1. Delaware (2-1)
After stumbling out of the gates against La Salle last Saturday, Delaware regained their footing in time for the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament, making it to Madison Square Garden for Wednesday's contest against Kansas State.
Toppling Penn by 15 in their first tournament game looks especially good now that CAA rival Drexel had a tough time disposing of the same Quakers, and UD's first ever win over Virginia added to the recovery effort the Blue Hens have put together.
Their game has unfolded as we expected: Jamelle Hagins, Devon Saddler, and Jarvis Threatt dominating the team's offense. The big three have scored 57 percent of Delaware's points, and with Josh Brinkley's elevated game (averaging 10.3 points and shooting 63.2 percent), the Hens have nowhere to go. Oddly, this is happening with Saddley shooting very inefficiently (small sample size, but just 35.4 percent Effective Field Goal percentage through three games).
2. Northeastern (2-1)
The Huskies started the season having to temper their immediate expectations when the school announced that Jonathan Lee would miss six weeks with a foot injury.
Despite that the team has seen a season full of excitement, well-rounded production, and step-up performances. Joel Smith, still proving the CAA voting committee wrong for snubbing him in the preseason all-conference selections, has led the team in Lee's absence, averaging 17 points in 37 minutes over their first three matchups.
And the team must be ecstatic about the emergence of sophomore forward Reggie Spencer, who has increased his production by more than 100 percent, averaging 14.7 points.
When Lee comes back later in the season, if Smith, Spencer and Quincy Ford continue to perform at these levels, Northeastern will be a team that the rest of the CAA best not trifle with. They can do damage.
3. George Mason (2-2)
It turns out that my preseason confidence in Sherrod Wright was on point.
The junior guard has stepped into a leadership role for the Patriots after a mass exodus of graduating starters from last season, and he's currently averaging 16.8 points per game and has shot with great efficiency from the field. He singlehandedly kept George Mason in Sunday's game against New Mexico with 22 points, and it wasn't his fault that the Lobos' Tony Snell hit a three pointer with two seconds remaining.
If the rest of the Patriots can pick up the pace, this team can do good things before the conference schedule starts.
4. William & Mary (3-0)
Well, the Tribe haven't lost yet, so while I know that Drexel is a better team, I'd be remiss to put a 1-2 team ahead of a 3-0 team.
And, to be fair, William & Mary is playing well thus far. Tim Rusthoven and Marcus Thornton are both averaging 18.7 points with FG percentages at or above 54.5 percent after three contests, and while the Pride haven't exactly played top-notch competition (Hampton, Liberty, and High Point... yeah...) their stats are undeniably impressive. It certainly gives Tribe fans reasons to be optimistic looking ahead for the season, even if it may be unrealistic hope.
It looks like the Tribe may be able to continue their hot start Wednesday against a Miami Ohio squad that has lost two of its three first games (against No. 6 NC State and No. 2 Louisville) by a combined score of 177-98.
5. Hofstra (3-2)
Call it the Taran Buie Effect. When the transfer guard made his Hofstra debut at home against San Diego State, he brought to the Pride an unmistakable sense of energy and excitement that had been lacking in their first two borderline embarrassing losses.
Buie is averaging just under 12 points per game in his three appearances, all victories, even though his presence was limited by five fouls in 19 minutes Sunday against Marshall.
Buie will play a key role in Hofstra's success (or failure) going forward, both scoring and setting an example/facilitating the offense so that Shaquille Stokes doesn't end up taking 20 shots and only making five the way he did in the Marshall game.
Looking forward, the Pride have a decent non-conference schedule that could lead to a good overall record heading into CAA play if they can capitalize.
6. Drexel (1-2)
I think it's safe to say that Drexel had a million different scenarios for how their season could've begun and not one of them included starting 1-2.
Their first two games went to overtime (although the second one only found extra time on a questionable call), and neither time were the Dragons able to bring the hammer down in crunch time.
They eventually got their close-game win against Penn on Saturday, but at a huge cost: already missing Damion Lee due to a concussion, the Dragons' health took another huge blow when senior distance man Chris Fouch went down with an ankle injury.
Combine those injury woes with the puzzling 26.9 pecent shooting start from Frantz Massenat and you've got a team struggling to live up to what used to be colossal expectations. The path won't be getting any easier with Saint Mary's coming up on Thanksgiving.
With this only the first installation of my CAA Power Rankings, allow me to explain The Borderline. With 11 teams in the conference, there will be 6 pertinent teams at any given time. Those six warrant individual analysis, while the other 5 are relegated below the borderline to a general conglomerative analysis.
If there are 7 qualified teams, I'll consider bending the rules. But there's a pretty distinct line in the conference, and this helps visualize it.
The bottom five teams by overall record are also the bottom five in my power rankings this week, and it's no coincidence. With a combined record of 3-10, there is a distinct line in the sand in the conference.
The only bright spot below the borderline? Towson already has as many wins they had last year! And, amazingly, it came over a team that has accrued two wins to date. Junior Georgetown-transfer Jerrelle Benimon has turned into the Tigers' key producer on offense, averaging 18 points and displacing my No. 9 CAA player Marcus Damas on the team.
James Madison presents us with a similar situation after one game on the season. Rayshawn Goins exploded for 24 against UCLA, taking A.J. Davis's place (my CAA No. 6) as the top scorer for the Dukes. Only time (and closer competition) will tell where JMU is headed.
Sticking with my preseason list, Keith Rendleman of UNC-Wilmington has averaged 15 points per game in the Seahawks' first three. Unfortunately for him, the second-highest scorer on the team is sophomore Cedrick Williams, who is averaging just seven points per game. That probably explains their combined +/- of -81 over their last two games.
Then we come to Old Dominion, the only team in the CAA without a single player averaging double digits. They have two players averaging 9.8 and 9.3, but that doesn't cut it in today's college basketball landscape, which explains their 1-3 record. Another problem: their leading scoring, Keenan Palmore, is a freshman. Where's the veteran leadership? Senior DeShawn Painter needs to step his game up.
And we can't forget the winless Georgia State Panthers who have three players averaging double digit points per game... followed by their number four averaging 4.5. The team doesn't look like they're going anywhere fast with only one of ESPN.com's four featured stats (Points/rebounds/assists per game, and FG%) in the top 300 in the country.