Howard Smith-US PRESSWIRE
As Drexel and Delaware continue to underperform, the top 3 stay the same but the rest of the Colonial rankings see a radical makeover. It's time to accept reality: these teams aren't who we thought they were.
1. George Mason (5-3)
Maybe we can call it first place by default?
George Mason certainly deserves to be in the number one position in the Colonial, but even its past week was a little shaky in terms of quality play.
The first game was an embarrassingly close win against Rhode Island, of all teams. The Rams of the Atlantic-10 are 2-6 and are shooting 37.5 percent from the field after eight games. It's hard to not put a label on Rhode Island, but... they're bad.
Which is why the Patriots' performance this week was so confounding. It's not even as if Rhode Island had a great game. George Mason just sunk to their level, a trait that no college basketball team wants to have when an easy win like the Rhode Island comes up on the schedule.
Then GMU marched on to play Maryland, a top-notch ACC team who now sits at 6-1 after knocking off the Patriots in a hotly contested match Sunday afternoon.
The game was close, and guards Sherrod Wright and Patrick Holloway each contributed 17 points, but in the end the production from the rest of the team wasn't enough to buoy George Mason's efforts. Shooting 31 percent against a good team? Never a recipe for success.
2. Northeastern (4-3)
Northeastern is sticking in the number two spot purely out of an absence of competition. That doesn't mean they're doing too hot, either.
For example, the team allowed the No. 284-rated Black Bears of the American East Conference to drop 76 points on them. Coming into the game, Maine was averaging 59.4 points per game and stood at 1-4.
The Huskies' Joel Smith led them in scoring again, but his game is continuing to become an efficiency nightmare.
After Sunday's efficiency debacle against Charlotte (33.3 percent scoring efficiency), Smith put up 19 more points, but once again was less than 50 percent efficient with his shot selection (45.2 percent) and is starting to become a decision-making liability for Northeastern. (Ed. Note: Overall, Smith still has a strong effective FG percentage and Total Shooting Percentage. We will keep an eye on Smith's ups and downs the rest of the way.)
And please, for Jim Boeheim and Mike Krzyzewski's sake: somebody get Demetrius Pollard in the gym to work on his free throws.
With a chance to tie the game at 74 with 45 seconds left, Pollard missed the second of two free throws, bringing his season percentage down to 57.1 percent. That's not winning you games against Maine in November, which means it definitely won't win you games against conference opponents in February.
3. William & Mary (4-3)
Marcus Thornton and Tim Rusthoven continue to impress me on the Tribe, but the rest of their team could learn a thing or two from their star players.
In William & Mary's nine-point victory over Old Dominion -- a score entirely too close for comfort, by the way -- Thornton and Rusthoven shot 13-for-23 from the field and accounted for 38 points, while the rest of the team shot 12-for-27 and accounted for 33 points.
That kind of tiered effect will beat teams like Old Dominion, but it's an awful long-term strategy, and one that I expect to catch up with William & Mary... just not in the immediate schedule.
Their upcoming games against Howard and Radford shouldn't be massive struggles, although Radford could prove fair competition. To be entirely serious, I expect the Tribe to sit at 6-3 heading into their winter break, a record that could have them as the second-best team in the CAA. At the beginning of the season, who could've said that with a straight face?
4. Georgia State (4-4)
Boy is Georgia State lucky that they won their Sunday afternoon game against Liberty.
After their efforts against East Carolina kept the game to a single-digit loss, I was feeling generous. But then they were absolutely destroyed by Louisiana Tech, making a Borderline jump absolutely impossible without another win. I figured that Liberty, coming at 0-7, would be a cakewalk.
And yet at halftime the Panthers found themselves down by eight. Luckily, Rashaad Richardson sank a 3-pointer with three seconds left, and the number four spot was validated. Not because the victory was impressive, but because they won the game, a skill that the CAA has been lacking as of late.
Now, do I think that Georgia State has longevity? No. But their next two games are against Southern Polytechnic and Troy, two games that they can conceivably win. With Devonta White, R.J. Hunter, and Manny Atkins all still averaging double digits, this is essentially the team I expected to see this year, and so I've rewarded the rare consistency with a solid ranking spot.
That, and they're one of the four teams in the conference without a losing record. Fair is fair, right?
5. Drexel (2-5)
Yes, Drexel is still above the Borderline, which should tell you just how bad the rest of the Colonial has been so far this year. However, if the Dragons suffer one more late-game failure like they did against Rider, they might as well pronounce their season dead.
After leading and holding the momentum for most if not all of the first 36 minutes against the Broncs on Saturday afternoon, the Dragons found themselves deadlocked at 60 with four minutes left. In the stands, I turned to my friend and said, "Alright, nothing-nothing, four minute game."
And it was a rough four minutes: they essentially watched, as much spectator as participant, as Rider put up 15 points in the final 240 seconds after only managing 60 in the first 2,160.
They increased their production by 300 percent in the last four minutes.
And lost in all translation is the career day that Damion Lee had in terms of scoring; while he was fairly inefficient in accomplishing his end goal, Lee scored 28 of Drexel's 66, hitting all eight of his free throws and singlehandedly carrying the Dragons through the second half.
Yet his production was overshadowed by the porous Drexel defense, a surprising yet common theme thus far in the season.
After seven games last year, the Dragons were allowing 58.6 points per game. After their first seven this year, that number is 68.3.
Another bad sign for the future of Bruiser Flint's crew.
6. UNC-Wilmington (3-4)
While all UNCW did in the past week was lose a game, they still showed signs of life and improvement, which is why they find themselves climbing the ladder above the Borderline for the first time all season.
For one thing, the team they lost to was a respectable 5-3 Marshall squad, and the Seahawks only lost by three points. It would've been nice to see them finish the game off against the Herd when they had a one-point lead with 27 seconds remaining, but it was a hard-fought effort from UNCW.
The most impressive part was that the Seahawks kept the game that close while only getting 9 points from Keith Rendleman, who before the Marshall game was averaging 16.3 per game.
Instead, UNCW saw freshman guard Craig Ponder step up for a team gasping for offense and score 26 points with a phenomenal 70.3 percent efficient game in terms of scoring. Sure, they lost the game, but knowing that Ponder has the raw talent as a freshman to put up such an absurd game has to be encouraging for this team heading into what should be a win against Coker.
Towson leads the pack below the Borderline and are at the cusp of making it to the CAA's upper echelon (if one even exists). They just can't find a way to win the games that matter most, and as I predicted last week, the Tigers sit at 3-4 after two straight losses. Looks pretty rough as well, with their next three games coming against opponents with a combined record of 14-3. If they win one, they ought to consider it a victory.
James Madison isn't exactly looking hot, but at least it won a game this past week! And after they kept their game against George Washington mighty close -- losing 54-53 -- maybe the Dukes aren't as bad as we originally thought. Wednesday's game against East Tennessee State is a good opportunity for a win, but hopes should still be tempered for the painfully inconsistent Dukes.
On Wednesday, Delaware found a way to lose to Lafayette, the No. 336 team in the MRI rankings, despite Jamelle Hagins going for 18 points and a career-high 23 rebounds. Devon Saddler continued to shoot inefficiently, this time going 6-for-19, and the Blue Hens' season continued its perilous downward spiral, and the demoralizing 38-point loss to Duke won't help the attitude in Delaware. Yikes.
Hofstra saw its up and down season take the most severe hit so far when four players were suspended indefinitely, including two starters, for an alleged burglary ring on campus. Benjamin Miraski has run a great thread here on Mid-Major Madness covering the story itself, so here I'll just tell you that without Shaquille Stokes and Jimmy Hall, the Pride (if there's any left on campus) have a tough road ahead.
And, once again, we find the basement spot in the Colonial filled by the 1-6 Old Dominion Monarchs. After losing their only game of the week against fellow CAA opponent William & Mary, ODU has an absolutely brutal schedule coming up against Richmond, Virginia Commonwealth, Central Florida, and (recently announced future CAA member) College of Charleston, a four-pack of teams with a combined record of 20-9. Good luck, Monarchs. That's all they can hope for.
Who has been the best team in the Colonial so far?
George Mason (3 votes)
Northeastern (1 vote)
William and Mary (1 vote)
Georgia State (1 vote)
Drexel (1 vote)
UNC-Wilmington (0 votes)
A team below the Borderline (0 votes)
7 total votes