Sunday, November 1, 2009

CAA scraps

Around the horn in the Colonial Athletic Association:

Biggest coup: Tina Martin can downplay it all she wants, but what a story it is that Elena Delle Donne is in a Delaware uniform. Her high school career rivals that of Candice Parker’s. We know she hasn’t played a minute of college basketball. But the fact that she will make her college debut for a CAA team shines a spotlight the size of the sun on a league that craves a national profile.

Who will win?: If you’re tempted to pick Drexel to repeat, take this into account. Yes, Gabriela Marginean returns for her senior season after picking up Player of the Year and MVP of the conference tournament awards last season. But the Dragons will desperately miss guard Andrea Peterson, who led the league in minutes played last year. Denise Dillon’s offense is based on the players’ ability to pass with precision and Peterson was a significant cog in that machine.

So who will win?: Don’t bet against James Madison, which hosts the conference tournament and has the nation’s second leading scorer back in Dawn Evans. It’s hard to count out Old Dominion, eclipsed by Drexel last year after winning for 17 straight years. Post Tia Lewis, the Conference USA Player of the Year two years ago, adds a dimension that ODU didn’t have last year. If, and it’s a big one, if the ODU guards can stay out of turnover trouble, the Lady Monarchs could start a new string.

But they’re free: Tiffany Benson’s first-team all-CAA selection is a boon for William and Mary. The Princess Anne grad, last year’s conference Defensive Player of the Year, is a terrific athlete but she’s a senior who still can’t knock down a free throw. Benson bricked 122 of her 165 attempts last year. That’s 26 percent.

Gotta like her: The Tribe’s Janine Aldridge shot 40 percent from behind the arc last year as a freshman. And what about her teammate Taysha Pye, who averaged 19.1 points in her final 11 games, including 30 against James Madison and 26 against ODU.

Will it matter in the stands?: The word is Delaware has tripled its season ticket sales and will open the other side of the bleachers during home games. Last year the Hens averaged 1,110. Let’s hope Delle Donne packs them in.

International flavor: Drexel has players from England, Belgium, Sweden, Lithuania and Romania.

Way to start: ODU goes to Delaware on Jan. 3 to open the CAA season.

In the blood: JMU freshman Nikki Newman has a mother who starred in field hockey and lacrosse for the Dukes, a father who played four years of football for the Dukes and a brother, Charlie, currently a tight end.

Without Q:
Hollingsworth was drafted in the WNBA’s first round by the Minnesota Lynx. VCU has recruited big – four of its six freshmen are 6-6, 6-4, 6-2 and 6-1 – but it will be tough for the Rams to duplicate the 26-win seasons the team has achieved each of the past two years..

ODU picked up Kquanise Byrd over the summer, and it won’t be a surprise if she starts. The 5-7 junior ranked third in the nation in scoring last year and will likely make an immediate impact.

She's gone: Northeastern’s Jasmine Crew transferred to Seton Hall, a blow to the Huskies given she led the team in minutes played, scoring and assists. ODU’s Sierra Little and Margaret Harvey also departed during the offseason.

Fun dates: Stanford at ODU (Nov. 13); Northeastern at UConn (Nov. 14); Hofstra at UConn (Nov. 27); Drexel at Maryland (Nov. 29); James Madison at Virginia (Dec. 6); James Madison at Duke (Dec. 18); ODU at Tennessee (Dec. 30).

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