Colonial Power Rankings: CAA Conference Play Heating Up

USA TODAY Sports

We're almost a month into conference play, and the Colonial has turned itself on its head. Northeastern has claimed the top spot as rightfully theirs, but a surprise team might be creeping up to put some pressure on the leading two squads.

1. Northeastern (11-7, 6-0)

The Huskies are on a six-game win streak. They're also 6-0 in conference play. No, it's not a coincidence: they're running the Colonial at the moment.

By all measures, they should have lost Saturday night's matchup with Delaware. The Blue Hens were almost all clicking: Kyle Anderson had a season-high 19 points, Jamelle Hagins had his typical double-double, and Jarvis Threatt had 21 points on 80.77 percent scoring efficiency (see the Delaware bit for more on that.)

And yet the Huskies' starters didn't feel like losing in the CAA just yet. Four of the starting five contributed in double digits, with David Walker scoring eight, double his season average.

Oh, and the 66.7 percent three-point shooting didn't exactly hurt.

This game simply reaffirmed what we know about this team: their key to victory is depth multiplied by more depth. When a big game like this one comes along, at least a few Huskies will answer the call, which is usually more than enough.

Right now, the hot hand is Quincy Ford. He's averaging 16.3 points with 55.56 percent scoring efficiency. And he's only a sophomore.

2. George Mason (11-7, 4-2)

Ignoring the confusing loss to UNC-Wilmington last week, the Patriots have regained their mojo by going 4-1 in their last five games and are starting to find their footing near the top of the conference.

Granted, the Hofstra Pride aren't phenomenal competition, so beating them by 11 is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill result.

But beating James Madison after the UNC-W loss was very big for the Patriots' confidence, especially rallying back from a halftime deficit.

I'll be looking for two things in the upcoming matchup with Towson.

1. Can Sherrod Wright finally find a second-in-command who steps up in big situations? If not, I expect the Patriots to fall to a hot Tigers team.

2. Will Wright continue his streak of high shot counts? He's been firing up way more shots recently and not making an impressive amount, a trend that needs to change if he and the Patriots expect success going forward.

3. Towson (10-9, 5-1)

I don't know if you remember, but the Towson Tigers used to be a joke. A complete and total joke.

Then they snagged this transfer student. His name's Jerrelle Benimon. Heard of him?

If not, you might want to get acquainted pretty soon, because rebounders in mirror are closer than they appear. He's on a five-game double-double streak right now, averaging 18.6 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. During that time, the Tigers are 4-1. Coincidence? Not in the least.

In fact, three of his six non-double double games have been Tiger losses. It's safe to say that Benimon is the key to the team's success.

But unlike UNC-Wilmington, the Tigers' big man isn't their only way to score, especially as of late.

After scoring more than 10 points only twice in the first 15 games, junior guard Rafriel Guthrie has eclipsed that mark three times in the last four games. His production will be huge against George Mason and could be the deciding factor.

4. Delaware (8-10, 3-2)

As I mentioned earlier, Jarvis Threatt scored 21 points with 80.77 percent efficiency in the Blue Hens' loss to Northeastern on Saturday.

His scoring efficiency for the season is now 45.48 percent.

And yet they lost. Talk about a waste of an absolutely fabulous performance.

What went wrong? Well, it was Devon Saddler's fault. Apparently I shouldn't have praised Saddler's progressing game in last week's column, because he came out this week determined to prove me wrong. Last week he scored 26.3 points per game with 75.24 percent efficiency.

That's stuff of legend, so he couldn't have kept it up. But scoring 13 points per game on 37.14 percent efficiency isn't what I expected as a follow-up.

Here's the thing: the Hens were nine points away from being 2-0 this past week and being ranked second in these power rankings. If Saddler gets it together, this is still a very potent team. Their success rides on his back.

5. James Madison (9-10, 3-3)

Just like Delaware, the Dukes suffered a sobering 0-2 week which dropped them back below .500. The 11-point loss to George Mason hurt after leading by five at halftime.

However, the contest against Towson was the truly telling part of the week.

Leading up to this week, the Dukes had been gaining momentum, enough to catapult them to fourth in the rankings, ahead of Towson. But when it came time for the head-to-head against the Tigers, they choked it away.

The team shot 25.5 percent. Rayshawn Goins went 1 for 10. They only had one double-digit scorer: Alioune Diouf, with 11 points. They were outrebounded by 14.

In short, they were manhandled.

What does this tell us? I read too much into the Dukes' momentum coming out of last week. They're a passable team, but they won't be in the running for anything at the end of the season.

6. Georgia State (8-11, 3-3)

Apparently R.J. Hunter is just fine.

Just two games after having an MRI done on his foot to check for a stress fracture, the freshman put up 20 points against an admittedly abysmal Old Dominion team.

The big three scored 56 of the Panthers' 69 points against the Monarchs, furthering the fact that they have nobody else on the team who knows how to score.

And the team put yet another stamp on that fact when they declared Denny Burguillos and Cameron Solomon academically ineligible, losing seven bench points in the process.

It's been a strange ride for the Panthers in their final Colonial season. They don't have much to fight for so moving forward, Ron Hunter needs to get his stars -- including his son -- some support scoring if they plan on making waves in the Sun Belt next season.

The Borderline

UNC-Wilmington: They own the best home record in the conference at 7-1. However, they're winless on the road. Yikes.

Drexel: Could the Dragons finally win back to back games? They play Hofstra on the road on the Jan. 23. If you would have told me pre-season that Drexel would record their first back-to-back wins on a 23rd, I would've expected November. Curse you, injuries.

William & Mary: Just how far have the Tribe fallen? They lost to a 6-11 Drexel team playing without their top rebounder by 11 points. They shot 32.7 percent. They had no bench points despite 48 bench minutes. Oh, and they're playing three of the best teams in the conference in a row. I hear a 10-game losing streak coming on.

Hofstra: It's hard to fault the Pride for going 0-2 this week when they played the two best teams in the conference. In fact, it has to be encouraging for Pride fans to see that they lost by an average of just eight points per game to George Mason and Northeastern. But they lost, which is the stat that matters most.

Old Dominion: There's really not much to be said for the Monarchs. They're 2-16, and I can still make the shameless joke that they haven't won since last year. I know, corny. They also haven't won in a month. That's not corny, that's just sad.

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