Below is my ballot for the CAA Bloggers' Poll following Saturday's games. There are two quick items.
First, a big "thank you" goes out to Defiantly Dutch and The College Hardwood for being great hosts Saturday. Hofstra is 0-2 in games that I've seen in Hempstead (and 0-3 overall if you count their loss this year at ODU) so maybe they want me to never see the Pride in person. Unfortunately for them, I am covering Hofstra's game at Drexel next weekend.
Second, this was sort of rushed but I did a Q&A with Alan, who's a George Mason graduate student, an Orioles fan and an overall swell guy. I posted his responses to my questions yesterday afternoon after I had arrived in Long Island, so I didn't get to advertise it much. It's pretty insightful into the views of a Mason fan - we appreciate the attention he paid in answering.
1. Drexel (1st previous week) – The Dragons have won 17 of their last 18 games, with the lone loss on January 2 at then-streaking Georgia State. They are tied with the Rams and the Patriots for best conference record, but they have swept both of them head-to-head. Their two wins this week were on the road (against Northeastern and Towson). And I'll keep beating this drum: if Fouch, Lee and Massenat are all healthy in March, they've got a great shot at winning the CAA tournament, no matter their seed.
2. Virginia Commonwealth (3rd previous week) – The Rams move up one spot thanks to their continued play of late (nine straight wins) and GMU’s faltering (read below). This past week they beat William and Mary on the road, then defeated Northeastern Saturday at home. The only teams that come close to the Rams’ pure athleticism are Georgia State and Old Dominion, but neither has the athletic depth that Virginia Commonwealth has.
3. George Mason (2nd previous week) – Following a five-point loss on the road against Delaware, GMU kept pace with the two teams ranked above them with a 54-50 win over Old Dominion. Ryan Pearson was the only Patriot with double-digit points (17) and added ten rebounds. With a CAA-season-best attendance of 9,840 Saturday for Homecoming, the Patriots’ average attendance of 4,961 is now third in average attendance behind Virginia Commonwealth (7,623) and Old Dominion (7,586). They have three more games to raise that average, and we hope the Northern Virginians start taking note of this team.
4. Old Dominion (4th previous week) – The Monarchs showed how capable they are offensively with 80 points against James Madison, with 18 assists on 27 field goals. They then showed how challenged they can be in their loss at George Mason, shooting 12.5% from three and 55.6% on free throws. Still, they haven’t lost to anyone lower on my ballot. Since Christmas they've lost only four games: against George Mason (twice), Virginia Commonwealth and Missouri.
5. Georgia State (6th previous week) – The conference’s members from Atlanta entered this past week having lost four of its previous five games. They proceeded to defeat – on the road – both UNCW and Hofstra by 15 and 16 points, respectively. The Panthers have an amazing starting five but rely too heavily on those players. Still, their attacking zone defense caused significant problems for Hofstra Saturday.
6. Northeastern (5th previous week) – The Huskies have lost four of their last six games, including both games last week (against the Dragons and the Rams). These four losses have been to Drexel (twice), Old Dominion and Virginia Commonwealth. Northeastern falls below Georgia State this week because, all other things being equal, the Panthers do have wins over Drexel and Virginia Commonwealth this season. Regardless, the Huskies get the chance to sweep the Panthers with a win on the road this Wednesday.
7. Delaware (7th previous week) – The talented Blue Hens picked up a big win Wednesday, overcoming 21 turnovers to beat George Mason. They then defeated the Dukes at James Madison by five Saturday behind and 23-18 night from Jamelle Hagins, who we called “underrated” last week. We expect he may be more properly rated after such a showing. In general this team is hard to figure out; their record is 11-12 but they’ve got five separate two-game winning streaks. A win Wednesday over the Seahawks would mark their first three-game winning streak.
8. UNC Wilmington (9th previous week) – It was an interesting week in Wilmington for Buzz Peterson. After becoming the team Towson defeated to end their losing streak, Coach Peterson took away privileges and implemented 6AM practices. Following a 15-point loss at home to Georgia State, Peterson then suspended freshman guard K.K. Simmons “indefinitely.” But fellow freshman guard Adam Smith picked up his performance Saturday, scoring 25 points in an 81-68 win over William and Mary.
9. James Madison (8th previous week) – Oh, the short-handed Dukes. They’ve lost four in a row but were competitive at both George Mason and Old Dominion, showing resolve rather than packing it in. They’ve played consecutive weeks of games on Saturday-Monday-Thursday, followed by their 85-80 loss against Delaware. They’ve won only one of six home conference games, and their three conference wins are over UNCW, Hofstra and William and Mary. It doesn’t get easier, as Drexel comes to town Wednesday.
10. Hofstra (10th previous week) – The effort has been there for the Pride all season. After their January loss at Old Dominion, Blaine Taylor credited Mo Cassara’s team for working them harder on the boards than any other team this year. But there comes a point when effort without results isn’t enough. Hofstra followed a 25-point win over Towson Wednesday with a 16-point loss to Georgia State Saturday. The Panthers’ zone defense held Mike Moore scoreless until the last minute of the first half. Moore and Nathaniel Lester combined for 27 of the team’s 43 points against Georgia State.
11. William and Mary (12th previous week) – Since its one-point win at Liberty on November 20, the Tribe have beaten three teams: Wesley College (a non-D1 school), James Madison and Towson. Having lost eight straight games, The College hosts Old Dominion Wednesday and Northeastern Saturday.
12. Towson (11th previous week) – I had to give the Tigers an 11th-vote last week in honor of ending their NCAA-record losing streak. The team rewarded me by losing by 25 at Hofstra and then only eight points against Drexel. It’s all about the process of doing things the right way this year for Pat Skerry. He’s laying a foundation for a solid future.