1. VCU Rams (6-3, 0-0)
Wins: St. Francis (PA), Western Kentucky (twice), South Florida, George Washington, Richmond
Losses: Seton Hall, Georgia Tech, Alabama
Next Game: vs. UNCW* (12/17)
Coming off 3 straight wins, the Rams seem to be picking up the pieces quite nicely following their Final 4 haze. A 73-51 statement win over intra-city rival Richmond on Friday vaults the Rams to the top of the rankings despite having played no CAA games thus far. VCU has passed the eye test under Shaka Smart, even looking impressive in a 72-64 losing effort to former coach Anthony Grant and his # 13 Alabama Crimson Tide on November 27th. Bradford Burgess (14.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg) has led the way for VCU, though the entire roster has shot well from the perimeter, making 35.7 % of their three-pointers compared to just 30.2 % for opponents.
2. Old Dominion Monarchs (5-4, 1-0)
Wins: Long Island, Howard, South Florida, ECU, Northeastern*
Losses: Northern Iowa, Kentucky, Vermont, Fairfield
Next Game: @ UCF (12/17)
The Monarchs earn the # 2 spot in the rankings thanks primarily to an impressive 69-59 road conference win over Northeastern on December 3rd. Add to that nice victories over South Florida and ECU and no bad losses, and ODU has about as clean a resume as you’re going to find in the CAA thus far. This speaks volume about Blaine Taylor, as his team has overachieved significantly. Kent Bazemore (11.6 ppg, .927 FT %) hasn’t played quite up to his abilities offensively but Nick Wright (12.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg) certainly has.
3. James Madison Dukes (4-3, 1-0)
Wins: Canisius, Rider, Penn, Hofstra*
Losses: La Salle, Robert Morris, Kent State
Next Game: vs. Citadel (12/19)
Another team with no “bad losses”, the JMU Dukes under Matt Brady pulled off a 62-60 nail-biter over Hofstra on December 3rd. The high-scoring Dukes offense was held in check, but Humpty Hitchens (17.0 ppg) still posted a 20-point game to lead the way. A.J. Davis (19.3 ppg), a transfer from Wyoming, has also helped make up for Denzel Bowles’ production.
4. George Mason Patriots (7-3, 1-0)
Wins: Rhode Island, Monmouth, Brown, Albany, Bucknell, Towson*, Radford
Losses: FIU, FAU, Virginia
Next Game: vs. Duquesne (12/21)
The Paul Hewett eta has started with some mixed results so far in 2011-12. The Patriots have a deceptively good record, having defeated 4 teams that have won 2 games or less. Still, their victories over Albany and Bucknell, teams with winning records, help offset a bad loss to Florida International early in the season. Ryan Pearson (18.1 ppg, 7.6 rpg) has been a dominant force in the middle, and has almost single-handedly opened up the perimeter shooting for the Patriots. Vetrail Vaughns and Sherrod Wright have reaped the benefits, combining for 23-63 shooting from the outside.
5. Georgia St. Panthers (7-3, 1-0)
Wins: McNeese St., Samford, Liberty, South Carolina St., FIU, William & Mary*, Rhode Island
Losses: Washington, Portland, FAU
Wins: Cornell, Lafayette, Drexel*, Delaware St.
Losses: Radford, Villanova, Boston U., Penn
Next Game: vs. La Salle (12/19)
Losses: UMASS, La Salle, ODU*, Bradley
Next Game: vs. Princeton (12/18)
Three straight tough losses for the Huskies, including the 69-59 defeat against Old Dominion, perhaps should keep them further down on this list, but its hard to punish the Huskies when they always seem to play a difficult non-conference schedule under Bill Coen. For now, we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, especially as they adjust to life without Chase Allen. Joel Smith (13.4 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Jonathan Lee (14.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg) have attempted to take the reins offensively.
8. Drexel Dragons (3-4, 0-1)
Wins: Rider, Winthrop, Princeton
Losses: Norfolk St., Virginia, St. Joe’s, Delaware*
Next Game: @ Niagara (12/13)
Drexel came into the 2011-12 season with very high expectations, having been picked to win the league by CAA Coaches, but Bruiser Flint now finds himself back on the hot seat with a disappointing start. A loss to Delaware, who Bruiser has seemed to have particular trouble against ever since the America East migration, may be one nail in the coffin. Frantz Massenat (14.3 ppg, .458 3-pt %) has been a bright spot, though it was Chris Fouch’s 23 points that secured a close 64-60 victory over Princeton on Saturday.
9. Hofstra Pride (3-7, 0-1)
Wins: Long Island, St. Francis (NY), Cleveland St.
Losses: FAU, Rhode Island, Boston U., James Madison*, Wagner, Manhattan
Next Game: vs. Binghamton (12/17)
It would be great to reward Hofstra with a higher ranking after delivering NCAA Tournament hopeful Cleveland State what has been their only defeat this season, a 63-53 final on November 26th. However, four straight losses, including a 62-60 loss to James Madison, and 7 losses overall mean the Pride wasted Mo Cassara’s marquee victory. In the post-Charles Jenkins era, Mike Moore (19.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg) has eased the transition the most.
10. UNCW Seahawks (2-5, 0-0)
Wins: Illinois St., Liberty
Losses: Maryland, Dayton, Marshall, Davidson, Toledo
Next Game: @ VCU* (12/17)
With the 3rd-youngest roster in the nation, Buzz Peterson’s Seahawks were in for a rough season. 5 losses, only 1 of which that wasn’t competitive, was still a tough way to begin the season. Nevertheless, UNCW rebounded with a pair of wins over Illinois State and Liberty heading into its first CAA game against VCU. Freshman Adam Smith (17.9 ppg, .439 3-pt %) is already looking like a lock for freshman player of the year, while Keith Rendleman (15.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg) is performing like a CAA first-teamer.
11. Towson Tigers (0-9, 0-1)
Losses: Kansas, Michigan, Belmont, UNCG, Oregon St., UMASS, George Mason*, La Salle, UMBC
Next Game: @ Coppin State (12/14)
We knew things had to get worse before they could get better for first-year coach Pat Skerry and the Towson Tigers, but perhaps no one would have though it would be THIS bad. Towson has been outscored by an average of 25 points per game, with their only loss that wasn’t by double-digits coming on Saturday in a 62-58 defeat to UMBC. Towson’s schedule HAS been challenging, which is the only reason they aren’t at the bottom. Robert Nwankwo (11.7 ppg, 9.1 rpg) is healthy and has had a strong start to the season.
12. William & Mary Tribe (1-8, 0-1)
Losses: St. John’s, Hampton, Lehigh, Eastern Kentucky, Howard, Richmond, Georgia St.*
Next Game: vs. Wesleyan College (12/15)
The Tribe recorded a 1-pt victory over CAA non-conference punching bag Liberty on November 20th to earn a season split with the Flames, but much like Towson, the Tribe have been noncompetitive in every other this season. And with the 331st ranked strength of schedule, there aren’t too many excuses that can be made for Tony Shaver’s 2011-12 squad. Quinn McDowell (10.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg) has been productive as usual, but he hasn’t had much help, as the Tribe is averaging just 56.4 ppg.
* = conference game