Andre Cornelius dribbles around Old Dominion’s best defensive threat, junior guard Kent Bazemore in Saturday’s Homecoming game. Photo by Peter Flint.

After another week of winning for the George Mason University Patriots, the CAA is theirs for the taking. Major conference wins against Hofstra and Old Dominion increased the Patriots win streak to nine games. With only six games left in the regular season, the race for the postseason is in full force.

Mason is tied for first in the CAA (19-5, 11-2 CAA) with Virginia Commonwealth University (19-6, 11-2 CAA). ODU and Hofstra slipped to third and fourth in the conference. This week’s CAA spotlight team is the ODU Monarchs.

The Monarchs split the season series with Mason, winning at home by five and then falling to the Patriots in Fairfax 62-45 this past Saturday. ODU is 33rd in RPI according to and has quality wins against Clemson, Xavier and the University of Richmond.

The Monarchs have to attribute most of their success to the play of senior forward Frank Hassell.

Hassell adds size and strength inside for a Monarchs team that is runner-up in rebounds per game with 39.9 and leads the CAA in rebounding margin at +10.2.

He averages 13.5 points per game to complement his 9.3 rebounds per game. The 6-foot-6-inch, 255 pound forward is a presence in the paint along with forwards Chris Cooper and Keyon Carter. The ODU frontcourt is known for their size and physicality especially in their rebounding.

Unlike James Madison, the Monarchs have a more balanced team scoring attack between frontcourt and backcourt with team leading scorer Hassell averaging 13.5 points per game and junior guard/forward combo man Kent Bazemore averaging 12.1 points per game, accounting for almost half of the team’s scoring.

Along with the Monarchs inside play, they also feature a strong backcourt. The balanced scoring attack of Bazemore and senior guard Darius James makes ODU difficult to defend on the block as well as just about anywhere on the floor. Bazemore was selected to not only the CAA All-Defensive team last season but also made’s National All-Defense Team. With his long wingspan, he can shutdown passing lanes and force opposing guards to turn the ball over.

Bazemore leads the team in steals (54) and is second in assists (72). James provides the Monarchs with a solid scoring input with 6.6 points per game but his biggest contribution are his assists to his playmakers. On the season, he leads ODU with 74 assists.

The guard play for the Monarchs along with the size of their forwards make them a scary team to face and will make ODU a tough out in the CAA tournament.

ODU made a run in the tournament last season with a major win against the Universty of Notre Dame before falling to Baylor University in the second round. The Monarchs look to add to their March success with another run at the tournament this season.

With a loss to Mason over the weekend, ODU hurt its chances at receiving an at-large bid, however they certainly have the firepower that a team needs to go deep into the postseason.

It’s this time of year that makes me truly appreciate college basketball ten times better than the National Basketball Association.

The passion of the student-athlete is just far superior to that of professional basketball players.

As the days begin to countdown to the CAA tournament, the energy and passion of the teams begin to show more than ever. Teams fighting for at-large bids in the NCAA tournament and even for a bye in the CAA tournament are making their final pushes to achieve their team goals.

Next week, we will be looking at the VCU Rams as they fight with Mason for a CAA regular season title.