Sunday, February 5, 2012

The CAA mid-season report

You gave us your thoughts. We combined them with our thoughts. And here is the LadySwish midterm for what's happened in the CAA so far.


Player of the Year: Elena Delle Donne
A good case can be made that, at least statistically, Delle Donne is having the finest season of any player in the country. More importantly, she's been at her absolute best on the few occasions in which the Blue Hens have been threatened.

First team

Delle Donne: see above.
Courtney Hurt
Courtney Hurt, VCU: Rebounding machine is averaging a whopping 13.3 boards in 10 conference games.

Shante Evans, Hofstra: Joins Hurt and Delle Donne as the only players to average a double-double in conference play.

Tia Lewis, Old Dominion: Has blossomed from really good to great in a year when the Lady Monarchs really needed her to.

Taleia Moton, George Mason: Averaging 24.0 ppg on 50.3 percent shooting against CAA foes.

Second team

Emily Correal, William and Mary: Produces (13.9 ppg, 9.2 rpg in CAA play) while also handling most of the dirty work inside. Teammate Janine Aldridge would be a worthy pick here, too.

Nikki Newman, JMU: Defender deluxe, mistress of the art of defusing the league's most potent forwards.

Hollie Mershon, Drexel: Teammate Kamile Nacickaite scores more points, but Mershon has been the better all-around player.

Jewel Tunstull, Northeastern: Sophomore has seemingly come out of nowhere to become the league's most accurate shooter as well as a high-volume rebounder.

Candice Bellocchio, Hofstra: The triggerwoman of the Pride's high-octane attack (7.3 apg in CAA play), a task she often executes in spectacular fashion.

Rookie of the Year

Ashley Betz-White
1. Ashley Betz-White, Old Dominion: From running the team to virtually never coming off the floor to often being one of the primary scorers, no freshman has more on her plate. Still, Betz-White has handled it well enough to earn conference rookie of the week honors a league-high four times.

1A. Toia Giggetts, James Madison: In CAA play, the former Lake Taylor High star has been just as productive and slightly more efficient than Betz-White in just over half the playing time.

Coach of the Year

Tina Martin, Delaware: There's a lot more to this than simply saying, "Get the ball to Elena and get the hell out of her way!" A whole lot more.


Delaware: Can a team that was picked to win the league actually overachieve? We think so. The Hens (19-1) looked primed to run the tables behind a player that belongs on the same list as Brittney Griner and Nnemkadi Ogwumike. At the beginning of the season it looked as if the Hens were merely the best team in the league. Now all signs point to this being the CAA's best NCAA Tournament entry since the 2001-02 Old Dominion team that advanced to the Elite Eight and was stopped only by an undefeated Sue Bird/Diana Taurasi-led UConn squad many hail as the best in women's college basketball history.

James Madison: Yep, the Towson loss was a downer, and we didn't think Drexel would beat them. But remember a year ago in the Dukes box score, the kids with the glaring numbers were Dawn Evans, Lauren Jimenez and Courtney Hamner? We like how this group has gelled, and while we're talking about overachieving, how about Kirby Burkholder, who scored a total of 31 points last season? As for defense, we didn't see JMU holding teams to 34 percent shooting


VCU: Unlike Delaware, where Tina Martin has developed an ideal blend of talent to surround her superstar, injuries, inexperience and other factors have Beth Cunningham still searching for the right mix to support twin studs Hurt and Andrea Barbour. Recent results have been encouraging, though, and there's still time for the Rams to make a title push.

William and Mary: Player for player, the Tribe are as talented and experienced as any team in the league. We wouldn't have been shocked if they had gotten off to an 8-2 start. We're stunned to see them at 2-8. Call us crazy, but we still believe this group can be a factor.

Most improved

Kirby Burkholder
Taleia Moton, George Mason. Her arms must be tired from carrying the Patriots offense, particularly in several spectacular second halves. A year ago, tiny Taleia averaged 12.2 points on 31.6 percent shooting. Now she's at 22 points per, and only the great Delle Donne (39.9) scores a higher percentage of her team's points (34.6).

Jewel Tunstull, Northeastern: Last year's numbers: 3.9 points, 2.3 rebounds. This year's numbers: 12.8 points, 7.1 rebounds. The defense rests, your honor.

Abria Trice, UNC Wilmington. Another sophomore enjoying a breakout season, Trice averaged just 2.4 points as a freshman but has produced 20-point games twice in the last two weeks.

Kirby Burkholder, James Madison: Did you see the part about scoring 31 points in all the  2010-11 season?

Whatever happened to....

Jennifer Lane, VCU: The senior point guard started all but one of the 105 games in her Rams career and averaged more than 30 minutes per contest. Then a violation of team rules occurred, and Lane didn't appear in VCU's next six games. Since then, she's logged double-digit minutes just once in 9 games, played 9 minutes or less in seven straight and hasn't played at all twice. At this point, it's a stunningly quiet ending to a distinguished career.

Best game

Delaware 72, JMU 65: The Dukes spent the first 30 minutes showing how good they can be. The Blue Hens spent the final 10 minutes showing how good they already are.

Biggest upset

Towson 66, James Madison 58: The Tigers have only one win over a team in the RPI Top 100; this is it. Game exposed JMU's vulnerability on nights when their shots aren't falling - but only when an opponent can execute down the stretch.

Wish we were there for....

Hofstra 100, William and Mary 97: We could have enjoyed women's basketball and gotten our NBA fix with the same ticket.

Glad we weren't there for....

JMU 50, William and Mary 40: Wait a minute, we were there, and no offense, guys, but, ugh. You see, we always go into games involving two state teams hoping both play well. But it was tough watching JMU throw up brick after brick most of the time. And it was even tougher to watch the Tribe go the final 12-plus minutes with just one basket against a good but not overly aggressive JMU zone defense.

Four players to keep an eye on

Amber Easter
Jo Guilford, Old Dominion: Last week's 20-point explosion against George Mason gave Lady Monarchs fans a taste of the big-time production the talented junior is capable of providing.

Jessica Freeman, UNC Wilmington: Has really blossomed as an efficient 3-point shooter and double-figures scorer over the past few weeks.

Jasmine Gill, JMU: Potentially the most dynamic offensive player on a team that could really use a dynamic offensive player.

Amber Easter, George Mason: Patriots coach Jeri Porter has said Easter is capable of getting a double-double every night, and we believe her. If Easter starts believing her, watch out.

Storylines for the rest of the season

The CAA: Count 'em. How many teams do you see in the postseason (remember you have to have a winning record to get into the WNIT)? Here's the dream scenario: Delaware, JMU and Hofstra -- three teams in for only the second time in league history. Drexel, Towson and VCU in the WNIT. George Mason in the WBI.

Delaware: Can they sweep? The key weekend is Feb. 16 and 19 with games at Hofstra and Drexel.

Old Dominion: We were really worried about these guys in late December. But they stayed the course and have improved to the point where if they can display a bit more poise at the end of games, they could loom as a dangerous team in the conference tournament.

James Madison: Love their defense. Now about that scoring ....

Hofstra: Will they sprint to the finish behind the kind of transition game most coaches would envy?

George Mason: Go figure the Thursday win at Drexel. Moton's MVP-like season in a league where EDD doesn't exist adds a whole new dimension to these Patriots.

VCU: These seniors were in the NCAA Tournament as freshmen. Can they find the consistency to make it back to the postseason.

Georgia State: Youth growing up, but we don't think they'll mature in time to make a run.

Towson: Tigers are on a three-game slide, but given that win over JMU, it's hard to count them out of the upset picture.

William and Mary: We know they can shine in the 20 minutes. Imagine if that gleam carried over to the second 20 minutes.

UNC Wilmington: Now that Cynthia Cooper-Dyke has whipped the new-look Seahawks into shape, can this team get enough rebounding to make some serious noise in March?

Northeastern: The Huskies have some good upperclassmen, a talented sophomore (Tunstull) and some quality freshmen. Why doesn't this mix yield better results?

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