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December 31, 2012With the start of the Colonial Athletic Association season this week for (mostly) everyone, today's power poll will discuss the best non-conference win for each team.
1. George Mason:
The Patriots beat Virginia to start the season, but that's become commonplace for the CAA (which is 3-0 against U.Va. this year). More impressively was their 67-64 win over Richmond, at the Richmond Coliseum on Dec. 22. Mason has struggled a bit on the road this year, but that victory - capped by a Sherrod Wright buzzer-beating 3-pointer - shows its ability to take care of business outside the Patriot Center.
This is a no-brainer for the Dragons, whose only other wins were against two Ivy League schools and Rice. Drexel finally notched a quality win on Dec. 22 when it imposed its defensive will on Southern Conference favorite Davidson, and sophomore guard Damion Lee poured in 26 points en route to a 69-58 W. The Wildcats have a top-100 RPI, and have been impressive amidst a super-tough non-conference schedule. But Drexel, at home, was able to limit them.
3. William & Mary:
Owners of the weakest non-conference schedule in the CAA - and maybe even in the entire nation - W&M's best scalp thus far might be over Old Dominion, in the lone league game played to this point. But that doesn't qualify in this exercise, so, like choosing the best set of sunglasses from a dollar store, we'll say a 60-55 win over Radford on Dec. 8. The Highlanders have more wins (three) than any other opponent W&M defeated, and the game was in Radford.
Delaware's 59-53 win at Virginia in the preseason NIT on Nov. 13 was its best of the year. Unfortunately for the Blue Hens, it set up a more difficult schedule that struggled to keep up with. The Hens got a chance to play Kansas State and then Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden, but lost both games, which might have been confidence-shakers once they started playing easier competition. Aside from Virginia, Delaware hasn't defeated a team with an RPI better than 290.
5. James Madison:
At the time it didn't look very impressive, but JMU's home win over Winthrop on Dec. 2 remains its best in terms of opponent RPI (145). Still, a better win was on Dec. 22 against San Jose State in Las Vegas later that month. SJSU didn't have its top scorer, but the Dukes showed grit in pulling out a 77-68 neutral-site, comeback victory without one of its key players down the stretch, senior forward Andrey Semenov. The Dukes used that momentum to defeat San Diego the following evening.
Belmont had won its first four games, including one at Stanford, but the Bruins' first loss came at the paws of Northeastern on Nov. 23. Senior guard Joel Smith dropped 26 for the NU. It would be nice if the Huskies could have used that 74-71 victory - over a top-25 RPI team - to build momentum, but instead, they've gone 1-6 since the win in Alaska. Most of those losses have been close for NU.
The Tigers' win over Vermont on Dec. 5 was their first over a winning team in several years. But their win over Oregon State this past weekend? It's Towson's first over a BCS-conference team since, if my research is correct, Dec. 14, 1991 against Washington. (The Tigers beat No. 4 Louisville in 1995, but at that time, the Cardinals were still in the Metro Conference). Sure, Oregon State is a soft 9-3 this year, but Towson's win, courtesy of a 20-point, 21-rebound effort by Jerelle Benimon, is significant. The Tiger came back from a 19-point second-half deficit to force overtime, where Marcus Damas hit a game-winning shot in the final second. 67-66 Towson.
Wofford, which beat Xavier last week, is the best win on the UNCW's resume, even if it was a painfully ugly win. In their third straight game with fewer than 50 points, the Seahawks held Wofford to 29 percent shooting in a 49-37 final on Nov. 24. Thankfully, UNCW hasn't dipped below 58 points in the seven games since.
9. Georgia State:
The Panthers' 59-57 Coaches vs. Cancer Classic win over Tennessee State on Nov. 20 remains their only one over a top-200 team. It didn't come easily. Rashaad Richardson needed to make a half-court buzzer-beater to put the Panthers in the win column. GSU has lost four straight after consecutive wins over dreadful Liberty and Southern Poly (a non-D-I school).
10. Old Dominion:
The Monarchs have only two wins. So shall we go with Morgan State or Virginia? Making another appearance on this hit list is U.Va., which is lucky to be in the ACC rather than the CAA. On Dec. 22 - a banner day for the Colonial - ODU got 23 points from Dimitri Batten to prevail 63-61 over Virginia at the Richmond Coliseum.
Of its three wins, Hofstra's 66-63 victory over South Dakota State, home of super-scoring guard Nate Wolters, is best. That game happened all the way back on Nov. 16, and was the first of a three-game winning streak. Everything since has been turmoil for the Pride, which has lost a handful of players and seven straight games.
James Madison NEWS