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Colonial Check-In: Kevin Keatts and UNC Wilmington take flight in conference play

Riding a four-game winning streak, UNC Wilmington has climbed the Colonial Athletic Association standings and are sitting tied for first with William & Mary at 7-2 in conference play.

UNCW Athletics

With the team muddled in continual disappointment, UNC Wilmington decided to relieve head coach Buzz Peterson of his duties after the 2014 season. Their search for a new coach found a winner: Kevin Keatts.

Keatts, the former associate head coach under Rick Pitino at Louisville, has turned around a program that had a combined 42-80 record over the previous four seasons and has his Seahawks tied for the CAA lead with one month to play.

With a national championship and two Big East titles under his belt, Keatts has invigorated a UNCW roster that is nearly identical to last season's 9-23 team.

Freddie Jackson, who averaged a shade over seven points last year, is pacing the Seahawks with nearly 15 points and six rebounds per contest. Meanwhile, Addison Spruill and Craig Ponder, who combined to average just under 14 points in 2014, are supporting Jackson with 14 and 11 points per contest, respectively.

UNCW won three games all of last season in the CAA, they currently have seven and looked poised for many more.

As the Seahawks have taken flight up the standings, early season powers, Northeastern and Hofstra, have cooled down, with both squads on two-game slides.

Check out where every team stands in this week's CAA power rankings:

1. UNCW Seahawks (12-8, 7-2, Last Week- 4):

As noted above, Coach Keatts has done a tremendous job getting his team ready for a competitive schedule in the CAA. After finishing non-conference play with a 5-6 record, the Seahawks have lost just a single road game in league play, at William & Mary. They have gone to both Northeastern and Hofstra and left with wins. They have more recently won four straight games, including a come-from-behind overtime thriller at Charleston.

2. William & Mary Tribe (13-7, 7-2, LW- 3):

When William & Mary took care of business against visiting Northeastern at home last weekend, they showed that they are more than just the "Marcus Thornton show." Terry Tarpey, Omar Prewitt and Sean Sheldon are major factors in most Tribe victories. Still, when they need a big bucket, the ball seems to find Thornton's hands and usually ends in success. They have games at James Madison and Charleston before heading to Wilmington for a showdown with the Seahawks on February 7.

3. Northeastern Huskies (14-8, 6-3, LW- 1):

After winning five CAA match-ups in a row, the Huskies fell at William & Mary, which is an understandable loss. What was more surprising was that Drexel, who had won just a single game at home in CAA play, downed Northeastern in the Huskies' next game. Now riding a two-game losing streak, the Huskies look to regain the footing and luckily they get Elon, Towson and Delaware at home before going back on the road again.

4. James Madison Dukes (13-9, 6-3, LW- 5):

Flying under the radar so far in CAA play is James Madison. While the Dukes have won the games they have supposed to, JMU got a signature win at Hofstra this past week, 69-63. There is nothing flashy about this team, but they have three players averaging over 10 points per contest and are holding opponents to 40 percent shooting, the lowest in the conference. JMU has a big upcoming test against William & Mary.

5. Hofstra Pride (14-8, 5-4, LW- 2):

The Pride opened CAA play hot, winning four in a row, but now have lost four of their last five. While their losses have been to all opponents ahead of them in these rankings, it has to be concerning for the Hofstra faithful with the conference tournament inching closer. The Pride will get a chance to get back on track with three of their next four games at home, including one against Northeastern on February 12.

6. Drexel Dragons (6-14, 4-5, LW- 10):

The Dragons have won three of their last four games, including a stunning win over Northeastern, and might have the best player in the conference who isn't named Marcus Thornton. Drexel's Damion Lee is averaging over 21 points per game and has shown his ability to score in the clutch, draining a game-winning three with 12 seconds remaining to beat Charleston last weekend. Lee also leads his team in assists and averages over six rebounds per game. If Drexel keeps winning, Lee should get major consideration for CAA player of the year.

7. Towson Tigers (10-12, 3-6, LW- 9):

While they aren't fantastic, the Tigers have improved, winning two of three, including a road win over Elon. Towson also hung in there with UNCW on the road, losing by just four. The good news might end there, as they have to travel to Hofstra and Northeastern before coming home to face James Madison.

8. Delaware Blue Hens (4-16, 3-6, LW- 7):

In a true showing of conference parody, the Blue Hens took down William & Mary last week. Kory Holden and Kyle Anderson combined for 47 points in the victory, overcoming 45 points from the Tribe's Tarpey and Thornton. Alas, they went on the road and fell to Elon, so the improvement was short lived for Delaware.

9. Elon Phoenix (11-11, 3-6, LW- 6):

Elon had to know it was going to get harder after their initial honeymoon as new members of the CAA. They stopped their four game losing streak with a home win over Delaware before getting run out of the gym by UNCW in Wilmington. With games against Northeastern and streaking Drexel up next, the Phoenix have their work cut out for them.

10. Charleston Cougars (6-16, 1-8, LW- 8):

Talk about heartbreak. After picking up their first CAA win against Elon, the Cougars have lost their last four games by a combined 10 points, which includes a stretch of three losses by two points each. They had Northeastern on the ropes in Boston and could not hang on against UNCW at home. The loss of starting senior guard Anthony Stitt to a meniscus injury doesn't help the Cougars' cause.