1. George Mason (4-2)
In the topsy-turvy Colonial Athletic Association, George Mason is one of the only squads actually making sense these days.
Led by Sherrod Wright, the Patriots had a strange scare in their tussle with Boston University on Saturday. An impressive defensive effort from Mason though was able to stifle the Terriers as they held a BU team that averages 64 points per game to just 45.
The Patriots have clearly focused this season's effort around their defense. In the four wins they've piled up, they have held opponents to 59 points or fewer. In their two losses, their opponents eclipsed the 60-point mark.
It'll take a couple more games to have a solid body of evidence, but right now it seems like George Mason's success revolves around two factors: Sherrod Wright's shooting and the defensive effort of the entire team.
2. Northeastern (4-2)
Northeastern is the other team making marginal sense in the Colonial as they, too, have started their season 4-2. Joel Smith has compiled impressive stats through the first six games, although his performance against Charlotte left much to be desired (19 points on 7 of 21 from the field, leading to just a 33.3 percent scoring efficiency.)
While Smith needs to begin to improve his efficiency in the offensive half, he has still been impressive to start the year, and Quincy Ford has also continued his strong start (13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.)
Their only game this week (home against Maine) should prove to be an easy victory, but then they see Massachusetts and La Salle back to back (also at home) in what will be a very telling part of their nonconference schedule. If they handle it well? Watch for the Huskies to be competing for first place when the CAA schedule begins.
3. William & Mary (3-2)
Since we last visited the Tribe, they had lost two games in a row. So how exactly did they jump a spot in the rankings?
They are one of only three teams in the conference with a winning record, a robust trio of scorers, and a seemingly docile immediate schedule that should help pad their nonconference record in the coming week or two.
With Marcus Thornton still averaging big numbers (17.6 points on 54.2 percent shooting), all the sophomore guard needs to do is improve his free throw shooting (currently resting at 70 percent) and he'll be on a great trajectory for the foreseeable future.
I still have reservations due to the lack of depth on the Tribe's bench. If they stumble against lowly opponents any time soon, expect their ranking to drop, and fast.
4. Drexel (2-4)
In a similar situation to William & Mary's, Drexel posted a losing record this past week and yet saw a jump in my rankings. How could this happen?
The Dragons' secret to the illogical jump is Frantz Massenat: he's alive!
In the absence of Chris Fouch (gone for the year with an ankle injury), Drexel's point guard has taken on the responsibility of leading the team as he probably should have done from the season's outset.
In back-to-back losses to Saint Mary's and Xavier (two top-tier clubs), Massenat dropped 17 and 18 points. He then broke out against Rice in the third of the team's games in the DirecTV Classic with a 20 point, 68.9 percent efficient game in the Dragons' 55-47 victory.
The Dragons have a lot of work to do, but seeing Massenat playing to his potential, welcoming Damion Lee back into the lineup, and watching freshman Tavon Allen put up starter-quality points has to be reassuring for Bruiser Flint's crew in the coming games.
5. Delaware (2-4)
The Blue Hens sure are fighting these days, but it seems like they just can't catch a break. After coming within three points of making it to the final of the NIT Season Tip-Off tournament in a loss to Kansas State, they were destroyed by an impressive Pittsburgh squad, and then suffered another close loss to Temple.
The positive from these three games? Devon Saddler is finally playing the way I expected him to when I picked him number one in my Colonial player rankings. He scored 32, 28, and 25 in those three games, and single-handedly kept Delaware in their contest against Kansas State. He's attacking (and scoring) the way we know he can.
The negative from these three games? This is a brittle Delaware team. Jarvis Threatt has been suffering from leg cramps and pains all season, and they caught up to him in the past week. He didn't even play in Sunday's loss to Temple.
Jamelle Hagins has been brilliant when he's played, but his ankle caused him to miss the end of the Kansas State game, and his production was limited against Pitt. Unfortunately for Delaware, his brilliant 29 point, 12 rebound performance against Temple wasn't enough, but his season has nowhere to go but up.
6. Hofstra (3-4)
Hofstra saw their Taran Buie vacation come to an end this week as they dropped back-to-back games to Manhattan and George Washington, coming back below the .500 line and severely hurting their chances at having a winning record heading into conference play.
The problem with the Pride is that they simply aren't shooting well.
Shaquille Stokes, a huge source of offense in their three-game win streak, scored just four and two points in Hofstra's games this past week, and shot 3 of 17 from the field. That's awful.
Buie, who averaged 18.5 points per game in the two losses, shot a similarly poor 8-for-25 from the field, and Stevie Mejia went 3 of 12.
If the Pride can find a way to put the ball in the hoop with regularity, they will have a solid ball club. However, they're a little streaky, and with a tough schedule coming up, don't be surprised if they fall below the Borderline next week.
Georgia State: After starting out 0-2, Georgia State has won three straight games! Look out, right? Well, the competition hasn't exactly been staunch (read: 1-5 Tennessee State), and their upcoming schedule of East Carolina and Louisiana Tech (combined record of 9-1) doesn't bode well for this continuing. If they win one of those two games, the Panthers will be above the Borderline next week. I'm just not convinced yet.
Towson: By the time next week's power rankings come out, we'll be looking at a 3-4 Towson team with 2 straight losses, and careening towards what should be three more. It's great to see the Tigers get back to a competitive level (they beat Cincinnati Christian by 39!) and display balanced scoring, but Jerrelle Benimon can't be that much of a difference maker. If I'm wrong, I promise next week's rankings will reflect it.
UNC-Wilmington: I tried to get excited about UNC-Wilmington's 3-3 record. But when I went to the schedule, I saw that their three wins came against teams with a combined 3-15 record. It's not so much a result of good basketball as it is of poor competition. The Seahawks will come back to Earth either this week or next.
James Madison: It's been five games, and A.J. Davis is officially being phased out of the rebuilding James Madison offense. The Dukes have taken a different direction by using Rayshawn Goins as their leading scorer and having standout freshman Andre Nation follow as the team's number two. But the change in direction isn't leading to a better result: JMU is still 1-4, they're not getting better, and they're not going anywhere soon.
And here we have the basement of the existence below the Borderline. The Old Dominion Monarchs aren't bad, they're just not good enough to beat anybody on their upcoming schedule. They kept their games against VMI and Murray State close -- single-digit losses both times -- but I don't see the Monarchs mustering enough scoring and efficiency on the offensive end to propel them to a win until 2013.