Jan 2, 2013, 12:01 PM EST
Conference play is right around the corner, so to help you get out of that post-holiday haze, we’ll be catching you up on all the happenings in the country’s top 12 conferences. Here’s our CAA Conference Catchup:
Favorite: George Mason
The more things change, the more they stay the same in the CAA. As the league’s power base of Virginia schools has been gradually eroded by realignment — most notably the absence of VCU in this year’s schedule — the time seemed ripe for a geographical shift. Drexel and Delaware were atop our preseason preview list, with Mason coming in third.
Well, here we are again, with the Patriots standing tall. They started the season with an upset win over Virginia, came within a point of knocking off New Mexico at the Pit, and drained a three to beat Richmond in the Spiders’ hometown. The Patriots have lost a few games they should have won, but that’s been an epidemic in the CAA this season, so they’re still the best of the bunch right now. Mason has one particular stat to hang their stocking caps on: their 91.6 Kenpom defensive efficiency number reflects a staunch inside presence led by Erik Copes that gives them a great chance night in and night out. If the Patriots can just get some offensive help for sharpshooting Sherrod Wright, they’ll be so much tougher to beat.
Contenders: Drexel is still the league’s most dangerous offensive team, even without senior Chris Fouch, who broke his ankle and will miss the rest of the season. Most bafflingly, the Dragons can’t stop anybody, so they’ve lost to good teams (St. Mary’s, Xavier, St. Joe’s) and mediocre teams (Rider, Tennessee State) alike.
William & Mary has played a pretty weak schedule, but they’ve won the games they should win, and that’s more than the rest of the league can say after non-conference season. Signs of life for the star-crossed Tribe include 1) excellent shooting (53.9%) inside the arc, 2) excellent defense on the perimeter and 3) unlike half of the league, they are eligible to win the auto-bid this season. Heartache is a familiar feeling for Tribe fans, who have never had an NCAA tourney team, but this could be their year.
Biggest Surprise: Jerelle Benimon, Towson
Benimon was a bench-riding afterthought at Georgetown. Granted, the Big East is a tough gig, but Benimon has been flat crushing it in his first post-transfer season as a Tiger. His 20 point, 21 rebound effort in last week’s upset of Oregon State put him on the national radar, but he put up 30 points in 40 minutes in an earlier loss to Temple, and 29 in a road win over Vermont. The Tigers as a team aren’t much of a threat just yet, but the 6’8″, 245-lb. Benimon is as scary as they come.
Biggest Disappointment: Drexel
Nobody in the CAA — possibly the nation — has been screwed over by the NCAA at-large process more than Bruiser Flint. His strongest teams have been thrown over in favor of dubious power-conference teams far too often. Flint knows as well as anyone that the only sure way to make the Dance is to get the league’s auto-bid, but a slew of uninspired non-conference losses has made certain that the committee’s folder on the Dragons is thin indeed.
Player of the Year: Sherrod Wright, George Mason
Other players score more points than Wright, but they’re making use of the volume-shooting method. Wright has a mighty fine 17.5 points per game average, but his shot selection and accuracy blow everyone else in the league away, easy. Wright is shooting 54% overall, and a stunning 45% from deep. Devon Saddler (Delaware) and Damion Lee (Drexel) might make up ground before it’s all said and done, but right now, I’ll take Sherrod.
Best Freshman: R.J. Hunter, Georgia State
The coach’s kid is no joke. The 6’5″ swingman is averaging 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. He can stroke it from deep and leads the team in free-throw percentage. He’s one of the team’s better defensive players, as well, and you’d better believe that Ron Hunter wouldn’t play anybody, including his own son, who didn’t put in the effort on defense. It’s a shame this team is on its way out of the league, with such bright days ahead.
- The CAA is a one-bid league. With VCU gone, the lowering tide was taking all ships down with it anyway, but the league’s decision to hold Old Dominion and Georgia State out of the postseason to punish them for leaving, and APR problems dinging UNCW and Towson, the league’s auto-bid won’t even be worth the paper it’s printed on. To top that off, the league’s non-conference record this season is atrocious – there will be zero thought given to an at-large bid this year.
- An ineligible team will embarrass a contender. Some of the league’s best individual players (Keith Rendleman, R.J. Hunter, Jerelle Benimon) are on teams that can’t play in March. One or more of them will make the rest of the league feel his pain.
- Drexel will rally. This team’s slump is really difficult to explain. And I’d rather drink muddy water and sleep out in a hollow log than go to practice every day and disappoint Bruiser Flint. I suspect his players feel the same. The Dragons will find their rhythm, as they did with last season’s 19-game win streak. But timing is everything. A simple three-win streak in March is all anyone is looking for.
Power Rankings (* = ineligible for CAA tournament):
1. George Mason
3. William & Mary
4. James Madison
8. Georgia State*
10. Old Dominion*
Eric Angevine is an Old Dominion grad, which no doubt led to his controversial decision to rank his alma mater 10th instead of dead last in the league.
Dec 18, 2013, 11:35 AM EST
Southern Illinois head coach Barry Hinson has been an overnight sensation with a six-minute postgame rant following his team’s 73-65 loss to Murray State on Tuesday night. He appeared on the second hour on the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday morning to discuss the viral video. During the rant (can watch it here), which was mostly entertaining,…
Dec 18, 2013, 11:02 AM EST
Former Duke forward Alex Murphy is going to following in his older brother’s footsteps. On Tuesday night, following Providence’s 76-74 win over Yale, Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal reported that Murphy, a South Kingstown, R.I. native, had decided to join Florida, the same school his older brother Erik played four years for Billy Donovan, averaging 12.2…
Dec 18, 2013, 10:45 AM EST
If your team is getting blown out, and you get ejected, dunking over a 7-foot-1 center is probably the way to go out. Tuesday night, Florida State steamrolled Charlotte in a 106-62 win at home. With 14 minutes remaining in the game, it was already out of hand with the Seminoles leading 63-37. Charlotte junior…
Dec 18, 2013, 9:26 AM EST
NEW YORK — I’m staying with a couple of college buddies here in New York while I cover the Jimmy V Classic and the Duke-UCLA game. This morning, I was chatting with one of them — I’ll call him Rizzo — about the game last night. He’s a big sports fan and watches his fair share…
Dec 18, 2013, 2:09 AM EST
Southern Illinois head coach Barry Hinson delivered the press conference of the year after Tuesday night’s 73-65 loss to Murray State. Hinson, the second-year coach who is 16-25 with the Salukis, has his team off to a 2-8 start this season and is less than pleased about the state of his team. Fast forward to the…
Dec 18, 2013, 12:53 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 16 Florida 77, No. 15 Memphis 75 The Gators looked like they would cruise in the final minutes of second half, but the Tigers charged back. Joe Jackson had a chance to tie, but could not convert Florida, finally healthy and still getting players back, are showing how impressive it…
Dec 18, 2013, 12:20 AM EST
New Mexico State held a 13-point halftime lead and nearly gave it away in the waning moments of the game, but Daniel Mullings block on Cullen Neal kept New Mexico from tying the game at 61 with 30 seconds to play. K.C. Ross-Miller would go to the line three times in the final seconds and…
Dec 17, 2013, 11:58 PM EST
No. 11 Wichita State went on the road in Tuscaloosa to take on a quality Alabama program, led by senior point guard Travis Releford. In the first half Ron Baker, Cleanthony Early and Fred VanVleet all sat for much of the first half with foul trouble. In the second half, Alabama took the lead on…
Dec 17, 2013, 11:57 PM EST
NEW YORK — Billy Donovan said that this season, for his Gators, has been exhausting. Between the injuries and the suspensions and the academic issues, the status of Florida’s roster has been a bigger story to date than their performance against teams like Wisconsin or UConn or Kansas. “I almost keep looking around to see…
South Florida holds on as Florida Gulf Coast’s buzzer-beater in double overtime doesn’t count (VIDEO)
Dec 17, 2013, 10:35 PM EST
With 0.3 seconds remaining in double overtime, Jamail Jones threw a beautiful full-court pass — which he put by the 7-foot-3 Jordan Omogbehin — ending up in the hands of Chase Fieler, who put up a shot that bounced off the rim and in. The Eagles thought the bucket tied the score at 68-68, but instead…
Dec 17, 2013, 9:59 PM EST
NEW YORK — Dear Pitt: This is why you put together a real non-conference schedule. This is why you make sure that, more than a month and 11 games into the season, the best team on your schedule is someone better than Cincinnati. Don’t get me wrong, the Bearcats aren’t a bad basketball team. They’re…
Dec 17, 2013, 8:06 PM EST
Florida Gulf Coast guard Jamail Jones’ shot was off the mark, but he ran down his miss near the baseline. He beat a pair of South Florida defenders before throwing down on another one. That ended the half as Bulls led 23-21. It’s an absolutely vicious slam, unfortunately South Florida guard Martino Brock is blocking…
Dec 17, 2013, 6:35 PM EST
You’ve probably already heard the name Jahlil Okafor. The 6-foot-10 Whitney Young Magnet High (Ill.) center is the nation’s consensus top player, and is Duke bound, staying true to his word that he would attend the same college as Apple Valley High (Minn.) point guard Tyus Jones. Okafor will only continue to grab national attention…
Dec 17, 2013, 5:40 PM EST
Injuries have piled up for Seton Hall in recent weeks, as the roster got even thinner once Tom Maayan had to return to Israel to fulfill his military commitment for the Israeli Defense Forces. However, Kevin Willard got some good news on Monday night, learning that Sterling Gibbs knee injury will only sideline him for 1-2…
Dec 17, 2013, 4:25 PM EST
On Tuesday, NCAA.com released a video listing the five loudest, most intimidating college basketball arenas to play in. Coming in at the top spot was Allen Fieldhouse on the University of Kansas campus. The reasoning behind it: “It’s twice the size as Cameron [Indoor Stadium] with three times the students sitting courtside. There’s a reason…
Dec 17, 2013, 3:21 PM EST
It’s the end of the first semester and No. 14 North Carolina is still waiting for a decision from the NCAA on the eligibility status of guards P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald. The Tar Heels have been without the duo for the first nine games of the season, and they will both likely be in street…
Dec 17, 2013, 1:27 PM EST
Someone managed to get a “Free PJ” sign into Cameron Indoor Stadium last night, and it appears as if a Duke fan was none-too-pleased about it. They were Carolina fans, and my guess is that they were the people responsible for the “Free PJ” being yelled at Quinn Cook while he shot free…
Dec 17, 2013, 1:01 PM EST
I wrote two columns off of Kentucky’s loss to North Carolina, so I don’t think there is really anything else for me to say on the subject. Others had plenty to say, however, and one of the most common responses I got from the good folks of twitter on the subject had to do with…
Dec 17, 2013, 11:59 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 16 Florida vs. No. 15 Memphis, 9:30 p.m. The nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic is one of the more intriguing games left before we get into league play. Both Florida and Memphis has enough talent on their roster to be considered a top ten team and a challenger to…
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