CAA Power Rankings: Having Cake and Eating It, Too

Jayne Kamin-Oncea

Northeastern beat George Mason down for a second straight time, solidifying the one-two rankings in the conference: the CAA belongs to the Huskies. But who's that there, sitting at number three? Are those the James Madison Dukes I see?

1. Northeastern (13-7, 8-0)

The first time out, Northeastern topped George Mason by 10 and we thought it was impressive.

This time it was even better.

In what has cemented their complete dominance over the Colonial, the Huskies crushed the Patriots by 20 points, 71-51, in an authoritative victory. There is no doubt anymore: the conference belongs to the black and red.

The Huskies had an unexpected source of scoring wealth in junior forward Dinko Marshavelski, who averaged just 3.4 points per game coming into the contest. He dominated the inside game all night, making light of GMU's lack of an inside presence.

They've gone 9-1 in their last ten. And with their team's depth looking as strong as ever -- the team had four double-digit scorers, and Jonathan Lee wasn't one of them -- I don't see a single game in their last ten that they can't win. The Huskies are officially on fire.

2. George Mason (12-8, 5-3)

It's time to settle into their role: the Patriots are the second-best team in the conference. Before conference play started, I thought that they'd be fighting with the best of the rest for the number one spot.

But after two sound thrashings from the true number one, there isn't much fight from this squad for the head of the CAA anymore.

They had a big, important win on the road against Towson behind another big performance from Sherrod Wright. Unfortunately, he -- their best player and the second-higest scorer in the conference -- was nowhere to be found against the Huskies, scoring just 12 points and committing 6 turnovers in an extremely lackluster performance from the junior.

The next contest for the team will be a home game against Drexel. If they lose, they'll drop to 3-3 in their last six games, a mark during conference play that seemed unimaginable after their hot start.

3. James Madison (11-10, 5-3)

The Dukes continue to impress me. Their fleet of depth in the scoring department is so impressive, not to mention highly rare in mid-major squads. Rayshawn Goins excluded, I never know who's going to have a big game for the Dukes.

And so JMU continues to march on, a dark horse muddled in the Colonial standings.

They flexed their defensive muscle as well as exhibited their depth against Delaware on Wednesday.

Sure, it might have been a combination of defense and awful shooting from the Blue Hens. But when you limit Delaware -- a team that averages 68.3 points per game -- to 19 points in the first half, it's clearly a combination of the two.

And, taking advantage of the success on the other end of the floor, the Dukes had four players in double digits. Four players. In the CAA, that's like hitting the lottery.

4. Towson (10-12, 5-4)

Maybe I was too high on the Tigers.

At this point last week, they were 10-9 and 6-1 in their last seven games, having just run over the team now sitting above them in these rankings.

Then they lost three straight contests. Against Georgia State, Marcus Damas opted for the three-pointer when the Tigers were only down by two, my biggest pet peeve in basketball. So they deserved that loss.

They kept the game against George Mason tight until the end, but when you send Sherrod Wright to the free throw line 17 times, you're probably not going to win.

And then... William & Mary? A team that had lost seven in a row? The first two losses this week were marginally excusable. But losing to the Tribe is disconcerting.

Oh, and Jerrelle Benimon is only averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds per game in the Tigers' last two times out. Could he be cooling off? Towson fans had better hope not.

5. Drexel (8-11, 4-3)

Ladies and gents, don't look now, but the Dragons have won three in a row.

They went 3-0 in an eight day span against three middle-to-low competition CAA teams, but that's totally acceptable, because they won all three. The big gain for the team here is that the Dragons' defense is finally coming along.

Over their first 15 games of the season, the Dragons had been allowing 66.2 points per game, a number entirely too high for a Bruiser Flint defense. In their last four games, in which they've gone 3-1, the team gave up just 52.0 points per game.

A 14.4 point per game improvement? Yeah, probably has something to do with this win streak they have on their hands.

Now, Georgia State was just the tip of the iceberg for the Dragons' upcoming schedule. The coming week will gauge exactly where this team is as they face Delaware, George Mason, and Northeastern in a six-day span.

6. Delaware (8-11, 3-3)

You'd think that when your opponent shoots 33 percent from the field, you'd be able to capitalize.

Well, as usual, Delaware thinks otherwise.

Continuing their painfully inefficient season despite all the scoring talent they have in their lineup, the Blue Hens pulled out an even more atrocious field goal percentage of 28.9 percent -- which, when shooting that miserably, was also the likelihood of the Hens actually beating James Madison.

Call it three straight losses now for the boys in blue, and they have a red-hot Drexel team coming up on Monday in the colossal rivalry game. With pride and streaks on the line, both squads are going to bring their A-game to the competition, and if Delaware falls for a fourth straight contest, it'll hurt.

Besides the perpetual problem of Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt refusing to be efficient on the offensive end, a new emerging issue for the Hens is Jamelle Hagins' production. Once a perpetual double-double, Hagins has recorded just one in his last five games.

The Borderline

Georgia State: The Panthers pulled off a huge coup against Towson on Monday behind R.J. Hunter's 27 points and four three-pointers, winning by two. They had a four-game win streak going after topping UNC-W. But then they came back down to Earth, shooting 27 percent against Drexel. The team's success rides on the back of Hunter.

UNC-Wilmington: Keith Rendleman wasn't the Seahawks' highest scorer, he didn't double-double, and yet they... won? Chris Dixon has been on fire over the last four games, averaging 21.5 points per game. If he can keep it up and Rendleman can get back to his double-double ways, the Seahawks are picking up steam at the right time.

William & Mary: It'd be great if the Tribe wanted to make any sense. After losing seven straight, they played Northeastern into double-overtime only to lose by four to the best team in the conference. And then they beat Towson on Saturday. They're definitely the most volatile -- and curious -- case in the CAA.

Hofstra: They tried, guys. Down by just a few at halftime, the Pride actually led Drexel by eight in the second half. Taran Buie might have literally been on fire at some point during the game (we lack enough eye witnesses to be sure.) And yet, after tying the game with 5.9 seconds left, this happened.

Old Dominion: You know that point you reach where it's painful to talk about a subject? It seems almost unfair? I've reached it with the Monarchs. Seven straight losses. 2-17. The only positive from last week was that they played just one game.

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