CAA Power Rankings: Finally, Conference Action

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Upsets and disappointments galore! After one week of conference play the Colonial has started to stratify, leading to the biggest Borderline shift of the season. And, for the first time since December 10, we have a new number two in the list.

1. George Mason (8-6)

They've held the top spot since early November, but for the first time their security on top was in jeopardy after they lost to Northeastern by double-digits, 84-74.

So why are the Patriots still ahead of the Huskies?

Because, while Northeastern is the most formidable conference opponent for GMU, the contest was a demonstration of extremes.

Sherrod Wright had easily his worst game since the end of November in terms of shooting, not even 50 percent efficiency, and missed scoring 20 points for the first time in five games.

On the other side, the Huskies shot 56.3 percent from three point land, and Jonathan Lee was out of his mind.

I believe this game wasn't entirely representative of the two teams. I expect more from Wright, which he showed against William & Mary by scoring 28 points on 62.2 percent efficiency and leading the Patriots to a 73-66 victory. Their next four games should be a breeze, building the team's confidence after the startling beginning to conference play.

2. Northeastern (7-7)

OK, OK, we get it. Northeastern wasn't pleased with their placement in the "Pretenders" section of my conference preview. They stepped out in their first conference game of the season and topped the best team in the conference by 10, with Lee scoring 20 points in his fourth game back from injury.

The key to Northeastern, the key that I had overlooked until this past week, is the team's depth now that Lee is back.

They performed at a high level against George Mason without consistent contributions from Joel Smith and with high-scoring but low-efficiency points from Quincy Ford.

And then, in an interestingly tight contest against UNC-Wilmington, Smith regained his early season form with 23 points when Lee, who was cold, scored only 10.

Before Lee came back, if Smith had a cold game, the Huskies didn't have a go-to scorer. Now with both players capable of going off, they can pick up the slack for each other. It'll be interesting to see where they go from here.

3. William & Mary (7-6)

Maybe there was some weight to that whole "William & Mary hasn't faced any serious competition yet" argument.

Now mired in their second three-game losing streak of the season, the Tribe have lost three games to teams whose combined records are only 2 games over .500.

The problem against Vanderbilt was inefficient scoring from their two star players; Tim Rusthoven and Marcus Thornton, who combined scored 25 points on just 37.3 percent scoring efficiency. That is unacceptable from any one player, much less a team's two best.

Against George Mason, in a huge, heavyweight, conference-opening matchup, the Tribe were actually up by four points at halftime. But Rusthoven's 19 points and 11 rebounds weren't enough to buoy the team as they shot just 30 percent from 3-point range in the game.

Sure, the team is good: Rusthoven and Thornton are legitimate threats game in and game out. But we might've overrated the Tribe just a little bit as they feasted on weaker competition; the CAA might not be the ACC, but it's no cakewalk, either.

4. Delaware

The Blue Hens had an easy start to their conference schedule, facing a lowly Old Dominion squad that now sits at 2-13, so it's hard to take much away from the game that could've been subtitled "Foul Shots Unchained" (sorry, Tarantino.)

However, the most encouraging part of the game for Delaware fans had to have been Devon Saddler's performance. We all know Saddler as the best scorer on this Hens team, and he has been efficient in doing so, but his effective field goal percentage is not where you would like to see one of the best guards in the league sitting.

He was able to shed that notion, if only for one night, as he scored 27 glorious points with a 132 ORat, his most efficient game of the season.

Meanwhile, Jamelle Hagins notched his ninth double-double of the year and Jarvis Threatt scored all 19 of his points from the free throw line (he went 19 of 20! Seriously!)

Don't look now, but the Hens have a three-game winning streak heading into a home game against Hofstra. You can mark down a W.

5. Towson

Keep in mind that none of what I say matters when it concerns the Towson Tigers.

This year, they've been the embodiment of inconsistency, and while defeating Drexel would've been viewed as unfathomable before this season began. Yet now it's not even an impressive victory for the team as they have two more wins than the Dragons do.

The more important lesson to learn from the Tigers' first two conference games is that depth can show itself from when it needs to. In their victory against Drexel, they had four players scoring in double digits and three players with at least seven rebounds.

Now, of concern to the Tigers: they only have one player averaging over ten points per game, and their number two scorer, Marcus Damas, is shooting 37.6 percent from the field this year. Not exactly reassuring.

However, as long as Jerrelle Benimon continues to challenge Jamelle Hagins for the best big man in the conference, the Tigers should have a chance to win any conference game they're presented with.

The Borderline

James Madison

The Dukes are currently sitting at 7-7, a relatively comfortable record, but they had climbed the ranks of our power rankings in the last few weeks on a vapor trail. The four game win streak they were riding? Built against teams with a combined .322 win percentage. Not stiff competition. I'll be interested to see how they do against UNC-Wilmington and Drexel in the coming week.

Drexel

After Saturday evening's discouraging loss to Towson, it's time to face the facts: these are not the Dragons we thought they were. Now sitting at a startling 5-9, they haven't been able to find a rhythm since the beginning of the season, and without Chris Fouch, they just can't keep up with the rest of the Colonial. This is a potentially great season going to waste, surprising to say the least from a Bruiser Flint squad.

Georgia State

After losing five straight games, the Panthers have to be enthused by their win over James Madison, but expectations need to be tempered. The same Panthers team was smacked by Drexel, losing by 17 points, a loss that seems less acceptable after each Dragon loss. Their three stars -- Manny Atkins, R.J. Hunter, and Devonta White -- are performing fabulously, but the rest of the team isn't enough to stay afloat in the CAA.

UNC-Wilmington

They've kept their two Colonial contests close against good conference opponents (Northeastern and Towson), but like Old Dominion, the Seahawks simply don't have enough to finish teams off this season. Keith Rendleman scored 20 percent of the team's points in the team's losses to the Huskies and Tigers; he's only had two games this year with fewer than ten points. But he (and, more recently, Craig Ponder) are doing it alone.

Old Dominion

The Monarchs are 2-13. They've lost 12 of their last 13 games. They're not beating George Mason, they probably won't beat UNCW, and they probably can't beat Georgia State. I don't see them winning until February. Poor Monarchs.

Hofstra

The Pride haven't actually started their conference play yet. They haven't played since their New Year's Day loss to Florida Atlantic. They haven't won since November 21. The team is decimated by suspensions. Stick a fork in ‘em: the Pride might finish the season with the same three wins they already have.

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