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February 18, 2013

CAA Power Poll: Identifying The X-Factors

We spend ample time celebrating the league's top talents, but this week's power poll will focus on X-Factors - the players whose teams' success hinges on their production from game to game.

1. Northeastern: It's no coincidence that David Walker's role in the offense expanded as Northeastern began winning. Even after star senior guard Jonathan Lee returned from injury, Walker kept his big minutes and some ball-handling responsibilities. The Huskies have four players who average 10-plus points per game, and although Walker's mark is about half of that, he's capable of ruining an opposing defense's plans.

2. James Madison: There's no bigger chasm than the one between "Good A.J." and "Bad A.J." Which version the Dukes get of talented senior swingman A.J. Davis could and probably will determine how deep they play into March. JMU is 7-1 when Davis scores 15-plus points, with the only loss coming on opening night at UCLA. When Davis is scoring, his defensive energy and attention to detail are also higher.

3. George Mason: The Patriots are 3-3 since Johnny Williams has been out of the lineup with a concussion. With him, Mason might be the team to beat in the CAA tournament, despite a possible middle seed. When Williams has produced this season, Mason has either won or played tough against good competition. Jonathan Arledge has emerged in his absence, but if you pair the two together, along with Erik Copes, Mason has the deepest frontcourt talent in the league.

4. Towson: It's difficult to call Marcus Damas, the team's second-leading scorer, an "X-Factor," but it seems like the new guys get all the attention for Towson, and people forget how good this junior can be. The Tigers are just 2-7 when he fails to reach double-figures, and 13-6 when he hits the 10-point plateau.

5. Delaware: Sometimes Kyle Anderson slips under the radar when considering some of the league's best shooters, because his .382 field goal percentage leaves much to be desired. But when Anderson gets hot, and he's certainly capable, he has one of the prettiest strokes in the league. Anderson can stretch defenses out - but often Delaware's ball-movement isn't crisp enough to exploit it.

6. Georgia State: Look past the three-headed monster of R.J. Hunter/Devonta White/Manny Atkins and see that the Panthers are 9-3 when Rashaad Richardson makes multiple 3-pointers, including wins in the last four instances. That's not including a mid-court buzzer-beater Richardson drilled to lift GSU to a win over Tennessee State early in the season.

7.Drexel: After shooting guard Chris Fouch went down with a broken ankle in November, the Dragons needed a new scoring threat to materialize. Tavon Allen has been that guy, but on a very inconsistent basis. The skinny left-hander is capable of pouring in points very quickly - especially when the Dragons run action for him - but too often he's a non-factor. Drexel has struggled this season, but can turn around its fortunes if a guy like Allen gets and stays hot in the tourney.

8. William & Mary: The Tribe is a different team when forward Kyle Gaillard is that additional scoring option to go with the team's more reliable trio of Marcus Thornton, Tim Rusthoven and Brandon Britt. Gaillard is shooting better than 56 percent from the field this year, but coach Tony Shaver has said he sometimes lacks confidence. He shouldn't. After all, Gaillard once scored 25 points two years ago against a North Carolina team featuring four players who are already in the NBA.

9. North Carolina-Wilmington: What will the Seahawks get from Cedrick Williams on a given night? Coach Buzz Peterson never knows. When on, the sophomore adds a necessary complement to Keith Rendleman inside and can make UNCW a bear to handle on the glass. Williams has grabbed 80 rebounds in the Hawks' 10 wins (8.0 per game) and 82 in the 16 losses (5.1 per game).

10. Old Dominion: Dimitri Batten is averaging nearly 17 points in four games since the coaching change. Where was this from November through January? Actually, Batten did score 23 in the Monarch's surprise win over Virginia before Christmas. As a freshman last year, he showed the ability to get buckets. As a sophomore he's been a headache of unpredictability, at least until recently.

11. Hofstra: Credit Stephen Nwaukoni for impacting games on a daily basis, despite being a bit unrefined. He plays hard, and has increased his scoring and rebounding numbers in each of the last two seasons. At 6-foot-8, 240 pounds, Nwaukoni is the biggest player on the Pride's roster. If the team can figure out a way to get him touches in good spots, he could help open up the floor for the team's overworked guards.

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