1. George Mason (6-4)
The Patriots almost had a perfect week, but their loss in the 1-1 week came to a talented Northern Iowa team in overtime, so the top team in the CAA will retain the title for the third week in a row.
After handling UMBC with relative ease on Tuesday, George Mason's focus was clearly on their nationally televised Saturday night matchup with the UNI Panthers. The game was close all night, and the Patriots even had a lead late, but turnovers ended up doing them in when Byron Allen lost the ball with five seconds left in overtime, depriving his team of even a tying shot attempt.
The thing that GMU can take away from their week? Sherrod Wright is officially on fire. This week he shot 15-of-21 from the field, resulting in an astounding 72.88 percent efficient scoring week in which he averaged 21.5 points and 5 boards per game. Wright is easily the best player in the CAA right now.
2. William & Mary (6-3)
While the Tribe haven't exactly been knocking off Top 25 teams this year -- the combined record of their opponents to date is 27-52 -- give them this: they've won the games that they were supposed to, and there's something to be said for consistency in the Colonial this year.
Against Howard, a game in which neither key scorer (Marcus Thornton and Tim Rusthoven) eclipsed 13 points, junior guard Brandon Britt proved that he's got the team's back by scoring 26 points with 68.42 percent efficiency. As I noted last week, they needed role players to step up, and Britt did just that.
The Tribe have a pretty sizable break, until the 21st, but after their cupcake matchup with Salisbury, I'll be interested to see how they fare against Purdue and Vanderbilt, relative challenges compared to what they've faced thus far. Heading into those two matchups with a 4-game win streak should have their confidence on high.
3. Georgia State (5-4)
Georgia State only had one game in the past week, against Southern Polytechnic Institute, and at halftime it didn't look promising; the Panthers were only up on the Hornets by eight points. However, less than five minutes into the second half, R.J. Hunter and Devonta White had extended that gap to 15 and the Panthers never looked back as they out-rebounded, out-scored, and simply out-played the Hornets in the second half to win by 28.
Georgia State had four players go for at least 15 points and they held a 17-rebound advantage to put it out of reach as the competition progressed. The Panthers' only game this next week comes against a suspect Troy squad that may provide marginal resistance, but I expect the Georgia State boys to maintain their elevated rankings position and extend their win streak to three.
4. Drexel (3-6)
I keep waiting for the Dragons to fall below the Borderline, but they keep pulling one win out just in time, and the rest of the Colonial Athletic Association continues to uniformly underperform. They're leaving me no choice but to elevate them to the number four slot, even after losing to a relatively weak Tennessee State team by 10.
Against that Tigers team, they went down early on a cold start, but they were able to knot the game up at 57-all with 4:03 remaining. It was almost an exact copy of their game against Rider, when they folded in the final four minutes. The defense once again came up cold, allowing a 7-0 run to put their hopes out of commission, and sending them to their third pair of back-to-back losses on the season and gasping for answers.
But then, against Princeton, we saw what everybody in the country expected. They shot 50% from the field, 50% from three-point land, held their opponent to under 60 points, and despite a superhuman performance from Princeton's Ian Hummer (19 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists on 9 of 13 shooting) Drexel outscored the Tigers by 14 in the second half to halt the losing streak at two.
Will Drexel keep it up? I have no idea. But every time I say no, they say yes, so we'll just have to wait and see.
5. Towson (4-5)
Ladies and gentlemen, I don't know what you were doing on Saturday afternoon, but the Towson Tigers had a basketball game. Against Georgetown. The number 15 team in the country. And with 6:53 left in the second half, the game was tied. That's right, tied.
The game's box score read like a middle school championship game: Georgetown shot an abysmal 29.2 percent from the field, and yet Towson was unable to fully capitalize as they only shot 3.4 percent better. Neither team was able to take the game by the reins, and while Towson's Jerrelle Benimon did everything in his power to keep his team in the game (11 points and 16 rebounds), in the end the Tigers had no firepower in the tank.
And yet, for a team that won just 1 game all season last year? That was a milestone loss, because they were right there.
6. UNC-Wilmington (4-5)
The Seahawks got to keep their spot above the Borderline for the same reason as Towson: they were close with a really, really good team. Keith Rendleman and company took care of Coker in a fairly simplistic manner on Wednesday as Rendleman dropped 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 6 steals for his third double-double of the season.
The true story of UNCW's week came in their game against a (then) 5-2 Georgia Tech team. When Tanner Milson made a jump shot with just one second remaining in the first half, the Seahawks actually had a one-point lead on the Yellow Jackets.
Unfortunately, Georgia Tech came out with a 10-1 run to star the final 20 minutes, and while UNCW was actually able to reclaim a four point lead with 9:29 left, they had the seed of doubt in the backs of their minds, and the Yellow Jackets made them pay with another run to finish the game, this time 22-11 in the final 8:36.
But the Seahawks showed their mettle, going toe-to-toe against what is a pretty quality Georgia Tech team.
While I fully expect Northeastern to climb right back above the Borderline in the next full iteration of these rankings, it's hard to reward a team that has lost four straight games. The silver lining is that those four losses have been by less than 5 points per game (average). They've got hope, but these losses have piled up.
The good news? Delaware stopped their five-game losing streak on Tuesday against CAA punching bag Radford in Jarvis Threatt's comeback. Jamelle Hagins recorded another double-double and the Blue Hens looked good. The bad news? They followed it up with an overtime loss to civil war rival Delaware State despite Hagins' 15 points and 15 boards. What a waste.
For a second there, James Madison had a win streak going! After beating Winthrop by 10 last week and then rolling over East Tennessee State by 25, the Dukes watched Richmond waltz into their den and actually took the Spiders, a pretty solid squad, to overtime. They even had the game tied with 5 seconds remaining in OT! But this is James Madison, so they fouled with 5 seconds left and lost.
Then we come to the Hofstra (Not Very Much) Pride, the team watching their season deteriorate right before their eyes. Their losing streak extended to five on Saturday night at the hands of LIU-Brooklyn, tying the second-longest such streak in the conference thus far this season, and there is no reprieve in sight. Without Jimmy Hall and Shaquille Stokes, the game against Wright State on Saturday is going to be ugly.
Yet even they have to be outdone by Old Dominion this year. The Monarchs have lost seven straight and sit at 1-8, the most recent offenses coming to A-10 opponents Richmond and VCU. Even when the entirety of the CAA was rooting for them to beat the defecting Rams of VCU, they couldn't muster anything. There's really nothing to say. Old Dominion is bad.