Just some thoughts following yesterdays speed dating…er, media event, that took place in Alexandria:
This is pretty much what we all expected. A few random folks, including the Sporting News (great airport food, terrible hoops knowledge) picked VCU to finish atop the conference following last year’s historic Final 4 run, but most experts had some version of Drexel and George Mason finishing 1-2 in conference.
The Ram Nation staff actually leaned Mason, myself going with them because I like Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison over Drexel’s somewhat offensively challenged squad (also think freshman Eric Copes is going to be a beast). And while I think Drexel is the more well-rounded team because I love Frantz Massenat at the point, I still have to see Drexel break through the Virginia triangle of dominance (VCU, ODU, Mason) before I believe they actually can do it.
Drexel does however have perhaps the easiest schedule in the CAA, facing teams 2-4, the aforementioned VCU, ODU, and Mason, only once this season, getting both Mason and VCU at home only.
Speaking of Virginia dominance:
2. George Mason, 3. VCU, 4. ODU, 5. JMU, 6. William & Mary. That would make for one rowdy CAA tournament quarterfinal, and a brutal way for Drexel to have to punch an automatic ticket to the NCAA tournament. Personally, I think McDowell is giving William & Mary too much of a bump. Keep in mind this is a team that finished last year’s CAA season with only four wins in conference.
I like Kent Bazemore, met him at the Commonwealth Collegiate Challenge a few months ago, and he was nice enough to answer a few questions for a Ram Nation video (and I’d take him on our team in a heartbeat). But I’ll admit I was a bit shocked to hear he was the Preseason POY. For starters, I thought Bradford Burgess had it, if for no other reason as a “thank you” for your sending a CAA team into the Elite 8 (and eventually Final 4). Anyone remember his 26 points and dramatic buzzer beater to knock out FSU? Apparently CAA writers and SIDs didn’t. Burgess also lead Bazemore in points, rebounding, and every shooting % stat this past year. I thought Ryan Pearson might upset Brad, so Bazemore sneaking in there surprised me…especially considering he’s expected to miss at least a month of the season as he recovers from surgery on a stress fracture in his left foot.
Preseason awards…whatever, part 2 (Rob Brandenberg edition):
Preseason awards are fun, but there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of thought put into them. You basically just take the statistical leaders from the previous season, giving bonus points to players on winning teams, and plug them in. That’s a nice congratulations for your previous good season, but it doesn’t account for changes in personnel, true talent level, and the ability for someone new to breakout. Which is why I’m giving the unofficial “CAA Preseason Breakout Player of the Year” award to #23…scratch that, #11…Rob Brandenberg. The guy showed tremendous athleticism and skill when given the opportunity as a freshman on a senior dominated team, and I think is poised to be a star in the CAA.
Consider these numbers: When playing 20+ minutes for the Rams (7 games), Superberg averaged 12.6 points in his 23.7 minutes of play (including two games within a week where he dropped about a point per minutes). That’s more points than anyone on our previous team not named Skeen or Burgess. Even better, when you take that 7-game span on a per 40 minutes played…it’s an impressive 21.3 points/game. That’s better than any other Ram from last year, and better than every player on this year’s All-CAA First or Second teams.
With VCU graduating three senior guards, Brandenberg should get his minutes, and if he has progressed even the slightest bit from last season…look out.
Good Coach, Bad Coach:
There are a couple of coaches in this league, that while we hate on gameday, we’ve grown to like a bit on a personal level. William & Mary’s Tony Shaver and Delaware’s Monte Ross have both been very gracious to Ram Nation in previous interviews — Shaver’s son was also a graduate assistant for the Rams once upon a time. Drexel’s Bruiser Flint, while a nut on the court, has been incredibly entertaining and likable throughout VCU and Drexel’s developing rivalry. Hofstra’s Mo Cassara not only made Hofstra a contender in his first year as head coach, but was sending us tweets from yesterdays event.
…And then there’s Blaine Taylor. Sure, he’s ODU’s coach, a bitter rival, but I’ve met Richmond’s Chris Mooney and he’s always been a class act.
I won’t even go into it…just read this story from Quinn Casteel of the Commonwealth Times. In my best Jersey accent, “this f’ing guy”.