CAA Power Rankings: James Madison Moving Up in the World

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

Back after two weeks, the newest publication of the Colonial Power Rankings has the top two stay the same for the third straight version of the rankings. New to crossing the border this week? Those pesky Dukes of James Madison.

1. George Mason (7-4)

After this week, what I had believed for the last few weeks has become fact: George Mason is absolutely for real.

After sinking Richmond on a buzzer-beater three from their stud Sherrod Wright, the Patriots sit at 7-4 with their quality wins continuing to pile up. Wright is averaging almost 17 points per game and has scored 20 points in three straight contests for GMU. This team is currently firing on all cylinders.

Looking back at these first 11 games, it may seem strange to laud a team whose winning percentage is just .636. But check those last four games and you'll notice two trends. One: they were to teams with a combined record of 39-9, including three teams with 10 or more wins. And two, they were by an average of 4.5 points per game.

As the season goes on, look for Wright to keep excelling and his team to keep rolling.

2. William & Mary (7-3)

I don't know if you've heard this, but William & Mary can shoot the ball. As in, they shoot the ball better than all but 18 teams in the country with a team-wide 48.6 percent shooting percentage for the Tribe.

Now, the same chorus has been preached about this team every week: its competition has been week, so it's hard to get too excited about the success. To date, its opponents have been a combined 46-69.

However, I've come to realize that the players themselves can't choose the schedule they're presented with, so they shouldn't be punished for it. And while it's hard to wax poetic about a 33-point victory over Salisbury, the whole Tribe certainly performed with aplomb, which is why they retain the No. 2 spot on this list.

Marcus Thornton missed too many shots and Tim Rusthoven only had 8 points, but the support they saw from the bench is comforting going forward. The Dec. 29 matchup against Purdue will be quite intriguing.

3. Drexel (4-7)

The Dragon win against Davidson on Saturday was Drexel-est game they've had all year. They finally showed the defensive pressure that Bruiser Flint teams are so famous for, holding a Wildcats team that averaged 72.3 per game to just 59.

Damion Lee, continuing to get buckets -- 26 points against Davidson -- could use a little bit of tuning when it comes to scoring efficiently. But he's making a case for the top three players in the CAA, leading the Dragons while Frantz Massenat has been less than stellar from the field to start the season.

And the huge 16-4 offensive rebound advantage on Saturday continues to reaffirm that Daryl McCoy and Dartaye Ruffin have slid into Samme Givens' role nicely.

If the team can finally string two wins together (a quality St. Joe's team is coming up next), it'll be interesting to see how Damion Lee and Co. approach the rest of the season.

4. James Madison (5-6)

After losing five of their first six games to start the year, the Dukes have turned it around and won four of five.

In the most recent win, they held their own on the glass against San Jose State, the 15th-best rebounding team in the country, and then created separation between the two by shooting nearly 10 percent better than the Spartans.

So far, the biggest solace for Dukes fans is that the team currently has six players averaging 7.3 points or better. This team has flexed its depth all year, and it has especially come to light in the last few games.

With games against Old Dominion and Georgia State as their first tastes of CAA play this year, the Dukes have a chance to keep momentum headed in the right direction and build a base for the meat of the season.

5. Northeastern (5-6)

The Huskies finally put the brakes on their seemingly inexplicable five game losing streak when they held Central Connecticut State, a team that averages 74.4 points per game, to 63 points. That's especially encouraging for the team seeing as they had allowed 70-plus in four of the six games before the victory.

It's probably too early to say if the Huskies of November are back; I'll need to see performance against better competition before I conclude that. But after losing five straight, any loss feels good for the Huskies.

The team can feel good about Joel Smith finally finding his efficiency: Smith dropped a great 27 point, seven rebound performance on 61.36 percent efficiency against CCSU.

6. UNC-WIlmington (5-6)

The Seahawks had quite the up-and-down week. They started the week with a gruesome loss to a Davidson team that is just a superior outfit. Keith Rendleman scored 20 points and had nine rebounds in yet another quality performance, but unfortunately for UNC-Wilmington, it only have one Keith Rendleman on the team, and he can't do it all himself.

The second game of the week against UNC-Greenboro was far better. Rendleman scored 23 on 8 of 12 shooting and grabbed 12 boards while the team shot just over 50 percent.

Along with giving Rendleman some role player help, the team also needs to focus on foul shooting, a relatively basic skill that the Seahawks tend to be lacking in. The team shot just 40 percent against Davidson, and were hardly better against Greensboro, going for 58.1 percent.

The Borderline

Georgia State: After climbing to third in last iteration of power rankings, the Panthers lost three straight games by a total of 8 points. While that's close, it's definitely disconcerting to lose to teams like Troy and Rhode Island, two teams with a combined record of 9-17. Their loss to Southern Mississippi was better, but plain and simple: RJ Hunter, Devonta White and Manny Atkins need help.

Delaware: Devon Saddler has continued his painfully inefficient season, the Blue Hens have continued to miss thousands of shots (evidenced by their 32 of 81 shooting against Penn), and Jamelle Hagins has continued to be the only sign of life for Delaware. I would have this team higher except I haven't seen growth from them. Sure, they beat Penn by 23, but the Quakers are bad. Rider will squash the Hens on New Year's Eve.

Towson: That eleven point loss to Temple looks a lot better after the Owls just knocked off formerly undefeated Syracuse. However, losing to a Coppin State team that came into the matchup at 2-10 is a bad sign for the Tigers. They've now lost four straight after the Dec. 5 win over Vermont put them at .500. The silver lining during this losing streak is Jerrelle Benimon, who has averaged 15 points and 12.8 rebounds over the four losses.

Old Dominion: They won! It happened! The Monarchs avoided losing ten straight games by tackling a solid Virginia team on Saturday. I'm glad they proved me wrong about the whole "not winning until 2013" thing, and with the way Hofstra's playing, Old Dominion should be able to find its way out of the league's basement spot as well. Just not before 2013. (I'll never learn.)

Hofstra: They just miss so many shots. The Pride were actually tied with a 9-3 Tulane team at halftime but were done in by Taran Buie and Stevie Mejia going a combined 8 of 26 from the field for just 24 total points between the two. The team continues to suffer from the suspensions on Jimmy Hall and Shaq Stokes, have now lost seven straight games. Yikes.

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