Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Second CAA Gauntlet Begins Today

Michael Litos always does solid work.   In his Thursday CAAHoops post, he talks about today, Saturday being the start of the "second four in eight day"sprint.  The first sprint was the beginning of the January.  But now in late January, in the span of eight days, all twelve CAA teams will play four games.  By the end of next Saturday, all twelve CAA teams will have played eleven games in conference and be dead tired to boot.   It's probably going to separate "the men" from "the boys" in the conference.  It will truly be a gauntlet.

So let's see what the schedule is for all the teams in the conference by standings order.   And yes, it's even important to list the bottom three - William and Mary, Northeastern and Towson, because they will have a say in the matter.

Hofstra (6-1 CAA) -  The Pride start their stretch with another trap game as they travel to Williamsburg to take on William and Mary.   The Tribe should have the Flying Dutch's attention as the Tribe have won two games in a row.  Then it's a potential first place showdown Monday in Hempstead with James Madison.   Following "Them Dukes! Then Dukes!", the Pride travel to VCU for a Thursday ESPNU matchup in the Siegel Center, a place of horrors for Hofstra.  That could also be for first place in the CAA.  Then the gauntlet finishes with a return matchup next Saturday against Drexel.  A pretty tough stretch for the the Pride who have finally found a wingman for the great Charles Jenkins.  Mike Moore is averaging nearly 15 points per game for Hofstra.  In his last four games, Moore is averaging over 18 points per game while shooting 25 of 44 from the field.

VCU (6-1 CAA) - No Larry Sanders, no problem so far for the Rams as they are tied for first in the CAA.  But their gauntlet starts with the Virginia war at Old Dominion.   Then it's a road game Monday at Towson.  Then VCU gets to host a national ESPNU game on Thursday vs. Hofstra, a team that has never won at the Siegel Center since joining the CAA.  The Rams then finish their stretch with a home game vs UNCW.   Rob Brandenburg has eased any concerns the VCU faithful had when Brandon Bozzell went down with a broken hand. Brandenburg has had two twenty plus point outings in his last three games.

ODU (5-2 CAA) - The CAA preseason favorites have righted their ship with back to back wins over two of the other top teams in conference, Hofstra and James Madison.  Now they have to play a third top team in a row as they host VCU at a sold out Ted today.   Then it's a home game vs. an improved UNCW squad on Monday.  Then it's a road game against Georgia State next Wednesday, then back at home vs. Towson next Saturday.  Frank Hassell got his second double double in a row in the Monarchs win over the Dukes.  ODU is 7-0 when Hassell gets a double double.

James Madison (5-2 CAA) - "Them Dukes! Them Dukes!" host an 11:00 am ESPNU matchup today with fellow 5-2 George Mason.   After Breakfast in Harrisonburg,  JMU travels to Hempstead Monday for a potential first place matchup with Hofstra.    Then it's home next Wednesday as Madison hosts Drexel.  Then next Saturday the Dukes travel to the Bob to take on the Blue Hens.    For Madison to be successful, they must ride their horse, Denzel Bowles.  In his last two games, Bowles has scored 41 points on 18 of 27 shooting.  On the season, Bowles is shooting a dominant 61 percent from the field.

George Mason (5-2 CAA) - Jerry Beach's favorite team starts their eight day stretch in Harrisonburg against James Madison on the U.  Then it's another road jaunt to Delaware on Monday for a game against the Blue Hens at the Bob.  Mason finally has a home game vs.  last place Towson on Wednesday before returning to the road.   The Patriots finish their stretch at Williamsburg vs. William and Mary.  The Patriots have won three in a row due in large part to Cam Long.  In his last four games, Long has averaged nearly 19 points per game while shooting 30 of 48 from the field (62.5 percent).

Delaware (4-3 CAA) - The Fightin Blue Hens have been the surprise of the CAA so far with their 4-3 conference record.  But the next four games should be a gauge of how good the Blue Hens really are.  They start with a road game vs. Georgia State today, then they are back home at the Bob on Monday vs. George Mason.   Delaware then travels to improving William and Mary on Wednesday.  Finally it's another home game at the Bob, with it's yummy concessions area, for a matchup next Saturday for James Madison.  For the Blue Hens to be successful during this stretch, an Alphonso Dawson resurrection would be great.  Dawson is averaging four less points per game than last season (7.9 to 12.1) and has only scored ten points in his last four games combined.

UNCW (3-4 CAA) - I was really impressed Wednesday night with the improvement of the Seahawks from a year ago, despite their loss to Hofstra.  Their four game stretch starts with a home game at the Trask vs. a Towson team that's winless in conference.  Then it's a road game at ODU on Monday.  Following the trip to Norfolk, the Seahawks head back to Wilmington to face another team winless in conference in Northeastern.   Finally UNCW heads to Richmond to face VCU in the Siegel Center.   Keith Rendleman has become a dominant force as he has averaged 15 points per game in his last five games while shooting 31 of 57 from the field.  Rendleman is shooting 58.8 percent on the season.

Drexel (3-4 CAA) - The Dragons have been a disappointment so far as they are sub .500 in conference despite beating ODU (and also having defeated Louisville at the Yum Center).  Bruiser's Boys look to get back on track with two straight home games.  First, Drexel hosts Northeastern today, then the Dragons host Georgia State on Monday.  Then it's two straight road games.  Drexel travels to Harrisonburg to take on James Madison on Wednesday.  Then it's a road trip to Hempstead to face Hofstra next Saturday.   For Drexel to be successful, they need Chris Fouch to step up.  In his last four games, Fouch is only shooting 19 of 58 (less than 33 percent) from the field, averaging only 12 points per game, nearly 5 under his season average (16.8 ppg).

Georgia State (3-4 CAA) - After a 3-1 start in conference, the Panthers have lost three straight CAA games.  Georgia State looks to get back on track with a home game vs  Delaware today.  Then it's a road trip to Philly on Monday night vs. Drexel.  Then it's back home to host Old Dominion on Wednesday night.  They finish their four game stretch with a road trip to farthest point in the CAA, Boston to face Northeastern next Saturday.   The Panthers need to get Eric Buckner going again.  After scoring 28 points vs. VCU on January 3rd,  Buckner has scored a total of 32 points in his last five games combined.  Buckner doesn't even have a field goal in either of his last two games.

William and Mary (2-5 CAA) - After losing their first five games in conference, the Tribe have won their last two in impressive fashion - a fourteen point home win over Drexel, then a 15 point beat down of the Tigers at Towson.   The Mary, as my friend Tieff calls them, start their four game stretch hosting Hofstra, a team they swept a season ago.  Then the Tribe travel to Northeastern on Monday night.  William and Mary then host two more home games in Williamsburg - next Wednesday vs. Delaware, followed by George Mason next Saturday.   Freshman Brandon Britt has come alive. In his last two games, Britt has scored 25 and 16 points respectively, shooting 12 of 19 from the field and 12 of 13 from the free throw line.

Northeastern (0-7 CAA)  - The Huskies are looking for their first win in the CAA.  It won't be easy at the start of their four game stretch, as Northeastern travels to Philly to take on Drexel.   Then it's a home game vs. William and Mary on Monday, followed by a road jaunt to UNCW on Wednesday.   The Huskies finish their four game gauntlet by hosting Georgia State.   Joel Smith has been terrific for the Huskies.  In his last three games, Smith has averaged 17 points on 11 of 15 shooting from beyond the arc and 18 of 25 from the field.  If Smith continues his torrid shooting, the Huskies will finally win at least one game during this stretch.

Towson (0-7 CAA) - There seems to be little hope for the Tigers.  With Tony Franklin transferring and Robert Nwankwo out for the season due to academic ineligibility, the Tigers are playing short handed.  The Tigers have a rough four games in eight days schedule. First it's a road game tonight at UNCW.  Then it's a home game on Monday vs. VCU.  The Tigers finish up the schedule with two road games at ODU on Wednesday, then George Mason on Saturday.  Towson's Josh Brown is playing well lately, averaging 13 points per game, shooting 20 of 38 from the field.

So how will this play out?  Right now, I have only one guarantee.  Towson will remain winless.   Other than that, I think ODU will win the slugfest over VCU today and then win their next three games (though watch the Georgia State game as a potential trap game).  VCU will lose the ODU game but win their next three games.  I think James Madison wins the Bagels and Basketball game this morning vs. Mason, then loses to Hofstra, then wins their next two.  UNCW will win their two home games and lose their two road games.  Likewise for Drexel, a team struggling from the field.

Others are far more difficult to predict.  If Hofstra wins the game against W&M tonight, which will be tough, I think they have a chance to hold serve at home vs JMU and Drexel.  But I would be very surprised if they won at VCU.   George Mason doesn't play well on the road (4-5 on neutral and road sites), so I think they will lose to Madison this morning, then I wouldn't be shocked if they lose at Delaware on Monday.  They will definitely win out the rest of the week.   William and Mary could very win tonight vs. Hofstra and probably vs. Delaware as well.   It's not impossible that they could also win at Northeastern, however a win hosting Mason will be tough.

I think Georgia State wins their first game of their stretch today, but loses their last three, including their road game to the Huskies up in Boston next Saturday.  Thus I believe Northeastern will get a win this stretch and they might get a second when they host William and Mary as well.   Finally, Delaware could win a couple of games, but it is equally as likely they could go 0-4 as well.

I believe Litos is right in that after this four game stretch, you will see separation between the top five teams - Hofstra, VCU, ODU, James Madison and George Mason and the rest of the conference.   Drexel, Delaware, UNCW and believe it or not William and Mary will fight out for sixth and seventh.  I think Georgia State falls back.  Northeastern gets a little separation from Towson.  The Tigers are clearly the worst team in the conference.

Should be a great eight days of basketball in the CAA.  Can't Wait!

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