Do you remember that list I composed way back on October 12 of (now) last year? It was a list of the top ten players in the CAA according to yours truly, the CAA Guru, in which I placed one Jonathan Lee of Northeastern at number three in the conference.
Before he had a chance to set foot on the court for the Huskies' home opener, however, he had injured said foot. And so he was out for 6 weeks.
In that absence, the number eight player on the list, Northeastern's Joel Smith, took over for the injured Lee in leading his team in the absence of their star player. He did an admirable job, even convincing me that maybe I had placed Smith a little too low on the list.
Another surprise from the list was a player who I placed at tenth out of ten, George Mason's junior guard Sherrod Wright. I placed him at tenth in optimistic conditions, assuming that if he found a way to lead the Patriots as his potential suggested, I'd feel silly for excluding him from this list.
As soon as the season tipped off, Wright proved me -- pardon the pun -- to be right. He led the Patriots by example, scoring prolifically and efficiently, leading them to the best standing in the conference. Maybe, like Smith, I had placed him entirely too low on the list.
With all of this floating around the college basketball area of my brain (it totally exists), I watched Thursday night's conference opener between Northeastern and George Mason with piqued interest.
The two teams had been competing against non-conference opponents, but my list had expressly been about the 10 best players in the CAA. Therefore, what better time to put my queries to the test than both teams' conference openers? It was the perfect storm.
And, to my surprise, Jonathan Lee proved my list to be accurate. At least for one night, anyway.
In easily his best performance since returning from the foot injury, Lee put up 20 points to lead the Huskies to an 84-74 victory over Wright's Patriots.
Lee's 20 points were great, but the real bonus came in the way he scored them: with 66.67 percent efficiency, a fabulous mark for a player in just his fourth game back from injury, and easily the best figure on his own team among the elite players that they possess.
And Smith, who had led the Huskies in Lee's absence? He's been regressing, and last night was more of the regression, scoring just eight points on 44.4 percent efficiency. He didn't have to perform tonight due to Lee's fabulous exhibition, but come more ferocious conference games later in their schedule, Smith will need to turn it up a notch and find his earlier form.
Meanwhile, on the Patriots' side, Wright had a below-average game by his recent standards. Of course he still led the team in scoring with 19 points and still managed to grab five rebounds, but he wasn't the same force he usually is. Coming into the game he'd been scoring with 56.52 percent efficiency. Last night? He was reduced to 47.5 percent efficiency. Not enough in a big game situation.
Yet Wright's shortcomings accounted for, the Patriots still led by seven at the half. It was the second period that proved fatal for Wright's squad, as Northeastern's freshman guard Zach Stahl, averaging 6.9 points per game, scored 15 and proved pivotal as the Huskies overtook the Patriots for good on his jumper with 5:28 left, despite Wright's best efforts to the contrary.
Last night's game was intriguing. I began the season with one set of views, laid out in my players list. During non-conference play, I adopted a new set of views, albeit a Jonathan Lee-less set of views. And then last night, Lee set the world right again.
For how long? We'll see Saturday night when the Huskies take on UNC-Wilmington. But putting this team in the Pretenders list was a mistake. Jonathan Lee came to play.