CAA Power Rankings: Dukes, Hens Rush To The Top

In a week of parity, Northeastern found out that they're human, Delaware put together a (nearly) perfect week, and the Colonial got a lot more interesting near the top.

1. Northeastern (17-10, 12-3)

For a 24 day stretch in January it seemed as if no team in the CAA would be able to touch Northeastern. They won eight straight games, including two thrashings of George Mason, previously thought to be the cream of the conference crop.

Well, don't look now, but the Huskies are just 4-3 in their last seven games.

They still have the best conference and overall records in the Colonial, so it's not exactly a gigantic cause for concern. But we're starting to see that the Huskies no longer have a chokehold on the league.

Wednesday's overtime extravaganza against Delaware was a superb game, and while they suffered a crushing loss, the boys from Boston could take solace in the fact that they stayed within two points of the Hens without Joel Smith's services.

Or so they thought.

Because, in their very next game against UNC-Wilmington, Smith returned. And, for the first time since December 18, they lost again.

They're still tops in the conference when healthy. But the impending CAA Tournament got a lot more interesting after this week's games.

2. Delaware (14-13, 9-5)

The Blue Hens have to feel good about themselves.

Of their past eight games, they've won six. Of their past 16, they've won 11. Devon Saddler is averaging 19.6 points per game in those last seven contests. Jarvis Threatt hit the 20 point mark twice in the last three games.

Any questions?

There's not a team in the Colonial on a hotter streak than the Hens right now, which is awesome for UD fans and frightening for everybody else. We all knew they had the talent and the pieces to put together a campaign towards the conference title. And, though it took some time, they're finally starting to realize it.

The loss today to James Madison is somewhat of a heartbreaker, no question. But Jamelle Hagins only scored six points, and it was a statistical aberration. Looking at the box score, the Hens gave that game away.

But none of that matters. What matters is that they keep playing this brand of basketball through March 11, because the CAA is theirs for the taking.

3. Towson (15-13, 10-5)

While we're talking hot streaks, it makes sense to transition over to the Towson Tigers, who continue to surprise me.

The Tigers are 5-1 in their past six games, and -- his confusing outing against Georgia State ignored -- Jerrelle Benimon is easily the player of the year in the CAA. He has scored in double digits in 16 of his last 17 games, including 12 double-doubles. His production has been absolutely mind-boggling, and he has turned this Tigers team into a squad that, if eligible, would be a threat in the conference tournament.

I also love the kind of things that Marcus Damas has been doing on the offensive end lately. He had a sporadic start to the season, hitting double-digits only five times in 12 tries before the New Year. However, he's scored at least 11 points in each of the seven Tigers games since January 26th.

With Benimon and Damas firing on all cylinders, this would be the team I'd be most excited to see in Richmond. If only they were eligible...

4. James Madison (16-12, 10-5)

Rayshawn Goins frustrates me to no end. He shoots 43.5 percent from the field and shoots 67.9 percent from the free throw line. There are a million cautionary tales to be drawn from his inefficient scoring for the future generation of mid-major ballers.

And yet... the Dukes are second in the CAA and he leads them almost every night. So what am I supposed to say?

Take Sunday evening's victory over Delaware, for example. The impressive comeback and thrilling finish overshadow the fact that Goins shot 4 of 18 from the field to score 19 points. That's one of the most painful efficiency ratings I've ever heard of, and yet judging solely by stats, Goins was the best player on JMU. 19 points and 10 rebounds? You'll take that any night.

And right now, you'll also take anything that the Dukes are serving. Because they're 9-4 in their last thirteen games, and I like them. A whole lot.

5. Georgia State (14-14, 9-6)

The Panthers were the first team in the Colonial to beat Northeastern. They squashed George Mason by 18 on Saturday.

And yet they lost to UNC-Wilmington on February 6?

That kind of logic has been the fuel behind Georgia State's season since they lost their first game against Duke on November 9. They have backcourt talent falling out of their ears, and yet the longest win streak they've put together so far is four games.

But they, too, are on a roll at just the right time. And Ron Hunter has a lot of tools at his disposal to make light of this roll, but none are better than his son.

R.J. is averaging 22.8 points per game over the last six games (4-2 in that stretch) and, on a major-conference team, would be known as one of the best freshmen in the country. 47.1 percent scoring efficiency doesn't make me happy, but the rest of his game would make any head coach jubilant.

6. George Mason (15-11, 8-6)

Oh, how far the once-mighty Patriots have fallen.

On December 29, Paul Hewitt's club sat in first place, reigning over the Colonial after weathering the storm that is non-conference play. They were 7-5; not exactly a prime record, but good enough for King of the Hill status.

Today, they sit at sixth in the conference standings as well as sixth in my power rankings.

Sherrod Wright has continued to score lights out for his team, leading them on the offensive end. But the problem is that the lack of support scoring, while shaky in the early going, has finally come back to ruin them.

Without a strong second hand, the pressure has been piled on Wright, and his efficiency has shown. In his last fifteen games, his field goal percentage has hit 50 percent only three times. In his first eleven games, it hit the same mark seven times. As Queen sang, [he's] under pressure.

The Borderline

Drexel: The Dragons continue to play with their fans' heartstrings (yes, mine.) After their confounding loss to Old Dominion, they come back and completely shut down JMU, holding them to 48 points. And then they fall to a collapsing George Mason team. No consistency from the blue and yellow.

UNC-Wilmington: Keith Rendleman went big-time over Northeastern on Saturday, scoring 23 points and snagging 11 boards in an impressive performance. Unfortunately, as always, the Seahawks' scoring has been too inconsistent this season to field those results with any regularity.

William & Mary: There isn't much sense to be made of the Tribe. They're simply inconsistent. Their top four scorers are studs, but after that the squad has almost nothing going for it. And even the top four can't contribute with normalcy.

Hofstra: When your top two scorers are shooting .327 and .374 from the field, respectively, you know your team's in trouble. Thus, the Pride are in trouble.

Old Dominion: They beat Drexel, they took Northeastern to OT, and then they lost to Delaware by two. Jim Corrigan has the Monarchs playing better basketball, but it's almost as if nothing changed: they're still just short of success, night in and night out.

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