Thanks to commenter Jeremy, I’m reminded what makes this our passion–the basketball. With that, we’re going (almost) all hoops today.
First, two links:
David Teel pens a column on the seemingly river rapid of transfers this year. Teel’s belief, and I share it wholly: it isn’t that big of a deal, and transfers can be good and necessary. In other words: lighten up, Francis.
Also, Doug Roberson caught up with Ron Hunter, who didn’t disappoint. This is a two-parter, and my link is to part two, which has the better quotes, as well as a link to part one.
We will start with Jeremy’s question about DeShawn Painter and his impact on ODU. We’re going to have to begin with the assumption that Painter’s waiver to play immediately is approved. Otherwise, there is no impact because he has to sit out this year per NCAA rules.
And we won’t guess at what the NCAA decides–that’s a crapshoot. JMUs Humpty Hitchens was essentially arguing the opposite of Painter–he was transferring to get away from a bad situation while at Akron (his father had passed away)–and his waiver to play immediately was approved. However we also remember the plight of Hofstra’s Brad Kelleher.
Directly: the addition of Painter puts ODU in the top four, Jeremy, but squarely at number four. VCU, Drexel, and Delaware are the clear top three teams in the CAA for the season that begins in roughly seven months.
A quick overview:
The top three, as mentioned, are VCU, Drexel, and Delaware. Barring catastrophe, I can’t see this opinion changing over the summer.
People forget that the Rams were two three-point shots at the buzzer–a Troy Daniels miss against Georgia State and a Sherrod Wright make at Mason–from going 20-1 in the CAA last year. While people will point to the experience for Briante Weber and Treveon Graham as freshmen, I believe Daniels having a year under his belt as a scouted gunner matters more. Daniels will better react.
Delaware brings everybody back and adds one key element: St. Joe’s transfer Carl Baptiste, who will give Jamelle Hagins a consistent alter-ego on the block. That should provide a nice marriage of open space and the ever-improving offensive weaponry of Hagins. What’s more, Devon Saddler learned a great deal about his relationship to team success last year–that will pay dividends.
As for Drexel, I like that they got a taste of winning, and winning important games. The Dragons also lose just one player, albeit a face-of-the-program player. A point guard as a junior can be dangerous as he learns craftiness to go along with God-given talent and hard-earned skill. Frantz Massenat will be a beast. Keep this in your mind, too: for all the deserved hype Damion Lee received, redshirt freshman Tavon Allen was supposed to be better.
Past that point the water gets murky.
I like ODU at number four because (1) Dimitri Batten is a future all CAA player; (2) DeShawn Painter gives Blaine Taylor a reliable post scorer. We loved Chris Cooper’s hustle and appreciate Nick Wright’s energy, but my mom may have had a better shooting percentage from two feet. They are different players, but Painter gives ODU what Frank Hassell gave them–ball goes into post, ball goes into hoop; (3) they are ODU. The Monarchs could go 9-9 with my mom in the lineup.
May be a bit of a surprise, but Northeastern checks in as my April number 5A team. It’s true Kauri Black and Alwayne Bigby are gonzo, but that may be a blessing. NU looked clunky at times last year, and I think that’s primarily due to Bill Coen never really knowing if the Good Player would emerge from the bodies of Black and Bigby. There will be a decidedly more rhythmic look to NU this year, and they have senior guards.
My 5B team is George Mason. The thing they will miss most from Ryan Pearson is that he was a warrior and could be counted on in any situation. Mike Morrison was the heartbeat. But they are loaded with Paul Hewitt’s kind of players. The Patriots will spend the early season searching for their identity but have so much talent they will be a huge factor late. The development of the young guards and Sherrod Wright is critical, and expected. The more I think about it, the more this season’s Mason team resembles last season’s ODU team. You don’t think they are good, but you know they are good.
Of note: If Painter is not eligible for Old Dominion, I move the Monarchs behind Northeastern and Mason into sixth and move those two up to a battle for fourth.
That’s the top six. We have a wholly different exercise for the bottom six.
#7: James Madison–So much offense and talent on this team, but I think Matt Brady needs to hire a new trainer–a witch doctor. A little defense and a little health and they could be very good. Don’t forget Ray Goins is back.
#8: William & Mary–Don’t let the return of Kyle Gaillard get past you, nor the impact of Marcus Thornton saying to himself “so THIS is how you win in college.” This Tribe team looks a lot like the one we all had at number six (or better) last season. The difference is Brandon Britt and Julian Boatner getting past sophomore slumps, and somebody purchasing a piece of the paint.
Consdering both teams’ injury issue last year, perhaps they should chip in together and lease a specialist. Dr. Frank Jobe. Dr. Frank Burns. Dr. Oz. Dr. Zhivago. Doesn’t matter, but someone that can keep them healthy.
NO RANKING: Towson, UNCW, Hofstra, and Georgia State.
It’s nearly impossible and silly to try to slot teams in April when you know the players. This group of teams exacerbates that issue because we don’t really know the players nor the combinations. At all.
The best term to use for The Dubmen is upheaval. Three youngsters (Adam Smith, KK Simmons, Donte Morales) have chosen to transfer, and pending APR penalties may render UNCW ineligible for the postseason, which brings the word “redshirt” into play with star Keith Rendleman. However Cedrick Williams played better late last year, and Buzz Peterson gets Craig Ponder back to go alongside Rutgers transfer Tyree Graham.
It’s interesting to think Mo Cassara may start four transfers next season. Steven Mejia (Rhode Island) will be healthy and joined by Taran Buie (Penn State) and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel (UConn). The Dutchmen also expect 6-10 Daquan Brown (Fresno State) to be eligible. That’s a load of talent, but I remember saying the same things about Rod Barnes.
There’s no question Towson will be better–it’s a matter of how much better. The Tigers add transfers Jerelle Benimon (Georgetown) and Mike Burwell (South Florida) to holdovers Kris Walden and Marcus Damas, as well as a highly-regarded recruiting class.
Georgia State is interesting in that the Panthers may be The Association’s Zombie Squad. One implication as a result of the move to the Sun Belt is that the Panthers will almost certainly be barred from the CAA tournament. Ron Hunter has already stated his position on that rule. Factor in that four of their top five players have graduated, and it will at least be an interesting season in Atlanta.
So here’s what I want you to do with those four teams: take all of them and sprinkle them in the bottom six like you toss grass seed on your lawn. They may be fruitful and multiply, or they may burn out. We just don’t yet know.