With the Calendar turning to 2013, the college basketball season gets serious now. Gone are the cupcake wins for some of the power schools. Gone are the chances for non-BCS schools to pull off a resume building, national attention-getting win. With all the fun or boredom of those games aside, comes the intensity and thrill of the conference season.
Up to this point this season, I have focused on Towson, and I will continue to do so going forward. However, with a changing landscape in the CAA, I thought I would give you a look at how the league has shaped up so far. In no particular order, here is a “so far” and “what’s ahead” look at each CAA team.
SO FAR: If you have followed my blogs at all, you know the Tigers have played very well in all but three of its 14 games. Key road victories at Vermont and Oregon State were the highlights. The win against the Beavers proved to be extremely fortuitous timing. Not only did it snap a four-game losing streak, it provided yet another boost of confidence to a team that is still trying to find its identity with six of the eight-player rotation being new to the team.
WHAT’S AHEAD: The Tiger’s open league play with two road contests. Tonight against UNCW, which is 5-7, with the five wins all coming at home. On Saturday, Towson travels to Philadelphia to play pre-season favorite Drexel. Drexel has struggled this year at 4-8, so the Tiger’s might be catching the Dragons at an opportune time. It is only two games, but the result of these two could be an indication of how the Tigers will fair the rest of the way. Winning both games would no doubt get the rest of the conferences attention, if the Tigers have not already. A split would still be good progress, with picking up a conference win on the road. Two losses would not be the end of the world by any means.
SO FAR: The Blue Hens enter conference play on a two game winning streak. Delaware is one of three CAA teams—George Mason and Old Dominion being the others—to beat the University of Virginia this year, beating the Cavaliers 59-53 in the NIT-Tip-off Tournament. The Blue Hens have two of the best players in the league. Senior Jamelle Hagins, has nine double-doubles on the season and is second in the nation in rebounding at 12.5 boards per game. Junior Devon Sadler is the leading scorer in the conference at 19.2 points per game.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Delaware does not open CAA play until Saturday when they travel to Norfolk, VA to take on Old Dominion, after that they host Hofstra at the Bob Carpenter Center on January 9th.
SO FAR: Injuries have definitely played a role in the Dragons struggling start to the season. The Dragons lost Chris Fouch for season in early November with an ankle injury. The Dragon’s have not only missed Fouch’s 16.7 points per game from last year, but also the senior leadership he was expected to provide. Drexel does have pre-season CAA player of the year, Frantz Mazzenat is second in the CAA with 4.5 assist per game so far.
WHAT’S AHEAD: Drexel travels to Atlanta tonight to open against Georgia State before they return to host Towson on Saturday afternoon.
GEORGE MASON: 7-5
SO FAR: George Mason is one of only two CAA teams to have a winning record at the end of the non-conference schedule. As such, the Patriots have the highest RPI of any team in the league; they are currently 52nd in the Collegiate Basketball News Poll. The Patriot’s have a couple signature wins, a 63-59 win at home to open the season against the Virginia Cavaliers. In addition, Mason won on the road at Rhode Island and in the Richmond Coliseum against Richmond Governors Classic. The Patriots missed an opportunity to pick up a road win against a Big East team when they lost 61-57 to the University of South Florida last Saturday night. George Mason is led by junior Sherrod Wright, who has scored 20 or more points five times this year.
WHAT’S AHEAD: After hosting Northeastern University in its conference opener tomorrow night, the Patriots travel to Williamsburg to take on cross-state rival William & Mary. William & Mary is actually the first place team in the CAA right now, as they beat Old Dominion 71-62 on December 1st in the only league game played before today.
GEORGIA STATE: 5-8
SO FAR: The Panthers had an ambitious schedule to start the season playing on the road at Duke then BYU in its first two games. They followed that however with three wins in the coaches versus cancer tournament. Georgia State is led by one of the best freshman in the conference R.J. Hunter who is averaging 15.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Hunter is the son of Panther Head Coach Ron Hunter.
WHAT’S NEXT: After hosting Drexel tonight, the Panthers get a second home game against James Madison University. This is the last year in the conference for the Panthers, as they will be moving to the Sun Belt Conference next season. Because of the move, the Panthers are ineligible to participate in this year’s CAA Tournament.
SO FAR: A promising 3-2 start and a three game winning streak all ended on November 30th, when Hofstra suspended four players following arrests for their roles in dormitory burglaries. Since the suspensions, the Pride has lost eight games in a row. Hofstra does boast the CAA’s ninth leading scorer Taran Buie who is averaging 15.3 points per game.
WHAT’S NEXT: Hofstra will be the last team to open league play as they don’t play again until January 7th, but they will do so at home when Georgia State visits. The Pride has a quick turnaround when they travel down to Delaware on January 9th to face the Blue Hens.
JAMES MADISON: 6-6
SO FAR: The hottest team in the CAA coming into conference play, the Dukes have won five of six, with the only loss being a one-pointer to Richmond in the Governors Classic. A trio of talented seniors lead JMU. Rayshawn Goins is the team’s leading scorer at 14.3 points per game, Devin Moore is also in double figures at 11.2 points and A.J. Davis has had 18 and 11 points respectfully the last two games.
WHAT’S NEXT: JMU is looking at three road games in the next five days. After playing on the road against Old Dominion and Georgia State, the Dukes will have another non-conference game on Jan 7th at Hampton University.
SO FAR: Home court has not meant more to any team in the league than the Seahawks. All five of the teams wins have come in the friendly confines of Trask Coliseum. In addition all seven loses have come on the road. Senior Keith Rendleman, a pre-season first team all conference selection leads the Hawks in scoring at 16.2 points per game while trailing only Hagins of Delaware and Towson’s Jerrelle Benimon in rebounding with9.7 boards per game. The game against Towson tonight will feature two of the best inside players in the league in Rendleman and Benimon.
WHAT’S NEXT: After hosting Towson on Wednesday night, the Seahawks play two on the road, at Northeastern on January 5th and then at James Madison on January 9th.
SO FAR: The Huskies have possibly been the most inconsistent team in the CAA so far. They started the season out in a big way by beating Belmont and UC Riverside to get to the Championship game of the Great Alaska Shootout, before falling in the finals to Charlotte. That began a stretch that saw Northeastern lose six of its next seven games. The Huskies do have the league’s best three-point shooter in senior Joel Smith who has made 32 threes on the year.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Huskies face two tough road games; Wednesday night at George Mason then at Drexel on January 8th. Sandwiched in-between is its home opener against UNCW on Jan 5th.
OLD DOMINION: 2-11
SO FAR: After perennially seeing the ODU at or near the top of the CAA standings, it is a shock to see them at the bottom. However, the Monarch’s have several new players. Among them is transfer DeShawn Painter one of many BCS transfers to show up in the CAA this year. Painter is leading ODU in points scored at 11.2 per game.
WHAT’S NEXT: After hosting JMU and Delaware on Jan 2nd and 5th respectfully, ODU travels up I-95 to Fairfax to take on George Mason in what might be the toughest opening stretch for any team in the conference.
WILLIAM & MARY: 7-4
SO FAR: Without a doubt the surprise of the conference this year. The Tribe was picked to finish 9th in the CAA pre-season poll. Its four losses? How about this list, at Miami of Ohio, at Wake Forest by only six points, at Richmond in double-overtime and at Purdue by seven points. Sophomore guard Marcus Thornton is third in the league in scoring at 18.3 points per game, and has named Player of the Week twice by the Conference.
WHAT’S NEXT: The Tribe will test itself against one more BCS opponent when they play at Vanderbilt Wednesday night. The first conference game of the year for William& Mary will be at home on Saturday against George Mason. That game should give the Pride a good idea of how they stand against the elite teams in the conference.
That is a wrap on the conference to date, and what lies ahead in the next week. It will be a conference season like no other in recent memory, as only seven of the 11 teams will be eligible to play in the conference tournament in March at the Richmond Coliseum. Nevertheless, the top seeds for that tournament are more wide open than they have been in several years.