There might be a new favorite team at the College Hardwood, the now 9-2 Big Red of Cornell. Even though I didn't see an entire game of theirs over the two days of the Holiday Festival, they really impressed me. I caught most of the second half and the entire overtime in their win over Davidson. Then I watched the first half of their win over St John's (when I left, the Big Red were down 36-31).
First, they can shoot the lights out. Against Davidson they shot 13 of 29 from three (45 percent). Against one of the best defensive teams in the Big East, St John's, Cornell shot 57 percent from the field, including 11 of 18 from three. Damn. And it's not just leading scorer Ryan Wittman, who shoots 41 percent from three, 46 percent overall. Chris Wroblewski is shooting 45 percent from three, Geoff Reeves is shooting 55 percent overall and 47 percent from three. Finally, seven footer Jeff Foote is shooting 57 percent from the field.
Second, I was so impressed with their passing. It was truly fun watching them move the ball around the court against St John's. Foote is a terrific passer for a big man and he had a great game against the Johnies - 19 points, 11 rebounds, 5 blocks and 3 assists. And now I can see why Louis Dale averages 5 assists per game. He totaled 12 assists in the two Holiday Festival games, because he can pass and he has weapons to pass to as well.
And if you are wondering whether their win over St John's is a fluke, it's not. They have road wins over Alabama, UMass (Memphis couldn't pull that off) and Drexel (something Northeastern couldn't do). Also, Siena and Temple couldn't beat St John's on a neutral site. Cornell did. The Big Red's only losses were at Syracuse and at home to Seton Hall. There's a reason why they are currently in my Baker's Dozen and they will be pulling a Jeffersons - they will be moving on up!
Finally, my boy is getting some love. Omar "Enter the Sandman" Samhan was named on Tuesday the Mid Majority's Baller of the Week for Week #6 (MBOW for those of you who know the site). And it's about time! Samhan is a walking double double machine, averaging 21.5 points an 11.6 rebounds per game. Against the solid frontcourt duo of Northeastern's Manny Adako and Nkem Ojougboh, Samhan had 19 points and 8 rebounds to lead St Mary's to a 78-67 win.
Speaking of Northeastern, the 2-6 Huskies are truly the enigma. Yes, there is no shame in losing to the 10-1 Gaels. But there is a reason why they are off to a poor start. They find new interesting ways to lose. They shot the ball really well against St Mary's as Adako, Ojougboh and Matt Janning combined for 57 points on 24-44 shooting (as a team they shot 50 percent overall against the Gaels). But they went 0 for 8 from beyond the arc, including an 0 for 4 by the "sharpshooter" Janning. The Huskies are last in the CAA in three point field goal attempts, averaging 13 per game. The Huskies have the lowest number of three-point field goal attempts in the CAA with 103. In fact the Huskies have 61 less three-point attempts then the next closest team, George Mason (164).
With no real outside game, the Huskies are going to be in a lot of close games. Speaking of Northeastern's propensity for playing close games, the loss to Saint Mary's was the first game the Huskies played that was decided by double digits (and the game was close for the most part until the very end). Northeastern's other games were the following - loss at Siena by six; win at home over Utah State by three; loss at Boston University by five in overtime; win at home over Wright State by three; loss at home to Providence by four; loss at Drexel by two; loss at Rhode Island by three.
Now you can say they played a tough schedule, which is true and Basketball State gives them some love by ranking them 31st in the State of the State Ratings. But this goes to show you that statistics/ratings are often not accurate. If the Huskies are so good, how come they have no road wins to speak of whatsoever? Sorry, but you have to beat Drexel, (listed as #95 in the State of the State Ratings) on the road. Cornell was able to win at Drexel. And sorry, you have to beat Providence at home. Hell, Iona beat them on the road.
Now you might be thinking "Gary, you must hate Northeastern". Oh contrare, I like Northeastern, in fact, I had them as my preseason favorite to win the CAA. And I am a big Manny Adako fan. I just think they should be playing better. A whole lot better.
Yes, once the Huskies start CAA competition, they will likely win just about all their home games and they should win some road games at Delaware and Towson, the likely bottom feeders in the CAA. But right now, I wouldn't bet on them in other CAA road games like at UNC Wilmington or Georgia State. They need to develop an outside game soon or my preseason preview is going to look awfully bad. And it's already really bad for predicting William and Mary to finish at the bottom of the CAA. But then again I did say that ratings, or in this case, rankings are not accurate.
Speaking of the Mary, how about another huge road win, this time at Radford, the defending Big South Champs. The Williamsburg Bombers shot 15 of 35 from beyond the arc (you know, it would take Northeastern three games to shoot 35 three point FG attempts). Quinn McDowell had 27 points for the Tribe. The Mary are now 8-2. Amazing.
Michael Litos just recently wrote on where some of the CAA teams are in the RPI. VCU was #19, Hofstra was #40 (yet Basketball State has them at #84 - go figure!) and ODU #56. But the best of all - the Mary at #14. William and Mary with the fourteenth best RPI in the country! Awesome!
The rest of the week for the column looks like reviewing tournaments/games on TV. Monday, I will be at Iona, for my first Lady Gaels game of the season vs. St Francis. And also next week, I am going to have my "CAA, A Third of the Way Through Review" and as promised, my "Atlantic 10 - Thy Conference is Not Mid Major" column. Yes, a little Shakespeare reference. But as Rodney would say in Back to School, "Hey, folks, it's on me! Shakespeare for everyone!"