Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Breaking Down the Week that Was in the CAA

It was an intense first week in the CAA as all the conference teams played three games in six days.  Though some teams played according to form, some teams were flat our surprises and are at the top of the conference.  Let's break it down team by team in current order of standings.

Hofstra - OK, if you saw this coming, I would like to talk to you this week about lottery numbers.  The Pride entered the week 1-0 in conference and ended the week the only team left undefeated in conference at 4-0  And it wasn't an easy schedule Hofstra played.  They went to Philly and won a closely fought contest over Drexel, a team thought by many as the second best team in the CAA going into January.   Then a thirteen point home win over George Mason, a team picked to finish in the top four in the conference.  Finally, a very solid road win over Northeastern at Matthews Arena, a place which has often not been hospitable for the Pride.

How have they been so successful?  Of course any discussion of Hofstra starts with Charles Jenkins.  In the three games,  Jenkins averaged 25 points and 6 assists while shooting 20 of 37 from the field including 7 of 13 from beyond the arc.  But it's not just Jenkins, as Hofstra has shot at least 48 percent from the field in each of the three wins.  In the last two games, Hofstra has had five players in double figures in scoring.  Against Northeastern, all five starters were in double figures.  Mike Moore and David Imes especially have been helping in the scoring column.

Old Dominion - The Monarchs, the preseason pick to repeat as champions of the CAA went 3-0 for the week.  But it wasn't easy.  ODU (3-1 CAA) had to hold off Towson on the Tigers home court to start the week.  Then they held Northeastern to 34 points in an ugly 15 point win.   Then in one of the best games I probably will have watched online all season, Old Dominion went blow for blow with George Mason before finally defeating the Patriots 69-65 at the Ted.

When you talk about "The Ground and Pound of College Basketball", it starts with rebounding, especially offensive rebounding.  In their win over George Mason, ODU had more than half of their rebounds on the offensive end (18 offensive, 35 total). That led to 23 second chance points for the Monarchs.   Frank Hassell has been a force for Old Dominion.  In the last three games, Hassell has led the Monarchs in scoring in each, averaging 16 points, 9 rebounds while shooting nearly 65 percent from the field.  ODU is first in the CAA in scoring defense, tied with Drexel at 59.5 points per game.

James Madison - The Dukes also ran the table for the week.   JMU (3-1 CAA) won their first two games at home, rallying in the second half to defeat Northeastern, then crushing Towson by 31.  Finally, the Dukes had to rally late in the second half on the road to defeat William and Mary.

In their three wins, it was a different player each night standing out for the Dukes.  Julius Wells scored 26 in the win over the Huskies.  Against the Tigers, Andrey Semenov had 20 points, shooting 5 of 6 from beyond the arc.  And finally, in the comeback win against the Tribe, Humpty Hitchens was 5 of 7 from beyond the arc for 17 points.   JMU is first in the CAA in scoring offense, averaging 73.8 points per game.

VCU - The Rams (3-1 CAA) lost their first game of the week, as they were upset at Georgia State.  Then they bounced back at home, rallying to defeat Drexel, apparently with a little help from the officials.  After they knocked off the Dragons and sent Bruiser Flint into a tizzy (followed by a classic news conference), VCU went to UNC Wilmington and thoroughly dominated the Seahawks, winning 82-64.

Bradford Burgess has been shooting the ball well from the field all season for the Rams.  In the last three games, Burgess has shot 16 of 32 from the field, which is close to his season average of 50.9 percent.  Only three players in the CAA who have 165 or more field goal attempts on the season are shooting over 50 percent from the field - JMU's Denzel Bowles, Jenkins and Burgess.

Georgia State - The Panthers (3-1 CAA) had a solid week, going 2-1 and were only a buzzer beater away from potentially sweeping the week.    Georgia State used home cooking to upset VCU, then lost at UNCW  on Trevor DeLoach's three pointer, then bounced back with a solid win at home over Towson.  The Panthers are 6-2 at home this season.

Eric Buckner has been a force lately for the Panthers.  Against VCU, Buckner had 28 points and 9 rebounds. In the loss at UNCW, he only had 8 points but pulled down 12 boards.  On the season, Buckner is second in the CAA in FG percentage. shooting 61.3 percent from the field. He is also second in the CAA in blocks averaging 2.1 blocks per game.

UNC Wilmington - The Seahawks (2-2 CAA) started their week strong with a two point win at William and Mary.  UNCW then followed it up with the aforementioned DeLoach buzzer beater over Georgia State.  However with a chance for a 3-0 week, the Seahawks were thoroughly dominated in the second by VCU as they lost to the Rams 82-64.

Chad Tomko had a terrific week for the Seahawks.  Tomko averaged nearly 19 points and a 2 to 1 assists to turnover ratio for the week.  And if that wasn't enough, in his last two games, Tomko had 10 and 9 rebounds respectively.  On the season, the 5 foot 11 guard is averaging 5.3 rebounds per game, which is second on the team.

Drexel - The Dragons (2-2 CAA) struggled this week, losing a tough home game to Hofstra.  Then after leading most of the game, the Drexel lost their lead and Bruiser Flint his cool as VCU came back to win.   With Bruiser sitting out a mandatory game for being ejected against the Rams, Drexel regrouped at home with a convincing win over Delaware.

Samme Givens has been downright doublicious this season for the Dragons.  In his last three games, Givens has averaged 14 points and nearly 13 rebounds per game.  Givens is the only player in the CAA averaging a double double with 12.1 points and 10.9 rebounds per game.  And only Frank Hassell has more offensive rebounds in the CAA than Givens.

George Mason - It was a rough week for the Patriots (2-2 CAA).  It started out well with as Mason defeated Delaware at the Patriot Center.  Then the Patriots got spanked by Hofstra, losing by 13 in Hempstead.   Then after a severe public tongue lashing by Coach Jim Larranaga, Mason gave a much better effort but still lost at Old Dominion by four.

The good news for the Patriots, Ryan Pearson is shooting the ball very well.  In the three games, Pearson shot 18 of 34 from the field.  Pearson is leading the Patriots in scoring 13.9 points per game while shooting 54.7 percent from the field for the season.  But while that's seventh overall in the CAA, he is only second on his team.  Luke Hancock is shooting 55.3 percent from the field on the season.

Delaware - The Blue Hens (2-2 CAA) also went 1-2 for the week.  First Delaware lost at Mason by nine, then rebounded with a solid thirteen point win over William and Mary.  Finally, the Fightin Blue Hens didn't show that much fight in the first half against Drexel.   Delaware was down 17 at the half before eventually losing by 13 at the Dragons.

Still, the Hens are only one of three teams in the country that have put a loss on ODU (the other two are nationally ranked Missouri and Georgetown).  The Blue Hens have been led by the play of forward Jamelle Hagins.  Hagins has averaged 10 points, 12 rebounds and 4 blocks in his last three games while shooting 51 percent from the field this season.

Northeastern -  A rough week for the Huskies (0-4 CAA).  Northeastern was minus Chaisson Allen for two games due to a hamstring injury.  The Huskies were game without Allen vs. James Madison but eventually fell to the Dukes 75-69.  Then, the Huskies had no game vs. ODU, losing 49-34.   Finally, Allen returned.  He would score 20 of his 22 points in the second half against Hofstra, but again Northeastern lost at home to the Pride 76-67.

The bright news for the Huskies is the emergence of Jonathan Lee.  In his last three games, Lee has averaged 12 points per game and is shooting 49.5 percent from the field on the season.  Lee is also second in the CAA in FT percentage at 87.5 percent (Hofstra's Mike Moore is first).

William and Mary - The Tribe went 0-3 for the week.  The Tribe lost a close game at home to UNCW, then were soundly beaten by Delaware.   Finally, W&M were leading most of the way vs. James Madison.  But the Tribe shooting went cold at the end of the game as the Dukes rallied for an 84-79 win.

Despite the 0-4 start to the season, William and Mary has an elite player in Quinn McDowell.  McDowell is averaging 14.6 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.  He is also shooting 50 percent from three (2nd in the CAA behind Jenkins), 83.8 percent from the line (4th in the CAA) and had a career high 30 points this season in a loss to Longwood.

Towson - The Tigers (0-4 CAA) gave ODU all they could handle to start the week, but fell to the Monarchs 49-47.  It was all downhill from there as Towson was waxed by James Madison 99-68.  Then the Tigers were down as much as 17 points to Georgia State before losing by eight points.

One of the few bright spots this season for Towson has been the play of Isaiah Philmore.   The 6 foot 7 sophomore is averaging 15 points (7th in the CAA) and 7 rebounds a game for the Tigers.  Philmore is also shooting 53.8 percent from the field, which is good for 8th in the CAA.

Coming up this week in the CAA includes a battle of two 3-1 teams on Wednesday as Georgia State travels to James Madison.   Thursday, Old Dominion travels to Drexel.  Then Saturday,  action includes Georgia State again on the road at Geoge Mason.  And in what could be a battle for first place in the CAA, Old Dominion continues their Northeast road trip by going up to Hempstead to play Hofstra.

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