Posted on: March 5, 2012 9:43 pm
Edited on: March 5, 2012 11:41 pm

Tiny Dancers: VCU

Shaka is back.

A year ago, Shaka Smart and the VCU Rams made the magical and improbable run from the First Four to the Final Four.

They could have another crack at it.

Smart and his more inexperienced Rams took care of George Mason in the semifinals and then held off top-seeded Drexel, which came in on a 19-game winning streak, to win the CAA tournament championship on Monday night.

This is obviously a different team from the one that shocked the nation a year ago.

Gone are Jamie Skeen, Joey Rodriguez, Ed Nixon and Brandon Rozzell.

It's now senior Bradford Burgess and a bunch of youngsters who may not shoot it as well, but get after it on the defensive end - and are headed back to the NCAA tourney.

It's a different cast of characters, but Shaka Smart and VCU are back in the NCAA tournament. (US Presswire)

Player to know -- Bradford Burgess - He's not a big-time scorer (he averages a little more than 13 per game), but he finished with 20 points and knocked down a handful of 3's in the semifinal win over George Mason. Burgess struggled offensively against Drexel, but he's started an NCAA-record 144 consecutive games since he arrived at the school and can really get after it on the defensive end. He's also a guy who isn't afraid to take -- and make -- the big shot.

The Vitals:
Record: 28-6, 15-3 in the CAA
Most recent tournament appearance: 2011 (Final Four)
We’re thinking: 11 seed
KenPom ranking: 46
Sagarin ranking: 50
RPI: 49
Best wins: South Florida, Akron, Drexel
Worst losses: Georgia State, Georgia Tech
Notable stat: According to KenPom.com, VCU leads the nation in defensive turnover percentage at 27.3. I'm fairly certain that means that opponents turn the ball over 27.3 times per 100 possessions. That's pretty impressive.

-- Jeff Goodman

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 5, 2012 10:35 am

CAA title game preview: Can both earn bids?

Neither VCU or Drexel are a lock for the NCAA tournament. That's why Monday night's CAA tournament championship contest is so important.

The winner gets an automatic bid while the loser will sweat it out Sunday when the NCAA tournament field is unveiled. Drexel comes in as the No. 1 seed and on a school-record 19-game winning streak after taking care of Old Dominion in the semifinals. VCU is the No. 2 seed, but has the luxury of playing in its backyard, the Richmond Coliseum.

The lone time the two teams met this season was in Philadelphia on Jan. 8 and Drexel came away with a 64-58 victory. VCU (27-6) jumped out to an astounding 22-0 start against George Mason in the semis, but the Rams saw the lead whittle down to just a half-dozen points late in the game before holding onto the victory. Senior Bradford Burgess led the Rams with 20 points -- including a 5-of-10 effort from beyond the arc.

A win for VCU would put Shaka Smart, who led the Rams from the First Four to the Final Four a year ago, back in the Big Dance. It would also give the program its fifth CAA tourney crown. Drexel (27-5), which entered the league in 2001, is still looking for its first conference tournament title. The only time the Dragons earned a trip to the championship contest was back in 2003 when they lost to UNC Wilmington.

-- Jeff Goodman
Category: NCAAB
Tags: COL, Jeff Goodman
Posted on: March 1, 2012 12:16 pm

What-to-know tourney previews: CAA

We all know about the CAA. There was George Mason and its magical Final Four run back in 2006. There was last year's improbable First Four to Final Four march from Shaka Smart and VCU.

This has been a league that has warranted -- and earned multiple bids to the NCAA tournament.

That may not be the case this season.

Drexel finished 25-5 overall and 16-2 in league play. Bruiser Flint's Dragons have won a school-record 17 consecutive games entering the CAA tourney. They have a couple of young studs in freshman forward Damion Lee and sophomore guard Frantz Massenet. The problem was Drexel got out of the gates slow, losing to Norfolk State, Virginia, St. Joe's and Delaware all within the first three weeks of the season.

VCU, despite losing most of the core that led the Rams to the Final Four a year ago, still managed to earn the No. 2 seed -- and could challenge Drexel for the crown, especially with the league tourney based in Richmond. George Mason's new coach Paul Hewitt relies on veteran big men Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison, but his backcourt will be the key. Old Dominion, which not unlike VCU was thought to be in rebuilding mode due to its youth, earned the fourth and final bye.

Brad Burgess is on the verge of breaking an NCAA record for most starts in a career. (AP)

The CAA may be down a bit -- and could wind up as a one-bid league -- but it'll still be a dogfight.



Schedule: March 2-5

Title game: Monday, March 5 (7 p.m. ET)


  1. Ryan Pearson, George Mason
  2. Frantz Massenat, Drexel
  3. Bradford Burgess, VCU
  4. Damion Lee, Drexel
  5. Kent Bazemore, Old Dominion

Conference RPI: 15

KenPom.com rating: 13

Sagarin rating: 14

NCAA Tournament Locks: None

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Drexel, VCU

Last NCAA Tournament Appearances:

  • Delaware Blue Hens, 1999, No. 13 seed, lost to Tennessee in the first round, 62-52
  • Drexel Dragons, 1996, No. 12 seed, beat Memphis, 75-63, in the first round; lost to Syracuse, 69-58, in the second round
  • George Mason Patriots, 2011, beat Villanova, 61-57, in the second round; No. 8 seed, lost to Ohio State, 98-66, in the third round
  • Georgia State Panthers, 2001, No. 11 seed, beat Wisconsin, 50-49, in the first round; lost to Maryland, 79-60, in the second round
  • Hofstra Pride, 2001, No. 13 seed, lost to UCLA, 61-48, in the first round
  • James Madison Dukes, 1994, No. 14 seed, lost to Florida, 64-62, in the first round
  • Northeastern Huskies, 1991, No. 16 seed, lost to North Carolina, 101-66, in the first round
  • Old Dominion Monarchs, 2011, No. 9 seed, lost to Butler, 60-58, in the second round
  • Towson Tigers, 1991, No. 16 seed, lost to Ohio State, 97-86, in the first round
  • UNC Wilmington Seahawks, 2006, No. 9 seed, lost to George Washington, 88-85 (OT), in the first round
  • VCU Rams, 2011, Lost to Butler, 70-62, in the Final Four
  • William & Mary Tribe - N/A

-- Jeff Goodman

Category: NCAAB
Tags: COL, Jeff Goodman
Posted on: March 7, 2011 9:29 pm
Edited on: March 8, 2011 12:13 am

Welcome to the Dance, Old Dominion Monarchs

Richmond, VA -- The Old Dominion Monarchs (27-6, 15-4) played to their strengths in defeating their arch-rivals, the VCU Rams 70-65 In Richmond tonight. ODU senior forward Frank Hassell had 22 points, and the Monarchs as a team outrebounded VCU 34 to 21 The Trian Iliadis contributed 10 points to ODU's championship repeatRams came back from a large deficit in the second half to make the final score a close one, but ODU, predicted to be the CAA champions at season’s start, rebounded from a second-place regular season finish to claim the league’s auto bid.

Old Dominion’s Kent Bazemore had 14 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals, and reserve guard Trian Iliadis was 2-3 from deep to add 10 points. Bradford Burgess (19 points) and Jamie Skeen (18) led the Rams.

Following the game, ODU coach Blaine Taylor verbalized the swagger that he has imparted in his team. "Our game starts with defense, ends with offense, and in between we can board with the best of them," he said. "Actually, we are the best of them."

His statement wasn't just hyperbole. Taylor's Monarchs enter the NCAA tournament as the No. 1 team in the nation at offensive rebounding, according to kenpom.com.

Taylor also had some sharp words for those who don't feel the CAA has earned three bids to the Big Dance, especially bubble teams with wishy-washy credentials. "In Montana, we had an expression for that," he said. "Big hat, no horse."

This is ODU's second-straight CAA championship victory.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Frank Hassell, siempre Frank Hassell. The poor man’s DeJuan Blair was dominant throughout the CAA tournament. You may remember that he put up similar lines against Notre Dame and Baylor in last season’s NCAA tournament. Observers in Richmond Coliseum tonight were overheard saying “That’s a Sweet 16 team” and “They can play with anybody.” That’s largely because of Hassell’s unstoppable inside roll.

Team Vitals

Record: (27-6, 15-4)

Team Colors: Slate blue, silver, cerulean blue

We’re Thinking:  8 seed

Kenpom Ranking:  53

RPI:  24


Best Wins: Clemson, Xavier, Richmond, Cleveland State

Worst Loss:  Delaware

Most recent tournament history: 2010 (beat Notre Dame, lost to Baylor in second round)

Posted by Eric Angevine

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2011 4:47 pm
Edited on: March 6, 2011 8:49 pm

Championship game preview: the CAA

Two-seed Old Dominion (26-6, 14-4) and No. 4 Virginia Commonwealth (23-10, 12-6) will renew their fierce rivalry for the third time this season, meeting in the CAA tournament's final game with an automatic bid to the Big Dance on the line.

Frank Hassell and Kent Bazemore helped down Hofstra in the CAA tournamentThe teams split their in-season series, with each winning on the road. Both teams played strong nonconference schedules and beat opponents from major conferences, and each won a tough Bracket Busters game on national television. If not for a four-game losing streak in conference play, the Rams were on the road to a much higher seed.

The Rams played tough defense against No. 1 seed George Mason in the first semifinal on Sunday to advance with a 79-63 win. Old Dominion took care of Hofstra 77-69, riding the rugged interior play of Frank Hassell (22 points), Ben Finney (5 rebounds) and Kent Bazemore (3 blocks). Guard Darius James was the only outside threat for the Monarchs, hitting for 66 percent on his way to 16 points.

The players to watch in the final are Hassell for the Monarchs, and Jamie Skeen for the Rams. Skeen scored 19 points in the earlier win over the GMU Patriots.

The CAA championship game will be played at 7:00 p.m. ET on Monday, March 7 and will be televised on ESPN.

CAA tournament bracket

Auto bids home page

Photo: Dave Pierpont, CAAZone.com

Posted by Eric Angevine

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Category: NCAAB
Posted on: March 6, 2011 2:16 pm

VCU's D stops Mason's streak at 16 in CAA semis

Richmond, Va. -- The VCU Rams (23-10, 14-6) used tough defense and hot three-point shooting to end George Mason’s (26-6, 16-3) 16-game winning streak and secure their own entry into the CAA championship game, which will be played Jamie Skeen came up huge to get VCU into the CAA final.Monday, March 7 at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN2. Playing in front of a vocal hometown contingent in the Richmond Coliseum, Shaka Smart’s team controlled the game from the tip, never letting up on second-chance shots, runouts for easy points, and, most of all, three point baskets. The Rams won 79-63.

Wake Forest transfer Jamie Skeen (right) carried the load for the red-hot Rams, who came into the game as the league’s #4 team, needing the auto-bid to ensure their participation in the NCAA tournament. Skeen paced the team with 21 points, going 4-6 from deep, and junior swingman Bradford Burgess chipped in 16 to go with 12 boards to push the Rams back to the Colonial's final game, which they last reached in 2009.

While the VCU offense was effective, it was the defense that won the game for the suddenly surging Rams. Full-court pressure forced the Patriots to throw long passes to advance the ball past midcourt, which were often off-target and out of bounds, or picked off and run back for quick points by the Rams. When Mason tried to run, Virginia Commonwealth consistently beat them back on defense.

The Rams lost to Mason on February 15 in the only previous meeting of the two teams this season. The loss was part of a four-game conference losing streak that helped put VCU in tough territory for an NCAA bid.

The Rams now await the result of the second semifinal, which pits 2-seed Old Dominion against No. 3 Hofstra.

CAA tourney bracket

Posted by Eric Angevine

Photo: US Presswire

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Posted on: March 1, 2011 1:47 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2011 1:00 pm

Conference tourney preview: The CAA

The CAA always seems like a league on the verge of something big. George Mason (16-2), Old Dominion (14-4) and Virginia Commonwealth (12-6) have each pulled major upsets in the Big Dance over the past decade, and this season, they’re joined in the league’s top four by Hofstra (14-4). Being in the top four is important. Those are the programs that get a first round bye in the CAA tournament, which commences on Friday. Mike Litos, who authored a book about George Mason’s run to the Final Four in 2006, has an immutable truism he applies to CAA teams: “You don’t want to play on Friday”.

Charles Jenkins can take Hofstra to new heightsThe CAA tournament is always held at the Richmond Coliseum, dead in the middle of the state of Virginia. Five of the league’s 12 teams are from the surrounding area. Since 2000, only UNC-Wilmington has inserted itself into the round-robin of GMU, ODU and VCU when it comes to making the Big Dance.

Looking at this year’s top four finishers, George Mason has been the most complete team, while Old Dominion relies heavily on defense and the massive inside presence of Frank Hassell. VCU is very athletic and plays a high-pressure style that can throw opponents for a loop. Perhaps the most intriguing is Hofstra, which has come on like gangbusters under first-year head coach Mo Cassara, thanks to the stellar play of Charles Jenkins (right). Jenkins is so good, he’s already had his number retired at Hofstra.

Fans of league teams are calling for three CAA teams to make the Big Dance. Odds are, if the selection committee lets that happen, they’d get good-to-great games out of each team they let in. The CAA gets more televised Bracket Buster games than any other conference, and tends to win those high-profile matchups. League teams have also made a habit of beating the big boys anywhere at any time. Even fifth-place Drexel took down Louisville at the KFC Yum! Center this season.

Perhaps the time is ripe for a three-bid Colonial.

CAA tourney brackets


Title game: Monday, March 7, ESPN


  1. Charles Jenkins, Hofstra
  2. Cam Long & Ryan Pearson, George Mason
  3. Frank Hassell, Old Dominion

Conference RPI:

KenPom.com rating: 13

Sagarin rating: 11

NCAA Tournament Locks:
Old Dominion, George Mason (8 seeds in the latest Palm predictions)

NCAA Tournament Bubble Teams: Drexel


Last NCAA Tournament Appearance:

George Mason: 2008 (68-50 loss to Notre Dame)

Old Dominion: 2010 (51-50 win over Notre Dame, 76-68 loss to Baylor in 2<sup>nd</sup> round)

Hofstra: 2001* (61-48 loss to UCLA)

Virginia Commonwealth: 2009 (65-64 loss to UCLA)

Drexel: 1996* (75-63 win over Memphis, 69-58 loss to Syracuse in 2<sup>nd</sup> round)

James Madison: 1994 (64-62 loss to Florida)

Delaware: 1999* (62-52 loss to Tennessee)

UNC-Wilmington: 2006 (88-85 OT loss to George Washington)

Georgia State: 2001** (50-49 OT win over Wisconsin, 79-60 loss to Maryland)

Northeastern: 2001* (101-66 loss to North Carolina)

William & Mary: N/A

Towson: 1991*** (97-86 loss to Ohio State)

*member of America East

**member of Atlantic Sun

***member of East Coast Conference


Photo: US Presswire

Posted by Eric Angevine


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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com