2022 Ohio University vs Delaware - Men's

CAA Notebook: Delaware Catching Fire Before Conference Play

CAA Notebook: Delaware Catching Fire Before Conference Play

With a thrilling, buzzer-beating win at Rider, Delaware claimed its fifth straight win. The Blue Hens appear to be finding their form ahead of CAA season.

Dec 20, 2022 by Kyle Kensing
CAA Notebook: Delaware Catching Fire Before Conference Play

Jameer Nelson Jr. called game. 

The veteran point guard's layup as time expired Monday at Rider capped a 23-point performance, and extended Delaware's winning streak to five games. 

Don't look now, but with just one non-conference date left on the Blue Hens' schedule before Colonial Athletic Association play begins, last season's CAA representative in the NCAA Tournament is playing some of the best ball in the league. 

Delaware's victories amid the win streak include a road defeat of Princeton, No. 112 in KenPom.com national rankings, and against Davidson, No. 124. In beating Davidson, Nelson showed off a different clutch ability from his buzzer-beating lay-in at Rider, blocking Foster Loyer's would-be game-winning 3-point attempt as time expired to preserve the Blue Hens' 69-67 advantage. 


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Nelson has established himself as one of the premier performers not only in the CAA, but throughout the conferences traditionally labeled as mid-major around college basketball. As productive as he's been at 19.8 points per game, Nelson's starring role should come as no surprise. 

Nelson was tabbed as a preseason 1st Team All-CAA selection, after all. Likewise, Jyare Davis' more than 17 points per game and consistency on the glass is just building on an outstanding finish to 2021-22, a period during which Delaware coach Martin Ingelsby told FloHoops that Davis was perhaps the Blue Hens' best all-around player. 


While not necessarily surprising developments, the intriguing producers in Delaware's recent surge are LJ Owens and Christian Ray. 

The upperclassmen and transfers have found vital roles in the Blue Hens rotation, with Owens averaging north of 11 points per game — third on the roster behind Nelson and Davis — and Ray's 10 rebounds per game ranking him in the top 20 among all Div. I players. Both should be crucial to Delaware's pursuit of a CAA championship. 

Owens came to Delaware from UMBC, but is no stranger to the Colonial. He spent his freshman season, 2018-19, at William & Mary, where he averaged almost seven points per game. 

Ray made the short trip from Philadelphia to Newark, transferring in from La Salle. While not the same volume scorer that Delaware lost in Dylan Painter, Ray's 60 percent field-goal average gives the Blue Hens an interior complement to the perimeter punch Nelson provides and Davis' versatile, all-around offensive game. 

Another opponent in the KenPom 100s closes out Delaware's non-conference docket, with Ohio University visiting the Blue Hens on Dec. 21. Should UD extend its win streak to six at the Bobcats' expense, the CAA opener against Hofstra takes on added significance. 

The Pride will be coming in hungry for a win after a challenging out-of-conference stretch, much of it played without reigning CAA Player of the Year Aaron Estrada. 

Estrada hadn't played since Nov. 30, the result of a foot injury, but showed no rust in his return Monday at South Florida. The Colonial's leading scorer in terms of average scored right at his average, 21 points, in the Pride's loss to the Bulls. 

While the setback was Hofstra's third straight, 17 points apiece from Tyler Thomas and Darlinstone Dunbar showed the high-scoring potential of a full-strength Pride backcourt. 

Seahawks Keep Soaring 

UNC Wilmington nears the holiday on a eight-game winning streak after an 85-82 win over a good High Point team on Dec. 18. The Seahawks are inching toward matching last season's 12-game run, looking to take another step on Wednesday when they travel to Campbell. 

The win over High Point marked a coming-out party of sorts for UNCW freshman Noah Ross, who scored 15 points and knocked down three 3-pointers. 


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"I've had to make strides defensively, get comfortable on offense, and it's all starting to feel like it's coming together," Ross said in the postgame press conference on Sunday. 

The prospective emergence of another scoring threat to complement Trazarien White and Shykeim Phillips should make UNCW all the more dangerous once CAA competition begins. And, apparently, advanced metrics agree. 

Should the KenPom.com analytical predictions play out as forecasted, the Seahawks' win streak will double to 16 games. 

Balance Defines the #RankCharleston Movement  

College of Charleston has been just outside the Associated Press Top 25 for the last few releases, but the Dec. 19 edition saw the Cougars backslide a bit to 29th. Perhaps there's some solace to be taken in Charleston sitting one spot ahead of undefeated New Mexico. 

Regardless if every pollster is paying attention or not, Charleston just continues winning. The Cougars picked up their 11th straight just hours after the Dec. 19 AP poll release, taking care of business in the non-conference finale against Coastal Carolina, 83-69. 

The rout of the Chanticleers demonstrated the scoring versatility that defines Charleston's uptempo offense. Reyne Smith went off for 23 points to lead the way, his third time going for at least 23 this season. However, the 3-point sharpshooter Smith isn't called up on to be a nightly 20-point type of scorer. 

Realistically speaking, Pat Kelsey has called on no one player in the Cougars lineup to take on that role. Charleston features four scorers in double-figures — not a surprise of a team averaging more than 80 points per game and playing one of the nation's 64-fastest paces — and not one averages more than 13 points per game. 

Lacking a singular star who captures the attention of national pollsters may be a hinderance to Charleston's Top 25 prospects; the Cougars might be an easier sell to skeptics if they had a 25-point per game scorer. But it's Charleston's collective strength that renders it ballot-worthy, as just about any of the primary rotation can go off on a given night. 

Six different Cougars have been the leading scorer in at least one outing this season: 

  • Smith, vs. Chattanooga, vs. Richmond, at Coastal Carolina 
  • Ante Brzovic, vs. Virginia Tech. vs. The Citadel  
  • Dalton Bolon, vs. North Carolina. vs. Davidson (split), vs. North Greenville, vs. Stetson  
  • Ryan Larson, vs. Davidson (split) vs. Kent State, vs. Old Dominion, vs. Presbyterian (split) 
  • Raekwon Horton, vs. Presbyterian (split) 
  • Jaylon Scott, vs. Colorado State 

Balance may not be flashy, but if Kelsey's strategy continues producing wins at its current pace, #RankCharleston will take care of itself.