So, with a week's worth of games played last week, plus a few games into this week for some of the CAA teams, what do we know about the various CAA teams? Well it's hard to get a full picture after four or five games, but I think I have some thoughts already.
Old Dominion - The Monarchs have played a very soft schedule so far, with their toughest game a home win over Marshall. Their first round game in the South Padre Invitational against Missouri will provide a better test (other teams playing are Mississippi, Richmond and Chattanooga).
The Good - The ODU forwards - Gerald Lee, Ben Finney, Frank Hassell and Kevon Carter are all shooting 45% or better from the field. The Bad - Point guard Darius James is shooting 31.8 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three. James, Kent Bazemore and Marsharee Neely need to shoot well from the outside to keep teams from packing it in.
Northeastern - The Huskies had an early double digit lead on Siena but couldn't close the deal, losing to the Saints on their home court 59-53. The Huskies rebounded with a close win at home over a perenially solid Utah State team 64-61. Northeastern was down 15 in the first half before coming back to win.
The Good - It's only two games but Matt Janning is shooting better than last season with his 45.8 percent from the field. Janning leads four Huskies averaging double digits in scoring. The Huskie defense is as solid as ever, as opponents are shooting 5 of 27 from beyond the arc. And considering the teams were two of the best in the mid majors, Siena and Utah State, that's a nice feat. The Bad - Northeastern as a whole is struggling from the field, shooting 38.4 from the field, including a very bad 23.5 percent from beyond the arc. Despite averaging 11 points per game, Chaisson Allen is averaging 33 percent from the field and also is averaging more turnovers per game, three, than assists, two.
VCU - Three games. One bad game at Western Michigan. One good win over nationally ranked Oklahoma at home (I am not including the win over Bethune Cookman, cupcake to the CAA - VCU won by 26 at home vs. the Cook, while ODU won by over 3o at home over the Cook). A nice win on the road over perenially pesky Hampton was also important (VCU had lost its last road game vs Hampton in 2007-08). The next two games vs. Nevada and Rhode Island should give the Rams a better indication of where they are at.
The Good - Jay Gavin was shooting 50 percent from beyond the arc, giving the Rams the legitimate outside threat needed so that teams don't double up on Larry Sanders. The Bad - Gavin went 0 for 5 vs. Hampton. The Rams will need Gavin to shoot the three consistently because Joey Rodriguez is struggling from the field. 29 percent overall, 27 percent from beyond the arc.
George Mason - Got to watch a lot of the Patriots during the Puerto Rico Tip Off Tournament. They are athletic, deep and talented. Michael Morrison simply dominated against Indiana Sunday morning with 17 points, 13 rebounds and 7 blocks. Cam Long added 18 including the game winning 3 point shot (did Long call "bank"?) in the 69-66 win over the Hoosiers.
The Good - Cam Long is definitely All First Team CAA material. Ryan Pearson is just getting better and better. And redshirt freshman forward Kevin Foster is very good. Throw in Andre Cornelius and some talented freshman guards in Luke Hancock and Sharrod Wright, and Mason is good to go. They had a really impressive showing in the Puerto Rico Tip Off, almost knocking off #6 Villanova, hanging against a very athletic #19 Georgia Tech and the win over Indiana. The Bad - Paging Louis Birdsong. Mr Birdsong, please pick up the white courtesy phone and let us know where you are. Birdsong is averaging only 14 minutes per game with 2.2 points and 1.2 rebounds. Pearson, Morrison and now Foster have all eclipsed Birdsong in the rotation.
James Madison - Without Devon Moore, the Dukes struggled out of the gate. In fact, in their first two games against Ohio State and Murray State, they lost by 28 points each. JMU struggled to score, scoring 44 and 43 points respectively shooting 29 percent from the field and 13 percent from beyond the arc. The Dukes have righted themselves by winning their next two games, shooting 52 percent from the field and 54 percent beyond the arc against FIU, then followed up with a 54 percent from the field shooting against NC Central.
The Good - Darren White and Julius Wells are doing their best to make up for the loss of Moore, combining for 27 points per game. Pierre Curtis is averaging a 2-1 ratio for assists to turnovers. Dazz Thornton is slowly rounding into shape after back surgery. The Bad - The Dukes are shooting 28.6 percent from beyond the arc. That's Drexelesque. And that's not a good thing. Julius Wells is struggling from the field, shooting 36.5 percent. The Dukes need Wells and Andrey Semenov (23 percent from the field) to step up and shoot better. Otherwise, could be a disappointing year for JMU.
Hofstra - The Pride had a very eventful seven days last week. Four games, two nationally ranked teams. One near upset. The Pride showed a lot of heart in their game against UConn. Down double digits early, they hung in the first half despite poor shooting. Then in the second half, they shot the lights out and nearly pulled out a big win despite foul trouble and a lack of depth.
The Good - Charles Jenkins is a second half monster. In the game against UConn, Jenkins and the Huskies' Jerome Dyson were the two best players on the court with Jenkins scoring 21 of his 25 points in the second half (he had a similar game against Kansas). . That's saying a lot considering all of the Huskies' talented players. The Pride has two real gems in freshmen Chaz Williams and Halil Kanacevic. Nathaniel Lester has played very solid ball since his clunker against Kansas (though he regressed badly against Charlotte last night). The Bad - As my friend Tony Terentieff so aptly put it, Miklos Szabo is a fouling machine. Greg Washington is not far behind him. Both players need to play smarter since the Pride do not have a lot of depth in the frontcourt until David Imes comes back. The Pride need Brad Kelleher to come back and provide minutes and Coach Tom Pecora needs to give Yves Jules some playing time to get better. Playing seven players on a regular basis won't cut it in the CAA.
Drexel - The Dragons have struggled from the beginning, losing three close games to St Joe's, Niagara and Rutgers before getting their first win yesterday in typical ugly fashion against Penn 58-49. Drexel is learning to play without their best player of last season, Scott Rodgers, who graduated.
The Good - Jamie Harris is taking the lead as far as scoring duties. Harris had 22 points against Penn, his second 20 plus scoring night of the season. The junior has continually progressed in his shooting percentage each season, which stands currently at 41.7 percent. Evan Neisler has had 10 rebounds in two of the four games. Drexel is holding opponents to 39 percent from the field. Drexel leads the CAA in average rebounds per game at 44. The Bad - Chris Fouch, my key player for the Dragons due to his outside shooting ability, hasn't shown it yet. Going into last night's game against the Quakers, Fouch was shooting 10.5 percent from the field while averaging 18 minutes a game (he went 1 for 3 from the field in 12 minutes against Penn). Going into the Penn game, Drexel was shooting 34 percent from the field (they shot 44 percent against the Quakers), including 27 percent from three.
Georgia State - The Panthers have only one win over a Division I team, a 24 point win over Howard. Otherwise it's been a struggle for the Panthers who have yet to score over 60 points against a Division I team this season.
The Good - Well, there's not much good when you are scoring less than 60 points per game, shoot 23 percent from three, average six more turnovers than assists and have a 2-3 record with one of those wins over Carver Bible College. Ousman Krubally though has been a pleasant surprise for the Panthers averaging 7.4 points and 9.2 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. The Bad - Well just about everything. Joe Dukes is again the leading scorer for the Panthers, but he is shooting only 11 percent from three and his field goal percentage is down from last season (40 percent as opposed to 43 percent last season). Only Drexel has a lower FG percentage in the CAA than Georgia State.
Towson - The season started off nice with a win over Miami of Ohio. Then a tough loss in overtime to Buffalo. Both games at home. Then they went on the road last night and got blown out by 17 to Navy. Navy. We're not talking the David Robinson Navy. We're talking about "The only team we beat until last night was cupcake Longwood" Navy (no offense Midshipmen).
The Good - Calvin Lee has been "The Handful". Averaging 16 points and 59 percent from the field, Lee is making Michael Litos look like Nostradamus. Towson is shooting well from the field (45 percent going into last night's game against Navy). Rashawn Polk could be a gem. In his first game for Towson, the juco transfer Polk had 19 points vs. Navy. The Bad - It's all about the defense, or the lack thereof. The Tigers are next to last in the CAA in FG percentage defense, 47 percent (only the swiss cheese defense of Delaware is worse). Josh Thornton continues to regress for Towson. After averaging 13 points and 47 percent from the field as a sophomore, Thornton only averaged 11 points and 38 percent from the field as a junior. As a senior, Thornton is averaging 10.5 points shooting 26 percent from the field. Thornton went scoreless last night against Navy. Not good.
William and Mary - After two tough losses to UConn and Harvard in OT, the Mary has bounced back big time with impressive wins over Richmond and a road win in Craddy Gymnasium over Manhattan. The Mary can get over .500 with a win over Hampton at home tonight. There are very few better game coaches than William and Mary's Tony Shaver. He gets more out of his team than most coaches do. I will always remember his game plan against VCU in the 2008 CAA semifinals. That game should be shown to all coaches on how to beat a press.
The Good - The trifecta of David Schneider, Danny Sumner and Quinn McDowell have combined on average to score 49 points per game . The Tribe average four more assists that turnovers per game (16 to 12). They are shooting 44 percent from the field and over 40 percent from three. In fact, the Tribe average 12 three pointers per game. TWELVE. It's like the old Intellvision WW II game "Bombs Away!" The Bad - The Mary are struggling on the defensive end, as opponents are averaging 75 points per game and the Tribe is allowing 36 percent three point shooting.
UNC Wilmington - The Seahawks have been very very surprising. After losing two of their players from last season Jerel Stephenson and Kevon Moore to transfer, the outlook was not bright for UNCW. However, the Seahawks 2-4 record does not show how well they have played. UNCW has beaten defending NIT champ Penn State, run out to a 22-8 lead vs Miami,Fla before losing a close 67-60 game. The Seahawks also played South Florida close before losing. Wilmington came back with a solid 20 point win last night over VMI.
The Good - Chad Tomko has been terrific for the Seahawks. Tomko had 20 points and 12 assists last night in the win over the Keydets. Tomko has upped his game this season averaging 17 points on 52 percent shooting from the field including 40 percent from three. Tomko is also averaging 5 assists per game. John Fields has been equally terrific averaging 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game, shooting nearly 63 percent from the field. The East Carolina transfer is a real find for coach Benny Moss. The Bad - The defense still is not great, as the Seahawks allow 46 percent shooting from the field. But it's not as bad as last year's team.
Delaware - When the Hens lost Brian Johnson to a torn ACL before the season started, that was not a good sign. When two recruits delayed their enrollment into Delaware, that was another bad sign. Then the season started, with three losses by sixteen or more points. Even a worse sign. The Blue Hens do have a double overtime win over Penn as their only win, but as I told my friend Mal last night "Penn stinks." (sorry they do)
The Good - Jawan Carter has been very solid for the Hens. He had a career high 35 versus Penn and is averaging 20 points per game. Alphonso Dawson and DJ Boney are each scoring in double figures and at least give Delaware a decent offense. The Bad - Delaware's defense is giving up 84 points per game. That's 2008-09 UNC Wilmington bad. Opponents are shooting nearly 50 percent against the Hens. It's bad outside defense (37.3 pct three point FG percentage defense) and bad inside defense. Delaware averages one block per game. One. Larry Sanders has one block in the first minute of a game. Last night, Delaware got outrebounded 43-25. Eek.
Overall, the CAA looks to be pretty solid in the early going. I had the Mary finishing tenth, Wilmington eleventh and Delaware last. Only Delaware is living up to my expectations. The Mary and UNCW look much better than advertised, while Towson and Georgia State look terrible early on.
Some other things to note - Perhaps Northeastern knows how terrible its outside shooting is. The Huskies have only thirty four attempts from beyond the arc on the season. THIRTY FOUR! That's as many as the Mary have in one game! Northeastern has only hit 8 of them for next to last in the CAA in three poing FG percentage (Georgia State is last) ODU has the second least attempts with 52, but have made 23 of them (we'll see how long that lasts). Half the teams in the CAA are shooting under 30 percent from three.
Hofstra has been much better with the assists to turnover ratio. Wonder if that has anything to do with the new point guard Chaz Williams. Despite losing last night to Charlotte, Hofstra's assist to turnover ratio was 3-1 (18 to 6). Now if they can just get Brad Kelleher and David Imes back and get some depth.
Mason looks so so good. Outside of Birdsong, not one senior in the bunch. And Birdsong is losing his playing time fast.
Memo to Jeff Capel - VCU thanks you for agreeing to put in the stipulation in your buyout contract that Oklahoma had to travel to Richmond in your second season. An out of conference win against a ranked team goes a long way come selection day. May your team play really well the rest of the season to help the CAA multiple bid selection cause.
Will be curious to see how ODU plays against Missouri on Friday. Love Blaine Taylor. Love their frontcourt. Dislike their backcourt.
When Drexel plays Georgia State, will either team break fifty points? Who wants that bet?
Message to the NCAA (No Clue At All) - Can you please decide on how many games Hofstra's Kelleher will be out due to playing games in his native Australia? Kentucky's John Wall gets to sit out one game by the NCAA Clearinghouse, meanwhile Kelleher continues to sit. Let's be consistent, shall we! Oh I forgot, these are the same geniuses who decide the at large qualifications of teams for the NCAA tournament.
Hofstra plays Wilmington on February 13, 2010. A Saturday night. That's a first I do believe for the Pride and Wilmington (they always played in Wilmington mid week). That is my birthday weekend. Hmm, been to the city of Wilmington before. Lovely city. Road trip?!
That's it for now.