CAA Power Rankings: Week 8

The Tribe looks to finish the season strong headed into this year’s CAA Tournament. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
If you can believe it, there are only TWO WEEKS remaining in the CAA regular season; in just three weeks’ time, all teams will be down in Charleston, competing for the CAA crown and a chance at the NCAA Tournament.

It’s certainly been a wild year so far. Outside of the top three teams, there’s only a two-game (or less) difference between the #4 team and #8 team in league standings. EVERY game from here on out is astronomically important, and especially for your William & Mary Tribe.

If the Tribe wins three of its remaining four, then the team will be sitting pretty for a #4/#5 tournament seed — which, mind you, is where the team began last year’s tournament (in which it advanced to the semifinals).

We don’t know what to expect from this year’s parity-laden league, but one thing is for certain: there will be madness come March — and Charleston will be no exception.

CAA POWER RANKINGS:

FEBRUARY 20, 2019

1.

Hofstra (22-5, 12-2 CAA)

Over the past two weeks, Hofstra recorded an impressive 3-1 record. To begin this stretch, the Pride was riding a 3-game win streak, a streak in which they were averaging an insane 98 points per game.

However, this past Saturday, the Pride stumbled in Trask Arena against UNCW — perhaps coming in a little overconfident. The UNCW Seahawks were ranked dead-last in the CAA, but as the CAA always reminds us: take a team lightly at your own peril.

Yes, UNCW likely pulled off the biggest upset of the year, but that wasn’t enough to make us drop Hofstra in the rankings. Heck, they still rank #1 in the league in scoring offense and #3 in scoring defense. And oh yeah, their guy Justin Wright-Foreman (26.3 PPG) is pretty good.

2.

Northeastern (16-10, 10-4 CAA)

Before their recent loss to Charleston in overtime, the Huskies had won their previous five, and 9 of their last 10. Bill Coen’s squad holds a 1/2 game lead over Charleston in the standings, with four games remaining.

Anything can happen, but we expect Northeastern to remain the #2 seed going into the tournament; they’ll certainly be one of the favorites to win it all at the end of the day.

Plus, the Huskies have a relatively easy schedule to end the year: facing off against JMU, Towson, Delaware, and Drexel — in that order. We expect them to pick up four wins in the process, which would give them the #2 seed (at least) in the CAA Tournament.

3.

Charleston (21-7, 10-5 CAA)

The league should be scared of this Charleston team (if they’re not already) — nobody wants to face the Cougars in the first round of the CAA Tournament; I know we don’t. After losing two straight on the road against Hofstra and Northeastern, Charleston has been on an absolute tear.

They’ve ripped off wins in 7 of their last 8 games, with their only loss coming to Hofstra in a game that went down to the wire. Most recently, Charleston picked up a nice overtime win against Northeastern, ending the Huskies’ aforementioned 5-game win streak.

The Cougars are led by the two-headed monster of junior Grant Riller (22.4 PPG) and senior Jarrell Brantley (19 PPG, 8.1 RPG). Outside of these two, the Cougars don’t boast another player averaging double digit point totals; but when Riller/Brantley are “on,” Charleston is going to win most games. And more importantly, those two don’t take many nights off.

In their backyard of Charleston, SC, the home of this year’s CAA Tournament (for the last time until it moves to Washington, D.C.), the league’s defending champion Charleston Cougars are heating up at just the right time.

4.

Delaware (16-12, 8-7 CAA)

Simply put: Delaware is slumping. We wanted to bump them down in our power rankings this week, but couldn’t justify any other team moving above them (at least not yet).

The Blue Hens went 2-2 over the past couple weeks, but have won just two of their last six games. To put it into perspective, of their last 10 games, the Blue Hens are just 4-6. Most recently, Delaware fell to lowly JMU on the road.

Unfortunately (or fortunately for Tribe fans), the road doesn’t get much easier for the Blue Hens. In their final three games, they play Drexel, Northeastern, and Hofstra.

If they lose to Northeastern and Hofstra, the Hens will finish conference play just 9-9, potentially relinquishing the coveted #4-seed. One thing is for sure: W&M fans will be keeping a close eye on UD’s performance over the final two weeks of the regular season.

5.

William & Mary (10-16, 6-8 CAA)

William & Mary remains at #5 in our power rankings, despite finishing just 1-2 over its last three games. The reason the Tribe didn’t drop in our ranks? Their two losses came on the road against CAA powerhouses Hofstra and Northeastern. Enough said.

So with just two weeks left on the docket, W&M seemingly controls its own destiny for a #4 or #5 seed in this year’s CAA Tournament. In four remaining contests, W&M’s schedule looks like this: vs. Charleston, vs. UNCW, at Towson, at JMU. If the Tribe can win out, it’s likely looking at a #4-seed in the CAA Tournament.

If it can win three of four, it is looking at the #5 seed. The issue is, if the Tribe falters over its final four contests, the Green and Gold is at risk of finishing in the bottom-4, having to play in the dreaded “first day” of games.

The good news for Tribe fans? Nathan Knight has been on a TEAR as of late. Over his previous two games, Knight has averaged 37 points and 14 rebounds. It took the highest scoring performance in CAA history, Justin Wright-Foreman’s 47 points against W&M, for the Pride to defeat the Tribe a couple games back.

Nathan Knight is now the third leading scorer in the CAA (20.5 PPG), and the third leading rebounder (8.8 RPG). If Knight keeps playing like he has been, W&M should find itself in the #4 vs. #5 game come opening weekend of the CAA Tournament — with the Tribe’s NBA prospect hitting his stride at just the right moment.

6.

Towson (10-17, 6-8 CAA)

The Tigers continue to impress down the stretch; they are a tough out every game now. Following a 6-game losing streak, they have turned things completely around. In fact, over their previous eight appearances, the team is 5-3; and they could just as easily be 7-1 in their previous eight.

One of their losses came in double overtime, and a second loss came by a one-point margin to Charleston on the road. So what’s the moral of this story? The Tigers can play. Towson is a tough, physical team that wins by playing great defense (#2 defense in the CAA — what else is new?), crashing the boards, and gaining second chance points.

Junior Brian Fobbs is propelling up statistical rankings, and is now the 6th-highest scorer in the CAA, averaging 17.5 points per game. If teams are playing Towson, expect a tough, physical, low-scoring game (Towson ranks last in the CAA in scoring offense). Given their stellar defense, the Tigers certainly have the ability to pull off an upset in this year’s CAA Tournament.

7.

JMU (12-15, 5-9 CAA)

We said it in our last power rankings: the talent is there, but JMU hasn’t performed up to par this season. Now, however, the Dukes are starting to live up to their potential. Believe it or not, the Dukes hold the longest active win streak (at just two games, but it still counts!) in the CAA, and have won three of their last four games.

While JMU is turning it on at the right time, it might be too little too late. In their next two games, the Dukes must go on the road to face both Northeastern and Hofstra in consecutive contests. Ouch.

That unfortunate scenario might doom the Dukes to a bottom four finish — forcing them to play in the first day of the CAA Tournament. If that’s the case, we expect them to win their first tournament game, and put up a fight against either Hofstra or Northeastern in the second round.

8.

Drexel (12-16, 6-9 CAA)

1 

Drexel has fallen in our two most recent power rankings. The Dragons just haven’t done anything in recent weeks to warrant a move in the opposite direction. In fact, the Dragons are currently riding a 3-game losing streak, and have lost five of their last seven.

Drexel does boast a potent offense (#3 in CAA, in fact), with five players are averaging double digits — but their defense and overall lack of experience have cost them some close games.

The Dragons have three games left to prove that they don’t belong in the league’s bottom four. The good news? All three games will be at home. The bad news? Those games come against Delaware, Hofstra, and Northeastern. Yikes. Looks like the Dragons might be playing on the CAA Tournament’s opening day after all.

9.

UNCW (9-19, 5-10 CAA)

You might be thinking: wait a second, UNCW just beat Hofstra, the top team in the CAA, and they go down in the power rankings? Yes. Despite UNCW pulling off a ridiculous upset over Hofstra last Saturday, keep in mind that UNCW was riding a 6-game losing streak going into that contest — dropping a dreadful eight of their previous nine.

The Seahawks are hard to understand. On one hand, they rank #2 in the CAA in scoring. On the other hand, they rank dead last in scoring defense (points allowed).

As we say time and again, Devontae Cacok is a freak, and it’s undoubtedly hard to win at Trask — but the Seahawks will be forced to play their final three regular season games on the road; we don’t expect them to significantly move from this spot.

10.

Elon (8-19, 4-10 CAA)

1 

All season long, the Phoenix have never ranked higher than #9 in our power rankings; the past couple of weeks didn’t help their cause: the team went 0-4, and again find themselves at the bottom of our rankings.

Elon is similar to Charleston in the fact that they boast a two-headed monster in Tyler Seibring (16.4 PPG) and Steven Santa Anna (14.8) — but the comparisons stop there. The Phoenix’s duo simply isn’t as good as Charleston’s, and they are lacking for depth outside of a few key players.

While Elon has the ability to play teams tight at home, we expect them to be a one-and-done team in this year’s CAA Tournament.

One thought on “CAA Power Rankings: Week 8

  1. Is Nathan Knight going pro after this season? Why would he come back next season & risk injury, unless he just truly loves the college environment, and/or is obsessed with getting W&M to the dance for the 1st time. It’s amazing to me that W&M is under .500 with a guy like Knight. I would think there’s an NBA team who would want to draft a guy with his size and offensive skills.

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