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Colonized!

February 4, 2002 Columns No Comments



Colonized! The Four New CAA Teams.

by Adam Shandler

Remember the later years of Diff’rent Strokes when Arnold and Willis got an adopted brother Sammy? He was the annoying, snot-nosed son of Mr. Drummond’s love interest (played one year by Dixie Carter, and the second season by Mary Ann Mobley. Like no one would notice! Sorry, I must exercise restraint.) Anyway, at first, Arnold and Willis gave little Sammy a hard time, but then they embraced him as brother. Remember that? Do ya? Why is it just me that remembers Sammy?

Now, for the 80’s Nostalgia-challenged, I get to my point.

This year, the Colonial Athletic Association said goodbye to two teams (American, now leading the Patriot, and Richmond, the Spiders bolting for the crowded Atlantic 10). But the CAA also welcomed four new schools – all from the now anemic America East.

The tale goes something like this: Two years ago, Delaware, Drexel, Hofstra and Towson, the four most southern schools in the A-East, announced intentions of escaping the league in the 2002-03 season. But the A-East athletic directors were getting tired of watching Hofstra, Drexel and Delaware dominate the league and asked these fine institutions to “not let the door hit them on the way out” a year early. (And take your stinkin’ Towson, too!)

It’s a little more than halfway through the first season of the new-look CAA. So how are the four newbies doin’? Are the incumbent Willis and Arnold’s of the league treating their Sammies like equals, or are they slappin’ them around like the obnoxious, red-headed brats they are? (Now it’s all making sense, right?)

The following is a team-by-team breakdown of the CAA’s newest additions as of the end of January.

Delaware:
Overall: 8-11
CAA Record: 4-5
Versus former A-East rivals that are now members of the CAA: 1-2

The Blue Hens are having it tough in their new home. UD just dropped two convincing decisions to old A-East mates Towson, the league cellar-dweller, and equally mediocre Hofstra. Delaware did defeat CAA contenders Drexel, George Mason and favorite UNC-Wilmington. Don’t let their 8-11 overall mark fool you. The Hens did not shy away from the bullies of NCAA ball. UD may have lost each of these games, but Penn, St. Joe’s and Butler all graced their schedule.

Problems: No senior leadership. The loss of Ajmal Basit has hurt, and Dave Henderson’s team needs a dominant interior force to replace him. Sophomore forward Sean Knitter might become that player in a year.

Upcoming Challenges: Rematches against UNC-Wilmington, George Mason, and Drexel. The Hens close out the season at home against arch-nemesis Hofstra.

Drexel:
Overall: 10-9
CAA Record: 7-3
Versus former A-East rivals that are now members of the CAA: 1-2

Drexel is easily the team making the best adjustment to CAA life. The second place Dragons are a mere game behind UNC-Wilmington, in a conference that has, conceivably, four possible champions. And just to prove they’re for real, Bruiser Flint and company whacked George Mason, 100-69, on January 26th. The jury is still out on Drexel. February is going to be killer, with two match-ups against UNC-Wilmington and rematches with George Mason and Delaware.

What’s been working? Drexel rebounds, important in a conference not brimming with size. They have the CAA’s leading rebounder in Robert Battle (8.7 per game), with Eric Schmeider not far behind him at 7.1 per game. It doesn’t hurt that Schmeider is the league’s assist leader either, at 5.5 per game. A very unselfish and mature ballclub.

Upcoming challenges: As alluded to before, the Dragons have yet to face first-place UNC-Wilmington. Those games could very well decide the top seed in the CAA tournament. The two teams will go at it twice in a span of 14 days.

Hofstra:
Overall: 9-11
CAA Record: 4-5
Versus former A-East rivals that are now members of the CAA: 1-2

Hofstra is easily the biggest surprise out of the four new CAA members – but not in a good way. The Dutchmen’s problems started long before conference play started. After early wins against Kent State and Illinois State, the two-time America East champ went down to South Florida for a holiday tournament and hit rock bottom against Illinois-Chicago and Bucknell. Until last week’s victory against Delaware, Hofstra was dangling its feet precariously close to the embers of last place. The team from Hempstead is currently in sixth in the CAA, but only 2-5 against the top half of the league.

Problems: So young, with a new head coach. An icky combination, but let’s remember, Jay Wright was in a similar situation when he first took the helm at Hempstead. Wright righted the ship in only five seasons, but Tom Pecora should rebound sooner. Junior 2-guard Rick Apodaca (17.1 points/game) needs to find a consistent backcourt partner. The Pride are carrying three point guards, but freshman Woody Souffrant, with two games over 10 assists, seems to be hitting his stride. Upfront, power freshman Kenny Adeleke must continue to mature, but he’s already ahead of the game. Junior Lars Grubler, pegged as this year’s most improved player, has disappointed, showing up only every couple of games.

Upcoming challenges: Starting February 2nd, Hofstra faces UNC-Wilmington, VCU and George Mason, in that order.

Towson:
Overall: 6-12
CAA Record: 2-7
Versus former A-East rivals that are now members of the CAA: 2-0

I’d have to give them the nod for “Team Most Likely Reconsidering Their Conference Transfer.” The Tigers rank at the bottom in the CAA in all but one major category. Tamir-gate may have served as a distraction, but it would be cop-out to blame all of Towson’s woes on Mr. Goodman. First-year coach Michael Hunt is governing a team that has lost four of its last five and is averaging a paltry 57.2 points per game (Towson squeaked out a ghastly 37 against UNC-Wilmington on December 30th).

Problems: Everything. Towson is just being outplayed, up and down the board. Senior swingman Sam Sutton is the only one scoring – at a 12.5 points-per-game clip. He’s the only one scoring in double digits. The bright side? Ironically, Towson bested old A-East pals Delaware and Drexel once each this season.

Upcoming challenges: Hofstra, Old Domin . . .aw heck, the whole rest of the season.

There’s plenty of season left. Look for Hofstra to make a late-season push just before the CAA Tourney. Drexel might slip with the might of their schedule fast approaching. Delaware will probably finish just above .500, but will not shock anyone in the conference tournament. Towson looks to next year.

     

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