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January 29, 2013

CAA Power Poll: Movie Night

After his team lost its third straight game last week, Delaware guard Devon Saddler said the Blue Hens needed to go to the movies to grow camaraderie and snap out of the slump. If the Hens did in fact share a movie night, it worked. They beat host Drexel last night on NBC Sports Network, despite nearly blowing a late 15-point lead.

Every team in the CAA should pop some popcorn and watch a movie. In this week's power rankings I'll suggest which out-in-theaters flicks each team should visit their nearby Regal to see.

1. Northeastern (13-7 overall, 8-0 in the CAA): A skilled team of experts taking down targets on a regular basis, the Huskies might as well buy tickets for "Zero Dark 30." Zero, after all, is Northeastern's total of CAA losses through eight games. The Huskies are just the seventh Colonial team to begin a season 8-0. The last two to do so won the CAA title. Five of the eight wins have been by five or fewer points, but not the most recent one. NU smacked George Mason on Sunday, sweeping the series with a 20-point home win. The televised game was Northeastern's announcement to the league that it's the team to beat. Only one school earns a bye in the seven-team CAA tournament this year, and NU is already three games in the loss column ahead of next-best Mason/James Madison.

2. George Mason (12-8, 5-3): The Patriots can catch a matinee screening of "This Is 40." Remember when Judd Apatow movies were comic gold? That was right around the time George Mason rose to a national prominence and maintained a run as one of the nation's best mid-major programs. Now Apatow is throwing together mediocre films based on the characters of his greatest hits. And George Mason's putting together teams that can compete in the CAA, but are largely irrelevant on a bigger scale. Much like the Apatow movies, where the stars have moved on to bigger and better things, the face of Mason's success - coach Jim Larranaga - is now down in Miami leading the ACC's most sneaky-dangerous team.

3. James Madison (12-11, 6-3): Last time JMU finished in the top five in the CAA (1999-2000), Arnold Schwarzernegger was still an action movie star, not a politician. After Monday's win at UNC-Wilmington, the Dukes find themselves in sole possession of second place, and… wait, Arnold's headlining films again? The Dukes should churn up the nostalgia machine and see "The Last Stand" - after all, it's JMU's defensive stands that have made it a contender entering February. Hailed in the preseason for all their offensive weapons, Madison is instead winning ugly. The Dukes, who top the CAA-only stats in field goal percentage defense and points allowed, have allowed 50 or fewer points in each of their last four home games - all wins. Good news for JMU: the next three games are at home.

4. Drexel (8-12, 4-4): The first line of synopsis for "Silver Linings Playbook," a film, incidentally, set in Philadelphia, is "Life doesn't always go according to plan." That certainly seems to be the case for Drexel, which entered this season as the heavy favorite but has been knocked down a few pegs after injuries and inconsistency. Like the protagonist in SLP, Drexel still has plenty of time to rebuild its season and make a push to represent the CAA in the NCAA tournament - like they planned. With Damion Lee back in the lineup, the Dragons won three straight before the loss to Delaware. And the defense has looked better recently.

5. Georgia State (10-12, 5-4): Just like in "Django Unchained," there's an uprising in the Southern wing of the CAA. It's the Panthers, who, before Saturday's loss at Drexel, had won four straight - including three blowouts. No longer shackled by a 6-11 record, Georgia State heads north for Wednesday's game at first-place Northeastern. GSU can really make a move up the CAA standings after that. Three of the following four games are at home, with Towson being the only opponent with a winning record in league play.

6. Delaware (9-11, 4-3): When told of Saddler's suggestion to catch a flick, coach Monté Ross suggested a horror film - given what he just had to watch for the previous two hours (his Blue Hens were thoroughly outplayed in a 64-50 loss at JMU). How about "Mama" for horror? What scared Ross was not that his team was struggling, but that it was being outworked. Despite having Jamelle Hagins in the middle, the Hens had lost the rebounding battle in each of the past three games, including a 46-28 bashing by the smaller Dukes. UD was slow to 50-50 balls and looked confused on defense. Post movie night though? The Hens outrebounded typically rugged Drexel 39-30 and at least defended well for about 35 minutes.

7. Towson (10-12, 5-4): The Tigers, losers of their last three games after a 6-1 stretch that moved them over .500, should watch "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey." Towson's bounce-back season has been quite unexpected, but the journey is not over. Not eligible for postseason play, Towson can still play its final nine games with purpose. If the losses keep piling up, people will soon forget the magical midseason run for the upstart Tigers. Building toward next year, when Towson returns four starters and is again eligible for the CAA tourney, starts with closing this season out strong.

8. UNC-Wilmington (8-12, 3-5): UNCW hadn't won a road game in over a year, and it took quite a trip to break out of the slump. Weather forced the Seahawks to wake up at 3 a.m. Saturday for a flight up to Hofstra before its 2 p.m. game. Road-weary or not, the Hawks won 57-51, breaking a 16-game road losing streak that dated back to Jan. 21, 2012. Pop on Denzel Washington's "Flight," and reminisce on the weird trip. After losing at home to JMU on Monday, he Seahawks have two straight road games, at Delaware and at Towson.

9. William & Mary (8-11, 2-6): The brain-school of the CAA should stimulate its mind with "Lincoln." A history lesson might help the Tribe recapture the now-seemingly distant history that is the beginning of this season. W&M snapped an eight-game losing streak with its home win against Towson on Saturday, but at 2-6, the Tribe is in last place among teams eligible for the conference tournament. Before Christmas, W&M was 7-3 and near the top of this poll.

10. Hofstra (5-13, 2-3):It was the suspension of four players after being arrested for burglary that began Hofstra's tumble this year, so "Gangster Squad," might fit the bill. The Pride has lost four straight, and goes on the road for four of its next five games. A weak offense continues to plague the Pride; it has scored 62 or fewer points in 15 of its 20 games this season. Hofstra ranks 317 in scoring out of 347 Division I schools.

11. Old Dominion (2-17, 0-7): Nothing is more fitting for the Monarchs than "Les Miserables." After a full week off, ODU continued its losing ways, scoring just 46 points in a loss at James Madison. The Monarchs have one more opportunity - Wednesday at home against tumbling Towson - to avoid going 0-for-January.

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