Below is my ballot for the CAA Bloggers’ Poll. As usual, there are a couple items to address first.
Seeing the same two hardcore CAA fans in consecutive weeks is good for the CAA soul. I got to hang with Jerry and Gary (to a lesser extent) last Saturday when I traveled to Hofstra. You can read my story of their loss to Georgia State by clicking on this link.
Then yesterday I got to see them again when we all traveled to Philadelphia to see Hofstra take on Drexel. I had lunch with Gary, his son and his friend, while I got to have dinner with Jerry and his wife following the game. We walked into the restaurant and we saw none other than Bruiser Flint with a couple friends, waiting to be seated. Despite difficult weather conditions, everyone made it to and from Philly alright. I submitted my story of the game and will share it when it’s posted.
|Our favorite Hofstra fans look on as the Pride take the court.|
Second, while at the game I made the acquaintance of Josh Verlin, a writer for PhilaHoops.com. He’s a good guy and seems quite knowledgeable about the college hoops scene in Philadelphia. He and the other writers at the site have a bright future ahead of themselves. I’m thankful to have met so many quality writers/people covering football and basketball for the CAAZone this year.
And now, on to the ballot.
1. Drexel (21-5, 13-2; 1st previous week) – The Dragons are on an incredible tear, having won 19 of their last 20 games. They’re 11-0 at home this season and beat James Madison and Hofstra this past week. Solid post-play from Samme Givens and Daryl McCoy complement the outstanding trio of Chris Fouch, Frantz Massenat and Damion Lee perfectly. If this trio of guards remains healthy into March, not even the refs can keep them from winning the CAA tournament this season.
2. Virginia Commonwealth (22-5, 13-2; 2nd previous week) – The Rams have won eleven in a row since dropping consecutive games early in January. They slammed Towson at home Wednesday and made plays at the end to defeat Old Dominion. Their win against the Monarchs Saturday concluded a regular season sweep of their rivals. However, as well as they are playing now, Drexel has been playing better. The tie-breaker is that the Rams lost to Drexel in their only matchup this year.
3. George Mason (21-6, 13-2; 3rd previous week) – George Mason has rebounded from losing at Delaware last week by winning consecutive games against ODU, Hofstra Wednesday then UNCW yesterday. Ryan Pearson is third in the conference in scoring (17.6) and fifth in rebounding (8.5). Amazingly GMU has yet to play Virginia Commonwealth, though they play each other twice in the next two weeks. Don’t expect any Valentine’s Day wishes to be exchanged between the two teams when they face off Tuesday.
4. Old Dominion (16-11, 11-4; 4th previous week) – It can be frustrating to watch this team play genuinely efficient offense against William and Mary Wednesday, only to watch them look genuinely inept at scoring against Virginia Commonwealth Saturday. They were swept by both the Patriots and Rams, but are undefeated against every other conference team they’ve played. The Monarchs are currently two games ahead of both Delaware and Georgia State for fourth place in the conference. Between their conference record and their recent competitive play against the Patriots and Rams, and I can’t drop them from fourth.
5. Delaware (13-12, 9-6; 7th previous week) – Break up the Fightin’ Blue Hens! Delaware has won its last four games, a stretch that started with a win over George Mason. This past week they downed a struggling Seahawks squad, and then won in overtime on the road at Georgia State Saturday. Jarvis Threatt has emerged as a viable scorer the last couple weeks, adding another dimension to a team with All-CAA caliber players in Devon Saddler and Jamelle Hagins. I couldn’t move them above Old Dominion yet because (1) they lost to ODU head-to-head and (2) they have been too inconsistent this season. Is this a blip on the radar or have the Blue Hens established their identity?
6. Georgia State (17-9, 9-6; 5th previous week) – The Panthers experienced both sides of close games this week. Prior to losing to Delaware by three points Saturday, Georgia State beat Northeastern by two points Wednesday. I had to drop them below Delaware because the Blue Hens swept them this season, but they're playing better than everyone ranked below. I continue to marvel at the impact a different coach has had on this team. Part of winning is about attitude, and Ron Hunter has his team believing in themselves. Having seen them in person last week, their collective length and athleticism on defense matches ODU’s.
7. Northeastern (11-14, 7-8; 6th previous week) – Whereas Delaware has won its last four games, Northeastern has dropped their last four. After keeping close with Drexel, they lost by three points at Virginia Commonwealth last Saturday then by a bucket at Georgia State. The traveling may have caught up to them yesterday as they lost their third straight road game…at William and Mary…by 25 points. Most teams have a game like that every year, but we’re sure Coach Coen will have the Huskies on the right track shortly.
8. UNC Wilmington (9-16, 5-10; 8th previous week) – The Seahawks have won only twice in their last eleven games, and both wins were against William and Mary. UNC Wilmington lost to the buzz-saw that is Delaware on Wednesday, then lost at home to GMU Saturday. Adam Smith (15.1) and Keith Rendleman (15.0) are sixth and seventh, respectively, in scoring in the CAA. With 10.7 rebounds per game, Rendleman averages a double-double. Buzz Peterson needs at least another year to get this class of freshmen to turn things around.
9. James Madison (11-16, 4-11; 9th previous week) – The Dukes have four wins since the start of 2012: Hampton and William and Mary at home, plus UNCW and Towson on the road. Their two-point win over Towson yesterday snapped a five-game losing streak, and the final loss in that stretch was at home against Drexel. This team has competed well against the top teams in the conference but they’re one quality player away from pulling out some wins.
10. William and Mary (5-22, 3-12; 11th previous week) – After Towson snapped their losing streak, I moved the Tigers above W&M. With the Tribe snapping its own nine-game streak in such convincing fashion, I have to do the same for them. The team must have gotten Coach Shaver’s message when he pulled the starting five early in their loss to ODU Wednesday. Having lost nine games in a row heading into Saturday, they blitzed Northeastern for a 79-54 win. Brandon Britt, who didn’t take the big “step up” I expected after a promising freshman year, scored 24 points against the Huskies.
11. Hofstra (8-19, 2-13; 10th previous week) – The Pride have gone 0-4 when I’ve seen them in person over the past 13 months. This earned me a ban from seeing them ever again by Mrs. Defiantly Dutch. Despite being competitive in their losses (sound familiar?), the Pride have won only two of their last 14 games. Those two wins were at JMU and home against Towson. After losing at GMU Wednesday, they couldn’t keep up with Drexel Saturday. Nathaniel Lester kept Hofstra in the game Saturday with a brilliant performance (27 points, eight rebounds, two steals and an assist).
12. Towson (1-26, 1-14; 12th previous week) – We focus on the positives on this blog. The Tigers out-rebounded the Dukes 49-19 Saturday even if they shot less than 28% from the field. You don’t out-rebound your opponent without effort. Pat Skerry is the right man for this job.