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Colonial Check-In: Hofstra Enters League Play Hot

With Colonial Athletic Association play beginning on Saturday, the Hofstra Pride and Elon Phoenix enter conference play with winning streaks, while six other schools sport losing streaks of two or more games. Will parity show in the CAA? Or will Northeastern and William & Mary take care of business as expected?

Hofstra Athletics

One of the few things we may know about the CAA this year: you probably don't have to worry about Delaware.

While Delaware was busy upsetting St. Bonaventure for their first win of the season just this week, it was Hofstra completing their non-conference slate winning six of their past eight games.

What makes the Pride so dangerous is new faces to CAA play courtesy of the MAAC. Both Ameen Tanksley and Juan'ya Green transferred to Hofstra from Niagara University and sat out last season as part of NCAA regulations. Tanksley is averaging over 19 points this season, after starting all 33 games from Niagara in 2012-2013 where he posted 11 points and six boards per contest. Green is scoring nearly 18 points per game, which is an uptick from his 16.5 points for Niagara two seasons ago.

Talk about a scary duo for opponents in CAA play. You'll have to figure out a way to defend two quick guards on the outside who are capable of scoring from almost anywhere on the court. And Hofstra was only selected third in the conference preseason poll.

The only other school in the CAA sporting a winning streak is Elon, who we highlighted last time as a dangerous team come league play. Elon has won their last three match-ups and six of their last eight, with their only losses in that stretch coming by way of Duke and Missouri.

Colonial play tips on Saturday with a full slate of games, beginning with College of Charleston visiting William & Mary at 2 p.m., but get caught up beforehand with our updated CAA rankings.

1. Hofstra Pride (9-4, Last Week- 2):

The duo of Tanksley and Green might be enough to keep William & Mary's Marcus Thornton on his toes for conference player of the year. The Pride finished non-conference play with wins against LIU Brooklyn in Brooklyn and at Central Connecticut State. They dropped a contest at home to a scrappy La Salle team, which wasn't as much of a downer as their loss to Columbia just before that. Regardless, this team should be better than expected in CAA play with a hot backcourt.

2. Northeastern Huskies (8-4, LW- 1):

Northeastern gets the edge over streaking Elon because their only two losses were nail biters to Cal Poly and St. Mary's during a three-game California road trip just before Christmas. The Huskies salvaged the end of non-conference play by winning at Richmond on New Year's Eve, which was Northeastern's first win against an Atlantic-10 opponent since 2004. They are the preseason favorites to take the conference, but might have more company than expected at the top.

3. Elon Phoenix (8-5, LW- 7):

The hottest team gets the biggest jump this week. If it wasn't for losses at Missouri (by only five) and Duke, the Phoenix could very well be on a double-digit winning streak. They haven't lost to a non-power conference school since before Thanksgiving when they lost to North Florida in Cancun. They are a balanced squad with three players averaging nearly 13 points per game. Elon will play its' debut CAA game against Drexel in Philadelphia on Saturday.

4. James Madison Dukes (7-6, LW- 3):

James Madison stumbles into CAA play, much like the rest of the teams below them. They've lost three straight at home and were just blown out by visiting Valparaiso. Their most talented player, Andre Nationcontinues to face suspension issues and has started just two games so far. He averaged over 15 points last season after returning from a suspension that saw him miss 15 games. If the Dukes want to be successful, they'll need Nation to stay on the court.

5. Towson Tigers (7-6, LW- 4):

The Tigers have lost five straight games, albeit four of those games were to quality opponents in Georgetown, Temple, La Salle and Navy. They closed out non-conference play with an overtime loss to Northeast Conference's Fairleigh Dickinson at home. Towson will need forward John Davis to continue to play well, he's averaging over 10 points and eight rebounds.

6. William & Mary (6-5, LW- 6):

The Tribe could very well be a place or two higher on this list, but since their only win in December was to a Division III school, they stay at number six. William & Mary have played good teams otherwise, dropping close games to Richmond and Old Dominion aside from being blown out by North Carolina. They have the preseason player of the year in Thornton, who led them one win shy of the NCAA Tournament last season.

7. Charleston Cougars (5-8, LW- 5):

December was a month of streaks for the Cougars. After taking care of three lesser opponents at home early in the month, Charleston then took on a fairly difficult schedule to end the calendar year. They dropped a close one at Charlotte in OT, ran out of gas at home against Davidson and then suffered handy defeats at LSU and Miami (Fla.). A team of veterans should fair better in CAA play, as long as Canyon Barry can shake off a scoreless night in front of his fan club.

8. UNC Wilmington Seahawks (5-6, LW- 8):

UNCW ended 2014 with blowouts at Minnesota and Ohio, not quite the quality of LSU and Miami, but they can share Charleston's pain. They faced a mighty tough non-conference schedule which may help the Seahawks in CAA play, losing to Davidson, Louisville and Old Dominion as well. UNCW gets the hot Hofstra team at home on Saturday.

9. Delaware Blue Hens (1-10, LW- 10):

Delaware might have sported a 10-game losing streak, but after their quality win against the A-10's St. Bonaventure, they send Drexel to the basement. The best news for the Blue Hens is they get to start CAA play at home, but the bad news is they welcome conference favorite, Northeastern, to Newark.

10. Drexel Dragons (2-9, LW- 9):

Things really unraveled for the Dragons after their home loss to Division II's University of Sciences. They haven't won a game since that night and limp into CAA play only to face the new darling of the conference, Elon. Damion Lee, who was selected to the preseason CAA first team, averages a shade under 20 points per game, which gives Dragon fans hope for a top five finish like they were slated in the preseason.