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Date published: 1/10/2007
It's like a question on the SAT: Of the five teams locked within one game of first place in the Colonial Athletic Association men's basketball standings, which one doesn't belong?
The answer, of course, is William & Mary.
While Drexel (12-2 overall, 4-0 CAA), Hofstra (11-4, 4-0), Virginia Commonwealth (12-3, 4-0) and Old Dominion (10-5, 3-1) were all picked to finish in the upper half of the conference this season, nobody outside Williamsburg expected the Tribe to do much of anything.
Picked 11th out of the league's 12 teams following the transfer of dynamic guard Calvin Baker to U.Va., William & Mary (10-4, 3-1) instead is off to its best start in nine years. The Tribe's 57-43 victory at Georgia State on Monday night was its seventh straight, matching its longest such streak since 1997-98.
"I'm excited for our players to taste some success and see their offseason work pay off," William & Mary coach Tony Shaver said yesterday.
The Tribe gained credibility by knocking off last year's NCAA tournament darling George Mason in Fairfax last Wednesday. They outrebounded the Patriots 36-24 and ended their CAA home win streak at 14 games.
"They remind me of [current West Virginia coach] John Beilein's Richmond teams, where they used to spread you out, shoot a lot of threes and open lanes for rebounding," GMU coach Jim Larranaga said. "I think they surprised our guys how efficiently they ran their offense."
William & Mary won only 23 games over the past three seasons. Things were supposed to get even worse without the services of 2005 CAA rookie of the year Baker.
But the recent streak, including four wins over the past nine days, has Williamsburg abuzz with talk of a William & Mary hardwood renaissance. And the fever pitch will get louder if the Tribe knock off VCU tonight at Kaplan Arena.
"I've gotten I don't know how many e-mails and text messages from people who want to be part of this program, and we want them to be," Shaver said. "[Winning] has generated a lot of excitement. More important, it's generated some confidence for our players."Clash of the titans
Two of the league's hottest teams will square off tomorrow in Philadelphia, with either Hofstra or Drexel assured of heading into the weekend with at least a share of first place.