at it — don’t count out Georgia State. Ron Hunter’s team plays outstanding defense, which will keep them in every game.

Season Recap

If the key to a mid-major conference obtaining at large bids into the NCAA tournament resides in separation—the top teams in the conference getting distance between themselves and the bottom of the conference—then the CAA accomplished the mission. Drexel (16-2), VCU (15-3), George Mason (14-4), and Old Dominion (13-5) fairly beat down the rest of the CAA. The top four teams did not lose to a bottom four team.

The Dragons lost their first two games but won 16 straight—an unprecedented feat. VCU lost two of its three games on last second three-point shots—the Rams’ Troy Daniels missed a bomb at the buzzer in a loss to Georgia State, and George Mason’s Sherrod Wright hit a 30-footer at the horn to beat VCU.

The season went remarkably according to plan. The top three teams (Drexel, VCU, Mason) finished in precisely the order expected, and Delaware (12-6) finished in the first division as predicted.

The differences reside with injuries. William & Mary was expected to rise, but a bevy of preseason and early season injuries sank the Tribe to 11th. James Madison finished the season with six healthy players and several phone calls to Hawkeye Pierce. Even head coach Matt Brady couldn’t avoid the big. Brady tore his Achilles tendon during practice when he ran scout team point guard duty. The Dukes fell to the #8 seed.

Georgia State, in its first season under Ron Hunter, surprised. The Panthers were expected to finished 11th but won 11 conference games and 20 overall.

Conference Accolades

  • Coach of the Year: Ron Hunter, Georgia State Opinions may vary based on what you value, but a very strong case can be made that Hunter made the most out of the least. Bruiser Flint was expected to win a tough conference and he did so. A 16-2 CAA record is worthy of acclaim. Shaka Smartlost four of his top five players, but coached VCU to second place and into the at-large conversation—this also merits acclaim. However, Hunter not only turned around the Georgia State ledger, he changed the culture in his first year. Georgia State was the definition of a moribund program, and there is a breath of life in Atlanta. Hunter won 11 CAA games with nothing going in his favor when he walked onto campus. Read the rest of this entry »
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ACC Morning Five: 02.28.12 Edition

Posted by mpatton on February 28th, 2012

  1. Augusta Free Press: I don’t know how a StateFansNation post ended up on a newspaper’s website, but oh my does Chris Graham go off on the ACC here. Seriously, I’ve read my fair share of bitter editorials on message boards, Twitter or just personal conversations, but the conspiracy theorists rarely make it past “[Duke or North Carolina] got the benefit of several 50/50 calls” in newspapers. Apparently, Graham got tired of it after watching his home-state Virginia and Virginia Tech teams cheated out of a second half lead and “runaway,” respectively. There’s no doubt that it’s frustrating to be a fan of ACC teams outside of Duke and North Carolina: The two have historically dominated the league and the media coverage. But to say the ACC is a “stacked deck” is a little extreme. I’ll leave you with Graham’s closing thoughts:

    But we never really do anything that will actually have an impact – like, I don’t know, boycott en masse the season tickets of our favorite schools, to send a message with our wallets and pocketbooks that if the ACC is going to keep shoving the same crap down our throats and telling us to like it, well, then, eff you, we don’t like it.

    We’ll keep filling up our arenas and root like hell when we play each other, because at least then we’re on equal terms, and then when Duke and UNC come to town, we’ll fill the seats up then, too, on the off-chance that the refs won’t foul us out down to our walk-ons if we get a big lead, and we can rush the court in celebration of a win over the hegemons of Tobacco Road. [emphasis added]

    As long as we keep acting like the sheep that we are, change in the ACC ain’t never gonna happen.

  2. Raleigh News & Observer: Speaking of “the hegemons of Tobacco Road,” Bubba Cunningham (North Carolina’s new athletic director) is in favor of a 128-team NCAA tournament. I hate the idea not because it will destroy the Big Dance like some critics say (it won’t; but it will dilute the value of winning a bid and possibly destroy the lesser postseason tournaments). My problem is that you’re adding an unnecessary round of games. That’s more travel; that’s more blowouts; that’s more fatigue. The Tournament would survive, but would the couple of upsets be worth an extra round of games? Every year we decry the bubble as the worst in years. Nearly every team is given an fair shake. Why add a round?
  3. Gobbler Country: Below is a screenshot of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s Ecce Homo. Take note of the first four chapters: The first starts innocently enough “On this perfect day…” The next three though? Not so much.

    Nietzsche Wrote The Definitive Philosophy. Gobbler Country Wrote The Definitive Case For Seth Greenberg. (photo credit: Amazon.com)

    That level of confidence was the feeling I got reading the title “The Definitive Case For Seth Greenberg.” Jokes about the title aside, I totally agree with Gobbler Country here. Greenberg shouldn’t be fired. He shouldn’t be on the hot seat. He made Virginia Tech basketball far more relevant than in the years before him. He’s done it with class and the program appears to be improving. Last year he brought in a Top 25 recruiting class. Things are trending upward even if this year is a rebuilding year.

  4. Fayetteville Observer: Bret Strelow took a shot at his All-ACC Team entering the final week of conference play. He also dropped some very valuable advice for voters: “[The All-ACC Team is] going to have a Carolina blue tint, and I’m fine with that, as long as voters don’t go overboard. And overboard means including four North Carolina players.” Skill-wise, North Carolina might have four of the five best players in the ACC. But all-conference implies a level of importance or dominance that can’t come from a team that may not even finish first.
  5. Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Carroll Rogers does a great job profiling Paul Hewitt, who is still judging himself by the same standards he did at Georgia Tech. Now he’s trying to make the Big Dance at George Mason. Hewitt sounds content with his new gig, though that $7.2 million dollar buyout certainly makes the new job sweeter.
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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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