The CAA Bloggers' Poll was released a little earlier this week than usual, and I didn't get to disclose my ballot yet.
My article on Drexel's win over Northeastern was published by CAAZone.com. I get to cover Virginia Commonwealth's game at Towson Wednesday, as well as UNCW when they come to Baltimore Saturday.
Also, God Bless America.
1. Drexel (2nd previous week) - At 14-5, the Dragons have won twelve of their last 13 games. They held off a tough Hofstra squad on the road and dispatched Northeastern. Georgia State's rough week coupled with the Dragons' performance puts them at the top of this ballot, even if George Mason has the CAA's best conference record.
2. George Mason (3rd previous week) - Paul Hewitt's Patriots are playing well themselves, winners of eight of their last nine games. To whom was their one loss? It was at Drexel by seven on January 12. They downed Towson at home Saturday by only twelve; the Tigers had cut it to six in the second half. Patriot fans should expect a crisper effort following that performance. The head-to-head outcome has Drexel ahead of the Patriots.
3. Virginia Commonwealth (4th previous week) - After beating William and Mary by one point in overtime Thursday, the team came out and beat Old Dominion by double digits Saturday. Although they lost to Georgia State at home earlier this season, I think the Rams are playing better than the Panthers. Before tonight's game, the Rams have sold out 13 consecutive home games - the city of Richmond is clearly behind them.
4. Georgia State (1st previous week) - There's no shame in losing consecutive road games in conference-play to Northeastern and Delaware. Their two losses were both by three points each. But the team has now lost three of its last five after winning eleven straight. Of concern for the Panthers - four different players average at least 30 minutes, while a fifth averages 28. The failure to employ a deeper bench may catch up to them by the end of the season.
5. Old Dominion (5th previous week) - While Georgia State has struggled recently, we can't justify moving the Monarchs up a spot after committing 26 turnovers in its last game. It's odd to see seniors like Iliadis have exceptional games against Hofstra and Towson, only to disappear Saturday. They face a well-coached Huskies team Monday then travel to UNCW. We'll see how well they can respond to losing to the Rams in such a fashion.
6. Northeastern (6th previous week) - Our favorite university in Boston started their week shooting lights-out from three-point land against Georgia State. They needed all eleven of their treys (on 21 attempts) as they beat the Panthers by (fittingly) three points. But they ran into a buzzsaw Saturday at Drexel. Down 25-7, they came back to within 25-22 before Drexel got back on track; the Huskies didn't get that close again. But they're still playing better than Delaware or UNCW, so they don't move from this spot.
7. Delaware (8th previous week) - After Georgia State fell at Northeastern, they traveled to Delaware to take on the Blue Hens. Monte Ross' squad needed double-overtime to beat the Panthers by three; Jarvis Threatt broke the program's freshman record by scoring 30 in the contest. We moved them up a slot because they're playing better than the Seahawks right now (see below). Althought the 'Hawks beat Delaware in early January, we think the Hens would win in a rematch.
8. UNC Wilmington (7th previous week) - The Seahawks escaped William and Mary with a two-point victory; they had lost their previous three games (at Georgia State, then home against Drexel and James Madison). The average margin of defeat in those games was 14 points. Keith Rendleman is averaging a double-double but is getting less help from the freshmen than he was earlier this season.
9. Hofstra (9th previous week) - After all those close losses, the Pride fans got their first conference win over James Madison this past Saturday. The win validated our position that they belonged above JMU in our poll, despite a winless conference record. Moore, McMillan and Lester are solid CAA players who need just a bit more help consistently from the rest of the team. They had Drexel on the ropes last Wednesday (down two points with 17 seconds left) but they lost by four. Coach Mo has them playing hard.
10. James Madison (10th previous week) - I just don't get this team. There's plenty of talent but they just haven't learned how to win. I expected Coach Matt Brady to have this team winning by this season. This is no criticism, more surprise that they haven't improved under Brady. Not having Goins hurts the frontcourt, but he couldn't have saved the team from six losses in their last eight contests. They're 0-4 in their home conference games this year.
11. William and Mary (11th previous week) - Since January started, the Tribe have two wins: a seven-point win over James Madison and a win over Towson. They lost to Virginia Commonwealth by one point in overtime, then lost by UNCW Saturday by two points. It doesn't get easier as they host Drexel Monday then hit the road at JMU and ODU.
12. Towson (12th previous week) - This team out-rebounded George Mason 43-30, which included an impressive 22 offensive rebounds. A large part of rebounding is effort, and these players are playing hard for Coach Skerry. Nwankwo had 14 points and 13 rebounds, while Marcus Damas led the team with 19 points. Against Old Dominion they kept the margin to single-digits most of the first half, but just couldn't hang in the second half. The cavalry comes next year, we promise.