The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…Midseason Report Card Edition

Honestly, I’m stunned we’re halfway home to Richmond already. Seems like yesterday I was unwrapping gifts under the tree.

Here’s how I came to my conclusions for the grades. Hopefully this outlandish logic makes sense and cuts down on “what do you mean B? We’re at least a B-plus” emails. You know how much we love those. But anyway…

The grading scale is a little more like a recipe and less a system. I figure coaches are adding ingredients, trying to concot something, and trying different combinations of spices to get the flavor just right, all in the effort to be cooking by early March. So I’ve attempted to mimic that thought process.

Therefore, I’ve begun with preseason expectations and factored in progression from November 9. Prognosticating is a fancy word for guessing, and more people need to admit that. I know when I’m wrong, and trying to prognosticate guess the CAA season in November is futile. How we felt coming into the season is merely a starting point.

From there I’ve skipped to right now and put another marker. Just as preseason predictions have a shelf life of three days, a team’s actual record is the ultimate arbiter. As well as a 2-7 team might be playing, they are still 2-7.

This is where it gets, uh, hazy. You see, it is at this point that I factor in progression. Yes a 2-7 team playing well is in better shape than a 2-7 team chock full of horseshoes. There is a ton for each team to overcome, and your chances of overcoming adversity (losses) are greatly increased if Uncle Mo is on your side. Again, I understand this is the arbitrary part, but it wouldn’t be any fun if I gave the top teams As and the bottom teams Fs.

Finally, we give a look-see at the tangibles (can’t shoot, injuries, unexpected great player) and the intangibles (attendance at the last home game was 23). That gets us to our number, which is really a letter. Every now and then we utilize a + or – for no other reason than to start arguments.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly, All Wrapped Into One

VCU (A): The Rams are in first place by two games, leading the country in three-point FG percentage defense, and have played a little bit better nearly every game. Anthony Grant is getting beyond-expected contributions from freshmen Larry Sanders and Joey Rodriguez. Opposing coaches are talking VCU in glowing terms, not me. That is a sign. VCU has won six in a row and 11 of 12. Importantly, the Rams are consistent on defense and have used multiple players to complement its two-headed dragon (Shuler/Maynor).

George Mason (A-): The only thing that forced me to add the (-) sign is a wicked inconsistency. The Patriots have overwhelmed a handful of their opponents and merely whelmed a few. I still say they have the best five players playing in complementary roles. It always helps, too, to have the leading candidate for conference player of the year. Keep an eye on the point guard situation, though. Two words: Achilles Heel. How Folarin Campbell runs the show and how Jordan Carter reacts is the number one key to the second half. I believe the UNCW loss was a hiccup; Trask is never easy.

William & Mary (A-): The Tribe were left for dead in early January. A home loss to Delaware–at the moment unthinkable–dropped Shaver’s bunch to 0-2 in the conference and 4-8 overall. There was no reason to think William & Mary had anything going for them–three of the wins were Houston Baptist, Montreat, and North Florida. Credit Shaver for pushing all the right buttons to get the Tribe to 6-3 in conference play at the turn. Even though William & Mary won’t win another game this season™, these guys are battling every night and it shows.

UNCW (A-): No team not playing in home games Williamsburg has changed its fortune as much as the Seahawks. The Dub scuttled through the early part of the season, relying on offensive firepower to overcome a sieve-like defense. UNCW is geeting great senior leadership from TJ Carter, Daniel Fountain, Vladie Kools, and Todd Hendley. All four are averaging double-figures so it isn’t like they are leading in practice and then letting someone else go do the floor work. Chad Tomko is playing like a freshman, a very good freshman.

Delaware (B+): All Hail Monte is becoming a theme in Newark, where the Hens are 6-3 and tied for second. Delaware is this season’s “Yeah But Wait Til” team. Wait til the transfers become elgibile. Wait til they play at Drexel. Wait til they play Mason. Wait til they play ODU. I’m here to say wait til they play with confidence. The Hens still look a little tight to me; still like they are figuring out their roles with each other. Are they Herb Courtney’s team? Marc Egerson (13.3 ppg since eligible)? Brian Johnson and his 37.6 mpg with the ball in his hands? This is a good problem for Ross.

Towson (B): Pat Kennedy faced the ultimate in transition. He lost Gary Neal; Tommy Breaux hurt his foot playing football and will likely miss the season. Kennedy was blending a pile of transfers into that mix. Other teams had question marks; the Tigers were the question mark. For this, Towson was near or at the bottom of nearly every preseason guess. Now? They are 4-5 and a home win against Hofstra Wednesday from evening the slate. Quietly, Kennedy is doing one of the better coaching jobs in the CAA. Granted, double-double machine Junior Hairston doesn’t hurt either.

Hofstra (C): Nobody knew what to make of the Pride this year. Hofstra lost the conference player of the year and a do-everything leader in Carlos Rivera. In fairness, nobody still knows what to make of the Pride. Hofstra is 3-6 and drifting towards a double-digit seed, but they have a pile of talent that is just now coming together. Dane Johnson dropped 30 pounds and has now caught up with his new body. Charles Jenkins will likely win frosh of the year. Darren Townes is a load down low. Tom Pecora only needs to get his freshmen to understand what it takes to win on this level (two overtime losses are the difference in 3-6 and 5-4).

Georgia State (C-): Speaking of the thin margin of error,  the Panthers are the Gold Standard. Two wins and four losses at the buzzer in nine games, which makes Georgia State 0-3 in games not decided on the final possession. Rod Barnes is changing the dynamic in Atlanta and it is taking some adjustments. Lennie Mendez is having an all conference season and Rashad Chase is reborn. There is a difference here in my expectations and everyone else’s. For me, Georgia State has done about what I expected, albeit in a thrilling manner. Everyone else expected more from this team and is probably disappointed.

James Madison (C): Dean Keener’s interim report card was all As. The Dukes were flying in early January, having beaten VCU to go to 2-0 in conference on the season. Everyone was playing well. But then Kyle Swanston was injured, Juwan James banged up, and Joe Posey suspended. The results: four losses in a row and 6 of 7. The Dukes still aren’t really guarding anybody and are finding out they cannot outscore people every night. The scary part is that they have the talent and can turn it around as quickly as anyone. They can be Keenerific again by late February.

Old Dominion (C-): Fingers, meet head. Now begin scratching. Surely folks in Norfolk now realize the importance of Drew Williamson’s moxie and Valdas Vasylius’s toughness. Both have been missing, as Brandon Johnson has been sleepwalking. The result? Blaine Taylor sat Johnson and two other seniors down to start the game against William & Mary. Darius James has been a wonderful surprise, and Ben Finney has been exactly what was expected. You are seeing a veteran coach change his team in midseason. It’s going to be fun to watch it play out the second half of the season. Don’t bury them yet.

Northeastern (C-): The troubling part is that Nor’easter has lost three games at Mathews in the first half of the season. The Huskies had lost twice at home in the entire two full seasons it had been a member of the CAA. Chase Allen is the second best freshman in the conference and Matt Janning is a leader and shooter and captain. Manny Adako can play with anybody. Those three are a freshman and two sophomores. Growing pains no doubt. But there is talent there and they just aren’t playing well right now. Also of note: Northeastern finishes with George Mason, VCU, and Old Dominion. The second half taint easy.

Drexel (D+): The parts have been there this season. For some reason they aren’t adding up to the whole. Frank Elegar, in my opinion, has the best big man skills in the CAA. Tra Hwthorne can shoot it. Randy Oveneke is a great role player, as is Scott Rodgers. You are tempted to lay blame at the feet of Bruiser Flint, but we aren’t willing to do that. Elegar has been banged up and a tad sulky, and Hawthorne has been hot-and-cold but mostly cold. You’re left with two freshmen guards and role players. It’s interesting to note that Drexel lost Elegar four minutes into a roadie at VCU last week with foul trouble, and at worst played VCU even the rest of the first half.

***

So there you have it. I’m going to get into some additional detail later, as well as talk BracketBusters and CAA tournament seeds. Heck, there may be a Hofstra/Longwood prediction.

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~ by mglitos on January 28, 2008.

4 Responses to “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly…Midseason Report Card Edition”

  1. Excellent work Litos-damus…keep it up.

  2. if vcu beats mason tonight we go to a+ and they drop down to b+ right??? i think my logic makes sense

  3. Michael –
    It’s still hard to believe that UD is up to a B+ … The last 3 or 4 years have been so difficult to watch. Last year I would have told you that it would take 3 years of great coaching and unbelievable recruiting to get us up to a C … all hail Monte and his staff. They are all great guys and are starting to make a case for being amazing recruiters!

  4. Michael,

    The Huskies have lost just TWO home games at fabled Matthews Arena this season (JMU & Hofstra) however, we have not played well at home this year and overall …

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