College Basketball Nation: Delaware Blue Hens

Video: Duke 88, Delaware 50

December, 1, 2012

Mason Plumlee finishes with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Ryan Kelly scores 18 as No. 2 Duke improves to 8-0.
NEW YORK -- Quick thoughts from Pittsburgh’s 85-59 win over Delaware in the consolation game of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Overview: Less than 48 hours from pushing No. 4 Michigan to the brink, Pittsburgh had no problems with Delaware in the NIT consolation game. The Blue Hens dealt with Kansas State’s big men pretty well, the Panthers went early inside and rolled.

Pitt established junior forward Talib Zanna early, going to him during a game-opening 10-0 run. He finished the first half with 10 points and six rebounds, part of an 18-point night. More importantly, the Panthers were able to neutralize Delaware standout center Jamelle Hagins, who had two of his four points in the first half.

Delaware had a successful tourney by making it to New York and it could have been a special one if the Blue Hens had pulled off the upset in an eventual 66-63 loss to Kansas State on Wednesday. Now, they leave the Garden with two losses after the destruction by Pittsburgh.

Turning point: It was over pretty early in the Garden. Pitt jumped out to a 10-0 lead and the Blue Hens never cut the lead into single digits the rest of the night. A small stretch where Pittsburgh freshman center Steven Adams blocked two shots and scored on the other end accentuated the Panthers’ dominance. Adams tied his career high with 13 points Friday.

Key player: Much of what Pitt did Friday against Delaware was set up by senior guard Trey Woodall, who bounced back from a rough performance against Michigan (2-of-7 shooting, three assists and three turnovers) to control the pace from the off-guard spot against the Blue Hens. Woodall had 13 points, five assists and was an efficient 6-of-8 from the field against a good Delaware backcourt consisting of Devon Saddler and Jarvis Threatt.

Key stat: 21 to 4. Pitt had 21 assists Friday on 33 baskets, somewhat efficient numbers but absolutely massive compared to what Delaware did. The Blue Hens had four assists, the fourth time in five games they had fewer than 10 assists. But the four were a season low. Against a stout defensive team like Pittsburgh, not sharing the ball is going to come at a price. That showed against the Panthers.

Miscellaneous: Delaware was without senior forward Josh Brinkley, who did not dress for the game due to a right ankle injury. Brinkley, a starter, averaged 9 points and 3.8 rebounds for the Blue Hens. ... Zanna had his first double-double of the season and a season-high 11 rebounds against Delaware.

Up next: Pittsburgh takes the weekend off before starting an eight-game stretch where the Panthers won’t leave campus, beginning with Howard on Tuesday. The only non-home game until the end of 2012 is against crosstown opponent Duquesne on Dec. 5. Delaware continues a rough stretch, heading to Temple for a game Sunday.
NEW YORK -- Quick thoughts from Kansas State’s 66-63 victory over Delaware in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

Overview: Delaware would just not go away, even when the Blue Hens had every reason to. Their best player, senior forward Jamelle Hagins, missed much of the second half with cramps. The Blue Hens trailed by as much as 11.

Yet Delaware kept responding to every Kansas State shot, and the Colonial Athletic Association school would not make life comfortable for the bigger school from the Big 12. The Blue Hens did this the entire game, even cutting the K-State lead to two points, 60-58, with 1 minute, 20 seconds left.

Each time KSU tried to pull away -- from a 15-5 run in the first half to a mini 5-0 run early in the second half -- Delaware kept retaliating. But the Blue Hens could never take the lead.

Turning point: Kansas State forward Nino Williams made a long 2-pointer from the right wing with 52 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 62-58 lead and forced Delaware to have to foul to extend the game, even when the Blue Hens continually cut the game to one possession.

Key player: When Delaware started to make a run, cutting the Wildcats' lead to three, 58-55, Kansas State guard Angel Rodriguez did what crafty point guards do: He made a crucial play. Rodriguez drove the lane and made a spinning layup, giving K-State a 60-55 lead. Rodriguez had 12 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds for the Wildcats.

Key stat: 12-of-14 from the free throw line. Those were KSU’s numbers Wednesday, a performance that included four consecutive made free throws in crunch time to extend leads from one possession to two twice during the final minute of the game.

Miscellaneous: Even in a loss, Hagins emerged as a mid-major player to keep an eye on the rest of the season. He had 12 points and 15 rebounds before cramps limited him the rest of the game -- and played well against a big Kansas State frontcourt. ... Delaware guards Devon Saddler and Terrell Rogers stood out not because of their play, but their footwear. Saddler wore pink shoes to go with bright pink socks, while Rogers had pink shoes with white socks.

Up next: Both teams stay in New York after a day off for turkey, stuffing and all the side dishes coming along with Thanksgiving. Kansas State advances to the Preseason NIT championship game Friday against either No. 4 Michigan or Pittsburgh. Delaware will play in the third-place game against the Michigan-Pittsburgh loser, but the Blue Hens will have another chance for a victory against a major-conference program.'s Colonial preview

October, 25, 2012
Before we get to team-by-team previews for the Colonial Athletic Association, here is Dana O'Neil's team-by-team analysis of the nonconference schedules in the CAA. For in-depth previews of all 11 CAA teams, check out Blue Ribbon's breakdowns: Insider

Drexel Insider Free
George Mason
Georgia State
James Madison
Old Dominion
UNC Wilmington
William & Mary

Nonconference schedule analysis: CAA

October, 9, 2012
This week, is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen of nation's top leagues. On Monday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. We started Tuesday with the A-10 and Big East and now it's off to the Colonial Athletic Association ...


Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 12-23), at Duke (Dec. 1)
Next-toughest: at Temple (Nov. 25), at Villanova (Dec. 16)
The rest: at Lafayette (Nov. 28), Radford (Dec. 4), Delaware State (Dec. 8), Penn (Dec. 21), Rider (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale: 8 -- Kudos to Monte Ross for giving a fairly veteran Blue Hens team a schedule to truly test its worth. Delaware is trying to make inroads in this tough league and the best way to do that is to play big-boy teams. If the Blue Hens can beat Penn in the NIT, they'll most likely play at Virginia with a chance to advance to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals. It would be a huge spotlight for the program.


Toughest: Anaheim Classic (Nov. 22-25), Saint Joseph's (Dec. 31)
Next-toughest: at Kent State (Nov. 9), Illinois State (Nov. 15), at Princeton (Dec. 8 )
The rest: at Penn (Nov. 17), Rider (Dec. 1), Tennessee State (Dec. 4), Fairfield (Dec. 16), Davidson (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale: 3 -- Really? After missing out on the NCAA tournament last season because of their lack of nonconference schedule strength, this is the best the Dragons could come up with? For a team that should be favored to win this league? They'll open with tough Saint Mary's in Anaheim, but the field out there is just not that strong. Kind of like this schedule.


Toughest: Virginia (Nov. 9), Paradise Jam (Nov. 16-19), vs. Maryland (Dec. 2 in Washington, D.C.), at South Florida (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: at Bucknell (Nov. 13), Boston U (Nov. 24), Northern Iowa (Dec. 8), vs. Richmond (Dec. 22 at Richmond Coliseum)
The rest: at Rhode Island (Nov. 28), UMBC (Dec. 4)
Toughness scale: 8 -- This could get even better if the Patriots make their way through the Paradise Jam and square off against UConn (the opener is against A-Sun favorite Mercer). As it is, it’s pretty darned good anyway, what with the likes of the three big six tourney contenders at the top and some decent mid-majors filling out the middle.


Toughest: at Duke (Nov. 9), at BYU (Nov. 13)
Next-toughest: Southern Miss (Dec. 18), at Rhode Island (Dec. 22)
The rest: Monmouth (Nov. 19), Tennessee State (Nov. 20), South Alabama (Nov. 21), East Carolina (Nov. 26), Louisiana Tech (Nov. 30), at Liberty (Dec. 2), Southern Poly (Dec. 8), at Troy (Dec. 15), at Georgia Southern (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 7 -- Ron Hunter didn’t take long to put his stamp on the Georgia State program, leading the Panthers to the second-most wins in school history. This team might have a hard time matching that number with a schedule like this (opening at two of the toughest places to play in the country), but recognizing the value of playing people for a mid-major, Hunter built a good foundation for the Panthers this season with this nonconference slate.


Toughest: at Purdue (Nov. 11)
Next-toughest: Marshall (Nov. 18), at LIU-Brooklyn (Dec. 8 )
The rest: at Monmouth (Nov. 9), District of Columbia (Nov. 17), at Manhattan (Nov. 21), at George Washington (Nov. 24), SMU (Dec. 1), Wagner (Dec. 4), Wright State (Dec. 15), vs. Tulane (Dec. 22 in Brooklyn, N.Y.), at Florida Atlantic (Jan. 1)
Toughness scale: 4 -- Mo Cassara is trying to get things back on track at Hofstra and has a fairly young roster, so a little wiggle room is understandable. Still, for a team that has its share of talent to call on in the form of Jamal Coombs-McDaniel and Taran Buie (who were suspended for the first two games of the season), you’d kind of hope for and expect more.


Toughest: at UCLA (Nov. 15)
Next-toughest: Richmond (Dec. 8), at Miami (Ohio) (Nov. 24)
The rest: at Duquesne (Nov. 19), vs. Youngstown State (Nov. 20 in Pittsburgh), vs. North Dakota State (Nov. 21 in Pittsburgh), George Washington (Nov. 28), Winthrop (Dec. 1), East Tennessee State (Dec. 5), UNC-Greensboro (Dec. 16), vs. San Jose State (Dec. 22 in Las Vegas), vs. San Diego (Dec. 23 in Las Vegas), at Hampton (Jan. 7)
Toughness scale: 7 -- Nothing like two cross-country trips from Harrisonburg, Va., to make life fun, especially when one includes a stop in Westwood. There are some opportunities here for a roster that includes three returning starters -- and getting Richmond and GW at home is nice.


Toughest: at Princeton (Nov. 13), Massachusetts (Dec. 4)
Next-toughest: Boston U (Nov. 9), Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 21-24), La Salle (Dec. 8), UNC Asheville (Dec. 18)
The rest: Vermont (Nov. 17), Maine (Nov. 28), at Central Connecticut State (Dec. 21), at UAB (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 3 -- Besides home games against A-10 sleepers UMass and La Salle, not much here to get terribly excited about, not when the rest of the league is putting some name-brand games on the schedule. Maybe a second-round game against Belmont in Anchorage?


Toughest: at Murray State (Nov. 24), VCU (Dec. 7), vs. Virginia (Dec. 22 in Richmond)
Next-toughest: at Cleveland State (Nov. 17), Richmond (Dec. 4), UCF (Dec. 14), at Charleston (Dec. 18)
The rest: Holy Cross (Nov. 10), UTSA (Nov. 11), VMI (Nov. 21), Fairfield (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 7 -- In his last go-round in the CAA, Blaine Taylor has a good schedule that is both meaty and winnable, the perfect combination of games that might catch the committee’s eyes but aren’t impossible mountains for his team to climb.

Toughest: at Georgetown (Dec. 8), at Temple (Dec. 12), at Oregon State (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: at Charleston (Nov. 9), at Vermont (Dec. 5)
The rest: vs. Radford (Nov. 16 in Richmond, Ky.), at Eastern Kentucky (Nov. 17), vs. Kennesaw State (Nov. 18 in Richmond, Ky.), vs. Cincinnati Christian (Nov. 19 in Richmond, Ky.), at UMBC (Dec. 1), North Dakota State (Dec. 15), Coppin State (Dec. 19)
Toughness scale: 5 -- After the Tigers finished 1-31 a season ago (the one win came in conference play), there are plenty of games you can go ahead and put in the L column, including those toughies on the road in December. But Towson should be improved enough -- and a few opponents bad enough -- that a repeat of the one-win nightmare is highly unlikely.


Toughest: at Ohio (Nov. 16), at Purdue (Nov. 21), at Davidson (Dec. 15)
Next-toughest: UNC Asheville (Nov. 11), at Richmond (Nov. 13), at Marshall (Dec. 1), at Georgia Tech (Dec. 8 )
The rest: Wofford (Nov. 24), Hampton (Nov. 25), Coker (Dec. 5), UNC-Greensboro (Dec. 19), at Campbell (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale: 6 -- Buzz Peterson still has work to do in Wilmington, so a schedule that doesn’t kill his team makes sense. But Coker? Really? That said, there's quite a road gantlet here -- one that includes stops at Purdue, Ohio, Davidson, Richmond, Marshall and Georgia Tech. That should be fun.


Toughest: at Purdue (Dec. 29), at Vanderbilt (Jan. 2)
Next-toughest: at Wake Forest (Nov. 23), at Richmond (Nov. 28)
The rest: Hampton (Nov. 9), at Liberty (Nov. 12), at High Point (Nov. 17), Miami (Ohio) (Nov. 21), Howard (Dec. 6), at Radford (Dec. 8), Salisbury (Dec. 21)
Toughness scale: 4 -- This is the all-name schedule. Purdue, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest have the national recognition, but none of them will exactly be at their best this season -- although each will be heavily favored over the Tribe. For a program that has struggled so much lately, though, there are some winnable confidence-builders mixed in.

Building Rhode Island with transfers

April, 26, 2012
One of my first lessons of program building came at the hands of Mike Brey, who took over at the University of Delaware at the tail end of my collegiate career. When I say career, I’m referring to my melodious play-by-play calls of Blue Hen basketball. Anyway, Brey imparted on me the wisdom of the transfer.

Over the course of his time in Newark, I would chide the coach that he took so many transfers it seemed like he didn’t start recruiting until campus directories were printed and he knew how to get in touch with players on other teams. Steadily, Brey constructed a winning program at Delaware behind guys who were on their second and final chances.

Since graduating and watching Brey enjoy nearly two decades of success, I’ve never lost the importance of what a good transfer can do for a program, especially at the mid-major level. Would VCU have gone to the Final Four without Jamie Skeen two years ago? That’s just one example, but I’m a firm believer that makeup of a good mid-major program has room for multiple transfers.

[+] EnlargeRhode Island's Dan Hurley
Charles LeClaire/USPRESSWIRENew Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley is mining talent from the state of New Jersey.
For that reason, we shine the light on Rhode Island, where Dan Hurley quickly adopted a Brey-like philosophy. On Wednesday night, Hurley dipped into the transfer pool and sprung wing Jarelle Reischel from Rice. VCU was the other finalist for the kid who started 10 conference games as a freshman for the Owls. He played his high school ball in New Jersey, as did Hurley’s first impact transfer.

Gil Biruta averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Like Reischel, he’ll sit out next season, but he'll have two years of eligibility remaining; Reischel has three.

When you’re transferring, it’s basically one’s last chance at making the best decision. There’s no room for error. Often times dropping down a level is the best choice, but the reality is Biruta could have played in any league. However, he played for Hurley at St. Benedict’s in high school. The familiarity led to him making a strong transfer choice based on prior information.

“I was tempted to go to a bigger school and league but it’s not really about it, it’s about how coach is going to use me and help me improve,” Biruta said. “I know he’s going to bring good guys and the team chemistry would be great.”

Rhode Island was 7-24 last season. Chances are it won’t be much better next year. But reloading is a process and Hurley, along with his brother Bobby and former Rutgers assistant Jim Carr and URI alum Preston Murphy, have their eyes on the long term.

The biggest challenge facing URI now is patience. There’s a waiting game that comes when you take transfer players. With two good ones in the bank, the task is putting pieces around them, constructing a solid foundation class in 2013 and implementing the culture change that’s bound to come with a Hurley at the helm.

Rhode Island isn’t relevant yet, but it’s on the recruiting trail for sure, as evidenced by these two newcomers. Relevancy is measured in wins and that’s going to take more time and most importantly another recruiting class. Regardless, the players are beginning to see what URI has a chance to become.

“I had many options, but Hurley getting the job at Rhode Island was perfect timing,” Biruta said. “I can trust Coach Hurley, I know how he treats players. Why would I risk it and go somewhere else when I know he can build a winning program?”

URI also owns commitments from former Wagner power forward Mike Aaman (Raritan, N.J./Raritan) and retained URI pledge Jordan Hare (Saginaw, Mich./Saginaw).

By the way, these Hurley boys are sticklers for tradition. So far the only transfers they've taken are New Jersey kids. Heck, Aaman is a Jersey guy and Hare was a retainee from the last staff.

Fact is, they're mining New Jersey right now. Evidence? This weekend, Derrick Gordon, St. Pat's Class of 2011, is visiting. He was the best freshman at Western Kentucky last year. Word is he's looking to return north. Maybe he'll find his way to Rhode Island, the Garden State's most fertile friendly suburb.'s CAA preview

October, 26, 2011
Before we get to the Blue Ribbon team-by-team previews for the Colonial Athletic Association, here is Eamonn Brennan's one-minute wind sprint through the league:

Blue Ribbon breakdowns of all 12 teams in the CAA:

George Mason
Georgia State
James Madison
Old Dominion InsiderFree
UNC Wilmington
William & Mary

More CAA content:
For the rest of the week, will be breaking down the nonconference schedules of each and every team in a dozen different leagues. On Tuesday, we began with the ACC, SEC and C-USA. On Wednesday, we continued with the Big East and the Atlantic 10 and now wrap up the day with the Colonial Athletic Association ...


Toughest: at Villanova (Nov. 18), Temple (Dec. 30)
Next-toughest: at Boston U. (Nov. 30), La Salle (Dec. 19), BracketBusters (home)
The rest: at Radford (Nov. 11), Cornell (Nov. 22), Lafayette (Nov. 26), at Penn (Dec. 7), at Delaware State (Dec. 10), at Howard (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The Blue Hens do have a pair of big challenges -- or, put more appropriately, big opportunities -- in the form of a trip to Villanova and a home game against Temple. The strength of those games alone is enough to nudge them above some of their other conference mates. But if those opportunities are lost, Delaware won't have many chances to impress.


Toughest: Paradise Jam (Nov. 18-21), Princeton (Dec. 10), Fairfield (Dec. 28)
Next-toughest: at Rider (Nov. 15), at Saint Joseph's (Nov. 30), at BracketBusters (road)
The rest: at Niagara (Dec. 13), Bradley (Dec. 17), at Binghamton (Dec. 22), St. Francis-Pa. (Dec. 31)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Much of this schedule's toughness will weigh on how far Drexel advances at the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands. If the Dragons can get past Norfolk State and Virginia/TCU in the second round, they could come up against a ranked Marquette team (or Ole Miss). If that game doesn't happen, at least Drexel has games against good mid-majors in Fairfield and Princeton. There's also a TBA road BracketBusters opportunity in February.


Toughest: NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 14-25), at Virginia (Dec. 6)
Next-toughest: Rhode Island (Nov. 11), at Florida Atlantic (Nov. 19), Bucknell (Nov. 30), Duquesne (Dec. 21), at Charleston (Dec. 30), BracketBusters (home)
The rest: at Radford (Dec. 10), Manhattan (Dec. 23)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- Credit the Patriots: They were able to convince some decent opponents, including Rhode Island and Duquesne, to come to Fairfax this season. But really, this schedule's main feature is the NIT Season Tip-Off -- which will pit Mason against Virginia Tech in Blacksburg assuming GMU can get past FIU and Tech beats Monmouth. If the Patriots survive that game and seeds hold, they would likely meet Syracuse in Madison Square Garden, followed by a game against probably either Stanford or Oklahoma State. Regardless of what happens, getting the state's two bellweather schools -- UVa and Va Tech -- on the schedule is extremely meaningful to Mason fans.


Toughest: at Washington (Nov. 12)
Next-toughest: vs. Portland in Seattle (Nov. 13), vs. Florida Atlantic in Seattle (Nov. 14), Rhode Island (Dec. 10), BracketBusters (home)
The rest: McNeese State (Nov. 18), at Samford (Nov. 22), Liberty (Nov. 26), at South Carolina State (Nov. 29), Florida International (Dec. 1), at Utah Valley State (Dec. 17), Georgia Southern (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 3 -- First-year coach Ron Hunter's regular-season debut comes at Washington in the Basketball Travelers Invitational. It's an arrangement so brutal it makes you want to grant the Panthers some measure of schedule clemency. After the trio of games in Seattle are done, though, the rest of Hunter's schedule isn't all that fearsome. But to be fair, this is a struggling CAA program with a new coach, scattered fan interest and a walk-up gym. Its schedule shouldn't be tough.


Toughest: at Oregon State (Nov. 16), at Rhode Island (Nov. 25), vs. Boston U. in Kingston, R.I. (Nov. 27), Iona (Dec. 29)
Next-toughest: Long Island (Nov. 11), vs. Cleveland State in Kingston, R.I. (Nov. 26), BracketBusters (home)
The rest: St. Francis-N.Y. (Nov. 19), Florida Atlantic (Nov. 22), at Wagner (Dec. 6), Manhattan (Dec. 10), Binghamton (Dec. 17), Colgate (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- Hofstra may get some so-so matchups out of the TicketCity Legends Classic, the "tournament" in which it travels to Oregon State on Nov. 16 and makes a three-day stand in Rhode Island late in the month. And the Beavers can be tough in Corvallis. But the rest of Hofstra's schedule -- and this is probably a good thing, given the loss of star Charles Jenkins to the NBA draft this summer -- offers little to get excited about, except for perhaps a home BracketBusters matchup.


Toughest: Kent State (Dec. 6), UCF Holiday Classic (Dec. 29-30)
Next-toughest: at La Salle (Nov. 19), vs. Rider in Philadelphia (Nov. 25), at Penn (Nov. 26), at George Washington (Dec. 22), at East Tennessee State (Jan. 30), at BracketBusters (road)
The rest: Canisius (Nov. 13), Robert Morris (Nov. 22), The Citadel (Dec. 19), Hampton (Jan. 9)
Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- Make no mistake, this is hardly a murderers' row of opponents. What is it? A decent-but-hardly-great assemblage of games against decent-but-hardly-great squads. La Salle, Robert Morris, Rider, Kent State, George Washington -- none of these is a marquee opponent, but taken together, JMU's schedule doesn't look so bad. And down in Orlando, Fla., the Dukes will face Rhode Island and possibly homestanding UCF in the second game.


Toughest: at Maryland (Nov. 13), at Dayton (Nov. 19)
Next-toughest: Marshall (Nov. 22), at Wake Forest (Dec. 21)
The rest: Davidson (Nov. 26), at Toledo (Nov. 30), at Illinois State (Dec. 3), at Liberty (Dec. 6), Campbell (Dec. 19), Furman (Dec. 30), at BracketBusters (road)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- It's not really the opponents that make this schedule tough. It's the travel. Wilmington opens on the road at Maryland and follows it with a trip to Dayton. A sneaky tough Marshall team will be waiting for the Seahawks upon their return, and beginning on Nov. 30, UNCW will spend the next two weeks on the road (with a conference opener at VCU mixed in). That's a lot of road work, and it could result in some tough losses before the New Year arrives.


Toughest: at St. John's (Nov. 26), at NC State (Dec. 22)
Next-toughest: at Boston U. (Nov. 11), at La Salle (Nov. 30), Princeton (Dec. 18), at Vermont (Dec. 30), BracketBusters (home)
The rest: at UMass (Nov. 14), Southern Illinois (Nov. 19), at Bradley (Dec. 6), at Louisiana Tech (Dec. 20)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Similar to Wilmington, the opponents might not merit a high score, but the logistics do. Of the Huskies' 10 nonconference games, only two (Southern Illinois, Princeton) will be played at home (in addition to the February BracketBusters game). The rest require constant travel and hostile crowds and, yes, taking on some solid teams in big, unforgiving environments. Like, say, Madison Square Garden. Maybe you've heard of it?


Toughest: Hall of Fame Tipoff (Nov. 19-20), at Richmond (Dec. 20), Missouri (Dec. 30)
Next-toughest: Northern Iowa (Nov. 12), Long Island (Nov. 14), at Fairfield (Dec. 9), at UCF (Dec. 17), at BracketBusters (road)
The rest: Howard (Nov. 16), Vermont (Nov. 23), East Carolina (Nov. 29), VMI (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 9 -- This might be the toughest schedule in the CAA this season, and it's tougher than it looks on first glance. The Hall of Fame tournament in Connecticut will begin with South Florida, and if that's a win, mighty Kentucky almost certainly awaits. Combine that tourney with the games at Richmond and Fairfield and home tilts with LIU, UNI and that huge opportunity with Missouri, and you get a schedule worthy of ODU's designs on consistent NCAA tournament competition.

Toughest: at Kansas (Nov. 11), at Michigan (Nov. 14), vs. Belmont in Murfreesboro, Tenn. (Nov. 19), at Virginia (Dec. 30)
Next-toughest: Oregon State (Nov. 26), at UMass (Nov. 30), at BracketBusters (road)
The rest: Virginia State (Nov. 6), vs. UNC Greensboro/Middle Tennessee in Murfreesoboro, Tenn. (Nov. 20), La Salle (Dec. 7), UMBC (Dec. 10), at Coppin State (Dec. 14), Manhattan (Dec. 20), Vermont (Dec. 23)
Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Towson's early November slate -- part of the qualifying rounds of the EA Sports Maui Invitational -- includes trips to Kansas, Michigan and Belmont, a three-game road stand you wouldn't wish on any team, let alone one that finished 4-26 last season. Ouch.


Toughest: Charleston Classic (Nov. 17-20), at Alabama (Nov. 27), Richmond (Dec. 10)
Next-toughest: at Western Kentucky (Nov. 23), vs. George Washington in Washington, D.C.'s Verizon Center (Dec. 4), UAB (Dec. 20), at Akron (Dec. 29), BracketBusters (home)
The rest: Saint Francis-Pa. (Nov. 11), South Florida (Nov. 30), at UNC Greensboro (Dec. 22)
Toughness scale (1-10): 7 -- The road to another miraculous March run begins in earnest on Nov. 17, when VCU will face Seton Hall in the Charleston Classic. Depending on each team's performance, the Rams could face either Georgia Tech or Saint Joseph's in the second round, followed by a meeting with either LSU, Tulsa, Northwestern or Western Kentucky. That's not the most loaded tournament field of all time, but combined with VCU's other nonleague home tests (Richmond, UAB) and that trip to see former coach Anthony Grant at Alabama, it's a solid schedule overall.


Toughest: at St. John's (Nov. 7), at Missouri (Dec. 18)
Next-toughest: Richmond (Nov. 30), Iona (Dec. 21), at BracketBusters (road)
The rest: at Hampton (Nov. 12), Liberty (Nov. 14), vs. Lehigh in Lynchburg, Va. (Nov. 18), vs. Eastern Kentucky in Lynchburg (Nov. 19), at Liberty (Nov. 20), at Howard (Nov. 26), Wesley College (Dec. 15), at Miami-Ohio (Dec. 29)
Toughness scale (1-10): 6 -- The Tribe get a bunch of their nonconference work from the 2K Sports Classic, in which they'll play St. John's and a handful of so-so opponents in Lynchburg, Va. There are other challenges here, as you can see, with a trip to Missouri looming especially large. The Tribe will have to make the most of their biggest games, especially those at home versus Richmond and Iona, to make waves in what could be another down season.

Observations from the week that was

December, 6, 2010

A look back at five things that caught my eye:

1. Georgia may finally be turning the corner. The Bulldogs were a trendy pick for the top 25 in the preseason, but a high ankle sprain by Trey Thompkins set them back a bit. And remember this group of Bulldogs had never seriously won anything, so it may have been premature to put this team on a pedestal. But the two-point win over a scrappy UAB on Friday was a good indicator. Georgia was led by Thompkins’ 20 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. Heralded Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson was clutch down the stretch. If forward Jeremy Price continues to play well, the Dawgs will have four legitimate options.

2. Conference play is a different deal. Just when it seemed that Old Dominion was ready to become a top-25 team after beating Xavier and Richmond (its only loss being a narrow one to Georgetown), the Monarchs went out and lost to Delaware. The loss in their Colonial opener means the Monarchs are suddenly in a hole in the conference. And as much as ODU has put itself in position to become an at-large team, it can’t afford to lose to teams that are likely to finish in the bottom half of the conference.

3. Dragons showing some fire. Let’s stay in the CAA. Drexel is 5-1 and 1-0 in league play with three road wins, despite not having two of their top players in Jamie Harris and Kevin Phillip. The pair were suspended from the team over the summer after a charge of armed robbery. Drexel is getting superb play out of Chris Fouch, who is averaging 21.7 points a game and scored 27 in the road win at Northeastern on Saturday.

4. Jon Leuer continues to rise: The Wisconsin big man was one of the handful selections for the U.S. Select team that scrimmaged the national team over the summer. He quietly has become one of the best scoring forwards in the country. Leuer is the reason the Badgers have a shot to finish in the upper-half of the Big Ten and be back in the NCAA tournament yet again. He scored 22 and 29 in decisive wins over NC State and South Dakota. He’s efficient with his shooting, gets to the line (7-of-8 against the Wolfpack) and rebounds at a high rate.

5. Boston College’s Reggie Jackson has become a star. Jackson said last spring that the Eagles could be a Final Four team. Clearly that’s not going to happen, but he did have a good read on his game. He knew he was ready to blossom in college and as a junior he has, becoming a monster with the ball in his hands. Jackson scored 27 points in a win over Indiana and then 17 in a win over previously undefeated UMass in Boston. If the Eagles are to have a chance to finish in the upper-half of the ACC, it will be because of Jackson. He will need to be a dominant player for BC to have a chance. So far he has been.