A lot to catch up on if you were not paying attention during the holiday season.
If they have not started already, conference play is on the doorstep for every team in the Mid-Atlantic area. For many teams, that is the start of a whole new season, another chance to win your way into the NCAA Tournament via a conference bid.
There will be some competitive battles in the ACC, CAA, Patriot League, C-USA, Big South and MEAC throughout the next couple of months. Numerous opportunities for multiples teams from the three states and the district to be playing late into March.
Most importantly for many of you, is that Maryland lost their star forward, Justin Jackson to injury for the season. A big blow to the Terrapin program to say the least.
Elsewhere in the Mid-Atlantic region, William and Mary continues to live on the edge as they get another thrilling victory, Towson starts to cool down, and Georgetown is exactly who we thought they were.
Oh and don’t forget the little guys, Loyola (MD) and Howard got their first Division I victories on their season.
These rankings are based on scores as of Monday, January 1 at 12:00 p.m. All 29 Division I schools in Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, and Delaware are included in this rankings.
1. Virginia Cavaliers (ACC):
Record: 12-1 (1-0)
Last Week: #1 (+0)
The Cavaliers started out conference play in an unnecessary but winning fashion over Boston College. In the end it all came down to Virginia’s dominant defense who stuffed the Eagles on two chances for them to win the game late.
Offensive though, it took a breakout performance by sophomore Ty Jerome to muster enough points. Jerome set two new career-highs with 31 points and six three-pointers in the win. He would also knock down two clutch free throws in the final minutes.
Tony Bennett’s squad has now moved up to No. 8 in the latest AP poll, their highest mark on the season. The win over Boston College also marked Bennett’s 200th win with the program.
The ACC schedulers were relatively kind to the Cavaliers this year. Their toughest two game stretch is next at Virginia Tech (Jan. 3) and at home against No. 12 North Carolina. The Cavaliers are 9-0 at John Paul Jones Arena so far this season.
2. Virginia Tech Hokies (ACC):
Record: 11-3 (0-1)
Last Week: #2 (+0)
This year was one of the best non-conference seasons of late for the Virginia Tech Hokies. Wrapping up the first half of the season with an 11-2 record with a relatively young team, there is a lot to be encouraged with from the Hokies camp.
Then they go and drop their ACC opener against Syracuse in New York.
It was a game of runs for the Hokies, highlighted by a freshman, Nickeil Alexander-Walker leading the team once again. His 19 points and three three-pointers were team-highs.
Overwhelmingly it was the team’s worst offensive production on the season by only scoring 56 points. On the year they average 88.8 per game. It hurt with them only scoring 19 in the first 20 minutes.
Now it is time for the Commonwealth Clash as the Cavaliers come to town. Significant for not only the regular reasons, but potential ACC implications as well.
3. Maryland Terrapins (Big Ten):
Record: 12-3 (1-1)
Last Week: #3 (+0)
A hopeful 2017-18 season has turned to despair in a similar fashion to their football program. Their dominant flex-forward, Justin Jackson is now out for the season.
Conference play started over a month ago for the Terps with a win over Illinois and a loss to Purdue. Since then it has all been out of conference games, which they have all won for a five game winning streak.
Their two most recent wins came over Fairleigh Dickinson and over Maryland-rival UMBC.
The first half was ugly and the Terps mustered only 18 points, but they rebounded with a 48 point second half. Kevin Huerter had 20 points in the win and Anthony Cowan Jr. had 14 points and nine rebounds.
Those two are going to be the stars of the show going forward for Maryland after the team announced that Jackson will miss the rest of the season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The Naismith Award Watch List player averaged 9.8 ppg and 8.1 rpg this season in 11 games.
The squad will also be without one of his back-ups, Ivan Bender who is scheduled to have surgery after a torn meniscus from the UMBC contest.
4. VCU Rams (A-10):
Record: 9-5 (1-0)
Last Week: #4 (+0)
VCU has won four straight, including their Atlantic 10 opener against the Fordham Rams.
However, VCU did not do enough in non-conference play to get them back into the NCAA tournament for what would be an eighth straight time. They are going to have to roll through the A10 or better yet, win the conference tournament to go to the big dance.
Beating Fordham by 13 at home isn’t going to get the job done.
Their offense, which shot 50.0 percent from the field, held strong powered by Justin Tillman’s 23 points and 14 rebounds. But they gave up nine three-pointers and allowed the other Rams team to stay close.
Justin Tillman's last eight games:— VCU Basketball (@VCU_Hoops) December 30, 2017
21 points, 6 rebounds
28 points, 6 rebounds
22 points, 10 rebounds
20 points, 8 rebounds
26 points, 7 rebounds
22 points, 11 rebounds
19 points, 13 rebounds
23 points, 10 rebounds
Not bad.#LetsGoVCU pic.twitter.com/yBn9xS5efz
5. Old Dominion Monarchs (C-USA):
Record: 10-3 (1-0)
Last Week: #6 (+1)
A good week for the Monarchs after beating their city rivals and blowing out Charlotte to start conference play.
The 49ers were only able to create 16 points in the first 20 minutes of their contest with Old Dominion. They would end up being held to 30.8 percent from the field and only assist on six of their baskets.
Ahmad Caver continues his impressive campaign. He had a team-high 22 points and eight assists in their win. Old Dominion is now 5-0 in conference openers since joining Conference-USA.
Riding a five-game winning streak, the Monarchs enter the top five for the first time in the 2017-18 season.
6. William & Mary Tribe (CAA):
Record: 8-4 (1-0)
Last Week: #8 (+2)
Continuing to live on the edge, the Tribe started off CAA play in dramatic fashion.
Combine that with a respectable 11-point loss to No. 16 TCU and William and Mary is at their highest point in the rankings on the season.
Enjoy it while you can Tribe fans.
7. Towson Tigers (CAA):
Record: 10-4 (0-1)
Last Week: #5 (-2)
The ten game winning streak for the Tigers seems so long ago. Coming into the New Year, Towson has dropped three straight and an important CAA match-up at the College of Charleston.
Getting an at-large bid was a tall task anyways for the Tigers, but losing to Oakland, and even worse Pittsburgh cements their fate. To get to the NCAA Tournament, they have to win the CAA title.
They started that campaign with a loss to the preseason favorites by 11 on the road. They host the same team on Jan. 7 in a quick turnaround for the home-and-away series for the two programs.
It is imperative for them to beat the bottom teams of the conference in the meantime.
8. George Washington Colonials (A-10):
Record: 8-6 (1-0)
Last Week: #10 (+2)
Credit has to be given to second-year coach Maurice Joseph after how good this team has looked in the past several weeks.
To kick off Atlantic 10 play, they had four players reach double-figures in a win over Saint Joseph’s. A team that many anticipated would be in contention for one of the top four seeds in the A10 Tournament.
Yuta Watanabe had 18 points and covered the Hawks’ leading scorer, Shavar Newkirk, holding him to only 10 points on 2-for-11 shooting. Arnaldo Toro also had a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
Gathering 12 offensive rebounds and making nine three-pointers, the Colonials were able to circumvent 16 turnovers.
A chance to play spoiler on Jan. 6 as they host preseason A10 favorite Rhode Island.
9. Georgetown Hoyas (Big East):
Record: 10-3 (0-2)
Last Week: #7 (-2)
Well the Hoyas finished their cupcake non-conference schedule with a 10-1 record, exactly what everyone in the country predicted.
Nevertheless it did restore their names into some regional headlines over the last several weeks. It also allowed new head coach Patrick Ewing to get accustomed to his first head coaching gig and to build repertoire with his players.
They dropped their first two Big East games to two teams that are contending for at-large bids for the NCAA Tournaments. In both of those contests, junior Jessie Govan tallied a double-double.
Their next game at DePaul will be the Hoyas best chance for a road conference victory on the season.
10. Liberty Flames (Big South):
Record: 9-5 (0-1)
Last Week: #9 (-1)
Two bad losses for the Flames, against Fort Wayne and at Gardner-Webb, ends the upward trajectory that it appeared Liberty was on in the rankings. The only reason they didn’t drop out of the top 10 is because everyone else lost too.
Plenty of time for them to rebound and they will likely do so in the Big South. However, when your top scorer only has 11 points against Gardner-Webb it is troubling.
Redshirt sophomore Scottie James is nearing a double-double average on the season. Currently he is at 12.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per contest.
11. Navy Midshipmen (Patriot):
Record: 9-5 (0-1)
Last Week: #11 (+0)
For many, losing to Loyola to start conference play was a surprise. The Midshipmen were held to one of their worst offensive productions of the season, 63 points.
This is more than likely just a blip on the radar as the Greyhounds shot 60 percent from the field in the contest. They should get back on track against Lehigh, American, and Colgate this upcoming week.
12. George Mason Patriots (A-10):
Record: 6-8 (0-1)
Last Week: 12 (+0)
Not many I suspected that the Patriots were going to knock off the poster team of the Atlantic 10 on the road.
They went into Rhode Island and almost got blown out of the building with a 19-point loss. Hard to see how much can be taken from this game considering that they were down by double digits are the first four minutes of the contest.
George Mason did manage to get a victory over Morgan State over the Christmas break. May not do much on their season but does cement some positioning in these rankings.
13. UMBC Retrievers (A-East):
Last Week: #13 (+0)
It was an ugly one when the Retrievers went into college park for a contest between two state schools. UMBC fought and battled for a half, but eventually succumbed and scored a mere 45 points.
Jairus Lyles led the team once again with a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) in his graduate season.
The team as a whole was smothered in the second half and only shot 29.2 percent on the night. Normally a good three-point shooting team, they only were 7-for-38… And for the first time in program history, they did not make a single free throw.
Still, not too bad of a non-conference season for the Retrievers and its now time to focus on the America East conference.
READ ALSO: LAST WEEK'S PRESEASON RANKINGS
15. Radford (Big South):
Record: 8-6 (1-0)
Last Week: #16 (+2)
An impressive stretch of games for the Highlanders as of late.
They beat North Carolina A&T and UC Davis on back-to-back days and held San Francisco to only 52 points. Two of those three teams with a legitimate shot at the NCAA Tournament via their conference championships.
A win over Presbyterian on the road continues them on the right path as a contender in the Big South. They were 51.7 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc.
With the 24 double-double of his career, and fourth of the season, Ed Polite Jr. had 24 points and 15 rebounds. Definite contender for All Big South accolades.
15. Richmond Spiders (A-10):
Record: 3-10 (1-0)
Last Week: #14 (-1)
What did I say last week? They are going to be a hard team to chalk up a win against in the Atlantic 10 this season. They started with a win over Davidson.
It doesn’t make the Spiders a good team, just go to show that they do have a talented squad.
I don’t suspect this will be the final upset for them on the season.
16. Delaware Blue Hens (CAA):
Record: 8-6 (1-0)
Last Week: #17 (+1)
They may not have been stellar opponents but the Blue Hens have now won four straight games and are above .500.
After beating UNC-Wilmington by a mere three points, needing clutch free throws from Ryan Daly (13 points) it does not appear Delaware will be going that far in CAA play.
17. Morgan State Bears (MEAC):
Last Week: #15 (-2)
It is unlikely they were favored in any of these games, but the Bears have now lost seven straight after a 4-2 start.
They do have a good build up of players around them and should be a contender in the MEAC, but downward is not how you want to go at the turn of the new year.
The perfect opponent to get that turn around is UMES who comes to town on Jan. 3.
18. James Madison Dukes (CAA):
Record: 4-10 (0-1)
Last Week: #19 (+1)
It does not make any sense in why James Madison only lost by nine points to Florida in Gainesville, but they did. That is the lone reason they move up slightly in the rankings, and their highest position on the season.
19. Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers (NEC):
Record: 6-9 (0-2)
Last Week: #18 (-1)
So much for a repeat of last season, the Mountaineers dropped their first two contests of Northeast conference play to wrap up 2017.
Both were near blowouts with the Mount never being close at all in the second half.
Keep in mind this is still an extremely young roster with nine true freshmen on the roster and only two upper classmen. Don’t put it past them to have an end-of-season run and perhaps even in the conference tournament.
Besides any team with 5-5 Junior Robinson (21.4 ppg, 5.1 apg) is never out of any mid-major contest.
20. American Eagles (Patriot):
Record: 3-9 (0-1)
Last Week: #20 (+2)
Never thought that American would knock off Marquette or Bucknell but now the Eagles have lost three straight and six of the their last seven. And it was during a stretch that did not feature that strong of opponents.
Against Bucknell, their Patriot League opener, American got blownout by 29. They allowed the Bison to shoot 58.9 percent and get 54 points in the paint. It was freshman Stacy Beckton Jr.’s first of many starts in his collegiate career and had 11 points.
On the season they have allowed opponents to shoot 48.0 percent from the field.
21. VMI Keydets (SoCon):
Record: 5-7 (0-1)
Last Week: #21 (+0)
A 30-point loss to Furman isn’t the end of the world for the Keydets, but it does put a damper on the team after such an improvement in non-conference play from last season.
22. Loyola Greyhounds (Patriot):
Record: 3-9 (1-0)
Last Week: #23 (+1)
Getting not one, but two Division I victories in a nine day span has gotten the Greyhounds trending in the right direction as Patriot League play has begun.
They got it started with a surprise home victory over Navy. Closing out the game with a 14-5 run, and seven of those being from Andre Walker, a whole new season has begun. The senior Walker had 18 points to lead all scorers and finally appears to be returning to his All-Patriot League First Team self.
23. Hampton Pirates (MEAC):
Last Week: #22 (-1)
A win over Appalachian State at home does nothing to swing momentum their way before conference play. They drop two to Virginia (-34) and UTRGV (-11).
Chance for redemption against Maryland Eastern Shore on Jan. 6 to kick off the MEAC.
24. Norfolk State Spartans (MEAC):
Last Week: #24 (+0)
Finally, a road win for the Norfolk State in what continues to be a disappointing non-conference season.
They shot 50 percent from the field to erase a 10-point deficit against Stony Brook. Kyle Williams was 4-for-6 from three-point range and led the team with 21 points.
25. Howard Bison (MEAC):
Last Week: #25 (+0)
Finally, a Division I victory for the Bison as well. Knocking off UNC-Wilmington in the Sun Bowl Invitational they enjoyed a 56.3 percent night from behind the arc and was powered by an outstanding 42 points from R.J. Cole, 15 coming from deep. He line would fill out with six rebounds, four assists, and four steals. Charles Williams also added 30 points, with four three-pointers.
26. Maryland-Eastern Shore Hawks (MEAC):
Last Week: #26 (+0)
Only losing by six points to Iowa State was more than a respectable result for the Hawks in Ames, Iowa. It would have been more impressive had they not lost to Drake by 24 points the following night.
They may not win the MEAC, but they will be a tough out in conference play.
27. Longwood Lancers (Big South):
Last Week: #27 (+0)
Two buy games for the Lancers ended in blowouts in the state of Arizona. They ended non-conference play with a five game losing streak.
Even more troubling for a 3-10 squad is that it is still unknown when their leading scorer, Isaiah Walton will return from injury. With 17.2 points per game he is tied for third in the Big South in scoring. The redshirt junior has missed the last three games and four on the season.
28. Delaware State Hornets (MEAC):
Last Week: #28 (+0)
Like the Eagles just slightly below them in the rankings, they cannot wait for MEAC play to start. They closed non-conference play getting doubled up for the second time this year, this time by Penn, 105-52 on the road. Delaware State is welcomed with a three game homestand to start conference play.
29. Coppin State (MEAC):
Last Week: #29 (+0)
Dating back to last season the Eagles have now lost 18 games in a row.