I was at the Mack Arena on Saturday where Drexel led start to finish in a 63-56 win over Hofstra. Scott Rodgers had a terrific day scoring 25 points on 7 of 15 from the field including 4 of 6 from three. Last year, Rodgers couldn't hit the side of a barn for the Dragons, shooting 33 percent from the field including 29 percent from beyond the arc. He has improved his shooting to 35 percent from the field but more importantly he has improved his shooting from the free throw line from 63 percent to 74 percent. Until a bad performance in a loss to JMU where he shot 2 of 11 from the field and had no free throw attempts, Rodgers was averaging 7 free throw attempts a game compared to not even averaging 4 last season. One of the reasons why Drexel is playing better than I thought.
Now one of the reasons why Hofstra is not playing so well is the struggles of Charles Jenkins. Jenkins was in foul trouble on Saturday (more on that in a second) and only finished with ten points before fouling out. It was actually one of his better shooting days going 5 of 10 from the field. In a 23 point drubbing at the hands of Northeastern on the road on Monday, Jenkins shot 1 of 9 from the field. In Jenkins' first eight games, he was shooting 47 percent from the field. Consequently Hofstra's record was 7-1. In Jenkins' last six games, he is shooting 29 percent from the field. Consequently, Hofstra's record is 2-4. The team as a whole is shooting 38.7 percent from the field. This may be a reason why Hofstra had been leading the NCAA in rebounding; they are rebounding their own shots.
By the way in that Northeastern game, won by the Huskies 73-50, Hofstra had SEVENTEEN turnovers in the first half. They had almost as many turnovers as points (18). Talk about a team that was not prepared. Hofstra had twenty five on the game and shot their average, 38 percent. Northeastern actually outrebounded the Pride 39-32 and had 15 more field goal attempts in the game. It was also the first game that I noticed where Matt Janning had a bad game, yet Northeastern still won. Janning only shot 4 of 12 from the field (and I believe he was 0-4 the first half). Yet the Huskies went out to an 11-0 lead on the strength of their frontcourt; Manny Adako, Eugene Spates and Nkem Ojougboh. Combined, they scored 38 points on the game. Imagine that Hofstra fans, the frontcourt had more than half the team's points. Bet you won't see that for Hofstra in a game this season.
By the way, back to that Drexel game. Well, I already broke my New Year's Resolution not to yell at the CAA refs. They were bad..for both teams. Remember in a previous posting where I said Bobby Knight would have a cardiac watching CAA games because of the traveling calls not made. Well, this was a classic example of it. At one point, my friends and I saw Drexel Coach Bruiser Flint with such an incredulous look on his face to the refs after one non call. But to top that, after another non traveling call, Hofstra coach Tom Pecora yelled 'That's a ___ walk!" Result - technical foul. Two of the foul calls on Jenkins, especially the fifth foul charge call where the Drexel player was moving his feet were very questionable. All in all the officiating was bad. Really really bad.
Saturday night I watched much of the second half of George Mason - UNC Wilmington, which was easily won by the Patriots 101-60. Very simply put - Mason is very good, Wilmington is very bad. In fact, I thought last season's James Madison team was the worst defensive team I had ever seen. Nope, not even close to this year's Seahawks team. No post presence. Open threes. It was bad. No wonder they give up on average 90 points per game. Now mind you George Mason is on the verge of being very good. They have four seniors in their lineup who are very solid, led by Jon Vaughn who had a terrific night against UNCW with 20 points on 5 of 6 shooting from beyond the arc. But the Patriots also have three terrific freshmen; Andre Cornelius, Ryan Pearson and John Morrison, who combined to shoot 16 of 4 from the field for 33 points. The Patriots are talented and deep.
I have some thoughts already on the CAA season but I want to wait until after Saturday to write about them. I will say this so far. Outside of a couple of teams on one end of the spectrum - Northeastern and George Mason and one team on the other end of the spectrum - UNCW, I really don't know where the rest of the teams are going to end up. Notice I didn't put VCU in with Mason and Northeastern. I'll have more on that after the weekend.
Here's something for the "You Don't Often See This" category. The Manhattan women and men's basketball teams pulled off a unique feat Sunday and Monday. The Lady Jaspers were down 56-52 to the Iona Lady Gaels in New Rochelle Sunday afternoon with five minutes left in the game. The Lady Jaspers then scored the five final points (and think about that - five points scored in five minutes) including a layup with two seconds left to beat Iona 57-56. If that wasn't an impressive feat alone, then the men's team went out and topped that the next night. Down 57-50 at Canisius with 3:17 left, Manhattan scored the last nine points to win 59-57 Monday night. How often do you see that, especially with both games being road games. Impressive.
As for the rest of the mid majors, I was all set to come out with a new Baker's Dozen, then Ilinois State went to Bradley and lost their first game of the season. That's just life on the road in the Missouri Valley. Then Creighton followed that up by getting beat at home to Northern Iowa after getting drubbed by the Redbirds on Saturday. So, the two top teams in the MVC now are Bradley and Northern Iowa. Ah the Valley.
As for redoing the Baker's Dozen, I am going to wait till the smoke clears tonight. Gonzaga needs to bounce back after bad shooting performances doomed them against Portland State and Utah. However, it won't be easy as they go to Knoxville tonight in what is a revenge game for Tennessee. The Zags knocked off the Volunteers earlier in the season at the Old Spice Classic. Also, because of Portland State's win over Gonzaga, everyone now knows who Jeremiah Dominguez is - one of the best guards in the country. Davidson also has a tough game tonight..at #2 Duke.
Siena lost another game last night to a very good opponent, Kansas, in a respectable 91-83 loss. The Saints will only be stronger for the non conference schedule they have played. Remember, Davidson had a similar schedule last season early on and they ended up in the Elite Eight. Now, mind you the Saints aren't that good. But considering they won a first round game over Vandy last season in the NCAA tournament, if they get to the Dance again, they will do damage.
As for the top team in the mid majors, that's easy..for now. Given their impressive 12-1 record, their wins at Xavier, Cleveland State and Drake, topped with the #2 ranking in the RPI, the Butler Bulldogs are the best mid major team in the country.