CAA Women’s Basketball Mid-Season Report

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This coming weekend marks the midway point for the women’s schedule in the Colonial Athletic Association.  The CAA, long one of the top mid-major conferences in the country, again boasts a handful of talented teams in a well-rounded league that currently ranks tenth out of thirty-two teams in conference RPI.  For reference, that places the CAA (led by league RPI leaders James Madison at #47 and Northeastern at #53) in front of the Ivy League (#11), Mountain West (#14), Conference USA (#16), and the Atlantic 10 (#17).  While the league currently has less teams (2 vs. 3) in the top-100 compared to last season, it has eight of its ten teams in the top-200, compared to just six last season.

So where does each team stand so far?  Here’s a brief breakdown of how every team in the league is currently faring along with an early look at all-conference performers.

James Madison (7-1 in the CAA, 15-4 overall, RPI of 47, SOS of 176)

No surprise here.  A dangerous team a year ago that came up a game short of the CAA championship game returned every one of its starters.  This is a team that was destined to be the league favorite and they’re living up to the hype.  The Dukes have used an elite defense (49.3 ppg in the CAA, #5 in the country overall for the season) paired with a potent offense (71.3 ppg) and are blowing just about everybody out.  Their lone slip-up to this point came on the road against upstart UNCW.  JMU has used a balanced scoring attack with preseason player of the year Kamiah Smalls leading the way with 16.9 ppg and several other players averaging in or near double figures.

Towson (6-2 in the CAA, 12-7 overall, RPI of 103, SOS of 219)

Where did the Tigers come from?  A year removed from a 4-15 finish in the CAA, Towson is flying high behind a high-powered offense (71.4 ppg) led by sophomore Kionna Jeter (a league-leading 22.6 ppg) and junior Nukiya Mayo (17.3 ppg).  The Tigers, always known for their tough brand of defense, got things rolling in dramatic fashion by knocking off Drexel in their CAA opener with a buzzer beater.  It will be interesting to see if Towson can keep things going and end the regular season at or near the top of the conference.  A loss to middle of the pack William and Mary to round out this past weekend was not a great start.  Either way, the future looks bright.

Drexel (5-2 in the CAA, 13-5 overall, RPI of 123, SOS of 175)

The defending regular season champions got off to a rough start, dropping home games to James Madison and Towson.  Since then, the Dragons have rallied for five straight victories.  Led by junior Bailey Greenberg (18.4 ppg) and the top ranked scoring defense in the country (47.5 ppg), Drexel is a dangerous team that will return all of its starters again next season.  Freshman Maura Hendrixson, who made just one field goal prior to CAA play, has exploded onto the scene, averaging 13.0 ppg in five conference games while shooting 57% from behind the arc.  If she had enough appearances to qualify, she’d be the league’s freshman scoring leader and in the top 40 in the country in three point percentage.  How far the Dragons can go again this season hinges on producing enough offense to lift them over the conference’s top programs.  Their defense is good enough to carry them most of the way, but they need to find consistent scoring behind Greenberg and Hendrixson.

UNCW (4-3 in the CAA, 9-7 overall, RPI of 139, SOS of 223)

With the help of several transfers, the Seahawks have played their way into the top half of the conference.  They have beaten two of the three teams ahead of them in the standings, giving JMU their lone loss and beating Towson as well.  After winning three straight tight games, UNCW was handed a weekend sweep by Delaware and Drexel.  Shrita Parker (15.6 ppg) and GiGi Smith (15.0 ppg) give the team two top-10 scorers, though the Seahawks are middle of the road in just about every other statistical category.  Whether the program’s top team in a long while can keep things moving and avoid another play-in game remains to be seen.

William and Mary (4-3 in the CAA, 11-7 overall, RPI of 145, SOS of 187)

It’s been and up and down start to league play for the Tribe.  They have alternated wins and losses so far this season with their marquee win coming on Sunday at Towson.  That win was their first in league play by double digits.  While they’ve taken down the Tigers and UNCW, they suffered a tough defeat against College of Charleston as well.  Senior Bianca Boggs (18.4 ppg) is one of the top scorers in the league, but a middling defense has led them to a negative point differential so far.  They’ve done a good job of taking care of the ball but rebounding has been an issue for them, as they’ve tallied a league worst -9.9 rebound margin per game.  The Tribe has a good mix of upperclassmen and younger players contributing which should keep them out of the play-in games and give them a chance to pull an upset in the conference tournament.

Northeastern (3-4 in the CAA, 13-5 overall, RPI of 53, SOS of 120)

The Huskies were one of the hottest teams in the country during out of conference play, but that has not translated to the loaded CAA.  Led by senior Jess Genco, a player with a legit chance of taking home player of the year honors, got off to a quick start with wins over Elon and William and Mary.  As the schedule turned more difficult, the team struggled, dropping straight games to James Madison, Towson, and Drexel before finally rebounding against Delaware.  Sunday’s loss, a blowout against Hofstra, is the worst one of the season so far.  While they have the highest RPI in the league, Northeastern is in danger of ending up playing on Wednesday in the conference tournament mostly due to their porous defense which is surrendering 74.0 points per game.  The Huskies have a lot of veteran leadership and talent and will be a tough matchup regardless of where they end up at the end of the regular season.

Delaware (3-4 in the CAA, 8-11 overall, RPI of 181, SOS of 91)

The Blue Hens were dealt a huge blow before the season even began as reigning player of the year Nicole Enabosi suffered a season ending injury.  They have struggled to score in her absence, posting 58.6 ppg led by junior Samone DeFreese at 11.0 ppg.  The defense has kept them in games, as they surrender just shy of 60 points a game, good for third in the conference behind Drexel and James Madion.  They’ve faced a tough schedule to start the year and don’t have any surprising losses while they have a big win against UNCW.  Delaware will host the postseason tournament this year, and while they’ll play without their best player, they have enough talent to cause some trouble.

Elon (2-5 in the CAA, 6-11 overall, RPI of 191, SOS of 140)

It may be safe to say that a three-peat is not in the cards for the rebuilding Phoenix.  Their young team is scoring the ball relatively well, but they’re also surrendering about 70 points per game.  Sunday was a day to forget as Elon got blown out in a tournament semifinal payback game by James Madison 82-30 which has to be one of the biggest point disparities in league history.  Their place in the standings is well justified, they’ve beaten the teams below them and lost to the teams above.  It seems likely that this year will be looked at as a building block towards the future as the Phoenix is almost certainly staring down a play-in game in the CAA tournament.

College of Charleston (1-6 in the CAA, 5-13 overall, RPI of 291, SOS of 270)

It’s been a struggle for the Cougars over the past several years and this season isn’t looking too much better.  Deja Ford (13.0 ppg)  and Darien Huff (12.3ppg) lead the team in scoring but Charleston is yielding a league-worst -16.3 ppg scoring margin.  The Cougars have some upside to dream on as their three top scorers behind Ford and Huff are freshmen.

Hofstra (1-6 in the CAA, 7-12 overall, RPI of 265, SOS of 207)

Nothing seems to be going right for Hofstra which is not only losing a lot of games but doing so by a lot of points (only one single digit league loss).  With a -16 ppg average scoring margin, they seem likely to end up in the play-in games on the first day of the CAA tourney.  To make matters worse, they’re committing 21 turnovers a game and are allowing league opponents to shoot 47% from the floor, worst in the conference.  Boogie Brozoski is the lone member of the pride averaging double figures at 15.3 ppg.  The Pride got their first league win of the season in surprising fashion on Sunday handing Northeastern a 17 point defeat.

Player of the Year Discussion

The race for player of the year is as open as it has been in recent memory.  Northeastern’s Jess Genco leads the league in scoring but her team is struggling.  Towson’s Kionna Jeter is averaging 20 points a game and is the lone underclassmen amongst the league’s scoring leaders.  If Towson can hold on and finish near the top of the conference, it may be Jeter’s title to lose.  Right on their heels are a handful of upperclassmen in Drexel’s Bailey Greenberg, Bianca Boggs from William and Mary, preseason player of the year Kamiah Smalls from James Madison, and Boogie Brozoski from Hofstra.  This is an award that has generally gone to the best scorer so Genco seems like the slight favorite, at least for now, with Boggs (also averaging 7.3 rpg) right behind her.


Rookie of the Year Discussion

There are several freshmen making a name for themselves across the league.  Drexel’s Maura Hendrixson has played better than any of her classmates in league play, though her limited out of conference play may hinder her chances.  Eva Hodgson from William and Mary is posting 10.3 ppg putting her ahead of Kayla Liles from Elon (8.0 ppg) and Jasmine Dickey from Delaware (7.6 ppg).  All four players will likely find themselves on the all-rookie team, though Dickey’s 7.7 rebounds per game may give her the advantage with the best overall numbers.


Coach of the Year Discussion

This seems like a two person race between Towson’s Diane Richardson and UNCW’s Karen Barefoot.  Both coaches have led great turnarounds in the early going, but this is Richardson’s race to lose.

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