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Colonial Notebook

February 25, 2004 Conference Notes No Comments



Colonial Notebook

by Toni Jainez

VCU and Drexel battle for Colonial crown

So far this year in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA), the battle for seeding has been fierce. As of today, eight of ten teams are tied in the standings, including VCU and Drexel at No. 1.

After starting the year 6-6 (1-2 CAA), the Drexel Dragons won nine of their next ten, quickly establishing themselves as contenders for the CAA crown. VCU started CAA play 3-2, but went on a five game winning streak to regain first place. After losing to Drexel (ending the win streak), the Rams won four of their next five games to regain a tie for first place with Drexel. Both schools (12-4 CAA) are currently two games ahead of Old Dominion and George Mason, who are both tied for third place (10-6 CAA).

Delaware (tied for fifth place) may have the last word in the top seedings, as both VCU and Drexel travel to Newark to take on the Blue Hens this week. Delaware is currently undefeated in CAA play this season at home. VCU and Drexel, however, are the CAA’s best road teams, both have won 4 CAA battles away from home with two remaining for each. In addition to traveling to Newark, VCU will battle William & Mary and Drexel will visit James Madison to finish the regular season.

Fabulous Freshmen

The race for CAA Rookie of the Year has become very competitive this season (following an outstanding recruiting class by each school). Each CAA school has started a freshman in at least one game this year. The frontrunners for Rookie of the Year in the Colonial are Corey Cofield (William & Mary) and Loren Stokes (Hofstra).

Cofield has started 18 games for the Tribe and is averaging 13 points (on 57% shooting) in 27 minutes. He earned five double-doubles this season including a career night 25 points, 10 rebounds versus James Madison. Cofield, a power forward, plays in the shadow of Adam Hess, CAA Preseason Player of the Year.

Stokes has started 18 games for the Pride and is second on his team in scoring with 12 points per game. He has become one of the main scoring options for the Pride, who lost two starters to injuries earlier this month. Stokes has shot 45% from the floor and averages 28 minutes a game. A 6-3 combo guard, Stokes, along with Player of the Year candidate Kenny Adeleke, has helped Hofstra win five of their last six games.

Rounding out a very complete All-Rookie Team should be Jesse Pellot-Rosa (VCU), Bashir Mason (Drexel), Arnaud Dahi (Old Dominion), and Mike Green (Towson).

Seven top 150 Colonial teams in RPI ratings

According to CollegeRPI.com, the CAA currently has seven of its ten members ranked in the top 150 of the RPI. Of those seven, three are top 100 teams (No. 77 VCU, No. 86 Drexel, No. 97 Old Dominion). In recent years, the CAA’s best season was 2001-2002, when seven of ten teams had top 200 RPI’s.

Player of the Week

Aurimas Kieza – junior forward, Hofstra

Stepping in as one of Hofstra’s starting forwards after a season ending injury to junior center Wendell Gibson, Kieza helped pace the Pride to two big wins last week. Kieza set his career-high in points (20) versus George Mason and recorded his first career “double-double” versus James Madison (19 points, 10 rebounds).

Rookie of the Week

Bashir Mason – point guard, Drexel

Mason helped Drexel earn a 2-0 record in last week’s games against Old Dominion and Towson. Versus ODU, Mason scored seven points and dished out seven assists in 34 minutes of play. Against Towson, Mason had one of his most complete games with four points, ten assists (career-high), five rebounds, and five steals all in 31 minutes.

Virginia Commonwealth Rams (18-7, 12-4 CAA)

VCU (RPI 77) is currently on pace to win their first CAA regular season championship since 1996 (the year they joined the CAA). The Rams took care of business at home this year in conference, finishing 8-1 at home (with a loss to Drexel). VCU is currently 4-3 away from home with two key CAA road games remaining. The Rams take on Delaware this Wednesday (VCU beat Delaware 99-72 at home) and William & Mary this Saturday in its regular season finale (VCU beat W&M 71-60 at home).

VCU is led by a balanced scoring attack on offense which complements the teams solid defense. On offense the team is led by senior guard Domonic Jones, who is one of the current frontrunners for the CAA Player of the Year award. Jones averages 16.2 points per contest on 47% shooting from the field. Inside the paint, VCU starts a 6-6, 285 pound, banger in senior center Troy Godwin who averages just under 12 points per game. This week versus Old Dominion, Godwin scored 19 points and grabbed 8 rebounds while playing a season high 36 minutes.

Drexel Dragons (17-8, 12-4 CAA)

Drexel (RPI 86) has to be the hottest team in the CAA right now. Before losing at George Mason, the Dragons won six straight games (including a win at Virginia Commonwealth). Drexel responded well after the loss to GMU by beating Old Dominion, who was tied for 1st place with VCU and Drexel, by 16 (82-66). Drexel then went on to hand the Towson Tigers a 75-51 loss on Drexel’s senior night.

Drexel is led by balance on offense and defense. Junior guard Phil Goss, who averages 14 points per game, shoots a scorching 40.8% from beyond the arc and hits 87% of his free throw attempts. Inside, junior center Sean Brooks adds 14 points per game for the Dragons on 61% shooting and averages a team-high 6 rebounds per game. Led by Coach of the Year candidate Bruiser Flint, this Drexel squad, who was picked to finish at best fifth in various preseason polls, has developed into a postseason quality team quite suddenly.

Old Dominion Monarchs (15-10, 10-6 CAA)

After starting CAA play red hot with four straight wins, the Monarchs (RPI 97) lost two straight at Delaware and at home to VCU, falling to 9-6 (4-2 CAA) on the season. After that stretch, ODU won 6 of their next 8 games, which kept them in a tight competition for the regular season championship. That was until the Monarchs visited two 1st place teams in one week and dropped both games (lost to Drexel 82-66; lost to VCU 78-72). The Monarchs dropped out of a first place tie with Drexel and VCU and are now tied with George Mason for third place. This week, ODU will host William & Mary and George Mason. W&M defeated ODU earlier in the season 86-77. ODU upset preseason CAA favorite George Mason in Fairfax 74-71 earlier this season.

Old Dominion is led by stellar forward Alex Loughton who, as a sophomore, is already a Player of the Year candidate. Loughton averages just under 17 points a game and 8.6 rebounds per game for the Monarchs. Old Dominion currently starts a rotation of one senior, two sophomores and two freshmen–the youngest starting five in the conference.

George Mason Patriots (17-8, 10-6 CAA)

Winning three of their last four games, the Patriots (RPI 111-preseason CAA favorites) have re-established themselves as contenders for the conference tournament championship. After winning seven games out of conference (two losses to Maryland and North Carolina), GMU started the CAA season 5-2 giving them an overall record of 12-4. GMU then went on to lose three of their next five games. The Patriots, who have one of the most talented rosters in this league, went on to win two battles with 1st place teams at home (VCU, Drexel) and re-entered the race for the conference championship. The Patriots then dropped a game at fifth-place Hofstra, virtually eliminating any chance of winning the regular season championship.

GMU will finish their regular season with two very tough matchups. They will entertain UNC Wilmington on Wednesday night in their last home game of the season (Senior Night). The Patriots have only dropped one home game this season. On Saturday, GMU will clash at Old Dominion in a possible battle for the No. 3 and No. 4-seeds in the CAA Tournament.

Delaware Blue Hens (15-10, 9-7 CAA)

After a solid start out of conference, Delaware (RPI 143) had struggled in conference on the road. In their first four road games, the Blue Hens went winless. UD stayed in the race for a high seed in the conference tournament by taking care of business in Newark (undefeated at home in CAA play 7-0). This may change this week as two first place teams visit in VCU and Drexel. VCU handed Delaware a 99-72 loss earlier in the season in Richmond, VA. Drexel also handed its arch-rival Delaware a loss at home, beating them 82-75.

Winning three of their last five games (including one on the road), UD has positioned themselves to finish as high as fourth or as low as seventh in this conference (attributed to the parity of the Colonial). The Blue Hens are led by senior guard Mike Ames, who averages 15.8 points per contest shooting 40.4% from three point range. Delaware will need consistency from their players on offense and solid perimeter defense this week, battling the CAA’s two best offensive teams and most deadly behind the arc.

Hofstra Pride (13-13, 9-7 CAA)

The Pride are currently playing very emotional basketball. After losing two starters to season ending injuries, Hofstra has won four of its last five games. Leading the Pride are junior forward Kenny Adeleke and freshman guard Loren Stokes. Both players are averaging double-figures for the Pride.

This week, Hofstra will battle both Towson and UNC Wilmington away from home. If Hofstra wins both games, it would mark the first time the Pride has finished above .500 since joining the CAA in 2001-2002. The year before, Hofstra’s Speedy Claxton-led team finished 26-4 and earned a bid to the NCAA tournament.

UNC Wilmington Seahawks (12-13, 8-8 CAA)

After playing in ESPN’s Bracket Busters tournament Saturday, the Seahawks (RPI 147) look to finish conference play strong with a road game at George Mason and a home game versus Hofstra (Senior Night). The Seahawks are looking to finish the season above .500 after losing two tough away games at Illinois-Chicago (Bracket Busters) and at Delaware. Losing one of their last two games would give UNCW their first losing regular season since the 1998-1999 season.

William & Mary Tribe (7-18, 4-12 CAA)

First year Tribe coach Tony Shaver is still in the process of rebuilding a W&M club on the leadership of Player of the Year candidate Adam Hess and Rookie of the Year candidate Corey Cofield. The Tribe has only won four CAA games, including matchups versus Old Dominion and UNC Wilmington. William & Mary will try to finish the regular season on a high note at Old Dominion and hosting first place VCU on senior night Saturday.

James Madison Dukes (7-18, 3-13 CAA)

After losing four starting seniors, the Dukes relied heavily on incoming talent this year. Senior forward Dwayne Broyles (15 ppg) has done a lot for this team, keeping JMU competitive in a very tough CAA. The Dukes are looking to enter the CAA tournament with some momentum as they look for wins versus first place Drexel and at Towson this week. The JMU-Towson matchup will more than likely determine the No. 9-seed in the CAA tournament.

Towson Tigers (6-19, 3-13 CAA)

Third year Tigers coach Mike Hunt looked to continue developing a competitive squad after a disasterous 2002-2003 campaign where the Tigers only won one CAA game. This season, the Tigers started CAA play 3-3 after solid wins over Delaware and UNC Wilmington at home. The Tigers have since lost ten straight games, but look to rebound hosting Hofstra and James Madison this week.

     

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